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Brazil Supreme Court Launches Investigation into President Jair Bolsonaro

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  • Brazil’s Supreme Court has launched an investigation into allegations that President Bolsonaro tried to interfere with the federal police by firing the head of the organization, which is the equivalent of Brazil’s FBI.
  • The allegations were brought forward by Brazil’s former Justice Minister who resigned on Friday because of Bolsonaro’s actions.
  • Brazilian newspapers allege that Bolsonaro fired the chief because the federal police were investigating two of Bolsonaro’s sons: one for embezzlement and mafia ties, and one for running a criminal fake news ring.
  • If wrongdoing is found, the investigation will likely form the basis of an impeachment trial. 

Investigation Launched

The Brazilian Supreme Court officially launched an investigation Monday evening into allegations that President Jair Bolsonaro attempted to interfere with the federal police for his own political gain.

The allegations were brought forward by Brazil’s former Justice Minister, Sérgio Moro. Moro made the accusation on Friday while announcing his resignation after Bolsonaro fired  Maurício Valeixo, the chief of the federal police force, which is the Brazilian equivalent of the FBI.

In his resignation speech, Moro said Bolsonaro fired Valeixo so that he could interfere with investigations and get access to classified information. Moro also claimed that Bolsonaro had told him multiple times he wanted to replace Valeixo with someone who would let him do so.

“The president emphasized to me, explicitly, more than once, that he wanted someone who was a personal contact, whom he could call, from whom he could get information, intelligence reports,” Moro said.

The former Justice Minister also reportedly sent photos of messages between him and the president to a popular nightly news show that seemed to back up his allegations.

Bolsonaro denied the accusations during a national address on Friday and said it was well within his power to fire the police chief.

“The appointment is mine, the prerogative is mine and the day I have to submit to any of my subordinates I cease to be president of the republic,” he said.

Questionable Timing

However, some believe that the timing of Bolsonaro’s decision is highly suspicious.

Over the weekend, at least two prominent Brazilian newspapers claimed that Bolsonaro decided to fire Valeixo now because the federal police investigating a criminal fake news operation were closing in on his son, Carlos Bolsonaro, who is a state lawmaker.

According to those reports, the federal police are investigating Carlos Bolsonaro because they suspect him of being a key leader of a criminal scheme that spreads false information to threaten and intimidate Brazilian authorities.

On top of that, another one of the president’s sons, Flávio Bolsonaro, who is a Senator, is also under federal police investigation for his alleged involvement in a money-laundering scheme and ties to the mafia.

All three Bolsonaro men have all denied the accusations.

Path to Impeachment

The decision to launch the investigation is quite significant because it is the first step on the path to impeachment.

Right now, the Supreme Court has given the federal police 60 days to carry out an investigation. If they find that Bolsonaro engaged in illegal wrongdoing, those allegations could form the basis for an impeachment trial, but it is unclear how far that will go. 

On Tuesday, Bolsonaro appointed the director of Brazil’s intelligence agency, Alexandre Ramagem, to be the chief of the federal police.

Ramagem oversaw security for Bolsonaro’s presidential campaign and is reportedly a close family friend. Now, the new head of the body investigating Bolsonaro is not only an ally of his but a personal contact— exactly what Moro said the president wanted all along.

Ramagem is also a friend of Carlos Bolsonaro, according to some Brazilian news outlets, which circulated a picture of the two at a New Year’s Eve party last year that was posted on Carlos’s Instagram.

Even if an impeachment trial were to go forward, before moving to the Supreme Court, any indictment would have to be approved by the lower house of Congress, which is currently full of Bolsononaro’s supporters.

Approval Ratings

At the same time, these allegations, which have been described by some as the worst political crisis since he took office, also come as Bolsonaro has been significantly weakened politically.

Bolsonaro is a mountain of criticism for his continued efforts to downplay the coronavirus, which has killed over 4,600 people in Brazil— the most deaths in all of South America.

As a result, Bolsonaro’s approval ratings have fallen, and many of his key allies to jumped ship. Now, Moro’s departure could hurt him even more.

According to reports, Moro was one of the most popular ministers in Bolsonaro’s administration. He was well known for being the judge that oversaw the high-profile anti-corruption investigation known as Operation Car Wash.

For Bolsonaro, who was elected after running on a strict anti-corruption platform, Moro brought in an important base of supporters, as well as the appearance that the administration had a strong respect for the rule of law. 

