Powerful storm Fiona hits Canada’s Nova Scotia

Powerful storm Fiona hits Canada’s Nova Scotia
(AFP)
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Updated 24 September 2022

Powerful storm Fiona hits Canada’s Nova Scotia

Powerful storm Fiona hits Canada’s Nova Scotia
  • Experts predicted high winds, storm surges and heavy rainfall from Fiona

HALIFAX: Powerful storm Fiona slammed into eastern Canada on Saturday with hurricane-force winds, nearly a week after devastating parts of the Caribbean.
The US National Hurricane Center said the center of the storm, now called Post-Tropical Cyclone Fiona, was crossing eastern Nova Scotia, bringing high winds and heavy rains.
The storm had weakened somewhat as it traveled north. As of 5 a.m. (0900 GMT), the storm was about 160 miles (255 km) northeast of Halifax, carrying maximum winds of 90 miles per hour (150 kph) and barrelling north at around 26 mph (43 kph), the NHC said.
Experts predicted high winds, storm surges and heavy rainfall from Fiona. Although a gradual weakening was forecast during the next couple of days, Fiona was expected to maintain hurricane-force winds until Saturday afternoon, the NHC said.
Formerly designated a hurricane, the storm battered Caribbean islands earlier in the week, killing at least eight people and knocking out power for virtually all of Puerto Rico’s 3.3 million people during a sweltering heat wave. Nearly a million people remained without power five days later.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delayed Saturday’s departure for Japan, where he was to attend the funeral of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to receive briefings and support the government’s emergency response, Press Secretary Cecely Roy said on Twitter.
A hurricane warning was in effect for much of central Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, home to more than 150,000 people, and parts of Newfoundland, the Miami-based NHC said.
Canadian Hurricane Center meteorologist Ian Hubbard said on Friday the effects of Fiona would be felt over a wide area.
“The center of it is one thing, but the weather that’s associated with it in terms of the rain and where all the strong winds are, it’s going to be over a much larger area,” he said.
“Many, many places away from the center of the storm are still going to be seriously impacted from this,” Hubbard told Reuters.
There will be rough and pounding surf, with waves as high as 10 meters (33 feet) expected to hit the eastern shore of Nova Scotia Friday night.
Canadian authorities sent emergency alerts in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, warning of severe flooding along shorelines and extremely dangerous waves. People in coastal areas were advised to evacuate.
“We’ve had a few before, but they say this is going to be the biggest of them all,” said Chris MacPhee, 53, of Sydney, Nova Scotia, who stocked up on groceries, batteries and candles. He said he was feeling “a little nervous, I guess.”
The storm could prove more ferocious than the benchmarks of Hurricane Juan in 2003 and Hurricane Dorian in 2019, Canadian Hurricane Center meteorologist Bob Robichaud told a briefing.
The country’s two largest carriers, Air Canada and WestJet Airlines, suspended regional service starting Friday evening.
Trailing Fiona in the Caribbean is Tropical storm Ian, which is expected to become a hurricane on Sunday night. The NHC said that a hurricane watch is in effect for Cayman Islands.
The storms Ian’s projected path takes it just south of Jamaica, over western Cuba and into Florida early next week, the hurricane center said.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency on Friday, freeing up funding and emergency services in advance of the storm.


International team suspends investigation into MH17 downing

International team suspends investigation into MH17 downing
Updated 57 min 19 sec ago

International team suspends investigation into MH17 downing

International team suspends investigation into MH17 downing
  • Announcement comes nearly three months after a Dutch court convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian rebel for their roles in shooting down the Boeing 777 and killing all 298 people on board

THE HAGUE, Netherlands: An international team of investigators has suspended its criminal investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, saying they have insufficient evidence to launch any new prosecutions.
Dutch prosecutor Digna van Boetzelaer said Thursday that “the investigation has now reached its limit. All leads have been exhausted” as the team began laying out the evidence it uncovered in its long-running investigation.
Dutch prosecutors said in their summary of findings that “there are strong indications that the Russian president decided on supplying” a Buk missile system to Ukrainian separatists. A Buk system was used to bring down MH17 on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew.
Russia has always denied any involvement in the downing of MH17.
The announcement comes nearly three months after a Dutch court convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian rebel for their roles in shooting down the Boeing 777 and killing all 298 people on board on July 17, 2014. One Russian was acquitted by the court.
None of the suspects appeared for the trial and it was unclear if the three who were found guilty of multiple murders will ever serve their sentences.
The convictions and the court’s finding that the surface-to-air Buk missile that blew the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight out of the sky came from a Russian military base were seen as a clear indication that Moscow had a role in the tragedy. Russia has always denied involvement. The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the court in November of bowing to pressure from Dutch politicians, prosecutors and the news media.
But the November convictions held that Moscow was in overall control in 2014 over the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, the separatist area of eastern Ukraine where the missile was launched. The Buk missile system came from the Russian military’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, based in the city of Kursk.
The Joint Investigation Team is made up of experts from the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Belgium and Ukraine. Most of the victims were Dutch. It has continued to investigate the crew of the Russian Buk missile system that brought down the plane and those who ordered its deployment in Ukraine.
“The indications for close ties between the leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Russian government officials raises questions about their involvement in the deployment” of the missile, the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service said on its website, citing intercepted phone calls between leaders of the breakaway region and “high-ranking Russian government officials held in the summer of 2014.”
As well as the criminal trial that was held in the Netherlands, the Dutch and Ukrainian governments are suing Russia at the European Court of Human Rights over its alleged role in the downing of MH17.


