Climate chaos dominated world news again this week. A heat wave broke records in Western Australian, with reports of tens of thousands of bats falling dead from the sky and kangaroos collapsing. Meanwhile frozen residents of the northern hemisphere became acutely aware of the existence of a polar vortex — a fierce whirlwind that usually stays put at the poles — and that it had broken loose from its normal pattern to descend on areas of Europe and North America utterly unprepared for minus 40 degree cold — or worse. Amid intense debate over the role of climate change in the freeze, Niagara Falls partly turned to ice, ice storms and blizzards lashed cities, and systems from airports to regional electrical grids to sprinkler systems failed. We humans have been reminded, again, of our vulnerability.
New work on F&O’s this week includes columns in the Think, Commentary section on political upheaval in Thailand, now braced for massive demonstrations next week by activists angry with the government, and on extraordinary developments in the Middle East, with Tehran and Washington finding common cause in the face of turmoil in Iraq and Syria. Read about these issues in in Jonathan Manthorpe’s columns. An interview with an influential American abortion researcher published in Dispatches, Science provides food for thought about the intersection of science and the law.
Selected developments reported elsewhere: China said it surpassed the United States as the world’s largest goods trader — but as the BBC reported, the numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. A controversy erupted in Canada over reports that members of the committee charged with overseeing Canada’s intelligence service are closely linked to the influential oil business; the committee’s chair is a registered lobbyist for the pipeline company Enbridge. In Pakistan a 15-year-old boy named Aitzaz Hassan is being hailed as a hero after giving his own life to prevent a suicide bomber from going into a school. And at a zoo in Toronto a polar bear cub, being nurtured by human caregivers after its siblings died shortly after birth, took its first steps. Seize the moment.
— Deborah Jones