British Columbia declares state of emergency as firefighters battle blazes

The McDougall Creek wildfire burns in the hills West Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, on August 17, 2023, as seen from Kelowna. Evacuation orders were put in place for areas near Kelowna, as the fire threatened the city of around 150,000. (AFP)
The McDougall Creek wildfire burns in the hills West Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, on August 17, 2023, as seen from Kelowna. Evacuation orders were put in place for areas near Kelowna, as the fire threatened the city of around 150,000. (AFP)
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Updated 19 August 2023
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British Columbia declares state of emergency as firefighters battle blazes

British Columbia declares state of emergency as firefighters battle blazes
  • Hundreds of kilometers (miles) south of Yellowknife, homes were burning in West Kelowna, British Columbia, a city of about 38,000, after a wildfire grew “exponentially worse” than expected overnight, the fire chief said

WEST KELOWNA, British Columbia: Canada’s western province of British Columbia declared a state of emergency on Friday as firefighters battled a wildfire raging in the hills and mountains above the town of West Kelowna forcing thousands of evacuations.
West Kelowna, a city of 36,000 people is some 300 kilometers (180 miles) east of Vancouver. Wildfires and evacuations were also being carried out in Kelowna, a city with a population of about 150,000 also on Okanagan Lake.
The flames and smoke were visible from West Kelowna, according to a Reuters witness, and smoke filled the valley surrounding the lake.
Officials said the next 24 to 48 hours could be the most difficult. Earlier the airspace in the area was closed to clear the way for water bombers.
“Over the past 24 hours, the situation has evolved rapidly and we are in for an extremely challenging situation in the days ahead,” the government of British Columbia said in a statement.
“We fought hard last night to protect our community,” Jason Brolund, West Kelowna fire chief, told reporters. “Night turned to day because of the orange glow of the clouds and the fire.”
More than 2,400 properties were evacuated, officials said, and thousands more are on alert to leave with little notice if necessary. Several structures were destroyed in West Kelowna during the night, he said.


4 new astronauts head to the International Space Station for a 6-month stay

4 new astronauts head to the International Space Station for a 6-month stay
Updated 15 sec ago
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4 new astronauts head to the International Space Station for a 6-month stay

4 new astronauts head to the International Space Station for a 6-month stay
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: Four astronauts headed to the International Space Station on Sunday where they will oversee the arrivals of two new rocketships during their half-year stint.
SpaceX’s Falcon rocket blasted off from Kennedy Space Center, carrying NASA’s Matthew Dominick, Michael Barratt and Jeanette Epps and Russia’s Alexander Grebenkin.
The astronauts should reach the orbiting lab on Tuesday. They will replace a crew from the US, Denmark, Japan and Russia, who have been there since August.
“When are you getting here already?” space station commander Andreas Mogensen asked via X, formerly Twitter, after three days of delay due to high wind. SpaceX Launch Control termed it “fashionably late.”
There was almost another postponement Sunday night. A small crack in the seal of the SpaceX capsule’s hatch prompted a last-minute flurry of reviews, but it was deemed safe for the whole mission.
The new crew’s six-month stay includes the arrival of two rocketships ordered by NASA. Boeing’s new Starliner capsule with test pilots is due in late April. A month or two later, Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser, a mini shuttle, should arrive. It is for delivering cargo to the station, but not passengers yet.
Epps was originally assigned to fly Boeing’s Starliner, which got bogged down with problems and stalled. NASA finally switched her to SpaceX.
“I am in a New York state of mind right now, it is amazing,” she said upon reaching orbit, referring to the Billy Joel song.
Epps, who is from Syracuse, N.Y., is the second Black woman assigned to a long station mission. She said before the flight that she is especially proud to be a role model for Black girls, demonstrating that spaceflight “is an option for them, that this is not just for other people.”
An engineer, she worked for Ford Motor Co. and the CIA before becoming an astronaut in 2009. Epps should have launched to the space station on a Russian rocket in 2018, but was replaced for reasons never publicly disclosed.
Also new to space are Dominick, a Navy pilot, and Grebenkin, a former Russian military officer.
Barratt, a doctor on his third mission, is the oldest full-time astronaut to fly in space. He turns 65 in April.
“It’s kind of like a roller coaster ride with a bunch of really excited teenagers,” Barratt said after reaching orbit. As for his age, he said before the flight, “As long as we stay healthy and fit and engaged, we’re good to fly.”
Flight controllers are monitoring a growing cabin leak on Russia’s side of the space station. The leak has doubled in size in the past few weeks and the area has been sealed off, NASA program manager Joel Montalbano said. He stressed there is no impact to station operations or crew safety.

