Trump in the Dock – IPCC Ultimate Countdown for Climate Crisis – Street Art in Times of War: Roundup of the Latest News
Former US President Donald Trump makes his way inside the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse in New York on April 4, 2023. Photo: Ed JONES/AFP
Trump in the dock: former US president faces 34 criminal charges. Donald Trump, 76, made history April 4 as the first US president to ever be criminally indicted. The ex-president faced questioning by the Supreme Court of the state of New York while a crowd of Trump supporters gathered outside the Manhattan courthouse. The 2024 Republican presidential candidate was charged with 34 counts of “falsifying business records in the first degree”, for every one of which he pleaded not guilty. Trump was alleged of engaging lawyer, Micahel Cohen, to pay hush-money to the sum of $130,000 to adult film star, Stormy Daniels, with whom he had supposedly had an affair in 2007. Case prosecuters challenged the businessman-cum-politician of having tried to suppress information that could haved harmed his 2016 candidacy. During a press conference following the case, Trump argued « they can’t beat us at the ballot box so they try to beat us through the law ».
NATO expands as Finland joins. April 4, the Scandinavian country completed its accession process with the defense organization in response to rising threats from Russia. Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto handed the official documents to the US secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in a ceremony held in Brussels. “When Putin launched his brutal war of aggression, he thought he could divide Europe and Nato. He was wrong,” US President Joe Biden reacted. Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometer border with Russia, becomes the 31st country to join the 1949-founded intergovernmental military alliance. The Kremlin has reacted with spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, describing Nato’s expansion as a « violation of our security and our national interests ». Finland’s neighbor Sweden is set to join the alliance soon but is still facing a veto from Turkey and Hungary.
With Finland joining on April 4 2023, NATO has now 31 members. Infographic map: Sellim Ittel / EPJT
Israel: Clashes during police raid on Al-Aqsa mosque. Wednesday, Israeli police announced that an operation was underway to dislodge "agitators" who had introduced "fireworks, sticks and stones" inside the mosque, a key site of holy worship for Muslims. More than 350 people were arrested after several clashes on the esplanade of Temple Mount, also a sacred place for Jews. In response, Hamas denounced "an unprecedented crime" and called upon Palestinians in the West Bank "to go en masse to the al-Aqsa mosque to defend it". These events come just before the middle of Ramadan and the celebration of Easter, while tension between Israelis and Palestinians has been recently on the rise. Since January, AP has reported at least 88 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire. Concurrently, Palestinian attacks against Israelis have killed 15.
Scotland: Newly elected First Minister has challenges ahead. As the new leader of the Scotland National Party, the 37-year-old was formally elected to parliament March 28. Of Muslim faith and ethnic minority background, his election to office has been considered symbolic. Politicians of South Asian descent now lead in Scotland, the UK, and Ireland, with Rishi Sunak and Leo Varadkar respectively. “Empire strikes back!” Jelina Berlow-Rahman, a human rights lawyer in Glasgow, tweeted right after his election. Yousaf won the fight to replace Nicola Sturgeon, backing her positions on LGBTQIA+ rights. On his agenda, the former health secretary now has to face a potential NHS reform, but also deal with education, business and ecological issues. Yet, his mandate has already come into question, as the latest poll for next general election shows the Scottish National Party now leading Labour by only five points.
The father of Humza Yousaf is Pakistani, and his mother fled from Indian persecutions in Kenya.
They gained British nationality during the sixties, moving to Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow. Photo: RUSSELL CHEYNE / POOL / AFP
Malaysia ends mandatory death penalty. Monday, Malaysian lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to remove the death penalty as the mandatory sentence for 11 serious crimes, including murder and terrorism. Courts can now choose between sentencing 30 to 40 years in prison and/or caning. "The death penalty has not brought about the results it was intended to bring," Ramkarpal Singh, Deputy Law Minister, said in parliament. Over 1,300 people facing the death penalty or life imprisonment can seek a review under new rules. Capital punishment was introduced in Malaysia by the British in 1952, later becoming mandatory in 1983. Bar exceptional cases, the country has had a moratorium on executions since 2018 but planned abolition was then disrupted with three changes of government. Dobby Chew, executive coordinator at the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, said this was a good first step towards total abolition.
