Fire in southern California threatening another city

In this Dec. 10, 2017 photo released by Santa Barbara County Fire Department firefighters knock down flames as they advance on homes atop Shepherd Mesa Road in Carpinteria, Calif. (AP)
Updated 11 December 2017
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Fire in southern California threatening another city

OJAI, United States: A fierce wildfire raged on north of Los Angeles Sunday, threatening other towns after already charring vast swaths of land, but other blazes were largely contained after burning for days.
The so-called Thomas fire is only 15 percent contained, now threatening the city of Santa Barbara and the nearby coastal town of Carpinteria, making it one of the worst wildfires in California history.
It has already destroyed 600 structures and scorched 173,000 acres (70,000 hectares), the authorities say, with the state’s governor saying the fires had already caused unprecedented damage in the most populous US state.
“Praying for my town. Fires closing in. Firefighters making brave stands. Could go either way. Packing to evacuate now,” the actor Rob Lowe, who lives in Santa Barbara, wrote on Twitter.
A photo posted by Santa Barbara police on Sunday morning showed a wall of flames several yards (meters) high very close to buildings in Carpinteria.
Evacuation orders were issued overnight for some parts of Carpinteria close to Los Padres National Forest, where fire was raging.
Conditions remained very dry in southern California, according to the National Weather Service, but strong winds that have fueled the fires for much of the week have eased significantly.
It said “critical fire weather conditions will wane Sunday night” but that dangers would persist through most of the coming week.
“Firefighters continue to improve and increase the containment lines,” helped by the weather, said the state agency Calfire.

After a five-day siege, some Californians were finally able to return home to inspect the damage wrought by the wildfires, which together have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee and destroyed more than 850 structures, including multimillion-dollar mansions.
Cindy Nava, from the town of Sylmar, was one of those returning home — or to what once was her home.
“Oh, my God, there’s nothing, nothing, nothing,” she sobbed, according to the Univision website. “What are we going to do?“
Despite the intensity of the fires that raged on multiple fronts — stretching from areas north of Los Angeles down to the San Diego region — authorities have reported only one fatality.
US President Donald Trump has issued a state of emergency for California, authorizing the release of federal funds.
The week’s infernos capped California’s deadliest year ever for wildfires. More than 40 people died in October when fires swept through the state’s wine-producing counties north of San Francisco.
In a television interview on Sunday, California Governor Jerry Brown said that climate change meant that the state was becoming increasingly vulnerable and that wildfires were becoming the new normal in some parts.
“The fire season used to be a few months in the summer, now it’s almost year-long. These fires are unprecedented. We’ve never seen anything like it.
“Scientists are telling us: ‘This is the kind of stuff that’s going to happen’. And we got to deal with it.”
Brown has been one of the most vocal critics of Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris accord on global warming and he renewed his attacks on the administration over its attitude toward climate change.
“Nature is not a political game. Nature is the ground on which we stand, it’s the air which we breathe.
“The truth of the case is that there’s too much carbon being emitted, that heat-trapping gasses are building up, the planet is warming and all hell is breaking loose.”


Nations defend UN Human Rights Council after US pullout

Empty seats of the United States delegation are pictured one day after the US announced their withdraw during a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday. (REUTERS)
Updated 21 June 2018
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Nations defend UN Human Rights Council after US pullout

  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry had earlier accused the US of “gross cynicism” and “disregard” for the UN
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US withdrawal

GENEVA: Diplomats from across the globe defended the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday after the US withdrew from a body it branded an anti-Israel “cesspool.”
Slovenian ambassador Vojislav Suc, who currently holds the council’s rotating presidency and has been pushing a faltering reform drive, described the Geneva-based chamber as the best place to trigger action on dangerous rights crises.
“Let me say it very clearly, if human rights issues are not discussed here, in this very room, they have little chance to be dealt with meaningfully anywhere else,” he told the council’s 38th session, hours after Washington announced its pullout.
Suc further praised the 47-member council as the “only intergovernmental body responding to human rights issues and situations worldwide.”
Once he receives formal notification of the US withdrawal, Suc said he would arrange for the American seat to be removed and work with the General Assembly to elect a replacement member. China, which has on multiple occasions voiced support for multilateral institutions abandoned by US President Donald Trump, portrayed the council as “a major body... to promote the realization of human rights.”
“All delegations attach great importance to this body,” said Chinese ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Yu Jianhua.
China currently sits on the council and rights groups have repeatedly criticized Beijing for seeking to stifle criticism of its own conduct.
The EU assured that it “remains steadfastly and reliably committed to the Human Rights Council,” and said it would continue to try to fix the body’s problems despite the US withdrawal.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry had earlier accused the US of “gross cynicism” and “disregard” for the UN.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and UN ambassador Nikki Haley announced the decision on Wednesday, making good on a threat Haley made in Geneva a year ago.
They said their calls for change, notably to fix “hypocrisy” and “unrelenting bias” against Israel were ignored.
Membership of the council, established in 2006 to replace the disgraced Human Rights Commission, has long been controversial.
Current members include Burundi, the Philippines and Venezuela — all nations accused of massive abuses against civilians.
But the main US objection was the council’s Agenda Item 7, which mandates discussion of Israel at each of the three annual sessions.
Israel is the only country recorded as a dedicated agenda item.
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US withdrawal, experts and diplomats have noted that without US pushback, resolutions approving investigations of Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Palestinian Territories could multiply.