World Inside

Hundreds of US homeless die in extreme heat

Publish: 10:19 AM, 21 Jun, 2022


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Hundreds of blue, green and grey tents are pitched under the sun's searing rays in downtown Phoenix, a jumble of flimsy canvas and plastic along dusty sidewalks. Here, in the hottest big city in America, thousands of homeless people swelter as the summer's triple-digit temperatures arrive.

The stifling tent city has ballooned amid pandemic-era evictions and surging rents that have dumped hundreds more people onto the sizzling streets that grow eerily quiet when temperatures peak in the midafternoon. A heat wave earlier this month brought temperatures of up to 114 degrees (45.5 Celsius) - and its only June. Highs reached 118 degrees (47.7 Celsius) last year.

"During the summer, it's pretty hard to find a place at night that's cool enough to sleep without the police running you off," said Chris Medlock, a homeless Phoenix man known on the streets as "T-Bone" who carries everything he owns in a small backpack and often beds down in a park or a nearby desert preserve to avoid the crowds.

"If a kind soul could just offer a place on their couch indoors maybe more people would live," Medlock said at a dining room where homeless people can get some shade and a free meal.

Excessive heat causes more weather-related deaths in the United States than hurricanes, flooding and tornadoes combined.

Around the country, heat contributes to some 1,500 deaths annually, and advocates estimate about half of those people are homeless.

Temperatures are rising nearly everywhere because of global warming, combining with brutal drought in some places to create more intense, frequent and longer heat waves. The past few summers have been some of the hottest on record.

Just in the county that includes Phoenix, at least 130 homeless people were among the 339 individuals who died from heat-associated causes in 2021.

"If 130 homeless people were dying in any other way it would be considered a mass casualty event," said Kristie L. Ebi, a professor of global health at the University of Washington.
It's a problem that stretches across the United States, and now, with rising global temperatures, heat is no longer a danger just in places like Phoenix.

This summer will likely bring above-normal temperatures over most land areas worldwide, according to a seasonal map that volunteer climatologists created for the International Research Institute at Columbia University.

Last summer, a heat wave blasted the normally temperate US Northwest and had Seattle residents sleeping in their yards and on roofs, or fleeing to hotels with air conditioning. Across the state, several people presumed to be homeless died outdoors, including a man slumped behind a gas station.

In Oregon, officials opened 24-hour cooling centers for the first time. Volunteer teams fanned out with water and popsicles to homeless encampments on Portland's outskirts.

A quick scientific analysis concluded last year's Pacific Northwest heat wave was virtually impossible without human-caused climate change adding several degrees and toppling previous records.

Even Boston is exploring ways to protect diverse neighbourhoods like its Chinatown, where population density and few shade trees help drive temperatures up to 106 degrees (41 Celsius) some summer days. The city plans strategies like increasing tree canopy and other kinds of shade, using cooler materials for roofs, and expanding its network of cooling centers during heat waves.

It's not just a US problem. An Associated Press analysis last year of a dataset published by the Columbia University's climate school found exposure to extreme heat has tripled and now affects about a quarter of the world's population.

This spring, an extreme heat wave gripped much of Pakistan and India, where homelessness is widespread due to discrimination and insufficient housing. The high in Jacobabad, Pakistan near the border with India hit 122 degrees (50 Celsius) in May.

Dr Dileep Mavalankar, who heads the Indian Institute of Public Health in the western Indian city Gandhinagar, said because of poor reporting it's unknown how many die in the country from heat exposure.

Summertime cooling centers for homeless, elderly and other vulnerable populations have opened in several European countries each summer since a heat wave killed 70,000 people across Europe in 2003.

Emergency service workers on bicycles patrol Madrid's streets, distributing ice packs and water in the hot months. Still, some 1,300 people, most of them elderly, continue to die in Spain each summer because of health complications exacerbated by excess heat.

Spain and southern France last week sweltered through unusually hot weather for mid-June, with temperatures hitting 104 degrees (40 Celsius) in some areas.

