NORTHERNPRESS ONLINE

Subtitle

Haiti, perpetually tested

In a land of believers, the challenges are perpetual.  Worshippers still gather at churches across Port au Prince destroyed after the terrible 2010 earthquake that killed thousands and from which the country has yet to recover, scores of its survivors still living in rescue tents meant to be temporary.  Business shacks and popular tap tap transports regularly carry odes to the Almighty, or psalms on their sides, imploring perpetually. Faith, so often tested, as its people, survives, but barely. 

Earthquakes, cholera, pover-ty, Haiti has seen it all, but never does it seem to find the moment to recover, to rebuild, before the next disaster hits. When Hurricane Matthew ravaged the west of the country this month, it found many of its victims without shelter, without cover, without resources. Days later the overworked rescue teams, supported by international specialists who had rushed back, were still finding bodies left in its wake, as the toll climbed over 1000. 

President Jocelerme Privert, the president of the Senate and current caretaker - as Haiti  is to hold much delayed presidential elections - was overlooking the frantic rescue effort as the country observed days of mourning for the victims. The election, already rescheduled to Oct. 10 after the results of the long awaited previous call to the polls were thrown out following evidence of widespread fraud - restaging a vote the country can ill afford-, are to be held in November despite the emergency.

Delayed repeatedly, to the point of leaving the country without an elected head of state, and run by a caretaker already over his mandated 120 days in office, the election is only the second since the devastating earthquake of 2010. In April UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon had stated the country should immediately hold the election, noting Haiti "can ill afford a period of prolonged transitional governance while facing major socio-economic and humani-tarian challenges."

Now he was back to assess the damage and those challenges have only become more acute, with 80% of the buildings in the town of Jérémie having crumbled and reports of new cases of cholera rising from amid the debris. In many areas, the debris was never cleared from the 2010 quake, and the trauma of the experience is far from removed. The hurricane has added 60,000 people living in temporary shelters, to the tens of thousands who never found a permanent home after 2010. 

"We are not far from having one million people who are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance," said UN humanitarian coordinator Mourad Wahba.  The survivors faced shortages of immediate services, but the country was facing more long term difficulties after the storm destroyed large areas of crops, adding food insecurity to the list of ills facing Haiti. The news was particularly devastating for Jérémie, which had recently received improved road and phone communications with the rest of the country, and now was once again looking at the task of rebuilding.

“Instead of going forward, we have to restart,” said Marie Roselore Auborg, the regional minister for commerce and industry. “This storm leveled all of the potential we had to grow and reboot our economy.” The hurricane has affected more than just Jérémie. Some 300 schools nationwide were said of having been destroyed, touching 100,000 children. WHO was mobilizing some 1 million doses of cholera for Haiti while the UNHCR made an appeal for nearly $120 million in aid, saying about 750,000 people in southwest Haiti alone will need "life-saving assistance and protection" in the next three months.

But soon after the UN was deploring a slow response. Nationwide some 2 million were affected by the storm. "These numbers and needs are growing as more affected areas are reached," said Ki-Moon. "Tensions are already mounting as people await help." Indeed while some areas such as Jérémie were getting much needed assistance, others complained relief helicopters were buzzing overhead but not dropping anything off in their equally stricken communities, adding frustration to suffering as shortages of everything from water and food to medicine impacted survivors.

This was evident as relief convoys were often besieged well before their destinations. The scenario sounds horribly familiar, yet in part to blame are the failures to learn from emergencies in the past according to some critics. After 2010 some $10 billion were pledged by the international community to "rebuild better", yet while some 90% of people rendered homeless by the quake found some form of shelter, it was temporary, and the nature of the humanitarian relief effort is to blame.

"The humanitarian industry — and make no mistake, it's an industry — it comes in, it sets up shop, it will work in different ways until its money runs out," said Jonathan Katz, author of The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. "It doesn't really ever have to make any effort to ... create institutions that will be there to outlast it, so that when it leaves it won't need to come back. And second of all, [the industry doesn't need to] be accountable to the people it works for."

Underlining the problem, accounts the American Red Cross built just six permanent homes despite half a billion dollars pledged. Privert has his hands full, but will have to tackle the new emergencies by the horn. "What needs to happen is that … there needs to be a serious effort made to ensure that the help that comes to help build up the country, and not undercut the country's institutions,' says Katz


Clashes in Kashmir

Looming state elections in India are playing no small part in fuelling get tough talk as Kashmir boils with unrest.  The killing of a well known separatist leader was supposed to quell some of the fighting in the restive disputed region over the summer, but it only sparked anew an explosive flash point between two nuclear rivals.

In September India accused Pakistan of being behind a particularly bloody attack on an army base which killed 19 soldiers, a charge Islamabad has vehemently denied.

In response India said it conducted surgical strikes against militants along the tense border - which has been one of the world's most dangerous for decades -, but Pakistan blamed the death of two of its soldiers on cross border shelling.

In early October Indian soldiers killed seven militants, preventing new attacks on army bases in the disputed predominately Muslim region claimed by both countries.

What seems like continuous skirmishing between India and Pakistan has the potential to draw these neighbours in deeper, a worry rekindled as recently as last week when two armed militants took up positions in a government building in Indian Kashmir and traded shots for days before they were eventually felled by forces.

Hours later more separatist militants Delhi accuses of being backed by Pakistan, retaliated by shooting dead a political worker belonging to Indian controlled Kashmir's ruling coalition, near the line of control. 

Since the latest flare up curfews have been imposed in the area, with internet access and press freedoms also facing constraints by both sides of the conflict, security services resorting to crackdowns to cut short popular protests.

Sweeping civilian arrests and similar acts by Indian security forces are sure to keep the conflict alive, argues historian Siddiq Wahid. "The quantum of artillery expended on civilians by the security forces has decreased with October rolling in, but the fury against the atrocities has not subsided," he says.

These protests are notable, he adds in a piece in The Wire, in that their participants, of different areas and stripes "have all united in calling for a resolution of the dispute" and the government should take heed.

But it may have other things on its mind at the present time, and this isn't helping one bit. With state elections ahead and prime minister Narendra Modi promising to be tough on Pakistan, tensions are sure to remain high.

Signs along highways in Uttar Pradesh for instance featured the Indian leader with the heading "We will strike with our gun, and our bullet, in our own time , but in your territory." Another historian, AG Noorani, calls the recent troubles the territory's third major crisis since partition, and deplores that while  Kashmiris seek a new order, Delhi's reluctance to make any concessions means "the worst is yet to come".

"What the country has witnessed since July 8, 2016, in Kashmir is not one of the periodic 'eruptions' there. It is far graver than even the grave one of 2010," he wrote in the Indian magazine Frontline. "This one was a virtual revolt waiting to happen. It will linger" and may in time pit two camps against each other, an India backed by the U.S. and Pakistan backed by China.


Un nouveau pays?

Les cendres brûlent encore au sein du plus jeune pays de la planète, où les éclats ont commencé l'indépendance aussitôt déclarée. Le continent est-il prêt à accueillir un nouveau membre, dans la corne d'Afrique, ou l'idée prend-elle elle-même une tournure disons démentielle?

Pourtant Voilà bien 25 ans que le Somaliland a déclaré son indépendance, soit bien avant le Sud Soudan, cependant celle-ci n'a pas été reconnue internationalement. Ceci n'empêche pas des foules du territoire de se rassembler sous des bannières vert blanc rouge frappées de l'étoile noire chaque mai à Hargeisa, capitale de cette nation de 3,5 millions d'habitants parta-geant la côte du golfe d'Aden avec le Djibouti.

Cette région autonome de 137000 kilomètres carrés est quelque peu oubliée du reste du monde et voilà qui n'est pas une si mauvaise chose. Car depuis sa "déclaration"  en 1991, période où le reste de la Somalie sombrait dans le chaos, Somaliland a su éviter les titres de la misère, parvenant même à une relative stabilité dans cette région chaotique.

Le territoire jouit de sa propre monnaie, d'une armée, d'un exercice électoral et d'un passeport propres à lui également. Évidemment il ne s'agit pas d'un eldorado régional, ses ressortissants prenant avec autant d"enthousiasme que les voisins le chemin du large vers le continent de tous les espoirs, le chômage atteignant les 75% chez les jeunes.

La paix et la stabilité régnante en fait tout de même une terre d'espoir à en juger le contraste avec la Somalie et sa capitale terrifiante de Mogadisco. Voilà qui suffit de nourrir les rêves de véritable indépendance du président Ahmed Silanyo, qui a déclaré qu'un million de ses citoyens avaient signé une pétition en faveur de la reconnaissance mondiale du Somaliland.

Évidemment les exemples régionaux de nouveaux pays, dont l'Erythrée, ne font rien pour rassurer les instances internationales, mais le territoire pourrait-il faire exception à la règle? Puis même en Afrique le phénomène de boule de neige est à la source de toutes les craintes, surtout s'il engage une région perçue comme la lueur d'espoir du triste cas somalien.

Puis la séparation pourrait priver le sud de l'accès à la côte nord, sûr d'envenimer toute relation avec un futur voisin, ce qui n'a pas manqué au Soudan. Un projet de développement de port à Berbera nourrit d'ailleurs tous les espoirs, un projet de la firme de Dubai DP World y voit "un nouveau point d'accès à la mer Rouge qui complètera l'actuel port de Djibouti".

En attendant les rêves perdurent, une délégation du Somaliland s'étant rendue au Sud Soudan après l'indépendance de 2011 portant des vêtements déclarant: Somaliland next. Ils attendent toujours.



No señor
L'encre était bien sèche sur papier, les camps réconciliés, enfin presque, les partis unis afin de mettre une terme à ce Santana conflit colombien responsable de milliers de morts.

Restait à obtenir l'aval d'une population prête à tourner la page, à changer l'image ternie de ce pays trop souvent associé au narcotrafic. Et c'est la où l'effort de paix qui devait mettre un terme, pour une rare fois, au dernier conflit de l'hémisphère, a frappé une embûche de taille. Et de peu.

Les Colombiens ont rejeté l'entente par une marge que le Quebec reconnaît bien, 50,2%, renvoyant les camps à la table de négociation. Après tant d'années que sont quelques semaines de plus?

Enfin rien n'est si sur. Pas plus de 38% des électeurs inscrits s'étaient présentés aux urnes, conséquences de la paresse démocratique.

Les partisans de l'ancien président Uribe, qui s'était opposé à l'entente, se sont servi du vote pour sanctionner l'actuelle présidence faut-il le croire, laissant le continent quelque peu abasourdi.

En voulant bien faire et en demandant l'avis du peuple, le camp de l'entente s'est retrouvé rejeté, malgré des sondages positifs. Ironie du sort, en même temps un référendum hongrois donnant gain de cause au gouvernement sur la politique des réfugiés avec une marge importante était annulé, en raison du faible taux de participation. Mais pas d'élément sauveur en Colombie.

"C'est un saut dans l'inconnu " estime Adam Isacson du Washington Office on Latin America. Ébranlé, le président Juan Santos a promis d'"écouter ceux qui ont dit non et ceux qui ont dit oui. Tout le monde sans exception veut la paix".

Après quatre ans de négociations, la déception était également évidente dans le camp rebelle. "Le FARC maintient sont désir pour une paix durable," déclara Rodrigo Londono.

Mais plusieurs colombiens étaient découragés du manque de sanction des rebelles. "Si nous récompensons les délinquants et les actes e violence nous ne préparons qu'une nouvelle ronde de violence", deplorait le sénateur Ivan Duque.


The ongoing Syrian tragedy
Sadly a number of cities have come to symbolize the devastation and misery of the now five year old Syrian conflict. Homs, Raqqa, Kobane come to mind, but Aleppo in particular has encapsulated the savagery of this modern conflict, and so it was little surprise the city of some two million remaining souls was at the center of the collapse of recent efforts to secure a lasting ceasefire. The deadly attack of a humanitarian convoy head-ing for the city marked the end of the latest hopes to quiet the guns and engage warring parties toward peace, even deepening divisions between two major actors, the U.S. and Russia.

In addition this latest failure to launch peace efforts has led some to throw in the towel on achieving a political solution to the crisis. "In Syria hundreds of armed groups are being armed, the territory of the country is being bombed indiscri-minately and bringing a peace is almost an impossible task now," Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin told his counterparts.

Russia, one of the major military players in the conflict, happens to be one country accused of indiscriminate attacks, to the point that it has been accused of committing war crimes, and being responsible for the attack on the convoy. With observers claiming some 9,000 civilians have been killed since the beginning of Russian air strikes a year ago, the U.S. this week suspended cooperation with Moscow and ended current talks on the conflict because Russia didn't heed calls to halt shelling various parts of the city, where rebels hostile to the Assad regime have been holed up.

Russia's air strikes have been bolstering the success of Assad's forces on the ground, but not enough to end the insurgency that has claimed victims as far south as the capital itself. Practically defiant, and accusing the U.S. of backing Islamic insurgents, Moscow sent more war planes to the country, raising already heightened tensions that threaten to cause turmoil not only in regional affairs, but in already frayed U.S.-Russia ties. "We have more and more reasons to believe that from the very beginning the plan was to spare (insurgent group) Nusra and to keep it just in case for Plan B or stage two when it would be time to change the regime," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Russia warned the U.S. against targeting Assad's forces, stressing that toppling the regime would create a power vaccum sure to pave the way for the takeover of insurgents and terrorists but critics say Moscow's pounding of civilian positions is, if anything, creating new recruits for Islamic rebels. Tensions between Moscow and Washington have reached new levels as a result, adding to years of growing hostility ever since the invasion of Crimea.

This has brought NATO to bolster its forces in Eastern Europe. “Cooperation over Syria was the Obama administration’s last and best shot for arresting the downward spiral in the bilateral relationship with Russia,” Andrew Weiss, a former White House expert on Russia told the New York Times. “The mistrust and hostility toward the United States by the Russian leadership is real and growing. It is going to be the driving force behind Russian external behavior for many years to come.” Adding fuel to the fire was a recent report formally tying the downing of a Malaysian Airlines plane to fire from Russia.

Russia has also sent war planes on Arctic overflights and more recently said it would bolster defenses at an outpost 50 miles off Alaska. This week the fighter jets of four European nations scrambled to intercept Russian bombers over the old continent. Following Washing-ton's move to suspend talks, Moscow suspended an agreement with the U.S. on the disposal of surplus weapons-grade plutonium, while a number of Russian media outlets published alarmist assessments the growing rift could lead to direct clashes between the two countries. Russia was also introducting a new powerful air missile system in the conflict, a worrisome development as the Syrian rebels have no air force of their own.

By some assessments, Moscow may seize on the distractions of an electoral year to muscle its way. These tensions have played no small part creating doubt and scepticism among the major powers trying to end a conflict which has claimed half a million lives in Syria, creating the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War. From the creation of the state of Israel to the Suez crisis, the Mideast has had a tendency of upsetting relations between the world's major powers. As a result of the Syrian carnage, which continues with new Russian air strikes this week, Aleppo was becoming a ghost town as thousands fled the city anew, the World Health Organisation pleading for safe routes to be set up in order to allow the sick and wounded to seek assistance elsewhere.

Medecins sans frontieres has echoed the UN Secretary General's assessment of the tragedy unfolding on the ground as "a bloodbath" while one UN official voiced concerns there could be little left of the city in a matter of weeks. The rebels have been holding the eastern part of the city, which was relentlessly targeted by Russian air strikes, killing as many as 250 recently, the vast majority civilians caught in the crossfire. While Aleppo has been divided for five years, the success of government forces backed by Iran and Russia have allowed them to cut important rebel routes, trapping thousands of civilians running out of food and basic services.

The city has seen devastation over its existence as it is thought to be one of the oldest continually inhabited cities on Earth. Over its existence Aleppo was taken by Alexander the Great and invaded by waves after waves of insurgents including, Persians, Mongols and Muslims, which resulted in the slaughter of large portions of its population. In the 12th century a single earthquake, one of the deadliest in history, is said to have killed thousands. In the midst of the latest calamity France was driving new efforts to impose a new ceasefire through a UN resolution, a solution which has failed in the past.


Canada triumphs again

With Canada winning the two last world champs and Olympic hockey golds, could the answer to defeating Team Canada be creating a second team Canada? Sadly we didn't have the chance to find out, the youthful Connor McDavid-driven Team North America falling just short of the semis, leaving Canada to defend its World Cup. It was the other unusual lineup, one made of European players, that faced Canada in the best of three final.

The surprising amalgamation of French, Danish and players more familiar hockey lands such as Slovakia, had defeated Olympic finalist Sweden in the semis while Canada disposed of Ovechkin's Russia, again. Heading into the final Canada had been trailing for less than 3 minutes during the tournament, racking up 19 goals.

It would have been easy for them to dismiss their opponent, but captain Sidney Crosby, who sought to add a World Cup title to his collection of Stanley Cup rings and Olympic gold medals, having been selected in the entry draft the year after the last tournament, thought otherwise. After Crosby scored to give Canada an early lead in game one, it never looked back and won the opener of the best of three finals 3-1.

Game two started on a different note however, Europe scoring first and maintaining the lead until the final three minutes of regulation. The team had been improving steadily throughout the tournament, after a pre-season opener during which it seemed ill-suited for the smaller North American ice surface. 1981 was the last time European team won Canada/World Cup, would this strange hockey concoction break the spell?

It was not to be, even as Team Canada lamented it could play much better, the men in red and white were too strong. Canada scored twice in the last minutes, one goal on the power play the other with a man down, to register a 2-1 win and claim another perfect tournament.

There were times when the nation would have erupted in celebration, but it has been spoilt for over a decade now. Gone are the crowds pouring into the streets as they did after Canada ended a 50-year gold medal drought in Salt Lake City. That win in fact started a string of international successes including three golds in four Olympics, six world junior champs and five world champs, a tournament which hardly sends the best of the best.

While not entirely pleased with its play, Canada dominated, the elite of the ice sheet having, despite the strong NHL rivalries which usually pit them against each other and short adjustment period, learned to play together right away, according to Crosby, for whom the wins never get old.

"It's pretty special. It's not easy to do," he said. "A lot of us were together there in Russia, and the guys who weren't, everyone just kind of jelled right away. I think everyone understands playing for Team Canada, people will do whatever it takes to win. To see the different challenges you have to overcome to win, the big ice in Russia was the big challenge; here we were facing different challenges, playing a really stingy defensive team that seemed to capitalize on every mistake. They were tough to play against and they tested us big time."

Number 87 joined rare company including Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky being named most valuable player of the World Cup of Hockey as well as the Hart Trophy and the Conn Smythe Trophy. Canada's dominance of its national winter sport has not made the tournament must see TV outside the great white north, yet the NHL indicated it would seek to make it a regular occurrence, looking ahead to a 2020 rendez-vous.



Violences au Congo

Des bâtiments carbonisés, des corps impossible à reconnaître, des appels à la vengeance, l'année électorale atteint des sommets de violence au Congo. Seulement aucun scrutin n'est prévu, et voilà la raison principale des violences au sein du géant au cœur de l'Afrique.

Après près de 20 ans de Kabilas au pouvoir, le refus de l'actuel président de mettre fin à son mandat cette année et de lancer des élections a provoqué une crise sanglante sur un continent où la durée des mandats est un débat criant d'actualité. Joseph Kabila, qui a pris les rênes après son père depuis déjà 15 ans, a confirmé cette semaine qu'il n'y aurait aucune élection en 2016, un sujet qui a déjà enflammé la rue et provoqué des échanges d'incendies de la part des partisans des divers camps.

Une manifestation contre le pouvoir a en premier lieu dégénéré, aboutissant à la destruction de plusieurs commerces et d'un bâtiment du pouvoir. Le lendemain trois quartiers généraux des partis d'opposition, dont celui de l'Union pour la démocratie et le progrès social étaient réduits en cendres. Ce dernier est le parti d'Etienne Tshisekedi, dirigeant d'une manif qui avait servi de "préavis" à Kabila trois mois avant la fin de son mandat prévue par constitution.

Selon des témoins il s'agissait de soldats munis de lance roquettes et d'armes automatiques. Des victimes carbonisées figuraient parmi les décombres. Un porte parole du pouvoir niait cette version de faits. "L'armée n'est pas stupide, déclarait Lambert Mende, que vont-ils faire, tuer des personnes en uniforme?" Ce genre de violence est malheureusement souvent retrouvé dans les pages du grand grimoire de l'histoire congolaise, et les organisations des droits de l'homme ont souvent documenté des actes violents de la part des soldats.  

Le président français accuse d'ailleurs l'"État congolais lui-même" d'avoir provoqué des "exactions".  Selon Mende le président a bien l'intention de quitter le pouvoir, mais l'annoncer serait semer le chaos dans un pays où "il doit y avoir un chef en place" en tout temps. 

Alors que les appels à la médiation se poursuivent, l'opposition se dit pouvoir accepter un délai si Kabila quitte le pouvoir cette année.  L'église catholique, qui durant l'histoire congolaise a joué plusieurs rôles déterminants, juge également que tout accord devra confirmer que "Kabila ne sera pas candidat à la prochaine élection" qui doit être organisée "le plus tôt possible". Or celle-ci ne semble pas se profiler à l'horizon, des responsables allant même jusqu'à déclarer que quitter le pouvoir à la fin de son mandat en fin d'année serait anticonstitutionnel car Kabila n'a pas encore désigné de successeur.

Il serait même passible de destitution selon un responsable de son parti. Barnabé Kikaya soutient que Kabila pourrait même subir un procès pour trahison s'il quittait le pouvoir avant l'élection d'un successeur. Ces arguments "sont n'importe quoi," estime Hans Hoebeke de l'International Crisis Group.

"Ils font tout dans leur pouvoir afin de repousser l'élection," dit-il. Pour la commission électorale d'ailleurs, c'est presque assuré. Celle-ci a fait savoir que le pays n'organisera sans doute pas d'élection avant 2018 puisque les listes électorales devront être mises à jour. "C'est un système autocratique qui se fait passer pour une  démocratie," ajoute Hoebeke .


Kim's big blast

For years it was hard to take the isolated, ruthless and paranoid hermit kingdom too seriously, mocking its failed rocket tests and doubting the veracity of its so-called detonations, especially claims it had set off a hydrogen bomb. North Korean hackers who broke into Sony's network after the release of a movie mocking the dictator were the subject of amusement, even if the horrors of the regime were occasionally reminded with the rare escape of forced camp survivors or reports of assassinations of members of the leader's family.

But the detonation of a nuclear device, its fifth, said of being larger than the one dropped on Hiroshima, was met with global  condemnation and concern about the regime's ongoing efforts to mount warheads on ballistic missiles. The nuclear threat seemed a distant one even at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow, and more focused on fears that terror groups would get their hands on enough material to make a dirty bomb, but this second test this year was enough to shake the peninsula and rattle much of the civilized world, concerned about the regime's ongoing obsession with weapons of mass destruction.   

"Five tests in they now have a lot of nuclear test experience," Jeffey Lewis of the Middlebury institute  of international studies told Reuters. "They aren't a backwards state anymore."  Among the stern critics was one more likely to get Pyongyang's attention, Beijing, saying it resolutely opposed the tests and would lodge a diplomatic protest. It no longer mattered the regime didn't always act on its threats, it represented a "grave" one now to the eyes of the world. But as an irate US president said he would never recognize North Korea as a nuclear state there was a realization of the scope of the failures to prevent the regime from improving its nuclear programme despite the many sanctions, the latest coming down just earlier this year.  

"Sanctions have already been imposed on almost everything possible," noted Tadashi Kimiya of the University of Tokyo. "In reality the means by which the US, South Korea and Japan can put pressure on North Korea have reached their limits."  Not to mention added continuous strains on its suffering people.  Concerned markets tumbled as news of the test took traders down with them, another sign Pyongyang's latest outburst shouldn't be taken so lightly.

The UN Security Council concurred, announcing an emergency session, no doubt giving Kim Jong Un the attention he craves. It condemned the test and said it would immediately work on a resolution as members pushed to add new sanctions, following five sets of earlier sanctions in the last decade, which was immediately ridiculed by the regime.  

"The group of Obamas running around and talking about meaningless sanctions until today is highly laughable. When their 'strategic patience' policy is completely worn out and they are close to packing up to move out," the official news agency quoted a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman as saying. "As we've made clear, measures to strengthen the national nuclear power in quality and quantity will continue to protect our dignity and right to live from augmented threats of nuclear war from the United States," KCNA added.

The regime said its nuclear card was to prevent US nuclear "blackmail" and referred to South Korean president Park Geun-Hye as a "dirty whore". Pyongyang in addition claimed the test   showed it had a nuclear warhead that could be mounted on a missile. The incident ratcheted up tensions on both sides of the border, the South Korean news agency Yonhap quoting military sources saying Seoul had a plan to "decimate" areas of Pyongyang if it felt its neighbour was about to launch a nuclear attack.  

Officially the South is at very least calling for more sanctions, worrying about improvements to the North's nuclear programme. "It is believed that the North's nuclear capability is becoming more advanced to a considerable level, and at a faster pace," said Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se.  

In many respects the country remains very backwards, choosing to devote its meagre resources not to improve the lives of its largely famished people, struck by terrible harvests this year in part due to drought, but to fuel nuclear ambitions. Ironically days after the test, North Korea’s counsellor at the UN mission in New York, Jong Kwon, appealed “for an emergency support to the devastating flood damage area in [North Korea],” which he said destroyed 17,180 houses and left 44,000 people homeless, killing a dozen people.

The uncertainty about Jong Un's grip on power may in addition only be prompting the relatively young leader to multiply displays of force, shocking world leaders and terrifying its southern neighbor. An active regional partner, the U.S. sent nuclear capable bombers over South Korea in a show of force of its own days after the test. "Today's demonstration provides just one example of the full range of military capabilities in the deep resources of this strong alliance to provide and strengthen extended deterrence," said General Vinvent Brooks.

"North Korea's nuclear test is a dangerous escalation and poses an unacceptable threat." Over the summer South Korea announced it was beefing up defences with plans to deploy a US missile defence system, unnerving China, which feared it also could be targeted. The deployment is dividing South Koreans, many of whom have family members in the North, and fear it could simply escalate tensions further.

North Korea greeted the flyovers with derision, calling the display "bluffing" and "blustering". "The US imperialists keep letting their nuclear strategic bombers fly over South Korea in a bid to seek an opportunity of mounting a preemptive nuclear attack," KCNA said, warning: "They had better stop their rash actions."


Baby Steps
Nearly 20 years after it was designated a Special Administrative Region in the bosom of the middle kingdom, Hong Kong has served notice it wants to maintain its own voice by electing half a dozen members of the umbrella protest movement, more keen to challenge Chinese rule in the dynamic city.

They represent a small share of the 70-member legislative assembly, but their election underlines the current of dissatisfaction towards Beijing, two years after mass protests sought but predictably failed to have the former territory's leader directly elected. In all some thirty pro-democracy candidates were elected, enough to veto major constitutional changes.

Needless to say the powers that be were little pleased, warning that separatism would not be tolerated. Pro-Beijing officials stressed they were "resolutely opposed " to "any form of Hong Kong independence activities inside or outside" the legislature, while the Xinhua news agency called the movement a threat to the country's sovereignty and security.  

Combined with protest movements in Taipei which paralysed the legislature there over Taiwan's relation with mainland China, this has left Beijing on edge about regional resistance to Chinese rule. The China Daily even proposed, in an opinion piece, "lock gates" to keep the separatists out of the legislature, including the need for nominees to make a "declaration to the effect that the person will uphold the basic law and pledge allegiance" to China.

But the victory has been sweet for Nathan Law, a 23 year old student who led the 2014 protests, the youngest member in the legislature's history. But even he toned down his messaging, stressing shortly after the win "I'm not advocating independence, I'm advocating Hong Kong people should enjoy rights of self determination", a term which however is not one Beijing wants to hear either.  

Nor is his call for a referendum to "decide Hong Kong's sovereignty" in the next decades. "The tough battle has just begun and we have to be prepared and fight against the Communist party." With the years ticking away until the 50-year limit of the one country two system guarantees, citizens of the city prize their freedoms, including a right to protest that is the envy of the rest of China. Sometimes its citizens even seem to want to make up for the lack of militancy elsewhere.

This week dozens took to the streets of the metropolis, not to voice their concerns about Beijing's stance on the vote but to protest the arrest of popular village chief Lin Zuluan in nearby Guangdong province. Wukan is where a protest over land grabs years ago forced authorities to back down and allow for direct local elections, something sure to catch the ears of Hong Kongers.

"Five years ago the Communists promised that there would be genuine elections," said a local lawmaker. "And it happened for a while but after five years it was torn down." The territory is also fond of its free press. The Hong Kong Journalists Association condemned Chinese officials after some of its reporters trying to cover clashes between the villagers and local police were roughed up by authorities.

The correspondents said they were beaten and detained trying to do their jobs, something they called the sad reality of covering news in mainland China. By some accounts villagers were encouraged by local officials to denounce reporters working there.


Après Karimov
Dans l'antre du monde autocratique , kafkaien et quelque peu fantasmagorique du grand despote de Tashkent on s'était déjà dans le passé adonné au jeu spéculatif sur l'état de santé d'Islam Karimov. Mais quand la nouvelle de sa mort a finalement été confirmée, plusieurs jours après les faits, certains dirigeants étrangers avaient déjà envoyé leurs messages de sympathies.

Pas étonnant étant donné la nature du régime Karimov, qui devrait bien se poursuivre sous son successeur; on aurait mieux fait d'envoyer un message de pitié au peuple souffrant de 30 millions d'habitants après des décennies de gouvernance insoutenable. Répression, surveillance obsédée et corruption sans bornes ont poursuivi leur cours après l'éclatement des républiques, formant un club de la misère avec les pays voisins. Peu étonnant que Poutine ait exprimé sa douleur durant les jours de deuil, un geste qui se veut à la fois un souhait du statu quo. A l'heure actuelle il est difficile d'imaginer quelque change-ment, quelque soulagement en vue pour les Ouzbeks.

La succession pas encore nette, et Karimov y était un peu pour quelquechose là dedans, Tashkent exprimait son désir de renforcer les liens avec une Russie beaucoup plus à son goût que lors des premières années de la séparation post-communiste. Cette déclaration du premier ministre Shavkat Mirziyoyev le plaçait en excellente posture pour poursuivre les excès de son prédécesseur.

Celui-ci, en poste depuis 2003 et proche du renseignement, deviendrait le premier véritable nouveau dirigeant ouzbek quand on pense que Karimov était déjà en poste avant l'écroulement du mur. A preuve sans doute, le fait que celui qui devait à priori occuper le poste de chef d'état intérimaire, le président de la chambre haute, a vite fait de laisser sa place à Mirziyoyev, qui a du coup déclaré sa candidature en vue des élections de décembre.

Cet exercice électoral est évidemment fidèle au grand art théâtral des pays de l'Europe de l'est. Proche de Moscou, ce géant d'Asie centrale est devenu expert en matière de jouer sur différents fronts à son avantage et équilibrer ses alliances, penchant parfois vers la Russie, parfois vers Washington en raison de sa position stratégique dans la région. Résultat, il s'attire à la fois les éloges et les critiques de divers camps, selon la saison.

"A chaque fois qu'il avait l'air de s'approcher d'un pays important, il bâtissait des liens avec d'autres puissances intelligemment, fait remar-quer Gulshan Sachdeva de l'école des études internationales à Delhi, cela n'a pas toujours fait de lui un partenaire très fiable, néanmoins il a réussi à conserver une politique extérieure plutôt indépendante malgré des circonstances difficiles".

Ainsi Tashkent a aussitôt fait de tendre la main vers les Etats-Unis, cherchant un maintien de relations stables. En plus de connaître une importante position straté-gique le pays d'Asie centrale repose sur des ressources minérales fort intéressantes. Mais l'agriculture souffre et les revenus d'Ouzbeks travaillant en Russie fondent, d'où la crainte de tensions futures.


Le désordre au Gabon
Depuis l'indépendance les Gabonais n'ont connu que deux noms à la présidence, celui de M'Ba, le premier, vite oublié, et celui de Bongo, perpétué depuis 1973 à la première élection d'Omar. Mais la dernière ré-élection de son fils, Ali, n'a pas eu lieu sans éclats,  morts, blessés et arrestations. Cette fois l'opposition a refusé de se plier aux résultats du vote, donnant Bongo vainqueur par 5000 voix, son chef Jean Ping promettant de poursuivre le combat tout en se déclarant vainqueur.

Alors que règne l'incertitude et l'instabilité, la crise a déjà fait une victime politique, soit le ministre de la justice Seraphin Moundounga, qui a choisi de rendre sa démission après les éclats et semé du fait le doute sur la version officielle du gouver-nement. L'ONU a fait appel au calme dans les deux camps, exigeant plus de retenue et la poursuite des efforts de médiation engagés par son envoyé spécial.

Le camp Ping estime que plusieurs incidents de fraude on eu lieu lors du scrutin, notamment à Haut-Ogooue, province de Bongo, dont les résultats dévoilaient un appui au président dépassant les 95%. Ping fait appel au recomptage, ce que refuse le pouvoir. Les deux camps ne s'entendent également pas sur le compte des victimes de violences, l'opposition parlant de douzaines de victimes alors que le gouvernement fait état de trois morts.

Libreville refuse également la version française des faits concernant la disparition de citoyens de l'Hexagone. Le Gabon ne reconnaissant pas la double nationalité, les sujets auraient été gabonais et sans doute écroués pour illégalités lors des troubles qui ont suivi le scrutin.  En attendant Ping lui-même affirme ne pas être "libre de [ses] mouvements" et ajoute en entrevue sur France24 que "le pouvoir tue tous les jours. L’ONU, la France, l’Union européenne, l’Union africaine, m’ont demandé de lancer un appel au calme, dit-il. Je l’ai fait, et immédiatement, les difficultés que l’on observait ici et là, se sont arrêtées. […] On a fait le même appel du côté d’Ali, au pouvoir, et il a continué à tuer nuit et jour."

Le pouvoir réfute quant à lui les versions du camp Ping, l'accusant de ses propres manipulations et violences.  "M. Ping est dans des affabulations, il est depuis le départ dans une stratégie de violence visant à plonger le pays dans le chaos," dénonce le porte-parole Alain Claude Bilie-By-Nze, y voyant même une "attitude génocidaire".

