Hard Numbers: China Pumping Out Those Warships

200: Emperor Akihito of Japan stepped down from his symbolic role as head of state on Tuesday after 30 years–the first time a Japanese emperor has voluntarily abdicated in more than 200 years. His successor, Crown Prince Naruhito, ascends the Chrysanthemum Throne today.

5: The Islamic State released a clip showing its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in his first video appearance in five years. He is rallying his supporters and sympathizers after ISIS, which once ran a state the size of Great Britain, lost its last bits of territory in April.

40: Ethiopia rose 40 spots in Reporters Without Borders' 2019 World Press Freedom Index following a series of reforms passed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last year. Good progress, though the East African nation still ranks 110th out of 180 countries on the list.

400,000: China launched almost 400,000 metric tons of new warships, submarines, support ships, and other naval vessels between 2015 and 2017, according to data compiled by the International Institute for Strategic Studies – about twice the output of US shipyards over the same period. China has the world's fastest growing navy.

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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