- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has refused to accept $22 million in aid from the G7 countries until French President Emmanuel Macron apologizes to him for previous comments, as part of an ongoing feud.
- Shortly after the rejection, Brazil accepted an offer of $12 million from the British government.
- Although climate scientists say the fires are likely to worsen in the coming weeks and could affect global weather patterns, Bolsonaro said Tuesday, “We’re fighting the wildfires with great success.”
Bolsonaro Accepts British Aid
After rejecting a $22 million aid offer from the G7 countries on Tuesday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro accepted $12 million from Britain to help fight the fires raging through the Amazon rainforest.
“In a week where we have all watched horrified as the Amazon rainforest burns before our eyes, we cannot escape the reality of the damage we are inflicting on the natural world,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.
“The planet faces two immense threats: climate change and biodiversity loss,” Johnson added. “These are two sides of the same coin — it is impossible to solve one challenge without fixing the other. We cannot stop climate change without protecting the natural environment and we can’t restore global nature without tackling climate change.”
The Canadian government has also offered Bolsonaro $11 million, though the Brazilian government has not yet announced whether it will accept or reject the offer.
Brazil Rejects $22 Million G7 Aid Package
The decision to reject the G7 aid package rests on two demands by Bolsonaro, the first being that French President Emmanuel Macron personally apologize as part of an ongoing feud.
Prior to this weekend’s G7 Summit — where leaders from the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, and Canada convened in France — Bolsonaro blasted the nations for discussing the Amazon rainforest without Brazil present.
“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 said.
World leaders, however, still agreed to release the aid package immediately, leading to Bolsonaro’s rejection. That rejection stems from a feud where Macron claimed Bolsonaro lied to him about climate commitments during trade talks at the Osaka G20 Summit in June.
Tensions between Bolsonaro and Macron have recently escalated over the fires and ramped up against earlier this week when Balsonaro took a shoot at Macron’s wife. When the French president’s wife was compared to Bolsonaro’s wife on his Facebook page, Bolsonaro commented, “don’t humiliate the guy,” a comment that Macron called “disrespectful.”
On Monday, Bolsonaro doubled down, questioning Macron’s motives in addressing the fires by insinuating that he is trying to curb France’s agricultural competition with Brazil.
“We cannot accept that a President, Macron, would launch unreasonable and gratuitous attacks on the Amazon,” Bolsonaro tweeted, “nor disguise his intentions behind the idea of an ‘alliance’ of G-7 countries to ‘save’ the Amazon, as if we were a colony or a no-man’s land.
In addition to the apology, Bolsonaro also stipulated that Brazil will not accept aid where it does not have complete sovereignty over how to distribute the money.
Tuesday, Macron responded to Bolsonaro in a speech, saying the fires are a world issue.
“We respect your sovereignty,” he said. “It’s your country. The Amazon forest is a subject for the whole planet. We can help you reforest. We can find the means for your economic development that respects the natural balance. But we cannot allow you to destroy everything.”
The Amazon on Fire
The fires have been tearing through the Amazon Rainforest for about a month and are part of a massive 80% increase in fires from 2018. Experts estimate 430 square miles of land has been lost to the fires, with 3,500 square miles being scorched.
Smoke billowing from the fires has caused the state of Amazonas — where part of the forest is located — to declare a state of emergency. On the other side of the country, the smoke turned the midday sky black.
Experts believe the fires to be caused by humans. They said because the rainforest is so wet and humid, it would be unlikely the fires resulted from natural causes, especially since the region has not experienced any extreme weather.
Additionally, many are blaming Bolsonaro for rolling back environmental protections and promoting deforestation for efforts like mining, with one method for clearing forests being known as “slash and burn.”
Over the period from August 8 to August 22, a NASA infrared camera captured rising carbon monoxide levels resulting from the fire.
Climate scientists contend that one of the reasons why the fires are so critically important is because of the role the Amazon plays in trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
While Macron asserted on Twitter that 20% of the world’s oxygen comes from the Amazon, scientists argue the comparison is inaccurate because the Amazon recycles all but a small amount of the oxygen it generates; however, they said the better comparison is that of a sink, with the Amazon intaking massive amounts of carbon dioxide to regulate global temperature.
Now, they said that ability is being compromised and, worse, the fires create a feedback loop where the Amazon is losing crucial carbon-absorbing resources while the fires pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
While the world’s oxygen supply is not in danger, experts also warn many endangered species are.
