In the last year there have been more than 74,000 fires in Brazil which is approx. 80% more fires than the previous year. Eighty percent! Now, it’s true that Brazil is a large place and fires occur. Fair enough. What’s particularly out of the ordinary is that more than 50% of those fires are happening in the Amazon Rainforest.  Which is bad. Obviously, the rainforest is of huge import to local inhabitants but also is of significant import to the world as a leading supplier of fish, meat, root vegetables and fruit. And, it’s true that the rainforest does supply oxygen into the atmosphere but it’s not quite the “20% of the world’s oxygen comes from the Amazon,” as many recent new sites and celebrities claim. I’ll let National Geographic explain more about that in their recent, “Why the Amazon doesn’t really produce 20% of the world’s oxygen: Of the many important reasons to worry about the thousands of fires raging in the world’s largest rainforest, oxygen supply is not one of them.” 

So … why so many fires this year? 

Global warming perhaps, but it does seem that a lot of them are man made. “Slash and burn” deforestation, which is the practice of cutting down forests, drying the area out and then setting the area on fire in order to make room for … other things (but usually pastures for cattle as Brazil is one of, if not THE top exporter of beef) - is the main reason for the fires. And, as anyone with common sense and reason can tell you - sometimes even “controlled fires” get out of control. Hence the mess the Amazon is currently in. 

While it’s true that wildfires happen every year, this year there have been SO many wildfires in the Amazon that the G-7 even offered to assist. The G-7 being the Group of Seven, which is the international intergovernmental economic organization consisting of the seven largest IMF-described advanced economies in the world: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

So, the G-7 has the resources to assist but, in a really dumb plot twist, Jair Bolsonaro, the President of Brazil, said he would only accept aid from the G-7 -  if the President of France, Emmanuel Macron apologized to him. 

“Wait. What? Apologize to him? For what?” - Was my first thought. 

Well, I guess there was some social media stupidity that happened and fragile male egos were bruised. You see, on the public Facebook page of President Bolsonaro, a supporter posted a meme comparing the wives of the two men implying that the President of France was jealous that President Bolsonaro’s wife was, basically - younger and hotter, and then claimed Macron (of France) was jealous. 

BUT THEN - the Bolsonaro account responded to the post with, “Hah! Don’t humiliate the guy!”  

Which led President Macron (of France) to respond with: 

"He had extremely disrespectful comments towards my wife. What can I tell you? It's sad. It's sad for him and for Brazilians. I think that Brazilian women are probably ashamed to read that their president has done that. I think that Brazilians, a great people, are a bit ashamed of this behavior. As I have a lot of friendship and respect for the Brazilian people, I hope that they will quickly have a president who is up to the job."

Well, to be honest - that’s a pretty fair response but … as I previously mentioned - it sounds like Brazil’s President had his fragile male ego wounded which led him to turn down G-7 aid to help his burning rainforest unless the President of France apologized!

Sigh.

Do you ever just kind of wish that, I don’t know … adults were in charge? 

Well, guess what? There are clearly adults advising the President of Brazil because they convinced him to change his mind - Brazil WILL accept G-7 aid to combat the fires which amounts to $20 million in aid and will not do so on the condition of the President of France apologizing. 

This is not the first time Macron and Bolsonaro have clashed and it probably won’t be the last, but at least this time, the good guys one. The "good guys" being, “whomever assists with the Amazon wildfires.”  Let’s hope the good guys can now cut those fires down.

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Notre Dame fire: Updated

A huge fire has engulfed one of France's most beloved landmarks - Notre Dame Cathedral, and it sounds like local firefighters are not sure they can save the building. So far, the roof has collapsed and the next hour or two appear to be critical in determining if the building itself can be saved.

No one is exactly sure how the fire started but officials claimed it could have been linked to recent renovation work. As of yet, the city is calling the fire an “accident.”

Construction of the cathedral began in 1160 and was largely completed by 1260, though it has been modified frequently in the following centuries. That means for more than 800 years Notre Dame has watched over Paris. And it’s not just the building at risk - there are irreplaceable pieces of art and one of a kind antiquities inside the building. All of which will be gone if the blaze cannot be controlled. The interior Minister of France tweeted that 400 firefighters are on the scene, meanwhile thousands of Parisians have turned out in the streets watching in stunned disbelief as the disaster unfolds.

This is a developing story.

Update: I just read that emergency services said they had salvaged as much artwork as possible, reporting that “nearly all of it” was able to be removed and saved.

Update: It sounds like a fire official has told local Paris news that the Cathedral has been saved from "total destruction," and "while it will take hours to control the blaze, two of the towers have been saved."

Update: The main structure was saved but firefighters were unable to save the central spire and the majority of the 13th century oak roof was largely destroyed.

Update: The Rose Windows and the Great Organ both appear to be largely undamaged. 

Update: The majority of the recovered artwork will be taken to storage facilities owned by the Louvre for restoration and protection.  

 

 

 

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Thirteen people were killed and two are still missing (and presumed dead) after an irate female passenger attacked a bus driver. The driver hit back but lost control of the bus. It veered into oncoming traffic, smashed another car and plunged off a bridge into the Yangtze River in China.

Police released dash cam footage from another car that caught the moment the bus went off the bridge, as well as footage from inside the bus right before the crash. The video is as crazy as it is sad.

Witness that got off the bus before the crash, told investigators that the woman was angry because she had missed her stop. The bus driver advised her to get off at another stop and walk back. She refused. A fight ensued which led to the crash.

The video is intense. I mean, this is (probably) an accident. A negligent accident to be sure, but probably an accident. But if you watch that video it really, really looks like the driver just turns the wheel to the left and takes the bus off the bridge. Most likely, he was distracted by the woman slapping him in the face with her cell phone, but still, I can’t stop noticing the driver actively cranking the wheel to the left. And then, he doesn’t appear to be shocked when the bus goes off the bridge.

The woman, identified by her surname of Liu and the driver with his surname of Ran were both thought to be alive at first and authorities said they would prosecute both of them for endangering the lives of the passengers. Now, we know that everyone on board died including the irate passenger and the driver.

As a really odd aside, the crash brought out a wave of sexist comments. Notice if you will, the red car that gets hit by the bus as it swerves. Well, that specific red car was driven by a woman. And police and media received a large amount of complaints that the woman driving the red car - caused the accident. And therefore all women drivers should be banned.

 

WTF?  

Anyway. The woman driving the red car suffered from minor injuries, was taken to the hospital and released. The police, obviously, do not think she did anything wrong.

Chinese police didn’t really comment on the sexist attacks on the innocent driver but released the following statement about the crash: “Fifteen fresh lives have vanished and the lessons are extremely painful. May the dead rest in peace and the living be warned.”

The crash in China made me a little depressed and so I searched the web for good stories about buses drivers. And I found one. Over in France, a bus driver pulled up to a stop where a man in a wheelchair was waiting. The man in the wheelchair has been identified as Francois Le Berre, who has multiple sclerosis.

Anyway, the bus pulls over and the driver turns to the other passengers and asks them to make room so he can get Francois on the bus. But every single passenger on the bus refused to make room for the man in the wheelchair. So the bus driver stood up and told everyone to get the F off his bus. A few folks grumbled about it but they complied and got off the bus. Then the driver said to Francois, “You and your helper can get on the bus. Everyone else can wait for the next one.”  

And that’s what happened. The French driver is universally being praised on social media. And I have to agree. Well done.  

 

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