Strong chance of a new El Niño forming by early 2019

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Strong chance of a new El Niño forming by early 2019

El NiñoImage copyright NOAA/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Image caption An image showing the 2015 El Niño with rising temperatures in the Pacific

The World Meteorological Organization says there’s a 75-80% chance of a weak El Niño forming within three months.

The naturally occurring event causes changes in the temperature of the Pacific Ocean and has a major influence on weather patterns around the world.

It is linked to floods in South America and droughts in Africa and Asia.

El Niño events often lead to record temperatures as heat rises from the Pacific.

According to the WMO update, sea surface temperatures in the east-central tropical Pacific have been at weak El Niño levels since October. However the atmosphere has not yet responded to the extra warmth that’s produced by the upwelling seas.

Scientists have been predicting the likelihood of a new event since May this year, with confidence increasing.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology are now estimating that an El Niño event will start in December. US forecasters are saying there’s a 90% chance of the event starting in January.

El NiñoImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionDroughts in some places and floods in many others are linked to El Niño

The WMO models are say that a fully fledged El Niño is estimated to be 75-80% likely between December and February 2019.

At this point, the WMO says its predictions for the event range from just a warm-neutral condition through to a moderate strength event with sea surface temperatures peaking between 0.8C to 1.2C above average.

The chance of a strong event are currently low.

“The forecast El Niño is not expected to be as powerful as the event in 2015-2016, which was linked with droughts, flooding and coral bleaching in different parts of the world,” said Maxx Dilley, director of WMO’s Climate Prediction and Adaptation branch.

“Even so, it can still significantly affect rainfall and temperature patterns in many regions, with important consequences to agricultural and food security sectors, and for management of water resources and public health, and it may combine with long-term climate change to boost 2019 global temperatures,” he said.

In terms of food security, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have issued a report detailing the countries that could suffer food shortages as a result of the event.

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Science & Environment

Kabul suicide bomber kills dozens at gathering of clerics

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Kabul suicide bomber kills dozens at gathering of clerics

An injured person is taken to hospital in KabulImage copyright EPA
Image caption This is one of the deadliest attacks in Kabul in recent months

A suicide bomb attack on a gathering of religious scholars in the Afghan capital, Kabul, has killed at least 43 people, officials say.

At least 83 more were injured as the clerics met at the Uranus hall to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.

It is one of the deadliest attacks in Kabul in recent months.

No-one has admitted responsibility for the blast, but the Islamic State group has said it was behind most of the recent deadliest attacks.

Continuing attacks by the Taliban have also stepped up pressure on security forces.

Basir Mujahid, a spokesman for Kabul police, said: “Hundreds of Islamic scholars and their followers had gathered to recite verses from the holy Koran to observe the Eid Milad-un-Nabi festival at the private banquet hall.”

A manager at the hall said the suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of the gathering.

1TV News quoted the health ministry as saying that 24 of the wounded are severely injured.

Map

The Islamic State group said it was behind two attacks in Kabul in August that killed dozens of people.

Dozens were also killed across the country as voters cast ballots in the nation’s parliamentary elections in October.

However, there have been recent moves to try to end decades of war.

This month, Taliban militants for the first time attended an international meeting, hosted by Russia, to discuss the matter.

The Taliban’s power and reach have surged since foreign combat troops left Afghanistan in 2014.

But the Islamic State in Afghanistan group, sometimes known as Islamic State Khorasan, also remains highly active.

Civilian deaths and injuries have have hit record highs. Casualty figures for the conflict, which began in 2001, are the highest since the UN started keeping records in 2009.

Chart showing total civilian casualties in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2017 with steady rise until 2016 and slight decrease in 2017

El Chapo goes on trial

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

El Chapo goes on trial

Three different images of El ChapoImage copyright AFP/GETTY/REUTERS
Image caption The numerous faces of El Chapo

What’s happening?

Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán goes on trial in New York City on Tuesday. The trial could last up to four months.

Why does it matter?

There is a case to be made that El Chapo is the most powerful person to be prosecuted in modern times. He is certainly among the richest.

He headed up the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico, which became the world’s most powerful drug trafficking gang and dominated the heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine trade into the US.

The cartel made up to $3bn (£2.3bn) a year and had influence in at least 50 countries.

