She was Britain's, indeed the Commonwealth's longest reigning monarch, having just celebrated her 70th year on the throne. This made Queen Elizabeth II's passing, despite weeks of declining health, all the more saddening not only to British citizens, but citizens around the world, many of whom carried objects and currencies bearing her effigy in their pockets.
Three generations had grown up knowing only her as monarch, a symbolic and diminutive but powerful figure who, even at a young age, was one of the symbols of the free world's resistance during the Second World War and remained, in the words of the U.K.'s new prime minister, "the rock on which modern Britain was built."
The rocky politics of the last weeks, months and years in the kingdom had most recently showed the significance of that contribution, no matter how subtle, in helping provide a sense of continuity and stability as Britain tried to ride, nevermind rule, the waves of the post-pandemic and post-Brexit inflationary war economy. While the reign was long, the transition could seem a bit abrupt in contrast, her son assuming the role of king instantaneously, under the title of Charles III, as the crowds were gathering outside Buckingham palace to mourn their monarch, a place they had so recently gathered to celebrate her reign.
The Queen hadn't passed on there but in her retreat of Balmoral, where Downing Street's new resident had to travel to take on her role, the latest sign the monarch was seeing her final days. The year had been trying for the 96-year-old queen, still mourning no doubt the loss of her husband of 73 years. Just a week earlier Britain had also stopped to mark the 25th anniversary of the passing of Lady Di.
The latter's ex-husband was now taking over the realms of the former empire after decades of waiting in the wings, rising to the throne at the age of 73, prepared like few others for the tasks ahead. While this doesn't mean his image now replaces his predecessor's right away on everything from police station portraits to coins, it does start the gradual process of changing quite a few nameplates and hymns.
God Save the King, for one, played shortly after the BBC's announcements of her passing, a single union jack fluttering in the wind. Across the pond His Majesty's Loyal opposition, a new leader at its head, would now take their benches back as parliament returned from summer break in Ottawa, but only after a first session devoted to mark her passing followed by a national day of mourning punctured by the echoes of cannon fire. In the provincial capital, the legislature known as Queen's Park cancelled sittings as a sign of respect.
The soon to be king had visited Canada earlier this year as a means to re-introduce himself to the masses as he slowly took over roles previously left to her majesty, such as delivering a speech to the British parliament in her stead. The transition was slowly taking place, and Canadians turned out in great numbers at every stop of his tour to see the future king, 12 years after his mother's last visit to Canada.
But will the already fraying ties between the monarchy and its subjects be further worn under Charles III? Paying tribute, as so many around the world upon hearing the news of her passing, was the president of Barbados, which a year prior had broken its ties with the monarchy. From 32 at the time of Queen Elizabeth's coronation, the number of countries where the monarch served as head of state has dwindled to 15. And with her passing others could be lining up to leave, both far and near.
Before being transported to London, the late Queen lied in state in Scotland, a region that has also signalled new intentions to break from the kingdom, though this discussion was muted for now. A poll this summer showed support for the monarchy by Scots down to 45%, with 36% venturing the death of the queen would be the right time to become a republic. The numbers may be similar elsewhere, including Canada.
New Zealand's leader said that while separating from the monarchy wasn't a pressing matter currently, she saw it happening in her lifetime. And mourning wasn't for everyone, especially for people who in the past sufferted from colonial rule. South Africa's Economic Freedom Fighters party stated: "We do not mourn the death of Elizabeth, because to us her death is a reminder of a very tragic period in this country and Africa's history." During his more recent travels Charles had expressed regret for some of the crown's actions in the past in the colonies. But it may have been too little too late.
SIX MONTHS ON
The display was impressive as rows upon rows of Russian military vehicles finally occupied the center of Kyiv. Tanks, armed personnel carriers and other mechanical monsters of war lined up on the central avenue in front of the Ukrainian parliament, six months after the conflict.
But upon close inspection many weren't in much shape to move anywhere fast. They were in fact captured trophies the Ukrainian army was proud to display, medals of bravery and defiance in full display for smartphone carrying pedestrians happy to snap away in the relatively untroubled capital.
More than six months after the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine the eastern front has been largely swept, but the Russian gains were largely limited there, and at what cost. Sanctions are taking a growing bite into the increasingly isolated country, whose national airline has started cannibalizing plane parts, while continued military aid to Ukraine has put it on the offensive in the south of the country.
Drones and other major pieces of Kyiv's West-backed arsenal have been laying waste to Russian military depots in occupied Crimea, while president Volodymyr Zelensky has been increasingly bold, refusing Russian overtures short of the return of all Ukrainian territory. This week Kyiv launched an offensive to recapture part of the south and east.
Combined results are having a psychological impact on Moscow, Western officials say, especially strikes on Crimea which have taken place during much of August. Attacks on the Saki airbase on the 9th and ensuing drone and other Ukrainian strikes have effectively put more than half of the Black Sea fleet's fighter jets out of action, the fleet based there enduring continuous setbacks since the beginning of the invasion in February.
In that part of the country at least it is Russia which is on the defensive, notably since the April sinking of the 186-metre Moskva cruiser. Continuous strikes on the peninsula since have turned Moscow's attention there instead of making progress elsewhere, occasionally firing shots in Kyiv and other regions as if to remind Ukraine of its continuing but dwindling reach.
Things should have been settled by now on many accounts, and the prospects of a long war is causing grumblings in Russia itself despite the heavy hand of Kremlin censorship. Even fervent nationalists have taken to social media to criticize Vladimir Putin's offensive, panning failures on the battle field and accusing the military of being ill-prepared to attack its smaller but fierce neighbor. They deplored high casualties, the mention of which are usually limited on official media channels.
Assisting Ukraine in the fight has been continuing U.S. financing. At the beginning of August Washington said it would send another $550 million in arms to Ukraine, for a total of $8 billion since the invasion began. This is understandably upsetting Moscow, which is increasingly accusing the U.S. and its allies of direct interference. Moscow was further riled after the explosion of a bomb a few weeks ago which killed the daughter of someone close to the Kremlin regime, accusing Kyiv of being responsible for terrorism.
Ukraine denied any involvement and cancelled independence day festivities due days later in order not to further provoke Moscow, asking citizens to brace themselves for what were likely to be vengeful retaliatory acts. Ukrainians came out to party anyways, defiant all the way.
The EU has also been boosting its spending to Ukraine, adding another half a billion euros in July, for a total of 2.5 billion. Other methods have been used to finance Kyiv's efforts, one more creative than the other. One web site gives supporters the ablity to write their own messages on bombs before they are launched against Russian targets. Canadians have asked that messages such as "With love from Canada" be written. Customers are then sent videos of their bombs being dropped. The web site has so far gathered some $200,000 to help purchase equipment in the war efforts such as drones and military vehicles.
With the repeated attacks in Crimea, concern is growing not only among nationalist but other Russians as well. "People are beginning to feel that the war is coming to them," told the New York Times Andrei Kortunov of the Russian International Affairs Council. But in the mean time some strikes are causing concern of devastating consequences.
The West multiplied its appeals to Russia not to target Ukraine's largest power plant, whether by shelling it or cutting power. But the shelling continued even as UN monitor arrived on site this week for what they hoped to be a prolonged stay to survey the state of the Zaporizhzhya facilities in the south of the country.
The new round of shelling followed the killing of the daughter of a Russian nationalist close to the Kremlin. The latter accused Ukraine or committing terrorist act, observers speculating Moscow may be up to its latest false flag theories, seeking to justify more attacks against its neighbor.
Six months in a top Ukrainian commander is estimating losses at around 9,000 troops, but the government says Russian human losses are five times greater, also listing over 1,900 tanks, and hundreds of planes and helicopters as having been destroyed, figures hard to verify. But can the West sustain its efforts amid inflation and recession worries in Europe? To ensure the flow kept going into Ukraine UK diplomats made the rounds urging their counterparts not to cut their efforts both military and humanitarian.
France's Emmanuel Macron vowed the support would keep coming. “Our determination has not changed and we are ready to maintain this effort for the long term,” he told the audience of a conference . But in the new Cold War that emerges, the other block is also solidifying. China is calling its friendship with Russia "solid as a rock" ahead of an expected G20 summit where the two leaders are expected to meet.
Meanwhile just over half of Americans say they should back Ukraine until Russia withdraws. And Moscow is showing no sign of backing down, seeking to recruit another 137,000 troops by January. Current troops meanwhile were joining Chinese ones in large scale military exercises meant to send a signal of defiant unity.
Y a-t-il quelqu'un pour freiner François Legault? Le premier ministre sortant du Québec et co-fondateur d'Air Transat a de l'altitude dans les sondages, qui laissent ses opposants libéraux et solidaires cloués au sol alors que démarre la campagne électorale au Québec.
Autant le raz de marée caquiste était une surprise en 2018 qu'il est plutôt attendu cet automne, car avec 42% des intentions de vote, la Coalition Avenir Québec amasse à elle seule autant de soutien que trois des autres partis réunis.
Le résultat est d'autant plus surprenant que cinq partis, un record, sont engagés dans la campagne. Evidemment, cette opposition est divisée. La chute est notable pour les partis traditionnels. Légère-ment en avance sur Québec solidaire avec 14%, les Libéraux n'ont cependant que l'appui de 7% des francophones, qui appuient principalement le parti au pouvoir.
Les péquistent chutent sous les 9%, même s'ils sont le "second choix" des électeurs. Pourtant, tout n'est pas si rose s'il faut croire le sondeur Jean-Marc Léger à quelques semaines des élections.
«Sur la majorité des thèmes testés, le gouvernement fait moins bien que les attentes. Ça, pour moi, c’est une surprise, quand on regarde la force de l’intention de vote, dit-il. L’insatisfaction peut ressortir pendant la campagne électorale, cette élection-là n’est pas terminée."
Pourtant l'avance est aussi notable quand on demande aux électeurs qui devrait être premier ministre, car Legault récupère 44% des intentions de vote après avoir guidé la province pendant l'épreuve de la pandémie.
Après quatre ans de règne Legault 58% des Québécois s'estiment satisfaits par la démarche de son gouvernement dans une province qui a durement été touchée par le covid. Mais depuis quelques semaines la belle province s'enlise dans la violence des gangs de rue qui terrorise ses habitants, notamment dans la région de Montréal.
Pendant ce temps Legault se faisait beaucoup moins présent sur le terrain que ses adversaires. Est-ce là le sujet brûlant qui pourrait miner l'appui de son parti? Son opposante Dominique Anglade lui reproche d'en faire peu sur la question, estimant que «la situation n’est pas prise au sérieux quand on se contente de réagir sur Twitter et de faire des réunions Zoom.»
Pourtant celui-ci insiste, après une journée marquée par deux meurtres dans la métropole: «On ne lésinera pas sur les moyens pour remettre de l’ordre et protéger les citoyens. On appuiera nos forces policières pour que cette violence cesse». A la veille du coup d'envoi Québec débloquait $250 millions sur cinq ans pour permettre l'embauche de 450 policiers.
Canada338 lui donne 99% de chances d'emporter un gouvernement majoritaire le 3 octobre, n'en déplaise ceux qui sont opposés à ses politiques du voile dans les institutions publiques ou sur la langue française. La violence, l'inflation ou la crise des urgences pourraient-ils le rattraper? Plusieurs ne sont pas prêts à gager contre lui.
Sure there are many crises afflicting the planet. As the summer months recede after devastating fires and floods, showing the steady and deadly march of climate change, the war in Ukraine endures, as does the pandemic, threatening to increase its hold during the cold season.
World Health Organization's director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is fully aware of its continuing threat as covid-19 claims over 15,000 deaths a day worldwide, as he is of other emerging health emergencies, from monkey-pox to the Langya virus. But the famine in the war-torn Tigray region of his native Ethiopia is allowed to continue without the attention of other crises, he lamented, and this, he said, may have something to do with skin colour, a claim with has raised eyebrows.
