Unease in the Baltics as US allies watch Trump praise Putin

“These countries have seen this movie before,” Klobuchar says. But she’s pacing herself. Residents of the Baltics are getting nervous. The countries achieved independence in 1991. Although they look to NATO for protection, Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 has many Baltic residents worried about their security. It’s a concern that Klobuchar shares. Player utilitiesPopout
downloadThis story is based on a radio interview. “My dad is a reformed alcoholic. She says President-elect Trump’s lack of consistency in his dealings with foreign leaders is cause for anxiety. Listen to the full interview. “We should be celebrating and supporting these new democracies, instead of making alliances with Vladimir Putin.”
The Soviet Union annexed Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania after World War II. “When Estonia had the audacity to move a bronze statue of a Russian fighter from a town square to a cemetery, the reaction of Russia was to actually shut down [Estonia’s]   computer systems and hack into it.”
Last December, Lithuania attributed cyberattacks on its government to the Kremlin. All three are former Soviet republics and now NATO members. “It’s a modus operandi that Russia has used in the past and will use in the future unless we stand up [to]   it,” Klobuchar says. PRI.org

President-elect Donald Trump’s uncertain support for the NATO alliance and his praise for Russian leader Vladimir Putin have people   in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania looking over their shoulders. And so I decided to go with their saying,” she says. So when Baltic leaders recently hosted three US senators — Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), John McCain   (R., Ariz.)   and Lindsey Graham (R., SC)   — they looked to their American counterparts for assurances that their alliance with Washington   DC wouldn’t change. “One day at a time, right?”

2016 brought more record temperatures. So what climate course will the US and Trump set in 2017?

Renewable energy technology is advancing incredibly quickly. But of course 2017 was the year that the world was actually supposed to start getting serious about taking on the climate crisis. As for whether the planet will forgive us — well, the planet may already not forgive us, Trump or no Trump. The climate crisis is a global problem, one that’s been caused by all of us, affects all of us, and can only be solved by all of us. That’s not to say, though, that what happens the next four or eight years under Trump isn’t important. What do you see? But in the big picture, the country and the world are moving in another direction, and even the president of the United States can’t stop that. He’s promised to restore coal jobs and unleash the drilling rigs. If we stop doing that, that by itself is a big monkey wrench in the works. Peter: Well, to begin with the planet’s going to keep getting warmer, and over the next 12 months at least, Donald Trump will have nothing to do with that. It’s very important, because many of the best scientists out there say we’ve got a very small window — maybe just a few years — to squeeze through to make sure we don’t cross a threshold toward inevitable, catastrophic climate change. They worked closely together with President Obama the last few years but they don’t need us to keep going. President-elect Donald Trump, and the people he’s named to key positions, largely dismiss the threat of climate change and the mountains of science behind it. Trump has nominated climate change deniers to lead some of the most important climate-policy agencies, including the EPA and the Department of Energy. A lot of it is about that very idea of interconnectedness, which Trump essentially rejects. PRI.org

It’s hard to argue anymore that the planet is not warming up fast, and that we’re not quickly heading into very dangerous territory. Trump has said he’s going to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement. And they’ve got other economic and public health interests that are very strongly behind the push they’re making a move away from coal, away from dirty development, to clean development. If the Trump administration puts the brakes on efforts to fight climate change, that window’s likely going to get even smaller. If Trump and members of his administration think it’s a hoax, would they back away from plans to protect shorelines, or to think about ways of, for instance, protecting the Mississippi Delta from a category 5   hurricane? The landmark Paris climate accord was adopted a little more than a year ago, it went into effect last fall, and that set up 2017 as the year that virtually every country in the world was going to start making the changes that would start bringing climate pollution down to less dangerous levels. Related: Living with Rising Seas
On the other hand, a lot of what happens in individual states and localities around the country comes down to policies and actions in those places. The US and global energy economies are shifting along with these changes, and the demand is moving strongly away from the fuels of the past to the technologies of the future. And to be sure, if they’re approved by the Senate, they can undo a lot of programs and policies put in place by the Obama administration to protect coastlines and other regions from some of the effects of rising seas and other impacts of rising global temperatures. Will he, and will the planet ever forgive the US if he does? According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), through 2015, the five hottest years on record have all occurred since 2010, and the 16 hottest have all occurred since 1998. Also, as we cut ourselves off, other countries are going to respond, and maybe they’re going to do things like slap tariffs on us. And here too, he hasn’t given any indication of backing off these promises. It’s all but official — 2016 will almost certainly go into the books as the warmest year on record. Speaking of the big picture, when you think about the future of the environment under President Trump, what is the big story that occurs to you about the United States’ interconnectedness with the rest of the world? The climate system is very unforgiving, and the basic physics are really pretty simple. Well, if other countries put a price on climate-warming carbon pollution to force down emissions, and we don’t, those other countries might consider our lack of action an environmental subsidy, an unfair trade practice that they should fight back against with tariffs of their own. Credit:

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information

And what about adaptation to climate change? Now, it wouldn’t be easy or quick to do that, but the US could do a lot a lot of harm to the deal even if it takes several years to pull out, or doesn’t officially pull out but just decided not to keep the commitments it made in Paris. Unless, that is, you’re part of the incoming US administration. I think we might already be seeing that. But it will be very hard to return to the energy picture of 40, 20 or even 10 years ago, regardless of what Trump does. And they’re in a very strong position to influence how the world responds to the climate crisis. Funding, for instance — among other things, the US pledged a lot of money to help poorer countries around the world deal with climate change. Certainly some of us bear more responsibility than others — the United States bears the most responsibility for climate change so far as the largest carbon polluter to date, so you could argue that we have the most responsibility to do something. Certainly, Trump and his allies in Congress can try to roll back the clock on fossil fuels. But of course now with Trump heading to the White House, that’s all very uncertain again. And that can be a very different picture, because a lot of states — especially a lot of coastal states — understand that climate change is real and that they’d better do something about it, whether Washington is in the game or not. After years of not taking it so seriously, and of saying, basically, “this was your problem, you started it, we have to look out for ourselves and improve our economy and our standard living,” they’ve really gotten serious about climate change. Trump campaigned on pulling the US out of the agreement, so if we take him at his word, that’s where we’re headed. To many people’s eyes that ignores the reality of problems like climate change. Researchers say 2017 might be a little cooler than 2016, but with little dips and wobbles along the way the trend is up, up, up, with all the dangers that brings — rising sea levels and coastal flooding, bigger heat waves, droughts and downpours, more disruption in food supplies, and more people displaced by all of it. We heard a lot of very strong pro-coal and pro-oil rhetoric from Trump in the campaign. We have no crystal balls here at The World of course, just the record of what’s happened and what Trump has said and done so far. So what will a Trump presidency mean for climate policy and climate reality in 2017? A lot of climate scientists say if we really want to reverse this climate change thing we have to keep fossil fuels in the ground. They can get rid of things like subsidies and tax breaks for renewable energy and electric cars, they can make more land available for oil drilling and other resource development. Finally, after all that effort and energy the US spent to get China on board with the climate treaty, could we be looking at a scenario where China is actually taking the lead in fighting climate change? Research looking far back into the Earth’s history shows that the amount of heat trapped by the atmosphere very closely tracks changing levels of greenhouse gases. But the reality is that it’s going to be very hard to do what he’s promised, especially when it comes to coal. His philosophy, to the degree that you can define it, is basically that the US should act alone and always in its own interests, that we should be helping ourselves instead of making big commitments to work with and help others. Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show 2016 on track to be the warmest year on record, likely beating out the previous warmest years, 2013, 2010, 2014 and 2015. This is not to say there won’t be more coal dug out of the ground, more oil and gas pumped up. Industrial pollution already in the atmosphere has likely locked in a lot more warming, and all the impacts that will bring. We’ve heard a lot on our own airwaves recently about some of the bigger economic and technological trends behind the decline of coal in particular, much more so than even policies coming out of the White House and the EPA under President Obama. Fracking, for all its faults, has flooded the market with cheap and relatively clean natural gas. We’re in the middle of a warming trend that’s unprecedented since records were first kept back in the 19th century. It’s a tricky question. If that sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the third year in a row we’re saying it.Player utilitiesPopout
downloadListen to the Story. Here’s their (edited) discussion. But we’re all in it now, it’s a global problem it requires a global solution. So what are Trump’s plans for oil and coal? But staying well connected to the facts as we know them, The World’s Marco Werman sat down for an interview with the show’s eyes and ears on all things climate, environment editor Peter Thomson. Donald Trump talks a lot about putting tariffs on imports from other countries for unfair trade practices. Marco: So it’s look-ahead time for 2017, Peter. We’ve already knocked the climate system out of the stability that has supported human civilization for 10,000 years, and no one knows how to get back to that in any meaningful timeframe.

A major water crisis in Syria’s capital worsens as fighting continues

Riham, 49, of Mashrou Dummar district, said she has not been able to bathe or wash her clothes for a week. That would have been the toll of a single air strike before it came into force.”
French President Francois Hollande on Thursday called for respect for the ceasefire, “particularly by the regime” so peace talks could go ahead. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned Wednesday that regime and Hezbollah violations of the truce were putting the Kazakhstan talks at risk. But he said fighting had eased considerably since the truce came into force. “Every effort should be made to ensure that the negotiations envisaged by the United Nations can take place within the envisaged timeframe,” his office said. The water from rebel-held Wadi Barada, which supplies four million people in Damascus, has been cut since December 22, causing major shortages. Damascus residents said they have been forced to buy bottled water at twice its normal price as their supplies have run low. Iran hit back at “unconstructive” Turkish allegations that Tehran’s allies were violating the ceasefire, accusing rebels of breaking the truce. Mohannad, 53, said he buys drinking water at twice its normal price. “It’s an unexpected cost on top of that fact that living is already expensive,” Mohannad said. The public water authority has published daily updates on its Facebook page telling residents where and when water will be distributed. Water is life,” said Faiz, a 50-year-old civil servant. ‘Water is life’
“We used to complain about power cuts, but now we can see that it’s nothing compared to the lack of drinkable water. Government forces backed by Lebanon’s Hezbollah group are fighting to recapture the area northwest of Damascus even as a nationwide ceasefire has brought quiet to other parts of Syria in preparation for renewed peace talks. “The number of casualties has fallen a lot, with only 13 dead in the areas covered by the ceasefire since the truce began. He urged Russia and Iran, which both back President Bashar al-Assad and are also helping prepare the Astana talks, to pressure Damascus and Hezbollah to stop the fighting. The fighting near Damascus threatened a truce that was meant to pave the way for peace negotiations later this month in the Kazakh capital Astana. Authorities said they closed several shops on Wednesday for selling drinking water at elevated prices. A 10-liter bottle that sold for 500 liras before the mains water was cut now sells for 1,000 liras. ‘Critical phase’
Observatory Director Rami Abdel Rahman said the truce was in a “critical phase” with violations on several fronts. But locals said the water often fails to arrive and when it does, is undrinkable. Regime ally Iran is also involved in organizing the talks, and top official Alaeddin Boroujerdi was in Damascus on Wednesday for talks with Assad. Despite backing opposite sides in the conflict, Ankara and Moscow have worked closely to broker the ceasefire and plan the Astana talks, which Cavusoglu said could take place on January 23. Retaking the area became an urgent priority for the regime as the cut caused severe water shortages in the capital. The regime and rebels have traded accusations over responsibility. “The current ceasefire in Syria has been violated repeatedly by the anti-government armed opposition groups,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said. “When we look at who commits these violations, it is Hezbollah, in particular Shiite groups and the regime,” he said. The water in her own tank had almost run out and she only uses it for absolute necessities. The regime says forces in Wadi Barada include former al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front, previously known as Al-Nusra Front, which Moscow and Damascus say is excluded from the ceasefire. The truce, brokered by regime backer Russia and rebel sponsor Turkey, was meant to pave the way for peace negotiations later this month in the Kazakh capital Astana. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime forces late Wednesday launched “dozens of air strikes on parts of Wadi Barada along with artillery and rocket fire, killing a firefighter.”  
The Observatory, a Britain-based monitor of Syria’s conflict, said pro-regime forces and rebels were locked in ongoing clashes there Thursday. Rebels deny the group is in the area.