But now, Bolsonaro is likely to lose at least part of that base and that key support, and the fallout from the political turmoil is already being reflected in polls.

According to the Washington Post, one poll from Monday showed that 57% of Brazilians supported Bolsonaro’s impeachment.

However, another poll from Monday found that 48% oppose impeaching Bolsonaro while 45% of those want to see him impeached— though that difference is within the margin of error for the poll.

Notably, that same poll also found that 52% of those polled thought Moro was telling the truth and only 20% said they believed Bolsonaro’s version.

Another thing to note is the fact that there is a solid precedent for impeachment in Brazil. Just since the military dictatorship ended in the 1980s, three presidents have been impeached, the most recent of whom was former President Dilma Rousseff, who removed in 2016 for breaking budgetary laws.

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

International

South Korean President Makes BTS Official Presidential Envoys

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The position is largely ceremonial but will be used by the government to help give a friendly and popular face to national and international initiatives spearheaded by Seoul.


Government Recognition

The K-pop band BTS will be adding to its list of global impacts this year after South Korean President Moon Jae-in appointed its members as Presidential Envoys on Wednesday.

The role will include attending international conferences such as the United Nations General Assembly in September.

At these events, BTS will perform “various activities to promote international cooperation in solving global challenges, such as improving the environment, eliminating poverty and inequality, and respecting diversity,” according to Park Kyung-mee, a Blue House spokesperson.

The band has already appeared at U.N. conferences multiple times over the last few years.

Just last year, the group gave a message of hope and reassurance through the U.N. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior appearances at the U.N. have been either as part of U.N. organizations or as private citizens.

Wednesday’s appointment will make them official representatives of South Korea, although they won’t actually engage in any direct diplomacy and instead will be used to promote the country’s ongoing efforts in youth-related projects.

Longstanding Policy

BTS’ success, alongside prior and current K-pop groups, has remained a masterclass of soft diplomacy by the Korean government. For decades, the Korean government has cultivated promoting cultural aspects abroad in the hopes of generating more interest in the country. There are hopes that such efforts will encourage more tourism as well as an elevated image when consumers consider Korean-made products.

Such efforts, beyond cultivating K-pop and raising its stars as semi-official government symbols, also include helping fund Korean restaurants abroad as well as free Korean-language classes taught by Professors of some of Korea’s most prestigious schools.

The news comes as BTS’ newest single, “Permission to Dance,” quickly took the #1 spot on the Billboard top 100. BTS is also partnering with YouTube to promote a Permission to Dance challenge on YouTube Shorts that will begin tomorrow and end on August 4.

Fans will be encouraged to replicate dance moves from the music video, and the group’s favorite clips will be put into a compilation made by them.

See what others are saying: (Yonhap News) (The Korea Times) (All Kpop)

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International

Over 1 Million Chinese Displaced After Record Rainfall

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The rain has created waist-high waters throughout the capital of China’s Henan province, drastically affecting the lives of its over 10 million inhabitants.


Trapped in a Flood

The Henan province of central China experienced severe rainfall over the last week that has left at least 25 dead and displaced more than 1.2 million people due to severe flooding, according to figures released by Chinese authorities Wednesday.

Meteorologists claim that the sudden, severe rainfall is caused by Typhoon In-Fa colliding with a high-pressure system over Henan province.

The floods have forced people to wade through waist-high water throughout Zhengzhou, the region’s capital. In one tragic incident Monday, 12 people died after they were trapped in the subway amid rising waters. A similar situation occurred Tuesday, causing multiple lines to be trapped in chest-high water for up to three hours before rescue workers managed to save them. Since then, metro authorities have shut down many of Zhengzhou’s rail lines.

Between Monday and Tuesday alone, Zhengzhou was hit with an estimated 25 inches of rain, equating to about 87% of its average annual rainfall. At one point, seven inches of rain occurred in less than an hour.

In an effort to alleviate rising waters, authorities breached a nearby dam to release floodwaters on Tuesday, although it’s unclear how much that helped as many dams and rivers in the region have overflowed for days.

Elsewhere in Henan, villages have been cut off by landslides and flooding, killing at least four others and leaving some areas without power for more than 24 hours.

Long Recovery Ahead

The region was finally able to begin recovery efforts Wednesday as conditions have begun to die down.

