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Spain fights wildfire on Canary Islands, evacuates 1,000
Sun, August 11, 2019 07:59 EDT
MADRID (AP) — Spanish authorities say a wildfire on the Canary Island of Gran Canaria has burned 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) and has forced the evacuation of 1,000 residents.
The regional government of the Canary Islands said Sunday that 200 firefighters and 10 water-dumping aircraft are working to combat the blaze that started on Saturday for reasons still unknown. Spain’s military emergency unit that specializes in fighting fires has also deployed to the area.
Spanish state broadcaster RTVE says the evacuations were a precaution and no homes have been burned. Televised images have showed a bright fire line consuming the hillside overnight near a town.
The Canary Islands are in the Atlantic Ocean off the western coast of Africa.
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Hearing scheduled for synagogue massacre defendant
Mon, August 12, 2019 01:24 EDT
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A man charged with killing 11 worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue last year has a court hearing Monday.
Authorities say Robert Bowers opened fire with an AR-15 rifle and other weapons during worship services inside Tree of Life synagogue, killing eight men and three women before police shot and wounded him.
Bower allegedly expressed hatred of Jews during the Oct. 27 rampage and later told police that “all these Jews need to die.” It was the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.
Federal prosecutors and the defense will be in court to review the progress of the case. Prosecutors have not made a final decision on whether to seek the death penalty.
Bowers has pleaded not guilty to hate crimes and other offenses.
He’s not expected to be in court.
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AP: States brace for long-term flood fight as damages
By DAVID A. LIEB | Sun, August 11, 2019 08:42 EDT
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — After devastating flooding this year, Iowa put $15 million into a special fund to help local governments recover and guard against future floods. Missouri allotted more money to fight rising waters, including $2 million to help buy a moveable floodwall for a historic Mississippi River town that’s faced flooding in all but one of the past 20 years.
In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced $10 million to repair damaged levees while creating a task force to study a system that in some places has fallen into disrepair though years of neglect.
The states’ efforts may turn out to be only down payments on what is shaping up as a long-term battle against floods, which are forecast to become more frequent and destructive as global temperatures rise.
“What is going on in the country right now is that we are having basically an awakening to the necessity and importance of waterway infrastructure,” said Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert, a Republican who has been pushing to improve the state’s levees.
The movement is motivated not just by this year’s major floods in the Midwest, but by more than a decade of repeated flooding from intense storms such as Hurricane Harvey, which dumped 60 inches of rain on southeastern Texas in 2017. In November, Texas voters will decide whether to create a constitutionally dedicated fund for flood-control projects, jump-started with $793 million from state savings.
For years, states have relied heavily on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay the bulk of recovery efforts for damaged public infrastructure. While that remains the case, more states have been debating ways to supplement federal dollars with their own money dedicated not just to rebuilding but also to avoiding future flood damage. Those efforts may include relocating homes , elevating roads and bridges, strengthening levees and creating natural wetlands that could divert floodwaters from the places where people live and work.
“There are states who are realizing that they have an obligation to step up here, that flooding is really a state and local problem, and the federal taxpayer is not going to totally bail us out. We need to be thinking ahead and helping ourselves,” said Larry Larson, a former director and senior policy adviser for the Association of State Floodplain Managers.
Although President Donald Trump has expressed doubt about climate change, even calling it a hoax, a National Climate Assessment released last year by the White House warned that natural disasters in the U.S. are worsening because of global warming. The report cited a growing frequency and intensity of storms, heat waves, droughts and rising sea levels.
Instead of pointing at climate change, governors and lawmakers in some Midwestern states have blamed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for worsening floods by the way it manages water along its network of dams.
Preliminary assessments compiled by The Associated Press have identified about $1.2 billion in damage to roads, bridges, buildings, utilities and other public infrastructure in 24 states from the floods, storms and tornadoes that occurred during the first half of 2019. Those states also have incurred costs of about $175 million in emergency response efforts and debris cleanup.
