France put on hot weather alert as heatwave reaches Europe

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Tourists drink and fill their bottle from a public fountain to refresh themselves during an unusually early summer heatwave on June 24, 2019 in Rome. (AFP)
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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 25 June 2019

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.”


Sweden discontinues Assange rape investigation

Updated 19 November 2019

Sweden discontinues Assange rape investigation

  • The case was being dropped because “the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question.”

STOCKHOLM: Sweden on Tuesday dropped its investigation into an alleged rape by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently in prison in Britain.
Assange, who is battling extradition to the United States which accuses him of publishing secret documents related to his WikiLeaks work, has been facing potential charges in Sweden since 2010. The 48-year-old has denied all allegations against him.
Prosecutor Eve-Marie Persson said the case was being dropped because “the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question.”
She said the alleged victim, who accused Assange of raping her in 2010, “submitted a credible and reliable version of events.”
“Her statements have been coherent, extensive and detailed,” Persson said. 
The decision follows a ruling in June by a Swedish court that Assange should not be detained. Two months earlier, Assange was evicted from the Ecuador Embassy in London where he had been holed up since 2012. He was immediately arrested and is currently serving a 50-week sentence in Britain for jumping bail in 2012.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, said in a tweet that the focus should now move onto the “threat” that Assange has been “warning about for years: the belligerent prosecution of the United States and the threat it poses to the First Amendment.”
Assange has been battling potential charges in Sweden since August 2010, when an investigation began after two women accused Assange of sexual offenses during a visit to Stockholm. Sweden asked Britain to extradite Assange for questioning, and in June 2012 he sought refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid arrest. That was granted two months later.
After that, the investigation stalled. Swedish prosecutors dropped cases of alleged sexual misconduct when the statute of limitations ran out in 2015, leaving only the rape allegation.
While denying the sexual misconduct allegations in Sweden, he sought asylum for protection from possible extradition to the US on charges.
Ecuador withdrew Assange’s asylum status in April 2019. Assange was arrested by British police and sentenced in May to 50 weeks in prison for jumping bail in 2012. He remains in prison after authorities ruled he was a flight risk and faces an extradition hearing next year to the US to face spying charges