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World Reacts to the Tragic Notre Dame Cathedral Fire

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  • The iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris caught fire on Monday.
  • It took nearly 400 firefighters close to five hours to put out the flames.
  • No deaths have been reported, however, one firefighter and two police officers sustained minor injuries.
  • World leaders have expressed solidarity with France and companies have pledged to donate millions of dollars toward reconstruction.

Notre Dame Catches Fire

The historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France caught fire on Monday causing severe damage, and destroying parts of the beloved building.

The first fire alarm went off at 6:20 p.m. local time, according to France 24. However, the fire was not discovered until close to 25 minutes later, just after the building had closed to visitors.

No one was killed in the fire, but one of the nearly 400 firefighters who responded sustained injuries, as well as two police officers. It appears that the fire started in the roof or attic. The fire was put out close to five hours after it started.

Right now, the exact cause of the fire is still unknown. Officials currently believe it to be an accident and detected no initial signs of arson. It is unclear if this accident is related to renovations that were happening in Notre Dame, but a possible connection has not been ruled out.

The most severe damage that occurred was to the roof and spire of the over 800-year-old architectural masterpiece. The spire collapsed inward as the fire was ablaze. Much of the roof was also made of lead and wood, which was very dry, making it incredibly prone to quick burning.

Some of the iconic elements of the building survived the fire. The two towers in front are completely intact. Several bronze statuettes had also already been removed as part of the renovations, saving them from any damage.

Iconic Relics Saved from the Flames

The exterior of the cathedral, which has survived wars and revolutions, is a symbol of Paris’ history and culture. However, what sat inside Notre Dame was of equal value. Citizens and leaders gathered together to try to save some of the irreplaceable items inside, in hopes that they wouldn’t be lost in the tragic fire.

Jean-François Martins, Paris’ Deputy Mayor for Tourism and Sports, spoke to CBS This Morning about his role in efforts to gather artifacts.

“We made a human chain,” he told the anchors, “with our friends from the church, from the police, but as well from the city of public service, made a chain, to get, as quick as possible, to get all the relics.”

The artifacts saved include the Tunic of St. Louis, and a thorn crown believed to have been worn by Jesus Christ before his crucifixion. Other artworks that were inside the building at the time will make their way to the Louvre to be protected and restored from smoke damage.

World Leaders Reach Out to France

As the city of Paris and all of France mourns the loss of the iconic monument, the whole world gathered to show support.

French President Emmanuel Macron said, “Like all of my fellow citizens, I am sad to see this part of us burn tonight.”

Other global leaders extended their thoughts as well.

Queen Elizabeth II released a statement saying, “I extend my sincere admiration to the emergency services who have risked their lives to try to save this important national monument.”

Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, called the incident “heartbreaking.”

“Canadians are thinking of our friends in France,” he added.

Pope Francis released a statement, saying, “We wait for the sorrow inflicted by the serious damage to be transformed into hope with reconstruction.”

President Donald Trump also tweeted about the news, calling the fire “horrible to watch.”

His suggestion that waterbombs be used to put out the flames was met with much criticism. Due to the age of the building, whose construction dates back to the 1100s, waterbombs would actually only make matters worse.

A civil defense agency within the Fench government later tweeted, though not in direct response to President Trump, that this method “could lead to the collapse of the entire structure of the cathedral.”


Trump later sent another tweet saying, “God bless the people of France!”

Plans to Reconstruct

President Macron has promised to make the reconstruction of the Cathedrian a priority. On Monday he tweeted that an international effort will be launched for repairs to begin.

“This Notre-Dame Cathedral, we will rebuild it. All together,” he said. “This is part of our French destiny. I am committed to this.”

Others have already pledged significant amounts of money to rebuild the monument. François-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering, a luxury group that owns famous brands like Gucci and Saint Laurent, announced that his family will be donating 100 million euros to the cause.

This steep donation was later topped by Bernard Arnault, the CEO of LVMH, which is behind fashion brands like Louis Vitton, Marc Jacobs, and Dior. Via the LVMH twitter account, the family announced that they will donate 200 million euros, and called Notre Dame “an integral part of the history of France.”

Other companies like the L’Oréal Group, Apple, and Total, have also pledged to the cause.

The repair could take years, with some experts saying it could take up to a decade. There is also no official estimation on the price it will take to rebuild what was lost.