Welcome to Carmel, Indiana — ‘Roundabout City, USA’

Carmel now has 102 roundabouts. “Not only do they move more traffic per hour, but because of the lack of idling, and the lack of starting from a dead stop, our city engineer has estimated that we’re saving thousands of gallons of gasoline per roundabout per year.”
Brainard hopes to install more in Carmel in the coming years. Things might be different if we had more roundabouts. Roundabouts are traffic circles too — but they work a little differently. “People didn’t see them during the construction period. “I was fortunate to spend a term in law school in England. That’s what they use in Britain and in the Netherlands. They force drivers to drive slower. Brainard says the city installed it on a brand new road on the edge of a developed area. You know, big ol’ traffic circles at major intersections. Brainard says that in Carmel today, the city couldn’t remove roundabouts even if it wanted to. So we just opened the road with roundabouts on it,” he says. A lot of Boston drivers hate rotaries with a passion. But let’s go back to the first one. If you want to start a fight here in Boston,   you might just mention your love of rotaries. This is a roundabout, with a separated bicycle lane, in the Netherlands. They’re simply too popular. “So after I became mayor I started doing some research and convinced some of our consulting civil engineers to build a few roundabouts.”
“They’re so much safer,” he says. I saw roundabouts being used there, and they seemed to handle so much traffic,” he says. That might be the key. Build it with little fanfare, let people experience it for themselves, and bet that they’ll see what   engineering and safety tips are able to back up: roundabouts are better than stoplights. That’s more than any other city in the US. Credit:

Calm Streets Boston. And there’s one town in America that has so many of them that it should really be called, “Roundabout City, USA.”
Carmel, Indiana. “The fights tend to be over which intersection is going to be the next intersection to be converted from a stoplight to a roundabout,” he says. Full stop. In this case, going in circles isn’t all that bad. The reason they have so many has to do with Republican Mayor Jim Brainard.

Baltic states like Latvia are wary of where Trump’s overtures to Russia could lead

Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, says the fear is a return to living under Russian influence. You can follow them on   Facebook, talk to them on   Twitter, and subscribe to their newsletter   for updates. We should invest into these capabilities and we should work together with all NATO forces.”
Crimea was a rude awakening for NATO itself, as the alliance had always presumed the Kremlin would follow the basic tenets of international law respecting state sovereignty. He needs something to give his voters, and the cheapest thing to give them is ‘patriotism’.”    
Nimmo also notes that, despite some more recent massaging of rhetoric, ahead of his election Donald Trump spoke warmly of Putin and coldly of NATO. A third of the Latvian population is ethnically Russian, and Putin occasionally announces he may need to intervene, including militarily, to “protect their interests.” That was his pretext before the annexation of Crimea in 2014, which Putin insisted was the wish of the Russian-speakers there. “[The Baltics] were an example of how well you can do when you break away from Kremlin rule and the Kremlin really hates that,” he says. ‘WWIII’ is not a plausible scenario here.” He insists Latvia is not going to be “another Ukraine” or any other kind of problem spot for Europe. “I would really suggest not to look at scenarios that we don’t find plausible. Still, comparisons with Ukraine are not entirely the imagination of international media.  
“Everyone outside Latvia should calm down,” Rinkevic says. “Crimea changed all our thinking about our future,” Gutmanis said. But Nimmo at the Atlantic Council explains those memberships are also part of what makes Moscow target them. Riley wouldn’t speculate on what kind of “enemy” the Americans may be preparing to fight here, but he said it doesn’t matter. That will keep a shiver in the Baltic air as the world waits to see what will happen next. Nimmo, who studies and dissects Kremlin disinformation campaigns, expects to see increased Russian efforts to destabilize the Baltics and undermine NATO solidarity in the near term. Now Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are all members of both the European Union and NATO but that hasn’t   stopped Russian President Vladimir Putin from reminding those governments he’s got his eye on them, with heavily-financed pro-Russian propaganda campaigns and beefed-up military resources.Player utilitiesPopout
downloadListen to the Story. Nimmo says while a physical attack is unlikely, the Kremlin now tries to win influence through character assassination, whereby the Baltic states are portrayed as “corrupt, incompetent and oppressive.”
“I think we’ll also hear more accusations from the Kremlin that NATO is being aggressive by moving reinforcements to the Baltics and that Russia has to take countermeasures to defend itself,” he explains. At its July 2016 summit in Warsaw, NATO additionally approved the creation of four standing battle groups of about a thousand international troops each that will deploy to the Baltic states and Poland early this year. Without that will, Garisons explains, “You don’t need military capabilities anymore, because you can beat your enemy without a battle.”
But while there may be some residents of Latvia who can be persuaded by such tactics, there are growing numbers motivated to act against them. A couple hundred soldiers from the US 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team have been exercising in each of those same buffer-zone countries since the Crimean takeover. “At the moment, oil is doing badly, mainly because of the collapse of the oil markets. “If there is more mistrust in this country or there is mistrust like that towards, let’s say the EU or NATO, then those organizations or those governments themselves are not as efficient for their citizens.”
At Latvia’s Ministry of Defense, State Secretary Janis Garisons puts an even sharper point on it, noting that all it takes is for an enemy to break down a society’s willingness to protect the values of their country. Sillanpaa says these are dangerous incursions into the minds of the population. The Baltic states are strong advocates of maintaining EU sanctions on Russia, which were extended six months   on December 15. “If we look at what is the Kremlin’s big view on this, they try to seed mistrust in these individual countries but also among nations,” he explained from the Stratcomcoe office. Watching his troops drill in Latvia’s Adazi Training Area with combat vehicles newly purchased from Britain, Army Major Uldis Gutmanis says the significance of the Crimea annexation for Latvia can’t be overstated. Christopher Riley was among the US   paratroopers practicing their aim on a long shooting range at Adazi, which used to be a valuable Soviet practice ground. Antti Sillanpaa is with NATO’s Strategic Communications Center of Excellence (Stratcomcoe) in Riga, a facility originally set up by the Latvians that identifies —   and seeks ways to counter — Moscow-manufactured narratives against the Latvian government and society. America Abroad   is an award-winning documentary radio program that takes an in-depth look at one critical issue in international affairs and US   foreign policy every month. Nimmo says that makes it easy for Putin to paint them as enemies of Russia. “Crimea showed we need a stronger army, more money. “Latvians still believe that being in NATO and being in the European Union, it means something,” she said. Some of her friends have joined the voluntary National Guard, which has expanded to more than 8,000 people, and beyond that they are putting their faith in Western alliances. Local resident Laina Ziedina watched the US   election with trepidation, worried that Russia will be empowered by the Trump victory. PRI.org