Pourtant les organisations internationales connaissent depuis un certain temps la réputation du pouvoir dans ce pays d'à peine 1,6 millions d'habitants riche en deséquilibres sociaux. Malgré ses richesses naturelles le pays figure au 106e rang de l'indice de développement humain établi par les Nations Unies, un échec du pouvoir perpétuel, l'alternance n'ayant jamais vu le jour depuis l'indépendance de 1960.

Les observateurs de l'Union européenne ont quant à eux noté « une évidente anomalie » des chiffres du scrutin, notamment à Haut-Ogooue, où le taux de participation a atteint les 99%, alors qu'il est plutôt de moitié dans les autres régions. Alors que la cour constitutionnelle pesait la contestation des élections, des centaines de partisans de Ping participaient à une "marche blanche" la fin de semaine passée pour honorer les "combattants de la liberté morts pour la patrie", signe que les tensions ne sont pas près de se dissiper.

Certains redoutent d'ailleurs une recrudescence des violences au moment du jugement de la cour, d'autant plus que son impartialité laisserait à désirer au départ, sa présidente étant nul autre que la belle-mère d'Ali Bongo.


Back wearing the blue

Sixty years after the Suez crisis which would mark its history with a Nobel Peace Prize, Canada is announcing it wants back in the blue helmeted business, not that it ever left. The ninth largest contributor to the organization's peacekeeping budget is still modestly present in missions from the Middle East, where the first missions took place, to Cyprus, where Canada made a notable stand in the 1960s that continues to this day.   

But this summer's announcement sought to mark a return to the middle man tradition of the middle power, with a focus on Africa yet to be entirely pinned down. It comes at a time the government has come under criticism by the opposition for halting air strikes in Syria and Iraq while it turned its focus to training local troops on the ground. Some critics say Ottawa is making a desperate attempt to find its seat back on the Security Council, after being denied under the previous admini-stration. But to other observers it is simply another indication that "Canada is back", a line Justin Trudeau has been using since the early days of his government.  

The re-engagement of sorts may seem more modest at the outset, Canada gearing up to commit some 600 soldiers and some $450 million, considering as many as 3300 Canadian soldiers held such duties across the world in 1993 alone, but it's a start considering barely 100 have such a role today.  Today Canada is 66th in the rankings of top troop contributing nations, behind the likes of Fiji, Djibouti and Yemen. "We need to do our part," said defence minister Harjit Sajjan, himself a former military man. Canada has been multiplying deployment announcements this year, after the news it was sending some 450 soldiers and half a dozen fighter jets in the Baltics, where a line of sorts has been drawn in the sand with Russia.   

A possible strain on the Forces, the mission would at least come with a lower price tag than other missions, with the UN footing a part of the deployment bill, but for some veterans, this creates fears more will be asked of the Forces while providing less.   "You could stand there on your political platform and explain why you're giving the military less money because we're going to make sure they're committed to UN operations where they won't need the full suite of military equipment," retired major-general Lewis MacKenzie told CBC. "A blue beret and a pistol, to exaggerate."  

Sparking some concerns, in this year's budget Ottawa put off billions in procurement spending to take the time to determine the military's needs, something critics said amounted to a spending cut. Over the summer the government seemed to be ending the annual  focus on the defence of the Arctic as well, prized under the Tories. While seeking to build up its reputation at the UN for peacekeeping, Canada is however coming under fire for billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Critics say armoured personnel carriers sold by Ottawa have been used in crackdowns against civilians.

The incoming government has said it was bound to contracts made by the previous administration but would apply stricter ethics henceforth in defence deals. Other countries such as France have also been criticized for selling weaponry to the Saudis. Its air force, consisting of US fighter jets, has also mercilessly been pounding positions in Yemen's ongoing conflict. Amnesty International has come down particularly hard on the U.S. for selling billions of dollar's worth of military hardware to the kingdom, which has often caught civilians in the crossfire in the peninsula.    

“One of the unspoken legacies of the Obama administration is the extraordinary uptake in the amount of U.S. weapons and military aid that are provided to major U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt that have terrible records when it comes to human rights,” Sunjeev Bery told Salon. “The bottom line is that the U.S. government considers to arm the government of Saudi Arabia with precisely the kinds of weapons that Saudi Arabia and its coalition have used to attack civilian communities in Yemen. That’s the fundamental problem.”

A Canadian manufacturer, the Streit Group, has also come under fire by the UN for its sale of armored carriers to Libya and South Sudan. Incidently, that is one of the countries where Canada may be considering its peacekeeping mission, as well as the Congo and Mali, where it was announced it was sending a fact finding mission.

This week jihadist group Ansar Dine attacked Malian army positions in the center of the country, showing Islamists still ruled unchallenged in part of the huge arid land mass. Canada is involved in a re-engagement with Africa overall, announcing it would  send regular troops to Niger to help train soldiers. But Ottawa has come under criticism for staying mostly silent on the actions of some of its ruthless leaders, most recently after the crackdown in Ethiopia. But as it gears up for possible overseas deployment, the Canadian military is also facing an internal struggle after a report revealed an increase of sexual offense complaints in the order of 22% this year.

This was a crushing revelation a year after the launch of Operation Honour to tackle the longstanding problem last year. A reason for the increase may be previous under-reporting however, something that is highly suspected in the U.S. as well, facing similar challenges. The plight of former soldiers is of course a major concern of the relatively new administration in Ottawa.

According to federal researchers anywhere between 2,500 and 10,000 veterans live in homeless shelters, the minister responsible pledging to tackle the issues "relatively quickly." But critics say they have heard this in the past.  "The minister has told us that things are going to move quick," said Dave Gordon, a retired president of Ontario's wing of the Legion. "Guess what? They're not. They're not moving as quick as they should be." While Ottawa is not rushing out to commit billions in arms procurement or defining an immediate mission in Africa, many can agree helping veterans is somewhat more time sensitivc


Dire pardon
Pardon, c'était une erreur. Non ce ne sont pas des mots que l'on retrouve souvent dans le vocabulaire djihadiste, encore moins devant tant de spectateurs. N'est-il pas trop tard d'ailleurs quand on a prêté serment à une mouvance qui prône exécutions génocidaires et esclavagisme dans un caliphat imaginaire?

Pourtant telle était la déclaration choc d'Ahmed Al-Mahdi en plaidant coupable devant la Cour pénale internationale de la Haye où il faisait face à des accusations en lien avec la destruction de monuments historiques, certains datant du 14e siècle à Tombouctou. Originaire de la ville malienne qui fut prise par les forces d'Ansar Dine, dans une région envahie par le flot d'armes qui a suivi la crise libyenne, celui-ci avoue s'être "perdu en chemin" et avoir commis des actes pour lesquels il ressent "plein de remords et de regrets".

On ne compte plus les monuments du patrimoine historique erdus aux mouvements islamistes d'Afghanistan à Palmyre et ailleurs au long et à l'écart de la  mythique route de la soie. Les spécialistes sont parvenus à rebâtir certains édifices en terre de Tombouctou mais ne parviennent parfois pas à s'entendre sur la suite des choses sur les autres sites, pesant toute reconstruction fidèle au style original, lorsque la voie est libre, au besoin de se souvenir du cataclysme qui a suivi.

Les dommages restent consi-dérables dans la ville, et pour la plupart irréparables, mais la blessure historique est bien plus profonde selon la procureure du CPI Fatou Bensouda, qui parle de ville "défigurée au point que la population a été meurtrie au plus profond de son âme" suite à la destruction de ces "reliques d'un grand chapitre de l'aventure intellectuelle et spirituelle de l'homme sur le continent africain qui a fait la renommée de cette ville dans le monde ".

Mais les maçons maliens ont toutefois accomplis quelques miracles dans ce grand centre intellectuel de l'islam sacré par l'Unesco à titre de patrimoine de l'humanité. Plus tôt cette année 14 mausolées étaient reconstruits selon l'ancien savoir faire, une restauration émouvante pour les familles touchées.

"C'est un symbole fort pour la paix, estimait Sane Chirfi, membre de la famille responsable du mausolée vandalisé d'Alpha Moya. Les mausolées sont des symboles de rassemblement, de regroupe-ment, parce que parmi les saints de Tombouctou, il y a des saints de toutes les ethnies". Le symbole du genre de tolérance inacceptable au yeux des djihadistes.

"On avait vu la dureté des images, la brutalité des destructions, et aujourd'hui, ce mausolée, nous sommes très heureux qu'il soit debout", confiait quant à lui. Lazare Eloundou, représentant de l'Unesco derrière le projet.

Ce triomphe contre la barbarie était signé alors même qu'Al-Mahdi faisait sa première comparution au CPI. A Palmyre, cité millénaire qui a tant souffert sous l'emprise de l'EI "tout reste à faire" six mois après sa fuite constate Ardavan Amir-Aslani, avocat spécialiste des questions de protection de patrimoine.

"Nous sommes dans une phase d'évaluation des dégâts" explique à L'Express l'archéologue Jacques Seigne, Ce n'est pas certain que l'on puisse faire quelque chose. Néanmoins, la France a un rôle important à jouer dans tout cela"


Off field controversy
Years removed from his 2013 super bowl appearance and struggling to bring back any consistency in his once brilliant offensive drives, it's understandable quite a few fans would be upset with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. But the online rants and jersey burnings weren't caused by something he did on the field but rather off it, sitting on the bench, during the national anthem.

Game 3 of preseason is when anyone noticed and asked him about not standing for the Star Spangled Banner because the 28 year old had missed much of the earlier action due to be injury. But the stance was hard to miss in full uniform, on a day he would fail to recover his starting quarterback spot with three rather unproductive onfield presences where he racked up an unimpressive 2 for 6 for 14 yards.

Colin, it turns out, was standing for a national cause by remaining on the bench. "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he said. Condemning the many police shooting deaths of African Americans in the last year, the athlete added he respected "the men and women that have fought for this country" but condemned "people are dying in vain because this country isn't holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody."

"To me this is bigger than football. There are bodies in the street and people are getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Praised by followers of the Black Lives Matter, which he backs, and supported by some teammates and the organization, Number 7 however faced a barrage of criticism by others pointing to the $11.9 million salary he pockets in the land of opportunity. Some burned their jerseys in protest, others said quite unpleasant things on Twitter and other media, further fueling an already firy political season.

Anyone who follows Kaepernick on Twitter is aware he has been outspoken in the past on racial inequality and police violence, retweeting a story on a U.S. governor commenting "you shoot at the enemy and the enemy right now are people of colour of people of Hispanic origin" the day after the game.

Apart from the divisiveness of politics has been a racially charged year in the United States after a series of police shootings killing blacks, the most recent being the shooting of a 23 year old Milwaukee man, sparking protests.

Nor has the quarterback been the only celebrity raising he issue, music superstar Beyoncé bringing the mothers of recent victims to this year's Video Music Awards. Earlier this year she incorporated dancers wearing black and berets during her Super Bowl halftime show performance, a reference to the Black Panther movement, stirring up controversy.

The 49ers quarterback usually just retweets messages of others rather than write his own, but does so a number of times a day. A recent one perhaps captured his predicament, retweeting a message which stated that black athletes are usually praised for saying they support the troops but "should they say ANYTHING that hints towards the horrors that black folks experience in America... America don't live you no more."

For the NFL, "players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem," and Kaepernick had the right to express his opinion in the way of his choosing. But if you think the matter was limited to the sports realm, think again. The White House didn't mind weighing in on a matter which involved the latter years of the outgoing administration, and it was blunt. Spokesman John Earnest made plain it didn't "share the views that Mr. Kaepernick expressed," adding they were "objectionable."

But sometimes even rivals, like Seattle's Richard Sherman, lent their support. “There is some depth and some truth into what he was doing. I think he could have picked a better platform and a better way to do it, but every day they say athletes are so robotic and do everything by the book. Then when somebody takes a stand like that he gets his head chopped off.”

Kaepernick said that despite the backlash he would continue sitting "until things change", but things could change for him well before then if he fails to recover from the current slump which leaves him struggling to secure the Number 2 spot. A few years ago this is a position he rose from before replacing the man who then lead the 49ers. But these days seem far removed even after the latest off-season coaching change.    
                                                    


Après les Jeux, la crainte

Le fil d'arrivée bien en vue après plus de deux heures de course lors du marathon des jeux de Rio, Feyisa Lilesa n'avait que deux choses en tête: croiser le fil d'arrivée avant son rival américain pour remporter la médaille d'argent, et, une fois rassuré du coup d'oeil derrière, croiser les bras au-dessus de sa tête devant les caméras du monde entier. C'était risqué, il en était bien au courant, mais le message devait passer.

En conférence de presse il s'expliqua: il s'agissait d'un geste de protestation contre la répression du gouvernement éthiopien à l'endroit de son groupe ethnique, les Oromos.  "C'est un signe de soutien aux manifestants qui sont tués par le gouvernement de mon pays, dit-il par la suite, ils font le même signe là-bas. Je voulais montrer que je n'étais pas d'accord avec ce qui se passe, j'ai des proches et des amis en prison. Le gouvernement tue mon peuple, les Oromos, des gens sans ressource".

Après des semaines de violences, les éclats entre le pouvoir et les manifestants étaient respon-sables de centaines de morts selon Human Rights Watch, dans ce pays de la corne d'Afrique aux prises avec une nouvelle crise sur fond de sécheresse généralisée. Les Oromos manifestaient  contre les politiques de ségrégation du gouvernement à leur égard. Au coeur de la dispute notamment, une politique des terres à l'avantage de la minorité au pouvoir, les Tigréens, au désarroi des Oromos et des Amharas.

"L'Ethiopie a beaucoup d'ethnies, poursuit Lilesa, certains ont été privés de leurs terres, tués par le gouvernement. On défend nos droits, on veut la paix, la démocratie." Un tel geste politique est formellement interdit par les règlements du CIO, mais ne l'avait-il pas été en 1968 alors que deux athlètes sympathisants des Black Panthers avaient levé le poing sur le podium?

Il ne s'agissait pas de la seule manifestation du genre à Rio, où on avait en premier lieu demandé à une manifestante brandissant une pancarte demandant au gouvernement iranien de "laisser entrer les femmes dans les arénas", de cesser son geste. Mais après les éclats des médias sociaux, les responsables semblaient par la suite avoir décidé de laisser faire, lui permettant de reproduire son geste lors d'autres compétitions sans intervention.

Lilesa avait-il noté cette retenue? N'importe sans doute. Ce dernier est encore passible de sanction de la part du CIO, mais voilà qui ne le préoccupe pas tant dans l'immédiat. Lilesa prétend plutôt ne plus pouvoir rentrer chez lui, craignant des représailles, malgré les assurances avancées par son gouvernement, dans un pays où son exploit sportif a fait de lui un héros.

"Peut-être que je vais être tué, peut-être que je vais être mis en prison, retenu à l'aéroport, ou obligé de partir dans un autre pays," dit-il, ajoutant qu'il pensait peut-être se rendre aux Etats-Unis.

En attendant de voir si les autorités brésiliennes lui permettront de rester au pays ou du moins d'y allonger son séjour, la machine sociale s'est emparée de sa cause, ramassant des dizaines de milliers de dollars pour lui permettre de financer une demande d'asile. Après un quart de siècle au pouvoir, les Ethiopiens en ont assez du parti au pouvoir, estime Ali Mohamed, co-fondateur de la Horn of Africa Freedom Foundation: "Ils vivent dans un système de peur et de répression systématiques à travers le pays. Tueries, torture, enlèvement, voilà le modus operandi du Front de libération Tigréen au pouvoir," dit-il.


A pride under tight security

Along with the colours, the music and floats came tightened security during this year's Gay Pride events, and it wasn't just because Canada's prime minister became the first to take part in parades from Vancouver to Montreal. The Orlando shooting had marked a sad chapter in the history of a community at a time it was hoping to achieve new breakthroughs on transgender rights in one of the world's most progressive countries, a United States with a solid conservative base digging in during an electoral year however.

A few hours later a 20-year-old Indiana man, James Wesley Howell, was arrested on felony counts of possessing explosives on a highway as well as an assault weapon and high capacity magazines when the vehicle he was travelling in was found to contain a small arsenal.  He was heading for the Los Angeles pride parade as the West coast and the rest of the country was in shock following the Florida shooting.  He could face up to nine months in jail if found guilty but was not  connected to the Orlando incident, which wasn't such a relief in itself.

Recent polls show young Americans  over-whelmingly support gay rights in areas such as employment, healthcare and even adoption. But LGBT donors lining up to give blood in the hours and days after the Orlando shooting found out laws still discriminated against their offerings. This summer neighbouring Canada lifted some restrictions on gay blood donations, but maintained them for people who have had sexual encounters less than a year before. HIV scientists called the move "ridiculous" adding it ignored the science.

"I would say the window period should match the science," says Paul MacPherson of the Ottawa Hospital, pointing to a 42-50 day antibody test period. "I think Canadian Blood Services is just being super extra cautious in putting it out to a year". In addition the Blood Service was accused of being discriminatory by saying it will ask trans people their birth sex and whether they had genital surgery.  There are of course much less tolerant lands where gay aggression is commonplace, and it isn't only in ISIS-ruled territory, where mere allegations of being gay have reportedly resulted in a man being thrown off a roof to his death.    

The beheading of a gay refugee in Istanbul, a fairly progressive city in a largely Muslim country, has shocked its gay community, causing many to take precautionary measures at a time the country is still fuming from a failed coup attempt.  According to a person who knew the victim, Muhammed Sankari had been cut so violently that knives had broken into him. He said Sankari had previously been victimized but police had done little to look into the matter. Gay rights activists say homosexual refugees are particularly vulnerable in Turkey, where millions have fled from neighbouring countries.

In Uganda, where homosexuality is a crime, police broke up a brave pride event, arresting about 20 people, a sadly common occurrence in what is perhaps the least safe continent for homosexuals. This is the country where a 2009 bill prescribed the death penalty for some homosexual acts, sparking international condemnation. The bill was watered down and eventually rejected by a court as unconstitutional, but activists in Uganda know they are fighting an uphill and often dangerous battle for their rights.  

In Egypt the return of military rule three years ago has led to the arrests of over 250 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in what Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights researcher Dalia Abdel Hameed told the New York Times constituted a "deliberate campaign of arrest and monitoring."  “Now the police are going out of their way to arrest gay men and trans women,” says Hameed, calling it a veritable campaign by the morality police observers say is similar to major anti-gay crackdowns under dictator Hosni Mubarak's rule, over a decade ago. Police have used social media tools such as the gay hookup site Grindr to flirt with homosexuals in a campaign of entrapment which ends with   arrest.

The tourist destination has been decimated by violence over the last years but Muslim countries out to appeal to foreign visitors for dollars aren't necessarily ready to spread the welcome mat for gay visitors, even a city seeking to become a world hub such as Dubai. A Canadian transgender model was reminded of this after being detained upon arrival by officials who went on to refuse her entry. Homosexuality is outlawed in the United Arab Emirates and the model warned other trans people against travel there. "I was denied entry into Dubai and it absolutely disgusts me that this kind of discrimination still goes on," Gigi Gorgeous went on to tell fans in a video afterwards.

Even Brasil, known for its tolerant larger cities and where a record 49 openly gay athletes competed in the Olympics this year, rights groups decried deadly violence against members of the gay community. Trans-gender Europe recorded 845 reported murders of gay victims in Brasil between 2008 and 2016, the most of all countries surveyed. Human Rights Campaign logged 326 murders of LGBT citizens in 2014 alone. But even for progressive countries such as Canada and the U.S. lessons remained to be learnt. A U.S. study said gay teens were more likely to suffer from bullying, depression and violence.  

And Trudeau, whose father introduced the Charter of rights and freedoms in the Constitution and notoriously declared the state had no business in the bedrooms of the nation, said it was time Canada made amends for its previous mistakes and apologize to those persecuted because of their sexuality.  Such an announ-cement is expected early in the fall and will constitute "a long awaited moment and a very emotional moment," according to Helen Kennedy of Egale, an advocate group for sexual minorities. "For the government to recognize the damage that it caused, the harm that it caused, to thousands and thousands of Canadians is a historic moment for our communities."


La communion des Jeux
Après les drames pré-olympiques, les récits propre à la compétition, des exploits mais aussi de la tragédie.

Comme Cette première médaille du Kosovo, l'or rien de moins, cette victoire d'une jeune membre de l'équipe des réfugiés, dont les premiers entraînements étaient particulièrement terrifiants, mais aussi la chute d'une cycliste néerlandaise en tête de peloton, puis la mort tragique de la mère d'un athlète thaïlandais qui venait de remporter une médaille.

Après les doutes et les critiques du rassemblement, les rappels de ce qui en fait une communion hors pair du sport avec ce qui nous touche un peu tous.

Les Russes ont du participer aux compétitions parfois sous les huées, en raison des accusations de dopage, mais ont tout de mène récolté dix médailles en trois jours, malgré des effectifs réduits par les sanctions.

Plus triste, l'équipe masculine brésilienne de soccer, qui espérait tant arracher l'or pour la première fois, a également essuyé des huées après deux rencontres sans but, contre l'Afrique du sud et l'Irak. L'équipe féminine cependant n'a pas tardé à faire de nouveaux adeptes.

Frustrés du résultat nul contre l'Irak, les partisans Brésiliens scandaient " marta! Marta!" L'étoile de l'équipe féminine, Marta Vieira da Silva. Ses deux buts contre la Suède dans un gain de 5-1 aidèrent à assurer une place en quarts.   

De l'aveu de certains, celle-ci est n'a rien a envier à Neymar, une remarque pas insignifiante dans un pays qui, de l'aveu du président de la firme de consultants sportifs Pluri "est un pays très macho". Athlète de la FIFA de l'année à cinq reprises, celle-ci tente également de donner une première médaille d'or à son pays, passe défait en finale de la coupe féminine en 2007.  

En fait les femmes se sont vite imposées aux JOs de Rio, où elles sont plus représentées que jamais, notamment au sein de la sélection canadienne, assurant les quatre premières médailles.

Mais la bulle olympique ne peut être totalement isolée de la vie qui l'entoure, des incidents en bordure de l'important périmètre de sécurité venant tristement gâter la fête sportive.

Des balles perdues ont frappé une tente médiatique et des étables de la compétition équestre.  Un bus transportant des journalistes a perdu deux vitres, sans doute fracassées par des pierres  selon les autorités.   

C'est sans parler des incidents violents en bordure de l'enceinte et surtout des favélas.  Un véhicule policier qui s'était égaré dans une favéla à par ailleurs été arrosé de tirs, blessant plusieurs de ses occupants.   

Une balle perdue a frappé une tente médiatique et un bus transportant des journalistes a perdu deux vitres, sans doute fracassées par des pierres  selon les autorités. C'est sans parler des incidents violents en bordure de l'enceinte et surtout des favélas.

Pas de trêve olympique aux abords des favélas, ni entre les Corées alors que Kim Jong Il multiplie les menaces, mais dans les enceintes des stades, un genre de rencontre plus humaine. Comme l'autoportrait  de deux athlètes coréennes, une du sud l'autre du nord.

Mais les différends étaient parfois trop durs à surmonter, la délégation libanaise ayant été fort critiquée après avoir empêché des membres de l'équipe israéliennes de prendre le même autocar avant la cérémonie d'ouverture. Puis un judoka égyptien a été hué par la foule pour avoir refusé de serrer la main à un Israélien après avoir perdu son combat.


Référendum conséquent en Thailande

Dix ans après un coup d'état qui a depuis divisé la scène politique thaïlandaise, même s'il ne s'agit même pas du plus récent, la junte au pouvoir a obtenu gain de cause dans un référendum qui assurera son emprise sur la politique du royaume. Un projet de nouvelle constitution qui remplace le mode de sélection des sénateurs a été approuvé par 61% de la population.

Les membres de la chambre haute seront dorénavant nommés plutôt qu'élus, ce qui assure une présence continue des militaires au pouvoir à un an des prochaines législatives. Selon Nattawut Saikua, un des dirigeants du mouvement des chemises rouges fidèles au premier ministre exilé Thaksin Shinawatra, le vote n'est que le résultat de "pression" propre à "toute dictature".  

Ce dernier avait été évincé par la junte en 2006, lançant de violents éclats entre ses partisans et les chemises jaunes, fidèles aux élites royalistes et à l'armée. Lorsque de nouvelles élections eurent lieu en 2011 c'est sa soeur, Yinluck, qui fut élue première femme au poste de premier ministre de l'histoire du pays, mais celle-ci dut faire face à des accusations d'agir principalement au nom de son frère Thaksin.

Un nouveau coup d'état en 2014 assura le retour de la junte au pouvoir, qui s'empressa de s'en prendre aux médias, la principale chaine d'information de l'opposition ayant été fermée pendant un mois lors de la campagne référendaire, limitant les débats sur le texte de la constitution. En fait tout débat sur le texte était interdit pendant la campagne, durant laquelle plusieurs opposants ont été arrêtés.  

Autant dire que les partis les plus importants se sont tous opposés à la réforme, qui donne également au Sénat un rôle dans la sélection du premier ministre. "Tout ce que  nous constatons, comme la suppression des droits d'expression, va se poursuive" estime David Streckfuss de l'université Khon Kaen. Nouveauté troublante pour plusieurs, l'exigence que tout candidat soit "apparemment honnête", louable à première vue mais dont le verdict  sera rendu par des bureaucrates proches des militaires.

Comment mesurer une telle chose? "C'est très vague, constate Henning Glaser de l'université Thammasat, c'est un concept très volatile qui pourrait être utilisé contre des politiciens qui ne sont pas du bon coté." Les militaires ont beau avoir resserré leur emprise sur la politique, plusieurs secteurs leur échappent encore, notamment le sud du pays, toujours aux prises avec une insurrection musulmane.

La semaine dernière des explosions à Hua Hin et Phuket faisaient plusieurs morts et blessés, parmi eux de nombreux touristes. De peur de semer la panique, les autorités se gardent bien de parler de "terrorisme" préférant y voir un "sabotage local" en lien avec la politique. Une douzaine de bombes en tout ont éclaté lors des derniers jours, un média local évoquant la piste des chemises rouges des Shinawatra, un bouc émissaire fort pratique.

De nouveaux attentats cette fin de semaine frappaient Yala, bastion du séparatisme musulman. Selon certains experts la série d'explosions viserait l'économie du pays, qui dépend fortement du tourisme. Plus de 6000 personnes ont été tuées depuis l'éclatement de la rébellion musulmane, qui perdure depuis une douzaine d'années, mais atteint principalement les régions du sud du pays.


Stinging rebuke for ANC
In terms of warning to the ruling and withering African National Congress it couldn't be clearer than this. South African voters signalled their dissatisfaction with govern-ment corruption and continued inequality in local elections by giving Jacob Zuma's party a mere 53% of the vote, but more symbolically, handing the party that toppled Apartheid a setback in two black-majority municipalities including one called Nelson Mandela Bay.

The ANC lost the capital Pretoria but managed to hang on to Johannesburg, its electors perhaps serving the party a final warning ahead of the 2019 elections that will mark a quarter century of free elections. “The 2019 campaign starts now,” said Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane, whose party got 26% of the vote and kept control of Cape Town, but most importantly gained two other major municipalities as it campaigned under the leadership of its first black leader. “For far too long, the ANC has governed South Africa with absolute impunity.”

The ANC is the only governing party the country has known since the end of Apartheid, meaning South Africa is short of having seen the two peaceful democratic transitions political scientists say make it a bona fide democracy, but its open rebuttal of the ruling party is in contrast with other African countries which have been stuck with the same strongmen for decades thanks to changed constitutions which allow for unlimited presidential terms.

“Our democracy is maturing,” said Zuma after the results. “Let us get back to work and build our country together.” Scandals surrounding him and his party have also dented the enthusiasm of voters who increasingly see alternatives to electing the party which ended white rule. “Election after election, the ANC has hung on to its past glory and kept its place in the hearts of most South Africans.…This time round, though, it’s not enough,” the Mail & Guardian newspaper said in an editorial.

But the ANC retains strong support in areas with large black majorities. Zuma's leadership may however face leadership trials after the scandals that have weakened his party, including revelations the state paid over $20 million for work done to his private home and that he had violated the constitution.

His name has been synonymous with controversy for the last decade ever since he was acquitted of rape in 2006. According to a recent poll, a majority of South Africans found the Congress had "lost its moral compass." Would someone be sitting in the wings to change the trend? Increasingly worrying trends include instances of intra ANC violence, some recent clashes in Zuma's KwaZulu Natal leading to the death of a dozen ANC members.

In addition South Africans have panned the lack of basic services in some parts of the country, including poor distribution of water and electricity. Inequality and high unemployment, especially for youths, are other important issues that have eroded ANC support, despite the country reclaiming its crown of top African economy. Still for now however the ANC is refusing to finger Zuma for the party's woes. After a weekend meeting to discuss the outcome of the vote officials said the party's problems were "collective" and blaming Zuma was "a wrong narrative."

Perhaps, but the new political environment places post Apartheid South Africa into a new narrative, that of a need to build coalition agreements, the lack of which could bring in a new round of elections. The need to reach across the aisle and agree to compromise in order to govern will constitute a new evolution of the country's rocky and chaotic, yet still democratic politics.


Et si l'or pouvait tout changer


Ouf, enfin le coup d'envoi à Rio! Agression d'athlètes, insalubrité des résidences et de certains sites puis feu dans le village olympique, et on est encore à quelques semaines du coup d'envoi des JOs.

Règle générale ces bobos sont ordinairement vite oubliés avec les premières compétitions, mais rien de Rio ne laisse supposer quelque règle.

Puis plusieurs athlètes ont simplement refusé de se rendre à Rio, notamment les stars du tennis, craignant l'infection du Zika. D'autres ont été exclus, notamment des athlètes russes soupçonnés de dopage.

 Que de tristesse au pays de la Samba. Le pays aurait-il dû se contenter de la coupe du monde ou espere-t-il faire oublier sa sortie spectaculaire avec l'or au football?

Car le beautiful game a pris une certaine laideur au Brésil ces derniers temps avec cette autre sortie rapide à la Copa America, et le congédiement de l'entraîneur de la Selecao.

Les pays hôtes font tout dans leur pouvoir pour bien faire, du moins mieux faire, aux JOs qu'ils accueillent, mais rien ne laisse supposer un résultat surprenant pour le Brésil, où l'organisation des Jeux n'est appuyée que par la moitié de la population.

Le pays n'a remporté que 23 médailles d'or aux jeux et jamais celle du foot, une certaine motivation étant donné l'absence de Neymar à la Copa, afin de préparer ses olympiques.

"Je sais que cette médaille d'or nous a échappé jusqu'à présent et nous allons tout faire pour l'emporter, explique l'étoile de la Selecao, il est rare qu'un pays comme le Brésil, considéré comme terre de football, n'ait pas emporté cette médaille d'or".


Lucky country?

It wasn't just yesterday they started calling it the lucky country, but the expression takes a brand new meaning in light of recent terror attacks on all continents but this one. The country can call itself lucky in many ways. Last month Australian officials said AIDS was no longer a public health threat in the country as it had all but vanished. Some 1,000 Australians do get HIV on average every year but they rarely develop full blown AIDS.

New plain packaging regulations for cigarettes meanwhile have cut 100,000 smokers across the country, which is now a model to others such as Canada in the fight against tobacco use. Luck or sound policies? While the U.S. struggles with gun violence, here in the country that's a continent all by itself it dropped dramatically after tough new regulations in recent years. Authorities bought back weapons, confiscated others and set tougher new laws after its last mass shooting twenty years ago. Twenty. The economy is relatively robust, growing by some 3% annually despite impacts of the global slowdown, especially as China is such a major trade partner.

Of course Australia has had to deal with terrorism, just recently a man was arrested after following the advice of jihadists online to pack cars with gas tanks and explode them, but he was the only one who ended up hurting himself in the process before his arrest. The 2014 hostage taking of a Sydney cafe killing three including the gunman is remembered as the most violent incident of the sort in recent years, paling in comparison with European attacks, not to mention others in Asia and the Mideast, terrorized by bloody incidents killing dozens. The inquest into the tragedy is ongoing today.

It recently criticized Australian tactical police for not ending the hostage taking sooner by intervening before the cafe manager was killed. An expert said the country needed to free the hands of its police during terror attacks, though they have been rare. Last year a radicalized 15 year old killed one man in Sydney.  Major cities remain under high alert, especially after the recent European attacks, but despite these measures there seemed to be room for improvement.

An NPU reporter was able to enter the domestic terminal in Sydney past security without being asked for an ID or boarding pass and was able to board a plane without ever being asked an ID, an alarming fact so soon after the Istanbul airport attack. If anything it seemed much more restrictions were in place for fruit and vegetables, the subject of strict quarantine laws entering the country and even travelling within its borders. In nearby New Zealand arriving passengers even have their baggages X-rayed in order to prevent these biosecurity risks.

Still Australia stands on guard, especially after the Nice and Munich attacks, which prompted the recently re-elected Malcolm Turnbull to put fighting terrorism at the top of his agenda when parliament resumes in Canberra in August. New laws would allow the indefinite detention of convicted terrorists if they are still deemed dangerous after they reach the end of their sentence.

The laws, first proposed earlier this year, in the Australian fall, would treat those criminals like pedophiles likely to reoffend. "The guiding principles of a post-sentence preventative detention scheme would be that it cover high risk appropriate procedural protections and safeguards," Turnbull wrote in a letter to state leaders. The federal government isn't alone slapping new terror laws, states such as New South Wales, where Sydney is located, would extent to two weeks the maximum amount of time someone suspected of trying to commit terrorism, can be detained without charges. While largely spared so far on its territory Australia is acting with much urgency as people who have gone abroad to commit terror have had links to down under, including a key suspect in the bloody Bangladesh terror attack.

“There is a real threat of terrorist incidents here in Australia but we do everything we can to ensure Australians are kept safe,” Turnbull said. But observers in the legal community are urging caution and sounding alarm bells in light of the new proposed regulations. "This is an extraordinary measure to take and can only be justified in the most exceptional cases," opined law professor George Williams as the bills were being circulated. Turnbull's government is hardly on solid ground after the election and already faces internal dissent.

