Berlin Joins Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement

(The Berlin skyline)

The city of Berlin is doing its part to combat climate change, voting last week to purge the German capital’s pension fund of its investments in fossil fuels. Berlin’s parliament passed the legislation as part of the city’s long-term goal to become “climate neutral” by 2050.

The new policy will rid the $852.8 million fund of investments in RWE and E.ON – two German companies – as well as the French company Total.

Berlin joins a group of other Western cities acting as examples for the divestment movement, which looks to eliminate investments in dirty energy in order to lessen the financial incentive of investing in fossil fuels.

Other cities that have taken a similiar stand against dirty energy include Stockholm, Paris, Copenhagen, Oslo, Seattle, Portland, and Melbourne.

According to the activist nonprofit We Are Power Shift, a group that promotes divestment as a strategy for fighting climate change, the divestment movement

…started on university campuses, but has spread to cities, faith-based institutions, foundations, pension funds, and more, all over the world. Our goal is to diminish the influence and power of the fossil fuel industry in the market, our political system, and in the social conscience overall.

Christoph Meyer – a leading campaigner with Fossil Free Berlin – remarked on the Berlin parliament’s decision:

Berlin’s decision to blacklist fossil fuel companies is the latest victory for the divestment movement, which serves to remove the social license from companies whose business model pushes us into climate catastrophe. We will keep a close eye on the administration to make sure it upholds today’s commitment and urge the city to now take quick steps to break its reliance on coal power.

While there is debate about the effectiveness of divestment, advocates see it as a strategy to speed up the process through which investments become “stranded.” As public attention grows and support for regulation intensifies, the idea is for investors writ large to grow weary of such ventures due to the prospect of further diminishing profits.

As more of the world’s biggest urban centers jump on board, it’s safe to say that this push is gaining more-and-more momentum.

Brexit is Bad News for the Environment

(Air pollution in London)

As the world begins piecing together the ramifications stemming from Britain’s exit from the EU (also known as Brexit), one particular victim of the ensuing political chaos is becoming increasingly apparent: the environment.

Around 70 percent of environmental regulation currently in place in Britain is the result of EU legislation. As British officials begin slashing away the body of EU regulations left over from the country’s membership, important regulations designed to lower carbon levels or promote conservation could be thrown out. The climate skepticism of the “leave” campaign’s chief proponents is a worrying indicator that David Cameron’s successor may very well preside over a government that does just that.

Boris Johnson – the former London mayor and leading “leave” member of the Tories – has published editorials dismissing climate change as a fabrication, and once argued that snow is evidence that climate change is a myth. Johnson could very will be top of the list of Tories to assume the role of prime minister.

The other primary driver for the “leave” campaign was UKIP, a rightwing nationalist party that has exercised xenophobia and racist fear mongering to achieve its political ends. Nigel Farage, the party’s leader, has openly expressed his desire to cut pollution limits on power stations.

Those in the “leave” campaign often cited the red tape of the EU as one of the primary motivations for Britain to leave the multinational body. Combined with their climate skepticism, they would likely enjoy seeing environmental regulations simply fall by the wayside along with the rest of the EU law that formerly applied to Britain.

Furthermore, Britain’s pledge in the Paris climate deal was included in the EU’s pledge. The nation would have to re-ratify the deal under David Cameron’s successor. If pro-Brexit politicians’ science-defying beliefs indicate anything, such a pledge may not be forthcoming.

Pro-environment forces in Britain will certainly keep up the fight for a cleaner, more secure future for the environment. Their job, however, may have gotten a bit tougher.

Brexit: A Blow to the Social Good

To the shock of much the world, Britons voted to leave the European Union (EU) on Wednesday, marking the largest blow to the multi-national political body since its foundation.

Spearhead largely by the fringe rightwing, the “leave” campaigners imbued their rhetoric with racist undertones, invoking immigration and refugees as reasons for Britain to withdraw from engagement with the European continent.

While there are certainly problems with the massive bureaucracy of the EU, the consequences of leaving are already in full force. The British pound hit a 31 year-low, as Britain fell from its place as the world’s fifth biggest economy and the FTSE 100 in London lost an astonishing £122 billion of value overnight. Abroad, the economic ramifications reverberated through markets everywhere, including in the United States, where the Down Jones average plummeted more than 500 points.

