Supreme Court Rejects Turkey’s Bid to Stop US Brawl Lawsuits

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected Turkey’s bid to shut down lawsuits in U.S. courts stemming from a violent brawl outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington more than five years ago that left anti-government protesters badly beaten.

The justices did not comment in turning away Turkey’s arguments that American law shields foreign countries from most lawsuits. Lower courts ruled that those protections did not extend to the events of May 16, 2017, when during a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “Turkish security forces violently clashed with a crowd of protesters,” as one judge described the situation.

The Supreme Court’s action allows the lawsuits to proceed. In the lawsuits, protesters claim they were brutally punched and kicked, cursed at and greeted with slurs and throat-slashing gestures. One woman slipped in and out of consciousness and has suffered seizures, and others reported post-traumatic stress, depression, concussions and nightmares, according to the complaints.

The high court had put off a decision about whether to intervene for months, asking for the Biden administration’s views on the legal issues presented.

Turkey can be sued in these circumstances, the Justice Department said in its high court filing, concluding that lower courts were correct in finding that the U.S. ally does not have legal immunity.

Lawyers for the Turkish government had told the court that Erdogan’s security detail had discretion to use physical force because it was protecting its head of state in a potentially dangerous situation.

They described some protesters as “supporters of a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization that poses a genuine national security threat to Turkey.”

The altercation was caught on camera and led to criminal charges against some of Erdogan’s security officers and civilian supporters, two of whom pleaded guilty. Most other charges were dropped. The violence occurred as Erdogan was returning to the ambassador’s residence after a White House visit, where he and then-President Donald Trump pledged cooperation in fighting the Islamic State group.

Erdogan remained in his car after it arrived at the ambassador’s residence while an initial skirmish took place. The lawsuits claim that he ordered a second, more violent attack. Turkey says he did no such thing.

German Climate Activists Glue Themselves to Dinosaur Display 

Two environmental activists glued themselves to a dinosaur display at Berlin’s Natural History Museum on Sunday to protest what they said was the German government’s failure to properly address the threat of climate change.

The women used superglue to attach themselves to poles holding up the skeleton of a large four-legged dinosaur that lived tens of millions of years ago.

“Unlike the dinosaurs, we hold our fate in our own hands,” protester Caris Connell, 34, said as museum visitors milled around the display. “Do we want to go extinct like the dinosaurs, or do we want to survive?”

Fellow activist Solvig Schinkoethe, 42, said that as a mother of four she feared the consequences of the climate crisis.

“This peaceful resistance is the means we have chosen to protect our children from the government’s deadly ignorance,” she said.

The museum didn’t immediately comment on the protest.

The activists were part of the group Uprising of the Last Generation, which has staged numerous demonstrations in recent months, including blocking streets and throwing mashed potatoes at a Claude Monet painting.

EU Mulls Adding Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as Terrorists – German Official

Germany and the European Union are considering adding Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to the list of terrorist organizations, German Foreign Minister Annalina Baerbock said on Sunday.   

Last week, Germany announced that it would impose tougher sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran outside of the EU sanctions package.  

In an interview Sunday with a German news agency, Baerbock added, “We are also examining how we can list the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.”   

Baerbock’s comments come a day after Hossein Salami, the head of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards, warned protesters that Saturday would be their last day of taking to the streets, signaling that security forces might intensify their crackdown on nationwide protests. 

The Revolutionary Guards are a part of Iran’s military charged with protecting the country’s Islamic political system. It also controls a huge business empire active in almost all sectors of Iran’s economy.      

Iran has been gripped by protests since the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in the custody of the morality police last month, posing one of the boldest challenges to the clerical leadership since the 1979 revolution. 

Iran has accused countries that have expressed support for the protests of meddling in its internal affairs. 

In her interview Sunday, Baerbok also said there are currently no negotiations to revive the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Western countries and Iran.   

The U.S. State Department designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization in April, 2019.   

Some material for this article came from Agence France-Presse and Reuters. 

Mexico’s Day of the Dead Is a Celebration of Life

During the Day of the Dead celebrations that take place in late October and early November in Mexico, the living remember and honor their dearly departed, but with celebration — not sorrow.