Some six million people are unable to access basic services, he deplored, calling it the "worst humanitarian crisis in the world," terms you would have expected from UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, the former head of the UNCHR, rather than the head of the WHO. Tedros, who was born in Tigray, was early on alarmed by the need for better health care after his brother died at a young age of what was probably a preventable disease.
His career later combined politics and health care, becoming minister of health and a member of the Tigray People's Liberation Front, part of the coalition of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front which eventually overthrew Mengistu Haile Mariam in the early 1990s.
Ongoing fighting between Ethiopian and Tigrayan forces have left thousands dead and left many more struggling to meet their basic needs, a crisis largely ignored by the West. "Maybe the reason is the color of the skin of the people," suggested Tedros in a virtual meeting.
According to the United Nations almost one in three children under five is malnourished in that region, asking for urgent action to save lives. Explaining this in part is that more than half of pregnant or breast feeding women were themselves malnourished. This requires "calls for urgent action to strengthen interventions to prevent excess mortality due to malnutrition," according to one assessment.
Funding squeezes at the UN, in part due to the war in Ukraine, are making matters worse, says Claire Nevill of the World Food Programme. The rising price of food is leaving some 90% of the population "food insecure", making the harvest of the next few months critical. Assisting, perhaps, is the fact ships are finally leaving Ukraine's Black Sea ports after months of blockade, some of them headed for the troubled region.
But getting to Tigray will be another matter. Other areas of the continent are also facing food insecurities, Save the Children saying northwest Uganda is currently gripped with a major food crisis as well. More than 40% of people in the region are struck by hunger, especially women and children.
There the pandemic, droughts, locust swarms and attacks by armed groups are primarily causing the crisis, according to the charity organization. The racism charge has been levelled by others against the West, notably comparing the Afghan and Ukrainian aid efforts, but never by so high-level an official.
Ethiopia's government criticized Tedros' statement as "unethical", saying it was unbecoming such a high-level position. Tigray forces retook much of the region in 2021 and this prevents humanitarian aid from coming in to the breakaway region of Ethiopia. And the suffering won't end any time soon. Last week Addis accused Tigray rebels of resuming fighting, ending their truce. Then over the weekend a strike hit a daycare in the Tigrayan capital.
There were still a few hours left in the Montreal to Lisbon flight when the call came out. "Is there a doctor or nurse on the plane?" As the plane passed the Açores, the young nurse in row 27 shook her head and rose from her seat.
Already exhausted from months of pandemic work, she diligently answered the call, remaining with the patient for hours until the Airbus landed in Portugal, occasionally retrieving items from her bag that could help with the emergency. It never ends it seems.
Even hours into a well-deserved break from unending days of overtime and weekends in a Canadian emergency ward. Currently a staffing shortage in countries known for their accessible healthcare has brought their systems on the brink on both sides of the pond.
In Quebec and Ontario emergency wards have been closed overnights in some hospitals already under full capacity, while an ambulance driver shortage stretched response into hours in Alberta. In France, one of Europe's model health care systems has also been pushed to the brink after years of pandemic and staff shortages, sparking strike action as the remaining workers crack from burnout.
"We don’t have the adequate structure, neither the adequate conditions, nor the adequate tools, or enough staff. It's getting complicated,” nurse Maxime Bartolini told Euronews at the Fréjus St. Raphaël hospital on the French Riviera. "We’ve been working at a sustained, high pace, since December." As those countries faced rising patient intake amid a new wave of covid-19, the strains are showing after years of non-stop emergencies that have accelerated the departure of health care workers, while new recruits fail to make up for the losses.
"The closure of the secondary hospital departments at night, it’s meant we’ve had to reorganise. The ambulances are also overwhelmed," he went on. "It's a danger for the patient and we're overloaded. We do more than our duties, we help each other. We do what we can, but now we're running out of solutions, it's pretty catastrophic."
In France the issue dominated debates leading up to legislative elections while the president launched a task force to find solutions to the crisis. As the provincial legislature resumed activities after the spring's election in Ontario meanwhile, the issue was front and centre after a summer of closed emergency wards as nursing shortages impacted health care services.
Nursing groups there also mention burnouts and lack of compensation which are driving workers out of the profession over time, calling for better pay and more efforts to bring in foreign health care professionals. Making matters worse are rising prices that have made affordability more difficult. Sparking debate, the returning conservative adminis-tration in Ontario said considering private health care solutions was not off the table, provoking rebuke from the Canadian Medical Association.
This week the province clarified this meant having more surgeries done at private clinics that would be covered by government insurance. Still, critics say, this would not solve the problem and allow clinics to pick their clients. The country's health care system is in crisis as one in two nurses is thinking of quitting the profession, notes Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses union.
“It’s almost like health employers don’t care or don’t know what to do,” she said. “We are very concerned as health-care workers. What we’re talking now is the survival of our system.” Spokesperson for the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians Dr. Atul Kapur says the problem has been a long time coming. “We’ve been sounding the alarm about shortages of physicians and nurses for quite some time,” he said in an interview with the Canadian Press, including problems that pre-existed the pandemic and worsened with time.
And the problem isn't only found out East. In the West the city of Calgary had no ambulances available an average of 420 times per month from January to June 2022, doubling the number of "red alerts" in the first six months of 2021 and nearly tripling what was seen in 2020. "We don't have enough people, we don't have enough paramedics on the streets to take care of Albertans' need," said Mike Parker, the president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta.
There also some observe the problems have been a long time coming. "We can't continue to blame it on staff shortages due to covid or those sorts of factors," told CBC Lorian Hardcastle of University of Calgary. "This is a persistent problem. And the government needs to do something about it sooner or later. We don't want to get to a point where we have several catastrophic incidents where people die waiting for ambulance."
Alberta Health Services noted the problem was nationwide. "This is not unique to Alberta — EMS is under similar pressure in health-care jurisdictions across Canada." Almost on cue Ontario's Durham region also announced it was unable to provide ambulances for a period. Ontario union president Stéphanie Taylor said the problems goes back years. "Paramedic services across the province have been inappropriately staffed for decades long before the pandemic, long before the staffing crisis in hospitals," she said. As a result 91% work ovetime regularly.
As the number of covid-19 infections and hospitalizations dropped in Quebec, its health officials noted over 4,000 health care workers were absent for covid-related reasons at the beginning of August, down from 6,000 but still leaving a busy sector under further strain. Provincial premiers have been asking Ottawa for further health care transfers to assist in the crisis.
In the meantime Quebec has asked sick health care workers back to work, is paying double for overtime, restoring covid bonuses provided during the pandemic. Canada fares poorly when compared to other OECD countries, ranking 27th out of the 33 countries reporting data, Kapur notes. "In Ontario alone, we would need to add over 7,500 doctors (on top of the 45,000 currently licensed) just to reach the OECD average," he wrote in a letter to a newspaper. "Similarly, Canada ranks 30th for the number of hospital beds and 18th for nurses, adjusted for population." Hardly something to brag about.
JUSTICE AUX TROUSSES
Une perquisition chez un président provoque des condamnations de chasse aux sorcières anti-constitution-nelle sur fond d'accusations de corruption. Mais non, il n'est pas question de Mar-a-Lago, résidence de Donald Trump depuis sa déconfiture électorale, à la veille d'une comparution lors de laquelle il s'est retenu de dire mot, mais Lima, où cet autre chef d'état visé par une tentative de destitution n'en est plus à ses premiers démêlés avec la justice lui non plus.
Pourtant cette fois c'est sa belle-soeur, qui réside au palais, qui faisait l'objet d'un avis de recherche pour implication dans "un groupe criminel" qui selon la presse "mettrait en place des appels d'offre illégaux." Selon d'autres médias le président lui-même ainsi que la première dame seraient impliqués.
Pedro Castillo, pourtant en poste depuis un an à peine, réplique qu'il fait l'objet d'un complot de la part de membres "du congrès, du bureau du procureur général et de certains membres de la presse pour destabiliser l'ordre démocratique." Un langage bien trumpiste. Castillo, qui sombre dans des sondages montrant une impopularité dans les 74%, fait face à cinq enquêtes en cours par le parquet, dont une pour corruption.
Comme la visite du FBI à Mar-a-Lago, l'opération policière visant Yenifer Paredes, 26 ans, était sans précédent au pays. Elle a finalement décidé de se livrer à la police quelques jours plus tard.
Plus tôt dans la semaine un rapport parlementaire avait recommandé une disqualifica-tion et une enquête au criminel contre Castillo pour supposément avoir proposé de tenir un référendum pour déterminer si les Péruviens permettraient l'abandon d'une partie de leur territoire à la Bolivie afin de lui donner un accès à la mer.
Castillo nie avoir fait une proposition formelle, qui serait contre la constitution du pays, elle qui empêche toute séparation du territoire national. Quoiqu'il en soit la famille présidentielle s'est attirée les projecteurs de la justice depuis quelques temps. Son neveu, qui avait eu le rôle de ministre des transports et de secrétaire présidentiel, étant également dans la mire de la justice péruvienne.
Les enfants de Trump de leur côté ont été invités à comparaitre lors des enquêtes sur l'insurrection du 6 janvier 2021 au Capitole et aussi en relation avec les affaires plutôt nébuleuses de l'empire immobilier de leur père.
Mais si les partisans de Trump voient avec la perquisition de Mar-a-Lago une occasion de brandir le flambeau de la campagne de 2024, les supporters de Castillo semblent moins fervents et ont plutôt abandonné leur commandant en chef. Castillo fait face en fait à rien de moins qu'une troisième tentative de destitution, pour "trahison" cette fois pour l'affaire du référendum.
As the war in Ukraine drags on, the African continent is getting a lot of attention from both sides of the conflict, with visits from Russian, French and U.S. representa-tives all trying to win over the support of countries no matter how far removed from the front.
Countries from the continent have largely not condemned Russia's invasion of its neighbor, leaving a welcome map for visiting foreign minister Sergey Lavrov at the end of July on a tour of countries that included Uganda, Egypt, Congo-Brazaville and Ethiopia. Lavrov blamed the pandemic, the West's green policies and sanctions against Russia for rising food prices on the continent, with its devastating effects, rather than the war in Ukraine and the blockade of ports used to ship grain out of the country.
Unlike his rivals however Lavrov did not announce any help for the suffering countries of the region. The US promised $1.3 billion to curb hunger and France, whose president was touring the region at around the same time, said it would support the International Fund for Agricultural Development's efforts against famine to the tune of over $3 billion.
Emmanuel Macron toured Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau and Benin, accusing Moscow of using food as a weapon of war. He also accused Russia of neocolonialism... an odd charge considering he made it while he toured a former French colony. Security was also high on the agenda of Macron's visit, which included a tour in Guinea, which had witnessed a failed coup earlier this year.
Notably France withdrew its remaining troops from Mali this year, which have in some parts been supplanted by Russian mercenaries as the country struggles against extremism. Last week Putin and the leader of the Malian junta even held a phone call during which they praised their excellent military relations, a reminder Russia is a major arms supplier on the continent.
Also tailing Lavrov closely in the region was the U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Michael Hammer, who visited Egypt and Ethiopia, while the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, travelled to Uganda and Ghana. This was merely setting up the stage for Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken's own tour last week, which included South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
The competition is fierce for support among those countries in their own time of need and security worries, especially a member of the BRICS such as South Africa, part of a group of five countries largely supportive of Russia, which sits among them. The cordial meeting with president Cyril Ramaphosa did not change anything on Pretoria's stance, which refused to criticize the invasion of Ukraine, owing to long-standing ties with a country which had actively criticized Apartheid before the racist policy was dropped in the 1990s.
"Some are of the opinion that the former liberation movement still owes the Russians a lot since the days of the Cold War, and now we Africans have to shut up about the Russian invasion," told DW Angolan political scientist Olivio N'kilumbu, adding Russia wants to "revive the old connections between the Soviet Union and liberation movements". Critics say this leaves South Africa on the wrong side of history.
