Cold hits storm victims ahead of US election

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Updated 05 November 2012
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Cold hits storm victims ahead of US election

NEW YORK: Victims of superstorm Sandy on the US East Coast struggled against the cold early yesterday amid fuel shortages and power outages even as officials fretted about getting voters displaced by the storm to polling stations for Tuesday’s presidential election.
Overnight, near-freezing temperatures gripped the US northeast. At least two more victims were found in New Jersey, one dead of hypothermia, as the overall death toll from one of worst storms in US history climbed to at least 112.
Fuel supplies continued to rumble toward disaster zones and electricity was slowly returning to darkened neighborhoods after a storm that hit the coast last Monday. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it would be days before power is fully restored and fuel shortages end.
Bloomberg on Friday abruptly called off the city’s marathon, which was set for Sunday, bowing to criticism that the event would divert resources from flood-ravaged areas. Hundreds of runners planned informal runs to deliver food and clothes to the borough of Staten Island and elsewhere.
More than 1,000 people, many who had planned to run the race, crowded onto two Staten Island Ferry boats early yesterday, headed to the stricken borough with relief supplies including food and plastic bags to help residents store belongings from damaged or destroyed homes.
New York’s Central Park was also crowded with runners near what would have been the marathon’s finish line, scores of them shivering in the lingering overnight cold. A group called run4allcauses was collecting donations for Sandy victims.
Power restorations over the weekend relit the skyline in Lower Manhattan for the first time in nearly a week and allowed 80 percent of the New York City subway service to resume. Some 2.5 million homes and business still lacked power across the Northeast on Saturday, down from 3.5 million on Friday.
Temperatures dipped to 39 Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) early yesterday morning in New York City, the lowest in days, with below-freezing temperatures expected today. An early-season “Nor’easter” storm was expected to hit the battered New England coast this week with strong winds and heavy rain.
Bloomberg urged those without power and heat to head to shelters where they could keep warm and receive food.
President Barack Obama, neck-and-neck in opinion polls with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, ordered emergency response officials to cut through government “red tape” and work without delay to help affected areas return to normal.
Officials have expressed concern about getting voters displaced by Sandy to polling stations for tomorrow’s election. Scores of voting centers were rendered useless by the record surge of seawater in New York and New Jersey.
New Jersey is allowing voters displaced by Sandy to vote by e-mail. Some voters in New York could be casting their ballots in tents.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday found that 68 percent of those surveyed approved of how Obama handled Sandy and just 15 percent disapproved.
The post-storm chaos in the region has overshadowed the final days of campaigning.
“I’m not thinking about the election too much right now,” said Frank Carrol, 59, a retired New York City transit worker who lives in Staten Island. He planned to vote, but did not know if his local polling station would even be open. “We’ll stop by and see what happens,” Carrol said.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered county clerks to open on Saturday and Sunday to accommodate early voters and ensure a “full, fair and transparent open voting process.” New Jersey authorities also took the uncommon step of declaring that any voter displaced from their home by Sandy would be designated an overseas voter, which allows them to submit an absentee vote by fax or e-mail.
The two new deaths in New Jersey — where the storm came shore last Monday night — included a 71-year-old man who suffered from hypothermia and another man, 55, who died from smoke inhalation in a house fire, police said yesterday, raising that state’s death toll to 24.
As the biggest US city slowly returns to normal, Bloomberg said the “vast majority” of New York’s 1,750 public schools would reopen today.
New York City’s overstretched police got a break with the cancelation of yesterday’s marathon, a popular annual race expected to draw more than 40,000 runners to the city.
Lara Duerrschmid, 27, was among the marathon runners boarding a ferry to help residents of Staten Island. “I know it’s going to be tough to see (the damage), but I just wanted to do something good,” she said.
Tight gasoline supplies have tested the patience of drivers — fistfights have broken out in mile-long (1.6 km) lines of cars — but a reopened New York Harbor meant fuel was reaching terminals.
Bloomberg said the fuel shortages would be easing soon, and the US Department of Energy confirmed on Saturday that most filling stations in the metropolitan area had fuel.
Some 731,490 customers in New York State were still without power, the governor’s office said yesterday. In Manhattan, electricity had been restored to most neighborhoods.


