The monstrous explosion that tore into the early evening of a mid-summer’s night this past Tuesday in Beirut is, whatever way you cut it, just the latest manifestation of the multitude of endless avenues of miserable corruption that have plagued the country for generations.
Lebanon’s political oligarchy engages in kleptocracy with a rampant intensity unlike almost anywhere in the region, seemingly unrestrained by any sense of public compassion or institutional necessity. There is an apparatus of corruption that has, for decades, hollowed the entire country from the inside out in an endless cycle of dysfunction and theft.
Now, that bottomless dispassion has culminated in much of its capital being reduced to something akin to a post-apocalyptic cityscape.… Seguir leyendo »
Sometimes, it seems as if fate is trying to prove its unlimited capacity for cruelty. When the skies over Beirut exploded on Tuesday, sending shockwaves felt all the way to Cyprus, 150 miles away in the Mediterranean, and devastating much of a city that was once known as the Paris of the Middle East, it seemed one of those times.
But the never-ending tragedy that is Lebanon is not the result of the random doings of destiny.
Lebanon’s government has blamed a large quantity of poorly stored ammonium nitrate for the blast that rocked the city, killing at least 135 people, injuring more than 5,000 and destroying the capital’s critical port, through which most of the goods Lebanon needs — including food — enter the country.… Seguir leyendo »
Food systems are essential to economic activity because they provide the energy that we need to live and work. However, macroeconomists have long ignored them in the belief that the global agri-food industry, now highly mechanized, subsidized and concentrated, offers all we could wish for when it comes to food.
2020 will be a year of reckoning for the world’s food systems. In just months, Covid-19 shut down half the globe. Images of panic buying, empty grocery shelves and miles-long queues at food banks have suddenly reminded us how important food systems are in our lives and how imbalanced they have become.… Seguir leyendo »
The sudden and deadly appearance of Covid-19 has shaken our nations around the world to their core. Governments were caught by surprise, unprepared to battle a pandemic within their own borders. But here’s the thing: We in the conservation community weren’t surprised at all.
For years we’ve been warning that human destruction of wild ecosystems is upsetting nature’s delicate balance and putting wildlife — and humans — at risk, while leading to dangerous and potentially irreversible climate change. Sadly, it’s humanity’s mistreatment of nature that has brought the devastation that we now see as a result of Covid-19.
Scientists are working to contain the spread of the virus, and will likely find a cure or a vaccine.… Seguir leyendo »
The story from our colleague was familiar: He watched as Makaite, Tefu and the other men of the Andilukbo clan of Efe bow hunters returned empty handed. It was the third day in a row that they had gone hunting for forest antelope and not caught anything. A leaf bag filled with mushrooms and two giant tree snails was all that seven men had to show for over 200 person-hours of grueling work.
In the dense tropical forest near Wamba in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Makaite has watched as outsiders strip his traditional lands of wildlife to supply a long-distance market for bushmeat that sees it transported 250 miles by road to Kisangani, and at times, a further 950 miles downriver to the capital Kinshasa.… Seguir leyendo »
It was the first time Europe’s leaders had seen each other face-to-face since the pandemic swept across the continent, shredding the European Union and causing untold pain and economic suffering, followed in most quarters by a recovery unlike anything experienced in the United States. With 27 different agendas, it was a model of how to deal with a critical issue of money.
Late on Monday, there was unanimity on the largest financial project ever attempted on the continent — a total recovery package of $858 billion. Many of the rifts, between rich and poor nations, those with true democracies and others verging on autocracies, were papered over.… Seguir leyendo »
Days before India lifted its nationwide lockdown on June 1, the country’s health ministry issued a press statement with a triumphant headline. «15 countries with highest number of Covid-19 cases, with almost same population as India, have reported 34 times cases and 83 times deaths as reported in India,» it said.
Fewer than 60 days later, India has reached a million Covid-19 cases. It is now third on the Johns Hopkins University tally of country cases, following the US and Brazil. Far from flattening the curve, India’s graph of transmission is swinging skyward like a Mo Salah free kick.
Since June 1, cases per day have multiplied — from 8,100 to more than 32,000 — while total deaths surged from 5,600 to about 25,000.… Seguir leyendo »
First there was the secretive trip to the Bahamas in 2016 when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family rode in a helicopter owned by the Aga Khan, the billionaire and Ismaili Muslim spiritual leader whose organization has received hundreds of millions of dollars in Canadian federal grants to advance its work overseas.
Then, some three years later, the Trudeau government was found to have pressured then-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to spare SNC Lavalin, one of Canada’s largest engineering companies, from prosecution for bribing Libyan officials in return for lucrative government contracts between 2001 and 2011.
After the Canadian ethics commissioner said Trudeau had violated federal conflict of interest rules, he said, «I assume responsibility for everything that happened in my office.»… Seguir leyendo »
In 2003, an outbreak of a previously unknown infection, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), created great fear and uncertainty across the globe. One concern was that the Chinese government was concealing the actual number of SARS cases in Shanghai.
Since Shanghai was the country’s economic center, the stakes for China — and the world — were high. The Chinese government asked the World Health Organization (WHO) to conduct an independent assessment of the situation, and I joined colleagues from Germany, the US and the WHO Office in Beijing to form the WHO team that went to Shanghai.
In confidence, we spoke with international diplomats in Shanghai, made unannounced visits to health care facilities so we could directly examine medical records and speak with staff, and met with city officials.… Seguir leyendo »
Donald Trump managed to avoid touching off a forest fire in the tinder-dry forest around Mount Rushmore with his Independence Day fireworks display, but instead his administration seems to be doing its best to set Asia on fire in the South China Sea.
