The United Nations is calling for the protection of the Amazon amid fears that thousands of fires raging across Brazil are rapidly destroying the world’s largest rainforest and paving the way for a climate catastrophe. On Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres tweeted, “In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity. The Amazon must be protected.” The fires have spread a vast plume of smoke across South America and the Atlantic Ocean that’s visible from space. They’re unprecedented in recorded history, and environmentalists say most of the fires were deliberately set by illegal miners and cattle ranchers. French President Emmanuel Macron called the Amazon fires an “international crisis” and said they should top the agenda this weekend as leaders of the G7 countries gather in Biarritz. Macron tweeted, “Our house is burning. Literally.”
Indigenous people in Amazonia say the government of Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro is encouraging the destruction of the rainforest. This is indigenous leader Handech Wakanã Mura.
Handech Wakanã Mura: “And with each passing day, we see the destruction advance: deforestation, invasion, logging. We are sad because the forest is dying at every moment. We feel the climate changing. And the world needs the forest. We need the forest, and our children need the forest.”
Bolsonaro has long made racist comments about indigenous people. In 1998, a Brazilian newspaper quoted him as saying, “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry hasn’t been as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated the Indians.”
In the United States, Senator Bernie Sanders on Thursday proposed a sweeping 10-year, $16 trillion plan that would rapidly transition the U.S. energy sector to renewables in order to mitigate the climate crisis. It’s the most ambitious climate plan laid out by any presidential candidate to date. Sanders announced his Green New Deal while touring Paradise, California, a town that was completely incinerated in a massive wildfire last year. Speaking at a town hall in Chico later in the day, Sanders defended the price tag of his proposal, saying the cost of inaction would be far higher.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “The economists have told us that the cost of inaction, inaction on climate change, will cost some $69 trillion throughout the globe. The scientists have told us that the cost of inaction on climate change will put the entire planet and life as we know it on Earth in serious jeopardy, because what we have been told is that if we do nothing, the effects of climate change will lead to over 250,000 deaths every single year across the globe, from factors including malnutrition, heat stress, malaria and other diseases. And that is a very conservative number.”
Sanders’s plan calls for all U.S. homes and vehicles to be powered by renewables by 2030, with massive public investment in solar, wind and geothermal electricity. It would ban fracking, mountaintop removal coal mining and international trade in fossil fuels. It would also see the U.S. rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord and pay $200 billion to the Green Climate Fund. And it would guarantee a just transition for employees of fossil fuel industries. Sanders says his Green New Deal would create 20 million union jobs over a decade.
In San Francisco, leaders of the Democratic National Committee voted Thursday to reject a resolution calling for a presidential candidate debate on the climate. It failed on a vote of 8 to 17 by the DNC’s Resolutions Committee. After the roll call, about two dozen young activists with the Sunrise Movement who were attending the committee meeting rose from their chairs, stood on their seats and began a protest.
Protester 1: “We are afraid for our lives! We are afraid of an uninhabitable planet! Please, please, please, use the microphone that you have!”
Protester 2: “This is a climate emergency!”
Protester 1: “We deserve a climate debate!”
Protester 2: “We need a climate debate!”
The Resolutions Committee’s vote Thursday is not the final say on the matter. The full Democratic National Committee could still vote to change its rules to allow a climate debate when it meets on Saturday.
In Syria, government forces have surrounded a cluster of towns in Hama province, the country’s last major rebel-controlled stronghold. Syrian officials said they would open a so-called humanitarian corridor for civilians to flee the siege of their communities. The U.N. says the Russian-backed Syrian offensive on Idlib and Hama has killed more than 500 civilians, wounded hundreds more and displaced some 400,000 since it began in April.
The United Nations says Burmese soldiers had “genocidal intent” when they waged a campaign of sexual violence against women and girls in 2017 as part of a broader assault on members of the Rohingya community in Burma. A U.N. fact-finding panel found that soldiers “routinely and systematically employed rape, gang rape and other violent and forced sexual acts against women, girls, boys, men and transgender people in blatant violation of international human rights law.” The panel recommended top Burmese officials be prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The violence drove at least 730,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, where they settled in vast refugee camps near the coast. Most of them remain there today.
Indonesia has deployed 1,200 additional troops to West Papua and cut off internet access as thousands of protesters in the Indonesian territory have stepped up their demands for independence. The latest protests came after a group of ethnic Papuan students in East Java were accused of desecrating an Indonesian flag and taunted by nationalists as “monkeys,” “pigs” and “dogs.” They were then tear-gassed in their dormitories by security forces. The incident sparked protests in at least six areas of West Papua, with pro-independence groups setting fires to government buildings, including a prison where some 250 prisoners escaped.
