La Soufrière volcano on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent erupted on Friday after decades of inactivity, sending dark plumes of ash and smoke billowing into the sky and forcing thousands from surrounding villages to evacuate.
Dormant since 1979, the volcano started showing signs of activity in December, spewing steam and smoke and rumbling away. That picked up this week, prompting Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves to order an evacuation of the surrounding area late on Thursday.
Early on Friday it finally erupted. Ash and smoke plunged the neighbouring area into near total darkness, blotting out the bright morning sun, said a Reuters witness, who reported hearing the explosion from Rose Hall, a nearby village.
Smaller explosions continued throughout the day, Erouscilla Joseph, director at the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre, told Reuters, adding that this kind of activity could go on for weeks if not months.
“This is just the beginning,” she said.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which has a population of just over 100,000, has not experienced volcanic activity since 1979, when an eruption caused approximately $ 100 million in damages. An eruption by La Soufriere in 1902 killed more than 1,000 people. The name means “sulfur outlet” in French.
The eruption column was estimated to have reached 10 kilometres high, the seismic research centre said, warning other explosive eruptions could occur. Ash fall could affect the Grenadines, Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada.
“The ash plume may cause flight delays due to diversions,” the centre said on Twitter. “On the ground, ash can cause discomfort in persons suffering with respiratory illnesses and will impact water resources.”
Local media have in recent days also reported increased activity from Mount Pelee on the island of Martinique, which lies to the north of St. Vincent beyond St. Lucia.
‘In a frenzy’
Some 4,500 residents near the volcano had left their homes already via ships and by road, Gonsalves said at a news conference on Friday.
Heavy ash fall had halted evacuation efforts somewhat due to poor visibility, according to St. Vincent’s National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO).
“The place in general is in a frenzy,” said Lavern King, 28, a shelter volunteer. “People are still being evacuated from the red zone, it started yesterday evening and into last night.”
Gonsalves said that depending on the extent of the damage, it could be four months before evacuees could return home.
Welling up with tears, he said neighbouring islands such as Dominica, Grenada and Antigua had agreed to take evacuees in and cruise lines could ferry them over — as long as they got vaccinated first.
Though that could prove to be a challenge, according to opposition senator Shevern John, 42.
“People are very scared of the vaccine and they opt out of coming to a shelter because eventually they would have to adhere to the protocol,” she said.
Shelters are also having to limit the number of evacuees they take in due to COVID-19 protocols.
John said people would have to wait for further scientific analysis to know what steps to take next.
“It can go for a few days or a few weeks,” she said. “At the moment, both ends of the island are covered in ash and very dark.”
George Floyd’s scuffle with police, along with Derek Chauvin’s knee pressed into his neck, was too much for his underlying heart condition and caused the death of the 46-year-old Black man, the local county’s chief medical officer told a Minneapolis court on Friday.
“[The adrenaline is] going to ask your body for more oxygen so that you can get through that altercation,” said Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on Floyd and ruled his death to be a homicide.
Baker’s testimony marked the 10th day of the murder trail of Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who is facing trial on charges of second-degree unintentional murder; third-degree murder; and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of Floyd.
“And in my opinion, the law enforcement subdual restraint and the neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take by virtue of those heart conditions,” Baker said.
Baker’s testimony veered somewhat from what the court had previously heard from other medical witnesses called by the prosecution.
Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, pressed a knee on the back of his neck for around nine minutes as two other officers held him down.
Witness reaffirmed autopsy report
The outcome of the high profile trial is being closely watched after video of the arrest of Floyd captured by a bystander prompted widespread outrage, setting off protests over race and police brutality across the U.S. and around the world.
The prosecution says Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck while detaining him on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill at a convenience store, caused his death. But the defence argues Chauvin did what his training taught him and that it was a combination of Floyd’s underlying medical conditions, drug use and adrenaline flowing through his system that ultimately killed him.
