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Amazon Wildfires Spark Fears of Environmental Disaster as São Paulo Goes Dark from Smoke

Aug 21, 2019

In Brazil, public outrage is mounting over massive wildfires that have consumed parts of the Amazon for several weeks. The hashtag #PrayForAmazonia trended Tuesday as images of the raging blazes circulated on social media. The skies over the city of São Paulo went dark for around an hour during the middle of the day Monday, after winds carried in smoke from the forest fires over 1,500 miles away. The fires are thought to be directly caused or exacerbated by agricultural exploitation and deforestation. Brazil’s space research agency has recorded nearly 73,000 wildfires so far this year — an 83% increase from the same period last year. Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has worked to deregulate and open up the Amazon for agribusiness, logging and mining since he came into office in January, despite international concerns over the environmental impacts of deforestation. Recent data shows that Brazil lost more than 1,300 square miles of forest cover this year. Climate scientists say the protection of the Amazon rainforest is crucial in the global effort to fight climate change.

Trump Expected to End Flores Agreement, Slashing Protections for Child Migrants

Aug 21, 2019

According to multiple reports, the Trump administration is expected to announce new rules allowing authorities to detain migrant children for longer and in potentially even more dangerous conditions. The White House is reportedly planning to terminate the 1997 Flores agreement, which limits the locking up of migrant children and families to 20 days before they must be released or transferred to a licensed care facility. The Trump administration has blamed the Flores agreement for driving the family separation policy by creating an immigration “loophole” which brought more families into the U.S. to seek asylum. The immigrant rights and legal services organization RAICES called the expected move “cruel beyond imagination.”

CBP Will Not Vaccinate Jailed Migrants as Doctors Say At Least 3 Detained Children Died from Flu

Aug 21, 2019

Customs and Border Protection said it will not vaccinate migrant families ahead of the upcoming flu season. Doctors recently sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to investigate health conditions at migrant jails along the border after they say at least three children have died from the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends annual flu shots for everyone over the age of 6 months.

Lawsuits Allege “Torture” in Migrant Jails and Child Abuse in Foster Care

Aug 21, 2019

Multiple lawsuits are challenging conditions for jailed migrants have or will soon be filed. A class-action lawsuit was filed in California Monday accusing the government of denying adequate food, medical care and other basic necessities to migrant prisoners in ICE facilities. The suit says the dire conditions inside the migrant jails amount to torture, and highlights the mistreatment of people with disabilities. The Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the groups that filed the suit, said imprisoned immigrants are “at risk of illness, discrimination on the basis of disability, and the arbitrary imposition of solitary confinement as a result of ICE’s reliance on mass incarceration and its indifference to the conditions in its prisons.”

Meanwhile, a joint investigation by the Associated Press and PBS’s “Frontline” reveals that dozens of families who were separated at the southern border are getting ready to sue the government over claims that young children were sexually, physically and emotionally abused while in federally funded foster care.

Italy in Turmoil as Prime Minister Resigns

Aug 21, 2019

Italy has been plunged into a political crisis as Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced he was resigning Tuesday. He made the announcement after far-right Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini withdrew support for the right-wing populist coalition in power and called for a no-confidence vote. Giuseppe Conte took aim at Salvini as he addressed Parliament yesterday.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte: “It is clear who is the person responsible for the government crisis, but if they lack courage, the political courage, no problem, I will assume it. I believe this is the only conclusion, the only necessary, transparent and coherent and linear conclusion. I thank you very much.”

Conte then headed to the presidential palace to formally submit his resignation. If a new majority coalition cannot be formed to run the government, the president will likely call for early elections. While political analysts say Salvini is unlikely to ascend to the premiership, the immigration hard-liner could gain more power as his popularity continues to grow.

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Migrants Disembark from Rescue Ship in Italy After Being Stranded at Sea for 3 Weeks

Aug 21, 2019

In other news from Italy, migrants aboard a Spanish rescue ship disembarked on the Italian island of Lampedusa Tuesday, after an Italian prosecutor ordered authorities seize and evacuate the ship Tuesday, ending a nearly three-week standoff between Italy and the charity operating the vessel. The Open Arms ship declared a state of “humanitarian emergency” over the weekend as around 100 migrants were stranded on the ship after Italy refused to grant them permission to dock. Some passengers jumped overboard in recent days, including at least 15 people Tuesday, and attempted to swim to shore, before being picked up and returned to the vessel.

Trump Cancels Denmark Visit over Refusal to Discuss Selling Greenland

Aug 21, 2019

President Trump has canceled an upcoming trip to Denmark over the country’s refusal to discuss selling Greenland to the United States. On Sunday, Trump confirmed to reporters his interest in purchasing the autonomous Danish territory and did not rule out trading a U.S. territory for the island. “Essentially, it’s a large real estate deal,” Trump said. Danish politicians across the political spectrum expressed disbelief over Trump’s sudden cancellation. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called his idea to purchase Greenland “absurd.” She also told reporters, “Thankfully, the time where you buy and sell other countries and populations is over.” A former business minister asked on Twitter: “Are parts of the U.S. for sale? Alaska? Please show more respect.” On Monday, Trump tweeted a photo of a shiny gold Trump skyscraper photoshopped onto an image of a Greenland town, and wrote, “I promise not to do this to Greenland!” Trump is said to be interested in Greenland’s abundant natural resources and geopolitical importance, but the island is also at the center of the climate crisis.

