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Over 1,000 Detained at Protests in Moscow

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  • Over 1,000 people were detained after participating in protests in Moscow on Saturday. 
  • Citizens were protesting the election officials’ refusal to allow opposition candidates on the ballot for upcoming elections. 
  • The commission claims that the candidates did not receive enough petition signatures to run, however the opposition claims otherwise. 
  • A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said these detentions undermined the “rights of citizens to participate in the democratic process.”

Protests in Moscow 

Police detained over 1,300 people during protests in Moscow on Saturday.

Attendees were protesting election authorities’ decision to not allow candidates opposing Vladimir Putin and the United Russian party on the ballot of upcoming elections.

Protestors chanted things like “Russia will be free” and “Putin is a thief” during the event. Officers say the demonstration was unauthorized. Footage shows them using force like pushing attendees and beating attendees with batons. 

According to OVD Info, a political persecution monitoring organization, 77 people sustained injuries. They also report that of the 1,373 people detained, 265 were held overnight. Some of those detained were people trying to run for office. 

Police say that 3,500 people attended the demonstrations. However, the Associated Press says that aerial footage shows over 8,000 people. Last week, 20,000 people attended protests in Moscow for the same reason. 

A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said the detentions undermined the “rights of citizens to participate in the democratic process.”

What is being protested?

On September 8, all 45 seats in the Moscow City Duma will be up for re-election. The election commission raised the number of petition signatures required to appear on the ballot to 5,000 people, which is a move critics say was made to block opposition candidates from running. 

Vladimir Kara-Murza, a politician in Russia’s People’s Freedom party, wrote about the effects this will have in the Washington Post

“Each signature on the petition means volunteering one’s personal information for the government’s database of opposition supporters,” he wrote. 

Even with this setback, the opposition claims that most of their candidates did get enough signatures. However, election officials say that the signatures contained irregularities, like misprints.

Kara-Murza also disputes this.

“Naturally, most irregularities were created by the commissions themselves, whose official experts invalidated signatures by deliberately adding misprints to names or identity document numbers when cross-checking them against police databases,” he said. 

When hopeful opposition candidates tried to appeal, their requests were ignored, prompting protests for their inclusion. 

The Arrest of Alexei Navalny

Saturday’s protest was called for by prominent opposition activist Alexei Navalny. Navalny was arrested on Wednesday and sentenced to 30 days for calling for an anti-government protest. 

On Sunday, he was taken to the hospital after falling ill after alleged chemical exposure, with symptoms like severe facial swelling and skin redness. His spokesperson said that it appeared to be an allergic reaction, but also noted that Navalny has no known allergies. He left the hospital and returned to prison several hours later.

According to the doctor who treated him, Dr. Anastasy Vasilyeva, he was diagnosed with contact dermatitis. The substance that caused the condition is still unknown. 

Dr. Vasilyeva wrote on her Facebook page that she found the chemical tests run on him to be insufficient. She also said that she disagrees with the decision to have him return to prison. 

“I have clearly stated that I am categorically against such an emergency discharge of alexey (sic) and his premises again to the place where this most unknown chemical agent is probably there,” she wrote. 

Some reports are saying there is reason to believe Navalny could have been poisoned. However, according to The Guardian, he and his team do not expect foul play. They are citing poor conditions in the prison, as he experienced the same symptoms when last placed in that same cell.

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (The Guardian) (Vox)

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Bolsonaro Responds After Macron Calls Amazon Fires an “International Crisis”

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  • French President Emmanual Macron called the fires in the Amazon rainforest an “international crisis” and suggested they be a priority topic at the upcoming G7 summit.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Macron was using the fires for “personal political gains” and added that discussing the fires without leaders from Brazil present evokes a colonial mindset.
  • Other world leaders have spoken in favor of discussing the fires during the summit.
  • Bolsonaro has been criticized for his handling of the issue, as he supports deforestation efforts, which many think could be the cause.