The court has so far heard from prosecution medical experts, including a leading lung specialist, who have testified that Floyd died from asphyxia — or insufficient oxygen — because of the actions of police. Baker has not ruled asphyxiation to be a cause of Floyd’s death.
Previous witnesses had significantly downplayed Floyd’s pre-existing medical conditions and drugs found in his system as playing a role in his death.
However, Baker reaffirmed the findings of his autopsy report. He said those elements were contributing factors, though not the primary cause of death.
Under questioning by prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, Baker explained that Floyd had narrowed coronary arteries — about 75 per cent blockage in his left anterior descending artery and 90 per cent blockage in his right coronary artery. Floyd also had hypertensive heart disease, meaning his heart weighed slightly more than it should.
Floyd’s confrontation with police, which included being pinned facedown on the pavement while Chauvin pressed his knees into his neck, produced adrenaline that made Floyd’s heart beat faster.
Baker testified that Floyd died of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”
Asked to explain cardiopulmonary arrest, Baker said that was “fancy medical lingo for the heart and the lungs stopped.”
He also explained the definition of “homicide” in an autopsy report, that it was a medical and not a legal term, which is applied when the actions of other people were involved in an individual’s death.
During cross-examination, Chauvin’s lawyer Eric Nelson seized on the potential role played by Floyd’s heart condition and drugs found in his system.
“In your opinion, both the heart disease as well as the history of hypertension and the drugs that were in his system played a role in Mr. Floyd’s death?” Nelson asked Baker.
“In my opinion, yes,” Baker said.
Baker also agreed that he had certified overdose as the cause of death in other autopsies where that individual had much lower levels of fentanyl in their system than was found in Floyd.
Nelson asked Baker if he recalled having conversations last year with prosecutors in which he described the level of fentanyl found in Floyd’s system was a “fatal level.”
“I recall describing it in other circumstances, it would be a fatal level,” Baker said.
But Baker also agreed that he had described Floyd’s s death as a “multifactorial process.”
He said drugs and hypertension were not “direct causes” but they were “contributing causes.”
Authorities in the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent have ordered mandatory evacuations on Thursday, saying they believe an active volcano is in danger of exploding.
The island’s emergency management office switched the alert level to red and said the first cruise line will in the next few hours evacuate those who live near La Soufrière volcano. It was not immediately clear how many people would be evacuated, where the ship would take them or if they would remain temporarily aboard.
Roughly 16,000 people live in the red zone and will need to be evacuated, Erouscilla Joseph, director of the University of the West Indies’ Seismic Research Center, told The Associated Press.
Evacuation efforts could be hampered by the pandemic.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told a news conference that people have to be vaccinated if they go aboard a cruise ship or are granted temporary refuge in other nearby islands.
‘An emergency situation’
He said two Royal Caribbean cruise ships are expected to arrive by Friday and a third one in the coming days, as well as two Carnival cruise ships by Friday. Islands that have said they would accept evacuees include St. Lucia, Grenada, Barbados and Antigua.
“Not everything is going to go perfect, but if we all co-operate … we will come through this stronger than ever,” Gonsalves said.
He said he was talking to other Caribbean governments to accept people’s ID cards if they don’t have a passport.
“This is an emergency situation, and everybody understands that,” he said.
I have issued an evacuation order to all residents living in the RED ZONES on the North East and the North West of the island. All residents are asked to act accordingly with immediate effect to ensure their safety and that of their families. <a href=”https://t.co/AJQlCDtOPg”>pic.twitter.com/AJQlCDtOPg</a>
Gonsalves added that he highly recommends those who opt to go to a shelter in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an island chain of more than 100,000 people, be vaccinated.
Joseph said emergency management teams have been going out to communities in the red zone and providing transportation to safer locations, including prearranged shelters.
“They know who doesn’t have transportation because all of this has been canvassed before,” she said, adding that those who board the cruise ship would not be taken elsewhere but would remain there for an unspecified period of time.
