France’s fast-fashion ‘kill bill’: Green move or penalty for the poor?

In a bid to combat the “fast-fashion” and “ultra-fast-fashion” brands that have taken France by storm, a young lawmaker from the conservative Les Républicains party has proposed slapping an extra €5 on every fast-fashion purchase in the name of the environment and the French textile industry. But criticism of the bill has been fierce, especially on social media, where some have slammed the draft bill as unfair, saying it will only serve to punish the poor.  

“So gorgeous, so classy!,” 31-year-old conservative lawmaker Antoine Vermorel-Marques exclaims as he films himself pulling out a pair of shoes from a box purportedly ordered from the hugely popular Chinese fast-fashion online giant Shein. “Treated with phthalate, a substance which is an endocrine disruptor that can make us sterile,” he adds as an ironic kicker.

In the parody-like video posted on TikTok in mid-February, Vermorel-Marques unpacks and shows off his great “hauls” in much the same way many of the platform’s fashion and beauty influencers do to promote new products they have purchased or been “gifted” by the brand.

But Vermorel-Marques’s video is hardly meant to promote Shein’s products. It is intended to accompany his draft of a fast-fashion “kill bill” he recently proposed to the National Assembly.

@antoinevermorel42 🛑 Les vêtements à 2€ qui arrivent en avion, contiennent des substances nocives pour la santé et finissent sur les plages en Afrique, c’est non ! Je dépose à l’Assemblée nationale une proposition de loi pour instaurer un bonus-malus afin de pénaliser les marques et pour encourager les démarches plus vertueuses ♻️ #shein#sheinhaul#ecologie#fastfashion#stopshein#pourtoi#fyp @lookbookaly @menezangel_ @loufitlove @lila_drila @cilia.ghass @tifanywallemacq @veronika_cln @lia__toutcourt @iamm_mae.e@IAMM_MAE.E ♬ son original – antoinevermorel

The bill is expected to be debated in the lower house of parliament in the next few months and was drafted to support France’s ailing textile industry which has been hard hit by the country’s growing fast fashion consumption. The bill calls for a €5 penalty for any fast-fashion purchase.

Fast fashion, or the high-speed, low-cost production of the latest trends, has grown so strong in France in recent years that it is threatening the future of many traditional and domestic fashion manufacturers. The average price tag for a piece of Shein clothing is estimated at just €7. Oxfam France describes fast fashion as “disposable”, warning on its website that it has “disastrous social and environmental consequences”.

Although a host of brands fall under the fast-fashion category, Vermorel-Marques is particularly targeting the “ultra-fast-fashion” online retailer Shein. The China-founded but Singapore-based company is estimated to add between 6,000 and 11,000 new offerings to its catalogue every single day. The brand has frequently come under fire for the environmental and social consequences of its throw-away business model, and according to Vermorel-Marques, for “destroying France’s textile industry”.

But it did not take long for the draft bill to whip up a storm, with some likening the €5 penalty to yet another tax primarily penalising the poor as well as restricting their access to affordable and trendy clothes.

‘Another step towards injustice’

Shein, and peers like Temu and Boohoo, have found an appreciative audience among consumers who rarely have to spend more than €10 to fill their wardrobes with the latest trending skirts, tops, trousers or accessories.

“In France, there’s a gap between our convictions, the awareness that we need to make an effort, and acceptance of the measures to combat these issues,” said Cécile Désaunay, director of studies at Futuribles, a consultancy firm that analyses transformative societal, lifestyle and consumption trends.

Désaunay said that this €5 penalty is particularly sensitive “because it touches on what is considered the freedom to consume”.

However, she emphasised that the law is not just meant to punish but also to reward, and would work as a bonus-penalty system that would make sustainable fashion more accessible to everyone.

In an interview with the quarterly narrative journalism publication Usbek&Rica, Vermorel-Marques explained how the system is meant to work: While a fast-fashion shopper would be slapped with a €5 penalty for every purchase, a person buying an environmentally friendly and domestically-produced piece of clothing would instead receive a €5 bonus.

“What is key here is that it’s not another tax,” he said. “We’re not here to take money from you. We’re just saying: ‘If you pollute, you pay. And if you don’t pollute, you win’. It’s a win-win for both the consumer and the planet.”

A supporter of the bill took to the social media platform X to expand on the lawmaker’s argument:

“This isn’t a ‘tax’. Shein, Ali[Express], etc. are already taxed, but what we’re talking about here is a penalty punishing those who participate in fast fashion, and by extension, in the exploitation of people and the increase in waste.”

A worker makes clothes at a garment factory that supplies fast fashion e-commerce company Shein in Guangzhou, China, on July 18, 2022. © Jade Gao, AFP

Désaunay noted it was not the first time the bonus-penalty system has been used to draw up new legislation to encourage more responsible and sustainable consumption behaviour, pointing to, among other things, the bonus offered to French car buyers who opt for less-polluting vehicles, and Sweden’s initiative to reduce the value-added tax on used item repairs.

Although Désaunay said she completely understands peoples’ need to dress themselves, many, and especially younger shoppers, now over-consume thanks to low-cost brands like Shein.

‘I’m poor, but I have values’

“Before, the norm was to have fewer clothes, but that lasted longer. We paid more for them, but we made them last,” Désaunay explained. “Today, we’ve moved away from that mentality. We have clothes that are not as strong, that don’t last as long, and we’re getting used to always having more of them because they cost less.”

On social media, the draft bill has divided users. “Fast fashion for some, the only way to dress for others,” one user wrote, while another stated: “I’m poor, but I have values, I don’t order from these sites! You can be poor and have values!”

Désaunay said that many get trapped in the mindset “that in order to dress cheaply, you have to buy clothes ‘Made in China’, as if there are no other alternatives”. One sustainable alternative, she noted, is simply to turn to second-hand shopping.

“The challenge for the textile industry is that charities and other recycling centres are bursting at the seams with [used] clothes,” she said. “Given the amount of clothes already on this planet, we could still dress humanity for another 100 years even if we stopped making them.”

But despite the many positives related to second-hand shopping, Désaunay said it is still often frowned upon “and even rejected by the poorest in society”, due to the stigma attached to wearing “hand-me-downs”.

According to a report by shopping application Joko, Shein had a 13 percent French market share in value terms at the end of 2023, making it France’s second-favourite online fashion brand. The No. 1 spot, however, was claimed by Vinted, a rapidly growing second-hand clothing platform.

“The fast-fashion mentality is coming to an end,” Désaunay said.

Although the proposed bill has not even been debated yet, she said it will serve as a “pretext to rethink the value of the items we buy”: “If it’s not expensive, it’s because there’s a trade-off. In this case, an environmental trade-off.”  

The fast fashion industry has regularly been shamed for how its business model damages the environment (the cheap and toxic chemical pollutants used in the dyes, as well as the consumption of water and fossil fuels), negatively impacts climate change (CO2 emissions) and how it exploits human rights (forced labour). In a recent report, the French chapter of the environmental grassroots network Friends of the Earth (FoE) estimated that Shein alone produces some 1 million garments per day, which corresponds to between 15,000 and 20,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

But, the group pointed out, brick-and-mortar fast-fashion retailers such as Zara, H&M, Primark and Uniqlo are hardly better. “[What they] don’t do in terms of quantity of new offerings, they make up for in quantity produced, as well disrespect of human rights,” FoE said, noting that these brands have all been accused of either profiting from, or having profited from, forced labour by China’s Uighur population.

