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Philippines’ President Wants to Start a War With Canada Over Trash

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  • The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has said that he will declare war on Canada if it does not take back tons of trash that a Canadian company illegally shipped to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014.
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to deal with the trash multiple times over the years, but has not followed through.

Duterte Threatens Trash War

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to declare war on Canada on Tuesday if the country does not take back tons of trash that a Canadian company shipped to the capital city Manila.

“I want a boat prepared. I’ll give a warning to Canada maybe next week that they better pull that thing out or I will set sail,” Duterte told officials during a press briefing. “We’ll declare war against them.”

“I will advise Canada that your garbage is on the way. Prepare a grand reception. Eat it if you want to,” said the president.

Duterte’s threat is undoubtedly extreme, but this is not a new issue. In fact, the trash that he is referring to was actually shipped to the Philippines years ago.

According to CNN Philippines, between 2013 and 2014, a Canadian company called Chronic Plastics, Inc. shipped a total of 103 containers with 2,450 tons of trash to Manila.

The containers were labeled as carrying plastic scraps for recycling, but inspectors in the Philippines discovered that the contents of the containers were not recyclable at all.

According to the Philippines News Agency, the official news agency of the Philippine government, the containers were found to have “non-recyclable plastics, household wastes and used adult diapers.”

To make matters even more complicated, the Philippine government has said that the containers were shipped illegally because Chronic Plastics, Inc. did not get import clearances before shipping the trash to Manila. This essentially means they just sent the trash there without permission.

Canadian Response

The Canadian Embassy in Manila responded to the threat in a statement, writing, “Canada is strongly committed to collaborating with the Government of the Philippines to resolve this issue.”

The Embassy also said that officials from both countries were “examining the full spectrum of the issues related to the removal of the waste with a view to a timely resolution.”

However, this is not the first time Canada has promised to deal with the trash, and Philippine officials have filed multiple diplomatic protests with Canada over the last few years. During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Manila in 2015, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a “Canadian solution was being developed” to deal with the trash.

However, there was no follow through, which prompted a Philippine court in 2016 to order that the trash be sent back to Canada at the importer’s expense.

The next time Trudeau went to the Philippines for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Canada Summit in 2017, he again made the same promise, reportedly telling Duterte that the Canadian government “is very much engaged in finding a solution.”

Again, he failed to follow through, and two years later, there still has been no action on Canada’s part. Canada has argued that the shipment was a commercial transaction that was not backed by the Canadian government, which seems to indicate that the government does not believe that they are responsible for the repatriation of the trash.

Violation of International Law

On April 17, a Canadian law firm called Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL) said that Canada broke international law by dumping the shipping containers.

CELL argued that Canada violated the Basel Convention, which is a treaty that prevents the shipping of hazardous waste to developing countries without their express consent.

The Basel Convention also prohibits the shipment of waste that is falsely labeled. According to one of the lawyers of CELL, the containers should have been sent back to Canada within 30 days after the Canadian government was made aware that they had been shipped.

Canada has claimed that the convention did not apply at the time the shipments were made because the Philippines did not consider the waste to be hazardous, or at least did not tell the Canadian government they believed it was.

However, this seems to contradict Canadian policy that has since been implemented. In 2016, Canada amended its own regulations around hazardous waste so the situation would not happen again.

Under the new regulations, waste can be sent back to Canada if the country receiving it believes it is hazardous, even if Canada does not.

Is Duterte Serious?

Whether or not the situation will be solved anytime soon remains to be seen. However, the biggest unanswered question is: is Duterte be serious?

In the video of his briefing, he seems casual, and people are laughing. According to the Philippines News Agency, on Wednesday Philippine Senator Aquilino Pimentel, who supported Duterte’s call for Canada to take the trash back, seemed to dismiss the severity of the claim.

“The war declaration, of course, it was an exaggeration,” said Pimentel, “But that means that Canada must seriously act on the waste they have dumped into our country.”

This kind of grandstanding is not uncommon with Duterte, who is known for using threatening rhetoric to get his way.

However, at the same time, he also has a history of violence. International leaders and human rights organizations have criticized Duterte or his so-called “War on Drugs,” which has to lead to the execution of estimated tens of thousands of Filipino’s since he was elected in 2016.

This is also not the first time he has clashed with Trudeau and Canada. Just last year, Duterte ordered the Philippine military to cancel a $233 million deal to buy 16 helicopters from Canada after the Canadian government said they were concerned the helicopters could be used to fight rebels. Duterte has also lashed out against Trudeau for his comments criticizing his “War on Drugs.”

The Global Trash Market

Regardless, this incident between the Philippines and Canada should act as a push for countries that export a lot of waste to find more sustainable solutions to waste disposal. Last year, China introduced a ban on “foreign garbage” as part of a move to upgrade its industries and reduce environmental damage.