Macron and Bolsonaro Tweet About Amazon Fires

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro accused French President Emmanual Macron of evoking a “misplaced colonialist mindset” after Macron suggested that the Amazon rainforest fires be discussed at the G7 summit in his home country. 

“Our house is burning. Literally,” Macron tweeted on Thursday. 

“It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days,” he added. The G7 Summit will be held in Biarritz, France starting Saturday. World leaders from the other G7 countries, Canada, Germany, Italy, the U.K., Japan, and the U.S will be attending.

Bolsonaro responded in two tweets, claiming the French president was using the fires for “personal political gains.”

“The French President’s suggestion that Amazonian issues be discussed at the G7 without the participation of the countries of the region evokes a misplaced colonialist mindset in the 21st century,” Bolsonaro added.

Impacts and Potential Causes of the Fires

According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, this year, Brazil has seen an 84% increase in fires in the Amazon. Reports say there are currently 2,500 active fires in the forest, which provides 20% of the world’s oxygen supply. While fires are common this time of year, this increase worries environmental activists. 

Since news of the fires started receiving international attention, Bolsonaro has been criticized for inaction. Many believe that deforestation tactics, which he has been supportive of, are the causes of the issue. Bolsonarao, however, has said that he suspects nongovernmental organizations are behind the fires in efforts to make his government look bad. There is currently no evidence to support this. 

World Leaders Look to Help

World leaders have expressed their concerns over their fires and the impacts they could have. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared his support of Macron’s initiative to prioritize the rainforest at the G7 Summit.

A spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a fellow G7 leader, said that the subject “belongs on the agenda.”

“The extent of the fires in the Amazon area is shocking and threatening, not only for Brazil and the other affected countries, but also for the whole world,” the spokesperson said in a statement to reporters.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres also tweeted about the fires, calling them a “global climate crisis.”

What You Can Do

There are organizations working to save the Amazon. The Amazon Conservation Team works with indigenous communities to protect the forest and their culture. Rainforest Trust aims to stop deforestation. The Amazon Conservation Association helps to prevent fires and minimize their reach. Donating to these groups, or seeing if there are any ways you can volunteer within them, is one way to help the situation from wherever you live.

For other everyday things you can do to help, the Rainforest Alliance also has lists of green products and lifestyle habits that you can follow. They also work with local communities and organizations to help fight deforestation. 

See what others are saying: (BBC) (Aljazeera) (NPR)

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“Patriotism Pop” in India Encourages Hindus to Claim Kashmir

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  • A new genre of music called “patriotism pop” has been rapidly spreading on YouTube and TikTok in India.
  • The genre has recently evolved into music videos about Indians settling in Kashmir by buying land and marrying Kashmiri women following India’s decision to revoke Kashmir’s autonomous status.
  • Critics have argued that the music promotes a dangerous form of nationalism and patriotism.
  • Meanwhile, Kashmiris have been unable to address the rise of the new videos as they are still under a security lockdown and communications blackout.

Patriotism Pop

A growing genre of music in India called “patriotism pop” is increasingly being shared on social media more and more.

According to the Associated Press, which published a detailed article about the music Wednesday, patriotism pop is a type of popular music that features songs about Hindu nationalism and expresses support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

These songs and the videos that accompany them have become massively popular on YouTube and TikTok. YouTube has around 250 million users in India, while TikTok has about 150 million. As a result, patriotism pop songs have gotten millions of hits on those platforms.

Earlier songs in the genre were limited to the rise of Hindus in India, defeating Pakistan, and flying the Indian flag in every household. 

However, according to AP, the genre expanded after India revoked Kashmir’s special autonomous status on Aug. 5. 

For decades, the contested region that both India and Pakistan claim control over had its own constitution and many of its own laws. 

