Hawaii road in limbo as Mauna Loa lava continues to crawl

Hawaii road in limbo as Mauna Loa lava continues to crawl
An aerial view shows the fissure 3 lava channel erupting from Mauna Loa's Northeast Rift Zone at the Mauna Loa Volcano near Hilo, Hawaii. (AFP)
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Updated 08 December 2022

Hawaii road in limbo as Mauna Loa lava continues to crawl

Hawaii road in limbo as Mauna Loa lava continues to crawl
  • Lava from Mauna Loa was 2.89 kilometers from Saddle Road, also known as Route 200 or Daniel K. Inouye Highway

HONOLULU: About a week-and-a-half since the world’s largest volcano began erupting, Hawaii officials continue to brace for slow-moving lava to intersect with a crucial Big Island road, even though scientists are not sure when or even if that will happen.

On Wednesday morning, lava from Mauna Loa, which began erupting Nov. 27 after being quiet for 38 years, was 1.8 miles (2.89 kilometers) from Saddle Road, also known as Route 200 or Daniel K. Inouye Highway, scientists with the US Geological Survey said. The road connects the east and west sides of the vast island.

Last week, officials said the earliest the lava could hit the road was one week. But, as expected, the lava slowed considerably in recent days as it moved across flatter ground, leaving scientists unable to estimate a clearer timeline.

“I wish we could give a better answer,” David Phillips, deputy scientist-in-charge at USGS’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said Wednesday. “And so just based on its current behavior and all the variables involved, it’s very difficult to estimate a time, a place or even an if, it would intersect the highway.”

The flow front seemed even less active Wednesday than the previous day, possibly because of a breakout of lava headed upslope that could be diverting lava from what’s headed to the highway, Phillips said.

Scientists were monitoring the overflow about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) upslope from the lava front but it wasn’t currently posing any threat, Phillips said. It was unclear if it would continue to be active, but if does, it would be a while before it reached the road, he said.

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said planning for a road closure continues. Residents of the island are bracing for major upheaval if lava makes the road impassable, forcing drivers to find alternate coastal routes, which could add hours to commute times.

Roth warned that the road could even close before the lava arrives if some lava-gawkers continue behaving badly, including people hiking onto closed areas to get a closer glimpse.

Thousands of motorists driving along the road to watch the lava prompted officials to open a one-way “mitigation route” last week.

The route seems to have helped reduce collisions that were happening at night when lava-viewing traffic increased, officials said.

About 20 members of the National Guard were dispatched to help with managing lava-related issues, including safety and traffic. The county also hired some security guards to help keep people from going into prohibited areas, Roth said.

“As we’re looking at this lava flow, you know, the concern hasn’t been so much for people getting hurt by lava,” Roth said Tuesday, “it’s people getting seriously injured by traffic crashes.”


IMF giving Pakistan tough time in ‘unimaginable’ economic crisis — PM

IMF giving Pakistan tough time in ‘unimaginable’ economic crisis — PM
Updated 11 sec ago

IMF giving Pakistan tough time in ‘unimaginable’ economic crisis — PM

IMF giving Pakistan tough time in ‘unimaginable’ economic crisis — PM
  • Local currency at record low after being in free fall
  • Foreign reserves down less than three weeks import cover
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Friday the International Monetary Fund was giving his country a tough time over unlocking stalled funding from a $6.5 billion bailout, at a time of “unimaginable” economic crisis.
Hours after his remarks, the Pakistani rupee hit a record low against the US dollar in a steep slide since last week.
Sharif made the comments in a meeting of civil and military leaders in the northwestern city of Peshawar he chaired to prepare a response to Monday’s mosque bombing that killed more than 100 people.
“Our economic situation is unimaginable,” the premier said. “As you know, the IMF mission is in Pakistan, and that’s giving us a tough time,” he said.
“You all know we are running short of resources,” Sharif said, adding Pakistan “at present was facing an economic crisis.”
IMF’s Pakistan representative did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.
Sharif made the remarks in the context of funds the country might need for any military or counter-terrorism response to the resurgent Islamist militancy.
FREE FALL
The IMF mission is visiting Pakistan to discuss fiscal consolidation measures the institution needs from Pakistan to clear a 9th review of its Extended Fund Facility, aimed at helping countries facing balance-of-payments crises.
Pakistan’s central bank reserves at present stand at $3.09 billion, the lowest since 1998 and not enough to cover the cost of three weeks of imports.
The IMF’s demands aimed at controlling the country’s budget deficit have led to Pakistan leaving its currency to market based exchange rates and hiking fuel prices.
The Pakistani rupee fell by 1.9 percent to a record low of 276.58 per dollar in the inter-bank market on Friday, according to the central bank.
The local currency has dropped 16.5 percent since the artificial cap was removed last week to leave the rupee’s value to be decided by a market-based exchange rate regime.
The rupee also shed 2.65 percent against the US dollar on the open market, according to the association of exchange companies.
Islamabad is in a $6.5 billion IMF program.
An IMF delegation is in Pakistan to restart talks stalled since November for $2.5 billion funds yet to be disbursed.
Still, despite the economic situation, Sharif said his country will do whatever possible to fight militancy.
“We will use all resources in our capacity to fight this menace,” he said.

