The major blaze comes as much of the northern hemisphere is experiencing record-breaking wildfires amid large droughts and warmer temperatures.
Worldwide, countries and regions have experienced record-breaking wildfires as climates in many areas continue to warm and drought increasingly become more common.
Since last week, Greece has been fighting at least 586 wildfires throughout the country amidst one of the worst heat waves in decades.
In a televised address on Monday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told the nation that 63 organized evacuations had to take place as the fires approached towns and villages. Some areas, like the island of Evia, saw families struggling to scramble onto boats and ferries in the middle of the night to escape oncoming flames early Monday.
So far, hundreds of homes have been destroyed, and the government’s response has been criticized by some as inadequate, leading to protests outside of the Greek Parliament Monday afternoon.
Scientists believe that Southern Europe will experience extreme wildfire seasons more often as the region has increasingly experienced larger droughts. Of notable concern alongside Greece is Croatia, which similarly has large areas of dry tinder and relatively underfunded fire brigades.
The flames aren’t just affecting Greece. Algeria is now in its second day of combatting large wildfires and the situation continues to be dire. Authorities reported Wednesday morning that 65 people have died in blazes, about half of whom were soldiers who were deployed as emergency firefighters.
These fires are centered around Kabylia, a region about 60 miles east of the capital that is home to the Berber ethnic group and dry terrain.
Locals are concerned that the fires were at least partially started by arson. Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud said on national television Wednesday afternoon that the 30 fires ravaging the region were “highly synchronized,” adding that it “leads one to believe these were criminal acts.”
“Thirty fires at the same time in the same region can’t be by chance,” he continued.
Largest Fires in the World
In addition to Greece and Algeria, countries like Italy, Turkey, Spain, Peru, and Lebanon are also battling large blazes over the past week that have burned thousands of square miles.
Still, none are as big as the blazes Russia has been battling for weeks. In fact, all of the current wildfires around the world combined still aren’t as large as the current Russian forest fires. The fires there are mostly confined to the large regions of Siberia and Yakutia, both of which occupy the vast majority of the country.
The region is heavily forested and consistent droughts have led to a massive forest fire season, similar to what has occurred in California over the last decade. Unlike California, Siberia and Yakutia are extremely sparsely populated with few urban centers — meaning there have only been a few evacuation orders.
Generally speaking, firefighters let most of the fires burn out on their own as part of the natural life cycle of the region, despite their larger-than-normal size this year. However, scientists are concerned about the scope of this year’s fires they’ve been so large that massive clouds of smoke can cover the region for weeks, which has its own ecological problems.
These fires have contributed to clouds of smoke covering the North Pole for the first time in recorded history. That has prompted fears that prolonged periods of such coverage could lead to increased warming, further endangering the arctic permafrost and releasing trapped greenhouses gasses. In turn, that exacerbates the ongoing global climate crisis in a way that can’t be controlled, compared to the consumption of fossil fuels.
The fires are so concerning that Alexander Kozlov, Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology, called for a nearly 100% increase in the firefighting budget to $190 million.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (The Moscow Times)
Quebec Introduces Legislation To Ban Anti-Vax Protests at Schools and Hospitals
Lawmakers said they are tired of anti-vaccine protesters intimidating students and hindering access to hospitals while hosting their demonstrations.
Outrage at Anti-Vaccine Demonstrations
Quebec lawmakers introduced legislation on Thursday that would regulate where anti-vaccine protesters can hold demonstrations.
While there have been large anti-vax protests across Quebec, small protests at schools and hospitals have specifically triggered concern. Though such protests typically feature about a dozen people, there have been reports of demonstrators harassing students and blocking access to hospitals when gathering at these locations.
Legislation aimed at addressing the issue has been in discussion for weeks. Following reports of these types of gatherings Tuesday, Premier Francois Legault said, “I cannot accept to have anti-vaccine people in front of our schools and hospitals. So I will use whatever is necessary to stop that.”
Prior to Legault’s comments, Education Minister Jean-F. Roberge tweeted out his own outrage at an anti-vaccine protest in front of a high school in Louis-Riel.
“I am appalled by these demonstrators who have used the tragic death of a young girl to fuel disinformation,” he wrote. “It is an irresponsible gesture and I offer my condolences to the relatives of the victim and to the school staff.”
Fifty Meter Standard
If approved, the new legislation would ban all forms of protests within 50 meters of a school, hospital, or daycare.
Police would be allowed to levy a $10,000 fine to anyone protesting at one of these locations depending on their demeanor. If the protests are related specifically to COVID-19 health regulations or vaccines, another fine of up to $6,000 can be added. Protesters intimidating someone, which is open to interpretation, can face another $10,000 fine.
The bill would also ban inciting or encouraging protests, including through posts on online platforms such as Facebook, where many protests are organized.
All of Quebec’s major parties said they support the bill, but it could still be held up by a single vote from Claire Samson. The conservative lawmaker broke with her party over concerns that the provisions don’t have an expiration date, despite them applying to more than just protests over COVID-19 regulations.
Some experts have argued that the new proposal is unnecessary since the government and police already have unenforced laws on the books to crack down on unruly protesters. However, the largest concerns regarding the legislation stem from its constitutionality.
Many on the right claim that such provisions limit the freedom of speech and assembly, both of which are explicitly allowed in Canada in various forms.
Still, while Canada has the freedom of speech and assembly just like the United States, it also has what American legal analysts call “time, place, and manner” restrictions.
As Pearl Eliadis, a human rights lawyer who teaches at McGill University in Montreal explained to Global News, “The issue is not really freedom of expression. No one’s telling them they can’t say stuff. It’s just where they’re saying it.”
