Dangerous heatwaves strike globe as wildfires rage

A firefighter monitors and sets a controlled burn as the Rabbit Fire scorched over 7,500 acres in Moreno Valley, Riverside County, California on July 15, 2023. (AFP)
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A firefighter monitors and sets a controlled burn as the Rabbit Fire scorched over 7,500 acres in Moreno Valley, Riverside County, California on July 15, 2023. (AFP)
People ride on a boat on the Sava river in Belgrade, on July 15, 2023, as Serbia is hit by a heatwave with daily temperatures above 35 degrees centigrade. (AFP)
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People ride on a boat on the Sava river in Belgrade, on July 15, 2023, as Serbia is hit by a heatwave with daily temperatures above 35 degrees centigrade. (AFP)
Dangerous heatwaves strike globe as wildfires rage
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Members of the public fill bottles with water at a fountain in Rome, on July 14, 2023, as Italy is hit by a heatwave. (AFP)
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Updated 16 July 2023
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Dangerous heatwaves strike globe as wildfires rage

Dangerous heatwaves strike globe as wildfires rage
  • Italy faces weekend predictions of historic highs with the health ministry issuing a red alert for 16 cities
  • Greece is also roasting

ROME: Scorching weather gripped three continents on Sunday, whipping up wildfires and threatening to topple temperature records as the dire consequences of global warming take shape.
Predictions of historic heat hung over swathes of Asia, Europe and the United States.
In the Vatican, 15,000 people braved sweltering temperatures to hear Pope Francis lead prayer, using parasols and fans to keep cool.
But in their black robes, priests like Francois Mbemba said they were “sweating like hell.”
The 29-year-old said it felt hotter in St. Peter’s Square than in his Democratic Republic of Congo diocese.
In Japan, authorities issued heatstroke alerts to tens of millions of people in 20 of its 47 prefectures as near-record high temperatures scorched large areas and torrential rain pummelled other regions.

HIGHLIGHT

The EU’s climate monitoring service said the world saw its hottest June on record last month.

National broadcaster NHK warned the heat was life-threatening, with the capital and other places recording nearly 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
Japan’s highest temperature ever — 41.1C first recorded in Kumagaya city, Saitama, in 2018 — could be beaten, according to the meteorological agency.
Some places experienced their highest temperatures in more than four decades Sunday, including Hirono town in Fukushima prefecture with 37.3C.
The United States National Weather Service reported that a powerful heatwave stretching from California to Texas was expected to peak during an “extremely hot and dangerous weekend.”
California’s Death Valley, often among the hottest places on Earth, is also likely to register new peaks on Sunday, with the mercury possibly surpassing 54C.
At a Texas construction site outside Houston, a 28-year-old worker who gave his name only as Juan struggled in the blazing heat.
“Just when I take a drink of water, I get dizzy, I want to vomit because of the heat,” he told AFP.
Southern California is fighting numerous wildfires, including one in Riverside County that has burned more than 7,500 acres (3,000 hectares) and prompted evacuation orders.
Further north, the Canadian government said wildfires had burned a record-breaking 10 million hectares this year, with more damage expected as the summer drags on.

In Europe, Italians were warned to prepare for “the most intense heatwave of the summer and also one of the most intense of all time.”
Predictions of historic highs in the coming days led the health ministry to sound a red alert for 16 cities including Rome, Bologna and Florence.
Temperatures are likely to hit 40C in Rome by Monday and 42C-43C on Tuesday, smashing the record of 40.5C set in August 2007.
Sicily and Sardinia could wilt under temperatures as high as 48C, the European Space Agency warned — “potentially the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Europe.”
The Acropolis in Athens, one of Greece’s top tourist attractions, closed for a third day running Sunday during the hottest hours.
In Romania, temperatures are expected to reach 39C on Monday across most of the country.
Little reprieve is forecast for Spain, where the met agency warned of a new heatwave Monday through Wednesday taking temperatures above 40C in the Canary Islands and the southern Andalusia region.
On La Palma island, which endured a volcanic eruption in 2021, a fire burned 5,000 hectares this weekend forcing the evacuation of 4,000 people.
“I feel powerless to see how everything is burning,” Patricia Sanchez, a Spanish Red Cross worker, told AFP.
“To see two entire villages evacuated, to know that there are people who lost everything because of the volcano and have rebuilt their lives in the north, and now they are evacuated again and at risk of losing everything again,” the 37-year-old said.