Blinken announced what he called a new American engagement toward sub-Saharan countries, one he said which recognized them as equal partners while touting the region as a “major geopolitical force.” But one not without its challenges as the next countries he visited showed.
In Congo he was urged to condemn neighbor Rwanda, which represented the next leg of his delicate tour, for supporting M23 rebels Kinshasa accuses of causing troubles in the East. This on the heels of a UN report saying there was solid evidence Rwandan troops were backing the rebels in that part of Congo.
C'était il y a deux ans aux premières heures de la pandémie. Le Met office britannique ne perdait pas de vue les autres urgences de l'heure en 2020 et faisait une projection du climat du Royaume uni dans 30 ans. La carte estivale établie montrait du rouge écarlate sur l'ensemble du territoire, avec des pointes de 40 degrés par endroit.
Le mythe des iles balayées par les pluies et la fraicheur à l'année longue, déjà remis en cause, était fracassé. Chose étonnante, la carte de la mi-juillet cette année retrouvait les mêmes tons. Avait-on fait un saut dans le temps? Ou les modèles devaient-ils être simplement repensés?
Quelques jours plus tard le pays déclarait une première alerte rouge météo. Lors de journées particulièrement torrides le gouvernement recommandait d'éviter le métro ou les trains à Londres pour éviter les cas d'insolation.
L'aéroport de Luton près de la capitale suspendait même ses vols en raison de la chaleur qui menaçait l'état des pistes. L'été 2022 se résume par un bond semblable et planétaire semble-t-il.
Outre-Manche le réchauffement terrestre brillait non par sa présence mais son absence au défilé du 14 à Paris. Les bombardiers Canadairs prévus pour l'occasion ont dû être mobilisés pour combattre les flammes dans le sud du pays embrasé. La France, comme beaucoup d'autres pays du vieux continent - qui comptait plus de 1000 victimes - combat la canicule encore cette année, un phénomène qui est allé jusqu'à causer le décret de l'état d'urgence dans le nord d'une Italie assoiffé.
La botte était presque en même temps frappée par un désastre climatique étonnant après l'effondrement d'un glacier qui a fait sept morts dans la région des Dolomites. Même spectacle terrifiant au Kygyzstan, où une douzaine de randonniers ont eu plus de peur que de mal après un phénomène similaire. Encore une fois la chaleur fracasse les records, prolongeant le sentiment d'avoir atteint un point de non retour à travers la planête.
Il y a quelques années on faisait le deuil du premier glacier Icelandais pour cause de réchauffement climatique, mais on constate que ce n'est que le début de ce genre de dénouement après ces deux incidents récents et rapprochés. "Les glaciers ne vont que dans un seul sens et c'est celui de la disparition, note Peter Neff de l'université du Minnesota. Le sentiment après l'événement en Italie... est que ceci va devenir plus fréquent."
Toute aussi spectaculaire, la lutte contre les brasiers s'étend de la Grèce, endeuillie par l'écrasement d'un hélicoptère combattant les flammes, au Portugal, site d'un autre écrasement de bombardier des pompiers de l'air, et aux Etats-Unis, où le park Yosemite voyait ses sequoias millénaires menacés par les ravages des feux ardents.
Ailleurs en Amérique, les signes du réchauffement ne sont plus le produit de la projection mais constituent une réalité qui crève les yeux, comme les lignes blanches de niveau d'eau sur les parois des pierres en bordure du Lac Mead au Nevada, et les têtes de bétail effondrées par milliers en raison de la chaleur au Kansas.
Les désastres naturels s'avèrent de plus en plus coûteux, notamment quand ils visent des communautés plus d'une fois. C'est le cas de la petite ville de Lytton en Colombie britannique, rasée lors de feux l'an dernier et à nouveau menacée cette année. Ailleurs sur le continent, la sécheresse ravage des régions de l'ouest américain au Mexique, où la ville de Monterrey souffre du manque de pluie, elle qui n'a pas vu une goutte tomber en 15 mois, forçant les autorités locales à rationner l'eau courante.
Voilà un geste de plus en plus fréquent dans les grandes villes, du Cap en Afrique du sud à Chennai en Inde, frappées précédemment mais toujours menacées par de nouvelles mesures qui limitent l'accès à l'eau. A l'autre bout de la planête, les tempêtes de sable causent plusieurs morts dans les pays du Moyen-Orient, de l'Arabie Saoudite en Iraq. Plus fréquentes de mai en juillet, ces dernières frappent les régions concernées plus tôt et plus fréquemment. En plus de menacer les populations locales, ces tempêtes touchent les infrastructures vitales comme les lignes à haute tension, et menacent les transports tout comme les récoltes selon un rapport de la Banque mondiale. On estime leur coût à 13 milliards de dollars environ.
Le coût planétaire de tous ces événemnents, surtout visibles en été mais existant sous une forme ou une autre à l'année longue, s'avèrent astrono-miques, ce qui fait dire aux observateurs que le coût de mesures pour les affronter ou les limiter sont des investissements coûteux en fait largement justifiés, et moins onéreux malgré tout que l'inaction à long terme. Seul reste à déterminer si le point de non retour n'a pas, en effet, déjà été atteint.
"Le changement climatique est bien là, on se rend compte que notre maison brûle et on ne peut plus regarder ailleurs, note le climatologue Jean Pascal van Ypersele. Les conditions que l’on voit maintenant vont devenir plus fréquentes, vont s’aggraver encore et vont devenir plus propice aux incendies de forêt, particulièrement dans le pourtour méditerranéen" avec des conséquences sur la santé humaine et non seulement l’environnement.
Alors qu'une partie de la Californie était en état d'urgence en raison des feux, des avertissements de chaleur intense étaient en vigueur dans 70 villes de Chine, où les temperatures devaient dépasser les 40 degrés. Mais il y a peut-être du bien à long terme. En France le gouvernement interdisait aux magasins climatisés de garder leurs portes ouvertes, en Espagne on limitait les niveaux de climatisation tandis que les pays de l'Union européenne étaient appelés à réutiliser leurs eaux usées. Des mesures il en faut pour combattre les changements climatiques, qui menacent la planête, selon le secrétaire général des Nations unies, de "suicide collectif".
TAKING IT TO THE STREETS
When the people speak it can be at the ballot box or in the streets, and over the last few weeks those choosing the latter have upped the ante to condemn government action or inaction by storming legislatures and presidential palaces from Baghdad and Libya to Colombo.
Last week supporters of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr again stormed Iraq's parliament building, taking selfies and sitting at the desk of representatives to protest the nomination of a rival as prime minister as the country tries to resolve months of political impasse after recent elections.
Earlier the clash in Sri Lanka, putting an end to the presidency as well as the premiership in charge after the takeover of the presidential palace, was a most spectacular display of people power. While plenty of tear gas was discharged there was little violence during the occupation which followed months of protest against economic decisions.
The south Asian country has been reeling from economic crisis for months, the government at one point giving workers an extra day off per week to grow their own food amid major shortages. Not content to make a statement and leave, protesters, who cooled off by dipping in the presidential pool, remained in the building to make sure president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who ultimately fled the country and was replaced in the interim by prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, wasn't coming back.
But the latter also saw his office ransacked by the furious masses who accused him of being too close to the Rajapaksa clan, which has dominated politics ever since Mahinda Rajapaksa's government defeated Tamil separatist rebels in 2009, ending the bloody civil war, his brother Gotabaya being defense secretary at the time.
The election of Wickremesinghe is sure to leave critics angry at the government and spoiling for a fight despite commitments to restore unity and tackle de nation's ills."I am absolutely disgusted at the result," said one activist. "MPs that are supposed to represent the people have completely disregarded the wants of the people."
It’s been a summer of discontent in the streets of Libya as well, where protesters stormed an empty legislature in the eastern city of Tobruk to vent their frustration about deteriorating living conditions and political deadlock in a country where chaos has reigned since the removal of strongman Moammar Gadhafi 11 years ago. Video footage showed a protester driving a bulldozer through a gate, allowing other demonstrators to flood into the compound.
Triggering the outburst were power shortages in a divided country where oil resources have been hampered by the blockade of fuel facilities. The country has been mired by a political deadlock since the 2021 elections were postponed due to bitter disagreements over candi-dacies. “Popular protests have erupted across Libya in exasperation at a collapsing quality of life, the entire political class who manufactured it, and the UN who indulged them over delivering promised change,” noted Tarek Megerisi of the European Council on Foreign Relations. "Things are escalating quickly and the response will define Libya's summer."
Some unrest have affected change quicker than others. In Uzbekistan (see READ) protest put an end to plans to rejig the constitution to deny the region of Karakalpakstan its autonomy. The outbreaks hardly resolved anything but showed the might of people power and occasionally its ability to affect change.
Alors que les cas de covid rebondissent partout dans un monde mieux immunisé mais plutôt épuisé par la pandémie, cette recrudescence semble largement absente en Afrique, où l'urgence semble ailleurs.
Dans la salle d'attente portuguaise d'un vol partant pour Dakar peu de passagers portent le masque, même s'il sera obligatoire à bord. L'attitude est déjà beaucoup plus relaxée. Une fois sur le sol à Diass à une cinquantaine de kilomètres de la capitale, une ligne de travailleurs de la santé attend les passagers pour vérifier leur pass sanitaire, mais personne ne demande le formulaire de contact remis à bord de l'avion, et l'immigration une fois passée, les masquent tombent de toute parts.
A peine plus de 1000 cas ont été rapportés par Dakar lors des 28 derniers jours, ce qui est guère beaucoup plus que les 800 au minuscule Cap Vert au large de la côte, où les gens étaient jusqu'à récemment contrôlés au thermomètre dès leur entrée. Les masques y sont un peu plus présents en public et un chauffeur de taxi, le masque au nez, vaporise les mains de ses passagers avant et après avoir embarqué dans son véhicule. Les passagers des minibus locaux le portent sans faute.
A Dakar cependant, la pandémie semble avoir disparu, ou du moins son urgence, comme la murale du quartier du Plateau sur les mesures de précaution, blanchie graduellement par le soleil sans relâche d'Afrique. "Plus tôt cette année tout le monde l'a attrapé, un expatrié canadien, depuis ils disent que tout le monde est immunisé alors les gens s'en foutent."
L'urgence est ailleurs, faisait noter le ministre de l'économie Amadou Hott lors du récent sommet du G20, notamment la crise alimentaire. Il utilise des termes qui suggèrent qu'on a déjà tourné la page de la pandémie.
"Durant les temps du covid le monde s'est réuni et a pris un nombre de décisions extraordinaire en un temps record, dit-il. C'est la même chose ici. Si on n'agit pas vite on aura plus de victimes que durant le covid."
Certains craignent même une compétition féroce pour s'arracher les ressources alimentaires pareille à celle de la course aux vaccins au plus fort de la pandémie, durant laquelle les pays plus pauvres ont dû attendre.
Ceci a fait du continent le moins vacciné pour le covid, et il attend toujours ses premières livraisons pour le vaccin contre la variole du singe, qui fait pourtant partie du paysage depuis des années dans la région.
“Il faut vraiment prioriser là où la variole du singe peut être stoppée à la source,” note Ahmed Ogwell Ouma du African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, ajoutant que l’Afrique est le meilleur endroit où s'y attaquer. Car les défis ne s’arrêtent pas là puisque l’Afrique est également confrontée à une demi douzaine d’autres éclosions dont celle du virus Marburg, la fièvre de Lassa, le choléra, la rougeole et la polio.
OUTRAGE IN THE STRAIT
The issue of Taiwan is already sensitive the way it is in the best of times, never mind when the island is already under watch in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Add a visit by the most high level US official in decades and you have a recipe for sounding every alarm bell from Taipei to the mainland coast.
No sooner was US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landing in the capital that China was sending fighter jets into the air and preparing for the largest military manoeuvres ever around the nation of 23 million formally recognized by fewer than a dozen UN members. Ships circled the island as fighter jets violated its air space while rockets flew overhead and landed in nearby waters, alarming Tokyo which protested through diplomatic channels.
