FOOTBALL’S FUTURE: THE OTHER WORLD CUP

In your Wednesday edition, Alex Kliment wrote about the World Cup and its political significance. That’s not the whole story. On the outskirts of London last week, the non-profit Confederation of Independent Football Associations and British bookmaker Paddy Power sponsored an alternative football eventfor territories and peoples whose sovereignty is not internationally recognized. The first version of this competition (2014) appeared in Sweden and the second (2016) in Abkhazia, a region that declared independence from Georgia in 1999.


Here we see the sporting rivalries of tomorrow: Iraqi Kurdistan vs Tibet, the Serbs of Hungary vs the Koreans of Japan, Greenland vs. Matabeleland, Abkhazia vs Panjab (the 2016 final), Karpatalya, a Hungarian-speaking minority in Western Ukraine, vs. Northern Cyprus (this year’s final), and the Ukrainian separatists of Donetsk vs the American and Canadian separatists of Cascadia.

The passion and fun are real, and the controversy is minimal. For now.

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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