New world news from Time: ‘Search For & Refuse All Deliveries.’ Amid Trade War, Trump Urges USPS Crackdown on Fentanyl Trafficking From China

With tensions over trade with China escalating, President Donald Trump said on Friday that he is “ordering” the U.S. postal service and express shipping companies to “SEARCH FOR & REFUSE all deliveries of fentanyl,” a deadly synthetic opioid. American officials have long blamed China for the influx of fentanyl and related drugs reaching U.S. borders — sent directly and trafficked via other countries — while federal efforts to limit (if not stop outright) their import have long been underway.

 

Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin, and proving increasingly popular with American drug users. While the rate of overdose deaths from heroin has plateaued in recent years, the rate of overdose deaths related to synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, has been increasing — by 45 percent between 2016 and 2017 (from 6.2 to 9 deaths per 100,000 people). About 28,400 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As part of a wide-ranging deal between Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping last December, China had reportedly pledged to designate fentanyl and similar drugs as controlled substances, subjecting those who sell them to harsh punishments and potentially slowing their flow into the U.S. Trump said Jinping had told him that China did not have a drug problem, because it could (and does) use the death penalty to punish drug dealers.

Trump has since argued that China has not held up its end of the bargain. On Friday, China’s narcotics regulator said the U.S. is politicizing the issue of Chinese fentanyl exports and “up-ending the facts for their own political necessities,” Bloomberg reported.

What are authorities doing to deal with drugs shipped by mail?

Congress and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the main federal agency dealing with preventing contraband from entering the country, have been working to crack down on drug trafficking through the mail for years. But it hasn’t been easy.

A nearly yearlong bipartisan Congressional investigation, as detailed in a January 2018 report from Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Rob Portman (R-OH), found that Chinese fentanyl sellers “operate openly on the Internet.” These sellers’ “preferred method of shipping is the U.S. Postal Service because the risk of seizure by Customs & Border Protection (CPB) is small and delivery is basically guaranteed.” The investigation discovered hundreds of online drug transactions and linked online sellers in China to seven synthetic opioid-related deaths in the U.S.

Part of the STOP (Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention) Act, legislation passed in 2018 to help combat the opioid crisis in the United States, mandates that the USPS collects information on all mail sent from China, including details on the sender and the package’s contents.

A USPS spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the agency is “aggressively working” towards keeping dangerous drugs from entering the U.S. from China and other countries. Per the CBP’s website, international mail is screened thusly:

Mail entering the United States from abroad first arrives at a United States Postal Service (USPS) Sorting Facility. The Postal Service then sends packages to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for examination and to assess duties and taxes, if any is owed. CBP processing is required for civilian parcels as well as those sent from overseas military postal facilities (APO/FPO). If CBP re-sealed a package due to examination, colored tape with the words “Examined by CBP” would be used.

Despite a recruiting crisis and agents being reassigned to the border — limiting resources needed to deal with identifying contraband at mail processing centers across the U.S. — CBP has said it is “committed to dedicating its resources to thwart illicit opioid supply chains and networks” and that “an effort is underway” to use advanced technologies such as pollen analysis to help detect fentanyl more efficiently.

How effective can mail inspections ever be?

The amount of fentanyl seized by CBP has been steadily increasing over the last few years: the agency seized almost 34 pounds from 50 incidents in the 2016 fiscal year, 96 pounds from 221 incidents in 2017 and more than 136 pounds from 455 incidents in 2018. But the agency appears to be straining under the sheer volume of mail the U.S. receives.

In 2017, Robert Perez, then an acting executive assistant commissioner at CBP, testified before Congress that, in the absence of advanced data to help target suspicious packages, officers were required to sort through large bags or bins of parcels manually. (Perez is now listed as deputy commissioner for the agency on their website.) “This manual process, again coupled with the tremendous volume of inbound mail to the United States, creates a daunting task for CBP,” Perez’s written testimony stated.

The 2018 Congressional investigation said that CPB’s manual efforts to inspect packages was “inefficient and the equivalent to finding a needle in a haystack.”

Lawmakers also noted in another 2018 congressional report about combatting the opioid epidemic that “few international mail packages are physically inspected by CBP” and on average, port officers employed by the CBP “only inspect 100 of the 1.3 million inbound international packages that USPS handles per day.”

