- 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)
U.K. Court Rules Julian Assange Can Be Extradited to U.S.
The judgment overrules a lower court decision that blocked the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition on the grounds that his mental health was not stable enough to weather harsh conditions in the American prison system if convicted.
New Developments in Assange Extradition Battle
A British court ruled Friday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States to face charges of violating the Espionage Act that could land him in prison for decades.
Prosecutors in the U.S. have accused Assange of conspiring with former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010 to hack into a Department of Defense computer network and access thousands of military and diplomatic records on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The information obtained in the hack was later published by WikiLeaks in 2010 and 2011, a move U.S. authorities allege put lives in danger.
In addition to a charge of computer misuse, Assange has also been indicted on 17 espionage charges. Collectively, the charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 175 years.
The Friday decision from the High Court overturns a lower court ruling in January, which found that Assange’s mental health was too fragile for the harsh environment he could face in the U.S. prison system if convicted.
Notably, the January ruling did not determine whether or not Assange was guilty. In fact, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser explicitly rejected the defense’s arguments that the charges against him were politically motivated and that he should be protected under freedom of press.
However, she agreed that the defense had provided compelling evidence that Assange suffers from severe depression and that the conditions he could face in the U.S. prison system were “such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.”
The U.S. appealed the ruling, arguing that Assange’s mental health should not be a barrier to extradition and that the psychiatrist who examined him had been biased.
In October, the Biden administration vowed that if Assange were to be convicted, he would not be placed in the highest-security U.S. prison or immediately sent to solitary confinement. Officials also said that the native Australian would be eligible to serve his sentence in his home country.
High Court Ruling
The High Court agreed with the administration’s arguments in its ruling, arguing that the American’s assurances regarding the conditions of Assange’s potential incarceration were “sufficient.”
“There is no reason why this court should not accept the assurances as meaning what they say,” the ruling stated. “There is no basis for assuming that the USA has not given the assurances in good faith.”
Assange’s fiancé, Stella Moris, said in a statement that his legal team would appeal the decision to the British Supreme Court at the “earliest possible moment,” referring to the judgment as a “grave miscarriage of justice.”
The Supreme Court will now decide whether or not to hear the case based on if it believes the matter involves a point of law “of general public importance.” That decision may take weeks or even months.
If the U.K. Supreme Court court objects to hearing Assange’s appeal, he could ask the European Court of Human Rights to stay the extradition — a move that could set in motion another lengthy legal battle in the already drawn-out process.
Assange and his supporters claim he was acting as an investigative journalist when he published the classified military cables. They argue that the possibility of his extradition and prosecution represent serious threats to press freedoms in the U.S.
U.S. prosecutors dispute that Assange acted as a journalist, claiming that he encouraged illegal hacking for personal reasons.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
Early Data Indicates Omicron is More Transmissible But Less Severe
The studies come as Pfizer and BioNTech claim that preliminary research shows a third shot of their COVID vaccine appears to provide sufficient protection against the new variant, but two doses alone may not.
More Information About Omicron
Several preliminary studies published in recent days appear to show that the new omicron COVID-19 variant may be more transmissible but less severe than previous strains.
One recent, un-peer-reviewed study by a Japanese scientist who advises the country’s health ministry found that omicron is four times more transmissible in its initial stage than delta was.
Preliminary information in countries hit hard by omicron also indicates high transmissibility. In South Africa — where the variant was first detected and is already the dominant strain — new COVID cases have more than doubled over the last week.
Health officials in the U.K. said omicron cases are doubling every two or three days, and they expect the strain to become dominant in the country in a matter of weeks.
In a statement Wednesday, World Health Organization Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while early data does seem to show high transmissibility, it also indicates that omicron causes more mild cases than delta.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevent Director Rochelle Walensky echoed that sentiment, telling reporters that of the 40 known omicron cases in the U.S. as of Wednesday, nearly all of them were mild. One person has been hospitalized so far and none have died.
Studies on Vaccine Efficacy
Other recent studies have shown that current COVID vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness and death in omicron patients, and boosters provide at least some added protection.
On Wednesday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that laboratory tests have shown a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine appears to provide sufficient protection against the omicron variant, though two doses may not.
According to the companies, researchers saw a 25-fold reduction in neutralizing antibodies for omicron compared to other strains of the virus for people who had just two Pfizer doses.
By contrast, samples from people one month after they had received a Pfizer booster presented neutralizing antibodies against omicron that were comparable to those seen against previous variants after two doses.
Still, Pfizer’s chief executive also told reporters later in the day that omicron could increase the likelihood that people might need a fourth dose earlier than previously expected, which he had initially said was 12 months after the third shot.
Notably, the Pfizer research has not yet been peer-reviewed, and it remains unclear how omicron will operate outside a lab, but other studies have had similar findings.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Bloomberg) (NBC News)
40 Camels Disqualified From Beauty Contest After Breeders Inject Their Faces With Botox
The animals were barred from competing for $66 million in prizes at this year’s King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia.
Camels Booted From Beauty Contest
More than 40 camels were disqualified from a beauty contest in Saudi Arabia this week after judges found artificial enhancements in their faces, marking the biggest crackdown on contestants in the competition to date.
The animals were competing for $66 million in prizes at the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, a month-long event that is estimated to include around 33,000 camels.
However, according to The Guardian, they were forced out of the contest when authorities found that breeders had “stretched out the lips and noses of the camels, used hormones to boost the animals’ muscles, injected heads and lips with Botox to make them bigger, inflated body parts with rubber bands, and used fillers to relax their faces.”
Those types of alterations are banned since judges look at the contestant’s heads, necks, humps, posture, and other features when evaluating them.
An announcement from the state-linked Saudi Press Agency said officials used “specialized and advanced” technology to detect tampering.
“The club is keen to halt all acts of tampering and deception in the beautification of camels,” the SPA report added before warning that organizers would “impose strict penalties on manipulators.”
While it’s unclear what that actually entails, this isn’t the first time people have tried to cheat in this way.
In 2018, 12 camels were similarly disqualified from the competition for injections in their noses, lips, and jaw.