In blunt remarks, US Vice President Harris calls out Israel over ‘catastrophe’ in Gaza

In blunt remarks, US Vice President Harris calls out Israel over ‘catastrophe’ in Gaza
Updated 56 min 31 sec ago
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In blunt remarks, US Vice President Harris calls out Israel over ‘catastrophe’ in Gaza

In blunt remarks, US Vice President Harris calls out Israel over ‘catastrophe’ in Gaza
  • Says Israel must open new border crossings, not impose any unnecessary restrictions on aid delivery
  • Urges Hamas to agree to an immediate six-week ceasefire as mediators push for peace in Egypt’s Cairo

CAIRO/RAFAH, Gaza Strip: US Vice President Kamala Harris on Sunday demanded Palestinian militant group Hamas agree to an immediate six-week ceasefire while forcefully urging Israel to do more to boost aid deliveries into Gaza, where she said innocent people were suffering a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

In some of the strongest comments by a senior leader of the US government to date on the issue, Harris pressed the Israeli government and outlined specific ways on how more aid can flow into the densely-populated enclave where hundreds of thousands of people are facing famine, following five months of Israel’s military campaign.
“Given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire,” Harris said at an event in Selma, Alabama. “There is a deal on the table, and as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal. Let’s get a ceasefire.”
“People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane and our common humanity compels us to act...The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses,” she said.

 

On Sunday, a Hamas delegation had arrived in Cairo for the latest round of ceasefire talks, billed by many as the final possible hurdle for a truce, but it was unclear if any progress was made. Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth’s online version reported that Israel boycotted the talks after Hamas rejected its demand for a complete list naming hostages who are still alive.
Washington has insisted the ceasefire deal is close and has been pushing to put in place a truce by the start of Ramadan, a week away. A US official on Saturday said Israel has agreed on a framework deal.
An agreement would bring the first extended truce of the war, which has raged for five months so far with just a week-long pause in November. Dozens of hostages held by Hamas militants would be freed in return for hundreds of Palestinian detainees.
One source briefed on the talks had said on Saturday that Israel could stay away from Cairo unless Hamas first presented its full list of hostages who are still alive. A Palestinian source told Reuters that Hamas had so far rejected that demand.

After the Hamas delegation arrived, a Palestinian official told Reuters the deal was “not yet there.” There was no official comment from Israel.
In past negotiations, Hamas has sought to avoid discussing the well-being of individual hostages until after terms for their release are set.
In other diplomatic moves, Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz will meet Harris at the White House on Monday and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Tuesday. US envoy Amos Hochstein will visit Beirut on Monday to pursue efforts to de-escalate the conflict across the Lebanese-Israeli border.

“Gunfire and chaos“
The death last week of more than 100 Palestinians approaching an aid truck in Gaza has captured the severe humanitarian crisis in the densely-populated enclave, an incident Harris recalled during her speech.
“We saw hungry, desperate people approach aid trucks simply trying to secure food for their family after weeks of barely any aid reaching northern Gaza and they were met with gunfire and chaos,” Harris said.
Israel said on Sunday its initial review of the incident had found that most of those killed or wounded had died in a stampede. Military spokesman Daniel Hagari said Israeli troops at the scene initially fired only warning shots, though they later shot at some “looters” who “approached our forces and posed an immediate threat.”