Marigolds decorate the streets as music blares from speakers. Adults and children alike dress as skeletons and take photos, capturing the annual joy-filled festivities. It is believed that during the Day of the Dead — or Dia de Muertos — they are able to commune with their deceased loved ones.

No one knows when the first observance took place, but it is rooted in agriculture-related beliefs from Mexico’s pre-Hispanic era, said Andrés Medina, a researcher at the Anthropological Research Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Catholic traditions were incorporated into the celebration after the Spanish conquest in 1521.

“In that mythology, the corn is buried when it’s planted and leads an underground life for a period to later reappear as a plant,” Medina said. The grain of corn is seen as a seed, comparable to a bone, which is seen as the origin of life.

Today, skeletons are central to Day of the Dead celebrations, symbolizing the return of the bones to the living world. Like seeds planted under soil, the dead disappear temporarily only to return each year like the annual harvest.

Altars are core to the observance as well. Families place photographs of their ancestors on their home altars, which include decorations cut out of paper and candles. They also are adorned with offerings of items once beloved by those now gone. It could include cigars, a bottle of mezcal or a plate of mole, tortillas and chocolates.

Traditional altars can be adorned in a pattern representative of a Mesoamerican view that the world had levels, Medina said. But not everyone follows — or knows — this method.

“To the extent that Indigenous languages have been lost, the meaning (of the altar) has been lost as well, so people do it intuitively,” he said. “Where the Indigenous languages have been maintained, the tradition is still alive.”

The way Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead continues to evolve.

Typically, it is an intimate family tradition observed with home altars and visits to local cemeteries to decorate graves with flowers and sugar skulls. They bring their deceased loved ones’ favorite food and hire musicians to perform their favorite songs.

“Nowadays there’s an influence of American Halloween in the celebration,” Medina said. “These elements carry a new meaning in the context of the original meaning of the festival, which is to celebrate the dead. To celebrate life.”

In 2016, the government started a popular annual parade in Mexico City that concludes in a main square featuring altars built by artisans from across the country. The roughly three-hour-long affair features one of the holiday’s most iconic characters, Catrinas. The female skeleton is dressed in elegant clothes inspired by the engravings of José Guadalupe Posada, a Mexican artist who drew satirical cartoons at the beginning of the 20th century.

On Friday afternoon in the capital city, Paola Valencia, 30, walked through the main square looking at some of the altars and explained her appreciation for the holiday: “I love this tradition because it reminds me that they (the dead) are still among us.”

Originally from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, she said the residents of her hometown, Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, take a lot of time to build large altars each year. They are a source of pride for the whole community.

“Sometimes I feel like crying. Our altars show who we are. We are very traditional, and we love to feel that they (the dead) will be with us at least once a year,” she said.

Thousands Commemorate Italy’s Fascist Dictator Mussolini 

Several thousand black-clad fascist sympathizers chanted and sang in praise of the late Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on Sunday as they marched to his crypt, 100 years after Mussolini entered Rome and completed a bloodless coup that gave rise to two decades of fascist rule.

The crowd of 2,000 to 4,000 marchers, many sporting fascist symbols and singing hymns from Italy’s colonial era, was larger than in the recent past, as the fascist nostalgics celebrated the centenary of the March on Rome.

On October 28, 1922, black-shirted fascists entered the Italian capital, launching a putsch that culminated two days later when Italy’s king handed Mussolini the mandate to start a new government.

The crowd in Predappio, Mussolini’s birthplace and final resting place in the northern Emilia-Romagna region, also was apparently emboldened by the fact that a party with neo-fascist roots is heading an Italian government for the first time since World War II.

Organizers warned participants, who arrived from as far away as Rome, Belgium and the United States, not to flash the Roman salute used by the Fascists, or they would risk prosecution. Still, some couldn’t resist as the crowd stopped outside the cemetery where Mussolini is buried to listen to prayers and greetings from Mussolini’s great-granddaughter, Orsola.

“After 100 years, we are still here to pay homage to the man this state wanted, and who we will never stop admiring,” Orsola Mussolini said, to cheers.

She listed her great-grandfather’s accomplishments, citing an infrastructure boom that built schools, hospitals and public buildings, reclaimed malaria-infested swamps for cities, and the extension of a pension system to nongovernment workers. She was joined by her sister Vittoria, who led the crowd in a prayer.

