Notes and shorts from around the world

Begging permits
A Swedish town has introduced an official begging permit. Anyone who wants to beg on the street in the small town of Eskilstuna, west of Stockholm, must first acquire a licence costing 250 Swedish krona (approx. $38). Beggars without one face a fine of up to 4,000 krona. The scheme, according to Jimmy Jansson, a local Social Democrat councillor, is aimed at bureaucratising begging to make it more difficult, as well as bringing vulnerable people into contact with social services. It came into force recently after a year of legal delays. Begging in Sweden has been a controversial subject for years. Many beggars are Roma people from Eastern Europe. In recent months, several Swedish towns have outlawed begging altogether.
Top scientist sacked
Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro has dismissed the head of a government agency that had revealed a big increase in deforestation in the Amazon. The pair clashed in July after Bolsonaro accused the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) of publishing “lies” designed to sully Brazil’s reputation. Ricardo Galvão responded by defending his agency’s record, calling Bolsonaro a “coward” and daring him to repeat the accusation to his face. Data from the INPE, which monitors deforestation via satellite photography, showed an 88% surge in deforestation in June compared with the same month a year ago. Preliminary data for July suggests an even bigger leap – a tripling compared with a year before.
The wrong man
Italy has granted asylum to an Eritrean man who was mistaken for a leading human trafficker, extradited from Sudan and held in custody for three years. When Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe was arrested in Sudan in 2016, his capture was hailed as a joint coup for Italian and British authorities, who thought they had detained one of the most wanted human traffickers in the region – an Eritrean named Medhanie Yehdego Mered, also known as ‘The General’. After a long legal process, Berhe’s identity was definitively proven, and a Palermo court ordered his release.
Unwise choice by public servant
George Freeman, MP, the UK’s new minister for transport, technology and innovation, took to Twitter to complain he was kept off a train by a truculent guard. Freeman and others were seconds late for Greater Anglia’s Cambridge to Attleborough service recently, he said, but “the guard watched us running, closed the doors, waved off the train, leaving us stranded for an hour, then smirked and ignored us.”
Bons mots
“The unfed mind devours itself.”
Gore Vidal, writer, USA

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