Earlier this month, Greeland’s ice sheet experienced its largest single-day melt in history. In July, the hottest month ever recorded, Greenland’s ice sheet lost 197 billion tons of ice, the equivalent of around 80 million Olympic swimming pools. Experts say that in addition to rising sea levels around the world, the receding ice could expose toxic nuclear waste left at U.S. military sites during the Cold War.

Trump Attacks Tlaib & Omar, Says Jews Are “Disloyal” If They Vote Democrat

Aug 21, 2019

President Trump is ramping up his attacks on Congressmembers Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar after Israel recently barred them from entering the country at his urging. Trump mocked Congressmember Tlaib for crying during a press conference while speaking about her grandmother. Israel granted Tlaib permission to visit her family in the occupied West Bank on “humanitarian” grounds, but only on the condition that she not promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. She rejected the offer.

Trump also attacked Jewish Americans who voted for the Democratic Party. He spoke to reporters from the Oval Office during a visit with the president of Romania.

President Donald Trump: “Where has the Democratic Party gone? Where have they gone, where they’re defending these two people over the state of Israel? And I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

Senator Bernie Sanders responded to Trump’s remarks on Twitter: “Let me say this to the president: I am a proud Jewish person and I have no concerns about voting Democratic. And in fact, I intend to vote for a Jewish man to become the next president of the United States.”

Bernie Sanders Says He Would Rescind Medals for Soldiers Who Took Part in Wounded Knee Massacre

Aug 21, 2019

A group of 2020 presidential candidates addressed indigenous communities at the first-ever Native American Presidential Forum in Sioux City, Iowa, this week. Ninety-nine-year-old U.S. Army Nurse Corps veteran Marcella LeBeau of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe asked Bernie Sanders Tuesday if he would back the Remove the Stain Act, which aims to revoke the 20 congressional Medals of Honor given to soldiers who participated in the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee that killed hundreds of indigenous people — many of them women and children. Sanders said he would back the legislation.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: “Medals of Honor, they’re very rare, and they’re given to people who show great, great bravery. Massacring women and children is not an act of great bravery; it is an act of depravity.”

Trump Backtracks on Gun Control Despite Calling for Background Checks After Dayton & El Paso Shootings

Aug 21, 2019

President Trump is backing away from supporting new gun control measures. After the mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, earlier this month, Trump called for lawmakers to unite and pass new background check laws, but in a call with NRA head Wayne LaPierre Tuesday, he reportedly assured him that universal background checks were “off the table.” Trump instead is heavily shifting the focus to mental illness as the main cause of gun violence, despite data demonstrating people with mental illness are far more likely to be victims of gun violence than perpetrators. Democrats are increasingly calling for a ban on assault weapons as part of comprehensive gun reform.

In related news, the El Paso mass shooter who killed 22 people has been placed on suicide watch. He told authorities he was “targeting Mexicans” when he attacked shoppers at a Walmart near the Mexican border. At least 26 people have been arrested after threatening to commit mass attacks since the El Paso and Dayton shootings at the start of the month that killed 32 people, including the Dayton gunman.

2 Proud Boys Members Convicted of Assaulting Anti-Fascist Protesters in New York

Aug 21, 2019

Two members of the Proud Boys were convicted in New York City Monday for assaulting anti-fascist protesters during a street fight last year after an event at the Metropolitan Republican Club featuring Gavin McInnes. Eight other people were arrested in connection with the fight, in which members of the far-right group were caught on camera physically assaulting the anti-fascist protesters. Maxwell Hare and John Kinsman will be sentenced in October. Click here to see our discussion of the Proud Boys and their rally in Portland, Oregon, this past weekend.

Trump Considers Tax Cuts as Economists Warn of Possible Recession

Aug 21, 2019

President Trump said he is considering “various tax reductions,” including payroll tax cuts. Trump and White House officials, however, have dismissed concerns of a possible recession despite economists warning of an upcoming downturn. Trump said tax cuts are something he is “always” considering. Trump shifted blame to China for the ongoing trade war, which economists say is causing uncertainty in the markets and is the biggest threat to the U.S. economy. Political analysts say White House advisers and Republican politicians are becoming increasingly concerned that a weakening economy will hurt Trump and the party’s odds in the 2020 elections.

States Sue to Block Trump Rule That Would Block Green Cards for Immigrants Using Public Services

Aug 21, 2019

New York, Connecticut and Vermont sued Tuesday to block Trump’s public charge rule. Trump announced the new measure last week, which penalizes documented, low-income immigrants who seek benefits including Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers, by allowing officials to deny green cards and visa applications to those individuals. The lawsuit argues the new rule deliberately discriminates against Latinos and immigrants of color and is part of an ongoing effort to “reduce the population of permanent residents of color in the United States.” This is New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Attorney General Letitia James: “The rule penalizes immigrants for their use of vital non-cash benefit programs. And again, these are programs designed to encourage upward mobility, promote self-sufficiency and reduce homelessness, poverty and high-cost emergency room visits.”

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