"To have five Chinese missiles fall within Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone like this is a first," condemned defense minister Nobuo Kishi. While this wasn't the overture of an invasion of the island it did amount to a blockade of sorts disrupting the usually heavy ship traffic and grounding a number of commercial airline flights, isolating physically a land Beijing has been seeking to isolate politically.
The trip was significant in that in reaffirmed America's support of the democracy in the Strait of Taiwan, as authoritarianism makes gains on the mainland and globally. “America’s determination to preserve democracy, here in Taiwan and around the world, remains ironclad,” said the visiting lawmaker, who has never shied from confronting China, during a meeting with Taiwanese nationalist President Tsai Ing-wen.
Both she and the US president say they are committed to America's so-called one-China policy, which both recognizes Beijing but allows informal relations with Taipei. But the visit further disrupted some of Washington's ties with Asia's largest power, Beijing severing military and climate ties at a time global warming is impacting both powers, the world's top two polluters, and much of the planet. Climate change is in fact an area where bilateral cooperation has been notable, as has the common fight against illicit drugs.
Beijing's punishing measures however also include halting cooperation on anti-drug efforts and immigration. While some have deplored China's reaction to the visit as childish, Xi Jinping has to appear strong and unwavering months away from a Communist party congress where he will seek a third term, even if one is widely expected to be granted.
The crisis does enable him to deflect attention from the country's ills in a year marked by costly zero-covid measures which have provoked economic hardship and rare public protest. Pelosi and some experts say China is using her visit as an excuse for further squeezing Taiwan and trying to send a message to its nationalist leader, considering the preparations that would have been necessary for launching such extensive military exercises.
Washington summoned its Chinese ambassador to protest what it called "irresponsible" actions. But China says America's bullying has made it a "saboteur of peace" in the region, leaving it prone to further escalation, some fear. In the future "some sort of military confrontation [is possible]," says Lynette Ong, author of Outsourcing Repression: Everyday State Power in Contemporary China. "We have never ruled it out, but I think the likelihood has been ratcheted up, definitely."
China's military threat is more credible than it was 20 years ago notes Alessio Patalano of the King's College in London, adding "but it's hard to determine if the Chinese army can truly lead an operation as important as an invasion of Taiwan."
A SAD PRIDE
On the 50th anniversary of the first gay pride gatherings, this one held a special significance. Days after two men were gunned down in a gay bar where 20 more people were injured, thousands of demonstrators in Oslo defied a request from local police to cancel this year's pride and marched on carrying banners that said "you can't cancel us."
While pride marches took place around the world for the first time since the pandemic, not all were incident free, including one in Istanbul where authorities cracked down on the rally, arresting over 100 people.
Turkiye is a rare Muslim-majority country that actually allows pride marches to take place, but a ban on them had been imposed in its largest city, showing continuing tug of wars between progress and regression. While Switzer-land allowed the first gay marriages to take place, catching up to most of Europe, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to end the constitutional rights to abortion, and one of the justices' comments in particular, led to fears that other rights could be removed, including gay marriage rights.
The summer has had its ups and downs in terms of celebrating diversity. Causing more concern in this community is the rise of a monkeypox virus outside of countries where it is endemic, especially among gay communities, creating fears of more stigmatization. The Oslo shooting was especially terrifying in such a peaceful country known for its tolerance and progressive politics, one of two stunning shootings in a matter of days in Scandinavian countries with the unrelated attack of a shopping mall in Denmark.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere vowed the shooting, by a man in his 40s reportedly known for his anti-gay views, "did not stop the fight and the efforts to fight discrimination, prejudice and hatred.”
As violence against gay marchers in Istanbul showed, progress on gay rights has not been even across the board, even in a country which has permitted these demonstrations in the past This year Turkiye ultimately banned all Pride events across the country and detained 30 who went on to march anyways in Ankara, after the Istanbul crackdown. Conservative counter demonstrators nearby were however left alone.
And even in one country where gay rights broke many precedents, the U.S., there were fears of a looming crack down on acquired rights. In Florida a state law dubbed “don’t say gay” by critics came into effect, banning instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in early schooling and causing some to fear the topic of gay rights is being removed from public debates, as other countries such as Russia have been doing for years.
Florida is where one of America's worst mass shootings took place, in 2016, when 49 were killed in the Pulse gay nightclub. In addition, statements by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on the possibility of casting a new look at gay marriage rights in the aftermath of the overturning of Roe vs Wade has caused alarm bells to go off in gay communities across the U.S.
"In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court's substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, & Obergefell," Thomas said in his concurring opinion on the court's decision on Roe vs. Wade, referring to the case which legalized same-sex marriages in the U.S. by a decision of 5-4. Obergefell later stated: "It has been a terrible several days for our nation," he said of overturning Roe vs. Wade. "Then to have Justice Thomas, in his concurring opinion, put a target on the back of the right to contraception, the right to intimacy with the person that you love and the right to marry the person you love, that should terrify everyone in this nation."
Meanwhile scientists and health officials are trying to set the record straight and avoid the stigmatization of the past over the rise of a monkeypox virus in non-endemic countries which was particularly noted among homosexual and bisexual men. “This is not a gay disease,” stressed Dr. Ken Mayer, the medical research director of the Fenway Institute. “It’s the social network phenomenon,” he added. “It’s who you’re having contact with, not anything about the specific behavior.”
Switzerland's decision to honour referendum results to allow gay marriage however provided some reason to celebrate this year, even if the Alpine country is only catching up to other European neighbors which have allowed it for years. Also catching up is Slovenia, which like much of Eastern Europe is behind much of the West in terms of gay rights. A top court said the country's bans on same-sex couples marrying and adopting are unconstitutional and ordered legislators to amend the laws.
The ruling stated discrimination against such couples "cannot be justified ", breaking ground in the region. While Croatia, the Czech republic, Hungary and Montenegro have laws permitting same-sex partner-ships, Estonia recognizes same-sex unions formalized in other countries. That's as far as it goes in Eastern Europe, but that may be about to change. After members of Ukraine's gay community held their pride parade in Poland, some 28000 signed a petition to make same-sex marriage legal in Ukraine, a proposal now at the feet of its president.
LE JAPON SOUS LE CHOC
Alors que les fusillades se multiplient aux Etats-Unis l'été 2022 est marqué par de rares actes de violence meurtrière semblables dans des régions du globe que l'on associe rarement avec des gestes armés.
A Oslo et à Copenhague, des actes sanglant sont venus fracasser la période estivale dans de paisibles sociétés qui voient rarement survenir ce genre de drame. Encore moins au Japon, où les meurtres sont rarissimes, ce qui a fait de l'assassinat de l'ancien premier ministre Shinzo Abe lors d'un rassemblement politique un geste qui a traumatisé le pays du soleil levant.
L'ancien premier ministre à la longévité record s'était retiré du poste en 2020, notamment pour des raisons de santé, mais restait actif dans les campagnes de son parti. Le sexagenaire est mort aprés avoir été attaqué par balle lors d'un discours.
Rares sont ceux qui possèdent des armes à feu au Japon, où leur possession est strictement réglementée. Il faut avoir un casier propre, suivre une formation obligatoire et subir une évaluation psychologique également, sans parler de l'analyse d'antécédents détaillée et de la rencontre de proches. Ceci au point où même les gangs Yakuza préfêrent opérer à l'arme blanche. L'an dernier une seule personne est morte suite à une fusillade dans ce pays de 120 millions.
Le suspect de l'assassinat d'Abe aurait avoué son crime et serait un homme de 41 ans avec la hantise d'une organisation à laquelle, selon lui, l'ancien dirigeant appartenait. L'arme semblait de confection personnelle.
Pourtant on n'en est pas au premier assassinat politique dans ce pays, le mieux connu remontant aux années 60 lors du meurtre du chef du parti socialiste par un extrémiste, et là encore il s'agissait d'un acte à l'arme blanche, mais pas n'importe laquelle: un sabre samourai.
Le meurtre d'Abe a lieu presque un an jour pour jour depuis l'assassinat du président Jovenel Moise à Haïti, un pays presque aux antipodes tellement il est marqué par la violence, souvent armée. L'attaque n'a pas retardé la tenue des élections sénatoriales au Japon, qui ont ré-élu le parti au pouvoir avec une super-majorité qui avait possiblement quelquechose à faire avec le drame, même si une montée de la droite était attendue.
Les dispositifs de sécurité ont été quelque peu changés lors des derniers jours de campagne, limitant le contact entre les candidats et le public alors que les forces de sécurité avouaient qu'il y avait eu des lacunes au moment de l'assassinat.
Abe voulait notamment renforcer les politiques de défense et de sécurité de ce pays marqué par d'importantes restrictions d'après guerre, c'est une position que pourrait promouvoir la droite conservatrice renforcée au pouvoir et entrainer une révision de la constitution.
BYE BYE BORIS
It's been a turbulent three years for the British prime minister who rode a wave of populism, completed the path to Brexit and saw the island nation through the pandemic and the beginning of the war in Ukraine.
In the end Boris Johnson, 58, the so-called "Teflon" leader, ran out of lives after years of wiggling himself out of trouble. After repeated calls for him to quit and nearly 60 resignations to protest his leadership, Johnson said he was stepping down as Conservative party leader, triggering a race for his successor who should be unveiled in early September.
Just weeks ago he had survived a confidence vote with 59% support, not overwhelming but enough to stay at the helm and keep the business of government going. But the time this bought his premiership was limited. Within days byelection losses confirmed his irreversible slip among Britons, and soon this would extend to the closest people around him.
Freshly returned from the annual Nato and G7 summits, Johnson admitted he was aware of the misconduct allegation put forth against the person he promoted to deputy chief whip, a senior party disciplinarian. Still reeling from partygate scandals, the subject of criminal investigations which had shown him and his staff ignoring strict shut down rules set in place during the pandemic, his chancellor and health secretary quit, starting a flood of resignations which culminated in the departure of 44 junior ministers and ministerial aides in a single day including other cabinet members.
That day Question Time in Parliament was marked by the unlikely spectacle of MPs badgering their own leader while opposition members looked on in amusement, joining in calls for the remaining cabinet members to also abandon Johnson's sinking ship. Still, the premier maintained, the time was not appropriate to leave with so many pressing matters requiring attention.
The next day however he stepped down as party leader, saying he would stay on as prime minister until a new party leader is chosen, noting: “At Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves.” His own MPs are however pressing him to leave sooner rather than later.
It will be the fourth party leader during this stretch of Conservative rule of a dozen years in Britain. While the move brings Britain, a major player in the alliance supporting Ukraine, in a new period of uncertainty, it remains a steadfast supporter of Kyiv and the party in power remains unchanged. Boris immediately reached out to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to pledge ongoing support.
Soon eight people lined up to succeed him, among them Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her predecessor Jeremy Hunt as well as former health secretary Sajid Javid, the first cabinet minister to resign. Johnson's departure did not seem to alarm fellow European legislators, quite on the contrary, some looking forward to perhaps better relations with the estranged European nation, which was recently seeking to override Brexit protocols.
Dutch European MP Guy Verhofstadt tweeted: "Boris Johnson's reign ends in disgrace, just like friend Donald Trump. The end of an era for transatlantic populism? Let's hope so" while French MEP Nathalia Loiseau called the announcement of his departure a "day of hope for improved EU-UK relations built on trust." But true to himself Johnson said he was leaving with his head high.
Remember when everything ground to a halt and people looked up at the sky from their window and sighed? At least, we thought, when we got back to flying again things would be different. Travel would restart in what had to be a more sustainable and less chaotic way.
Fast forward to the long lines outside terminals and pass-port offices, where would-be passengers unsure of being able to catch their flights in time sit sometimes in rows reminiscent of large airliners, four deep on lawn chairs pleading for their paperwork to be done or access to be granted to the next line. Sure the masks are largely, though not always, gone, and so are many test and health pass requirements, but some passengers who have actually survived the ordeal of travelling on the eve of the busy travel season, shell-shocked from the experience, are a little apprehensive about any return to the skies.
