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Democracy In U.S. Weakened Over Years, Says Freedom House

The greatest danger comes from the fact that American democracy is not infinitely durable.

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Donald Trump
Trump supporter holds a T-shirt reading "You Are Fake News" before a rally by President Donald Trump in Rochester, Minnesota, Oct. 4, 2018. Freedom House says that democracy in the U.S. weakened significantly and blames U.S. President Donald Trump for "ongoing attacks." (Representational image). VOA

Freedom House says that democracy in the United States has weakened significantly in recent years and blames U.S. President Donald Trump for “ongoing attacks on the rule of law, fact-based journalism, and other principles and norms of democracy.”

The U.S.-based nongovernmental group warned in its annual report on democracy that it has seen similar patterns in other nations where democracy was ultimately overtaken by authoritarianism.

“The greatest danger comes from the fact that American democracy is not infinitely durable, especially if a president shows little respect for its tenets,” said Michael Abramowitz, president of Freedom House.

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The U.S.-based nongovernmental group warned in its annual report on democracy that it has seen similar patterns in other nations where democracy was ultimately overtaken by authoritarianism. VOA

While the group said the freedom rating for the United States shows that the country is still a robust democracy by global standards, it says its democracy has weakened significantly. It says the current U.S. score puts American democracy on a level with Greece, Croatia and Mongolia, well below other long-standing democracies such as Germany, France and Britain.

Around the world, Freedom House said that 68 countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties during 2018, with only 50 registering gains. It said this marked the 13th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.

The report noted two countries with dramatic declines in 2018 – Hungary and Nicaragua. Hungary fell from “Free” status to “Partly Free” status as Prime Minister Viktor Orban “presided over the most dramatic decline ever charted by Freedom House within the European Union.” Nicaragua dropped to “Not Free” status amid “a ferocious crackdown on a nationwide anti-government protest movement.”

The report also spotlighted several other countries for declines, including China, where over a million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs and Hui were forced into reeducation centers, and Cameroon, where President Paul Biya extended his more than three decades in office through “deeply flawed elections.”

Donald Trump
Freedom House says that democracy in the United States has weakened significantly in recent years and blames U.S. President Donald Trump for “ongoing attacks on the rule of law, fact-based journalism, and other principles and norms of democracy.” VOA

Of the 195 countries assessed, 86 (44 percent) were rated Free, 59 (30 percent) Partly Free, and 50 (26 percent) Not Free.

The countries that received the worst freedom rating in the report were Syria, South Sudan, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea. Those who received the best scores were Finland, Norway, Sweden, Canada and the Netherlands.

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Freedom House said the countries that made notable positive changes in their freedom rating in 2018 included Armenia, Ethiopia and Iraq.

It said Armenia made a breakthrough with the victory of “reform-minded” leader Nikol Pashinyan in snap elections, and said in Ethiopia the ruling party installed a reformist prime minister who lifted a state of emergency and released political prisoners. In Iraq, Freedom House said that despite allegations of fraud, the country underwent a peaceful transfer of power following competitive parliamentary elections. (VOA)

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U.S. Pentagon Emits More Greenhouse Gases Than Portugal, Study Finds

The Pentagon, which oversees the U.S. military, released about 59 million metric tons of carbon dioxide

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FILE - The Pentagon building is seen in Washington. VOA

The United States creates more planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions through its defense operations alone than industrialized countries such as Sweden and Portugal, researchers said Wednesday.

The Pentagon, which oversees the U.S. military, released about 59 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in 2017, according to the first study to compile such comprehensive data, published by Brown University.

The Pentagon’s emissions were “in any one year … greater than many smaller countries’ greenhouse gas emissions,” the study said.

If it were a country, its emissions would make it the world’s 55th-largest contributor, said Neta Crawford, the study’s author and a political scientist at Boston University.

U.S., Pentagon, Greenhouse Gases
FILE – Air pollution hangs over the skyline as the sun rises over Beijing’s central business district, Jan. 14, 2013. VOA

“There is a lot of room here to reduce emissions,” Crawford said.

Request for comments to the Pentagon went unanswered.

Troop movements

Using and moving troops and weapons accounted for about 70% of its energy consumption, mostly due to the burning of jet and diesel fuel, Crawford said.

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It dwarfed yearly emissions by Sweden, which the international research project Global Carbon Atlas ranks 65th worldwide for its of CO2 emissions.

Pentagon emissions were higher than those of Portugal, ranked 57th by the Global Carbon Atlas, said Crawford.

China is the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, the main gas responsible for climate change, followed by the United States.

The Pentagon called climate change “a national security issue” in a January report to Congress and has launched multiple initiatives to prepare for its impact.

U.S., Pentagon, Greenhouse Gases
The United States creates more planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. Pixabay

Global temperatures are on course for an increase of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius (5.4-9.0 degrees Fahrenheit) this century, far overshooting a global target of limiting the increase to 2 C or less, the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said in November.

Four degrees Celsius of warming would increase more than five times the influence of climate on conflict, according to a study published in Nature magazine on Wednesday.

Improvements

Crawford said the Pentagon had reduced its fuel consumption significantly since 2009, including by making its vehicles more efficient and moving to cleaner sources of energy at bases.

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It could reduce them further by cutting fuel-heavy missions to the Persian Gulf to protect access to oil, which were no longer a top priority as renewable energy gained ground, she said.

“Many missions could actually be rethought, and it would make the world safer,” she said. (VOA)