At the start of the pandemic, island nations around the world sealed the borders shut, giving a temporary reprieve from the fast spreading virus.
As the pandemic continues, many locked down nations are being forced to confront the deadly health crisis.
The ghostly quiet shores of island nations over the past two years. From New Zealand, to Australia, and the Pacific islands. In early 2020 they locked out the outside world.
At the end of 2021, the Pacific was home to some of the last countries in the world to remain entirely COVID-free.
The start of the new year saw a spate of Pacific Island nations detecting their first cases outside of quarantine and in the broader community.
From The Cook Islands, to the Solomons and Tonga – keeping COVID at bay was a race against time.
Avoiding the peak
While some governments used the lockdown to prepare for the eventual onslaught, others believed the wave would peak and miss them altogether.
Tonga was forced into lockdown after recording two Covid-19 cases among port workers helping distribute international aid in the wake of the volcanic eruption and tsunami.
Vaccine programs across the world have allowed many developed nations to relax covid restrictions, but those countries still pushing an elimination strategy are facing a tough battle.
Mitigation over elimination
New Zealand has now transitioned to a mitigation strategy – but case numbers are now soaring.
The Omicron wave has pushed hospitalisations with COVID in New Zealand to over 1000 at its peak.
The government now has to decide whether to implement harsher restrictions, leading to further protests like this.
Keeping covid out
80% of the local population is fully vaccinated.
It was only in March that New Zeland removed vaccine pass requirements.
As the world copes with the third year of the pandemic, there are still some island nations which remain entirely COVID-free.
But as the recent cases elsewhere in the Pacific and several near misses have shown, it is only a matter of time until they too will come up against the virus.
How close to a full scale nuclear war are we really?
Since President Vladimir Putin’s latest warning that he is ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia, the question of whether or not the former KGB spy is bluffing has become much more urgent.
There are several reasons why Putin’s nuclear warnings have the West worried. First, Russia has been increasingly aggressive in its actions in recent years, from annexing Crimea to intervening in Syria. This has led to a feeling that Putin is becoming more and more reckless and unpredictable.
Second, Russia has been beefing up its nuclear arsenal, with reports indicating that it now has more nuclear warheads than any other country in the world. This increase in firepower makes Putin’s threats all the more credible.
Last but not least, there is the fact that Putin is a former KGB agent. This means that he is no stranger to playing games of brinkmanship and bluffing. In the past, he has used nuclear threats as a way to get what he wants. For example, in 2008, he threatened to aim nuclear missiles at European cities unless the United States agreed to drop plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe.
The West is worried
Given all of this, it’s no wonder that Putin’s latest nuclear threats have the West worried. Only Putin knows if he is actually bluffing, but given his track record, it’s certainly a possibility.
If a nuclear weapon were used in Ukraine, it would cause a massive humanitarian crisis. Tens of thousands of people would be killed or wounded, and millions more would be displaced. The economic and social damage would be enormous, and Europe would be plunged into chaos.
In addition, the use of nuclear weapons would also have devastating consequences for the rest of the world. The nuclear non-proliferation regime would be dealt a serious blow, and there would be a renewed risk of nuclear war.
The world would become a much more dangerous place.
A nuclear explosion in Ukraine would have a regional impact, but it could also have global consequences. The use of nuclear weapons would violate the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and this could lead to other countries acquiring nuclear weapons. In addition, the risk of nuclear war would increase, and this would have a negative impact on the entire world.
The UN has condemned Russia’s threats of nuclear war, and it has called on all parties to refrain from any actions that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons. The UN Secretary-General has said that there can be no military solution to the crisis in Ukraine, and he has urged all sides to return to the negotiating table.
Russia has several allies in its war against Ukraine. These include Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Russia also has the support of China and Iran.
The war in Ukraine has had a significant impact on energy prices.
Due to the conflict, there has been a disruption in the supply of natural gas and oil from Ukraine. This has led to an increase in prices for these commodities.
The West can only threaten Putin further, as they’ve done all year, since President Biden warned that Russia was about to invade Ukraine.
Every step of the way, Putin has done exactly what the West has feared.
Does Donald Trump stand a chance against Joe Biden?
As Americans prepare to head to the polls, Democrats and Republicans may be tied for control of Congress
The U.S. is preparing for the all-important midterm elections in a matter of months.
For President Joe Biden, it could be a stark warning that his leadership is on thin ice, or it could be the validation he needs ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
There will be 435 seats in the House of Representatives, and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate up for contention this November.
But as President Biden prepares to ride the campaign wave, it’s the so-called “MAGA Republicans”, which are drawing attention.
The majority of Americans believe political violence will increase across the country. According to the same polling from CBS, U.S. voters think the nation will become less democratic for future generations.
Kim Hoggard is a former U.S. government official, who served in the Bush and Reagan Administrations, she said the current political climate is proving a challenge for leaders to connect with voters.
“I wonder how it is that in this period in American political history where divisiveness is so wide and so dangerous, how it could be that a president can achieve high approval ratings anymore.”
