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Qu'est-ce qui pousse un pays à changer de nom? La pratique a eu lieu à quelques reprises ces dernières années, et les raisons varient autant que la géographie. Viendrait se joindre à cette liste la nation la plus peuplée du globe selon l'invitation reçue par les chefs d'état au G20 à Delhi, dont l'hôte était annoncé à titre de président de Bharat, le deuxième nom officiel du pays, un ancien mot en sanscrit parfois choisi dans la langue hindoue pour décrire l'Inde, un changement aux couleurs de ce régime nationaliste qui a fortement poussé les intérêts de la majorité hindoue, parfois au détriment de ses minorités. Lui précédait il n'y a pas si longtemps Turkiye, cette nouvelle désignation des terres autour du Bosphore, entre autre choisi pour éviter toute confusion avec le mot anglais de dinde. Quelques années plus tôt, après cinquante années d'indépendance, le dernier monarque absolu du continent africain a renommé son Swaziland le royaume d'eSwatini, terre de Swazis dans la langue locale. Un geste qui modernisait un peu l'image de cette terre entourée par l'Afrique du sud, tout en évitant la confusion avec la terre helvète plusieurs milliers de kilomètres au sud. Certains ont regretté que tant de ressources soient consacrées à un geste si symbolique alors que le pays d'un million et demi d'âmes à peine compte parmi les plus pauvres du pauvre continent. "Swaziland ou Eswatini, on a toujours faim," écrivait alors Notsile Nkambule sur les médias sociaux. Le continent avait vu de nombreux changements du genre prendre place à travers les années, désignant des pays de tailles diverses, du Zaire repassé au Congo à la Rhodésie, devenue Zimbabwe, le Nyasaland devenu Malawi et Bechuanaland rebaptisé Botswana, gestes liés à la décolonisation. Le phénomène n'a pas échappé au continent asiatique, de Kampuchea devenu Cambodge au Ceylon devenu Sri Lanka. Ce changement avait eu lieu au moment de l'indépendance, et plusieurs nationalistes hindous estiment que 75 ans après leur propre indépendance, l'Inde doit se séparer d'un vestige de la couronne britannique, certains voyant dans le nom India "un symbole d'esclavage". Mais le changement n'a pas été si bien reçu par les nombreuses minorités, craignant un autre geste nationaliste hindou de la part du régime de Narendra Modi. Plusieurs politiciens ont également critiqué le geste. "L'article premier de la constitution lit: Bharat, qui était l'Inde, sera une union d'états, écrit Jairam Ramesh du parti du Congrès national, mais à présent cette union d'états est attaquée." D'autres éspèrent seulement qu'il n'en résultera pas un rejet total du nom Inde.

Changer de nom



Late House funding bill looks to avert shutdown of US government            NPU file Photo

Putting the brakes

Now that the floodgates have been opened, it's hard not to watch a single sports event without being bombarded by betting ads. Buying a 50-50 at the stadium is one thing, but the constant upselling of every-minute betting on the airwaves has hit such a level it is increasingly being tied to a flood of mental health issues and even suicide.


Now some jurisdictions have started taking action to prevent disaster, if it hasn't struck already. Sometimes it's not just the ads, but the sponsorship. Bet99 patches can be found on the uniforms of CFL teams while BetVictor has become the official betting partner of the Canadian Elite Basketball League. It's actually difficult to see how it could survive without it. BetMGM meanwhile has recruited the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Connor McDavid, heavy weights of Canadian sports in every respect.


Draftkings and FanDuel claim to be official partners of the NFL, a league 70 million Americans are expected to bet on this year, leaving the company salivating as the season kicks off. "This is kind of Christmas, New Year’s, Fourth of July all wrapped into one” said FanDuel CCO Mike Raffensperger. “There really is no week in the entire calendar year in terms of getting new customer trial onto a sportbook." And every different company promises the best sportsbook in the business, and being able to bet on anything at any time. A true playground of addiction.


Alarmed by this in August Ontario decided it would start cracking down by banning the use of pro athletes to promote gambling sites. It isn't the first   jurisdiction to try to reign in the mad rush to online gambling which has flooded the sports world in recent years and has even left some athletes gasping for air.


Among them Toronto Raptors power forward Chris Boucher said the impact of the legalization of sports betting, which took place in 2021 in Canada, has often left him and other athletes at the end of hateful messages because betting fans were disappointed by their performance on the court. “Somebody said 'I chose the wrong slave today.' They literally sent me that message. I had to read it. I couldn't believe it,” he said. As a result he said players were now sadly less inclined to exchange with fans. “I could see how somebody could lose their mind over this really clearly," he added.


At the other end of the spectrum there are athletes and staff accused of corruption and game fixing, leading to multiple suspensions at the NFL and even NCAA levels. Three-time NHL dad Karl Subban is now known as much for his advocacy to ban sports betting ads as he is raising top-level athletes. "Everywhere you turn, you’re invited to gamble on the games," he told Toronto Life. "I stand in front of the TV for minutes at a time to shield my grandchildren from betting promos. It takes away from the entire event of watching a game; they’re that distracting. And beyond that, they lead fans to make dangerous decisions with their money."


Protecting children was one reason Ontario gave for banning sports athletes from promoting these sites. Legislators in the US are also looking to tighten oversight of the industry in the name of protecting them. Thirty three states and counting offer legal sports betting just five years after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law that had prohibited the practice, Americans betting over $220 billion on sports since then. New York proposed new rules prohibiting ads on college campuses or “aimed at persons under the minimum age.”


Half a dozen other states have enacted or proposed new rules on sports betting in recent months. The movement is gathering steam elsewhere. Overseas Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have also brought on tougher regulations. Some critics point to these countries saying Ontario's move doesn't go far enough. "A growing number of countries are banning ads alto-gether, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands," noted Bruce Kidd of Toronto University. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental health 42% of adolescents had gambled in Canada.


People with gambling habits this early were more likely to keep them later in their lives. Lives, sometimes shortened by the addiction. "The more people gamble, the more activities they gamble on, and the younger they start, the more likely they are to develop problems with not only gambling itself but also mental health problems like depression, anxiety and suicidality," told Newsweek Lia Nower, director of the Center for Gambling Studies at Rutgers University School of Social Work. According to some studies about one in five problem gamblers attempt suicide, the highest rate of any addiction.