El Chapo escaped twice from prison and was finally caught in 2016, then extradited to the US. He’s also accused of being behind the killing of rivals and witnesses, so security in court will be extremely tight.

Bolsonaro Makes Judge Who Jailed Lula His New Justice Minister

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘DAILY BEAST’ NEWS)

 

1. PAYBACK

Bolsonaro Makes Judge Who Jailed Lula His New Justice Minister

Rafael Marchante/Reuters

Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro made the judge who ousted the previous president his new justice minister, BBC News reports. Sergio Moro, a judge whose corruption investigation took down ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, reportedly accepted Bolsonaro’s offer to lead the justice ministry on Thursday. “Federal Judge Sergio Moro has accepted our invitation to be minister of justice and public security,” Bolsonaro reportedly tweeted. “His anti-corruption, anti-organized crime agenda and his respect for the constitution and the law will be our guiding principle!” Moro reportedly led a major investigation known as Operation Car Wash, which probed alleged bribes between officials and the state oil company Petrobras. Lula was reportedly the frontrunner in Brazil’s election until he was accused of corruption as a result of the probe. He was subsequently handed a 12-year prison sentence last April. While the investigation implicated many officials, Moro was reportedly accused of “disproportionately targeting left-wing politicians.”

India: More Than 50 Dead As Train Mows Down Crowd During Hindu Festival

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Amritsar: Scores dead as train mows down crowd

Media caption Crowds celebrate Hindu festival near Amritsar

More than 50 people have been killed and 200 hurt after a train ran into a crowd near Amritsar in India’s northern Punjab state, police told the BBC.

The victims were standing on the railway tracks watching celebrations for the Hindu festival of Dusshera, eyewitnesses told BBC Punjabi.

They did not hear the train approach as they watched a firecracker-filled effigy of the demon king Ravana burn.

Officials said the priority now was to take the injured to local hospitals.

Footage posted to social media showed the fast-travelling train hitting the crowd.

The incident happened at about 18:30 local time (13:00 GMT), said local journalist Ravinder Singh Robin.

Just moments before, crowds watching the firecrackers show were asked by organizers to move back – towards the railway tracks, reports say.

The train that hit the crowds was travelling from Jalandhar to Amritsar.

Crowds celebrating the Hindu festival near Amritsar, India. Photo: 19 October 2019Image copyright BBC/RAVINDER SINGH ROBIN
Image caption The incident happened as crowds were celebrating a Hindu festival

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh described the incident as “absolutely tragic”, and wrote in a tweet that local authorities were being “mobilized”.

“We will do everything possible to assist the injured,” he said, adding: “[I] have directed the district administration to leave no stone unturned to ensure the best possible treatment for them.”

Mourning relatives near Amritsar, India. Photo: 19 October 2018Image copyright EPA
Image caption Relatives of the victims and witnesses were visibly distressed following the incident

Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the incident as “heart-wrenching”.

There are fears that the death toll will rise further.

Train accidents are fairly common in India, where much of the railway equipment is out of date.

Presentational white space

Dusshera festival

An effigy of demon king Ravana is set on fire in Delhi, India. Photo: 19 October 2018Image copyright EPA
  • Celebrates the triumph of the Hindu god Rama over the 10-headed demon king Ravana
  • Marks the victory of good over evil
  • In large parts of India it is celebrated with Ramlila – a dramatic folk re-enactment of the 10-day battle
  • Staged annually – often over 10 or more successive nights
  • Festival culminates with devotees burning effigies of Ravana which are lit with firecrackers in open grounds
  • In 2005, UNESCO recognized the tradition of Ramlila as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”
map

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Uganda landslide near Mount Elgon kills more than 30

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Uganda landslide near Mount Elgon kills more than 30

A torrent of mud and water swept houses away

A landslide following heavy rains in eastern Uganda has killed more than 30 people.

It is feared that the death toll could rise as a government rescue team reaches the Mount Elgon area.

A river burst its banks and a torrent of mud and water swept villages away. Pictures from the scene show people retrieving bodies from the mud and carrying them away.

A landslide in the same region, Bududa, killed more than 300 people in 2010.

It is a mountainous place with volcanic soils that are rich for agriculture, but it is also densely populated, which puts a lot of pressure on arable land, reports the BBC’s Patience Atuhaire in the capital, Kampala.

