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French ‘eco-adventurer’ runs 100 marathons for climate

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In a press release published by Santé publique France on Monday evening, the health authority noted that “multiple climatic phenomena” occurred during the summer, calling it the “hottest since 1900” with a “significant health impact.”

The data covers June to September and lists 10,420 excess deaths – that is deaths in excess of the average for the summer season.

Of those 2,816 deaths occurred during the three periods when the country was officially on heatwave alert – a 16.7 percent increase when compared to non-heatwave periods during the summer.

Experts also believe that many of the remaining 7,604 excess deaths were heat related, even if they occurred during periods when there was no heatwave warning in place.

“A part of this excess of summer mortality is probably due to the population being exposed to strong heat, even if temperatures did not reach the thresholds for heatwave alerts,” noted the report.

As expected, the worst affected were the elderly. Of the 2,816 excess deaths recorded during the three heatwave episodes this summer, 2,272 were among people aged 75 and over, i.e. nearly 80 percent of excess deaths during heatwaves.

However, all age groups were represented, as shown in the figures below. Most of the deaths across age groups occurred during the second heatwave, which was the “most intense” in terms of heat.

The impact of the pandemic

The pandemic also likely played a role in heat-related deaths. Specifically, 894 Covid-19 related deaths were recorded in hospitals and medical establishments during the heatwave episodes.

The head of Santé publique France’s “Quality of Living and Population Health” unit, Guillaume Boulanger, explained in a press conference that “Covid-19 could have increased vulnerability to heat for some people, and exposure to the heat may have worsened the condition of some patients affected by the virus.”

The excess mortality in relation to high temperatures is France’s “highest since 2003,” a year where a three-week heatwave resulted in over 15,000 deaths.

It was this heatwave, and the shock that so many elderly people were found dead in their own homes, that led to cities creating the heatwave plans that are in use today.

In addition to excess mortality, there was also a rise in non-fatal health complications across the country. Throughout the entire summer, more than 17,000 emergency room visits and 3,000 SOS Médecins consultations were recorded for hyperthermia, dehydration and hyponametria (salt deficiency resulting from dehydration).

Additionally, during heatwave periods, the number of emergency room visits and SOS Médecins consultations were two to three times higher than outside of heatwave periods.

The three heatwaves were described in the report as “intense and noteworthy.” The first occurred in June, at an unusually early time for the summer season, the second in July, which was widespread geographically and impacted over two-thirds of French population, and the third occurred in August.  

Geography

In terms of the parts of France that were most impacted, four regions – mostly concentrated in France’s south – stand out with particularly high levels of excess mortality.

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Nouvelle Aquitaine, Occitanie, and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur recorded the majority of the country’s excess national deaths during the heatwaves.

However, when looking at the deaths in proportion to the number of inhabitants, Brittany, a region typically known for cooler summer temperatures, saw a high proportion. The Paris region and Grand Est also saw higher per-population proportions of excess deaths.

The report joins other literature on the topic of excess deaths in Europe as a result of climatic events. The European Environment Agency recently released a study showing that without adaptation measures, if global warming were to reach 3C by 2100, “90,000 Europeans could die from heatwaves each year.”



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Chasing Horse charged with federal crimes in sex abuse probe | USA

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A former “Dances With Wolves” actor accused of sexually abusing Indigenous women and girls for decades was charged with federal crimes Wednesday, adding to the growing list of criminal cases against Nathan Chasing Horse since his arrest last week in Nevada.

Chasing Horse, 46, now faces two counts of sexual exploitation of children and one count of possession of child pornography, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday afternoon in Nevada U.S. District Court. Authorities have said Chasing Horse filmed sexual assaults.

The federal charges came hours after a state judge on Wednesday granted $300,000 bail to Chasing Horse, who has been in Las Vegas police custody since his Jan. 31 arrest near the home he shared with his five wives.

Earlier Wednesday, about two dozen of Chasing Horse’s relatives and friends had filed into a North Las Vegas courtroom in a show of support, hoping he would be released on bail. They cheered and celebrated the judge’s decision as they left the courthouse, waving signs that translate to “Justice for Chasing Horse.” Now, if he posts bail, he is likely to be taken into federal custody.

In state court, Chasing Horse is charged with eight felonies, including sexual assault, sex trafficking and child abuse. He has not entered a plea.

