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Nearly 1.5 Million Protest in Kids Climate Strikes Worldwide

An estimated 1.5 million students in more than 120 countries came out to protest the lack of action politicians have taken to mitigate climate change. The movement, known as Friday For Future, was started by a 16-year-old Swedish girl named Greta Thunberg. The protests were almost entirely student-led, and mark one of the biggest environmental […]

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  • An estimated 1.5 million students in more than 120 countries came out to protest the lack of action politicians have taken to mitigate climate change.
  • The movement, known as Friday For Future, was started by a 16-year-old Swedish girl named Greta Thunberg.
  • The protests were almost entirely student-led, and mark one of the biggest environmental demonstrations ever.

Kids Climate Strike

Students all over the world skipped school on Friday to protest for stronger climate change policies during a kids “climate strike.”

The strike is already being described as one of the largest environmental demonstrations ever. More than 2,000 protests were held in over 120 countries, with general estimates saying that nearly 1.5 million people came out to protest worldwide.

The highly organized protests were lead almost entirely by teenagers who believe politicians need to do more to address climate change at an international level.

Several of the young leaders of the protest published an article in The Guardian about their movement and why they are striking. In the article, they kep repeating the line: “This movement had to happen, we didn’t have a choice.”

The leaders cite a report published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) back in October. The report argued that the planet would warm by over 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) without coordinated international policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

It also stated that the impacts of that temperature increase could be much more devastating than previous studies had shown.

Most significantly, the IPCC report said that the international community needed to curb emissions by 2030, or risk runaway warming.

The students who came out to protest have already seen these impacts in their homes and all over the world.

One of the main themes of the protest was the fact that the students feel like their future is in the hands of adults who are not doing enough to stop climate change.

In the article, the leaders write: “If those in power today don’t act, it will be our generation who will live through their failure.”

The fact that they chose to do this on a school day rather than a weekend is also important because the students believe that skipping school to strike proves a powerful point.

According to the website for the strike:

“School children are required to attend school. But with the worsening Climate Destruction this goal of going to school begins to be pointless. Why study for a future, which may not be there? Why spend a lot of effort to become educated, when our governments are not listening to the educated?”

The leaders also reiterated this point in their article, writing: “We think organising against an existential threat – and figuring out how to make our voices heard – is teaching us some important lessons.”

They continue later, “We strongly believe that we can fight off the most damaging effects of climate change – but we have to act now.”

Friday for Future

Given the sheer size of the demonstrations, many have wondered how a protest of this magnitude came about.

It all started back in August, when 15-year-old Greta Thunberg sat in front of the Swedish parliament to protest the lack of action being taken to address climate change. Thunberg sat in front of parliament every school day for three weeks.

She also posted what she was doing on Instagram and Twitter, and eventually, she started to go viral.

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Then in September, Thunberg decided that she would continue striking every Friday until Sweden implements policies that would lower climate change by 2 degrees Celsius.

Thunberg continued to post pictures on social media using the hashtags #FridaysForFuture and #Climatestrike.

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Those hashtags spread so much that many students began to protest outside of their parliaments and city halls all over the world, effectively starting the Fridays For Future movement.

According to the Fridays For Future website, it is: “A peoples movement following the call from @GretaThunberg to school strike.”

The website also provides materials on how to strike, links to social media accounts, and contact information for affiliated strikes all around the world.

Greta Thunberg

Not only has Thunberg inspired a worldwide environmental movement, she has also found a place for herself.

In an interview with the New York Times, Thunberg said: “All my life I’ve been invisible, the invisible girl in the back who doesn’t say anything.”

She also discussed dealing with clinical depression as a child that was so severe she stopped eating, growing, and going to school. On her Twitter account, she writes in her bio that she has Aspbergers.

Thunberg told the Times that she was inspired to take action after learning about the effects of climate change in school, saying: “I became very affected. I began thinking about it all the time and I became very sad […] Those pictures were stuck in my head.”

Now, what started as a one-woman protest has become a global movement, and Thunberg has been championed as its leader.

However, her activism does not just begin and end with the student’s strikes.

In November, Thunberg gave a TED talk on climate action at TEDxStockholm

Back in December, she attended a United Nations climate conference, where she criticized negotiators and said: “You are not mature enough to tell it like it is […] Even that burden you leave to us children.”

In January, she attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where she told a group of wealthy elites they made “unimaginable amounts of money” at the expense of the planet’s future.

On Thursday, a group of Norwegian lawmakers nominated Thunberg for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In her own words, Thunberg told the Times: “I’m happier now […] I have meaning. I have something I have to do.”

Debate & Response

Thunberg’s movement seems highly organized, and it is clear it is gaining traction.