Climate scientist David Hondula, who heads Phoenix's new office for heat mitigation, says that with such extreme weather now seen around the world, more solutions are needed to protect the vulnerable, especially homeless people who are about 200 times more likely than sheltered individuals to die from heat-associated causes.

"As temperatures continue to rise across the US and the world, cities like Seattle, Minneapolis, New York or Kansas City that don't have the experience or infrastructure for dealing with heat have to adjust as well."

In Phoenix, officials and advocates hope a vacant building recently converted into a 200-bed shelter for homeless people will help save lives this summer.

Mac Mais, 34, was among the first to move in.

"It can be rough. I stay in the shelters or anywhere I can find," said Mais who has been homeless on and off since he was a teen. "Here, I can stay out actually rest, work on job applications, stay out of the heat."

In Las Vegas, teams deliver bottled water to homeless people living in encampments around the county and inside a network of underground storm drains under the Las Vegas strip.

Ahmedabad, India, population 8.4 million, was the first South Asian city to design a heat action plan in 2013.

Through its warning system, nongovernmental groups reach out to vulnerable people and send text messages to mobile phones. Water tankers are dispatched to slums, while bus stops, temples and libraries become shelters for people to escape the blistering rays.

Still, the deaths pile up.

Kimberly Rae Haws, a 62-year-old homeless woman, was severely burned in October 2020 while sprawled for an unknown amount of time on a sizzling Phoenix blacktop. The cause of her subsequent death was never investigated.

A young man nicknamed Twitch died from heat exposure as he sat on a curb near a Phoenix soup kitchen in the hours before it opened one weekend in 2018.

"He was supposed to move into permanent housing the next Monday," said Jim Baker, who oversees that dining room for the St. Vincent de Paul charity. "His mother was devastated."

Many such deaths are never confirmed as heat related and aren't always noticed because of the stigma of homelessness and lack of connection to family.

When a 62-year-old mentally ill woman named Shawna Wright died last summer in a hot alley in Salt Lake City, her death only became known when her family published an obituary saying the system failed to protect her during the hottest July on record, when temperatures reached the triple digits.

Her sister, Tricia Wright, said making it easier for homeless people to get permanent housing would go a long way toward protecting them from extreme summertime temperatures.

"We always thought she was tough, that she could get through it," Tricia Wright said of her sister. "But no one is tough enough for that kind of heat."

– AP/UNB


US Homeless   Extreme heat   Heat Wave   USA  


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World Inside

North Korea fires over 100 artillery rounds in military drill - South Korea

Publish: 03:27 PM, 05 Dec, 2022


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North Korea fired around 130 artillery shells into the sea off its east and west coasts on Monday, South Korea's military said, in the latest apparent military drill near their shared border.

Some of the shells landed in a buffer zone near the sea border in what Seoul said was a violation of a 2018 inter-Korean agreement designed to reduce tensions.

The South Korean military sent several warning communications to the North over the firing, the ministry of defence said in a statement.

North Korea did not immediately report on the artillery fire, but it has been carrying out an increasing number of military activities, including missile launches and drills by warplanes and artillery units.

South Korea and the United States have also stepped up military drills this year, saying they are necessary to deter the nuclear-armed North.

The 2018 Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA) was the most substantive deal to come from the months of meetings between leader Kim Jong Un and then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

With those talks long stalled, however, recent drills and shows of force along the fortified border between the Koreas have cast doubts on the future of the measures. South Korea has accused the North of repeatedly violating the agreement with artillery drills this year.

This year North Korea resumed testing of its long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for the first time since 2017, and South Korea and the United States say it has made preparations to resume nuclear testing as well.

- Reuters



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World Inside

G7 begins to press Russia on Ukraine with oil price cap

Publish: 01:57 PM, 05 Dec, 2022


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A Group of Seven (G7) price cap on Russian seaborne oil came into force on Monday as the West tries to limit Moscow's ability to finance its war in Ukraine, though Russia has said it will not abide by the measure even if it has to cut production.

The G7 nations and Australia on Friday agreed a $60 per barrel price cap on Russian seaborne crude oil after European Union members overcame resistance from Poland. Russia is the world's second-largest oil exporter.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the world had shown weakness by setting the cap at that level while Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Sunday it was a gross interference that contradicted the rules of free trade.