Ukraine’s Zelensky arrives in Britain seeking more arms against Russia

Ukraine’s Zelensky arrives in Britain seeking more arms against Russia
Updated 08 February 2023

Ukraine’s Zelensky arrives in Britain seeking more arms against Russia

Ukraine’s Zelensky arrives in Britain seeking more arms against Russia
  • Zelensky to address British parliament on Wednesday
  • Britain pledges to expand training of Ukrainian troops

LONDON: Britain announced an immediate surge of military deliveries to Ukraine to help it fend off an intensifying Russian offensive and pledged to train its pilots as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in London on a rare visit abroad.
Zelensky was due to travel onto Brussels on Thursday where the European Union is holding a summit, according to an EU diplomat. London was his first stop on only his second trip abroad since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 after a visit to the United States in December.
In Britain, he will meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and King Charles and address parliament.
“The United Kingdom was one of the first to come to Ukraine’s aid. And today I’m in London to personally thank the British people for their support and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for his leadership,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram, under a photo of him and Sunak at the airport.
Britain, which has been training Ukrainian troops, said the extra training would ensure Ukrainian pilots were able to fly “sophisticated NATO-standard fighter jets in the future,” adding the move was “part of long-term investment in their military.”
The wording seemed to suggest that Britain had not yet changed its mind on whether to provide Kyiv with the fighter jets it has asked for — something the government has said is not the right approach for now.
Sunak said the visit was a testament “to his country’s courage, determination and fight and ... to the unbreakable friendship between our two countries.”
“I am proud that today we will expand that training from soldiers to marines and fighter jet pilots, ensuring Ukraine has a military able to defend its interests well into the future.”
Zelensky will meet King Charles later on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Buckingham Palace said. Charles, who has visited several organizations who help Ukrainians in Britain, has called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “brutal aggression.”
Britain also set out further sanctions to target those who have helped Russian President Vladimir Putin, including manufacturers of military equipment and eight individuals who helped “maintain wealth and power among Kremlin elites.”
SUNAK PLEDGES MORE SUPPORT
Zelensky, who had close ties with ex-prime minister Boris Johnson, visits Britain at a time when Russia is bringing tens of thousands of recently mobilized troops to the battlefield to try to break through Ukrainian defenses in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s allies have promised hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles to help Kyiv resist the assault and recapture territory, but have said it will take time to train Ukrainian forces to use them effectively.
Since Johnson resigned last year, Sunak has pledged to continue to support Ukraine, visiting Kyiv in November to tell the Ukrainian leader: “We are with you all the way.”
In London, he is expected to tell Zelensky he will accelerate the delivery of military equipment to Ukraine.
Britain has trained 10,000 Ukrainian troops brought to battle readiness in the last six months and will train a further 20,000 soldiers this year, the government said.
Last week, Ukrainian troops arrived in Britain to learn how to command Challenger 2 tanks and Sunak will offer to provide Ukraine with longer range capabilities, the statement said.
London has so far refused to deliver fighter jets, saying it was not “the right approach” for now. But defense minister Ben Wallace has suggested that stance could change.
Sunak’s spokesman said last week that the quickest a pilot could learn to fly a British fighter jet was 35 months. “We will continue listening to the Ukrainians and consider what is right for the long term,” he said.


UK soldier faces 15-year prison sentence over bomb hoax

UK soldier faces 15-year prison sentence over bomb hoax
Updated 08 February 2023

UK soldier faces 15-year prison sentence over bomb hoax

UK soldier faces 15-year prison sentence over bomb hoax
  • Daniel Abed Khalife, 21, allegedly placed canisters, wiring in RAF base on Jan. 2

London: A British Army soldier has been charged with terror offenses after allegedly carrying out a bomb hoax at a Royal Air Force base earlier this year, The Times reported.

Daniel Abed Khalife, 21, is also accused of attempting to gain “useful” information about armed forces staff at the UK base.

