Hard Numbers

120 million: About 120 million people will go for a swim at the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers in India during a Hindu festival that runs until March.

160,000: Italians are quitting their country in record numbers at a time when the country's population is already shrinking thanks to live births at an all-time low. Some 160,000 Italians moved abroad in 2018, the largest number of emigrants since 1981.

860: The Iranian government arrested, imprisoned or executed at least 860 journalists in the three decades between the Islamic revolution in 1979 and 2009, according to documents leaked recently to Reporters Sans Frontieres, a media advocacy group. The files also revealed that 61,900 political prisoners had been held since the 1980s, with more than 500 of them aged 15-18.

371: In Nigeria, more people died last year in clashes over land between farmers and cattle-herders than were slain by the terrorist group Boko Haram. In the country's northwest, bandits killed 371 people and displaced 18,000 in the first seven months of 2018.

When Donald Trump first started talking about buying Greenland last week, we figured it was a weird story with less legs than a Harp seal.

Signal readers, we were wrong. President Trump was so serious about purchasing the autonomous Danish territory that this week he abruptly cancelled a trip to Denmark after the country's prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, labelled the idea "absurd."

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The Amazon in flames – More than 70,000 forest fires are burning in Brazil right now, most of them in the Amazon. That's up 84% over the same period last year, and it's the highest number on record. This is the dry season when farmers burn certain amounts of forest legally to clear farmland. But critics say Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro's efforts to loosen conservation rules have encouraged farmers, loggers, and miners to set more fires, many of them illegally. Bolsonaro – a science skeptic who recently fired the head of the agency that tracks deforestation – says, without proof, that NGOs are setting the fires to embarrass his government. Meanwhile, the EU is holding up a major trade deal with Brazil unless Bolsonaro commits to higher environmental protection standards, including those that affect the Amazon.

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Over the past fifty years, the Amazon rainforest has shrunk by an area equal to the size of Turkey. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Brazilian government supported settlement of the sparsely populated region for security reasons. Since then, huge swaths of the forest -- which is crucial for limiting the world's greenhouse gasses -- have been cleared for farmland used to feed Brazil's population and support its massive agricultural exports. Greater awareness of the environmental impacts in the 1990s produced tighter conservation regulations, though plenty of illegal clearing continues. In recent years, the annual deforestation rate has begun to rise again, and Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro has pledged to weaken regulations further in order to support businesses.

3: The US has recruited Australia to join its nascent mission of protecting ships in the critical Strait of Hormuz. Along with Britain and Bahrain, Australia is now the third country to join the US-led maritime mission, as high seas brinksmanship with the Iranians continues.

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