collapse of Mt. Gox, a Tokyo-based virtual currency exchange that declared bankruptcy in 2014 after huge, unexplained losses of Bitcoin.

If cryptocurrency prices do not recover, “a lot of them will have to go back to work again,” Clinton Donnelly, an American tax lawyer specializing in cryptocurrencies, said of some of those gathered at Bam Bam.

Even so, Mr. Donnelly and other bar regulars said their belief in crypto remained unshaken.

Thomas Roessler, wearing a black Bitcoin shirt and drinking a beer “inspired by” the currency, said he had come with his wife and two young children to decide whether to move to Portugal from Germany. He first invested in Bitcoin in 2014 and, more recently, sold a small rental apartment in Germany to invest even more.

Mr. Roessler was concerned about the drop in crypto values but said he was convinced the market would rebound. Moving to Portugal could lower his taxes and give his family the chance to buy affordable property in a warm climate, he said. They had come to the bar to learn from others who had made the move.

“We have not met a lot of people who live this way,” Mr. Roessler said. Then he bought another round of drinks and paid for them with Bitcoin.

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Russia Begins Orchestrating Staged Voting in Occupied Territories

Credit…Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine — Moscow began orchestrating referendums on joining Russia in areas it occupies in Ukraine on Friday, an effort widely seen as a sham that is expected to culminate in the annexation of an area larger than Portugal.

While the Kremlin has used referendums and annexation in the past to exert its will, the boldness of President Vladimir V. Putin’s gambit in Ukraine far exceeds anything it has tried before. Huge numbers of people have fled the areas that Russia controls, the process has been rushed and referendums are taking place against a backdrop of oppression — with U.N. experts citing evidence of war crimes in a forceful new statement.

The ballots being distributed had one question: Do you wish to secede from Ukraine and create an independent state that will enter the Russian Federation?

“We will be able to make our historic choice,” Kirill Stremousov, a leader of the Russian occupation administration in the southern region of Kherson, said in a statement.

He said the wording on the ballots — in both Ukrainian and Russian — was “in accordance with international law,” but even before the first vote, the referendum plans were met with international condemnation.

President Biden, speaking to the United Nations General Assembly this week, said that “if nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences,” then the global security order established to prevent the horrors of World War II from repeating will be imperiled.

Russian proxy officials in four regions — Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizka in the south — earlier this week announced plans to hold referendums over four days beginning on Friday. Russia controls nearly all of two of the four regions, Luhansk and Kherson, but only a fraction of the other two, Zaporizka and Donetsk.

Ukrainian officials have dismissed the voting as grotesque theater — staging polls in cities laid to waste by Russian forces and abandoned by most residents. President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Ukraine’s allies for their steadfast support and said “the farce” of “sham referenda” would do nothing to change his nation’s fight to drive Russia from Ukraine.

Ukrainian partisans, sometimes working with special operations forces, have blown up warehouses holding ballots and buildings where Russian proxy officials preparing for the vote held meetings..

An explosion rocked the Russian-controlled southern city of Melitopol on Friday morning before the vote got underway. Ivan Fedorov, the exiled mayor, warned residents to stay away from Russian military personnel and equipment.

To give the appearance of widespread participation, minors ages 13 to 17 have been encouraged to vote, the Security Services of Ukraine warned on Thursday.

And Ukrainian officials said that workers were being forced to vote under threat of losing their jobs.

The exiled mayor of the occupied city of Enerhodar, the satellite town of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the south, told residents to stay away from polling stations.

“Stay at home if possible and do not open the door to strangers,” he said in a message posted on Telegram.

Olha, who communicated with friends in Enerhodar on Thursday night and who, like others, did not want to use her full name out of concern for her safety, said preparations had been going on for weeks and that security had been tightened.

“Since yesterday, they do not allow men aged 18 to 35 to leave the city,” she said. “They want to conscript them to the Russian armed forces. And Ukrainians will have to fight against Ukrainians,” she said, stopping short as she broke into tears.

It was a concern expressed repeatedly by residents in occupied areas, as well as by Ukrainian officials: that one of the first consequences of annexation would be conscription of Ukrainians into the Russian military. That is already the case in parts of Luhansk and Donetsk occupied by Russia since 2014.

Andriy, 44, who has friends and relatives in Kherson, said he had spoken with friends who said it wasn’t possible to leave the city because of the referendum. “You know, those who are smart, they sit at home and don’t go anywhere,” he said.

Anna Lukinova and Maria Varenikova contributed reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine.

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Inflation Tightens Its Grip on Europe

At the Saku beer factory in Estonia, the mammoth copper brew kettles sit side by side like household sink plungers stored on a shelf in a manor house for giants. The brewery has been around for 200 years, but this is the first time in memory that the company has planned two price rises — of 10 percent each — in a single year.

And even that double-barreled increase won’t be enough to cover the brewery’s skyrocketing costs, said Jaan Harms, a board member at Saku.

