Outside the Outbreak: Protest break out in Guatemala, Trump pushes new environmental rollbacks

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Protesters torch Guatemala’s Congress building amid unrest

Riot police form a cordon as flames shoot out from the Congress building after protesters set a part of the building on fire, in Guatemala City, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. Hundreds of protesters were protesting in various parts of the country Saturday against Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei and members of Congress for the approval of the 2021 budget that reduced funds for education, health and the fight for human rights. (AP Photo/Oliver De Ros)

Hundreds of protesters broke into Guatemala’s Congress and burned part of the building Saturday amid growing demonstrations against President Alejandro Giammattei and the legislature for approving a controversial budget that cut educational and health spending.

The incident came as about 10,000 people were protesting in front of the National Palace in Guatemala City against corruption and the budget, which protesters say was negotiated and passed by legislators in secret while the Central American country was distracted by the fallout of back-to-back hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 1,000 protesters were demonstrating outside the Congress building.

Video on social media showed flames shooting out a window in the legislative building. Police fired tear gas at protestors, and about a dozen people were reported injured.

Trump pushes new environmental rollbacks on way out the door

In this July 16, 2017, file photo, ice is broken up by the passing of the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica as it sails through the Beaufort Sea off the coast of Alaska. Down to its final weeks, the Trump administration is working to push through dozens of environmental rollbacks that could weaken century-old protections for migratory birds, expand Arctic drilling and hamstring future regulation of public health threats. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

Down to its final weeks, the Trump administration is working to push through dozens of environmental rollbacks that could weaken century-old protections for migratory birds, expand Arctic drilling and hamstring future regulation of public health threats.

The pending changes, which benefit oil and gas and other industries, deepen the challenges for President-elect Joe Biden, who made restoring and advancing protections for the environment, climate and public health a core piece of his campaign.

The proposed changes cap four years of unprecedented environmental deregulation by President Donald Trump, whose administration has worked to fundamentally change how federal agencies apply and enforce the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and other protections.

Utah bill may exonerate some who injure protesters

Black Lives Matter activists gather at the southwest corner of Center Street and 300 West while Citizen’s Alarm activists occupy the other three corners on July 1, 2020. A proposed Utah bill would exonerate drivers who accidentally injure or kill protestors. (Preston Crawley)

A Utah state representative has proposed a bill that may exonerate drivers who accidentally kill or injure protesters while fleeing in fear for his or her life.

The legislation advanced by Republican Rep. Jon Hawkins Tuesday would also make obstructing traffic during a riot into a third-degree felony.

The bill applies to drivers fleeing from a riot “under a reasonable belief” that he or she is in danger of serious injury or death, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The motorist must also be taking “due care” at the time, the lawmaker’s bill said.

State statute considers a riot to be a group of people who are engaging in “tumultuous or violent conduct” that can cause public alarm. Defense attorney Mark Moffat told lawmakers that a broad interpretation of this statute could encompass almost any protest.

Investigation accuses former Utah agency head of wrongdoing

A Utah investigation into the state Department of Agriculture and Food under former Commissioner Kerry Gibson has identified issues with the agency’s former practices. (Savannah Hopkinson)

A Utah investigation into the state Department of Agriculture and Food under former Commissioner Kerry Gibson has identified issues with the agency’s former practices.

The investigation released Wednesday found that Gibson took state cars on personal vacations, improperly upgraded his hotel rooms and airplane seats and asked the department to reimburse him for costs he’d already charged to his state purchase card. The auditors said they were also concerned with how the agency awarded eight lucrative licenses to grow medical marijuana.

The investigators also accused Gibson’s former director of operations and agriculture programs, Natalie Callahan, and his former public information officer, Sasha Seegmiller Clark, of doing work for their public relations firm while they were working for the state agency. The investigation found four instances in which the two former Gibson surrogates worked for their private clients while on the clock with the state Department of Agriculture, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

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