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Libyan coastguards ‘fired on and tried to ram migrant boat’ – NGO | Global development

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Footage has emerged that appears to show the Libyan coastguard firing on a boat in distress carrying migrant families in the Mediterranean Sea.

Rescue workers from the German organisation Sea-Watch recorded the coastguard patrol vessel apparently trying to ram the small wooden boat and firing shots in an attempt to force the people onboard back to Libya.

In a statement about Wednesday’s incident, Sea-Watch said: “During our mission with our Sea-Watch reconnaissance aircraft Seabird on June 30, at 1.39pm, we overheard communication about a position of a boat carrying 50 people and many children inside the Maltese search and rescue zone.”

A Sea-Watch video still showing Libyan coastguards pursuing the migrant boat in the Malta search and rescue zone of the Mediterranean.
A Sea-Watch video still showing Libyan coastguards pursuing the migrant boat in Malta’s rescue zone of the Mediterranean. Photograph: Kai von Kotze/Sea-Watch/AFP/Getty

It went on to say that the pilot had then spotted the Libyan coastguard boat, supplied by Italy to help Tripoli control the flow of migrants in Mediterranean: “Seabird flew towards the case and spotted the so-called Libyan coastguard vessel PB 648 – Ras Jadir.”

Sea-Watch found a blue wooden boat carrying dozens of migrants, including children, and asked the rescue coordination centre in Malta, via email and phone, to intervene. According to the German NGO, the Maltese authorities said they were “investigating”.

“We witnessed the brutal attack by the so-called Libyan coastguard and recorded the situation before leaving the scene due to a shortage of fuel,” said Sea-Watch.

The video from Wednesday, obtained by the Guardian, appears to show the Libyan coastguard firing at least two shots in the direction of the boat, as they tried to ram the migrant vessel. Libyan officers threw objects at the passengers, and pulled a rope with a buoy behind it to “catch” the wooden boat.

“Europe’s partners of the so-called Libyan coastguard are approvingly accepting the death of people on the move,” said Felix Weiss of Sea-Watch’s Airborne Operations.

“Those who shoot at refugees and try to capsize their boats are not there to save them. The EU must immediately end cooperation with the so-called Libyan coastguard. European states like Malta must take back responsibility for their rescue zones and fulfil their duty to rescue.”

Flavio Di Giacomo, Italy’s spokesman for the UN migration agency, the International Organization for Migration, called the video “disturbing”.

The migrant boat was able to avoid the interception and arrived on the island of Lampedusa the next day, the same morning as another boat capsized off Sicily’s coast, leaving seven women confirmed dead and nine missing.

Almost 700 people have died so far in 2021 while trying to cross the central Mediterranean Sea, according to the IOM’s Missing Migrants Project. Meanwhile, more than 19,000 migrants have reached Italy, three times as many as during the same period last year, according to Italy’s interior ministry.

The Libyan authorities, coordinated by Maltese and Italian officials, and with the support of commercial ships and private vessels, have, according to the New York-based aid organisation the International Rescue Committee, intercepted and returned to Libya more than 13,000 people during the first six months of 2021 – more than the 11,891 intercepted throughout all of 2020.

On 14 June 2021, after being rescued by the Gibraltar-flagged supply ship Vos Triton in international waters, about 170 people were handed over to the Libyan coastguard and returned there in what a report by the migrant aid organisations Mediterranea Saving Humans, Sea-Watch, WatchTheMed and Alarm Phone called “pushback by proxy”.

“The survivors, who had decided to risk their lives to escape Libya, should have been brought to a place of safety as is prescribed by international maritime law,” the report said. “Instead, they were placed in detention upon arrival in Libya, a country which is not recognised neither as a safe country, nor as a ‘place of safety’ by the international community, and known to subject detainees to systematic forms of intentional violence, including sexual violence such as rape and torture.”

In June, a week after the incident, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) decided to suspend their services from two detention centres in Tripoli, due to the unacceptable violence detainees were subjected to.

The Libyan authorities were contacted for comment.

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Build Back Better: Friendly fire aimed at Joe Biden | USA

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In early October, a group of activists kayaked to the houseboat belonging to US Senator Joe Manchin in Washington to protest his opposition to the Democratic Party’s €3.5-trillion Reconciliation bill, which is a star policy of the Joe Biden administration. This came just days after Senator Kyrsten Sinema was ambushed by protesters during her trip back to Washington.

But neither Manchin nor Sinema are part of the Republican Party’s offense against the bill: they are two moderates in the Democratic Party who are forcing the president to reconsider the reforms. In the meantime, Biden is facing both pressure and disillusionment as his popularity in the polls plummets.

The Democratic Party’s ambitious spending plan, called Build Back Better, involves the largest extension of social-welfare coverage in the United States since the 1970s when Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson was in power. The bill includes a tax credit for children and other dependent family members, extends aid to the elderly and disadvantaged people, and in its current form, funds a raft of sweeping measures aimed at fighting climate change and promoting renewable energy. But it is the environmental side of the plan that Biden is now considering changing due to the complete opposition from Senator Manchin, whose state – the conservative West Virginia – relies heavily on coal mining for employment. The plan is estimated to cost $3.5 trillion (around €3 trillion), but it is likely that it will be cut back to less than $2.5 million.

