Record fires ravage Brazil’s Amazon and Pantanal regions

Record fires ravage Brazil’s Amazon and Pantanal regions
In this file photo taken on August 15, 2020 Smoke rises from an illegally lit fire in Amazon rainforest reserve, south of Novo Progresso in Para state, Brazil. (AFP)
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Updated 02 November 2020

Record fires ravage Brazil’s Amazon and Pantanal regions

Record fires ravage Brazil’s Amazon and Pantanal regions
  • The Amazon rainforest has been described as the Earth’s “lungs” due to its role in producing almost 10 percent of the world’s oxygen
  • Experts and environmental NGOs blame the worsening fires on Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro

BRASILIA: A record high number of fires scorched Brazil’s Amazon and Pantanal wetlands last month, official data showed on Sunday, as deforestation and climate change wreaked havoc on some of the planet’s most valuable ecosystems.
The Amazon rainforest has been described as the Earth’s “lungs” due to its role in producing almost 10 percent of the world’s oxygen.
The Pantanal further south is one of the world’s largest tropical wetlands and a biodiversity paradise that extends across Brazil’s borders into Paraguay and Bolivia.
The number of fires typically fall in October as the Amazon approaches the rainy season.
But Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research (INPE) on Sunday recorded 17,326 fires in the Amazon in October, more than double the number seen in the same month in 2019.
Satellite imagery showed close to 100,000 fires in the first 10 months of 2020, more than were seen in the whole of last year.
The INPE also detected almost 3,000 individual fires in the Pantanal, a new monthly record since data collection began in 1998.
The region — 23 percent of which is estimated to have gone up in smoke this year — has seen a record-breaking 21,115 fires so far this year, more than double the number registered in all of 2019.
Experts and environmental NGOs blame the worsening fires on Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, a climate change skeptic who supports opening both regions to logging and farming.
Some fires are the result of burning to prepare the land for livestock, despite a 120-day ban on the practice imposed in July.
“With deforestation rates increasing in recent years, warnings by researchers were ignored by the government: deforestation and fire go together,” said Mariana Napolitano, the head of the science program at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Brazil.
“After deforesting the jungle, the offenders set fires to clean up the accumulated organic material... at the end of the month, with the arrival of the rains, the pace of the fires seems to be slowing down, but we can hardly depend on climate factors,” she said.
“What happened in the dry season in the Amazon and Pantanal cannot be repeated.”
Climate change has also played a role in the fires, with a team of international researchers warning this year that rising global temperatures posed a “critical threat” to the Pantanal’s delicate ecosystem.
President Bolsonaro has denounced a campaign of “disinformation” about the Pantanal and the Amazon, even blaming local indigenous people and activists for setting the fires.


Taliban leaders, US envoy meet in Doha

Taliban leaders, US envoy meet in Doha
Updated 27 min 25 sec ago

Taliban leaders, US envoy meet in Doha

Taliban leaders, US envoy meet in Doha
  • ‘Both sides expressed their commitment to the Doha agreement and discussed its full implementation’

DOHA: Washington’s special envoy to Afghanistan met with the Taliban in Qatar, the insurgents said Saturday, as efforts intensify to revive a peace process faced with mounting violence and a US troop withdrawal deadline.
The envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, held talks earlier this week with Afghan leaders in Kabul, including President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chair of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation which oversees the government’s talks with the insurgents in Qatar.
Taliban spokesman Muhamad Naeem tweeted that Khalilzad and the top US general in Afghanistan met with the insurgents’ negotiating team in Doha, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, late Friday.
“Both sides expressed their commitment to the Doha agreement and discussed its full implementation. Likewise, the current situation of Afghanistan and the rapidity and effectiveness of the Intra-Afghan negotiations were discussed,” he wrote.
Speculation is rife over America’s future in Afghanistan, after the White House announced plans to review a withdrawal deal brokered by Khalilzad and the Taliban in Doha last year.
Under that agreement, the US is set to withdraw from Afghanistan in May, but a surge in fighting has sparked concerns that a speedy exit may unleash greater chaos as peace talks between the Kabul government and Taliban continue to stall.
The accord states that the US will withdraw all troops from Afghanistan, with the Taliban promising not to allow territory to be used by terrorists – the original goal of the US invasion following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Khalilzad’s visit marks the first time he has publicly returned to Qatar since US President Joe Biden took office in January and asked him to stay on in his post.