The United Kingdom, which ushered the wave allowing mobile betting in 2005, sees more than 400 suicides a year linked to gambling according to recent studies. It was enough to cause Stewart Kenny, co-founder of the online sports betting site Paddy Power, to quit the business, saying he was ashamed to have participated in the explosion of online betting and its consequences on mental health.


While there are treatments for these types of addictions, the problem is few people actually seek them in these cases compared with other mental health disorders, earning the monicker of 'hidden addiction'. “The other challenge is the rate at which people discontinue treat-ment,” notes James P. Whalen, who directs the Institute for Gambling Education and Research at the University of Memphis. "For most mental health disorders, 20% of people who start therapy will drop out before completing a standard course of treatment. By comparison the dropout rate for gambling harms is nearly double: 39%.”


At least the funding for addiction programs in some countries, including Canada, the U.K. and Australia, offers some ray of hope. But not all of them.  "The U.S. just hasn't caught up," notes David Geier of the Nebraska Commission on Problem Gambling. "And it doesn't appear likely that it's going to happen in our lifetimes." Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes says the ad ban goes in the right direction. "I have  witnessed lives destroyed by betting an can only imagine with horror the effect of normalizing (gambling) in the way (the ads are) effectively doing."



Plus de trente ans après l'abandon russe qui a suivi l'éclatement de l'Union soviétique le Kremlin et Cuba, deux régimes largement isolés, tentent de tisser de nouveaux liens dans le contexte de la guerre en Ukraine, mais les deux capitales n'ont pas entièrement raccordé leurs violons.


Alors qu'un rapprochement a bien eu lieu, au niveau commercial et sans doute militaire entre les deux anciens alliés de la guerre froide après plusieurs visites de dignitaires russes à la Havane, cette dernière a été alarmée de découvrir l'existence d'un réseau de trafic humain avec but d'envoyer des mercenaires cubains sur le front ukrainien. Cuba annonçait récemment l'arrestation de 17 personnes soupçonnées de recrutement, certaines ayant des antécédents criminels.


Au moins une mère a affirmé que son fils de 27 ans avait été de ceux recrutés. A l'origine on leur aurait promis des emplois en construction or "ils ont été trompés". Elle a depuis perdu sa trace. Cet été le président Miguel Diaz-Canel avait réaffirmé son "appui  inconditionnel" de Moscou dans sa lutte contre "l'expansion de l'Otan aux frontières de la Russie." Or la découverte du réseau à été à l'origine d'un rappel que "Cuba ne participe pas à la guerre en Ukraine" de la part du département des affaires étrangères cubain.


La Russie, en manque de soldats, multiplie des campagnes de recrutement à l'étranger depuis le début de la guerre, entre autre en Arménie et au Kazakhstan, et la possibilité de voyager en Russie sans visa est devenue intéressante sur une île 2014, où la situation s'est déteriorée depuis l'effondre-ment du tourisme à cause de la pandémie et le resserrement des sanctions sous la présidence Trump.


Cette semaine JetBlue mettait fin à ses dernier vols vers Cuba. La faiblesse des infrastructures cubaines a été mise en évidence lors des pannes électriques importantes de l'an dernier, laissant le régime à la merci des rares "bienfaiteurs" de la steppe. Des Cubains avaient été repérés depuis quelques mois à la fois au sein de l'armée regulière russe et le groupe Wagner, avant la révolte de cette compagnie militaire au printemps.


Selon Moscou il s'agirait de volontaires, mais des membres réguliers de l'armée cubaine étaient tout de même partis entrainer des soldats au Belarus, comme ils auraient pu le faire en Angola le siècle dernier. Depuis l'an dernier les étrangers qui servent sous les drapeaux russes pendant au moins un an peuvent faire une demande de citoyenneté simplifiée. Par ailleurs selon le ministère de la défense britannique "au moins six millions de migrants d'Asie centrale en Russie sont perçus comme recrues potentielles".


Cuba n'est pas le seul pays isolé qui fait l'objet d'une campagne de charme du Kremlin, vu la visite de Kim Jong-Un en Russie pour discuter d'un possible  approvisionnement en armes. Certains estiment que le transfert d'équipement militaire russe à Cuba est hautement attendu après la visite du ministre Lavrov cette année, un agissement non sans précédent sûr d'alarmer les Etats-Unis, un geste possiblement en riposte aux déploiements de l'Otan dans ces anciennes républiques soviétiques baltes. La Havane et Moscou se sont rapprochés dès la première invasion russe, en Crimée, en 2014, mais Cuba  a mal digéré le coup du réseau de recrues, dont les besoins son devenus d'autant plus pressants depuis la crise liée à Wagner. Cuba se dit rejeter «tout mercenariat ».


Soldiers appear in the streets, then on television and declare the sitting leader has been ousted and the country's institutions are suspended, its borders closed.


That is usually how a coup d'etat takes place. Follows  the condemnation from foreign capitals and world organizations, pleading for a return to the constitutional order. But this recipe for takeover can vary, and this may be why the aftermath of presidential elections in Guatemala has not received the same attention as the coup in Gabon despite the cries by president-elect Bernardo Arevalo that one is also occurring there and he is being blocked from taking power after being declared winner with 58% of the vote.


The 64-year-old sociologist certainly caused an electoral surprise, first when he made the cut for the run-off and then by upsetting first round winner Sandra Torres, a former first lady, in the second round. Now Arevalo says the establishment is out to deny his victory. “There is a group of corrupt politicians and officials who refuse to accept this result and have launched a plan to break the constitutional order and violate democracy,” he said.


This comes after his party, Movimiento Semilla, was suspended following claims there were anomalies when it was registered. But the prosecutor and judge behind the suspension are themselves on a US list of "corrupt actors" under the microscope for election interference. While the suspension would not prevent the transfer of power from taking place it could hamstring the party and make it more difficult to govern this troubled Central American country struggling with poverty and corruption.


Arevalo says his commitment to fight corruption has raised alarm bells in the establishment. The road here has already been mined with challenges. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said Arevalo and his deputy Karin Herrera were “subjected to stigmatisation, harassment, hounding, public disclosure of personal details on social media, and threats including two specific plans to hurt them and even kill them.”