Officials said the dome of the volcano located on the island’s northern region could be seen glowing by nightfall. The alert issued Thursday evening follows days of seismic activity around La Soufrière.
Volcano could erupt in hours or days
Gonsalves urged people to remain calm and orderly.
“I don’t want you panicked,” he said. “That is the worst thing to do.”
Scientists alerted the government about a possible eruption after noting a specific type of seismic activity at 3 a.m. local time on Thursday that indicated “magma was on the move close to the surface,” Joseph said.
“Things are escalating pretty quickly,” she said of the volcanic activity, adding that it was impossible to provide an exact forecast of what might happen in the next few hours or days.
A team from the seismic centre arrived in St. Vincent in late December after the volcano had an effusive eruption. They have been analyzing the formation of a new volcanic dome, changes to its crater lake, seismic activity and gas emissions, among other things.
The volcano last erupted in 1979, and a previous eruption in 1902 killed some 1,600 people.
8th April, 2021<br>LA SOUFRIÈRE BULLETIN #49 APRIL 08, 2021 12:00 PM<br><br>1. The steaming/smoking at the La Soufriere Volcano has increased over the last few hours.<br><br>2. The alert level remains at Orange. <a href=”https://twitter.com/volcanodiscover?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@volcanodiscover</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/USGSVolcanoes?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@USGSVolcanoes</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/volcano?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#volcano</a> <a href=”https://t.co/UpygxRfzS2″>pic.twitter.com/UpygxRfzS2</a>
Bianca Andreescu has suffered another injury, ending her best tournament since capturing the U.S. Open title in September 2019.
The Canadian retired with a right ankle injury after falling behind 6-3, 4-0 against top-ranked Ash Barty of Australia in the final of the Miami Open on Saturday.
The eighth-seeded Andreescu, from Mississauga, Ont., tumbled to the court in the third game of the second set and struggled with her movement after the fall. She was wearing tape on the right ankle for the entire final of the WTA 1000 event — one level below a Grand Slam.
Andreescu called a medical timeout to receive treatment from the trainer after Barty finished the game with a break to go up 3-0.
WATCH | Andreescu retires from Miami Open final with injury:
Australian Ashleigh Barty claimed the WTA Miami Open title Saturday 6-3, 4-0 after Canada’s Bianca Andreescu was forced to retire in the 2nd set having fallen awkwardly earlier in the match with what appeared to be a right ankle injury. 6:03
She returned for one more game, but wasn’t moving well.
“Definitely not the way I wanted to end the tournament,” Andreescu said. “But I’m super grateful nonetheless. I got to the final of one of my first tournaments in a while now, and I could not be more happy.”
Afterward, she put her hand to her face as she tried to hold back tears before going to the net to greet Barty and end the match.
Andreescu returned from a 16-month layoff in February at the Australian Open, losing in the second round of the Grand Slam. She suffered a knee injury late in 2019 and opted not to try to make a comeback earlier in the pandemic in 2020.
The 20-year-old Canadian followed up her first tournament back by reaching the semifinals of an event in Melbourne for players eliminated early from the Australian Open, but a leg injury suffered there kept her out until Miami.
Andreescu did not specifically address the nature of the injury when she made her speech during the trophy presentations.
“I just want to say for me getting back on my feet wasn’t easy, but I continued to believe in myself and I never gave up,” she said. “To everyone out there going through a tough time like me now, I just want to say keep your head up and continue to believe in yourself.”
However in a post-match interview, Andreescu expressed her frustration.
“It seems that I’m kind of the only one that keeps getting asked questions about injuries, which is super annoying,” the former world No. 4 told reporters.
Andreescu focussed on future
“I don’t want, like, for me to have a reputation of that, because it’s not only me that’s getting injured. But, yeah, I mean, it’s happened quite a bit, but I don’t want to define myself through those. It sucks.