Image caption Bududa has fertile soils which draw people to the area despite the dangers

After previous disasters, people have been told to move away but many return because of the fertility of the land and their attachment to their ancestral home.

The Uganda Red Cross says that 36 bodies have been recovered, but a local official quoted by the Daily Monitor newspaper has said 40 bodies have been found so far.

“When the water flowed down it brought a number of big stones with it that destroyed people’s houses,” Red Cross spokeswoman Irene Nakasiita told AFP news agency.

The prime minister’s office has sent a team to assist with the search and recovery efforts, which were set to continue on Friday in the difficult hilly terrain.

Map showing location of Elgon

Related Topics

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  • Video Uganda mudslides: Why do villagers move back?
    2 May 2018

Africa

Iran city mocked for billboard featuring Israeli soldiers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

(CAN ANYONE TELL ME WHAT THE POEM ON THE BILLBOARD SAYS, THAT ‘COULD’ MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN WHY THE THREE ISRAELI SOLDIERS PICTURE WAS USED, I AM NOT SAYING IT IS, I AM SAYING IT COULD.)

Iran city mocked for billboard featuring Israeli soldiers

Photo posted by @mhrezaa on Twitter purportedly showing a billboard in Shiraz, Iran, that features three Israeli soldiers (26 September 2018)Image copyright TWITTER/@MHREZAA
Image caption In the billboard, the Israeli soldiers appeared next to a quote from a Persian poem

The council leader in the Iranian city of Shiraz has ordered an investigation after Israeli soldiers featured on a billboard marking the Iran-Iraq war.

The billboard used a photo shopped picture showing the backs of three male soldiers standing on a rocky outcrop.

After it was put up in a square in central Shiraz this week, people noticed the men were wearing Israeli uniforms and carrying M-16 rifles.

It also emerged that a female soldier was cropped out of the original photo.

Ever since Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, the country’s leaders have called for Israel’s elimination. They reject Israel’s right to exist, considering it an illegitimate occupier of Muslim land.

Pictures of the controversial billboard commemorating the 1980-88 war between Iran and Iraq first appeared online on Wednesday.

One Twitter user, @mhrezaa, wrote: “I felt burnt when I saw this billboard in the middle of Sacred Defense Week.”

“M-16 guns, straps, clothes, hat on their shoulders; all of these belong to Zionists. In the best case scenario I can say you did something idiotic.”

The Israeli foreign ministry’s Persian Twitter account also mocked the billboard, and noted that Iranians had posted images showing it being taken down overnight.

On Thursday morning the head of the city council, Seyyed Ahmad Dastgheyb, ordered cultural officials to carry out an urgent investigation, local media reported.

If it was confirmed a picture of soldiers of the “usurper Zionist regime” had been used, he said, it would be “necessary to deal seriously with those responsible”.

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Middle East

EU parliament votes to punish Hungary over ‘breaches’ of core values

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

EU parliament votes to punish Hungary over ‘breaches’ of core values

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses the European Parliament. 11 Sept 2018Image copyrightEPA
Image caption Viktor Orban launched an impassioned defense on Tuesday – but it was not enough

The European Parliament has voted to pursue unprecedented disciplinary action against Hungary over alleged breaches of the EU’s core values.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government has been accused of attacks on the media, minorities, and the rule of law – charges which he denies.

More than two-thirds of MEPs backed the censure motion – the first such vote against a member state under EU rules.

If also approved by national leaders, Hungary could face punitive measures.

The ultimate sanction, the suspension of Hungary’s voting rights, is unlikely as Poland is likely to veto any such move.

The BBC’s Nick Thorpe in Budapest says Mr Orban appears increasingly isolated among European conservatives but is being applauded by nationalist parties.

What is Hungary accused of?

Since coming to power, Mr Orban’s government has taken a hardline stance against immigration. It introduced a law which made it a criminal offence for lawyers and activists to help asylum seekers, under the banner of “facilitating illegal immigration”.

But there have also been reports of pressure being put on the courts and the electoral system, and of widespread corruption.

After the vote, the European Parliament said it was also concerned about:

  • The constitutional and electoral system
  • Privacy and data protection
  • Freedom of expression and religion
  • Academic freedom and freedom of association
  • Equal rights, particularly for refugees and minorities such as Roma and Jews

Mr Orban addressed the parliament on Tuesday in defence of his government, labelling the threat of censure as a form of “blackmail” and an insult to Hungary.