The crowd gave a final shout of “Duce, Duce, Duce!” Mussolini’s honorific as Italy’s dictator.

Anti-fascist campaigners held a march in Predappio on Friday to mark the anniversary of the liberation of the town — and to prevent the fascists from marching on the exact anniversary of the March on Rome.

Inside the cemetery on Sunday, admirers lined up a handful at a time to enter his crypt, tucked away in a back corner. Each was given a memory card signed by his great-grandaughters with a photo of a smiling Mussolini holding his gloved hand high in a Roman salute. “History will prove me right,” the card reads.

Italy’s failure to fully come to terms with its fascist past has never been more stark than now, as Italy’s new premier, Giorgia Meloni, seeks to distance her far-right Brothers of Italy party from its neo-fascist roots.

This week, she decried fascism’s anti-democratic nature and called its racial laws, which sent thousands of Italian Jews to Nazi death camps, “a low point.” Historians would also add Mussolini’s alliance with Nazi Germany and Japan in World War II and his disastrous colonial campaign in Africa to fascism’s devastating legacies.

Now in power, Meloni is seeking a moderate course for a new center-right government that includes Matteo Salvini’s League party and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia. But her victory gives far-right activists a sense of vindication.

“I would have voted for Lucifer if he could beat the left,” said organizer Mirko Santarelli, who heads the Ravenna chapter of the Arditi, an organization that began as a World War I veterans group and has evolved to include caretaking Mussolini’s memory. “I am happy there is a Meloni government, because there is nothing worse than the Italian left. It is not the government that reflects my ideas, but it is better than nothing.”

He said he would like to see the new Italian government do away with laws that prosecute incitement to hatred and violence motivated by race, ethnicity, religion and nationality. It includes use of emblems and symbols — many of which were present in Sunday’s march.

Santarelli said the law punishes “the crime of opinion.”

“It is used as castor oil by the left to make us keep quiet. When I am asked my opinion of Mussolini, and it is clear I speak well of him, I risk being denounced,” Santarelli said.

Lawyer Francesco Minutillo, a far-right activist who represents the organizers, said Italy’s high court established that manifestations are permissible as long as they are commemorative “and don’t meet the criteria that risks the reconstitution of the fascist party.”

Still, he said, magistrates in recent years have opened investigations into similar manifestations in Predappio and elsewhere to make sure they don’t violate the law. One such case was closed without charges last week.

To avoid having their message misrepresented, Santarelli asked the rank and file present not to speak to journalists. Most complied.

A young American man wearing a T-shirt with a hand-drawn swastika inside a heart and the words “Brand New Dream,” plus a fascist fez, said he had timed his European vacation to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the March on Rome so he could participate in the march in Predappio. He declined to identify himself, other than to say he was from New Jersey, and lamented there was no fascist group back home to join.

Rachele Massimi traveled with a group four hours from Rome on Sunday to participate in the event, bringing her 3-year-old who watched from a stroller.

“It’s historic,” Massimi said. “It’s a memory.”

Three Hurt in Attack on Vigil at Iranian Embassy in Berlin

Three men were injured early Sunday when a pro-democracy vigil outside the Iranian Embassy in Berlin was attacked, German police said.

An officer guarding the property saw several men, whose faces were covered with scarves, tearing down flags and banners from a trailer parked outside.

They then sought to rip open the door of the trailer, and a scuffle and argument erupted between four men who were inside and the attackers.

The men from the trailer chased the other group — and were then attacked by them, police said. Three of the men from the vehicle were injured, with two needing hospital treatment.

The attackers fled by car.

The trailer had posters on it with slogans such as “Women, Life, Freedom,” which has been commonly used in anti-government protests in Iran, German media reported.

There have been large protests in Germany and other European countries in solidarity with women-led demonstrations in Iran sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.

The Iranian protests, now in their sixth week, are the biggest seen in the Islamic Republic for years. 

Tens of Thousands of Czechs Show Their Support for Ukraine 

 

  

For web: PRAGUE (AP) — Tens of thousands of Czechs gathered in the capital on Sunday to demonstrate their solidarity with Ukraine and their support for democratic values. 