Low approval numbers had forced him to call an early vote earlier this year. His move to oust predecessor Abbott constituted part of the criticism. But there seemed to be some agreement in the press that these measures were necessary. "These are strong additions to an already tough counter-terrorism regime but they are necessary given the constantly evolving threat presented by Islamist extremism," opined The Australian.

The opposition said it was largely supportive of the measures but would scrutinize them when they go through parliament. As it is the country is under a constant threat of terrorism, but it tends to come in the form of crocodiles, sharks and some of the most lethal jellyfish, spiders and snakes on the planet.


La grogne au Mexique
L'arène internationale ne fut aucun refuge pour le président mexicain lors de son passage au Canada afin d'assister au sommet des trois amigos.  La presse nationale cherchait surtout à connaître son analyse de la situation explosive entourant la mort de manifestants contre une réforme de l'éducation.

Des manifestants morts lorsque confrontés à des forces de l'ordre, voilà qui était malheureusement familier après le massacre de 43 étudiants en 2014, disparus après avoir été arrêtés à un barrage policier. A celui-là faut-il ajouter celui de Nochixtlan à la mi-juin lorsque huit manifestants et locaux tombaient face au tir policier?

Les tragédies dans le genre sont nombreuses dans un pays où la corruption gagne les rangs policiers.  Mais l'incident a lancé des manifestations à travers le pays contre les réformes de 2013, qui lient la sécurité de l'emploi à des évaluations,  établissant un nouveau régime qui selon ses critiques est une entrave aux négociations collectives.

Les manifestants ne sont pas contre les évaluations mais la corruption qui les entoure, et disent également rejeter la privatisation du système d'éducation et la précarité de l'emploi. Mais c'est l'usage de la force pour mettre fin au barrage des protestataires et les messages contradictoires des autorités, cherchant à expliquer l'incident, qui ont surtout enragé la rue, notamment dans les secteurs autochtones, où l'on regrette entre autre que l'Anglais plutôt que les langues indigènes soit prisée comme seconde langue par la réforme.  

Ce qui est vite devenu un véritable mouvement protestataire national a pris une direction notamment indienne, les autochtones estimant ne pas avoir été consultés avant l'annonce de ces changements. La tuerie a forcé le gouvernement de lancer une ronde de discussions, après avoir à l'origine suivi les mouvements sans grand intérêt.

Le ministre des affaires indiennes a notamment perdu son poste au sein de cette crise. Mais les discussions n'ont jusqu'à présent pas encore été prometteurses. La semaine dernière encore quelques 200000 militants syndiqués du système d'éducation envahissaient la capitale. "Nous ne sommes pas d'accords avec ces réformes, résumait un porte parole, Gabriela Gutierrez.

Ils veulent de meilleures écoles mais l'état des classes est pitoyable." C'est le constat notamment dans les régions les plus pauvres comme le Chiapas, état des grandes manifestations contre le libre échange nord-américain avant son adoption, et Guerrero, où le manque de livres d'instruction et même d'électricité est notoire pour un pays exportateur de pétrole.

Ces employés en éducation étaient appuyés par leurs collègues du secteur électrique, montrant encore une fois l'étendue du mouvement. Pour certains analystes, la situation résume bien le retour à l'ancien régime après les promesses d'un jeune président qui a repris les malheureuses habitudes de son parti. "C'est le vieux PRI, estime Federico Estevez de l'institut technologique de Mexico.

Une fois que vous l'emportez c'est fini, votre volonté est celle du peuple et les gens obéissent jusqu'à votre départ". Cette semaine de nouvelles manifestations suivaient le président en visite à Buenos Aires.


A coup attempt fails in Turkey

With the Syrian war on its doorstep and its flood of fleeing refugees, and protest at home amid a string of bloody terror attacks, you would think the last thing Turkey needed was the instability of a military coup.

Turkish president Recep Erdogan vowed to clean up the military after a coup by a faction of the men in brass was thwarted by divisions, lack of support by foreign powers and domestic parties and the outpouring of citizens who poured into the streets after news first broke.

While the coup attempt was over in a matter of hours, analysts feared even some instability amid the NATO partner and regional giant that is such an important player in the war against ISIS.

A faction of the military attempted to seize power Friday, saying it sought to reinstate democracy and a new constitution, but proceeded to restrict social media and seize the headquarter of a state broadcaster during its operation.

Popular protests drawing thousands into the streets of Istanbul and Ankara played important parts to free these stations as well as Istanbul airport, where Erdogan had been prevented from landing when he first sought to return from vacation as news of military activities broke.

Ergodan has come under criticism for cracking down on popular protest, the media and social media during his tenure, but his call for such street demonstrations, aided by social media, played key roles turning the tide on the night in question.

Amid reports of shots fired and even blasts near parliament, where lawmakers were barricaded, thousands of protesters defied the military curfew and took to the streets in Istanbul and Ankara.

There were early reports of division amid the military while the opposition, no friend of the president, was united with world leaders condemning the coup attempt and supporting the elected government.

Divisions also led to skirmishes between the military and police, which lately had been filled with Erdogan supporters. Erdogan, who was mayor of Istanbul before becoming a federal leader in the 1990s, has had time to make enemies, but even they seemed to support him in the country's dark hours, weeks after the bloody terror attack at Istanbul airport.

Before seeking the presidency Erdogan had been prime minister until the constitution prevented him from seeking a new mandate. He then ran for the presidency and won, changing the constitution so it was no longer the ceremonial role it once was. Last year elections led to a hung parliament until a snap vote gave his AK party the majority once more.

This is the first coup attempt since the 1990s and comes after a history of attempted or successful coups in a country where the military claims to be the guardian of founder Ataturk's secularism, which often placed it at odds with the ruling Islamist party which has given religion more prominence in Turkey.

Turkey is a major regional power, and initial instability, as both the prime minister and military claimed control, sparked concerns about its impact in the fight against terror. Turkey is a major NATO ally, its bases being used for operations in nearby Iraq and Syria, which were initially halted due to the coup.

Turkey is also home to millions of refugees fleeing the war in the region.


France bloodied again
France was days away from lifting its nationwide state of emergency, and then it happened again, on Bastille Day. A truck ploughed into a crowd celebrating in Nice, killing dozens.

A day before authorities had stopped a plot to target the country's athletes in Rio. The country had barely sighed in relief after holding a Euro tournament largely unscathed by terrorism , but was holding its breath on the day millions were marking July 14th.

After a particularly deadly period of Ramadan, it seemed there was no letup in the terror-inspired violence.

With Eid celebrations taking place under tightened security around the world, the Holy month of Ramadan could not end early enough this year, and not just because of the daylight fasting suffered by millions of Muslims worldwide.

In the final days of the period attacks associated by ISIS calls to strike around the world claimed hundreds of victims, including some 250 in one Baghdad suicide bombing alone.

This followed a bloody hostage taking on Bangladesh and coordinated attacks in Istanbul and Saudi Arabia, countries that have sometimes left observers at odds over their commitment to the war against the terror group.

Without official claims of responsibility Turkish authorities tied the airport attack to the group, one it has been accused of fighting on the surface but unofficially closing its eyes on as it focused on the more direct threats posed by Kurdish militants.

Saudi Arabia has faced the same charge of being officially engaged in the war on terror yet sympathetic to some aspects of ISIS' ideology, their more orthodox views of Islamism resembling the kingdoms Wahhabist beliefs and opposition to the spread of Shia ideology and related Iranian influences in the region.

Saudi Arabia, which was home to the majority of the Sept. 11 attackers, has been targeted before, as far back as two decades ago in the 1996 Khobar towers attack in which 19 US servicemen were killed and over 400 others injured, but never with this sort of coordination.

The attack then was meant to protest the presence of US troops on Saudi soil, and one of the three recent attacks targeted the US consulate in Jidda.

Another struck a Shiite mosque while a third more symbolically was aimed at a mosque in Medina, home to one of the Muslim worlds holiest sites.

This attack, much like the 2003 al Qaeda attack which led to the kingdom tightening the squeeze against extremists, could be a turning point some observers say.

"If there are people on the fence in Saudi this kind of attack in medina would probably turn them off," Lori Boghardt, a research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East policy told the New York Times.

As recently as last year a survey by the Tabah Foundation found that while a majority of Saudis called al Qaeda and ISIS a "complete perversion of Islam", just over a quarter still saw the group's raising issues that resonated with them, with 10% finding them no perversion at all.

During Ramadan Over 400 people were killed in eight countries in attacks linked to ISIS observers say may be an attempt to show the group still has some fight left in it after suffering a number of battlefield losses.

"ISIS is showcasing its geographic reach," says Kamran Bokhari of George Washington university. "It creates the perception ISIS is expanding even though it's under attack on multiple fronts."

These attacks and raids have provided key intelligence providing a better understanding of the group's organization and plans of attack outside of Syria and Iraq, according to CNN, without however providing the when and where.

"We were aware they were moving this way," says an official quoted by the network. "It's not like we didn't see it coming."  

The Syrian Arab Coalition has been collecting key intelligence, according to U.S. Col. Christopher Garver.

"The SAC forces have ... seized more than 10,000 documents from the outlying edges, including textbooks, propaganda posters, cell phones, laptops, maps and digital storage devices," He said. "Exploitation of this information is ongoing to better understand Daesh (ISIS) networks and techniques, including the systems to manage the flow of foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq."

Of course the attacks didn't end with Ramadan, spoiling Eid celebrations in already hit Bangladesh and the days which followed.

But for many, of all the ISIS operations which took place during Ramadan, from Egypt to Nigeria and the Philippines, the Saudi attacks resonated most deeply.

"Nothing is sacred for these cowards," lamented Hayder al-Khoei, research director at the Center of Academic Shia Studies. "If they could slaughter Muslims in Mecca in the Grand Mosque itself, they would."


Horreurs à Juba
Après une naissance difficile, une jeunesse troublée? C'est le malheur qui envahit le plus jeune état du monde avec la reprise des hostilités entre les forces du président et du vice président, une triste façon de marquer le cinquième anniversaire du Sud Soudan.

Plus de 300 personnes, dans une capitale qui en compte à peine 300000 , auraient trouvé la mort lors de la reprise des hostilités au début de juillet entre le camp du président Salva Kiir et son vice président Riek Machar.

Le duo devait à l'origine envoyer un message de réconciliation et d'unité, mais en venaient aux éclats deux ans à peine après l'indépendance. Le cessez le feu d'automne dernier a volé en éclats, mettant fin aux efforts de pacification de dirigeants voisins  craignant que le conflit n'embrase la région entière.

La mission de l'ONU du Soudan du Sud, malgré ses effectifs de 12000 casques bleus, semble coincée par la reprise des hostilités mène si elle a réussi à établir des zones de protection pour les civils, qui n'ont pas été épargnés par la crise.

Des milliers ont d'ailleurs pris le chemin du refuge, des dirigeants régionaux craignant que la recrudescence de la violence ne donne lieu à un véritable génocide.

Le conseil de sécurité de l'ONU, saisi par la reprise, a fait appel à l'envoi de nouvelles troupes en renfort, un appel qui n'a pas été accueilli avec plus de retenue sur le terrain.

Même si le conflit peut paraître petit, il implique les voisins ougandais, éthiopiens et ougandais, ces derniers s'étant rangés dans le camp du président.

La réaction ailleurs a été celle de l'exil, plusieurs membres de l'ambassade américaine ayant été évacués alors que des milliers de civils locaux tentaient de se réfugier dans le camp principal de l'ONU, qui abrite déjà près de 10% de la population de Juba.

C'est d'ailleurs là où les nouveaux éclats ont eu lieu, fragilisant le dernier accord de paix qui avait fait revenir Machar de son exil, accompagné de plusieurs hommes armes sommes de ranger leur artillerie afin de préserver le nouveau gouvernement d'union nationale.

Le secrétaire général de l'ONU Ban Ki-moon a qualifié la reprise des hostilités de "scandaleuse" estimant qu'elle se moque du processus de paix. Ki-moon s'est prononcé en faveur de sanctions contre les responsables et d'un embargo militaire contre le pays.

Cette semaine le président Kiir faisait appel à un nouveau cessez le feu afin de rétablir le calme.


Le direct personnel

Depuis déjà bien long temps toute manifestation d'ampleur donne lieu à un drôle de spectacle: des hommes en uniforme et des civils armes de caméras se ciblant mutuellement, les premiers afin d'identifier tout fautif passible d'amende ou de chefs d'accusations, les autres voulant enregistrer tout incident de violence policière.

Des incidents violents aux Etats-Unis engageant des forces de l'ordre ont répandu l'usage de certaines caméras portées sur l'uniforme, une variation des caméras souvent incorporées aux tableau de bord des voitures de patrouille.

Or leur usage était déjà remis en question récemment lors d'un incident qui s'est terminé par la mort d'un jeune noir américain, les autorités rapportant que la caméra avait subi des dommages au cours de l'incident. Mais la technologie avait déjà fait des bonds.

Depuis plus d'un an des applications mobiles permettent de transformer tout téléphone non seulement en caméra, mais en transmetteur de vidéo en direct sur la toile.

Ces applications permettent de transmettre des occasions joyeuses, comme un anniversaire ou un spectacle, mais parfois des incidents macabres, comme un tir accidentel atteignant le propriétaire du téléphone, ou dans un cas extrême, le suicide d'une jeune Française.

Ces applications ont fait la manchette lors de l'interpellation d'un couple noir qui s'est soldé par la mort de l'homme, capturée en direct par sa compagne, qui avait sorti son téléphone afin d'enregistrer la rencontre.

Les prochains échanges entre forces de l'ordre et citoyens seront-ils dorénavant transmis en direct? Voila un geste encouragé par je mouvement noir Black Lives Matter mais qui selon les autorités ne fait rien pour améliorer les relations avec le public.

Le phénomène est encore jeune mais déjà, selon le directeur du FBI, l'augmentation cette année de la criminalité violente pourrait en partie être en lien avec l'hésitation de forces de l'ordre d'intervenir, de peur de paraître sur une vidéo qui pourrait immédiatement circuler sur internet.

Les autorités américaines devant répondre à des accusations de violence commises par des forces de l'ordre capturées sur vidéo ont généralement déclaré que celles-ci ne montraient pas l'environnement complet dans lequel opéraient leurs agents, mais ceci a souvent été critiqué par des groupes civils pour qui l'image, ou la vidéo, étaient plutôt claire.

La diffusion des vidéos de deux incidents meurtriers entre la police et de jeunes noirs a immédiatement provoqué des manifestations, celle de Dallas virant à la fusillade lorsqu'un ancien militaire a voulu s'en prendre à des policiers blancs.

Mais le retrait temporaire d'une de ces vidéos par Facebook a également crée un tollé, qui l'a replacée avec avertissement.

A l'opposé des chaînes télévisées, ces services ne sont pas contraints par des réglementations sur ce qu'elles peuvent transmette, ce qui pour certains les rend à la fous un outil d'information remarquable et dangereux.

Puis une telle utilisation peut-être fonctionner partout? Pas en El Salvador en tout les cas, selon des travailleurs sociaux, qui expliquent au Global Post que les policiers, dont la déontologie est plutôt douteuse, auraient tendance à saisir les portables des utilisateurs et se servir de l'information qu'ils contiennent à leurs fins.

Au Vermont un sénateur a par ailleurs présenté un projet de loi qui permettrait aux agents de la paix de saisir des portables sans mandat. L'idée était de fourbir de nouvelles armes afin de réduire les accidents liés à l'utilisation de portables au volant, mais Martin Lalonde a dû avouer qu'il n'était pas encore certain si son projet parviendrait à conserver le précieux équilibre entre sécurité publique et droit à la vie privée.


Staying home as protest
Despite a history of repression against the opposition and political activism in general, millions observed protest calls to stay at home in Zimbabwe's day of strike action in July, which left emboldened organizers calling for government to take action against corruption, injustice and poverty to avoid future shut downs.

Some public servants, who are asking to be paid by a government that has all but run out of cash, did bow to threats they could lose their jobs and showed up for work, but most teachers and health care workers didn't and Harare's business district was like a ghost town during a protest the opposition declared a resounding success.  

"Our government officials are still trying to come to terms with the message we sent them as citizens," activists said, before asking officials to address five key demands including paying civil servants in full and addressing corruption and intimidating police blockades. Officials sought to downplay the protest, saying it was "business as usual", which some activists reacted to by noting "people milling around jobless and dejected, is that a state of business as usual?"  One of the leaders of the protest is Rev. Evan Mawarire, whose Twitter campaign #ThisFlag provided an online rallying point the government has been accused of trying to shut down by cracking down on social media.  

Government-run service providers sent messages warning "sharing such abusive and subversive materials which are tantamount to criminal behaviour " could result in disconnections and legislative proceedings.  Activists noted the warnings came days after the UN passed a resolution condemning internet shut downs and promoting "protection and enjoyment of human rights on the internet."  

Some 50 people were arrested in sporadic violence, which is not the worst the country has seen over the years of crackdown of opposition rallies and white farmer evictions.  "Our patience has been strained," said Raymond Majongwe of the Progressive teachers union. "Our members are hungry and angry. Government cannot say it is broke given its high level of opulence while our members are suffering."  

The decision by a vice president to stay in a hotel for over a year rather than an assigned house not of his liking, at the cost of $1 million, has been particularly galvanizing.    In a country that used to be the bread basked of the region but is now suffering from food shortages, sending people over borders to restock, the ban on imported goods had also touched a nerve.  

Mugabe blamed a familiar scapegoat for the country's troubles. "We are not yet a developed nation," he told supporters. "We have sanctions, the Americans have not all removed them and the Europeans only partially removed them. We use the dollar and it is not printed here but in America." Dozens were injured when anti-riot police cracked down on another protest this week.

Organizers were dropping off a petition against plans for introducing local bond notes.  "Once you begin to interfere with politics you are courting trouble," Mugabe warned Mawarire. "Keep to your religious side." But the 92-year-old is increasingly feeling alone, now losing the support of once staunchly supportive groups such as war veterans responsible for evicting white farmers years ago.


After Brexit, the unknown


For decades Europe's progression has been that of closer integration and additional members, with nations freed from the chains of Eastern Europe just as soon applying for NATO and EU membership, anything to move away from their former captors. Of course some strains had been felt for years as the euro weakened and the Schengen area felt the pressures of the migrant crisis. Both tested the EU's southern frontier and Greece and particular, not so long ago the primary candidate to break the trend and threaten the entire Eurozone, the price of being its weakest link.   

But it is one of its strongest, and already fairly independent members, off the coast of the continent, that will have had this dubious distinction, holding its second referendum in recent years. One with disastrous results, especially for a financial sector that placed its bets in the corner of Remain, and paid heavily as a consequence.   "Today marks a turning point for Europe," observed Angela Merkel of Germany, a country that would arguably have greater responsibilities being the powerhouse of the continent. "It is a turning point for the European unification process."

For Prime Minister David Cameron this was one wager too many, announcing he would step down in the months ahead and starting the period of uncertainty many across the world dreaded. It had been his decision to hold a referendum, seen as a way to hold his party together. His rival, Labour leader Jeremy Cobyn, faced heavy pressure to follow suit after supporting the losing side, losing a no-confidence vote and dozens of shadow cabinet members who bowed out in protest. Internal disarray was no sane way to handle the crisis at hand, and when Britain needed leadership the most it seemed to come in short supply. Former London Mayor Boris Johnson, who had said it was the UK's time to "stand tall in this world" but seemed to think business with the EU would go on as usual, decided he would not enter the coming Tory leadership race.

Markets and the pound plummeted, the latter, the rock of the euro crisis, dropping to its lowest level in three decades. The financial implications were tremendous for the City, its Canada Square now no longer the center of financial Europe, as the first financial companies looked to move staff to the continent. Soon two agencies downgraded the country's credit rating. The UK was "independent and united" had declared UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, who earlier in the night had practically conceded defeat, before the tide turned to give Leave a 52% victory, a sign perhaps the winners were woefully unprepared for victory.

But hardly any unity could be found. Wales voted to leave and Northern Ireland,  came close to doing so too, but Scotland, fresh from its own referendum, voted to remain, but now found the outcome "unacceptable" and planned a new referendum in light of the vote. Its leader also suggested Scotland may attempt to block Britain's exit from the EU. Fringe parties on the continent, in France and the Netherlands, called for their own vote, walking in step with UKIP against immigration and lashing at bureaucratic Brussels. A far right leader suggested Austria could hold its own exit referendum as early as next year.

"Nothing will change" in the immediate period, Cameron said, but EU partners urged London to make a swift and painless break. London wasn't ready to formally trigger formal exit proceedings, Cameron explained, at least not before the UK decided what it wanted its place in Europe to become. Time was however of the essence, European leaders  fretting about the instability of the unknown. No serious negotiations could begin before London formally launched exit procedures. The country would then have two years to complete the break. What would follow then? Access to the single market in exchange for the free movement of people, like Norway's model, or something more isolationist?

Again it seemed the business community had awakened in a panic after a period of complacency, as it had two years before. Investor George Soros warned the UK pound could tumble 15% to 20% and "have an immediate and dramatic impact on financial markets, investment, prices and jobs." ING said in the lead up to the vote the country's GDP could drop by 1.6% by 2018 with Brexit while unemployment rose to 9%. After the vote the IMF was hardly reassuring, saying the country could possibly slip into recession while tycoon Richard Branson declared a third of the value of his Virgin Group had been lost in a matter of days.

The continental Union has already been weakened by the euro crisis, the unpopularity of financial measures in countries such as Greece, and a refugee crisis which has weakened the Schengen area. The U.K., ironically, is a party to neither euro nor Schengen. And now could Brexit be contagious? A poll in France, the fortress of continental projects, revealed citizens held even more negative views of the EU, by 68%. One reason could be because the EU has "become less francophone and more anglophone, far more globalized," according to German Marshall fund fellow Michael Leigh. This could change however as some leaders hinted English could lose its status of official EU language with Brexit. Germany had appealed for the UK to remain, but said the country could not retain preferential trade tariffs if it chose to vote for Brexit.

"In is in and out is out," had warned finance minister Wolfgang Schauble. Early on the aftermath looked troubling, and not only for the economy. Racial incidents have increased, while a number of Brexiters expressed remorse, realising a decision often fueled by the desire to punish the elite and throw the bums out has much more serious consequences. The day after Brexit one of the most popular searches on Google in Britain was "what is the EU", and millions signed a petition calling for a do-over. But Cameron, who during the campaign had said Brexit was irreversible, reminded the decision was made by the entire population, with some 76% of registered voters participating, and would stand.

He said he would not allow efforts to block exit procedures but vowed in his last meeting with EU counterpart this week to maintain "the closest links" with the continent. But the idea of reconsidering the non-binding vote, even if it means ignoring the will of the millions who voted in favor of Leave, has been making inroads. "It would be wrong to completely discount the possibility of an inelegant, humiliating and yet welcome, Breversal," mused The Economist, even if Brexit remains the most likely outcome.


Une Espagne inquiete?
Le vote britannique a-t-il eu l'effet de calmer les appels au changement et provoqué la peur de l'inconnu en Espagne?   

La théorie a pu prendre son envol dans le premier pays à passer aux urnes après le référendum. L'élection devait mettre fin à l'impasse législative après le vote de l'automne dernier, laissant le Parti populaire avec une minorité. Les sondages laissaient croire à un coup d'éclat de la gauche de Podemos et son mouvement ya basta, or les résultats restaient largement inchangés à la fin du deuxième exercice du genre en six mois.

Puis les sondages n'avaient-ils pas démontré leur inefficacité en Grande Bretagne ?  Il faut dire que le premier ministre Mariano Rajoy avait plutôt fortement misé sur la peur et les regrets apparents du Brexit, ces "expérimentations... des extrémistes et radicaux", ceci a-t-il eu l'effet escompté?  Pour le politologue Pablo Simon, le moment était plutôt bien choisi de "revenir aux politiques responsables et sensibles afin d'éviter les risques".

Même si "des temps meilleurs ne sont pas nécessairement à l'horizon" loin de là.  La coalition Unidos Podemos n'est arrivée que troisième avec 71 sièges, derrière le Parti socialiste et le PP, promettant une nouvelle ronde difficile de pourparlers en vue de former un gouvernement.   "Nous avons remporté l'élection, déclara Rajoy, mais nous devons à présent servir la population toute entière".  

Pour Podemos  il fallait se livrer à l'évidence que "peut être faudra-t-il attendre plus longtemps que ce que nous voulions," de l'aveu de son chef Pablo Iglesias.  Mais l'électorat est loin d'avoir oublié, bien avant le choc anglais, les scandales de corruption associés au parti au pouvoir. Les socialistes sont-ils les grands gagnants de l'exercice?   

"Malgré les prédictions de la perte de notre pertinence, nous avons démontré notre rôle en tant que parti principal de la gauche," déclara de son côté Pedro Sanchez du Parti socialiste.  L'urgence de former un gouvernement est d'autant plus forte que le pays ne peut pas se permettre la bêtise d'un troisième scrutin, lui qui tente de limiter ses dépenses après les souffrances de la crise qui alimente les plus petits partis.

Ces derniers cependant, Podemos en tête, ne parvenaient pas à expliquer leur échec après toutes ces attentes de terminer seconds lors du dernier vote. Pour un parti qui s'était engagé à "faire sourire" le peuple, les regards étaient bien tristes après avoir perdu un million de votes lors du dernier scrutin.


La glissade de la Russie

Deux ans après ces Jeux de Sochi qui devaient faire l'exposé de la puissance de la grande Russie, et deux ans avant la Coupe du monde, les relations sont plus crispées que jamais entre Moscou et l'Occident, des tensions ressenties dans l'arène sportive, après la suspension des athlètes des Jeux de Rio, mais plus sérieusement en bordure de l'ancien rideau de fer.

Sochi s'étant voulu une démonstration de la puissance russe, en parallèle avec l'invasion presque simultanée de la Crimée, autant dire que la suspension de l'équipe d'athlétisme pour dopage a été mal accueillie à Moscou, où elle a été condamnée à titre de complot américain destiné à castrer l'équipe nationale. Cette semaine encore des rameurs russes étaient pris pour dopage, victimes de la surveillance accrue de tous les participants russes.

L'affaire a vite pris une dimension géopolitique et se déroule sur fond de tensions qui perdurent toujours après l'invasion de la Crimée, qui a été à l'origine de sanctions européennes. A la fin juin l'Union européenne a rallongé à janvier ses sanctions énergétiques, financières et militaires contre la Russie. Les sanctions, de concert avec l'écroulement du prix du pétrole, ont bien lourdement pénalisé les finances nationales.

Les tensions ukrainiennes se sont depuis un certain temps étendues dans la région alors que l'OTAN y multiplie ses exercices militaires et se penche sur ses effectifs en Europe de l'Est, craignant y voir un déficit trop important pour empêcher toute autre incursion de l'armée rouge. Alors que le lieutenant-général américain Ben Hodges faisait part de ces préoccupations, le ministre des affaires étrangères allemand Frank Walter Steinmeier jouait les diplomates, craignant le "bruit de sabre" provenant du camp occidental, préoccupé par les pays frontaliers vulnérables, comme les pays baltes.

Cette semaine l'OTAN confirmait le déploiement de bataillons pour surveiller la région, dans les pays baltes et en Pologne. Poutine se disait préparer sa réplique. Mais les coffres vides, les athlètes sans invitation, même le tsar du Kremlin dut se rendre à l'évidence que "les Etats-Unis sont une grande puissance, peut-être même la seule super puissance" avant d'ajouter qu'il était prêt à travailler avec eux.   

Cependant "nous ne voulons pas qu'ils viennent se mêler à nos affaires et nous dire comment vivre et nous empêcher de bâtir une relation avec l'Europe." Mais ceci Moscou parvient très bien à le faire tout seul. Alors que la Russie soviétique faisait de l'athlétisme et du sport un véritable arsenal de la guerre froide, comment percevoir la sortie rapide de l'euro, où ses hooligans menaient le combat patriotique dans les rues, autrement qu'à la manière d'une "honte", terme employé par la presse nationale.

La table est plutôt mal préparée pour le mondial de 2018 dans un pays, selon un ancien athlète russe, "sans entraîneur, sans joueur étoile, sans même le squelette d'en équipe future" mais plutôt vivant "la confusion la plus totale". Pourtant tout n'est pas perdu à long terme selon l'investisseur George Soros, qui voit la Russie éventuellement sortir de son marasme afin de devenir "une puissance globale".

Et Moscou a sans doute pu esquisser un sourire suite au vote britannique qui a semé la zizanie sur le continent, notamment à l'Ouest. "Brexit est une victoire pour Poutine, estimait un ancien diplomate américain dans le Washington Post, Poutine n'a bien évidemment pas causé le Brexit mais il peut y voir un gain de cause pour ses objectifs en matière de politique extérieure."

Sans Londres, par ailleurs, l'Union européenne perd une voix active en faveur du maintien des sanctions contre Moscou, selon le maire de la capitale.  Mais le vote n'a pas que des bonnes nouvelles pour la Russie, si l'on prend en considération les ententes commerciales importantes du continent avec l'ancienne puissance. "Si l'UE s'écroule, ceci va toucher nos relations commerciales," estime  Kons-tantin Kosachev, à la tête du comité des relations étrangères


Tough being a champion

The lesson is constantly taught but bears remembering: it's not how you start the season, it's how you finish it, and this winter provided the best example of how much of an equalizer the second season can really be.

Of course you needn't say that to the Montreal Canadiens, which were barely hanging on by their finger nails at the midway point of the season when concern grew after the injury to their star goalie suffered following that 9-0 start.

But consider Carolinas' 14-0 start and Golden States 73 win NBA season, and how the season ended with bad boy antics by their frustrated stars, and sometimes even their girlfriends too.

As she felt the seasons glory slipping away after game 5 forced the series back to Cleveland, Golden State star Stephen Curry's partner accused the NBA of seeking to rig the finals to deny the team its second title in a row. At the end of game 6 it was the stars time to make headlines for the wrong reasons when he tossed his mouth guard against a taunting fan, a decision that cost him a $25.000 fine by the league.

GAme 7 came down to a miraculous play by MVP LeBron James who flew into the air to prevent a basket that would have narrowed Cleveland's lead in the final seconds. The team had completed a historic comeback from being down 3-1 in the finals to capture the city's first NBA title.

Upset, joy, bitterness, the outcome of all finals in pro sports, but one we were starting to recognize. Wind up the click to the Super Bowl four months before and a matchup that left the season champs struggling to score and ultimately losing to Denver.

The nights performance left star QB Cam Newton fuming, and storming out of the post game press conference. The question posed hadn't been particularly sensitive, at least on the surface: was he disappointed for his teammates they had come so close and yet short. That was enough to make him shake his head and walk off stage.

But sports at this level are no picnic and Ward could have walked off for all those who started off so well and fell short. It's hard playing at his level, but ever harder to win, especially when facing established MVPs and talents, a King James already seen as one of the sports greatest, and Peyton Manning , a two time Super Bowl winner with his place well secured in NFL lore.


The worst ever

There was a rare wariness and tone of resignation in the U.S. president's initial address as he went to the airwaves to mourn the death of dozens of patrons killed in the country's latest mass shooting. "In the face of hate and violence, we will love another. We will not give in to fear, we will not turn against each other," he vowed, but also deplored a country in which it is too easy to procure guns, leaving Americans to "decide if this is the kind of country we want to be."

While it can seem as if America's is a history riddled with incidents of mass shootings, never had one felled so many before. The mass shooting of an Orlando gay nightclub killed 49 and injured over 50 people. Officials could not immediately confirm whether the incident was related to radical Islamists but labelled the shooting as terrorism and a hate crime.

Law enforcement said the suspect pledged allegiance to ISIS during a 911 call made from the club, but could establish no direct link to the group. Islamic radicals around the world celebrated the attack as a gift for Ramadan, a period during which ISIS encouraged lone wolf attacks against infidels. The day after the attack an ISIS-related group called for more attacks against the U.S.

The suspect, killed in the shooting, was security guard Omar Saddiqui Mateen, who had been questioned by the FBI in the past for possible terror ties but let go for lack of evidence. The FBI said it would review its policies in light of the incident, showing that experience dealing with these shootings has hardly led to effective protocols to connect the dots and prevent future attacks. Despite suspicions about him Mateen at least once worked under contract for the U.S. government, and had no trouble purchasing an AR-15 assault rifle, the one he would use to carry out the killing.

The day after the attack, the weapon maker's stock rose 7%. U.S. officials, such as Alan Grayson, said the death count would have been much lower had he not been able to obtain this military-grade weapon. For the U.S. president the combination of self-radicalization and easy access to guns made for a deadly combination and created threats hard to defend against. He added that the country had to do some serious soul searching about the risks associated to such lax regulations on firearms, and consider whether someone under watch purchasing such a weapon should set off alarm bells, regulations the U.S. lacks.

But there was a sense America had repeatedly been there before, after Newton, Virginia Tech, and more recently, San Bernardino, among the nearly 1,000 mass shootings since what had until then been America's deadliest shooting, over 130 this year alone. The last decade saw the three bloodiest shootings in U.S. history, the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting killing 32 and the 2012 Sandy Hook attack felling 27 victims.

While U.S. politicians offered their condolences to the families, Donald Trump once again went against the grain, and quite against the usual post shooting script. He took credit for "being right about Islamic radicals" and criticized the president for failing to "finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism", adding "he should immediately resign in disgrace."

"What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning," he warned, before reiterating his calls for Muslims to be banned from travelling to the U.S. Trump later specified the ban should apply to citizens of countries with a history of terror against the West, but failed to name them. When he took to the airwaves again, Obama was no longer resigned but angry at the presumptive nominee's utterances, which he said endangered the country and threatened its very constitution.

"Where does it end?" he asked. There was little of the usual unity after this national tragedy, only more division. Shooting post morterms had led to different interpretations of the events and different debates in the past, but this time reached new levels of anger, enough to make you wonder if this time America will find time to heal.


Tackling drones' small image problem

They used to be used mainly for delivering lethal payload in distant attacks, like remote controlled cruise missiles, or to patrol borders. Now their commercial development has crowded the skies with drones of all sizes and budgets, more often than not presenting them as nuisances and hazards to commercial aviation.



As the Fort McMurray blaze raged, fire crews complained drones operated by individuals were hampering efforts to battle the flames. Not a week goes by without news a drone has come too close to restricted airspace, especially airports, though one recent report of a drone hitting a commercial airliner was quickly disproved. It is perhaps just a matter of time.



