Weekly Briefing

France: veil ban
Passed by 335 votes to one, the bill banning Muslim women in France from wearing the full veil in public - approved by the country's lower house on 13 July - was far from controversial. More than 200 MPs didn't even vote. The bill, which has strong public support, must be ratified by the Senate in September to pass into law. If it does, women who wear the burqa will be fined €150; men who force their wives to wear it will face a €30,000 fine and a year in jail.

The French justice minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, praised a victory for "values of freedom", although she didn't explain how the ban might affect women who, for reasons of faith or coercion, are unable to leave the house unless fully veiled. But then, that's an issue concerning only a tiny minority - much like the burqa itself. The usual estimate given for French wearers is around 2,000, although an investigation by the newspaper Le Monde last year indicated the total was only 367.

Haiti: six months on
In Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital, aftershocks of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit on 12 January still ripple through the remains of the city. About 20 million cubic metres of rubble remain to be cleared; so far, just 2 per cent of the debris created six months ago has been removed.
Two per cent, coincidentally, is the proportion of the $10bn aid the country was promised that has reached the country so far. In recent weeks, there have been marches and demonstrations, as the population gets angrier about the lack of reconstruction. Beyond the capital, conditions are worse. According to its mayor, Leogane - a town one hour's drive from Port-au-Prince - looks "like the earthquake hit yesterday".

Burundi: Islamists
“We would like to carry out other such explosions in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura," said a spokesman for the Somalian militant group al-Shabab. Taking responsibility for the explosions in Kampala, Uganda, on 11 July, which killed 76 people, the speech also served as an acknowledgement of al-Shabab's first actions outside Somalia.

Ugandan and Burundian troops make up the African Union forces supporting Somalia's fragile government against al-Shabab, whose attacks on Kampala were the deadliest in East Africa since 1998. "We are warning the people of Burundi," the spokesman in Mogadishu said, in case his message wasn't clear. He needn't have worried: Uganda is now considering pulling out of Somalia and officials in Burundi say security has been increased.

Spain: Catalan protests
Spain's celebrations after its World Cup victory were lauded as a sign of national unity under a flag that, for some, is still a reminder of the Franco era. But before the match, while the team's coach, Vicente del Bosque, talked of "better relations", more than a million people were marching through the streets of Barcelona under the Catalan flag, calling for the region's autonomy.

On 9 July, the constitutional court answered a challenge raised by the country's conservative opposition, the Partido Popular, to a 2006 autonomy statute. The court ruled: "Our constitution recognises no nation but Spain." The banners in Barcelona suggest that, for Catalans, Adeu Espagne ("Goodbye Spain") is more like it.

Russia: celebrity spies
Alas, Britain has to make do with one less internet celebrity roaming the streets. Anna Chapman - the pretty 28-year-old spy who, oddly, attracted far more attention than the bald, moustached paymaster of her spy ring - will not be returning to the UK after all. Her passport, following marriage to a British man, has been revoked.

But hours after returning to Moscow, she was updating her Facebook profile with photos and Dickens ("It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"). She may not be here in person, but she seems to have no intention of letting her internet fame slip.