On Jan. 2 this year, Khalife allegedly placed three canisters and wiring at RAF Stafford “with the intention of inducing in another a belief that the said item was likely to explode or ignite.”

Violating section 58A of the UK’s Terrorism Act 2000 can result in up to 15 years’ imprisonment, with bomb hoaxes carrying six-month sentences and small fines.

At Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, Khalife only spoke to confirm his name and date of birth.

He was remanded into custody and is set to appear at the Old Bailey later this month.

Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring told Khalife: “You did not enter a plea. These matters are very serious.

“If you are convicted you are going to face a prison sentence in years, not months. Therefore, this court’s powers are insufficient.”


Harmful pollution boosting superbug ‘silent pandemic’

Harmful pollution boosting superbug ‘silent pandemic’
Updated 08 February 2023

Harmful pollution boosting superbug ‘silent pandemic’

Harmful pollution boosting superbug ‘silent pandemic’

PARIS: Containing and cleaning up environmental pollution, especially in waterways, is crucial to controlling increasingly bullet-proof superbugs which could kill tens of millions by mid-century, a new UN report said Tuesday.
Superbugs — strains of bacteria resistant to antibiotics — are estimated to have killed 1.27 million people in 2019, and the World Health Organization says antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the top global health threats on the near-term horizon.
Up to 10 million deaths could occur every year by 2050 because of AMR, the UN says.
The disinfectants, antiseptics and antibiotics that can help microbes become stronger are everywhere, from toothpaste and shampoo to cow’s milk and wastewater.
A new report Tuesday said pollution is a key driver in the “development, transmission and spread” of AMR, calling for urgent action to clean up the environment.
“With increasing pollution and lack of management of sources of pollution, combined with AMR in clinical and hospital settings and agriculture, risks are increasing,” said the report from the UN Environment Programme.
Antimicrobial resistance is a natural phenomenon, but the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in humans, animals and plants has made the problem worse.
This means antibiotics may no longer work to fight the very infections they were designed to treat.
The UN report Tuesday said that pollution in the environment from key economic sectors has exacerbated the problem, namely from the pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturing sectors, along with agriculture and health care.
Herbicides to control weeds on farms may also increase AMR, while heavy metals are also contributing to the problem.
Once antimicrobials enter the environment they seep into the food chain — they’ve been found in fish and cattle — and loop back into factories making everyday toiletries, for example.

Antimicrobial resistant genes are in waterways across the globe, from the Ganges River in India to the Cache la Poudre River in the US state of Colorado, the UN study found.
“This is a real issue, because rivers are often the source of our drinking water,” Jonathan Cox, senior lecturer in microbiology at Britain’s Aston University, told AFP.
“It’s already the silent pandemic,” warned Cox, who is not linked to the UN study. “It is becoming the next pandemic without us really recognizing it.”
Prevention is key, the UN said.
“Fuelled by population growth, urbanization and growing demand for food and health care, we can expect an increase in the use of antimicrobials and in pollutant releases into the environment,” it said.
The UN urged governments and international groups to address “key pollution sources,” including sewage, city waste, health care delivery, pharmaceutical manufacturing and intensive crop sectors.
Cox said solutions need to be global, since AMR is so pervasive.
One answer is to focus on clinical approaches, such as improving rapid testing for infections so that antibiotics are not incorrectly prescribed.
Another is improving wastewater management to remove antimicrobials. But such processes are complicated and costly.
“The technology is out there, it just isn’t being employed because governments don’t care so much about the environment as they do about the bottom line,” Cox said.

 


Biden says in State of Union that US is ‘unbowed, unbroken’

Biden says in State of Union that US is ‘unbowed, unbroken’
Updated 08 February 2023

Biden says in State of Union that US is ‘unbowed, unbroken’