However, there are still some who believe it is pointless for students to skip school to protest.

In February, the office of British Prime Minister Theresa May said that the school strikes in Britain were a distraction that “wastes lesson time.”

Thunberg responded on Twitter, writing “political leaders have wasted 30 yrs of inaction. And that is slightly worse.”

Meanwhile, others like Leonardo DiCaprio, have expressed support for the movement, writing in a Tweet: “I stand in solidarity with those who participated in yesterday’s youth organized climate strike.”

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (The New York Times) (National Geographic)

International

TikTok Faces Billion Dollar Lawsuit in U.K. Over Children’s Data Collection Practices

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  • A former U.K. Children’s Commissioner is suing TikTok on behalf of a 12-year-old girl over concerns that the company mishandles the data of users under 13.
  • The lawsuit alleges that TikTok is “a data collection service that is thinly veiled as a social network” and doesn’t clearly tell children or parents how much data it collects nor how it will be used.
  • The complaint seeks several billion pounds and has transformed into a class-action suit, with millions of children across the U.K. and E.U. eligible to take part.
  • TikTok denies all the claims against it, but if the plaintiffs are victorious, then the social media company could be forced to pay thousands of pounds to each affected child.

TikTok Mishandling Data

TikTok is currently facing a serious legal challenge in the United Kingdom over how it uses and collects children’s data.

The claim was filed by former English Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield on behalf of an anonymous 12-year-old girl, although it has since transformed into a class-action lawsuit for children in the U.K. and European Union.

The legal challenge is for several billion pounds, and if successful, could lead to each affected child in the U.K. and E.U. receiving a few thousand pounds.

Longfield claims that TikTok is “a data collection service that is thinly veiled as a social network” and alleges that it takes children’s phone numbers, videos, exact location, and biometric data without sufficient warning. Particularly concerning for her are children under the age of twelve, who aren’t even supposed to use TikTok but do anyways.

Because of their age, they are supposed to get more legal protections over what’s done with their information, and that age range isn’t a small group of children. Longfield claims that 44% of children 8-12 use TikTok, which would roughly be 3.5 million children in the U.K. alone.

Those stats wouldn’t be too surprising, as according to a 2020 fact sheet published by Ofcom, the U.K.’s communication regulator, 50% of children aged 8 to 15 use TikTok.

Scott & Scoot, the law firm representing the case, added in a statement to the BBC that there is so little transparency for children and parents about what’s being done with the info that it’s “a severe breach of U.K. and EU data protection law.”

While every social media site collects large amounts of user data, Longfield targeted TikTok in particular because it had “excessive” data collection policies. Additionally, Longfield is annoyed at how easy it is for kids under 13 to use TikTok, saying, “Clearly, they know under-13s are using it, companies often say kids put the wrong age on but my view is that isn’t good enough.” 

“Knowing kids will do that, you need additional measures to provide more robust verification of children when they are online.”

Not The First Accusation

TikTok denied the accusations and said they “lack merit,” but the claims aren’t without precedent. The company is currently under investigation by the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office for knowingly hosting the data of children under-13 when it merged with Music.ly.

The company was ordered to delete the info and set up an age verification system.

In 2019, the company was hit with a $5.7 million fine by the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. for mishandling children’s data. It was also fined $155,000 in South Korea over similar issues.

The concerns over children’s data have also prompted many countries to consider various legislation to either enact or expand protections on such data. In the U.K., the Online Safety Bill is being considered by Parliament. Meanwhile, in the U.S., members from both parties in Congress have expressed interest in passing laws to curb social media companies that offer services aimed at people under 16.

Longfield’s lawsuit against TikTok is still in its early stages and what happens next remains to be seen.

See what others are saying: (TechXplore) (Reuters) (BBC)

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Netanyahu Loses Key Vote in Knesset, A First Step in Losing Power

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  • A coalition of anti-Benjamin Netanyahu parties gained control of a key committee that will set the legislative agenda as Israel tries to form a new government.
  • The major legislative victory could indicate that the opposition may have a serious chance of forming a majority government when asked to do so by President Reuven Rivlin, which will likely occur in two weeks if Netanyahu fails to do the same.
  • The pro- and anti-Netanyahu blocs are all courting a group of right-wing and pro-Arab parties that have yet to declare a side.
  • Convincing all of the parties in either bloc to work together is increasingly difficult, as many have refused to do so if certain parties are brought into their coalitions, leaving Israel with the likely prospect of its fifth election in two years.

Major Roadblock

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lost a key vote on Monday in the Knesset, Israel’s legislature, that could possibly lead to his fall from power. 

Bibi, as he’s known, has managed to hold onto power throughout the last two years despite his coalition lacking enough votes to form and keep a government. The latest round of elections in late March once again saw Netayanhu lacking the votes to form a majority government. 