"We are working on mechanisms to prohibit the use of a price cap instrument, regardless of what level is set, because such interference could further destabilise the market," said Novak, the Russian government official in charge of its oil, gas, atomic energy and coal.

"We will sell oil and petroleum products only to those countries that will work with us under market conditions, even if we have to reduce production a little," he said.

The G7 agreement allows Russian oil to be shipped to third-party countries using G7 and EU tankers, insurance companies and credit institutions, only if the cargo is bought at or below the $60 per barrel cap.

Industry players and a US official said in October that Russia can access enough tankers to ship most of its oil beyond the reach of the cap, underscoring the limits of the most ambitious plan yet to curb Russia's wartime revenue.

According to Zelenskiy, the $60 cap would do little to deter Russia from waging war in Ukraine. "You wouldn't call it a serious decision to set such a limit for Russian prices, which is quite comfortable for the budget of a terrorist state."

The United States and its allies have imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia since it invaded Ukraine on February 24 and sent billions of dollars in aid to the Ukrainian government.

French President Emmanuel Macron, however, drew criticism from Ukraine and its Baltic allies over the weekend for suggesting the West should consider Russia's need for security guarantees if it agrees to talks to end the war.

Zelenskiy's aide, Mykhailo Podolyak, said the world needed security guarantees from Russia, not the other way around.

PLANNED BLACKOUTS

In Ukraine, Russia has been pounding power infrastructure since early October, causing blackouts and leaving millions without heating as temperatures plummet.

Russia says the assaults do not target civilians and are meant to reduce Ukraine's ability to fight.

Ukraine says the attacks are a war crime.

Zelenskiy, in a video address on Sunday, urged citizens to be patient and strong in resisting the rigours of winter.

"To get through this winter, we must be even more resilient and even more united than ever," he said.

Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said on Telegram that blackouts would be confined from Monday to planned "stabilisation" cutoffs to get the grid working again, but added the situation remained "difficult".

Ukraine's largest power supplier, DTEK, said blackouts were planned for three other regions - Odesa, Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine's south and east.

In Kherson, largely without power since Russian forces abandoned the southern city last month, the regional governor said 85% of customers had electricity.

SHELLING ALONG FRONT LINES

On the battlefront, Zelenskiy said Ukrainian forces were holding positions along the front line, including near Bakhmut, viewed as Russia's next target in their advance through Donetsk.

Ukraine's military said Russian forces were pressing for improved tactical positions to advance in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions. About 16 settlements, including Bakhmut and Avdiivka, were shelled by tanks, mortars, barrel and rocket artillery, the General Staff of Ukraine's armed forces added.

Russian forces are on the defensive along the Zaporizhzhia frontline while hitting four settlements in the Donetsk region and six in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine's army added.

Russia's defence ministry said its troops were conducting successful operations in the area of Bakhmut and had pushed back Ukrainian attacks in the Donetsk direction.

Russian-installed officials in the occupied Donetsk said Ukraine fired at least 10 Grad rockets into the city. There was no word on casualties.

In Kryvyi Rih, among the largest cities in southern Ukraine, Russian rockets killed one person and wounded three just after midnight, the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, Valentyn Reznichenko, said.

"They aimed at an industrial enterprise," Reznichenko said on the Telegram messaging app without giving details.

Reuters could not independently verify battlefield reports.

The head of US intelligence said fighting in Ukraine was running at a "reduced tempo" and that militaries on both sides were looking to refit and resupply to prepare for a counter-offensive after the winter.

- Reuters


Oil price cap   Oil price   G7   Russia   Ukraine crisis  


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World Inside

Gunmen kidnap worshippers in Nigeria mosque attack

Publish: 01:54 PM, 05 Dec, 2022


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Gunmen abducted 19 Muslim worshippers after attacking a mosque in the restive northwest of Nigeria, police said Sunday.

The attackers stormed the mosque in Maigamji village, in Katsina state, during evening prayers Saturday and carried out the kidnappings after shooting and wounding the imam and another worshipper, said local police spokesman Gambo Isah.