“Even if it’s something small, sometimes I’ll be extra cautious, but I’d rather be that than push through it and get it worse, because I have been through both, and today I’m glad that I stopped. It’s hard for me to say that, but I’m glad that I stopped.”
Looking ahead toward the rest of the season, Andreescu remained confident.
“My body seemed to be good up until today,” said Andreescu, who will climb up three spots to number six in the rankings on Monday.
“No one wants to end a tournament retiring, especially in the finals. But things happen, and I want to look ahead in my career. I’m only 20.”
After winning four three-set matches in a row to reach the Miami final, Andreescu struggled to find any rhythm against Barty in their first career meeting.
Barty was far better with first serve, winning 77.8 per cent of her points as compared to 45.2 for Andreescu.
“I hope you recover well and this doesn’t hinder your season too much,” Barty told Andreescu during the trophy ceremony. “I’m sure we’ll have many more good and hopefully healthy matches in the future.”
Andreescu has exited early in both appearances in Miami with injuries — her only two losses in North America since the start of 2019.
Barty, the 2019 French Open champ, won her 10th career title and earned $ 300,110 US of the $ 3.26-million total purse. Andreescu pocketed $ 165,000.
Barty overpowered Andreescu early to jump in front 3-0 before the Canadian found some rhythm and broke back to cut the deficit to 3-2.
But on Andreescu’s next service game, the Australian responded. Two winners after Andreescu fought off two break points put Barty up 4-2 for the decisive break. The world No. 1 then won every point on the ensuing serve game to take charge of the first set.
Andreescu is scheduled to take most of April off. Before the match, her agent, Jonathan Dasnieres de Veigy, said Andreescu is scheduled to return for WTA 1000 clay-court events in Madrid (April 29-May 8) and Rome (May 10-16) before playing in the French Open (May 23-June 5).
Carriers are rolling out 5G networks across the globe, promising to deliver lightning-fast data to devices of all shapes and sizes. So far, the speed claims of 5G have been little more than smoke and mirrors. However, the architects of 5G technology may have unwittingly provided the key to wireless power. A team at Georgia Tech has developed a small, 3D-printed antenna that can harvest power from 5G waves. This technology has the potential to turn wireless data networks into a wireless power grid.
5G comes in several different flavors, each one with its own advantages and disadvantages. There’s low-band 5G that operates in the range of several hundred megahertz, offering good range but lower speeds. Mid-band signals on the order of a few gigahertz can provide much higher speeds in exchange for a modest reduction in range. Both of those are classified as sub-6GHz; once you get over 6GHz, you’re in the realm of millimeter-wave 5G, going as high as 40GHz in the US. That’s what Verizon and AT&T started with because that spectrum was readily available and very, very fast. The problem? Very little range.
Some past attempts to harvest power from wireless signals have focused on Wi-Fi, which tops out at a few gigahertz like mid-band 5G, but millimeter wave (mmWave) is a whole different story. Millimeter-wave (mmWave) 5G can transmit multiple gigabits per second because of its high frequency and power, and that means there’s more potential energy to harvest. This, too, has been demonstrated, but these demos needed a large rectifying antenna. The larger the antenna, the narrower its field of view, making it impractical for energy harvesting. The tiny cards developed by the Georgia Tech team solve this problem by adding a component called a Rotman lens — the spiky shape in the middle (above).
A 5G millimeter-wave cell site on a light pole in Minneapolis.
Rotman lenses are already widely used in 5G beam-forming applications. They can reshape a single narrow beam into multiple simultaneous beams covering a wider area. That’s why the Georgia Tech antenna is so tiny and efficient — it pulls in 21 times more power than a standard rectifying antenna of the same size.
However, we’re still not talking about a huge amount of power. The high-frequency mmWave signal generates about 6 microwatts of power at 180 meters (590 feet) from a 5G transmitter. That’s also with unobstructed line-of-sight; mmWave signals are too high-frequency to pass through walls, but that’s also what makes them easier to harness for wireless power.