As a result, trash has been sent to developing countries. According to BBC, the amount of plastic imported by China dropped 94 percent between 2016 to 2017 and 2017 to 2018. That trash, in turn, was taken in by Malaysia, Turkey, Poland, and Indonesia.

The global waste sector is an enormous market. According to the United Nations, the global waste market, which includes everything from collection and recycling, is estimated to be $410 billion.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (Reuters) (Global News)

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Brazil’s Secretary of Culture Fired Over Speech Reminiscent of Nazi Rhetoric

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  • Brazil’s Secretary of Culture Roberto Alvim was fired on Friday after he appeared to paraphrase Nazi propaganda in his announcement of a national arts initiative.  
  • Several of Alvim’s sentences were strikingly similar to those of Joseph Goebbels, who served as the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany.
  • Additionally, the music playing in the background of Alvim’s address was from an opera that Adolf Hitler found imperative in his life. 
  • After much backlash and call for the culture secretary’s termination, President Jair Bolsonaro announced that he dismissed Alvim from his position.

Controversial Address

Brazil’s Secretary of Culture was terminated from his role on Friday after an official video was released of him seeming to paraphrase Nazi propaganda remarks. 

Roberto Alvim, who was appointed to his position by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, announced a new initiative for increased funds dedicated to national art awards. In the 6-minute video, which has now been deleted from all Brazilian government official pages, Alvim was seen sitting at a desk beneath a portrait of Bolsonaro, a wooden cross to his side.

“The Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and national,” he said to the camera in Portuguese. “It will be endowed with great capacity for emotional involvement, and it will also be imperative since it will be profoundly connected to the urgent aspirations of our people — or it will be nothing.”  

Parts of Alvim’s phrasing was almost identical to those of Joseph Goebbels, who served as the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany. The similarities can be seen in a speech of Goebbels’, quoted in a biography by historian Peter Longerich.

“German art of the next decade will be heroic, steely but romantic, factual without sentimentality,” Goebbels said in 1933. “It will be nationalistic, with great depth of feeling; it will be binding and it will unite, or it will cease to exist.”  

The music playing in the background of Alvim’s address was also noteworthy. It came from Richard Wagner’s opera “Lohengrin,” which Adolf Hitler described in his autobiography, Mein Kampf, as being decisive in his life.

Reactions to Alvim’s Speech  

It wasn’t long before people began to notice the likeness of Alvim’s rhetoric with the Nazi propaganda, and individuals across the political spectrum expressed outrage. Some — including prominent Brazillian politicians — publicly called for Alvim’s immediate professional termination. 

Alvim first defended his speech in a Facebook post, saying, “what the left is doing is a remote association fallacy.” He called his controversial sentences a “rhetorical coincidence.” 

But a few hours later, Alvim softened his defensive stance with an apology to the Jewish community. In another post, he claimed that the speech was brought to him by advisors who pulled various ideas tied to national art and that he had no idea of the fascist origin of those few lines. Alvim called the criticized phrases an “involuntary mistake” and said he was sorry from the bottom of his heart.

President Jair Bolsonaro announced on his official Twitter page that he had dismissed Alvim from his position on Friday. Bolsonaro wrote that despite Alvim’s apology, his remarks made his tenure “unsustainable.” 

The Brazilian leader emphasized his “rejection of totalitarian and genocidal ideologies” and expressed full support for the Jewish community. 

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (BBC) (Washington Post)

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Pope Francis Names First Woman to Senior Vatican Diplomatic Role

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  • Pope Francis appointed a woman to a management role in the Vatican’s most powerful department for the first time on Wednesday.
  • Dr. Francesca Di Giovanni, a Vatican official of 27 years, will now serve as the undersecretary for multilateral affairs in the Secretariat of State. 
  • Among other duties, Di Giovanni will oversee the coordination of the Vatican’s relationships with multilateral organizations, including the United Nations. 
  • While several other women hold high-ranking positions in the city-state, Di Giovanni’s leadership role in the Vatican’s most powerful branch is unparalleled. 

Appointment of Di Giovanni

Pope Francis made an unprecedented move on Wednesday by appointing a woman for the first time to a managerial position in the Secretariat of State, the most powerful department of the Vatican.

Dr. Francesca Di Giovanni, an Italian lawyer and Vatican official of 27 years, was named the undersecretary for multilateral affairs in the Secretariat of State. Among other responsibilities, Di Giovanni will oversee a division that coordinates the Vatican’s relations with multilateral organizations, including the United Nations.  

