Today I have just a few updates to the past week’s stories:
- The wild fire in Alberta, Canada, (A Tale of Two Tragedies) is still not under control, even after a week of major firefighting efforts. In fact, the latest news is that Canadian officials are expecting it to be months before the fire is fully extinguished. The biggest concern at present is that the fire could double in size and reach a major oil sands mine, and even the neighboring province of Saskatchewan. As of today, it is estimated that the fire has consumed more than 494,000 acres and is continuing to grow, aided by high temperatures, dry conditions and high winds. My heart goes out to those who have lost their homes and everything they owned, but also to the hundreds of firefighters who have been working 30 or more hours straight without sleep. I cannot imagine.
Can Dündar, (A Turkey of a Turkey … In Turkey) the Turkish journalist who was facing a possible life sentence for a documentary he produced, was fired upon by a gunman just outside the courthouse in Istanbul prior to sentencing on Friday. The gunman was apparently a novice, as all three shots missed Dündar, though another journalist was slightly injured by a ricocheted bullet. Though the gunman claims to have been acting alone and says that he wanted to teach Dündar a lesson, two other people were also detained. Dündar blames Erdogan for the attack, saying “We know very well who showed me as a target,” accusing Erdogan and pro-government media of whipping up a climate of hatred against him.
A few minutes after the attack outside the courthouse, Dündar was sentenced to 5 years and 10 months in prison, convicted of publishing secret state documents. while fellow journalist Erdem Gül received a 5-year sentence. The sentence is certainly less than the life sentence that was a possibility, but it still reeks of dictatorial and punitive limits on the press. In Dündar’s own words, “In the space of two hours we have experienced two assassination attempts: one was done with a gun, the other was judicial. The [jail sentences] we received are not just to silence us. The bullet was not just to silence us. This was done to all of us, to scare us into silence, to make us stop talking.” Turkey now ranks 151st among 180 countries in the world press freedom index.
- In September, member states of the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) will meet to discuss, among other topics, the elephant ivory trade. (Of Elephants and Ivory …) I was, and am yet, perplexed to find that even among the African nations this is a divisive issue. Apparently Namibia and Zimbabwe are in favour of opening up the ivory trade, while Kenya supports a complete global ban on all things ivory. I have to say that in this case, I side with Kenyans. In the 1970s, Africa had about 1.2 million elephants, but now has 400,000 to 450,000, or about one-third the 1970’s population. Obviously, the possibility of extinction in the next 20-30 years is a very real phenomenon if the ivory trade is allowed to continue. How terribly sad that anyone in their right mind would value a piece of jewelry or a billiard ball more than the life of one of these majestic animals.