Despite the heat, parts of Asia have also been battered by torrential rain.
In South Korea, rescuers on Sunday battled to reach people trapped in a flooded tunnel, after heavy rains for the last four days triggered floods and landslides that killed at least 37 people and left nine missing.
The country is at the peak of its summer monsoon season, with more rain forecast through Wednesday.
In northern Japan on Sunday, a man was found dead in a flooded car, a week after seven people were killed in similar weather in the country’s southwest.
In northern India, relentless monsoon rains have reportedly killed at least 90 people, following burning heat.
Major flooding and landslides are common during India’s monsoons, but experts say climate change is increasing their frequency and severity.
China on Sunday issued several temperature alerts, warning of 40-45C in the partly desert region of Xinjiang, and 39C in southern Guangxi region.
It can be difficult to attribute a particular weather event to climate change, but many scientists insist that global warming — linked to dependence on fossil fuels — is behind the intensification of heatwaves.
The EU’s climate monitoring service said the world saw its hottest June on record last month.

 


District court rebuffs fining Netherlands for Israel jet parts

District court rebuffs fining Netherlands for Israel jet parts
Updated 30 sec ago
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District court rebuffs fining Netherlands for Israel jet parts

District court rebuffs fining Netherlands for Israel jet parts
  • The Hague District Court’s judges agreed on Friday but stressed February’s judgment “said nothing about the route that parts take via other countries for the production of the F-35”

THE HAGUE: Dutch judges on Friday slapped down an urgent request by a trio of rights groups to penalize the Netherlands for not respecting a ban on supplying F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel.
In a landmark verdict in February, an appeals court ordered the Netherlands to stop delivering parts for fighter jets used by Israel in its offensive in the Gaza Strip.
But the rights groups went back to court in June, saying that the ban has not prevented parts ending up in Israeli planes.
Their lawyers accused the Dutch government of continuing “to deliver (parts) to other countries, including the US.”
The three groups asked The Hague District Court in an urgent request to impose a €50,000 per day fine on the state for not respecting the verdict.
Their lawyers said F-35 parts exported by the Netherlands continued to reach Israel via other routes, including the so-called “Global Spares Pool” — a joint stock of spare parts maintained by countries that operate the F-35.
The Hague District Court’s judges agreed on Friday but stressed February’s judgment “said nothing about the route that parts take via other countries for the production of the F-35.”
The judges said the February judgment had a “more limited scope” than the rights group’s current urgent request.
“It has not been demonstrated that the state is not complying with the ban or does not intend to continue to comply,” the judges said.
“Therefore, there is no penalty for a violation,” the judges said.
In its verdict in February, appeals judges found that there was a “clear risk” the planes would be involved in breaking international humanitarian law.
The Dutch government then acknowledged it could not prevent parts shipped to the US from eventually ending up in Israeli F-35s.
But its lawyers said it did not believe the Netherlands had to restrict exports of F-35 parts to countries other than Israel.
The Dutch government added that it would implement the February verdict but announced that it would appeal to the Supreme Court.

 


Teenage migrant in Spain’s Canaries sleeping rough after coming of age

Teenage migrant in Spain’s Canaries sleeping rough after coming of age
Updated 12 min 26 sec ago
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Teenage migrant in Spain’s Canaries sleeping rough after coming of age

Teenage migrant in Spain’s Canaries sleeping rough after coming of age
  • Around 19,000 migrants, mainly from West Africa, arrived on the islands in the first six months of 2024, a 167 percent increase from the same period a year earlier, according to government figures

