ROTTERDAM, May 1 -- This week sees the 25th anniversary of the Imola accident that took the Brazilian’s life and had a devastating impact not just on his millions of fans but on Grand Prix racing as a whole.
No doubt the Pope, like the Queen, receives many strange presents. But few can have been odder than the one that came his way the other day, when the family of Ayrton Senna presented a bemused-looking pontiff with a bust of the late Formula One champion. Skilfully executed by Senna’s sister, Bianca, the gift was timed to coincide with this week’s 25th anniversary of the accident at the Imola circuit that took the Brazilian’s life and had such a devastating impact not just on his millions of fans but also on grand prix racing as a whole.Much was always made of Senna’s occasional references to his religious beliefs, and a perceived aura of spirituality certainly marked him out from the general run of grand prix drivers. No one would have expected James Hunt or Nigel Mansell to say something like “If you have God on your side, everything becomes clear”. Senna gave the impression that although he had definitely been put on earth to race, he was also involved in a search for a higher purpose.
Neither martyr nor saint
Within his sport he was a man motivated by personal ambition, with a weapons-grade sense of entitlement that made him capable, for example, of taking revenge on Alain Prost by running the Frenchman off the road at Suzuka in 1990 with a cold-blooded and potentially lethal ruthlessness. Importing the tactics of the kart track to Formula One, he changed the rules of engagement in a sport whose drivers, although always ferociously competitive, had generally treated each other with chivalry. Away from the track, on the other hand, Senna tried to do good. He gave millions to charity, and a family-run foundation continues his work of educating poor children in Brazil. All of which goes to show that not much in life, even the character of a racing driver, is as straightforward as we might wish it to be. There was certainly nothing straightforward about the circumstances of his death on 1 May 1994 during the San Marino Grand Prix. A quarter of a century of analysis has failed to yield a definitive judgment on the events of the seventh lap of that race, although there is a general acceptance that – to put it simply – lowered tyre pressures caused his Williams FW16 to bottom on the rippled tarmac on the inside of the 190mph left-hander called Tamburello, throwing it out of control. The fatal head wound inflicted by a broken suspension part was the freakish consequence.
The real complication comes in the fact that he died while trying to stay in front of a dangerous new rival. After the retirements of Mansell, Prost and Nelson Piquet, Senna found himself confronting the challenge of Michael Schumacher, nine years his junior, and no attempt to establish the cause of the accident can ignore the relevance of their head-to-head battle. It was Senna’s opinion, privately expressed but well documented, that Schumacher’s Benetton was benefitting from the continued use of banned electronic driver aids. That allegation, and others levelled against the German driver and his team during the course of the year, form the subject of a new book called 1994, whose author, Ibrar Malik, gathers new and old testimony from a variety of witnesses. Despite the profusion of anorak-level technical detail, not always clearly presented, there are no confessions and, in the end, no new and dramatic conclusions.
The pictures tell the story
Several people with access to Senna at Imola have described his troubled state of mind that weekend. The photographer Jon Nicholson was there, collaborating with his friend Damon Hill, the No 2 to Senna in the Williams team, on a book about the whole year. Nicholson had been at Interlagos for the first race of the season, in which Senna spun off in front of his home crowd in his debut with his new team, and at Aida in Japan for the second round, where he was shunted into an accident at the first corner.
The photographer knew that Senna, having left McLaren to join the team whose cars had dominated the previous two championships, was frustrated by the new car’s disconcertingly poor performance and by unexpected pressure from Schumacher. Nicholson had seen enough of the Brazilian during the weeks of testing and racing that spring to know that his state of mind was darker than usual even before the accidents of his young compatriot Rubens Barrichello, who came close to death on the Friday, and his friend Roland Ratzenberger, who lost his life on the Saturday. Nicholson took a lot of pictures that weekend. The one published here remained unseen until a few months ago, when he was sorting through his filing cabinets and found a box of negatives marked “Imola 1994”. It had been taken in the Williams garage on the Saturday, as Senna stood next to his car, preparing for the morning’s practice session. About to pull on his helmet over his flameproof balaclava, he was looking up at the timing screen suspended from the garage ceiling. The combination of posture and lighting give the photograph an ethereal quality that, with hindsight, seems to express something in the driver’s personality.
“I looked at it and shivered,” Nicholson told me. “It’s like Ayrton’s already vanished – as though he’s no longer of this world.” Barely 30 hours later, as the driver’s lifeless body was lifted into the sky by a medical helicopter and carried away over the wooded hills surrounding the circuit, the sport had lost not a saint but a flawed and forever fascinating hero.
RIO DE JANEIRO, April 16 -- National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro.