"Our men mobilised and went after the bandits and succeeded in rescuing six of the worshippers from their abductors, while efforts are underway to free the remaining 13," he added.

The two people wounded were being treated in hospital, he added.

Northwest and central Nigeria have been terrorised by criminal gangs locally known as bandits, who village raids steal cattle, kidnap for ransom and burn homes after looting supplies.

Hostages are usually released after a ransom is paid to the gangs, which take refuge in the vast Rugu Forest. It straddles four states in northwest Nigeria, including Katsina.

Last month, 15 people were killed and several others wounded in a series of bandit attacks on villages in neighbouring Kaduna state, say the authorities.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has been under intense pressure to end the violence before he leaves office next year at the end of his eight-year tenure in office.

There is growing concern over an alliance in the northeast between the bandits and jihadists waging a 12-year insurgency to establish a Caliphate.

– BSS/AFP


Gunmen   Nigeria mosque attack  


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World Inside

Nearly 20 dead, 300 injured in Indonesia's 5.6 magnitude quake

Publish: 03:25 PM, 21 Nov, 2022


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More than a dozen people were killed in a 5.6-magnitude quake that rattled Indonesia's West Java province on Monday, a local official said.

Herman Suherman, a government official from Cianjur, the town in West Java where the epicentre of the quake was located, told news channel MetroTV that up to 20 people had died at one hospital in the area.

The epicentre was on land in Cianjur in West Java, about 75 km southeast of Jakarta, and at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), BMKG said, adding there was no potential for a tsunami.

Some people evacuated offices in the central business district of Jakarta, while others reported feeling buildings shake and seeing furniture move, Reuters witnesses said.

Muchlis, who was in Cianjur when the quake hit, said he felt "a huge tremor" and the walls and ceiling of his office building were damaged.

"I was very shocked. I worried there will be another quake," Muchlis told the Metro TV news channel, adding that people ran out of their houses, some fainting and vomiting because of the strong tremors.

BMKG chief Dwikorita Karnawati, speaking to reporters at parliamentary building, advised people to stay outdoors in case of aftershocks.

Suko Prayitno Adi of the BMKG said authorities were checking the extent of the damage caused by the quake.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) recorded the earthquake at a magnitude of 5.4 on the Richter scale.

– Reuters



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World Inside

Turkey launches airstrikes over northern Syria

Publish: 12:21 PM, 20 Nov, 2022


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Turkey launched airstrikes over several towns in northern Syria on Saturday, U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces reported.

The airstrikes occurred a week after a bomb rocked a bustling avenue in the heart of Istanbul, killing six people and wounding over 80 others. Turkish authorities blamed the attack on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, as well as Syrian Kurdish groups affiliated with it. The Kurdish militant groups have, however, denied involvement.

Ankara and Washington both consider the PKK a terror group, but disagree on the status of the Syrian Kurdish groups, which have been allied with the U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

Following the strikes, the Turkish ministry of defense posted a photo of a fighter plane with the phrase, “The treacherous attacks of the scoundrels are being held to account."

The airstrikes targeted Kobani, a strategic town near the Turkish border that Ankara had previously attempted to overtake in its plans to establish a “safe zone” along northern Syria. SDF spokesperson Farhad Shami in a tweet added that two villages heavily populated with displaced people were under Turkish bombardment. He said the strikes had resulted in “deaths and injuries.”

Syrian opposition media reported that Turkish airstrikes targeted Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces positions.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, reported that the strikes had also hit Syrian army positions and that at least 12 had been killed, including both SDF and Syrian army soldiers.

The observatory said about 25 air strikes were carried out by Turkish warplanes on sites in the countryside of Aleppo, Raqqa and Hasakah.

The Kurdish-led authority in northeast Syria said Saturday that if Turkey attacks, then fighters in the area would have “the right to resist and defend our areas in a major way that will take the region into a long war.”

Turkey has launched three major cross-border operations into Syria since 2016 and already controls some territories in the north.

– AP/UNB


Turkey   Airstrikes   Northern Syria  


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