Arevalo has pledged to reduce poverty and improve health and education, providing a glimmer of hope in a violence-torn country more than a majority of people say is ruled by corrupt politicians and is heading in the wrong direction. Outgoing President Alejandro Giam-mattei has politicised the courts during his mandate and the tribunals had previously banned three anti-establishment candidates from running.


Now Arevalo says he is facing the same campaign determined to prevent radical changes in Guatemala. Last week he said he was suspending his participation in the transition after government agents raided electoral facilities and opened boxes of votes in a probe of the voting process observers say had no foundation. Experts called this an "unprecedented" violation of the law. For Arevalo, it's all part of a deviation of the constitution "fully towards a clear coup d'etat in progress."



In case you missed it, Gabon's Ali Bongo was the featured leader for August in the West African calendar of deposed strongmen. While some critics were stunned yet another relatively stable country of West Africa followed the well-travelled military path there is no doubt the contagion is spreading concern among others in the region spared so far.


For if Gabon, where Bongo and his clan had been in power for decades, why not Cameroon to the north, where Paul Biya holds court since 1982? But not all coups are made equal. Unlike Niger, where an elected president had been deposed by the brass, Gabon ousted an unpopular despot who had gone to bed thinking his latest staged re-election was in the bag only to be placed under house arrest by the military, which declared the elderly statesman had formally entered into retirement.


"I am calling on you to make noise," Bongo pleaded in a desperate online video message which showed the extent of his fall and isolation. But the noise in the streets was that of jubilation after 14 years of his personal rule and an election which had not passed the smell test. The soldiers, who lifted his chosen successor in the air publicly in celebration - ironically the head of the presidential guard, Gen. Brice Oligui Nguema -, listed a litany of accusations to justify their move. They cited "irresponsible, unpredictable governance resulting in a continuing deterioration in social cohesion that risks leading the country into chaos".


It was the eighth coup in the region in three years, sounding new alarms in world capitals concerned about  their interests and overall instability in West Africa, a region already punished by jihadist attacks. Former French president Francois Hollande said allowing the first putsch in Mali in 2020 to take place with little opposition set the stage for others to follow aross the region, emboldening the region's militaries. Africa analyst Seidik Abba said Gabon had gathered the "usual ingredients of the coup d’État".


But opposition leader Albert Ondo Ossa saw things differently, calling events a "palace revolution" rather than a coup because Nguema is a cousin of Bongo's. "The Bongos found they had to remove Ali to effectively continue the Bongo system... the Bongo clan continues to wield power behind him."  He called on Paris to weigh in, saying he had warned France of such a possible outcome.


The old colonial power was once again scrambling, seeing its interests in the region dwindle by the day, though it was not immediately clear what the impact would be. Gabon is an oil-rich country with important French petroleum and military interests. After initially freezing all national institutions the junta said it would gradually return some of  them during a transition period of  unspecified length.



This time it's not a ship running aground which is blocking a major cargo traffic waterway, leaving some to consider alternatives, but low water levels, bringing more hardship to an already challenged global goods distribution industry a few months before Christmas. And the problem is a recurring one which may keep getting worse with global warming, some fear.


Again this year severe droughts have caused water levels to go down in the Panama Canal system, which requires 200 million litres of freshwater for each vessel to move through its locks. Normally 40 ships would travel the 82-kilometres waterway daily, but authorities have had to reduce this number to 32 while limiting how deep ships sit in the water. Last week officials said these restrictions would go on for the next 10 months, causing a backlog of ships off the coast waiting to make the journey through Panama while some are left to consider alternate routes.


The most obvious one, through the Magellan strait at the tip of the continent, is quite the detour. As in 2019 when El Nino limited precipitations, it is the lack of rainfall which is making the trip more difficult, and authorities have been working to maintain water levels sufficient. They note the wet season has been shrinking in recent years while droughts have increased, leaving a canal region so critical to global shipping industries seeing consecutive years of lower than average rainfall, dropping water levels below the  comfort zone, ultimately imposing restrictions on cargo levels.


It is the repetition of these dry spells which is causing observers to wonder how traffic could be impacted down the road, and whether other viable options should be considered for hauling cargo across the world. "The big disadvantage that the Panama Canal has as a maritime route is that we operate with freshwater, while others use seawater," said Canal administrator Ricaurte Vasquez recently. "We have to find other solutions to remain a relevant route for international trade. If we don't adapt, we are going to die."


This would be another blow to trade, with around 6 per cent of all global maritime commerce relying on the canal. It would also be a blow to the country which collects billions annually from the passage of ships. The current restrictions may cut earnings by as much as $200 million in 2024 compared to this year, according to Vasquez, who fears shippers will look elsewhere for alternatives. But climate change may make this challenge a permanent one, notably by making El Nino phenomenons more frequent. "We are observing in the canal area that climatic events are becoming increas-ingly extreme," said Steve Paton of the Smithsonian tropical research institute, who notes the biggest droughts have taken place in the last few decades and recent years have been the driest in history.


Growing Panama City, at one end of the canal, and agriculture needs across the country, have been taxing water levels as well. And the crisis is casting some doubt on future expansion projects in the canal. Shifting water levels delayed early stages of this expansion for even larger transport vessels, and should the uncertainty continue or worsen, this could bring companies to consider other options. Panamanian officials analysing long term solutions have considered everything from stopping hydroelectric operations, which has already started, to digging a third artificial lake or piping water in from a river. 


“They’re going to have to do all of them,” told the Economist former environment minister Merei Heras a few years ago. When the US first considered developing a canal to cut shipping times between the two coasts, it settled on Panama, but a Nicaraguan route was also being considered at first, an alternative that may once more come under consideration. A decade ago a Chinese businessman considered a canal through Panama's northern neighbor.


While the project never materialized, the idea of a Central American alternative hasn't gone away. One would be "technically feasible", tells the BBC Jean-Paul Rodrigue of Hofstra University, but there would be obstacles. "The problem is the distances involved are much longer, significantly longer," he points out. Others would involve costs both monetary and environmental. Rodrigue says $40 bil. could get you started, but ecological ramifications would be daunting considering the rainforest and wetlands destructions sure to accompany it. In fact one has to wonder if the Panama Canal itself could be built today.      


As health authorities remind people to update their covid vaccines ahead of the coming cold season amid an uptick in cases, diseases we thought had been eradicated a long time ago were making their reappearance in the West, putting health officials on alert and reminding the importance of keeping various jabs up to date. Measles, chickenpox and malaria are just some of the diseases which have reappeared on both sides of the pond, and resistance to vaccines and climate change are being blamed for the surge.


