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Brazil turns down $22m aid to fight Amazon wildfires

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President Jair Bolsonaro Monday, turned down an aid offered by G7 countries to fight raging wildfires in the Amazon.

Brazil, it was learnt, has been gripped by massive blazes ravaging the world’s largest rainforest, prompting countries from across the world to express sympathy and support to combat the crisis.

Although other South American countries within Amazon paths are also fighting wildfires, Brazil alone has seen over 72,000 fire outbreaks in 2019, with an 84% increase on the same period a year earlier, the country’s National Institute for Space Research said. More than half of the wildfires were in the Amazon, which falls mostly in Brazil.

Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most-populous city and commercial centre, has also been challenged by the fires, raising concerns that the rainforest is giving way to land-clearing operations and other activities intended to transform the land for agricultural use.

But experts at the University of Maryland in the United States said farmers clearing land for next year’s farming searching had contributed to the inferno, which is now affecting over three million species of plants and animals and one million indigenous people.

Bolsonaro deployed 44,000 soldiers to fight the fires on Friday, insisting the country was capable of handling the crisis.

As part of efforts to combat the crisis, leaders of the G7 — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US — meeting in Biarritz, France, announced a $22m donation on Monday to procure new fire-fighting planes and other equipment for Brazil.

But Brazil has not shown its willingness to accept the support, with a top official saying Europe would have a better need for the fund.

“We appreciate (the offer), but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe,” Onyx Lorenzoni, chief of staff to Mr Bolsonaro, told Brazil G1 news website.

“Macron cannot even avoid a foreseeable fire in a church that is a world heritage site. What does he intend to teach our country?” Mr Lorenzoni added, in an apparent jibe at France over the fire in April that devastated the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

The Brazilian presidency later confirmed the position of Mr Lorenzoni, the Associated Press reported. But the rejection contradicted an earlier statement by Brazilian environment minister, Ricardo Salles, who previously told reporters they had welcomed the G7 funding to fight the fires that have swept across 950,000 hectares.

But after a cabinet meeting, the Brazilian government changed course. “Brazil is a democratic, free nation that never had colonialist and imperialist practices, as perhaps is the objective of the Frenchman Macron,” Mr Lorenzoni said.

Tensions have risen between France and Brazil after Mr Macron tweeted that the fires burning in the Amazon basin amounted to an international crisis and should be discussed as a top priority at the G7 summit.

The Brazilian president dismissed his French counterpart’s suggestion as a display of “colonialist mentality.”

Amazon is widely dubbed as the “lungs of the world” for its role in absorbing carbon dioxide which it then turns into oxygen.

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BREAKING: About six injured in U.S. school shooting

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At least six people were injured during a Thursday shooting at a Southern California high school in the U.S., CNN reports.

The report indicates that three of the victims are in critical condition.

According to the report, the L.A County Sheriff’s Department is responding to a shooting at Saugus High School, about 30 miles of north of Los Angeles.

The gunman who carried out the shooting has also been reported dead.

The authorities focused on evacuating the students from the school premises after the shooting.

Thursday’s incident joins a growing list of gun violence in the U.S.

Details later…

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Oil falls as U.S.-China trade deal prospects nosedive

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Oil prices fell on Wednesday as prospects for a trade deal between the United States and China faded, weighing on the outlook for the global economy and energy demand.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that the two countries were close to finalising a trade deal, but he fell short of providing a date or venue for the signing ceremony, disappointing investors.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 edged down 32 cents, or 0.5 per cent, to 61.74 dollars a barrel by 0758 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude CLc1 was at 56.54 per cent, down 26 cents or 0.5 per cent.

A forecast by the International Energy Agency for slower global oil demand growth post-2025 also weighed on the market.

Global oil demand is expected to grow by 1 million barrels per day (bpd) on average to 2025, but is forecast to slow to 100,000 bpd a year from then on as fuel efficiency improves and more electric vehicles hit the road, the IEA said in its annual World Energy Outlook for the period to 2040.

Even as U.S. production growth slows from the breakneck pace of recent years, the world’s top oil producer will still account for 85 per cent of the increase in global oil output to 2030, and for 30 per cent of the increase in gas, the agency said.

The share of global oil production by members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia is seen falling to 47 per cent for much of the next decade, a level not seen since the 1980s.

“The effects have been striking, with U.S. shale now acting as a strong counterweight to efforts to manage oil markets,” IEA’s Executive Director Fatih Birol said.

In the United States, crude oil inventories were forecast to have risen for a third straight week last week, while refined products inventories likely declined, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Tuesday.

Five analysts polled by Reuters estimated, on average, that crude inventories rose around 1.6 million barrels in the week to Nov. 8.

ANZ analysts said the prospects for U.S. crude exports had turned bleak after shipping rates jumped last month, causing inventories to stay above both last year’s level and the five-year average.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) is scheduled to release its data for the latest week at 4:30 p.m. EST (2130 GMT) on Wednesday, while the weekly report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is due at 11:00 a.m. EST on Thursday.

Separately, the 590,000 barrel-per-day Keystone oil pipeline that transports Canadian heavy crude to the United States has restarted operations following an oil spill two weeks ago, a U.S. regulator said on Tuesday.

Traders are now eyeing next month’s meeting between the OPEC and Russia to determine if the group would deepen output cuts to prop up prices.

“We believe the production curbs could be extended beyond Q1 2020, although deeper cuts are unlikely,” ANZ analysts said.

(Reuters/NAN)

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Britain plans to raise minimum national living wage backed by review

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Britain’s plan to raise the minimum wage to two-thirds of median earnings, taking it to 10.50 pounds (13.58 dollars) an hour, was endorsed by an independent review on Monday that found setting a floor on pay had a negligible effect on job creation.

Companies are now likely to see wage costs rise after December’s snap national election whatever the outcome.

Conservative Finance Minister Sajid Javid said in September he would increase the National Living Wage (NLW) to the new target by 2024, provided economic conditions allowed, and expand its reach to all workers over the age of 21, down from 25 now.

The opposition Labour Party said it would raise the minimum wage to 10 pounds (12.93 dollars) an hour immediately if it wins power.

An independent review commissioned by the government from economics professor Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts Amherst examined the impact of minimum wages in Germany, the United States, Britain and other countries.

“Based on the overall evidence – with a special emphasis on the recent, high quality, evaluations of the NLW and other more ambitious policies internationally – my report concludes that there is room for exploring a higher NLW in the UK up to two-thirds of the median wage,” he said.

“It will also be important to empirically evaluate and recalibrate any such ambitious policy based on new evidence down the road.”

Javid said, “The evidence is clear that our approach is the right one.”

But Labour said Javid’s pledge “was an insult to our hard working people”.

“It’s a derisory offer which people will have to wait years for,” Labour’s finance spokesman John McDonnell said.

“Labour will immediately introduce a real living wage of 10 pounds an hour for everyone 16 and over, outstripping every publicity stunt figure the Tories invent.”

(Reuters/NAN)

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