Canadian Air Force officials did confirm however two jet fighters were dispatched to Ottawa airport in May to investigate a drone buzzing near the tarmac, which was however never found. It's not all negative, but with the convenience, such as rapid pizza delivery or Amazon shipping comes the inconvenience of crowded skies close to the ground. This week the Canadian government promoted "no drone zone" designations for sensitive areas and said it was drafting regulations to tighten drone usage rules.



But the buzzing plastic machines are increasingly doing more than providing overhead shots and delivering cheap Chinese goods, they are becoming a growing strategy for intervention by first responders and emergency services in different parts of the world. And this sometimes includes less fortunate countries with poor infrastructures, tough terrain and tougher budgets.



In Malawi UNICEF is experimenting with a drone delivery service it hopes will assist in the country's struggle against the AIDS epidemic. Approximately 10% of the population is HIV positive, and this includes young children and infrants, who were born with the transmission. “In 2014, nearly 40,000 children in Malawi were born to HIV positive mothers," says Mahimbo Mdoe of UNICEF. "Quality care of these children depends on early diagnosis, which requires taking dried blood samples from the health centre to the central laboratory for testing. We hope that UAVs can be part of the solution to reduce transportation time and ensure that children who need it, start their treatment early”.



The devices are used to transport kits over the poorly roaded sometimes inac-cessible territory, to assist families fighting the disease. If it sounds like the continent is skipping some stages of development this isn't new. It made other technological leaps with the widespread use of cellphones, in areas where proper landlines had never been installed. "We have also pioneered the delivery of results from the central laboratory to the health facilities through text messages," says health minister Dr. Peter Kumpalume. "We believe our partnering with UNICEF to test UAVs is another innovation and will help in our drive to achieve the country’s goals in HIV prevention and treatment.”



In Rwanda, health services are going further by integrating a drone delivery system, Zipline, directly into public health nationwide, according to France24 programme Element Terre. The drones are propulsed into the air by sling shot and deliver packages, from blood samples to medical supplies, by parachuting them in hard to reach locations. The country is even looking into building an airport-like hub for mass drone operations nationwide.



Their use is hardly just recreational in the West, where they are increasingly considered by emergency services. In some fire departments in Denmark and Wales, drone units support firefighters on the scene of blazes and act as precious eyes in the sky to help locate persons in need of immediate assistance. Drones have steadily established themselves as responder assistants.



Three years ago the RCMP credited the use of a machine when trying to track down someone who had crashed their car in the snow but could not be found. An infrared-camera equiped quadcopter helped locate the individual after his phone signal was used to narrow the search area in rural Saskatchewan.



More recently, in Ottawa a drone was sent over the site of a sinkhole which had expanded and swallowed a parked van, helping authorities closely survey the damage without getting too close physically. Alec Momont is aware drones have had a small image problem, and his Drones for Good project seeks to assist medical services with "the Ambulance-Drone, a high speed drone network that delivers emergency supplies to any location within minutes", to get to patients in need sooner, delivering defibrillators and other key tools for use in medical emergencies. With time being of the essence in emergency situations "a decrease in response time of just one minute leads to an increase of 10% in the survival rates," he writes.



In Chile, a country with hundreds of kilometres of coastline, drones are being used by lifeguards to quickly deliver life savers to swimmers in need. It's a wonder a tool initially delivered for military and offensive purposes can be converted into a life saver. NASA and NOAA are also using drones to study the evolution of storms and tornadoes, life saving applications themselves. Sometimes the lives aren't even human.



Wildlife and conservation officials around the world have turned to drones to monitor wildlife and prevent poaching. To prevent accidents and save lives, companies such as Shell and various airlines have also been turning to the aerial tools to survey facilities and conduct inspections that would be humanly difficult to conduct. By some estimates the agriculture industry will be a major user of the devices this year, enabling farmers to inspect and treat crops in record time and collect data that would enable them to target specific sections of their crops the most in need, limiting fertilizer and pesticide use. So it would seem that when it comes to using drones for good, sky's the limit after all.


Le défi de Paris
Mais qui donc sont ces énergumènes cagoulés que l'on découvre lorsque se lève le nuage de gaz lacrymogène, des manifestants, des terroristes ou des hooligans? Inondations dévastatrices, grèves et manifs monstre sur la loi du travail et état d'alerte terroriste avec la tenue de l'euro, autant de sujets pour mettre l'hexagone en état d'ébullition en ce début d'été.

Heureusement pour divertir des Français en quête d'un peu de distraction, du pain et des jeux: une fête du football, l'équipe hôte se qualifiant après deux victoires. Mais l'euro est accompagné par son bagage de tracas et d'inconvénients, du resserrement de la sécurité des lieux publics aux tristes incidents associés au hooliganisme.

Certains incidents avaient d'ailleurs lieu entre partisans français et britanniques avant même le coup d'envoi. En moins d'une semaine on écrouait déjà plus de 300 hooligans britanniques et russes, en menaçant d'expulser leurs clubs s'ils ne changeaient pas leurs habitudes. Le tournoi sous haute surveillance se préparait à être ciblé par de nouveaux attentats.

Quelques mois après ceux de Paris et quelques jours avant le coup d'envoi on précédait à l'arrestation d'un individu en Ukraine qui, dit-on, préparait de nouvelles attaques. Selon la police ukrainienne l'individu était un Français d'extrême droite contre les politiques d'immigration de Paris et se serait procuré des lance-roquettes, des explosifs et plusieurs armes pour commettre des attentats.

Suivi par les autorités, il a été épinglé en tentant de traverser la frontière.  La menace qui pèse sur le continent était telle que les États-Unis ont averti leurs concitoyens de rester sur leurs gardes s'ils voyagent sur le vieux continent cet été. Moins d'une semaine après le coup d'envoi un premier drame: l'assassinat de deux policiers par un soi-disant djihadiste près de Paris. L'Etat islamique a revendiqué l'attentat.

Le lendemain le risque d'attentats demeurait imminent en France et en Belgique, pourtant si récemment ciblés. Puis, comme pour rappeler que l'état d'urgence est encore en vigueur, cette semaine les autorités en France et en Belgique procédaient à l'arrestation d'une douzaine d'individus qui, dit-on, complotaient de commettre des actes terroristes.

Au cœur de ce capharnaüm sécuritaire, un sondage étonnant et épeurant qui, à un an du vote présidentiel, place la candidate d'extrême droite Marine Le Pen en bonne posture dans les sondages. Nouveau cauchemar à saveur 2002 alors que les États Unis se préparent à une élection alarmante?  Il ne manque plus que la crise du Zika, elle qui a déjà baissé les attentes d'affluence aux Jeux Olympiques au Brésil, et qui pourrait se répandre en Europe cet été, selon l'Organisation mondiale de la santé.

Certainement la fête du foot procure un nécessaire échappatoire, mais rien ne semble pouvoir échapper aux troubles sociaux alors que le pays tente de réformer sa loi du travail. Après la grève des éboueurs celle des cheminots, puis des pilotes d'Air France. Cette semaine un autre important rassemblement paralysait la capitale, entrainant des éclats parfois violents avec les autorités et menant à plusieurs manifestations.

A la veille de la nouvelle saison l'été s'annonce déjà chaud, et le spectacle est désolant dans un pays qui espérait profiter d'une vague de tourisme et peut-être d'un titre de football européen pour oublier ses tracas. Fort heureusement, ce rêve là persiste.



Encore non, madame
Quelques mois après le rejet du Kirchnerismo en Argentine, l'autre côte d'Amérique du sud a dit non au retour du Fujimorismo au Pérou, un dénouement étonnant tellement on se préparait à l'élection de Keiko Fujimori, la fille de l'ex-président pour le moins controversé, dans cette lutte opposant deux candidats de centre droite.

Alberto Fujimori, qui a dirigé le pays lors des années 90 , purge actuellement une peine de 25 ans en prison, notamment pour détournement de fonds et violation des droits de l'homme. Mais plusieurs auront retenu sa victoire contre les rebelles du Sentier lumineux, malgré les dérapages de la lutte du point de vue des droits de l'homme.

Keiko était de loin la favorie, après avoir remporté le premier tour avec 39% des votes, mais a abouti seconde malgré avoir promis de "respecter la démocratie" et de "ne pas recourir à la corruption". Les scandales associés à ses proches avaient  cependant davantage entaché son image peu avant le vote, mettant fin à sa nouvelle candidature présidentielle.

Le vainqueur, l'économiste Pablo Kuczynski, a fait l'école de Wall Street avant de se prononcer candidat, à l'âge de 77 ans, et promet de "diriger le pays vers un avenir brillant". L'ancien ministre des finances prend les rênes alors que le pays connaît une croissance étonnante (4,7% depuis la crise) mais souffre de l'augmentation des inégalités et de l'insécurité. Il s'est notamment engagé à augmenter les services publics pour les plus démunis.

L'ancien économiste de la Banque mondiale promet également un allègement fiscal afin de relancer l'investissement mais prévoit une ronde d'investissements en infrastructure avant tout qui pourrait au départ causer un léger déficit. Il s'agit d'une seconde défaite de suite pour Fujimori, qui avait également perdu au finish l'élection de 2011.

Le pays a dû attendre les résultats du vote à l'étranger et celui des régions isolées et éloignées avant d'avoir la confirmation du nouveau chef d'état.  Ironie du sort, la région hébergeant les derniers guerriers maoistes du Sentier lumineux figurait parmi elles. Cela a-t-il eu quelque impact? Fujimori s'est avouée vaincue après des résultats montrant un déficit de quelques milliers de votes.

De l'aveu du vainqueur lui-même, qui n'avait obtenu que 17% au premier tour, le scrutin était un plebiscite sur les années Fujimori. N'avait-il pas lui-même parlé du possible retour "de la dictature, la corruption et des mensonges"? "Kuczynski n'aurait jamais triomphé sans vote anti-Keiko, ça c'est clair, tranche Jo-Marie Burt du Washington Office sur l'Amérique latine, une bonne partie de la population est très au courant des abus et de la corruption qui ont caractérisé le régime du père de Keiko et s'est mobilisée afin d'empêcher le retour du Fujimorismo". Ceci dit, la fronde unie afin d'assurer le rejet de Fujimori risque d'être éphémère selon plusieurs observateurs.

L'alliance en place "va s'écrouler dès qu'il sera au pouvoir," prédit Steven Levitsky de Harvard. Et ces alliances sont nécessaires pour faire le poids au Congrès, où le parti de Fujimori conserve une majorité absolue. Selon le politologue Martin Tanaka, Kuczynski était "un très mauvais candidat" mais "très chanceux".

Quite the Rush
Not many teams can boast repeating championships in another city, but the National Lacrosse League is not your ordinary league.

It may not have been the first to league to switch attention to during the Canadian city-less NHL playoffs, but the city of Saskatoon certainly embraced its champions of the official national sport as they defeated Buffalo 11-10 to win the title for the second year in a row.

Saskatchewan's gain was Edmonton's loss as the team moved between seasons after a decade in the city of champions. The move was rather unorthodox considering the recently acquired title and ongoing rivalry with Calgary.

But by then rumours of a move had been circulating for months, notably from the horse's mouth, owner Bruce Urban.

"We agonized over this decision for months," he said over the summer. "But without the ability to secure a long term arena and no contact from the city for any other options, the only choice remaining was to relocate."

And the 15,000 fans who showed up for the decisive game in early June are glad they did, team members bringing their talent across provincial boundaries and a championship with it.

It was nearly enough to make fans forget their beloved Riders were kept out of the playoffs last year. But it was a game Rush defender Jeff Corwall will certainly never forget.

The 25-year-old BC native scored a breakaway goal with 12 seconds left to give his team the win over the Buffalo Bandits.

“I’ve never felt like that,” said Cornwall. “It was huge.”

For the second time in a row the team had rallied from a fourth quarter deficit, and goalie Aaron Bold credited the hard working never give up mentality for the win.

“Rock, chisel hammer is definitely our motto,” said Bold after the game. “Keep on wearing opponents down. Our transition game and defensive game starts it and that fuels the offence. They know we are there and are going to be solid day in and day out.”

Head coach Derek Keenan added Bold's goaltending certainly went a long way keeping his team in the game.

“We just kind of hung with it, like we have done the entire playoffs,” Keenan said. “We focus on the process, be patient and in the end (Rush goalie Aaron Bold) was incredible. He made huge saves throughout and then Jeff with just a beautiful transition goal.”

Bold, who stopped 47 shots in game 2 and 43 in game one (beating the Bandits 11-9) was later named the MVP of the best of three final series.


Arming Libya

Years after conducting air strikes to oust dictator Muammar Gadhafi, leading to his downfall but also great chaos in its wake, Western powers said they were gearing up to arm Libya's weak unity government as it struggles in the latest front in the war against ISIS. This would only add to the military support already being provided.

While retreating elsewhere, the Islamic terror group represents "a new threat" in the country, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, adding it was "imperative" it be stopped. Western powers are seeking an exemption from the country's UN arms embargo with the looming threat.  Parts of Libya have been largely out of the reach of authorities for years, a fact which has allowed weapons from the country's armories to flood other parts of Africa after the Libyan revolution which deposited the dictator of Tripoli.

A UN-backed unity government has been struggling to keep the country from falling into total chaos, a volatility underlined by the storming of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in 2012, which felled its top diplomat.  The country remains in the grips of a civil conflict which is fostering instability and allowing ISIS to grow, with threats the Islamic State and its proxies could score major victories that would add a new battle ground to its already important presence in Syria and Iraq.  "We urge the international community to assist us," said Fayez Sarraj, the prime minister of a unity government that has not garnered the approval of all the country's rival factions. At least Libya has ended a period of being torn by rival governments, which was a major concern to outside powers.

The weak government has made securing the country's borders difficult, both allowing external influences to seep in and making it hard to control the thousands fleeing Libya towards Europe by way of the Mediterranean.   In anticipa-tion of the new migrant season EU navies were training Libyan coast guards to stop coastline departures for Europe, and on this there has been some progress. In late May the Libyan coast guard said it had intercepted over 850 migrants on 7 ships.  But this is also underlining the importance of the Libya-Italy route for those seeking to reach European shotes.

By one estimate some 800,000 migrants are waiting to cross the Mediterranean in Libya, and Tripoli has admitted it lacks the resources to handle migrant departures.  Libya has been a growing base not only for ISIS activity but training as well, its fighters regularly sneaking into neighbouring states such as Tunisia to carry out attacks. In February the death of a jihadist commander by U.S. strikes in western Libya prompted a flurry of infiltrations of fighters into Tunisia to conduct revenge attacks. "We are sitting right next to a nation that has no peace," said the brother of a Tunisian anti-terrorism chief killed in the attacks.  A number of Tunisians have gone to Libya to train and, fearing their return, the government has reinforced as it could the border with a 200 kilometre trench. Is the U.S. hoping to regroup the coalition it gathered in the country five years ago?

U.S., and by some accounts, French and British special ops, have been stationed at various outposts of the country since last year, and other allies have been commenting on the likelihood of joining ground action. While the British defence secretary said combat roles were not being planned in the country, Canada's top general said that he was advising the government on possible options in case the need to intervene arises. In the meantime London has announced it was ready to take some "active role" at least to assist the country on the migrant crisis. For this purpose the Royal Navy was getting ready to send a ship to join five other EU vessels off the coast of Libya. The intention is also to target arms smuggling which could benefit ISIS. There's no doubt ISIS' foothold in the port city of Sirte was a major concern the country could become another major front in the war against Daesh.

Libya is "a danger to all of us," David Cameron said at the recent G7 summit. The UK effort would "help stabilise Libya, secure its coast and tackle the migration crisis," he added. And the country needs help on all fronts as the migrant season goes into full steam, with its tales of tragedies. Last week some 700 drowned making the perilous journey, one drowned infant in particular becoming the poster child of tragedy, among over 100 migrants who drowned when a ship carrying as many as 500 people tipped over in plain sight of the coast guard. This week another 100 perished off the coast of Libya when their boat capsized. Some 2,500 have either died or gone missing attempting the trip this year alone. On the ISIS front there have been some successes, after a Libyan force established to defend the country’s oil ports captured the coastal town of Ben Jawad from Daesh.

“We launched today’s attack to purge and liberate the central region from Daesh, and secure this area,” spokesman Ali Al-Hassi said. But the battle against the group continues and its extension into Libya has in fact been a distinguishing feature separating it from rival al-Qaida. Indeed while the latter sought to target faraway threats such as the U.S., ISIS has been more likely to target locally notes author Wassim Nasr. "ISIS has a different approach," he tells France24, "fighting regional regimes at first, seeking to establish its califate 'street by street'."

The U.S. president conceded this week, the week a UN report listed setbacks for IS in Iraq and Syria but gains in Libya, that the post-Gadhafi situation resulted in "kind of a mess". “We decided to go in as part of a broader coalition, into Libya, to make sure that this guy Gadhafi, who had been state-sponsoring terrorism, did not go in and start slaughtering his own people. We succeeded and saved tens of thousands of lives, but all too much counting on other countries to then stabilize and support the government formation [in Libya] and now it is a kind of a mess.”

Trying dictators
Is the age of impunity and judicial parody over in Africa? As longtime African leaders seek to extend their stay at the helm by changing constitutions, they may be casting a nervous look at a landmark court decision in Senegal at the end of May.  For the first time an African court tried and sentenced a former dictator for human rights abuses, sentencing ex- Chadian leader Hissene Habre for life for rape, sexual  slavery and commissioning killings, possibly as many as 40,000.  

"This is a historic day for Chad and for Africa," said Yamasoum Konar, who represents victims groups. "It is the first time that an African head of state has been found guilty in another African country. This will be a lesson to other dictators in Africa."  Habre, who committed atrocities between 1982 and 1990 and was often referred to as Africa's Pinochet, remained defiant as he pondered an appeal, shouting: "Down with France Afrique", the region of Africa Chad and Senegal were once referred to belonging to.  Other African leaders such as Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, were tried and convicted, but by outside authorities such as UN special courts.

Dakar's verdict was embraced by those seeking to establish a permanent African court of justice to try these individuals rather than institutions such as the International Criminal Court.  "Today will be carved into justice as the day that a brand of unrelenting survivors brought their dictator to justice," declared Reed Brody of Human Rights watch. It was also the first time a national court used the principle of universal jurisdiction against a former head of state for human rights abuses. The list of former African leaders who have been sentenced for their crimes is however relatively short, with ex Malian leader Moussa Traore first sentenced to death, which was later commuted to life in jail before he was pardoned in 2002.

Jean Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic was sentenced to death for ordering a massacre  before that sentence was commuted to solitary confinement. He was later freed and died soon after, in 1996. Others have been convicted in abstentia, and while Sudan's Omar Bashir became the first sitting leader to be indicted by the International Criminal Court, the Arab League and African Union undermined the decision, making a mockery of the charges brought forward of criminal respon-sibility for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur.

Awaiting his own fate is former Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo, facing charges of abuse at The Hague. Meantime his wife Simone has gone on trial this week in the Ivory Coast for crimes against humanity, but already rights groups were complaining the proceedings would be flawed.

“Our lawyers have not had access to all stages of the procedures. How can they defend their case?” the head of one of the groups said. The ICC also wanted to try Simone in Europe but has faced resistance by the country's leadership and general allergy to the court. Human Rights Watch still expressed hope the trial could prove a "pivotal moment" for the Ivory Coast's justice system.  


La crise après Chavez
On savait que la transition n'allait pas être facile après le départ du défunt Hugo Chavez, mais le Venezuela est-il à la veille d'une prise de pouvoir par les militaires? La révolution chaviste semble se mourir sans son architecte, et les militaires font l'objet de toutes les convoitises.   Faut-il blâmer le président Maduro suite à cette descente aux enfers? L'écroulement du prix du pétrole , hors du contrôle de Caracas, a certainement été catastrophique, mais plusieurs pointent du doigt les politiques du président face à la crise, même ceux qui portaient fièrement le flambeau de la révolution.   

"On a l'impression, même chez ses supporters, que Maduro va entraîner le projet révolutionnaire au fond du précipice, estime David Smilde de l'université Tulane, ses politiques ont déchiré le pays tout entier."  On estime à pas moins de 70% l'appui populaire en faveur du départ de Maduro, et dans un pays qui a souvent connu la violence, le rôle des militaires soulève les plus grandes craintes et interrogations, d'où les tentatives de dialogue de chaque part avec les hommes de kaki.

"Je tiens à dire aux forces armées que l'heure de vérité approche, déclarait récemment Henrique Capriles, candidat à la dernière présidentielle, vous devez décider si vous êtes du côté de la constitution ou de Maduro".   Le gouvernement de son côté a multiplié les gestes envers les militaires, même si chaque côté préfère qu'ils restent dans leurs casernes. L'opposition a regroupé 1,8 million de signatures afin d'organiser un référendum pour le renvoi de Maduro et poursuit ses manifestations dans les rues du Venezuela sans relâche.

Ce dernier est plongé dans le noir par des pannes de courant, triste ironie quant on pense aux richesses énergétiques du pays avec les plus importantes réserves de pétrole dans le monde, et fait face à multes pénuries alimentaires et autres alors que l'inflation prend un envol catastrophique.

Alors que 85% des compagnies ont été touchées par la crise et ont réduit leur production en conséquent "il y a des pénuries à tous les niveaux," fait remarquer Ricardo Cusanno de la Chambre de commerce du Venezuela. Papier hygiénique, nourriture, médicaments, tout manque sur les étalages dont l'état ont provoqué multes manifestations. Récemment deux compagnies aériennes, Lufthansa et LATAM, le géant régional, annonçaient qu'elles cessaient de desservir Caracas en raison des pénuries de biens et de services.

"Il y a une liste longue de problèmes, mais ce qu'on n'avait pas vu jusqu'à maintenant c'était des manifs pour manque de nourriture'" ajoute Smilde. "Nous voulons de la nourriture!" criaient justement des manifestants prenant la rue cette semaine. Maduro n'est pas seulement de plus en plus isolé chez lui mais dans la région également, s'en prenant à l'Organisation des Etats d'Amérique pour avoir critiqué son approche.

Le secrétaire général de l'OEA a à son tour fait appel à l'organisation du référendum que cherche à mettre en place l'opposition, faute de quoi Maduro risque de passer à l'histoire à titre d'"un autre minable dictateur". Cette semaine l'opposition réitérait ses menaces de passer aux actes si un référendum n'avait pas lieu d'ici la fin de l'année, sur fond de nouveaux éclats dans les rues du pays.

"Il leur faut aller dans le sens de l'histoire, déclara Enrique Marquez, le vice président de la législature, avec le peuple souffrant du Venezuela et retirer les barrières à la tenue d'un référendum".  Mais Maduro compte sans doute repousser tout rendez-vous référendaire en espérant que la remontée progressive des prix de l'or noir pourra changer la donne économique.

Toujours champion

Pas d'équipe canadienne dans les séries? Pas de panique, Equipe Canada était là pour adoucir le coup et remporter son deuxième titre consécutif aux championnats du monde, son 26ème en tout.

Si la revanche finale de l'édition 2015 n'a pas eu lieu, le Canada n'affrontant jamais l'hôte lors de ce tournoi en Russie, celle opposant les unifoliés à la seule sélection qui avait infligé une défaite était au rendez-vous.

La Finlande avait en effet empêché au Canada de terminé la ronde préliminaire avec une fiche parfaite, comme l'an dernier, et blanchissant Connor McDavid et son équipe 4-0, une sérieux retour sur terre.

En finale cependant Equipe Canada imposait le ton dès les premiers instants, en mitraillant Mikko Koskinen 32 fois, soit le double de ce que devait connaitre Cam Talbot, qui n'avait cependant rien à se reprocher.

Etape nécessaire de toute étoile en progression, McDavid connut un bon tournoi mondial, marquant le but gagnant à 11:24, tandis que les Suomen Poikka n'arrivaient pas à s'imposer dans la zone canadienne.

"Nous ne leur avons pas laissé la chance de s'organiser ou de s'échapper dans notre zone, dira McDavid par la suite, lorsque nous avons laissé filer une chance (Talbot) a été éclatant".

L'écart demeura le même jusqu'aux derniers instants lorsque les Finlandais tentèrent le tout pour le tout et retirèrent Koskinen, spectateur attristé par le deuxième but canadien dans un filet désert.

"On a fait un bon travail défensivement en tant que groupe, dira l'entraineur Bill Peters par la suite, nos gardiens ont été excellents chaque soir. Je pense que l'équipe était beaucoup meilleure ce soir que (lors de la défaite)."

En remportant ce 26e titre le Canada était à un championnat de joindre le combiné CCCP-Russie au palmarès historique des champions du monde. Mais des marques personnelles ont été enregistrées en Russie.

Le capitale Corey Perry a notamment rejoint le prestigieux club des champions, ajoutant son championnat du monde à sa bague de la Coupe Stanley et ses médailles olympiques.

Le Canada brisait le coeur des voisins finlandais en empêchant au club de devenir le premier à remporter à la fois un championnat du monde et le titre junior et des moins de 18 ans, mais autant dire que le hockey finlandais promet pour l'avenir.

Pour le Canada il s'agissait d'un genre de revanche après la défaite à domicile à Québec en 2008, lorsque Ovechkin et les siens avaient remporté le tournoi au Canada. Avait cette année la Russie avait été la dernière à enfiler deux championnats consécutifs, doit en 2008 et 2009.

Pour les Russes il s'agit d'un nouveau pavé dans la mare après un tournoi olympique, également en Russie, ou les aigles avaient également manqué de se présenter en finale.

Rien de mieux pour remonter le moral des Canadiens sans équipe à suivre pendant les séries, et qui ont goûté à un amuse-gueule international avant la Coupe du monde de hockey à l'automne.




Adieu Roussef, pour l'instant

La lutte a été féroce, la présidente y engageant tout son arsenal, faisant appel à tous ses contacts. Mais peine perdue après tant de mois. Pourtant la sortie de Dilma Roussef, en attendant son procès en destitution, laisse le pays loin d'être au bout de ses peines alors que le chef d'état est remplacé de manière intérimaire. D'ailleurs ses tortionnaires, dont le rem-plaçant, s'en tirent à peine puisque plusieurs sont soupçonnés de corruption.

Puis le pays fait encore face à la crise du Zika, et un écroulement économique inconnu depuis les années trente, lui qui voulait tout faire pour célébrer son arrivée dans la cour des grands avec le Mondial et les JOs. Plus tôt en mai le procureur général avait demandé une enquête de corruption sur l'ex-président Lula.

Un juge avait d'ailleurs suspendu la décision de Roussef de nommer son prédécesseur chef de cabinet, afin de l'héberger des enquêtes. Rien pour enlever le spectre de la corruption. Le moment est bien mal choisi à quelques mois du coup d'envoi de JOs, dont les billets tardent à se vendre, certains athlètes nationaux suggérant même aux touristes d'éviter le voyage.

Mais le remplacement de Roussef met à peine fin à une saga de plusieurs mois au courant de laquelle elle a fait appel à toutes les mesures parlementaires en son pouvoir, et plus récemment à la Cour suprême, avant que le Sénat ne tranche et vote , par 55-22, en faveur de son procès en destitution. Plus tôt la chambre basse avait voté 367-147 dans le même sens. Roussef avait alors déjà perdu de nombreux alliés précieux dans sa lutte, qu'elle se promettait de poursuivre avec acharnement , et force du désespoir. Parmi eux, le vice président Michel Tremer, chef d'état provisoire et ancien allié , qu'elle accuse d'avoir monté un coup d'état constitutionnel.

Elle a répété ces accusations en quittant le palais présidentiel, caractérisant le processus engagé contre elle de "farce", avant de prendre un bain de foule avec ses partisans. "Mon gouvernement a fait l'objet d'un sabotage, dit-elle, j'ai commis des erreurs mais pas de crimes". Mais d'autres foules ont été moins tendres envers elle, faisant appel à sa démission.

La décision du Sénat la place sur la ligne de touche pendant six mois, lui permettant de préparer sa défense contre les accusations d'avoir joué avec les comptes publics, une habitude du pouvoir qui n'avait auparavant jamais apporté de sanction si draconienne. Mais d'autres noms pourraient suivre, dont celui... de Tremer lui-même, déjà menacé par des mesures disciplinaires pour ne pas avoir suivi la réglementation sur le financement des campagnes.

Par ailleurs un parlementaire de longue date, Eduardo Cunha, qui a également mené les efforts de destitution de Roussef, fait lui-même face à des accusations de corruption. C'est donc la politique elle-même qui subit son procès, ce qui n'a rien pour rassurer un public furieux de l'état de la nation, alors qu'elle devait fêter ses succès dans l'arène internationale.


Taking the fight to Manila
The potty-mouthed populist presidential front-runner  shocked observers making sexist comments, insulting the disabled and vowing he would make criminals pay with their lives, and yet his ratings only increased with every new controversial statement. And that was just the beginning, before he entered territory even Donald Trump would shy away from. This wasn't America's primary season but days before the Philippines went to the polls and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte kept the worst for  late into the campaign when he cracked a scandalous rape joke at one of his rallies.  

Referring to the fate of an Australia minister who was held hostage, raped, and executed in 1989, he said: “I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste.” Meet the Philippines' new president. When foreign diplomats panned him for joking about rape, he barely flinched, telling them they could “go ahead and sever” diplomatic ties with the country, which is strategically important in the region and at the centre of America's Asia pivot as countries stare down China in the South China Sea. It wasn't long before the twittersphere erupted, in comments that made the GOP contender look like a boy scout in comparison.

“Wow, Trump wouldn’t even say something like that,” one commenter tweeted. “And I thought Trump was a sleeze,” wrote another.   Yet, like in the case of Trump, who promised to tone down his act in the lead up to the presidency but still kept referring to his rivals as Lying Ted and Corrupt Hillary, the condemnation seems to have done little to make his hard core supporters reconsider, in a country where politics and political coverage can be deadly.  The Philippines are still struggling with a decades long insurgency in its southern islands, a fact reminded days before the May 9 vote when a Canadian hostage was killed by his captors.  

Duterte, the mayor of the country's fourth largest city, located in the south, won the election with about 39% of the vote. The president-elect “connects easily with the common people because he talks like an ordinary individual,” political science professor Edmund S. Tayao told Business World, adding: “Either he draws people more to him or away from him because his personality is not moderate.”

The comparisons with Trump are numerous. His macho appeal may certainly draw support from male audiences, referring to himself without shame as a “womanizer,” and openly boasting to have three girlfriends. There's no law against that, but for those found guilty of crimes Duterte promises the return of capital punishment, claiming he would have 100,000 criminals executed, including his own children, if they should be caught ever using drugs. After years of growing crime and violence in the Philippines, the 71-year-old has been credited with cleaning up his town, but using vigilante death squads in the process. “They say I am a killer. Maybe I am,” he said.

The mayor has "become a rallying symbol for all classes—poor, middle and rich—long fed up with ‘trapos’ (corrupt politicians) messing up our country,” spokesman Peter Tiu Lavina  explained. His outbursts have cost him in the past, notably when he cursed the Pope for getting caught in a traffic jam during the pontiff's visit in 2015. He later apologized, by fear of offending the faithful in this highly Catholic country.

Also in the running was Senator and vice presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, another candidate, who raised eyebrows, perhaps eclipsed only by the extreme vernacular of his opponent. "It tells you how frustrated people are with the corruption and inefficiency of the political system," noted Leonora Angeles of the University of BC. "It really echoes I think the nostalgia for a strong leader and authoritarian leader." And that's what the Philippines have got for the next few years, but critics wonder how cracking down on crime will help without addressing the cause of rising crime: notably high levels of poverty.


Le réchauffement en question
Fort McMurray et les îles Salomon. Il s'agit de deux désastres naturels aux deux extrémités de la planète. L'eau et le feu. Et ils occupent une place bien différente dans le débat des changements climatiques, quelques mois après le sommet mondial de Paris et quelques jours après la signature des 175 participants du plan d'action. Alors qu'une étude, la première du genre, liait la disparition sous l'eau de cinq îles de Salomon aux changements climatiques causant la montée des océans, le désastre albertain a été traité avec beaucoup plus de retenue, malgré l'accumu-lation des records de chaleur mondiaux. En effet 2015 à battu le record de l'année ayant connu les températures les plus élevées globalement.  

Il s'agissait d'un record datant de 2014, et, avec le phénomène el Nino, les sept derniers mois ont déjà vu de nouveaux records fracasser le thermomètre. Les dirigeants canadiens faisant le lien ont cependant vite été critiqués, se trouvant parfois obligés de faire leurs excuses. La localité touchée, le cœur des sables bitumineux - condam-nés de "producteur de pétrole sale" a parfois décerné le prix du fossile au Canada - y est-elle pour quelquechose? Il n'est pas question de blâmer les victimes, s'insurge un chroniqueur au Canada. Ce n'est pas le temps de parler de réchauffement terrestre, clame un autre.

Mais certains académiciens hésitent moins à placer Fort McMurray dans le contexte des changements clima-tiques.Ils constatent qu'il y a eu des feux extrêmes dans divers coins du monde, de la Tasmanie à l'Oklahoma, et que les Etats-Unis ont vu un espace record gobbé par les flammes l'an dernier, soit 10 millions d'acres. Sibérie, Mongolie, Chine, Brésil... peu de pays à grandes surfaces n'ont pas été épargnés par le phénomère de l'expansion de la saison des feux lors des dernières années. Au point même où l'Australie a développé la notion de feux "catastrophiques" en 2009, un terme repris en Alberta cette année. "Les feux en Alberta sont un excellent exemple de ce que nous observons de plus en plus, note Jonathan Overpeck, spécialiste de l'Université d'Arizona. Le réchauffement signifie une fonte des glaces plus tôt dans l'année, le sol et la végétation séchent plus vite et la saison des feux commence plus tôt. C'est une catastrophe."

D'autant plus que la disparition de tous ces arbres emportés par les flammes prive la nature d'un aspirateur de dioxyde de carbone. La saison des feux s'est rallongée considéra-blement ces dernières années globalement, par presque un cinquième depuis 1973, et il s'agit de plus en plus de feux qu'on ne contrôle plus, rajoute un autre spécialiste, Mark Cochrane de l'université du Dakota du sud. Il ne s'agit donc pas juste du Canada, qui est à lui seul responsable de moins de 2% des émissions de carbone mondiales, si l'on compare à la Chine (20%) , dont les villes sont si souvent perdues dans des nuages de pollution, et aux Etats-Unis (17%).