In 2022, Shein recorded roughly $23 billion in sales, according to the Wall Street Journal. For 2023, its sales are estimated at nearly $32 billion.

This article was adapted from the original in French.

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France’s undocumented migrants face uncertain future under new immigration law

Despite facing serious labour shortages, the French government passed a more restrictive immigration bill this week after watering down measures that would have streamlined the legalisation of foreign workers. But some of the law’s new provisions may still offer a glimmer of hope for the country’s hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants. 

Until it became unstuck, the sticking point – as far as France’s right wing was concerned – for the Macron government’s sweeping immigration bill was how to deal with the country’s undocumented migrants.

In presenting the bill’s initial text a year ago, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and Labour Minister Olivier Dussopt included provisions making it easier to legalise undocumented migrants working in sectors with labour shortages. But representatives from Marine Le Pen‘s far-right National Rally party repeatedly stated they would not endorse legislation granting undocumented workers legal status. 

After the language of the bill was significantly weakened in a joint committee, Le Pen saw an opening for a strategic victory and changed course; it passed the National Assembly (lower house) on Tuesday with Le Pen’s endorsement.

While it does not go as far as the original text, the new law gives undocumented workers in high-demand occupations a path to obtaining residency permits. Speaking a day after the law was passed, Darmanin said he expects the number of legalisations (régularisations) to double, with “ten thousand additional foreign workers each year“.

At the same time, the law will make it more difficult – and more risky – for undocumented workers in France: a law abolished by former president François Hollande that allowed police to fine foreigners up to €3,750 if they are found to be in the country unlawfully has been reintroduced. The bill also steps up sanctions against companies employing illegal workers.

Sans papiers

The number of undocumented workers, or what the French call the “sans papiers” (without papers), is impossible to calculate. Darmanin himself estimates the number to be between 600,000 and 900,000.

Amadou* moved to France from Mali on a work visa in 2001 (overstaying a legal visa is the most common path to becoming an undocumented migrant in Europe).

Finding work has never been a problem. He has primarily worked in the hospitality sector and in retirement homes – he currently works at a restaurant in Paris’s 7th arrondissement (district). “I’ve been working in France for 19 years without a holiday, without any sick days or absences,” he says.

Amadou first applied for working papers – to no avail – in 2012. The second time he applied, in 2018, he was denied because he didn’t have children or a partner to support. Since then, despite help from his employer, he has been unable to get another meeting.

Amadou belongs to an association that supports undocumented migrants in Montreuil, a suburb just east of Paris. He often participates in protests but realises he and people like him are largely powerless. “I’d like to get my papers but, considering it’s [the politicians] who decide, we are not their priority,” he says.

France’s right-wing Les Republicains party and the far-right National Rally are reluctant to endorse a path towards legalisation because they believe migrants choose France for its advantageous social system. Therefore, the logic goes, making life difficult for migrants will prevent more migrants from coming – an idea that has no grounding in research.

Read moreMacron accused of doing far-right’s bidding with stricter immigration law

By contrast, studies have found that legalising migrants has positive macroeconomic and fiscal outcomes in developed countries.

Citing research from the Institute of Labour Economics, French economist Pierre Cahuc argued for the significant advantages that legalisation can have on a country’s economy in the French financial daily Les Echos.

“It is a crucial factor to take into account in the context of low growth and an ageing population,” Cahuc said. “From a purely fiscal standpoint, legalisation could also have a positive impact since declared work generates income for the state coffers.”

Violaine Carrère, a lawyer at Gisti, an immigrant information and support group, agrees. “When you are on a payroll, you pay into social security. And with a real salary, you can spend more.” 

Not only does it benefit the economy, Carrère says, becoming legal enables migrants “to integrate fully and lead a dignified life”.

“Staying stuck, working all the time – it’s not a life that many people would want to live,” says Amadou.

“Everyone wants to be happy, have a good life, a roof and a family. If you’re a sans papier it’s all out of reach.”

Labour shortages

Under French President Emmanuel Macron, unemployment has fallen to 7.4% of the workforce, the lowest level in more than a decade. He has pledged to continue this mission, pushing for full employment (which the country’s labour organisation considers to be 5%).

At the same time, eight out of 10 professions in France saw labour shortages in 2022, according to the Directorate for Research, Studies and Statistics (Direction de l’Animation de la recherche, des Études et des Statistiques). This increased from seven out of 10 in 2021 due to France’s ageing population and a wave of resignations.

Targeting low domestic unemployment rates while seeking a concurrent increase in migrant labour might seem contradictory. But it is simply not possible to make up for France’s worker shortfalls with a supply of domestic labour that is mostly young – some 17% of French youth are unemployed, significantly higher than the EU average. 

Research is focusing on three central reasons for this, says migration policy analyst Anna Piccinni. The first and second are skill disparities and remuneration: much of the increasingly qualified youth are not motivated by low-skilled jobs, especially if the salary level is not what they expect.

Piccinni’s third reason is that labour shortages are often localised and migrants offer a more mobile labour force – filling the gaps that non-migrant workers might be unable or unwilling to fill. “Often, shortages of low-skilled labour are not in urban areas, where the youth move for their studies and then stick around for jobs,” she says. “Migrants have the potential to fill these gaps.”

Indeed, she points out that many municipalities across Europe are now creating incentives to retain migrant populations – such as Altena, a small town in Germany known for its successful integration scheme.

This point has not been lost on France’s business community. Speaking to Radio Classique in the lead-up to Tuesday’s vote, Patrick Martin, who heads the French entrepreneurs’ union, said relying on a foreign labour force is necessary for the country.

“We are already experiencing enormous recruitment pressure,” Martin said. “We have to call a spade a spade and make a choice” to allow a larger immigrant workforce.

For Piccinni, this cannot be achieved without fewer bureaucratic hurdles for issuing work permits to migrants who have already demonstrated a commitment to participating in the economy. “This has to be part of the solution,” she says.

Even the most anti-immigration governments in Europe are doing this, she points out. Georgia Meloni’s government in Italy signed a decree in March allowing 82,000 non-EU migrant workers to work in the country because of seasonal labour shortages.

“Beyond the perception of migration as a threat to social cohesion and security, some governments are aware and willing to recognise the role it has in [fulfilling] employers’ needs,” Piccinni says.

* Not his real name

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Macron accused of doing far-right’s bidding with passage of stricter immigration law

French President Emmanuel Macron is under renewed fire after urging his minority government to vote for a strengthened immigration bill that was endorsed by the far right. The late Tuesday vote, which divided Macron’s coalition MPs and prompted his health minister to resign a day later, was heralded by far-right leader Marine Le Pen as an “ideological victory” upon its passage. 

In a speech following his April 2022 re-election, Emmanuel Macron was well aware he owed his victory to left-leaning voters who considered him the lesser of two evils as he faced off a challenge from Marine Le Pen. “I know that many of our compatriots voted for me not to support the ideas I represent but to block those of the far right,” he acknowledged.

Less than two years later, Macron is facing criticism that he betrayed those same constituents by aligning with the far right after his minority government helped pass an immigration law that was heavily influenced by the right-wing Les Républicains party and supported by the far-right National Rally.

