Welcome to Tuesday, where world leaders start gathering in New York for the first in-person UN General Assembly since the pandemic, Iran faces growing protests after a young woman died following her arrest by the “morality police” for violating the hijab law and a group of scientists manage to estimate the total number of ants on Earth. Meanwhile, Jan Grossarth for German daily Die Welt unpacks the potential of “hempcrete,” i.e. bricks of hemp used as building material.
Whispers in the Abbey: How long can King Charles III hold on to the crown?
It's passed down by bloodline, and Charles has publicly vowed to a life of service. But is a rather un-beloved old white man with a complicated past the right royal for this moment? Even if a monarchy is undemocratic by design, popular opinion matters today more than ever. Just look at the Spanish monarchy, Sophia Constantino writes for Worldcrunch.
Grappling with the loss of its Queen, Britain is simultaneously embarking on a rapid process of transition — and that begins with a face and few key words. Postage stamps, speeches, national anthems: all of it will change visage and verbiage from Queen to King, Her Majesty to His Majesty, as Elizabeth’s son Charles III takes power.
But these differences are just scratching the surface of potentially far deeper changes afoot, and a looming sense of trepidation only being whispered about, as the nation joins together to try to assure a smooth transition of royal power.
Yet there are questions that will only grow louder: Will the aging son pale in comparison to his mother’s lifelong standard? How far has society evolved since Elizabeth took the crown in 1952? Will Charles' past as prince come back to haunt him?
Put a tad more bluntly: How long will his reign last?
Witty, poised and perennial, Queen Elizabeth II was a beloved figurehead for the nation, guiding her people from a comfortable distance through seven decades of turmoil and jubilation. Even as arguably the best-known public figure on the planet, the Queen had a remarkable knack for keeping to herself — just enough. Her interactions with the public were limited, camera appearances carefully orchestrated; and when she did speak up, it tended to be just enough to keep her subjects and the world paying attention, without drawing negative attention.
Through it all, Elizabeth boasted record approval ratings through nearly every year of her reign, more well-liked by the public than virtually any other royal family member, past or present.
King Charles had his ups and downs in popularity as a prince. Having been in the public eye his whole life, the King is in no way new to the whims of publicity, good or bad. His marriage to his first wife, Princess Diana, was a high moment. His infidelity and subsequent divorce — and Lady Di’s subsequent tragic death — was the lowest of the low. The nation and the world seemed to put up a wall against the then Prince Charles and his old flame and new wife, Camilla, one that has never really come down.
Now that he has the top job, the question of Charles’ popularity, and the public’s perception of the royal family as a whole, is no longer personal. It’s political.
In light of the Palace’s cruel treatment of Meghan Markle, reports of racially insensitive comments by a senior royal seem to suggest that the UK's culture of passive-aggressive racism may run rampant through the royal family. This is inevitably linked in the public consciousness to Britain’s history of colonialism that led to a string of nations fighting for independence from the crown.
While Elizabeth’s death is serving as an opportunity to reexamine the colonial past, as some nations of the Commonwealth may begin to consider an end to the historic ties, Charles will be forced to handle the challenges in a more direct way than his mother.
Will he do and say the right things? Will anything from his past emerge that could trigger a backlash? Is the internet era a trap for an old school monarch? Either way, it now falls on a privileged 73-year-old white man to navigate the terrain of so-called “identity politics” that continues to take root in Britain and beyond.
By definition, a constitutional monarchy is a paradox. It is understood that the monarchs are removed from direct political influence or legislative power. Even so, in her 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth accumulated some less tangible power through the reigns of 15 different British prime ministers, and more than 150 prime ministers of the other Commonwealth realms. Any uttered opinion she did have on political matters would have an impact, which was part of why they were so rare.
King Charles’ views are far more public than his mother’s: As Prince of Wales, he was active in promoting causes and sharing opinions on a range of topics including climate change, London architecture and even a more slimmed-down monarchy. But he was aware that this would have to change after becoming King. “Clearly I won’t be able to do the same things I’ve done as heir,” he said in a 2018 BBC interview, adding he would not involve himself in political issues as sovereign as he was “not that stupid.”
Still, it is not clear if he can suddenly turn neutral. The greatest risk in fact could come from the camps (notably ecologists) he has supported in the past and who may not accept him staying silent as king.
The passage of the crown is a reminder how important the monarchy is to the British people — feeding everything from national unity to the tourism economy. But it is also a reminder that it all has been held together over the past 70 years by the Queen.
For the media, both inside the UK and internationally, King Charles is a new story, and a new opportunity to reopen old questions. Amid the general public’s distaste for extreme privilege, The New York Times published an exposé four days after Charles took the throne outlining tax breaks and exorbitant personal wealth, at a time when Britain faced major budget cuts, soaring levels of poverty and the use of food banks almost doubling, painting the picture of a King grossly out of touch with his people.
Yet perhaps even more to the point is another aspect of Charles’ privilege: his sense of privilege. Just in his first week as King, new videos have emerged of him chastising staff and letting loose an outburst about the pen he was given to sign documents. Likability may be the most important quality of any modern monarch hoping to maintain the good will of his subjects.
Any one of these factors — from his past to his politics to his manners — (or some combination of them all) could cause the storyline to quickly turn against Charles. Should the public deem the new King unfit to rule, could he be persuaded, or even forced to abdicate? The sense of duty, if we are to believe royal rhetoric, would require it for the good of the monarchy.
