By Robert A. Vella
Hong Kong police have made sweeping arrests of pro-democracy protesters in further indication of China’s intent to put down this movement and reassert its authority over the former British colony. The U.N.’s top official on biodiversity has issued a warning that the world’s ecosystems are rushing towards a point of no return as manmade fires rage in the Amazon, forests in Germany are succumbing to climate change, and the outlook for Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has been downgraded due to rising ocean temperatures. Suspicious deaths, including homicide, have been reported at a V.A. hospital in West Virginia.
A federal prosecutor in Ohio has filed criminal charges against a man for transmitting threatening communications via interstate commerce, and he sent a strongly-worded public message to white supremacists in America who believe now that their racial animus can go unchallenged:
“Go ahead and make your case for Nazism, a white nation, and racial superiority. The Constitution may give you a voice, but it doesn’t guarantee you a receptive audience. Your right to free speech does not automatically mean that people will agree with you. In fact, you have a God-given and inalienable right to be on the losing end of this argument.”
“What you don’t have, though, is the right to take out your frustration at failure in the political arena by resorting to violence. You don’t have any right to threaten the lives and well-being of our neighbors. They have an absolute and God-given and inalienable right to live peacefully, to worship as they please, to be free from fear that they might become a target simply because of the color of their skin, the country of their birth, or the form of their prayer.”
“Threatening to kill Jewish people, gunning down innocent Latinos on a weekend shopping trip, planning and plotting to perpetrate murders in the name of a nonsense racial theory, sitting to pray with God-fearing people who you execute moments later – those actions don’t make you soldiers, they make you cowards. And law enforcement does not go to war with cowards who break the law, we arrest them and send them to prison.”
“Keep this in mind, though. Thousands and thousands of young Americans already voted with their lives to ensure that this same message of intolerance, death and destruction would not prevail. You can count their ballots by visiting any American cemetery in North Africa, Italy, France or Belgium and tallying the white headstones. You can also recite the many names of civil rights advocates who bled and died in opposing supporters of those same ideologies of hatred. Their voices may be distant, but they can still be heard.”
– Justin Herdman, the US attorney for the Northern District of Ohio
Hong Kong arrests
(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong police arrested prominent opposition figures including Joshua Wong — and warned other protesters could share their fate at illegal demonstrations this weekend — raising tensions as authorities seek to quell pro-democracy demonstrations that have raged for almost three months.
The 22-year-old Wong, who was scheduled to speak about the protests in the U.S. next month, was among well-known pro-democracy activists arrested by police on Thursday and Friday. Those arrested included Wong’s fellow leader of 2014 Occupy protests, Agnes Chow; independence advocate Andy Chan; and District Councilor Rick Hui.
Police said more than 20 people were arrested since Thursday, and warned at a briefing Friday that others could be charged if they take part in protests without official approval. A colonial statute passed during a wave of deadly riots in the 1960s allows authorities to the power to imprison those who participate in unlawful assemblies for as long as five years and more than 900 have been arrested on a variety of charges since June.
The fires in the Amazon are “extraordinarily concerning” for the planet’s natural life support systems, the head of the UN’s top biodiversity body has said in a call for countries, companies and consumers to build a new relationship with nature.
Cristiana Paşca Palmer, the executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, said the destruction of the world’s biggest rainforest was a grim reminder that a fresh approach needed to stabilise the climate and prevent ecosystems from declining to a point of no return, with dire consequences for humanity.
“The Amazon fires make the point that we face a very serious crisis,” she told the Guardian. “But it is not just the Amazon. We’re also concerned with what’s happening in other forests and ecosystems, and with the broader and rapid degradation of nature. The risk is we are moving towards the tipping points that scientists talk about that could produce cascading collapses of natural systems.”
BERLIN, Aug 30 (Reuters) – Forest fires, drought and insect infestations have left Germany’s forests in a critical state, agriculture minister Julia Kloeckner said after forest owners demanded 2.3 billion euros in emergency aid to tackle the crisis.
Kloeckner was speaking on Thursday after talks to lay the ground for next month’s “forest summit” at which foresters and the government will develop plans for responding to what has come to be termed the “forest die-off”.
Last year’s exceptionally hot and dry summer weakened millions of trees, undermining their defences against the bark-beetle, which often prove fatal to trees that have stood for centuries. This summer has been even hotter.
Australia downgraded the Great Barrier Reef’s long-term outlook to “very poor” for the first time Friday, as the world heritage site struggles with “escalating” climate change.
In its latest five-yearly report on the health of the world’s largest coral reef system, the government’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority singled out rising sea temperatures as the biggest threat to the giant organism.
Federal officials are investigating as many as 11 deaths at a VA hospital in West Virginia for “potential wrongdoing,” they announced this week in an inquiry that has rocked the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Two of the deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, W.Va., have been ruled homicides, according to media reports. Both are now the subject of lawsuits.
A message to white supremacists
A federal prosecutor used a routine press conference announcing criminal charges on Thursday to deliver a harsh message to those who advocate white supremacy and white nationalism.
Justin Herdman, the US attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, announced one count of transmitting threatening communications via interstate commerce against James Reardon, a self-described white nationalist.
Reardon’s Instagram account was filled with anti-Semitic slurs. One post included a video of a man shooting a rifle amid sirens and screams. It was tagged to the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown and captioned, “Police identified the Youngstown Jewish Family Community shooter as local white nationalist Seamus O’Rearedon,” according to Andy Lipkin, executive vice president of the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation. Seamus O’Rearedon is a Gaelic version of Reardon’s name.