L'entente de Paris limitant les émissions serait en vigueur une fois qu'au moins 55 pays représentant au moins 55% des émission l'auront ratifiée. Rares sont ceux qui vont plus loin que dire que, de manière générale, le nombre d'incidents météorologiques extrêmes, comme les feux de l'Alberta, vont croître avec les changements climatiques, sans effectuer de lien direct. Mais pour ce qui est des îles Salomon, une étude plus directe d'Environmental Research Letters établit, sur la base d'images satellite, que l'érosion et la submersion qui menace les habitants des îles est le fait de l'augmentation du niveaux des mers lié aux changements climatiques.

Les conséquences pourraient même entrainer le déménagement des habitants de la capitale régionale Taro, une première dans le genre. Six autres îles sont également menacées par l'érosion, responsable de la destruction de deux villages. L'érosion menace d'ailleurs plusieurs côtes non seulement dans cette région peu peuplée mais partout dans le monde, y compris au Canada, des dunes des îles de la Madeleine à la côte de la Colombie britannique, dans une région où les tremblements de terre peuvent donner lieu aux raz de marée.  "La montée de niveaux d'eau causée par les changements climatiques sera un des défis les plus importants pour l'humanité au courant du siècle prochain," note l'étude sur les îles, qui souligne l'impact d'un nombre de facteurs, dont la force des vents et la hauteur des vagues.

Un des auteurs,  Simon Albert, regrette un peu que les médias se soient concentrés sur le phénomène des changements climatiques dans cette étude plutôt que la montée des niveaux des mers, mais l'étude elle-même souligne qu'elle est le fait des changements de climat. Les experts qui se rencontraient en Allemagne cette semaine pour établir les régles de mise en pratique des accords de Paris, qui espèrent limiter l'augmentation des températures à 2 degrés Celsius, semblaient à la fois perturbés par le phénomène des feux en Alberta et celui de la sécheresse en Inde, où certaines régions fracassaient de nouveaux records cette semaine: 51 degrés Celsius!

Ils devront par ailleurs se pencher sur l'aide financière aux pays du tiers monde en difficulté. Selon Oxfam d'ailleurs, l'entente de Paris ne faisait rien pour mettre en place des mécanismes afin d'aider ces pays à faire face aux conséquences des change-mens climatiques. L'agence estime qu'environ 16% des 100 milliards de dollars par année promis aux pays pauvres d'ici 2020 pour les aider à se défendre, contre les innondations, par exemple, ou pour lutter contre la sécheresse et son impact sur l'agriculture, ont été déversés. Par ailleurs l'organisation de charité Christian Aid estimait qu'un milliard de personnes seraient menacées par les innondations liées aux changements climatiques aux courant des prochaines décennies. De nombreuses villes d'Asie seraient notamment ciblées, mais également certaines métropoles de pays d'Occident, notamment Miami. Selon cet autre rapport, encore une fois "les plus pauvres auraient le plus à perdre."


Hail unlikely champs
Everybody loves an underdog story, but when you're talking about narrowly avoiding relegation to go on and take the title of the most important league of the worlds most popular sport it reaches epic proportions.   

Little-know Leicester City beat the odds, 5000 to 1 odds, to take the Football Association championship away from the likes of soccer behemoths Manchester United and Liverpool after their nearest rivals , Tottenham, tied Chelsea 2-2 and confirmed the unlikely climb from last to first over the season.   

The Foxes narrowly avoided being sent to a lower division last year after posting great results in their nine last games, a momentum carried into the 2015-16 campaign.   

"It's probably the biggest sporting story ever and the biggest sporting achievement ever," boasted league head Richard Scudamore. The fans certainly got their money's worth, the team spending something like 57 million pounds on player transfers over the last three years, which pales in comparison with United's 350 million.   

Stunning for a bleary eyed captain after a night of celebration "it is safe to say I never thought I would be in this position now," said Wes Morgan, "the journey we've been on is fantastic. It's an achievement that may not be achieved again."   

The gamble paid off for Thai business owner Vichai Raksriaksorn, who bought the team in 2010 when it had just climbed out of a third tier league. It's only been back in the Premier league since 2014 and nearly slipped out of it as quickly as it got in. But don't expect them to be favorites to repeat, that isn't in the expectation, but neither is selling any of the teams now valuable players.   

"Of course you can't compare it with other stories," goes on Scudamore, "but in terms of an overall story achievement it is absolutely the best."


After oil


After months of low oil prices, are we seeing the bottom of the barrel? Close to a trillion dollars, that will be the cost of cheaper oil to exporting nations in the Mideast alone for 2015 and 2016, a staggering figure hard to fathom which put into perspective the impact of these changes on the global economy. And while Mideast countries are most harshly affected, they aren't alone, with nations from Russia to Venezuela and Canada feeling the pinch of lower petroleum revenues. In the South American country, home to the world's largest oil reserves, the collapse of prices has brought on layoffs, a recession and triple figure inflation.

Adding insult to injury a drought has affected hydro electric output, forcing the energy power to impose rolling blackouts. This will also affect energy production.  Now unable to pay its bills, the country has seen political turmoil, with the opposition scoring a majority for the first time in 17 years late last year. As the government imposed a two-day work week on civil servants, calls for the removal of president Maduro gathered steam. Russia and Venezuela have been among a number of producing countries seeking an agreement with OPEC to freeze production  to raise oil prices, but none was reached.

Half of Russia's revenue comes from the energy sector and the economy has already been slammed by the western sanctions that followed the invasion of Ukraine. The military mission in Syria, although frugal, has also taxed the country's finances. Like Nigeria, Saudi Arabia largely depends on oil revenues and short term Saudi development plans would expand one major oilfield, doing nothing to lessen the global oil glut. But the kingdom, which has for decades used its riches to buy social peace, is slowly looking beyond oil to develop its resource dependent economy.  

This isn't new to the Gulf, with countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar looking to develop tourism, shopping and transport hub capacities to draw revenues. But the newly unveiled blue print for the next 15 years will seek to lessen considerably the kingdom's dependence on the black gold. To achieve this Saudi Arabia would sell a small stake in Saudi Aramco, the giant oil company valued at $2 trillion, create the world's largest sovereign wealth fund - forming a public investment fund nearing $3 trillion - making the kingdom an investment powerhouse, and develop non-oil industries, from mining to the military.

"Saudi Arabia wants to become one of the 15 largest economies in the world by 2030," Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said. "We don't expect it in the early years because they are years of reform, but (later) we will expect very high growth." There is even room for social reform in this blueprint, looking to increase the participation of women in the work force from 22% to 30%, a start, but no licence to drive. Tourism, religious and not, would also be an area of focus. Critics point out the kingdom has promised such transition from oil in the past, and wonder how realistic making the country into a financial and investment hub could be while it borders a nation at war such as Yemen.

Meanwhile last month Saudi Arabia borrowed money internationally for the first time since 1999, taking out $10 billion in bank loans. Other Gulf countries report varying degrees of success attempting to move away from oil. Bahrain says its diversification efforts have paid off, owing only 19.7 percent of its GDP to oil. In contrast its non-oil growth is increasingly vibrant, reaching 3.9 percent last year, with construction (6.4 percent) and hotels and restaurants (7.3 percent) leading the way. Sustained production levels in countries such as the U.S., Russia and Canada, and dropping demand as economies cool have been driving down the prices, as is the return to production and export of another Mideast player: Iran, seeking to make up for lost times after years of sanctions.

The last few months however have seen a rise in oil prices since February, when prices bottomed out at $27 a barrel, reaching $45 this week, but it may be months before levels are anywhere near where they were before, in the $100 range. Of course rising production in certain Gulf countries could cut short this recent rise. In the mean time major U.S. producers have been feeling the pinch, with Exxon posting its smallest profit for any quarter since 1999 and Chevron reporting a first-quarter loss of $725 million. The U.S. has seen 62 oil and gas company bankruptcies since oil prices collapsed, causing over 120,000 to lose their jobs.

Eventually experts do expect a return to higher prices as production is curtailed in Venezuela as well as other producers including Kazakh-stan, China, Mexico and Colombia, lessening the glut. It may even be cause for a shotrtage in a not too distant future, according to one expert. “By the end of the year, we could see a rebalancing of the market,” opined Patrick Pouyanne of Total, noting a drop in investments in the industry. “The consequence in three or four years will be a lack of supply,” he added. It could be awhile before we get there however, though this week Alberta's raging fires in the oilsands region and Libya's instability were contributing to some production shortfalls that boosted the price of the barrel. Some analysts say these market reactions to immediate events is a sign of eventual oil price recovery.

"The difference today compared with a year ago is the market is starting to price in supply disruptions, whereas in a market that is totally oversupplied, you don't care about losing half a million barrels a day," said Olivier Jakob of PetroMatrix. But for the mid-term,  production rises from OPEC members, the rise in the dollar and slowing Chinese economy, threatening to keep Asia and much of Europe at a less than impressive economic pace, were all working to keep prices down from previous levels, and that's bad news for the kingdom in the months ahead, the Saudis needing a $98 barrel to break even.


Fleeing an inferno
With glowing embers falling on the hood of cars as flames practically licked fleeing vehicles lost in ash clouds, the evacuation had every-thing to conjure images of flight from the jaws of hell. A city which has seen its share of ups and downs tied to the energy industry was facing its greatest crisis yet as wildfires devastated entire neighbour-hoods and forced 80,000 people from their homes in Fort McMurray and other communities of burning Alberta. Some were even forced out from shelters where they had first sought refuge from the shifting flames.

Luckily there were few incidents during the evacuations despite smoke covered highways packed with cars whose occupants feared the little they had had time to take with them would be everything that remained of their belongings. Fire season started early in the region, which has seen temperatures in the high 20s and little rain for weeks, ultimately setting off the tinder dry landscape better known for being at the centre of the country's petroleum industry.

"It's a setback, we have been a community facing an uphill battle for a long time with the latest change in growth," said Mayor Melissa Blake, adding she hoped citizens could maintain their upbeat spirit to deal with the latest challenge. "This is still a place of strength , resiliency and vibrancy".

Oil sands facilities, already battered by cancelled pipeline deals and low petroleum prices, reduced production to allow the workers to take care of their families, many residents finding temporary shelter in oil company work camps. Ottawa mobilized the armed forces to support operations as fire crews raced from across the country to assist teams overwhelmed by the inferno forming a ring around the city.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the country was united in support of Alberta, Canada being "a country where we look out for our neighbours". In a tragic twist of irony, the city at the heart of the oil industry sitting on the third greatest reserves on earth was out of petroleum, one gas station on the fringes being among the 1,600 structures destroyed by the quickly invading wall of fire.

Most of the oil operations being north of the city, the industry wasn't directly hit by the fires, and companies trucked in fuel to assist fleeing residents looking to fill their tanks. But production was cut by up to 40% as manpower suffered from repeated evacuations. Some of the evacuees knew immediately the worst had happened to their homes.  "I'm in a state of shock, at one point I couldn't cry if I wanted to, and the next minute I'm bawling my eyes out," said Tamara Wolfe after fleeing a home in an area where 80% were decimated. "I had 40 years of stuff on that house... Things are replaceable, but not everything is replaceable."

The experience rattled countless fleeing residents.  "It was absolutely horrifying when we were sitting there in traffic. You're thinking 'oh my God, we got out just in time," said Carol Christian, another resident. Luckily everybody did, but officials feared damage would be in the billions, with some estimates finding insurance companies could face $9 billion in claims, while the economy suffers from a similar impact if conditions remain the same.

The dive in the price of oil prices and cancelled contracts and projects drove unemployment up 40% in the region between January 2015 and February of this year, causing many out of province workers to return home. In April alone Alberta lost another 21,000 jobs, more than all other provinces combined. The province will need help rebuilding, a fact made clear when convoys of hundreds of vehicles passed through Fort McMurray on their way south during a new wave of evacuations, revealing parts of town had been decimated.


Les longs mandats
Les ré-élections en Afrique ne le rappellent que trop bien, le continent remporte le palmarès des dirigeants en place depuis longue date. Reconfirmant leur poste récemment, le tchadien Idriss Deby, le guerrier devenu président, lui qui poursuit une lutte acharnée contre le djihahisme, Teodoro Nguema de Guinée équiatoriale et Omar Guelleh du Djibouti, pays stratégique à la pointe de la corne d'Afrique.

Malgré tout ces derniers ne sont pas tout au sommet de la liste des champions de la longévité,  occupé par un autre ennemi de Boko Haram, le camerounais Paul Biya, qui siège soit à la présidence soit au poste de premier ministre depuis 40 ans. Nguema, ré-élu avec 93,7% des votes, et au pouvoir depuis un coup d'état en 1979, n'est pas bien loin du compte. Mais  progressivement, la  grogne s'installe dans certains de ces pays, d'où les accusations de "hold-up électoral" par l'opposition tchadienne après la victoire du "gendarme du Sahel" au premier tour, avec 61% des votes, conservant un poste initialement acquis lors d'un coup d'état, lui aussi, en 1990.

Rendu au cinquième, Déby enfile dorénavant les mandats après avoir fait modifier la constitution en 2004, se présentant comme le candidat de la sécurité contre la menace du terrorisme qui touche la région. Le geste consti-tutionnel a été le même au Djibouti, où Guelleh, comme Bouteflika en Algérie, atteint les 17 ans au pouvoir.   

Confirmant le retour du président sortant avec 86% des votes, le scrutin a été dénoncé par une opposition critiquant plusieurs irrégularités.  Selon l'opposant Omar Elmi Khaireh des électeurs avaient été expulsés de certains bureaux de vote. Selon lui: « Cela fait partie de la stratégie visant à nous déstabiliser ». La mission d'observation de l'Union Africaine notait également que « dans certains bureaux de vote visités, les agents électoraux violaient systématiquement les procédures de dépouil-lement telles que prévues par la Loi. Le procès verbal n’a pas été rédigé ni signé par les membres des bureaux de vote».

Mais l'UA a en fin de compte tout de même trouvé le vote "crédible".  En Guinée on a noté plusieurs anomalies, plus d'électeurs que d'inscrits se présentant parfois aux urnes. Un vétéran du circuit, Bonaventura Asumu, vaincu pour une quatrième fois, considérait cette élection "la pire des élections organisées dans ce pays, avec des fraudes montées de toutes pièce."

Plus tôt en mars c'était au congolais Denis Sassou Nguesso de poursuivre sa présidence, lors d'un vote rendu possible après un referendum l'an dernier mettant fin aux limites de mandat présidentiel. Voilà ce qui devient plutôt la norme malgré les manifestations contre un tel geste au Burkina Faso qui avaient précipité le départ de Blaise Compaoré.  

Rare exception cette année, un Sénégal qui a, alors que la République Démocratique du Congo allait aux urnes, passé un référendum réduisant les années de mandat présidentiel de sept ans au quinquennat. Il faut le rappeler, en 2011 des violences avaient suivi la décision du président sénégalais Abdoulaye Wade de revenir sur une promesse de ne pas briguer un troisième mandat. Résultat, celui-ci a été évincé par Macky Sall par une marge plutôt  large. Or ce dernier aurait pourtant préféré poursuivre sous l'ancien ordre, comme le semble le vouloir la tradition dans plusieurs pays d'Afrique.


La marche vers le nord
Historiquement c'est le signe du passage d'une génération. Il y a un quart de siècle, les murs tombaient en Europe, permettant au continent de s'unir sans invasion, les frontières nationales s'effritant peu à peu. Maintenant, on les construit, pour tenter de mettre fin à la marche des réfugiés au long de la frontière grecque. Bloqués à la frontière macédonienne, des milliers de Syriens attendent, donnant parfois lieu à quelques éclats, ou tentent de contourner.

La Bulgarie, vers l'est, érige son mur, tandis qu'à l'ouest, l'Albanie tente de renforcer sa frontière. Pourtant, les citoyens de ces pays à présent si inhospitaliers étaient jadis ceux qui cherchaient l'eldorado occidental, notamment les milliers d'Albanais qui, comme les Syriens à présent, prenaient le large afin de retrouver la côte italienne, assaillie semble-t-il depuis toujours.

En août 1991, en plein écroulement soviétique, 20,000 tentaient de se rendre à Brindisi sur un seul paquebot. L'Albanie a bien servi de refuge dans son passé, notamment lors du conflit au Kosovo, mais n'a aucune intention d'ouvrir ses portes à la masse migrante, qui redoute d'ailleurs les sales coups des bandes criminelles sillonnant la région, notamment en Bulgarie, où elles sont dans la mire des groupes de droits de l'homme, scandalisés par les reportages de gestes criminels envers les immigrants.Pourtant les Albanais n'ont pas fini de fuir leur propre pays, que de toutes façons ne feraient que traverser des immigrants ne cherchant qu'à se rendre plus au nord.

Certains Albanais ont d'ailleurs tenté de se joindre aux masses en mouvement à leurs propres fins de migration économique. Fait étonnant, en fin mars le ministre de justice néerlandais mettait d'ailleurs les Albanais au premier rang des demandeurs d'asile dans son pays, bien avant les Syriens ou autres ressortissants de la région. Près de 500 Albanais avaient fait une telle demande, même si leurs chances d'être admis étaient quasiment nulles, car le pays est considéré "sûr".

C'est évidemment en Allemagne que la plupart des Albanais vont tenter leur chances, un peu moins de 8000 arrivées y ayant été enregistrées l'an dernier.  Il en est résulté une campagne allemande à Tirana servant cet avertissement: "Pas d'asile économique en Allemagne", où guère plus de 0,5% des demandes albanaises ont été acceptées cette année.

Dirigeant le flot, ces mêmes bandes criminelles qui organisent le passage vers l'ouest, dans ce qui demeure un des plus pauvres pays du continent, rongé par la corruption, et croulant sous un chômage vers les 18%. Voilà d'ailleurs des facteurs qui, malgré une population majoritairement musulmane, n'en font pas un bon candidat pour accueillir des réfugiés syriens. Entre temps environ 10,000 réfugiés restent bloqués à la frontière macédonienne, espérant un jour  reprendre leur marche.


Cries from the North
 
A school shooting, a health emergency and more terrible suicide attempts. These have been the tales of the last few months in Canada's great, and troubled north, plagued by poor housing and sanitation, lacklustre services and overpriced consumer items.  A life of hardship and survival. The new government in Ottawa has pledged billions to relieve the strains of Canada's struggling native communities, and this month came a shocking reminder of the urgency of the national crisis on the second land mass on earth.  A suicide emergency was declared when no less than 16 people tried to take their lives in the struggling reserve of Attawapiskat, a small community of less than 2,000 souls in northern Ontario which has made the headlines for years for all the wrong reasons.

Earlier this decade the community faced another state of emergency when it was revealed only a few dozen of the community's 316 housing units were considered adequate to live in, scrutiny falling to the community's leadership and shoddy bookkeeping. Atta-wapiskat is a microcosm of everything that can prove a challenge in the sparsely populated north, such as the high costs of many items that have to be flown in, including food, gas and building material. The tragic tally brought to over 100 the number of people who tried to take their own lives in the last six months, according to Chief Bruce Shisheesh. One person died, triggering the wave, people as young as 11 and as old as 71 seeing noting but despair in their small commu-nity. After one single weekend saw 11 attempted suicides, authorities had to intervene to prevent a dozen other children, some as young as nine, from emulating them.

The crisis forced an emergency session of Parliament thousands of miles away in Ottawa, where the crisis is largely misunderstood. Local medial services have struggled to keep up with such incidents, which numbered some 28 in March alone. "These four workers, crisis workers, are burned out. They can't continue working daily because of the amount of suicides [that] have happened. They're back-logged," said the council's Deputy Grand Chief Rebecca. "There are no services at the moment, no counsellors in the community." A state of emergency sends emergency resources to a community, and is becoming increasingly com-mon in the north.

Drug abuse and overcrowding are among the most likely factors, notes Shisheesh, who says sometimes over a dozen people have to share a small home. "We have people that are on prescriptions. We have people that are selling pills. And I believe that's how some of them have withdrawals and they feel unwanted, or they don't know how to express their feelings and they have to use a drug to drown their problems or their pains," Shisheesh said.   It seems not a week goes by without one emergency or another in the great North. In March a number of children with acute cases of skin infection had to be airlifted from northern Ontario's Kashe-chewan First Nation community, its members blaming poor water quality.

The government however said the source of the outbreak wasn't linked to water. Weeks before First Nations leaders from northern Ontario declared a public-health emergency citing shortage of basic medical supplies and an epidemic of suicides among young people.  “We are in a state of shock,” Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon of the Mushkegowuk Council said wiping away tears. “When is enough? It is sad. Waiting is not an option any more. We have to do something.”   

Ontario regional chief Isadore Day accused both provincial and federal governments of "discrimination” and "institutional racism in Canada’s and Ontario’s health-care system," and said he hoped the new leadership in Ottawa would stay true to its word of assisting northern communities. “We have recently come out of a decade of darkness under the previous Harper government,” he said. “As Canada and the provinces and territories look at a new health accord, they must understand… the cost of doing nothing over the last decade has had a drastic impact on the people of the North.”  

And it's not only Ontario. In Northern Quebec the community of Kuujuaq has seen five youngsters between the ages of 15 and 20 take their lives since mid-December. Mental health issues are often cited as being important factors, as well as the lack of specialists to help address them.  "It is not easy to manage a crisis of this size," admitted health services director Georges Berthes. "Our mental health resources aren't sufficient." In that community, police say they receive daily calls about people attempting suicide. In March the Pimicikamak Cree Nation community in northern Manitoba also declared a state of emergency after a string of six suicides in just a few months. "We don't have access to what everyone else has in the rest of the country," decried Manitoba Keewa-tinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson. "Whether it be access to jobs, access to good education, access to ... the nicer things in life. We feel left out."

A 1994 study on British Columbia communities found that some indigenous groups saw youth suicide rates that were among the highest of any culturally identifiable group in the world. Nor is the phenomenon limited to Canada, one report from the Alaskan Department of Health and Social Services found that the suicide rate got higher the further north a community was located. In January a northern Saskatchewan community's tragedy heralded a year of crises in the Native community. High suicide and crime rates have also taken their toll on the Dene community of about 3,000 in Laloche, site of multiple shootings which left four dead. Residents also cite poverty and high unemployment, estimated to average 22%, for the community's troubles.

As in many communities, transitions from more traditional ways of living have had terrible societal impacts. Métis National Council president Clément Chartier said the community never properly adjusted from this transition from hunting and fishing to wage labour in the 1960s and early '70s. "People were caught up in a situation where there were no jobs," he told the CBC. "I don't think people have fully adjusted in terms of employment."  Former prime minister Jean Chretien, who once served as Indian affairs minister, caused a stir suggesting that in some cases people may need to move in order to improve their lives. Officials promised immediate relief, the Ontario government providing $2 million in immediate help, sending specialists to the community as Ottawa promised to act urgently. But longtime observers hoped that with these tragic events Canada had turned a page and its government, committed to national reconciliation with its native communities and recognizing non-reserve native and Metis citizens as "Indians", would provide the necessary commitments to end crises decades in the making.  But the urgency remained as, after this latest call to action, five more youngsters tried to end their young lives in Attawapiskat, a word synonymous with tragedy.

Modern child soldiers

They do not have the right to vote, yet they are enlisted. Children have in recent years increasingly been targeted in various countries when their schools have been attacked for trying to teach so-called Western-type education, from Pakistan to Nigeria, but they have also sometimes been the ones pulling the trigger.  The phenomenon of child soldiers is sadly a familiar one in Africa, where it has remained a reality from the Central African Republic to Darfur, and Sierra Leone.

Now UNICEF says Boko Haram, notorious for its kidnapping of 200 Chibok girls two years ago who were never recovered, has resorted to using child bombers with devastating regularly, about one in five suicide attacks being carried out by them. The year of the Chibok kidnappings only four such attacks were reported, but this quickly exploded to 44 last year, an 11-fold increase, mostly by girls, and not only in Nigeria, but neighbouring Cameroon, Niger and Chad as well.

In fact Cameroon is where the highest rate of child attacks has been recorded, involving children as young as eight, often drugged with explosives strapped to their tiny bodies. Beyond sprea-ding fear of terror, the attacks have spread fear of children. "As 'suicide' attacks involving children become commonplace, some commu-nities are starting to see children as threats to their safety," Unicef's Manuel Fontaine said. Thousands of children have been kidnapped since the events in Chibok, and the agency fears the worst if they are used by the terror group in its bloody campaign.

"Boys are forced to attack their own families to demonstrate their loyalty to Boko Haram," the report states, "while girls are exposed to severe abuse including sexual violence and forced marriage to fighters." While Nigerian and other armies have been winning  battles and recapturing some areas, the nightmare doesn't necessarily end there for the victims. "The research suggests that many women who return to their families are viewed with deep suspicion either because they are carrying the children of Boko Haram fighters or because of the fear they may turn against their own communities," it goes on. "Such distrust is creating an atmosphere of terror and suspicion in many communities across the region.

Children born as a result of sexual violence risk being rejected and even killed for fear that they could turn against their families and communities when they grow up." In all some 1.3 million children have been uprooted by the region's violence, sadly, that does not include all of Africa. Up to 6,000 children may have been involved in the violence in the recent unrest in the Central African Republic, according to earlier UNICEF reports. The staggering number is chillingly similar to what the UN said represented the estimate of child soldiers in the earlier Darfur conflict, where two million children were affected by the violence.

"Since 2010, child soldier use by 20 states has been reported either directly in government armed forces or indirectly in armed groups which they support or are allied to," reports Child Soldiers International, another group combatting the phenomenon. "In addition, around 40 states still have a minimum voluntary recruitment age below 18 years." And the phenomenon isn't just present in Africa, with countries such as the Philippines, Colombia and Israel using child soldiers for "intelligence purposes."


Les documents maudits

Le drakkar islandais poursuit sa route contre vents et marées, mais qu'en est-il du capitaine? L'ile-nation au large de l'Europe traverse une nouvelle période de turbulence, comme si un de ses volcans avait encore frappé. Au coeur de la coquette capitale, le son des cuillères contre les chaudrons a à nouveau rebondit sur les murs de pierre de l'Althing, la maisonnette qui sert de parlement national; un nouvel appel à la démission du premier ministre.

Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson a ensuite cédé sa place en attendant des élections à l'automne, la première victime du flot de documents jadis confidentiels d'une firme du Panama qui braque les projecteurs sur l'ampleur des paradis d'évasion fiscale et les magouilles financières.  Egalement pointés du doigt, des dirigeants du Golfe, des proches des dirigeants chinois et africains, du président Poutine et Assad, ainsi que l'actuel président ukrainien lui-même, le tsar de la friandise. Une enquête a également été lancée sur ses avoirs à l'étranger. En revanche la démission du premier ministre à Kiev était sans lien avec l'affaire.

En Europe les accusations font déjà mal paraitre le premier ministre David Cameron alors qu'il prépare son pays à faire face à un autre référendum crucial, celui qui décidera de la place de la Grande-Bretagne en Europe. Plus récemment, c'est un ministre espagnol qui perdait son poste. Autant dire que la liste des personnes mentionnées dans ces millions de pages est longue, les premières révélations ne constituant que la pointe de l'iceberg, plutôt judicieux dans le cas de l'Islande. Cent quarante politiciens répartis dans 50 pays en tout.

Le monde politique n'était pas le seul à être ébranlé par cette fuite du cabinet d'avocat panaméen Mossack Fonseca, spécialisé dans la dissimulation fiscale, causant du fait la démission d'un responsable de la FIFA, une organisation déjà secouée par les scandales liés aux candidatures de la Russie et du Qatar. Le successeur de Sepp Blatter faisait d'ailleurs déjà l'objet d'interrogations. Somme toute des personnalités de pratiquement tous les pays y sont représentées.

Il s'agit d'une avalanche de juteux documents confidentiels qui éclipse même les trésors confidentiels d'Edward Snowden, et dans un pays qui a gardé les séquelles de l'écroulement financier de 2008, il en fallait bien peu pour causer un scandale insulaire, d'autant plus que les ministres de la finance et de l'intérieur étaient également pointés du doigt.

Alors que ces derniers ont nié tout lien, l'aveu du premier ministre a forcé son départ, et des élections anticipées voulues par une majorité d'Islandais. Impatiente après ce retour en arrière pénible, la population souhaiterait (à 51%) des élections dans les semaines prochaines plutôt qu'à l'automne. « Les gens dehors ne veulent pas attendre jusqu’à cet automne », insiste la dirigeante du populaire Parti pirate, qui détiendrait 43% de l'appui du public. L’opposition de gauche et centriste a cependant perdu sa motion de censure au Parlement.  

La plèbe a été sans pitié après le scandale financier de 2008, ayant évincé le premier ministre d'alors et condamné plusieurs banquiers au centre de la crise qui a coûté aux masses leurs précieuses économies. Gunnlaugsson avait jadis été accueilli comme un dirigeant susceptible de nettoyer les institutions, notamment les banques, tout en veillant à l'honneur national, notamment en se dressant contre la signature d'un accord remboursant les créanciers étrangers des banques du pays. Mais l'aveu d'avoir possédé une société dans les îles Vierges britanniques qui est devenue créancière des trois principales banques islandaises a causé la consternation. En opposant ces remboursements Gunnlaugsson servait une cause nationale… et personnelle, puisque ladite compagnie, Wintris, y trouvait gain de cause.


A hockey-less spring?


Amid the good-natured ribbing of the Obama-Trudeau bromance, during the prime minister's visit to Washington, a shot right to the heart: "Where's the Stanley Cup right now?" quipped Obama. Ouch.

Well it's still not north of the 49th, 23 years later, and seems further than even away from any of the seven Canadian cities that started off the season, some of them rather well.  But after a spectacular Montreal flame-out, disappointing Oilers immobilism - both clubs having been riddled with key injuries - and usual Maple Leafs hopelessness, the league will see no Canadian club participate in the post-season, a first in 45 years, and for only the second time in history.

Back in 1970, there were just two Canadian teams, and the Canadiens missed the playoffs by little despite a 5th overall ranking. Perhaps this is the price of repeat Olympic gold glory, as the pressure returns to a national team preparing the defense of its World Cup title at home this fall. But it's an awfully long stretch in between.

"Last year five Canadian teams made (the playoffs)," notes former great Mahovlich. "It shows you how fragile some of those teams can be when you have that many teams miss the playoffs after making the playoffs. Injuries play a part, there are so many factors that can set an organization back. It doesn't take much."

Tell that to the storied Habs, who despite their 100-plus years history had their best start ever cut short by injuries to they a key player, Carey Price. Out West this was the year Edmonton was surely going to cash in from that draft lottery and leave the cellar, but McDavid's torrid start was cut short by injury as well.

You needn't point out such pain to Mahovlich. "I was devastated," he said of missing the playoffs in 1970. "Really, really devastated. I'll tell you why I cried. I had been with the Detroit Red Wings for three years, and they had not made the playoffs in those three years. So I got traded to Montreal, and in the very first year I got traded there that was the first time they'd missed the playoffs in 20 years."

So what are Canadians to do for fun this spring? Well for starters most of the dispirited cities can count on junior teams, from the Edmonton Oil Kings to the Ottawa 67s and Toronto Marlies, to raise that post-season cheer. And some will see their favourite stars lace up for Team Canada at the world champs, though not necessarily wearing the red Maple Leaf.

Crying in their beers are thousands of bar owners across the land, who will have to do without the Sens Mile or other incarnations of outdoor playoff fun, and sports networks that will see a viewership dive from the fiercest fan base on this side of the 49th.


Struggling to find peace
Five years after the beginning of a conflict which has killed thousands and displaced millions there seemed to be a glimmer of hope at the end of the long dark tunnel of Syria's atrocities. Government troops recaptured a much diminished historical Palmyra and the regime hinted it could join the coalition to fight ISIS.

Meanwhile talks on the future of Syria have finally hit their stride after a series of meetings in Geneva, but early proposals by Kurds of seeking a federal solution for the north of the country are complicating efforts and have upset neighbor and regional giant Turkey, dealing with a series of deadly terror attacks.  

Ankara's focus on targeting Kurds near its borders, rather than solely hitting ISIS positions, have left some members of the coalition perplexed, but were justified in March after the first of two major terror blasts, one in Ankara, was attributed to Kurd militants being directed from beyond the tense border.

Days later Turkey's middleman position was again highlighted after a terror blast in Istanbul killed dozens, this one attributed to ISIS, the other foe in the region, and no friend of the Kurds, who have been battling Islamic militants and providing key boots on the ground well before the beginning of the air strikes campaign.  

The strikes have been continuing from all coalition partners, despite the ongoing talks, which do not involve ISIS, and Russia's recent drawdown on forces in Syria, where it maintains bases and missiles, and continues targeting the Islamic state. Earlier Moscow announced it was withdrawing some of its forces as the Geneva talks got underway, after months of reinforcing government positions to the point of making the opposition, also involved in the talks, initially reluctant to do so.  

The UN has been pressuring Damascus to make concrete proposals on a political transition, raising the issue which has divided countries trying to make the peace process work: the future of the Assad presidency. The opposition is insistent Assad's eventual departure be part of any peace deal, something Damascus has predictably vehemently opposed.  

While roadblocks remain on the troubled road to peace observers have applauded small steps, such as the relative observance of a ceasefire, at least between government and opposition, in the last month or so, which has allowed aid to reach desperate areas decimated by warfare.  

But all is not well between the partners for peace, Russia accusing Washington of foot dragging in the instances where there have been recorded ceasefire allegations, a charge the US has denied. Observers have credited Russia's withdrawal for pressuring Assad to up its game in the negotiations, a move done said showed Moscow was ready to look beyond his presidency to bring peace.  

Adding to difficulties in finding a solution for a parties were calls for the main Kurdish party, the PYD, to join the talks, something opposed by both the Syrian opposition and Turkey, after recent calls by Kurds for an autonomous self-administered region in the country.   

Militants based in the troubled north of Syria have struck Turkey's major cities despite repeated Turkish air strikes, promoting Ankara to declare it would not hesitate to take all measure necessary outside its borders to defend the homeland and leaving little sympathy for Kurdish militants.

