Washington, Mar 16 (AP/UNB) — Students across a warming globe pleaded for their lives, future and planet Friday, demanding tough action on climate change.
From the South Pacific to the edge of the Arctic Circle, angry students in more than 100 countries walked out of classes to protest what they see as the failures by their governments.
Well more than 150,000 students and adults who were mobilized by word of mouth and social media protested in Europe, according to police estimates. But the initial turnout in the United States did not look quite as high.
"Borders, languages and religions do not separate us," eight-year-old Havana Chapman-Edwards, who calls herself the tiny diplomat, told hundreds of protesters at the U.S. Capitol. "Today we are telling the truth and we do not take no for an answer."
Thousands of New York City students protested at locations including Columbus Circle, City Hall, the American Museum of Natural History and a football field at the Bronx High School of Science. Police said 16 protesters were arrested on disorderly conduct charges for blocking traffic at the museum.
The coordinated "school strikes" were inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who began holding solitary demonstrations outside the Swedish parliament last year.
Since then, the weekly protests have snowballed from a handful of cities to hundreds, fueled by dramatic headlines about the impact of climate change during the students' lifetime. Unless emissions of heat-trapping gases start dropping dramatically, scientists estimate that the protesters will be in their 40s and 50s, maybe even 30s, when the world will reach dangerous levels of warming that international agreements are trying to prevent.
Thunberg, who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, said at a rally in Stockholm that the world faces an "existential crisis, the biggest crisis humanity ever has faced and still it has been ignored for decades."
Alexandria Villasenor, a 13-year-old co-coordinator of the New York City protest that culminated in a die-in at the steps of the American Museum of Natural History, said while she was pleased with the number of demonstrators, a big turnout isn't the point.
"It won't be successful until the world leaders take some action," Villasenor said.
Dana Fisher, a University of Maryland sociology professor who tracks protest movements and environmental activists, said action could possibly be triggered by "the fact that we're seeing children, some of whom are quite small, talking about the Earth they're going to inherit."
Across the globe, protesters urged politicians to act against climate change while highlighting local environmental problems:
— In India's capital of New Delhi, schoolchildren protested inaction on climate change and demanded that authorities tackle rising air pollution levels, which often far exceed World Health Organization limits.
— In Paris, teenagers thronged streets around the domed Pantheon building. Some criticized French President Emmanuel Macron, who sees himself as the guarantor of the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord but is criticized by activists as too business-friendly and not doing enough to reduce emissions.
— In Washington, protesters spoke in front of a banner saying "We don't want to die."
— In San Francisco, 1,000 demonstrators descended on the local offices of Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, wanting passage of the massive "Green New Deal" bill proposed in the U.S. Congress.
— In St. Paul, Minnesota, about 1,000 students gathered before the state Capitol, chanting "Stop denying the earth is dying."
— In South Africa's capital, Pretoria, one protester held a sign reading "You'll Miss The Rains Down in Africa." Experts say Africa, with more than 1 billion people, is expected to be hardest hit by global warming even though it contributes least to greenhouse gas emissions.
— Hundreds of students took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles chanting "What do we want? Science! When do we want it? After peer review."
— Thousands marched in rainy Warsaw and other Polish cities to demand a ban on burning coal, a major source of carbon dioxide. Some carried banners that read "Make Love, Not CO2."
— Protests in Madrid and more than 50 other Spanish cities drew thousands. The country is vulnerable to rising sea levels and rapid desertification .
— In Berlin, police said as many as 20,000 protesters gathered in a downtown square before marching through the German capital to Chancellor Angela Merkel's office.
Some politicians praised the students.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was inspired by the student climate strikers to call a special summit in September to deal with what he called "the climate emergency."
"My generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change," Guterres wrote in an opinion piece in The Guardian. "This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry."
In 2015, world leaders agreed in Paris to a goal of keeping the Earth's global temperature rise by the end of the century well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared with pre-industrial times.
Yet the world has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees) since then and is on track for an increase of 4 degrees Celsius, which experts say would have far-reaching consequences for life on the planet.
In Stockholm, Thunberg predicted that students won't let up their climate protests.