A huge fire engulfed Brazil's 200-year-old National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, lighting up the night sky with towering flames as firefighters and museum workers raced to save historical relics from the blaze. The esteemed museum, which houses artifacts from Egypt, Greco-Roman art and some of the first fossils found in Brazil, was closed to the public at the time of the fire, which broke out at 7:30 pm Sunday local time, it said in a statement.
BUENOS AIRES, April 12 -- Ecuador’s police have detained an accomplice of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Ecuadorian Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said on Thursday.
"A person who is close to him lives here, we have convincing evidence that he maintained contacts with former Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino. He was detained this afternoon," she told Sonorama radio station. Assange’s accomplice was hauled off at the airport when he tried to fly to Japan. At a news conference, Roma said that Ecuador’s authorities had information that a person close to Assange, who lives in Ecuador, "contributed to the attempts of destabilizing the situation in the country with the goal of harming the government." Daily Express reported citing journalist Vijay Prashad that the detained individual was Swedish national Ola Bini, a WikiLeaks software developer. He does not speak Spanish.
In 2006, Assange set up WikiLeaks that published classified documents on certain governments, including the US. In 2012, Assange sought asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, which had issued a warrant for his arrest on sexual harassment and rape charges. He was holed up inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London for nearly seven years. On Thursday, Ecuador terminated political asylum of Assange. British police arrested Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy for breaching bail issued in 2012 and on a US extradition warrant issued in 2018.
Assange’s attorneys fear that in case of his handover to the US, he may face up to 35 years in jail or capital punishment. However, the US Department of Justice claims that the Australian faces just five years behind bars on hacking charges.
CARACAS, April 7 -- The Venezuelan system of electricity generation and distribution was attacked not merely from the United States but also from South American countries, President Nicolas Maduro said at a rally in the capital of the country.
"I have already said that we confirmed the version of attacks governed from Houston and Chicago during the investigation," Maduro said. "We found new sources of aggression from Chile and Columbia, used to damage the power system of Venezuela," he noted. Venezuela sees major disruptions in operations of the power supply systems affecting the majority of regions from early March. The shutdown of the largest scale occurred in the country on March 7, when Caracas and the majority of states were left without electricity for several days. More than five million Venezuelans took place in the Saturday marches in support of the government, Maduro noted. "Today, more than five million Venezuelans mobilized all over the country for the operation in support of the freedom and it was successful," the president said.
Maduro asked governments of Mexico, Uruguay, Bolivia and countries of CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market) to help in establishing the dialog between the government and the opposition in Venezuela. "Venezuela asks for help and support in setting the dialog for achievement of mutual understanding among Venezuelans. I confirm my desire and readiness to find a solution through talks for the sake of the future of the country," Maduro said in his speech during the rally.
Mexico, Uruguay, Bolivia and fourteen member-states of CARICOM should give a new impetus to the mechanism for resolution of crisis in Venezuela, he said. "The dialog will be able to start with their assistance," he added.
CARACAS, February 23 -- The first aid shipment from the United States has passed into Venezuela despite efforts by forces loyal to President Nicolas Maduro, according to Juan Guaidó, the country's self-declared interim leader.
Guaidó announced the successful border crossing of the first aid truck Saturday morning on his Twitter account, calling it a "great achievement" according to a translation. "Attention Venezuela! We officially announce that the first shipment of humanitarian aid has already entered our border with Brazil. This is a great achievement, Venezuela!" he wrote.
Anunciamos oficialmente que YA ENTRÓ el primer cargamento de ayuda humanitaria por nuestra frontera con Brasil.
¡Esto es un gran logro, Venezuela!
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 23, 2019
The remaining convoy of trucks was headed to the border of Venezuela as of 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, according to The Associated Press. The interim leader, who previously led Venezuela's National Assembly, called on allies of Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez on Saturday to join his cause and support his government over that of Maduro.
"This fight is for everyone and for all Venezuelans. I want to make a special call to the people of Chavez and those who were close to join the Constitution, the democratic coexistence and the welfare of all," he added in a second tweet:
Esta lucha es de todos y por todos los venezolanos. Quiero hacerle un especial llamado al pueblo chavista y a quienes estuvieron cerca a que se sumen al lado de la constitución, de la convivencia democrática y el bienestar para todos. pic.twitter.com/grB6UFfm4T
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 23, 2019
The announcement comes just a day after a violent clash on Venezuela's border with Colombia resulted in the deaths of two indigenous people at the hands of Maduro's troops, according to a local mayor, as well as other injuries to protesters angry at Maduro's closure of the border over Guaidó's efforts to bring humanitarian aid into the country. Maduro has stated that the aid trucks are part of an effort led by the U.S. to support a coup against his government, and has refused to step down.