It's the sad early summer travel environment of 2022, when everybody can now travel freely and wants to exercise that right, at the same time, in great numbers. Perhaps a while back this would have been manageable, with a little extra hiring and triage. But in early 2022, after massive layoffs in the travel and leisure industry that have left bare bones operations in a sector that requires minimum staffing for safety reasons, the chaos is spreading on both sides of the pond.
Travel has been disrupted before during the pandemic, health measures at times barring some personnel from working on flights or in airport terminals, the number of departures themselves reduced dramati-cally for the few who would venture out to the skies, but the end of these requirements and mandates have had the immediate effect of boosting travellers in an industry struggling to cope with skeletal staff.
Airlines in Europe and North America cancelled thousands of flights, unable to ensure minimum staffing both in and out of cockpits as the industry welcomed new travellers previously unable to get anywhere without proof of vaccination or test. It turns out the industry is hardly able to accommodate the revenge travel millions with a pent up demand for beaches and sights have in mind.
Travellers to Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, a major European hub, were met with security lines stretching out well before the main terminal, complaining of a lack of facilities and water. Some were rushing to flights they hoped would take off despite a shortage of both airport and airline staff stretched to the limit. The same scenes could be seen in a number of airports, such as Lisbon, but also government offices such as outside passport offices, the weeks usually required to turn around applications became months.
Passport offices from Montreal to Ottawa saw people camp out for days to get their urgently needed documents renewed, some there with imminent travel only trying to understand what happened to an application made months ago. Surging demand is one thing, but many of the flight cancellations are also due to mismanagement, argues Capt. Joseph G. DePete president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International, which represents more than 64,000 pilots in the United States and Canada.
"The flight scheduling issues are particularly hard to swallow given that U.S. airlines received a multibillion dollar federal bailout to allow them to prepare for this very moment" he writes in USA Today. "Some airlines failed to properly prepare for recovery. In fact, they bet against a strong recovery, ushering thousands of pilots out of the industry and ineffectively managing training resources for their current employees."
The airlines are lashing back saying the FAA's lack of staffing was causing traffic control nightmares. The fault may lie with both, as airlines rushed to add new flights in airports not ready to receive them. In Canada the opposition parties hammered away at the government's handling of staffing at centers providing passports, saying the current surge in passport demand was predictable.
In any case the surge in demand there has left hundreds lining up for hours and sometimes days in front of passport offices seeking their documents to be able to travel. Emergency cases only were being accepted in person, others were invited to come back later or apply by mail. But some in the lines said their mail-in applications were months old already. New staff are being brought in to process passports and ensure security at airports, but that takes time for training. That demand is however global for both passports and travel, while airports and airlines struggle to restaff after the pandemic.
It will take months to reduce the pressure at airports like Schiphol, said Ben Smith, CEO of airline alliance Air France-KLM, and by then the summer rush will be over. The combined effect of all this is “creating bottlenecks in the system,“ said Julia Lo Bue-Said of the Advantage Travel Group, adding “when things go wrong, that they’re going drastically wrong.” Pushed to the limit by pressures, some crucial transport staff have been going on strike, just causing more delays and cancellations.
This was the case at a number of airlines from Ryanair, Air Camada to Delta while overworked security staff at Brussels and Paris airports also walked off the job. While some mitigation efforts have been paying off, this hasn't been without creating another category of disgruntled passengers, those with too much time to kill. After all the frantic reporting about delays at Pearson airport passengers arriving hours before their flights have been sometimes as disappointed seeing empty lines.
"I arrived at Pearson airport 3 hours early only to be told I was too early to get in the security lines," tweeted ZJ Hadley. Maybe that's more of a peeve than an actual ordeal. Because once you do obtain your passport, cross the security lines, get on a fully staffed plane and make it through border controls, you have to collect your luggage, which hopefully made it too. Worst of all, for the most part these are people who are looking to relax after two tense years of lockdowns and are finding little more than new frustration and more anxiety. And, don't look now, covid cases are going back up.
ENCORE PLUS CHER
L'inflation terrasse les pays du nord au sud, d'est en ouest, mais il y a des régions isolées où l'impact a été particulièrement virulent. Dans le grand nord canadien comme sur l'ile de Pâques qui appartient au Chili, des prix ordinairement élevés ont décollé de manière à y rendre les denrées difficilement abordables.
Un parlementaire canadien revenant d'une visite à Inuvik, dans les territoires du nord-ouest, déplorait un carton de jus d'orange et le kilo de boeuf haché à 21$ et deux bouteilles de ketchup à 24$. "La facture de gaz des résidants dépasse les 1 000 $ par mois," martèle le conservateur Bob Zimmer, notant en conséquent "qu'il est presque impossible de vivre dans le nord."
Ces situations ne sont pas hors norme dans plusieurs régions isolées du monde, dont l'ile de Pâques dont les prix se distinguent nettement de ceux du continent en matière de produits de première nécessité.
La facture récente d'un consommateur qui a fait beaucoup jaser faisait état de 80$ de frais pour quelques citrons, tomates, mandarines et herbes. Ques-tionné là-dessus le représentant local faisait noter une anomalie: C'était beau-coup moins cher qu'il le pensait: "5000 pesos pour un kilo de tomates c'est bon marché, note Pedro Edmunds. D'habitude c'est 6800 et ça peut grimper jusqu'à 7800 (11.40$)"
Voilà qui met la crise actuelle en prespective. La situation est d'autant plus critique sur l'ile chilienne que l'interruption des vols durant la pandémie a eu un impact économique catastrophique. Ceux-ci reprennent à peine alors que l'ile s'ouvre à nouveau au tourisme après plus de deux ans de fermeture.
Les gouvernements se voient obligés de remédier aux problèmes à l'aide de programmes spéciaux, notam-ment celui de Nutrition Nord au Canada, qui permet de subventionner certains prix. Celui-ci a été élargi avec un financement de 170 millions de dollars.
De plus "dans le but de compenser le fardeau financier causé par la COVID, nous avons également annoncé un soutien de 25 millions de dollars au programme Nutrition Nord Canada," note Dan Vandal, ministre des affaires du nord. Mais pour plusieurs cela n'est pas assez.
Certains se tournent même vers Amazon pour se tirer d'embarras, le service Prime permettant aux résidents de certaines commu-nautés comme Iqaluit de se procurer des produits à prix plus intéressant.
Il y a quelques années lorsque Amazon a pensé annuler son service Prime dans la capitale du Nunavut ceci a suscité un tollé généralisé tellement il y était populaire. En décembre dernier Amazon a lancé un service de livraison de 5 jours dans d'autres grandes villes du nord, comme Yellowknife et White Horse, un service non disponible cependant dans les plus petites localités.
Une peur bleue s'est installée momentanément à Iqaluit lorsqu'il y a eu inondation du centre névralgique d'Amazon dans la ville. Mais ce déploiement du géant alarme les commerçants locaux. "Chacune de ces boites empêche un commerçant local de survivre, note Duane Wilson de Arctic Co-operatives."
Mais une autre ile à l'autre bout du monde ne se gêne pas de taxer davantage certains produits, pour des raisons préventives. La Nouvelle Calédonie envisage de taxer des produits sucrés dans sa lutte contre le diabète. cause de nombreux maux.
A LEFTIST IN COLOMBIA
Capturing the mood of the moment in Latin America, Colombia elected an anti-establishment candidate who is also the country's first leftist leader, one who previously defied authority as a guerilla leader in a nation still struggling with armed groups spreading terror among its citizens.
Gustavo Petro took in just over 50% of the vote in the second round of the election against political novice and right wing populist firebrand Rodolfo Hernandez despite the recent leak of recordings suggesting Petro's campaign sought to mercilessly target his opponents.
Petro vowed to transform the country's economy amid mass protests condemning poverty and inequality. “The entire country is begging for change,” Colombian political scientist Fernando Posada told the New York Times, “and that is absolutely clear.” And that is what the incoming president vowed he would deliver. “We are not going to betray the electorate that has shouted at history,” Petro said after the win. “Starting today Colombia changes.”
Petro was part of the M-19 guerilla group which dropped its weapons in 1990 and entered the political arena. This is third time lucky for the former progressive mayor of Bogota who failed in his two previous presidential bids.
Joining him making history was his vice president Francia Márquez, the first black woman to hold the position. The single mother and human rights defender had won the prestigious Goldman environ-mental prize in 2018. “After 214 years we’ve achieved a government of the people, a popular government, of people with callused hands, a government of the people on their feet, of the nobodies of Colombia,” she said.
The task ahead for both remains daunting as the country struggles with guerilla groups and drug gangs that are terrorizing parts of the country. And Petro's past is not making him endearing for some elements of the conservative country.
“Some Colombians fear how much can change with a left wing government,” told the Guardian Silvana Amaya of Control Risks. “Some Colombians liken the left to Chavez and the socio-economic misfortune in Venezuela. Others consider that a country that has lived through an internal conflict for more than 60 years led by leftist guerrilla groups should not allow such an ideology to rule Colombia.”
The victory marks another rare win for the left in a region where is has taken over leadership, but not always with similar results. It comes a year after the victory of Gabriel Boric in Chile, who has set one of the region's most progressive agendas in a country also known for conservative politics.
Also looking to topple the right wing establishment is Brazil's Lula da Silva, surging in the polls as president Bolsonaro's numbers sag after years of turbulent politics. The left made historic gains four years ago with the arrival of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico, the so-called first leftist president in the country in three quarters of a century, but one who does not necessarily agree with many of today's progressive ideals, from the right to choose to gay rights. He boycotted the Summit of the Americas over the absence of three leftist leaders the US did not invite due to their challenge to democracy, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.
HEUREUX MAIS PRÊTS
Année après année les résultats sont aussi formels qu'ils peuvent l'être. Malgré ses longs hivers et périodes de noirceur, la Finlande constitue le pays le plus heureux de la planête selon ses habitants.
Selon certains, c'est justement en raison de la douce vie qui y règne et qui accepte l'hiver tel qu'il est avec enchantement. Cette année en plus le pays nordique, également parmi les plus libres au monde, avait d'autant plus la raison d'être aux anges qu'ils avait accueilli et remporté les championnats du monde de hockey après une performance tout a fait honorable aux Jeux de Pékin.
Mais tout n'est pas si rose au septentrion. Certaines statistiques, comme celles des violences envers les femmes au foyer et sur l'alcoolisme, sont plutôt alarmantes. Et son voisin l'est tout autant. Fort heureusement on a pu calmer les anxiétés d'Ankara de manière à faire progresser l'adhésion à l'Otan.
L'heure est ainsi à la préparation défensive. Cette seule adhésion s'est attirée des reproches de Moscou, qui menace d'être moins amicale envers ce pays qui partage 1300 kilomètres de frontière. Anxiétés dans le pays du père Noël (bien que là encore matière à discussion) et des saunas à profusion (2 millions pour un peu plus de 5 millions d'habitants)?
Pourtant le commandement l'affirme, le pays est prêt afin de faire face à toute eventualité. Selon le général Timo Kivinen, la Finlande a bâti un arsenal considérable depuis des années, et tient un atout qui selon lui représente la clé du succès et de la résistance: la motivation de ses citoyens.
La remarque n'est pas anodine car celle des guerriers ukrainiens a été capitale afin de limiter les gains du rouleau compresseur russe. "La ligne de défense la plus importante est entre les deux oreilles, dit-il, et la guerre en Ukraine le démontre en ce moment."
La Finlande reconnait bien la position dans laquelle se retrouve l'Ukraine car elle a elle aussi perdu une partie de son territoire à la Russie lors de deux guerres qui lui ont coûté 100000 vies, un chiffre astrono-mique alors que le pays ne comptait que 3,5 millions d'habitants. Selon Kivinen, la Finlande s'est préparée précisément pour le genre de guerre en cours en Ukraine et poserait une résistance farouche.