A few microwatts is still enough to power sensors and simple IoT gadgets, eliminating the need for batteries. The team believes that wireless power could become a transformative 5G technology, but that’s probably only true if carriers figure out how to charge for it.
Variants of the virus behind COVID-19 double the risk of someone being admitted to intensive care — and increase the risk of death by roughly 60 per cent — according to a new analysis of recent Ontario data from the province’s science advisory table, multiple sources tell CBC News.
A briefing note prepared by table members for the province, which is expected to be made public early next week, is based on an analysis of Ontario hospitalization and death data between December and March.
The analysis is expected to show that variants substantially increase the risk of serious illness when compared to the initial strain of SARS-CoV-2, including:
60 per cent increased risk of hospitalization.
100 per cent increased risk of being admitted to an ICU.
60 per cent increased risk of death.
The data didn’t differentiate between variants, though most instances in Ontario right now are thought to be the B117 variant first identified in southeast England.
The Ontario figures were also pooled with data from Denmark and the U.K., two countries hit hard by B117, several sources explained, with local data falling in line with those earlier international findings.
“Clearly, these variants are … more transmissible — so you’re more likely to become infected if you’re exposed to the virus — and also, you’re more likely to be admitted to hospital and to potentially die from the infection,” said critical care physician Dr. Kali Barrett, a member of the COVID-19 Modelling Collaborative, a separate group that was not involved in the science table’s upcoming briefing note.
Those health impacts are regardless of your age or pre-existing medical issues, she said of the international research.
People need to ‘protect themselves’
CBC News has not obtained a copy of the upcoming briefing note but did speak to multiple sources familiar with the expected contents. They asked not to be named because they’re not authorized to speak about the findings publicly.
Several sources said the analysis accounts for the fact that the age distribution of cases has shifted over time, and now skews younger, thanks in part to ongoing vaccinations of older populations.
It not only aligns with the growing body of international research suggesting variants such as B117 can have dire health impacts, but also the growing concern among Ontario clinicians that patients with COVID-19 are presenting both younger and more seriously ill.
“This is not just a disease that sort of strikes the older among us, it really strikes those in the prime of our lives,” Barrett said. “And we all have to be careful until everyone’s vaccinated.”
The overall risk of death from COVID-19 does remain fairly small, though it’s hard to pin down a precise figure given the evolving nature of the pandemic.
Canada’s case fatality rate is currently thought to be roughly 2.4 per cent, but it’s a number based on confirmed cases and deaths among all age groups, which doesn’t reflect people who never got tested for the virus, and has proven to be a moving target depending on who’s falling ill and who’s getting vaccinated.
With variants now making up more than half of all recent COVID-19 cases in Ontario, experts stress it’s a risky numbers game: more people getting infected with a more dangerous variant could cause more serious illnesses and deaths, even among a younger, healthier cohort.
“Unless we have more stringent public health measures enacted,” Barrett said, “individuals really need to be doing everything they can at an individual level to protect themselves.”
Evidence points to higher risk
Health experts around the world have been ringing alarms for weeks about the potential for variants to take hold and wreak havoc.
As early as January, preliminary findings from the British government’s chief scientific adviser suggested B117 carries a higher risk of death than the original SARS-CoV-2 strain.
Two Ontario COVID-19 science advisory table members who spoke on the record to CBC News — though not about the expected briefing note — said the growing body of research that has since emerged suggests those early concerns were valid.
“It’s confounded by a bunch of different factors, including different ages, and different social situations, and how people have acquired the disease,” said Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease specialist with Toronto’s Sinai Health System.
“But I think the majority — or the overwhelming majority — of evidence that we have right now is that it is substantially more, not only contagious, but severe in the disease that it causes.”
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Gerald Evans, a professor at Queen’s University’s faculty of medicine in Kingston, Ont., said without restrictions in place over the past few months, Ontario may have fared far worse in terms of serious cases and deaths.
