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“It is very sad to see decades of my family work, years taking care and preserving nature, for this to happen,” said Ana Maria Barreto, owner of the São Francisco do Perigara, a cattle ranch and bird sanctuary of more than 61,000 acres in Mato Grosso state.

More than 70% of the farm’s vegetation was destroyed by the blaze, she said. “It is an unprecedented disaster.”

Between 700 and 1,000 blue macaws lived on the ranch, she said. “It is the largest known population of free macaws in the world,” Barreto told CNN.

The total world population of blue macaws is estimated to be about 6,500 birds, according to Arara Azul Institute, which advocates for environmental conservation. The birds are threatened with extinction and live in nature only in Brazil.

Most of the birds may have flown to safer locations, said Neiva Guedes, president of the institute. “They can manage to escape fires because they fly, but soon they will run out of food, and that is what we think will affect them most.” The blue macaws survive on fruits and nuts and “as forests burn, so does their food,” Guedes added.

The fires had raged since August 1. On Monday, officials said that blazes closest to the macaws’ nesting areas had been brought under control, but that they could still re-ignite, given the high temperatures and parched conditions.

“Every day is a surprise,” said Sergeant Rogério Perdigão, of the Mato Grosso do Sul Fire Department. “We cannot say that we won, because that is not how it works, but we will continue the battle.”

He sent CNN a video showing macaws sitting on trees close to where the fire was recently extinguished.

“Any victory against the fires has to be celebrated,” he told CNN. “Macaws are close to us all the time, they don’t stop talking. It seems that they are thanking us,” Perdigão said.

A protected region, rich in biodiversity

The sanctuary is located in the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland area, which stretches across two states in Brazil, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. Consisting of more than 37 million acres, its rich biodiversity is recognized in Brazil’s constitution and also by UNESCO.

But it’s also a region that has been targeted for fires, aimed at clearing trees and brush to create pasture land.

On July 16, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro signed a decree banning fires in the Pantanal for 120 days, following pressure from dozens of international investors who threatened to divest from Brazilian companies unless steps were taken to curb the destruction.
But according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), there were 3,121 fires detected in the region in the first 15 days of August, compared with 1,690 for the entire month last year.

Carlos Rittl, the executive secretary of the Brazilian Climate Observatory, a coalition of civil society organizations, blames the government for failing to prevent fires. “The government has been reducing environmental surveillance since the beginning of Bolsonaro’s government,” he said.

Macaws perched on trees at the sanctuary after the fires this week.

That’s compounded by the weather, which is drier than usual due to deforestation, he added. “Researchers are indicating this drier weather in Pantanal is due to the rise of Amazon deforestation, which lowers the level of humidity in Pantanal,” he said.

At a meeting with leaders from neighboring Amazon nations last week, Bolsonaro insisted reports about fires in the Amazon were untrue and defended Brazil’s preservation efforts. “Our policy is zero tolerance. Not only for common crime, but also for the environmental issue. Fighting illicit activities is essential for the preservation of our Amazon rainforest.”

But for the owners of the São Francisco do Perigara, Ana Maria Barreto and her sister Maria Ignêz, the fires destroyed years of preservation efforts. In 2002, there were only 200 blue macaws on the farm. In recent years, they managed to quadruple that number, she said.

“It is very sad,” Ana Barreto said. “We end up being very concerned about what is yet to come. If we are experiencing this in a protected area, what can we expect in the future?”

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Sports Stars, Actors And “High-Value” Business Travellers Returning To England Will No Longer Have To Self-Isolate

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From Saturday certain business travellers will no longer have to self-isolate when they arrive back into England (PA)

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Grant Shapps has revealed “high-value” business travellers are part of a new group of people who will not have to quarantine when they return to England after traveling to countries outside of coronavirus travel corridors.

The transport secretary said recently signed sports stars, performing arts professionals, TV production staff and journalists will also be exempt from the 14-day self-isolation period even if they have visited a destination where people are required to quarantine on return.

The move, which will come into force from 4am on Saturday, was recommended by the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce, which warned that business travel would be particularly slow to recover. 