In Russia, opposition politician Alexei Navalny has been freed from jail, 30 days after his arrest for promoting protests demanding democracy. The demonstrations earlier this month were crushed by riot police, who beat protesters in the streets of Moscow and arrested over 800 people. This is Navalny speaking to reporters just after his release on Friday.
Alexei Navalny: “Now we see that lies and fraud are not enough for them. It’s not enough for them to ban candidates from an election. They deliberately want to arrest dozens and to beat up hundreds. This shows that there is no support for this regime. They feel this, and they are afraid.”
North Korea’s foreign minister on Thursday called U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a “diehard toxin” and “poisonous” to diplomacy between the two countries. Denuclearization talks between the two sides have stalled for months since a failed second summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi in February. The two leaders met again in June at the inter-Korean border, where they agreed to reopen negotiations, but that has not happened.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is ordering his military to prepare for what he called a “symmetrical response” after the U.S. tested what it said was a nonnuclear cruise missile earlier this week. The U.S. launch was the first test of its kind since the Trump administration formally withdrew from the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the INF, earlier this month.
French President Emmanuel Macron is defending his call for a global tax on technology giants, including Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google, which employ complex tax dodges to avoid paying tens of billions of dollars. Ahead of this weekend’s G7 talks, Macron told reporters, “The global tech players do not contribute financially to the funding of the common good. It is not sustainable.”
Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will join Fox News as a paid contributor next month. As Trump’s chief spokesperson, Sanders repeatedly lied about basic facts, belittling members of the White House press corps and even promoting a doctored video to imply that CNN’s Jim Acosta physically assaulted a White House intern. She frequently went weeks or even months between press conferences. Sanders’s move to Fox News continues the Trump administration’s revolving-door relationship with the far-right cable network. More than 20 people have held jobs both at Fox and in the Trump administration.
Meanwhile, Sarah Sanders’s predecessor as press secretary, Sean Spicer, will be paid to appear on the next season of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” Variety reports the deal could earn Spicer up to $295,000. One disgruntled ABC staffer, speaking anonymously to CNN, said, “It’s a slap in the face to those of us who had to deal with his baloney and the consequences of the ongoing lies and disinformation campaign at the White House.”
In Fresno, California, the legendary union organizer and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta was arrested along with seven other union members Tuesday as they demanded better pay for 500 home healthcare workers who haven’t had a raise in over a decade. Huerta, who is 89 years old, joined members of the Service Employees International Union as they chanted and rang cowbells outside the doors of a closed session of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. She was led away in handcuffs after refusing a police order to disperse. The supervisors have offered to increase the workers’ pay by 10 cents an hour. They currently earn California’s minimum wage, just $12 an hour. Union members are demanding a dollar-an-hour raise. Huerta later told reporters, “All of these supervisors make over $100,000 a year, while these people have gone without a wage increase for 11 years, and it’s time.”
In Hong Kong, at least 5,000 people, including accountants, marched in the territory’s financial district today. Some of the protesters wore masks to hide their identities from their employers as China continues to pressure Hong Kong businesses to denounce anti-government demonstrations. Pro-democracy protests have been ongoing all summer, with millions of people taking to the streets of Hong Kong.
Here in New York, the death of the longest-serving woman in the state’s prison system is sparking new calls for parole reform. Valerie Gaiter died from cancer last week at age 61 after 40 years in prison. Gaiter was serving a 50-year sentence for a gruesome murder she committed at age 21. She went on to become a beloved mentor and trained service dogs for wounded veterans. Even prison guards supported her release. But she was ineligible to appear before the parole board for another 10 years. At a protest in Manhattan Tuesday, she was remembered by her former partner Kiki Analloyd, and Donna Robinson, whose incarcerated daughter was mentored by Gaiter.
Kiki Analloyd: “When you walked through them gates, you’ve seen her smile. She helped you with music. She helped you with paddle ball. She was the best. Her heart was made of gold. Y’all just got to know that women, we all learned our lesson. We did our time.”
Donna Robinson: “What person is the same person they were a month ago, two years ago? Forty-one years, that’s beyond punishment. And it has to stop. No more Vals dying in jail!”
Also at the protest were two state lawmakers who have introduced a bill to prevent more people from dying in prison by giving those aged 55 and older a chance to appear before the parole board after serving at least 15 years of their sentence.