International news roundup as an audio version - tune into these stories. Audio recording: various students / EPJT
IPCC report: 11th hour to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2100. March 20, the IPCC report delivered its final warning on reaching the cap of 1.5°C of global warming. The report outlines how governments are not committing enough to ensure temperatures do not rise above 1.5°C by the end of the century. But the IPCC president also said that this report is a message of hope. Solutions to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 are already here. “We have the know-how, technology, tools, financial resources – everything needed to overcome the climate problems we have known about for so long”, the chair of the IPCC, Hoesung Lee, told AFP. The message might suggest it is not too late to turn things around, with countries having what they need to act.
Australia: After a ‘wasted decade’, government agrees on major climate policy breakthrough. March 27, Australia’s government passed the most significant emissions reduction legislation in more than a decade. After long negotiations, Greens and Labor agreed on an explicit requirement that total emissions from major industrial facilities must not just be offset, but effectively come down. April 3, Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, claimed that after a lost decade, “today is a great day for action on climate change”. Whereas conservative opposition suggested that it will “make the Australian economy weaker and the Australian people poorer”. As the third biggest fossil fuel exporter in the world, the country’s economy is heavily dependent on exporting its resources. Previous attempts to regulate the industry were met with bitter opposition and intense lobbying. Last year, the government passed emissions reduction targets for the first time.
On Saturday, March 25, protesters in Sainte-Soline (Deux-Sèvres). Photo: Clémentine Louise/EPJT
France: clashes with water reservoir protesters. March 25, some 6,000 protesters descended on the village of Sainte-Soline in north-western France, demonstrating against the construction of a large water reservoir. Used in agriculture, the reserve is designed for the watering of crops with summer drought in mind. Yet, protesters consider the project as a way of privatizing water supplies. Many also claim water will be wasted significantly through evaporation, and that already-depleted groundwaters will be further reduced. With tension between demonstrators and the police, the prefecture reported 1,000 “radical and violent” protesters with short of a score of policemen and two protesters being severely injured. The Council of Europe has reacted claiming that such protests do not “justify excessive use of force” in France which “deprive peaceful protesters of their right to freedom of assembly”.
Climate justice: United Nations vote historic resolution. Concluded March 29, the resolution should make it easier to hold polluting countries legally accountable for not respecting their agreements regarding climate commitments. The agreement has been adopted by consensus and was led by the tiny Pacific Island of Vanuatu. Shaina Sadai, from the think tank Union for concerned Scientists, described it “as the most important global advance since the Paris Agreement”. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will help establish whether there are legal obligations for states to adhere to agreed commitments, such as the 2015 climate accord. Should agreements be breached, signed parties could be challenged in the courts. Yet, while, ICJ's opinions may be binding, the Court does not necessarily have legal precedent to execute them in national jurisdictions.
EU yields to German pressure on conventional car fuel. March 25, Berlin forced through a loophole allowing the sale of cars with combustion engines after 2035, but only if they run with so-called e-fuel, a mix of hydrogen and oxygen. This deal breaks the previous agreement which only provided for the sale of new electric vehicles from 2035. “We are giving the EU the opportunity to maintain climate-neutral and sustainable mobility”, German Transport Minister Volker Wissing argued via Twitter. 2035 is a part of the European Green Deal to achieve carbon neutrality goals by 2050. Presently, cars represent 15 % of all CO2 emissions in the EU. While e-fuels are still argued to contribute to greenhouse gases, a future of e-cars isn’t either necessarily ecologically convincing as the electricity provisions of each country are not always clean, experts say. In the EU, 13 million work in the car sector.