Man detained on French high-speed TGV after attack threat

Man detained on French high-speed TGV after attack threat
Updated 03 February 2023

Man detained on French high-speed TGV after attack threat

Man detained on French high-speed TGV after attack threat
  • The individual’s mental health was being investigated

BRUSSELS: A man was arrested after threatening to commit an attack while traveling on a high-speed TGV train in eastern France on Friday.
Police sources said the individual threatened to blow up himself or the train. There was no immediate suspicion that terrorism was a motive and the individual’s mental health was being investigated, they added.
“This morning, a police officer ... arrested a threatening individual on board a TGV in Moselle. Kudos to him!” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter.
The officer was off duty at the time, the police sources said. Off-duty policeman are allowed in France to carry a firearm on trains as part of a “traveling to protect” government scheme.


21 dead in attack in South Sudan on eve of Pope’s visit

21 dead in attack in South Sudan on eve of Pope’s visit
Updated 03 February 2023

21 dead in attack in South Sudan on eve of Pope’s visit

21 dead in attack in South Sudan on eve of Pope’s visit
JUBA: At least 21 people have been killed in a cattle raid in South Sudan on the eve of a visit by Pope Francis to encourage peace in the conflict-ridden country, local authorities said.
Francis is scheduled to arrive on Friday for a three-day “pilgrimage of peace” with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The church leaders are seeking to promote reconciliation and forgiveness in a predominantly Christian country still burdened by chronic armed violence in the aftermath of a civil war.
On Thursday, armed herders killed 21 civilians in a reprisal attack on a rival cattle camp in Kajo-Keji County of Central Equatoria, the county commissioner’s office said.
“The commissioner of Kajo-Keji County condemns in the strongest terms possible the attack on the cattle camp and the massacre of the innocent civilians in the barbaric act of revenge,” its statement issued on Thursday said.
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said he was “horrified” by the attack on the eve of his visit.
“It is a story too often heard across South Sudan. I again appeal for a different way: for South Sudan to come together for a just peace,” he posted on Twitter on Thursday.
South Sudan achieved independence from Muslim-majority Sudan in 2011 but soon after plunged into civil war that left 380,000 people dead.
The war formally ended in 2018 but the nation remains plagued by violence waged by well-armed local militias and rival ethnic groups.
This week, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the United States and other foreign missions raised concerns over signs that armed factions were preparing to fight again in Upper Nile.
The state in the country’s north has witnessed some of the most ferocious armed violence in South Sudan in recent months, with thousands of civilians seeking protection on UN bases.
“With the historic visit of His Holiness Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland to South Sudan expected to take place this week, UNMISS appeals to national and community leaders to exercise restraint and commit to peace and dialogue,” it said in a statement.

After Netanyahu talks, Macron warns of Iran nuclear ‘consequences’

After Netanyahu talks, Macron warns of Iran nuclear ‘consequences’
Updated 03 February 2023

After Netanyahu talks, Macron warns of Iran nuclear ‘consequences’

After Netanyahu talks, Macron warns of Iran nuclear ‘consequences’
  • Macron warned that Tehran continuing with the atomic project “would inevitably have consequences”