Biden says in State of Union that US is ‘unbowed, unbroken’
  • The president is taking the House rostrum at a time when just a quarter of US adults say things in the country are headed in the right direction, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden is using his State of the Union address Tuesday night to call on Republicans to work with him to “finish the job” of rebuilding the economy and uniting the nation as he seeks to overcome pessimism in the country and navigate political divisions in Washington.
The annual speech comes as the nation struggles to make sense of confounding cross-currents at home and abroad — economic uncertainty, a wearying war in Ukraine, growing tensions with China and more — and warily sizes up Biden’s fitness for a likely reelection bid. The president is offering a reassuring assessment of the nation’s condition rather than rolling out flashy policy proposals.
“The story of America is a story of progress and resilience,” Biden is declaring, according to excerpts released in advance by the White House. He’s highlighting record job creation under his tenure as the country has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic. And he’s declaring that two years after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol, the country’s democracy is “unbowed and unbroken.”
With Republicans now in control of the House, Biden is pointing areas of bipartisan progress in his first two years in office, including on states’ vital infrastructure and high tech manufacturing. And he says, “There is no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress.”
“The people sent us a clear message. Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere,” Biden is saying. “And that’s always been my vision for the country: to restore the soul of the nation, to rebuild the backbone of America — the middle class — to unite the country.”
“We’ve been sent here to finish the job!”
The president is taking the House rostrum at a time when just a quarter of US adults say things in the country are headed in the right direction, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. About three-quarters say things are on the wrong track. And a majority of Democrats don’t want Biden to seek another term.
He is confronting those sentiments head on, aides say.
“You wonder whether a path even exists anymore for you and your children to get ahead without moving away, I get it,” Biden says. “That’s why we’re building an economy where no one is left behind. Jobs are coming back, pride is coming back because of the choices we made in the last two years.”
The setting for Biden’s speech looks markedly different from a year ago, when it was Democratic stalwart Nancy Pelosi seated behind him as House speaker — though tighter-than-usual security measures returned in a vestige of the 2021 attack. Pelosi’s been replaced by Republican Kevin McCarthy, and it was unclear what kind of reception restive Republicans in the chamber would give the Democratic president.
McCarthy on Monday vowed to be “respectful” during the address and in turn asked Biden to refrain from using the phrase “extreme MAGA Republicans,” which the president deployed on the campaign trail in 2022.
“I won’t tear up the speech, I won’t play games,” McCarthy told reporters, a reference to Pelosi’s dramatic action after President Donald Trump’s final State of the Union address.
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who gained a national profile as Trump’s press secretary, was to deliver the Republican response to Biden’s speech.
She was to focus much of her remarks on social issues, including race in business and education and alleged big-tech censorship of conservatives.
“While you reap the consequences of their failures, the Biden administration seems more interested in woke fantasies than the hard reality Americans face every day,” she was to say, according to excerpts released by her office. “Most Americans simply want to live their lives in freedom and peace, but we are under attack in a left-wing culture war we didn’t start and never wanted to fight.”
With COVID-19 restrictions now lifted, the White House and legislators from both parties invited guests designed to drive home political messages with their presence in the House chamber. The parents of Tyre Nichols, who was severely beaten by police officers in Memphis and later died, are among those expected to be seated with first lady Jill Biden. Other Biden guests include the rock star/humanitarian Bono and the 26-year-old who disarmed a gunman in last month’s Monterey Park, California, shooting.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus invited family members of those involved in police incidents, as they sought to press for action on police reform in the wake of Nichols’ death. A White House fact sheet ahead of the speech paired police reform with bringing down violence, suggesting that giving police better training tools could lead to less crime nationwide.
Biden is shifting his sights after spending his first two years pushing through major bills such as the bipartisan infrastructure package, legislation to promote high-tech manufacturing and climate measures. With Republicans now in control of the House, he is turning his focus to implementing those massive laws and making sure voters credit him for the improvements.
The switch is largely by necessity. The newly empowered GOP is itching to undo many of his achievements and vowing to pursue a multitude of investigations — including looking into the recent discoveries of classified documents from his time as vice president at his home and former office.
At the same time, Biden will need to find a way to work across the aisle to keep the government funded by raising the federal debt limit by this summer. He has insisted that he won’t negotiate on meeting the country’s debt obligations; Republicans have been equally adamant that he must make spending concessions.
On the eve of the president’s address, McCarthy challenged Biden to come to the negotiating table with House Republicans to slash spending as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling.
“We must move toward a balanced budget and insist on genuine accountability for every dollar we spend,” McCarthy said.
While hopes for large-scale bipartisanship are slim, Biden was reissuing his 2022 appeal for Congress to get behind his “unity agenda” of actions to address the opioid epidemic, mental health, veterans’ health and cancer. He was to announce new executive action and call for lawmakers to act to support new measures to support cancer research, address housing needs and suicide among veterans, boost access to mental health care, and move to further crack down on deadly trafficking in fentanyl.
The White House said the president would call for extending the new $35 per month price cap on insulin for people on Medicare to everyone in the country. He would also push Congress to quadruple the 1 percent tax on corporate share buybacks that was enacted in the Democrats’ climate and health care bill passed last year known as the Inflation Reduction Act.
The speech comes days after Biden ordered the military to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew brazenly across the country, captivating the nation and serving as a reminder of tense relations between the two global powers.
Last year’s address occurred just days after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and as many in the West doubted Kyiv’s ability to withstand the onslaught. Over the past year, the US and other allies have sent tens of billions of dollars in military and economic assistance to bolster Ukraine’s defenses. Now, Biden must make the case — both at home and abroad — for sustaining that coalition as the war drags on.
 

 

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