President-elect Donald Trump’s friendly overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin have been a troubling development for many in the Baltics. “So I think we’ll see this building up of a narrative that the Baltics are troublemakers and they’re not worth protecting. “We can unleash the fury, the hammer of justice,” he said, “against any adversary that we might come up against”
But Latvia is facing another threat that paratroopers and combat vehicles can’t touch: the use of information as a weapon. “Putin’s built his domestic reputation on the idea that he ‘made Russia great again’ after the chaos of the Yeltsin years,” Nimmo points out. We’ve seen that for many years and I’d expect it to get worse now.”
When ominous headlines portend a pending “World War III,” Latvia is often mentioned as ground zero. But these doomsday predictions long ago grew tiresome for Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, who notes he’s navigated through several waves of prognostication that the next global military conflict would begin on his doorstep. A few weeks ago, 1st. Sgt. After that, NATO moved quickly to create a rapid-reaction force designed to respond with more agility to Russia’s snap exercises popping up uncomfortably close to the alliance’s borders. The Baltic states are among the countries Russia once termed its “near abroad” — after it could no longer call them “Soviet Republics” when they regained independence in 1991. Kremlin-funded media outlets such as Russia Today and Sputnik are heavily targeting Baltic-dwelling Russians with pro-Moscow propaganda. They urge NATO to send ever more military reinforcements to their territory.

Thailand’s military ruler keeps writing syrupy pop ballads

Yet it seems that Prayuth Chan-ocha   — a former army general who seized power through a coup — cannot hold his tender feelings inside. The 62-year-old is fixated on an imagined era of past virtue. It’s adult contemporary propaganda. They include “having a sense of shame over guilt” and remaining “unyielding to the dark force.”

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks on his mobile phone as he arrives at a weekly cabinet meeting at the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. We will move beyond disputes. In his speeches, Prayuth often romanticizes Thailand’s past. From his latest ballad:
“Don’t lose heart because I’ll never give up. However, a top official just kicked off the new year by proclaiming that, actually, 2018 is looking more likely. His lyrics ooze nostalgia. “To bring back love, how long will it take? Imagine John Tesh as an autocrat vowing to restore national purity. This mission — essentially making Thailand great again —   is depicted as a job for valiant men in uniform. Please, will you wait? Perhaps Prayuth’s songs hold clues. Credit:

Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

In Prayuth’s lyrics, the nation of Thailand often comes across as a wronged lover whose faith must be restored. 20, 2016. That day isn’t far off. Even during bursts of democratic rule, the all-powerful army is looming in the background. Thais have been detained simply for clicking “like” on subversive Facebook memes. (Just to be clear: the gravelly voiced Prayuth only writes the songs’ lyrics. In other words, Thailand’s army has a savior complex. But no matter how long it takes, please, don’t get upset.” He lectures Thais on a range of subjects — everything from littering to making kids do chores. In his original track, played incessantly on radio stations following his coup, he asked the public to be patient with the troops. “So it might have been a while since I started fighting for you, this land I love so much. He has even set up a militaristic program to instill classic Thai values (which he personally concocted) into elementary school-aged children. Yet in his newly released ballad, Prayuth is pleading, once again, for more and more time to make things right. What we dreamed of will come true … for I was born to live for you, my treasured land.”
This fantastical future day will presumably come when the army finally purifies Thailand of political feuding. That was shortly after he toppled an elected government and locked up his political rivals. There is strife between influential elites and the working class — and enmity between Bangkok, the ancient seat of power, and an increasingly assertive upcountry. For more than a decade, the country has been torn by political clashes. As one Prayuth verse explains, when the “flames are rising,” the generals are ready to “step in before it’s too late” — thus saving the country from immoral elected leaders. It was supposed to happen last year. Those who openly protest military rule can be hauled away to military camps for “attitude adjustment.”
So when will the military finally give in and hold an election? We’re just asking for a little more time.”
That was more than 2.5 years ago. Prayuth’s latest tune is called “Bridge.” It carries on a theme he established with his original ballad, released in June 2014. As for the songwriting style? But this is a dreamy notion indeed. Each song evokes a beautiful land, under siege by “menacing danger,” that must be rescued. Since it seized power, the army has proven highly sensitive to any form of dissent. He dispatches subordinate officers to do the crooning.)
In televised speeches, Prayuth will adopt the tone of a stern father. As in Egypt, the Thai army holds immense political and corporate power. Yet the army seems awfully reluctant to hand over the keys — even after it installed a new system that saps the power of elected politicians. We will do what we promised. Practically all sides, including the ruling junta, will publicly contend that these feuds eventually must be resolved through elections. This explains why the army has staged a dozen successful coups since the 1930s, the last decade that saw Thailand directly ruled by kings. It’s now officially slated for 2017. The date has been repeatedly pushed back. When addressing the nation, Thailand’s strongman ruler is often dour. My two hands won’t let you go … I’m ready to be the bridge for you to cross into cool, fresh comfort. That remains a mystery. He frequently speaks to the public in gruff orders, as if addressing a disorganized platoon. He has just released his fourth pop song. Like the others, it is a pure dose of saccharine nationalism.