To further compound the issues facing Britain, there are renewed separatist stirrings within Scotland. Additionally, Sinn Féin – the Irish Republican party – has called for polling in Northern Ireland to gauge interest in unifying with Ireland. Both the populations of Scotland and Northern Ireland voted in favor of staying within the EU.

While Northern Ireland is unlikely to leave Britain anytime soon, the great surge in interest that the Scottish National Party (the leading driver for Scottish independence) has enjoyed in the wake of this week’s referendum indicates that the country may buck Great Britain and rejoin the EU of its own accord. This hypothetical disintegration within Great Britain would leave a greatly diminished England, with significantly less economic and geopolitical might.

Brexit is bad news for the Social Good. The European project – while imperfect – represents an ideal in which nations work together to forge solutions to issues facing the globe. With the number of displaced people and refugees at world historic highs, the threat of climate change growing by the day, and regional instabilities in Eastern Europe, the fracturing cooperation among European nations is a dark omen for what lies ahead.

If Google searches count for anything, many Britons are already regretting their vote. It appears, in fact, that many voters didn’t fully understand the EU when they went to the polls. The energy behind the “leave campaign” was largely derived from racist fear-mongering, as well as a distrust of elites and experts who warned of the consequences of Brexit. As Britain progresses along the rough road ahead, perhaps enough of its electorate will have a change of heart and reembrace international cooperation – if only for Britain’s own wellbeing.

Orlando Shooting: ‘Angels’ Block Westboro Bigots

(“Angels” arrive on the scene to help block Westboro Baptist Church members from funerals for Orlando shooting victims)

The Westboro Baptist Church – a fringe, virulently bigoted and homophobic congregation based in Kansas – has made headlines throughout the years, picketing national tragedies in efforts to broadcast its hateful message.

Following the mass shooting in Orlando, it was safe to assume that the congregation would stage some form of action. The Pulse nightclub was popular with the local LGBTQ community, meaning that its clientele is one of the primary targets of the church’s animus.

But when the congregation showed up to protest funerals for the shooting victims, a number of community members and allies staged a massive counter rally in order to prevent the anti-LGBTQ protestors from reaching the mourners.

“Angels” from the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre donned large white wings to block Westboro members from view, while 200 people joined together to form a human chain.

This outpouring of love and humanity – significantly larger than the hate it stood opposite from – is a heartening display in the wake of tragedy, as well as a sign that the hate the precipitated the Orlando shooting has no place in our society.

Brexit: Racism Fuels ‘Leave’ Campaign

As the United States’ most bizarre general election campaign in recent memory has steamrolled forward at a fever pitch, Americans could be forgiven for overlooking events in Britain which – depending on how they turn out – may shake up international markets and fundamentally alter geo-politics for years to come.

That ignorance was completely understandable, that is, until last week when Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered in public by a nationalist with links to neo-Nazi organizations.

Cox was a passionate anti-racist campaigner, whose philanthropic work included stints at Oxfam and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The attacker, Tommy Mair, announced his name in court as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”

His rhetoric appears to imitate that of the pro-Brexit camp, which is pushing for the UK to leave the European Union (EU) through a referendum on June 23. Largely spearheaded by far-right elements in Britain’s political scene, the “leave” camp has invoked Syrian refugees and Islam in its quest to stir nationalistic fervor and abandon the European project.

The great majority of social and economic experts agree that a Brexit would be catastrophic not only for the British Isles, but for the rest of the developed world as well – including the United States.

The political uncertainly that would follow the single largest split from the EU since the project began would curtail global investment and international trade. Brexit could decrease the net economic output of the world’s advanced economies by half a percentage point by 2019. The IMF predicts that the UK’s depature from the EU would result in a decline of economic growth by 5.6 over the next three years.

For the United States, the head researcher at FIS – Laurence Wormald – predicts that a Brexit would send the S&P spiraling by 5 percent, and that the volatility of the broader stock market could reach 40 percent.

The clearly negative implications of a Brexit, however, hasn’t stopped The UK Independence Party (UKIP) – perhaps the largest driver of the pro-Brexit campaigning – from continuing its crusade. The party’s leader, Nigel Farage, has stood by the racist remarks of party members, underscoring the very real undercurrent of xenophobia that is behind the “leave” campaign. J.K. Rowling – author of the Harry Potter series – has accused Farage of deploying “Nazi propaganda” throughout the public debate on the referendum.