Experts also expect the fires to become more intense in the coming weeks, despite Bolsonaro and his defense minister claiming the situation is “returning to normal.” Climate scientists also fear that could disrupt global weather patterns.
Tuesday night, Bolsonaro doubled down, saying, “We’re fighting the wildfires with great success” after President Donald Trump backed Bolsonaro on Twitter.
“I have gotten to know President @jairbolsonaro well in our dealings with Brazil. He is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil – Not easy,” Trump said. “He and his country have the full and complete support of the USA!”
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (CNN) (CBC)
Petition Calls for Ban on Sexualized Fanfiction in South Korea
- A petition circulating across South Korea calls for sexualized fanfiction depicting K-pop stars and other real people to be outlawed and classified as sex crimes.
- The petition particularly focuses on the way male stars are depicted in same-sex relationships and argues that they often feature people who are minors.
- A similar petition was submitted last week to President Moon Jae-in; however, it focused on deep fakes. Because both petitions have over 200,000 signatures, they will need to be addressed by President Moon.
K-Pop Fanfiction Causes Chaos
A petition began circulating across South Korea this week demanding that “real person slash” fanfiction works be outlawed and charged as sex crimes.
“Real person slash” refers to a specific form of fanfiction that most often features sexualized versions of K-pop stars and other real people.
In particular, the petition focuses on the way male stars are depicted in same-sex relationships and the age of some of the people being portrayed. The petition notes, “due to the nature of the profession of idols, whose average age is young, many of the victims are still minors or children.”
The petition was submitted to the Blue House, South Korea’s version of the White House, and currently has over 200,000 signatures. It received a big boost in attention after K-pop star Nancy, from the group Momoland, was secretly filmed by a member of her agency while she was changing backstage. This person then doctored some of the images and uploaded them online.
While Nancy’s case isn’t hand-drawn fanfic, it did fuel outrage at what’s seen as an ineffective approach towards sex crimes in the country. Signers of this petition believe that these fanfics fall into the same category of likely illegality as deep fakes.
Deep Fakes Also Being Targeted
Additionally, just last week deep fakes – which often feature k-pop stars – had its own petition submitted to the president last week with over 300,000 signatures.
Because both petitions have over 200,000 signatures, they will need to be addressed by President Moon Jae-in
For years South Korea has struggled with secret cameras, deep fakes, revenge porn, and more violent sex crimes, such as the infamous Nth Room case that saw certain stars filming themselves having sex with women against their consent.
See What Others Are Saying: (CNA) (The Korea Herald) (South China Morning Post)
Italy Begins Largest Mob Trial in Decades
- Italian prosecutors have started their trial against more than 320 defendants linked to the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate.
- The charges range from murder and drug trafficking to extortion and money laundering.
- The case is so large, high-profile, and potentially dangerous that the government built a bunker for the event in Calabria, the home territory of the ‘Ndrangheta.
- Details uncovered could deliver a massive blow to organized crime in Italy and potentially across the world as the ‘Ndrangheta has major dealings in Europe, Australia, and the Americas.
Hundreds of ‘Ndranghetisti Facing Charges
A major mob trial kicked off in Italy Wednesday involving more than 320 defendants who are part of or associated with the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate.
In addition to these defendants going on trial, 90 others have elected for a fast-tracked trial elsewhere in Calabria.
While this is a massive affair, it’s still not the country’s largest mob-related trial in history. That happened in the ’80s against the Cosa Nostra from Sicily.
The trial is so high-profile and potentially dangerous that the government built a bunker for the event in Calabria, close to the home territory of the ‘Ndrangheta.
The court is looking at many charges against the defendants, including extortion, drug and arms trafficking, money laundering, and Mafia association – a term used in Italy’s penal code for members of organized crime.
Breaking Into the Family
Investigators hope that the trial will show just how entrenched organized crime is in the territory, as it’s believed that the ‘Ndrangheta has dealings with local politicians and businessmen. These dealings are believed to not only stem from their illicit activities but also from their legitimate businesses that were initially funded via crime-related funds. Either way, the trial is seen as a major blow for the group.
The organization is made up of multiple groups of tight-knight families that are all interconnected. For years investigators have tried to get more information on the group but following the arrest and prosecution of Luigi Mancuso, a boss in the ‘Ndrangheta, investigators finally had a way to look more closely at 12 families who make up part of the ‘Ndrangheta.