A Palestinian girl carries a child through the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on March 3, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement. (AFP)

Muatasem Salah, a member of the Emergency Committee at the Ministry of Health in Gaza, told Reuters the Israeli account was contradicted by machine gun wounds.
In her comments, Harris laid out specific ways on how the Israeli government can allow more aid into Gaza. “They must open new border crossings. They must not impose any unnecessary restrictions on the delivery of aid. They must ensure humanitarian personnel, sites and convoys are not targeted, and they must work to restore basic services and promote order in Gaza, so more food, water and fuel can reach those in need.”
Under pressure at home and abroad, the Biden administration on Saturday carried out its first airdrop of aid into the coastal enclave, with a US military transport plane dropping 38,000 meals along Gaza’s Mediterranean coastline.
Critics of airdrops say they have only a limited impact on the suffering, and that it is nearly impossible to ensure supplies do not end up in the hands of militants.
The United States will continue these airdrops, Harris said, and added that Washington was working on a new route by sea to also send aid.
The war was unleashed in October after Hamas fighters stormed through Israeli towns killing 1,200 people and capturing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. Since then, Israeli forces have killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities.
Swathes of the Gaza Strip have been laid to waste, nearly the entire population has been made homeless, and the United Nations estimates a quarter of Gazans are on the verge of famine.
At a morgue outside a Rafah hospital on Sunday morning, women wept and wailed beside rows of bodies of the Abu Anza family, 14 of whom Gaza health authorities say were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah overnight.
The youngest of the family who were killed were infant twins Wesam and Naaem, the first children of their mother after 11 years of marriage. They were born a few weeks into the Gaza war.
“My heart is gone,” wailed Rania Abu Anza, who also lost her husband in the attack. “I haven’t had enough time with them.”


Malaysia may renew the search for MH370 a decade after the flight disappeared

Malaysia may renew the search for MH370 a decade after the flight disappeared
Updated 04 March 2024
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Malaysia may renew the search for MH370 a decade after the flight disappeared

Malaysia may renew the search for MH370 a decade after the flight disappeared
  • Announcement comes after a US technology firm proposed fresh search in southern Indian Ocean where plane went missing 
  • The Boeing 777 plane, carrying 239 people from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, vanished from radar shortly after taking off in Mar. 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Malaysia’s government said Sunday it may renew the hunt for MH370 after a US technology firm proposed a fresh search in the southern Indian Ocean where the Malaysia Airlines plane is believed to have crashed a decade ago.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke said Texas-based Ocean Infinity has proposed another “no find, no fee” basis to scour the seabeds, expanding from the site where it first searched in 2018. He said he has invited the company to meet him to evaluate new scientific evidence it has to find the plane’s final resting place.

If the evidence is credible, he said, he will seek Cabinet’s approval to sign a new contract with Ocean Infinity to resume the search.

“The government is steadfast in our resolve to locate MH370,” Loke told a remembrance event to mark the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of the jet. “We really hope the search can find the plane and provide truth to the next-of-kin.”

The Boeing 777 plane carrying 239 people, mostly Chinese nationals, from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, to Beijing, vanished from radar shortly after taking off on March 8, 2014. Satellite data showed the plane deviated from its flight path and was believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.

But an expensive multinational government search failed to turn up any clues, although debris washed ashore on the east African coast and Indian Ocean islands. A private search in 2018 by Ocean Infinity also found nothing, but the tragedy sparked moves to bolster aviation safety.

K.S. Nathan, a member of the Voice MH370 group comprising next-of-kin, said Ocean Infinity initially planned a search last year but it was delayed by the delivery of its new fleet of ships and assets. It is now on track to resume the hunt, he said.

Ocean Infinity CEO Oliver Punkett was reported as saying by the New Straits Times that the company has been focusing on innovating technologies and robotics to enhance their search capabilities since 2018.

