Human Rights & Individual Liberties
December 16th – The Washington Post – District Court Declares Obama Immigration Action Unconstitutional
On Tuesday, a Federal Court in Pennsylvania declared President Obama’s executive action on immigration policy unconstitutional. On November 20th, Obama announced a plan to allow undocumented immigrants to legally stay in the US, under certain conditions. These conditions, argue Judge Arthur Schwab, are too rigid to allow any meaningful case-by-case determinations, as prosecutorial discretion requires. In other words, a non legally binding executive action cannot fix any definitive framework on immigration procedures, and therefore cannot replace a traditional law.
The judge said Obama “contended that although legislation is the most appropriate course of action to solve the immigration debate, his executive action was necessary because of Congress’s failure to pass legislation, acceptable to him, in this regard. (…) This proposition is arbitrary and does not negate the requirement that the November 20, 2014, executive action be lawfully within the president’s executive authority. It is not.”
December 13th – The Economist – Don’t Shoot
Criticized for its excessive use of violence, America’s police are under pressure to reform. Although the US outguns by far other rich countries around the globe, the comparison should be read in context. “America’s police operate in a country with 300m guns and a murder rate six times Germany’s.”
Called to an annual average of 200,000 incidents involving weapons, the New York Police Department shot 28 people and saw 6 of its officers injured last year. Yet, the NYPD is one of the most restrained forces in the country. The Economist shows how fatal shootings fell sharply in the Big Apple over the past decade.
December 11th – The Guardian – CIA Torture Report: Obama Under Pressure As Calls For Accountability Grow
Last week, the US Senate Intelligence Committee declassified a report denouncing abuses on the CIA’s handling of post 9/11 prisoners. The document describes several “enhanced interrogation techniques”, such as water-boarding, deprivation of sleep, or rectal hydration, that some Members of Congress say are akin to torture. It concludes that the enhanced interrogation techniques were fruitless and misleading for Congress.
The report, which was 5 years in the making, deals with a period between 9/11 and the end of the Bush Presidency. Former CIA director Michael Hayden says Bush was kept fully abreast of the agency’s activities and programs. Investigations show that some of the Representatives, who today denounce torture, had also been briefed in the past about the use of water-boarding, without raising objection.
Environment and Sustainable Development
December 15th – MotherJones – The Lima Climate Talks Actually Produced Something Important: An Idea
The climate talks which took place in Lima for the past weeks haven’t led to any strong settlement. Last weekend, the wording of the draft agreement went from “weak to weaker to weakest,” says Sam Smith, chief of climate policy for the WWF.
However, MotherJones columnist Kevin Drum sees a spark of hope in the conclusion of Lima Summit. While no detailed program or timetable were decided, every country agreed to submit a plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. “This is similar to Obamacare”, he says, “which is flawed in dozens of ways but, for the first time in American history, enshrined in law the idea that everyone should have access to affordable health coverage. Once you do that, (…) you can use it as a building block.”
December 10th – Politico – How Green Is Barack Obama
Barack Obama has been in office for 6 years. Back in 2008, the protection of the environment was at the heart of the candidate’s program. In 2014, significant measures have been announced by Washington, but are the President’s decisions coming anywhere close to the candidate’s promises?
Politico has invited 19 thinkers to draft a first assessment of Obama’s action to protect the environment, over the course of his one-and-a-half mandates. “Of the environmental measures he has undertaken as president, we asked, which program or rule or deal matters most, and will have the biggest impact for future generations?”, asked Politico. “Here is what they told us”.