At Least 11 Dead As Storms Sweep Through US South

 

 

Severe storms sweeping the southern US killed at least 11 people, authorities said, as tornadoes and high winds upturned cars, destroyed homes and left tens of thousands without power.

The storms hit parts of the south on Friday and were expected to move east and north on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, which issued flood and tornado warnings for several states.

Among the dead were a policeman and firefighter who were hit by a vehicle in Texas after being called out to respond to traffic accidents in icy conditions, local authorities said.

In Louisiana the bodies of a couple were found on Saturday near their destroyed mobile home after it was hit by storms the night before, said Bill Davis of the county sheriff’s office.

“It’s totally rolled over. It looked like a couple hundred feet into the back yard. Debris is all over. It’s just a sad situation,” said Davis, according to local television channel KTBS 3.

The National Weather Service said three people were confirmed dead on Saturday in Alabama, where local channel WHNT News 19 showed buildings reduced to rubble.

Other structures had parts of their roofs ripped off and downed power lines were strewn across roads.

The storms left more than 200,000 people without electricity early Sunday, the poweroutage.us website said, with North Carolina and Alabama among the worst affected areas.

Environment: Trump Announces Sweeping Changes To NEPA

A file photo of US President, Donald Trump. AFP Photo.

 

 

US President Donald Trump’s administration announced Thursday sweeping changes to an environmental law that critics said guts oversight requirements in the construction of highways, airports and pipelines and allows the government to ignore their impact on climate change.

Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1970, all major infrastructure projects must be subject to environmental impact assessment by federal agencies.

NEPA was the US’s first major environmental law and designed “to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony.” It has proved an obstacle to Trump’s efforts to accelerate fossil fuel extraction.

The Environment Protection Agency raised an objection to the Keystone XL pipeline, planned to bring oil from Canada to the US, during a NEPA review under the Obama administration, with the former president canceling the project as a result — only for it to be revived under Trump.

The executive branch doesn’t have the power to change the act of Congress, but, as it has previously done for the Endangered Species Act, it can change rules about how it is applied — and it was these proposed changes that were announced Thursday.

Trump told reporters that he was acting because projects were being “tied up and bogged down by an outrageously slow and burdensome federal approval process,” adding he would not stop until “gleaming new infrastructure has made America the envy of the world again.”

– Raises threshold for assessment –

The proposals, which are subject to a 60-day review period for public comments before taking effect at a later date, would raise the threshold for what types of projects require an environmental impact assessment.

It would exclude projects financed in whole or in large part by the private sector, as is the case for a number of oil pipelines.

And federal agencies will be asked to complete their analyses in two years, compared to the four and a half years they are currently given, said Mary Neumayr, who heads the Council on Environmental Quality.

“Over time, implementation of NEPA has become increasingly complex and time consuming for federal agencies, state, local, and tribal agencies, project applicants, and average Americans seeking permits or approvals from the federal government,” she said.

She added that the assessments for highway projects are taking more than seven years, and some studies stretch to longer than a decade.

– Legal challenges expected –

The administration also wants to remove requirements to examine the “cumulative” impacts of projects, something that would exclude the impact of climate change — even though the proposal does not exclude consideration of greenhouse gas emissions in NEPA analyses, said Neumayr.

The definition of environmental impacts would be reduced to those that are “reasonably foreseeable” and have a “reasonably close causal relationship,” while any changes must be “technically and economically feasible.”

Environmental groups slammed the move and vowed to respond with legal challenges.

“Today’s action is nothing more than an attempt to write Donald Trump’s climate denial into official government policy,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

“Communities across the country are already feeling the effects of climate change, but rather than protect them, Trump is pulling out all the stops to silence their voices and further prop up his corporate polluter friends.”

Trump Announces Sweeping Changes To Key Environmental Law

 

 

US President Donald Trump’s administration announced Thursday sweeping changes to an environmental law that critics said guts oversight requirements in the construction of highways, airports and pipelines and allows the government to ignore their impact on climate change.

Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1970, all major infrastructure projects must be subject to environmental impact assessment by federal agencies.

NEPA was the US’s first major environmental law and designed “to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony.” It has proved an obstacle to Trump’s efforts to accelerate fossil fuel extraction.

The Environment Protection Agency raised an objection to the Keystone XL pipeline, planned to bring oil from Canada to the US, during a NEPA review under the Obama administration, with the former president canceling the project as a result — only for it to be revived under Trump.

The executive branch doesn’t have the power to change the act of Congress, but, as it has previously done for the Endangered Species Act, it can change rules about how it is applied — and it was these proposed changes that were announced Thursday.

Trump told reporters that he was acting because projects were being “tied up and bogged down by an outrageously slow and burdensome federal approval process,” adding he would not stop until “gleaming new infrastructure has made America the envy of the world again.”

Raises threshold for assessment

The proposals, which are subject to a 60-day review period for public comments before taking effect at a later date, would raise the threshold for what types of projects require an environmental impact assessment.

It would exclude projects financed in whole or in large part by the private sector, as is the case for a number of oil pipelines.

And federal agencies will be asked to complete their analyses in two years, compared to the four and a half years they are currently given, said Mary Neumayr, who heads the Council on Environmental Quality.

“Over time, implementation of NEPA has become increasingly complex and time-consuming for federal agencies, state, local, and tribal agencies, project applicants, and average Americans seeking permits or approvals from the federal government,” she said.

She added that the assessments for highway projects are taking more than seven years, and some studies stretch to longer than a decade.

Legal challenges expected

The administration also wants to remove requirements to examine the “cumulative” impacts of projects, something that would exclude the impact of climate change — even though the proposal does not exclude consideration of greenhouse gas emissions in NEPA analyses, said Neumayr.

The definition of environmental impacts would be reduced to those that are “reasonably foreseeable” and have a “reasonably close causal relationship,” while any changes must be “technically and economically feasible.”

Environmental groups slammed the move and vowed to respond with legal challenges.

“Today’s action is nothing more than an attempt to write Donald Trump’s climate denial into official government policy,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

“Communities across the country are already feeling the effects of climate change, but rather than protect them, Trump is pulling out all the stops to silence their voices and further prop up his corporate polluter friends.”

Women Demand Environmental Justice In Niger Delta

Police Arrest 10 Suspects For Political Violence In Akwa Ibom

 

Some women in the Niger Delta region have demanded urgent steps to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change causing environmental pollution in the region.

The women under the aegis of Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre made the demand at an event on Tuesday in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital.

The executive director of the centre, Emem Okon, decried the delay by the government in proffering lasting solutions to the menace of environmental pollution.

She said, “Women do not have access to clean drinking water; women’s health is being impacted by the oil extractive activities.

“There are increased incidents of cancer and increase the incidence of miscarriages among women.”

According to Okon, this is why the women resolve to pick a day to come together to put pressure on the government and the relevant stakeholders to take drastic measures to clean up the Niger Delta.

A participant at the event, Dorathy Ijuwa, lamented that women now face many challenges due to the situation, including restrictions to carry out their business ventures.

“Women can no longer go for fishing as there is no fish for the women to support their husband; no everything there is bad because of oil spills,” she said.

Similarly, there were more emphasis on environmental justice and the effects of climate change on both male and the female in the society.

The women, therefore, asked the government to immediately put measures in place to save the environment from its a dilapidated state.

More Than Aus$25mn Raised As Australia Reels From Bushfire Fury

Firefighters tackle a bushfire near Batemans Bay in New South Wales on January 3, 2020. With temperatures expected to rise well above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) again on January 4, a state of emergency has been declared across much of Australia’s heavily populated southeast in an unprecedented months-long bushfire crisis.
PETER PARKS / AFP

 

 

A global appeal to help Australian firefighters tackling catastrophic bushfires raised more than Aus$25 million on Monday, as swaths of the country suffered extensive damage and the death toll from the long-running crisis hit 24.

