Swan upping

Governed by an act dating back to 1324, the Queen of England owns all sturgeons, whales, porpoises and dolphins present in British waters. She can also drive without a licence, although she has been issued one. She has her own cash dispenser in the basement of Buckingham Palace. She also has her own poet (Poet Laureate), an official position at court which was first held by a woman, Carol Ann Duffy, in 2009. In 2019 she was succeeded by Simon Armitage. In truth, the Queen has very special prerogatives, and one of them will keep us particularly busy: the ownership of all the unmarked open-water swans present on certain stretches of the Thames. It has been a tradition since 1186 that for five days, officials in red jackets decorated with the royal insignia, a feather on their caps, travel in boats for several miles in search of the royal swans. Such is the "swan upping"! The custom used to go hand in hand with the tasting of this delicacy of choice for royal banquets. And it is worth noting that "those who stole their eggs were punished in the 16th century with a prison sentence and a large fine". Until now, the almost thousand-year-old ceremony had only been cancelled once, very recently, since in 2012, exceptional floods had prevented the event from taking place. That was without counting on COVID-19! While the 2020 ceremony was scheduled from 13 to 17 July, between Sunbury-on-Thames (West London) and Abingdon (near Oxford), Buckingham Palace confirmed that the annual Royal Swan Count would not take place. However keep relax, the Swan Marker and his assessors, the "swan uppers", will continue to work with the Thames swan rescue organisations on a daily basis.


Régie par une loi datant de 1324, la reine d’Angleterre possède tous les esturgeons, baleines, marsouins et dauphins présents dans les eaux britanniques. Elle peut également conduire sans permis, bien qu’on lui en ait délivré un. Elle possède son propre distributeur de billets, dans le sous-sol du palais de Buckingham. Et sachez qu’elle a également son propre poète (Poet Laureate), fonction officielle à la cour qui, pour la première fois en 2009, fut occupée par une femme, Carol Ann Duffy. En 2019 lui a succédé Simon Armitage. En vérité, la reine dispose de prérogatives très spéciales, et parmi elles, l’une nous occupera tout particulièrement : la propriété qu’elle exerce sur tous les cygnes non marqués en eau libre présents sur certains tronçons de la Tamise. La tradition, depuis 1186, veut que durant cinq jours, des responsables en vestes rouges décorées des insignes royaux, une plume sur leur casquette, parcourent en barques plusieurs miles à la recherche des cygnes royaux. Tel est le « swan upping » ! La coutume allait autrefois de pair avec la dégustation de ce mets de choix pour les banquets royaux. Et l’on soulignera que « ceux qui dérobaient leurs œufs étaient punis au XVIe siècle d'une peine de prison et d'une forte amende ». Jusqu’ici la cérémonie quasi millénaire n’avait été annulée qu’une seule fois, fort récemment, puisqu’en 2012, des inondations exceptionnelles en avaient interdit la tenue. C’était sans compter avec le COVID-19 ! Tandis que la cérémonie en 2020 devait se dérouler du 13 au 17 juillet, entre Sunbury-on-Thames (ouest de Londres) et Abingdon (près d'Oxford), Buckingham Palace annonça que le comptage annuel des cygnes royaux, n'aurait pas lieu. Que l’on se rassure, le Marqueur des Cygnes et ses assesseurs, les « swan uppers », continueraient à travailler au quotidien avec les organisations de sauvetage des cygnes de la Tamise.

Somalia and FGM

It was during the period of the pandemic in 2020 that we learned that Sudan had passed a law condemning excision. "According to UNICEF, more than 87 per cent of women aged 15-49 say they have undergone female genital cutting in Sudan. The practice is so widespread because a woman is considered 'pure' only if she has been cut. "This is an important step forward, but one that must now be implemented. At the same time, in Somalia, where it is estimated that 98% of women are excised, the NGO Plan International stated that the confinement has had terrible consequences for the girl child, in a context of deprivation where eradication campaigns have been considerably slowed down.


C’est durant la période de la pandémie en 2020 que l’on a appris que le Soudan avait voté une loi condamnant l’excision. « Selon l’UNICEF, plus de 87 % des femmes de 15 à 49 ans affirment avoir subi l’excision au Soudan. Si cette pratique est si répandue, c’est parce qu’une femme est jugée « pure » seulement si elle a été excisée. » Avancée importante donc, mais qui doit être désormais confrontée à sa mise en application. Parallèlement, en Somalie où l’on estime que 98% des femmes sont excisées, l'ONG Plan International affirmait que le confinement aura eu de terribles conséquences pour les fillettes, dans un contexte de privation alors que les campagnes d'éradication étaient considérablement ralenties.