Announcing the news on Twitter, Mr Shapps wrote: “New Business Traveller exemption: From 4am on Sat 5th Dec high-value business travellers will no longer need to self-isolate when returning to ENGLAND from a country NOT in a travel corridor, allowing more travel to support the economy and jobs. Conditions apply.

“From 4am on Sat 5th Dec certain performing arts professionals, TV production staff, journalists and recently signed elite sportspersons will also be exempt, subject to specific criteria being met.”

The news follows the government’s ‘Test to Release’ plan to cut the 14-day quarantine period to five days .

It means anyone arriving in the UK from a high-risk destination after 15 December will be able to leave isolation if they pay for a Covid-19 test after the fifth day and it comes back negative.

But as most inbound business travellers spend fewer than three days here that policy was unlikely to help revive this type of travel, which accounted for 22% of inbound visits a year before the pandemic, and contributed £4.5billion to the UK economy.

The department for transport has also revealed a “high-value” business trip must be one that “creates or preserves 50+ UK jobs”, but further guidance will be revealed before the plan comes into force.

In a statement it said: “Public Health England do not anticipate these changes will raise the risk of domestic transmission, due to the protocols being put in place around these exemptions, however all exemptions will remain under review.”

Mr Shapps also confirmed this evening that no destinations have been added or removed from the UK’s existing travel corridors list.

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Covid: Are countries under pressure to approve a vaccine?

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The claim that Brexit allowed the UK to approve the vaccine faster than other European countries has been disproved but it does reflect once again a different path Britain is taking. All EU countries have the option to follow the UK example and let their domestic drug regulator issue emergency approval, but the bloc says it wants to wait for the European Medicines Agency to give the green light on all their behalf. Germany, backed by Denmark and others, believes this maximises safety, allows a co-ordinated rollout, boosts public trust in the vaccine and ensures no country is left behind.

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US bill that could remove Chinese firms from stock exchanges is now on Trump’s desk

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The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would prevent companies that refuse to open their books to US accounting regulators from trading on US stock exchanges. The legislation won unanimous backing in the Senate earlier this year, meaning it only needs President Donald Trump’s signature to become law.

The bill would apply to any foreign company, but the focus on China is obvious. Beijing has resisted such scrutiny. It requires companies that are traded overseas to hold their audit papers in mainland China, where they cannot be examined by foreign agencies. All US-listed public companies would also be required to disclose whether they are owned or controlled by a foreign government, including China’s Communist party.

“US policy is letting China flout rules that American companies play by, and it’s dangerous,” Senator John Neely Kennedy said in a statement after the House vote.
The legislation would give Trump yet another way to put pressure on China before he leaves office in January. Washington has been ratcheting up its fight with Beijing this year as the two countries blame each other for starting and mishandling the coronavirus pandemic and clash over Hong Kong and alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang. The Trump administration has targeted TikTok and forced Huawei into a fight for survival, and banned Americans from investing in some Chinese firms.
Several Chinese companies have been preparing contingency plans in light of the heightened scrutiny from the United States. Earlier this year, gaming company NetEase (NTES) and e-commerce firm (JD), both of which trade in New York, acknowledged the tensions as they announced secondary listings on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Other companies that could be affected include Alibaba (BABA) and China Telecom (CHA).

“Enactment of any of such legislations or other efforts to increase US regulatory access to audit information could cause investor uncertainty for affected issuers, including us, the market price of our [US shares] could be adversely affected, and we could be delisted if we are unable” to meet requirements in time, JD said in filings to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Beijing has made its dissatisfaction with the US legislation evident. Asked Wednesday about the House vote, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying said “we firmly oppose politicizing securities regulation.”

“We hope the US side can provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for foreign companies to invest and operate in the US, instead of trying to set up various barriers,” Hua told reporters.

Should the bill become law, its immediate consequences aren’t entirely clear. Analysts at Goldman Sachs pointed out in a research note earlier this year that the legislation would only force businesses to de-list if they could not be audited for three consecutive years.

Still, even the potential for tighter regulatory scrutiny was likely to push more companies to dual list in Hong Kong, the analysts added.

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