Soon after it was passed, the law was heralded by far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen who proclaimed an “ideological victory”.

Macron and members of his government rejected that assessment in a round of interviews on Wednesday.  

Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne told France Inter she felt a “sense of duty fulfilled” after the adoption of the immigration law. Faced with strong criticism from the left, NGOs and even within her own government, Borne insisted that the law “respects our values”.

‘Préférence Nationale’

The immigration law includes several measures inspired by the National Rally’s policy platform. For example, access to certain social benefits will be conditional on a longer period of legal residence in France.

What’s more, sanctions against companies employing undocumented workers will be stepped up.

Measures like these and others concern critics who say the Macron government has accepted policies affiliated with an ideology of “préférence nationale” – policies that legitimise discrimination against foreign nationals in favour of French citizens concerning access to employment, housing and social protections.

“This law does not encompass the entirety or even the majority of Marine Le Pen’s presidential programme, but some of her policies – especially regarding national preference – certainly made the cut even if the law does not go as far as the National Rally wants,” said Jean-Yves Camus, a specialist on the far right and the director of the Observatoire des Radicalités Politiques.

“It’s an exaggeration to talk about an extreme-right text – I would call it instead a ‘hard-right’ text – but we are still opening the door to national preference. We are not fully there, but the door is ajar,” says Caroline Janvier, an MP from Macron’s Renaissance party who voted against the immigration law on Tuesday. 

‘Kiss of death’

It is precisely the addition of national preference policies that tipped the vote on Tuesday night.

Until the mid-afternoon, representatives from the National Rally repeatedly stated they would not endorse the bill, deeming it impossible to approve a text that grants undocumented workers legal status. But seeing the possibility of a strategic victory on the issue of national preference, Le Pen reversed course.

“One can rejoice in an ideological victory … national preference is now inscribed in law, meaning the French will have an advantage over foreigners in accessing certain social benefits,” Le Pen said on Tuesday.

Janvier described Le Pen’s endorsement as the “kiss of death” – a “political move” to make Macron’s government look complicit with the far right in the eyes of left-leaning constituents.

National Rally members were not the only ones pleased by Tuesday’s vote. “There was a kind of jubilation among MPs from Les Républicains over having chipped away at a taboo: that of equality between French and foreigners,” said Camus. “For them, this means that the cultural hegemony of the left has begun to crumble. Beyond the immigration issue, a moral taboo has been broken.”

But Camus said the party’s hopes of luring away far-right supporters are likely in vain. “Les Républicains continue to pursue a strategy of undermining the National Rally by hijacking their policy platform. The only problem is that this strategy doesn’t work. The National Rally continues to rise in the polls,” he said.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s father and the founder of National Rally predecessor the National Front, may have said it best: “Voters always prefer the original to the copy.” 

Victory by ‘background noise’

Macron could have prevented this shift by choosing, in the face of Les Républicains demands, to withdraw the bill and start from scratch. But he deemed it preferable to go through with the vote, even if it meant dividing his coalition.

In total, 27 MPs in the government’s coalition voted against the bill that passed while 32 abstained. Health Minister Aurélien Rousseau resigned from his role in protest the following day.

Borne insisted on France Inter on Wednesday that “there is no crisis in the coalition” while government spokesperson Olivier Véran said that same day there was “no ministerial rebellion”.

Macron defended his decision in an interview with the “C à Vous” TV programme on Wednesday evening. “It is a shield that we needed,” he said, adding that the law “will allow us to fight against what nourishes the National Rally party” – namely immigration fears.

Read moreFiercely contested immigration law is a ‘shield that we needed’, Macron says

Whatever the case, the lines are no longer the same as 20 years ago, Camus said. “With this law, we have accepted the far-right vision of immigration as a danger.”

He said the National Rally’s success is due to persistent “background noise”: “This law would not have been approved without half a century of emphasis on national preference and the idea that immigration is a burden, that we pay a price for it or that it is a factor in criminality.”

To offset the right’s most extreme measures, the Macron government appears to be adopting a novel strategy: to accept Les Républicains’ demands, knowing full well that some of them will be invalidated by the Constitutional Council, the country’s highest constitutional court.

The president submitted the immigration bill to the high court on Wednesday to “decide on its conformity in whole or in part with the Constitution”, Véran announced. Borne has also suggested that some of the bill’s measures are unconstitutional and that the text would likely “evolve”.

But it’s a risky bet, according to Camus. “French people will have a hard time understanding that the law has been emptied of its substance,” he warned.

“This will inevitably benefit the National Rally and the idea, which is already beginning to take hold, that a ‘government of judges’ works against the interests of the country.”

This article was translated from the original in French.

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Here’s How Much Chris Christie Is Worth

Christie’s net worth quadrupled after leaving the New Jersey governorship.

By Kyle Mullins, Forbes Staff

Plenty of politicians make big money after leaving office: Just ask Nikki Haley, Mike Pence or Joe Biden, who all tapped into tried-and-true moneymaking methods for political figures — writing books, giving speeches, doing consulting or sitting on boards. But of all the people running for president today, nobody has played the game better than Chris Christie.

The former New Jersey governor and his wife, Mary Pat, reported $1 million to $2 million in assets when Christie left office in 2018, plus a $1.3 million house in Morris County, New Jersey. Today, the couple is worth $15 million, according to Forbes’ estimates, meaning their net worth has roughly quadrupled. The Christies now have two homes in the Garden State, worth roughly $6 million total, plus a sizable portfolio of investments, a large pension from Christie’s law firm and two smaller ones from his time in government. How’d they build such a big fortune in such a short period of time? By doing what Haley, Pence and Biden did, but on a bigger scale. Christie, a lifelong public servant who was among the poorest 2015 presidential hopefuls, is now one of the richest people vying for the Oval Office in 2024.

Christie’s Cash

The former New Jersey governor and his Wall Street wife have two houses, three pensions and a big pile of investments between them.

Christie grew up solidly middle class. He was born in 1962 in Newark, but his parents moved to the suburbs in the mid-1960s. His father held a job at Peat Marwick, the “P” and “M” in what is today the accounting giant KPMG. His mother worked at a typewriter company. In his 2019 memoir, Christie credits his interest in politics to his grandmother, with whom he watched “Meet the Press” from a young age. He remembers identifying as a Republican after watching former President Gerald Ford speak at the 1976 GOP convention.

A political science major, Christie met Mary Pat, a business student who was a year behind him, at the University of Delaware (also Joe Biden’s alma mater). He was elected student body president as a junior, and when Mary Pat ran to succeed him the following year, Chris “persuaded” her challenger to step aside and let her win unopposed. “You really don’t want to run,” Christie told the other candidate, according to his book, “because, if you do, I’m gonna work as hard as I can to make sure you lose, and that would be humiliating.” When the predictable election results were announced, the student newspaper congratulated her, adding “the suspense was killing us.”

The couple married in 1986, when Christie was a law student at Seton Hall University. Money was tight—Mary Pat made $20,000 a year, roughly $56,000 today, working at a New York investment bank, and Chris worked nights at a small law firm while completing his degree. The strain of a new marriage got to them, especially after they moved into a fixer-upper starter home in Cranford, New Jersey in 1988. They separated twice and tried counseling, but it took three years, more financial stability and a new house to repair their marriage.

