US military planes land near Venezuela border with aid

A US Air Force C-17 cargo plane loaded with humanitarian aid after landing at Camilo Daza airport in Cucuta, Colombia, Saturday. (AP)
Updated 18 February 2019
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US military planes land near Venezuela border with aid

  • Guaido spoke to a crowd of supporters gathered in eastern Caracas on Saturday and vowed to form caravans of activists to reach the border and bring in aid on Jan. 23

CUCUTA, Colombia: The US military airlifted tons of humanitarian aid to a Colombian town on the Venezuelan border Saturday as part of an effort meant to undermine socialist President Nicolas Maduro and back his rival for the leadership of the South American nation.
Three scheduled Air Force C-17 cargo planes that took off from Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida had landed in Cucuta. That border city, swollen by a flood of migrants from Venezuela, is a collection point for aid that’s supposed to be distributed by supporters of Juan Guaido, the congressional leader who is recognized by the US and many other nations as Venezuela’s legitimate president. He has called for the aid.
“This wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last,” said USAID administrator Mark Green, standing on the tarmac in Cucuta at a ceremony to receive the aid. “More is on the way.”
Commercial planes had been used for earlier shipments of aid, which is aimed at dramatizing the economic crisis — including hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine — gripping Venezuela. Critics say last year’s re-election was fraudulent, making Maduro’s second term illegal.
“We are saving lives with these airplanes,” said Lestor Toledo, an exiled politician who is coordinating the international aid effort for Guaido.
Maduro has been using the military, which remains loyal, to help him block the aid from entering Venezuela, describing it as “crumbs” from a US government whose restrictions have stripped his administration of control over many of its most valuable assets.
“They hang us, steal our money and then say ‘here, grab these crumbs’ and make a global show out of it,” Maduro told The Associated Press on Thursday. “With dignity we say ‘No to the global show.’ Whoever wants to help Venezuela is welcome, but we have enough capacity to pay for everything that we need.”
His vice president has alleged, without evidence, that the aid packages are contaminated. Green on Saturday called the allegations “absurd.”
Saturday’s 180-ton shipment includes high-energy food products or hygiene kits of soap, toothpaste and other goods for more than 25,000 people.
Guaido spoke to a crowd of supporters gathered in eastern Caracas on Saturday and vowed to form caravans of activists to reach the border and bring in aid on Jan. 23. He also called for people to gather in cities across the country to receive the aid — and called for the armed forces to allow it into the country.
In the crowd was Anibrez Peroza, a 40-year-old nurse, who said she was ready if necessary to go to Cucuta in a caravan to bring in the aid.
“We have to do something to save so many people who are suffering and dying for lack of medicine,” she said. Peroza wept as she described a dehydrated child dying in her arms for lack of a catheter to rehydrate him.
The US and widespread European recognition of Guaido complicates Maduro’s efforts to find funds to keep his government, and its own food programs, running.
The US has placed Venezuela’s US assets, including oil company Citgo, under Guaido’s control and bans financial transactions by Maduro-controlled entities. Scores of Venezuelan officials also face personal financial sanctions in the US.


France put on hot weather alert as heatwave reaches Europe

A woman walks her dog through a fountain installation in the French eastern city of Lyon on June 24, 2019 as temperatures soar to 35 degrees Celsius. (AFP)
Updated 12 min 26 sec ago
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France put on hot weather alert as heatwave reaches Europe

  • Rescue services urged people to look out for young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems who are at particular risk in high temperatures

PARIS: The sunset had an orange glow. So did the extreme weather warning for Paris.
Meteorologists placed more than half of France, including around the capital, on alert for high temperatures Monday as a heatwave was expected to spread across continental Europe this week.
National weather agency Meteo France predicted the hot weather could produce temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Ft) across the country just as the summer tourist season shifts into high gear.
The French weather agency set the heat warning level at orange — the second-highest intensity on its four-level categorization system for potentially dangerous conditions requiring public “vigilance.”
In Paris, charity organizations patrolled the streets to provide homeless people with water, while local authorities organized air-conditioned public places where people could seek shelter from the heat.
French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, deciding it was too hot to study, ordered national exams taken by students heading to high school postponed from Thursday and Friday to next week.
International soccer federation FIFA could face implementing heat precautions at the Women’s World Cup, which France is hosting. The precautions include holding cooling breaks during matches and postponing games if the heat is too intense.
Women’s World Cup matches are scheduled every day this week, except Wednesday and Sunday. Luckily, most were set to be played at night.
France introduced a heat watch warning system after a long, deadly heatwave in August 2003. The highest temperatures in more than half a century eventually were estimated to have caused 15,000 heat-related deaths, many of older people left in city apartments and retirement homes without air conditioning.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday that vigilance was the watchword for the week.
“As you know, at times like these, sick people, pregnant women, infants and elderly people are the most vulnerable. So we must be vigilant with them and have prevention measures in place in order to intervene as quickly as possible,” Macron said.
French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said Monday that “everything is ready” in retirement homes, hospitals and transportation systems.
“Yet when people are fragile, even when everything is organized, there’s always a higher mortality rate,” she warned.
Meteorologists said hot winds from the Sahara Desert brought the scorching weather to Europe. Similar heat is expected in Belgium, Switzerland and Germany.
In Germany, temperatures above 40 degrees C are possible in some places on Wednesday, topping the country’s previous June record of 38.2 degrees Celsius (nearly 100.8 degrees Fahrenheit) set in Frankfurt in 1947.
Rescue services urged people to look out for young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems who are at particular risk in high temperatures.
Parts of northeastern Germany are also at high risk for forest fires. Authorities in the eastern state of Brandenburg, which circles Berlin, say the risk of forest fires is at the highest level in the coming days.
Scientists say measurements show that heat waves in Europe are becoming more frequent.
Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said “monthly heat records all over the globe occur five times as often today as they would in a stable climate.”
“This increase in heat extremes is just as predicted by climate science as a consequence of global warming caused by the increasing greenhouse gases from burning coal, oil and gas,” he added.
Dim Coumou, a scientist at the Free University of Amsterdam, said melting Arctic sea ice is also affecting atmospheric circulation, which in turn makes extreme heat more likely.
“Data analysis shows that the normally eastward traveling summer circulation of the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes has slowed down, including the Jet Stream,” he said. “This favors the buildup of hot and dry conditions over the continent, sometimes turning a few sunny days into dangerous heat waves.”