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The Amazon Rainforest Fires Turned Day Into Night in Brazil’s Largest City

Environmental advocates blasted Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who joked about “setting the Amazon aflame.”

Elias Marat

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Amazon Rainforest Ablaze

(TMU) — Brazil’s largest city was plunged into darkness earlier this week in the middle of the afternoon thanks to the massive fires that continue to wreak devastation on the Amazon rainforest as the country struggles with a record number of fires.

São Paulo’s skies were blackened for roughly an hour at around 3 p.m. Monday due to raging fires throughout the region and weather conditions that pushed particulate matter over the city, setting off intense speculation on social networks about the reason why the day was seemingly transformed into night.

Videos and images posted by local residents depicted disturbing scenes of pedestrians walking under black skies and cars driving in the mid-afternoon with their headlights on as the continued fires throughout the Amazon rainforest drove the hashtags #PrayforAmazonia and #PrayforAmazonas to worldwide viral status.

https://twitter.com/abhishekb22/status/1164135369912115200

Local newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported that some meteorologists say that strong winds from the east of the city brought the thick plumes of smoke from nearly 2,000 miles away which, combined with cold and humid coastal conditions, blackened the skies.

By Wednesday, the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization released data showing that the smoke had drifted thousands of miles from the northwest of the Brazilian Amazon across the country over Rio de Janeiro to the country’s Atlantic coast.

A record-setting wave of forest fires have swept across the Amazon throughout the year, authorities confirmed on Tuesday, heightening global concerns about the fast-degrading state of the “lungs of the world.”

This year there have already been 72,843 fires in the Amazon, marking an increase of 83 percent over the same period in 2018—the highest number since records began in 2013, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

The agency said that since last Thursday, about 9,500 forest fires have erupted in the region.

Fire is typically employed by loggers, farmers and miners as a technique to clear land for agricultural use, especially during the current dry season in the region. The scope of the fires shows that they are a result of human activities according to the INPE.

Alberto Setzer from INPE told Reuters:

“There is nothing abnormal about the climate this year or the rainfall in the Amazon region, which is just a little below average … The dry season creates the favorable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident.”

The Amazon rainforest has been resistant to fire throughout its history due to its natural moisture and humidity, but according to NASA it has become susceptible to fires due to drought and human activity – primarily logging and “slash and burn” agriculture.

In a statement last Tuesday that accompanied satellite photos of the Brazil fires, the U.S. space agency said:

“Wildfires there today are caused by a combination of droughts and human activity; the intensity and frequency of droughts in turn, have been linked with increases in regional deforestation and anthropogenic [human-caused] climate change.”

Civil society groups and conservationists have blasted radically far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, whose cabinet has encouraged the illegal deforestation of the Amazon with his hostile attitude toward the environment and genocidal rhetoric toward indigenous groups whose ancestral land lies in the rainforests.

https://twitter.com/MintPressNews/status/1145923945033588741

Bolsonaro and his officials regularly blame environmental laws, activist groups, non-governmental organizations and indigenous peoples for allegedly hindering Brazil’s economic potential.

The president recently lashed out at world leaders regarding what he calls their “environmental psychosis” in relation to the Amazon.

Last month, Bolsonaro accused the INPE of fabricating “lies” about the skyrocketing deforestation rate in hopes of sabotaging the country’s trade talks before sacking the agency’s chief and replacing him with a handpicked official from the military.

Philip Fearnside, a professor at Brazil’s National Institute of Amazonian Research, explained to Newsweek:

“The explosion of deforestation can be attributed both to changes in government actions, such as essentially ending inspections for illegal deforestation and fining those who are caught, and from the rhetoric from President Bolsonaro and his ministers, especially the minister of environment.

This has created a climate of impunity under the assumption that there will be no consequences for ignoring environmental regulations.”

Bolsonaro’s clear lack of concern for the burning Amazon was underscored at a press conference when he joked, “I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame. But it is the season of the queimada,” using the Portuguese term for the time of year when farmers clear the land with fire.

https://twitter.com/PhilippineStar/status/1164205486662508545

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

Corruption

Ex-cop who showed off nude photos of murder victim Lauren McCluskey faces no charges

Elias Marat

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Lauren McCluskey, a student at the University of Utah, was murdered by a stalker in 2018 after police officers largely ignored her pleas for help. Instead, the officers acquired nude photos of the young woman and shared them between themselves.