This is because, unlike former president Lyndon B. Johnson, Biden only has a narrow majority in Congress. In 1965, when Johnson signed the Medicare bill – which established a health-insurance program for the elderly – the Democratic Party had an overwhelming majority in Congress and held control of two-thirds of the Senate. But even then it was difficult to convince the moderate sector to approve the bill. Fifty years later, in 2011, when former president Barack Obama put forward his healthcare reforms, he also had a stronger position than Biden in both legislative chambers: 57 democrats and two independents in the Senate.

Senator Manchin’s opposition to the social-welfare plan is based on fears over rising inflation in the US, an increase of public debt and – something more abstract – concern that it will turn the country “into an entitlement society,” as he stated at the beginning of October. The statement came after he published an opinion poll in The Wall Street Journal called “Why I Won’t Support Spending Another $3.5 Trillion.” In the article, he argues: “Establishing an artificial $3.5 trillion spending number and then reverse-engineering the partisan social priorities that should be funded isn’t how you make good policy.”

Since becoming a senator after the 2020 election, Kyrsten Sinema has defended a bipartisan approach to legislating – a position she has also taken with the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill, which is still awaiting ratification. “The American people are asking for us to take action. What they don’t want to see is us sit on our hands, waiting until we get every single thing that we want,” she said in a radio interview with NPR in August. “That all-or-nothing approach usually leaves you with nothing,” added Sinema, who is the first Democratic senator in the state of Arizona in 30 years.

Both senators raised record sums of money in the third quarter of the year, thanks to large contributions from the oil and gas, pharmaceutical and financial services sectors, according to filings recorded and published by the Financial Times. Manchin raised $1.6 million (€1.38 million), up from $1.5 million ( €1.29 million) in the second quarter and just $175,000 (€150,000) in the first. Meanwhile, Sinema received €1.1 million (€950,000) in donations in the third quarter, a figure narrowly outstripping the second and far from the $375,000 (€322,000) in the first. This is despite the fact that neither of the politicians face reelection until 2024.

Two Senators cannot be allowed to defeat what 48 senators and 210 House members want

Senator for Vermont, Bernie Sanders

In the meantime, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is starting to lose patience and is also pressuring the White House. “Two senators cannot be allowed to defeat what 48 senators and 210 House members want,” Bernie Sanders, senator for Vermont, wrote in a message on Twitter. “Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better legislation,” he added in a separate tweet. In a similar vein, Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said: “Four percent of Democrats are opposing passing the president’s agenda.”

Democrat veteran Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, has begun to try to solve the conflict and is preparing lawmakers to accept cuts to the reconciliation bill. “I’m very disappointed that we’re not going with the original $3.5 trillion,” she admitted on October 12. “But whatever we do, we will make decisions that will continue to be transformative.”

The greater debate with respect to the spending plan is over the size of public spending and to what extent the state should intervene in the economy. Biden came to the White House with the message that a monumental crisis required a strong and broad government. The Biden administration has been able to pass new legislation on voting rights at a time when Republican-led states are pushing for restrictions, which in practice, hinder access to minority groups and the disadvantaged. But there are more projects in limbo. The reason is that it is not enough to have a simple majority in the Senate; the Democratic Party needs 60 votes in the 100-seat chamber, but only has 50, plus the casting vote of Deputy President Kamala Harris.

Meanwhile, Biden’s popularity has taken a nosedive. He entered the White House on January 20 with a 57% approval rating, according to respected pollster Gallup. But in August, after six months in power, the figure had fallen below 50%, and in September, the last month for which there is available data, it was down to 43%. This is higher than the approval rating of former US president Donald Trump, which came in at 37% after the same period of time, but is nine points lower than the same figure for Obama. The fall is largely due to the drop in support among independent voters: before the election, 61% of them approved of Biden, compared to 37% now.

Economic uncertainty, an uptick of the coronavirus pandemic over summer and stalled reforms are among the reasons Biden’s popularity is waning. Other factors include the administration’s migration policy, which has maintained some of the most restrictive elements of the Trump era, and the upheaval following the US army’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. With the anniversary of the November 2020 election fast approaching, Biden is hoping that he will be able to pass his star legislation, despite the internal opposition.



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Too hot to handle: can our bodies withstand global heating?

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Extreme heat can kill or cause long-term health problems – but for many unendurable temperatures are the new normal

The impact of extreme heat on the human body is not unlike what happens when a car overheats. Failure starts in one or two systems, and eventually it takes over the whole engine until the car stops.

That’s according to Mike McGeehin, environmental health epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “When the body can no longer cool itself it immediately impacts the circulatory system. The heart, the kidneys, and the body become more and more heated and eventually our cognitive abilities begin to desert us – and that’s when people begin fainting, eventually going into a coma and dying.”

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Polish TV sabotages Tusk press briefing

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Polish opposition leader Donald Tusk clashed with Polish propaganda outlet TVP in Warsaw Tuesday. A TVP reporter asked him why Tusk’s party wanted Poland to leave the EU. “This is beyond imagination … I won’t answer such absurdities,” Tusk, whose Civic Platform party is pro-EU, said, before a prickly exchange ensued. TVP also muted MEPs who said Poland should face EU rule-of-law sanctions in its coverage of a Strasbourg debate.

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