Daily News Roundup

August 22, 2019

Amazon Rainforest Fires
Image: news.com.au

THURSDAY  August 22

Brazilians were plunged into afternoon darkness after the worst rainforest fires in history ravaged the Amazon Forest. 

The largest city on the American continent, Sao Paulo, has been covered in vast plumes of smoke from massive forest fires which blocked the sun and turned the sky black from 3pm. 

Alarmed locals posted photos on social media showing a city that appeared to have plunged into afternoon dusk, comparing it to an apocalypse. 

Often referred to as the lung of the Earth, The Amazon is a vital source of oxygen that’s instrumental to slowing down the pace of global warming. 

It is also home to about three million species of plants and animals, and one million indigenous people. The fire is being called a “global emergency”.

Officials from Brazil’s National Institute of Meteorology said the dark skies were based on a combination of factors including cold, humid air and smoke from the massive fires burning in the rainforest several hundred kilometres away. 

“The particulate matter, coming from the smoke produced by these large wildfires that are happening in Bolivia, coupled with the cold, humid air that is off the coast of São Paulo, caused the darkness,” Franco Vilela, a meteorologist at Inmet, told Globo. 

Environmental activists say the scene was at least partially caused by the often deliberate burning of South American forests to make way for farmland.

Brazil’s space research centre, National Institute for Space Research (INPE), said the number of fires detected in the Amazon this year so far had reached 72,843, an 83% increase on last year and the highest since records began in 2013. 

More than one and a half soccer fields’ worth of Amazon rainforest are being destroyed every minute, according to the INPE. 

The Amazon produces 20% of the oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere and is considered a vital instrument in slowing global warming. 

The fires are so prominent they now can be seen from space, with satellites tracking a record number of wildfires burning across the Brazilian rainforest. 

The fires have shone a spotlight on Brazil’s conservative leader Jair Bolsonaro, who faces growing international criticism for failing to protect the world’s largest rainforest. 

Mr Bolsonaro has previously sparked controversy by making campaign promises to restore Brazil’s economy by exploring the Amazon’s economic potential. 

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Liam Hemsworth has officially filed for divorce in Los Angeles from Miley Cyrus. 

The Australian, 29, has hired famed divorce lawyer Laura Wasser and filed the papers, citing “irreconcilable difference”. 

“Liam is just done with it. There is no turning back and he knows he wants to move on,” an insider has said to E! News. 

“They have not had a lot of communication. There is nothing to say.”

E! reports that the pair had a prenuptial agreement and have kept their earning separate and that Hemsworth is not asking for spousal support: “There is not a lot to divide other than the animals. They both have houses that were purchased individually before the marriage.” 

The pair announced on August 10 that they had split after seven months of marriage. 

The next day, Cyrus was spotted kissing long-time friend Kaitlynn Carter, who had announced her split from reality TV star Brody Jenner. 

Sources close to Cyrus told TMZ that she tried “valiantly” to save the marriage but couldn’t accept Hemsworth “drinking a lot” and “using certain drugs”. 

Sources close to Hemsworth told the site that those comments were an attempt to distract form her infidelity. 

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George Pell is almost certain to take his fight against his child sex convictions to the High Court, a leading barrister says. 

It would be unusual for Australia’s highest judicial body to agree to reconsider all the evidence heard by the jury that convicted the Catholic cardinal, leading Melbourne lawyer David Galbally, QC, said. 

The High Court is Pell’s final avenue of appeal after Victoria’s Court of Appeal yesterday upheld his December conviction for the rape of a 13-year-old choirboy and sexual assault of another at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996. 

Pell spent last night back behind bars where he will remain for six years if he serves his full term.

The likelihood Pell will seek leave from the High Court to appeal yesterday’s ruling is bolstered by a 2-1 split between Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and President Chris Maxwell and dissenting Justice Mark Weinberg. 

Justice Weinberg said in his dissenting ruling he believed there was a significant possibility Pell did not commit the crimes he was convicted of. 

Mr Galbally QC said decisions on a further appeal would depend on whether there are questions of law for the High Court to determine. 

“In this instance, the nature of the case, the issues that have arisen, I would be very surprised if the appeal didn’t go ahead to the High Court,” Mr Galbally told Today. 

“It would take a significant decision by the High Court to look at the evidence that the jury considered in coming to the conclusion that he was guilty,” he said. 

“The is a big step for the High Court to take and not one that they usually do take.” 

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