The latter is having an impact worldwide, increas-ing health concerns about everything from anthrax to dengue, which could reach record highs this year, with cases popping up in Sudan's capital for the first time but also in Europe. More menacingly, as temperatures rise deadly diseases such as Ebola, Lassa and monkeypox increase and threaten to cross over into North America, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. In fact an mpox outbreak is currently affecting 113 countries and territories, and the United States has the highest number of cases since January 2022, over 30,000, followed by Brazil and Spain.


Countries in the top 10 include Canada and Germany. While there is a vaccine for mpox, it is not always the case for many diseases, and health officials are aware they may be facing vaccination fatigue after the pandemic years. So they are warning of the threats of diseases making a comeback when uptake is slow, pointing to measles in particular, surging both the US and UK. London officials were bracing for potentially tens of thousands of cases due to low levels of vaccination. The UK Health Security Agency warned anything from 40,000 to 160,000 cases could be reported in the capital alone, viewed as less immune than the rest of the country.


But overall levels of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations in the UK were at their lowest level in a decade as people failed to keep their vaccines up to date during the pandemic. Uptake had already been declining in the early 2000s after false claims of a link between the vaccine and autism, which have been discredited since. This falsehood was still being waved around during the covid anti-vax movement however. With that movement going on strong in the US as well, it is no surprise that country has also seen an uptick in cases of measles, especially in New York City. Measles was considered wiped out there by the turn of the century but a number of outbreaks have been recorded since.


Other preventable diseases seeing outbreaks include mumps, with a number of cases popping up at Ohio State university this spring, largely through unvaccinated students. Other preventable diseases reappearing include whooping cough and chicken pox, which both saw outbreaks starting just over a decade ago. Cases of pertussis and mumps have also been on the rise, with vaccine refusal being fingered for the increase as well as insufficient or waning immunity.


Drug resistance is also contributing to some of the rises, experts pointing to tuberculosis in particular as an example as cases creep up again across the world. Such resistance could also lead to more sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea. But amid all this experts point to one factor perhaps preparing the largest resurgence of diseases yet, climate change, one not only tied to the environment but the animal kingdom as well. Intense flooding, which was recently seen in China and parts of the US, can overwhelm drains and back up sewer lines, as happened in Paris weeks ago and Ottawa more recently, triggering possible contamination of water supplies. In the worst cases this can increase the  threat of outbreaks of cholera.


Warmer temperatures and high levels of precipitations also develop breeding grounds of tropical mosquito populations, risking a surge in malaria, which saw surprising cases reported in the southern US including Florida. The state is an odd incubator of exotic diseases, being home to one in five leprosy cases in the U.S. Over the summer organizations warned cases of dengue fever could reach record highs through the spread of mosquitoes. Cases since 2000 have risen globally eight fold, up to 4.2 million by last year accord to the World Health Organisation.


Peru declared a state of emergency in most regions related to the disease as already 3 million cases were being reported in the Americas, with concerns spreading to Bolivia and Paraguay as well. Argentina, facing its worst outbreak in years, started sterilizing mosquitoes in its fight against the spread. "The American region certainly shows it is bad and we hope the Asian region may be able to control it," said Raman Velayudhan of WHO, warning "about half of the world's population is at risk of dengue."


The movement of animals of all sizes due to climate change is also creating new opportunities for contact with humans and the potential to spread diseases, experts warn.  Among them they mention wildlife carrying rabies venturing to new geographic areas and rises in vole populations that can spread diseases such as Alaskapox in warming areas of the north. Rising temperatures also promote the spread of disease-carrying fungi largely out of mind for many. Up north the melting permafrost is also sparking alarm it may unleash diseases both known and unknown. Experts know calls to update covid boosters will be a tough sell amid the vaccine fatigue. Officials in Canada have had to throw out 14 million doses of the vaccine as demand dried up over the year. But resurging diseases show the risks of not taking the occasional jab update.



Ecuador's elections are heading for a run off in a tense environment marked by assassinations. For months the usually peaceful small South American country best known for its distinct geographic location and biodiversity had been crippled by political disruption and drug-related violence. In the lead up to Ecuador's presidential vote legislature member and anti-corruption candidate Fernan-do Villavicencio, a former journalist, said he had been threatened by a drug gang leader.


Then following a campaign stop in Quito 11 days before the presidential vote, the 59-year-old was gunned down, bringing political opponents together to condemn the slaying. President Guillermo Lasso, who triggered the election after resigning following two failed impeachment attemps, joined others saying he was "outraged and shocked" by the assassination, vowing "this crime will not go unpunished".


"Organized crime has come a long way, but the full weight of the law is going to fall on them," he said, an admission itself of the growing crime wave which has made the small country of 17 million experience the same barbary witnessed in Colombia in its heyday. But as Bogota finally reached a peace deal with the last rebel group which once waged war against the state, Ecuador lived a true nightmare as gangs vied for the precious drug routes that now snake their way through the Andean nation.


This was only the latest high profile death after the murder of the mayor of Manta had also triggered a state of emergency, as the nation struggled to contain gang violence which took over its prisons and spilled into its streets. Over the last two years violence in prisons across the country claimed hundreds of lives, sparked by a riot in the country's largest institution, La Litoral, killing some 120 people in September 2021.


Others have followed since amid turf wars between cartels fighting over the shipment of drugs through Ecuador. In a single gang attack last April a dozen people were killed including a 13-year-old girl. The violence has become a major theme of the campaign, with one candidate looking to El Salvador for inspiration, a country where hard line on gangs has brought down violence, but not without raising alarms by human rights organizations.


Jan Topic, a businessman from Guayaquil, a coastal city overrun by violence otherwise known as a launching pad for trips to the Galapagos islands, says that president Nayib Bukele's is a proven method against crime, despite the charges of rights violations. “Since Bukele came to power, the number of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants has dropped from 36 to zero, ” he said, adding, “he did not back down, he confronted the mafias, he confronted all the political parties, Congress, he did it without backing down.”


Ecuador was looking to toughen its stance, sending soldiers to the streets and moving one gang leader to a maximum security institution but refused to push back the date of the election. 