For the last few weeks, Netanyahu has been working to cobble together a coalition government. Two weeks ago, he was finally given a four-week deadline by President Reuven Rivlin.

While Netanyahu retains the title of Prime Minister, he doesn’t get to set the legislative agenda without a majority. The authority to set the agenda is granted to the powerful Arrangements Committee. The Prime Minister received his first major defeat in his efforts to set up a government when the anti-Netanyahu opposition managed to get a majority in the Knesset and gain a majority of the seats on the committee. 

Netanyahu made efforts to secure control of the committee, but like his previous attempts to form a government, he relied on the votes from the pro-Arab Islamist Ra’am party, which instead voted with the opposition. 

The move isn’t a complete shock, as small parties such as Ra’am and the right-wing Yamina party compose a central role in the situation by consistently playing both sides in an effort to get a better deal and more power.

Unclear Future

While Netanyahu has lost control of the Arrangements Committee, it’s unclear if that will translate into a long-term majority for the anti-Netanyahu coalition. 

Many of the wildcard players have issues with parties in both coalitions, with some members of each vowing to back out if the others join. 

For example, Netanyahu needs Ra’am to be able to form a government, but its status as a pro-Arab Islamist party puts it into conflict with a large pro-Jewish party in Netanyahu’s bloc, which vowed to back out if Ra’am was brought into the coalition. The opposition faces similar issues trying to get some of the right-wing parties on board to work with Ra’am, as well.

Netanyahu has two more weeks to try and form a government. If he can’t, President Rivlin will likely turn to the leaders in the opposition with a similar request. If no one is able to form a government, then Israel will head to its fifth election in two years.

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (Metro) (Jerusalem Post)

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New Zealand Considers Banning Cigarettes For People Born After 2004

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  • New Zealand announced a series of proposals that aim to outlaw smoking for the next generation with the hopes of being smoke-free by 2025.
  • Among the proposed provisions are plans to gradually increase the legal smoking age and possibly prohibit the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products to anyone born after 2004; effectively banning smoking for that generation.
  • Beyond that, the level of nicotine in products will likely be significantly reduced, setting a minimum price for tobacco and heavily restricting where it can be sold.
  • The proposals have proven to be popular as one in four New Zealand cancer deaths are tobacco-related, but some have criticized them as government overreach and worry a ban could lead to a bigger and more robust black market.

Smoke Free 2025

New Zealand announced sweeping new proposals on Thursday that would effectively phase out the use of tobacco products, a move that is in line with its hopes to become a smoke-free country by 2025.

Among a number of provisions, the proposals include plans to gradually increase the legal smoking age and bar anyone born after 2004 from buying tobacco products. Such a ban would effectively end tobacco sales after a few decades. The government is also considering significantly reducing the level of nicotine allowed in tobacco products, prohibiting filters, restricting locations where tobacco products can be purchased, and setting a steep minimum price for tobacco.

“We need a new approach.” Associate Health Minister Dr. Ayesha Verral said when announcing the changes on Thursday. 

“About 4,500 New Zealanders die every year from tobacco, and we need to make accelerated progress to be able to reach [a Smoke Free 2025]. Business-as-usual without a tobacco control program won’t get us there.”

The proposals received a large welcome from public health organizations and local groups. Shane Kawenata Bradbrook, an advocate for smoke-free Maori communities, told The Guardian that the plan “will begin the final demise of tobacco products in this country.” 

The Cancer Society pointed out that these proposals would help combat health inequities in the nation, as tobacco stores were four times more likely to be in low-income neighborhoods, where smoking rates are highest.

Not Without Flaws

The proposals weren’t completely without controversy. There are concerns that a complete ban could bankrupt “dairy” store owners (the equivalent to a U.S. convenience store) who rely on tobacco sales to stay afloat. 

There are also concerns that prohibition largely doesn’t work, as has been seen in other nations with goods such as alcohol or marijuana. Many believe a  blanket ban on tobacco will increase the incentive to smuggle and sell the products on the black market. The government even acknowledged the issue in a document outlining Thursday’s proposals. 

“Evidence indicates that the amount of tobacco products being smuggled into New Zealand has increased substantially in recent years and organised criminal groups are involved in large-scale smuggling,” the document said.

Some are also concerned about how much the government is intervening in people’s lives.

“There’s a philosophical principle about adults being able to make decisions for themselves, within reason,” journalist Alex Braae wrote. 

The opposition ACT party also added that lowering nicotine content in tobacco products could lead to smokers smoking more, a particular concern as one-in-four cancer cases in New Zealand are tobacco-related.

See what others are saying: (Stuff) (Independent) (The Guardian)

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