The Christies sold their Cranford place in 1991 for $17,500 less than they paid for it, but by then the couple could clearly take the hit, because they turned around and borrowed $300,000 to build a 3,700-square-foot home in Mendham, New Jersey. “We were socking money away,” Christie writes about this period, noting Mary Pat’s ascendency on Wall Street as a junk bond saleswoman and his budding career as a trial lawyer. Presumably wanting more space as they began to raise a family, the Christies sold their house in 1998 for $630,000 and bought a 7,000-square-foot home nearby for $775,000. They still own the property, which Forbes estimates is worth $2 million today before subtracting an estimated $500,000 left on their mortgage.

As Christie’s bank account grew in the 1990s, so did his political clout. He took a leave of absence from his law firm job to work for George H.W. Bush’s reelection campaign in New Jersey in 1992. After a short stint in county government, he joined the campaign of H.W. ‘s son—which proved more successful. President George W. Bush rewarded Christie with an appointment as the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, and he took office in January 2002.

Under Christie, the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s office became known for public corruption prosecutions, securing 130 convictions of elected and appointed officials in seven years. He also had run-ins with two brash New York real estate barons that would shape his future in politics. The first was with Jared Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, who Christie convicted for various financial crimes in 2005. The second was with Donald Trump, who he befriended in 2002 shortly after entering office.

Following Barack Obama’s victory in 2008, Christie resigned as U.S. Attorney, leaving him with a federal pension worth around $90,000 today. In November 2009, he was elected New Jersey governor, beating a Democratic incumbent. The office came with a $175,000 salary and an official residence in Princeton, though the Christies kept the family in Mendham so the kids could stay in their schools. Mary Pat, who at this point was making more than $500,000 a year as a vice president at a Wall Street investment firm, was the family’s main breadwinner.

As governor, Christie quickly built up a national profile picking fights with teachers unions, refusing to raise taxes and going viral for combative exchanges with reporters and voters. The blue-state governor won reelection in 2013 in a landslide, overcame the “Bridgegate” scandal and announced a run for president in 2015.

It went poorly. Christie’s old friend, Trump, grabbed hold of the party and never let go. Christie dropped out after the first two primaries, then joined the Trump campaign as an advisor and head of the transition team. Squabbles with Jared Kushner—who, in Christie’s telling, never truly forgave him for prosecuting his father a decade before—and other campaign staff ultimately led to his sidelining. When Trump shocked the world in November 2016, and Christie wasn’t offered the attorney general spot he wanted, he returned to New Jersey for his final year as governor.

The Christies were doing just fine when he left office, given the $2 million or so in assets they reported at the time. Mary Pat earned more than $500,000 that year in deferred compensation from another Wall Street firm, which she left in 2015 to stay at home with her kids.

But, evidently, it wasn’t enough. “I want to have fun, and I want to make money,” Christie told The New York Times in 2017 before leaving office. He got to work quickly, signing onto ABC News as a contributor in January 2018 and starting both his own law firm and a consulting and lobbying shop called Christie 55 Solutions within three months. Apparently his businesses were a quick success, because one of the first things he and his wife did was sink $2.9 million into a beachfront house in Bay Head, New Jersey in June 2018, borrowing $1.7 million to pay for it. They paid off that loan by 2020. It’s been a good investment: The house is worth over $4.3 million today.

The cash kept coming. The Christies’ consulting and lobbying work paid the couple $3.2 million between January 2022 and mid-2023 alone; clients have included big hospitals, Puerto Rican government entities and pharmaceutical company Pacira BioSciences—on whose board Christie sits. They’ve also made plenty from the Christie Law Firm, which paid the former governor about $700,000 during that time period and gave him a pension that Forbes estimates is worth between $1 million and $4 million. (The Christie campaign did not answer a list of questions about his income and assets.)

The couple reported income from a combined six corporate boards—four private companies and two that are publicly traded, Pacira and a Swedish pharma firm named Orexo. They earned roughly $600,000 from those boards between early 2022 and the middle of 2023. Christie raked in $475,000 from the commentator gig at ABC and more than $400,000 in speaking fees over the same time period. He’s also published two books, his memoir in 2019 and a “guide for recapturing Republican glory” in 2021. His contract details are unknown, but the two have sold 33,000 and 9,100 copies respectively, according to data from BookScan.

The Christies have plowed the rest of their cash into an investment portfolio that includes hundreds of different stocks, bonds and index funds, including sizable holdings of blue-chip tech companies like Apple and Microsoft. That pile of investments threw off more than $250,000 in dividends and other income since January 2022, according to Christie’s most recent financial disclosure. The couple also reports capital gains of between $200,000 and $2 million from selling two holdings in the last year and a half. All told, the Christies’ fortune has ballooned to an estimated $15 million, more than every Republican presidential hopeful except North Dakota governor and software mogul Doug Burgum and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.

And, of course, his former friend, Donald Trump, who has far more money—and support—than any other Republican candidate. The Christie-Trump relationship has soured since the January 6th riots at the Capitol and Trump’s various indictments. If Christie continues to poll in the single digits, though, at least his family is set up for a very comfortable second political retirement.


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US Supreme Court ruling could turbocharge climate lawsuits

A US Supreme Court ruling this week is set to open the floodgates for climate lawsuits against fossil fuel companies that have been blocked for years by jurisdictional disputes. The decision comes on the heels of a bumper year for global climate litigation in 2022 and ahead of major climate rulings expected from international courts in coming months. As environmental disruption intensifies globally, is legal action an effective way to counter the climate crisis?

Justices at the US Supreme Court on Monday turned down appeals from five major oil companies, enabling municipalities to file lawsuits to hold energy companies accountable for climate change. The lawsuits must now be heard in state courts, a venue often seen as more favourable to plaintiffs than federal court

The decision was greeted as good news by environmentalists, after years of administrative wrangling over the cases brought in Rhode Island, California, Colorado, Hawaii and Maryland seeking climate-related damages against Exxon Mobil Corp, Suncor Energy Inc, Chevron Corp and others.

“These lawsuits have been bogged down in jurisdictional disputes because of the fossil fuel industry’s delay tactics,” said Richard Wiles, president of the Washington DC-based Center for Climate Integrity. “Now, thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision, there is a clear path forward. This was a major step forward for communities that have been fighting for years to put oil companies on trial.”

“The decision allows the more than two dozen cases filed in the US against the oil and gas industry to proceed in state courts, closer to where climate impacts are occurring,” added Nikki Reisch, Climate and Energy Program Director at the Center for International Environment Law (CIEL). “It clears the way for aggrieved communities to finally have their day in court.”

A rising tide

In recent years climate litigation has emerged as a new and promising battle ground for environmental protections. Cases in the US (home to the most climate lawsuits of any single nation) will now form part of a “rising tide” of climate litigation around the world, according to Reisch.   

Since 2015, the number of climate lawsuits brought globally has more than doubled. Roughly one-quarter of all climate cases ever brought were filed between 2020 and 2022.

“There is no sign of this trend slowing or stopping. To the contrary, it’s accelerating and expanding,” said Reisch. 

Recent cases have included some “remarkable wins in a very short period of time,” she added.