“We now feel in a position to be able to return to the search for MH370,” he told the English-language daily. “We’ve been working with many experts, some outside of Ocean Infinity, to continue analizing the data in the hopes of narrowing the search area down to one in which success becomes potentially achievable.”

Loke declined to reveal the fee proposed by Ocean Infinit y if it finds the plane, as this is subject to negotiation. He said financial cost is not an issue and that he doesn’t foresee any hindrances for the search to proceed if all goes well.

Loke’s response sparked tears of joy in some family members at the event held in a mall in a Kuala Lumpur suburb.

“I’m on top of the world,” said Jacquita Gomes, whose flight attendant husband was on the plane. She said she is thankful that she may now have a chance for full closure and say a final goodbye.

“We have been on a roller coaster for the last 10 years. ... If it is not found, I hope that it will continue with another search,” she said.

Family members of passengers from Malaysia, Australia, China and India paid tribute to their loved ones during the event, lighting a candle on stage to remember them.

“No matter if it is 10 years, 20 years or more, as long as we are still alive...we will not cease to press for the truth. We believe the truth will eventually come to light,” said Bai Zhong, from China, whose wife was on the plane.


Nikki Haley says she no longer feels bound by the GOP pledge requiring her to support the eventual nominee

Nikki Haley says she no longer feels bound by the GOP pledge requiring her to support the eventual nominee
Updated 04 March 2024
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Nikki Haley says she no longer feels bound by the GOP pledge requiring her to support the eventual nominee

Nikki Haley says she no longer feels bound by the GOP pledge requiring her to support the eventual nominee
  • Haley had signed the pledge required by the Republican National Committee, but current front-runner Donald Trump did not
  • She said “the RNC is now not the same RNC” as it was at the time of the debates and that she has always had “serious concerns” about Trump

WASHINGTON: Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley said Sunday she no longer feels bound by a pledge that required all GOP contenders to support the party’s eventual nominee in order to participate in the primary debates.

The Republican National Committee had made the pledge a prerequisite for all candidates, and nearly every major contender signed, except for Donald Trump, the current front-runner, who skipped the debates.
When Haley, Trump’s lone remaining major challenger for the nomination, was asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether she was compelled to honor that commitment, she said, “No. I think I’ll make what decision I want to make.”
She said “the RNC is now not the same RNC” as it was at the time of the debates. She also maintained that she has always said she had “serious concerns” about Trump, for whom she served as UN ambassador.
The RNC is in the midst of major changes, with the chair, Ronna McDaniel, set to leave the job on Friday. She was Trump’s hand-picked choice to lead the RNC shortly after the 2016 election, but Trump now is poised to install loyalists atop the organization. He has announced his preference for North Carolina GOP Chair Michael Whatley, a little-known veteran operative, to replace McDaniel. Trump also has picked his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, to serve as committee co-chair.
Haley dismissed questions about whether she would drop out and eventually endorse Trump.
“Right now, my focus is, ‘How do we touch as many voters? How do we win?’” she said. “I want the American people to see that you don’t have to live this way. There is a path forward. And we can do it with someone who can put in eight years, that can constantly focus on results and not the negativity and the baggage that we have right now.”
Trump on Saturday continued his march toward the nomination, winning caucuses in Idaho and Missouri and sweeping the delegate haul at a party convention in Michigan.
Trump’s count is now 244, compared with 24 for Haley. A candidate needs to secure 1,215 delegates to clinch the nomination.
The next event on the Republican calendar was Sunday in the District of Columbia. Two days later is Super Tuesday, when 16 states will hold primaries on what will be the largest day of voting of the year outside of the November election. Trump is on track to lock up the nomination days later.
“I’ve always said this needs to be competitive. As long as we are competitive, as long as we are showing that there is a place for us, I’m going to continue to fight,” Haley said.


