January 09, 2020
Multiple Australian state police agencies have found limited evidence to suggest the major destructive bushfires in their states were ignited by arsonists, contradicting the international onslaught of misinformation suggesting otherwise.
Arson Misinformation Undermines Link Between Australia Fires And Climate Change
A misleading figure shared by conservative media, apparent bots and trolls, and public figures ―including Donald Trump Jr and veteran Fox News host Sean Hannity ― suggests that 183, or “nearly 200” arsonists have been arrested this bushfire season. The Australian newspaper first reported 180 alleged arsonists were arrested “since the start of the bushfire season” in September but subsequently updated the story to reflect that these statistics were, in fact, covering the entirety of 2019. Trump Jr and Hannity, among others, spread the initial inaccurate statistic.Truly Disgusting that people would do this! God Bless Australia.More than 180 alleged arsonists have been arrested since the start of the bushfire season, with 29 blazes deliberately lit in the Shoalhaven region of southeast NSW in just three months. https://t.co/xP0PtMQbuD— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) January 7, 2020Though a handful of fires have been ignited by arsonists, authorities including the Victorian fire chief have confirmed that the majority of the largest blazes were ignited by dry lightning, not arson.
Dale Dominey-Howes, a professor of hazard and disaster risk sciences at the University of Sydney, told HuffPost there was a link between climate change and both the ignition and exacerbation of the bushfires.
“The majority of these bushfires have been generated by lightning strikes associated with weather and climate effects. Weather and climate are dominated by processes that are affected by climate change. So there is a link between climate change and the triggering or the starting of these fires,” Dominey-Howes said.
And even when a fire is ignited by human activity, climate still plays a major role in how much fuel is available for the fire and the conditions that worsen the blazes. 
“And then they’ve been much worse because we’re in a particularly bad period of drought,” said Dominey-Howes. “Very dry, hot weather, all of which are the conditions that favor the spread of bushfires.”Police in the states most affected by the fires ― New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia ― provided HuffPost with clarification on the misleading statistics that are making the rounds.
A South Australia police spokesperson said there is “nothing to immediately suggest that the significant recent fires in the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island were deliberately lit.” Since September 2019, 10 people in the state have been arrested for intentionally or recklessly causing a bushfire.
In the state of Victoria, police confirmed in a statement that “there is currently no intelligence to indicate that the fires in East Gippsland and the North East regions have been caused by arson or any other suspicious behaviour.” One blaze, which started Saturday morning but was contained by that evening, is being treated as suspicious. Victoria Police have not yet released data on crime statistics from September to December 2019 and were unable to provide the number of arson-related arrests.
In the hardest-hit state of New South Wales, police released a statement saying that 183 people had been charged with “bushfire-related offences since late last year.” Of this number, only 24 people were charged with deliberately lighting a bushfire. Other offenses listed included failing to comply with a total fire ban or discarding a lighted cigarette on land ― offenses that may not necessarily result in a fire.
NSW Police clarified in a statement to HuffPost: “The breach of the total fire ban or discarding of a lit cigarette is not an arson offense as these actions may not result in a fire. A breach of the total fire ban may be as simple as having an open flamed BBQ in your backyard.”
Queensland Police provided a statement saying that of 1,068 reported bushfires, 114 were ignited through human involvement subject to police enforcement. Queensland ― which unlike other states has had a relatively normal fire season ― saw 109 people dealt with by police for offenses that included unauthorised lighting of fires. However, this figure included people who violated local fire bans and endangered property.
Though arson certainly does play a role in the fires, the misleading numbers first reported highly exaggerate its contribution, and the misinformation spread rapidly in Australia and the US. Washington State GOP gubernatorial candidate pic.twitter.com/9ovXUnsKiu— Jason Wilson (@jason_a_w) January 7, 2020Some outlets are reporting this responsibly but the distorted version is all over garbage-tier rightwing media. pic.twitter.com/U9XxmzuKHl— Jason Wilson (@jason_a_w) January 7, 2020Timothy Graham, a senior lecturer on social network analysis at the Queensland University of Technology, conducted preliminary research that found what he believes to be an orchestrated “disinformation campaign” led by bot-like and troll-like accounts spreading the hashtag #ArsonEmergency in an attempt to shift blame for the wildfires away from climate change.
Many accounts using this hashtag also latched on to the misleading “nearly 200” figure.
“The conspiracy theories going around (including arson as the main cause of the fires) reflect an increased distrust in scientific expertise, skepticism of the media, and rejection of liberal democratic authority,” Graham told The Guardian.
Other misinformation about the fires includes theories about “greenies” preventing hazard reduction burns that led to a build-up of fuel for bushfires, a claim pushed by Barnaby Joyce, a former federal leader of the Nationals Party, and was splashed across social media. 
Shane Fitzsimmons, commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service, bluntly addressed these claims on an Australian Broadcasting Corp account, saying that longer and hotter fire seasons ― contributed to by climate change ― left a shrinking window of opportunity to complete these prophylactic burns. The Greens party issued a statement clarifying that they, in fact, support hazard reduction burns."We are not environmental bastards."@NSWRFS Commissioner @RFSCommissioner on hazard reduction burning, which he stresses is not the panacea for stopping fires spreading.#nswfires#AustraliaFirespic.twitter.com/Jcm803vBx9— News Breakfast (@BreakfastNews) January 7, 2020
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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