MADRID: When Abdellatif Bouhlal landed on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria after surviving the perilous sea journey from Morocco on a rickety dinghy, he was alone and just 15 years old.
Having been picked up at sea, Bouhlal spent three years in a reception center for unaccompanied minors, but when he came of age, he had to leave and find his shelter.
With the authorities slow to process the paperwork he needs as a foreigner to be able to work in Spain, he was forced to sleep rough and beg for money, he said.
“On the same day I turned 18, they dumped me out on the streets like a dog,” he said from a makeshift tent on El Cabron beach in the town of Arinaga.
Bouhlal’s story is shared by thousands of young migrants who attempt the perilous journey on the deadly Atlantic route, only to find a host country that struggles to cope with an unprecedented number of arrivals and integrate them into the domestic jobs market.
Around 19,000 migrants, mainly from West Africa, arrived on the islands in the first six months of 2024, a 167 percent increase from the same period a year earlier, according to government figures.
Disagreements on migration policy have driven a wedge between the conservative People’s Party, or PP, and the far-right Vox, which ruled five Spanish regions together until Thursday when the PP backed a plan by Spain’s central Socialist-run government to move around 400 under-18 migrants from the Canary Islands to the mainland.
Bouhlal, born in the north-central Moroccan city of Beni Mellal, said he had left his country because he saw no future.
His scant belongings include a bare mattress, a cardboard box with second-hand clothes, and a few candles.
On windy nights, he covers his head with a blanket to protect his eyes from the sand being blown around.
Bouhlal said that when he begs for money, he faces the dilemma of spending it on food or the bus fare to the island’s capital, Las Palmas, for appointments with officials handling his residency case.
He has not seen his mother in 3 1/2 years.
A tearful Bouhlal, who does not have a phone, said he closes his eyes every night and pictures having dinner with her and his little sister. “Not talking to her really hurts,” he said.

 


Russian assassination plots against those supporting Ukraine uncovered in Europe, official says

Russian assassination plots against those supporting Ukraine uncovered in Europe, official says
Updated 12 July 2024
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Russian assassination plots against those supporting Ukraine uncovered in Europe, official says

Russian assassination plots against those supporting Ukraine uncovered in Europe, official says
  • The plots have sometimes involved recruiting common criminals in foreign countries to conduct the attacks
  • One major plot recently uncovered had targeted Armin Papperger, CEO of defense company Rheinmetall

WASHINGTON: Western intelligence agencies have uncovered Russian plots to carry out assassinations, arson and other sabotage in Europe against companies and people linked to support for Ukraine’s military — one of the most serious being a plan to kill the head of a German arms manufacturer, a Western government official said.
The plots have sometimes involved recruiting common criminals in foreign countries to conduct the attacks, said the official, who is familiar with the situation but not authorized to comment and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
One major plot recently uncovered had targeted Armin Papperger, CEO of defense company Rheinmetall, the official said.
The official declined to offer any details on other plots, which were first reported by CNN. The CNN report said the US informed Germany, whose security services were able to protect Papperger and foil the plot.
Rheinmetall is a major supplier of military technology and artillery rounds for Ukraine as it fights off Russian forces. The company last month opened an armored vehicle maintenance and repair facility in western Ukraine and also aims to start production inside the country.
White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson declined to comment on the alleged plot to kill Papperger but said, “Russia’s intensifying campaign of subversion is something that we are taking extremely seriously and have been intently focused on over the past few months.”
“The United States has been discussing this issue with our NATO allies, and we are actively working together to expose and disrupt these activities,” Watson added. “We have also been clear that Russia’s actions will not deter allies from continuing to support Ukraine.”
Neither Rheinmetall nor the German government would comment Friday on the reported plot against Papperger. The Interior Ministry can’t comment on “individual threat situations,” spokesperson Maximilian Kall said, but he added that more broadly, “we take the significantly increased threat from Russian aggression very seriously.”
“We know that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s regime wants above all to undermine our support for Ukraine in its defense against the Russian war of aggression, but the German government won’t be intimidated,” Kall said.
He noted that German security measures have increased significantly since 2022 and that “the threats range from espionage and sabotage, through cyberattacks, to state terrorism.”
European officials gathered for the NATO summit in Washington this week spoke of dealing with an escalation of “hybrid” attacks that they blame on Russia and its allies.
That includes what authorities called suspicious recent fires at industrial and commercial sites in Lithuania, Poland, the United Kingdom, Germany and other nations, and charges that Russia-allied Belarus was sending large numbers of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa to the borders of Poland, Latvia and other countries belonging to NATO.
When asked at a news conference at the NATO summit Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he could not comment on the CNN report. He did note a widespread campaign by Russian security services to conduct “hostile actions” against NATO allies, including sabotage, cyberattacks and arson.
“These are not standalone instances. These are part of a pattern, part of an ongoing Russian campaign. And the purpose of this campaign is, of course, to intimidate NATO allies from supporting Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
In April, German investigators arrested two German-Russian men on suspicion of espionage, one of them accused of agreeing to carry out attacks on potential targets, including US military facilities, in hopes of sabotaging aid for Ukraine.
Germany has become the second-biggest supplier of weapons to Ukraine after the United States since Russia started its full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov dismissed the report of a plan to kill Papperger. “All of this is again presented in the fake style, so such reports cannot be taken seriously,” he told reporters Friday.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to his Russian counterpart, Andrei Belousov, on Friday, their second call in less than a month, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh announced at a briefing Friday. The call was initiated by the Russian defense minister, Singh said.
She did not have further details to share, including whether the two leaders spoke about the accusations that Russia had attempted to assassinate top officials of Western defense firms producing weapons systems that are sent to Ukraine, but said “maintaining lines of communication is incredibly important right now.”


