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Hundreds of new fires in Brazil as Amazon outrage grows

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Hundreds of new fires are raging in the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil, official data showed Saturday, amid growing international pressure on President Jair Bolsonaro to put out the worst blazes in years.

The fires in the world’s largest rainforest have triggered a global outcry and are dominating the G7 meeting in Biarritz in southern France.

Official figures show 78,383 forest fires were recorded in Brazil so far this year, the highest number of any year since 2013, and experts say the clearing of land during the months-long dry season to make way for crops or grazing has accelerated the deforestation.

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More than half of the fires are in the Amazon, and some 1,663 new fires were ignited between Thursday and Friday, according to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

The new data came a day after Bolsonaro authorized the deployment of the military to fight the fires and crack down on criminal activities in the region.

The blazes have stirred outrage globally, with thousands protesting in Brazil and Europe on Friday.

Earlier this week, Bolsonaro blamed the fires on non-government organizations, suggesting they deliberately started them after their funding was cut.

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The growing crisis threatens to torpedo a blockbuster trade deal between the European Union and South American countries, including Brazil, that took 20 years to negotiate.

EU Council president Donald Tusk told reporters at the G7 on Saturday that it was hard to imagine European countries ratifying a trade pact with the Mercosur bloc as long as Brazil fails to curb the fires ravaging the Amazon, which is considered to be the “lungs of the planet” and crucial to keeping climate change in check.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who has taken the lead in piling pressure on Bolsonaro over the fires, had earlier accused the far-right leader Bolsonaro of lying to him about Brazil’s stance on climate change.

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Environmental specialists say the fires have been accompanied by increasing deforestation in the Amazon region, which in July quadrupled compared to the same month in 2018, according to data from INPE.

Bolsonaro has previously attacked the institute, describing its data as lies and instigating the sacking of its head.

On Friday, he insisted that the fires should not be used as an excuse to punish Brazil.

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“There are forest fires all over the world, and this cannot be used as a pretext for possible international sanctions,” Bolsonaro said.


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Beto O’Rourke looks to reactivate suburban strength in Texas to help Democrats win

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The photo line for Beto O’Rourke here Saturday afternoon quickly turned into something of a reunion.

“Hey, I know who you are!" a characteristically sweat-drenched O'Rourke told one supporter. After talking to another, O'Rourke yelled out to an aide: "Hey, someone who worked on the campaign wants to be plugged in again!"

The vibe was similar a day later in Plano, where O'Rourke rallied in front of signs reading, "Welcome to Beto Country," serving up nostalgia from his near-miss loss to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz last year. He said the Senate race was the "only reason" he got to run for president, touting the support he built in Collin, Denton, Tarrant and Dallas counties before getting drowned out by cheers.

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2020 Election

Corey Lewandowski may use Judiciary Committee hearing to launch New Hampshire Senate run

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Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski will appear before the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday to answer questions about incidents outlined in special counsel Robert Mueller's report. But he may use the appearance as a way to launch his New Hampshire Senate run.

Axios reported Sunday that the former top aide to President Donald Trump is eager for a fiery exchange between him and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and other Democrats.

“Corey will use [the hearing] as part of the campaign. He will be confrontational to the Democrats. He will be totally loyal to Trump. And he will be playing to the right-wing of the party who need to unite behind him in a primary," said former New Hampshire Attorney General Thomas Rath.

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General Motors auto workers call strike in US

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The United Auto Workers union called a nationwide strike against General Motors Sunday, with some 46,000 members set to walk off the job beginning at midnight amid an impasse in contract talks.

The decision, which the Wall Street Journal described as the first major stoppage at GM in more than a decade, came a day after the manufacturer's four-year contract with workers expired without an agreement on a replacement.

Local union leaders met in Detroit "and opted to strike at midnight on Sunday," the UAW said on its Twitter account.

"This is our last resort," Terry Dittes, the union's lead negotiator with GM, told a news conference after the meeting. "We are standing up for the fundamental rights of working people in this country."

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