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday denounced the “headlong rush” of Iran’s nuclear program after talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in Paris to seek a stronger European stance against Tehran.
In a statement released after a dinner meeting in the Elysee Palace, Macron warned that Tehran continuing with the atomic project “would inevitably have consequences.”
Both leaders discussed ways to counter “the Iranian nuclear threat” and Netanyahu stressed the need for more “deterrence against Iran and its proxies in the Middle East,” the Israeli embassy said.
Israel has long accused Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon but Tehran insists its nuclear program is aimed solely at generating energy.
Netanyahu hopes Iran’s role in supplying drones to Russian invaders in Ukraine, as well as its crackdown on protests at home, will prompt Western allies to drop any bid to revive a 2015 atomic program deal.
The prime minister has also said Israel is considering sending military aid to Ukraine, apparently dropping its more neutral stance over the conflict in the hope of securing a more confrontational Western position toward Tehran.
By “playing the Ukraine card,” Netanyahu hopes to “consolidate an anti-Iranian front” with the West, said David Khalfa at the Fondation Jean Jaures, a Paris-based think tank.
He hopes for “increased sanctions against Iran and the full addition of the Revolutionary Guards to the list” of sanctioned entities, a step France and Germany have so far resisted, Khalfa added.
During his meeting with Macron, Netanyahu urged “substantial sanctions to be imposed on the Iran regime and called for the Revolutionary Guards to be added to the European Union’s terror list,” the Israeli embassy said.
France agrees that “firmness” is needed in dealings with Iran, a diplomatic source told AFP earlier, saying the nuclear program had reached “a dangerous point” and highlighting Tehran’s role in the Ukraine war.
Siding with Ukraine is not without risk for Netanyahu, as Russian air defenses in neighboring Syria could be turned against Israeli aircraft during their occasional raids on Iranian interests there.
Iran also holds several foreign citizens who are considered political hostages by Western governments.
Netanyahu’s visit came after a weekend drone attack on a defense ministry facility in the Iranian city of Isfahan, which Tehran has blamed on Israel.
The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed officials, have said the attack was carried out by Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, though this has not been confirmed by Israel.
Netanyahu’s visit came as violence intensified between Israelis and Palestinians with Israeli war planes striking the Gaza Strip early Thursday, drawing Palestinian rocket fire in retaliation.
Last Friday, a Palestinian gunman shot dead seven people outside a synagogue in an Israeli settler neighborhood of annexed east Jerusalem.
It was the deadliest attack targeting Israeli civilians in more than a decade, and came one day after an Israeli raid in the West Bank killed 10 Palestinians.
Macron on Thursday reiterated “the importance of avoiding any measure that could feed the cycle of violence” between Israelis and Palestinians, while offering “France’s complete solidarity with Israel in its fight against terrorism, the French presidency said.
Staying in France until Saturday, Netanyahu is also set to meet French business chiefs and leaders of the country’s Jewish community, the Israeli embassy said.
Judicial reforms planned by the prime minister’s latest coalition of right-wing, far-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties have raised the hackles of some business executives, notably in the financial sector, who have threatened to quit Israel.


EU officials hold Kyiv talks in show of support for Ukraine

EU officials hold Kyiv talks in show of support for Ukraine
Updated 03 February 2023

EU officials hold Kyiv talks in show of support for Ukraine

EU officials hold Kyiv talks in show of support for Ukraine
  • U assistance for Ukraine has reached almost 50 billion euros since the fighting started, according to EU officials
  • Ukraine wants to join the 27-nation bloc, though that could take years

KYIV: Top European Union officials were due to meet Friday in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a show of support for the country as it battles to counter Russia’s invasion and strives to join the EU as well as NATO.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, as well as 15 European commissioners, traveled to the Ukrainian capital for what they described as a summit meeting.
The last such summit was held in Kyiv in October 2021 — a few months before the war started.
EU assistance for Ukraine has reached almost 50 billion euros ($55 billion) since the fighting started, according to EU officials.
The EU is providing Ukraine with financial and humanitarian aid, among other things. It also plans to adopt a 10th package of sanctions again Russia in the coming weeks.
Ukraine wants to join the 27-nation bloc, though that could take years and require the adoption of far-reaching reforms. In the meantime, von der Leyen said Thursday that the European Commission is willing to let Kyiv join what she called some “key European programs” that will bring benefits similar to membership.
Those programs were due to be discussed in Friday’s meeting, which will also address one of the main obstacles to Ukraine’s EU membership: endemic corruption.
Von der Leyen, on her fourth visit to Kyiv since Russia’s invasion, said Thursday she was “comforted” by Ukraine’s anti-corruption drive.
The previous day, Zelensky had taken aim at corrupt officials for the second time in the space of a week. Several high-ranking officials were dismissed.
Zelensky was elected in 2019 on an anti-establishment and anti-corruption platform in a country long gripped by graft.
The latest corruption allegations came as Western allies channel billions of dollars to help Kyiv fight Moscow’s forces.
Ukraine’s government is keen to get more Western military aid, on top of the tanks pledged last week, as the warring sides are expected to launch new offensives once winter ends. Kyiv is now asking for fighter jets.
The USis expected to announce Friday it will send longer-range bombs to Ukraine as part of a new $2.17 billion aid package.