Restrictions loosening in various regions
Now, as Ontario is relaxing rules around indoor shopping, dining and other forms of gatherings in various areas, Evans and Morris both said some regions — and younger populations — largely spared in the first two waves of the pandemic could be harder hit the third time around.
“It’s hard for people to continue to just be holed up in their homes,” said Morris. “Perhaps the right thing to do is to just encourage people to spend as much of their time outdoors as possible.”
Indeed, in the Toronto area, for example, public health officials recently got their wish for a loosening of lockdown restrictions that now allow for outdoor dining.
WATCH | Ontario allowing outdoor dining in grey zones:
Ontario will allow outdoor dining in grey-lockdown zones after modifying some of its COVID-19 restrictions. Restaurants in the red and orange zones of the province’s colour-coded guidelines will have their indoor dining capacity increased to 50 per cent — up to a maximum of 50 or 100 people, respectively. 2:56
But Morris cautioned that reopenings and reduced restrictions don’t necessarily mean there’s any reduced risk, though that might be the public perception.
“In no way, shape or form should people be minimizing this pandemic. It still has legs, unfortunately,” Morris said.
“And where you may have had some estimate of risk to yourself six months ago, even three months ago — that estimated risk has now increased a bit.”
Referee Tim Peel has been banned from officiating future NHL games after he was caught saying he wanted to call a penalty against the Nashville Predators during a game on Tuesday.
Peel was wearing a microphone for the Detroit-Nashville game Tuesday night and was heard making the comment over the TV broadcast.
“It wasn’t much, but I wanted to get a [expletive] penalty against Nashville early in the,” Peel was heard saying before his microphone was cut off after Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson was called for a tripping penalty at 4:56 of the second period.
Peel worked the game with referee Kelly Sutherland. The Predators were called for four penalties and the Red Wings three in Nashville’s 2-0 win.
WARNING: Clip contains profane language
Maybe if you’re a mic’d up ref, you shouldn’t express how you wanted to call a penalty against a team earlier in the game, changing how you ref the rest of the game.<br><br>”It wasn’t much but I wanted to get a fuckin’ penalty against Nashville early in the…”<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Preds?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Preds</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/LGRW?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#LGRW</a> <a href=”https://t.co/6fZImkdqLr”>pic.twitter.com/6fZImkdqLr</a>
“Nothing is more important than ensuring the integrity of our game,” Colin Campbell, the league’s senior executive vice-president of hockey operations, said in a statement issued by the NHL Wednesday.
“Tim Peel’s conduct is in direct contradiction to the adherence to that cornerstone principle that we demand of our officials and that our fans, players, coaches and all those associated with our game expect and deserve,” he said in the statement. “There is no justification for his comments, no matter the context or his intention, and the National Hockey League will take any and all steps necessary to protect the integrity our game.”
The NHL’s statement was unclear on whether Peel had been fired, but TSN reported Wednesday he planned to retire following this season.
NHL players weigh in
Nashville’s Matt Duchene on a local radio appearance Wednesday wondered aloud what would have happened if Detroit scored on the power play, won the game and the Predators missed the playoffs by a point.
“The crazy part is he was talking to [teammate Filip] Forsberg in that clip, and he told our bench that,” Duchene said. “Really bizarre. I don’t think there’s a place in hockey for that.
“You’ve got to call the game. I’ve always been frustrated when I’ve seen even-up calls or stuff like that. If one team is earning power plays, you can’t punish them because the other team is not.”
Even-up — or make-up — calls are when referees will penalize one team to compensate for what they perceive to be an incorrect penalty imposed on the opposing team.
Duchene and other players around the league cast doubt on “make-up calls” being a regular part of hockey, though he acknowledged “there’s definitely nights where you’re skeptical of it.”