They include a 2017 lawsuit that saw the first case of a company facing legal charges on climate grounds when judges in Germany accepted a case brought by farmer and mountain guide Saúl Luciano Lliuya accusing German electricity provider, RWE, of causing a rise in greenhouse gases that could trigger devastating floods in his native Peru.

In 2021, judges for the first time ordered a company to emit less CO2 in a landmark ruling by Dutch courts against oil giant Shell.

>> Read more: Shell ordered to go further with carbon emissions cuts in landmark Dutch case

There is a sense that more boundary-pushing rulings are on the horizon. In the Shell case, for instance, judges ruled on the potential for future harm but not on the negative impact of past emissions.

2023: ‘A vanguard year’

The larger rulings help galvanise other, smaller cases and create a snowball effect. The more individual climate cases succeed in the courts, the more they set new legal precedents that allow other climate cases to succeed which the majority do. More than half (54%) of decided non-US cases had an outcome that is “favourable to climate action” a 2022 report from the Grantham Research Institute found.

The stage is set for climate lawsuits in 2023 to break new ground. “It will be a vanguard year for climate litigation, based on all the past successes in the past,” said Louise Fournier, legal counsel at Greenpeace International. “I think we’ll see more and more cases against corporations, not only in Europe or in the US, but also in the Global South.”

Previously, most climate lawsuits were brought before national legal systems, but a new avenue of litigation is opening international courts. In January 2023, Chile and Columbia successfully called for an advisory opinion on the scope of state obligations for responding to the climate emergency at the Inter American Court of Human Rights. In March, landmark cases were brought to the European Court of Human Rights.

Lawyers talk with members from a group of Swiss seniors who are taking their government to court to demand climate action, at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, on Wednesday, March 29, 2023. © Jean-Francois Badias, AP


The decisions made in these courts are likely to influence the highest international court. In March 2023, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), agreed to issue its own landmark advisory opinion on climate change obligations of nation states. Environmentalists hope it will contain guidance on “questions of loss, damage and finance and the consequences if you breach those obligations”, according to Fournier.

Such guidance would not only allow plaintiffs around the world to cite ICJ advice in their cases but also “definitely influence climate negotiations and national climate policies”, said Fournier. 

Pushing the boundaries

Increasingly, cases are not just being brought against major polluters, but also against other actors in the environmental sphere: the state, food and agriculture, transport, plastics and finance sectors. There is also an avenue for an increase in cases against individuals that could “create a sense of personal responsibility on decision makers” said Catherine Higham, policy fellow at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics.

One such case has been brought by a group of law students against the board directors of oil multinational BP. Another accuses former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

“Those cases are really pushing the boundaries of what we understand to be possible within existing legal systems,” said Higham. They may also have limited chance of courtroom success, she added, although they can be influential in other ways.

In many instances, climate lawsuit dynamics still have a David vs. Goliath feel. More than 70% of all climate cases are filed by NGOs and individuals often against multinational conglomerates with deep pockets. But the fact that such confrontations are possible – and increasingly successful – is meaningful.

“There is a sense of agency that individuals and groups of people have in bringing cases against major corporations,” said Fournier. “The fact that they can go to court and be on an equal balance-of-power is really monumental.”

Even by simply filing a case the plaintiffs make a statement. “Litigants can generate publicity around it, and they can force the defendants in the case and other stakeholders to engage with them,” explainned Higham. “That can have a real impact on the policy landscape, and how different stakeholders like companies and governments are understanding things like climate risk.”

Changing perceptions and encouraging systemic change is perhaps where climate litigation is most effective. But without long-term plans to tackle climate change caused by humans, legal victories can ring hollow.

“What lawsuits do is highlight gaps in regulatory action. And it is absolutely desirable, from all kinds of perspectives, that we see strong regulatory action coming from government, rather than relying on litigation in the courts,” said Higham. 

“It’s critical that climate cases be part of broader social movements,” added Reisch. “Litigation serves as an important deterrent and a lever to accelerate action, but no lawsuit will solve the climate crisis on its own.”

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Trump-indicting D.A. Alvin Bragg has a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day in federal court

Previously, dear reader, we told you about how New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg faceplanted in federal court when seeking an immediate injunction against Jim Jordan without even giving the other side a chance to respond. The whole thing arose from the subpoena of Mark Pomerantz, who used to work for in the district attorney’s office. Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil scheduled a hearing for today where both sides could be heard and …

Get out some popcorn, folks, because it did not go well for Bragg, at all.

First up, we have a report from the hearing itself:

Some highlights:

… Judge Vyskocil interrupted Bragg’s attorney Theodore Boutrous repeatedly throughout the hourlong hearing, accusing him of playing politics.

‘There’s politics going on here on both sides here,’ Vyskocil said. ‘Let’s be honest about that.’

That’s fair.

One of the arguments that the Bragg team made was that Jordan’s subpoena threatened to improperly expose the District Attorney’s office’s inner workings and deliberations—which might arguably be privileged from questioning by the House Judiciary Committee. Except it turns out that Mark Pomerantz kind of wrote a whole tell-all book and did some interviews discussing why he thought Trump should be indicted, which led to this exchange:

In a particularly cutting series of questions, the judge asked Boutrous directly: ‘How does this book, which is chock full of what Mr. Pomerantz calls an ‘insider account,’ how does it not disclose mental impressions, deliberations of the office, the internal workings of the District Attorney’s office, how is there not a waiver [of any potential privilege]?’…

Bragg’s general counsel Leslie Dubeck addressed the waiver question in separate questioning, which was equally incisive.

‘Have you read this book?’ Vyskocil, who had a copy of the tome, asked.

‘Yes,’ Dubeck acknowledged.

‘Does it preserve your confidences?’ the judge needled.

Dubeck acknowledged that Pomerantz did not and said he opened himself to criminal and civil liability. The judge then pointedly asked whether the DA’s office took any actions to block the distribution of the book.

We’ll be coming back to that issue in a minute but the answer was ‘no.’ And then after the hearing, the judge issued a ruling, denying Bragg’s motion for a preliminary injunction:

And the opinion is a thing to behold. For starters, she discusses Pomerantz’s book in detail, including several observations about the very case Trump was indicted under:

‘Within DANY, the case against Trump arising out of payment of so-called ‘hush money’ to Stephanie Clifford was referred to as the ‘zombie’ case.’

DANY is the acronym used for the NY District Attorney’s Office.

‘The facts surrounding the payments ‘did not amount to much in legal terms. Paying hush money is not a crime under New York State law, even if the payment was made to help an electoral candidate.’’

‘[T]here appeared to be no [felony] state crime in play.’

‘The invoices and requests for payment from Michael Cohen in connection with the Clifford payments, in a supposed effort to ‘camouflage’ reimbursements, were made ‘throughout 2017 (after Trump’s inauguration as president).’’

‘The DANY prosecution team discussed ‘Michael Cohen’s credibility’ as being one of ‘the difficulties in the case.’’

‘At one point, Bragg ‘commented that he ‘could not see a world’ in which [DANY] would indict Trump and call Michael Cohen as a prosecution witness.’’

‘[T]o charge Trump with something other than a misdemeanor, DANY would have to argue that the intent to commit or conceal a federal crime had converted the falsification of the records into a felony. No appellate court in New York had ever upheld (or rejected) this interpretation of the law.’

‘The statutory language (under which Trump was charged) is ‘ambiguous.’’