And now, two years later, the former University of Utah officer who disseminated explicit photos of the 21-year-old victim has been cleared of any criminal charges.

On Thursday, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office announced that former officer Miguel Dera would not be prosecuted despite the clear misconduct of him acquiring and then sharing the photos of McCluskey.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill admitted that the officer’s actions were “definitely reckless,” but no state laws exist on the books that address such offenses, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.

“We realized there was no real statute we could use for this case,” Gill explained. “We’re incensed like everyone else by the behavior. It was inappropriate. But if there’s not a statute, there’s nothing we can do.”

McCluskey was shot to death in 2018 by Melvin Shawn Rowland, 38, who had been harassing and blackmailing the young student for weeks prior to her killng. Rowland took his own life hours after murdering McCluskey, according to police.

The two had briefly dated in 2018 before McCluskey ended the relationship after finding out Rowland had lied about his age and criminal past. Rowland was a convicted sex offender who proceeded to stalk and extort McCluskey.

When McCluskey reached out to campus police to end the harassment, Deras was assigned to the case. McCluskey provided the explicit photos to the officer in hopes that he would use them for the investigation.

Instead, Deras shared the photos of McCluskey with at least three of his male coworkers without any work-related reason, according to an investigation by the Utah Department of Public Safety. The DPS report also found that lewd comments were allegedly made about the images.

In the days prior to her death, McCluskey complained about campus police failing to follow up or update her, according to 911 transcripts.

While the district attorney claims that “no real statute” could have been used to pursue justice in the case, Gill all-too-conveniently waited until precisely one day after the state could have filed misdemeanor charges against the former officer for abusing evidence. However, the statute of limitations has now expired.

“We just got it so late and were limited in what options we had,” Gill said.

Family attorney Jim McConkie said that Lauren McCluskey was also abused while she was alive by the officer, who saw fit to share her photos and brag about them without her consent mere days before she was murdered.

“What Gill is saying to women with this decision is, ‘We can’t help you. Don’t come to us,’” McConkie said.

McCluskey’s parent’s, Jill and Matt McCluskey, have expressed outrage about the failure to file charges.

“Instead of helping her, Deras showed her images to other male officers and bragged about it,” the parents said. “A consequence of Gill’s decision is that women will hesitate to report extortion and harassment for fear that the private information they provide will be compromised, or even leered at, by officers for reasons unrelated to her case.”

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“She’s done”: Unreleased video shows bloody, chaotic scene after botched Breonna Taylor raid

Elias Marat

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(TMU) – Police body camera footage has been released that shows the moments immediately following the fatal raid on Breonna Taylor’s home.

In the video, officers with the Louisville Metro Police Department SWAT team can be seen clearing her apartment as her body laid motionless in her hallway for several minutes. The officers eventually check for a pulse before stating, repeatedly, “She’s done.”

The footage is just one small component of the over 250 videos and more than 4,000 pages of documents from the case was released Wednesday, and comes as Taylor’s family and community advocates continue to demand transparency and justice for the 26-year-old woman.

In addition to revealing the disturbing details about the botched raid, the video footage also raises fresh questions about why police targeted her home in an effort to prosecute her ex-boyfriend.

Following the shooting, one police lieutenant who arrived at the scene told investigators, “something really bad happened.”

In another video, Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker can be heard answering an officer who demanded to know who else might be in their apartment.

“Nobody, my girlfriend’s dead,” he replied.

Walker had just walked out of the apartment and surrendered to SWAT officers, who can be heard saying “The female is supposedly the one that’s shot.”

After officers cleared various parts of the apartment for several minutes, they finally addressed Taylor’s body, asking “Ma’am, can you hear us?”

Another officer checked her pulse before declaring, “She’s done.”

Another officer can be heard telling the others not to turn their body cameras off, and as he examines the bullet casings strewn across the floor he says, “Is that theirs? No that’s ours, the only casings look like 9mils.”

Taylor was shot at least six times in the undercover raid by three officers while shade and Walker had been sleeping. The police had a no-knock search warrant intended to find Jamarcus Glover, Taylor’s ex-boyfriend who was wanted on drug charges.

Louisville Metro Police deployed a battering ram to force their way into the apartment before Walker fired a warning shot that struck an officer. Police responded by firing a barrage of rounds into the apartment, including 10 rounds fired blindly by Officer Brett Hankison, who has since been fired.

Walker maintains that the officers failed to identify themselves, but police claim that they did so clearly.

