Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro announced plans on Friday to send armed forces to fight forest fires in the Amazon, reversing course after days of dismissing concern about the ecological disaster.
"Whatever is within our power we will do," Bolsonaro told reporters. "The problem is resources." He added that the government will take a "zero tolerance" approach to environmental crimes. Researchers and environmental groups said the Amazon fires were started by humans.
This comes after Bolsonaro, who has made pledges to ease restrictions on protected areas and under whom deforestation has increased sharply across the country, said the fires were the result of warmer weather and criticized international concern as "sensationalist." But environmental groups blame Bolsonaro's policies, which have reportedly "emboldened" farmers and ranchers to clear land by setting fire to it.
However, Bolsonaro changed his stance as European leaders threatened a trade agreement, protesters took to the streets outside Brazilian embassies, and calls for a boycott of Brazilian products gained momentum. The New York Times notes that any punitive measures could "severely damage" Brazil's economy, which is already in trouble.
CNN reports that the Group of Seven leaders, who are convening in France on Saturday, are in accordance that stopping the fires is a priority. France's President Emmanuel Macron called it an "international crisis," and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said international action is necessary to protect the world's rainforests and that "we will use G-7 to call for a renewed focus on protecting nature and tackling climate change together." President Trump, whose past praise of and cordial relationship with the right-wing Bolsonaro has drawn criticism, offered U.S. assistance. Tim O'Donnell
"We now see so many Republican governors denying health care to millions of the poorest and most vulnerable Americans by refusing even Medicaid expansion," the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said during an appearance in Atlanta. "I can't justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to exercise their constitutionally protected right. If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone's ZIP code."
Late Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it was no longer delaying a 2015 regulation on ozone, a gas formed from smokestacks and tailpipes that causes smog and has been linked to lung disease and asthma in children.
The Obama administration had set a national standard for ozone of 70 parts per billion, and in June, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt put off the Oct. 1 deadline for deciding which areas of the country needed to meet new ozone standards, The New York Times reports; Pruitt wanted to delay the requirement that states submit measurements of their 2015 ozone levels, saying the EPA needed to evaluate a "host of complex issues" before deciding which states met the standard. The EPA reversed course after 16 Democratic state attorneys general filed a lawsuit earlier this week, challenging the delay.
Environmental groups were pleased with the decision. "Pruitt's lawless attempt to delay stronger ozone-pollution protections would have put thousands of lives at risk," Lori Ann Burd, director of the environmental program at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. "It's disturbing how much pressure it took to get this common-sense step from the guy in charge of protecting the air we breathe." Catherine Garcia