A chunk of Republican primary and caucus voters say they wouldn’t vote for Trump as the GOP nominee

A chunk of Republican primary and caucus voters say they wouldn’t vote for Trump as the GOP nominee
Updated 04 March 2024
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A chunk of Republican primary and caucus voters say they wouldn’t vote for Trump as the GOP nominee

A chunk of Republican primary and caucus voters say they wouldn’t vote for Trump as the GOP nominee
  • 2 in 10 Iowa voters, one-third of New Hampshire voters, and one-quarter of South Carolina voters would be so disappointed by Trump’s renomination that they would refuse to vote for him in the fall
  • Anywhere between one-half and two-thirds of the staunchly anti-Trump voters in the early contests said they had voted for Biden in 2020

WASHINGTON: A small but substantial chunk of Republican primary and caucus voters say they would be so dissatisfied if Donald Trump became the party’s presidential nominee that they would not vote for him in November’s general election, according to AP VoteCast.

An analysis of the data shows that many of those voters were unlikely to vote for Trump, some even before this year, but it still points to potential problems for the former president as he looks to consolidate the nomination and pivot toward an expected rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.
According to AP VoteCast surveys of the first three head-to-head Republican contests, 2 in 10 Iowa voters, one-third of New Hampshire voters, and one-quarter of South Carolina voters would be so disappointed by Trump’s renomination that they would refuse to vote for him in the fall.
This unwillingness to contemplate a presidential vote for Trump isn’t confined to voters in the earliest states.
Lee and Bill Baltzell defected from the Republican Party to register as independents a year ago. They attended a rally for supporters of Trump’s last major rival, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, last week in Centennial, Colorado, to encourage her to keep running against Trump.
“We don’t know that Trump will run into more legal problems and be disqualified, and I’d rather not see Biden in there for another four years,” said Bill Baltzell, 60.
If it’s between Biden and Trump, Lee Baltzell, 58, said she would consider writing in an alternative.
“I don’t know. I did not vote for Biden the last time; I don’t know that I could do it this time. But I don’t know if I could vote for Trump.”
Opposition from voters like the Baltzells hasn’t slowed Trump’s march toward the nomination, but it could be an issue for him later on. It’s not clear how much of a problem, though, because a dive into the numbers shows that many of the “never-Trump” voters in the early states were unlikely to vote for him in the general election to begin with.
Many of the voters who said they wouldn’t vote for Trump as the nominee aren’t Republicans at all. In the first three head-to-head contests, anywhere from 17 percent to 31 percent of the voters who said they wouldn’t support Trump in the general election identified as Democrats, and between 14 percent and 27 percent identified as independents.
Even for some of those Republicans, voting for Trump was already a tough sell. Anywhere between one-half and two-thirds of the staunchly anti-Trump voters in the early contests said they had voted for Biden in 2020.
Then there is the fact that primaries tend to draw out the people with the most passionate opinions. Voter turnout in primaries and caucuses, particularly ones that are relatively uncompetitive, is typically lower than it would be in a general election.
Still, about 1 in 10 early contest voters who said they supported Trump in the 2020 general election said they wouldn’t be doing so this year.
One question, though, is whether that means they would vote for Trump’s opponent instead.
“I won’t vote for Trump, I’ll just say that. I voted for him twice; I could never vote for him again,” said Linda Binkley, 74, a registered Republican who isn’t pleased by the prospect of a Trump vs. Biden matchup. She added, “I’m not sure I can vote for Biden.”
If Trump becomes the nominee, he will likely need to win over some of the moderates who supported Biden in 2020 if he wants to return to the White House. From that perspective, even a small amount of opposition from within his own party — not to mention broader skepticism among independents — could be a problem in the future.

AP VoteCast is a series of surveys conducted among 1,597 Republican caucus voters in Iowa, 1,989 New Hampshire voters who took part in the Republican primary and 2,466 Republican primary voters in South Carolina. The surveys were conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.