Arts and Culture

Thai Supreme Court jails tycoon over wildlife poaching

BANGKOK, Thailand (AFP) – A Thai tycoon accused of poaching wildlife in a national park lost his final appeal Wednesday, in a long-running saga that drew public outrage over the elite’s perceived impunity. Construction magnate Premchai Karnasuta was arrested in February 2018 when park officials found guns, animal carcasses — including of a kalij pheasant and a red muntjac — and the pelt of a black leopard at his campsite. Premchai was found not guilty of […]

Sealand: the ‘micronation’ defying the UK and Covid

by Anna MALPAS Agence France-Presse SEALAND (AFP) – It’s a hulking metal-and-concrete platform in the North Sea that has been run as an independent micronation in defiance of the UK government for the last 54 years. But even on Sealand, some seven miles (11 kilometres) off the coast of southeast England, visitors have to show a negative Covid-19 test before being winched up onto the deck. “We have zero Covid cases,” Liam Bates, one of […]

Russia closes notorious ‘whale jail’

MOSCOW, Russsia (AFP) – Russia has dismantled a notorious facility dubbed the “whale jail” that kept dozens of the mammals in cramped conditions, causing an international outcry. Almost 100 whales were kept in the secretive facility in Srednyaya Bay near the far eastern town of Nakhodka in 2018, before being released after an intense campaign by animal rights and environmentalist groups in 2019. The animals were captured to perform in aquariums. The environmental prosecutor’s office […]

Albanian bunkers ravaged by rising tides as erosion takes toll

by Briseida MEMA Agence France-Presse SEMAN, Albania (AFP) – Albania’s communist-era bunkers were meant to withstand a nuclear strike, but decades later the fortifications are being devoured by the sea as the country’s coastline is battered by erosion. The shores of the Balkan country are among the most affected in Europe by erosion, according to experts, who blame climate change and uncontrolled urbanisation for the scourge. Along the shores of Seman in central Albania, many […]

Austerity, far right, feminism: Merkel’s ambivalent legacy

by Hui Min NEO Agence France-Presse BERLIN, Germany (AFP) – Crises have a knack for felling leaders. Not Chancellor Angela Merkel. During 16 years in power, the veteran navigated Germany through the 2008 financial turmoil and ensuing eurozone debt crisis, the 2015 refugee influx and then the coronavirus pandemic. While largely admired at home and abroad even in the final days of her reign, the legacy she leaves behind is marked both by light and […]

Legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim dies aged 91

  Legendary Broadway songwriter Stephen Sondheim, widely credited with revolutionizing American musical theater, died Friday at the age of 91. Rick Miramontez, the publicist for the ongoing Broadway production of Sondheim’s musical “Company,” confirmed to AFP that the musical theater titan had passed away. Sondheim’s attorney F. Richard Pappas said Sondheim — known for works including “West Side Story” and “Sweeney Todd” — died suddenly in his Roxbury, Connecticut home the day after celebrating Thanksgiving […]

Bird watching for peace in Colombia

by Hervé BAR Agence France-Presse PLANADAS, Colombia (AFP) – As a bird perches on a telegraph pole, two young girls are deep in consultation — is it “Tiranus melancholicus,” or perhaps “Pyrocephalus rubinus?” The answer is “rubinus,” a sparrow with a bright red breast. In the center of Colombia, among the leafy mountains of Planadas, this ornithological debate by indigenous children might seem surprising. With their eyes scanning the mountain, around 30 people, adults and […]

34,000 protest in Greece on anti-junta revolt anniversary

ATHENS, Greece (AFP) – Tens of thousands of people joined protests in Greece’s two largest cities on Wednesday, marking the anniversary of a 1973 student revolt against a US-backed junta, an annual event that often sparks violence. Twenty thousand turned out in the capital Athens, according to police. Most of the marchers were students, unionists and members of leftist parties. A further 14,000 marched in the second city Thessaloniki. Police were deployed in their thousands […]

Porters carry Istanbul’s trade traditions on their backs

by Remi BANET Agence France-Presse ISTANBUL, Turkey (AFP) – Just blocks from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, porter Bayram Yildiz waits his turn in a dark alley to heave a huge bale on his back nearly double his bodyweight. A few others linger beside him, picking up textiles from a lorry and lugging them to local shops before sunrise, their heads bowed and their knees bent. “I am half Hercules and half Rambo,” the muscle-bound 40-year-old joked, […]

Planet vs people as Panama’s mangroves are turned into coal

by Moises AVILA Agence France-Presse Elieser Rodriguez emerges blackened from the thick smoke of burning pyres slowly transforming the limbs of mangroves into charcoal — a livelihood much maligned by environmental and climate campaigners in Panama. He says he has no other choice for a living. “This is the daily survival of my family, of my children, of my wife,” Rodriguez told AFP in El Espave, a town about 80 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of Panama […]

As COP looms, Prince William awards debut Earthshot Prize

LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) – Queen Elizabeth II’s grandson Prince William presented the inaugural Earthshot prizes at a ceremony in London on Sunday, with  projects from Costa Rica, Italy, the Bahamas and India picking up prizes. The new annual awards were created by Prince William to reward efforts to save the planet in the face of climate change and global warming. Five winners were announced, each receiving a million pounds ($1.4 million). The build-up to […]

China’s tutoring ban hits overseas teachers and cultural links

by Laurie Chen and Poornima Weerasekara Agence France Presse BEIJING, China (AFP) — Every morning, Sam Josti logged on from her US home to teach children halfway around the world, just one of thousands of foreign language tutors giving Chinese students a rare window into Western culture. But tutors like Massachusetts-based Josti have taken a sharp financial hit after Beijing’s harsh crackdown on extracurricular classes pulled down the blinds over the world outside for Chinese […]