In a statement to the Wall Street Journal following Trump’s tweets on Friday, a FedEx spokesperson said that “FedEx already has extensive security measures in place to prevent the use of our networks for illegal purposes… we follow the laws and regulations everywhere we do business and have a long history of close cooperation with authorities.”

Also via the WSJ, from a UPS spokesperson: “UPS takes a multilayered approach to security and compliance to identify and prevent delivery of illegal fentanyl and other illicit substances.”

Is it enough to go after the supply network?

“It’s critical that we work more closely with China, the main source for drugs like fentanyl that enter our country, to demand that they cut off the drug supply, while we work at home to stem demand,” Sen. Carper said during Congress’ investigation.

Leo Beletsky, a professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University and an expert on opioids, says it’s the latter strategy that will make a difference. Trump’s remarks are a “knee-jerk statement,” Beletsky tells TIME, adding that it’s a “laughable proposition that we could stop the majority or even a major portion of contraband [even if] we triple the number of inspectors looking for the mail and delayed mail by multiple days.”

Trump’s statement is a reflection of U.S. drug policy more broadly, Beletsky notes — with a focus more on dismantling drug trafficking networks than helping vulnerable Americans struggling with substance abuse. Even if it were possible to do what Trump is proposing, it would not put a dent in fentanyl-related deaths, Beletsky says. He argues that the government should instead be directing money and resources into initiatives like expanding Medicaid, or prevention and rehabilitation programs which could work to make people less likely to become dependent on drugs in the first place.

“We’re much better served in trying to address demand for those substances and not turning to constantly play a cat-and-mouse game,” Beletsky says. “The evolution of fentanyl has been driven by efforts to crack down on the supply of heroin [and] encourages drug trafficking organizations to create ever more compact and less detectable drugs.”

The Trump administration has said it has made it curtailing opioid abuse a priority, including by reducing the over-prescription of opioids and increasing funding for opioid and pain research from $600 million to $1.1 billion.

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New world news from Time: ‘Racist, or, at Best, Unfathomably Stupid.’ Britons Finding it Hard to Swallow Campaign to Curb Knife Crime With Ads on Fried Chicken Boxes

The latest attempt by the British government to tackle a rise in knife attacks among young people has been widely criticized as ineffective and racially-insensitive.

The U.K. Home Office — the government department responsible for security and law enforcement — launched a campaign earlier this month that saw takeout boxes distributed to fried chicken fast food restaurants branded with “#KnifeFree” slogans in an effort to dissuade young people from carrying weapons. The effort has been viewed by many, however, as perpetuating negative stereotypes of minority British and immigrant communities: that they are disproportionately caught up in violence, and that they primarily eat junk food.

“We are rolling out our #KnifeFree chicken boxes in over 210 chicken shops in England and Wales,” the Home Office tweeted on Aug. 14: “They use real life stories to show people how they can go #KnifeFree.”

Kit Malthouse, a top government official in charge of crime, said: “These chicken boxes will bring home to thousands of young people the tragic consequences of carrying a knife and challenge the idea that it makes you safer.”

Home Office Use Messaging In Chicken Shop Boxes To Combat Knife Crime
Dan Kitwood—Getty ImagesIn this photo illustration, A food container featuring anti knife crime messaging from a Morleys Chicken shop on August 20, 2019 in London, England.

According to British newspaper the Guardian, the government spent more than £57,000 ($69,000) on distributing the 321,000 chicken boxes. The managing director of Morley’s, one of the chicken shop chains involved in the rollout, told the BBC he was “proud” of the initiative.

But the reaction from many other Brits much less positive, with words like “offensive”, “racist” and “stupid” used to describe the campaign. “Is this some kind of joke?!” David Lammy, a Labour Member of Parliament from London, said in a tweet. “Why have you chosen chicken shops? What’s next, #KnifeFree watermelons?”

He later told the Guardian: “Boris Johnson has already called black people ‘piccaninnies with watermelon smiles’. Now his government is pushing the stereotype that black people love fried chicken. This ridiculous stunt is either explicitly racist or, at best, unfathomably stupid.”

Diane Abbott, the Labour party’s top advocate on security and the country’s first black woman to become a Member of Parliament, also criticized the “crude, offensive” campaign, tweeting that Johnson’s government “would do better to invest in our communities [than] demonize them.”

Dan Kitwood—Getty ImagesShops on West Green Road, which has been named the ‘Unhealthiest’ in London on November 02, 2018 in London, England.