In addition to the concrete damages to the global financial system, the departure of one of the EU’s largest members could spell doom for the multi-national body, which has been credited for cooling diplomatic tensions in the historically volatile region following the cataclysmic events of World War II.

The Tap will bring you further coverage of the vote’s results this Wednesday, and analysis on how those results will impact the Social Good moving forward.

Trump’s Money Claims: Less Than Honest

Donald Trump – the presumptive Republican nominee for the 2016 presidential bid – lauds himself for his business acumen, a characteristic that has supposedly generated untold riches.

How large that wealth is, however, is still clouded in secrecy, as the Trump campaign insists that it has no intention of releasing Trump’s tax returns – something every candidate in modern history has done.

Critic’s view his bluster as a smokescreen for what may actually be a smaller pot, earned less by Trump’s business smarts and more by the bizarre lifestyle brand he has cultivated.

As reports concerning Trump’s casino empire in Atlantic City emerge, there seems to be a growing body of evidence to prove this assertion.

Trump has bragged that his casinos and assets in the east coast gambling capital – which has been on a long, steep economic decline – triumphed over those of his competitors. Documents indicate otherwise, as Vox has helpfully broken down.

Trump considered financial success the enormous earnings he made, which stemmed largely from personal bonuses and salaries, paid for in part by selling junk bonds and bilking investors and shareholders of earnings. Indeed, his public company, according to Vox, “never turned a profit, leaving behind a trail of losses for shareholders and bondholders, and unpaid bills to contractors and subcontractors.” He may have earned money, but his businesses failed disastrously.

There seems to be a parallel between his suspect dealings in Atlantic City and his supposedly self-financed campaign. As it turns out, much of the funding he put toward his primary campaign was structured as loans to be paid back at a later date – presumably through further fundraising and financial support from the RNC.

Financial support from the Republican establishment – however – may not amount to much. Republican donors are allegedly nervous about supporting a Trump bid for the White House, which has many party officials wringing their hands as Trump continues to insult more demographics and double-down on certifiably racist policy proposals.

Their concerns are not unfounded. Trump’s flagrant bigotry and strong-man demeanor has sparked an exodus of moderate Republicans from the party.

If the GOP and its donors don’t show up for Trump, perhaps the bombastic candidate’s financial gymnastics won’t play out as well for his political campaign as they did for his abysmal casino ventures.

Dems. Take Over Senate Floor in Push for Gun Control

In breaking news, Democrats have taken control of the Senate floor in a filibuster-style move designed to push the chamber to do something about the nation’s epidemic of gun violence.

You can watch the takeover live here.

Spearheaded by Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, this bold strategy emerges just days after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. At the Pulse nightclub – a popular gay bar in Orlando, Florida – a lone gunman killed 49 people using an AR-15. This particular assault rifle was also used in the Newtown shooting, which occurred in Senator Murphy’s home state in 2012, claiming the lives of 6 adults and 20 children.

Upon embarking on the floor takeover, Murphy remarked:

This is a different moment today than it was at the end of last week. There is a newfound imperative for this body to find a way to come together and take action, to try to do our part to stem this epidemic of gun violence and in particular this epidemic of mass shootings. There is a fundamental disconnect with the American people when these tragedies continue to occur and we just move forward with business as usual. So I’m going to remain on this floor until we get some signal, some sign that we can come together on these two measures, that we can get a path forward on addressing this epidemic in a meaningful bipartisan way.

As we discussed on The Tap earlier this week, congress had an opportunity to prevent this week’s massacre last year when a measure to ban weapon sales to suspected terrorists went before the legislature. Republicans tied the measure to legislation designed to repeal the Affordable Care Act in a deliberate torpedoing of even this moderate, widely supported gun control measure.

Corey Booker, Senator from New Jersey, has also taken the floor today in support of Murphy’s filibuster. “What we’re seeking is not radical,” Booker said this afternoon, “What we’re seeking is not something that is partisan. What we’re seeking is common sense.”

The Tap will continue to provide coverage on the fallout following the anti-LGBTQ massacre in Orlando and the ongoing debate on gun violence that is sweeping the nation.

