Gun violence research could be funded by Congress for first time in 20 years

Demonstrators hold up placards representing the number of the people who have died because of gun violence on Capitol Hill on June 20, 2019, during an event with gun violence prevention advocates.
Demonstrators hold up placards representing the number of the people who have died because of gun violence on Capitol Hill on June 20, 2019, during an event with gun violence prevention advocates.

For the first time in more than 20 years, Congress could approve federal funding to study gun violence, which kills nearly 40,000 Americans each year.

A House bill approved Tuesday includes $25 million for research, split evenly between the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Experts say the new allocation will allow researchers to conduct large-scale studies that get at the root causes of gun violence while ensuring that firearm regulation does not infringe on Second Amendment rights.

“It’s discovering what science can do for a problem like this. If you look at what science can do for heart disease, for cancer. It’s saved tens of thousands of lives,” said Mark Rosenberg, former director of CDC research on firearm violence. “This is going to unlock a vein of pure gold that people on both sides of the aisle will appreciate.”

The House vote comes just days after the seventh anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that killed 26 people, including 20 children. It also comes amid a year that has seen nearly 400 mass shootings (defined as four or more people shot or killed, not counting the shooter), according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, including high-profile shootings in El Paso, Texas;  and Dayton, Ohio.

2020 candidates: A voter’s guide to where they stand on health care, gun control, more

Felipe Avila mourns outside a Walmart in El Paso after a mass shooting on Aug. 4, 2019.
Felipe Avila mourns outside a Walmart in El Paso after a mass shooting on Aug. 4, 2019.

Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said he and his team of researchers have long relied on meager public funding and private grants that limit the scope of their research by forcing them to draw correlations between available data sets rather than conduct more in-depth studies that collect data on firearm access.

“Very, very rarely are we able to say, ‘Are the people … who are the target of a law, can you document that their misuse of firearms is targeted by this law?’ That’s a far more compelling piece of causal evidence than a correlation with population-level data,” Webster said.

“And on the other side of that, for studies that look at law-abiding gun owners, how did these laws affect your capacity to get a gun? These are basic, fundamental questions that we have very little data on that this new funding could open up,” he said.

Gun control advocates applauded the move to include funding for research.

“Make no mistake, the passage of this bill marks an important victory for the gun safety movement – for the first time in more than 20 years, Congress will be appropriating funding specifically for research on gun violence, which now kills more Americans than car accidents,” John Feinblatt, president of the anti-gun-violence nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a news release.

Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, co-founder of the eponymous gun violence prevention organization, said in a news release that the bill demonstrates a “change” in the country’s approach to gun violence.

“For far too long, the United States Congress put the political agenda of the gun lobby over our nation’s public health and safety. But today, with outraged Americans demanding solutions to gun violence and a new gun safety majority elected to the House of Representatives, change is happening,” Giffords said.

The National Rifle Association, however, cautioned the CDC against exploiting public funding.

“Everyone knows the NRA supports properly conducted research into the causes of violence. What we don’t support are taxpayer-funded efforts to weaponize the CDC for political ‘research’ favoring gun control. Fortunately, this legislation retains the Dickey Amendment, which prohibits the use of tax-payer funds to promote gun control,” spokesperson Amy Hunter said.

Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who co-founded a gun violence prevention organization.
Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who co-founded a gun violence prevention organization.

If approved, the bill would be the first to include funding explicitly for gun safety research since 1996. That year, Congress – under pressure from the NRA – approved the Dickey Amendment, which stated that the CDC could not “advocate or promote gun control.” Congress also slashed CDC funding by $2.6 million, the same amount that the center had spent on firearm violence research the previous year.

While the Dickey Amendment did not specifically ban research on gun violence, it had a “chilling effect” on the field, Webster said. It spurred the CDC to avoid research on firearms regulation and discouraged young researchers from pursuing the field.

“The true chilling effect was the pull-back of funds and the strong signal from Congress that, if you fund research that the gun lobby isn’t happy with, expect funding cuts,” Webster said.

Rosenberg, who directed CDC research on firearm violence at the time, said the Dickey Amendment reduced gun violence research to “a trickle.” From 1998 to 2012, the number of publications about gun violence declined 64%, according to a 2017 study by medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

The amendment “was a warning, a shot across the bow,” Rosenberg said. “It told researchers that, if you want to research gun violence, we can make your life miserable.”

‘The loneliest club’: For survivors caught in endless loop of mass shootings, time doesn’t always heal

Then-representative Jay Dickey, R-Ark., who sponsored the amendment, later reversed his position and penned an op-ed in The Washington Post with Rosenberg, explaining the need for gun safety research and noting that there had been “almost no publicly funded research on firearm injuries” since 1996. In the op-ed, the authors admitted that “one of us served as the NRA’s point person in Congress.”

Last year, lawmakers clarified the language of the Dickey Amendment, making clear that it does not prevent research into gun violence.

The new funding is baked into a $1.37 trillion spending package that also includes money for President Donald Trump’s border wall and increases the age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21.

The package was released Monday and passed the House on Tuesday. It must pass the Senate and be signed by Trump by Friday to avert a government shutdown.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Gun violence research funding included in bipartisan spending bill

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U.S. judge blasts FBI over handling of wiretap applications of ex-Trump campaign adviser

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A federal judge blasted the FBI on Tuesday for repeatedly submitting applications to wiretap former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page that were riddled with errors and omissions, and ordered the government to inform the court on how it plans to reform the process.

FILE PHOTO: One-time advisor of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump Carter Page addresses the audience during a presentation in Moscow, Russia, December 12, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

The scathing order here from Rosemary Collyer, the presiding judge over the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, marks the first time the court has responded to the controversy, which became public last week with the release of a report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

Horowitz’s probe scrutinized the FBI’s actions in the early stages of its investigation into contacts between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, known as Operation Crossfire Hurricane. The investigation was later handed off to Special Counsel Robert Muller, who was appointed in May 2017.

Horowitz concluded that while there was no evidence of political bias, the FBI’s original application to wiretap Page and its three subsequent renewal requests contained errors and omissions, including failing to inform the court that Page had served as a source for another U.S. intelligence agency.

Horowitz found that a former low-level FBI attorney also doctored an email that claimed the opposite – saying that Page in fact was not a source for the other agency, which Reuters has since identified as the CIA.

“The FBI’s handling of the Carter Page applications, as portrayed in the report, was antithetical to the heightened duty of candor,” Collyer wrote in her Dec. 17 order.