 

The reaction has not just been online. Last weekend, two young Londoners launched a counter-campaign in an attempt to combat the stereotypes that the U.K. government’s campaign. Hayel Wartemberg, who co-founded the online broadcaster Word On the Curb with his business partner Ndubuisi Uchea, said the #knifefree campaign was “quite racially insensitive and inflammatory.”

“We were so astonished at first that we thought it was a parody, but then we realized that it was actually very serious.”

With a hashtag of their own — #ThinkInsideTheBox — they set up shop (with a chicken costume, no less) outside a Westfield shopping center in East London, asking members of the public for more relevant advice, both to combat knife violence and for the British government.

 

Chicken Shop Knife Crime Protest
Hayel WartembergLondoners write messages for chicken boxes as part of Wartemberg and Uchea’s #ThinkInsideTheBox campaign
Chicken Shop Knife Crime Protest
Hayel Wartemberg Wartemberg and Uchea’s counter-campaign at Stratford station in East London

“Invest in education rather than stereotyping minorities,” the message on one box read. “Why should those living in wealth decide how those who are struggling live?” Another suggested a greater focus on community mentors, and “interest free loans for at-risk youth.”

The Home Office’s campaign represents an “antiquated stereotype,” Wartemberg explains, and “the assumption is that young people who commit crime are predominantly black or Asian and where do they like to hang out? They like to hang out in fried chicken establishments.”

“Not only is it specifically incorrect to assume that the majority of crime is perpetrated by people of that demographic, it’s also an unreasonable assumption that young people who carry a knife would on a whim decide to give up their knife based on going to a chicken shop and reading a story which tells them to do otherwise,” he tells TIME. “It’s lazy, it’s condescending and it’s absolutely based on archaic ideas about particular ethnic groups.”

“Everyone was talking about it and giving solutions and how they would provide alternative campaigns that would have a more positive impact. So we thought why don’t we return these solutions in the chicken boxes?” said Uchea.

Knife attacks in England and Wales have been rising steadily since 2014, with police recording nearly 40,000 offenses involving a knife or sharp instrument last year. The number of homicides committed by knife reached its highest level since records began in 1946, with 285 killings in the year ending March 2018. In April, the British Home Secretary Sajid Javid called youth violence, particularly knife crime, a “national emergency”.

The U.S., with five times the population as the U.K., had nearly 1,600 homicides by knife in 2017 – and another 11,000 by firearm.

In 2017, two thirds of those charged with knife possession offenses in London under the age of 25 were people of color, though many campaigners argue these figures reflect a historic pattern of over-policing black, South Asian and other minority ethnic communities, particularly in London. (In England and Wales as a whole, the percentage was less than 40%.)

A second counter-campaign, which is currently being crowd-funded, seeks to print chicken boxes with information on how young people can respond to controversial stop and search policing strategies, and “help people being unfairly targeted.” As the crowd-funding page explains, the boxes “aim to bring back the focus of violence in our society back onto the worst perpetrators of it, the state, and contextualize knife crime under the political framework under which it exists.”

Fried chicken shops — primarily takeout fast food venues — have become ubiquitous on British high streets and shopping districts, particularly in less affluent urban areas. The London Borough of Newham, one of the three most deprived boroughs in London, has over 258 fast food takeout restaurants, of which over a quarter are fried chicken shops. As the name suggests, they serve chicken, alongside the expected lineup of fast food options – fries, burgers, pizza and kebabs. Most use halal meat, in order to appeal to diverse communities.

Increasingly, they are seen as places for socializing as well as snacking, and where communities are built around food. During lunch hours and the after-school commute they are inundated with schoolchildren, and in the evening families and friends enjoy the cheap, convenient meal options. They also attract crowds of young people later in the night after nightclubs and bars close.

London, Dallas Chicken & Ribs, Halal take-away
Jeff Greenberg—Universal Images Group via GettyDallas Chicken & Ribs, a Halal take-away in London.

On Tuesday, Wartemberg and Uchea gave their boxes to government representatives at the Home Office. “We wanted to address an issue of national concern because it’s close to our hearts and because the campaign that was currently addressing it was insensitive,” said Wartemberg.

While not addressing the counter-campaign directly, a Home Office spokesperson tells TIME in response to a request for comment: “Part of our work to steer young people away from serious violence is by communicating with them directly through our national #KnifeFree campaign. Advertising in chicken shops is one element of this multimedia campaign, and was rolled out nationally following a successful pilot. Initial research by the media agency ACMS showed nearly 70% of chicken shop customers are aged between 16-24 — the group we need to communicate with.”