Now, India’s central government has exerted near-total authority over Kashmir by revoking the constitutional provision, known as Article 370, that had outlined Kashmir’s autonomy since India’s Independence from Britain in 1947.

Modi’s government also said it would allow Indians to buy property in Kashmir, something only Kashmiris had been allowed to do.

Just hours after India’s announcement, patriotism pop music videos about Indians settling in Kashmir by buying land and marrying Kashmiri women began circulating.

Controversial Videos

One video, titled “Article 370,” now has more than 1.6 million views on YouTube.

The video is largely composed of cuts between the Indian flag and speeches made by Modi. 

At one point, the singer thanks Modi and his government for removing Article 370. The video then cuts to the map of Kashmir and includes words that loosely translate to how Pakistan has lost to India.

The music video was produced by a self-identified Indian nationalist named Nitesh Singh Nirmal, who also collaborated on another song about a man who is looking for a Kashmiri bride.

“I am doing service for the nation,” Nirmal told AP. “People dance to these songs.”

Critics of the songs have argued that the idea of marrying Kashmiri women in order to settle in the region is problematic.

Speaking to AP, political anthropologist Ather Zia said that the songs are a “culmination of a toxic misogynistic nationalist thinking.”

“The Indian media — from news to entertainment — has left no stone unturned in portraying Kashmiri women in the racist trope of ‘coveted fair-skinned ones’ (and) at the same time being helpless and needing saving from their own men — all this while demonizing Kashmiri men,” she added.

Lockdown Continues in Kashmir

Meanwhile, Kashmiris have been unable to respond to these new videos as the entire region has been cut off from the internet since Aug. 5.

Along with cutting off communications, India also sent tens of thousands of military forces to Kashmir to basically put the city on lockdown by enforcing an almost constant curfew and patrolling the streets.

The people of Kashmir responded by launching a series of ongoing protests.

Indian officials have said that while they plan on keeping the internet cut off, they have begun to ease some of the restrictions in the region. However, it remains unclear how much is really being done, as most of the reporting comes from state-sponsored media in India.

Regardless, many Kashmiris are wary about any claims made by the government, especially after Indian officials said they had arrested more than 4,000 people since the crackdown began, including some high-profile political figures.

Those arrests are notable not only because of the sheer magnitude but also because India has a law that allows authorities to put someone in prison for up to two years without any specific charge or a trial.

There has also been some violence in parts of the region. On Wednesday, Indian authorities reported that two people were killed during a shoot-out between the police and Kashmiri rebels, marking the first reported clash involving gun violence in India-controlled Kashmir.

Meanwhile, clashes along the Line of Control that divides India-controlled Kashmir and Pakistan-controlled Kasmir have increased in the last few weeks.

There have been reports that gunfire has been exchanged multiple times, though India and Pakistan have given conflicting reports about the number of fatalities.

See what others are saying: (The Associated Press) (Al Jazeera) (The New York Times)\

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Criticized for Inaction Over Amazon Forest Fires

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  • Social media users are using #PrayforAmazonia to bring attention to fires in the Amazon forest that have been burning for three weeks.
  • Many blame Brazillian President Jair Bolsonaro for failing to take action to address the issue, while some argue that his pro-deforestation policies are what lead to the fires in the first place.
  • Since taking office in January, Bolsonaro has massively ramped up deforestation of the Amazon by rolling back protections and increasing access for agriculture and mining.

#PrayforAmazonia Trends on Twitter

Twitter users are criticizing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for his failure to stop a series of forest fires that have been tearing through the Amazon forest for the last three weeks

On Tuesday morning, “Amazon rainforest” and “#PrayforAmazonia” trended on Twitter. “Amazon rainforest is burning… And Bolsonaro is deliberately doing nothing,” one user wrote.

“This is the Brazilian environmental policy under president Bolsonaro,” another user wrote above pictures of fires. “The Amazon Rainforest’s burning for about 3 weeks and nothing’s been done.”

