A record number of fires are raging across parts of the Amazon rain forest according to new data from the Brazilian Space Agency. Satellite data has counted over 72,800 fires this year, an 80% increase over 2018, with 12% of the total being spotted within the last week. Many place blame largely on changes in Brazilian policies made by new President Jair Bolsonaro that encouraged deforestation - burning brush and trees is a common way for farmers to clear land quickly for crops and cattle, though many spiral out of control. A number of fires were so intense that smoke spread thousands of miles to the Atlantic Coast and São Paulo, the country's most populous city. Though the blazes are a small fraction of the Amazon's 2.1 million square miles, excessive land clearing dries out local areas, driving a vicious cycle that makes them more susceptible to fires.
The Trump administration proposed new regulations on how long many immigrant families can be detained, abolishing a two-decade-old agreement prohibiting children from being held in an immigration jail for excessive periods of time. The previous rule, stemming from the 1997 Reno v. Flores court case, established a baseline for standards at detention facilities and generally capped how long minors could be held at 20 days (deep dive here). Critics have long complained the ruling leads to a de facto "catch and release" policy for families with children. The new rules - which require judicial approval and face a likely legal challenge - would codify minimum standards at facilities while eliminating limits on detaining minors, allowing immigrant families to be detained indefinitely. The proposal comes amid reports from border officials that detention centers are "dangerously" overcrowded, with many facilities lacking basic supplies to handle the influx of immigrants.
Separately the administration is considering allowing individual states and cities to refuse the resettlement of refugees.
The US Federal deficit is expected to pass $960B by the end of fiscal year 2019 and top $1T in fiscal year 2020 according to new projections from the Congressional Budget Office. The projection represents a symbolic mark equal to deficits accrued during the Great Recession a decade ago (read report). With the rising gap between annual federal revenues and expenses, the total federal debt (now just over $22T) is expected to jump from 75% of US GDP this year to 95% of US GDP by the end of 2029, a level not seen since World War II. The rise is largely a combination of the newly enacted two-year budget deal that increased spending, a large tax-cut package in 2017 that reduced revenues, and the continued rise of spending on defense and entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicaid. In related news, President Trump reversed course on proposing payroll tax cuts to counter a potential economic slowdown.
Which administration contributed the most to the federal debt? It depends on how you measure.
> Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson ($89M) tops Forbes magazine's list of 2019's highest-paid actors with Chris Hemsworth ($76M) and Robert Downey, Jr ($66M) rounding out the top 3 (More)
> Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, NBA star Lamar Odom among the season 28 cast of Dancing With the Stars premiering September 16; see full line-up (More)
> 2019 Tour Championship, golf's final tournament of the FedEx Cup playoffs, begins today with the winner taking home $15M prize money (More) | Explaining the championship format (More)
Science & Technology.
> Google and Mozilla block effort by Kazakhstan government to monitor users' internet activity using a "Man in the Middle" attack (More)
> Scientists developing system that provides visual signals to the blind by skipping the eyeball and directly stimulating a patient's optical nerve (More)
> Researchers produce the most-detailed, highest-resolution list of the components of the human brain ever compiled (More) | Study links loss of cells known as astrocytes in the bridge between brain hemispheres to chronic stuttering (More)
Business & Markets.
> US stock markets up (S&P 500 +0.8%, Dow +0.9%, Nasdaq +0.9%) on strong retail earnings (More) | Target crushes revenue and earnings expectations, raises full-year outlook; shares increase 20% to all-time-high (More) > US home sales increase over expectations in July to 5.42 million, boosted by reduced mortgage rates (More)
> Sources say Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba to postpone its $15B Hong Kong share listing given political unrest (More)
Earn a massive 50,000 miles sign-up bonus, worth at least $500 towards travel, with this incredible card (More) #Ad
Politics & World Affairs.
> China confirms it detained a worker from the British consulate in China for 15 days but will not specify reason; Simon Cheng reportedly a citizen of Hong Kong and China (More)
> Reports say at least 8 people knew the deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein had strict instructions not to be left alone prior to suicide (More, WashPo paywall) | Attorney General William Barr says nothing suggests death was anything but by suicide (More)
>Election 2020: Trump reelection campaign launches effort in 13 states to mobilize suburban women (More) | Washington Governor Jay Inslee becomes latest to bow out of Democratic Presidential primary (More)
Flawed Algorithms Are Grading Millions of Students' Essays.
Vice | Todd Feathers. In many states, AI-based language processing systems are the primary or secondary grader for a host of standardized tests. But as these systems - easily fooled by gibberish and susceptible to human bias - continue to produce irrational results for tests' essay portions, the promise for a streamlined and uniform process has fallen flat. (Read)
Welcome to the Podcast Revolution.
Variety | Brent Lang and Todd Spangler. In recent years the podcast industry has exploded, with weekly listeners doubling since 2015 and ad revenue increasing nearly 1,000%. As podcasts become more and more profitable, see how A-list entertainers like Conan O'Brien and Oprah are seeking to make their mark. (Read)
Historybook: 1st America’s Cup yacht race (1851); American poet Dorothy Parker born (1893); HBD Cadillac Motor Co. (1902); Althea Gibson is 1st African-American to compete in US national tennis tournament (1950); Black Panther Party founder Huey Newton is murdered (1989).
"The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity." - Dorothy Parker
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