The White House urged Maduro on Friday to allow aid to "peacefully" enter the country. "Egregious violation of human rights by Maduro and those who are following his orders will not go unpunished. The United States strongly urges the Venezuelan military to uphold its constitutional duty to protect the citizens of Venezuela. The Venezuelan military must allow humanitarian aid to peacefully enter the country. The world is watching," press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
CARACAS, February 22 -- President Nicolas Maduro has ordered the closure of Venezuela's border with Brazil "until further notice" amid a tense standoff with the US-backed opposition leader, Juan Guaido, over allowing in humanitarian aid.
The border with Brazil would be "completely and absolutely" closed from 8pm (00:00 GMT) onwards, Maduro said in a televised address on Thursday. The embattled leader said he was also considering a "total closure of the border with Colombia", where he has already ordered the military to barricade a major border bridge to prevent aid from entering the country from the Colombian border town of Cucuta where supplies are being stockpiled, most of it from the United States.
Calling the aid a "provocation" and a "child's game", Maduro suggested it was a precursor to a US military intervention in the oil-rich, but economically crippled the Latin American country. "[The US] aimed to generate a huge national mess, but they didn't succeed. The country wants peace," he said, surrounded by members of the military.
This should give them the confidence and stimulus to put these rules in place."
Under the previous IOC guidelines, approved in 2003, athletes who transitioned from male to female or vice versa were required to have reassignment surgery followed by at least two years of hormone therapy to be eligible to compete. Now, surgery will no longer be required, with female-to-male transgender athletes eligible to take part in men's competitions "without restriction".
Meanwhile, male-to-female transgender athletes will need to demonstrate that their testosterone level has been below a certain cut-off point for at least one year before their first competition.
"The overriding sporting objective is and remains the guarantee of fair competition."
"To require surgical anatomical changes as a precondition to participation is not necessary to preserve fair competition and may be inconsistent with developing legislation and notions of human rights," it added.
SAO PAULO, October 18 -- The state of Sao Paulo is on the cusp of an unprecedented water crisis stemming in part from one of the worst droughts in decades, leaving millions scrambling to find clean water sources.
On Friday, the city of Sao Paulo recorded its hottest temperature in more than 71 years, and 70 cities in the state are facing extreme drought, with 30 cities already on some sort of water rationing.
The problem stems from a lack of water at the Cantareira, a complex of reservoirs and small dams built in the 1970’s that are the primary source of water for more than 10 million people in the state.
The water levels at the Cantareira are now below four percent, the lowest in recorded history, and estimates on when it could totally dry range from November to March of next year. A visit to the town of Nazare Paulista revealed how bad things are, with the water lines under bridges visible, and abandoned cars appearing from the mud of what was once underwater.
In May, just a few weeks before the World Cup, and with the water levels nearing 10 percent, officials released what they called an emergency "dead volume" reserve of water into the Cantareira to boost volumes back up to above 20 percent. But with almost no rain, it went down to record lows. Officials are now debating if they want to release a second round of reserve water, as there are disagreements over whether it is healthy for drinking.
Re-using sewage water
The state of Sao Paulo is larger than the UK, has a population of 44 million equal to Kenya, and a local economy of nearly $700bn equal to the Netherlands. Residents of Itu, an old and historic municipality in Sao Paulo state, told Al Jazeera they had no other choice than to re-use sewage water to flush their toilets.
On Friday, dozens of people appeared at a local ravine overgrown with shrubs, all desperate to get any water they could from an obscure water pipe, the only source in their neighbourhood.
Prisoners set some objects on fire and were using metal poles to cause damage to the 928-bed prison that housed more than 1,000 inmates at the time. Authorities initially reported that two men were decapitated, but later learned of a third prisoner who was killed the same way. The three men were not identified.
The revolt began before sunrise when a prison guard was captured during breakfast, Pinto said. Dozens of the prisoners climbed onto the building's rooftop, with their faces covered with white fabric. Local media images showed at least 30 rebellious inmates shouting while they beat men held with ropes around their necks, or whose hands were tied behind them. The rioting inmates waved banners emblazoned with the initials ‘PCC’ for a criminal prison gang formed in the 1990s.
Jairo Ferreira, a lawyer for the prison guards' union, told local news site CGN that at one point the inmates put the decapitated head of one victim on the lap of a custodian who was initially held hostage and later freed. Relatives arriving at the prison to visit inmates waited outside as night fell, trying to get information about their loved ones.
Ferreira said the prisoners rioted to demand better food and medical care in the prison.