To protect their immigrant residents under Trump, some cities are arming them with lawyers

Passing these measures and gaining broad support, though, isn’t always easy. No one knows for certain what President-elect Donald Trump will do to keep his pledge to deport millions of unauthorized immigrants when he takes office. The proposal passed the city council in December. Fallon/Reuters

The City of Los Angeles has its own plan. Resources allocated from the San Francisco mayor’s budget to nonprofits have already been put to use, about half of the budgeted amount, Campos says. He says proposals to do so are “consistent with a declared effort to paralyze the federal judicial system.”
Regardless of which legislation is passed or not passed, demand for legal representation among immigrants is on the rise. He and the city’s public defender proposed a bill to allocate $5 million between the public defender’s office and community-based organizations in order to represent the city’s 44,000 undocumented people in courts. “[They] want to know if ICE will come knocking on their door.”
She says her organization is working with the legal community and with city government to prepare for an “onslaught of cases” they are expecting in 2017. “The thing is, we don’t know what’s going to happen,” says Luis Mancheno, an immigration attorney and fellow at the Benjamin N. It’s your best protection.” Ben Hueso and Assemblyman Rob Bonta introduced measures that would direct between $10 million and $80 million to connect the unauthorized population, about 3 million people, to needed counsel and step up legal trainings for immigration attorneys. FAIR’s media director, Ira Mehlman, echoes Vaughan’s assessment. Whether or not they can stop him, they’re preparing for a showdown. “This is the first salvo, if you will, in the fight against Trump,” says San Francisco Supervisor David Campos. In California, where one in four residents was born outside the US and 27 percent of those immigrants are undocumented, Democratic officials introduced several initiatives that could vastly expand immigrants’ access to lawyers. One battleground will be immigration courts. “We need our elected officials to act now.”
Her organization helped push San Francisco’s program to represent undocumented immigrants. He says in an email that it would be “far more effective to discourage people from coming and remaining here illegally” than to represent them in court. According to reports, he criticized Emanuel for creating “the legal defense fund for the illegals,” while homeless veterans and retired city workers could use help with their health care. Meanwhile, California Sen. Unlike in criminal courts, immigrants often face judges alone and there is no guarantee of representation, even when people are facing deportation. His proposal closely mirrors the New York Immigrant Family Unit Program, which was created in 2013. “Immigrants in detention are first in line for deportation under Trump,” says Christina Fialho via email. Some states and local governments have made it clear that they won’t wait and see. “We have seen a sharp increase in the volume of inquiries since November 9,” says Jennifer Friedman, director of Immigration Practice at the non-profit Bronx Defenders, which provides free legal representation to low-income people. “We have to stick together,” says Campos in San Francisco, “because, if we don’t stand up to [Trump], then, who’s next?”
In New York, which has been providing representation in immigration courts for several years, advocates are now asking for guarantees that their program will survive the Trump administration. Credit:

Patrick T. Alderman Pat Dowell supported the legal fund, but suggested that the same amount of money be spent on behalf of immigrants’ defense should also go to represent African American who are racially profiled by police. He has created a legal defense fund to give lawyers to immigrants facing deportation. Both the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), organizations that advocate for decreasing the numbers of immigrants in the US, say providing lawyers for immigrants is a poor use of taxpayer dollars. The bill is facing some challenges by legislators who think it’s too soon to adopt these measures. Cardozo School of Law, which helped design the New York program to represent immigrants. Fialho is the executive director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement, a California-based national nonprofit that advocates for alternatives to immigration detention. Deportations rose sharply during the Obama administration. “It is inappropriate for scarce public funds to be used to pay for representation of illegal aliens fighting deportation,” says Jessica Vaughan of CIS. “But, there’s a general sense that we need to do something.”
Campos, who is in his final term and will be replaced by his chief of staff, Hillary Ronen, on January 9,   believes that the bill “might undergo modifications, but, it will go through.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks on November 10, 2015 after an interfaith prayer service for the immigrant community following the election of Republican Donald Trump as president. “I think that there’s some reluctance [among legislators] to become too much of a lightning rod,” says Campos. Funds for the public defender’s office must still be approved by the city’s Board of Supervisors. It joined forces with Los Angeles County and nonprofit organizations to start a $10 million private-public fund for “people who are American by every measure except the papers they hold,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. “People who are permanent residents need to naturalize. So far, that program has reduced the numbers of people being deported by New York courts. In Chicago, Alderman Nicholas Sposato, who represents the 38th district on the city council, doesn’t appreciate the diversion of more funds to noncitizens. Some cities want to change that. There is, however, a general consensus that removals will rise sharply under his administration. Nisha Agarwal, New York City’s Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs, declined to comment but confirmed that they are in talks to guarantee funding in the city budget, to bypass future negotiations and yearly approval by the city council. More: In sanctuary cities, immigrants find themselves with few real protections from federal officials
The president-elect has repeatedly promised to deport undocumented immigrants, with his target number fluctuating   between 2 million to all of the more than 11 million people estimated to live in the US with authorization. Outside California, Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, announced the creation of a $1.3 million fund in collaboration with the nonprofit National Immigrant Justice Center to support the city’s approximately 150,000 undocumented immigrants.