“The frequency with which representations made by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable,” she wrote.

The judge gave the government until Jan. 10 to file a submission outlining “what it has done, and plans to do, to ensure that the statement of facts in each FBI application accurately and completely reflects information possessed by the FBI that is material to any issue presented by the application.”

The FBI, in a statement, said that Director Chris Wray feels the conduct of certain FBI employees described in Horowitz’s report is “unacceptable and unrepresentative of the FBI as an institution.”

“The director has ordered more than 40 corrective steps to address the report’s recommendations,” the bureau said, adding that the FBI is committed to working with the court and the Justice Department “to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) process.”

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Fighting Corruption Is The Most Electable Thing A Democrat Can Do In 2020

Brian Snyder / Reuters

Sen. Elizabeth Warren argued in a New Hampshire speech last week that the best way to defeat President Donald Trump is to focus on fighting corruption.

Over the past year, every member of the often-ballooning and occasionally shrinking field of Democratic presidential candidates has tried to convince an uncommitted and nervous electorate that they are the candidate to defeat President Donald Trump. 

Every candidate has their own theory of how to effectively oust the incumbent. Former Vice President Joe Biden has argued that his career credentials and familiarity with a broad swath of voters put him in the best position to trounce Trump. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has said that proposing bold liberal policies will inspire unprecedented turnout and win over Democrats who backed Trump in 2016. Before she dropped out, California Sen. Kamala Harris had posited that the key to defeating the president was firing up disengaged African-American voters in swing states.

Last Thursday, at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren finally unveiled her theory: The candidate who can defeat Trump is the one who will put the focus on the long-standing political corruption that helped sweep Trump into office and that his administration has only exacerbated.

“That’s our path to beat Donald Trump in 2020,” Warren said. “Americans of all political stripes are looking for a candidate who is serious about fighting Washington corruption. They know until someone is willing to do that, nothing else will get done. Demonstrating a real commitment to reform is our best general election contrast with a corrupt president. It’s how we win moderates, independents and disaffected Republicans.”

Warren’s take, like that of every other candidate, is a bit self-serving. Promising to fight corruption is her political bread and butter. She pointedly noted that nearly a year into the Democratic primary fight, “no other candidate has put out anything close to my sweeping plan to root out Washington corruption.”

Media coverage of Warren often focuses on the ambitiousness of her plans to aggressively tax the wealthy and spend that money on health care, child care and education ― ideas that cause unease among moderate Democrats, who fear they could alienate the party’s financial backers and independent voters. While the Warren campaign never backs away from those plans ― the campaign, after all, is selling a “billionaire tears” mug ― they are not its central thesis. From the start, her campaign has emphasized the battle against the corruption that blocks popular legislation on everything from guns to climate to health care from becoming law. 

To Warren and her team, a believable promise to battle corruption is the best way to win over swing voters. Both recent political history and polling suggest they might be right: A survey conducted for the Democratic campaign finance reform group End Citizens United found that 89% of voters in 26 congressional swing districts rated cracking down on political corruption as either a “top” or “major” priority. That was higher than for any other issue, even making health care more affordable or protecting Social Security and Medicare. 

But winning the argument, Democratic operatives say, will require a focus on the issue, particularly against a Republican president who was able to convince many voters in 2016 that he planned to crack down on corruption. 

“Trump isn’t going to quit lying about how he drained the swamp,” said Tiffany Mueller, the president of End Citizens United, which is neutral in the 2020 presidential primary. “It’s up to Democrats to make the case about how they’re going to reform the system and how it impacts their day-to-day life.”

The Warren team isn’t alone in its belief in the corruption argument. While her proposed wealth tax, support for the (eventual) passage of “Medicare for All” and plans to push for a fracking ban will all likely turn off moderate Democrats, both Democratic House freshmen who won Trump districts and the Senate candidates whom Democrats are counting on to win back the upper chamber are proposing legislation and plans to battle corruption, sometimes echoing Warren’s language when doing so.

Other Democratic presidential candidates at least occasionally discuss corruption ― besides Warren, Mueller noted that South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and a number of second-tier candidates have also promised to make an anti-corruption bill their top priority in office ― and any of those candidates could make it more of a central issue if they end going one-on-one with Trump. But a Warren nomination would guarantee that fighting corruption would be front and center for Democrats as they head into a heated political battle for control of the presidency, both chambers of Congress and crucial state legislatures in November 2020.

“I think Democrats who are running in 2020 need to lean into cleaning up corruption even more. I don’t think we can overstate how important this issue is to voters,” Mueller said. “It has to be essential to your brand. It has to be part of the day-in, day-out narrative of what’s wrong with this country and what Democrats are going to do to fix it.”

SOPA Images via Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders has aired an ad calling Trump “the most corrupt president in American history.”

Sanders has aired an ad in Iowa in which he calls Trump “the most corrupt president in American history.” Like Sanders and Warren, both Buttigieg and Biden have rolled out plans to reform the campaign finance system that include public campaign financing. 

But none has been as consistently focused on the issue as Warren. Her famous plans have faded for now from the spotlight, but nearly all of them, from agriculture to Pentagon procurement, have provisions designed to limit the ways that lobbyists and industry can influence government. She released another anti-corruption plan, this one focused on money laundering and foreign shell companies, on Tuesday morning. In her stump speech, the senator regularly cites either the influence of the billionaire Koch brothers to explain why Washington has ignored climate change or the power of the National Rifle Association to explain why the federal government has done little to prevent mass shootings.

“It looks like we’re trying to solve a lot of different problems, but we’re only trying to solve one problem,” Jon Donenberg, the policy director for Warren’s presidential campaign, told HuffPost this past summer. “It’s the rigged system; it’s the corrupt government and economy that only benefits those at the top. Every solution flows from that.” 

Her most sweeping plan to battle corruption, introduced before her speech in New York’s Washington Square Park this fall, contains more than 100 provisions, from banning government officials from trading individual stocks while in office, to preventing corporate lobbyists from getting a job in the federal government for six years after lobbying, to imposing a tax on companies that spend more than $500,000 a year on lobbying. 

Warren still has to convince the Democratic primary electorate that her plan to beat Trump is the best. After peaking in the early fall, her polling numbers have fallen, though she remains firmly in the top tier of candidates. A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday found that 80% of Democrats thought it was “likely” Biden could beat Trump, but only 60% said the same of Warren. 