‘‘[F]ederal prosecutors would not have to torture or massage [statutory] language to charge Trump with a violation,’ as DANY would have to do.’

Those last three points are significant because the Constitution requires that criminal law be reasonably clear so that people are given reasonable notice about what is and is not a crime ahead of time. This might be grounds for dismissal in a fair hearing.

And this last bit from the book is just painful:

‘While Pomerantz acknowledged Bragg’s right to make prosecutorial decisions, Pomerantz viewed himself as more experienced and qualified than Bragg. … Pomerantz makes a point that he was ‘finishing law school when Alvin was a toddler.’’

Ouch. In our previous post, we wrote this about the lawsuit: ‘We are surprised [Bragg] didn’t write [the Complaint] in ALL CAPS with lots of exclamation points.’ The judge seemed to agree:

The first 35 pages of the Complaint have little to do with the subpoena at issue and are nothing short of a public relations tirade against former President and current presidential candidate Donald Trump. The same is true of the vast majority of the exhibits accompanying the Boutrous Declaration.

That would be the declaration they forgot to attach last time. Besides failing to attach that declaration and a copy of the subpoena, Judge Vyskocil found another mistake in their previous filing:

In this Court, Local Civil Rule 6.1(d) dictates that any party seeking an ex parte order must submit an ‘affidavit of good and sufficient reasons why a procedure other than by notice of motion is necessary, and stating whether a previous application for similar relief has been made.’ No such affidavit was submitted here.

‘Ex parte’ is law Latin meaning roughly “without the other party present.” Normally in court, both sides are supposed to have a chance to be heard, but occasionally there is so much of an emergency that the court can’t wait for the other side to respond. A request for an injunction to stop a deposition about nine days later isn’t one of those kinds of emergencies.

The court also talks about how the defendants were allowed to file a response to the motion for preliminary injunction and how, contrary to the court’s order, Bragg’s team filed a reply to Jordan and the House Judiciary Committee’s opposition:

The day before the scheduled hearing, Bragg filed an eleventh hour reply brief, not authorized by the Court’s Scheduling Order given the compressed time frame in which Plaintiff’s motion was brought on. The reply largely rehashes the same arguments made in the moving brief and, for the first time, addresses the Speech or Debate Clause. … The reply brief was accompanied by a supplemental declaration attaching sixteen largely irrelevant exhibits, consisting of a hodge-podge of social media postings, news articles, television interviews, pleadings from unrelated lawsuits, and a transcript from the arraignment in the Trump prosecution.’

Honestly, this is just bad practice. They were already filing an unauthorized filing (a questionable idea in the first place). They should have made sure that they didn’t make the judge think they were wasting her time, too. If the exhibits were relevant, they should have made that relevance clear.

The opinion goes on discussing all the legal reasons why the Bragg team was failing to convince her, with occasional biting commentary such as ‘Bragg’s throw-everything-at-the-wall approach to privilege is unpersuasive’ and ‘this Court will not quash a subpoena based solely on Bragg’s seemingly endless string of ‘what ifs.’’

And she came back to the devastating fact that Pomerantz wrote a book about it all, rubbing salt in both Bragg’s and Pomerantz’s wounds:

Pomerantz complains that he is in a ‘legally untenable position’ because he will be forced to make a choice between ‘legal or ethical consequences’ or ‘potential criminal and disciplinary exposure.’ … Pomerantz is in this situation because he decided to inject himself into the public debate by authoring a book that he has described as ‘appropriate and in the public interest.’

Finally, Bragg cannot seriously claim that any information already published in Pomerantz’s book and discussed on prime-time television in front of millions of people is protected from disclosure as attorney work product (or otherwise). … On the record at the hearing on the motion for emergency relief, Bragg’s counsel admitted that Pomerantz’s book did not preserve the confidences of the District Attorney’s Office. While Bragg maintains that Pomerantz’s inappropriate disclosures cannot waive DANY’s privilege, such a claim is belied by DANY’s inaction in response to Pomerantz’s known plan to publish a book about DANY’s investigation into President Trump. If that information ever was protected from disclosure as attorney work product, the protection has been waived by DANY.


CB Cotton, a Fox News correspondent captures the text on the docket, which is frankly unusually long:

She also captures footage of Pomerantz leaving the courthouse:

Of course, there was whining and screeching from the left:

Keep raging.

Literally, nothing pictured constitutes evidence of a conflict of interest.

Cope, Mark.

It even veered into weird anti-Czech bigotry:

And conspiracy theories were spun, because of course:

And an alleged former coworker wrote a pretty critical thread discussing the decision that starts here, but we won’t be publishing it in full because this post is long enough:

One commenter even apparently has reached the bargaining stage:

But some cheered the ruling:

This tweeter also found an interesting passage in the opinion:

As did Mr. Klasfeld:

Which also triggered at least one liberal:

And this person veered off topic, but her sentiment is interesting:

Still, the story isn’t over yet. While the hearing went badly for Team Bragg, they can still file for an emergency stay before the notoriously liberal Second Circuit, and they are already making moves to do so:

Technically, that is only a notice of an appeal and Bragg’s team has to file the actual appeal with the Second Circuit. But I’m sure that these consummate professionals will file that appeal quickly and properly …

Oh, right. So maybe not.

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#Trumpindicting #Alvin #Bragg #terrible #horrible #good #bad #day #federal #court

Biden’s rebuke of a bold, reform-minded crime law makes all Americans less safe

President Joe Biden’s support for a Republican-led effort to nullify the Washington D.C. City Council’s revision of its criminal code, signed into law on Monday, plays into the fear narrative that is being increasingly advanced across the U.S.

Biden could have used his platform and clout to clarify the actual substance of the carefully crafted District of Columbia proposal — and adhere to his campaign commitment to reduce the number of incarcerated Americans.

Instead, the president ignored the glaring problems in D.C.’s existing criminal code, which the 275-page long package of revisions was designed to address. This included reforming the draconian and inflexible sentencing requirements that have swelled the District’s incarceration rate and wasted countless resources imprisoning individuals who pose no danger to public safety. By rejecting this decade-plus effort, the president decided that D.C. residents have no right to determine for themselves how to fix these problems.

There are communities across the U.S. that see virtually no violent crime, and it isn’t because they’re the most policed.

Biden’s decision is the latest backlash to U.S. justice reform coming from both sides of the political aisle.

Instead of doubling down on failed tough-on-crime tactics, Americans need to come together to articulate and invest in a new vision of public safety. We already know what that looks like because there are communities across the country which see virtually no violent crime, and it isn’t because they’re the most policed.

Safe communities are places where people (even those facing economic distress) are housed, where schools have the resources to teach all children, where the water and air are clean, where families have access to good-paying jobs and comprehensive healthcare, and where those who are struggling are given a hand, not a handcuff.

This is the kind of community every American deserves to live in, but that future is only possible if we shift resources from carceral responses to communities and shift our mindset from punishment to prevention. 

Too often it’s easier to advocate for locking people up than it is to innovate and advance a new vision for public safety. 

In the wake of particularly traumatic years, as well as growing divisiveness that has politicized criminal justice reform, it is not surprising that many people believe their communities are less safe. While public perceptions of crime have long been disconnected from actual crime rates and can be heavily influenced by media coverage, the data tells a mixed story. Homicide rates did increase in both urban and rural areas in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and record levels of gun sales.