Muslim environmentalists give their religion — and their mosques — a fresh coat of green

When you go to a mosque, the first thing that you open is your heart.”
Morocco is almost completely dependent on imported fossil fuels, but it has a lot of wind and sun. “A lot of us are the victims of climate change, so they see it. After that, the energy is essentially free. Bouzid says investments in solar power are an easy call here in Morocco. “We are increasing the awareness by showing some real solutions,” Bouzid says. “There’s some deniers,” Firman says, but hundreds of millions of Muslims also live in places that are already feeling the effects of climate change. When the disaster happens, when the drought happens, when the flood happens, they actually understand. It calls on Muslims everywhere to take action, from conserving water during the cleaning rituals of wudu to reducing plastic waste during the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. It’s one of 600 Moroccan mosques slated for similar solar installations over the next three years. That’s why the solar panels on Koutoubia’s roof are about more than just cutting the state-funded mosque’s energy bills. NOTE: Because of a producer’s error, the audio version of this story contains an incorrect pronunciation of Saffet Catovic’s name. “Faith plays an important role not just for Muslim communities but for other communities, as well,” Catovic says. The word khalifa means guardian, so you’re the maintainer, the protector, the one who takes care of the Earth.”

Firman and her organization are trying to do globally what the Moroccan government is trying to do locally — encourage Muslims to take steps to reduce their own carbon footprints. “So this mosque is 100 percent powered by solar energy.”

Ahmed Bouzid, head of energy efficiency for Morocco’s national energy investment company SIE, stands beside new photovoltaic panels recently installed on the roof of Marrakech’s ancient Koutoubia mosque. Last year Firman helped draft the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change. Credit:


The Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change came out not long after Pope Francis’ climate encyclical, which said that Catholics have a “duty to protect the Earth … for coming generations.”
Saffet Catovic, an imam and teacher of religious studies from New Jersey, says the efforts among Muslims globally are part of a broad religious awakening on the climate crisis. The payback period is typically less than five   years. Firman says that’s when she first realized Islam could help her increase environmental awareness in Indonesia. But together they could be a recipe for how religious leaders might help tackle climate change: through a mixture of political will, private investment, and a little faith. On top of the north riwaq, or arcade, a sleek array of solar panels stretches along the   roof to the base of the mosque’s 253-foot, red stone minaret. Morocco’s government owns 15,000 mosques, and eventually it wants to retrofit all of them with solar panels and energy efficient technology. “Over 700 verses in the Quran talk   about nature and environment,” Firman says. And from his brain you try to get his heart. This report was produced in partnership with The GroundTruth Project. Nana Firman is from Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim country, and is a co-founder of the Global Muslim Climate Network. That’s hardly unusual in Morocco, but the subject of their study is. PRI.org

The latest can be found up a flight of stairs off the sahn, or courtyard, where the mosque’s visitors wash their feet before they pray. And she says that’s where her message is catching on. Credit:

Chris Bentley  

The 8-kilowatt panels were installed just before Marrakech played host to the latest United Nations climate summit in November, and Koutoubia is just one of 600 Moroccan mosques slated for similar solar installations over the next three years. She says it was hard to convince local people of the benefits of planting mangroves to reduce the impact of storm surges, until she remembered a verse in the Quran about planting trees. About 300 Muslim leaders from around Morocco have signed up in the last year for the government’s “green mosques” program. She wants Muslims to lead the global transition away from fossil fuels. Saffet Catovic, an imam and teacher of religious studies from New Jersey, helped draft the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change. “For example there’s a verse that says ‘the human is the khalifa upon this earth. “When you try to sensibilize somebody, first of all you try to get his brain. Catovic also helped write the Islamic declaration on climate change. Since then, he says he’s heard from priests, rabbis and all kinds of religious leaders. The Koutoubia Mosque is one of the iconic landmarks of Marrakech’s old city. It should be pronounced “Catovik.”
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Zanzibar’s ‘Solar Mamas’ flip the switch on rural homes, gender roles Often-invoked passages include “corruption has appeared on the land and in the sea because of what the hands of humans have wrought,” and “the servants of [Allah], the Most Gracious, are only those who walk upon the Earth softly.”
Morocco’s state-sponsored program to preach environmental stewardship through Islam may be unique, but Muslims in many countries are starting to connect their faith with climate change. His Noor Ul-Iman school and mosque in Central New Jersey are part of the Islamic Society of North America, which recently announced it would divest from fossil fuels and is pushing other Muslim organizations to do the same. It’s also already being hit by the effects of climate change, through droughts, floods and sea-level rise. “This is enough for 100 percent of the consumption of the mosque, including also for the house of the imam,” says Ahmed Bouzid, head of energy efficiency for SIE, Morocco’s national energy investment company. They’re scouring the text for passages about environmental stewardship. Making that happen won’t be easy, of course. But she also has a bigger goal. Green mosques
You can see the effort at work in other ways here as well, like in a classroom on the outskirts of Marrakech where 27 imams and mourchidates, female Muslim clerics, are huddled in small groups, poring over copies of the Quran. In this almost entirely Muslim country, the government believes that Islam could be a powerful vehicle for its environmental message. “With this climate change issue, especially these last two years, religious leaders around the world are not praying against each other,” says Catovic, “they’re praying with one another for a common cause. But he says it’s not just about saving the mosques money. After this study group   breaks up, a few imams take turns practicing khutbahs, or sermons, about environmentalism that they’ll deliver to their congregations across the country during Friday prayers, stressing verses from the Quran and other Muslim holy texts. Overall, Morocco has pledged to get more than half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and to cultivate more awareness about energy and climate change in general. Maybe they don’t call it climate change, but farmers know they can’t harvest.”
In her native Indonesia, Firman worked on recovery efforts after the 2004 tsunami in the religiously conservative region of Aceh. Since then she’s taken that message worldwide. Because the realization has set in that we’re gonna have nothing left.”
So far most of the steps are small, like Morocco’s green sermons and solar-powered mosques. Its first stone was laid in 1150, and almost 900 years later, renovations continue.Player utilitiesPopout
downloadListen to the Story. Like a lot of devout Christians, many Muslims don’t believe that climate change is even happening, that humans could be responsible, or that their holy texts preach environmentalism. Firman came to Marrakech for the UN climate summit, and she believes that connecting Islam and environmental consciousness isn’t a stretch.