“I think there’s a strong argument to be made that children, in particular minor children, should not in any way be intimidated or frightened for going to school,” Eliadis added.
“If you’re a patient going into a facility, or trying to get into a facility, and you’ve been intimidated or frightened, your right to access has been diminished.”
Similar laws in Canada have already withstood legal scrutiny. In 2016, Quebec banned demonstrations within 50 meters of an abortion clinic. Since then, other provinces have introduced their own bans on protests near abortion clinics. Alberta has its own spin on such regulations against people protesting energy and oil companies. Quebec’s proposal also has the possibility of inspiring national legislation. While campaigning in the recent federal election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also promised legislation to restrict protests in front of schools and hospitals.
The proposals, according to proponents, are meant to protect students and those seeking medical care from unnecessary harassment by individuals who are likely unvaccinated in the midst of a pandemic.
See what others are saying: (Global News) (CTV) (La Presse)
New Zealand Considers Offering Vaccines at Fast-Food Chains Like KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson discussed the move as a possibility Thursday, saying, “We want to make sure we’re going to where people are.”
Government Discusses Vaccine Partnership With Fast-Food Industry
The New Zealand government is reportedly in talks with fast-food brands about offering customers COVID-19 vaccines at their locations.
Auckland Councillor Josephine Bartley tweeted Wednesday that Restaurant Brands — the company behind KFC, Pizza Hut, Carl’s Jr., and Taco Bell in New Zealand — was speaking to the government about a potential partnership.
“We want to make sure we’re going to where people are,” Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson also told Radio New Zealand on Thursday.
New Zealand’s 90% Vaccination Goal
New Zealand has had a good handle on the virus over the last year thanks to its strict safety protocols. For instance, in August, it went straight into another lockdown after recording its first case of COVID in six months.
Despite its general success in fighting off the virus, the country is still hoping to increase its overall vaccination rate. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Thursday that lockdowns measures could be dropped for good if enough people get vaccinated.
Her goal is for New Zealand to have a 90% vaccination rate. According to government data, 40% of the country’s eligible population is fully vaccinated as of Thursday while 75% have had one dose.
Some believe strategies, like this potential fast-food partnership, could help boost those numbers, especially since New Zealanders apparently love fast-food. In fact, the Guardian reported that the country has one of the highest per-capita distributions of KFC and McDonald’s outlets in the world.
Just this week, the government finally eased some restrictions in Auckland, ending nearly five weeks of the strictest lockdown in its most populous city. That meant restaurants could reopen for takeout and delivery again, and once that happened they were met with massive lines of people waiting to order.
Still, in his interview Thursday, Robertson did admit that there could be some issues to consider with this plan.
“There’s a few logistics to work through, one of which is obviously making sure that people wait,” he said. “When someone gets the vaccines, as you know you wait in the waiting room to make sure everything’s going okay.”
He went on to suggest that such a requirement could be challenging considering the time crunch fast-food restaurants deal with. However, he also said the government is working through the options and looking at other spots people frequently visit, not just fast-food chains.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian)(The Independent)(Insider)
Northern Ireland Police Arrest Two More Men Over Murder of Journalist Lyra McKee
Lyra McKee was covering a riot in 2019 when members of the New Irish Republican Army opened fire on police, accidentally killing McKee in the process.
Police Making Headway
Police in Northern Ireland announced Wednesday that they have arrested two more men in connection with the April 2019 murder of journalist Lyra Mckee.
According to authorities, the 24- and 29-year-old men were detained under the Terrorism Act and are specifically suspected of being with the actual gunmen who shot McKee, rather than involved in other crimes that occurred that night.
Three other men have been charged with murder for her death, including 33-year-old Peter Géaroid Cavanagh and 21-year-old Justin Devine, both of who were arrested last week. They were similarly charged under the Terrorism Act while two additional men were arrested on rioting and petrol bomb offenses on the night McKee was killed.
McKee died while covering a demonstration that turned violent in Derry. She was reportedly standing near police when members of the New Irish Republican Army (New IRA) opened fire. The group’s role in her death has rarely been in doubt, as it was quick to take responsibility for the crime.
“In the course of attacking the enemy, Lyra McKee was tragically killed while standing beside enemy forces,” it said in a statement to The Irish Times, which the paper confirmed via a series of code words. “The IRA offer our full and sincere apologies to the partner, family and friends of Lyra McKee for her death.”
McKee was considered an upcoming journalist who focused on LGBTQ issues in relatively conservative Northern Ireland. Despite her death and seeming remorse from the New IRA, the group was unwilling to give up its members. Information about her death was slow coming, with police taking nearly a year before making any substantial arrests.
Prosecutors Fail to Block Bail
One of the first people arrested in connection to this case was 53-year-old Paul McIntrye, who has been on bail for more than a year. His current freedom led prosecutors to fail in a bid on Wednesday to keep Devine, Cavanagh, and 21-year-old Joe Cambell (who is accused of throwing petrol bombs) from being released on bail. A judge told prosecutors, “It’s difficult to distinguish the case against McIntyre and that against Devine and Cavanagh.”
“The prosecution have not sought to differentiate between these applicants and McIntyre in terms of involvement.”
McKee is one of many deaths inflicted by the New IRA and its predecessors. The group originated in 2012 when various republican dissident groups within Northern Ireland banded together. Most of these organizations, including the New IRA, claim to be the legitimate successors of the “IRA,” a nebulous term that encompasses many groups that engaged in anti-British activities throughout Northern Ireland until the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The New IRA rejects the agreement and seeks a united Ireland through the use of physical force.
The defendants currently released on bail are all expected to return to court on October 7.