L'été 2003 une canicule sans précédent emportait des milliers de vies en France, souvent des personnes âgées sans accès à une climatisation salvatrice. Vingt ans plus tard, malgré ces terribles leçons, une étude du magazine Lancet est venue rappeler la vulnerabilité de la capitale française à un an des jeux olympiques et alors que fournaise et feux brûlent la Méditerranée.


Largement épargnée cet été, pour l'instant, Paris reste menacée par les canicules de l'avenir, qui guettent ses habitants plus qu'ailleurs selon le magazine scientifique. Il s'agit en fait de la capitale européenne la moins préparée pour une telle éventualité selon une étude passant en revue 854 villes entre 2000 et 2019. La métropole de 11 millions d'habitants arrivait en tête de liste dans la catégorie des risques liés à la chaleur dans tous les groupes d'âge, une situation qui ne va pas s'améliorer avec les changements climatiques.


"Isoler des facteurs spécifiques est difficile, explique à France 24 Pierre Masselot, auteur de l'étude et chercheur à l'École d'hygiène et de médecine tropicale de Londres. La taille et la densité de la ville contribuent clairement au risque accru". Et les moins bien nantis sont souvent victimes en temps de canicule. "Paris étant une grande ville, elle a aussi davantage d’habitants de milieux populaires", dit-il, vivant dans des zones souvent peu vertes ou climatisées. "Si on ajoute à cela le fait que ces populations ont davantage de problèmes de santé, on comprend vite pourquoi elles sont particu-lièrement à risque".


Les célèbres toits de la capitale en zinc y sont pour quelquechose, étant un métal qui absorbe la chaleur et contribue, avec le bitume et la concentration de bâtiments élevés bloquant le vent, à produite un ilot de chaleur sans merci. Sans parler de la pollution, qui aide également à stocker la chaleur. Mais le manque d'expérience des grandes chaleurs y est également pour quelquechose, "Les villes habituées aux vagues de chaleur se sont déjà adaptées.


À Madrid, le risque de mortalité y est légèrement plus faible qu’à Paris à température égale", ajoute Masselot. Pourtant celle-ci n'est pas épargnée non plus. L'été a été particulièrement torride dans le bassin méditerranéen, et l'Espagne et la Grèce n'y ont pas échappé. Athènes a dû d'ailleurs limiter l'accès à l'Acropole en temps de grande chaleur, et la capitale grecque ne sera pas épargnée dans l'avenir. Tout comme Paris, le béton, la forte densité et le manque d'espaces verts à Athènes en fait une capitale vulnérable, sans parler de son emplacement dans un bol formé de montagnes qui capte la pollution en place, même si celle-ci s'est passablement améliorée avec le temps.


"Avec le béton et l'asphalte, les villes devien-nent des îlots de chaleurs. À Athènes il y a très peu d'espaces verts permettant de faire baisser les températures, résume à l'AFP Kostas Lagouvardos de l'Institut pour la recherche environnementale et le développement durable de l'Observatoire national d’Athènes, et les forêts qui entourent la ville disparaissent à cause des incendies".


Ce phénomène s'est encore produit cet été aux portes de la métropole de 4 millions d'habitants. La ville est la deuxième plus dense en Europe, et ceci a été exacerbé par une construction peu ordonnée. "En Grèce on construit tout le temps et partout ! C'est le plus gros problème," estime l'urbaniste Aris Kalandides. Selon WWF la densité espace vert par habitant y est le dixième de ce que préconise l'Organisation mondiale de la santé, soit 0,96 m2 au lieu de 9 m2.


Les critiques dénoncent un manque de volonté politique, deux  ans après la nomination de la première responsable du climat à Athènes, qui doit mettre en place une stratégie d'adaptation des infrastruc-tures au changement climatique. Les ilots de chaleur, qui peuvent varier de quartier en quartier, ignorent la géographie. Aux Etats-Unis, la Nouvelle-Orléans, New York et Houston ont été classés parmi les plus vulnérables à cet effet. Malgré sa position septentrionnale le Canada n'a pas été épargné. Une canicule en 2010 a fait  plus de 300 victimes au Québec seulement.


From Hollywood to Ottawa, London to Johannesburg, Seoul and beyond, recent weeks and months have been marked by strikes of all sorts involving everything from health care workers to longshoremen, actors, writers and truck drivers. Their geographic locations and occupations vary, but not so much their cause and plight, in particular better wages. This Summer's Hollywood strike began as Canada's longest public service strike affected tens of thousands nationwide.


In the meantime young doctors held their longest strike ever in England while Kenyan and Bangladeshi protesters clashed with police protesting rising costs. Indeed inflation has been a major motivation sending many to the streets  or contemplating job action, a move itself not without costs to the individuals or the economies as a whole. "I think what we are seeing is the reaction to the cost of living crisis and people taking more extreme measures and demands for pay rises," observes Jimena Blanco of Verisk Maplecroft. While this has been a constant in the developing world is it now hitting the West as well, where people haven't seen double digit inflation in decades. "Strikes are just the symptom of the economic situations families are dealing with," she tells Aj-Jazeera.


But that may be only part of the picture. Indeed in the West, in the US in particular, data from the Labor of Statistics show the number of people who went on strike jumped 50% last year already compared to 2021, though to be fair that earlier year was still very much lost in the unusual environment of the pandemic, where those who hadn't lost their jobs were thankful to still be working, many of them remotely.


Since the beginning of 2023 there is no doubt North America has seen a boost in strike action, from Vancouver where dock workers were voting on an agreement, to Starbucks, Hollywood and overseas. "It tends to be cyclical that in a stronger economy workers are more willing to walk off the job," observes Harry Holzer of Georgetown University. They are therefore in a better bargaining position since "employers need them more." In addition many came out of the pandemic feeling under-appreciated, he adds, while those who were deemed essential came out feeling burnt out. For many, this launched an evaluation of their professional lives. "I think a lot of people came out of the pandemic feeling like they didn't necessarily want to take the usual guff."


Penn State professor Paul Clark also notes approval of unions in the US reached over 70% "which is the highest it's been in decades," especially among younger workers. And union wins, such as what Canada's largest public service union trumpeted after hundreds of thousands walked off the job earlier this year, are closely observed by other workers. "If there are unionized workers who are going on strike and they get their demands of increased wages and certain benefits, research shows that unions have spillover effects," tells Marketplace Margaret Poydock of the Economic Policy Institute.