With melting glaciers and mining, Bolivia’s water is running dangerously low

The reality is possibly   a combination of all three. Others say this is climate change — including   shrinking glaciers   — bearing down on one of the world’s highest cities. Officials at Bolivia’s water and sanitation agency did not answer requests for comment. A history of water woes
The resource-rich country is no stranger to water conflict. Trucks bring water every three to four days for residents to fill just two containers at a time. Many in La Paz have no other option but to drink the allegedly tainted water. “We decided to transport, from Argentina, our own water in enormous tanker trucks,” Coma said according to El Periódico newspaper,   “so Bolivia won’t have to worry about us.” “Water is not for sale!”   reads a local mural. “We are looking for ways to cooperate together in the case of a drought contingency,” Kuczmanski says. Ryan Stoa at the Florida International University College of Law suggests local administration of water resources is a better route. Water-sharing agreements for resources reaching eight states   as far up as Wyoming could see turmoil — particularly with the incoming administration of Donald Trump, as Politico reported. Bolivia’s government says the country   is suffering from its worst drought in 25 years. The case is expected to take months, if not years, to be resolved. And it’s not just in Bolivia;   Peru, Ecuador and   Colombia   are also   losing   ice cover. 17, 2015. In June, the Morales government sued Chile at The Hague for channeling water from Bolivia’s Silala spring. Not everyone can simply buy bottled water to meet their daily needs. 29   over widespread water shortages in the Bolivian city. It’s gotten so bad that   President Evo Morales declared a national state of emergency, tightened   up water rationing, fired a top water official and drew up   infrastructure projects to remediate the crisis. How about the Rio Grande? Stoa calls it “subsidiarity”:   making laws and regulating them at the lowest governance level “to promote efficiency and local ownership over policies and regulations.”
Meanwhile, observers   say Bolivia needs improvement   regulating, whether on the   private- or public-sector side. Credit:

Ricardo Martínez/PRI

But water cuts are still widespread. About 4,000 miles north, Mexico and the US have some issues, too. “This is a picture of the future of climate change,”   German glaciologist Dirk Hoffman told   The Associated Press at the start of   2016. Transferring authority to decentralized agencies specializing in water could improve small-scale management. Lake Poopó, once Bolivia’s second-largest lake, dried out   last year, as these   NASA images   show. Jan. Critics say the Bolivian government   has failed to take measures to secure alternative   water supplies. The head of a fuel company reportedly acknowledged   his trucks were being used, but claimed   the company followed rigorous cleaning   protocols before filling them up with water. Bolivian cities get some of their water from glacial supplies, especially during dry months. Rationing has hit more than 100 neighborhoods and affected about 400,000 people in La Paz and the neighboring city of El Alto. Problem is, droughts and water conflicts are not just affecting South America. Water is being called the new oil of the century, and some even predict international water wars to erupt over the next decades. Some blame foreign mines near one of La Paz’s reservoirs for allegedly sucking up the supply. Fortunately for Bolivia, war has not broken out. Experts say the effectiveness of either model depends on water availability more than financial support. The depleted water level caused by a prolonged drought in the western United States can be seen on Lake Mead in Nevada on May 6, 2015. And in another   city, Potosí, Cortés recalls a recent scandal where countless truckloads of the public’s water were being sold to mining firms, reportedly for about 1,000 to 2,000 bolivianos (US$145 to $290) each. The rugged Dakar Rally auto race   is about to blaze through Bolivia. Back in 2000, a popular uprising took water management away from private hands after deadly clashes with government security forces in the city of Cochabamba. Authorities and environmentalists   also   point to another   factor: Mining sped up the depletion of the Desaguadero River that fed the lake. Morales’ government, however, claims protesters are hyping up the water crisis to foment opposition to his 10-year rule. But this current crisis in the Andes could be a bellwether for the Americas and beyond. As for the Dakar Rally, its director Marc Coma has   reportedly ordered   six truckloads of water brought in for the competition. The Chilean state-owned mining company and many private mining firms have been using the water for years. 23. Even though Cochabamba residents are now better prepared, by collecting rainwater, the city and other areas continue to face shortages. Thousands of La Paz residents have been protesting these days. Still, Lake Mead, in Arizona and Nevada, has registered historic lows recently and the Rio Grande is frequently at risk of drought — which could all affect the supply for thousands. Fishing boats are shown here, on the dried Poopó   lake bed in the Oruro Department, south of La Paz, Bolivia, on Dec. Chile argues the water flows naturally downhill to its territory. According to Paola Cortés, an environmental lawyer in La Paz, large-scale gold extraction swallowed and polluted the river since the 1980s without any oversight. But plenty of countries rely on private management. They’re popping up anywhere from California to Syria to India — and, with populations growing and the climate changing, struggles over H2O are forecast to get a lot worse. Credit:

David Mercado/Reuters

Spilling over borders
Making matters worse, Bolivia is waging a water war with Chile in the International Court of Justice. Thousands protest in La Paz’s San Francisco square on Nov. The government knows the glaciers are receding   — by over 40   percent since 1985, according to one recent study. Bolivians stand in line to collect water from a truck in La Paz on   Nov. But in the meantime, water problems are affecting both countries. Residents want better government oversight. Some blame bad government planning. Yet the crisis is taking a toll on families, regardless of their income. Lori   Kuczmanski, foreign affairs secretary at the International Boundary and Water Commission, which oversees the treaties, says she expects work to continue as usual despite administration changes. Credit:

David Mercado/Reuters

Dicey water delivery? That’s because of media reports   that the same delivery trucks were previously   used for carrying gasoline and diesel. Take Calama, a city in Chile’s Atacama Desert that’s home to many of the region’s copper miners. 8 will mark two whole months of a water shortage in La Paz. But water polluted with arsenic from the mines flows out of local household faucets. Now they’re also shouting online with the hashtag #AguaSíDakarNo — “yes to water, no to Dakar.” In other words, they wish authorities would pay more attention to a deepening   water crisis. However, the La Paz Medical Association has advised   that the water be filtered and treated with bleach before it’s   consumed. Even the city’s more affluent south side is having rough times because of it — a rare case for Latin American elites. Climate has taken part of the   blame. But to many Bolivians, the timing could not be worse. Credit:

Mike Blake/Reuters

It all raises questions about how to better administer this crucial resource going forward.

Watch live: Senate hearing on Russian hacking and US cybersecurity

20. In tweets this week, Trump ridiculed the CIA and FBI conclusions, which are supported by outgoing President Barack Obama, that hackers working at the bidding of the Russian government stole embarrassing Democratic Party documents from the party’s computers and leaked the via WikiLeaks to undermine the presidential campaign of Trump rival Hillary Clinton. Referring to a planned presentation to him by intelligence chiefs, Trump tweeted: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. The plan could also include revamping the CIA, cutting back its headquarters staff while boosting deployment of agents in the field, the Journal said. 29, Obama retaliated, expelling 35 Russian “intelligence operatives,” placing sanctions on Russian government officials and intelligence services, and alleged hackers. “I think the most important thing the intelligence community can always do is speak truth to power,” he told MSNBC. “Julian Assange said ‘a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta’ – why was DNC so careless?” Trump said, referring to the thousands of emails and documents robbed from the computers of the Democratic National Committee and from Clinton campaign chief John Podesta. Very strange!”
He then added to the insult by citing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in his dismissal of the findings of multiple US agencies that Russia was behind the hacking. Trump rebuffed
Trump will be briefed Friday by the heads of the CIA, FBI and DNI on the evidence behind their conclusion on Russia election interference. Intel agency shakeup looming? The American public could get a better idea of the strength of the evidence on the alleged hacking as the Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing led by strong Russia critic John McCain, who on Wednesday called Moscow’s actions to subvert the US presidential vote an “act of war.”
Watch the hearings live:

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers are due to testify amid a heated rift between Trump and the intelligence bodies he will rely upon for crucial advice when he becomes president on Jan. And a declassified version of a White House report on the case is expected to be released next week. The intelligence chiefs and Obama have pointed the finger at Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying no such operation could go on in Moscow without the highest level of approval. Top US spy chiefs are testifying in Congress Thursday on alleged Russian interference in the US election, as President-elect Donald Trump continues to question intelligence that Moscow was behind the hacking of Democratic party computers. On Dec. But he meanwhile rankled officials in both political parties and angered the intelligence community by his choice of Assange as a reference for his views. In a radio interview Wednesday, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan branded Assange “a sycophant for Russia.”
“He leaks, he steals data, and compromises national security.”
Democratic Senator Mark Warner said Trump showed “frankly flabbergasting” disrespect for the intelligence officials. The Wall Street Journal reported late Wednesday that Trump is already working on a plan to restructure the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which Trump believes “has become bloated and politicized,” the Journal reported, citing people official with the planning. But the evidence made public by the agencies remains thin, allowing Trump, who has made clear he wants to improve fraught relations with Russia, to mount a challenge to the US intelligence establishment. “And it seems like perhaps the president-elect doesn’t want to hear those truths.” Trump’s taunts have boosted pressure on the White House, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Director of National Intelligence to back up their claims last month that the Russian government was behind the hacking, intentionally divulging the documents via WikiLeaks to disrupt the election and help Trump.

Kenya tries to come to grips with treating mental illness

The helpline receives around 25,000 text messages and emails a year, and helps about 11,000 people. At age 17, Sitawa Wafula was diagnosed with both epilepsy and bipolar disorder. And sharing her own story is the first step, she says. PRI.org

Wafula lost a job because she had a seizure and dropped out of college after being raped because she didn’t have a support system. “It sort of looks like it’s easier for women to walk up and say, ‘This is what I’m going through.’ But we’ve been trying to dig deeper into that, and [we’re] seeing that it’s more of a social construct where men are unfortunately supposed to come across in a certain way — they’re supposed to be macho, they’re supposed to be in control.”
Wafula says the helpline has allowed more men to disclose and discuss their mental health struggles without fear. As a young woman living in Kenya, a country where mental health issues are still seen as a spiritual taboo, Wafula struggled to make sense of her health problems.Player utilitiesPopout
downloadThis story is based on a radio interview. This story first aired as an interview on PRI’s The Takeaway, a public radio program that invites you to be part of the American conversation. She says the service is helping to reduce the stigma of mental illness in Kenya. “When someone is going through depression, unfortunately we tell them, ‘Man up’ — that you need to be standing on your own two feet, you’re not supposed to be crying or weak or complaining about things,” she says. In 2014, Wafula won $25,000 from a Google competition for her work and used the money to start My Mind, My Funk, Kenya’s first free mental health support line. As a way of dealing with her situation, she started blogging about her daily challenges. “With time, it’s made it easier for me to be in spaces I want to be in because people already know about [my challenges], so I don’t need to pretend or act a certain way or not do certain things because I’m afraid what people will say or what they’ll think about me,” she says. Listen to the full interview. “Surprisingly, I get more emails from men,” says Wafula. “For them, it’s much easier to write it down then to walk up to people and say, ‘Hey, I’m struggling with this and that.’”
Wafula is hoping the service will continue to gain momentum and be used as a tool to help normalize mental health treatment throughout Kenya.