She is now turning her corruption focus into an offensive against other candidates. Toward the end of her speech in New Hampshire last week, Warren ― who stopped holding high-dollar fundraisers when her presidential run began ― suggested that Biden’s and Buttigieg’s extensive efforts to woo wealthy donors would hurt them as general election nominees. 

“Voters will not trust a candidate who won’t make a single difficult decision that might cut down on the access and influence of wealthy donors,” Warren said. “And voters will be right.”

Joshua Roberts / Reuters

Trump sits with Linda McMahon, the outgoing head of the Small Business Administration, at his Mar-a-Lago estate on March 29, 2019. McMahon was a major donor to Trump’s 2016 election effort and left the adminstration to join his 2020 campaign.

Democrats might think pushing the corruption argument against Trump will be easy: The impeachment hearings steadily built the case that he pressured a foreign government to assist him in the 2020 election. A major reason anybody might buy the lease to his D.C. hotel is the number of foreign governments holding pricey events there. CBS News caught the Republican National Committee soliciting donations from Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to the Bahamas. A Trump tax break intended to help poor people is instead aiding the construction of apartments at a marina owned by a Republican donor. Last week, a judge forced the president to pay a $2 million fine for misusing donations to the Trump Foundation. 

But the Democratic Party has found convincing voters that Trump is substantially more corrupt than a typical politician to be frustratingly difficult. While Democrats persuaded swing voters that they were better positioned to clean up Washington than incumbent House Republicans during the 2018 midterm elections, making the same argument regarding the president has been easier said than done. According to polling, focus groups and interviews with political operatives, Trump’s image as an outsider businessman who wants to drain the swamp has proven surprisingly resilient. 

While Democrats have made some progress, many voters are still inclined to view Trump as no more or less dedicated to eliminating corruption than most other politicians. Another End Citizens United poll, conducted this summer, found that 31% of voters in swing states trusted Trump to crack down on political corruption, while 30% trusted the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. A plurality of 39% weren’t sure.

And a New York Times poll of six swing states in October found a 46% plurality of voters thought that Trump’s behavior regarding Ukraine was typical of how politicians behave. Only 42% said it was much worse than most other politicians. 

Part of Democrats’ struggle arises from simple partisanship: Republicans aren’t likely to call their party’s leader corrupt. But some of it also traces back to Trump’s rhetoric and how his attacks on the “rigged system” give him leeway to engage in behavior that would sink a normal presidency.

As Liam Donovan, a Republican strategist, put it in a Medium post: “From baldly transactional diplomacy to crude international fishing expeditions, nothing the President does or has done is beyond the pale, because it is merely an acknowledgement of How Things Work. Everyone lies, cheats, and steals. Trump is just more honest about it, you see.”

Jeff Hauser, a Democratic strategist who runs the Revolving Door Project, argues that the problem is exacerbated by Democrats’ failure to effectively hold oversight hearings on the Trump administration’s corruption.

“The media has done a relatively good job and Democrats have done a terrible job,” he said, citing the failure of House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) to examine the Trump administration’s ties to for-profit colleges as one example. “There’s been no comprehensive efforts to connect corporate overreach, Trump corruption and economic outcomes for ordinary Americans.”

Still, there are some encouraging signs: Priorities USA, the largest Democratic super PAC, found in recent polling that 53% of voters in what it views as the four most important swing states — Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — view political corruption as a reason to vote Trump out of office, while only 30% said it was a reason to reelect him. 

Guy Cecil, the Priorities USA chairman, said the group’s anti-Trump advertising will soon focus more on corruption. For example, he said to expect ads highlighting the Trump administration’s ties to for-profit colleges who pushed to weaken protections for students and to polluters who urged the Environmental Protection Agency to make it harder to enact new clean air and water rules.

“You’ll see us do more on corruption,” Cecil said, adding that it was unlikely the group would pay for advertising focused on impeachment or Trump’s behavior regarding Ukraine. “The key is to explain how corruption often impacts the people that we’re talking to.”

Andrew Kelly / Reuters

Rep. Max Rose represents a Staten Island-based district won by Trump in 2018, but a key part of his reelection message sounds a lot like Warren’s.

Do not expect Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.), who won a Staten Island-based seat in 2018, to endorse Warren in the primary. He’s a committed moderate who swore in an interview last month that he was not paying attention to the presidential race. 

But a key part of his own reelection message sounds a lot like Warren’s. “It’s very clear that until we get rid of the pervasive and corrupting influence of money in politics, we can’t get anything else done,” Rose said, just hours after he had introduced legislation with another vulnerable freshman, Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.), to ban corporate PACs entirely. 

Rose has since also introduced legislation with Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) ― a more liberal freshman Democrat, and a protege and political backer of Warren’s ― to require more financial disclosures from direct relatives of the president and from political appointees. 

Rose’s positioning is indicative of the comfort that moderate Democratic officials and candidates have with Warren’s push to crack down on the influence of lobbyists, corporations and money in politics. Of the 40 (mostly moderate) Democrats who won Republican-held House seats in 2018, 27 of them had sworn off money from corporate PACs ― a point nearly all of them emphasized in television advertising. And two leading Democratic challengers for GOP-held Senate seats in 2020 ― Arizona’s Mark Kelly and North Carolina’s Cal Cunningham ― have already rolled out plans to battle corruption.

Meredith Kelly, a Democratic strategist who was the communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2018 cycle, said voters’ concern about the influence of campaign donations and how that has prevented progress on issues like gun control spiked following Trump’s election. 

“Voters started to see the direct link between money in politics and the lack of progress on issues they care about,” she said, noting that coincided with the emergence of End Citizens United as a major player within the Democratic Party. “It was an obscure concept before. It became more of a motivator for voters after Trump was elected.” 

There are signs Republicans are recognizing a threat: GOP groups have worked repeatedly in recent months to downplay the impact of swearing off corporate PACs, noting there are other ways for corporations and lobbyists to influence politicians.

Rose, a former amateur boxer and Afghanistan War veteran, said that battling corruption was about picking a side between “people who can’t afford a lobbyist” and powerful interests like pharmaceutical companies.

“The American people are smart. They can smell a bullshit artist from a mile away,” he said. “We’re not going to stop until people are elected to these offices on the strength of their ideas and the will of the people behind them, and not on the size of their checkbook.”