That's why this year's Canadian public service strike was so influential, being watched across the country by other both union and non union workers struggling with the new realities of high inflation and remote work. And many of these strikes have not been without success, the workers of American airline United scoring a 35% hike in wages. Of course such high increases in any industry risk upping inflation as the costs are passed on to consumers, who have been flocking back to the air in great numbers since the lifting of travel restrictions.


"The eyes of the world and particularly the eyes of labour are upon us," said Hollywood union president Fran Drescher, a former TV star himself, as the job actions which paralyzed studios and shooting across the world dragged on. "What's happening to us is happening across all fields of labour."  The rise in union support comes at a time some major players such as Amazon and Walmart, and U.S. food giants such as McDonald's and Starbucks, continue their fight to prevent union membership by their members, often but not always succeeding. A U.S. court in fact is looking into a tweet Elon Musk wrote threatening to withdraw stock options from employees joining unions.


Union members or not workers are feeling the pinch and this is all the more difficult as they are also seeing corporations raking in profits. "Large corporations have made record gains while working class households have struggled," says Simon Black of Brock university. "I think there's good evidence that the corporate profits and not workers' wages have contributed dispropor-tionately to inflation." Corporations' embrace of artificial intelligence have also increased worker concerns across the board, in all fields, leaving some feeling helpless and forcing them to protest as a last resort.


According to a recent PwC survey only 22% said their workload was often or usually manageable, an ongoing issue now made worse by new technologies considering "additional force of disruption emerged this year with the very rapid rise of generative artificial intelligence" embraced by many sectors. Even Hollywood,  where background actors fear they could be replaced by AI using their digital likeness. Meanwhile a string of rejected tentative agreement deals in Canada is also a sign workers are more willing to dig in their heels." Pre-pandemic, union members were content with wage increases that more or less kept pace with inflation,” said Larry Savage of Brock University. But some  expect a better deal now.


Elle n'était pas particulièrement dévastatrice la tornade au sud d'Ottawa cette semaine, ni les deux de la mi-juillet, mais c'est leur multiplication qui donne des sueurs froides aux observateurs de ces phénomènes. Certes il y eut plus de 125 habitations endommagées à Barrhaven en juillet mais aucune perte totale ou blessure grave, c'était autre chose que ces horreurs qui emportent communautés et vies dans le coeur des Etats-Unis. Mais la répétition de ce genre d'acte de la nature et de caprices connexes transforme peu à peu cette région centrale et plus peuplée du pays où siège le gouvernement.


En 2018 une demi-douzaine de tornades à Gatineau et Ottawa, dont une EF-3, endommagèrent plus de 300 habitations. L'année suivante une tornade à Orléans, à l'est d'Ottawa, causa des débris sur environ deux douzaines de rues. Celles de la mi-juillet sont venues s'ajouter au compte alors que les météorologues analysent cet après-midi turbulent qui a également causé au moins une autre tornade dans la région de Mirabel. Le bilan est lourd sur cinq ans dans ce corridor au point où certains analystes le baptisent à la manière américaine de "corridor des tornades".


Le Canada est le deuxième, et de loin, pays le plus marqué par ce genre de phénomène après les Etats-Unis, mais l'étude de ces développements est relativement récente au pays. Pourtant elle permet déjà de constater un déplacement de ce genre de phénomène des prairies de l'ouest vers le centre plus peuplé du Canada. "Il nous reste beaucoup de travail à faire pour récupérer les données et confirmer cette tendance mais cela semble être le cas, déclare à la CBC David Sills du Northern Tornadoes Project. Et ceci n'augure rien de bon si on songe aux population qui vivent entre Windsor et Québec," le corridor le plus densément peuplé au pays.


Si le NTP avait enregistré 70 tornades en 2017, avec le temps et les participations du public ce chiffre a grimpé dans les 120 en 2021 et l'an dernier, mais ce n'est peut-être que la pointe de l'iceberg dans le deuxième pays le plus étendu de la planête. "On constate avec le travail que l'on a fait depuis 2017 que de nombreuses tornades semblent se développer dans l'est de l'Ontario et le sud-ouest du Québec, et pas autant dans les prairies," ajoute Sills. Pourtant celles-ci n'ont pas été entièrement épargnées, et les incident ont été violents.


La tornade qui a frappé le nord de Calgary le jour de la fête du Canada était une EF-4, une des plus violentes jamais enregistrées au pays, et il faut croire que le phénomène va se multiplier. "Ce que l'on voit concorde avec les projections des changements climatiques," soupire Sills. Par conséquent, tout comme les habitations dans les zones séismiques, celles du corridor devraient être bâties avec des normes conséquentes selon un conseiller qui étudie la question après les tornades de Barrhaven.


La région de la capitale n'a pas seulement été écorchée par des tornades ces derniers temps mais plusieurs tempêtes violentes - notamment une l'an dernier qui avait arraché arbres, poteaux électriques et détruit silos à grain et clochers - et des inondations régulières qui en tout causent au moins un événement climatique destructeur par année.


Dans certaines zones visées par des intempéries à répétition, et ce n'est pas encore tout à fait le cas ici pour l'instant, les compagnies d'assurance ont sévi. Deux d'entre elles ont déjà décidé d'abandonner la Floride, un état plus peuplé que l'Ontario, en raison des phénomènes destructeurs qui s'acharnent sur l'état chaque année.


As the next domino falls in West Africa, is the Islamist insurgency serving as pretext for staging coups and is the region splitting into two camps? After previous military ousters in Guinea, Burkina Faso and Mali, Niger joined the list of restless nations of the region when president Mohamed Bazoum was held captive by his own republican guard after tinkering with plans to bring changes amid its ranks.


While it was the fifth coup to take place in the country of 25 million since independence it came as a Russia-Africa summit was being held in a country which has been seeking to extend its influence in Africa over the years. Moscow however echoed other world capitals calling for president Mohamed Bazoum to be freed at a gathering it announced six African countries would receive free cereal exports in the months ahead. Bazoum had been there before, facing an attempted coup as soon as he took power in early 2021 following the 10-year rule of Mahamadou Issoufou, but survived the botched attempt.


The 64-year-old was elected president in the country's first peaceful transfer of power since independence and has been one of the shrinking numbers of Western allies in the increasingly disruptive fight against Islamic insurgents in the region. Coups in other countries such as Burkina Faso took place after what military leaders called a failure to address the threats of militant Islam in this restive part of Africa.