“Some of the good refs definitely have a feel for the game and they know the ebbs and flows, and they know to try to keep the game as even as possible unless the play dictates otherwise,” New York Rangers forward Ryan Strome said. “But as players, all you can ask for is that they try to call it as fair as possible.”
‘The league had to do what they had to do’
Washington centre Nicklas Backstrom, a 14-year veteran, said the incident was a first for him.
“I’ve never heard anything like that,” Backstrom said. “I think it’s maybe unfortunate that it happened and came out that way. But at the same time, the league had to do what they had to do.”
Predators coach John Hynes said it probably doesn’t matter how he feels about what the official said.
“But the referees are employees of the league and rather than me comment on it, it’s an issue that I think the league will have to take care of,” Hynes said.
Most players and coaches expressed respect for on-ice officials and lamented how difficult their jobs are in keeping track of the fast-paced game. Buffalo interim coach Don Granato said he has “full faith” in the people who work for the NHL.
“[Peel] made a mistake, but unfortunately you don’t want make-up calls to be part of the game,” Edmonton’s Adam Larsson said. “I don’t think it’s right. I think if it’s an obvious one I don’t think it should be made up for.”
Peel, 54, from Hampton, N.B., has been an NHL referee since 1999.
Turkey withdrew early Saturday from a landmark European treaty protecting women from violence that it was the first to sign 10 years ago and that bears the name of its largest city.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s overnight decree annulling Turkey’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention is a blow to women’s rights advocates, who say the agreement is crucial to combating domestic violence. Hundreds of women gathered in Istanbul to protests against the move on Saturday.
Marija Pejcinovic Buric, the Council of Europe’s secretary general, called the decision “devastating.”
“This move is a huge setback to these efforts and all the more deplorable because it compromises the protection of women in Turkey, across Europe and beyond,” she said.
The Istanbul Convention states that men and women have equal rights and obliges state authorities to take steps to prevent gender-based violence against women, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators.
Some officials from Erdogan’s Islam-oriented party had advocated for a review of the agreement, arguing it is inconsistent with Turkey’s conservative values by encouraging divorce and undermining the traditional family unit.
Critics also claim the treaty promotes homosexuality through the use of categories such as gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. They see that as a threat to Turkish families. Hate speech has been on the rise in Turkey, including from Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, who described LGBT people as “perverts” in a tweet. Erdogan has rejected their existence altogether.
Exit prompts protests
Women’s groups and their allies who have been protesting to keep the convention intact immediately called for demonstrations across the country on Saturday under the slogan, “Withdraw the decision, implement the treaty.” They said their years-long struggle would not be erased in one night.
Rights groups say violence against and killing of women are on the rise in Turkey, but the interior minister called that a “complete lie” on Saturday.
A total of 77 women have been killed since the start of the year, according to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform. Some 409 women were killed in 2020, with dozens found dead under suspicious circumstances, according to the group.
Numerous women’s rights groups slammed the decision. Advocacy group Women’s Coalition Turkey said the withdrawal from a human rights agreement was a first in Turkey. “It is clear that this decision will further encourage the murderers of women, harassers, rapists,” their statement said.
Government claims commitment to issue
Turkey’s justice minister said the government was committed to combating violence against women.
“We continue to protect our people’s honour, the family and our social fabric with determination,” Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul tweeted.
Erdogan has repeatedly stressed the “holiness” of the family and called on women to have three children. His communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said the government’s motto is “Powerful Families, Powerful Society.”
Many women suffer physical or sexual violence at the hands of their husbands or partners, but up-to-date official statistics are unavailable. The Istanbul Convention requires states to collect data.
Hundreds of women and allies gathered in Istanbul on Saturday, wearing masks and holding banners. Their demonstration has so far been allowed, but the area was surrounded by police and a coronavirus curfew begins in the evening.
They shouted pro-LGBT slogans and called for Erdogan’s resignation. They cheered as a woman speaking through a megaphone said, “You cannot close up millions of women in their homes. You cannot erase them from the streets and the squares.”