In addition, an AP survey of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers districts found that this year’s floodwaters breached levees in about 250 locations in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Some levees crumbled in multiple spots, including one near Missouri’s capital city that inundated the airport. When it’s rebuilt, the floor of a new airport terminal will have to be 11 feet higher to meet federal flood-plain regulations, said Jefferson City Public Works Director Matt Morasch.
The Army Corps estimates that levee repairs could top $1 billion in the Missouri River basin, where most of the breaches occurred.
The nation’s disaster costs for public infrastructure will undoubtedly rise throughout the year. The Army Corps has yet to inspect all the damaged levees, officials in Illinois, Louisiana and elsewhere are still assessing damage to their flooded infrastructure, and the annual hurricane season is just getting underway.
Beyond that, the AP’s preliminary figures do not include damage caused by wildfires, which have become increasingly destructive in Western states.
The AP’s research shows that Nebraska was one of the states hardest hit by the flooding, with a preliminary assessment of about $435 million in damage to roads, bridges, utilities and other public infrastructure from a March storm . Rain fell on a still frozen terrain, causing a sudden snow melt that sent huge chunks of ice barreling down swollen rivers.
Nebraska has a regional network of Natural Resource Districts that could direct local money toward flood protection. Like most states, it also budgets money to pay the state’s share of FEMA disaster recovery projects, and the state plans to hire a contractor to help develop a long-term recovery plan.
But until now, the state has not had a coordinated strategy for taking steps to reduce flooding risks, said Bryan Tuma, who leads the daily operations of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency.
Only a few Midwestern states have pumped much of their own money into flood prevention.
Minnesota created a grant program in 1987 that has since awarded almost $525 million to local projects.
After extensive flooding in 2011, Iowa launched a unique program that lets local governments keep a portion of their growth in state sales tax revenue to help finance levees, floodwalls and other projects designed to hold back rising waters. The state expects to forgo nearly $600 million of revenue over 20 years to help pay for nearly $1.4 billion of projects in 10 cities. But applications for that program closed several years ago, leading Iowa legislators this year to put $15 million into a separate fund to pay for flood prevention and recovery.
“As a state and, I think as a nation, we’re finally starting to get there — recognizing that making an investment in mitigation pays off in itself over the course of time,” said John Benson, chief of staff for the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
In Texas, the proposed constitutional amendment creating a $793 million flood infrastructure fund is part of a broader package. Among other things, lawmakers appropriated $638 million to help local governments pay their share of FEMA recovery and flood-protection projects, and $47 million to update or develop flood-risk maps.
Sponsoring Rep. Dade Phelan, a Republican whose district was swamped by Hurricane Harvey, said too many cities, counties and drainage districts have been going it alone instead of working together on regional flood-management plans. The scattered approach has resulted in “roads that act like dams” and neighborhoods built in flood zones, he said.
“There’s never been an opportunity like there is now to have everyone sit down and do a cooperative, holistic approach to flooding in a particular watershed,” Phelan said.
In Arkansas, Rapert began pursuing better levee policies four years ago, after flooding on his farmland along the Arkansas River.
The lawmaker discovered that the nearby levee hadn’t been repaired after a 1990 breach and that its governing board was defunct. So he sponsored a law allowing local officials to re-establish dormant levee boards and requiring annual reports to be sent to the state. Although Rapert’s local levee got fixed, he said most of the districts haven’t filed reports, raising questions about whether their levees are being maintained.
“Until there’s a flood, nobody really cares about levees. But when there’s a flood, everybody’s worried about them,” said Jason Trantina, a farmer and convenience store owner near Conway, Arkansas, who was appointed president of Rapert’s local levee district when it was re-formed.
The improved levee worked this year, until it was finally overtopped by floodwaters that swamped Trantina’s business.
Like his counterpart in Arkansas, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson also has appointed a task force to examine the state’s levee system, explore ways of better managing flood waters and prioritize state funding for flood recovery.
Parson also signed a budget that includes $2 million for a moveable floodwall in Clarksville, a rural community of about 450 with a 19th century downtown that has been fighting an annual battle against the Mississippi River. After selling the town’s visitor center to finance flood-fighting efforts, the town is again short on money and still needs additional grants to buy the $4.5 million floodwall.