"There are a crisis in front of us that we have to live with, that we will have to live with for all our lives, our children, our grandchildren and all future generations," she said. "We are on strike because we do want a future."
Christchurch, Mar 16 (AP/UNB)— A white supremacist suspected in shootings at two mosques that killed 49 people during midday Friday prayers posted an anti-immigrant manifesto online and apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live video of the slaughter on Facebook.
Brenton Harrison Tarrant appeared in court Saturday morning amid strict security and showed no emotion when the judge read him one murder charge. The judge said "it was reasonable to assume" more such charges would follow.
Two other armed suspects were taken into custody while police tried to determine what role, if any, they played in the cold-blooded attack that stunned New Zealand, a country so peaceful that police officers rarely carry guns.
It was by far the deadliest shooting in modern New Zealand history.
"It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, noting that many of the victims could be migrants or refugees.
She pronounced it "one of New Zealand's darkest days."
Tarrant, who police say carried out at least one of the shootings, posted a jumbled, 74-page manifesto on social media in which he identified himself as a 28-year-old Australian and white supremacist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.
The gunman also livestreamed in graphic detail 17 minutes of his rampage at Al Noor Mosque, where, armed with at least two assault rifles and a shotgun, he sprayed worshippers with bullets over and over, killing at least 41 people. Several more people were killed in an attack on a second mosque in the city a short time later.
At least 48 people were wounded, some critically. Police also defused explosive devices in a car.
Police did not say whether the same person was responsible for both shootings. They gave no details about those taken into custody except to say that none had been on any watch list. During the Saturday morning hearing, a man who was not in court was charged with using writings to incite hatred against a race or ethnicity, but it was not clear if his case was related to the mosque attacks.
Tarrant's relatives in the Australian town of Grafton, in New South Wales, contacted police after learning of the shooting and were helping with the investigation, local authorities said. Tarrant has spent little time in Australia in the past four years and only had minor traffic infractions on his record.
On Saturday, outside one of the two mosques, 32-year-old Ash Mohammed pushed through police barricades in hopes of finding out what happened to his father and two brothers, whose cellphones rang unanswered. An officer stopped him.
"We just want to know if they are dead or alive," Mohammed told the officer.
In the aftermath, the country's threat level was raised from low to high, police warned Muslims against going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand, and the national airline canceled several flights in and out of Christchurch, a city of nearly 400,000.
World leaders condemned the violence and offered condolences, with President Donald Trump tweeting, "We stand in solidarity with New Zealand." Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan and other Islamic leaders pointed to the bloodbath and other such attacks as evidence of rising hostility toward Muslims since 9/11.
New Zealand, with a population of 5 million, has relatively loose gun laws and an estimated 1.5 million firearms, or roughly one for every three people. But it has one of the lowest gun homicide rates in the world. In 2015, it had just eight gun homicides.
Before Friday's attack, New Zealand's deadliest shooting in modern history took place in 1990 in the small town of Aramoana, where a gunman killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbor.
On Saturday, the prime minister said the "primary perpetrator" in the shootings was a licensed gun owner and legally acquired the five guns used. Ardern said the country's gun laws will change as a result of the carnage, but she did not specify how.
New Zealand is also generally considered to be welcoming to migrants and refugees. On Saturday, people across the country were reaching out to Muslims in their communities on social media to volunteer acts of kindness — offering rides to the grocery store or volunteering to walk with them if they felt unsafe. In other forums, people discussed Muslim food restrictions as they prepared to drop off meals for those affected.
The prime minister said the attack reflected "extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand."
Immigrants "have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home," Ardern said. "They are us."
At the White House, Trump called the bloodshed "a terrible thing" but rejected any suggestion the white nationalist movement is a rising threat around the world, saying it is "a small group of people that have very, very serious problems."
Tarrant, in his rambling manifesto, deemed Trump "a symbol of renewed white identity."
At the Al Noor mosque, witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black and wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top enter the house of worship and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running out in terror.
Peneha, who lives next door, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in his driveway and fled. Peneha then went into the mosque to help the victims.
"I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque," he said. "I don't understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It's ridiculous."
Facebook, Twitter and Google scrambled to take down the gunman's video, which was widely available on social media for hours after the bloodbath.