New world news from Time: ‘In the Spirit of Achieving Fair Trade,’ Trump Raises Tariffs on Hundreds of Billions of Chinese Imports

(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump said he’s raising tariffs further on Chinese imports in response to Beijing’s retaliation earlier in the day, deepening the impasse over the two nations’ trade policies.

Duties on $250 billion of imports already in effect will rise to 30% from 25% on Oct. 1, Trump said in a series of tweets Friday after U.S. markets closed. He also said that the remaining $300 billion in Chinese imports will be taxed at 15% instead of 10% starting Sept. 1.

Friday’s events marked a dramatic escalation in tensions between the U.S. and China after months of failed talks to resolve their trade dispute. It’s unclear whether negotiators will follow through with a plan to meet in Washington next month as relations have continued to sour.

“China should not have put new Tariffs on 75 BILLION DOLLARS of United States product (politically motivated!),” Trump said on Twitter.

 

Trump’s announcement came after China earlier Friday threatened to impose additional tariffs on $75 billion in American goods, including soybeans, cars and oil. The president followed that move with a series of angry tweets in which he said he “hereby ordered” American companies to start looking for alternatives to making products in China, although it’s not clear what authority the president has to issue such an order.

The news from Beijing rekindled concerns about the world’s two largest economies and a global growth outlook that’s already looking shaky. After Trump’s tweets, U.S. stocks dropped — the S&P 500 Index closed 2.6% down on the day.

China’s newest tariffs came earlier Friday in retaliation for Trump’s latest planned levies on Chinese imports, which have pushed U.S. stocks and commodities lower. The move takes aim at the heart of Trump’s political support — factories and farms across the Midwest and South at a time when the U.S. economy is showing signs of slowing.

Some of the Chinese countermeasures will take effect starting Sept. 1, while the rest will come into effect from Dec. 15, according to the announcement from China’s Finance Ministry. This mirrors the timetable the U.S. has laid out for 10% tariffs on almost $300 billion of Chinese shipments.

China will put an extra 5% tariff on American soybeans and crude-oil imports starting next month. The resumption of a suspended extra 25% duty on U.S. cars will resume Dec. 15, with an additional 10% on top for some vehicles. With existing general duties on autos taken into account, the total tariff charged on U.S.-made cars would be as high as 50%.

New world news from Time: Trump Administration Plans to Open U.S. Consulate in Greenland

(WASHINGTON) — The Trump administration is planning to open a U.S. consulate in Greenland for the first time in decades amid increased strategic and economic interest in the Danish territory.

The State Department says in a letter to Congress that re-establishing a consulate in Nuuk is part of a broader plan to increase the U.S. presence in the arctic. A copy of the letter was obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

The U.S. has a “strategic interest in enhancing political, economic, and commercial relationships across the Arctic region,” said the letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

President Donald Trump sparked a diplomatic dispute with U.S.-ally Denmark this week after he proposed that the U.S. buy Greenland and the Danish government rejected the idea. Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen called it an “absurd discussion.” Trump fired back that her comments were “nasty.”

A permanent diplomatic presence would allow the U.S. to “protect essential equities in Greenland while developing deeper relationships with Greenlandic officials and society,” the letter said. It said the consulate would be “a critical component of our efforts to increase U.S. presence in the Arctic and would serve as an effective platform to advance U.S. interests in Greenland.”

Congress would likely have been open to the idea, but after Trump’s actions the proposal will likely gain greater scrutiny.

The U.S. opened a consulate in Greenland in 1940 after the Nazi occupation of Denmark. It closed in 1953. The new one would open next year in the capital of the semi-autonomous territory.

The State Department said it has already assigned a Greenlandic affairs officer working out of the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen. It now plans to hire locally-employed staff in Greenland by fall, or soon thereafter. Ultimately, it expects a staff of seven at the consulate in 2020.

Experts say establishing a greater U.S. presence in Greenland is not unwarranted, despite the awkward roll out of Trump’s idea to buy the semi-autonomous Danish territory. It is situated in a geographically important region and holds a potential treasure trove of natural gas and rare earth minerals. The U.S. Russia, China and others are showing their interests.