France's Macron vows Iran will 'never' possess nuclear weapons

Updated 46 min 26 sec ago
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France's Macron vows Iran will 'never' possess nuclear weapons

  • French President Emmanuel Macron drew on the “shared bond” of US-French relations
  • Macron told Congress that Iran will “never” be allowed to develop atomic weapons

WASHINGTON: French President Emmanuel Macron drew Wednesday on the “shared bond” of US-French relations to call for a rejection of isolationism and instead for the countries to bond together anew for a 21st century security.
Macron opened a joint meeting of Congress, saying “the American and French people have had a rendezvous with freedom.”
The French president received a warm, three-minute standing ovation from US lawmakers before delivering — in English — a rare address to Congress, which he hailed as a “sanctuary of democracy.”
Macron shook hands with senators and representatives, and pressed his hand to his heart several times before a speech expected to touch on the two countries’ shared history and international challenges.
“Our two nations are rooted in the same soil, grounded in the ideals of the American and French revolutions,” Macron said.
“We have worked together for the universal ideals of liberty, tolerance, and equal rights.”
Speaking almost directly to President Donald Trump, Macron quickly turned to the top issues of Syria, free trade and the Paris accord on climate change — issues where he and Trump disagree — as he urged the United States not to retreat from world affairs, but to embrace its historic role as a military leader of world affairs.
“We are living in a time of anger and fear because of these current global threats,” Macron told lawmakers. “You can play with fears and angers for a time, but they do not construct anything.”
With a nod to great American leaders, including former President Franklin Roosevelt, he warned against sowing seeds of fear.
“We have two possible ways ahead. We can choose isolationism, withdrawal and nationalism. It can be tempting to us as a temporary remedy to our fears,” he said. “But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world.”
But he said international engagement was the only solution.
“This requires — more than ever — the United States’ involvement as your role was decisive for creating and guarding today’s free world. The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism. You are the one now who has to help preserve and reinvent it,” he said.
Macron told Congress that Iran will “never” be allowed to develop atomic weapons, as the fate of a landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran hangs in the balance.
“Our objective is clear,” Macron told lawmakers on the final day of a state visit during which he and President Donald Trump called for a broader “deal” that would also limit Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for militant groups across the Middle East.
“Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons. Not now. Not in five years. Not in 10 years. Never,” Macron said.
Macron has pushed for a new approach that would see the United States and Europe agree to block any Iranian nuclear activity until 2025 and beyond, address Iran’s ballistic missile program and generate conditions for a political solution to contain Iran in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
“Whatever the decision of the United States will be, we will not leave the floor to the actions of rogues. We will not leave the floor to this conflict of powers in the Middle East,” Macron told Congress.
“I think we can work together to build this comprehensive deal for the whole region, for our people, because I think it fairly addresses our concerns,” he said.
On climate change, Macron told US lawmakers there is “no Planet B,” acknowledging a disagreement with President Donald Trump, who pulled his nation from the landmark Paris accord.
“Let us face it. There is no Planet B,” Macron said in an address to Congress on the final day of his state visit to the United States.
“We have disagreements between the United States and France. It may happen, like in all families,” he said — but such differences would be short-term.
“We’re just citizens of the same planet,” Macron said.
“With business leaders and local communities, let us work together in order to make our planet great again and create new jobs and new opportunities while safeguarding our Earth. And I’m sure one day, the United States would come back and join the Paris agreement.”
Trump said last year that his country would withdraw from the accord, which aims to reduce damaging emissions and was signed by almost 200 countries.
Macron also lashed out against fake news — and gave a tongue-in-cheek apology for violating President Donald Trump’s “copyright” on the term.
He warned that lies disseminated online are threatening freedoms worldwide, saying: “Without reason, without truth, there is no real democracy because democracy is about true choices and rational decisions.”
Macron tasked his government this year with drafting a law to punish false information distributed during election campaigns. Macron says his presidential campaign last year was a victim of fake news, notably accusing Russian news sites RT and Sputnik.
He also warned against “terrorist propaganda that spreads its fanaticism on the Internet.”
In recounting common bonds from the earliest days of the United States, Macron talked about a meeting between Ben Franklin and the French philosopher Voltaire, “kissing each other’s cheeks.”
In an apparent reference to his friendly meetings this week with Trump, he said, “It can remind you of something.”
Macron was speaking as part of his visit to the United States. It’s the first time a president from France has addressed Congress in more than a decade, but follows a tradition of foreign leaders appearing at the US Capitol.