WORDS MATTER: NIGERIA

Last week, the United States was gripped by a furiously partisan debate about whether President Trump’s divisive and threatening rhetoric about his opponents has contributed to recent acts of politically-motivated violence in America.


As all that was happening, the army of Nigeria clashed with hundreds of protesters who had blocked traffic outside the capital, Abuja. When some of the protesters threw rocks at the soldiers, they opened fire. Amnesty International, a human rights watchdog, said as many as 40 unarmed people were killed as a result.

On Friday, as local and international criticism of the Nigerian authorities mounted, the army responded by posting a clip of a speech given by Mr. Trump a day earlier, in which the US President warned that if migrants making their way towards the United States via Mexico throw rocks at the troops he has deployed to stop them, the soldiers would be justified in shooting them.

Please Watch and Make Your Deductions, the tweet said. Later in the day a Nigerian army spokesman doubled down, telling the New York Times that if Trump thinks a rock is the same as a rifle, “then who is Amnesty International?”

To be absolutely clear – there is no connection between the killing of the protesters, which happened on Monday, and Mr. Trump’s words about rifles and rocks, which came three days later. The Nigerian Army’s Twitter post has since been taken down, and Mr. Trump has in recent days qualified his own comments on the subject.

Still, the fact remains that the military of another country has now directly quoted Mr. Trump to justify, before the world, a potentially serious human rights violation. Just as many world leaders have also taken up Mr. Trump’s habit of decrying critical reporting as “fake news,” it’s a reminder that although America’s relative clout and credibility have been waning for many years, the words of the US president still carry a tremendous and sometimes chilling kind of power around the world.

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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