Rapporteur Judith Sargentini is congratulated after members of the European Parliament took part in a vote on the situation in HungaryImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionJudith Sargentini, author of the report on Hungary, was applauded by many MEPs after the vote

He claimed a report by Dutch Greens MEP Judith Sargentini was an “abuse of power”, and included “serious factual misrepresentations”.

Ms Sargentini’s report into Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party alleged such actions were “a clear breach of the values of our union”.

Grey lines

Centre-right split over Hungary action

Analysis by BBC Brussels reporter Adam Fleming

The opposition to Viktor Orban received a boost last night when Manfred Weber, leader of the European Parliament’s centre-right group the European People’s Party (EPP), lost patience with his erstwhile ally and announced he would vote to trigger Article 7.

But it has created a split within the EPP because Forza Italia, some Bulgarians, a few Germans and assorted others gave their backing to Budapest.

Most British Conservative MEPs supported the Hungarian government, arguing that the EU had intruded into purely national matters. They strongly deny it was to secure Hungary’s support in the Brexit process or out of admiration for the country’s leader.

However, this episode might not bother Mr Orban at all, as it boosts his image back home as a scourge of the European establishment.

Grey lines

What could happen now?

Under an EU rule called Article 7, breaching the union’s founding principles can lead to the suspension of a member state’s rights as a punitive measure.

However, Hungary is currently facing “preventative” measures, which the parliament says are designed to avoid sanctions entirely.

The BBC Reality Check team has explained the Article 7 process in detail. Broadly, the decision on Hungary will now be referred to the heads of the 28 EU member states to consider.

However, because this step has never been taken before, it is not clear what will happen next, or when.

Suspension of Hungary’s voting rights is the most serious possible consequence – but is considered unlikely.

Poland is also facing disciplinary proceedings, launched by the European Commission in December last year. The case has yet to reach the European Parliament.

What has the reaction been?

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto reacted angrily to the vote, calling it the “petty revenge” of “pro-immigration” politicians.

Some politicians from other countries also defended Mr Orban’s government. Britain’s Nigel Farage, a pro-Brexit MEP, wrote that the decision demonstrated “the authoritarian grip of the EU”.

Anti-Islam Dutch populist Geert Wilders tweeted: “Hungary is the example for all EU countries and Orban is a hero and deserves the Nobel Prize.”

But Ms Sargentini, who wrote the report on Mr Orban’s government, said the decision sent an important message that the EU would stand up for citizens’ rights.

“Viktor Orban’s government has been leading the charge against European values by silencing independent media, replacing critical judges, and putting academia on a leash,” she said.

“Individuals close to the government have been enriching themselves, their friends and family members at the expense of Hungarian and European taxpayers. The Hungarian people deserve better.”

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto holds a news conference in Budapest, September 12, 2018Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionHungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto reacted angrily to the vote

Amnesty International’s expert on human rights in the EU, Berber Biala-Hettinga, hailed the vote as “historic”.

“The European Parliament rightly stood up for the Hungarian people and for the EU. They made it clear that human rights, the rule of law and democratic values are not up for negotiation,” she said.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, said that he would have voted for the measure if he was an MEP.

“The European Commission is using the tools we have, launching infringement procedures against countries that don’t respect EU law. [I] am in harmony with today’s decision,” he said through a spokeswoman’s Twitter account.

More on this story

  • Hungary pursued by EU over ‘Stop Soros’ migrant law
    19 July 2018
  • Nationalism in heart of Europe needles EU
    23 February 2018
  • Europe migrant crisis: EU court rejects quota challenge
    6 September 2017

Europe

China officials ‘faked water tests with bottled water’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

China officials ‘faked water tests with bottled water’

A row of unbranded plastic water bottlesImage copyright GETTY CREATIVE
Image captionThe officials reportedly faked the data by using bottled water instead of river water

China is sending investigators to Hunan province after local officials were accused of faking data at a water monitoring station, state media report.

The officials are alleged to have placed sensors intended to measure the water quality of Lujiang River inside bottles of mineral water instead.

The river, in Zhuzhou, is badly polluted by sewage water, reports say.