“The Holy Father has made an unprecedented decision, certainly, which, beyond myself personally, represents an indication of an attention towards women,” Di Giovanni told the Vatican’s in-house media

“But the responsibility is connected to the job, rather than to the fact of being a woman,” she added.

Milestone for Women in Catholic Church

Several women hold leadership positions in other Vatican offices, but the Secretariat of State is the most powerful branch, making Di Giovanni’s career shift extra significant. 

Pope Francis’ appointment of Di Giovanni is the latest development in his ongoing open support of women having more say in the Roman Catholic Church. Currently, women cannot be ordained as priests and the Church’s leadership is almost entirely male-dominated.

On New Year’s Day, the pope expressed praise for womankind. 

“Women are givers and mediators of peace and should be fully included in decision-making processes,” Pope Francis said. “Because when women can share their gifts, the world finds itself more united, more peaceful. Hence, every step forward for women is a step forward for humanity as a whole.”

Di Giovanni referenced these words in her interview with the Vatican News calling them the pope’s “tribute” to the role of women.

“A woman may have certain aptitudes for finding commonalities, healing relationships with unity at heart,” Di Giovanni said. “I hope that my being a woman might reflect itself positively in this task, even if they are gifts that I certainly find in my male colleagues as well.”  

See what others are saying: (Vatican News) (NPR) (BBC)

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Protests Erupt in Iran After Military Admits to Shooting Down Plane

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  • Protests broke out across Iran over the weekend after the military admitted that it shot down a Ukrainian airline’s passenger jet, killing 176 people when mistaking it for a hostile aircraft.
  • Officials originally said there was no evidence of the plane being struck down by one of their missiles but ultimately admitted fault three days later.
  • Protesters are demanding leaders be held accountable. 
  • There are reports of tear gas and gunfire being used against demonstrators, but Tehran’s head of police has denied claims of shots being fired.

Backlash from the Plane Strike

Monday marked the third straight day of Iranian protests since Iran’s military admitted it shot down a passenger jet last week, mistaking it for a threat and killing all 176 people on board. 

Videos emerged on Sunday of protesters running from tear gas and in others, which could not be immediately verified, gunfire could be heard.

It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks for Iranians—last week, hundreds of thousands were rallying in the streets to publicly mourn Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s Quds Force commander who was killed by a U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3.

During those rallies, cries of hate against the United States and Donald Trump—who ordered the strike— were heard. This week there is a sharp contrast, as protesters seem to be targeting the Iranian government and military.

According to The Washington Post, demonstrators were filmed late on Sunday in at least two locations ripping down posters of Soleimani. In Iran’s capital, Tehran, a billboard mourning the victims of the plane crash replaced one of the deceased military leader.

In retaliation for Soleimani’s death, Iran fired missiles at an Iraqi military base that houses American troops on Wednesday. The plane was shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps just hours later after taking off from Tehran. 

After maintaining for days that there was no evidence the aircraft was struck down by one of their missiles, Iran admitted that its military had shot down the jet by mistake.

The military initially claimed in a statement that the plane took an unexpected turn that brought it close to a sensitive military base, but an Iranian official later backtracked on that notion. 

“The plane was flying in its normal direction without any error and everybody was doing their job correctly,” Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ airspace unit, said on Saturday. “If there was a mistake, it was made by one of our members.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the incident an “unforgivable mistake” and said that investigations are continuing to “identify and prosecute this great tragedy.”  

A mix of individuals from multiple countries was onboard the aircraft, including dozens of Canadians. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the incident “a national tragedy” and publicly called for further investigation.

“I want to assure all families and all Canadians: We will not rest until there are answers,” he said at a memorial event on Sunday.

Escalating Protests

Protesters are demanding that leaders be held responsible for the fatal mistake. Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported that up to 1,000 people were protesting at various points in the capital city. Some videos posted to social media show crowds demanding the resignation of Ayatollah Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader.

One of the scenes of protest was the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, which said that 13 of its students and alumni were killed in the plane crash. Iranian security forces stepped in and escalated the demonstration.

They “started dragging people away. They took a number of people and put them in cages in police vans,” said 35-year-old Soudabeh told The Washington Post, keeping her full name anonymous.

“At one point, the protesters freed one of the men who was detained. I saw his face and it was covered in blood — his family carried him away,” she told the news outlet.

Iran’s security forces have a history of taking extreme action to contain protesters. In November, after protests broke out in response to the spike in Iran’s gas prices, about 1,500 demonstrators were killed by security forces, according to the Trump administration. 

Iranian media quoted Brig. Gen. Hossein Rahimi as saying “Police treated people who had gathered with patience and tolerance,” according to reports by the Associated Press. 

Rahimi denied claims that police were shooting at protesters and said that tear gas was only being used in certain areas.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (BBC) (CNN)

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