The ability of Warren’s message to unite the party is also visible on the campaign trail. When Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) ― a member of both the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the moderate New Democrat Coalition ― introduced Warren at an event in North Las Vegas last month, he noted that he agreed with her more on fighting corruption than on any other issue.

“Are we ready to call out corruption?” he said to a roar from the crowd. “Are we ready for Elizabeth Warren?”

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5 things to know on for Tuesday December 17, 2019: Canadian orphan, Justin Trudeau, bad sleep

An orphaned Canadian girl has been stranded in Syria for a year and her family says the federal government isn’t doing enough to get her home. Here’s what else you need to know to start your day.

1. Canadian orphan: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it is “too dangerous” to remove a four-year-old Canadian orphan from a Syrian detention camp following news that Kurdish authorities located the child.

2. LGBTQ rights: The federal government is moving forward with a ban on conversion therapy, a practice that a senator pushing for reforms says is “no doubt” still occurring in Canada.

3. Danforth shooting: Victims who were injured during a mass shooting in Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood in 2018 have filed a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. manufacturer of the stolen handgun used by the gunman.

4. U.K. election: Internet searches for jobs in Canada spiked after the U.K.’s general election last week that saw Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party sweep the results with a majority.

5. Bad sleep: A new study has found that people who wake up repeatedly instead of sleeping soundly are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s and experience premature aging of the brain’s immune cells.

One more thing…

Good news: A U.S. illustrator is trying to make it easier for people to find some relief from negative news headlines with his own stylized cartoons highlighting positive stories.

The Happy Broadcast

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Serie A: Italian soccer anti-racism monkey artwork condemned as ‘outrage’

The sport in Italy has been blighted by racist abuse this season, and the artwork commissioned by Serie A was designed to stop fans directing monkey chants at players.

Artist Simone Fugazzotto came up with the idea for the Coppa Italia final between Lazio and Atalanta in May — and it’s part of an official anti-racism initiative that was officially unveiled on Monday.

Fugazzotto said his triptych of monkeys was intended to show that there’s no difference between humans and apes, an idea that he decided to use after watching a match between Inter Milan and Napoli.

“Everyone was making the sound of monkeys at Koulibaly, a player I respect,” Fugazzotto told the Serie A website, referring to Napoli’s Senegalese international Kalidou Koulibaly.

“I’ve always been painting monkeys for five to six years, so I thought I’d make this work to teach that we’re all apes.

“So I made the western monkey — white with blue eyes — the Asian monkey — with almond eyes — and the black monkey in the middle, which is where everything comes from, this is what the evolutionary theory tells us,” Fugazzotto told reporters.

“The monkey becomes the spark to teach everyone that there is no difference. It’s not that one is man and one is monkey. At this point, we are all monkeys … if they really feel the need to tell a black (player) that he is one.”

Artist Simone Fugazzotto said his work was inspired by the racist abuse directed at Napoli's Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly in an Italian soccer game.
READ: Racist and homophobic incidents tarnish ‘best league in the world’


Reaction to the artwork has been overwhelmingly negative.

“These creations are an outrage, they wil be counter-productive and continue the dehumanisation of people of African heritage,” said anti-discrimination organization Fare on its Twitter feed.

“It is difficult to see what Serie A was thinking, who did they consult? It is time for the progressive clubs in the league to make their voice heard.”

Former England international Stan Collymore tweeted: Fantastic to see Serie A anti racism campaign posters ( yes, it’s really real).

“Maybe get the mascots to Black up as a finishing touch.”

Meanwhile soccer agent Jen Mendelewitsch tweeted: “Serie A ‘No to Racism’ campaign. Please tell me this is a joke.”
Chris Smalling of AS Roma embraces Romelu Lukaku of FC Internazionale. Smalling and Lukaku played for Manchester United last season.

In an email sent to CNN, Fugazzotto said he had been left “completely shocked” by the reaction, and questioned why when he had presented the artwork in May it “didn’t even give rise to a word.”

The artist added: “To understand this work, you need to enter into my world and see the monkey as the protagonist of my artwork over years, and as a metaphor of the human being.

“Over the years, I painted almost every virtue, weakness and madness of the human being through the form of the chimpanzee, which allows me to express the soul of the human being though the looks but ridiculing the habits, the tics and the unhealthy habits.”

Serie A did not immediately responded to CNN’s request for comment regarding the negative reception on social media.

On the Serie A website, the league’s managing director general manager Luigi De Siervo said Italian football’s top flight division was adopting a three-pronged approach to combat racism.

All 20 Serie A clubs had signed a charter of principles against racism, stadium security would be improved — notably by using facial recognition software to identify racist fans — and the cultural initiative that Fugazzotto was part of.

‘Tone deaf’

Earlier this month Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport was widely criticized for previewing a soccer game with the headline “Black Friday.”
READ: ‘Black Friday’: Italian newspaper sparks race row with front page

The banner was accompanied by photographs of former Manchester United teammates Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku, who play for AS Roma and Inter Milan respectively.

“Tone deaf, ignorant and with the usual racial undertones. Saying I’m shocked would be a lie at this point,” tweeted football journalist Matteo Bonetti.

Earlier this season, Lukaku was the subject of monkey chants from Cagliari fans and Brescia striker Mario Balotelli said he had experienced racial abuse by opposition Verona fans.

Both incidents were met with meager penalties — Verona was handed a one-match partial stadium closure and Cagliari escaped any serious punishment.

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Boris Johnson Revives No-Deal Brexit Threat With Change to Law

(Bloomberg) — Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.

Boris Johnson will change the law to guarantee the Brexit transition phase is not extended, setting up a new cliff-edge for a no-deal split with the European Union at the end of next year. The pound fell as much as 0.7%.

The U.K. prime minister wants to deliver his election promise to ratify a new free-trade agreement with the bloc before the bridging period maintaining the status quo runs out on Dec. 31, 2020.

EU leaders have warned it’s highly unlikely that negotiators will be able to complete the kind of deal Johnson wants, which he’s modeled on Canada’s agreement with the EU, in the 11 months between Brexit day Jan. 31 and the December deadline. The EU-Canada deal took seven years to finalize.

Read more: Pound Falls as Johnson Moves to Block Any Further Brexit Delay

Johnson’s gambit is the latest sign of intent as he seeks to force through Britain’s divorce from the 28-nation bloc without further delay. After winning a big majority in last week’s general election, the prime minister now has the power to do as he pleases on Brexit, without fear Parliament will thwart his plans.