The rally took place in reaction to three recent anti-government demonstrations where other protesters demanded the resignation of the pro-Western coalition government of conservative Prime Minister Petr Fiala for its support for Ukraine. Those earlier rallies also protested soaring energy prices and opposed the country’s membership in the European Union and NATO. 

The organizers of the earlier rallies are known for spreading Russian propaganda and opposing COVID-19 vaccinations. 

The people who turned out Sunday in Prague waved the Czech, Ukrainian and EU flags while displaying slogans that read “Czech Republic against fear” and “We will manage it.” 

Sunday’s rally at central Wenceslas Square was organized by a group called Million Moments for Democracy, which was behind several rallies in support of Ukraine following the Feb 24 Russian invasion. The group also previously held massive rallies against the former prime minister, populist billionaire Andrej Babis, calling him a threat for democracy. 

The group said the anti-government protests, which united the far right with the far left. exploited the people’s fear of inflation and the war in Ukraine and were trying to undermine democracy. 

Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, thanked those at the rally in a video message. She said her country has been facing “the darkest moment in its history” but added hope that Russia’s aggression won’t succeed. 

 

King Charles III to Hold Climate Event on Eve of COP27

King Charles III announced Sunday he would hold a reception ahead of next month’s COP27 climate summit after being advised not to attend by the government.

Buckingham Palace said the event on November 4 would gather over 200 “international business leaders, decision makers and NGOs” two days before the summit begins in Egypt.

The Palace said the event was to mark the end of the UK’s hosting of COP26.

Charles has long backed environmental causes and spoke at the COP26 event in Glasgow in 2021.

But Downing Street said Friday that the monarch will not go to COP27 after the previous UK government led by Liz Truss advised him it was not the “right occasion” for him to attend.

British PM Rishi Sunak has also decided not to go, instead focusing on domestic issues.

The UK’s COP26 Minister Alok Sharma told The Sunday Times that he was “pretty disappointed that the prime minister is not going”, saying attendance would send a signal about the UK’s “renewed commitment on this issue.”

The Sunday Times reported earlier that Charles was expected to host an event with Sunak set to make a speech.

Mexican Artisans Preserve Day of the Dead Decorations

Mexican artisans are struggling to preserve the traditional manufacture of paper cut-out decorations long used in altars for the Day of the Dead.

Defying increasingly popular mass-production techniques, second-generation paper cutter Yuridia Torres Alfaro, 49, still makes her own stencils at her family’s workshop in Xochimilco, on the rural southern edge of Mexico City.

As she has since she was a child, Torres Alfaro punched stunningly sharp chisels into thick piles of tissue paper at her business, “Papel Picado Xochimilco.”

While others use longer-lasting plastic sheets, laser cutters or pre-made stencils, Torres Alfaro does each step by hand, as Mexican specialists have been doing for 200 years.

In 1988, her father, a retired schoolteacher, got a big order for sheets — which usually depict festive skeletons, skulls, grim reapers or Catrinas — to decorate city government offices.

“The business was born 34 years ago, we were very little then, and we started helping in getting the work done,” Torres Alfaro recalled.

Begun in the 1800s, experts say “papel picado” using tissue paper is probably a continuation of a far older pre-Hispanic tradition of painting ceremonial figures on paper made of fig-bark sheets. Mexican artisans adopted imported tissue paper because it was cheap and thin enough so that, with sharp tools, extreme care and a lot of skill, dozens of sheets can be cut at the same time.

But the most important part is the stencil: its design designates the parts to be cut out, leaving an intricate, airy web of paper that is sometimes strung from buildings or across streets. More commonly, it is hung above Day of the Dead altars that Mexican families use to commemorate — and commune with — deceased relatives.

The holiday begins Oct. 31, remembering those who died in accidents; it continues Nov. 1 to mark those died in childhood, and then those who died as adults on Nov. 2.

Traditionally, the bright colors of the paper had different meanings: Orange signified mourning, blue was for those who drowned, yellow was for the elderly deceased and green for those who died young.

But many Mexicans — who also use the decorations at other times of year, stringing them at roof-height along streets — now prefer to buy plastic, which lasts longer in the sun and the rain.