In April, Russian President Vladimir Putin put forward a program to reaffirm his country’s presence in the Arctic, including efforts to build ports and other infrastructure and expand its icebreaker fleet. Russia wants to stake its claim in the region that is believed to hold up to one-fourth of the Earth’s undiscovered oil and gas.

China sees Greenland as a possible source of rare earth minerals and other resources as well as a location for a port to ship through the Arctic to the eastern U.S.

New world news from Time: After a String of Nuclear Incidents, Russia Just Launched a Floating Nuclear Power Plant. Is It Safe?

On Friday, an unusual kind of vessel set sail from the Arctic city of Murmansk, Russia, for a destination in the country’s far east––a floating nuclear power plant equipped with two reactors.

The vessel, dubbed the Akademik Lomonosov, is set to travel about 2,900 miles to the Arctic port town of Pevek, which has a population of about 4,000 people, where it will be loaded with nuclear fuel and put in place to provide power to the region, according to Russia’s state nuclear corporation, ROSATOM.

Russia’s far east may just be the beginning. ROSATOM has said that it’s in talks with potential customers for the floating power unit, and sees “significant market potential” in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa. The vessel’s reactors can generate 70 megawatts of electric energy and 50 gigacalories an hour of heat energy, according to ROSATOM––enough to support a city of up to 100,00 people.

Why are people worried about the floating nuclear power plant?

Akademik Lomonosov floating nuclear power units hull painted at Atomflot base in Murmansk, Russia
Lev Fedoseyev—Lev Fedoseyev/TASSA view of Akademik Lomonosov, a floating nuclear power unit, its hull painted at the Atomflot base; being part of a floating nuclear power station, the vessel belongs to a new class of energy sources based on Russian nuclear shipbuilding technologies.

However, the vessel has sparked concerns about safety as a result of Russia’s tarnished nuclear record. Just this summer, there were two deadly accidents involving Russian nuclear power. On July 1, 14 sailors were killed in a fire on the secretive Losharik nuclear submarine; then on Aug. 8, five scientists were killed when a missile test on Russia’s White Sea failed.

The Kursk nuclear submarine sank on the Barents Sea on Aug. 12, 2000, killing 118 people on board, and scientists have recent found that an nuclear sub that sank in the Barents Sea, the Komsomolets––which was lost in 1989––is emitting high levels of radiation.

Then there’s Chernobyl, the 1986 nuclear power station meltdown in the former Soviet Union that is perhaps the biggest and most famous civil nuclear disaster in history. It exposed potentially hundreds of thousands of people to radiation.

A high-profile HBO series, Chernobyl, has renewed attention on the devastating consequences of a nuclear accident––and the potential of political machinations that can get in the way of public safety.

Environmental activist group Greenpeace has publicly raised concerns about the Russian nuclear power vessel. In an April blog post titled, “The next Chernobyl may happen in the Arctic,” Konstantin Fomin of Greenpeace called for the program to be brought to a halt.

“This is an example of how new technologies are put into use without reflection on their safety,” Fomin wrote, adding, “Greenpeace demands the abandonment of expensive and dangerous atomic energy.”

ROSATOM insists that the vessel is designed to be safe, and will not harm the environment, writing in a statement that the vessel “is designed with a great margin of safety that exceeds all possible threats and makes nuclear reactors invincible for tsunamis and other natural disasters.”

News in Russia has mainly emphasized that that the technology is new and innovative, and that it could help to provide power to remote parts of the country.

“This is an absolute breakthrough in small nuclear power,” said Pavel Ipatov, the director of special projects for a section of ROSATOM’s nuclear power subsidiary, according to Russian news service Vesti.ru. “Russia is the first country which has gotten this technology. It has very good prospects.”

Is it actually safe?

In fact, putting nuclear reactors on ships is not new. Nuclear reactors have been placed on ships, including to provide propulsion, for more than 50 years. A World War II-era cargo ship, the SS Charles H. Cugle, was converted into a nuclear power plant in the 1960s. It was used to provide the U.S. Army with power. The vessel was stationed at the Panama Canal Zone from 1968 to 1976, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Robert Bean, an associate professor of nuclear engineering at Purdue University, tells TIME that there is a different set of concerns for nuclear reactors at sea than for reactors on land. Reactors at sea must be protected from storms, and have differing security concerns because they can be approached by other ships.

