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.


Bryant’s widow sues helicopter company over fatal crash

Updated 24 February 2020

Bryant’s widow sues helicopter company over fatal crash

  • The suit was filed on the same day that Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and the other seven crash victims were memorialized in a public ceremony at the Staples Center
  • The lawsuit names Island Express Helicopters, Island Express Holding Corp. and the estate of the helicopter’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, who was among the victims

LOS ANGELES: Kobe Bryant’s widow Vanessa filed a lawsuit on Monday against the operators of the helicopter that crashed on January 26, killing the NBA icon and eight others.
The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on the same day that Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and the other seven crash victims were memorialized in a public ceremony at the Staples Center.
The lawsuit names Island Express Helicopters, Island Express Holding Corp. and the estate of the helicopter’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, who was among the victims.
Gianna Bryant’s basketball teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, Altobelli’s parents John and Keri, Payton’s mother Sarah and basketball coach Christina Mauser were also killed.
The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the exact cause of the crash, although preliminary findings showed no sign of mechanical failure.
Monday’s lawsuit faults the company for allowing the helicopter to fly in “heavy fog and low clouds” that Sunday morning, conditions which prompted “law enforcement agencies and tour companies” to ground their helicopters.
“On information and belief, Island Express Helicopters Federal Aviation Administration operating certificate limited its pilots to flying only under visual flight rules,” the lawsuit says.
“The subject helicopter was not licensed or certified to be flown into instrument conditions. On information and belief, the pilot-in-command, Ara George Zobayan, was required to fly only in conditions that he could navigate visually.
“Ara George Zobayan attempted to maneuver the helicopter up and forward to clear the clouds, then entered a turn sending the helicopter into steep terrain at approximately 180 mph,” according to the suit. “Witnesses on the ground reported seeing the helicopter flying through a layer of clouds and fog before the helicopter crashed.”
The lawsuit notes that in 2015 Zobayan was cited by the FAA for violating the visual flight rules minimums by “flying into an airspace of reduced visibility from weather conditions.”
Island Express did not immediately comment on the suit, which seeks unspecified general, economic and punitive damages.