Spain offers a relatively recent example of a King forced from his throne, as Juan Carlos' slow fall from grace in the public's eye led him to step down eight years ago, passing his title to his son, the crowned prince. The current Spanish King Felipe VI has a glamorous wife and beloved children whom the nation enjoys watching grow up. He also doesn’t have his father’s baggage to carry.
Sounds familiar...? King William V has a rather pleasant ring to it.
— Sophia Constantino / Worldcrunch
• Ukraine is focus of UN Generaly Assembly: British Prime Minister Liz Truss and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are among the world leaders gathered for the 44th UN General Assembly this week in New York, the first to be in-person since before the pandemic. Truss will announce that the UK will match or exceed the 2.3 billion pounds military support to Ukraine next year. Meanwhile, Erdogan announced that Ukraine and Russia had reached an agreement to exchange prisoners.
• Myanmar helicopter school attack: A Myanmar school in the north-central Sagaing region was hit by a helicopter air strike carried out by the army, killing at least 11 children and wounding 17. The Myanmar military said it raided the building because rebels were hiding and using it.
• Iran violence after hijab murder: Iranian security forces opened fire on people protesting in the streets over the death of a young woman Mahsa Amini in custody, killing at least five. Mahsa Amini was arrested last week by the “morality police” for wearing an “improper hijab”, breaking Iranian strict rules for how women should dress and cover their hair.
• Outbreak of Ebola in Uganda: Health officials in Uganda declared an outbreak of Ebola after they reported the death of a 24-year-old man who had been tested positive for the virus that causes Ebola last week. The man experienced symptoms, including high fever and abdominal pains.
• Typhoon Nanmadol: Typhoon Nanmadol killed two people and injured hundreds after slamming into Japan on Monday. Rescuers warn over floods and mudslides after the typhoon — now downgraded to a tropical storm — dumped heavy rains, forcing thousands to evacuate.
• Indonesia passes data protection law: Indonesia’s Parliament passed a landmark and long-awaited law on data protection and cyber security after a series of data leaks. A breach in personal data is now a crime punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
• Vegan food executive bites man's nose: Doug Ramsey, the COO of vegan food giant Beyond Meat, 53, faces charges of “terroristic threat” and “felony battery” after being accused of biting a man’s nose outside a football game in the U.S. state of Arkansas. Police report that Ramsey got involved in a dispute with another driver while leaving the parking garage and ripped “the flesh on the tip of his nose.”
Puerto Rican daily El Nuevo Dia dedicates its front page on the “devastating aftermath” of hurricane Fiona which killed at least two people and caused severe flooding and landslides as well as widespread power and water outages. The first major storm of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season has strengthened into a Category 3 storm as it moves towards the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Following the analysis of 489 studies and data from thousands of authors, a group of scientists from the University of Hong Kong has estimated the total number of ants on Earth to be a whopping 20,000,000,000,000,000. That’s 20,000 trillion, or 2.5 million ants for every person.
Bricks of weed! The house of the future could be made of hemp
Hemp has long had more uses than getting high. The plant is now increasingly being used in the construction of houses, with huge benefits for the climate. The only issue is growing enough to meet surging demand, Jan Grossarth writes for German daily Die Welt.
🏠 Christian Eiskamp had spent decades building single-family houses in the sprawling housing complexes in the south of Oldenburg, a city of just over 100,000 people. Then he had the intuition that the heyday of concrete could be coming to an end because of its poor impact on the climate. In his search for alternatives, he'd invited a consultant who calls himself a "hemp engineer" and began building the duplex to rent out later, before such hemp houses became marketed more widely.
🛠 The finished house doesn't look like hemp on the outside. It's clad in wood, with a porch and a green roof, like something out of a Pippi Longstocking movie. Since the house was completed, more than a thousand interested people have visited. Building with hemp has advantages: You build brick by brick – the masons and solid builders wouldn't have to learn entirely new techniques. At the end of the house's use, perhaps after 70 or 100 years, there is no waste. And hemp is cheaper than wood, at a time when there is a worldwide shortage of building materials.
👨🌾 But how much hemp is available as a raw material in Europe? Farmers have so far reacted sluggishly to the rising demand, and cultivation is still low, especially since grain cultivation is once again taking priority in agriculture. The German-speaking hemp farming community is small and alternative. Similar to the early years of organic farming, there are recognizable cultural hopes associated with this movement. They aim for a more cooperative, artisanal, and regionally networked construction industry.➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"We're still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over."
— In a televised interview, U.S. President Joe Biden said the situation with COVID-19 was improving in the U.S, yet there will be no change in national health policy. Anthony Fauci reacted to Biden's comment: "We are not where we need to be if we're going to 'live with the virus'," he said. Current data shows that around 400 Americans still die everyday from the virus; the U.S has one of the highest death tolls since the beginning of the pandemic with over 1 million deaths across the country.
Indigenous leaders protested on Wall Street to demand the $1.7 million promised by the United Nations during the last COP26, as world leaders are meeting in New York for the annual UN General Assembly. — Photo: Laura Brett/ZUMA
✍️ Newsletter by Chloé Touchard, Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou and Anne-Sophie Goninet
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