In the video, the killer spends more than two minutes inside the mosque spraying terrified worshippers with gunfire. He then walks outside, where he shoots at people on the sidewalk. Children's screams can be heard in the distance as he returns to his car to get another rifle. He walks back into the mosque, where there are at least two dozen people lying on the ground.
After going back outside and shooting a woman there, he gets back in his car, where a song can be heard blasting. The singer bellows, "I am the god of hellfire!" and the gunman drives off before police even arrive.
The second attack took place at the Linwood mosque about 5 kilometers (3 miles) away. Mark Nichols told the New Zealand Herald that he heard about five gunshots and that a worshipper returned fire with a rifle or shotgun.
The footage showed the killer was carrying a shotgun and two fully automatic military assault rifles, with an extra magazine taped to one of the weapons so that he could reload quickly. He also had more assault weapons in the trunk of his car, along with what appeared to be explosives.
His manifesto was a welter of often politically contradictory views, touching on many of the most combustible issues of the day, among them the Second Amendment right to own guns, Muslim immigration, terrorist attacks and the wealthiest 1 percent.
He portrayed himself as a racist and a fascist and raged against non-Westerners, but said China is the nation that most aligns with his political and social values.
The gunman said he was not a member of any organization, acted alone and chose New Zealand to show that even the most remote parts of the world are not free of "mass immigration."
Last year, New Zealand's prime minister announced that the country would boost its annual refugee quota from 1,000 to 1,500 in 2020. Ardern, whose party campaigned on a promise to take in more refugees, called it "the right thing to do."
Christchurch, sometimes called the Garden City, has been rebuilding since an earthquake in 2011 killed 185 people and destroyed many downtown buildings.
Sydney, Mar 16 (AP/UNB) — The gunman behind at least one of the mosque shootings in New Zealand that left 49 people dead on Friday tried to make a few things clear in the manifesto he left behind: He is a 28-year-old Australian white nationalist who hates immigrants. He was angry about attacks in Europe that were perpetrated by Muslims. He wanted revenge, and he wanted to create fear.
He also, quite clearly, wanted attention.
Though he claimed not to covet fame, the gunman — who authorities identified as Brenton Harrison Tarrant — left behind a 74-page document posted on social media under his name in which he said he hoped to survive the attack to better spread his views in the media.
He also livestreamed to the world in graphic detail his assault on the worshippers at Christchurch's Al Noor Mosque.
That rampage killed at least 41 people, while an attack on a second mosque in the city not long after killed several more. Police did not say whether the same person was responsible for both shootings. Tarrant appeared briefly in court on Saturday morning amid tight security and showed no emotion as the judge read the charge against him.
While his manifesto and video were an obvious and contemptuous ploy for infamy, they do contain important clues for a public trying to understand why anyone would target dozens of innocent people who were simply spending an afternoon engaged in prayer.
There could be no more perplexing a setting for a mass slaughter than New Zealand, a nation so placid and so isolated from the mass shootings that plague the U.S. that police officers rarely carry guns.
Yet the gunman himself highlighted New Zealand's remoteness as a reason he chose it. He wrote that an attack in New Zealand would show that no place on earth was safe and that even a country as far away as New Zealand is subject to mass immigration.
He said he grew up in a working-class Australian family, had a typical childhood and was a poor student. Tarrant's relatives in the Australian town of Grafton contacted police after learning of the shooting and were helping with the investigation, local authorities said. Tarrant has spent little time in Australia in the past four years and only had minor traffic infractions on his record.
A woman who said she was a colleague of his when he worked as a personal trainer in Grafton said she was shocked by the allegations against him.
"I can't ... believe that somebody I've probably had daily dealings with and had shared conversations and interacted with would be able of something to this extreme," Tracey Gray told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
The rambling manifesto is filled with confusing and seemingly contradictory assertions about his beliefs.
Beyond his white nationalistic views, he claimed to be an environmentalist and said he is a fascist who believes China is the nation that most aligns with his political and social values. He said he has contempt for the wealthiest 1 percent. And he singled out American conservative commentator Candace Owens as the person who had influenced him the most, while saying "the extreme actions she calls for are too much, even for my tastes."
