Fire in the Amazon

Man-made fires have been raging in the Amazon rainforests for many weeks. Although the fires started months ago, the Amazon’s dry season has made their intensity much greater. The fires were started by farmers looking to gain more land for growing crops and grazing. This alarming rate of deforestation has been fostered by Brazil’s newly elected president Jair Bolsonaro. Mr. Bolsonaro has relaxed enforcement of environmental protection laws, hoping farmers would be able to increase their production. While the fires may be helpful to Brazilian farmers, they pose a significant threat to the rest of the world. The Amazon is home to 40 percent of the world’s rainforests and produces 20 percent of the world’s oxygen. Continuous deforestation in the region could mean an increase in the already high rate of warming of the climate.

In late August, the leaders in attendance at the G7 summit have offered 20 million dollars in aid to nations fighting the fires. Many have criticized that the sum offered is inadequate. More importantly, Mr. Bolsonaro has initially refused the aid, claiming the G7 nations are treating Brazil as a colony. Later, he reluctantly agreed to accept it, due to pressure from other nations.

Word Cited

“Deathwatch.” The Economist, vol. 432, no. 9154, 3 Aug. 2019, p. 7.

“On the Brink.” The Economist, vol. 432, no. 9154, 3 Aug. 2019, pp. 14-16.

Scutti, Susan. “Here’s What We Know about the Fires in The Amazon Rainforest.” CNN, 24 Aug. 2019, http://www.cnn.com/2019/08/23/americas/amazon-wildfires-411/index.html. Accessed 15 Sept. 2019.

Smith-Schoenwalder, Cecelia. “G7 Summit Agrees to $20 Million Aid Package for Amazon Rainforest Fires.” US New and World Report, 26 Aug. 2019, http://www.usnews.com/news/world-report/articles/2019-08-26/g7-summit-agrees-to-20-million-aid-package-for-amazon-rainforest-fires.

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Britain and Brexit

Britain experienced another change in Prime Minister last month. Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson gained the position by winning the election for leader of the party (currently the dominant party in the nation). Mr. Johnson is the third Prime Minister the U.K. has had since it voted to leave the European Union in June 2016.

Brexit is by far the biggest issue Mr. Johnson is facing. When campaigning, he promised Britain would leave the EU by the October 31st deadline, with or without a deal. Doing so has essentially dug a hole for himself. Mr. Johnson’s predesecor, Theresa May, failed to do so in her two years in office, leading to her resignation. Mr. Johnson’s motivation for renegotiating a deal with the EU is to avert having a hard (high security) border with Ireland. By electing to withdraw from the union, Britain could lose the easy mobility between nations that EU members enjoy. The EU has stated the deal under Theresa May is final and that there will be no renegotiation, so Mr. Johnson is facing a daunting task.

Mr. Johnson has been criticized by opponents for his willingness to undermine democracy. In the event that a deal does not seem likely, he has not eliminated the option to suspend parliament. If this were to happen, the deadline would pass and Britain would withdraw from the EU, and Parliament would have no influence on the outcome. If no deal were to be reached or the previously stated scenario occurs, the opposing party may call for a vote of no confidence to oust Mr. Johnson from office. However, this would require members of his own party to do the same, as the conservative party holds the majority in Parliament. Mr. Johnson’s job ultimately depends on his ability to negotiate a new deal. He has been in office for under a month, but whether or not he will still be in office come 2020 remains a mystery.

Works Cited

“Britain Finds Its Bojo.” The Economist, vol. 432, no. 9153, July-Aug. 2019, pp. 48-49.

“Here We Go.” The Economist, vol. 432, no. 9153, July-Aug. 2019, p. 7.

Lawless, Jill, and Danica Kirka. “Boris Johnson to Take Office, Aiming to Win over Doubters.” Associated Press, 24 July 2019, http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/boris-johnson-to-take-office-aiming-to-win-over-doubters/ar-AAEMSDd?item=delivery_service_enabled%3afalse%2cpersonalization_enabled%3afalse.”No-deal

Brexit Preparations ‘Top Priority’, Boris Johnson Says.” BBC News, 9 Aug. 2019. BBC News, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-49295556. Accessed 11 Aug. 2019.

Sudan: The Neglected Civil War

For nearly all of 2019 so far, Sudan has been engulfed in violent conflict and a resultant humanitarian crisis. In recent months, hundreds have been raped, injured, or killed, with many bodies of the dead being discarded into the Nile River. The government has cut the internet and mobile phone connection throughout the country, making it difficult to spread news of the crisis. Additionally, the country is running low on food and supplies and UN humanitarian aid is being blocked from entering the borders of the nation.

The conflict began in December 2018 when the now President Omar al-Bashir, the country’s former authoritarian leader for 30 years, ordered that bread and fuel rations be cut to prevent economic collapse. This reignited years of discontent among the Sudanese people with the regime and starting the protests. The regime is widely hated by the Sudanese people for its enforcement of Sharia law (strict Islamic law) and its reputation for being among the most corrupt nations in the world. Months of protest, during which protesters were often subject to gunfire and tear gas, resulted in the removal of al-Bashir from power. However, that was far from the end for Sudan on its road to freedom. The military, consisting of a council of seven generals, took control of the government, but not all sides believe in its legitimacy. Civilian protests have been lead by the Sudanese Professionals Association (mostly doctors and lawyers), but many others from different occupations have participated. Some of their protests have become violent. The military attacked protesters in early June, leaving 30 dead and an additional 100 people dead in the following weeks. While both sides agree their should be democracy, the civilians want a three year transition period to ensure the former regime is completely dismantled. However, the military has called for elections in nine months, ensuring the former regime continues. On July 5th, the military agreed to the creation a military and civilian joint council, with a legislative council also to be created in three months. Whether the military will hold itself accountable to the agreement has yet to be determined.

