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Brazil sends Army to fight Amazon fires; Donald Trump tweets support

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Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said he’s sending troops to battle fires roaring through vast expanses of the Amazon as President Donald Trump offered U.S. support to combat the disaster.

Under growing domestic and international pressure, Bolsonaro on Friday promised “zero tolerance” for environmental crimes and pledged “strong action” to control fires — many of them set by loggers emboldened by his government’s disdain for environmental oversight.

“Forest fires exist everywhere in the world and that can’t be used as pretext for possible international sanctions,” he said in a rare televised speech, adding the flames have been spreading faster this year because of high temperatures, an extremely dry season, and strong winds.

Trump tweeted on Friday evening that that he had spoken with Bolsonaro about the fires and trade between the two countries. His tweet appeared hours after French President Emmanuel Macron — who’s about to host the Group of Seven summit — accused Bolsonaro of lying about his country’s commitments to fight climate change and threatened to block the European Union’s trade deal with the Mercosur countries of South America.

“Our future Trade prospects are very exciting and our relationship is strong, perhaps stronger than ever before,” Trump said in the tweet. “I told him if the United States can help with the Amazon Rainforest fires, we stand ready to assist!”

Macron vowed to make the burning of the Amazon jungle a priority at the summit, but the reactions of not only Trump, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel, suggested that the leaders about to gather in the French seaside resort of Biarritz were not in harmony on the crisis.

Merkel publicly disagreed with Macron. Her spokesman told Bloomberg News that she didn’t think upending the trade deal would achieve Macron’s aim of slowing deforestation in Brazil. Merkel’s spokesman, however, did back Macron’s decision to involve the international community, siding with him against Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro faces outrage abroad and at home, with protesters marching against him in Brazil’s main cities.

After a week in which the public outcry only grew louder — and as images of the flames and giant clouds of smoke continued to appear on screens around the world — he decided to deploy the Brazilian army to the Amazon. The president’s decree ordered the armed forces to carry out “preventive and repressive actions against environmental crimes” and to combat fires in the region, including indigenous territories.

“I had today an excellent conversation with President @realDonaldTrump,” Bolsonaro tweeted on Friday night. “Relations between Brazil and the U.S. are better than ever. We have a mutual desire to launch a big trade negotiation soon, aimed at promoting our peoples’ prosperity.”

Earlier Friday, the French president’s office said that it had become clear that Bolsonaro wasn’t serious about his pledges to address climate change when he spoke to world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka earlier this year.

“The president can only conclude that President Bolsonaro lied to him in Osaka,” the statement said. “Under these conditions, France is opposed to the Mercosur deal.”

The French president’s remarks provoked an angry response from Bolsonaro, who accused him of acting like a colonialist. Issues relating to Brazil should not be discussed without the country at the table, Bolsonaro added.

“The news is really worrisome, but we need to lower the temperature, there are fires in Brazil every year,” Brazilian Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias told reporters in Brasilia. “There were fires in Portugal, in Siberia, there were fires all over the world and Brazil wasn’t questioning them.”

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Iqbal Khan: OTT self-censorship shouldn’t come at cost of creative freedom

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Actor Iqbal Khan says OTT platforms create space for stories and experimentation. While content creators should be responsible, self-censorship should not limit storytelling.

Iqbal, who was last seen in the web series “Crackdown”, is currently shooting an upcoming series in the scenic hill town.

“OTT has taken stories to mobiles and laptops, and can be enjoyed anytime and anywhere. I believe that over a period of time synergies will work out between these platforms. Content can be customised for the platforms. As the authorities are mulling self-censorship on OTT platforms, cognisance will be taken of the nature of content being released by responsible content creators. I believe that such censorship would not come at the cost of creative freedom.”

Starting his career with music videos, Iqbal worked in several television serials before he made his digital debut with the show “The Bull Of Dalal Street” earlier this year. This was followed by “Crackdown”.

“The initial success of OTT prompted me to go for more. I believe that in a short period of time OTT platforms have been able to blur the boundaries of language and geography. Now, good content in any language can be viewed and enjoyed in any part of the world. There are so many stories being told online that good actors can explore much more compared to television or films. However, I always choose a project based on content, irrespective of the exhibition platform or the language,” Iqbal mentioned.