East coast seaside towns were plunged into darkness, ash rained down on rural communities and major cities were again cloaked in choking smoke, even as stunned Australians tried to regroup amid a wave of cooler air and light rain.

The weekend marked some of the worst days in the country’s deadly bushfire crisis, with hundreds more properties destroyed and the overall death toll climbing to 24, including a man who died Saturday trying to save a friend’s home.

Comedian Celeste Barber used her international social media fame to launch a Facebook fundraiser for firefighters that had surpassed its Aus$25 million ($17 million) target in just three days with donations from all over the globe.

American pop star Pink said she would donate US$500,000 to the firefighters, a donation matched by Australian actress Nicole Kidman.

World number one tennis player Ashleigh Barty pledged to hand over all her winnings from this week’s Brisbane International tournament — potentially US$250,000 — to the Red Cross.

Around 200 fires continued to burn Sunday, many out of control, although only a handful prompted emergency warnings as temperatures dipped.

Everywhere, millions of beleaguered residents struggled to come to grips with a catastrophe that has taken place on a near-continental scale, unfurled over months, altering daily life.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said. “We can’t pretend that this is something that we have experienced before. It’s not.”

Authorities have struggled to keep pace with the severity of the crisis — which has now scorched an area almost the size of Ireland.

While bushfires are common in Australia’s dry summers, climate change has pushed up land and sea temperatures and led to more extremely hot days and severe fire seasons.

Decades to recover

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday announced the country’s largest military call-up in years, mobilising up to 3,000 reservists to assist exhausted volunteer firefighters.

Warships and combat helicopters have already been repurposed to help with the largest maritime evacuation in Australia since World War II — moving to safety some of the 4,000 people trapped for days on the foreshore of Mallacoota, midway between Sydney and Melbourne.

Up and down the coast, thousands of people remained displaced and many more weighed an uncertain future.

Noreen Ralston-Birchaw, 75, lost her home in the southeast coastal town of Mogo on New Year’s Eve and said she was unsure what to do.

“At this very moment, I don’t want to go back and see my house laying burnt on the ground,” she told AFP. “I don’t want to rebuild there.”

Morrison also announced the establishment of a Bushfire Recovery Agency to run for at least two years and help survivors get back on their feet, a signal that the path ahead will be long and difficult.

Even for those not in the fires’ direct path, the crisis has put Australia’s much-admired outdoor lifestyle on hold: barbecues have been barred under blanket fire bans, top sporting events have been called off and beach trips cancelled.

The country’s distinctive flora and fauna will take years or decades to recover — countless thousands of gum trees have been lost and experts on Kangaroo Island said half the koala population has been wiped out.

Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday said she was “deeply saddened” by the fires, and thanked the emergency services “who put their own lives in danger” to help communities.

Easing conditions

Sunday brought milder conditions, including some rainfall in New South Wales and neighbouring Victoria state, but some communities were still under threat from out-of-control blazes, particularly in and around the town of Eden in New South Wales near the Victorian border.

“The sky is still red,” said John Steele, 73, who was evacuated with his wife from their rural property north of Eden late Saturday. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

In Cooma, in inland southern New South Wales, the fire crisis turned into a flood disaster when a large tower carrying 4.5 million litres of water collapsed, sweeping away cars and filling homes with mud.

“First bushfire and now flood, back-to-back disasters,” a shaken resident who asked not to be named told AFP.

Australia’s capital Canberra was ranked as the city with the poorest air quality in the world on Sunday by Air Visual, an independent online air-quality index monitor, amid a severe haze caused by the fires.

Flights were cancelled, galleries were closed to safeguard public health and a large consignment of face masks was being brought in.

In some rural areas affected by fires, police patrolled the streets amid reports of looting and break-ins.

