RING THE ALARM
Brazil is dealing with a record number of fires.
Whoa. What's going on?
The South American country has had more than 74,000 fires this year, an 84% increase from last year. That's the most since the country started keeping tabs in 2013. More than half of those fires have been in the Amazon, which is an especially big problem for the environment.
And that's because…
It's crucial in the fight against climate change. The Amazon is the world's largest rainforest (about half the size of the US), and home to about 10% of the world's plant and animal species. It's sometimes referred to as the planet's lungs since it produces about 20% of the world's oxygen. And without it, climate change could move faster.
What's going on with the fires?
Before we get into that, let's rewind back to January, when Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took office. He campaigned on exploring economic opportunities in the Amazon – something that got him support from farmers. And ever since taking office, he's rolled back protections for the environment – including giving less money to Brazil's environmental protection agency and making it harder for the agency to hand out fines. During the past few months, deforestation has skyrocketed in Brazil.
So that's to blame?
Well, a lot of these fires were reportedly started by loggers, who may have burned the land for things like agricultural use and let those fires get out of hand. And the fires have been going on for a couple weeks. Critics of Bolsonaro – including NGOs and environmentalists – blame him, saying his policies have made it easier for loggers to do this. But if you ask Bolsonaro, he'd say 'blame it on the NGOs.' Without providing evidence, he said he thinks they might have caused the fires to make his government look bad. Interesting to note: the head of the country's space agency was fired after his agency reported that deforestation increased 88% this June compared to a year earlier.
Bolsonaro has only been in office for about eight months and his changes to environmental protections are already starting to show. Environmentalists and countries worldwide are worried about the danger of prioritizing business and development over the environment. And these fires don't seem to be going away anytime soon. Here's how you can help.
What the Trump admin is still tackling…
Immigration. Yesterday, the admin said it'll allow migrant families who illegally cross the US-Mexico border to be held indefinitely. It gets rid of the 20-day limit for detaining migrant children that was set over two decades ago under the federal court settlement known as the Flores agreement. This change is all part of President Trump's plan to tackle illegal immigration. See: last year's "zero tolerance" policy. More recently, the admin's gotten pushback for the conditions at some migrant detention facilities. This move to end the Flores agreement needs to be approved by a federal judge, and it's expected to face legal challenges.
Skimm This: Our latest podcast ep goes into the Flores agreement and how people have been reacting to the new rule.
Who's taking on gun control…
March for Our Lives. Yesterday, the group founded by survivors of the Parkland, Florida shooting proposed new gun control measures. This comes after the deadly shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio earlier this month that killed a total of 31 people. Here's what the group is calling for: a national licensing and registry system, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, a mandatory gun buyback program, upping the minimum age to buy a gun to 21, and creating a new government position to oversee gun violence prevention. The group called on 2020 presidential candidates to endorse the plan, and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) became the first to do so and urged other candidates to do the same.
What's saying 'America, we have a problem'…
The Congressional Budget Office. It says the US budget deficit will hit $1 trillion for the 2020 fiscal year – two years earlier than expected. And by 2029, we could reach the highest level of debt since World War II. You can send your thank-you cards to the Hill: this is mostly because of the GOP tax cuts and a bipartisan budget deal.
$: What's money got to do with it? Here's what more federal debt could mean for your wallet.
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