In fact, around six in 10 Americans (57%) disapprove of Biden’s performance, according to recent Ipsos polling from Reuters.
The president’s dwindling ratings have been characterised by some factors out of his control—the pandemic, rising inflation, cost of living, and the war in Ukraine.
But there is one foreign policy outcome, which could be the reason for his falling support, according to Stephan Loosley from the U.S. Studies Centre.
“There’s no question that an enormous hole was punched in the Biden White House with the fiasco, the calamity of the Afghanistan withdrawal, which was badly mishandled.”
However, when it comes to the war in Ukraine, Loosley said Russian President Vladimir Putin misread the strength of U.S. intelligence, and Biden’s hold on his NATO allies.
“The President’s mobilisation of NATO in the face of the illegal Russia incursion of Ukraine has been extraordinary,” he said.
In light of this, President Biden has still managed a strong legislative agenda. This includes climate change action, healthcare reform, military aid for Ukraine, and infrastructure commitments.
Is this enough to sink Biden’s ship?
The U.S. midterm elections are scheduled for November, and with a general election on the cards for 2024, there is much discussion about the rise of former President Donald Trump.
On the other hand, Biden can’t seem to let the former president out of his mind. In fact, he recently spoke about the rise of Make America Great Again (MAGA) Republicans during a nationwide address.
“There’s no democracy where you can be pro-insurrection and pro-democracy,” he said.
The president’s approval ratings are also yet to reach the record low levels of President Trump, which sunk to 33 per cent at the end of 2017.
As it stands, the Democrats have 221 seats in the House of Representatives, and 48 members in the senate.
“The probability of the Democrats losing control of the house is very real. That’s been the history of American midterms since Harry Truman,” Loosley said.
Of course, Trump hasn’t been without his own worries—the fallout from the Capitol riots, raids at his Mar-a-Lago estate, a lawsuit against his company, and a criminal investigation in Georgia.
Kim Hoggard, who is a former White House Assistant Press Secretary, said these events show Trump is unfit for office.
“The mishandling of sensitive information and top secret intelligence information show what a dangerous person he would be if he were to regain the presidency,” she said.
He may be considered dangerous but nearly one in five (19%) of Americans identify as ‘MAGA Republicans’. This is hardly going to be a blip on Joe Biden’s radar.
“There’s no question that Mitch McConnell is determined that Trump will bear any responsibility for Republican losses in the midterms,” Stephen Loosley from the U.S. Studies Centre said.
Mitch McConnell is the Minority Leader in the Senate and he believes the House of Representatives will flip this November.
“You have all these investigations, inquiries, and probes running simultaneously, it’s got to divert and distract the Republican Party and it’s got to damage some Republican candidates’ races,” Loosley said.
In terms of Trump’s 2024 possibilities, Kim Hoggard said the criminal investigations and lawsuits “are going to significantly affect his [Trump’s] ability to be a viable candidate”.
The monarchy fights for survival without the Queen
Queen Elizabeth II was notably one of the most respected figures in the world, and now the monarchy fights for survival
Queen Elizabeth II was the most private, public figure. Her Majesty was a constant thread in millions of lives. A symbol of continuity for seven decades.
Undoubtedly, the Queen’s global impact will be hard to match.
As her reign fuelled widespread revolution that altered the very landscape of the nation.
Politically, culturally and technologically, the Queen’s leadership was unwavering, and her wish was for this lead to stand the test of time.
History shows, the royal family is not immune from life’s challenges and controversies.
But through turbulent times, the Queens poise, strength and class always prevailed.
Above everything else, she was a constant. The ever-reliable presence holding the royal family together.
Contributor Cei Dewar, was lucky enough to meet the Queen and says millions around the world are mourning her loss, and everything she represents.
Monarchy fights for survival
As the world waves goodbye to Her Majesty, the monarchy fights for survival, finding its way forward without Queen Elizabeth II.
King Charles III is at the reigns, inheriting the lead on what the royal family becomes.
The King is taking the reign on a very different world.
He will be exposed to public scrutiny like never before, the internet phenomenon, and a world where Republicans are on the rise.
However, His Majesty has expressed his determination to focus on diversity, climate change action and maintain the institutions relevance on the global diplomatic stage.
King Charles’ tumultuous personal life was often the downfall of his popularity, but now, he has pledged his life to serve as King.
Charles’ reputation slipped after the death of Diana, and ever since he has worked to build his popularity.
But solidarity within his own family will be the key driver of success.
Notably, Prince William and Harry have already showed their reconciled solidarity. Standing side by side, reunited in grief.
Their relationship will be paramount to conserving the monarchy.
While the future of the monarchy hangs in the balance, it will be difficult for King Charles the III to fill the shoes of his late mother. As well as connect with the national psyche and be a reassuring presence.
Most people don’t know a world without Queen Elizabeth II, and although saying goodbye is heartbreaking, a new reign now begins.
Perhaps, the rise of Charles to the throne will be the injection of change the royal family needs to last beyond the 21st century.
A big job lies ahead. For now, the world has his pledge and actions will speak for themselves.
Charles the King, a role he has been waiting for his entire life.
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