US keeps barring Chinese officials over rights

US keeps barring Chinese officials over rights
Updated 12 July 2024
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US keeps barring Chinese officials over rights

US keeps barring Chinese officials over rights
  • The State Department didn’t identify or give a number of those who would be denied visas
  • The US has kept up pressure on China, including by expanding restrictions on technology exports

WAHSINGTON: The United States said Friday it would keep denying visas to Chinese officials over human rights concerns in Xinjiang, Tibet and elsewhere, vowing accountability despite a thaw in tensions between the powers.
Unlike previous high-profile actions against Chinese officials, the State Department did not identify or give a number of those who would be denied visas or specify if additional people were being blacklisted.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that United States was restricting visas to current or former officials “for their involvement in repression of marginalized religious and ethnic communities.”
Beijing “has not lived up to its commitments to respect and protect human rights, as demonstrated by the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, the erosion of fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong, persistent human rights abuses in Tibet and transnational repression around the world,” he said in a statement.
He called on China to accept recommendations in the latest UN review of its rights record, including releasing citizens “it has arbitrarily and unjustly detained.”
Under previous president Donald Trump, the United States publicly named several officials who would be denied entry including Chen Quanguo, the architect of China’s hard-line policies in Tibet and then Xinjiang who has since retired.
Under President Joe Biden, the United States has kept up pressure on China, including by expanding restrictions on technology exports, but has also pursued dialogue to keep tensions in check.
The United States says that China is carrying out genocide against the mostly Muslim Uyghur people in Xinjiang, pointing to accounts of vast detention camps, allegations strongly rejected by Beijing.


UN says world population to peak at 10.3 billion in the 2080s

UN says world population to peak at 10.3 billion in the 2080s
Updated 12 July 2024
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UN says world population to peak at 10.3 billion in the 2080s

UN says world population to peak at 10.3 billion in the 2080s
  • Size of world’s population in 2100 will be six percent lower, or 700 million people fewer

NEW YORK: Earth’s population will peak in the mid-2080s at around 10.3 billion people, then drop slightly to a level much lower than anticipated a decade ago, the United Nations said.
The current population of 8.2 billion people will rise to that maximum over the next 60 years, then dip to 10.2 billion by the end of the century, says a report released Thursday entitled “World Population Prospects 2024.”
It said the size of the world’s population in 2100 will be six percent lower, or 700 million people fewer, than what was anticipated in June 2013.
“The demographic landscape has evolved greatly in recent years,” said Li Junhua, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.
He said the unexpected population peak stems from several factors that include lower levels of fertility in some of the world’s largest countries, especially China.
He said this lower maximum will also come earlier than previously calculated and this is a hopeful sign as the world fights global warming: fewer humans accounting for less aggregate consumption would mean less pressure on the environment.
“However, slower population growth will not eliminate the need to reduce the average impact attributable to the activities of each individual person,” this official said.
More than a quarter, or 28 percent, of the world’s population now lives in one of 63 countries or areas where the population has already peaked, including China, Russia, Japan and Germany, the report said.
Nearly 50 other countries should join that group over the next 30 years, including Brazil, Iran and Turkiye.
But population growth will continue in more than 120 countries beyond 2054. These include India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and the United States, said the UN.
A rise in global life expectancy — interrupted by the Covid pandemic — has resumed, with an average of 73.3 years of longevity in 2024. It will average 77.4 years in 2054.
So the world’s population will get more and more gray. By the late 2070s, the number of people 65 or older is projected to be 2.2 billion, surpassing those under 18, the study predicts.