While early available data suggests these numbers are trending down, it’s too soon to tell, especially given the nation’s poor crime data infrastructure. What is clear is that there is no evidence that criminal justice reform is to blame for rising crime, despite well-funded attempts by those resistant to change and who are intent on driving a political agenda to make such a claim stick. 

Yet fear often obscures facts; people are scared for their safety and want reassurance. Too often it’s easier to advocate for locking people up than it is to innovate and advance a new vision for public safety. 

We need leaders who can govern with both empathy and integrity – who can provide genuine compassion to those who feel scared while also following the data about how to create safer communities. And all the data points to the need for reform. 

Mass incarceration costs U.S. taxpayers an estimated $1 trillion annually.

Mass incarceration costs U.S. taxpayers an estimated $1 trillion annually, when you factor in not only the cost of confinement but also the crushing toll placed on incarcerated people and their families, children, and communities. Despite this staggering figure, there’s no real evidence that incarceration works, and in fact some evidence to suggest it actually makes people more likely to commit future crimes. Yet we keep pouring more and more taxpayer dollars into this short-sighted solution that, instead of preventing harm, only delays and compounds it. 

We have to stop pretending that reform is the real threat to public safety and recognize how our over-reliance on incarceration actually makes us less safe. 

Reform and public safety go hand in hand. Commonsense changes including reforming cash bail, revisiting extreme sentences and diverting people from the criminal legal system have all been shown to have positive effects on individuals and communities.

At a time of record-low clearance rates nationwide and staffing challenges in police departments and prosecutor’s offices, arresting and prosecuting people for low-level offenses that do not impact public safety can actually make us less safe by directing resources away from solving serious crimes and creating collateral consequences for people that make it harder to escape cycles of poverty and crime. 

Yet, tough-on-crime proponents repeatedly misrepresent justice reform by claiming that reformers are simply letting people who commit crimes off the hook. Nothing could be further from the truth. Reform does not mean a lack of accountability, but rather a more effective version of accountability for everyone involved. 

Our traditional criminal legal system has failed victims time and again. In a 2022 survey of crime survivors, just 8% said that the justice system was very helpful in navigating the legal process and being connected to services. Many said they didn’t even report the crime because of distrust of the system. 

When asked what they want, many crime survivors express a fundamental desire to ensure that the person who caused them harm doesn’t hurt them or anyone else ever again. But status quo approaches aren’t providing that. The best available data shows that 7 in 10 people released from prison in 2012 were rearrested within five years. Perhaps that’s why crime victims support alternatives to traditional prosecution and incarceration by large margins. 

For example, in New York City, Common Justice offered the first alternative-to-incarceration program in the country focused on violent felonies in adult courts. When given the option, 90% of eligible victims chose to participate in a restorative justice program through Common Justice over incarcerating the person who harmed them. Just 7% of participants have been terminated from the program for committing a new crime. 

A restorative justice program launched by former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón for youth facing serious felony charges was shown to reduce participants’ likelihood of rearrest by 44 percent within six months compared to youth who went through the traditional juvenile justice system, and the effects were still notable even four years after the initial offer to participate.

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt launched a groundbreaking program last year to allow people convicted of violent offenses to avoid prison time if they commit to behavioral health treatment. As of January, just one of 60 participants had been rearrested for a misdemeanor. 

While too many politicians give lip service to reform, those who really care about justice are doing the work, regardless of electoral consequences. We need more bold, innovative leaders willing to rethink how we achieve safety and accountability, not those who go where the wind blows and spread misinformation for political gain. 

Fear should not cause us to repeat the mistakes of the past. When politicians finally decide to care more about protecting people than protecting their own power, only then will we finally achieve the safety that all communities deserve. 

Miriam Aroni Krinsky is the executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, a former federal prosecutor, and the author of Change from Within: Reimagining the 21st-Century Prosecutor. Alyssa Kress is the communications director of Fair and Just Prosecution.  

More: Wrongful convictions cost American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Wrongdoing prosecutors must be held accountable.

Plus: Senate votes to block D.C. crime laws, with Biden’s support

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Abortion pills at heart of reproductive rights challenges in Poland, US

An activist in Poland was convicted on Tuesday for helping a pregnant woman access abortion pills, as a legal case in the US attempts to ban access to medical abortion altogether. In countries where reproductive rights are already under threat, abortion pills can provide discreet access to safe terminations, but legal battles are blocking access to medicine.

Activist Justyna Wydrzynska was sentenced to eight months of community service on Tuesday, after Polish courts found her guilty of helping another woman to have an abortion.   

Poland has some of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws, with termination only allowed in cases of rape, incest or threat to the mother’s life or health.  

Wydrzynska, who plans to appeal the ruling, was arrested in April 2022 for providing abortion pills to a woman named Anna who was around 12-weeks pregnant and a suspected victim of domestic violence.  

“It happened in 2020 during the Covid crisis,” says Mara Clarke, co-founder of Supporting Abortions for Everyone (SAFE), a group that defends access to abortions in Europe.  “The postal service wasn’t working as normal and we didn’t know if the medicine would arrive in time to help this woman if it was delivered from overseas.” 

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that medical abortions – carried out using tablets sometimes called abortion pills – can be safely self-managed at home in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.  

“Anna’s husband initially prevented her from going to get an abortion in Germany, and then confiscated her abortion pills after reading her messages,” says Clarke. He reported Wydrzynska to the police, who then conducted a search of her home.  

The maximum penalty in Poland for providing help to carry out an abortion is three years in prison – this makes Wydrzynska’s case “the first time in Europe that an activist has risked being sent to prison for helping a woman who wanted to have an abortion”, says Clarke. 

“The fact that Justyna Wydrzynska risked three years in prison for responding to a plea for help from a woman and from a mother who was trying to escape an abusive relationship is a crime in itself against human rights and the right to bodily autonomy.” 

‘No other way’ 

“I’m not feeling guilty at all,” Wydrzynska said in a press conference on Wednesday. “I know I did right. When your reproductive rights are restricted in a country like Poland… there was no other way to help than to share the pills.” 

The WHO recommends the use of two abortion pills, Mifepristone and Misoprostol, as an accessible and affordable means of terminating a pregnancy which can be taken anywhere, for example at home instead of in a hospital. (Misoprostol can also be used as a stand-alone drug.)

In addition, the pills can also be taken without direct supervision from a medical supervisor. As such, global usage surged during the Covid pandemic when access to normal health procedures was disrupted.   

In France, the US, medical abortions now account for more than 50 percent of total terminations. In the UK and India almost all terminations are now carried out using abortion pills. 

The safety and relative ease of taking the medicine also makes abortion pills a useful asset to women seeking abortions in countries where the law limits access. 

In Poland, where there are severe restrictions on procedural abortions conducted by medical practitioners, abortion pills offer a discreet lifeline to safe terminations. Typically, activist groups purchase the tablets to be sent by post from external countries via third-party organisations in order to avoid legal consequences. 

In the US (which, along with Poland, is one of only four countries to make abortion legislation more restrictive in the past three decades) the national postal service has emerged as a key channel to providing abortion pills in states where legislation has blocked access to terminations.   