See what others are saying: (France 24) (Wall Street Journal) (CBS)

International

Opposition Party Wins Mayoral Race in Istanbul in Massive Blow to Erdogan

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  • Former Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim conceded to opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu in a re-run election for mayor of Istanbul Sunday.
  • Yildirim had been championed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his defeat comes as a stunning blow to the president, who many believe is losing his extensive grip on power in the country.
  • Imamoglu had previously won the same election back in March by a slim margin of 13,000 votes, but Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) called for a re-run, citing voting irregularities.
  • Imamoglu won Sunday’s election by more than 800,000 votes, representing a dramatic political shift in Turkey’s largest city, which has been under AKP control for 25 years.

Istanbul Election

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suffered what experts are calling his biggest political defeat ever Sunday when his candidate for the mayor of Istanbul conceded a highly anticipated re-run election.

Binali Yildirim, a former prime minister and close ally of Erdogan formally conceded the election late Sunday after polls showed that opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu received 54 percent of the vote.

“As of now, my competitor Imamoglu is leading,” Yildirim said in a televised concession speech. “I congratulate him, wish him success. I wish our friend Ekrem Imamoglu will bring good services to Istanbul.”

Imamoglu celebrated his win during a news conference last night, telling reporters, “16 million Istanbul residents refreshed our belief in democracy and confidence in justice.”

“I am ready to work with you in harmony,” he continued. “I put myself up for that, and I announce this in front of all Istanbul people.”

Erdogan, for his part, congratulated Imamoglu on Twitter, adding that he wished the election result “will be beneficial for our Istanbul.”

Source: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Re-Run Election

While Imamoglu’s win represents a decisive and landmark victory, it is technically not the first time he has won the election for mayor of Istanbul.

He first was elected mayor of Istanbul on March 31, by a small margin of around 13,000 votes. However, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, contested the results, claiming that votes had been stolen and voting officials had not been legally approved.

Turkey’s High Election Council responded by annulling the election and ordering a do-over in a rare move that greatly angered the opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP.

The CHP condemned the move, arguing that it undermined the democratic foundations of Turkey and that it was clearly just a power move by the AKP to try to maintain their foothold in Istanbul.

The CHP also claimed that the High Election Council’s members were beholden to the AKP for their jobs and so they could be easily manipulated.

However, holding the election again appears to have backfired on Erdogan and the AKP. Imamoglu won Sunday’s election by over 800,000 votes, a huge victory compared to the 13,000 he got last time.

Additionally, voter turnout even went up one percentage point from the March election.

Erdogan’s Decreasing Power

The increased voter turnout and the massive support for the opposition party are hugely significant because the AKP has held power in Istanbul for 25 years.

Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city and its main commercial hub, which alone makes the election a big defeat for the AKP on a populous level. It is also a massive blow to Erdogan personally because he is from Istanbul and considers it his political base

Erdogan even started his political career there, serving as the mayor himself. Now, experts are saying that this could be a sign that his long-running grip on power is weakening.

Erdogan has been the ruler of Turkey since 2003, first serving as prime minister and then as president. He has largely been perceived as an invincible strongman and has been considered by many to be Turkey’s most dominant politician since its founder almost a century ago.

During his rule, Erdogan has significantly expanded his authoritarian reach by strengthening his own powers under Turkey’s Constitution. He has also consolidated his power by jailing journalists, isolating opponents, and purging Turkey’s police, the military, and courts. 

Despite all of that, Erdogan has largely been popular. His party has a lot of support among religious and conservative populations, and under his rule, Turkey’s economy has grown significantly.

However, recently, Turkey has been experiencing an economic recession and a financial crisis. This has shaken Erdogan’s support significantly, along with that fact that some voters are concerned about his efforts to increase his control over the government.

In fact, Istanbul is not the only place where Erdogan and his party are losing power. The AKP had a poor showing in many parts of Turkey in the March election.

Notably, the party also lost to the opposition in Ankara, the capital of Turkey and its second biggest city.

The recent loss in Istanbul really cannot be understated. Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city by far, with a population of more than 15 million people, which is basically triple Ankara’s 5.4 million.

With the opposition also in control of Turkey’s third largest city, Izmir, Turkey’s three largest cities are now fully in the hands of opposition parties. As a result, analysts and experts say this will likely usher in a new chapter in Turkish politics.

Some members of the AKP could splinter off and even form new parties. Others who previously had supported Erdogan or had been allies could run against him in 2023.

Additionally, the election in Istanbul could trigger a cabinet reshuffle in the capital, as well as a shift in Turkey’s foreign policy.

Response

Regarding foreign policy, the election also comes amid tense relations between Erdogan and the U.S.

The Donald Trump administration objected to Turkey re-doing the Istanbul election, arguing that it disrupted important negotiations on Syria and other issues. The U.S. has also objected to Turkey’s plans to install Russian missile systems, over which the U.S. has even threatened sanctions.