In the video, Walker is in a distraught state and tells the police why he fired as they broke into the apartment, saying “We didn’t know who it was.”

An officer responded by telling Walker that they announced themselves three times. However, Walker and other neighbors deny that the officers announced themselves during the no-knock raid.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has also supported the police claim and attempted to argue that the warrant was not a no-knock because police supposedly announced their presence before entering the apartment.

The video footage depicts a grisly scene, with bloodstains and bullet holes across the walls while Taylor’s lifeless body lies on the floor.

In a phone recording also released on Wednesday, Taylor’s ex-boyfriend Glover tells the mother of his child, “Me and Bre ain’t been around each other in over two months, damn near two months.”

Glover had been arrested on the night prior to the early-morning raid on Taylor’s home, raising questions about why police executed the fatal no-knock raid to begin with.

Contrary to disinformation being spread by police supporters and online conspiracy theorists, police found no drugs at Taylor’s apartment and she was not a target of the LMPD investigation.

On Sept. 23, a Kentucky grand jury announced three counts of first-degree “wanton endangerment” in the first degree against former officer Hankinson for blindly firing into another apartment. A $15,000 cash bond was also attached to the charges, none of which are directly related to the killing of Taylor.

Attorney General Cameron said that the grand jury charged the former detective because the shots passed through her apartment walls into a neighboring apartment, endangering the lives of her three neighbors present at the time.

The other two officers involved in the raid, Sgt. John Mattingly and Det. Myles Cosgrove, face zero charges and remain on the force.

Taylor’s family is continuing to demand that the attorney general recuse himself from the case and be replaced by a special prosecutor. Cameron has also opposed the lifting of a gag order from the grand jurors after two members of the jury sought legal help that would allow them to go public.

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Oklahoma jailers tortured inmates by shackling them to wall, playing “Baby Shark” on repeat

Elias Marat

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(TMU) – Three former employees at a jail in Oklahoma are facing charges of cruel treatment of prisoners after they forced inmates to listen for hours to “Baby Shark,” the infamous children song beloved by toddlers and loathed by parents.

According to inmates, Oklahoma County Jail detention officers Christian Miles and Gregory Butler, both 21, along with former supervisor Christopher Hendershott, 50, conspired to cruelly treat the prisoners when shackling them and securing them to the wall while subjecting them to the song on repeat, resulting in “undue emotional stress on the inmates who were most likely already suffering” from being restrained against the wall.

The three former jailers face misdemeanor counts of cruelty to prisoners, corporal punishment to an inmate, and conspiracy, according to Oklahoma County District Court records.

On at least five separate occasions this past November and December involving five separate inmates, Miles and Butler placed the inmate in an empty attorney visitation room before shackling them to the wall, forcing them to stand for up to two hours at a time, while blaring “Baby Shark” on repeat from tinny computer speakers.

The two jail employees saw this as a joke, and Hendershott failed to take any disciplinary measures or halt the cruel treatment when he heard complaints from inmates.

The case is eerily reminiscent to the treatment of terror suspects during the so-called “Global War on Terror” during the George W. Bush era, when CIA agents and interrogators at Camp X-Ray detention camp on Guantanamo Bay Naval Base would play music on repeat for hours as a means of psychologically torturing prisoners, according to the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report.

Video surveillance footage from the Oklahoma County Jail also depicted the officers carrying out the sadistic acts.

Oklahoma District Attorney David Prater said that the three employees acted  “conjointly, willfully and wrongfully” in a “cruel or inhuman manner” to inflict further stress and psychological pain on the inamtes.

Prater later told The Oklahoman that he “would have preferred filing a felony on this behavior,” but the facts wouldn’t fit the charge.

“It was unfortunate that I could not find a felony statute to fit this fact scenario,” he added.

“Baby Shark” is an infamous campfire sing-along which became a viral hit after South Korean company Pinkfong produced a music video of the sticky, repetitive song. The song, which begins with the lyric “Baby shark, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo,” also became the unofficial theme song for the Washington Nationals of Major League Baseball, who won the 2019 World Series but failed to qualify for the expanded post-season this year.

However, the dreaded earworm of a song has also become associated with more nefarious uses.

Last year, officials in West Palm Beach, Florida, earned worldwide notoriety after they weaponized the song as an anti-homeless measure to prevent the unhoused from sleeping on city property alongside other songs like the the auto-tuned abomination Raining Tacos.

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