Hongi during COVID 19

“A Māori tribe in New Zealand’s capital city has banned the traditional hongi at gatherings this week as more cases of coronavirus emerge. (…) “It’s not a ban – the word taupāruru [restriction] is to actually confine or restrict movement in a certain place … it’s common sense about when coming into contact with people really,” Moeahu told RNZ. (…) “That’s not stopping people from doing what they want to do if they choose to do that but from a tikanga [correct] Māori perspective it’s the right thing to do.”…” (from: theguardian.com 2020/03)

A plane from France landed “one minute” in quarantine in Norway

“The plane of the Scandinavian company SAS landed seconds after France was officially part of Norway’s “red list”, a Norwegian minister confirmed.Records from the specialist flight site FlightRadar24 show that flight SK4700 landed one minute after midnight local time, which is nine minutes before the scheduled time. Oslo airport records show he landed at exactly midnight. Regardless, the new quarantine rules went into effect in the country from midnight (inclusive), meaning all passengers had to self-isolate for 10 days upon arrival, thanks to a difference of just a few seconds. According to Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, passengers on the plane cheered when their pilot announced they had landed at midnight. But (…) “the transition to the red zone took place from midnight inclusive, so if [they landed] at exactly midnight or a minute later, they must quarantine themselves.” - fr24news.com - Aug.2020

“Doctors in Romania are frustrated by coronasceptics”

“Doctors in Romania are frustrated by coronasceptics”

“Iordachescu recently wrote about a few hundred coronasceptics, holding religious icons, the national flag, and signs that read “I believe in GOD not in COVID” protesting in Romania’s capital Bucharest against what they call a “sanitary dictatorship.” In early July, the Constitutional Court in Romania ruled that “mandatory hospitalization, imposed under the two-month state of emergency, violated fundamental rights and was illegal.” Iordachescu underlines that since the Constitutional Court ruling in July, many patients left hospitals even if they tested positive for the virus. Also, since the court ruling, coronasceptics have been coming together and protesting the measures taken against the pandemic frequently.” - medyascope.tv/2020/07/30

In Brazil, coronavirus crisis fuels new favela

"When Priscila Tomas da Silva's husband lost his job loading trucks because of coronavirus shutdown measures in Sao Paulo, they faced a stark choice: pay the rent, or feed their six children. So they built a shack in a new favela emerging on the city's northern outskirts, a symbol of the devastation the pandemic is causing in Brazil.The favela, in the Jardim Julieta neighborhood, has sprouted at an informal parking lot for semi-trucks.
(…) In fact, epidemics and plagues have been forcing Brazil's poor into favelas and other informal settlements throughout history, said Lino Teixeira, coordinator for urban policy at the Favela Observatory, a research and advocacy group. “The creation of favelas, going back to some of the very first ones, is linked to a series of urban epidemics, from yellow fever to the Spanish flu to smallpox to measles” he said.” (AFP - 31/07/2020)

“Manhood must wait: virus delays South African circumcision rituals”

“For the first time in living memory, the ritual has been called off because of the coronavirus. "If we send them there and find that one boy is positive (for the virus), it means all 20 of them will be infected," said Afra Msutu, a Xhosa chief. "We decided it would be too risky and that we might lose more boys than we usually do," Msutu said, referring to the fact that dozens of initiates nationwide die from botched circumcisions each year.” AFP-2020

Paulinho Paiakan: Amazon indigenous chief dies with coronavirus’

Paulinho Paiakan: Amazon indigenous chief dies with coronavirus’

“One of the best-known indigenous defenders of the Amazon rainforest has died with coronavirus in Brazil, where the disease continues its rapid spread (...) Paulinho Paiakan, chief of the Kayapó people, came to international attention in the 1980s in the fight against Belo Monte, one of the world's largest dams.He was around 65. Paiakan was one of the most important indigenous voices during Brazil's return to democracy in the 1980s, and helped lead the campaign for the creation of large indigenous reserves in the Amazon.He also fought to expel illegal miners and loggers from indigenous areas. But his image was stained in 1992, after a student accused him of rape, a case that had worldwide repercussions. His allies argued the claim was fabricated to tarnish Paiakan's reputation and to silence him. Reacting to his death on Wednesday at a hospital in Pará, the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples' Association (Apib) described Paiakan as a "father, leader and warrior" for indigenous peoples and the environment. Gert-Peter Bruch, founder of environmental group Planet Amazon, told AFP news agency: "He worked all his life to build worldwide alliances around indigenous peoples to save the Amazon. He was far ahead of his time. We've lost an extremely valuable guide.” (bbc.com / 2020-08)

« El Salvador: Gangs ‘taking advantage of pandemic’… »

« El Salvador: Gangs ‘taking advantage of pandemic’… »