Turkey has faced five major attacks since October, killing over 200, including bombings tied to the PKK Kurdish insurgency in the country's volatile southeast, often met with disproportionate military retaliation. This week seven were killed in a car bomb in the southeast of the country. Erdogan has said however he was in favor of the establishment of a safe zone in northern Syria.

In interviews with Russian media, president Bashar Assad dismissed the Kurdish suggestion, saying the country wasn't ready for federalism but needed a strong central government. While the Kurds aren't being invited to the negotiating table Assad, whose regime just held the first indirect meetings with the opposition, said he welcomed a national unity government, including members of the opposition.

"A solution would be a national unity government that would prepare a new constitution," he said. The opposition rejected this, insisting "Assad can't stay for more than an hour" after the establishment of any transition government.

Assad has estimated the damage suffered due to conflict across his country at $200 bil., and said allies Russia, China and Iran would have first dibs in the country's reconstruction efforts.


Historique, et entaché
Le Tribunal international pénal pour l'ex-Yougoslavie a du attendre dix ans après le génocide et dix après la mort du président serbe, dans sa cellule de la Haye, pour condamner un chef d'état, une décision historique certes, qui montrait les limites de l'immunité exécutive et redorait quelque peu le blason de la cour, mais quelque peu entachée par l'arrestation d'une ancienne porte-parole du TPIY alors qu'elle assistait au jugement attendu.  

Emportée par des gardes de la cour alors que l'ancien chef politique des Serbes de Bosnie Radovan Karadzic recevait une peine de 40 ans, Florence Hartmann, ancienne journaliste, tombait du coup dans le filet d'une justice qui la recherchait depuis sept ans pour avoir publié des décisions confidentielles dans un livre qui aurait mis à la lumière du jour l'implication de l'Etat serbe dans le génocide de Srebrenica.  

Condamnée pour outrage à la Cour, celle-ci avait refusé de payer une amende de 7000 euros, Paris quant à elle refusant de procéder à son arrestation et de la livrer au tribunal de la Haye. Celui-ci a cependant sévi lors de sa visite, procédant à son arrestation puis à une incarcération dans "des conditions de surveillance pour risque de suicide" selon ses avocats, qui protestent que "Cette contrainte par corps est une institution totalement archaïque, elle n'avait pas sa place dans une juridiction supposée respecter les meilleurs standards internationaux".  

Car alors que celle-ci est isolée des autres prisonniers, elle demeure en permanence dans sa cellule d'ou elle serait capable de voir un autre détenu de renom, l'ancien chef militaire des Serbes de Bosnie accusé de génocide, Ratko Mladić, libre de se promener dans la cour alors que selon les avocats elle est elle-même "enfermée dans une cage".  

Karadzic quant à lui a été reconnu coupable de 10 des 11 chefs d'accusation auxquels il faisait face mais fera appel de ce verdict. Le général Mladic attend toujours de faire face au tribunal, lui dont les forces ont capturé et tué 8000 musulmans lors de cette page d'histoire, toujours source de divisions entre les pays voisins, que l'on a décrit à titre de pire massacre depuis la Seconde Guerre mondiale.  

L'auteur montréalais Adis Simidzija, qui avait trois ans lorsqu'il a quitté la Bosnie-Herzegovine en 1998, voit en la condamnation de Karadzic une décision historique malgré tout.  « C'est un mélange d'émotions mitigées par rapport au fait que c'est quelque chose de très symbolique [...] Considérant son âge avancé [...] il va crever en prison », dit-il. L'écrivaine montréalaise Maya Ombasic, également satisfaite du verdict, note cependant qu'il en restent encore à l'écart de la justice.  « Je déplore surtout que tous les criminels des tous les côtés ne soient pas condamnés et que Karadizc est certes coupable, mais que c'est aussi un bouc émissaire ».

Belgrade et Moscou n'y ont évidemment vu que du feu, la première dénonçant l'application d'une «justice sélective»:  «Toute justice qui débouche sur la condamnation d'un seul peuple pour des crimes qui ont été commis par tous est sélective», a déclaré un communiqué du gouvernement. Pour sa part le vice-ministre russe des Affaires étrangères, Guennadi Gatilov estime que «les activités du TPIY sont politiquement motivées».

L'accueil n'a pas été plus chaleureux chez les familles des victimes, qui considèrent la peine prononcée «inadéquate». Il l'a été encore moins cette semaine lorsque ce même tribubal a acquitté l'ultranationaliste serbe Vojislav Seselj de toutes les accusations, faute de preuve.

"L'accusation n'a pas présenté de preuves suffisantes pour établir que les crimes ont été commis", a déclaré le juge Jean-Claude Antonetti. La Croatie a notamment dénoncé la décision, Seselj ayant été accusé de progager "une politique visant à réunir tous 'les territoires serbes' dans un État serbe homogène, qu'il appelait la 'Grande Serbie'", des crimes en Serbie, Bosnie et Croatie.


25 ans plus tard, le morcellement
Avec l'éclatement il y a un quart de siècle, le morcellement, et les tiraillements également, qui perdurent de nos jours.  Les frontières des états qui constituaient l'ancienne union des  républiques soviétiques restent parfois matière à confusion, une confusion qui passe près de dégénérer vers l'échange des tirs.  

La crise de la Crimée est sans doute la mieux connue dans le genre, sans en être la seule. Puis en mars les visions Kyrgyzes et Ouzbeks sont passés à quelques heures de l'escalade quand les premiers ont tenté de mettre la main sur un réservoir d'eau dans une zone contestée, en l'occurrence une installation à 10 kilomètres de la frontière.  

Les deux pays ayant été membres d'une même union, et d'un même empire pendant des décennies, la tracé reste flou entre deux pays dont les régimes remportent la palme des plus corrompus de la planète, d'autant plus qu'il a changé à plusieurs reprises aux jours de l'URSS.  Les deux pays ont dépêché des troupes et quelques véhicules blindés au long du tracé actuel, avant de retourner dans leurs casernes, insatisfaits.    

"Il y a des parties contestées de la frontière Kyrgyze-ouzbéke qui devraient appartenir au Kyrgyzstan mais sont utilisées par l'Ouzbékistan," soutient quant à lui Kurbanbay Iskanderov, l'envoyé spécial kyrgyze en matière de frontière.  

La crise a commencé lorsque des travailleurs ouzbeks ont vu leur accès au site bloqué par le Kyrgyzstan, provoquant un déploiement d'effectifs militaires ouzbek.  

La question des minorité a de longue date créé des tensions entre les deux voisins, le Kyrgyzstan ayant une minorité ouzbek importantes. Des éclats à Osh en 2010 avaient fait 400 victimes et quelques milliers de blessés.  

A part l'Ukraine, une crise frontalière faite de toutes pièces afin de justifier l'occupation russe, d'autres crises frontalières ont marqué l'après-URSS.  Parmi elles la ligne entre l'Estonie et la Lettonie, deux frères baltes déchirés par une occupation dont les séquelles sont encore source de complications.  

En fait lors des 25 dernières années on ne recense pas moins de 170 disputes ethno-territoriales dans l'ancien ensemble soviétique dont plus de 70 touchent la Russie à elle seule, qui demeure le pays le plus étendu du globe. Celle-ci connait également un différend avec la Lettonie d'autant plus sensible que le pays abrite une importante minorité russe.


"What we feared has happened "

The arrest of Europe's most wanted man, tied to the terrible November attacks in Paris, was a rare moment to celebrate for law enfor-cement authorities on the continent. It would help fill some of the missing pieces of the puzzle of last year's atrocities and bring some measure of closure to the families. In a news conferen-ce the French and Belgian leaders praised the work of authorities who were looking to get rare insight into terror networks in Europe by capturing a live operative. Early elements of the investigation even showed Salah Abdeslam may in fact have been planning new attacks. But it was a race against time authorities were losing and may have precipitated terror projects already in the works.

The celebration didn't last very long. Abdeslam was arrested with two accomplices but others were also being sought as authorities attempted to net suspects possibly part of a much broader network of jihadists in Europe. Mere days after the arrest, coordinated attacks in Brussels at the airport and in the subway killed dozens, bringing terror once more to the streets of Europe, in a capital which had increasingly been designated as a preparation ground for further bloodshed, and this despite previous raids and tightened security measures which over the holidays had cancelled new year celebrations. Now officials are coming under criticism for missed opportunities as another manhunt and race against time begins.

"What we feared has happened," regretted Belgian prime minister Charles Michel. "We are at war," said French President Francois Hollande as rescue operations were still being carried out, adding that Europe itself, not just Belgium, had been targeted. Transport networks were shut down and authorities asked people to stay indoors and text rather than burden an already overloaded telephone network. Volunteers were also asked to donate blood as the death toll rose over 30.  

Abdeslam had been arrested in Brussel's Molenbeek neigh-bourhood, which had garnered attention well before the Paris attacks. This is where an earlier plot had been disrupted, where someone tied to a terror attempt on a train was from and where many jihadists gone abroad had returned. On the eve of the bombings, perhaps seeming desperate, IS had called for attacks anywhere by its operatives or those drawn to the organization's hateful ideology.  Belgium is home to NATO's headquarters, the organization leading the coalition against IS in the Middle East, which includes France.

Paris quickly  increased already elevated levels of security and planned to implement new transport security procedures. Security measures were also heightened elsewhere, including the U.S., where police increased vigilance at transport hubs.  Some of the Brussels blasts had occurred at an airport ticket counter, before security screening, leaving passengers vulnerable to attack. Security officials are increasingly looking to improve screening procedures for passengers before these checks. In Israel passengers face roadblocks on the way to Ben Gurion airport before a first X-Ray screening in the terminal, all preceding the usual full security screening of passengers. In India subway riders must pass through metal detectors. But experts were looking into whether a failure by Belgian intelligence had allowed the attack to take place despite heightened security and live investigations.

Abdeslam's arrest had unveiled a stash of weapons explosives experts say pointed to attacks in the works. By some accounts Belgian intelligence was aware attacks were planned but lacked the details to prevent them.  "Despite being anticipated by intelligence agencies these attacks are difficult to prevent, but terror can't be allowed to win," Canadian foreign minister Stephane Dion said. According to the French prime minister there was no doubt risks had been even higher recently than they were last fall. "We must be united" the U.S. president said in comments from Cuba echoing that of other world leaders.

IS soon claimed responsibility for the attacks, citing the country's participation in the coalition to defeat it and threatened other coalition members.  The group claimed a number of militants opened fire in the airport hall before setting off explosives. Uncertainty on the number of attackers was further fuelled by this message as authorities bore in mind Abdeslam had changed his mind about setting off his explosive vest in France and fled instead, possibly to plan more attacks. Belgian authorities said one bomb which had failed to detonate at the airport was neutralized, preventing further casualties, and were now looking for suspects seen on security cameras.

According to President Recep Erdogan, the leader of a country which has faced repeated IS and Kurdish terror attacks, one of the attackers was caught in Turkey in June and deported to the Netherlands after being flagged to Brussels. Officials there said there was no reason to suspect him of terrorism at the time but now admit they "missed a chance", two cabinet ministers offering to step down.

Officials also said the bomb maker  in a number of attacks may have been killed at the airport and discovered more explosives at the home of one of the attackers, sending chills down the spine of intelligence services. Two suspects in the attacks, one in the subway the other in the airport, were identified as two brothers with extensive criminal records. One in fact , Khalid El-Bakraoui, was on an Interpol red notice for terrorism since last summer. The brothers were found to have rented an apartment which was used by Abdeslam, tying the Paris and Brussels attacks.

Although the bombings have rattled the old continent they were but the latest after decades of bloody acts by various organizations in Europe. In the 1990s France was regularly targeted by Algerian militants, often hitting the country's transport system. Britain, Spain and Greece were rattled by various groups in the 70s and 80s and airports were targeted by Palestinian terrorists well before 9-11. In time these attacks have built up the resiliency of many citizens. This was on display as passengers injured and shaken by the subway bombing calmly left the stricken car in a darkened and smoky tunnel, a scene of eerie calm and silence only punctuated by the cries of small children.


Doutes sur l'Iran
L'entente sur le nucléaire a beau avoir mis fin à l'embargo commercial, et les élections récentes ont beau avoir permis à plusieurs modérés de prendre leur siège à Téhéran, il n'empêche que les relations irano-occidentales sont à peine au point du dégel. Comme tant d'autres moments d'espoir dans le passé, celui-ci a vite été suivi par un dur retour à la réalité, cruelle et froide.

Les essais de missiles récents ont rapide-ment ravivé les tensions, faisant fi des menaces de nouvelles sanctions améri-caines. Participant actif du conflit syrien, Téhéran ne reste pas moins un partenaire qui laisse les membres de la coalition nerveux, malgré les gestes d'ouverture de pays comme la France, nouvellement réengagée avec la république islamique sur le plan militaire. Cette initiative parisienne ne plait d'ailleurs pas à tout le monde en Occident.

Non seulement Téhéran a-t-elle procédé à de nouveaux essais de missiles, ceux-ci auraient été marqués de l'inscription Khomeinienne "Israël doit être annihilé". L'encre était pourtant toute fraîche sur la mise en application de l'entente sur le nucléaire, mais le geste a néanmoins trainé l'épineuse question iranienne devant le Conseil de sécurité de l'ONU. Alors que les test y furent condamnés à titre de "provocants et destabilisants", la Russie a menacé d'apposer son véto contre toute condamnation du régime, estimant que les tests ne constituaient pas une violation de résolution de la part de Téhéran.

"Nous ne pouvons pas nous plonger la tête dans le sable en espérant que les ayatollahs agissent d'une façon responsable," déclara pour sa part l'ambassadeur israélien Danny Danon, en quête de "mesures punitives". Le langage employé par un dirigeant des Gardes révolutionnaires soulignait d'ailleurs l'immobilisme politique malgré l'entente récente.

"Plus nos ennemis élèvent des sanctions, plus notre réaction sera intense," déclara le général Hossein Salami, une des têtes des Gardes. Selon le régime les missiles ont des fins purement défensives. Mais les Iraniens ne nient pas que la cible est bien israélienne même si, selon le général Amir Hajizadeh "il n'y a aucun besoin de détruire le régime sioniste car il va s'écrouler tout seul à la longue", ajoutant: "notre principal ennemi est les Etats-Unis".

Il n'y avait nul doute que l'entente nucléaire avait été conclue non pas par amitié mais par nécessité, un état des faits qui continue d'expliquer les tensions actuelles et sou-ligne du fait les divisions iraniennes; selon que les gestes, comme l'entente sur le nucléaire, engagent le président Hassan Rouhani, ou les Gardes, qui rendent des comptes au chefs spirituels. Cette semaine Washington écrouait une demi douzaine de cyber terroristes iraniens agissant, dit-on, au compte de Téhéran.

Même si Washington et Téhéran ont des positions très divergentes sur bien des fronts, les quelques gestes d'ouverture de l'administration Obama ont été suffisants pour attirer la foudre à la fois du pays hébreu et des monarchies du Golfe. Sans être un porte-parole officiel du royaume, l'ancien chef du renseignement, le prince Turki al-Faisal, pouvait faire écho des positions de Riyadh: "Vous nous accusez de provoquer une crise sectaire en Syrie, au Yémen et en Irak et en plus vous nous insultez en nous demandant de bien vouloir partager le monde avec l'Iran, un pays que vous décrivez en tant que supporter du terrorisme." Les monarchies du Golfe wahabites et la capitale du monde chiite sont également divisées sur la question libanaise et celle du pétrole.


Rien pour régler la question saharienne
Il est plutôt rare que le chef de la diplomatie mondiale par excellence soit lui-même à la source de bisbille entre nations - en l'occurrence sur la délicate question du Sahara occidental, vieille de 40 ans - mais la visite de Ban Ki-moon en Algérie plus tôt cet hiver semble avoir plutôt enragé son voisin chérifien et davantage compliqué la recherche d'une solution entre les dunes.

Le royaume a en effet qualifié de "dérapages verbaux" les déclarations de Ban Ki-moon sur l'"occuptation" du Sahara lors de sa visite d'un camp de réfugiés. Le chef de l'ONU avait demandé à son émissaire régional de reprendre les tournées après une période où les partis "n'ont fait aucun progrès réel dans les négociations devant aboutir à une solution juste et acceptable par tous fondée sur l'auto-détermination du peuple du Sahara occidental".

Mais alors que son organisation se disait prête à mettre en place un référendum sur la question en cas d'accord avec le Front Polisario indépendantiste, Rabat n'y a vu que du feu, les déclarations risquant même de "compromettre" les négociations.  Voilà 25 ans que la force régionale MINURSO a été mise en place afin de préparer   une telle consultation, sans l'ombre d'un rapprochement, ce qui dans le désert n'étonne personne.  

Les propriétés espagnoles anciennes ou actuelles au Maroc ne cessent pas de taquiner le régime, qui n'a jamais mis la main sur les enclaves de Ceuta et Melilla, très connues des migrants qui y voient une porte d'entrée de l'Europe. Pour des grands diplomates avec la langue de bois, les secrétaires généraux de l'ONU, actuel et antérieurs, semblent avoir la langue bien pendante ces derniers temps. Quelques jours plus tôt l'ancien secrétaire général Kofi Annan laissait entendre que la guerre contre les drogues a été perdue et celle-ci devaient être légitimées. Annan avait visité le Sahara occidental en 1998, première tentative de relancer les pourparlers.  

La situation est de longue date, rappelait son successeur, qui a parlé de camps réfugiés "parmi les plus anciens dans le monde". Ki-moon achève son mandat et aurait voulu à sa façon "apporter sa contribution à la recherche d'un règlement" mais celui reste pour l'heure loin d'être atteint. Selon Rabat "le Sahara demeurera dans son Maroc jusqu'à la fin des temps" un thème repris par des milliers de manifestants qui ont pris la rue à Rabat en criant « Le Maroc est dans son Sahara et le Sahara est marocain » et « Non au favoritisme pour l’Algérie au détriment de l’unité nationale marocaine !»

Une visite marocaine du secrétaire général, prévue à l'origine pour "plus tard cette année" semble avoir disparu du calendrier, Ki-moon étant revenu à la charge après avoir exprimé "sa profonde déception et sa colère", estimant que ses propos avaient été manipulés afin de donner un air de partialité, accusant le régime de "manque de respect" envers lui. Il a notamment regretté la manifestation "qui l'avait pris pour cible personnellement".  "De telles attaques témoignent d'un manque de respect pour sa personne et pour les Nations unies", affirmait-il dans un communiqué, notant que "plusieurs membres du gouvernement marocain" y participaient.  

Le secrétaire général a par ailleurs "pris note du malentendu" autour de son usage du terme "occupation" employé lors de son voyage, soulignant l'avoir utilisé pour décrire sa "réaction personnelle" au sort des réfugiés sahraouis. L'affaire prit un sérieux tel cette semaine que le Maroc a demandé et obtenu le départ des membres de l'ONU stationnés dans la région, alors que le "malentendu" faisait l'objet d'une réunion spéciale du Conseil de sécurité de l'ONU. Cette semaine alors que le début du retrait des membres de la MINURSO avait lieu après le manque de position commune au Conseil, un porte-parole de l'ONU déclarait: "Nous espérons toujours pouvoir sauver la mission et restaurer nos relations avec le Maroc".


Under their own banner
Only those from Syria number some 4 million, add those from Iraq (1.5 million) and the eternal all Palestinian diaspora (6 million) and you are talking about the size of a decent sized country. So why wouldn't they have their own athletics team?

This year for the first time Refugee athletes will be making their way to Rio, walking into Maracana stadium under the IOC flag. This has happened before for athletes whose countries ceased to exist, but IOC president Thomas Bach said this year refugees would field a team for the first time, and some 40 have so far been identified.

They will however have to make the cut as fewer than a dozen are expected to walk out of the tunnel during the opening ceremonies this summer.

The conservative organization is usually nervous about making statements during its ceremonies, such as in Sochi where a single Ukrainian athlete marched to protest the Russian invasion, but there is no denying the signal sent here.

"It sends a clear message to the world," commented Congolese born wrestler Popole Mysenga, "if you're a refugee you can keep hope in your heart." The athlete training in Brasil, where he would not qualify to make the national team, hopes to be among the few trailblazers.

Another Olympic hopeful has her own story of survival and hope. Just last year Yusra Mardini and her sister Sarah fled their home in Damascus for Beirut, Istanbul and finally Izmir in Turkey, where they counted themselves lucky after securing a spot on one of those highly unstable crafts attempting the crossing into European waters daily.

They were just about the only people on the boat, overflowing with 20 refugees,  who could swim, and therefore salvage the situation when the craft's tiny motor stopped working and the rocky seas threatened to send most of the group to their death. Instead they joined another woman in the water helping to stabilize the craft to the shore.

“I thought it would be a real shame if I drowned in the sea, because I am a swimmer,” she told reporters last week. And now she hopes to become an Olympian by using the same water skills should have already earned her a medal in any case.

So far she, Misenga, and Iranian taekwondo fighter Raheleh Asemani, currently in Belgium, are the only ones named. Others, aged between 17 and 30, include a sizeable contingent from Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp near South Sudan.

IOC Olympic Solidarity programme director Pere Miro said after a recent visit to the camp he was “more convinced than ever that pulling together a refugee team could work”.

The IOC has since held professional trials, identifying nearly two dozen athletes can will compete to make the cut, most of them including middle- and long-distance runners from South Sudan, Burundi and Rwanda as well as others from Uganda and Mali to Iraq.

“I was touched in seeing how the people live in this camp,” Miro has said. “It’s in the middle of nowhere. They have nothing to do. The main activity that keeps them motivated and alive is sport.”

Now these athletes are hoping to get their big break, and when given a chance, give something back.

“Maybe I will build my life here in Germany," Mardini said, "and when I am an old lady I will go back to Syria and teach people about my experience.”


The very real risks of Brexit


A little over forty years after Britons said yes to closer ties with Europe in a referendum, they will be asked whether to pursue a relationship which has torn the island ever since the fall of the Second World War, when bleeding European powers sought closer ties to prevent a future conflict from ever devastating the old continent again. Conflict did come again, in the ever explosive Balkans and then further east in the Ukraine, which still smoulders, but conflict between the original architects of the Union involved traded barbs rather than gunfire.

This cross-Channel division delayed the 1975 referendum in which Britons were called to decide whether they should join the growing and thriving EEC. Until then London had hesitated, still pulled by trans-Atlantic ties which had helped it survive during its darkest hours. When it decided to make the leap it was rebuffed by its old continental rival, France, until the general's retirement. Hadn't de Gaulle declared, in 1963, that England's very "nature and structure... differ from that of continental states"? Then as now a Conservative government led efforts in favor of ties with the continent, which were welcome by two thirds of Britons.

Forty years later this enthusiasm has waned to the point of making this year's June 23rd vote necessary, the U.K. having forged closer ties but never joining in the euro, one less appealing now than it has perhaps ever been. Originally the question asked whether "the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union" until it was amended for clarity to add "or leave the European Union". Polling suggested a tight race, with 38% seeking to leave the EU while 37% sought to remain and, more importantly, 25% undecided.  London Mayor Boris Johnson has become the charismatic face of the pro-Brexit movement, usually backed by fringe parties such as UKIP but now supported by a number of cabinet members as well, causing divisions in the ruling conservatives.

Prime Minister David Cameron is however backing EU membership with a "two-tier" approach that, as in 1975, would allow the fiercely independent island to opt out of certain elements of membership by delaying Eurozone regulations and giving the UK "special status" that avoids "ever closer union".  But this could give other member states some ideas of their own, threatening the union, observers warned. As in the lead up to the Scottish referendum businesses came out in force against Brexit. Some 60% of 40,000 companies polled said they preferred staying in the EU. Britain's influential Economist warned about the risks of leaving the EU, both to Britain and other countries.

"Brexit would deal a heavy blow to Europe, a continent already on the ropes. It would uncouple the world’s fifth-largest economy from its biggest market, and unmoor the fifth-largest defence spender from its allies. Poorer, less secure and disunited, the new EU would be weaker; the West, reliant on the balancing forces of America and Europe, would be enfeebled, too."

A Brexit could upset the isles as well the magazine noted, giving Scotland's indepen-dence movement its second wind and even threatening the peace in Northern Ireland, as Dublin pleaded for Britain to remain in the EU. But author Conrad Black said he could see the advantages of ideas proposed by Johnson, finding the mayor would negotiate "a better deal" for the UK, and otherwise pointing out it could gain a much larger market by teaming with its former Commonwealth powers. European Council President Donald Tusk meanwhile warned the Union, already shakened by the eurocrisis and a migrant crisis which has undermined the Schengen agreement, could crumble from Brexit.

Last weekend finance ministers from the world's top economies warned Brexit could have far deeper implications and "shock" the global economy, at a time its markets are shaky from dropping oil prices. UK Chancellor George Osborne told the BBC "the financial leaders of the world's biggest countries have given their unanimous verdict and they say that a British exit from the EU would be a shock to the world's economy - imagine what it would do to Britain." As expected UKIP's Nigel Farange downplayed the announcement, at a meeting of G20 countries, was "no surprise... This is big banks, big business, big government all scratching each other's backs."

The warnings didn't stop there, and in fact spoke of years of uncertainty if Britain left the EU. “This would be a long period of uncertainty, which would have consequences for U.K. businesses, trade and inward investment,” said one 28-page report from London's bureaucrats.  “The U.K.’s relationship with the EU has built up over 40 years of membership and affects many aspects of life in the U.K., and of U.K. citizens living across the EU; the terms of exit would have to cover the full extent of that relationship,” it said, adding leaving “would begin a period of uncertainty, of unknown length, and an unpredictable outcome.” The report said everything from car manufacturing to financial services and the lives of Britons abroad would feel the impact, as the pound slipped.

Hogwash, retorted the eurosceptics, only seeing a "campaign of fear" being waged by London. "There is an attempt going on to scare people into staying with the status quo, when I think the real risk is that we will simply remain in a system that is less and less suitable to our needs and it's time for the UK to have the courage to strike a new series of views," said Johnson. In a meeting with Cameron this week, French president François Hollande was diplomatic but firm: “I don’t want to scare you, but I just want to say the truth. There will be consequences in many areas: on the single market, on financial trade, on economic development between our two countries. Now that doesn’t mean that everything will be destroyed, I don’t want to give you a catastrophic scenario. But there will be consequences especially in terms of people as well”, especially on the hot button issue of migrants.


Dernier mandat pour Evo?
Au pouvoir depuis plus d'une décennie, l'architecte de la révolution bolivarienne a su garder son poste grâce à un appui partisan solide soutenu par un recours au référendum régulier, une économie en croissance aidant. Mais les premiers remous populaires se sont fait sentir lorsque son référendum sur un quatrième mandat a connu l'échec, mettant fin à son règne en 2020. Saura-t-il honorer ce résultat? C'est ce qu'il compte faire.

"Nous respectons les résultats, cela fait partie de la démocratie, dit-il, ayant essuyé l'échec, un "non" au projet de poursuivre un nouveau mandat qui l'aura emporté par la mince avance de 51,3%. "A l'exception de ce référendum", ajoute-t-il, il aura "remporté chaque victoire", puis son parti conserve l'appui de la moitié de la population.

Evo Morales est déjà le premier chef d'état de son pays à avoir enligné trois mandats consécutifs, le dernier avec pas moins de 59% des votes, mais les conditions ont nettement changé avec l'effritement économique lié à la baisse du prix des ressources naturelles et l'impatience populaire rattachée aux cas de corruption. Parmi eux l'affaire à saveur de telenovela impliquant l'ancienne petite amie du président.

Gabriela Zapata, avec qui il aurait eu un enfant, occupe un poste important à la tête d'une compagnie chinoise qui a reçu bon nombre de contrats de l'état. Ses opposants reprochent également à Evo d'avoir favorisé les siens, les indiens Amayas, au long de son règne, et d'avoir pris un goût à l'autoritarisme. "Peu de gens vont nier que la Bolivie a vécu une croissance économique et sociale impressionnante avec Morales, note l'analyste Michael Shifter à Washington, plusieurs électeurs sont de l'opinion que ce n'est pas assez. Ils exigent un gouvernement propre, qui rend des comptes et une politique plus compétitive".

Le camp Morales s'avouait déçu du résultat, un membre haut-placé du parti, Gabriela Montano remettant en question "la tradition libérale de la rotation des dirigeants" en ajoutant que celle-ci n'avait pas toujours bien servi son pays. A l'extérieur des bureaux de scrutins où le décompte avait lieu des manifestants, craignant une manipulation du pouvoir, ont protesté en scandant "fraude! fraude!"

Certains supporters de Morales se sont quant à eux livrés à des éclats dans les quartiers plus pauvres de La Paz. Selon l'ancien rival présidentiel Samuel Doria Medina "Nous avons retrouvé notre démocratie et le droit de choisir". De son côté l'ancien président Carlos Mesa note: "ce que le vote des Boliviens a indiqué est qu'il n'y existe personne d'indispensable, seulement des causes le sont."

La Bolivie n'est que le dernier gouvernement latino-américain à être entaché par des affaires de corruption, qui ont été coûteuses en Argentine et au Venezuela. Dans les trois pays il s'agit d'une gifle à la gauche après des années au pouvoir.  En décembre le parti de Nicolas Maduro subissait un important revers lors des élections du congrès au Venezuela, alors qu'en novembre l'ère Kirchner prenait fin en Argentine avec l'élection d'un homme de droite, Mauricio Macri.


China's latest sea maneuvers
First there were tense ship interceptions in the disputed waters, which include busy shipping lanes, abundant energy resources and rich fishing grounds.  Then China built artificial islands long enough to land planes and set up controversial outposts.   On some contested islands the installation of surface to air missiles has further upped the ante.  Now the Middle Kingdom is accused of installing a high frequency radar on a contested island to further the divide between Beijing and other capitals disputing the territorial claims.

According to one think-tank, this may be even more alarming than the missiles. The stakes are getting higher as China and the U.S., not to mention the half dozen or so countries involved in disputes over territorial waters in the East and South China seas, continue to move their pieces on the increasingly complex maritime chess board.   

The installation of high altitude surface to air missiles on  Woody Island, part of the disputed Paracels, already increased tensions, coming after a few shows of defiance by China's rivals, especially the U.S., which sent a warship in the contested sealanes and jet fighters overhead at a time Beijing would rather be told about overflights.

Washington said it was gearing up for  “very serious" conversations with the regime, even if other countries involved in the South China Sea dispute, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia, have stationed military hardware and troops in the area for years.     But the radar may be going as far as posing a big threat to the tenuous balance of power in the tense region, according to an analysis by the Center of Strategic and International studies.     

“This month’s deployment of HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island in the Paracels, while notable, does not alter the military balance in the South China Sea,” said CSIS' Gregory Poling. “New radar facilities being developed in the Spratlys, on the other hand, could significantly change the operational landscape.”    

The facilities in fact “speak to a long-term anti-access strategy by China -- one that would see it establish effective control over the sea and airspace throughout the South China Sea,” he adds.  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said “there is evidence every day that there has been an increase of militarization of one kind or another.”    

Observers say this sort of jingoism may be a measure to distract from a slowing economy. Recently China fired a top market regulator in order to boost confidence in its economy, which has seen growth slip under 7 percent.   While China compares its installation, on a reef where it has reclaimed thousands of square lies from the sea, to similar work being done in the U.S. state of Hawaii, Washington was quick to respond there was no dispute over the U.S.' possession of the state.

The disputes are at the heart of America's Asia pivot, and even sent Australia, already engaged in the Syria air campaign, on sort of a shopping spree, in the great militarization of the sealanes. Indeed Canberra announced it planned to spend A$50 billion on a fleet of a dozen new submarines in what is being billed as one of the world's biggest defence contracts, part of a 20-year blueprint that has everything to do about containing China's influence in the region.

A defense white paper lays out plans for four times as much spending over the next decade. “Territorial disputes between claimants in the East China and South China Seas have created uncertainty and tension in our region,” the paper said. This week Southeast Asian foreign ministers reiterated the importance of unrestricted access to the South China Sea and "remained seriously concerned over the recent and ongoing developments" including "land reclamations and escalation of activities."


After New Hampshire
 
By the time Americans honoured the political tradition that is late night voting in Dixville Notch, the freak show would surely end, leaving the choices unhin-dered by the reality TV spectacle leading to the first state-sanctioned vote of the U.S. electoral year. After all hadn't the Iowa caucuses set an air of reality by delivering the boisterous Republican front runner a first setback? Reality would come, safe, predictable and unspec-tacular. Except that it didn't.   

Donald Trump would, a day after being bleeped by the networks for uttering foul language on the stump - only repeating a supporter's words he said -, handily take the Granite state, and move his campaign onwards, winning South Carolina, his GOP opponents scrambling to mount an establishment sanctioned opposition, a field of over a dozen chipped down to five.

The Trump show had stopped being funny a long time ago, slipping into the realm of terrifying. "It's so fun to watch that it's easy to lose sight of how terrifying it really is," opined columnist Ezra Klein. "Trump is the most dangerous major candidate for president in memory. He pairs terrible ideas with an alarming temperament, he's a racist, a sexist, and a demagogue, but he's also a narcissist, a bully and dilettante." And a front runner. And this is scaring observers not only across the U.S. but in other countries.

Just north of the border 70 percent of Canadians polled held a harsh view of the U.S. billionaire and saw Hillary Clinton most likely to be elected in November. But the former First Lady faced a tough battle against Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, losing New Hampshire by a mile and shaking up her campaign team early out of the gate as questions continued to dog her on her use of personal email when she was Secretary of State. This weekend she narrowly took Nevada with 52% of the vote after a week polls showed here neck and neck with Sanders nationally.

Long considered America's first female president in waiting, Clinton struggled to maintain her grip on women's vote and seemed to be blown away by the young electorate's appetite for change, away from the establishment; which made both her Democratic and Republican rivals so appealing. And divided. In a country where political division had been a concern for years, the New Hampshire winners upped the ante, a left-wing populist that would hike taxes on the rich and businesses and allow for a greater government role in health and education going up against a business mogul - often compared to that Buffone Silvio Berlusconi - who "fights like hell" not to pay taxes.