Turkey’s close economic ties with Iran are also not doing them any favors in the eyes of the Trump administration.

Erdogan is set to meet with Trump at the Group of 20 summit meeting this week. Already, Erdogan is trying to shift the focus of the election, outlining his upcoming diplomatic trips.

Source Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Meanwhile, in Istanbul, tens of thousands of people celebrated Imamoglu’s win. Fireworks were set off, and the streets of Istanbul were packed with his supporters waving national flags and hanging out of car windows. Street parties continued on into of Monday morning.

Many believe the election has re-invigorated the young people in Istanbul. One university student told BCC, “Many young people desperately want to leave Turkey, but now, we might consider staying here. We are hopeful once again.”

However, there are others who are not happy with the outcome of the election. Another student told Al Jazeera that Imamoglu was less qualified than his opponent. “People just voted for the promises […] Because they appeal to them,” the student said. “But I don’t think they’ll be able to get what they want from Imamoglu.”

Additionally, throughout the whole election, Turkey’s state-run media outlets have been openly against Imamoglu, and have been quick to attack him while also reporting favorable news about his opponent.

Regardless, many think this is the beginning of the end for Erdogan, who himself once said, “Whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Al Jazeera) (Reuters)

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Trump Ordered Strikes on Iran, Then Called Them Off

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  • President Donald Trump ordered air strikes on Iran, but later canceled the strikes after the operation was reportedly underway.
  • Trump ordered the strike after Iran shot down a U.S. drone on Thursday.
  • Iran said the drone was in their airspace, but the U.S. claimed it was in international waters.
  • In a series of tweets, Trump explained that he called off the attack after being informed that it would cause 150 casualties.

Iran Strike Ordered, Then Cancelled

President Donald Trump ordered air strikes on Iran after the country shot down a U.S. surveillance drone Thursday, but then called off the operations at the last moment.

In a series of tweets Friday morning, Trump said he called off the strikes after he was told they would cause 150 casualties, which was “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”

Trump claimed that the U.S. was “cocked & loaded to retaliate” against Iran, but he stopped the attacks “10 minutes before the strike” was set to launch.

A senior administration official who spoke to the New York Times, which first reported that Trump had canceled the strikes, said that the operation was well underway when Trump decided to call it off.

“Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down,” the Times reported.

The U.S. Drone and Iran

Earlier on Thursday, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said it shot down a U.S. surveillance drone that had flown into Iran’s airspace.

U.S. Central Command confirmed shortly after that the drone had in fact been shot down, but argued that it was in international airspace.  

The commander of the IRGC’s aerospace division said in an interview with Iran’s state-run broadcaster on Friday that Iran had given “warnings” to the drone before they shot it down.

“When it did not redirect its route and continued flying toward and into our territory, we had to shoot it,” he said. “Our national security is a red line.”

U.S. Central Command disputed that version of events, saying in a statement that the incident was “an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”

Iran on Thursday released footage it said showed that the U.S. drone was shot down in Iranian territory.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also shared GPS coordinates that place the drone eight miles off Iran’s coast, which would place the drone inside the 12 nautical miles from the shore that legally belong to Iran under international law.

“We don’t seek war, but will zealously defend our skies, land & waters,” Zarif wrote in the tweet. “We’ll take this new aggression to #UN & show that the US is lying about international waters.”

The Defense Department responded by providing a rendered map of the drone’s flight path, which they argued showed that the drone never entered Iranian airspace.

Mixed Messages

Trump’s decision to strike Iran and his subsequent reversal is another example of the president’s hesitancy to start a conflict in the Middle East, even as more hawkish officials in his administration push for a more confrontational approach.

While meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House on Thursday, Trump spoke to journalists about Iran. When asked if the U.S. intended on striking Iran in retaliation, Trump responded, “You’ll soon find out.”

“They’re going to find out they made a very big mistake,” he said. “I have a feeling that it was a mistake made by somebody that shouldn’t have been doing what they did […] it could have been someone loose and stupid.”

He also said that it made a “big, big difference” that the drone was unmanned.

According to the New York Times, Trump’s national security advisers were divided on whether or not to respond militarily to Iran. Senior administration officials told the Times that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and C.I.A Director Gina Haspel were in favor of a military response.

However, top Pentagon officials worried that airstrikes could cause risk escalation, as striking Iran could be considered an act of war under international norms.

Pompeo and Bolton have often alluded to responding to Iran with military force, even as Trump has reiterated that he would prefer other alternatives.