He’ll start by putting the divorce part of the Brexit deal to a vote, potentially as soon as Friday. Once MPs have ratified that, the U.K. will leave the EU by Jan. 31.

The planned legislation will include legal text to prevent the government extending the transition period and delaying the day Britain stops being subject to EU laws, even if no new trade terms have been secured in time, an official said.

Deadlines, Continuity

The law would potentially force the U.K. out of the EU without a new deal in place, threatening tariffs and disruption to trade.

As well as ministers being blocked from extending the transition period, the House of Commons will not get a vote on the issue, another official said.

When ministers were trying to get support for the Brexit deal before the election, they agreed to give Members of Parliament a vote on whether a longer transition period would be needed. But the government’s new majority means such compromises aren’t necessary, the official said.

Other concessions granted to try to smooth Johnson’s deal through Parliament in October, including protections for workers rights and a promise to give MPs a say over talks with the EU, will also be scrapped, the Times newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information.

Johnson’s plan to give priority to delivering Brexit was also reflected in appointments to his cabinet, announced Monday evening, which put the emphasis on continuity as he seeks to minimize disruption before the Jan. 31 deadline.

Nicky Morgan, who had announced she was standing down as an MP before the election, has been handed a seat in the unelected House of Lords so she can stay on as culture secretary. In the only other senior appointment Monday evening, Simon Hart became Welsh Secretary in a move forced on Johnson after the resignation of Alun Cairns from the post in November.

Other key positions in the cabinet, including the key posts of chancellor of the exchequer, home secretary and foreign secretary, are expected to remain unchanged.

As well as providing stability in the run-up to Brexit, Johnson, who plans a widerreshuffle of his top team after the deadline at the end of next month, will have Morgan by his side to advise on the role of China’s Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd in U.K. telecommunications, a thorny issue as Britain seeks trade deals with the rest of the world after leaving the EU.

(Adds pound)

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Ross in London at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at [email protected], Thomas Penny, Robert Jameson

For more articles like this, please visit us at

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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Curtis Flowers: US man freed months after court ruled racial bias | USA News

A Mississippi man whose murder conviction was overturned by the US Supreme Court for racial bias was released from custody Monday for the first time in 22 years.

Curtis Flowers walked out of the regional jail in the central town of Louisville hours after a judge set his bond at $250,000. A person who wanted to remain anonymous posted $25,000, the 10 percent needed to secure Flowers’s release, said his lawyer Rob McDuff.

“It’s been rough,” Flowers said. “Taking it one day at a time, keeping God first – that’s how I got through it.”

When asked another question, Flowers sighed, smiled and tossed his hands in the air.

“I’m so excited right now, I can’t even think straight,” he said with a laugh.


At the bond hearing earlier Monday in the city of Winona, Circuit Judge Joseph Loper ordered Flowers to wear an electronic monitor while waiting for the district attorney’s office to decide whether to try him a seventh time or drop the charges. Flowers also must check in once a week with a court clerk, McDuff said. He said lawyers would file papers asking the judge to dismiss the charges.

Flowers was accompanied from the jail on Monday by his lawyers and two sisters, Priscilla Ward and Charita Baskin. The siblings said they were going home to fry some fish for dinner and hang out together.

Six trials

Flowers was convicted four times in connection with a quadruple slaying in the city of Winona in 1996: twice for individual slayings and twice for all four killings. Two other trials involving all four deaths ended in mistrials. Each of the convictions was overturned, but Flowers has remained in jail because the original murder indictment is still active.

Circuit Judge Joseph Loper said it was “troubling” that prosecutors had not responded to a defence motion to drop the charges against Flowers. He said if prosecutors do not respond, “the state will reap the whirlwind” from him.

Assistant District Attorney William Hopper left the courtroom without speaking to news reporters. Earlier, he declined to comment when asked if the district attorney’s office would try Flowers a seventh time.

Curtis Flowers 2

Curtis Flowers, centre, standing with his attorneys, Henderson Hill, left, and Rob McDuff, at a bail hearing in Winona, Mississippi, US [Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo] 

Supporters who were among the more than 150 people packing the wooden pews of the 1970s-era courtroom hugged Flowers after the judge announced his decision. His father, Archie Lee Flowers, choked back tears. He said the first thing he would do when his son was released, was pray.

The elder Flowers said he frequently visited his son in prison, where they sang and prayed together. He said he has always believed in his son’s innocence.


During his sixth trial in 2010, Flowers was sentenced to death. The US Supreme Court overturned that conviction in June, finding that the lead prosecutor, Doug Evans, had shown an unconstitutional pattern of excluding African American jurors in the trials of Flowers, who is black.

After the Supreme Court ruling, Flowers was moved off death row at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman and taken to a regional jail in the central Mississippi town of Louisville.

“This case is unprecedented in the history of the American legal system,” McDuff told the judge during Monday’s hearing. He said Flowers had more than 22 years in prison “without a lawful conviction to justify his incarceration” and had an “exemplary” record of good behaviour in prison.

Hopper had asked the judge to deny bond. He cited several examples of evidence that he said pointed to Flowers’s guilt.

Four people were shot to death on July 16, 1996, in the Tardy Furniture store in the north Mississippi city of Winona. They were owner Bertha Tardy, 59, and three employees: 45-year-old Carmen Rigby, 42-year-old Robert Golden and 16-year-old Derrick “Bobo” Stewart.

Curtis Flowers relatives

Curtis Flowers’ daughter, Crystal Ghoston, left, and a relative hugging in court after a Mississippi circuit judge ordered bail for Curtis [Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo] 

A daughter of Tardy was in court Monday. She sat across the aisle and one row back from Flowers’s daughter, Crystal Ghoston, who sat in the front row.

Ghoston, 26, told The Associated Press that she had seen her father only once since he was imprisoned: about 10 years ago, and even then she could only talk to him through a reinforced window. She said they wrote letters to each other and spoke on the phone every few weeks, and that he talked about meeting her two-year-old daughter, who calls him “Paw-Paw”.

“We’re so much alike,” Ghoston said. “We laugh all the time on the phone.”

Winona sits near the crossroads of Interstate 55, the major north-south artery in Mississippi, and US Highway 82, which runs east to west. It about a half-hour’s drive from the flatlands of the Mississippi Delta. Among its 4,300 residents, about 48 percent are black and 44 percent are white. Census Bureau figures show that about 30 percent of the population lives in poverty.