Canadian police in British Columbia confirmed this week they also are pursuing a criminal case against the former actor, who is known for his portrayal of Smiles A Lot in Kevin Costner’s 1990 Oscar-winning film. He is accused in a 2018 sexual assault in the British Columbia village of Keremeos near the Washington state border.

Authorities in Nevada have said his crimes date to the early 2000s and stretch across the United States and into Canada.

It wasn’t immediately clear how, if at all, the federal charges will affect Chasing Horse’s case in Clark County. His public defender, Kristy Holston, did not immediately respond Wednesday evening to a request for comment.

At his bail hearing Wednesday morning, Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney William Rowles told the judge that Chasing Horse should remain in custody because he was “grooming” girls to replace his older wives at the time of his arrest.

“There is evidence that this individual is still in the process of grooming young children to replace the others as they grow up,” Rowles said.

Nevada authorities have described Chasing Horse in more than a hundred pages of court documents as the leader of a cult known as The Circle, whose followers believed Chasing Horse, as a “medicine man,” could communicate with higher beings. Police said he abused that position to physically and sexually assault women and girls and take underage wives.

At its peak, Rowles said, The Circle had about 300 members.

Investigators and victims had been expected to speak in court Wednesday, because Nevada law requires prosecutors to show convincing evidence that a defendant should remain jailed as they await trial. But after delays in the proceedings, the judge heard only from Rowles, who requested $2 million bail, and Holston, who asked the judge to set bail at $50,000.

After the hearing, Holston told The Associated Press she also was happy with the judge’s decision and said she is looking forward to his next court date in North Las Vegas, currently scheduled for Feb. 22. At that hearing, a judge is expected to hear evidence in the case and decide whether Chasing Horse will stand trial.

“We’re really looking forward to the preliminary hearing in this case,” she said, “because it’s another public hearing where we will have an opportunity to point out the weaknesses in the state’s case.”

Rulon Pete, a representative of the victims and the executive director of the Las Vegas Indian Center, said they were disappointed with the judge’s decision. Some of the victims were in the courtroom Wednesday.

“What happened this morning was like a slap in the face,” Pete told The Associated Press.

Police have said they have identified at least six victims, including one who was 13 when she said she was abused, and another who said she was offered to Chasing Horse as a “gift” when she was 15.

Chasing Horse was born on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, home to the Sicangu Sioux, one of the seven tribes of the Lakota nation. In 2015, he was banished from the Fort Peck Reservation in Poplar, Montana, following allegations of human trafficking.

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Merkel receives UNESCO peace prize for welcoming refugees

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The offices accorded to the former leader are in view of the Russian embassy, where since the Ukraine invasion in February Berliners regularly leave signs and flowers protesting the war.

Long called the world’s most powerful woman, Merkel these days has pulled back from the spotlight, working on her memoirs and enjoying the occasional television series, such as “The Crown”, which tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s turbulent decades on the throne.

But in many quarters the broad German support she once enjoyed as a staunch defender of Western liberal values has curdled.

“One year on, the world is in flames, Russia invaded Ukraine, gas and  petrol prices are through the roof and Germany fears the winter,” wrote Der Spiegel magazine’s Alexander Osang, a longtime Merkel confidant.

“Angela Merkel went from role model to culprit, from crisis-manager to crisis-causer.”

Invitation to Bucha

Germany’s first female chancellor has been accused of placating Russian President Vladimir Putin in the name of realpolitik, while deepening Germany’s energy dependence on Moscow — not least by backing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project even after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

READ ALSO: Merkel says no regrets over Germany’s Russia gas deals

Hedwig Richter, modern history professor at Munich’s Bundeswehr University, said Merkel‘s loss of standing had been “exceptional”, representing a generation of political failings.

“Amorality is not the same thing as realpolitik,” Richter told AFP.

“The governments of the last 16 years thought it was realistic to place values such as human rights and climate protection last in politics. But now reality is striking back.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has laid the blame at Merkel‘s feet, in particular for a decision at a 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest not to admit his country to the alliance.

In April, he offered her a barbed invitation to Bucha, the site of an alleged massacre of Ukrainian civilians, “to see what the policy of concessions to Russia has led to in 14 years”.

Looming energy shortages due to Russian retaliation for Western sanctions have also soured the mood against Merkel at home.

In the public debate, “Merkel was tied up with this war and certainly to blame for the missing gas”, said Nico Fried, who covered Merkel during all four of her terms, in Stern magazine.

