The World Quarter 1 2022

By MYRLE VANDERSTRAETEN, Published in International

The Week reports that the US has been holding terrorism suspects at Guantánamo Bay for 20 years. The military detention facility, first called Camp X-Ray, was built in three days in early January 2002, to receive Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners captured during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. A photo of the first 20 detainees sparked a national debate over human rights and national security, a debate that continues. The US has spent $11 billion on the camp in the past 20 years, as it expanded into a large compound called Camp Delta. Some 780 Muslim men and boys from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and other countries, cycled through its prison cells, almost all without charges or trials. Only two of those held were convicted of war crimes. After years of gradual releases and repatriations under four presidents, 39 remain in custody. A 2020 declassified intelligence report said that 229 of the more than 700 detainees who have been released have returned to terrorist activities. And at least five people in Afghanistan's current Taliban government are former Guantánamo detainees.


The culture of entitlement engulfs many, not least parents wanting guaranteed admission to an elite university. The Varsity Blues college admissions scandal – which saw parents pay large amounts of money to ensure their children would be accepted by Ivy League universities without them having to contend with the trauma of applying and being rejected – sent shock waves through circles of the US' rich and famous. Among those found guilty was Gordon Caplan, former co-chairman of law firm, Willkie, Farr & Gallagher. He paid $75,000 to rig his daughter's ACT exam. Found guilty, he was sentenced to a one-month prison sentence. In February 2021 he was also given a two-year suspension by the New York appellate court, which retroactively dated its start to November 2019. In December, Caplan asked the appellate court to be reinstated. The New York attorney regulators have reinstated him as an attorney. Caplan said he was 'humbled by the court's decision." So even those who should respect the law, don't. One has to wonder about his advice to clients in the future.


On 1 March – Fat Tuesday – the streets of New Orleans were full of glitter and colour as back-to-back Mardi Gras parades returned after last year's even was cancelled due to COVID-19. Because there weren't enough police, the parade routes were shorter than in previous but there was plenty of colour and glitter as people revelled in the pre-COVID atmosphere.


It is said that over two million 'kids' in the US use e-cigarettes, and there is concern that this is resulting in a new generation of nicotine addicts. The FDA is now being asked to eliminate e-cigarettes. In 2021, 43.6% of high school attendees vaped at lease 20 days a month, and 27.6% reported vaping every day. Contrary to popular belief, e-cigarettes also contain nicotine and other toxic chemicals. Johns Hopkins University reports that while vaping is less dangerous than tobacco cigarettes, it remains dangerous. There has been an outbreak of lung injuries and deaths associated with vaping and, in February 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 2 807 cases of vaping-use associated lung injury and 68 deaths. The research from Johns Hopkins University on vape ingredients published last October revealed thousands of chemical ingredients in vape products, most of which are not yet identified. Among those that the team could identify were several potentially harmful substances, including caffeine, three chemicals never previously found in e-cigarettes, a pesticide and two flavourings linked to possible toxic effects and respiratory irritation.


US insurance lobbying group, AHIP released a study showing that hospitals and doctors are charging considerably more for specialty drugs than pharmacies. Hospitals charged, on average, 108% the price for the same drugs compared to a pharmacy, and a doctor's office charged 22% more. It added that there were higher markups for certain drugs in hospitals and doctors' offices. For example, cancer treatment, Herceptin had a 131% price markup compared with pharmacies, and a 40% markup from doctors' offices. AHIP says it encourages lawmakers to support the use of specialty pharmacies, and to reject policies that take away lower-cost choices from patients.


Reuters reports that a cargo ship carrying thousands of luxury cars has sunk off the Portuguese Azores archipelago. The ship, which caught fire nearly two weeks ago, was transporting around 4 000 cars, including roughly 1100 Porsches and 189 Bentleys. All crew members of the Felicity Ace were evacuated when the fire broke out. No oil leak has been reported so far, but there is concern that the fuel tanks could be damaged, with the vessel lying around 3 500 metres below sea level.


The International Criminal Court's top prosecutor has vowed to open a formal investigation "as rapidly as possible" into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine. The inquiry would build on information that the ICC has gathered since late 2013, when protests started against pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted the following year. Security forces killed dozens of protesters in February 2014. Russia then illegally annexed Crimea and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. A preliminary report published in December 2020 found "a reasonable basis to believe" war crimes had been committed. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says that since Russia invaded last week, it has targeted civilians. He called Russia's shelling of Kharkiv, a "war crime."


While some may consider this of little comfort to Ukrainians whose lives have been so unutterably altered, it is perhaps an indication of the volume of widespread outrage over Russia'sinvasion of the Ukraine, and its diverse expressions. The Giorgio Armani show at the Milan Fashion Week opened with a statement from the designer: "My decision not to use any music in the show was made as a sign of respect to the people affected by the evolving tragedy." Vogue reports that 'as silence fell on the intimate underground runway at Via Borgonuovo, a sense of solemnity and sadness filled the room.' Armani wrote in an email after the show, "What could I do? I could only signal my heartbeat for the tragedy through the silence. I didn't want show music. The best thing is to give a signal that we're not happy, to recognise something disturbing is happening. In fashion, we're accustomed to loudness on every level. When somebody switches off the noise – either literally or figuratively – silence speaks louder than words."

Compiled by Myrle Vanderstraeten