However, says Bean, the Russians are employing a type of reactor that has been used for a long time on its ice-breaking ships––the KLT-40S––and will be similar to the design of reactors the Russians use in submarines. Bean says that the design is very similar other reactors used around the world.

“I don’t see any reason why it’s less safe,” said Bean. “At first look you go, whoa, it’s different. And that’s my point––it’s different, but I don’t think that means it’s less safe.”

“It’s always possible that such a thing could happen. However, every reactor is designed to try to prevent that, the procedures are all designed to try to prevent that and when it does happen––for example Fukishima––the very first thing once it was dealt with, every other reactor in the world looked a their design and said, what could we change, how would we make sure this never happens to us?”

Steven Biegalski, the Chair of Nuclear and Radiological Engineering and Medical Physics Program at Georgia Institute of Technology, tells TIME that whether a nuclear reactor is kept on a boat or on land, the priority is the same––making sure that that the core is kept cool if it’s shut down.

“The nice thing is that if you submerge the whole reactor system, including the reactor vessel, under water, it’s going to get as much cooling as you can possibly want,” Biegalski says. “If you put the reactor core in an Arctic Ocean off the coast of Russia, would probably provide enough of a cooling sink that you don’t have to worry about the reactor concerns.”

What is the biggest concern?

However, Biegalski tells TIME that if there’s a reason to be concerned about the reactor, it’s because Russia hasn’t been open about its nuclear program and past accidents.

“It’s not a new concept, it’s something that has been done in the past, and if done correctly can be done very safely and without concerns,” Biegalski says. “I will say that I am concerned currently about Russia’s transparency.”

While he emphasizes that the design of the reactor is very different than the Chernobyl reactor, he’s concerned that Russia didn’t learn a big lesson after the 1986 disaster––that failing to notify the international community quickly was “irresponsible.”

“It may not have allowed local governments and local organizations to respond properly. It also means you may not get the help that you could get in a timely manner, because there may be people standing by to help that might not be there if you don’t ask them to be,” Biegalski says.

He notes that the slow release of information after the most recent nuclear accident may be a warning sign.

New world news from Time: Environmentalists Have Been Warning About Amazon Fires for Decades. The Stakes Are Now Higher Than Ever

The Amazon rain forest is burning — news that prompted shock and fear across the world as Brazil’s space research agency reported this week that a record number of fires have broken out in the forest this year.

Online, hashtags urged people to pray for the Amazon and to spread awareness of the fires. By Thursday, French president Emmanuel Macron had called discussions of the “international crisis” to be at the top of the agenda at the upcoming G7 Summit in France.

The Amazon is a significant carbon reserve that affects the way heat is dispersed around the world, Deborah Lawrence, an environmental sciences professor at the University of Virginia, tells TIME. In Brazil, the country that is home to the majority of the rain forest, president Jail Bolsonaro campaigned on a platform of opening up access to the country’s protected lands for commercial use, and has — controversially — followed through during his time in office. Efforts to fight for the forest’s preservation can have bloody consequences; one 2018 report found that the country was the deadliest in the world for environmental conservationists.

Images of smoke filling skies in Brazil and reports that the fires are spreading in particularly vulnerable areas of the Amazon have led to a sense of helplessness for many of those watching. Perhaps compounding those feelings is the knowledge that the destruction of the Amazon, and the issues of deforestation and fires in the rain forest, are not new. The Amazon has burned before, and yet the problem endures.

The burning Amazon was featured on the cover of TIME in 1989, with an accompanying piece detailing the impact of fires that were set by farmers and cattle ranchers as part of an annual ritual to clear land for crops and livestock. The fires in the forest now are also man-made, and deforestation can bring on other factors that can lead to them spreading faster, according to Lawrence. “When you put a fire near a forest, the edges get some of that heat,” she says. “They experience the fire to a modest degree, which makes them susceptible to future fires.”

The Amazon rainforest on fire on the cover of TIME’s Sept. 18, 1989, issue.