Still other producers have tried to use mass-produced stencils, which means that tens of thousands of sheets might bear exactly the same design.

“Stencils began to appear for making papel picado, because it is a lot of work if you have to supply a lot of people,” said Torres Alfaro, who still hand-cuts her own stencils with original designs.

“We wanted to keep doing it the traditional way, because it allows us to make small, personalized lots, and keep creating a new design every day,” she says.

Another rival was the U.S. holiday Halloween, which roughly coincides with Day of the Dead. Because it is flashier and more marketable — costumes, movies, parties and candy — Halloween has gained popularity in Mexico.

“For some time now, there has been a bit more Halloween,” said Torres Alfaro. “We do more traditional Mexican things. That is part of the work, to put Mexican things in papel picado. If we do Halloween things, it’s only on order” from customers.

Still others have tried to use 21st-century technology, employing computer-generated designs and laser cutters.

But Torres Alfaro says that concentrating so much on the cutting leaves out the most important part: the delicate webs of paper left behind.

“There are some laser machines that are gaining popularity, but we have checked them and the costs are the same, the machines still cut hole-by-hole and they can’t cut that many sheets,” she said.

“The (ready-made) stencils and the laser machine have their downsides,” she said. “Papel picado is based on what can be cut, and what can’t, and that is the magic of papel picado.”

Some of the World’s Worst Stampedes

At least 120 people were killed in a crush during a Halloween celebration in South Korea’s capital Seoul late on Saturday. 

Here are details of some of the worst stampedes over the last three decades: 

April 1989: Ninety-six people are killed and at least 200 injured in Britain’s worst sports disaster after a crowd surge crushed fans against barriers at the English F.A. Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield. 

July 1990: Inside Saudi Arabia’s al-Muaissem tunnel near the Muslim holy city of Mecca, 1,426 pilgrims are crushed to death during Eid al-Adha, Islam’s most important feast, at the end of the annual hajj pilgrimage. 

May 1994: A stampede near Jamarat Bridge in Saudi Arabia during the hajj kills 270 in the area where pilgrims hurl stones at piles of rocks symbolizing the devil. 

April 1998: One hundred and nineteen Muslim pilgrims are crushed to death during the hajj in Saudi Arabia. 

May 2001: In Ghana, at least 126 people are killed in a stampede at Accra’s main soccer stadium when police fire tear gas at rioting fans in one of Africa’s worst soccer disasters. 

February 2004: A stampede kills 251 Muslim pilgrims in Saudi Arabia near Jamarat Bridge during the hajj ritual stoning of the devil. 

January 2005: At least 265 Hindu pilgrims are killed in a crush near a remote temple in India’s Maharashtra state.  

August 2005: At least 1,005 people die in Iraq when Shi’ites stampede off a bridge over the Tigris river in Baghdad, panicked by rumors of a suicide bomber in the crowd.

January 2006: Three hundred and sixty-two Muslim pilgrims are crushed to death at the eastern entrance of the Jamarat Bridge when pilgrims jostle to perform the hajj stoning ritual. 

August 2008: Rumors of a landslide trigger a stampede by pilgrims in India at the Naina Devi temple in Himachal Pradesh state. At least 145 people die and more than 100 are injured. 

September 2008: In India, 147 people are killed in a stampede at the Chamunda temple, near the historic western town of Jodhpur. 

July 2010: A stampede kills 19 people and injures 342 when people push through a tunnel at the Love Parade techno music festival in Duisburg, Germany. 

November 2010: A stampede on a bridge in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, kills at least 350 people after thousands panic on the last day of a water festival. 

January 2013: More than 230 people die after a fire breaks out at a nightclub in the southern Brazilian college town of Santa Maria, and a stampede crushes some of the victims and keeps others from fleeing the fumes and flames.  

October 2013: Devotees crossing a long, concrete bridge towards a temple in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh panic when some railings break, triggering a stampede that kills 115. 

September 2015: At least 717 Muslim pilgrims are killed and 863 injured in a crush at the hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. 

April 2021: At least 44 people are crushed to death at an overcrowded religious bonfire festival in Israel in what medics said was a stampede. 

November 2021: At least nine people are killed and scores injured in a crush at the opening night of rapper Travis Scott’s Astroworld music festival in Houston, Texas, triggered by a surge of fans pushing toward the stage.  