In mid-November, four black voters and a branch of the NAACP filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to permanently order Evans and his assistants to stop using peremptory challenges to remove African American residents as potential jurors because of their race.

The lawsuit cites an analysis of jury strikes by Evans from 1992 to 2017 by American Public Media’s “In the Dark” podcast. It found Evans’s office used peremptory strikes, which lawyers typically do not have to explain, to remove 50 percent of eligible black jurors, but only 11 percent of eligible white jurors. The analysis was performed as part of a series of episodes questioning Flowers’s conviction in his sixth trial.

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One Of Afghanistan’s First Women Air Force Pilots Is Living In Exile In Florida

TAMPA, Florida — Sitting outside a sidewalk café on the waterfront in Tampa, a light breeze making for one of those perfect fall afternoons, is a feminist icon.

You might not recognize her — and the tourists eating ice cream and skateboarding kids certainly didn’t — but Niloofar Rahmani is one of the best-known Afghan women in the world.

That’s because Rahmani, 28, shot to fame in 2013 after she became the first woman to pilot a fixed-wing jet in Afghanistan’s air force. Photographs of her in dark aviator sunglasses, with a scarf loosely covering her black hair, went viral across the world. Look at what the women of Afghanistan can do, the pictures seemed to scream.

Niloofar Rahmani, 23, Afghanistan’s first female pilot to serve in the air force since the fall of the Taliban.

For Rahmani, it should have been a time of triumph. After all, she had dreamed of flying a plane since she was a little girl — however impossible that might have seemed to a young woman growing up in a conservative society.

But in the years since, her dreams have all but fallen apart. She has been accused of desertion, of acting improperly for an Afghan woman, and she and her family have received hundreds of death threats — some from anonymous trolls, some even from members of her own extended family. As Rahmani became more successful as a pilot and more famous, the threats against her multiplied until her life in Afghanistan became unbearable.

Rahmani’s family has been forced to move again and again, leaving behind the house in the capital, Kabul, that her family had lived in for generations. Her father lost his job because his employer saw the threats as a liability; her siblings couldn’t find work. Rahmani ended up having to cover her face with a niqab just to leave the house.

After years of living in hiding with her family, Rahmani — who prided herself on never giving a damn what anyone thought of her — did something she never believed she’d have to do: She fled.

Rahmani’s story is a testament to the cost borne by the women in Afghanistan whom the West has elevated as feminist heroes. As the US negotiates with the Taliban in hopes of a peace deal, women’s rights have been largely ignored, and women across the country face an uncertain future.

It’s not as if Rahmani ever really wanted to become a feminist hero — she just wanted to be a pilot. Now, she believes her only path forward lies in the US, where she sits in administrative limbo waiting for her life to begin again.

Eve Edelheit for BuzzFeed News

When the US invaded Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban from control in 2001, it ushered in a period of tentative hope for women, who were able to recapture some of their most basic freedoms, like going to school and joining the civil service. But those gains came at a heavy price. Women leaders in the country routinely endure attempts on their lives, death threats, and more.

Rahmani is no exception.

Sitting beside her sister at the café in Tampa last month, Rahmani wore her long hair loose and a black floral dress. Most of her face was covered — by a big pair of sunglasses, even if they weren’t the aviators she’d like to be wearing right now.

Rahmani has been living in Tampa since the US granted her asylum in 2018, while her sister Afsoon is still seeking asylum. Rahmani said she might be safe now, but it’s a hollow feeling. No longer able to fly, she works as a translator between the three languages in which she is fluent: Farsi, Dari, and English.

Rahmani dreams of flying planes again; this time for the US Air Force. To do that, she would have to become a citizen first, and, as it’s unclear how long that might take, she worries that her skills will decline in the meantime.

More importantly, her parents and most of her siblings remain in South Asia. (Rahmani wouldn’t say exactly where, out of fear for their safety.) Their support for her has never wavered, but because of the constant barrage of threats and violence, they’re still scared for their lives.

“It never goes away. Ever,” said Rahmani. “I thank God that I am safe, but always, half of my mind is still thinking about them.”

“My path, since I was born, has been difficult,” she said. “Kids here have so much. I never had that kind of freedom. I never got the chance to feel like one of those kids.”

Rahmani talked about the state of women’s rights in Afghanistan, bouncing from an explanation of social movements through the country’s history to interpretations of the Qur’an. Her arguments, which she makes eloquently in English, her third language, barely conceal the anger of a woman who has spent her entire life being underestimated.

But still she occasionally wondered if she was somehow at fault for what has happened to her and her family.

“Sometimes I doubt myself … I wonder if I did something wrong. Did I deserve to be treated that way?”

Eve Edelheit for BuzzFeed News

Rahmani was the first woman fixed-wing pilot in the Afghan air force.

Rahmani was born in the midst of a civil war in the 1990s. The day her mother went into labor, she said, the building beside her family’s house in Kabul was bombed. There was no way to get to the hospital, so she was born at home.

Shortly after, the family fled to Pakistan. Rahmani came to learn about her home country through her parents’ stories of the ‘70s, when many women had relatively more freedom to dress the way they wanted and participate in public life. Her father grew up hearing Russian jets flying through the skies above his city. He had dreamed of being a pilot, but when he was young, he lacked money to bribe his way into a coveted job in the air force. Instead, he became a civil engineer. But he taught his children about planes and the way they worked.

In 2000 — the last full year of Taliban rule before the US invasion — Rahmani’s family returned to Kabul. She saw a country she couldn’t recognize from her father’s stories. Hardly any women could be seen walking the streets. One day her sister fell sick and had to see a doctor. Her mother tried to take her, but she forgot to put on socks under her sandals. An officer from the Taliban’s notorious religious police caught and beat her.

“When she came home, my mom was bleeding all across her feet,” Rahmani said. “I felt that this is not my country.”

The Taliban forbade girls from attending school, so Rahmani’s parents taught the children at home. When the US invaded, she heard the same sounds her father grew up with as a boy, but this time it was the roar of US jets. Rahmani, who was 9 at the time, knew she should have been afraid, but she wasn’t.

“I couldn’t keep my eyes off the sky,” she said. “I had never been on a plane. I was so excited by the arc of the jet trails, the noise they made.”

Standing on the same balcony her father had once stood on as a boy, she watched them soar through the sky.

Shah Marai / Getty Images

Rahmani in Kabul when she was 23.

