Brazil research chief says sacked over Bolsonaro deforestation spat

File photo taken on September 22, 2017 showing an aerial view of deforestation in the Western Amazon region of Brazil. (AFP)
Updated 03 August 2019

Brazil research chief says sacked over Bolsonaro deforestation spat

  • The latest data released by INPE shows that deforestation has increased 40 percent in the last two months compared to the same period a year ago

BRASILIA: The head of Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research said on Friday he would be sacked following a row with President Jair Bolsonaro over deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
Ricardo Galvao had accused far-right Bolsonaro of “cowardice” for publicly questioning satellite data produced by the institute, known by its initials INPE, that showed Amazon rainforest deforestation had increased 88 percent on-year in June.
“My words about the president have caused annoyance, so I’m going to be fired,” said Galvao.
Two weeks ago, Bolsonaro had told reporters: “With all the devastation that you are accusing us of doing... the Amazon region would already have been extinguished.”
Bolsonaro, a climate change skeptic, also called on Galvao “to come to Brasilia to explain the data that was released to the press.”
The president has previously floated the idea of opening up protected rainforest areas to agriculture, a highly controversial move given the existing level of deforestation.
In his row with Galvao, Bolsonaro suggested the INPE president is “in the service of some NGOs.”
A day later, Galvao hit back, blasting Bolsonaro for making “undue accusations against people of the highest level of Brazilian science” and comparing the president’s suspicions to “a joke by a 14-year-old boy.”
Bolsonaro upped the ante on Thursday, claiming the INPE figures “don’t correspond to the truth” and were damaging to the institute and the country.

Galvao previously insisted he wouldn’t resign, but speaking on Friday he admitted he had discussed the possibility he might be fired with Minister for Science and Technology Marcos Pontes.
Galvao told the press that his dismissal wouldn’t affect INPE, an institution of international repute.
The latest data released by INPE shows that deforestation has increased 40 percent in the last two months compared to the same period a year ago.
For many years, NGOs defending the environment and the territorial rights of indigenous people have criticized the agriculture industry and major land owners for constantly trying to expand into virgin lands, including those protected by law.
Bolsonaro, though, was helped in his election last year by support from the powerful agriculture lobby.
In Europe, other organizations have used the INPE figures to question the recent free trade agreement signed between the European Union and Mercosur, the trade bloc made up of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.
“The deforestation data reveals what we all know: that it’s advancing at a rapid rate. And that creates a problem for the government because there’s huge national and international pressure,” former deputy environment minister Joao-Paulo Capobianco told AFP.
“There’s a massive offensive from sectors that profit greatly from the occupation of the Amazon, and the president of the republic has already shown before his election that he is completely ignorant about this issue. He doesn’t consider it relevant,” Capobianco said.
Bolsonaro suffered a blow on Thursday when the Supreme Court canceled a decree transferring the right to demarcate indigenous lands from the National Indian Foundation to the Ministry of Agriculture, a bulwark of the agriculture industry’s interests.


World’s oldest man dies in Japan at 112

Updated 25 February 2020

World’s oldest man dies in Japan at 112

  • Chitetsu Watanabe, who was born on March 5, 1907 in Niigata, north of Tokyo, died on Sunday at his nursing home
  • The news came less than two weeks after Watanabe was officially recognized by Guinness World Records

TOKYO: A Japanese man recently named the world’s oldest living male has died aged 112, a local official said Tuesday.

Chitetsu Watanabe, who was born on March 5, 1907 in Niigata, north of Tokyo, died on Sunday at his nursing home in the same prefecture, the official said.

The news came less than two weeks after he was officially recognized by Guinness World Records.

Watanabe, who had five children, said the secret to longevity was to “not get angry and keep a smile on your face.”

He admitted a penchant for sweets such as custard pudding and ice cream.

The oldest man in Japan is now Issaku Tomoe, who is 110 years old, according to Jiji Press, although it was not clear if Tomoe holds the title globally.

The oldest living person is also Japanese, Kane Tanaka, a 117-year-old woman.

Japan has one of the world’s highest life expectancies and has been home to several people recognized as among the oldest humans to have ever lived.

They include Jiroemon Kimura, the longest-living man on record, who died soon after his 116th birthday in June 2013.

The oldest verified person — Jeanne Louise Calment of France — died in 1997 at the age of 122, according to Guinness.