In a tweet, Owens responded by saying that if the media portrayed her as the inspiration for the attack, it had better hire lawyers.
The manifesto also included a single reference to President Donald Trump in which the author asked and answered the question of whether he was a Trump supporter: "As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose? Sure. As a policy maker and leader? Dear god no."
Throughout the manifesto, the theme he returns to most often is conflict between people of European descent and Muslims, often framing it in terms of the Crusades.
Among his hate-filled statements is a claim that he was motivated toward violence by an episode that occurred in 2017 while he was touring through Western Europe. That was when an Uzbek man drove a truck into a crowd of people in Stockholm, killing five.
He said his desire for violence grew when he arrived in France, where he said he was offended by the sight of immigrants in the cities and towns he visited.
Three months ago, he said, he started planning to target Christchurch. He said he has donated to many nationalist groups, but claimed not to be a direct member of any organization. However, he admitted contacts with an anti-immigration group called the reborn Knights Templar and said he got the approval of Anders Breivik for the attack, a claim that has not been verified.
Breivik is a right-wing Norwegian extremist who killed 77 people in Oslo and a nearby island in 2011. Breivik's lawyer Oeystein Storrvik told Norway's VG newspaper that his client, who is in prison, has "very limited contacts with the surrounding world, so it seems very unlikely that he has had contact" with the New Zealand gunman.
The gunman rambled on about the supposed aims for the attack, which included reducing immigration by intimidating immigrants and driving a wedge between NATO and the Turkish people. He also said he hoped to further polarize and destabilize the West, and spark a civil war in the United States that would ultimately result in a separation of races. The attack has had the opposite impact, with condemnation of the bloodshed pouring in from all quarters of the globe, and calls for unity against hatred and violence.
The gunman used various hate symbols associated with the Nazis and white supremacy. For instance, the number 14 is seen on his rifle, a possible reference to the "14 Words," a white supremacist slogan attributed in part to Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He also used the symbol of the Schwarze Sonne, or black sun, which "has become synonymous with myriad far-right groups who traffic in neo-Nazi," according to the center.
His victims, he wrote, were chosen because he saw them as invaders who would replace the white race. He predicted he would feel no remorse for their deaths. And in the video he livestreamed of his shooting, no remorse can be seen or heard as he sprays terrified worshippers with bullets again and again, sometimes firing at people he has already cut down.
The gunman — a licensed gun owner who bought the five guns used in the shootings legally — left a scene of carnage that shocked the nation, and the world. It was, in the words of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern "one of New Zealand's darkest days."
Copenhagen, Mar 14 (AP/UNB) — Three Norwegian lawmakers have nominated Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg, who has become a prominent voice in campaigns against climate change, for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Freddy Andre Oevstegaard and two other members of the Socialist Left Party said they believe "the massive movement Greta has set in motion is a very important peace contribution."
Thunberg, 16, has encouraged students to skip school to join protests demanding faster action on climate change, a movement that has spread beyond Sweden to other European nations.
Oevstegaard told the VG newspaper Wednesday that "climate threats are perhaps one of the most important contributions to war and conflict."
Any national lawmaker can nominate somebody for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee doesn't publicly comment on nominations, which for 2019 had to be submitted by Feb. 1.
London, Mar 14 (AP/UNB) — In a tentative first step toward ending months of political deadlock, British lawmakers voted Wednesday to block the country from leaving the European Union without a divorce agreement, triggering an attempt to delay that departure, currently due to take place on March 29.
Parliament is scheduled to decide Thursday whether to put the brakes on Brexit, a vote set up after lawmakers dealt yet another defeat to Prime Minister Theresa May amid a crisis over Britain's departure from the EU.
The lawmakers' 321-278 vote has political but not legal force, and does not entirely rule out a chaotic no-deal departure for Britain. But it might ease jitters spreading across the EU after lawmakers resoundingly rejected May's divorce deal on Tuesday. Exiting the EU without a deal could mean major disruptions for businesses and people in the U.K. and the 27 remaining EU countries.
In chaotic scenes that revealed how May's authority has been eroded by Brexit battles, more than a dozen pro-EU government ministers abstained rather than vote with her against ruling out no-deal.