Australians Warned Worst Bushfires May Be Yet To Come

Firefighters tackle a bushfire to save a home in Taree, 350km north of Sydney on November 9, 2019 as they try to contain dozens of out-of-control blazes that are raging in the state of New South Wales. At least two people have died and 100 homes have been destroyed as an unprecedented number of bushfires tore through eastern Australia.
PETER PARKS / AFP

 

Sydney is facing a “catastrophic” fire threat, authorities said on Sunday, as firefighters in eastern Australia raced to prepare for worsening conditions after ferocious bushfires devastated communities.

Fires have killed three people and razed more than 150 homes since Friday, but cooler weather overnight provided a welcome reprieve for firefighters and residents.

Authorities were assessing the damage on Sunday, with more than 100 fires still burning across New South Wales and Queensland, including several blazes that remained out of control.

Wider swathes of the states — including greater Sydney — are now bracing for perilous fire conditions predicted for the coming days, as is Western Australia state.

It is the first time Sydney has been warned of a “catastrophic” fire danger, the highest possible level, since the grading system was introduced in 2009.

Massive fires tore through several towns on Friday and Saturday.

The mayor of Glen Innes, where two people died, said residents were traumatised and still coming to terms with their losses.

“The fire was as high as 20 foot (six metres) and raging with 80 kilometres-an-hour (50 miles-an-hour) winds,” Carol Sparks told national broadcaster ABC.

Five people reported missing have been found, but the unpredictable nature of the disaster means officials have not ruled out the possibility that others could still be missing, NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman Greg Allan told AFP.

In Old Bar, which was spared the worst when the wind changed direction, hectares of bushland had turned charcoal and small pockets of flames continued to smoulder.

Peter McKellar, 75, was clearing debris from his property as his neighbour’s home sat in ruins.

“The firies (firefighters) saved ours,” he told AFP. “They are doing a wonderful job. They’re angels.”

High temperatures, low humidity and strong winds forecast from the middle of the week are predicted to fuel blazes that authorities have warned they will be unable to contain ahead of time.

“We are ramping up for probably another 50 trucks full of crews to be deployed into New South Wales on Monday night ahead of conditions on Tuesday,” NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shan Fitzsimmons told reporters in Taree, one of the worst-hit areas.

“We have seen the gravity of the situation unfold… What we can expect is those sorts of conditions to prevail across a much broader geographic area as we head into Tuesday.”

‘Primed to burn’

In Queensland, where a state of emergency has been declared, more than 1,200 firefighters were battling over 50 active fires on Sunday.

“Queensland does not usually have a fire season like we’ve experienced this year and last year,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters.

With thousands of people forced to flee from their homes, Australia’s government was offering immediate emergency assistance payments of up to Aus$1,000 (US$685) to those affected and extended financial support for anyone unable to work as a result.

Many residents are now returning to their scorched communities to assess the extent of the fire-inflicted damage, amid warnings it could take months for them to rebuild their lives.

Emotions were running high at an evacuation centre in Taree, with one man breaking down in tears as he was embraced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“People are under a lot of pressure,” Morrison told reporters. “The level of optimism, despite the circumstances, is quite inspiring.”

Morrison, whose government has downplayed the threat of climate change, was also heckled about the issue at a fire command centre in nearby Wauchope.

“Climate change is real, can’t you see,” the Australian newspaper reported a man as yelling before he was escorted out of the building.

Bushfires are common in Australia but the country has experienced a dramatic start to what scientists predict will be a tough fire season — with climate change and weather cycles contributing to the dangerous combination of strong winds, high temperatures and dry conditions.

The current disaster has not wreaked the human devastation of Australia’s worst recent bushfires, the Black Saturday fires that killed 173 people in Victoria state in 2009, with some experts attributing that to better early warning systems.

But Ross Bradstock, from the Centre for Environmental Management of Bushfires at the University of Wollongong, described the situation as “unprecedented” for the affected regions, which have rarely — if ever — experienced such severe fires.

“Sadly, given the weather forecast for the coming week, the crisis may worsen and extend southward into landscapes primed to burn via extreme dryness,” he said.