There is widespread suspicion that some local officials and companies in China ignore environmental policies.

The environment ministry says it is investigating in Zhuzhou and “will seriously punish” any “violations”.

One monitoring sensor was even placed in a cup of tea instead of the Lujiang River, Xinhua news agency says.

Water monitoring currently takes place at 2,050 sites in the country, China Daily reports.

The Chinese government has vowed to improve its efforts to monitor and combat pollution – but there continues to be concern about air and water quality in China.

In 2016, one government report said more than 80% of rural wells in the north-east contained water unsafe for drinking.

Meanwhile, a separate 2017 government survey found more than 13,000 companies in China failed to meet environmental standards.

North Korea ‘working on new missiles’, US officials say

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

North Korea ‘working on new missiles’, US officials say

A launch of a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missilesImage copyrightKCNA
Image captionNorth Korea carried out a series of long-range missile tests in 2017

North Korea appears to be building new ballistic missiles despite recent warming ties with the Trump administration, media reports say.

Unnamed US officials told the Washington Post that spy satellites had spotted continuing activity at a site that has produced ballistic missiles.

Reuters news agency quotes an official as saying it is unclear how far the work has gone.

President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in June.

After the first meeting between sitting leaders from the two countries, the two men pledged to work towards denuclearisation. Mr Trump later said North Korea was “no longer a nuclear threat”.

But Mr Trump was criticised at home for making concessions without securing any firm commitment from Mr Kim to end the nuclear and missile programmes.

US President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with North Korea"s leader Kim Jong-un (L) as they sit down for their historic US-North Korea summitImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe two leaders shook hand at a landmark summit in June

What do the latest reports say?

On Monday, the Washington Post newspaper quoted officials as saying North Korea appeared to be building one or two new liquid-fuelled intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) at the Sanumdong facility near the capital, Pyongyang.

The factory is known to have produced the Hwasong-15, the first North Korean ICBM capable of reaching the US.

However, a US official told news agency Reuters that a liquid-fuelled ICBM didn’t “pose nearly the threat that a solid-fuelled one would because they take so long to fuel”.

Reuters also added that satellite imaging showed vehicles moving in and out of the facility, but not the extent of any missile construction.

What are experts saying about this?

These are not the first reports that North Korea may be continuing its weapons programme, casting doubt on the real impact of the summit in Singapore.

Satellite imagery of the Sanumdong facility shows that the site is “active”, Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) told the Washington Post.

“[The facility] is not dead, by any stretch of the imagination,” said Mr Lewis. “We see shipping containers and vehicles coming and going. This is a facility where they build ICBMs and space-launch vehicles.”

Another North Korean expert from MIIS, Melissa Hanham, told the BBC that the facility had “regular traffic in and out of the building”, adding that this “traffic pattern” on the site stayed “about the same through the Panmunjom and Singapore meetings”.

This indicated that there had not been a complete stop in activity during the summit talks.

She also noted that large “brightly coloured containers” also showed up in satellite imagery, saying that “containers similar to these have appeared during previous ICBM inspections by Mr Kim.”

Ms Hanham added that while that experts at MIIS could not “find a way to confirm the [intelligence] leak”, the information has matched evidence from satellite imagery.

What was agreed on in the Singapore summit?

North Korea has carried out a total of six nuclear tests, the most recent of which took place in September last year. It has in the past two years quickly advanced its nuclear programme.

But at their landmark meeting in Singapore, Mr Trump and Mr Kim agreed to work towards the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”.

The signatures of US President Donald Trump and Korean leader Kim Jong-unImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe pair signed a document pledging they would work towards new relations

It’s been unclear what both sides mean by “complete denuclearisation”, and no further details have been released about when or how Pyongyang would renounce its nuclear weapons nor how the process would be verified.

Experts have also cast doubt on whether Pyongyang has been genuine in its apparent commitment to “denuclearise”.

Last week, it appeared North Korea had begun dismantling part of a key rocket launch site, but according to recent reports based on US intelligence leaks, Pyongyang might still secretly be continuing its nuclear weapons programme.

Reports had indicated that North Korea was upgrading its only official nuclear enrichment site, and was stepping up enrichment at other secret sites.

Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was forced to admit that North Korea was continuing to produce nuclear fissile material, though he insisted that “progress is happening”.