Escalating tensions between Iran and the U.S. were further complicated in recent weeks. On Monday, Iran announced that it would exceed the amount of uranium it has been allowed to stockpile under the 2015 nuclear deal in 10 days, if European nations did not do more to alleviate U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran.

Last Thursday, the U.S. blamed Iran for attacks on two tankers off the coast of Oman. Iran denied the accusations.

Pompeo responded to the attacks during an interview with Fox & Friends on Sunday, where he said that the U.S. had not ruled out military action. “The United States is going to make sure that we take all actions necessary, diplomatic and otherwise, to achieve that outcome,” he said.

In contrast, Trump said in an interview with Fox & Friends last Friday that while Iran did attack the tankers, he was not looking for war, and instead favored engagement with the Iranian leadership.

“I’m ready when they are,” Trump said. “Whenever they’re ready, it’s O.K. In the meantime, I’m in no rush.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Al Jazeera)

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Severe Water Shortage in India Sparks Protests

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  • Water shortages across the state of Tamil Nadu, India have left the 4.6 million people in the city of Chennai without water, forcing the government to ship it in by truck.
  • A protest over the shortages in the city of Coimbatore on Wednesday resulted in the arrests of hundreds who staged a demonstration in front of a local government building.
  • Experts say the drought is caused by the late monsoon season and poor government planning, but has been exacerbated by climate change.
  • According to a new government study, 40 percent of India’s population will not have access to drinking water by 2030.

Protests

Hundreds of people were arrested in the state of Tamil Nadu, India on Wednesday after protests over state-wide water shortages broke out.

The protestors demonstrated in front of a local government building in the city of Coimbatore and carried empty water containers. Most of the protestors who were arrested were reportedly members of the main opposition party in the state.

According to India Today, police arrested the protestors because they had not received permission to hold the demonstration. Currently, it is unclear how many people were arrested. CNN reported at least 550 people had been detained.

Indian newspapers seemed to be split on the number, with some publications reporting 400 people were arrested, while others cited police reports saying it was actually closer to 700.

Water Crisis

While the water shortages are statewide, they are the most extreme in the city of Chennai, which is the state capital and India’s sixth largest city. The drought has essentially left the entire city of around 4.6 million people without water.

Over the last few weeks, the four reservoirs that supply water to the millions of residents in the region have nearly run dry. As a result, the state government has had to truck in tons and tons of water.

Now, every day, hundreds of thousands of residents are forced to wait in line for hours in the summer heat just to fill plastic containers with water, while many others are still left without any at all.

The shortage has been described as one of the worst in years, and it also comes as the region is facing an extreme heatwave that has already killed hundreds of people. Schools, businesses, and restaurants have been forced to close.

The water crisis has also caused unrest in the community. People have started fighting over water, with clashes breaking out across the city. According to reports, trucks transporting water to the people have been hijacked, and the drivers have even been attacked.

What Caused the Shortage?

There are several causes for the recent shortages in Tamil Nadu.

The main reason for the water crisis is the fact that the seasonal monsoon rains are late. The monsoon season usually starts in early June and is essential for replenishing India’s water supplies each year.

However, so far, it has barely rained at all this season. As a result, the state’s Madras High Court has accused the Tamil Nadu government of negligence and poor management.

The court argued that the government has just passively waited for the monsoons to come, rather than being proactive about it, despite the fact that a late and dry monsoon season was predicted.

Another cause of the shortages is the lack of proper infrastructure. Even when the monsoons do come, the state’s current infrastructure often is unable to store water adequately. Experts say that is largely due to the fact that the state does not have rainwater harvesting or recycling.

India also relies on groundwater collection. However, groundwater has been depleted by years of drilling into the earth and urban development that has destroyed the wetlands.

That groundwater depletion is especially bad in large cities, and disproportionately affects low-income families who rely almost entirely on groundwater.

A Growing Crisis

India experiences droughts every year and smaller towns have even run out of water in the past.

According to a 2018 report from the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI), a government think tank, droughts all over India caused water shortages that impacted 600 million people.

Only one in four Indian households have drinking water at home and nearly 200,000 people die each year because of inadequate water supply or water contamination.

However, Chennai is the first major city to have such a severe water shortage.

According to NITI, at least 21 cities in India, including the capital New Delhi, will run out of groundwater by 2020, impacting around 100 million people. Additionally, 40 percent of India’s population will not have access to drinking water by 2030.

All of these problems are expected to get worse with climate change, which experts say will make monsoon rains more erratic and water shortages more common.

This is especially problematic for India, where about 70 percent of the population depends on agriculture, and about 80 percent of water goes to agriculture.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (Al Jazeera) (India Today)

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