TIME warned back then of the risks to the Amazon’s indigenous inhabitants, as well as various plant and animal species, if the Amazon were lost or significantly damaged:

It would be an incalculable catastrophe for the entire planet. Moist tropical forests are distinguished by their canopies of interlocking leaves and branches that shelter creatures below from sun and wind, and by their incredible variety of animal and plant life. If the forests vanish, so will more than 1 million species—a significant part of earth’s biological diversity and genetic heritage. Moreover, the burning of the Amazon could have dramatic effects on global weather patterns—for example, heightening the warming trend that may result from the greenhouse effect … the Amazon region stores at least 75 billion tons of carbon in its trees, which when burned spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Since the air is already dangerously overburdened by carbon dioxide from the cars and factories of industrial nations, the torching of the Amazon could magnify the greenhouse effect … No one knows just what impact the buildup of CO2 will have, but some scientists fear that the globe will begin to warm up, bringing on wrenching climate changes.

Today, those risks remain unchanged — but the climate change that TIME in the 1980s warned might be possible has already come to pass, and the damage it causes is starkly plain.

July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth, amid a trend of skyrocketing temperatures and heatwaves across the globe that are directly linked to climate change. The Arctic has seen a surge in wildfires, including in Alaska, Greenland and Siberia.

In the Amazon itself, deforestation has continued, leading to enormous risks for the animal species living there. Scientists in 2012 found that deforestation over 30 years in parts of the Amazon has been destructive enough to ensure regional extinction for 38 species, including 10 mammal species, 20 bird species and eight amphibian species. “Realistic deforestation scenarios suggest that local regions will lose an average of nine vertebrate species and have a further 16 committed to extinction by 2050,” researchers wrote in the 2012 study, published in Science.

Speaking with TIME this week, Brazilian climate scientist Carlos Nobre said, “We have to quickly set up a policy of zero deforestation.”

Nobre’s calculations in a 2016 study found that deforestation in the Amazon will send it past a “tipping point,” creating savanna-like climate conditions to large swathes of the forest. While that was not expected to happen for about 25 to 30 years, Nobre says if deforestation rates continue to rise, the world could see those conditions in just 15 to 20 years.

In 1989, environmental scientists warned TIME that “unless things change, the forest will disappear.” Thirty years later, their alarm — still largely unheeded — rings as loud as ever.

New world news from Time: The Indian Government Insists All Is Well in Kashmir. But As the Communications Shutdown Continues, Its Citizens Are Struggling to Reach the Outside World

As I write this piece for TIME, I’m standing furtively amid a clump of tall, itchy weeds behind an office in the outskirts of Jammu, a city in northern India. Dozens of mosquitoes are landing on my arms, neck and feet to enjoy an evening meal of blood. I can occasionally squirm my body and scratch here and there, but cannot afford to lose touch with my phone.

In the last three weeks, this is the only place I have been able to access a broadband connection and connect to the world outside.

A day earlier, I drove nearly 200 miles to get here from my home in Kashmir, the disputed Himalayan territory. I needed to call my worried relatives and friends outside Kashmir and tell them that I am OK, for now. Just as I reached Jammu I had the exact feeling of a prisoner being released from jail, but only for a limited time. As I entered the 6-mile Chenani-Nashri tunnel, inaugurated two years ago by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, my phone buzzed with a torrent of messages and emails. I paused outside the tunnel exit to call family and friends; they all picked up instantly, concerned and surprised, wondering how I had managed to reach them. Seeing a Kashmiri phone number appear on a screen outside had become something of a miracle.

In early August, a scanned copy of the government order asking tourists and pilgrims to leave Kashmir went viral on social media; immediately petrol pumps and grocery stores were hollowed out. Some initially mocked the hordes of people lining up outside ATMS and shops in Srinagar, the summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. But as night fell on Aug. 4, they realized they had been foolish. Phone lines and Internet connections were snapped off in the middle of the night and the next morning the sun-beaten streets of Srinagar became deserted. The only thing people inside their homes were left with was a few news channels broadcasting a live motion of the parliament session in India in which, despite some bickering from the opposition, the ruling BJP government unilaterally scrapped Article 370, which had granted Kashmiris the constitutional rights to some autonomy for the past decades.

At around 11 a.m on Aug. 5, boys at the shrine of saint Taj-u-Din Wali in Natipora began to block the main road with iron poles, stones and burning tires. The battle-geared police officer stationed with his men at the Natipora crossway beckoned at the boys, asking to speak to them. The stone-pelting stopped and the police urged the masked boys to stop throwing stones at them and instead suggested they organize peaceful protests. A long line of laborers from the east Indian state of Bihar passed by the boys, carrying worn-out, heavy backpacks and large duffel bags. Some angry young kids shouted at them to leave, and an elderly man from the neighborhood, a local grocer, stepped between the boys and the Biharis and scolded the kids for shouting at them.

