I t is a uniquely American tragedy.
At least 59 were killed and over 500 wounded in Las Vegas on Monday night, when a lone gunman opened fire on a country music festival from his hotel room. Among the dead are nurses and teachers, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. It is the 521st mass shooting in America in the past 477 days. In that period, Congress has taken no action to address gun ownership.
It is already the most deadly mass shooting in US history, and represents a stern test for President Trump, who has repeatedly boasted his admiration for the Second Amendment. However it is his response to another American tragedy which threatens to engulf the Trump presidency.
Mr. Trump has faced a wave of criticism for his response to Hurricane Maria, which made landfall in Puerto Rico over two weeks ago, completely devastating the island. Having denounced the mayor of San Juan, who had the audacity to ask for more federal help from Washington, as a “politically motivated ingrate”, Mr. Trump made his first trip to the island on Tuesday.
The president began by contrasting Puerto Rico’s relatively low official death toll with that caused by Hurricane Katrina, which he termed a “real catastrophe”. In reality the death toll, which Mr. Trump had said was sixteen, is likely to be much higher, with reports from Puerto Rico claiming that island’s morgues are full, and remain unable to update the number of those killed. Mr. Trump then appeared to chastise the island for messing with his spending plans. “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico,” the president said, “but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack.”
What credit Mr. Trump won for his administration’s impressive response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma has swiftly dissipated. While Maria may not be a “real catastrophe” in the president’s eyes, it is quickly threatening to do him as much damage as Katrina did to George W. Bush.
Towards a unified Palestine?
Unity is not a word one typically associates with Palestinian politics.
Since the Palestinian Civil war in 2007, when Palestine’s two main parties - Hamas and Fatah - split, the country has been divided. The Palestinian Authority (PA), ruled by President Mahmoud Abbas since 2005, governs the West Bank while Hamas, designated a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and the EU, effectively runs the Gaza Strip.
Yet unity is what Palestinians soon might get.
On Monday, a PA delegation (led by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah) headed to Gaza from the West Bank to open talks with Hamas, after decades of jostling for regional supremacy. The hope is that reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas will open the door for a unified Palestinian government to assume control of both Gaza and the West Bank.
Before PA representatives set out for Gaza, Hamas pledged to disband the administrative committee through which it governs the Gaza Strip, and indicated its willingness to hold general elections. Polling shows that Hamas would likely win in both Gaza and the West Bank if elections were to take place.
However, analysts believe that this latest attempt to create a unified Palestinian state will ultimately fail. The PA remains reluctant to hold elections, given Hamas’ growing support, and it was not long ago that Mr. Abbas imposed stringent sanctions on Gaza to punish Hamas for effectively establishing a shadow government.
Nonetheless, that talks are even happening seem to suggest that the balance of power is tipping towards Hamas, and away for Mr. Abbas, who appears increasingly isolated from his traditional allies in the US and the Gulf. While any progress is positive, there is still a long way to go.
Jagmeet Singh, the turbaned Trudeau
On any given day, a trawl through Facebook is likely to yield an article lavishing praise on Canada’s camera-friendly prime minister, Justin Trudeau. Whether concerned with his frequently natty choice of socks or his ostensible commitment to liberal politics, Mr. Trudeau’s premiership has launched a thousand ebullient Buzzfeed articles.
Now, though, it looks as though Mr. Trudeau has some competition. On October 2nd, Jagmeet Singh became the leader of Canada’s left-wing New Democratic Party. Mr. Singh’s fondness for colourful turbans and tailor-made three-piece suits have also made him a social media star in his own right. However his victory in the first ballot this week will resonate far beyond the confines of Instagram. In capturing his party’s leadership Mr. Singh, a Sikh, became the first non-white leader of a major Canadian political party.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mita Naidu - a Canadian of South Asian descent - said her first thought when she learned of Mr. Singh’s election was a simple one: “there’s hope for my children”. “Now there's hope that perhaps an Aboriginal woman will one day have the potential to lead our country,” she said. He’s opened those doors.”
Mr. Trudeau rose to power in 2015 promising equal opportunities in Canada, a country which encompasses a vast patchwork of different ethnicities and religions. While Mr. Trudeau has made commendable progress on some fronts, his critics say that he is all talk and no action. On the campaign trail, Mr. Trudeau spoke passionately of his desire to forge a “renewed relationship” with Canada’s First Nations communities - and his Liberal Party picked up 35.4% of the indigenous vote as a result. Yet, the prime minister is yet to institute some of his key promises, among them a vow to incorporate the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights word-for-word into Canadian law.
In Mr. Singh, minority voters in Canada may have found a new best hope for change.
Australia says ‘yes’
The loved-up same-sex couples of Australia had better hope their fellow citizens are honest.
The outcome of the country’s monumental vote on gay marriage is likely to be a resounding ‘yes’, “unless an awful lot of people are straight-out lying to pollsters,” said John Stirton, a respected pollster who crunched the numbers on published polls.
The full result of the vote, a non-binding, voluntary postal vote the government announced to gauge support for reform, will not be known until November 15. But a majority of votes have already been cast, and Mr. Stirton’s analysis, based on polls published between August 1, the week before the survey was announced, and October 2, suggests the race is all but decided.
The gay marriage debate has engulfed Australian culture, causing rifts and controversy over everything from celebrities’ twitter feeds to the country’s beloved national rugby team.
Prominent figures on both sides have come under fire. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, for example, was ambushed during a speech by an anti-gay marriage activist who threw a lemon meringue pie in his face. Elsewhere, employees have said they face punishment at work if they fail to show their backing for the ‘yes’ vote.
Australia’s Senate went so far as to pass special legislation banning intimidation and vilification during the vote.
The vote continues a global trend towards what many see as faster-than-expected sprint towards marriage equality, epitomised by the outcome of Ireland’s referendum in 2015. Not only is Australia’s overall support for the ‘yes’ side set to be overwhelming, but every generation from young to old appears to be in favour.
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