6 Ukrainians die, dozens injured in bus crash in Poland

6 Ukrainians die, dozens injured in bus crash in Poland
Updated 47 min 47 sec ago

6 Ukrainians die, dozens injured in bus crash in Poland

6 Ukrainians die, dozens injured in bus crash in Poland
  • The accident occurred around midnight on the A4 motorway near the town of Jaroslaw
  • There was no immediate cause given for the accident

WARSAW, Poland: A bus carrying dozens of Ukrainian citizens rolled off an embankment into a ditch in Poland, killing six people and injuring 41, Polish media reported on Saturday.
The accident occurred around midnight on the A4 motorway near the town of Jaroslaw, which is in southeastern Poland near the border with Ukraine.
TNV24, a private all-news station, reported that the bus had a Ukrainian license plate and was traveling with 57 Ukrainian citizens, including two drivers.
A large rescue operation early Saturday involved dozens of firefighters, paramedics and helicopters to transport the injured to hospitals.
There was no immediate cause given for the accident.
Ukrainians travel for work to Poland, a European Union state on Ukraine’s western border. Ukrainians fill gaps in the labor market in Poland, which has experienced fast economic growth in recent years.


Iranian militias claim to have active cells in Washington DC: Fox News

Iranian militias claim to have active cells in Washington DC: Fox News
Updated 9 min 31 sec ago

Iranian militias claim to have active cells in Washington DC: Fox News

Iranian militias claim to have active cells in Washington DC: Fox News
  • Additional claims that terror factions associated with Iran are growing stronger and attracting more support

DUBAI: Iranian militia groups have active cells operating in the US capital Washington DC and other US cities, according to chatrooms used by the groups.
Kawtheryoon Electronic Team, a Telegram network used by Iranian militia groups and supporters, claimed in a recent posting that Iranian “resistance cells are rooted even in America and its capital,” Fox News reported, citing a copy of the English-language posting captured by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which tracks radical groups.
The militia additionally claimed that terror factions associated with Iran are growing stronger and attracting more support than ever before, as they demanded a withdraw all of American troops from Iraq and the Middle East.
The Telegram post included a picture of caskets containing US soldiers, Fox News said.
The claims of Iranian terrorist cells being present in the US comes as the Biden administration seeks to directly engage Iran in pursuit of inking a revamped nuclear accord.
President Joe Biden has earlier said Iran must cut its uranium enrichment before any return to talks over the Iranian regime’s nuclear program.
Iran nonetheless continues to sponsor terrorism, Fox News reported, and has shown no signs of backing down from its active operations in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and other Middle Eastern hotspots.
It also has continued to support strikes on US personnel stationed in Iraq, and was likely behind a Wednesday rocket attack on an Iraqi air base that houses American troops, it added.


Pakistani PM wins vote of confidence amidst opposition protest, boycott

Pakistani PM wins vote of confidence amidst opposition protest, boycott
Updated 06 March 2021

Pakistani PM wins vote of confidence amidst opposition protest, boycott

Pakistani PM wins vote of confidence amidst opposition protest, boycott
  • Khan was able to secure 178 votes, against the 172 required to win confidence
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan won a vote of confidence from parliament on Saturday in a session marked by opposition boycott and protest.
Khan was able to secure 178 votes, against the 172 required to win confidence, the speaker of the house announced.
Khan had himself volunteered to seek parliament’s confidence after the government’s finance minister lost a high-profile Senate seat election earlier in the week.

Russia reports 11,022 new COVID-19 cases, 441 deaths

Russia reports 11,022 new COVID-19 cases, 441 deaths
Updated 06 March 2021

Russia reports 11,022 new COVID-19 cases, 441 deaths

Russia reports 11,022 new COVID-19 cases, 441 deaths
  • The government’s coronavirus taskforce said that 441 people had died in the last 24 hours

MOSCOW: Russia on Saturday reported 11,022 new COVID-19 cases, including 1,820 in Moscow, taking the national case tally to 4,312,181 since the pandemic began.
The government’s coronavirus taskforce said that 441 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the Russian death toll to 88,726.