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PM Modi reviews preparedness of Covid-19 vaccine delivery strategy

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the preparedness of Covid-19 vaccine delivery, distribution and administration. Prime Minister appreciated the efforts of innovators, scientists, academicians and pharma-companies in their efforts to develop vaccines and has directed that every effort should be made to facilitate the research, development and manufacturing of the vaccine.

Five vaccines are in advanced stages of development in India, out of which 4 are in Phase II/III and one is in Phase-I/II.  Countries such as Bangladesh, Myanmar, Qatar, Bhutan, Switzerland, Bahrain, Austria and South Korea – have shown keen interest in partnering for vaccine development of Indian vaccines and use thereof.

In an effort to administer the vaccine at the first available opportunity, database of healthcare and frontline workers, augmentation of cold chains and procurement of syringes, needles, etc. are in advanced stages of preparation.

The vaccination supply chain is being enhanced and non-vaccine supplies are being escalated.  Medical and nursing students and faculty will be involved in the training and implementation of the vaccination programme.  Every step is being steadily put in place to ensure that vaccines reach every location and person according to the prioritisation principles.

The Prime Minister has directed to work in collaboration with all reputed national and international institutions and regulators to ensure the rigour and highest global standards in Indian research and manufacturing.

National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC) in consultation with State Governments and all relevant stakeholders have accelerated the implementation of vaccination of priority groups in first phase.

The digital platform for vaccine administration and distribution is prepared and test runs underway in partnership with the State and District Level stakeholders.

The Prime Minister reviewed the aspects of emergency use authorisation and for manufacture and procurement of medicine. As the results of these Phase III trials from national and international vaccine arrive, our robust and independent regulators will speedily and rigorously examine these for according authorisation for use.

The Government has provided assistance of Rs 900 crore under Covid Suraksha Mission to support Research & Development of Covid-19 vaccination.

The Prime Minister directed that a time-bound plan be laid out for speedy regulatory clearances and timely procurement for early rollout of the vaccination drive.

The Prime Minister appreciated comprehensive efforts at vaccine development. He also emphasised that given the persisting pandemic scenario there is no place for any relaxation in preventive measures such as wearing masks, keeping distance and ensuring hygiene.

The meeting was attended by Principal Secretary to PM, Cabinet Secretary, Member (Health) NITI Aayog, Principal Scientific Advisor, Secretary Health, DG ICMR, officers of PMO, and Secretaries of related Departments of Government of India.

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Rs 9 lakh compensation to teenage victim of human trafficking in Kolkata’s Sonagachi

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A teenage victim of human trafficking from Odisha, who was sold to Kolkata’s red-light area in Sonagachi, has been compensated with 9 lakh rupees by the District Legal Services Authority.

According to a report carried by Bengali portal The Wall, she was rescued in May 2016 by Kolkata Police’s Anti Human Trafficking Unit. The police had arrested the three main accused in the case as well before filing the chargesheet.

It was under this chargesheet that a legal battle was being fought for the last four years and after the end of it the girl was paid the compensation. Reportedly, no victim of human trafficking has received such a huge amount in West Bengal till date.

The Kolkata branch of International Justice Mission (IJM) played an important role in ensuring justice for the teenager. The officials of IJM helped the lawyers and investigators with all their resources.

The case was transferred from the district court to the POCSO court. From there the case was transferred to the Calcutta High Court in mid-2018, when IJM had appealed for compensation.

Eventually, the High Court had ordered the District Legal Services Authority to pay the teenager. IJM had further appealed to increase the amount as the victim was under 14 years old when she was trafficked. At the end of everything, the High Court set the amount of rupees nine lakh.

The IJM has called the case and its verdict historic. “This judgement is a win for the law and order. The compensation amount may have been historic, but the justice which was done to the victim is also an important aspect to focus on,” the Bengali portal quoted a IJM lawyer as saying.

The teenager, now a student of clas eight, has decided to use the money for academic purposes in future.

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