“We have spent and spent and spent money that we don’t have trying to defend against the flood,” Clarksville Mayor Jo Anne Smiley said. “In my judgment, this is the answer to the survival of this town.”
Follow David A. Lieb at: http://twitter.com/DavidALieb
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Escaped Tennessee inmate captured after 5-day manhunt
By JOHN RABY | Sun, August 11, 2019 06:00 EDT
A Tennessee convict suspected of killing a corrections administrator before escaping prison on a tractor was captured Sunday seven hours after homeowners recognized him on their outdoor surveillance camera, authorities said.
Curtis Ray Watson put his hands up and was arrested as he came out of a soybean field Sunday in the west Tennessee community of Henning, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch said at a news conference. The capture ended a five-day manhunt.
The field is 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the prison Watson escaped from Wednesday and near a home where he was seen on a surveillance camera earlier Sunday, Rausch said. The homeowners called police after one of them recognized Watson from police-issued photos.
Photos provided by the residents’ camera show Watson, 41, dressed in camouflage bib overalls and a hat and carrying a camp backpack. Dozens of officers mobilized in the area after the sighting.
“He had made the comment that he knew he wasn’t getting away because of the number of law enforcement,” Rausch said.
Lauderdale County District Attorney Mark Davidson said Watson will be arraigned this week on charges of first-degree murder, especially aggravated burglary, aggravated sexual battery and escape. Davidson said the death penalty will be under consideration.
“I can assure you that our office will be resolved to see that he is put back where he can never escape again and harm anybody in our communities,” Davidson said.
Watson was on lawn mowing duty when the TBI says he sexually assaulted and strangled a Department of Corrections administrator employee at her home Wednesday at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary.
TBI said Watson escaped prison grounds, and the tractor was found nearby. Authorities launched an intense manhunt after Debra Johnson’s body was found with a cord wrapped around her neck Wednesday morning.
Rewards totaling $57,000 were offered for information leading to Watson’s arrest.
“Tremendous news that this fugitive is back in custody,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said on Twitter.
Watson was discovered missing about 11 a.m. Wednesday, several hours after he was seen near the house where the 64-year-old Johnson lived on prison grounds.
According to a TBI affidavit, Watson had been released temporarily for mowing duties at 7 a.m. earlier that day, and had access to a golf cart and a tractor. As a “trusty” at the prison, he was allowed to use the equipment and had to wear a reflective vest while working on prison grounds.
Phone records show Johnson was talking on the phone at 8:10 a.m., just 20 minutes before corrections workers saw Watson in a golf cart at her house, according to the affidavit. He drove away from the prison sometime between 9 and 10 a.m. on a tractor, the affidavit said.
When Johnson didn’t show up for work, co-workers discovered Johnson’s body at her home at 11:30 a.m., according to the affidavit. The medical examiner declared her death a homicide by strangulation, the affidavit said.
Watson had been serving a 15-year sentence after pleading guilty to especially aggravated kidnapping in Henry County. Watson illegally confined his wife while using an aluminum baseball bat in July 2012, court documents showed. His sentence began in 2013 and was set to expire in 2025, officials said.
Watson had previously been convicted of aggravated child abuse in Carroll County. His sentence in that case expired in 2011, officials said.
Chopra said she was not fond of war but called herself ‘patriotic’ [John Sciulli/AFP] Indian actress Priyanka Chopra has been branded a hypocrite over a tweet she posted in February amid escalating tensions between neighbours India and Pakistan.
The incident, which was widely shared online, took place during a cosmetics event on Saturday in the US city of Los Angeles when audience member Ayesha Malik accused Chopra, who was appointed a United Nations goodwill ambassador in 2016, of “encouraging nuclear war against Pakistan”.
“My friend and I were walking around and we walked by Priyanka’s talk,” Malik, a US citizen of Pakistani origin, told Al Jazeera on Monday. “We did not want to watch or stick around but I heard her start talking about how she’s a humanitarian – she said we should ‘love our neighbours’ and I just thought that was very funny of her to say.”