"The president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, has said criminal gangs are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic after more than 50 people were killed between Friday and Sunday. He authorised the police and army to use lethal force to curb the violence. He also ordered a 24/7 lockdown for imprisoned gang members, arguing that many of the murders were ordered from behind bars.(…) El Salvador's security minister said the idea behind making rival gang members mix was so as to break up lines of communication between members of the same group and thereby limit their ability to plan attacks. Before President Bukele came to power, members of the two rival gangs that are behind much of the violence in El Salvador - Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street gang - were housed in separate prisons in order to prevent deadly prison fights. But President Bukele put an end to that arrangement, arguing it allowed the gangs to impose their own rules and take control of "their" prison to the extent that they would continue running their criminal enterprises from the inside, including ordering murders of prison staff and their family members. As part of the new, more restrictive prison regime, inmates' communication was cut off, with wifi signals being scrambled and cell phones seized." - BBC News - April 2020

Egypt film industry hit by pandemic

Egypt film industry hit by pandemic

The Egyptian film industry is based in Cairo known as the Hollywood of the Middle East and North Africa region covering about ¾ of all the productions, mainly in (Egyptian) Arabic language. The 1940s to the 1960s are considered the golden age. Two important festivals are held in in Cairo and Alexandria. "Industry professionals say the novel coronavirus pandemic has been like no other crisis. Filmmakers have been forced to reduce staff and regularly sanitise locations that are typically teeming with huge crews and frenetic activity. A film set may usually see more than a 100 people at a time, including stylists and make-up artists who are in close contact with actors. Several Egyptian celebrities, including prominent actors, reported testing positive for the virus following the end of filming Ramadan series." (AFP)

Indian Muslim artisan fights virus slowdown with Hindu idols’

“Muslim potter Yusuf Zakaria Galwani (left) along with his staff, work on the idols of elephant headed Hindu god Ganesha at his workshop at Kumbharwada inside the Dharavi slums in Mumbai. After the coronavirus pandemic clobbered his pottery business, a Muslim artisan from India's largest slum turned to a Hindu god to revive his fortunes by making environmentally-friendly Ganesha idols for an upcoming festival. In Mumbai's Dharavi slum, Galwani worked alongside his two brothers to create 13-inch tall figurines out of terracotta clay, counting on the god -- who is revered as the remover of obstacles -- to give his business a much-needed boost.” (…) "What's the big deal if I am a Muslim making statues of Hindu deities like Ganesha? India is a secular democracy and we have grown up with many cultures living together," Galwani added. (AFP) [Although officials have not issued an outright ban on sea immersions this year, they have imposed restrictions on local celebrations. Devotees are barred from making public offerings to the deity and organizers have been ordered to sanitize any outdoor marquees several times a day] - (thejakartapost.com)

How ‘secret burials’ in South Africa could help tackle Covid-19′

“A ban on large funerals in South Africa has forced people to give up many traditions, but they have also rediscovered old ones, including "secret burials", as the BBC's Pumza Fihlani reports from Johannesburg. When a family is bereaved, people will travel long distances to attend both the funeral and the days of ritual in the run-up. These include repeatedly visiting the family at home to pay respects and to lend a helping hand with the preparations. Livestock also needs to be slaughtered in order to feed the anticipated guests, the cooking needs to be done, often at close quarters, and in rural areas, the grave needs to be dug, with people sometimes sharing the same pick and shovel. (…) In a bid to find an alternative and safer way to bury relatives, AmaMpondomise King Zwelozuko Matiwane issued a ban on all funeral services in his kingdom with the aim of re-introducing the ancient practice of ukuqhusheka, or secret burial. “When following this custom [of ukuqhusheka] this means people are called on to bury either on the same or the next day and with only those who were present at the time of passing,” he tells the BBC. “By returning to this ancient practice this would mean only immediate family members will able to bury a person. After the burial, the family would still be able to hold an intimate customary cleansing ceremony when they return from the burial site,” explains Mr Ranuga. These ceremonies are done through a ritual offering to cleanse the family of a “dark cloud of death”. They are usually private affairs with only close family present.” (AFP – 2020-08)

Haunted by the Spanish flu, a small town in Arizona fears that history will repeat itself’

“… “Gone but not forgotten”, can we read on the grave of Carl Axel Carlson, who died in 1918 Spanish flu. It was his body, repatriated from the east coast of the United States, which had spread the deadly virus in the Bisbee area, at the time a prosperous mining town in Arizona. A century later, the town is now trembling in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, which threatens its population of retirees and hippies as well as its tourist industry. The Spanish flu "came by train" with Carl Carlson, local historian Mike Anderson told AFP. The soldier had been sent back to Bisbee to be buried there and "two or three days later, he was already killing people", continues Mike Anderson, pointing to other graves dating from 1918 located around his own.” (AFP – 2020/07)


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