The conflict in Sudan is notable for the attention it received on social media during the months of protest. Many young people on social media have attempted to spread awareness of the events unfolding in Sudan, claiming Western media has failed to do so. The movement has attracted positive and negative attention. A social media account claiming it will donate one meal to people in Sudan for each time its post is shared emerged, but was later exposed as an illegitimate charity. Although the account user stole attention away from the issue at hand, it led to increased awareness about how to identify false charities. Personally, I knew little about the conflict in Sudan before the social media movement, which inspired me to write this article.

Works Cited

Abuelgasim, Fay, and Noha Elhennawy. “Both Sides in Sudan Political Crisis Hail Power-sharing Deal.” AP News, 5 July 2019. AP News, http://www.apnews.com/97dff45b35ac49c0bfe4d3c68bd68bbb.

“Sudan Crisis: What You Need to Know.” BBC News, 13 June 2019. BBC News, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-48511226. Accessed 6 July 2019.

Walsh, Declan. “Bullets, Tear Gas, and Love: Romance Blooms in the Midst of Sudan Protest.” The New York Times, 3 May 2019. The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/03/world/africa/sudan-protests-khartoum.html?action=click&module=RelatedCoverage&pgtype=Article&region=Footer. Accessed 6 July 2019.

Yuhas, Alan. “100 Killed in Sudan and Dozens of Bodies Are Pulled from Nile.” The New York Times, 4 June 2019. The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/04/world/africa/sudan-war-facts-history.html. Accessed 6 July 2019.

Regime Change in Venezuela

Years of conflict between the Venezuelan people and their authoritarian government, led by Nicolás Maduro, has culminated into a standoff between two opposing governments. The Maduro regime was recently challenged by Parliament leader Juan Guaidó, who substantiated his claim as President of Venezuela through a clause in the constitution. The clause states the National Assembly leader becomes president in the event the nation falls into a “power vacuum”. Mr. Guaidó believes Venezuela’s current political climate warrants his claim, and he has been recognized as president by the United States and multiple European democracies. After being acknowledged as ruler, Guaidó has ordered members of the national guard loyal to Maduro to defect. For a while, it appeared he had the support of the military and Maduro would be overthrown, but the tides turned in late April. The national guard stayed loyal to him and troops and other supporters of Guaidó were forced into hiding, taking refuge in the embassies of Brazil and Spain. Maduro was prepared to flee to Cuba, a socialist nation and ally of Venezuela, but was encouraged to stay by the Russian government. In the following days, Maduro took advantage of the failed coup against him to denounce his opponents, claiming Venezuela wants peace.

The United States is weighing its options for ousting the current regime. It plans to pressure Russia and Cuba into cutting its support for Maduro, but if all else fails, would consider military intervention. Ultimately, the standoff between Guaidó and his democratic supporters and Maduro and his socialist support block is growing more tense with no end in sight.

Works Cited

Nugent, Ciara. “Who is Juan Guaido, the Opposition Leader Trump Just Recognized as Venezuela’s President?” Time, 23 Jan. 2019, time.com/5503040/juan-guaido-venezuela-democracy/. Accessed 18 June 2019.

“Running Out of Options.” The Economist, vol. 431, no. 9142, 11 May 2019, pp. 27-28.

Sequera, Vivian, et al. “Venezuela’s Guaido Calls for Uprising but Opposition Loyal to Maduro for Now.” Reuters, 30 Apr. 2019, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics/venezuelas-guaido-calls-for-uprising-but-military-loyal-to-maduro-for-now-idUSKCN1S60ZQ. Accessed 18 June 2019.

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Election in India

India is currently holding its election for Prime Minister, the highest government position in the country. Current Prime Minister Narendra Modi is up for re-election primarily against Rahul Gandhi. In this election, 900 million of India’s 1.3 billion people will determine the outcome, the greatest number in the nation’s history. Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), currently holds a majority in parliament. However, Gandhi’s party, the Indian National Congress, has favorable odds to gain the majority due to the unpopular actions of Modi and his party during his five year term. The greatest black mark on Modi’s resume came in 2016, when he announced the demonetization of all 500 and 1000 rupee notes to prevent the influx of counterfeit currency into the economy. However, the decision caused great panic, as people waited for hours in lines at banks to exchange their notes before the deadline. Banks could not meet this demand, creating a cash shortage that would hinder the country’s economic growth for the next fiscal year. In addition, the BJP party is known for being a Hindu nationalist party and intolerant of Muslims and other minority religions, potentially repelling the votes of 20 percent of the nation. Despite these facts, Modi still has the loyalty of his party, whose members believe Gandhi does not have the right to lead India on part of his Italian heritage (His mother, Sonia Gandhi, is Italian).

Distinguishing this election from past elections, in addition to the high number of eligible voters, is the impact of technology. In 2014, the time of the last election, about 100 million smartphones were present in the country. Now, there are over 400 million. On those smartphones, Indians use WhatsApp as their primary communication app. Political parties have used it to spread propaganda, taking advantage of many Indians lack of skepticism of news. Also, these same parties have created bots to flood twitter with hashtags favoring their candidate and bashing others. The true effect will be revealed when election results are announced on May 23rd.  

Work Cited

“Phoney War.” The Economist, 13 Apr. 2019, p. 40.

Sengar, Shweta. “What makes 2019 elections different.” India Times, 16 Apr. 2019. http://www.indiatimes.com, http://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/900-million-voters-including-38-000-transgenders-1-million-polling-stations-what-makes-2019-elections-different-363562.html.

Accessed 25 Apr. 2019.World population review. 1 Apr. 2019, worldpopulationreview.com/countries/india-population/.