During their investigation police and prosecutors managed to turn some members of those families and use them as informants. They are expected to take the stand as witnesses during the trial. In total, prosecutors hope to put bring out over 900 witnesses.
If successful, this could be a massive blow to organized crime in Italy and potentially across the world as the ‘Ndrangheta has major dealing in Europe, Australia, and the Americas.
See What Others Are Saying: (ABC News) (LA Times) (Chicago Tribune)
Hundreds Sickened By Mysterious Illness in India
- A mystery illness has hospitalized over 500 people in India and is linked to one death. While most people have recovered and been discharged from the hospital, under 100 people are still being treated.
- Health officials believe that it is not a viral infection and that it is not tied to the coronavirus pandemic. One official told The Washington Post that it is a “point source epidemic,” but no one knows what is causing it.
- Blood tests showed patients had high levels of lead and nickel and officials are trying to find what is behind that. Some are also pointing to pesticides used in mosquito treatment as a potential cause behind the outbreak.
- Still, health officials are puzzled, and the situation comes while India currently trails the United States as the country with the most coronavirus cases. This mystery outbreak is also occurring in one of the hardest-hit states.
Mystery Illness in India
Health officials are still looking for what might be causing a mysterious illness that has sickened hundreds of people this month in India.
The unidentified illness has put over 500 people in the hospital and taken one life. Most patients have been discharged and recovered but under 100 are still being treated. The disease was first reported on Sunday, and new instances have gone down since the start of the week.
The outbreak started in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Symptoms range from nausea to anxiety to loss of consciousness, and in some cases, seizures. Some reports say the patient who died suffered from a seizure. Others note they may have fallen as well.
Many patients describe the sickness as hitting them quickly and suddenly as they were going about their day. Some got foggy vision, sore eyes, or incredibly tired before passing out. Many woke up in the hospital and were left with a gap in their memory.
While the cause of this disease is unknown, health officials do not believe it is tied to the coronavirus in any way as no patients have tested positive. The illness is also not believed to be a viral infection of any kind.
“What has been established by experts is that this is a case of acute intoxication of toxins. It is not chronic in nature. This is all we know for now,” one high-ranking official told The Washington Post.
Because cases are already slowing significantly, some believe it might have stemmed from an isolated source or event.
“This is a point source epidemic,” another official told the Post. “Whatever happened, occurred for one particular day and some people got affected. The number of new patients has dropped.”
What that source or event may have been remains a mystery that officials are eager to solve. So far, no commonalities have been found between the patients as they all live in different places, are of different ages, and do not test positive for other kinds of illnesses that could be causing or contributing to this outbreak. Clues are beginning to emerge, though.
One medical official told Al Jazeera that high lead and nickel levels were found in the blood tests of patients. So far, ten have been tested and another 30 will be tested shortly. At first officials thought these levels may have been a result of water contamination, but after water tests were conducted, neither lead nor nickel were found.
Water contamination as a whole has not been ruled out though.
“Health experts suspect that excessive use of bleaching powder and chlorine in sanitation programmes as part of Covid-19 prevention measures may be the cause of water contamination,” the Health Minister of Andhra Pradesh told the Indian Express. “This is just one of the causes we are exploring.”
Another theory at play stems from the fact that organochlorines, which are used as pesticides in mosquito control, were found in some water samples. One of the federal legislators in the state believes that the sickness could be tied to that. A public health director confirmed to Al Jazeera that “it is one of the possibilities.”
Timing With COVID-19
Still, all these ideas simply remain possibilities and officials have far more questions than they have answers about this situation. Health officials from the country and the World Health Organization have established a presence in Andhra Pradesh to get to the bottom of the situation.
The timing of this outbreak is unfortunate as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread through India. While daily cases are much lower than they were when it peaked in September in the country, it still remains an issue.
India is behind the United States in seeing the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases, totaling 9.7 million infections. Around 141,000 people have died in the country. In August, their outbreak was the fastest growing in the world. Andhra Pradesh is among the hardest-hit states in the country.
Hope is on the horizon as India, like many other countries, could be on track to approve a vaccine within weeks. According to Reuters, health officials will prioritize 300 million people, including healthcare workers, policemen, and those above the age of 50.