In 2010, when Rahmani was 18, she went to apply for officer training school in Kabul. Even applying was bold, but she wasn’t thinking about gender equality. Mostly, she was thinking about flying planes.

It didn’t exactly go smoothly.

The Afghan air force’s doctors tried multiple times to deem her physically unfit to fly, she said, but eventually she was accepted into the officer training program. She was the only female pilot candidate, and said she was belittled endlessly. There wasn’t even a women’s bathroom.

“The men treated me like I would fail,” she said. “I was just 18 at the time. I tried to ignore it.”

She had no choice, she said, but to be twice as good as her male classmates, getting up extra early to study and ignoring their taunts.

“They always told me I’d fail because I am a woman, and because I am weak I would crash the plane and kill myself,” she said.

When she doubted herself, she’d call her father, who had always supported her.

The hard work ultimately paid off: She was one of only ten in her class selected to become fixed-wing pilots.

The night before her first solo flight, she was too excited to sleep, her heart pounding in her chest. When she got into the cockpit and felt the wheels lift off the ground, it was as if the weight on her chest had lifted too.

“I felt like nobody could reach me up there. Like I was on Mars,” she said.

Most of the other men on the base, she thought, had hoped she would fail. She had proven them wrong.

Rahmani’s flight made headlines and her accomplishment was hailed in the US as evidence of progress for the country’s women, and photos of her flew around the world. She remembers feeling “amazing” and powerful.

Other pictures of Rahmani started to show up on Facebook and Twitter. Some were taken out of context — like a photo that showed two US Air Force women throwing her in a pool of water. It depicted an international tradition after a pilot’s first flight but was a portrayal of an Afghan woman that many considered improper. Some speculated online that it could have been a man who had dunked her, or that she was being baptized by Christians.

Overnight, she became a public figure. The praise bolstered her, as did the thought that her fame might spur on other young girls to become pilots. She took time out to speak to girls in elementary schools about her career, wearing her uniform.

“I’m proud of that,” she said. “They’d say, ‘Oh, I saw you on TV.’”

But things soon took a dark turn. Her brother was shot at twice by militants in Kabul. The first time he escaped unharmed, but the next time he wasn’t so lucky and ended up in the hospital. From 2013, her family started receiving so many death threats that they had to move from house to house, once moving three times in a month. Rahmani stopped being able to buy vegetables at the market without attracting attention.

People would call every day to make threats — some were strangers, and others were people the family knew well. A letter arrived that bore a Taliban stamp. It said simply, “We know where you live.”

The Afghan air force did nothing to help her, Rahmani said, telling her she could quit if things were really so difficult.

But she still loved the job itself. On one mission, she saved a man’s life by flying him from the remote northern province of Kunduz to a hospital in Kabul; on another, she transported the bodies of Afghan soldiers so they could receive a proper burial. In 2015, she traveled to the US to receive an International Women of Courage Award presented by Michelle Obama, sparking another wave of press. When she returned home, her superiors didn’t even acknowledge it, she said.

“When I went home, it was like nothing had happened,” she said. “It felt like nobody had even noticed what I had achieved.”

From the outside, Rahmani’s life looked perfect — a story about a woman who had defied the odds and triumphed over patriarchy. But Rahmani felt crushed. She had gotten recognition from the White House, but her own colleagues treated her as if she were anonymous — or worse, with open contempt. She remembers these days as some of the hardest of her life.

“We tried to support Niloo, but inside we were scared too. It was hard in a different way for each of us,” said her sister Afsoon, who now lives with her in Tampa and spent years in hiding in Kabul along with the rest of the family.

In 2017, Rahmani traveled to the US for a yearlong training program for military pilots from around the world. It was a welcome break — she worked for months to earn the certification to fly a C-130, a military transport aircraft that can serve a variety of purposes.

The day she got her certificate, she called home. The sound of her father’s voice told her something was wrong.

“When can I come home?” she asked him.

Her father, who had supported her through so many years of pain and striving, sounded defeated for the first time. The family was going back to Pakistan. “I can’t live like this anymore,” he said.

“That was the moment I gave up on my career,” Rahmani said. “That was the moment I quit.”

That night, she cried herself to sleep.

Eve Edelheit for BuzzFeed News

Rahmani was granted asylum in the US after about a year of waiting — a process that was likely sped up because of her fame, said her lawyer, Kimberley Motley.

It wasn’t without its bumps though.

Soon after Rahmani filed for asylum in the US, she remembers a particularly humiliating moment when a US government bureaucrat made fun of her for not having a birth certificate. She didn’t have one, she pointed out, because she was born at home in the middle of a war, not in a hospital.

Afsoon had to flee her country for the same reason as Rahmani, but her asylum-seeking process may be longer, Motley said, because she isn’t a public figure.

The sisters have hardly a negative word to say about their adopted homeland. Afsoon’s Instagram — which she uses under a pseudonym — is full of snaps of the ocean and the Jet Skis they sometimes rent for fun. (“I love anything that goes fast,” Rahmani joked.) But Florida feels isolated compared to Kabul — you have to drive to get anywhere. And their status in the US still feels shaky.

Motley, a well-known defense attorney who has extensive experience practicing in Afghanistan, said she’d repeatedly requested that US immigration authorities expedite Rahmani’s citizenship — something they have the power to do — but has received no response.

Rahmani’s fame had been a double-edged sword, according to Motley.

“I’ve just seen so many women oppressed in Afghanistan who don’t get media attention, who are military personnel or police officers, and it’s a real struggle for them, even more so in some ways,” she said.

Rahmani is quick to say she does not blame the media attention or her supporters on social media for what happened to her — rather, she blames the people who came after her family and the Afghan military, which told the New York Times she shouldn’t receive asylum and accused her of lying about being threatened.

More than flying, now, she thinks about her father and the rest of the family she left behind. She and her sister hope to someday bring them to safety in the US.

“I feel like my life is on hold right now. I have to start from zero,” Rahmani said. “In truth I have felt alone for most of this time. I don’t want to die losing my dream for the future.” ●

Opening image: Shah Marai / AFP via Getty Images

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Serie A uses monkeys in anti-racism posters

Serie A chief executive Luigi de Siervo (left) and artist Simone Fugazzotto reveal the artwork at a news conference on Monday

Serie A has used images of monkeys in an anti-racism campaign less than three weeks after its clubs pledged to combat Italian football’s “serious problem”.

The ‘No To Racism’ posters show three monkeys with painted faces.