Le pays de 5,5 million d'habitants n'a jamais retiré son service militaire, comme d'autres pays européens ont pu le faire, et pourrait en temps de guerre regrouper un quart de million de soldats sous les fanions, et plus de 800000 réservistes. Heureux peut-être, mais gardant un esprit guerrier qui ne semble pas avoir changé depuis le temps des vikings.
82% des citoyens se disaient prêts à défendre la patrie au besoin selon un sondage récent. Alors que l'on attend avec trépidation l'adhésion formelle à l'Otan "la responsabilité principale de défendre la Finlande revient à la Finlande," soutient Kivinen.
Quant à l'état d'esprit des compatriotes, pas sûr qu'il ait immédiatement changé pour autant, le tout dernier sondage de ce printemps confirmant la première place des heureux nordiques pour une cinquième année consécutive.
Sure the pandemic was something, closing businesses and hampering exchanges, but two years on the combination of inflation, distribution disruptions, rising interest rates and nosediving stocks have caused more hardship at a time government supports have been withdrawn, making 2020 look like the good old days. And now the r-word lurks around the bend.
No wonder the International Monetary Fund warned the global economy may be facing "perhaps the biggest test since the Second World War" and "a potential confluence of calamities." In a way it feels like we are already there.
The war in Ukraine exacerbated existing distribution problems, causing scarcities made worse as some countries responded by blocking exports of in-demand goods such as wheat and palm oil. India's decision to ban exporting wheat sent the price of that commodity soaring at a time Russian and Ukrainian exports are compromised. It later restricted sugar exports. Indonesia also sent palm oil prices rocketing when it temporarily banned most exports. Protectionism has been a costly reaction to crises, this is as true now as it was at the beginning of the pandemic when some limited access to protective equipment.
Meeting in Davos this spring the World Economic Forum sought to promote trade and lowering barriers to commerce, rather than hiking them, calling on the United States to end ongoing trade tiff with China, which have only made things more difficult for American consumers. China's struggle with its latest outbreaks of covid-19, has also impacted production and distribution in the country the world depends on for many of its products, further dragging down the world economy.
According to the OECD the combined Gross Domestic Product of G7 countries including Canada and the U.S. shrank by 0.1% in the first quarter of the year, compared to the previous period, a path some fear may lead to a recession. The World Bank warned of the potential for stagflation over the next few years, rising prices coupled with weak growth.
Like many leaders US president Joe Biden has been facing the heat of galloping prices, bringing him to consider making amends with someone he once vowed to treat like a pariah, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, following the killing of a Saudi journalist. Last week Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff said "I wouldn't go, I wouldn't shake his hand. This is someone who butchered an American resident, cut him up into pieces and in the most terrible and premeditated way." Is America selling its soul for cheaper gas?
The pursuit of resources has certainly not kept it from launching foreign missions of more lethal nature in the past. And Biden isn't the only one trying to alleviate pressures by meeting doubtful characters. The president of the African Union, Senegalese president Macky Sall, travelled to Moscow to plead for the grain superpower to free some of its stocks. He returned "reassured" by the talks saying Putin was "aware the sanctions and crisis are causing serious problems to weaker economies such as African economies," but said he conceded the crisis was a long way from ending, pledging to go to Ukraine next.
Europe has also sought to fight inflationary pressures, especially on the energy front, as it poured billions of euros to mitigate the skyrocketing prices, anything from 0.5% to 3.5% of GDP according to calculations by think tank Bruegel. Among them Austria announced 2 billion euros in energy subsidies in March, including tax cuts and compensations. In Belgium the most vulnerable citizens benefit from a 80 euro energy check to pay their bills while in Bulgaria the government announced subsidies to companies for their energy consumptions.
A number of countries have had to scale back climate change charges added to gas and other prices to make them more affordable. In the Czech republic electricity and gas were exempted from value-added tax. Canada's government has been facing pressure to follow suit by the opposition Conservatives, but the ruling Liberals insist consumers will get more money back than they pay in their periodic carbon-tax payment cheques. Brazil has also pumped subsidies to shield consumers from further financial pressures.
"Sky high energy prices for a prolonged period of time, risks of energy rationing, and ultimately a recession are growing by the day," warned Livia Gallarati of Energy Aspects. Certainly rising food and fuel prices have heavily contributed to inflationary pressures, the Eurozone's hitting 8.1%, its highest level since the creation of the single currency in 1999. In the US 8.6% rise is the highest in nearly 40 years. Nor has Russia been spared, seeing a 17% rise in food prices since last year.
In Canada the bite of inflation was also taking its toll on consumers, a new survey suggesting a growing number are struggling, sparking fears of hunger and insecurity. And if this is the case in such a wealthy country, how is it for poorer nations? Almost a quarter of Canadians say they are eating less as the cost of basic staples like pasta, bread and meat climbs. This was particularly true for those earning under $50,000. One in five Canadians even reported going hungry at least once since the beginning of the pandemic.
In poorer countries the impact was more severe, with Chad declaring a food emergency. The prospect of famine in other countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia were very real considering the possibility of another bad rain season. Millions could die directly and indirectly from food shortages, warned Peter Sands of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria. Apart from people dying from starvation "you have the fact that often much larger numbers of people are poorly nourished and that makes them vulnerable to existing diseases."
And Russian ships carrying stolen Ukrainian grain heading to that continent were going to leave desperate countries wrestling with a moral choice to feed their starving people. Italy says Russia's war amounted to "holding hostage and condemning to death millions of children, women and men." Latin America is also suffering from the ongoing war, a UN study saying Latin America and the Dominican Republic will see poverty rise to affect a third of the population in 2022.
Pourtant pacifiés par le dialogue depuis quelques années, le Rwanda et le Congo sont à nouveau au bord de la rupture diplomatique, et la cause de ce différend ne date pas d'hier. Il faut en effet revenir aux affreux lendemains du génocide rwandais et à l'exode de Rwandais chez le pays voisin pour retrouver les origines de cette crise liée aux milices M23 que Kinshasa accuse Kigali d'alimenter encore et toujours.
Dans les années 90 des milliers de réfugiés avaient fui au Congo, certains choisissant de constituer des milices, parmi elles le M23, synonyme de terreur dans l'est sanglant du pays. Pourtant le groupe avait signé des accords de paix en 2013, mais a cette année repris les armes, accusant Kinshasa de ne pas respecter ses engagements, relançant le cycle de terreur dans l'est du Congo.
Pour Kinshasa, cette resurgence du groupe se doit à l'appui de Kigali, l'armée congolaise déclarant que "la RDC est effectivement agressée par le Rwanda". Des propos repris par la président lui-même que nient Kigali.
Les conséquences de ce conflit sont au compte de milliers de morts, et l'heure n'est pour plusieurs pas à l'apaisement. "Il y a des millions de morts dans l’Est de notre pays depuis plus de vingt ans," déplore Omari Le Brave, étudiant congolais à la RTBF. " On naît dans la guerre et on y grandit, maintenant on connaît l’identité de l’ennemi, il n’est pas question de dialoguer".
C'est ce que s'accorde à dire Patrick Muyaya, porte-parole du gouvernement congolais. "À quoi ça va servir de discuter avec un groupe terroriste qui doit être traité comme tel ? Le M23 a été défait depuis des années, mais comment ils arrivent à se réarmer pour avoir du matériel sophistiqué et aller jusqu’à faire écraser un hélicoptère de la MONUSCO", dit-il en conférence de presse.
Entre les deux une Union africaine qui tente tant bien que mal de ramener les partis à la bonne entente qu'ils entre-tenaient depuis quelques années avec l'investiture de Félix Tshisekedi à Kinshasa. Mais le géant du centre du continent fait face à plusieurs groupes armés au long de ses nombreuses frontières.
Début juin une vingtaine de civils étaient tués par le groupe ougandais Forces démocratiques alliées, un massacre qui suivait de près un autre carnage dans la région. De ses bases en Ouganda où le groupe islamiste s'en prenait aux autorités, l'ADF est allé s'installer au Congo, qu'il n'a pas épargné de ses folies meurtrières.
Ce dernier serait responsable de milliers de meurtres dans des opérations incluant massacres, vols et enlèvements depuis 2013. Le Nord Kivu et l'Ituri sont en état de siège depuis plus d'un an. Rien qu'à Beni, au Nord Kivu, 1300 personnes auraient connu la mort depuis mai dernier. Le groupe ne figure que parmi environ 120 groupes recensés en opération au Congo. En plus du M23 cette région est également confrontée au groupe militant CODECO, qui se dit représenter l'ethnie Lendu.
Au Sud Kivu une demi douzaine de personnes sont mortes fin avril lorsque des éclats ont opposé d'autres groupes, les Banyamulenge tutsis congolais, contre la milice des forces d'auto défense Biloze Bishambuke, un catalogue de la mort qui touche notamment des populations civiles sans défense.
Sur fond de manifestations au Congo, les tensions ont monté d'un cran après la mort d'un soldat congolais lors d'échanges de tirs à la frontière, fermant cette dernière peu après. L'état major à Kinshasa ne mange plus ses mots: "S'ils veulent la guerre, ils l'auront," dit-il haut et fort. Mais le ministre rwandais des affaires étrangères prétend, au contraire, être en quête de "désescalade"
THE FRIENDLIEST WAR
Land borders, Canada has nearly 9000 kilometres of them, but few countries to share them with. One in fact. Until now. The settling of a 49-year-old dispute over a tiny island off Greenland has created a new immediate neighbor.
For years both countries' navies have been staging mock landings to raise their respective flags and drop off bottles of liquor on the icebound 1.3 sq kilometre barren knoll of Hans island in the Nares Strait.
Both members of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Canada and Greenland have been able to work together for years to settle disputes of the North, but not this one, dragging dozens of ministers into the dispute over the years, until they decided the best way to come to an agreement was to share the speck of rock, hence the land border than runs through it.
"It was the friendliest of all wars," quipped foreign minister Melanie Joly in her comments on the lighthearted dispute, quipping a Canadian singer could perhaps now enter the next Eurovision Song Contest. Counterpart Jeppe Kofod declared: "Welcome Canada to the European continent!"
Global warming and Russia's militarization of the Arctic have increased attention to the top of the globe and the NATO allies decided settling this issue was a "testament to our excellent relations" at a time a united front was necessary against the Kremlin's aggressions and as the world united to fight climate change transforming the Inuit region.
"It demon-strates our commitment to the rules-based international order and in maintaining our shared ambition of the Arctic as a region of low tension and cooperation," a statement said. "We commit to further strengthening this coopera-tion, which will bring important benefits for the people living in the Arctic."
The approach seemed in line with suggestions from experts to settle the dispute by sharing the tiny barren pebble in the cold waters of the Arctic. That's what University of British Columbia professor Michael Byers and a Danish colleague suggested a few years back.
“It would resolve a long-standing dispute that, although insignificant, has some small potential to cause friction in the future,” said Byers, calling for the creation of some sort a co-managed rocky condominium.
Obser-vers at the time pointed to precedents, including Pheasant island, shared between France and Spain since the 17th century. “There have been tensions in the Arctic in some issues,” Byers added. “The federal government might see this as a way to signal a change in approach.”
The bloody war in Europe "created an opportune moment to tell the world that responsible countries settle territorial disputes in a peaceful way," he said. It now becomes one of the most undefended borders in the world, leaving you the opportunity to stand in both countries and continents at the same time. If you can get there. There's no transport and the closest populated area is Qaanaaq, population 650, 379km away.
While the war in Ukraine enters a new savage month, another war drags on for yet another bloody year. Signs of it are found in many public places. One reads "shop lifters will be shot" in a Vermont liquor store. Another warns against bringing guns into a school zone in Houston.
The invasion there has come from within and is allowed to continue mercilessly due to decades of inaction. Decades after the Columbine massacre and despite the myriad of school shootings that have made attending classes a calculated risk, a distraught Connecticut Sena-tor could only lament. "What are we doing?"
