Amazon indigenous leaders accuse Brazil of ‘genocide’ policy

Dozens of Amazon indigenous leaders have gathered in the heart of the threatened rainforest to form an alliance against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. (AFP)
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Updated 18 January 2020

Amazon indigenous leaders accuse Brazil of ‘genocide’ policy

  • Hundreds of elders gathered this week at Pairacu, deep in the rainforest, to form a united front against Bolsonaro’s environmental policies
  • “We do not accept mining on our lands, loggers, illegal fishermen or hydroelectricity. We are opposed to anything that destroys the forest,” a leader said

PIARACU: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s pledge to open up the Amazon to mining companies was tantamount to “genocide,” indigenous leaders said Friday at a meeting to oppose the government’s environmental policies.
Hundreds of elders gathered this week at Pairacu, deep in the rainforest, to form a united front against Bolsonaro’s environmental policies, which have seen deforestation in the jungle nearly double since the Brazilian leader came to power a year ago.
“Our aim was to join forces and denounce the fact that the Brazilian government’s political policy of genocide, ethnocide and ecocide is under way,” the group said in a draft manifesto drawn up at the end of the summit.
“We do not accept mining on our lands, loggers, illegal fishermen or hydroelectricity. We are opposed to anything that destroys the forest,” the text said.
They also said that “government threats and hate speech” had encouraged violence against Amazon communities and demanded punishment for the murder of indigenous leaders.
At least eight indigenous leaders were killed last year.
Brazil’s leading indigenous chief, Raoni Metuktire, said Thursday he would personally travel to the capital Brasilia to present the meeting’s demands to Congress.
“Over there, I’m going to ask Bolsonaro why he speaks so badly about the indigenous peoples,” said the 89-year-old leader of the Kayapo tribe.
Preliminary data collected by the National Institute for Space Research showed an 85 percent increase in Amazon deforestation last year when compared to 2018.


US Oxford vaccine trials still on hold over spinal-cord fears

Updated 21 September 2020

US Oxford vaccine trials still on hold over spinal-cord fears

  • Two British women in America suffered adverse effects
  • Further setbacks could doom major frontrunner in global race for COVID-19 vaccine

LONDON: Human trials of the Oxford and AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine have yet to resume in the US over concerns that the jab may cause a neurological condition that affects the spinal cord.

The US trials have been paused on two separate occasions after two British women receiving the experimental vaccine developed a condition causing inflammation of their spinal cords that can, in serious cases, cause paralysis.

The trials resumed quickly after the first pause when it was discovered that one of the British women had multiple sclerosis, a condition that can cause the same neurological reaction in the spine. But the second pause, first reported two weeks ago, is still ongoing in the US.

The second woman was hospitalized and has recovered, but due to stringent regulations in the US the trials have yet to resume. Trials of the same vaccine have since restarted in the UK, Brazil, India and South Africa.

AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish pharmaceuticals giant, said it conducted safety reviews into the vaccine following the two women’s illnesses, and “after independent review, these illnesses were either considered unlikely to be associated with the vaccine or there was insufficient evidence to say for certain that the illnesses were or were not related to the vaccine.”

On Saturday it released further data on its trial protocol to allay safety concerns, but US regulators and experts remain concerned with the inoculation’s safety.

The US Food and Drug Administration, the country’s main drugs regulator, has not commented but has reportedly requested further data on the two adverse reactions.

Mark Slifka, a vaccine expert at Oregon Health and Science University, said: “If there are two cases, then this starts to look like a dangerous pattern. If a third case of neurological disease pops up in the vaccine group, then this vaccine may be done.”

Should the Oxford vaccine be aborted, it would be a major setback for a research project seen as one of the frontrunners in the global vaccine race.

The US and UK have both invested major sums of money into accelerating the vaccine’s development.

In May, the US government provided AstraZeneca with over $1 billion to speed up its American trials, and the UK has invested over £80 million ($103 million) directly into Oxford University’s side of the vaccine research.