Speaking with a raspy voice after weeks of relentless pressure, May hinted that she plans to make a third attempt to get lawmakers to support her Brexit deal, which they have already rejected twice.
She said Parliament faced a "fundamental choice" — a "short, technical extension" if lawmakers approve a divorce deal with the EU in the next week, or a much longer delay to Brexit if they don't.
The EU warned that voting against no-deal Brexit wasn't enough to stop it. By law, Britain will leave the EU on March 29, with or without a deal, unless it cancels Brexit or secures a delay.
"There are only two ways to leave the EU: with or without a deal," a European Commission official said. "The EU is prepared for both. To take no deal off the table, it is not enough to vote against no deal - you have to agree to a deal."
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the unresolved situation.
Earlier, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier warned that "the risk of a no-deal has never been higher."
As Britain teeters ever closer to the edge of the Brexit cliff, lawmakers are trying to seize control from the divided and squabbling government, although it's far from clear if they can agree on a way forward. There are competing factions that support May's deal, a "softer" deal that would keep close ties with the EU, a no-deal Brexit, or even a new referendum on Britain's EU membership.
Parliament likely will agree to delay Brexit, but it would need EU approval. The bloc — openly exasperated by Britain's continuing Brexit crisis — warned that the U.K. would need to present a strong reason for any extension.
"I am against every extension — whether an extension of one day, one week, even 24 hours — if it's not based on a clear opinion of the House of Commons for something," said the European Parliament's chief Brexit official, Guy Verhofstadt. "Please make up your minds in London, because this uncertainty cannot continue."
The bloc is also reluctant to consider a delay that goes beyond elections to the European Parliament in late May, because it would mean Britain would have to participate in the polls even as it prepares to leave.
Both Britain and the EU have ramped up planning for a no-deal Brexit, which would rip up decades of rules for travel and trade between Britain and the bloc. Economists say it could cause huge upheaval, with customs checks causing gridlock at U.K. ports, new tariffs triggering sudden price increases and red tape for everyone from truckers to tourists.
The U.K. government announced its plans for the Irish border in the event of a no-deal Brexit, saying it wouldn't impose new checks, duties or controls on goods coming from EU member Ireland into Northern Ireland. It also said it wouldn't slap tariffs on 87 percent of goods coming into Britain from the EU — though there would be new levies on imports of some items including meat and cars.
The tariffs, intended to be temporary, wouldn't apply to goods crossing from Ireland to Northern Ireland, raising fears the plan would spark a rise in smuggling.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said under the proposals, "Northern Ireland will become a backdoor to the European single market and I think that in a matter of months that will lead to the need for checks at Northern Ireland's ports."
"I don't think the U.K.'s proposals will be workable for very long," he said during a visit to Washington.
In Irish border communities and U.K. ports, no-deal anxiety was mounting.
"Potentially it is going to be a nightmare," said Michael Eddy, a district councilor who lives in the aptly named town of Deal, a few miles from the major Channel port of Dover on England's south coast.
He says local authorities have modeled potential disruptions and believe that even "a two-minute delay for every truck going through the port of Dover" would lead to a 50-mile (80-kilometer) traffic jam.
"What then happens with local people wanting to go about their business, wanting to get to hospitals, wanting to get their kids to school, all of that kind of stuff?" he said.
The European Parliament approved measures Wednesday to ameliorate the immediate hardships of a no-deal Brexit. It backed emergency plans to provide continuity for everything from air, port and road traffic to foreign students to the fishing industry.
The U.K. Parliament has twice rejected the withdrawal agreement that May spent two years negotiating with the EU, and the bloc insists there will be no more talks.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned British lawmakers that "whoever rejects the (Brexit) agreement plays with the welfare of their citizens and the economy in a reckless way."
Yet May has not given up on a third attempt to get her deal through Parliament again.
U.K. Treasury chief Philip Hammond said he was "confident that we will do a deal" in the next few weeks.
Many Britons wish they could share his optimism.
"I think that a bit of unity would be helpful now," said Katharine Beaugie, an artist in Dover. "It would be much better if we could have found some sort of decision."