Two aircraft carrier strike groups headed by the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Nimitz have moved into the South China Sea for the largest military exercises in years just as China has been holding its own drills around the Paracel Islands, which it seized from Vietnam in 1974 in a move the United States has never accepted.… Seguir leyendo »
On the 23rd anniversary of their handover to China on Wednesday, supporters of democracy and independence in Hong Kong could be forgiven for feeling they’ve just awoken to their worst nightmare.
Overnight, and with no consultation, Hong Kong essentially became a legal and security jurisdiction of China, denying its citizens the 27 more years of semi-autonomy Beijing had promised under the «one country, two systems» model that was to have been in effect until 2047.
A new national security law — dubbed the «anti-protest law» — was rubber stamped by the National People’s Congress in May and signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping this week.… Seguir leyendo »
China’s response to the coronavirus outbreak has provided a pretext for some in Washington to spar even more openly with Beijing. Top White House advisor Peter Navarro accused the Chinese government of exploiting the pandemic to advance its interests, and one senator even claimed that China is «trying to sabotage» America’s search for a vaccine and is bent on «world domination.» Steve Bannon, the mastermind of President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, attributed the death of George Floyd, in large part, to China’s misdeeds.
This cartoonish depiction of villainy might be dismissed as campaign season hyperbole if it weren’t informing real policy proposals.… Seguir leyendo »
I grew up in West Africa to East Indian parents. Every year, we would spend our summer vacation in Kerala, a state along the southern coast of India.
While it is known for beautiful backwaters and ayurvedic centers, today Kerala is making headlines due to its success containing Covid-19. Despite the fact that Kerala confirmed its first case of the coronavirus on January 30, the state, with a population of around 35 million, has 3,726 active cases as of Friday, with 22 deaths — about one death per 1.5 million people — as reported by the Indian government.
Kerala, which is a communist state, has invested in robust public health and education systems.… Seguir leyendo »
Eighty years ago this month, Paris and northern France were occupied by German forces. Thousands of Jews and other refugees fled south from the Nazi onslaught. Many of them reached Bordeaux, finding temporary refuge while seeking life-saving visas through Portugal, a neutral nation, and on to the United States and other countries.
Some were lucky enough to reach the Portuguese consulate in Bordeaux, where the consul general, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, was granting life-saving transit visas to Portugal, contravening his government’s orders.
Earlier this month, the Portuguese parliament unanimously voted to honor Sousa Mendes, who was dismissed from his post and punished for his activities, by creating a monument for him at the National Pantheon.… Seguir leyendo »
That the Chinese government has significant culpability for the global spread of Covid-19 and needs to be held accountable for its misconduct should not be a partisan issue. We already know that the Associated Press has reported the Chinese government concealed critical facts about the emergence of the virus; that local officials silenced voices of warning; and that as a result, actions of Chinese officials most likely deprived the world early on of critical information about the virus’ transmissibility and lethality.
Had China been forthcoming and transparent about the scope and spread of Covid-19, tens of thousands of lives could have been saved, as the US and other countries would have been able to act on information about the virus sooner and may well have taken valuable precautionary steps or implemented policies to stop Covid-19 from spreading and causing so much death.… Seguir leyendo »
On Tuesday, London mayor Sadiq Khan announced a review of the capital’s landmarks, with a view to remove any with links to slavery. Khan’s decision follows the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston by Black Lives Matter protesters in Bristol, in the wake of worldwide outrage after the death of George Floyd in police custody. It has already sparked some backlash in a country which habitually romanticizes its past at the expense of progress — and maintains a veneer of denial about the crimes committed by its historic heroes.
Pressed about where the review of London landmarks should draw the line — given that a statue of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill was recently graffitied with the accurate statement «Churchill was a racist» — Khan said the many great historical figures were not perfect.… Seguir leyendo »
An approximately 5-million-gallon diesel fuel spill from a power station storage tank near the Arctic town of Norilsk, Russia, poses a deadly threat to the region’s people, plants, and animals. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin, who doesn’t have a strong environmental track record, has declared a state of emergency.
Nornickel, the parent company of Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Company, which operates the station, said the accident could have been the result of the foundation of the storage tank sinking due to thawing permafrost, the Russian state news agency TASS reported.
As an oil spill scientist, I see unique dangers in the Arctic. This spill is a warning of a precarious future that we are unprepared for.… Seguir leyendo »
A good friend of mine shared this story with me. When her daughter was seven, she told her mother in no uncertain terms that she didn’t want any black kids at her own birthday party. My friend was shocked not just because her daughter was black — so was she — but because her daughter felt that black people were not the kind of people she wanted at her party.
My friend, like any black mother, was alarmed. She couldn’t figure out how her child got to that point in her thinking. After taking a moment, she responded, «Well, if you are going to insist on not having any black people at your party then technically that means you can’t come to your own party, and neither can your other friends, your brother and your dad.»… Seguir leyendo »
When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was fighting for his life last month, his chief adviser Dominic Cummings was dealing with his own Covid-related battle.
Now the circumstances of Cummings’ case, and in particular how and where he chose to deal with it, pose a challenge to the health of the British government and may even threaten the UK’s capacity to swiftly fight off the virus.
Johnson has proved staunch in his defense of his close ally since the latter was accused of breaking the UK’s strict lockdown by driving 260 miles with his wife, who he admits was displaying some symptoms of coronavirus, and young son to be near his extended family.… Seguir leyendo »
Many Pakistanis tempered this year’s Eid greetings with words of condolence or prayers for the victims of coronavirus and Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK-8303.
The flight from Lahore crashed in a dense residential area adjacent to Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on May 22, killing all but two of the 99 people on board. Investigators have recovered the flight data recorder but the cause of the crash is yet to be determined.
The crash was a horrific tragedy at a time when the country is battling the mounting toll of the pandemic. But as with most things in Pakistan, it is also political.… Seguir leyendo »