Turkey signed on first
Turkey — which applied to join the European Union in 1987 but is not yet a member — was the first country to sign the Council of Europe’s “Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence” at a committee of ministers meeting in Istanbul in 2011. The law came into force in 2014, and Turkey’s constitution says international agreements have the force of law.
Some lawyers claimed Saturday that the treaty is still active, arguing the president cannot withdraw from it without the approval of parliament, which ratified the Istanbul Convention in 2012.
But Erdogan gained sweeping powers with his re-election in 2018, setting in motion Turkey changing from a parliamentary system of government to an executive presidency.
The justice minister wrote on Twitter that while parliament approves treaties that the executive branch puts into effect, the executive also has the authority to withdraw from them.
Women lawmakers from Turkey’s main opposition party said they will not recognize the decree and called it another “coup” on parliament, which had unanimously accepted the treaty, and a usurpation of the rights of 42 million women.
Spectators from abroad will be barred from the Tokyo Olympics when they open in four months, the IOC and local organizers said Saturday.
The decision was announced after an online meeting of the International Olympic Committee, the Japanese government, the Tokyo government, the International Paralympic Committee, and local organizers.
The move was expected and rumoured for several months. Officials said the risk was too great to admit ticket holders from overseas during a pandemic, an idea strongly opposed by the Japanese public. Japan has attributed about 8,800 deaths to COVID-19 and has controlled the virus better than most countries.
“In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” the Tokyo organizing committee said in a statement.
About 1 million tickets are reported to have been sold to fans from outside Japan. Organizers have promised refunds, but this will be determined by so-called Authorized Ticket Resellers that handle sales outside Japan. These dealers charge fees of up to 20 per cent above the ticket price. It is not clear if the fees will be refunded.
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“We could wait until the very last moment to decide, except for the spectators,” said Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the organizing committee. “They have to secure accommodations and flights. So we have to decide early otherwise we will cause a lot of inconvenience from them. I know this is a very tough issue.”
IOC President Thomas Bach called it a “difficult decision.”
“We have to take decisions that may need sacrifice from everybody,” he said.
The financial burden of lost ticket sales falls on Japan. The local organizing committee budget called from $ 800 million income from ticket sales, the third largest income source in the privately finance budget. Any shortfall in the budget will have to be made up by Japanese government entities.
Overall, Japan is officially spending $ 15.4 billion US to organize the Olympics. Several government audits say the actual cost may be twice that much. All but $ 6.7 billion is public money.
About 4.45 million tickets were sold to Japan residents. Organizers are expected next month to announce the capacity at venues, which will be filled by local residents.
The ban on fans from abroad comes just days before the Olympic torch relay starts Thursday from Fukushima prefecture in northeastern Japan. It will last for 121 days, crisscross Japan with 10,000 runners, and is to end on July 23 at the opening ceremony at the National Stadium in Tokyo.
The relay will be a test for the Olympics and Paralympics, which will involve 15,400 athletes entering Japan. They will be tested before leaving home, tested upon arrival in Japan, and tested frequently while they reside in a secure “bubble” in the Athletes Village alongside Tokyo Bay.
Athletes will not be required to be vaccinated to enter Japan, but many will be.
In the midst of Saturday’s meeting, Bach and others were given a reminder about earthquake-prone northeastern Japan — and Japan in general.
A strong earthquake shook Tokyo and triggered a tsunami warning as Bach and others made introductory remarks before the virtual meeting. The strength was put a 7.0 by the U.S. Geological Survey and the location was in northeastern Japan, an area hit by a huge earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
“I think the screen is shaking. Have you noticed the screen is shaking,” Tamayo Marukawa, Japan’s Olympic minister, said as she made her presentation from Tokyo talking remotely to Bach visible on a screen in Switzerland. “We’re actually in the midst of an earthquake right now.”