By the evening of Aug. 5, reports confirming the repeal of Article 370 flashed on the TV screens. From there, Kashmir became a kind of jail. From 20 pages, the local newspapers came down to four pages with, now, two complete pages filled with announcements of canceled wedding functions. Cellphones idled away with no service available. The city grew spooky with whiskered soldiers and glinting razor-wire. The worst was, and continues to be, the blackout of communications. People whose relatives had gone for the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia were listless and worried.

Srinagar Airport was the only place to book emergency flights. Deserted counters of various airlines could only give you the cost of tickets and flight schedules but you could not book them. You had to be there with your baggage, on schedule, and then see if the flight had enough passengers to confirm your journey too. At 4 p.m. on Aug. 10, through a hole in the glass wall of an airline counter, a father was trying to ask a busy officer if he had any information about a 2 p.m. flight that his son was meant to arrive on; he hadn’t made it home and neither the father nor the airline knew why.

A local news channel began to run messages of people disconnected from their relatives. A husband from Pulwama, admitted to a hospital in Chandigarh, a city elsewhere in northern India, for kidney failure, had a message for his wife stranded in Kashmir. He wanted to tell her that he had booked an early-morning flight for her. Through recorded audio-visual messages, some students studying outside of Kashmir, conveyed that they didn’t want their relatives in the valley to worry about them. They wanted to desperately inform them that they had somehow managed to borrow money from somebody and paid their college fees.

A government officer who had access to the only functional Internet connection in his office would log in during his night duty to talk or chat with his worried relatives outside Kashmir. Soon, he began to convey messages from his neighbors to their relatives outside Kashmir. He collected messages and respective Facebook IDs or WhatsApp numbers from his neighborhood early mornings and returned with responses and replies to each in the evening. The whole day they waited for this messenger, who has now become a messiah of his neighborhood.

Though I write all this in past tense, all of it is still happening.

Protest In Srinagar Against The Abolishing Of Article 370
Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times—Getty ImagesA protester holds a burning tire near a barricade set by the local protesters to block the road during a protest against the abolishing of Article 370, on August 20, 2019 on the outskirts of Srinagar, India.

On Aug. 12, the day of Eid, while people were striving to distribute qurbaan maaz, lamb as sacrificial offering, among their relatives and friends amid restrictions in Kashmir, police stations were inundated with massive crowds of people, desperate to make calls outside Kashmir. A fight broke out at a police station in Srinagar where a constable was trying to help one of his friends to use the phone out of turn. The police officer who was on duty at the phone grabbed the collar of his colleague’s shirt.

Under pressure from international media coverage of the crisis in Kashmir and to give an impression to Indians, as well as the world, that all was well in Kashmir, a secretary to the governor of Jammu and Kashmir held a press conference on Aug 16. As he began to give details of how the government was trying to ease the crisis in Kashmir, my parents, watching him say all that, laughed bitterly. The secretary said that all was getting well, becoming well, that the government had kept the water and power supplies running.

A simple deduction would tell you that this boast was a veiled warning, that the government had kept water and power supplies intact—for now. Kashmiris had to be thankful to the government for our lifelines for basic survival. And had the government any control over snapping oxygen from the air and thoughts from people’s minds, it would have been asking people to be thankful for breathing and thinking.

Such statements from the government, that all is well in Kashmir, have never surprised people of Kashmir. It has become a cliché, a lie that has lost its sheen of cleverness. The only thing that makes Kashmiris curious is that they wonder by what logic the world accepts that a government crackdown is necessary for the people’s own good.

Right now, as I write this on the 18th day of an induced crisis in Kashmir, the ground situation in Kashmir remains the same. The only difference is a fluctuating, and mostly lopsided, service of landline phones, that work only occasionally and sporadically in a few areas here and there in Kashmir. For making international calls, whenever the phone works, people have to make calls to a friend or relative outside Kashmir who then help establish a conference line from his or her number.

Living through this crisis, I have waited for many days expecting normal communication to resume. That hasn’t happened. On the day of my arrival in Jammu, a sluggish 2G speed internet helped me check a few important emails and respond to some worried friends in India and abroad who had repeatedly checked if their messages sending prayers and asking about my wellbeing finally had blue ticks on WhatApp, to show I had received them at last. But just the next day, this service too was shut down. The crisis continues, and they say “all is well.”