Despite reduced rainfall, the situation has still proven to be dire, leading President Xi Jinping to issue a statement through state media ordering authorities to give top priority to people’s safety and property.

In total, more than 17,000 firefighters have been mobilized for rescue efforts, as well as local volunteers and other rescue crews from other provinces.

Chinese companies have rushed to donate money to help the affected communities, and so far over $300 million has been donated.

It’s likely that for some time, hundreds of thousands in the region will be left without homes as authorities begin the work of ensuring that buildings are safe to return to.

See what others are saying: (South China Morning Post) (BBC) (The New York Times)

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Toyota Largely Pulls Olympic Sponsorship Ads Amid Calls for Games To Be Canceled

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Locals in Japan are particularly worried about the spread of COVID-19 among athletes at the densely packed Olympic village, something that has already happened despite assurances that it wouldn’t.


Tainted View on Olympics

The Olympic Games continued to face controversy Monday after Toyota, one of the event’s largest sponsors, announced that it would not air any commercials featuring the Olympics in Japan.

The news may come as a surprise since companies often view their ties to one of the world’s largest sporting events as a major selling point and public relations win. However, Toyota’s decision to distance itself instead highlights a growing trend among brands and locals who view the Games as a semi-toxic subject, especially in Japan where most of the population would like the Games canceled or postponed.

The controversy around the Olympic Games largely revolves around the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the decision to host the Games despite rising cases in Japan, concerns about new variants of the virus, and low vaccination rates due to a slow rollout.

Despite Toyota’s recent decision, the company has provided invaluable support to organizers of the Games, including over 3,000 vehicles to transport athletes, crews, and staff. Additionally, the company continues to showcase individual Olympic athletes that it directly sponsors in competitions on its website.

Cardboard “Anti-Sex” Beds

Growing COVID concerns have many on edge, often causing jokes to be taken seriously and spread as misinformation. One such case involved the decision by organizers to use cardboard beds for athletes. Paul Chelimo, from the United States’ track and field team, joked on Twitter, “Beds to be installed in Tokyo Olympic Village will be made of cardboard, this is aimed at avoiding intimacy among athletes.”

“Beds will be able to withstand the weight of a single person to avoid situations beyond sports. I see no problem for distance runners, even 4 of us can do.”

While many understood the statement to be a joke, outlets quickly ran with the sentiment that the beds were actually designed to prevent sex between athletes. Headlines from publications like the New York Post, for instance, read, “Athletes to sleep on ‘anti-sex’ cardboard beds at Olympic Games amid COVID.”

The situation was largely put to rest after Irish gymnast Rhys McClenaghan posted a video jumping on the beds to prove they were perfectly suited for any activity. Officials at the Games went on to clarify that the decision to use cardboard was because it was a cheap, sustainable option that was easy to dispose of after the games without creating much waste.

The fact that the cardboard beds might prove awkward for athletes to use for sex could be a happy accident for the Olympic organizers, as they’ve made it clear that they don’t want attendees having sex to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. They’ve even gone so far as to threaten athletes who have sex during the games with penalties.

In an effort to further dissuade athletes from hanging outside of their dorms or with others, the use of alcohol has largely been banned. Athletes are allowed to have it in their rooms but are supposed to enjoy it while alone.

For many, proof that the Games can’t be protected against COVID-19 has already presented itself, despite assurances from organizers like IOC president Thomas Bach — who said there was “Zero” risk of transmission between athletes and Japanese staff. At least 61 people at the Olympic village have reported contracting COVID since arriving, including at least one U.S. athlete and Japanese workers at the village.

Non-political Games Rocked by Political Tit-for-Tats

The Games have also been rocked with other problems, especially involving Japan and its neighbors.

Korea was forced to take down flags that it had hung from its Olympic Village dorms that read “I still have the support of 50 million Korean people.” The phrase was borrowed from Korean Admiral Yi Sun-Shin, who said, “I still have 12 battleships left,” prior to a lopsided 16th-century naval victory against Japan in the Imjin War.” The phrasing drew outrage from right-wing Japanese groups who asked the International Olympic Committee to have Korea remove the quasi-political statement.

Korea agreed, but only if Japan agreed to use the Rising Sun flag, a standard used by Imperial-era Japan and the Japanese Navy. It’s also one that is often viewed by many East Asians as a symbol as controversial as the Nazi flag is for Westerners.

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (Associated Press) (ABC News)

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