‘Uncharted Territory’ As Bushfires Rage Across Australia’s East

Smoke from rural bushfires are seen over Sydney Harbour on October 31, 2019. Sydney residents coughed and spluttered their way around Australia’s largest metropolis as a bank of smoke from rural bushfires enveloped the city prompting health warnings. Saeed KHAN / AFP

 

 

Dozens of bushfires raged out of control across eastern Australia on Friday, blocking escape routes for residents and shuttering the main highway linking major cities on the country’s Pacific coast.

More than 90 blazes pockmarked the New South Wales countryside, 50 of them uncontained, tearing through tens of thousands of hectares.

“We are in uncharted territory,” New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told public broadcaster ABC. “We have never seen this many fires concurrently at emergency warning level.”

Authorities said fires had breached containment lines and forced the closure of the Pacific Highway linking Sydney and Brisbane in two places.

Emergency warnings were introduced for 14 flashpoints, bringing warnings to evacuate immediately.

READ ALSO: Five Killed, 120 Injured In Iran Earthquake

In some areas, residents were told to simply “seek shelter as it is too late to leave”.

Local radio stopped normal programming and provided instructions about how to try to survive fires if trapped at home or in a vehicle.

A prolonged drought, strong winds, low humidity and high temperatures have conspired to make the landscape a tinderbox.

“It’s a very dynamic, volatile and dangerous set of circumstances,” said Fitzsimmons.

Bushfires are common in Australia, but the country is gearing up for busy bushfire season with record temperatures predicted for the summer months.

Huge Saltwater Croc Kills Fisherman In Latest Attack On Philippine Island

This undated handout photo received on October 10, 2019 from the Mimaropa regional police shows Philippine police inspecting a 4.9-metre (16-foot) saltwater crocodile after it was killed.

 

A huge saltwater crocodile killed a Philippines fisherman after snatching him from his boat, local authorities said Thursday, the latest in a series of attacks terrorising a remote southern island.

The 20-year-old was taken by a 4.9-metre (16-foot) croc late Tuesday as he and a colleague sailed back to the island of Balabac after a day of fishing, regional police spokesman Socrates Faltado told AFP.

The next day residents found his body, still in the croc’s jaws, Faltado said.

They then used dynamite to kill it.

READ ALSO: German Shooter Video Stays Online Despite Crackdown

A crocodile also killed a 10-year-old boy in the same area less than two months ago, according to Jovic Fabello, spokesman for a government council that oversees conservation efforts in Palawan, where Balabac is located.

And earlier this year a croc killed a 15-year old boy and a fisherman off the island of about 35,000 people.

Last year crocodiles killed two people around Balabac.

“We have to address the root cause of the incident, which is partly due to habitat destruction. The crocodiles have almost nowhere left to hide, and there is not enough food in their habitat,” Fabello said.

“It’s a competition for space because people don’t want to give in,” he added.

The local crocodile population might also have increased, he said.

The Palawan island group is known for its diversity of flora and fauna, but authorities are increasingly wary of its unchecked development.

Paris, Four Other French Cities Ban Use Of Pesticides

This picture taken on September 09, 2019, shows a bottle of weedkilling containing glyphosate in Lille, northern France. DENIS CHARLET / AFP

 

Paris and four other French cities on Thursday banned the use of synthetic pesticides within their boundaries, as an anti-chemicals movement that began in the countryside gains momentum.

Lille in the north, Nantes in the west, Grenoble in the southeast and the central city of Clermont-Ferrand joined Paris in implementing the ban, citing the need to safeguard biodiversity and public health.

The move is mainly symbolic given that the 2017 law already bans the use of synthetic pesticides in public parks and spaces.

And since January, home gardeners countrywide have also been banned from using synthetic pesticides. They may use only those made with natural ingredients.

READ ALSO: WHO Urges World Leaders To Protect Health From Climate Change

The few urban areas not included by the bans include green spaces managed by private property owners, such as in apartment blocks, or by companies such as state rail operator SNCF which use the controversial weedkiller glyphosate on train tracks.

Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne slammed Thursday’s announcement by the five cities — all of which are run by left-wing or Green opposition parties — as a “publicity stunt”.

President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government has proposed banning the use of pesticides to within 5-10 metres (15-35 feet) of residential areas — a proposal slammed by environmentalists as not going far enough.

The head of the Greens group in Lille city council, Stephane Baly, said the cities’ aim was “to make the government cave in”.

The current bans to not cover some 600 hectares (1,500 acres) of land in Paris, according to Penelope Komites, an MP of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s Socialist Party.

“We have to protect our city’s inhabitants,” she said.

France growing green

Dozens of small towns and villages, where houses abut fields, have already issued decrees cracking down on the use of chemical sprays.

The movement began in earnest in May 18 in the Brittany village of Langouet where a mayor banned the use of pesticides within 150 metres of a home or business.

A court later invalidated the ban, ruling that only the state has the power to ban pesticides for public health reasons.

But Mayor Daniel Cueff had by then already won legions of admirers, with villages and towns, from the Normandy town of Val-de-Reuil to the wealthy Paris suburb of Sceaux, following suit.

The bans reflect the growing concern among French citizens, particularly in rural areas, over the continued use of the weedkilling chemical glyphosate, found in herbicides such as Monsanto’s Roundup.

France is one of the EU’s heaviest users of the herbicide, which is widely used by farmers to spray crops even though the World Health Organization has described it as “probably carcinogenic”, a finding disputed by Monsanto.

The impact of chemical pollution has slowly risen up the political agenda in France as voters grow increasingly concerned about environmental degradation and climate change.

The issue is expected to be among voters’ top priorities when they go to the polls in local elections next year.

Tanzanian Arrested With Tusks From 117 Elephants

In this file photo taken on March 20, 2015 an elephant splashes at sunset in the waters of the Chobe river in Botswana Chobe National Park, in the north eastern of the country.

 

A Tanzanian man has been arrested after authorities found a stash of ivory buried under his house, estimated to come from around 117 elephants, authorities said Thursday.

The suspect, who had been sought by authorities since 2016, had in his possession 338 pieces of elephant tusk, and 75 whole tusks, the minister of natural resources, Hamisi Kigwangalla, said in a statement.

He was arrested along with seven alleged accomplices, and the tusks are believed to have come from Tanzania and Mozambique.

“Until his arrest on Tuesday, he was unable to move this stock, because we have become extremely vigilant,” said Kigwangalla.

READ ALSO: Two Aid Workers Killed In ‘Ambush’ In Western Ethiopia

“I am giving a period of grace of one month for any person in possession of elephant tusks to hand them in to authorities without facing prosecution.”

Since 2016, around 1,000 poachers, some heavily armed, have been arrested in Tanzania whose elephant population plunged 60 percent between 2009 and 2014 due to poaching.

In February a Tanzanian court sentenced Chinese citizen Yang Fenlan — dubbed the “Ivory Queen” — to 15 years in jail for her role in trafficking tusks from more than 400 elephants.

Poaching has seen the population of African elephants fall by 110,000 over the past decade to just 415,000 animals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The slaughter is being fuelled especially by demand in Asia, where ivory is used for jewellery and ornamentation.

Brazil’s Bolsonaro Fuels Spat With Macron Over Amazon Fires

 

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday repeated a demand for French leader Emmanuel Macron to withdraw recent remarks, accusing France and Germany of “buying” the Latin American country’s sovereignty with Amazon fire aid.

Bolsonaro’s latest comments came during an escalating diplomatic spat between Brazil and Europe that threatens to torpedo a major trade deal. They also throw into doubt whether Brazil is still willing to accept the G7’s offer of $20 million to help combat fires raging in the world’s largest rainforest.

Bolsonaro said Tuesday morning he was open to discussing the offer from the G7 only if Macron retracted his “insults” against him.

But by evening Bolsonaro appeared to have changed his tune and dropped the demand. His spokesman told reporters that Brazil would accept foreign aid on the condition that it controlled the money.