‘Fear and intimidation’ 

Yet, this channel is now under new threat. On Wednesday, a US judge in Amarillo, Texas heard arguments to ban sales of Mifepristone across the country – even in states where abortion is legal. This would mean that activists could no longer purchase the drug in states with more permissive laws to send to women facing restrictions. 

Anti-abortion activists who brought the case to federal court hope that banning the prescription drug would move the country closer to a total ban on the practice, especially as the presiding judge, Matthew Kacsmaryk, is a deeply conservative Christian with a personal history of opposition to abortion and a court record of favoring right-wing causes.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has urged the judge to reject the request on the grounds that it would force women to have unnecessary surgical abortions and greatly increasing wait times at already overburdened clinics. 

 “The public interest would be dramatically harmed by effectively withdrawing from the marketplace a safe and effective drug that has lawfully been on the market for 22 years,” it said. Current US laws allow use of Mifepristone up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. 

At the same time in Texas, another case has been brought by a man suing three women who he says helped his wife obtain abortion pills.  

He alleges the three women texted his former partner information about Aid Access, a group that provides abortion medication by mail, and that one of the women dropped off the pills to his ex-wife. 

It is the first such lawsuit to be brought in the US since the Supreme Court overturned laws enshrining abortion as a fundamental right. 

As in Poland, the case is a “terrifying example of how anti-abortion extremists use the judicial system as an instrument of fear and intimidation”, says Irene Donadio spokesperson for the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network. 

‘I would have done the same’ 

In Poland, Anna, the pregnant woman Wydrzynska gave abortion pills to, was never able to take the medicine. Days after her husband confiscated the pills, she miscarried. Yet, in an open letter published on March 2 she wrote to Wydrzynska to express her thanks.  

“It was an expression of humanity. Because in a situation where people who had a moral obligation, and in some cases a legal obligation, to help me stood up and washed their hands, only you gave me a hand.” 

For Donadio, it is no surprise that abortion pills are at the heart of legal challenges against abortion on both sides of the Atlantic. The fact that they can be taken without medical supervision, and even be bought in pharmacies in many countries, makes them an unprecedented channel for female empowerment. 

“Medical abortion is clearly the result of medical progress that can be used to emancipate women and to protect their health,” says Donadio. “It is revolutionary. That’s why it’s so disturbing for certain forces because it allows women control over their body, over reproduction, and over their life.” 

As well as opposition, there is also support for access to the medicine. In the US, if the federal judge does rule for a temporary ban on Mifepristone, the FDA would likely immediately appeal it, on the basis of the drug’s history and its own authority to regulate pharmaceuticals. 

In Poland, politicians seem to be hearing the message. On March 6, Wydrzynska spoke in front of MPs from Poland’s centre-left party, Nowa Lewica, to defend her actions. The next day a law aiming to criminalise communicating information about abortion failed to pass after being rejected by a large majority in parliament. 

Activists are also unlikely to drop the cause. When Wydrzynska has appeared in court in Warsaw dozens of women have gathered holding banners bearing the message: “I would have done the same as Justyna”.  

This article was adapted from the original in French.

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What the EU corporate sustainability directive needs to include

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

While the idea of corporate sustainability has become mainstream in the past years, there is still a lot of debate worldwide on how companies can actually embed it into the way they do business.

Yet there’s one aspect that seems evident: to truly transform industries and improve the economic system, we need policy change to hold businesses accountable and accelerate the transition.

The European Union has the opportunity to lead the way in establishing a regulatory framework in line with the ambitions of its Green Deal.

The Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), currently in draft form, could be instrumental in accelerating the business transformation towards a fairer, greener economy.

However, one key part of it is at threat of being watered down or removed entirely.

What is Article 25 and why is it important?

Article 25 — one of the thirty articles included within the CSDDD — proposes that directors of large businesses should be required to take into account the repercussions of their decisions for sustainability matters. 

This includes human rights, climate change and environmental consequences. 

Under this regulation, directors will need to also pay attention to and consider — along with shareholders — the interests of those stakeholders affected by the company’s decisions. 

This specific approach to running a business, commonly referred to as stakeholder governance, tends to achieve better outcomes for all. 

For example, these types of businesses are more likely to employ people from local communities, pay increased attention to diversity and inclusion as well as achieve fairer wages and pay differentials.

More focus is also placed on the environment — a silent, yet fundamental factor — putting a company’s impact on biodiversity, air quality, waste management and reduction of carbon at the focal point of overall sustainability strategies.

A huge missed opportunity in the making

The language of the directive is key here: Article 25 on the Directors’ Duty of Care proposes mandatory consideration of sustainability matters.

It does not, as some detractors have argued, imply automatic prioritisation of “sustainability matters.” Finding that proper balance is to be left to the directors.

Despite overwhelming support (including up to 89% of individual responses to the EU Consultation) for this kind of regulation, some EU member states and a number of MEPs are advocating now to remove this obligation from the directive.

This would be a huge missed opportunity and threatens the success of achieving the EU’s Green Deal targets, which depend heavily on mass-regulated change in corporate behaviour and accountability. 

One reason given is that this regulation is unnecessary, arguing that in most member states, a company can already set a broader duty of care on its directors, should it choose to.

In reality, most do not; of the 27.5 million businesses in Europe, around 1% adopt a form of governance that commits directors to consider sustainability matters and stakeholder interests.

 So how would this work in practice?

Research points to why clear rules can make a difference

During this consultation period, B Lab Europe initiated the Interdependence Coalition (IC) to advocate for more specific and clearer rules on directors’ duty of care and for the scope of it to apply to all businesses.

The IC has over 300 signatories from businesses across Europe and bases its position on the learnings from the B Corp movement, where over 6,400 companies globally — a number that continues to grow each day — have voluntarily adopted a broad duty of care to consider the interests of stakeholders in their corporate decisions.

Our internal research (backed by some external studies) on B Corp suggests that these legal changes can be both good for business and good for people and the planet, including benefits such as robust competitive revenue growth alongside their impact.

Just in Europe, the participants saw 22% annual growth on average and increased interest from high-quality applicants, followed by high levels of staff motivation and retention.

The business also saw improved access to and lower cost of capital; and increased impact over time.

These figures show that not only do we urgently need to transition to a better way of doing business but also that stakeholder governance is a win-win for our planet, for society and for sustainable growth.

What is at stake?

Article 25 is a necessary condition to meet the EU Green Deal ambitions as it directly points directors towards sustainability. 

It is clearly not sufficient on its own, and companies will need time, support and commitment to fully adapt to the new reality of the CSDDD requirements.

Revising directors’ duty of care on an EU level would be a strong signal that it is no longer tolerable for directors of companies to operate without considering the wider implications of their decisions and to justify them based only on profits.

We urge the decision-makers of our collective future in Europe to continue to lead the way globally by setting the ground rules for sustainable corporate governance for member states to implement. 

This requires reassessing their position to drop Article 25 from the Directive. Regulators need to catch up with market demand; without it, an opportunity to make a small but very impactful and fundamental change in corporate law and culture — to how directors should think — will be wasted. 

As we face a planetary crisis, we don’t have time to waste.

Katie Hill is a former Executive Director of B Lab Europe and co-founder of the Interdependence Coalition. Wojciech Baginski is an attorney, a director on B Lab’s Global Board of Directors and co-founder of the Interdependence Coalition, an initiative that aims at transforming the way we do business in Europe.

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