His state, like so many others, had seen the blood of innocent students spilled a decade ago, felling 26 souls in an elementary school. The problem isn't unique to America. A decade before Columbine Montreal reeled from the senseless shooting of female students at Polytechnique, and that city and others have seen a resurgence in shootings this spring. But the repetition of mass shootings, in and out of schools, leading up to the bloodshed of the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, made Chris Murphy lament "days a after a gunman enters a grocery store to gun down African American patrons we have another Sandy Hook on our hands. This only happens in this country and nowhere else."
There is of course gun violence everywhere just as there is racism everywhere. The shooter of a Buffalo grocery store days before lashed out against the black community he targeted. Oddly enough it was Canada which this week introduced new gun control legislation that would freeze all hand gun sales and seek to buyback semi-automatic weapons, as the Supreme Court made a decision on the sentencing of the Quebec City mosque shooter and as an inquiry into Canada's worst mass shooting continued. Canada hasn't been spared by this violence, but reaction to it was radically different.
No legislation like this seemed to be in the works in the U.S. despite the fact the Texas shooting came after a string of deadly attacks which included the Buffalo shooting, the shooting of a church in California targeting the Taiwanese community and other crimes in Chicago and other locations that herald a hot summer of gun violence in a country which enjoyed only a slight reprieve during the pandemic when millions were confined. The FBI reported a jump of 52% in shooting incidents from 2020 to 2021. And 2022 is off to a terrifying start.
There were 213 mass shootings (at least 4 injured or killed) across the country up until Uvalde this year. Dozens more have occurred since. The U.S. president himself lamented, powerlessly “another massacre," adding “as a nation we have to ask when in God’s name we’re going to stand up to the gun lobby. We have to act and don’t tell me we can’t have an impact on this carnage.” Painful words of helplessness by the most powerful statesman in the world. Twenty one were killed, 19 of them children aged 9 to 10, in a single classroom by the Texas gunman, a teenager wearing body armor and carrying an AR-15 assault rifle, who was later felled by authorities.
It followed the racially-motivated shooting in Buffalo which killed 10. Only the motivations differ, the acts and their devastating results do not. Last November four students were killed and seven injured when a teenager opened fire in a school in Oxford, Michigan. Months before eight were killed in a FedEx facility when it was targeted by a former employee who had been under psychological care.
These repeated acts, some described as terrorism, have lead some countries to issue travel advisories warning about the potential for gun violence in a country where the right to bear arms is the second constitutional amendment. The knee jerk reaction from such acts is always for a rise in gun sales, by those fearing their rights could be removed, a far-fetched scenario that will nonetheless be raised during primary season by Republican candidates and even some Democrats running in red states.
As news of the Texas bloodbath came in and the number of victims revised upward, another senator, Republican Thom Tillis didn't just have thoughts and prayers but warned Democrats against having the “reflexive reaction” to try to pass gun laws. "What we need to avoid is the reflexive reaction we have to say this could all be solved by not having guns in anyone's hands," he said. "What people immediately want to jump to are red flag laws. Virtually everyone that I've seen here has been one that sweep up law-abiding gun owners into what I consider to be an overreach."
Surprisingly, an NBA player involved in this year's playoffs provided some perspective about the shooting in a post-game interview, observing "It's a sad world we live in," noted Damion Lee of the Golden State Warriors. "Guns shouldn't be so easily accessible. It's easier to get a gun than baby formula right now, that's unbelievable" at a time of baby formula shortages. To immediately alleviate the formula crisis the U.S. chartered military jets to bring in much needed bottles from Europe.
But no emergency airlift seemed imminent to rise America out of its gun violence crisis. Lee's coach slammed US politicians as "pathetic" for their lack of actions on shootings. Tillis suggested better mental health prevention but nothing about limiting access to guns - often military grade and unobtainable in other countries by civilians - used in those deadly acts. Assault weapons saw their ban expire in 2004 in the U.S. and background check proposals in Congress a decade later failed to pass. Currently gun legislation passed in the House on background checks remains stalled in the Senate.
The latest school shooting was enough to make a foreign president under siege in a war zone, Ukraine's, send his condolences. Sadly gun rights could be if anything expanded in the coming weeks as the U.S. Supreme Court looked likely to strike down a New York State law that asked people who applied to carry a handgun in public to provide "proper cause," limiting the power of the states on gun control. According to a Swiss study, there are 120 guns for every 100 Americans. In Canada, it's 34. In the UK, 4.9.
Mass protests took to the streets of Houston as the NRA gathered for an ill-timed convention. There attendees refused to look into any possible reforms to gun laws. Unsurprisingly. What this will lead to is just more of the same. In fact as the first young victim of the Texas shooting was buried Americans marked Memorial Day, a holiday meant to honour veterans, now haunted by 14 mass shootings.
UN AUTRE VIRUS?
Encore un virus qui nous parvient du monde animal qui se répand entre les hommes à travers les continents et met les autorités sanitaires sur un pied d'alerte. Vigilence certes, après ce que l'on a traversé ça s'entend, mais la variole du singe n'inquiète pour l'instant pas trop les spécialistes comme le covid pouvait le faire.
Déjà le virus a quelquechose de familier et peut être largement paré par un vaccin existant. Mais certains pays touchés par son arrivée, notamment la Belgique, ne ménagent pas les efforts pour éviter sa propagation.
Bruxelles impose en effet une quarantaine de trois semaines aux victimes qui en souffrent, même s'il s'agit ordinairement de symptômes et de lésions limités. Il s'agit d'une exportation d'Afrique rare de ce virus qui est apparu en 1970 alors que variole elle-même succombait à une campagne de vaccination.
A présent plus d'une vingtaine de pays dont l'Espagne et le Portugal ont recensé des cas. Pourrait-on être à l'origine d'une autre crise sanitaire? Pour l'instant les spécialistes ne craignent pas une pandémie même si les cas d'éclosion de multiplient.
Puis la variole du singe semble moins grâve et moins contagieuse que le coronavirus, n'ayant causé aucune mort lors de son éclosion aux Etats-Unis il y a presque 20 ans, alors que le monde était surtout préoccupé par le SRAS. Le virus se transmet par des «contacts prolongés et rapprochés avec une personne infectieuse, précise le ministère de la santé du Québec, qui prévoyait déjà l'usage de vaccins. Sa contagiosité est donc considérée limitée par rapport à d’autres virus.»
Mais certains spécialistes notent la particularité de cette transmis-sion hors d'Afrique, et le fait qu'elle, dans certains cas, prenne l'apparence d'une maladie transmissible sexuelle-ment, notant le nombre de patients issus du milieu homosexuel, des données qui font craindre une nouvelle stigmatisation de cette communauté ciblée aux premières heures du SIDA.
Selon le Centre européen de prévention et de contrôle des maladies le risque de contagion est très faible en général mais élevé chez les personnes qui ont plusieurs partenaires sexuels. Mais on s'empresse de préciser que «ce n'est pas une maladie homosexuelle, comme certaines personnes sur les réseaux sociaux ont tenté de l'étiqueter,» note Andy Seale de l'Organisation mondiale de la santé.
Celle-ci estime que la variole simienne «peut être stoppée dans les pays non endémiques», notamment en Europe. «C’est du jamais vu auparavant avec les virus de la variole du singe,» note le virologue belge Marc Van Ranst, notamment le fait qu'il y ait eu des cas dans plusieurs pays sans lien de voyage avec l'Afrique. Le président américain multiplie les avertis-sements:
"Il y a des raisons d'être concerné, résume Joe Biden. Si ça se répand il y aura des conséquences." Depuis le début de la pandémie les nouvelles infections sont surveillées à la loupe. Le monde guette notamment la multipli-cation de cas d'hépatite chez les jeunes, et les cas de personnes qui souffrent de covid persistant.
Des spécialistes notent que plusieurs virus connus se comportent de manière différente et ceci pourrait être dû au fait que la pandémie et ses mesures sanitaires auraient altéré leur comportement, sans néces-sairement les rendre plus agressifs, en raison de leur impact sur l'immunité au sein des populations.
AUSTRALIA GOES GREEN
Bespectacled men in their 50s in dark suits with a silver hairline, there wasn't much to distinguish the two top contenders for the job of prime minister in Australia at first sight.
But when the 59-year old with the slightly thicker glass frames that calls himself the only candidate with a "non-Anglo Celtic name" to run for the office took the stage at the end of electoral night, it was the first time in nearly a decade Labor had swept into power down under, forcing out Scott Morrison and his centre-right coalition as the country endured another year of sweeping brushfires and intense floods.
Climate change and inflation dominated the campaign as the country came out of its covid lockdown, allowing travellers to visit the nation continent once more. "Millions of Australians have put climate first," said Amanda McKenzie of the Climate Council. "Now it's time for a radical reset on how this great nation of ours acts upon the climate challenge."
The election notably saw a number of independent and green candidates seeking tougher emissions cuts make important breakthroughs, the Australian Green party increasing its seats from one to three. After another year of devastating floods and brushfires threatening homes, lives and wildlife, Australians voted for "greater and faster action on climate change broadly," agreed Marija Taflaga of the Australian National University.
In fact in the last three years record-breaking floods and freak weather events have killed more than 500 Australians and countless animals as the continent faced droughts and other catastrophes. As a result the country is experiencing no less than a "insurability crisis" leaving one of every 25 homes unable to get proper insurance according to a report by the Climate Council.
Early on in 2022 the world is already seeing a number of freak climate-related events, from storms and twisters in Germany and Canada to record heat in Europe and South Asia, particularly Pakistan which has been seeing temperatures in the 50s. According to observers natural disasters and fighting are responsible for creating 60 million refugees worldwide this year, many displaced within their own countries.
Labor promised to slash emissions by 43% and achieve net zero by 2050, but some critics say the incoming party's policies still don't go far enough to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 Celsius despite its pledges for new business incentives and a greener power grid. "Together we can end the climate wars," Anthony Albanese said in his victory speech. "Together we can take advantage of the opportunity for Australia to be a renewable energy superpower."
The statement is quite a significant one considering Australia's reluctance in the past to jump on the green bandwagon, held back by its formidable mining interests. A man of modest background, Albanese was sworn in as Australia's 31st prime minister as it seemed his government would secure a majority that would help push through reforms, but with the weakest of margins.
While Russia's war against Ukraine may have sought to prevent further EU and NATO expansion and sow division it appears to have provoked exactly the opposite, giving new life to once struggling institutions and fostering some sense of unity.
A sense only, as divisions have emerged on a number of issues. Unity was certainly not evident from the get go, as the lack of a European common foreign policy and defense force caused much introspection the first days of the conflict. After some period of adjustment a common approach to the war did emerge, but still not all were ready to speak with one voice.
Hungary said it would not host more NATO troops and declined to ban Russian oil, something a number of countries were in agreement with. But as the conflict stretches into another month, a common trend is developing, Ukraine, Moldo-va and Georgia are seeking EU membership while once reticent Scandinavian coun-tries have now applied to formally join NATO. And French President Emmanuel Macron's proposal to create a new broader European com-munity of nations that could welcome non-EU members such as Ukraine and Britain, suggested no one would be left behind on the continent where the common currency was once considered under threat.
Similarly NATO faced a bit of a crisis after the end of the Cold war. Now it stands to recruit new members, Finland and Sweden rushing to reverse decades of neutral policies by applying for NATO membership despite Moscow's condemnation, the Kremlin saying at first, not for the first time, it considered the move a threat. It later toned down this rhetoric but said it would respond to troop deployments.There's no lack of irony in that it was another neighbor's flirt with the West and NATO which sparked the Russian attack against Ukraine, and that this may only result in another border nation joining the Atlantic alliance.
But the would-be newcomers have to convince a well established member, Turkey, which threatened to veto their candidacies. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims these Nordic countries harbor "terrorist organizations", including Kurdish militant groups and followers of cleric Fethullah Gulen, which he says carried out a 2016 coup attempt. Erdogan said supporters of these groups included members of parliament, prompting Helsinki and Stockholm to send a mission to Ankara for talks on their membership bid.