January 2022: At least 12 Hindu pilgrims died and more than a dozen are injured in a stampede at the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Kashmir during events to mark the New Year. 

January 2022: A stampede at a church on the outskirts of Liberia’s capital Monrovia killed 29 people during an all-night Christian worship event.   

May 2022: At least 31 people die during a stampede at a church in Nigeria’s southern Rivers state, after people who turned up to receive food at the church broke through a gate.   

October 2022: A stampede at a soccer stadium in Indonesia kills at least 125 people and injures more than 320 after police sought to quell violence on the pitch, authorities said. 

How and Why do Crowd Surges Turn Deadly?

It happened at a music festival in Houston, a soccer stadium in England, during a hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, in a Chicago nightclub, and countless other gatherings: Large crowds surge toward exits, onto playing fields or press up against a stage with such force that people are literally squeezed to death.

And it has happened again, during Halloween festivities in the South Korean capital Seoul, where a crowd pushed forward, the narrow street they were on acting as a vise, leaving more than 140 people dead and 150 more injured.

The risk of such tragic accidents, which receded when venues closed and people stayed home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has returned.

To be sure, most events where large crowds gather happen without injury or death, with fans coming and going without incident. But those that went horribly wrong shared some common traits. Here is a look at why that happens:

How do people die at these events?

While movies that show crowds desperately trying to flee suggest getting trampled might be the cause of most of the deaths, the reality is most people who die in a crowd surge are suffocated.

What can’t be seen are forces so strong that they can bend steel. That means something as simple as drawing breath becomes impossible. People die standing up and those who fall die because the bodies on top of them exert such pressure that breathing becomes impossible.

“As people struggle to get up, arms and legs get twisted together. Blood supply starts to be reduced to the brain,” G. Keith Still, a visiting professor of crowd science at the University of Suffolk in England, told NPR after the Astroworld crowd surge in Houston last November. “It takes 30 seconds before you lose consciousness, and around about six minutes, you’re into compressive or restrictive asphyxia. That’s a generally the attributed cause of death — not crushing, but suffocation.”

 

What is the experience of being swept into a crush of people like?

Survivors tell stories of gasping for breath, being pushed deeper under what feels like an avalanche of flesh as others, desperate to escape, climb over them. Of being pinned against doors that won’t open and fences that won’t give.

“Survivors described being gradually compressed, unable to move, their heads ‘locked between arms and shoulders … faces gasping in panic,’” according to a report after a human crush in 1989 at the Hillsborough soccer stadium in Sheffield, England, led to the deaths of nearly 100 Liverpool fans. “They were aware that people were dying, and they were helpless to save themselves.”

What triggers such events?

At a Chicago nightclub in 2003, a crowd surge began after security guards used pepper spray to break up a fight. Twenty-one people died in the resulting crowd surge. And this month in Indonesia, 131 people were killed when tear gas was fired into a half-locked stadium, triggering a crush at the exits.

In Nepal in 1988, it was a sudden downpour that sent soccer fans rushing toward locked stadium exits, leading to the deaths of 93 fans. In the latest incident in South Korea, some news outlets reported that the crush occurred after a large number of people rushed to a bar after hearing that an unidentified celebrity was there.

But still, the British professor who has testified as an expert witness in court cases involving crowds, pointed to a variation of the age-old example of someone shouting “Fire” in a crowded movie theater. He told the AP last year that what lights the fuse of such a rush for safety in the U.S., more than in any other country, is the sound of someone shouting: “He has a gun!”

What role did the pandemic play?

Stadiums are filling up again. During the pandemic, as games went forward, teams took some creative steps to make things look somewhat normal. Cardboard figures of fans were placed in some of the seats and crowd noise was piped in — a sports version of a comedy show laugh track.

Now, though, the crowds are back, and the danger has returned.

“As soon as you add people into the mix, there will always be a risk,” Steve Allen of Crowd Safety, a U.K.-based consultancy engaged in major events around the world, told the AP in 2021.

Clashes as Thousands Protest French Agro-industry Water ‘Grab’

Thousands of demonstrators defied an official ban to march Saturday against the deployment of new water storage infrastructure for agricultural irrigation in western France, some clashing with police.