“The question is what remains of Merkel after 16 years, whether her historical portrait is already fading before it was even really framed.”

‘Horribly neglected’

Just 23 percent of Germans would want Merkel back in power, according to a Civey institute poll in late November.

READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: Are Germans questioning Merkel’s legacy?

In this file photo taken on November 10, 2021 then outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then German Finance Minister and Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz attend a press conference to present the annual report of the German Council of Economic Experts (Wirtschaftsweise) in Berlin. (Photo by Kay Nietfeld / POOL / AFP)

Richter said Merkel had “great achievements” including allowing in more  than one million asylum seekers and standing as a beacon of “decency” and  “democratic duty” when strongmen like Putin and Donald Trump were on the march.

But she said two key miscalculations would cast a long shadow.

“Firstly, the inability of the (German) republic to defend itself. And because this is closely linked to the fossil-fuel dependence on Russia, it threw a spotlight on destruction of the planet,” she said.

“The Merkel governments horribly neglected both these issues.”

Merkel, 68, has mounted a tentative counter-offensive, arguing that she acted in good conscience given the facts on the ground at the time.

She said she tried to use Nord Stream 2 as a bargaining chip to ensure Putin respected the 2015 Minsk accords aimed at stopping the fighting in Ukraine.

Merkel told Fried she pledged to US President Joe Biden last year that if Russia invaded Ukraine, the pipeline deal would be scrapped — a threat her successor Olaf Scholz made good on days before the war began.

Osang noted the irony that “Putin of all people, whom she has known so well and long, with all his tricks, lies, bragging” had muddied her reputation.

One of Merkel‘s lessons from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 that it was “economic, more than democratic, deprivation” that led to the communist system’s collapse.

Osang said this had coloured her approach to trade with China and energy deals with Russia.

She said Scholz’s billions in spending to help Germans facing high gas prices were now justified.

“Not everyone is in a position to freeze for Ukraine,” she said.



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Madonna lashes out against criticism: ‘Once again I am caught in the glare of ageism and misogyny’ | Culture

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No matter how many years go by, Madonna, 64, continues to be the subject of conversation. Whether it’s her music, her concerts or her constant physical changes, the queen of pop is still making headlines. But the artist has had enough and publicly burst out through her social media accounts. Her reaction came after her appearance at the Grammy Awards gala on Sunday became the object of controversy, criticism and even ridicule.

Madonna had been tasked with introducing the performance of the award-winning Sam Smith and Kim Petras, the first trans woman to win and perform at the awards. Madonna had described it as a “history-making moment,” but she ended up attracting all the attention to herself due to her looks.

“Instead of focusing on what I said in my speech which was about giving thanks for the fearlessness of artists like Sam and Kim – many people chose to only talk about close-up photos of me taken with a long lens camera by a press photographer that would distort anyone’s face!” she wrote in an Instagram post.

For the event, Madonna was wearing a black skirt and jacket, a white shirt, gloves and a tie, and her hair was made up into pigtails and braids. Many people commented on her surprising and sudden physical change, while others noted that in her Instagram Stories – short-lived posts that have already expired and cannot be seen again – the artist used photographic filters to refine and stylize her face.

“Once again I am caught in the glare of ageism and misogyny that permeates the world we live in. A world that refuses to celebrate women past the age of 45. And feels the need to punish her if she continues to be strongwilled, hardworking and adventurous,” Madonna wrote on her Instagram account, where she has almost 19 million followers.

Thirty years ago, when Madonna was 33, she published S.E.X, an erotic book with explicit images of her naked, kissing men and women, in which she wrote about her sexual fantasies and shared her point of view on sexuality. “They called me a whore, a witch, a heretic and even a demon,” the artist recalled just a few weeks ago, when the 30th anniversary of the book’s release was observed.

During her speech at the Grammy Awards, even before the criticism began on social media, Madonna already anticipated what was going to happen: “This is what I learned after four decades in music: if they call you shocking, scandalous, troublesome, provocative, or dangerous, you are definitely on to something.”

In 2023 the artist is embarking on several musical projects, including a world tour that will take a look back at four decades in the music business and feature some of her greatest hits such as Like a Prayer or Material Girl. The project is taking up so much of her time that he has decided to cancel the biopic she was preparing about her life, which already had an actress to play the lead, Julia Garner.

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