The monkey artwork will be displayed at Serie A headquarters in Milan.

“Once again Italian football leaves the world speechless. It is difficult to see what Serie A was thinking, who did they consult?” said anti-discriminatory body Fare.

“In a country in which the authorities fail to deal with racism week after week, Serie A have launched a campaign that looks like a sick joke.

“These creations are an outrage; they will be counter-productive and continue the dehumanisation of people of African heritage.

“It is time for the progressive clubs in the league to make their voice heard.”

Anti-discrimination body Kick It Out added: “Serie A’s use of monkeys in their anti-racism campaign is completely inappropriate, undermines any positive intent and will be counter-productive.

“We hope that the league reviews and replaces their campaign graphics.”

In November, Brescia’s Mario Balotelli called fans who shouted racist abuse at him “small-minded” and “imbeciles”.

Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku said the abuse he suffered in September, when Cagliari fans made monkey noises after the Belgian scored a penalty against their team, showed the game was “going backwards”.

The Sardinian club were later cleared of racist chanting, leading the head of anti-discriminatory body Fare to say that Italian football authorities and their disciplinary systems to combat racism were “not fit for purpose”.

Earlier this month Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport was criticised for the headline ‘Black Friday’ alongside images of Roma defender Chris Smalling and Inter striker Lukaku prior to a match between the sides.

European football expert James Horncastle criticised Serie A for the posters.

“Question for the league is how they can’t see what a loaded and misguided collaboration this is for an anti-racism initiative,” he said.

“If you wondered why a select group of Serie A clubs are taking anti-racism into their own hands, faith in the league is sub-zero.”

At a news conference on Monday, artist Simone Fugazzotto, who always uses monkeys in his work, said: “For an artist there is nothing more important than trying to change the perception of things through his own work.

“I decided to portray monkeys to talk about racism because they are the metaphor for human beings. Last year I was at the stadium to see Inter v Napoli [a match in which Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly was racially abused] and I felt humiliated, everyone was shouting ‘monkey’ at Koulibaly, a player I respect.

“I’ve always been painting monkeys for five to six years, so I thought I’d make this work to teach that we’re all apes, I made the western monkey with blue and white eyes, the Asian monkey with almond-shaped eyes and the black monkey positioned in the centre, where everything comes from. The monkey becomes the spark to teach everyone that there is no difference, there is no man or monkey, we are all alike. If anything we are all monkeys.”

Serie A chief executive Luigi de Siervo said: “The League’s commitment against all forms of prejudice is strong and concrete, we know that racism is an endemic and very complex problem, which we will tackle on three different levels; the cultural one, through works like that of Simone; the sporting one, with a series of initiatives together with clubs and players, and the repressive one, thanks to collaboration with the police.”

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The carbon footprint of European ships – VoxEurop (English)

The first of its kind, a new study quantifies the volume of European shipping companies’ greenhouse gas emissions. Despite being among the most polluting companies, European fleets are under no obligation to reduce their emissions.

In 2018, European maritime transport for both goods and passengers poured around 139 million tons of CO2, the most widespread greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. This is more than the volume produced by automobile transport. The Italo-Swiss Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) is the EU’s maritime champion in this regard. MSC’s 362 largest cargo ships emit 11 million tons of CO2, more than any other European shipping company, and equal to the volume emitted by 5.5 million cars.

MSC, the world’s second largest shipping company, earns eighth position in the ranking of Europe’s top ten polluters. MSC competes for pole position with the worst coal-fired power plants, and towers over Ryanair in tenth position. Contrary to requirements for power plants, the EU currently doesn’t oblige MSC and other maritime companies, nor airlines, to reduce their emissions. Any efforts against global warming are weakened as a result. 

A report by the NGO Transport & Environment, published 6 December, is the first to quantify the CO2 emissions of the European fleet. The analysis is based on data which, starting in 2019, shipping companies have to share with the EU. The 2015 regulation obliges companies to monitor and annually publish their fuel consumption and CO2 volumes for all journeys, whether within the European Economic Area (the EU plus Norway and Iceland), or further afield. The regulation covers all ships with a gross tonnage over 5000 tons. Transport & Environment’s study analyses the information provided by companies in 2018, the most recent reference year.

Compared to the average journey by road, those taken by ship are up to five times more polluting, — even six times more, if we consider the environmental standards for vehicles in 2021. The vast majority of maritime CO2 emissions (more than eighty percent) come from cargo transport. Growing in the early 1950s, cargo ships had more than tripled by 2000, increasing their emissions in the EU by 26 million tons (nineteen percent) from 1990 to today. 

While European companies lead the global shipping market, they also lead the ranking of Europe’s worst atmospheric polluters. The top four together (MSC, Maersk, CMA and CGM) account for half of the total emissions in the cargo sector, of which 42 percent is attributable to the transport of consumer goods. Maritime deliveries of smartphones, TVs, cars, clothes, fruit and frozen foods, medicine, furniture, and other everyday items produce an annual 60 million tons of CO2. This is equal in volume to the emissions of all the 38 million automobiles in Italy.  

Shipments of fuel (petrol, coal, gas) and other raw materials account for twenty percent of the EU’s maritime CO2. Half of the European cargo fleet emitted 22 million more tons due to a performance gap between design standards and actual performance at sea.

A number of legislative imbalances have created a situation where maritime transport is going against the tide when it comes to tackling climate change. For example, while the EU grants the sector 24 billion euro per year in tax relief for fossil fuels, it still has to place the sector within the emissions trading system (EU ETS), which obliges highly polluting companies to respect given CO2 thresholds.

In this system, each operator has two ways to remain within the threshold: either cut their own excess emissions by investing in cleaner technology and energy, or compensate by buying credits (or pollution permits) corresponding to quantities of CO2 cut from other operators. Currently, European maritime companies are not required to adopt either of these options. Thus they continue to pollute without penalty, with no incentive to switch to cleaner energy and technology. 

For more than 20 years, the EU has tried in vain to make these companies subject to the EU ETS. Talks were held within the International Maritime Organisation to discuss establishing a global system, so that European fleets wouldn’t be the only ones penalised. The Kyoto Protocol on climate change, signed in 1997, called for solutions for maritime transport. In 2018, a global plan of action was agreed upon, but this has yet to be translated into concrete action. Ursula von der Leyen, the newly elected president of the European Commission, has announced that she wants to remedy this situation. We’ll see. 

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