Clashes between paramilitary gendarmes and demonstrators erupted with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin reporting that 61 officers had been hurt, 22 seriously.

“Bassines Non Merci,” which organized the protest, said around 30 demonstrators had been injured. Of them, 10 had to seek medical treatment and three were hospitalized.

The group brings together environmental associations, trade unions and anti-capitalist groups against what it claims is a “water grab” by the “agro-industry” in western France.

Local officials said six people were arrested during the protest and that 4,000 people had turned up for the banned demonstration. Organizers put the turnout at 7,000.

The deployment of giant water “basins” is underway in the village of Sainte-Soline, in the Deux-Sevres department, to irrigate crops, which opponents claim distorts access to water amid drought conditions.

Around 1,500 police were deployed, according to the prefect of the Deux-Sevres department Emmanuelle Dubee.

Dubee said Friday she had wanted to limit possible “acts of violence,” referring to the clashes between demonstrators and security forces that marred a previous rally in March. 

The Sainte-Soline water reserve is the second of 16 such installations, part of a project developed by a group of 400 farmers organized in a water cooperative to significantly reduce water usage in the summer.

The open-air craters, covered with a plastic tarpaulin, are filled by pumping water from surface groundwater in winter and can store up to 650,000 square meters of water. 

This water is used for irrigation in summer, when rainfall is scarcer. 

Opponents claim the “mega-basins” are wrongly reserved for large export-oriented grain farms and deprive the community of access to essential resources.

Swedes Find 17th Century Sister Vessel to Famed Vasa Warship

Marine archaeologists in Sweden say they have found the sister vessel of a famed 17th century warship that sank on its maiden voyage and is now on display in a popular Stockholm museum.

The wreck of the royal warship Vasa was raised in 1961, remarkably well preserved, after more than 300 years underwater in the Stockholm harbor. Visitors can admire its intricate wooden carvings at the Vasa Museum, one of Stockholm’s top tourist attractions.

Its sister warship, Applet (Apple), was built around the same time as the Vasa on the orders of Swedish King Gustav II Adolf.

Unlike the Vasa, which keeled over and sank just minutes after leaving port in 1628, the sister ship was launched without incident the following year and remained in active service for three decades. It was sunk in 1659 to become part of an underwater barrier mean to protect the Swedish capital from enemy fleets.

The exact location of the wreck was lost over time but marine archaeologists working for Vrak — the Museum of Wrecks in Stockholm — say they found a large shipwreck in December 2021 near the island of Vaxholm, just east of the capital.

“Our pulses spiked when we saw how similar the wreck was to Vasa,” said Jim Hansson, one of the archaeologists. “Both the construction and the powerful dimensions seemed very familiar.”

Experts were able to confirm that it was the long-lost Applet by analyzing its technical details, wood samples and archival data, the museum said in a statement on Monday.

Parts of the ship’s sides had collapsed onto the seabed but the hull was otherwise preserved up to a lower gun deck. The fallen sides had gun ports on two different levels, which was seen as evidence of a warship with two gun decks.

A second, more thorough dive was made in the spring of 2022, and details were found that had so far only been seen in Vasa. Several samples were taken and analyses made, and it emerged that the oak for the ship’s timber was felled in 1627 in the same place as Vasa’s timber just a few years earlier.

Experts say the Vasa sunk because it lacked the ballast to counterweigh its heavy guns. Applet was built broader than Vasa and with a slightly different hull shape. Still, ships that size were difficult to maneuver and Applet probably remained idle for most of its service, though it sailed toward Germany with more than 1,000 people on board during the Thirty Years’ War, the Vrak museum said.

No decision has been taken on whether to raise the ship, which would be a costly and complicated endeavor.

Analyst: Europe Should Rethink China Policy After Party Congress, Ukraine Stance

China has emerged as an even more prominent player in world affairs as a result of the crisis in Ukraine and the weakening of Russia, but not necessarily to its advantage, says a Warsaw-based analyst.

The two major events that have “shaped or reshaped Europe’s attitude towards China” are the war in Ukraine and how China reacted to it, and the 20th Chinese communist party congress and its outcome, Ireneusz Bil, chairman of the Warsaw-based Amicus Europae Foundation, said in a phone interview with VOA. The foundation was established by former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski.

