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Above the Amazon: Why the Vital Carbon Store Could Disappear Within a Few Generations




As the sun rose over the Amazon, so did we – to see for ourselves what’s at stake here, in the battle to save the most biodiverse sanctuary on the planet.

Our pilot, Raphael Montenegro, pilots police helicopters.

Every day he witnesses the increasing number of blemishes on nature’s masterpiece.

Mark Austin was shown areas of deforestation by police helicopter pilot Raphael Montenegro

The Amazon is 1.4 billion acres of dense forest, half of the planet’s remaining tropical forest

Manaus is a city of two million people in the middle of the Amazon rainforest

While flying over the breathtaking canopy of the Amazon rainforest, Raphael points out squares of land razed to the ground – the work of farmers and loggers. All of it is completely illegal, but little is done to stop it.

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It is environmental vandalism where the vandals have the blessing of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a president who cares little for his country’s land.

Although Brazil has vowed to work towards carbon neutrality by 2050, Mr Bolsonaro’s track record includes rallying against environmental enforcement, at a time where environmental agencies’ budgets are already at a crippling low.

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The Amazon River is the second-longest river on Earth after the Nile

The rainforest is one enormous carbon store

Scientists here in Manaus fear that if things continue as they are, within a few generations the Amazon may not exist at all.

The rainforest below us is one enormous carbon store, holding the equivalent of almost 12 years of global emissions at current rates.

But as more trees are felled – and tens of billions already have been – it means less rainfall, higher temperatures, more drought.

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The rainforest covers much of north-western Brazil and extends into other South American countries

The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest, famed for its biodiversity

The Amazon rainforest we picture in our mind’s eye as a wet and wonderous place packed with thousands of species of wildlife and fauna – could all be replaced by a vast dry savannah land.

And as we headed back, we saw another snapshot of a rainforest crying for help.

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Amazon deforestation warnings hit record levels

Tributaries into the Black River – which flows directly into the Amazon – covered in an oily film, its pollution laid bare to see.

Raphael says witnessing this is heart-breaking – but the Amazon rainforest is too vital not to fight for.

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WHO Estimates 15m People Have Died Directly or Indirectly From COVID – More Than Double Official Death Toll




The World Health Organisation estimates that 15 million people worldwide have now died of coronavirus – or as a result of its impact on health services.

WHO data shows the number of excess COVID mortalities to be somewhere between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2021. This is more than double the official death toll of around six million.

Excess mortality refers to the number of people who have died of the virus either directly or indirectly by being unable to access health services for other conditions.

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The figures were compiled using country-reported data and statistical modelling, the WHO said.


There were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 by the end of 2021, the UN body said on Thursday.

Most excess COVID deaths (86%) happened in Asia, Europe and the Americas, according to the figures.

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Middle-income countries accounted for 81% of deaths, with 28% occurring in upper-middle-income countries and 4% in low-income ones.

Some 68% of all excess deaths worldwide happened in just 10 countries.

There was a higher rate for men (57%) than there was for women (43%), with more excess deaths among the elderly than younger generations.

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WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented: “These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems.

“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”

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Pope Francis Seen Using Wheelchair for the First Time for Mobility Reasons




The Pope has been pictured using a wheelchair – the first time he’s used one in public due to the knee pain that’s made it hard for him to walk and stand.

Francis, 85, was wheeled on stage and helped into a seat during an audience with a group of nuns and religious superiors from around the world at the Vatican.

He appears to be having a flare-up of sciatica, a nerve condition he suffers with that he’s called his “troublesome guest”.

The Pope has had to cancel or cut short activities several times in the last month because of pain in his right knee.

He was pictured in a wheelchair last July after major intestinal surgery, but this is believed to be the first time he’s used one in public due to his mobility problems.


Before Thursday’s event, he was able to walk the roughly 10 metres or so from the side entrance of the stage to his seat with some help.

He recently received some injections to try to relieve the pain but has continued to struggle.

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His impaired movement was apparent over Easter when he attended but did not take charge of masses at St Peter’s Basilica, instead delegating a cardinal or archbishop to preside.

During a trip to Malta in April he was also pictured using an elevator platform to get on and off the plane.

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Woman Pulled Alive From Rubble Six Days After Building Collapsed




A woman has been found alive in the rubble of a building that partially collapsed almost six days earlier, Chinese state media has said.

At least five people are confirmed to have died and possibly dozens are still missing following the disaster in the city of Changsha, in central China‘s Hunan Province, on 29 April.

The unidentified woman has become the 10th survivor and was rescued shortly after midnight today, about 132 hours after the rear of the six-storey building suddenly caved in, the official Xinhua News Agency has reported.

The woman was conscious and told rescuers how to pull her out without causing further injury, Xinhua added.

Teams had used dogs and hand tools as well as drones and electronic life detectors in the search.


All the survivors were reportedly in good condition after being treated in a hospital and it is thought intermittent rain showers over the last few days may have helped their chances of survival without food or water.

At least nine people have been arrested in relation to the collapse of what Xinhua has described as a “self-built building”.

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This includes its owner, on suspicion of ignoring building codes or committing other violations.

Three people in charge of design and construction were also held, along with five others who allegedly gave a false safety assessment for a guest house on the building’s fourth to sixth floors.

The building also housed residences, a cafe and shops.

An aerial photo shows the site of the collapsed residential building in Changsha, central China’s Hunan Province

There has been increase in the number of collapses of self-built buildings in recent years.

Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for additional checks to uncover structural weaknesses.

Following the building collapse at the weekend, he urged for more victims to be found in the rubble “at all costs”.

Poor adherence to safety standards, including the illegal addition of extra floors and failure to use reinforcing iron bars, is often blamed for similar disasters.

China also suffers from decaying infrastructure such as gas pipes that has led to explosions and collapses.

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