Finnish officials were optimistic they would be able to convince Ankara to change its mind but Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country's conditions would be for both countries to stop backing what he called terrorist organizations, including, the Kurdistan Worker's Party, and lift export bans on Turkey. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto called applying to join NATO the opening of a "new era", adding he wasn't too concerned about Ankara's reaction. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said he was "confident we'll be able to find common ground." Some called Turkey's reticence a negotiating ploy, but Ankara blocked attempts to fast-track the candidacies.
In the mean time the two countries are wary they may be vulnerable to possible attacks, as they do not yet benefit from NATO protection, but Russia's fumbling war in Ukraine hardly leaves it likely to launch another front any time soon. But Russia says it planned to create new military bases in response and was already cutting off Finland's gas supply.
These are just the most recent applications for NATO membership, but other countries are also seeking to join the alliance, from Bosnia Herzegovina to Georgia, and others including Ireland, are reingaging in debates about possible membership. It is a far cry from the 1990s when NATO's purpose was cast into doubt with the end of the Cold war. It only took the prospect of a new one to make joining the Atlantic alliance attractive again. Russia has been seeking reassurances Ukraine would never join NATO, the possible condition to eventual peace in the region.
While Turkey is a key NATO member which has sent crucial drones in support of Ukraine's defenses, it has, like a number of other allies of Kiev, balked at some of the sanctions levelled against Moscow. Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech republic and Bulgaria, which had previously been much closer to Moscow before the war, asked for exemptions if only to have time to find alternative energy providers before observing a full ban on Russian oil and gas.
Cutting off Russia's energy-based revenues is as key to stopping its war machine as weapons deliveries, the EU's 27 member states having spent over 24 billion euros on oil and 34 billion euros on Russian gas since the invasion. This isn't the only area where there are divergences. Macron's revival of an old idea to form a wider European club that would include aspiring EU members and other non-members on the continent is another one, as even those the club would seek as members, Ukraine, insist it should be no substitute for full EU membership. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda also called the idea "an attempt to cover up the obvious lack of political will to take decisive decisions on granting candi-date status" for Ukraine.
But Macron insists a new broader European body could tackle cooperation in key continental issues such as security, energy and movement between countries. The idea of a confederation of nations was first proposed by predecessor Francois Mitterrand in 1989 as the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, but never took off. With nearly a dozen countries currently seeking EU membership, the idea isn't without appeal for some, but still lacks formality.
There is no doubt Western and EU institutions are drawing new interest in this time of crisis and uncertainty. Kosovo said it would seek to join the Council of Europe, its human rights group, an institution Russia quit after the launch of the war. But one organization which however did not meet expectations for some was the OSCE, which Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said represented a failed security infrastructure which "did not work and was not able to prevent war."
LE RETOUR DES MARCOS
Le goût pour les hommes forts reste une constante aux Philippines, qui après le mandat d'un président controversé qui a dirigé le pays avec une poigne de fer vient d'élire avec une rare majorité absolue Ferdinand Marcos Junior, fils du défunt dictateur.
Donné largement favori par les sondages, Marcos Jr. a promis de restaurer l'unité nationale, mais à quel coût.
Rassurés de voir disparaitre Rodrigo Duterte en raison des excès des ses politiques antidrogues, les groupes de droits de l'homme craignent cependant l'arrivée au pouvoir du nouveau dirigeant de 64 ans, sa majorité lui facilitant la tâche de réviser la constitution et d'affaiblir la démocratie.
"Duterte n'a jamais eu la discipline et les moyens d'aller au bout de son programme autoritaire, confie à France24 l'analyste Richard Geydarian. Cette opportunité historique pourrait échoir aux Marcos."
D'autant plus que ce dernier ajoutait sous son aile la fille de l'homme fort sortant, Sara Duterte, une combinaison qui fait frémir certains observateurs. "Il pourrait y avoir un retour de la loi martiale et des morts associées à la campagne contre la drogue, comme ce qui s'est passé quand leurs parents étaient au pouvoir," note Myles Sanchez, militant des droits de l'homme.
Le tandem avec Sara pourrait mettre son père à l'abri des poursuites de la Cour pénale internationale pour crimes contre l'humanité en raison de la sévère campagne antidrogue. Par ailleurs la dynastie Marcos a beau avoir connu ses effusions de sang, la campagne électorale a été marquée par un effort de désinformation afin d'assainir ce triste chapitre de l'histoire des Philippines, une révision des faits passés qui aurait pu avoir l'approbation de Poutine.
Entre 5 et 10 milliards auraient été soutirés aux trésors publics lors du règne de deux décennies des Marcos, qui ont fui à Hawaii lors de la révolution People power des années 80. Beaucoup d'électeurs sont trop jeunes pour se souvenir de cette période noire et sanglante de l'histoire du pays.
Comme à l'accoutumée, les élections ne se sont pas déroulées sans débordement, des hommes armés ayant ouvert le feu dans un bureau de vote de l'ile de Mandanao, région proie aux violences de groupes armés.
C'est le genre de violence qui persiste malgré les promesses et les méthodes des dirigeants même autoritaires au pouvoir. Le pays reste proie aux éclats entre groupes armés, notamment dans le sud, mais également à la pauvreté et au sous-emploi qui peuvent alimenter ces crises. Marcos Jr. a par conséquent du pain sur la planche en ce début de mandat, déclarant "Ne me jugez pas selon mes ancêtres mais selon mes actions."
Mais la controverse s'est invitée plutôt vite après les résultats de l'élection. En effet on aurait, sur les murs de la maison de sa mêre où il était allé célébrer sa victoire, noté la présence d'une pièce de Picasso qui devait avoir été saisie par les autorités parmi les biens pillés par la famille Marcos dans les années 80.
Il s'agit d'un rappel qu'alors que Marcos Jr. prend les rênes du pouvoir sa famille est toujours aux prises avec des dizaines d'affaires judiciaires concernant l'accumulation plus ou moins doûteuse de son importante richesse. Le groupe des droits de l'homme Karapatan a fait appel à un rejet de la nouvelle présidence par les masses, estimant qu'elle était bâtie de toutes pièces par le mensonge et la désinformation "afin de déodoriser l'image détestable des Marcos."
While the leak of a draft decision of the U.S. Supreme Court suggesting abortion could soon no longer be a constitutional right came as a shock to right to choose activists and galvanized the right during primary season, it also came at a time a number of conservative and Catholic Latin American countries were coming around to legalizing the practice.
Earlier this year Colombia's constitutional Court legalized the procedure until the 24th week of pregnancy, in line with simlar reversals in other parts of the Latin world. Argentina's congress legalized elective abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy while Mexico's highest court declared a total ban on abortion unconstitu-tional, even if restrictions remain in many of its states.
Is this what is in store for the U.S., where over 20 states were ready to halt the procedure? If so a number of corporations, such as Amazon and Starbucks, were ready to step up and assist those seeking abortions in states that would still permit it, further deepening the great U.S. divide.
Canada also served notice it would permit Americans seeking abortions to cross the border. The great White North wasted no time entering the debate, the ruling Liberals vowing to protect the right to abortion and announcing new funding to make access to abortion easier.
But not all countries have been moving in the same direction on the delicate topic. The year Argentina changed course a court ruling in Poland sparked protest and "women strikes'" when it introduced a near total ban on abortion in the heavily Catholic country. There, as in a number of US states which may revert to ban the procedure, a majority of people polled were against the change. Termina-tions were only allowed in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the mother's life.
This wouldn't be the case in some US states looking to turn back the clock further. For at least half of the world's population this is what the new restrictions would amount to, and a U.S. reversal would have a global impact. "In a country that is a political, financial, military empire, a supreme court decision has a contagious effect. Because everything moves together,” told the Guardian Debora Diniz, co-founder of an NGO pushing to decriminalize elective abortion in Brazil. In that country the procedue is only allowed in cases of rape, risk to the woman’s life and certain congenital conditions.
“For Latin American countries, like Brazil, like Mexico, like Colombia, the US supreme court was a very important precedent behind the simple idea that courts are a legitimate space in which to decide abortion [rights],” Diniz said. Central America is where sweeping prohibitions remain in place against the practice, leading to long prison sentences in case of transgressions.
"It is an awful precedent for the coming years for the region and the world," said Catalina Martínez Coral of the Center for Reproductive Rights. The issue is as divisive in non-Catholic countries.
While the procedure is widely available in Israel since the late 70s, Iran went in the other direction after the revolution, while Tunisia has allowed abortions for up to 12 weeks since the 1960s. The Ukrainian crisis has exposed its refugees to differences between European countries on the matter.
According to local authorities over 100 women were raped by Russian soldiers and some reconsidered relocating to Poland because of its restrictive policies. Similarly in Croatia pro-choice supporters have rallied behind a woman who was denied the right to get an abortion despite the fact her unborn child had a life altering brain tumour. She was at fist told to go to nearby Slovenia instead, before the decision was reversed and permission granted for the procedure. This in turn provoked massive anti-abortion rallies in the Catholic country.
Moins d'un an après la chute de Kaboul, la réalité reflète bien les craintes d'un recul du droit des femmes, dont l'effacement se poursuit à une vitesse virtigineuse. Evincées du monde du travail pour la plupart, elles perdent leur avenir en étant exclues des écoles après un certain niveau, et sont finalement rendues invisibles par l'imposition du voile intégral.
C'est une transformation qui a eu lieu en plein jour et dont le monde a été le témoin, impuissant, comme il l'était pendant la chute de ce pays aux mains des Talibans. Ces derniers doivent cependant encore livrer certains combats, non seulement face à des extrémistes encore plus radicaux sur une terre que le bon sens semble avoir abandonné, mais entre eux-mêmes.
Alors que le monde est captivé par la toute dernière urgence interna-tionale, celle de l'Ukraine, la catastrophe de ce pays trop souvent conquis mais jamais maîtrisé prend de l'ampleur en voguant tout droit vers la crise humanitaire.
Les nouveaux maîtres de Kaboul pourraient venir en aide aux plus souffrants en prenant une position moins radicale et gagner un peu de la faveur des agences d'aide occidentales, mais certains ont chosi de pousser la souffrance à l'extrême en réduisant les libertés individuelles, surtout celles des femmes, au strict minimum. Et encore.
Mais ces dernières n'ont pas pour autant été réduites au silence, osant manifester contre les nouvelles mesures des Talibans, malgré les violences que ces actes peuvent déclencher. "Les Talibans ne peuvent pas nous effacer, déclare Zarifa Ghafari, une militante, ils doivent accepter (les femmes). Ils n'en ont pas le choix."
Alors que certaines ont pu conserver leur emploi dans le secteur public, elles risquent le renvoi si elles ne se plient pas aux exigences sur le port du voile, une exigence aux antipodes de celles que l'on peut retrouver dans plusieurs pays de l'Ouest. "Nous voulons vivre en tant que créatures nobles, déclare Saira Sama Alimyar pendant une manifestation contre le voile intégral. Ne pas être retenues dans la cage de la maison, pendant que nos maris vont mendier pour de la nourriture."
Il y a quelques mois les femmes se voyaient interdire le droit de voyager, surtout sans la supervision d'un "gardien" mâle s'il s'agit d'un trajet dépassant les 60 kilomètres. Depuis les Talibans ont ignoré leurs promesses d'assurer l'éducation des filles en interdisant l'accès à l'école des moins jeunes.
Mais certaines ont décidé de risquer gros en participant à des cours clandestins, un risque là encore non négligeable qui selon elles reste tout de même moins important que la condamnation d'une vie sans instruction.
Les dirigeants talibans ne sont d'ailleurs pas unanimes sur l'interdiction de l'instruction des filles après la sixième année, les hauts dirigeants y voyant une polémique qui encourage plusieurs familles à contester le pouvoir et chercher à quitter le pays, tout en soulevant la consternation en Occident, mettant en péril toute aide internationale.