If attitudes toward Beijing were hardened due to its stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the latest policy pronouncements and the lineup of the new leadership at the Chinese party congress lends the EU an additional reason to recalibrate its former largely welcoming approach, Bil said.

Under these circumstances, China’s expanded role in international affairs and in a potentially enlarged footprint in Europe, including in Central and Eastern Europe, will be accompanied with increased scrutiny and greater “vigilance,” according to the analyst.

Europe will be more aware of the consequences of the technological exchanges and investments from China than it was before, more vigilant in the screening process, Bil said, compared with the previous experience when “there was no second thought on Chinese investment into the EU.”

Now, people will look at “who’s behind [Chinese investments], what kind of technology they will have access to, what kind of infrastructure they will have access to, what security risks are behind it,” Bil said.

Given these developments, the German government’s recent decision to send a chancellor-led delegation to Beijing and to allow a Chinese state-owned company stakes in the port of Hamburg is viewed with strong reservation in Poland and most other Central and Eastern European countries, Bil told VOA.

Bil described Berlin’s choice as “a unilateral decision to go so quickly after the 20th party congress” that “could be seen as lending support to rising authoritarianism in China.”

“This is not welcomed in Poland, and I think in a majority of EU — as I said, here Germany is seen as under-performing versus Russia, so now their effort to build some kind of new relationship with China is being seen as not in the interest of the whole of the European Union,” he said.

Bil added that whether this action is in the interest of Germany itself is also questionable, judging from the opposition put forth by Germany’s security agencies, among other groups.

Germany and France — bigger countries in the EU — “have overlooked our [most Central and Eastern European countries] interest and our opinions vis-a-vis Russia, you can imagine that we are now seeing a ‘mirror effect’ in their relations with China,” he said. “This has led to a crisis of trust, towards Germany — and their understanding of the change of [the] geostrategic map.”

At the center of Germany and the EU’s relations with China is to what extent each country, and the EU as a whole, rely on China for its economic well-being. At this week’s policy roundtable organized by the European Parliament’s Research Service in Brussels, two analysts say that dependency is “overblown.”

Jacob Kirkegaard is senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund (GMF) in Brussels and nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) in Washington, D.C. He noted at the event held Thursday that the Ukraine crisis has led European nations to look carefully at potential consequences of a fallout with China, in the event Beijing takes similar actions against Taiwan, as Russia did against Ukraine.

“China is a bigger economy, so sanctioning China following a military invasion of Taiwan is going to be a bigger deal than sanctioning Russia, no doubt about that,” Kirkegaard said.

Although undoubtedly there’s going to be a very large contingent of “European industrial interests who will cry that it’s going to be a disaster,” the reality is, he said, “as we have seen during the pandemic, as we have seen now with the gas dependency on Russia,” the global supply chain possesses much more flexibility, “and the actual true long-term dependencies on China will turn out to be a lot lower than we think,” Kirkegaard said.

Ulrich Jochheim, a policy analyst in the external policies unit of the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) who earlier worked as an economic desk officer for Germany and China in the European Commission, agrees.

“Our [German] export to China makes up less than 10%,” relatively insignificant compared to “a figure of 30% — more or less — for Australia, and 42% in the case of Taiwan,” he pointed out at Thursday policy roundtable.

Earlier this month, the EU identified China as a “tough competitor” at its foreign ministers meeting, known as the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC).

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky described the gathering as providing a platform for “very good and very consensual internal deliberation among EU foreign ministers” about the EU-China relations.

“There is no formal or agreed public outcome of this debate and we do not comment on details of internal debates,” he wrote, in response to VOA’s request for comment. “As customary, the High Representative Josep Borrell as the chairman commented publicly after the meeting and he indeed spoke about ‘a tough competitor, tougher and tougher, and a systemic rival.'”

Lipavsky continued: “I only have one thing to add — there is a cleared-eyed assessment of China and the recognition that the EU is having the biggest leverage, when acting in unity both internally and externally with like-minded partners. As for Czechia, we appreciated the debate, and we will support continuation of it.”

The Czech Republic currently holds the EU presidency.