Things That Matter

To Pay Off Billions In Debt, Ecuador Is Going To Extremes

In spite of the incredible consequences, Ecuador is auctioning off 3 million pristine Amazonian hectares to oil companies in China to help reduce the country’s debt.

With the sale of part of the Amazon, Ecuador hopes to reduce the $7 billion debt it has with China, who has been loaning money in exchange for oil. “My understanding is that this is more of a debt issue – it’s because the Ecuadoreans are so dependent on the Chinese to finance their development that they’re willing to compromise in other areas such as social and environmental regulations,” said Adam Zuckerman, from the NGO Amazon Watch.

However, there are seven indigenous groups in the area who are fighting the auction since a court ruling said they must give permission to the government to do anything with the land. “They have not consulted us, and we’re here to tell the big investors that they don’t have our permission to exploit our land,” said Narcisa Mashienta, a leader of Ecuador’s Shuar people.

Ecuador’s secretary of hydrocarbons, Andrés Donoso Fabara, rebutted telling The Guardian, “These guys [indigenous leaders] with a political agenda, they are not thinking about development or about fighting against poverty. We are entitled by law, if we wanted, to go in by force and do some activities even if they are against them, but that’s not our policy.”

But it’s not just Ecuador at stake.  The auction comes as neighboring Peru has declared an environmental state of emergency because of the high amounts of pollution in their part of the Amazon. What’s worse is that these groups have been complaining about the pollution for years, since Pluspetrol, an Argentinian oil company, has been working there since 2001.

Read more about the auction from The Guardian here.

READ: Monkeys In Nicaragua Are Dropping Dead And People Have NO Idea Why

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Blames Indigenous Tribes For Amazon Fires

Things That Matter

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Blames Indigenous Tribes For Amazon Fires

jairmessiasbolsonaro / Instagram

President Jair Bolsonaro is blaming the indigenous community for the fires that raged in the Amazon. The fires set off international outrage as the rainforest faced unprecedented destruction by out of control fires. President Bolsonaro went against the rest of the international community during a speech to the U.N.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro wants the United Nations to know that indigenous people were responsible for the Amazon fires.

In a remote session opening the U.N. General Assembly, President Bolsonaro spoke at length about the indigenous communities starting the fires. He also used the speech to speak out against the criticism his administration is receiving over his environmental policies and his response to Covid. Brazil is currently the second most infected country in the world with the second highest death rate.

The Amazon has experienced increased fires since President Bolsonaro took office.

For the first seven months of 2020, 13,000 sq. km. (5,019 sq. miles) of the Brazilian rainforest have burned. This year saw the second-highest level of fires on a global scale with fires raging across the Amazon, Australia, and the West Coast of the U.S.

President Bolsonaro openly contradicted expert findings to fit his narrative.

President Bolsonaro claims that the humidity of the forest contains the fires. According to President Bolsonaro’s speech, fires in the Amazon only happen in certain areas because of how well the humidity can keep the fires in check.

“The fires practically occur in the same places, on the east side of the forest, where peasants and Indians burn their fields in already deforested areas,” Bolsonaro said.

President Bolsonaro’s speech touches on the environmental record his administration is known for.

The Bolsonaro administration has made dismantling environmental and indigenous rights since taking power. The administration has worked to limit the amount of land available to indigenous people and to open up Amazonian rainforest to miners, loggers, farmers, developers, and other uses that are damaging and contributing to the fires. Deforestation by these industries are largely to blame for the out-of-control wildfires that burned for a very long time in the Brazilian Amazon.

Activists are getting ready to fight for the indigenous community and the rainforest.

“We must denounce this political catastrophe that destroys the environment and our future,” Sonia Guajajara, head of Brazil’s main Indigenous umbrella organization, to NBC News.

READ: Under Bolsonaro, The Brazilian Amazon Has Reached Record-Breaking Levels Of Deforestation

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The Trump Administration Just Announced That They’re Banning TikTok Downloads Starting on Sunday

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The Trump Administration Just Announced That They’re Banning TikTok Downloads Starting on Sunday

On Friday, the Trump administration announced that it would be blocking future downloads of social media app TikTok starting on midnight on Sunday.

“At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross

The Trump Administraiton is also taking action against the popular messaging and payment app WeChat, banning American companies from hosting the app’s internet traffic or processing transactions for the app (one of its key features).

Both TikTok and WeChat are the two most popular tech exports from China.

via Getty Images

TikTok is a popular video-sharing platform that allows users to share 15-second videos of themselves dancing and lip-syncing to popular music (among other things). The app recently exploded in popularity, racking up 99.8 million downloads in the first six months of 2020.

TikTok and WeChat have both been recent targets of the Trump administration due to their data-collection practices.

TikTok, specifically, has recently come under fire for violating Google privacy policies. TikTok collects and documents massive amounts of data from their users, like videos watched and commented on, location data, device type, and copy-and-paste “clipboard” contents. The app even records people’s keystroke rhythms as they type.

The Trump Administration has long been suspicious of TikTok’s data-collection, speculating that TikTok might be sending the data to the Chinese government.

The Trump administration has argued that such massive amounts of data in the hands of a foreign government is a threat to national security. TikTok denies that they are handing over the data to the Chinese government.

TikTok, for their part, are not hiding their displeasure about the ban, releasing a public statement saying: “We will continue to challenge the unjust executive order, which was enacted without due process and threatens to deprive the American people and small businesses across the US of a significant platform for both a voice and livelihoods.”

This isn’t the first time TikTok has gone toe-to-toe with the Trump administration. The social media company sued the administration in August after Trump signed an executive order enacting broad sanctions against the app. TikTok claimed that the order denied the company of due process.

The TikTok ban is making waves because it marks the first time the U.S. has banned a tech app on the basis of national security concerns.

But some critics are saying that there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason behind the ban. “It just feels to me to be improvisational,” said cyber-security expert Adam Segal.

Both TikTok users and concerned Americans have taken to the internet to express their anger at the Trump administration’s decision.

“Don’t be mistaken folks,” said one Twitter user. “Sunday it will be TikTok. Tomorrow it will be twitter, FB, Instagram…you name it…We must protect free speech!”

Another pointed out the hypocrisy of Trump targeting China when he doesn’t seem to be as concerned about Russia meddling in our internet affairs. “I live in a world where TikTok is a threat to national security but Russian interference in our elections is not,” she said. “This is Trump’s America.”

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