The crisis is another blow to the fight against extremism as well as the strategic interests of former colonial power France, which had made Niger a key base of operations after being forced to leave Mali and Burkina Faso. "The coup has come as a great surprise because no one saw it coming," says political scientist Amad Hassan Boubacar, who adds the reasons invoked for staging it are weak. "The insecurity reasons invoked by our neighbors, notably Burkina Faso, can't justify it here" because Bazoum "made efforts to contain it."


While the United Nations said four million people across the country were in need of humanitarian assistance it nevertheless suspended its operations in Niger. France and the European Union announced similar freezes to aid and supports and refused to recognize the new leader. The head of the presidential guard, Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani, claimed the title, saying he took action in view of growing insecurity, economic troubles and corruption, vowing to respect international commitments.


But the African Union threatened "extreme sanctions" if the coup leaders do not yield. The Economic Community of West African states went a step further threatening military action while Tchad's president led diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis. Burkina Faso and Mali warned Ecowas any military intervention in Niger would be viewed as an "declaration of war" and lead them to leave the organization. In the mean time they refused to impose any sanctions against the new regime while Algeria and Russia warned about any military action. A clear divide was developing on the issue across the continent, Nigeria and Senegal reiterating their support for the ousted leader.


De toute évidence les leçons du tourisme n'ont pas été apprises, mais les changements climatiques vont-ils changer la donne? Pourtant il y avait bien les vagues de chaleur par endroits après ces mois de manifestations bruyantes et même d’éclats avec des policiers casqués perdus dans un nuage de gaz lacrymogène, pour les décourager. Mais somme toute ces quelques moments d'anxiété au sein de l'industrie touristique furent de courte durée en France.


Après la fin des restrictions sanitaires, et le retour à l'ordre dans des aéroports, c'est un retour a la folie furieuse de la saison touristique, des fois même avec un surplus d'excès lié à la fin des mesures sanitaires. En France, pays le plus visité, comme ailleurs, les masses portant chapeau, lunettes de soleil et portables servant de camera ont repris les rues et les monuments d’assaut, assoiffés de ce je ne sais quoi français qui leur avait été interdit pendant la pandémie.


Du Mont St. Michel au pied de la tour Eiffel, toujours ces hordes qu’on s’était pourtant promis de mieux gérer un fois le retour à la normale. Si vous pouvez appeler ça la normale. Et pas juste ici évidemment. Du Panthéon au Parthénon, ces queues interminables, pas toujours si bien munies de patience; ces trottoirs débordés, ces boutiques qu'il faut se battre pour pouvoir fréquenter. A repenser le tourisme? De toute évidence la réflexion n’a pas été sérieuse en période creuse. À nouveau des cris en vain sur le besoin d’empêcher le ras de marée de s’abattre sur les résidents.


En France, on a préféré fuir la capitale et les zones envahies par ces dizaines de millions de touristes chaque année, tandis qu’on promet de s’attaquer au “sur-tourisme”, cette fois pour de vrai. Il y a bien eu quelques gestes, notamment la création d'un "observatoire national des sites touristiques majeurs" pour encourager "un tourisme 'quatre saisons' mieux réparti sur tous les territoires" en adoptant de meilleures "pratiques" en matière de "gestion de l'énergie, de l'eau, des déchets". Après tout il faut bien faire quelquechose un an avant l'attrait qui va encore et toujours plus gonfler, mais comment est-ce vraiment possible, ces marées humaines: les Jeux olympiques. D'ailleurs on a l'impression que les voyages vers la métropole ont été d'autant plus prononcés cette année qu'il fallait tout faire pour éviter de s'y aventurer en 2024.


Mêmes légères tentatives ailleurs. En Italie une nouvelle loi vise les locations à court terme et il faut dorénavant payer pour visiter le Panthéon à Rome, tandis qu'à Amsterdam le conseil de ville a interdit l'arrimage des bateaux de croisière dans centre. L'année est un peu folle en Europe, destination prisée d'Américains qui sont 55% plus nombreux à s'y déplacer cette année libre des restrictions sanitaires. Italie, Espagne et Grèce sont partis pour une année touristique record... du moins avant le début des grandes chaleurs, torrides et des feux. D'habitude ce départ canon réjouit les locaux, mais là ça fait beaucoup même pour les hôtes qui y sont habitués.


Même en pleine campagne au nord-est de Chartres où  elle loue une de ses propriétés à l'année longue, une famille avoue que cette année les affaires vont "un peu trop" bien, faisant remarquer les impôts qu'ils devront débourser en raison de leurs nombreux clients. "Il va falloir limiter un peu." Ailleurs des quotas de visiteurs ont été mis en place dans certaines localités, dont Brehat sur la côte d'Armor, et dans les calanques si populaires au large de Marseilles, pour ne citer que quelques endroits où les maires français sont passés à l'acte cet été. La loi climat et résilience leur permet de régulariser la fréquentation de sites protégés. Pourtant les émeutes n'ont pas été sans conséquence en France, parvenant à effrayer certains touristes trop collés au téléviseur.


Puis la chaleur a fait fuir certains touristes, du moins dans le sud du continent. En effet, comme pour tempérer la donne, selon la Commission européenne du voyage, les visites étaient en chute de 10% en Méditerranée pour favoriser des destinations septentrion-nales afin  d'échapper à la chaleur. "Le réchauffement climatique va rendre les destinations de moins en moins fréquentables, note François Rial de Voyageurs du Monde, toute la Méditerranée est concernée, alors qu'elle est la principale destination des voyagistes européens," de Barcelone à Tunis. Les feux sont allés jusqu'à ravager plusieurs régions du Maghreb.

Mais d'autres n'en sont pas si sûrs. "Ce n'est pas un problème qu'il fasse chaud à Antaya, estime le président de l'Association des agences de voyage turques, car les touristes européens viennent pour le soleil." Mais en attendant le manque de soleil dans certaines régions d'Europe, dont la côte atlantique française, entrainait également une chute des visites en juillet, notamment près des plages.


Mais de règle général, l'alerte a sonné, et dans certains cas est-ce trop tard pour limiter les dégâts du sur-tourisme? La semaine dernière l'Unesco s'alarmait de la déterioration des conditions à Venise et recommande de placer la sérénissime sur la liste du patrimoine mondial en péril. 