Oddly both candidates agree on one thing, for different reasons: Nafta would have to go, of certain interest to their neighbors. Now well into primary season, the GOP  struggled with what to do with a front-runner who still toyed with the idea of running as a third-party candidate, at least for leverage. "For the establishment wing of the Republican party the picture just keeps getting bleaker," wrote  Politico. "Far from winnowing the crowded field of GOP contenders and allowing it to unify around a standard bearer New Hampshire thrust it further into chaos."

The developing narrative "is the perfect storm for Trump," told the website strategist Matt Dowd. While Chris Christie suspended his bid, the remaining field was divided enough to leave Trump firmly in a front runner's role. "The bunching up in low digits of the mainstream candidates is a dream come true from Trump," added former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. "His opposition divides, he conquers."  

The appeal of change remained strong in America eight years after it was carried under the banner of the man who would become America's first black president, but for the Democrats this didn't involve the person who would be America's first female president, rather her older male opponent, whose campaign - from its success among youths to fundraising - harkened back to what had made the Obama campaign so successful.   

Sanders in fact outraised his opponent by $5 million in January, placing him in a position few thought possible months ago. He raised practically as much in the 18 hours after his New Hampshire win alone. But Sanders will need to chip away at Clinton's support among minorities the same way he did among women, to hope to remain a threat to get the nomination down the stretch, and while Nevada gave the former Senator a run for her money, the women's vote helped her secure the win after weeks of increasingly tight polling. Sanders had at least made Al Sharpton hesitate about endorsing his rival.

In Nevada there was the same hesitation by usually supportive unions to endorse Clinton while Sanders' message resonated in South Carolina towns which usually backed the former First Lady. But the congressional black caucus eventually endorsed Clinton. While the president withheld any endorsement of his own before the winner is ultimately selected, his spokesman made clear his preference for his former rival. Clinton meanwhile slammed Sanders for his criticism of the Obama presidency as something one would "expect from Republicans", remarks Sanders panned as "a low blow", but that's as bad as it got, and rather sweet when compared to the increasingly nasty GOP mudslinging and name-calling.

Trump led the way, of course, promising to tone down the foul language, especially as he got closer to the presidency, but said he could sue rival Calgary-born Ted Cruz "for not being a natural born citizen." This week the site tedcruzforAmerica.com in fact linked to Canada's immigration department. Analysts feared the ugly contest only deprived Republicans of a serious debate on issues. A GOP nightmare, Trump went further, attacking the George W. Bush years, stressing Sept. 11 had happened under his watch, and the establishment along with it, before threatening to reconsider his pledge as a Republican, accusing the party of being unfair to him.

A divided opposition would be a Democratic candidate's dream come true. This as the death of a conservative Supreme Court judge promised to have an impact on major court decisions in the U.S., on matters ranging from immigration to voting rights, as well as the election. While Obama said he would use his constitutional right to recommend a replacement judge, some wondered whether a staunchly opposed GOP base wouldn't erupt as a result. If a third party candidate did enter the ring however, things could only get even more out of control. And things aren't all looking up for the Donald.

One poll had him trailing a contender for the first time, Ted Cruz, who slightly trailed Marco Rubio in South Carolina, while the businessman was wrestling with a higher power. In comments to reporters the Pope questioned Trump's Christianity for looking to raise more walls on the Mexican border. Pope Francis held a prayer there which was enjoyed by worshippers on both sides of the border instead.


Crainte de vide en Haiti
Encore une élection reportée, encore des manifestations violentes dans les rues, et puis, comme si ce n'était pas assez, un vide exécutif qui ne fait rien pour corriger l'instabilité à Hispaniola.  Le tout sur un fond de crise économique aggravée par des années de sécheresse. Les peines se poursuivent sur l'ile de tous les maux, où la transition politique se fait dans le désordre après la fin d'une présidence symbolique -suite au désastre du séisme- sans pour autant avoir été très appréciée.

Le président Martelly a bien quitté son palais à Port-au-Prince, mais le report du second tour de la présidentielle plus tôt cette année a plongé la Perle des Caraïbes dans la crainte de nouvelles instabilités. Ce second tour, opposant le candidat choyé par Martelly, Jovenel Moise, et Jude Celestin, a été reporté en fin avril. Afin d'éviter un vide catastrophique les dirigeants nationaux, avec l'aval de l'Organisation des Etats d'Amérique, sont arrivés à une entente mettant en place un gouvernement et un président provisoires, mais celle-ci n'a pas rassuré tout le monde pour autant.

Ce dimanche le président du sénat, Jocelerme Privert a été élu par le parlement pour un mandat pouvant aller jusqu'à 120 jours, et les défis ne manquent pas même dans l'attente de celui qui occupera véritablement le poste de chef d'état. Les dernières déclarations du président sortant en étaient un certain résumé, celui-ci faisant appel au calme dans une rue surexcitée.

«Je demande aux différents protagonistes, ceux qui utilisent la violence particulièrement, de comprendre qu’à chaque fois qu’il y a de la violence en Haïti, Haïti fait un pas en arrière, déclara Martelly en veille du départ. La démocratie, c’est ça, se positionner, se faire entendre. Mais évitons les casses, évitons l’incertitude, évitons de repousser les investisseurs parce que Haïti a besoin d’investissements. Il faut que la stabilité règne au pays. »  

Havre de stabilité dans les premiers mois, dans une nation blessée par la séisme de 2010, celui-ci n'a pas été épargné par les critiques à la fin de son mandat rallongé.  « Il y a eu des choses positives au départ,» résume Laënnec Hurbon de l'université d'Etat de Port-au-Prince, comme la cons-truction de routes et la relocalisation des sans-logis du séisme.

«En revanche la population pense que la misère s'est approfondie, il y a une inflation qui est toujours galopante, la monnaie est en pleine dévaluation et la corruption est généralisée. » Les urgences qui attendent Privert sont nombreuses, alors que  la rue reste nerveuse et l'économie souffre des séquelles de trois années de suite de sécheresse.  

«Une troisième année consécutive de sécheresse, aggravée en 2015 par le phénomène météorologique mondial El Niño, a doublé le nombre de personnes souffrant d'insécurité alimentaire sévère», déclarait le Programme alimentaire mondial des Nations Unies (PAM). Alors que l'aide internationale continue de soutenir cette terre souffrante, les investisseurs restent rares.

«Avec tous les troubles politiques que nous avons, les investissements publics vont continuer à subir une contraction. Les investisseurs privés locaux? Ne leur demandez pas de mettre leurs fonds dans cette économie alors ne parlons pas des investisseurs internationaux», résume l'économiste haïtien Kesner Pharel.


Réformes importantes en Algérie

Ces derniers temps la tendance semblait aller dans l'autre sens, celle de l'élimination de la limite de mandat, comme il en a été le cas plus au sud du continent africain, où Museveni commence son cinquième. Mais Alger, qui avait déjà supprimé cette limite, a choisi de la réimposer, bien que le président Abdelaziz Bouteflika, jeune de ses 78 ans et songeant sans doute à la retraite, pourra briguer un nouveau et cinquième quinquennat.  



Ce projet prési-dentiel approuvé par 499 parlementaires comptait d'autres réformes impor-tantes, dont la reconnaissance de la langue berbère, mais interdit également aux Algériens ayant une double nationalité l'accès aux hauts postes dans la fonction publique, des postes particulièrement choyés.  "Vous avez répondu à l'appel de l'architecte de la nouvelle république algérienne," a déclaré le premier ministre Abdelmalek Sellal peu après le vote. Ces réformes avaient notamment été proposées après les révolutions de 2011.  



On s'engage par ailleurs à protéger "l'alternance démo-cratique par le moyen d'élections libres" et d'éviter des gestes tels l'annulation de l'élection de 1992, remportée par le Front islamique, décision qui avait déclenché une guerre civile responsable de 200000 morts.  La réforme sur la langue permettra au berbère d'être représenté dans les documents officiels. Des réformes en 2002 lui avaient donné un statut lui permettant d'être enseigné à l'école, mais uniquement dans certaines régions.  



"La nouvelle Constitution apporte des avancées démocratiques indiscutables comme la consécration de la langue amazighe [berbère] et le soutien aux entreprises privées, qui représente une certaine ouverture écono-mique,  sans parler de la suppression du délit de presse, note Hassan Moali, directeur de la rédaction du quotidien Le temps d'Algérie, mais on pouvait mieux faire. On avait l’opportunité de projeter l’Algérie vers un modèle démocratique et de faire aboutir 20 ans de lutte politique, mais c’est une occasion ratée."  



Quelques jours plus tard l'état de cette démocratie était dénoncé au grand jour lorsque l'organisation des droits de l'homme EuroMed a condamné le comportement répressif des forces de l'ordre envers des participants à un colloque organisé par un syndicat, dénonçant une "violation manifeste de la loi sur la liberté de réunion".



Autant dire que l'opposition n'y a vu qu'une initiative du pouvoir à caratère superflu, estimant qu'elle ne changera en rien l'emprise de Bouteflika et de sa clique sur le pays. Le principal intéressé était d'ailleurs, comme toujours, absent de l'arène publique, où il est rarement vu depuis l'aggravation de son état de santé.



Pour plusieurs observateurs de la scène, les gestes constituaient des préparatives de départ; pour certains, un départ de ce monde plutôt que l'abandon de son poste présidentiel. Le "scénario d'un Bouteflika partant n'est pas envisageable maintenant, estime le politologue Abed Charef.



Bouteflika aurait pu partir en 2008, à la fin de son second mandat, mais maintenant, il ne partira jamais. Ce qui l'intéresse est de mourir au pouvoir." Un scénario qui fait craindre l'avenir de ce pays qui a, comme d'autres dans la région, souffert en raison de l'écroulement du prix de l'or noir, et dont la pauvreté s'étend à des millions de ses concitoyens.



Le président a par ailleurs également réformé son agence de renseignement, la plaçant plus directement sous son autorité plutôt que celle des militaires. Cette fin de semaine des soldats étaient confrontés  à l'Etat islamique, un nouveau rendez-vous avec la terreur après le choc d'il y a trois ans lors de la prise de l'installation d'In Amenas, où l'intervention des forces de l'ordre a donné lieu à un bain de sang causant la mort d'une vingtaine de personnes, dont de nombreux otages.


Sweden rules the European champs
It's been a few years since Sweden collected a world championship, in the pros or juniors, but the Scandinavian country is keeping the monopoly in Europe's 48-team champions league after Frolunda avenged its loss, in last year's final against Swedish rival Lulea, and defeated Finland's Oulu 2-1 to cap the continental league's second season.   

As multinational leagues go, this one is competing for European supremacy with Russia's 28-team KHL. The latter is however going through some hard times with Moscow facing international sanctions and slipping oil prices. Last year it had to scrap crowning one of its champions for lack of funds.

The two leagues however compete for good non-NHL talent and have been drawing scouts of the mighty North American league.  

Spencer Abbott, the only Canadisn on the team, scored what would become the game winner shortly after his team took the lead 1-0 late in the first. In its 78 year old history the Gothenburg team has collected just three Swedish titles, but the two of them in the last 15 years. There was no denying the satisfaction of spoiling the locals' fun on Finn ice.

This newfound Swedish supremacy in Europe is a bit of a return to the past however, the land of vikings having dominated an early European championship in the 30s. The Swedish Elitserien has also been considered one of the top European hockey leagues for decades.

On the day of a blockbuster trade deal between the Senators and Leafs the final may however been grossly overlooked in North America.

 Frolunda sits second in the Swedish rankings this year but the league's top player, American Ryan Lasch, plays for Goteborg, scored the other goal in the European final and finished tournament MVP. "It's awesome, it's a great feeling to win with these guys," said the Californian, who had stints in Pembroke and Toronto (Marlies) but mostly played in Europe. We've worked together all season. Everyone put in a maximum effort and this is the result".

Abbott of Hamilton is one of three Canadians in the leagues top 15. The tourney may however have distracted the Indians on the home front, losing three in a row while league leading Skelleftia AIK, which was perfect and closed its grip on a fourth title in a row with under 10 games left to play in the Swedish regular season.




Une lutte brésilienne devenue mondiale



Le compte à rebours des six mois a commencé au Brésil et l'année olympique prend assez vite l'allure d'un parcours d'obstacle alors que le pays traverse une crise organisationnelle, institu-tionnelle, et même sanitaire. Cette dernière devient même une affaire mondiale. Déjà, comme à la veille de la Coupe du monde, le pays compte plusieurs ratés en prévision de cette autre grande fête sportive, des coûts astronomiques aux craintes liées à la qualité de l'eau des sites de disciplines aquatiques. Le tout se joue sur fond de crise politique, la présidente Dilma Rousseff étant confrontée à une tentative de destitution pour avoir, dit-on, falsifié les comptes de l'État afin de faciliter sa réélection il y a deux ans.



Une commission spéciale se penche actuel-lement sur ces accusations alors que Rousseff a fait annuler les vacances parlementaires en janvier afin de favoriser un vote rapide, estimant avoir la faveur de la plupart des parlementaires pour faire bloquer la procédure. Une autre commission se penche sur les nombreuses accusations de corruption qui entourent l'élite brésilienne, le parti au pouvoir y compris. Opération lave-auto a d'ailleurs déjà épinglé des douzaines de politiciens et d'hommes d'affaires, y compris des haut placés du Congrès, pris dans une affaire de contrats frauduleux avec la pétrolière Petrobas.



Des membres de l'entourage de la présidente sont notamment du compte. Par ailleurs celle-ci a fait son mea culpa sur les erreurs commises par son gouvernement, qui n'a pas été en mesure de percevoir correctement l'ampleur de la crise économique qui frappe le pays depuis des années: "la plus grande erreur avait été de ne pas avoir vu que la crise était si grande en 2014, de ne pas avoir mesuré l'ampleur du ralentissement économique en raison de problèmes internes et externes", dit-elle en entrevue.    En décembre déjà le vice-président du CIO Craig Reedie disait du pays: "Ils connait des difficultés politiques et économiques.



Inévitablement ceci aura un impact sur les Jeux. Il y a des défis, il va falloir les surmonter." Triste portrait de la terre du samba qui ne s'est qu'empiré avec l'éclatement de la propagation du virus Zika, cette maladie transmise par le moustique tigre qui se répand depuis quelques semaines à travers les Amériques, possiblement responsable de malformations chez les nouveau-nés.   



Plusieurs cas ont notamment été rapportés au Brésil, où le combat contre le virus date de plusieurs années, mais également à travers l'Amérique centrale et jusqu'au Mexique. L'OMS craint d'ailleurs que le virus ne se propage partout sur le continent, à l'exception du Chili et du Canada, où les moustiques coupables ne sont pas encore présents. Une  vingtaine de pays sont touchés en tout par ce virus qui complète son tour du monde. Jusqu'à quatre millions de cas pourraient voir le jour, selon l'organisation.  La situation est devenue telle que dans plusieurs pays d'Amérique centrale le gouvernement est allé jusqu'à déconseiller les projets de natalité.



Raison de cette propagation rapide: l'absence jusqu'ici du virus dans plusieurs régions, où l'on n'a pas eu le temps de développer une immunité.  Cette propagation est le signe d'une guerre perdue par les autorités sanitaires brésili-ennes, qui depuis des années combattent le moustique Aedes aegypti  «Cela fait près de trente ans que le moustique transmet des maladies à notre population et, depuis lors, nous le combattons, mais nous sommes en train de perdre la guerre, avouait le ministre de la santé Marcelo Castro. Nous sommes en train de faire face à une véritable épidémie, nous avons besoin d'une société brésilienne mobilisée pour prévenir ces maladies».



Alors que des nouveaux cas se développent ailleurs en Amérique, plus de 3000 cas de microcéphalie ont été déclarés chez des nourrissons au Brésil l'an dernier. Ces malformations de la tête qui altèrent le développement intellectuel sont sans doute liées à la propagation du virus. Entre temps, à la veille du carnaval et quelques mois avant le coup d'envoi des JOs, Washington déconseille le voyage aux femmes enceintes, ce qui a de quoi attrister le pays hôte, qui promet de remporter le combat.   Pourtant le virus n'est pas soudainement apparu de nulle part pour terroriser la planète et remonte bien presque 70 ans lorsqu'il fut identifié dans une forêt Ougandaise du nom de Zika et s'est répandu en Asie avant de traverser les océans vers l'Amérique.



Alors que le Brésil lançait 220,000 soldats sur la trace du moustique la crise s'étendait ailleurs, rapportant son premier cas en Europe, tandis que le président américain lançait un appel à la mobilisation contre cet agent pathogène. «Le président a souligné le besoin d'accélérer les efforts de recherche pour mettre au point de meilleurs diagnostics, des vaccins et des traitements et s'assurer que tous les Américains soient informés sur le virus zika», a indiqué la Maison-Blanche dans un communiqué. Des scientifiques américains prévienent d'ailleurs que puisqu'un vaccin n'existe pas contre le virus, sa propagation pourrait prendre des allures de "pandémie explosive".



Quelques jours plus tard l'OMS décrétait l'urgence en vue de mobiliser les efforts internationaux contre le virus. Alors que son expansion est limitée aux voyageurs, dans le nord du continent, des mesures sont déjà en place pour interdire les personnes ayant visité les régions atteintes de donner de leur sang pendant 21 jours. Un cas a transmission sanguine a déjà été recensé.  Autre moyen de transmettre le virus: les relations sexuelles, responsables d'une transmis-sion au Texas. Plus au sud la crise a plongé les pays concernés dans un débat houleux sur le droit à la contraception et à l'avort-ement, sujet tabou dans ces contrées très catholiques où il est souvent proscrit.



Au Brésil l'avortement est permis dans certains cas, mais 80% de la population le juge illégal. "Comment peuvent-ils demander à ces femmes de ne pas tomber enceintes, mais ne pas leur offrir la possibilité d'empêcher la grossesse", a déclaré Cécile Pouilly, porte parole du Haut commissariat aux droits de l'homme de l'ONU, dont l'organisation demande d'autoriser l'accès à la contraception et à l'avortement.


Turkey's always tense border
It was the first time since Korea a NATO member shot down a Russian fighter jet, despite the often alarming levels of tension between East and West during the Cold War and the Cuban missile crisis. And it only occurred last November when Turkish planes claimed multiple warnings went unheeded and downed a Sukhoi in the border area.    Accusations and threats were traded but eventually both giant nations backed away from the precipice of war in an already tense region. But these tensions remain as Ankara has uttered new warnings Moscow would "face consequences" if it failed to rein in its fighter jets, near a highly volatile airspace where both nation's air forces continue their operations.    

Over the week-end Turkey's foreign ministry accused the Russian air force of new air space violations, a charge downplayed as "baseless propaganda" as Turkey summoned the Russian ambassador to "strongly protest at and condemn" the incident.     Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, emboldened by a new majority after last year's elections, warned "Such irresponsible steps do not benefit either the  Russian Federation, or  Russian- NATO relations, or regional and global peace."  

Russia is one active participant in the air mission over Syria which was notably absent from this week's summit of 23 participating coalition coun-tries, including host Italy, the U.S., Turkey, France and Australia. Erdogan has sought meetings with Putin over the air war but no such meeting has been scheduled.

NATO meanwhile warned Russia it should "act responsibility and to fully respect NATO airspace" as well as "take all necessary measures to ensure that such violations do not happen again". The Su-24 all-weather attack plane spotted recently was of the same type which was downed by US-built Turkish F-16s in the Fall.

Turkish officials said two Russian planes had entered their territory and were warned 10 times to alter their course. One of the planes left Turkish airspace but the other was shot over Turkey before crashing in Syria near the border.   Between the Syrian war next door and ongoing Kurdish related fighting, Turkey's borders have been tense for decades leading up to the current escalation, as the country also deals with millions of refugees fleeing the fighting.

Adding to the tensions is the new Cold-war like environment between Moscow and NATO, last fall's shooting down causing Russia to move anti-aircraft missiles into the region as well, this week, as bringing in its most sophisticated fighter jets, the Su-35. By some accounts this fifth-generation fighter more than holds its own when confronted with NATO's F-15s and F-18s.

But as in the last century, observers doubt Russia can keep putting billions into its war effort, as revenues continue to tumble from sanctions and crashing oil prices in the 30$ range. Though Washington has noted the Kremlin has been quite efficient keeping costs down. "While appearing strong militarily has proven to be an effective strategy for Vladimir Putin in the short term, it comes at a price tag higher than many observers realize," wrote Lt. Col. John Barnett in an anaysis of the Washington Institute. "Russia is well aware that extending the operation will incur greater costs."

This burden could give the West some leverage as countries struggle to settle the crisis politically. But meanwhile tensions remain high as Russia accused Ankara of violating open skies in the region by banning a Russian overflight, and even of preparing a ground invasion of Syria.


Eclats familiers en Tunisie

Cette semaine le couvre-feu était enfin levé, mais les tensions demeurent. Un peu plus de cinq ans après la révolution de jasmin, encore des manifes-tations, des éclats, et un martyr mort après un geste désespéré en Tunisie. Des jours de tourmente et des périodes de couvre-feu après une année particulièrement meurtrière marquée par plusieurs attentats.  

Ceux-ci, notamment l'attaque du Bardo et les attentats visant le tourisme, ont davantage troublé une économie à la dérive, avec un chômage pouvant atteindre un jeune sur trois. L'un d'eux, chômeur, est mort électrocuté après avoir grimpé une tour de transmission en guise de protestation, un geste désespéré qui n'était pas sans rappeler l'immolation de Bouazizi qui avait tout déclenché en 2011.  Ce symbolisme a galvanisé les foules.

L'heure est grave, et pourtant le pays reste celui qui a le mieux survécu à la tourmente du printemps arabe, dont le bilan reste plutôt mitigé. Il y a quelques mois à peine le comité du prix Nobel honorait des groupes de la société civile tunisienne pour leur travail démocratique acharné au coeur d'une région troublée.  Mais à partir de novembre c'était l'état d'urgence après une attaque au kamikaze qui a fait une douzaine de morts dans les rangs de la garde présidentielle. Plus récemment c'est à la police que s'en prenaient des manifestants, notamment des jeunes désoeuvrés, armés de bâtons et de cocktail molotovs.  

"Les embrasements se sont déroulés dans ces zones déshéritées de l'intérieur du pays, à fort chômage et dans lesquelles les jeunes diplômés n'ont ni avenir ni perspective d'émigration, note le spécialiste du Moyen-orient Pierre Vermeren, malgré la révolution qui s'est déroulée il y a cinq ans il n'y a pas eu de rattrapage.... Que cela débouche sur les émeutes n'est pas surprenant".  

La région est également celle qui a souffert le plus de décès lors de la révolution de jasmin. Mais le mécontentement ne semble pas aller jusqu'à faire appel à la chute du pouvoir, et le président restait confiant que le pays n'allait pas sombrer dans la violence malgré les tensions actuelles, exacerbées par les menaces islamistes qui planent toujours sur la région.  

"La Tunisie a complètement changé depuis la dictature pour devenir une jeune démocratie, affirme le premier ministre Habib Essid, lors de cette jeunesse il y a des périodes d'adolescence qu'il faut traverser. Nous sommes conscients des difficultés auxquelles nous devons faire face".  

Pourtant ne laissait-on pas entendre qu'il y avait risque de nouvelle révolution au plus fort des tensions en décembre? Ces difficultés, notamment économiques, étaient rappelées récemment lorsque Thomas Cook a annoncé l'annulation de tous ses vols vers la Tunisie jusqu'en novembre. Cette décision, un autre coup dur porté contre le tourisme, accompagnait celle du rival Thomson, deux compagnies parmi d'autres qui notent que les avertissements, qui déconseillent tout voyage non essentiel vers la Tunisie, sont inchangés au Foreign Office.

Trente Britanniques ont trouvé la mort lors de l'attaque d'un hotel en juin dernier revendiqué par l'Etat islamique, qui selon plusieurs experts fait une guerre écono-mique aux pays arabes qui ne suivent pas sa ligne dure.  Autre victime de cette guerre économique contre le tourisme: l'Egypte, terre des Pharaons qui a enregistré ses pires recettes touristiques depuis une décennie lors des deux derniers mois de l'année. Ceux-ci suivaient l'écrasement d'un aéronef russe causé par une bombe installée par un mécanicien lié au djihad.




Living dangerously again


The West was bracing for a difficult new year of ISIS threats and attacks, Brussels cancelling New Year cele-brations altogether, but it was the Muslim world which saw the first salvoes of 2016, with suicide bombers causing death and mayhem in Istanbul and Jakarta.   

The targets were notably Western, the tourist quarter of the Turkish metropolis being the scene of a bombing attack which killed 10 tourists while half a dozen were felled in the targeting of a Starbucks in a trendy part of Jakarta, the worst attack there since the 2009 hotel bombings. Both countries had faced other terror demons in the past, PKK attacks in Turkey and islamist blasts in Bali, but ISIS was singled out as the culprit hours after the bloody incidents, even if it did not claim responsibility for the Istanbul blast.   

Turkish authorities blamed the attack on someone who had entered the country as a refugee, among the millions who have done so, and failed to raise any alarm bells. He had registered with immigration officials just a week earlier.  While a single man was suspected behind the Istanbul attack, five gunmen exchanged fire with police and set off blasts around the Starbucks before they were killed. A Canadian was among the two bystanders killed.

The gunmen all fell in a hail of bullets. Despite the incident police were statisfied they had foiled the group's bloody plans "We think... their plan was to attack people and follow it up with a larger explosion when more people gathered," said police spokesman Anton Charilyan, "but thank god it didn't happen."   

The country has been on high alert since police arrested nine militants last month who had planned attacks "to attract international attention new coverage".   With these attacks, including the first in the world's largest Muslim country, ISIS is seeking to shake perceptions it is on the defensive on the home front and shape perceptions it is everywhere, says George-town University fellow Kamron Bokhari, calling the attacks "sophisticated psycho-logical operations". "They want to be recognized as a force to be reckoned with" particularly by hitting Muslim nations they perceive as being led by unIslamic regimes where they seek to "use the disaffection of locals to their advantage".  

In addition ISIS is waging "economic warfare" by targeting the tourist industries of a number of developing countries, from Egypt and Tunisia to Indonesia, says Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics. Targeting Muslim populations however amounts to "committing suicide" for the group, he adds. Turkey promptly retaliated for the attack by hitting ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria it says killed 200 militants.  

IS' repeated attacks across the world may only have upped the competition among jihadists for terror supremacy however. Days later Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb claimed respon-sibility for the death of 30 people after gunmen attacked a hotel in Ouagadougou, using methods similar to those used in Bamako last year. In a weekend address terrorist leader Al Zawahiri urged militants to join the ranks of AQIM rather than ISIS.  

"AQIM wants to show its might in the face of a rising ISIS", says analyst Wassim Nasr. ISIS responded in kind, using social media to appeal for AQIM-aligned fighters in northwest Africa to join their ranks. Meanwhile the group was scoring more horrifying victories in Syria, abducting and killing as many as 400 after capturing Deir Ezzor despite an intensified Russian air campaign. The new battlefields away from Syria and Iraq are prompting officials to take action. "We're not going to just sit on our hands. We will act and respond," said Benin's president Thomas Boni Yayi. "The question is: Whose turn is it next?"


Un accueil plus dur
L'accueil des réfugiés syriens n'a pas été égal d'un pays européen à un autre, mais même chez ceux qui ont le plus généreusement ouvert leurs portes, une réflexion est engagée sur l'ampleur du problème, qui après l'accueil, s'oriente sur la gestion. Et le moment est plutôt critique si l'on pense que le flot va se poursuivre lors des mois et des années à venir. Malgré les scènes spectaculaires et les efforts généreux, 2015 ne risque que d'avoir été le début du déluge. Récemment un ministre allemand estimait à 10% seulement le nombre de migrants qui avaient atteint le vieux continent, prédisant 5 à 10 millions de déplacements vers l'union européenne d'ici 2020.

"La situation est irréversible, déclarait le ministre du développement Gerd Müller, les personnes qui sont ici à l'heure actuelle notre société a le défi de les intégrer". Ses commentaires suivaient des jours d'affron-tement entre policiers et groupes de droite qui protestaient contre les nombreux cas d'agression sexuelle associés à des migrants lors des fêtes du nouvel an à Cologne. Ses politiques mises sous les projecteurs à nouveau, la chancelière Angela Merkel déclara que les migrants trouvés responsables de tels actes seraient déportés. L'opinion publique a déjà changé depuis les gestes de bienvenue de l'été dernier lorsque les colonnes d'immigrés chassés des pays de l'est trouvaient refuge en Allemagne, où un million de Syriens seraient entrés lors de la dernière année.

Récemment des centaines de réfugiés auraient été renvoyés en Autriche à la frontière allemande. Coincé par la marche des migrants, le petit pays est lui-même à la recherche de solutions, songeant entre autre à refuser les migrants "économiques". Selon son chancelier Werner Faymann "ce qui est certains est que bientôt nous allons être plus actifs à nos frontières". Même repli en Suède où les autorités ont fermé les frontières lors des fêtes. Un débat à éclaté lorsqu'un journal a accusé la police de fermer les yeux à propos de cas d'agression commises par des migrants. A-t-on atteint un seuil de tolérance dans cet autre pays à l'accueil généreux?

Outre-mer entre temps des gestes regrettables faisaient l'actualité aux Etats-Unis et au Canada, où un événement de bienvenue de réfugiés syriens a été visé par une attaque au poivre de cayenne, un geste "contraire à ce que nous sommes," selon le premier ministre Trudeau, qui ne reflète pas "l'accueil chaleureux des canadiens". Des mosquées ont également été vandalisées et des musulmans agressés depuis l'annonce que le gouvernement allait accueillir 25000 réfugiés syriens d'ici fin février. En France les actes antimusulmans auraient triplé en 2015 et des incidents ont ciblé une mosquée et des églises alors que le pays commémorait le premier anniversaire de l'attaque du Charlie Hebdo.

Entre temps les contrôles se sont resserrés à la frontière grecque, porte d'entrée de centaines de milliers de migrants. Plus au nord le Danemark est de ces pays qui ont radicalement changé de ton, notamment depuis l'élection du parti libéral l'an dernier, sans majorité, laissant le premier ministre Lars Rasmussen à la merci du parti du peuple anti-immigration. Copenhague a créé un véritable tollé en proposant un projet de loi qui permettrait aux autorités de saisir l'argent et les biens d'une valeur supérieure à 1500$ appartenant aux migrants. Cette semaine la Suisse semblait vouloir imiter le geste. Les mesures danoises rendraient par ailleurs la réunification des familles plus difficile.

Les parents pour-raient ainsi se voir séparés de leurs enfants pendant trois ans. Les mesures sont jugées nécessaires par le gouver-nement qui invoque les finances publiques, mais sont condam-nées par plusieurs organismes dont le HCR, y voyant des mesures sûres de répandre "la peur et la xénophobie". Les saisies sont d'ailleurs comparées aux gestes des Nazis pendant la guerre.  Le pays avait déjà semé la consternation l'an dernier en fermant ses frontières aux masses migrantes et a rallongé des restrictions plus récentes pendant 20 jours. "Nous voulons limiter le flux," explique Rasmussen, dont le pays aurait accueilli 21000 migrants l'an dernier, contre 15000 l'an précédent, y voyant une masse "impossible à gérer" sûre de "changer notre société".

Alors que l'accueil s'envenime en Europe la situation ne dérougit pas à la source, la crise syrienne mettant de nouvelles atrocités sous les projecteurs régulièrement. Ainsi l'entrée de convois humanitaires dans la ville syrienne de Madaya a révélé une population menacée par la famine après des mois de bombardements gouvernemen-taux. Selon Amnistie les survivants subsistaient grâce à une diète à base d'eau bouillie et de feuilles, enregistrant 40000 cas sévères de malnutrition. Selon son porte parole Philip Luther, cinq ans après le début de la crise, il ne s'agit sans doute que de la pointe de l'iceberg en Syrie: "Les Syriens meurent et souffrent à travers le pays car la famine est une arme de guerre à la fois du gouvernement et des groupes armés".

L'implication d'un réfugié syrien dans l'attentat d'Istanboul pourrait avoir davantage terni l'image des migrants et diminué l'enthou-siasme des pays d'accueil, mais même à Cologne, où une personne était arrêtée cette semaine en relation avec les gestes fâcheux, l'assistance aux plus démunis survit aux incidents. "Nous enregistrons une forte demande pour faire du bénévolat de la part des habitants des quartiers alentour en prévision de l’ouverture du camp en février, fait remarquer Aische Westermann, gestion-naire d'un camp d'urgence dans la ville. Donc la volonté d’aider et d’accueillir des demandeurs d’asile est toujours aussi forte."

Et il en faudra davantage si l'on pense que la période ordinai-rement creuse des traversées est particulièrement occupée cette année. On prévoit en effet plus de 20000 arrivées rien que sur l'ile de Lesbos en janvier, contre 750 en janvier 2015. "Il s'agit déjà d'une année record, note Boris Cheshirkov de l'ONU, nous n'avons pas de boule de cystal, mais la guerre en Syrie ne sera pas finie demain, elle ne semble que s'empirer". Puis après l'accueil il faut prévoir de sérieux efforts d'intégration. Alors qu'en Grande Bretagne le premier ministre exige l'appren-tissage de l'Anglais aux nouveaux arrivés, notamment les femmes, en Norvège des cours d'intégration tentent de combattre ces cas de violence contre les femmes avec des cours pour hommes seulement.

Cette intégration est primordiale en Allemagne, où l'on prévoit de sérieux ajustements de budget en conséquent, notamment pour faire face à des dépenses supplémentaires en matière de police, éducation et santé.


North Korea threatens again
Just a year ago the tone of the year end address had been different, not that it changed anything on a peninsula still technically at war over half a century later. But Kim Jong-Un's personal appeal for a better understanding between the two Koreas allowed some to momentarily dream about reunification. If only for a bit.

Of course this brief interlude came and went with the seasons and much remains as it once was, the two sides staring at each other through binoculars, an itchy finger on the trigger, on the volatile DMZ. Or has it gotten worse? The year end message was more provocative this year, the fearless leader of the hermit kingdom threatening the US and those who would prevent the democratic republic from flourishing, something it clearly isn't doing.