“Only after he withdraws what he said… we can talk again,” Bolsonaro told reporters Wednesday, referring to Macron, after holding talks with Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera on the Amazon crisis.

“Germany and in particular France are buying our sovereignty,” Bolsonaro said.

“It seems that $20 million is our price. Brazil doesn’t have a price of 20 million or 20 trillion — it’s the same thing for us.”

Bolsonaro said Brazil would accept bilateral aid to fight the fires, raising doubts over whether the country would take up the offer from the Group of Seven, which consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States.

He accepted Chile’s offer of four aircraft to fight the blazes. “We all love the Amazon, but the nine Amazon countries… have sovereignty” over it, Pinera said.

Bolsonaro’s latest remarks make him and his government appear “increasingly unhinged,” said Robert Muggah, from a Rio de Janeiro think tank, the Igarape Institute.

“There don’t appear to be any adults left in the room with the ability or inclination to restrain his worst impulses,” Muggah said.

No liars

Macron and Bolsonaro have repeatedly clashed in the past week.

The French leader accused Bolsonaro of lying to him about his commitments on climate change and vowed to block the EU-Mercosur trade deal involving Brazil that took decades to negotiate.

On Monday, Macron rebuked the “extraordinarily rude” Bolsonaro after the Brazilian leader personally expressed approval for a supporter’s Facebook post implying that Brigitte Macron was not as attractive as his own first lady, Michelle Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro has hit back, accusing Macron of treating Brazil like “a colony or no-man’s land.”

The Brazilian leader has since removed the comment from social media to avoid misinterpretation, his spokesman Otavio Rego Barros told reporters Wednesday.

Vice President Hamilton Mourao — widely considered to be a moderate voice in Bolsonaro’s government — also weighed in publicly for the first time.

In an opinion piece published in the conservative Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, Mourao criticized an “international campaign” against Brazil and said the country “does not lie and nor does its president, its government and its institutions.”

The global outcry sparked by the Amazon fires has alarmed industries in Latin America’s largest economy. They fear potential boycotts of their products.

Global shoe and clothing brands have threatened to suspend leather purchases from Brazil over the country’s environmental policies in the forest, according to a document sent by the Brazil Tanneries Industry Center to the government.

Fires are also ravaging neighboring Bolivia where President Evo Morales and his rival in upcoming elections have suspended campaigning to deal with the blazes.

Bolsonaro on Wednesday supported Peru and Colombia’s proposal for an emergency Amazon summit in September so regional countries could coordinate a strategy to protect the vast rainforest.

The latest official figures show 1,044 new fires were started Monday and Tuesday, taking the total this year to 83,329 — the highest since 2010 — even as military aircraft and troops help battle the blazes.

More than half of the fires are in the massive Amazon basin.

In the hard-hit northwestern state of Rondonia, thick smoke has choked the capital Porto Velho as fires blacken swaths of the rainforest.

But the defense ministry insists the fires are under control. It has published satellite data it says show a reduction in the number of fires in the nine states spanning the Amazon.

Brazil President Says France’s Macron Has ‘Colonialist Mentality’ Over Amazon Fires

 

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro blasted his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron Thursday as having a “colonialist mentality” for rallying G-7 countries to address wildfires raging in the Amazon rainforest.

“The French president’s suggestion that Amazon issues be discussed at the G-7 without participation by the countries in the region evokes a colonialist mentality that is out of place in the 21st century,” Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter.

Macron is using an issue that is a domestic one for Brazil and other regional countries for personal political gain, Brazil’s leader said, calling Macron’s tone “sensationalist.”

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Macron tweeted earlier Thursday that fires burning in the Amazon amount to an international crisis and should be discussed as a top priority when the G-7 countries meet this weekend in France.

“Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rainforest — the lungs which produce 20 percent of our planet’s oxygen — is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!” Macron said on Twitter.

Bolsonaro noted that Macron’s tweet included a photo of a fire in the Amazon that is at least 16 years old and has been seen often in recent days on social media posts about the fires.