WNBA Turns 20 in Milestone for Female Athletes

The WNBA has reached a huge milestone this year as the league prepares to enter its 20th season.

For two decades, the WNBA has shown the nation’s young girls that they, too, have the opportunity to show their stuff in paint on some of the nation’s highest profile courts.

There are still more battles to fight for gender equity in sports – especially within the WNBA itself. While the average WNBA salary has improved over the years – it currently hovers around $75,000 – the fact remains that female players are nonetheless paid a smaller share of overall league revenues compared to their male counterparts.

This arbitrary difference corresponds to the lingering gender pay gap that stretches across all industries. The high-profile character of WNBA stars, however, uniquely positions them to act as advocates on this important issue.

As fans look forward to seeing whether or not decorated college star Breanna Stewart – who is making her rookie debut after a string of wild successes with the Connecticut Huskies – can give Diana Taurasi a run for her money as the best WNBA player, we’ll continue to bring you coverage on gender equity in sports.

Congress Could Have Prevented Orlando Shooting

(The gunman who killed 50 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando used an AR-15 assault rifle, a military-grade weapon that the NRA wishes to keep legal for everyone to purchase)

The public’s response to the tragic Orlando shooting on Sunday has largely been hopeful and loving. Already, Equality Florida has raised more than $1 million through a GoFundMe campaign on behalf of victims and their families. Voices from around the world have spoken out against violence and fear and in solidarity with the LGBTQ community.

Other responses – however – leave something to be desired. Presidential candidate Donald Trump appeared to congratulate himself for crediting the attack to Islamic extremists. A rather tone-deaf move as investigators still navigated the crime scene identifying victims.

Also, many politicians struggled to name the LGBTQ community as the target, belying the very real, continued presence of homophobia in our society.

Remaining optimistic in the face of nihilistic murder is a powerful statement, and the country appears ready to embrace this path. There are, however, real steps that politicians can take to prevent bigoted individuals and hate groups from exacting the awful toll that we witnessed this week.

Congress, in fact, had an opportunity last year to prevent individuals such as Omar Mateen – the perpetrator of the Orlando terror – from acquiring the kind of military-grade weapons that were used to kill 50 innocents at the Pulse nightclub.

Shortly after the San Bernardino shooting late last year, Senator Diane Feinstein sponsored legislation to block suspected terrorists from buying weapons. Virtually all Republican senators, however, voted against the measure.

The NRA’s influence among elected officials is well-known. Any attempt at even modest gun control – including the popularly supported, common sense effort to prevent suspected terrorists from buying weapons – is anathema to the extremist organization, which maintains a radical and uncompromising look at the second amendment.

As politicians begin blaming political correctness or targeting particular ethnic and religious groups over the Orlando shooting, remember that there was a very real chance to prevent this tragedy. An unstable and capricious individual such as Mateen hardly resembles the well-connected and resourceful terrorists that pull off carefully planned and coordinated attacks. The spontaneous, lone-wolf assault on Pulse nightclub is of a different mould – one that the United States can readily combat with the political willpower to move past the dangerous intransigence of the NRA.

Orlando Shooting: Help Victims of Anti-LGBTQ Hate

Last night, a lone gunman committed the single largest mass shooting in the history of the United States, targeting the LGBTQ community in Orlando, Florida. At least 50 people were killed and more than 50 hospitalized when a man open fired at Pulse nightclub using an AR-15 assault rifle – a weapon commonly deployed by mass shooters of late.

As authorities pursue leads pertaining to the gunman’s ideology and political orientation, the nation grieves for the victims of the Orlando shooting, killed at a popular gay bar while celebrating the nationally-recognized gay pride month.

According to media outlets, the perpetrator’s father remarked that his son was angered at the sight of two men kissing. This horrific act of violence reminds us of the lingering societal danger of homophobia. Gay rights victories notwithstanding, the LGBTQ community is still vulnerable to the malice and caprice of bigoted individuals and hate groups.

Discussions regarding religious fanaticism and the seemingly endless torrent of gun violence in the United States are sure to follow. The way forward from this tragedy is uncertain. But there are ways that you can help immediately.

Equality Florida – the state’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organizations started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the victims. Consider donating to not only lessen the tremendous burden on the victims and their families, but also to express solidarity against the wicked hate that precipitated this heinous act.

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