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Bolsonaro Rejects G7 $22M Amazon Aid Offer, Later Accepts $12M from Britain

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  • 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)

International

Israel Relaxes Abortion Restrictions in Response to U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

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The reforms follow similar moves by France and Germany as leaders across the political spectrum denounce the court’s decision.


Health Minister Makes Announcement

Israel is easing access to abortion in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade, Nitzan Horowitz, the country’s health minister and head of the small left-wing Meretz party, announced Monday.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s move to deny a woman the right to abortion is a dark move,” he said in the announcement, “oppressing women and returning the leader of the free and liberal world a hundred years backward.”

The new rules, approved by a majority in the parliamentary committee, grant women access to abortion pills through the universal health system. Women will be able to obtain the pills at local health centers rather than only hospitals and surgical clinics.

The new policy also removes the decades-old requirement for women to physically appear before a special committee that must grant approval to terminate a pregnancy.

While women will still need to get approval, the process will become digitized, the application form will be simplified, and the requirement to meet a social worker will become optional.

The committee will only conduct hearings in the rare case it initially denies the abortion procedure.

Israel’s 1977 abortion law stipulates four criteria for termination of pregnancy: If the woman is under 18 or over 40, if the fetus is in danger, if the pregnancy is the result of rape, incest, or an “illicit union,” including extramarital affairs, and if the woman’s mental or physical health is at risk.

All of the changes will take effect over the next three months.

The World Reacts

Politicians across the political spectrum from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have denounced the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision since it was announced Friday.

On Saturday, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne expressed support for a bill proposed by parliament that would enshrine the right to an abortion in the country’s constitution.

“For all women, for human rights, we must set this gain in stone,” she wrote on Twitter. “Parliament must be able to unite overwhelmingly over this text.”

Germany scrapped a Nazi-era law prohibiting the promotion of abortion Friday, just hours before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

In Israel, abortion is a far less controversial issue than it is for Americans. Around 98% of people who apply for an abortion get one, according to the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

Part of the reason for Israel’s relatively easy access to abortion is that many residents interpret Jewish law to condone, or at least not prohibit, the procedure.

In the United States, several Jewish organizations including the American Jewish Committee, Hillel International, and the Women’s Rabbinic Network have expressed opposition to the court ruling, and some Jews have protested it as a violation of their religious freedom.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (ABC News) (The Guardian)

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Flight Deporting Refugees From U.K. to Rwanda Canceled at Last Hour

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said the U.K.’s asylum policy sets a “catastrophic” precedent.


Saved By The Bell

The inaugural flight in the U.K. government’s plan to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda was canceled about an hour and a half before it was supposed to take off Tuesday evening.

A last-minute legal intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) halted the flight. Tuesday’s flight originally included 37 people, but after a string of legal challenges that number dwindled to just seven.

In its ruling for one of the seven passengers, a 54-year-old Iraqi man, the court said he cannot be deported until three weeks after the delivery of the final domestic decision in his ongoing judicial review proceedings.

Another asylum seeker, a 26-year-old Albanian man, told The Guardian he was in a “very bad mental state” and did not want to go to Rwanda, a country he knows nothing about.

“I was exploited by traffickers in Albania for six months,” he said. “They trafficked me to France. I did not know which country I was being taken to.”

A final domestic effort to block the flight in the Court of Appeals failed on Monday. The High Court will make a ruling on the asylum policy next month.

Britains Divided by Controversial Policy

U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel spoke to lawmakers after the flight was canceled, defending the asylum policy and saying preparations for the next flight will begin immediately.

“We cannot keep on spending nearly £5 million a day on accommodation including that of hotels,” she said. “We cannot accept this intolerable pressure on public services and local communities.”

“It makes us less safe as a nation because those who come here illegally do not have the regularized checks or even the regularized status, and because evil people-smuggling gangs use the proceeds of their ill-gotten gains to fund other appalling crimes that undermine the security of our country,” she continued.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Filippo Grandi, told CBC the policy sets a “catastrophic” precedent.

“We believe that this is all wrong,” he said. “This is all wrong. I mean, saving people from dangerous journeys is great, is absolutely great. But is that the right way to do it? Is that the right, is that the real motivation for this deal to happen? I don’t think so. I think it’s… I don’t know what it is.”

An Iranian asylum seeker in a British detention center who was told to prepare for deportation before being granted a late reprieve was asked by ABC whether he ever thought the U.K. would send him to Africa.

“I thought in the U.K. there were human rights,” he said. “But so far I haven’t seen any evidence.”

The Conservative government’s plan was announced in April, when it said it would resettle some asylum seekers 4,000 miles away in Rwanda, where they can seek permanent refugee status, apply to settle there on other grounds, or seek asylum in a safe third country.

The scheme was meant to deter migrants from illegally smuggling themselves into the country by boat or truck.

Migrants have long made the dangerous journey from Northern France across the English Channel, with over 28,000 entering the U.K. in boats last year, up from around 8,500 the year prior. Dozens of people have died making the trek, including 27 who drowned last November when a single boat capsized.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (The Guardian) (CNN)

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Ryanair Draws Outrage, Accusations of Racism After Making South Africans Take Test in Afrikaans

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Afrikaans, which is only spoken as a first language by around 13% of South Africa, has not been the country’s national language since apartheid came to an end in 1994.


Airline Won’t Explain Discrimination

Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline, has received widespread criticism and accusations of racism after it began requiring South African nationals to complete a test in Afrikaans to prove their passport isn’t fraudulent.

The airline told BBC the new policy was implemented because of “substantially increased cases of fraudulent South African passports being used to enter the U.K.”

Among other questions, the test asks passengers to name South Africa’s president, its capital city, and one national public holiday.

Ryanair has not said why it chose Afrikaans, the Dutch colonial language that many associate with white minority rule, for the test.

There are 11 official languages in South Africa, and Afrikaans ranks third for usage below Zulu and IsiXhosa. Only around 13% of South Africans speak Afrikaans as their first language.

“They’re using this in a manner that is utterly absurd,” Conrad Steenkamp, CEO of the Afrikaans Language Council, told reporters. “Afrikaans, you have roughly 20% of the population of South Africa understand Afrikaans. But the rest don’t, so you’re sitting with roughly 50 million people who do not understand Afrikaans.”

“Ryanair should be careful,” he continued. “Language is a sensitive issue. They may well end up in front of the Human Rights Commission with this.”

Ryanair’s policy only applies to South African passengers flying to the United Kingdom from within Europe, since it does not fly out of South Africa.

The British government has said in a statement that it does not require the test.

Anyone who cannot complete the test will be blocked from traveling and given a refund.

Memories of Apartheid Resurface

“The question requiring a person to name a public holiday is particularly on the nose given that SA has a whole public holiday NEXT WEEK commemorating an historic protest that started in response to language-based discrimination,” one person tweeted.

South African citizen Dinesh Joseph told the BBC that he was “seething” with anger when asked to take the test.

“It was the language of apartheid,” he said, adding that it was a trigger for him.

Officials in the country were also surprised by Ryanair’s decision.

We are taken aback by the decision of this airline because the Department regularly communicates with all airlines to update them on how to validate South African passports, including the look and feel,” South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs said in a statement.

Any airline found to have flown a passenger with a fake passport to the U.K. faces a fine of £2,000 from authorities there. Ryanair has also not said whether it requires similar tests for any other nationalities.

Many people expressed outrage at Ryanair’s policy and some told stories of being declined service because they did not pass the test.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BBC) (Al Jazeera)

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