Environment news roundup as an audio version - tune into these stories. Audio recording: various students / EPJT
CULTURE & SPORT
Egyptian heritage comes to Paris: visitors can immerse themselves in the heart of the kingdom of Ramses II. “Ramses and the Gold of the Pharaohs”, the new Egyptian exhibition, is running at the Grande Halle, in Paris, from April 7 to Sept. 6. For the occasion, the Egyptian authorities have lent the coffin of Pharaoh Ramses II, one of the longest-reigning pharaohs of Egypt. His tomb, discovered in the Valley of the Kings (Luxor), was looted in antiquity - only his mummy remains. Museum-goers can enjoy an immersive visit. Numerous artefacts are leaving Egyptian soil for the first time. Visitors can explore 181 sarcophagi, statuettes, golden masks, jewels and amulets. Films, 3D experience and scenographic devices make the visit immersive by following life and beliefs of the ancient Egyptians. "From an historical point of view, the mummy is a piece of inestimable value” Egyptologist Benedicte Lhoyer, scientific advisor to the exhibition, commented enthusiastically.
Women’s Soccer: England and NZ female teams switch from white shorts over period anxiety. Ahead of the FIFA Women's World Cup July 2023, having voiced menstruation concerns, the women’s national soccer teams of New Zealand and England announced April 3 the end of the use of white shorts as part of their official kit. “It's been in discussions for many years and it's important that we feel confident whilst playing. This is a massive step in the right direction” Lauren Hemp, an English professional footballer reacted. The players of the England team have exchanged their traditional white shorts for blue ones. Soccer teams like Manchester City, as well as other sports like Ireland’s women’s rugby team, have also stopped players wearing white shorts during competitions.
Let’s catch up with all the movies and TV shows announcements and releases that occured this week. infographic : Léo Segura/EPJT
Mystery surrounding the Benin bronzes finally solved. Recent studies have revealed that some of the bronzes, originating from the Kingdom of Benin in current-day Nigeria, were actually made from German brass. For years, scientists have speculated that the Edo people melted down Portuguese manillas - bracelets made of bronze, copper or brass - that were used as currency in the slave trade between the 16th and 19th centuries. Yet, a rare archaeological find has confirmed that the metal used in some of the Benin bronzes came from German Rhineland mines. “Nobody had a clue and it’s quite an eye-opener. It’s a big deal within the very high-profile Benin bronzes art and history world,” said Dr Sean Kingsley, archaeologist. The West African masterpieces, looted by the British during colonial occupation in 1897, are now mostly held in European museums, much to Nigeria's dismay which has long called for their return. The revelation of the bronzes' origins only adds to their cultural significance.
NBA: Sacramento Kings are back in the playoffs. The Californian basketball team ended a 16-year hiatus with a win at the home of the Portland Trail Blazers, March 30. “We want to do bigger things. But 16 years, it's a long time. It feels great to get it off of us", point guard De'Aaron Fox said on ESPN. When it comes to the NFL, NHL (National Hockey League), MLB (Major League of Baseball) and NBA, no franchise has gone longer without a playoff run than the Kings. For Sacramento (48-32) to keep their third place in Western Conference, the Phoenix Suns (44-35) have only three more losses on this day.
Ukraine: street art emerges as powerful form of expression in times of war. Early March, the authorities in Kyiv took steps to protect Banksy's artwork by installing high-tech glass to prevent further looting attempts. The murals have become a symbol of Ukrainians' resistance and are now considered a "newly discovered cultural and historical [form of] heritage," Oleh Torkunov, the Deputy Head of the Kyiv regional military administration, noted. To ensure the legal preservation of Banksy's murals, the Department of Culture and Tourism has contacted the street artist's representatives, but they have not yet received a response. Unfortunately, since the beginning of the conflict, Ukraine has suffered significant destruction to its cultural heritage. According to the New York Times, at least 77 cultural buildings, collections, and objects have been completely destroyed, with more than 180 cultural sites having been partially or completely damaged.
People walk past a Banksy graffiti on a wall of a heavily damaged residential building last December in Irpin, Ukraine. Since then, Kyiv authorities have asked that some of the artist's graffiti be protected under high-tech glass to prevent any further obliteration.