Other people noted the Amazon has been burning for weeks but that they were just learning about it now.

Some also pointed out the lack of media coverage on the fires.

Amazon Rainforest Fires

Currently, there are numerous fires in multiple states that are basically burning down the Amazon rainforest totally unchecked.

Last week, NASA released satellite images of a massive smoke layer covering a huge part of the forest. One NASA researcher told reporters that the smoke layer spanned about 1.2 million square miles, which is about one-third of the United States.

Satellite images of a massive smoke layer released by NASA.

The smoke has continued to spread, endangering the health of people and animals living in the area, according to local reports. The air quality has gotten so bad in some areas, that about two weeks ago, the state of Amazonas declared a state of emergency.

On Monday, people in São Paulo, which is on the other side of the country from the Amazon, shared pictures of the sky turning black in the middle of the afternoon, which multiple scientists have attributed to the smoke from the fires.

Cause of the Fires

Numerous experts have said that the fires are caused by humans and there are several pieces of evidence to back that up.

First, the Amazon rainforest is comparatively fire-resistant because it is so wet and humid. While there are often fires this time of year, they are usually caused by extreme droughts. 

Despite the fact that fire outbreaks rose by 70% this year compared to 2018, there have not been any extreme weather events that would cause this amount of fires.

Second, fire is actually used in the Amazon as an agricultural technique to clear land for planting crops. The technique, called “slash and burn,” is also one of the major methods used in the Amazon for illegal deforestation.

Since Bolsonaro took office in January, deforestation has rapidly increased.

According to satellite data from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), deforestation in the Amazon increased by around 245% in July 2019 compared to July 2018.

According to The Guardian, that’s the same as destroying three football fields worth of forest every minute.

Despite the fact that the data came from satellite images, Bolsonaro has described it as “fake news.” After the INPE reported those numbers, Bolsonaro fired the head of that agency.

“The numbers, as I understand it, were released with the objective of harming the name of Brazil and its government,” Bolsonaro told reporters earlier this month.

Bolsonaro’s Policies

As many have pointed out, Bolsonaro campaigned on opening up the Amazon to resource extraction. Since taking office, he has made it a key component of his economic policy.

Until Bolsonaro’s election, protecting the Amazon has been at the core of Brazilian environmental policy for the last two decades. 

With the help of powerful lobbyists, he has rolled back environmental protections and ratcheted up access to mining and agriculture by clearing huge sections of forest.

Many of the areas that Bolsonaro has opened up to agriculture and mining are protected indigenous lands, which the president has said are too big for the number of people who live there.

According to BBC, more than 800,000 indigenous people live in 450 demarcated territories which cover about 12% of land across the country. Most of those territories are in the Amazon region, and some are entirely isolated.

This strategy has endangered both the indigenous populations and the forest itself, especially as it is widely believed among experts and scientists that protecting indigenous lands is one of the best strategies to conserve forests.

This is especially important for the Amazon because the Amazon basin is absolutely critical to stabilizing the global climate.

The entire basin spans about three million square miles and includes 40% of the world’s tropical forests, 20% of its freshwater, and produces 20% of the air we breathe, according to a report by Foreign Policy.

It also has many keystone ecosystems which are crucial to global biodiversity. The importance of the Amazon cannot be understated.

Around 60% of the Amazon forest is in Brazil, a country where a number of top officials in the government do not even believe climate change is real.

Those officials are convinced any criticisms of Bolsonaro’s policies as harmful to the environment are propagated by civil society groups and foreign governments who are trying to sabotage the administration.

Bolsonaro, for his part, has largely expressed disinterest in the environment. 

When asked by a reporter last week about whether Brazil can grow more food and protect the environment at the same time, Bolsonaro responded, “It’s enough to eat a little less. You talk about environmental pollution. It’s enough to poop every other day. That will be better for the whole world.”

See what others are saying: (Newsweek) (Foreign Policy) (The New York Times)

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