Priyanka Chopra tweeted during a time when we were this 👌🏽 close to sending nukes to one another. Instead of advocating for peace she tweeted in support of the Indian army pic.twitter.com/LhbMkOW59v
— Ayesha Malik (@Spishaa) August 11, 2019 In the video of the confrontation that was posted on Twitter, Malik is heard saying: “It was kind of hard hearing you talk about humanity, because as your neighbour, a Pakistani, I know you are a bit of a hypocrite, because you tweeted on February 26, ‘Jai Hind [Hail India] #IndianArmedForces””.
“You are a UNICEF (Goodwill) Ambassador for peace and you are encouraging nuclear war against Pakistan, there is no winner in this,” she told Chopra.
The former Miss World posted that tweet soon after Indian fighter jets crossed into Pakistani territory, conducting air raids that r esulted in an escalation in hostilities between the nuclear-armed neighbours. The Indian raids followed a suicide attack in the Indian-administered Kashmir town of Pulwama earlier that month. India blamed Pakistan for the February 14 suicide bombing, a charge the latter denied.
The venue’s security took away the microphone from Malik while she was still speaking.
“Whenever you’re don’t venting”. Sorry, didn’t realize that speaking on a humanitarian crisis was “venting” pic.twitter.com/OqCLgjDNa1
— Ayesha Malik (@Spishaa) August 11, 2019 “I know I’m on the right side of history here. She (Priyanka Chopra) said, ‘stop yelling’. You just saw my mic being taken away, how else are you supposed to hear me if I don’t raise my voice?,” Malik told Al Jazeera.
‘Girl, don’t yell’ Responding to Malik at the cosmetics event, Chopra said she was not fond of war but called herself “patriotic”.
“I’m sorry if I hurt sentiments to people who do love me and have loved me, but I think that all of us have a sort of middle ground that we all have to walk, just like you probably do as well,” the 37-year-old said.
“The way you came at me right now? Girl, don’t yell.
“We’re all here for love. Don’t yell. Don’t embarrass yourself. But we all walk that middle ground, but thank you for your enthusiasm and your question and your voice.”
Jai Hind #IndianArmedForces 🇮🇳 🙏🏽
— PRIYANKA (@priyankachopra) February 26, 2019 Tensions between Indian and Pakistan have been running high over the past week after New Delhi’s Hindu-nationalist government on August 5 revoked Article 370 of India’s constitution , limiting Indian-administered Kashmir’s decision-making powers and eliminating its right to its own constitution.
India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the disputed territory of Kashmir, which both claim in full but administer separate portions of since gaining independence from the British in 1947. A rebellion in Indian-administered Kashmir over the past 30 years has left tens of thousands of people dead.
Comments erupted on social media after the video of the confrontation was posted online, with some supporting Chopra for being “graceful” while others bashing her for dodging the question.
“I appreciate all the support. I want us to have an open dialogue on both sides. War is never the answer. If there are children in danger, why are you on a side that allows that?” Malik said.
War is not something I am really fond of but yes I am Patriotic!!!! – #PriyankaChopra 🇮🇳🙏🏻
I am still not getting this how she became arrogant ? Just because she responded to a question asked in a way it should not have been plus with a haughty tone!! #WeSupportPriyankaChopra pic.twitter.com/I00VtlMGNY
— Shubham Rai (@i_shubhamrai) August 12, 2019 Priyanka Chopra being a UN ambassador is a JOKE. She doesn’t deserve that authority. She ridiculed the Pakistani woman who had the courage to speak aloud and instead of replying with respect, Chopra says “are you done venting?” VENTING. Revoke her of this position.
— s 🍞 (@s190_) August 12, 2019 So @UNICEF is Priyanka Chopra now the peace Ambassdor. Supporter of nuclear war is your Ambassdor. Kindly take notice of this. Time to take action against elements that undermine your vision and cause #Kashmir #FreedomForKashmir #KashmirBleeds
— Hassaan Niazi (@HniaziISF) August 12, 2019 SOURCE: Al Jazeera News