Photo : Genya SAVILOV/AFP
Slovenian cyclist makes history winning Tour of Flanders. Cyclist Tadej Pogacar became the third man ever to win both this race and the Tour de France, in a feat not seen since 1975. The grueling 273 km race took place in Belgium April 2, with both men's and women's competitions being held. Pogacar, aged just 24, crossed the finish line 16 seconds ahead of Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel who won the race in both 2020 and 2019. Denmark's Mads Pederson claimed the bronze medal. While Pogacar has now won two of the sport's major races, Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix still remain on his to-do list. In the women's competition, Belgian cyclist Lotte Kopecky secured her second consecutive win in the event.
Venice Film Festival: 2023 Golden Lions for Lifetime Achievement announced. Liliana Cavani and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai will be awarded Golden Lions for Achievement at the 80th ceremony of the Venice Film Festival, the Biennale Foundation of Venice announced March 27. Italian cinematographer, Cavani, directed 21 films from the 1960s to the 2010s, some of them critically acclaimed. Hong-Kong actor, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, previously won the title of Best actor at the Cannes Film Festival for In the Mood of Love (2000). More recently, he is known for having played in Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021). The ceremony will take place in Venice from Aug. 30 to Sept. 9 2023.
Wimbledon drops ban on Russian and Belarusian players despite Ukraine war. Tennis players from Russia and Belarus will be allowed to compete at the Wimbledon grand slam in summer 2023. April 2022, the All England Club had issued a policy barring the two eastern countries last year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. After extensive discussion between the tennis governing bodies, Russian and Belarusian players will have to sign neutrality agreements in order to compete this year. “We continue to condemn Russia's illegal invasion and our wholehearted support remains with the people of Ukraine,” Ian Hewitt, chairman of the All England Club, said in a statement. “This was an incredibly difficult decision,” Hewitt added. The two biggest granted players of the move will be Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, ranked second in the world, and Russian Daniil Medvedev, fifth in the men’s rankings.
Culture & sport news roundup as an audio version - tune into these stories. Audio recording: various students / EPJT
Sunshine Express: solar panels installed on railway tracks in Switzerland. Swiss company, Sun-Ways, is using the space between the tracks for solar panels. It is an installation that is likened to “unrolling a carpet", says the start-up. The novel idea arose as a way to save space, solar energy usually requiring a lot. The project also responds to urgent energy transition goals in Europe. Germany's Deutsche Bahn is testing this technique as well. Considering the need for green energy and the space that it takes up, other countries, like China, are creating solar floating farms, having set solar panels afloat in 2008 on water reservoirs or lakes.
When Japan celebrates penises. It’s the special time of the year in Japan, when streets are full of happiness and penises. Phallus lollipops, penis-esk furies and other declinations of male genitalia invade Kawasaki for a day. The festival of penises, the Kanamara Matsuri, has been held on the first Sunday of April since 1969. This meeting celebrates an old legend: a demon cursed a young woman by hiding in her vagina and biting her husband’s male appendage. To outwit the demon, a metal phallus was used. The festival has gained in popularity throughout TV shows in 2012. Some 50,000 annual visitors attend the event, which has become symbolic for both the LGBTQIA+ community and sex industry workers. Not-to-be-missed for sure.
Offbeats news roundup as an audio version - tune into these stories. Audio recording: various students / EPJT
- More than fifty years after the first landing on the Moon, Nasa chose to send an ethnically and gender diverse crew of four astronauts back on an Artemis II moon mission within the next two years.
- Yoweri Museveni, the Ugandan president, has called on African leaders to reject “the promotion of homosexuality” after parliament passed March 21 an anti-LGBTQ+ law that he hinted he would sign.
- According to analysis by the Dutch environmental consultancy CE Delft, the United Kingdom is the private jet capital of Europe, with more flights than anywhere else on the continent.
- On Wednesday, March 29, the European Parliament supported the establishment of ecocide crime in the European law.
- At 15 meters in length, Ai Weiwei exhibits the world's largest Lego work of art on display in London.
- Golf's first major championship of 2023 starts Thursday April 6, with the final round on Sunday April 9 - the Masters. The tournament that takes place at Augusta, Georgia, gathers the best players of the world.