This was in fact setting up a major announcement, the Jan. 5 declaration the isolated regime had detonated a hydrogen bomb, as Richter scales rocketed in the region, marking a possible rise in already dangerous stakes. Foreign capitals and the UN condemned the move while nervous neighbor South Korea said it would be resuming broadcasting propaganda messages at the DMZ. But officials have yet to determine whether Pyongyang did detonate a hydrogen bomb, and many are skeptical this was truly achieved, seeing it as yet another attempt to grab international headlines and intimidate its neighbor.

Specialists hinted the blast may in fact have been too small to be an actual H-bomb. But the detonation was that of a fourth underground nuclear tests nevertheless, sending the region is high alert and prompting the U.S. to make a clear show of force in the days following. Washington sent a nuclear-capable B-52 bomber out of Guam over South Korea, the sort of flyover that bitterly angers the regime in Pyongyang.

"This was a demonstration of the ironclad U.S. commitment to our allies in South Korea, in Japan and to the defense of the American homeland," later stated Adm. Harry Harris Jr., commander of the U.S. Pacific Command. "North Korea's nuclear test is a blatant violation of its international obligations"" World nations are meeting at the end of March for a Nuclear Security Summit in the U.S. where they will try to rid the world of key ingredients required to make nuclear weapons.

A key player at the meeting could be a nation which has renounced nuclear weapons, Canada, which will seek to spearhead the creation of the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, which is facing added urgency in view of the current Korean crisis. The North further ratcheted up tensions this week when it flew a drone over southern territory, causing its nervous neighbour to fire shots over the tense border area.

The South responded by dropping millions of propaganda leaflets over the North, as the divided peninsula resumed its unneighborly ways. This week the U.S. and its allies served notice they would up sanctions against North Korea if China failed to rein in its unruly neighbor. China wouldn't be targeted, but would not appreciate them, a U.S. official warned.


Vers un second tour en Centrafrique
Après trois ans de guerre civile la trêve électorale en république Centrafricaine pouvait laisser rêver à un retour à la normalité. Voilà qui est sans doute encore prématuré, les tensions restant vives dans ce pays déchiré par des atrocités. Mais le nombre d'affron-tements entre les différentes milices a nettement chuté alors que le pays organisait la tenue des législatives et du premier tour de la présidentielle en fin d'année.

Ce dernier a fait la lumière sur la chaude lutte que se livreront deux anciens premiers ministres au second tour, dont l'ancien chef de gouvernement sous l'ex-président François Bozizé, dont le renversement en 2013 a plongé le pays dans la crise et les violences. Faustin Touadéra est, avec 19% des votes, arrivé second derrière Anicet-Georges Dologuélé (24%) , premier ministre sous la présidence de Félix Patassé, un des favoris pour l'emporter.  

"Je reste satisfait. La répartition des votes crée une situation qui pousse à former des alliances, dit-il. Cela permet d'avancer vers une logique de rassemblement, positive pour le pays." Car la nation reste de toute évidence divisée après des années de déchirements entre musul-mans et chrétiens, responsables de violences qui ont forcé plus d'un million de personnes à fuir dans un pays qui en compte à peine 4,5 millions.

Cinq mille personnes ont connu la mort lors des éclats entre les milices musulmanes Séléka et factions anti-Balaka chrétiennes, mais la situation semble s'être calmée quelque peu depuis le passage du pape François en novembre. "Ceci a défini-tivement joué un rôle afin de calmer la situation à la veille des élections," estime Alex Fielding, un analyste de Max Security Solutions.

Résultat, le vote a généralement eu lieu sans heurts, et attiré 79% des électeurs inscrits, un taux inespéré alors que les grandes religions se croisent encore dans la méfiance. Mais en attendant le second tour à la fin du mois, la situation pourrait s'envenimer, plusieurs autres candidats présidentiels dénonçant fraude et  "mascarade électorale".

Dologuélé, ce banquier mondialisé, pourrait rassem-bler une nation qui en a plutôt besoin, estime  François Soudan, directeur de rédaction de Jeune Afrique: "il a été le seul pendant cette campagne à réellement tenir un discours de rassemblement, alors que les partisans de son adversaire pour le second tour développent un discours clivant sur fond de tensions entre chrétiens et musulmans. À l’évidence, Dologuélé est une chance pour les Centrafricains. Sauront-ils la saisir ?"

Au coeur des préoccupations, selon lui, la sécurité alimentaire, dans un des pays parmi les plus pauvres du monde, mais aussi le pluralisme, l'alternance démocratique et les libertés.

En plus des déchirements nationaux, le pays doit composer avec la présence de forces étrangères, des milices ougandaises étant accusées d'attaques et d'enlèvements en Centrafrique. L'ONU y a également vécu une page noire de son histoire, ses casques bleus ayant été trouvés coupables de viols, des incidents qui se sont en premier lieu butés à l'inaction de l'organisation.


Saudi Arabia's crisis

A few weeks before year's end, Saudi Arabia made a few timid but undeniable steps toward social progress by allowing women to cast their first vote in the country's municipal council elections. But before the clock turned to midnight on the 31st the kingdom had also seen another, less admirable, landmark achieved, as it registered over 150 executions in 2015, usually carried out in the form of beheadings, the most in 20 years.

Anything from adultery to apostasy can land you the sentence of no return in Saudi Arabia, and the new year began with a marathon of death which saw 47 people executed in a single day. One in particular inflamed not only the country, but a region already divided by the Yemeni war: the execution of Shia Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, convicted of "terrorism". The cleric was an outspoken critic of the regime and representative of the Shia minority, ultimately convicted on trumped up charges according to supporters.

Soon Shia regions in the East of the country, which is mainly Sunni, erupted in protest, as did other areas of an already tense region. In Tehran, a country which had seen such horrible scenes in the past, protesters attacked the Saudi embassy and set it aflame, the kind of direct version of the Sunni-Shia clash seen from Syria to Yemen. Iran's Revolutionary Guards promised to exact "harsh revenge" for the execution, while Riyadh summoned its Iranian envoy.

The next day the kingdom was ending diplomatic relations and giving Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the country. Soon other Gulf nations were cutting ties with Tehran further dividing the Muslim world. "Iran's history is full of negative interference and hostility in Arab issues, and it is always accompanied by destruction," declared Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. Saudi Arabia and Iran had seen relations steadily degrade, fighting proxy battles in Yemen where Tehran supports the Houthi factions being targeted by a Saudi air campaign. Hopes of a peaceful resolution to the crisis were recently dashed when a ceasefire ended.

This week Tehran accused Saudi planes of targeting its embassy there. "This case also has the potential of enflaming further the sectarian tensions that already bring so much damage to the entire region, with dangerous consequences," stated Federica Mogherini, EU high repre-sentative for foreign affairs.

The crisis is erupting as the regime is dealing with falling oil prices, which it has refused to shore up, seeing currency reserves depleted. It usually uses these reserves to buy social peace in a country of continuing sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shias. The executed cleric had been particularly active in Shia protests five years ago, leading to his arrest in a country where dissent isn't tolerated. Protests flared across the Muslim world since his death from Bahrain, which had erupted after the Arab Spring, to Pakistan. In Saudi Arabia the same slogans used in the wake of the Arab Spring echoed: "The people want the fall of the regime", and "Down with the al-Saud family".

But Saudi ally Bahrain defended the kingdom, saying its "actions, to confront whoever seeks to undermine the Nation's security and stability and wreak havoc on Earth through misguided ideology and actions that are rejected by religion and the Islamic Sharia are widely appreciated". Amnesty Interna-tional, echoing a number of capitals, decried the 47 executions, the most for a single day in decades, saying they showed the regime's "utter disregard for human rights and life", and calling Nimr's trial "political and grossly unfair". In the height of the 2011 protests Nimr told the BBC he favored "the roar of the word against authorities rather than weapons," adding "The weapon of the word is stronger than bullets, because authorities will profit from a battle of weapons."

Renewed Saudi-Iran tensions sparked concerns recent efforts to settle the Syrian crisis would crumble, Tehran playing key roles in the crisis. All in all the last year was a difficult one in the kingdom, which lost its king. Saudi Arabia has seen oil revenues drop so drastically it was considering putting company Aramco on the open market. The country has also come under criticism for not doing enough to succour Syrian refugees, as millions of them fled war to the safety of soon overwhelmed neighbors.


Letting them pass
Amid the hustle and bustle of the busy border crossing of Penas Blancas between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, they shake old plastic jugs pleading for help to continue their journey north to the promised land. The Cuban migrants stranded there started their mainland journey in Ecuador, braving dangerous Colombia and moving up through Panama. But here they hit a snag, as many others making similar journeys. Some Central American countries are blocking their passage to America, wary of the thousands of Cubans who, a year after the latest promises of change from the island nation, are unconvinced.

This wasn't how it was supposed to be.  At the end on 2014 Cuba and the U.S. started warming up to each other and just weeks ago announced commercial flights would resume to the once pariahed island of the Caribbean, so you would think the flood to the island would only intensify with cruise ship passengers and plane loads eager to see what they had been denied for decades, while the masses leaving Cuba would wind down to a trickle, desperate islanders less willing to risk their lives to cross the dangerous waters Westwards in highly unstable crafts hardly made for such perilous journeys.

But onwards they carry on, with added urgency in fact, as Cubans eager to start a new life on the mainland or reunite with estranged family members continue to land on the shores of the Americas. Many fear the thawed relations will only make it harder to enter the U.S., not easier, if "wet land dry land" policies granting Cubans asylum the moment they land on U.S. shores are reviewed. Some don't imme-diately make it to safe shores and are lost along the way to foul weather or sharks.

Others make it, but still have ways to go before reaching America, drying their wares on Central American soil before resuming their journey north. And for many of the small countries from Panama to Mexico, this flood is becoming a challenge, though not quite at the scale Europe has experienced. These nations include the only Latin American country listed among the world's 22 oldest democracies, consistently ranked among the top Latin countries in the Human Development Index: eco-friendly Costa Rica, now dealing with thousands of migrants refused at the northern border.

There migrants are seeing the welcome mat pulled from under their feet, masses who have already endured much making it there safe after an at times abusive journey. You just have to walk 100 yards from the Penas Blancas Costa Rican side to see the welcome Nicaragua has in store: a line of police in full riot gear backed by a line soldiers in uniform standing by a sign which says "Welcome to Nicaragua", armed to the teeth as if anticipating the latest golpe, or coup. The country used to allow safe journey to the U.S., but this changed following incidents such as last fall's protest at the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border, where Managua said the migrants "stormed" the border, leading it to close the crossing point citing security fears.

Both countries have clashed on the issue, Managua accusing its neighbor of provoking a humanitarian crisis by allowing the Cubans to move on. Now tougher border policies, in countries where violent gangs have been preying on struggling migrants, are prompting the Red Cross in the region to warn that these sort of travel restrictions have spun "out of control". At the end of the year Latin states and the U.S. held a meeting on the increasingly pressing issue, immigration already being a hot button topic this election year from Managua to Washington, but at first failed to make any headway.

Countries such as Guatemala complained about the increasing transits, Vice President Alfonso Fuentes saying "They are not politically perse-cuted people, just people who want to join their families in the U.S. or who are looking for a better economic life." But many island observers beg to differ, stressing democracy has hardly come to Cuba in the last year, and economic progress has been slow, despite dreams of income-pouring cruise ship arrivals dancing in their heads. In fact some argue the Castros are perhaps only cementing their grip on power by allowing for the little liberalizations that have been made so far. U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes says the opening of relations between the two has become "irreversible" but adds "nobody expects Cuba in the next year to become a multi-party democracy". All food for thought as, in his final full year in office, the U.S. president is considering a historic first visit to the island nation since the embargo.

Critics regret such plans, fearing little respite for the Cuban masses. "Fidel Castro's personal tyranny was recycled and the result was his brother Raul's more oligarchial dictatorship," notes Jose Azel, a senior scholar at the University of Miami. "General Castro has begun a process that is changing the facts on the ground with one aim in mind:that our diplomatic and commercial initiatives only serve to legitimize the regime's continuation. A totalitarian single-party system will become a hegemonic party structure." The closed borders meanwhile have trapped 8000 Cubans in Costa Rica and Panama, not the worst place in the world to be in the cold of Winter, but in limbo nonetheless, as the region struggles to make sense of its migrant crisis.

"We must find ways for these people to continue their journey in a safe, legal, dignified human manner," said the Costa Rican Minister of Communications  Mauricio Herrera. A few days into the new year a deal was in fact reached to airlift migrants from Costa Rica to El Salvador. Surrounded by all their worldly possessions, a few bags on a collection of matresses where they have settled by the men's room, clothes drying on a mesh fence nearby, the Cubans say a flight may finally help resolve their problems, four months after leaving home, two of them where they now stand.

"We have no family in the U.S. but life is difficult in Cuba. In Nicaragua the government is Communist, just like at home, so they don't like us very much". And in an election year Daniel Ortega, the longtime leader of the Sandinistas, whose face smiles at passers on a giant billboard just 100 yards away, has dug in his heels.


Kagame briguera un nouveau mandat
A première vue il n'est pas difficile de reconnaître l'affection du peuple rwandais pour celui qui a mis fin au terrible génocide de 1994. Commandant des forces rebelles il y a plus de vingt ans Paul Kagame a été vice-président et ministre de la défense avant de prendre officiellement les rênes du pouvoir en 2003, même si son influence était indubitable jusque là.

Indélogeable depuis, il a néanmoins appelé le peuple aux urnes en fin 2015 afin de donner son aval à la réforme constitutionnelle lui permettant d'annuler la limitation du mandat présidentiel, le genre de suggestion qui a mal été accueillie ailleurs sur ce continent où trop de dirigeants connaissent des règnes sans fin. Au Rwanda cependant le référendum, comme les candidatures de Kagame en 2003 et 2010 (élu avec plus de 93%), a plutôt bien été accueilli, de longues lignes s'installant devant les bureaux de vote bien avant l'ouverture.

Au final le taux d'approbation était dans les normes: 94% en faveur de modifications qui pourraient garder Kagame au pouvoir jusqu'en 2034. Mais le plébiscite n'a pas été aussi bien accueilli par tous les observateurs, dont l'allié américain, des reproches balayées à titre de "manœuvre" par la présidence.

Après tout le référendum survient à la demande générale, souligne le pouvoir, suite à une initiative populaire engageant 3,7 millions de Rwandais. "Ce qui se passe est le choix du peuple, déclare ainsi le principal intéressé, je n'ai rien demandé". Pour plusieurs, le retour de la paix n'a pas de prix. "Paul Kagame a amené la paix," soutient Eridigaride Newemukobwa en allant voter. Mais d'autres sont moins enthousiastes, des organisations des droits de l'homme regrettant que Kagame dirige désormais le pays avec une poigne de fer, muselant les médias au besoin. "Peu étonnant qu'il n'y ait pas de suspense à l'issue de ce référendum, fait remarquer Kenneth Roth de Human Rights Watch, étant donné le silence imposé aux voix discordantes et l'étouffement de la société civile".

L'opposition a largement décidé de ne pas faire campagne pour le non, des efforts jugés inutiles à cause de l'échéancier trop court prévu par le référendum. "Kagame jouit clairement d'un soutien considérable à travers le pays," souligne HRW, ajoutant cependant qu'"au Rwanda les organisations indépendantes de la société civile sont faibles suite à des années d'inti-midation, de menaces et d'obstacles administratifs de la part du gouvernement".

Selon un électeur interviewé par ce groupe des droits de l'homme "ce serait bête de voter non puisque de toute façon ça ne changera rien". En veille de nouvel an Kagame annonçait lors d'un discours à la nation qu'il briguerait un troisième mandat à la tête du pays, en 2017, une décision sans surprise liée au vote précédent


Quel nom pour la Macédoine?
Après un quart de siècle de rapports plutôt glaciaux entre les deux voisins du sud du continent européen les signes d'un dégel  se pointent à l'horizon entre la Grèce et la Macédoine, dont le nom à lui seul est à l'origine de la bisbille, mais le principal intéressé ne sera pas au pouvoir même si la question est réglée dans les plus brefs délais.

Depuis l'éclatement de l'ancienne Yougoslavie et l'indépendance du petit pays dépourvu d'un accès à la côte Skopje et Athènes limitaient les rapports au minimum, jusqu'à la levée de l'embargo des visites officielles en 2015, lorsque les ministres des affaires étrangères des deux pays ont brisé la glace en traversant la frontière, parfois avec des mots encoura-geants: La Macédoine serait prête à entrevoir un changement de nom, l'éponyme de la province grecque voisine.   

La mésentente de longue date n'a été que temporairement mise de côté lorsque les Nations unies ont proposé le nom provisoire d'Ancienne république yougoslave de Macédoine. En pleine crise des migrants les circonstances ont-elles force les deux à l'entente?   Voilà qui n'est pas encore fait, la Grèce accusant le petit pays de 2 millions d'habitants, soit moins de la population d'Athènes, de vouloir s'approprier toute une panoplie de symboles grecs, du soleil qui brille sur son drapeau (presque identique à celui de la bannière de la province grecque) à l'image même d'Alexandre le Grand, né grec mais devenu le souverain le mieux connu de ces terres contestées. Et quelles terres, à une époque la Grande Macédoine englobait non seulement les frontières actuelles et la province grecque voisine mais également une partie du territoire bulgare et albanais.   

La Macédoine a déjà changé de drapeau, légèrement, et pourrait ainsi légèrement changer son nom selon le dignitaire en visite Nikolas Poposki, ministre des affaires étrangères, jugeant les conditions "plus que réunies". "Nous aimerions le plus vite possible partir le dialogue avec la Grèce afin de trouver une solution, dira par la suite au Guardian le premier ministre Nikola Gruevski, si nous trouvons une solution elle sera soumise au peuple par référendum". Résolution de nouvel an?

Les gestes se multiplient depuis la visite en juin du ministre des affaires étrangères grec Nikos Kotzias qui avait déclaré haut et fort "nous voulons que tous nos voisins soient membres de l'Union européenne, car notre pays dépend de ce qui se passe dans l'ensemble des Balkans."   Une déclaration qui indiquerait la fin de la politique de blocage grecque contre la Macédoine, sans ignorer les implications encore plus étonnantes vis à vis le voisin turc. Mais Gruevski n'aura pas fait de ce possible changement de nom sa grande contribution à l'histoire nationale, qui semble plutôt négative à la lumière des faits actuels.

Ce dernier, entaché par multes scandales de corruption et de violations des droits de l'homme, devrait rendre sa démission à la mi-janvier après une décennie au pouvoir. Ses opposants le poursuivent au criminel pour écoute illégale et l'accusent de fraude électorale et d'abus de pouvoir durant son long règne.



America's crisis

As the gendarmes were in the early stages of the investigation into the Paris terror attacks, U.S. autho- rities were beefing up security across their nation, guarding public and sensitive areas in anticipation of a similar terrorist act or perhaps copycat attacks. In the frenzy that followed, amplified by a fierce early U.S. election campaign, officials vowed to do everything using every means in their power to defend the homeland, with more than two dozen states vowing to push back on Washington plans to welcome Syrian refugees after the French investigation found some suspects had entered Europe as refugees.  

None of the measures prevented the mass shootings that continued to riddle the U.S. in the days following, causing dozens of victims. After hesitating to call the San Bernardino mass shooting a terror act, authorities finally disclosed the suspects, both Muslims, had been radicalized and had been in touch with someone under investigation for terrorism, but added mixed motives may have been at play, including work-related issues. This is a fairly new but growing concept after a previous incident where a work-related dispute in the U.S. ended when a man, an IS sympathizer, decapitated his victim, using the group's now well established trade-mark method to terrorize.

The California suspects, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, were IS sympathizers. While the group did not claim responsibility, it had threatened to carry out attacks in the U.S. and praised its "supporters" slain by police. In only the third Oval Office address of his presidency Barack Obama said "Freedom is more powerful than fear" and called on Americans not to let the event divide them, but divided they already are. In a gun-crazy and fairly split land which saw two mass shootings the day of the San Bernardino attack which felled 14, the debate launched differed whether you found the terrorism or gun-control narrative more compelling. It was both the worst mass shooting since the Sandy Hook school tragedy in 2012 and the worst terror attack in the U.S. since 9-11. And it left America more divided, going through a frightening period of uncertainty as to the motives, which had not been present following the Paris and Colorado attacks.

This was an extra angle to the sort of terror to which Americans had grown so accustomed to it was a mere sidebar that these types of bloody acts had occurred more than once a day in 2015. In fact this was the 355th shooting to have involved four or more people this year, the second that day as another shooting in Savannah, Ga., killed one and injured others. More information about this now omnipresent phenomenon would be available, critics argue, if scientists were funded to research it. In a cruel irony, the day of the shootings, a group of doctors was in Washington to plead for a congressional ban on funding gun-related violence to be lifted. According to Shootingtacker.com, a crowd-sourced website, the mass shooting was the 1055th in 1066 days in the U.S. and quickly followed another massacre in Colorado Springs, the work of a sole gunman who felled three at an abortion clinic.

With gun homicides in the U.S. an astronomical 3 per 100,000 people, versus well under 0.7 for most advanced nations, the statistics provide a strong rebuke to attorney general Loretta Lynch's assertion such violence doesn't have its place in the U.S., where it can seem to mimic that of countries at war. Oddly the event followed a Black Friday shopping spree during which the highest gun sales were registered, the FBI finding itself overwhelmed by 185,000 background check requests in a single day. A previous high had followed the Newtown school massacre of 26 three years before, one following which advocates had called for guns in school to defend the defenceless. Ironically all these types of mass shootings have a double effect, observers say: raising insecurity and sparking fears a new gun control debate will restrict access to weapons, prompting a rush to buy guns under the current regime. But even these figures could be under reporting gun sales, which aren't tracked nationally.

According to one study 40% of gun sales are done on the fringes by vendors who ignore criminal priors. "The main motivation behind the sale of arms is the fear of daily violence, including mass shootings" says Jon Vernick of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. Higher gun sales don't necessarily mean more people buy them, some observe, rather that gun owners seek to stock up. Months away from the first primaries, U.S. politicians offered prayers on the Republican side and pleas for more gun control on the Democratic side, as the U.S. president decried yet another carnage during his tenure. While he said there may have been a "mixed motive" behind the attack he added: "We see a prevalence of these shootings and Americans feel there's nothing we can do about it," but stressed the U.S. had to ultimately make it harder for people who sought to do harm, to do so: "right now it's too easy". "We're going to have to search ourselves as a society to ... make it harder - not impossible but harder - to let individuals get access to weapons". The gun debate was not limited to America, the northern neighbor looking on with its painful memories of mass shootings past.

Days before the anniversary of the Polytechnique attack which killed 14 young female students in Montreal, the province of Quebec tabled a gun registry bill to fill the void after the federal long gun registry was abolished in 2012. The consequences of such violence is tremendous, observers note. "It just affects the basic things we care about in public health - the mortality, the life expectancy, morbidity, mental health." It affects all these things in pretty profound ways," says Daniel Webster, also of the Johns Hopkins Center. "If we had a disease that was killing as many people (30,000 last year) we would devote a lot more resources to make sure we had the best research to know what is most affected."

While the country reels from the attack, a California duo was gearing up for the launch of GunTV next month, America's first 24-hour firearms shopping channel. Another media was making history in print, the New York Times running an editorial on page 1, for the first time since the 1920s, calling "a moral outrage and national disgrace" the availability on the market of the types of weapons, "tools of macho vigilance", used in the attack. Most of the weapons in the California attack had been purchased legally, and the combination of lax laws and under the radar method used by the IS-inspired attackers, is a recipe for more low-level attacks by people who did not give authorities reason to suspect them. "It'll gradually dawn on people that we'll be living for a long time with a possibility of low level attacks that can never be predicted and can rarely be prevented," told the New York Times former UN official Bruce Jones.

Days later a terror attack on the London tube injured three passengers before the assailant, who screamed "this is for Syria" was arrested. He wasn't armed with the latest military-grade weaponry, but a knife. Both he and the victims got to survive the ordeal, and authorities get a rare chance to quiz the attacker about his motives. "The terrorist threat has evolved to a new phase," Obama said, adding attackers are using simpler methods to cause harm.


Alliance ou compétition?
Depuis le septembre 2001 et avec l'émergence des mouvances islamistes du nord du Nigéria au Pakistan en passant par le Proche Orient, c'est la notion d'alliances de la mort qui donnait des sueurs froides aux renseignements occidentaux, mais depuis les attentats de Paris c'est la compétition morbide que se livrent ces groupes, de Daech à Boko Haram, qui fait craindre le pire. Al-Qaida au Maghreb islamique et deux autres groupes ont revendiqué l'attaque de l'hôtel à Bamako qui a fait des douzaines de victimes.

Selon plusieurs analystes les groupes terroristes s'adonnent à un violent concours afin d'attirer des fidèles radicaux, une campagne que semble remporter l'EI, qui, après Paris, a aussi revendiqué l'attentat-suicide de Tunis, faisant une douzaine de morts. Il s'agissait du plus récent bilan sanglant du petit pays, frappé par deux autres attaques d'envergure en 2015 revendiqués par l'EI, celui d'un hôtel de Sousse faisant 38 morts et celui du musée Bardo, tuant 21 autres personnes.  

Mais parfois c'est un véritable mélange de compétition et de coopération qui met les autorités sur un pied d'alerte, les Shebabs de Somalie, responsables de l'attaque d'un centre d'achat au Kenya, approuvant les gestes à Paris et au Mali et encourageant les islamistes à s'en prendre aux cibles juives et occidentales.    

Puis la semaine dernière Al-Qaida au Maghreb annonçait une nouvelle alliance avec al-Mourabitoune, qui avait également revendiqué l'attaque de Bamako. "L'état islamique et al-Qaida se font la compétition dans le monde musulman (et surtout arabe), fait remarquer Gwynn Dyer, auteur de Pas de panique: L'état islamique, le terrorisme et le moyen orient d'aujourd'hui, les actes de terrorisme sont un bon moyen de recrutement".  

Et à travers le prisme des attentats de Paris ces actes ou leur menace semblent se multiplier, du nord du Mali et du Nigeria à Bruxelles, où un couvre feu a paralysé la capitale belge alors que les arrestations liées aux attentats de Paris se multipliaient.  Mais selon Dyer il est un peu fort de parler de véritable guerre, pour reprendre les paroles de plusieurs dirigeants internationaux, la menace et le nombre de victimes étant plutôt faibles par rapport aux carnages des conflits armés traditionnels, du moins en Occident.

"Si les attaques terroristes comme celles de Paris représentent les menaces les plus importantes en Occident on peut dire que ces pays s'en tirent plutôt bien," dit-il.

Mais la menace est bien réelle, le dirigeant d'al-Qaida Zawahiri prédisant de nouvelles attaques contre la Grande-Bretagne après l'annonce de frappes militaires contre la Syrie. Même son de cloche contre la Russie, vue sa participation active au Moyen orient également, qui se poursuit malgré l'écrasement d'un avion par tir turc.


Rocky disputes
With Beijing building up islands in the South China Sea and commissioning ships to defend them and Japan planning to deploy troops to protect another set of islands in the East China Sea, could the solution to such insular shouting matches be found halfway around the world in bitterly cold Arctic waters?One would hope any suggestion could help ease tensions between the half dozen or so countries involved in the Asian disputes over largely uninhabited collections of rocks in resources-rich heavily travelled areas of the seas.

A recent East Asia Summit did little to bring together China, Indonesia, Taiwan and Vietnam, all staking various claims, from the Paracel islands to the Scarborough Schoal, as well as waters near the Natuna and Spratly islands. No sooner was the gathering over that Beijing was announcing its commissioning of new supply vessels for troops in the contested zone, as it pursued its policy of building up "man-made islands" to "maintain military facilities".

In response other countries have been building "strategic partnerships", more recently Indonesia and Vietnam, while welcoming the concern and involvement of the more distant U.S., a member of APEC which hasn't been shy of condemning China's development of artificial islands, recently sending a naval destroyer in a "freedom of navigation operation".  

The skies overhead have also been caught up in the territorial dispute, the U.S. and other countries refusing to obey Chinese requests that they detail their flight plans over areas where it claims airspace. This week the U.S. announced it agreed with Singapore on a first deployment of spy planes, adding to previous deployments in the Philippines and Japan, a move Beijing said was the "kind of increase in military deployment" against the long term interest of countries in the region. There's more than enough action amid the waves fuelling tensions in Asia.

Further north Tokyo is slowly moving away from its usual defence-shy postwar posture to stake its claim in contested islands of the East China Sea. Hundreds of troops could be deployed in the next few years to be in a better position to respond to eventual foreign interventions in contested islands. The prime minister's corresponding new security laws this fall have faced critics there saying they violate the country's constitution. Japan has already been busy developing defences in its southwestern islands as Chinese ships have entered territorial waters claimed by Japan dozens of times since it nationalized some of the disputed islands three years ago.

But the tensions have not prevented the countries from holding security talks on the issue. Perhaps they should consider what Arctic experts from two countries clashing on territorial claims have recommended to settle the long running dispute between Canada and Denmark over tiny uninhabited Hans island, hardly the most alarming territorial dispute in a region rich with them.  University of British Columbia professor Michael Byers and a Danish colleague are suggesting that, for what it's worth, both countries share the icebound 1.3 sq kilometre barren knoll instead of keeping up the long standing flag dispute in the Nares Strait off Greenland.   

“It would resolve a long-standing dispute that, although insignificant, has some small potential to cause friction in the future,” says Byers, calling for the creation of a co-managed rocky condominium. Observers point 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 new federal government might see this as a way to signal a change in approach.”

Not that the dispute is anywhere near as tense as what has been seen in Asia, both countries limiting their insular incursions to dropping off bottles or schnapps or whisky… only after informing each other of such flagrant visits.  The region has seen a resurgence of more serious tensions between Canada, the U.S. and Russia in the Arctic since the warming up of the Northwestern Passage and Moscow's increasing Arctic overflights.


Belle progression à Ottawa malgré la défaite

Voilà des années que les quelques équipes de la capitale qui ont pu se rendre en finale se contentent du second rang, et les RedBlacks, à leur deuxième année seulement dans la ligue canadienne, sont bien passés à quelques minutes de changer ce triste portrait sportif.

Il y a huit ans, les Sénateurs tombaient 3-1 en série finale contre les Ducks. Plus tôt cet automne c'était au Fury, également à sa seconde saison, de tomber lors de la finale de la NASL, à New York.

En fin de compte ce sont les Eskimos d'Edmonton qui l'ont emporté 26-20, lors d'une rencontre qui réunissait deux clubs qui ont connu une amélioration notable. En 2013 Edmonton était tombé dans la cave de la division Ouest avec une fiche de 4-14. L'an dernier Ottawa occupait celle de l'Est avec une fiche de 2-16. Mais faut-il rappeler que le club m'existait pas en 2013?

Il faut donc conclure que l'apprentissage a été plutôt efficace au sein du plus jeune club de la ligue canadienne de football. Cherchant surtout à éviter le sort des Renegades avant eux, qui n'ont pas connu de saison victorieuse et encore moins de participation dans l'après-saison, les Redblacks de la capitale ne se sont pas seulement qualifiés, ils ont mérité deux semaines de repos avant de servir d'hôte à la finale de la division est, qu'ils ont remporté 35-28 contre Hamilton lors des derniers instants.

Il s'agissait de leur troisième gain consécutif contre les finalistes de l'an dernier, et du cinquième de suite. Et que des éloges pour ce quart dans la quarantaine qui ne semble, comme un bon vin, que s'améliorer avec l'âge.

Henry Burris bat des records à la fois sportifs et de popularité, tente bien de ramener le premier trophée professionnel en ville depuis près de quarante ans. Le joueur le plus exceptionnel de la saison a l'habitude de prendre un bain de foule sur le terrain en fin de match, posant pour des photos avec des partisans qui ont goûté à une saison de rêve.

Burris, tombé sous le charme du pays de façon à y rechercher la nationalité, a en effet terminé la meilleure saison de sa carrière avec le plus de passes complétées (481, un record de ligue) et plus de verges récoltées par la passe (5703), et avec 26 touchés, second à ce chapitre dans la ligue. Six d'entre eux ont été récoltés lors du dernier match de la saison, contre le finaliste de l'an dernier, qui s'était imposé avec une fiche initialement parfaite dans son nouveau domicile.

Non seulement Burris s'est-il imposé dans les airs durant la saison, il était le deuxième marqueur de touchés au sol de la ligue (7), soit deux de moins que son coéquipier Jeremiah Johnson. Autant dire que la récolte a été réussie cette année. Il a également établi un record de passes complétées durant une saison avec les 28 du dernier match de la saison. Dans la quarantaine, il semble néanmoins avoir le vent dans les voiles.

"J'ai toujours senti dans mon coeur qu'il m'en restait un peu, commentait le n.1 du club après le dernier match de la saison régulière. Je ne fais rien de différent que ce que je pouvais faire l'an dernier (le club avait une fiche de 2-16), mais je pense que dans mon cas ce qui compte c'est que je n'ai jamais cessé de croire en mes capacités. Je savais qu'il me restait mes capacités physiques et la force d'esprit d'obtenir des résultats".

Les exploits du club sont tout un effort en équipe, non moins de neuf joueurs étant candidats de l'équipe d'étoile de la saison 2015. Cet exploit a étonné le quart légendaire Russ Jackson.

“Remonter d'une saison de 2-16 l'an dernier c'est une expérience enrichissante pour l'équipe entière, dit-il. Remporter 12 parties cette saison et terminer au premier rang, vous ne pouvez imaginer un tel dénouement".

En fin de compte Ottawa a terminé à un pas du triomphe, lors d'un match ou on donnait son opposant gagnant par au moins un touché, mais le n.1 a promis de retenir les leçons de la rencontre pour revenir en force l'année suivante.

"C'est dur de ne pas compléter le travail en fin de compte mais il y existe plusieurs raisons d'être excités de faire partie de l'équipe dans l'avenir," commenta l'entraineur Rick Campbell. Et malgré la sécheresse de presque quatre décennies, parler d'avenir à Ottawa reste prometteur alors que la ville espère obtenir la Coupe Grey pour fêter le 150e anniversaire du Canada dans deux ans.

En attendant la ville peut être fier de son jeune fils O'Connor, le quart qui a sa première saison a guidé son club de UBC à la Coupe Vanier contre les Carabins de l'Université de Montréal.