It's no secret far right parties have slipped into the mainstream in Europe, but a few recent developments have however been setting off alarm bells. Populist parties have been gaining traction in governments from Spain to Finland, not to mention gaining the seat of power in Italy. More recently a German county elected a far-right politician for the first time in the post-war era, and the aftermath has sometimes been ugly. Meanwhile French intelli-gence officials are warning about the threat of right-wing extremism. 


Observers say the road here has been slow but steady for the last decades. “They are all different, and the cultures and political systems they operate in are all different,” Catherine Fieschi of the Open Society Foundations Europe told The Guardian. “After every crisis, we have told ourselves that the populists and far right are waning in Europe, and the fact is they have been rising more or less steadily, with a few interruptions, since the 1980s. They are really now a part of the landscape.” The migrant crisis has been feeding into their popularity, a disagreement on immi-gration in the Netherlands recently leading to the  collapse of its government and resignation of its prime minister. 


But other issues have also galvanized support on the right, such as the high cost of living and the brakeout of culture wars. A far-right careful to limit some of its more inflammatory language has been able to capitalize, and score enough votes in the continent's fractured political landscape to make it an influential partner of established parties which once shunned it. Georgia Meloni's coalition with Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Matteo Salvini’s anti-migrant League, enabled her to become the country's most far-right prime minister in the post-war era. 


In Spain a coalition of Popular Party and Vox could return the far right in government for the first time since Franco. The far-right Alternative for Germany party meanwhile scored a victory in Sonneberg where candidate Robert Sesselmann ran on a campaign focused on immigration and fighting crime. This is a watershed moment for the party which entered parliament six years ago as the migrant crisis was raging. Particularly worrisome is that critics of the party, including state lawmaker Katharina König-Preuss, have been receiving threats. 


Another was Margret Sturm, an optometrist whose mistake was to voice her concern about the rise of the party in a TV interview. "We got hate mail, threatening phone calls, every minute," she told AP. "We were insulted by people we don't even know, who don't know us, who don't know the business." In France where police services have been watching threats from both the hard right and left, Nicolas Lerner, France's Director General of Internal Security told Le Monde there's been a rise of extreme right violence across the country this year. 


"Since the spring, we have witnessed a very worrying resurgence of violent actions and intimidation by the ultra-right, some of which are a clear break with the democratic framework", he said. 


The right has also been galvanized by the riots which followed the police killing of a 17-year-old. Opinion polls showed Marine LePen, whose party scored a record 41% in last year's presidential election, obtained the best approval ratings for her tough stance on the riots. She is suggesting tough anti-crime measures such as lowering the age offenders can be tried as adults to 16 and restricting access to public housing and welfare payments for those convicted of crimes and even minor offenses. 

The riots have become a rallying point for other European far-right leaders as well, Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban saying the troubles showed the failures of multiculturalism while Salvini called them the result of “years of laxity towards Islamic radicalization and banlieues dominated by criminality.”



Comme pour venir rappeler que l’"opération spéciale" russe en Ukraine qui avait pour but de l’éloigner du giron européen n’a pas obtenu les résultats escomptés, un autre pays d’Europe a abandonné un peu de sa neutralité pour se retrouver dans le giron euro-Atlantique. 


Après la Finlande et la Suède, qui a finalement le feu vert afin d'intégrer  l'OTAN, c’est à la Suisse de choisir son camp après une longue histoire de neutralité. Alors qu’il n’est pas question de rejoindre l'Alliance atlantique, le pays helvète a signalé son intention d'adhérer au système de défense européen Sky shield. 


Ce mécanisme a été mis en place par l’Allemagne, autre pays qui depuis le conflit en Ukraine a changé un peu de sa timidité militaire d’après guerre. Sky shield permet aux pays participants d’acheter des systèmes de défense en bloc et de s’entraîner ensemble, un geste loin d’être purement symbolique car il n’a pas été posé sans crainte, lui qui était - tout comme l’idée de faire entrer l’Ukraine dans l’OTAN - impensable il y a peu de temps. 


Comme dans les pays scandinaves, l’agression russe a eu comme effet de lancer un nouveau débat sur la sécurité dans ce petit pays de 8 millions d'habitants riche mais aux moyens de défense limités. La Suisse avait, il faut le dire, déjà affiché ses couleurs en imposant des sanctions contre Moscou, coûteuses quand on connaît les capitaux qui ont élu domicile dans ce coin montagneux. Le voisin autrichien a également effectué le même écart de neutralité en rejoignant Sky shield. 


Mais la confédération a indiqué ses limites en refusant de fournir l’Ukraine en armes, malgré un parc de tanks Léopards fort intéressant. Kyiv poursuit son opération de charme pour la convaincre de partager ses blindés. L’extrême droite suisse craint cependant que ce serait se lancer dans les bras de l’Alliance atlantique. 


Côté suédois, la manifestation d'un Irakien qui a brûlé les pages d'un Coran devant la mosquée de Stockholm n'a rien fait pour gagner la faveur d'Ankara, qui bloquait alors toujours son accession à l'OTAN. Mais lors du sommet de la semaine dernière le président Recep Erdogan laissait savoir qu'il donnerait son aval afin que le pays scandinave puisse enfin devenir un membre, après multe tegiversations. 


Erdogan avait en premier lieu promis de donner son feu vert si l'Europe rouvrait les négociations d'adhésion à l'UE. Celles-ci sont au point mort depuis un certain temps en raison de la question chypriote et du recul démocratique turc de manière générale. Difficile cependant d'établir quelque lien entre les deux processus, fait-on remarquer. Ankara accusait généralement Stockholm de laxisme envers les militants kurdes. 


Récemment la Suède avait cependant adopté une nouvelle loi antiterroriste et condamné un Turc d'origine kurde pour extorsion et "tentative de financement terroriste." L'aval d'Ankara ne mettait pas fin aux divisions au sein de l'alliance cependant. En fait ce n'était que lancer le débat sur l'adhésion éventuelle de l'Ukraine, promise, mais sans échéancier clair, une hésitation "absurde" selon le président Zelensky. 


D'autres divisions concernaient la décision américaine de faire parvenir des bombes à fragmentation à l'Ukraine, une arme interdite dans plusieurs pays membres. Peut-on se permettre de faire de la morale en pleine guerre meurtrière?

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