“We are in an environment of increasing inflation, and, of course, energy is by far the main driver,” Mr. Harms said. When its energy contracts run out at the end of the summer, the company’s gas costs will rise 400 percent and the electricity bills will double, he said. And because the providers of every product and service they buy are also dealing with soaring fuel prices, those costs are rising as well.

estimates released Wednesday by the European Commission’s statistical office.

3 percent — a level that at the time set off alarms for reaching a decade-long high, but that would now be greeted with relief.

European Central Bank is scheduled to meet, is likely to reinforce the view that interest rates need to be raised again to curb inflation, despite the risk of recession.

Speaking at an economic summit near Jackson, Wyo., over the weekend, Isabel Schnabel, a member of the bank’s executive board, warned that inflation was more persistent than expected and said the bank needed to act “forcefully.”

“Inflation volatility has surged beyond the levels seen during the 1970s,” Ms. Schnabel said, a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine and climate change that is causing widespread drought, wildfires and other extreme weather.

nearly double in October, making it difficult for millions of people to heat their homes this winter.

inflation hit 8.5 percent in July, still high but a decline from the 9.1 percent registered in June as prices for gas, airfares, used cars and hotel rooms fell.

agreement with the European Union to temporarily cap electricity prices at €40 per megawatt-hour. Professors at the Instituto Superior de Engenharia in Lisbon and at Complutense University in Madrid calculated that prices were 15 to 18 percent lower than they would have been without the cap.

Elsewhere in Europe, prices for electricity in August set eye-popping records, according to Rystad Energy, a consultancy in Norway, with an average price of €547 per megawatt-hour.

glass bottles from its Russian supplier after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. Since then, wholesale bottle prices have shot up 20 to 80 percent.

solar panels atop its warehouses and brewery this summer, and it now boasts the country’s largest industrial rooftop solar park. In addition, the thermostats in offices will be lowered by 2 degrees this winter.

The energy crisis has also spurred the brewery to reconsider a proposal it had shelved as too expensive: the construction of a water treatment plant. The energy savings previously were not large enough to justify the cost. “But we are now thinking of doing this because the rules of the game have changed so much,” Mr. Harms said.

Saku’s initial price increase has gone through, but so far, there has not been a drop in sales. Summer vacation is prime season, Mr. Harms said, and when the weather is warm in this northern European country, people spend and drink.

But like the rest of Europe, Estonia is preparing for a dark winter.

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White House Sends Extra Monkeypox Vaccines Ahead Of Pride Events

The White House is sending tens of thousands of monkeypox vaccine doses to areas hosting Labor Day pride events.

Federal and state health officials are sharing their plans to prevent Labor Day pride events from becoming monkeypox super spreaders.

The White House monkeypox response team says they’re sending an extra 6,000 vaccine doses to the Southern Decadence event in New Orleans, 2,400 extra to Pridefest in Oakland, California and 5,500 doses to Atlanta Black Pride in Georgia.

“It was a great opportunity to get folks ready for the event in terms of getting vaccines on the ground early, but also a great opportunity to reach people who don’t feel comfortable in a clinic but do feel comfortable in less stigmatizing spaces that can occur in the events,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, White House national monkeypox response deputy coordinator.

It comes as Texas health officials confirm the first U.S. monkeypox death. They say an adult patient in the Houston area also was severely immunocompromised. An autopsy is expected in the next few weeks.

“Death is possible due to monkeypox but remains rare,” said Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, the CDC’s monkeypox response incident manager.

Anyone can get monkeypox. The World Health Organization and the CDC say gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men make up the majority of the cases.

In the U.S., cases are slowly trending down compared to July.

The WHO say the Americas accounted for 60% of global monkeypox cases in the past month. 

“There are encouraging early signs, as evidenced in France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and other countries that the outbreak may be slowing,” said Hans Kluge, WHO Europe regional director.

Federal officials are cautiously optimistic, but challenges remain, like getting vaccines equally distributed. About 10% of monkeypox vaccine doses have been given to Black people. They account for one-third of U.S. cases, according to the CDC.

The FDA also recently green lit a different method for giving the JYNNEOS shot: underneath the skin, but not as deep in the muscle. Federal officials say that should help get two doses of the vaccine to the 1.6 million people in the U.S. who are most at risk of contracting the virus.

Source: newsy.com

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Winds Drive Major Wildfire In Spain; Portugal Goes On Alert

By Associated Press
August 19, 2022

Efforts to bring it under control Thursday failed and strong winds have made the fire “very aggressive,” the Valencian regional government said.

A wildfire burning out of control in Spain’s eastern province of Valencia has become one of the country’s biggest fires this year, and 35 aircraft were deployed to fight it as the blaze entered its fifth day, authorities said Friday.

The wildfire has already scorched more than 47,000 acres along an 85-mile perimeter. Efforts to bring it under control Thursday failed and strong winds have made the fire “very aggressive,” the Valencian regional government said.

In neighboring Portugal, the government on Friday announced a nationwide three-day state of alert beginning Sunday. Portugal is in the grip of a severe drought and has also seen devastating wildfires this summer.

The measure, which grants authorities special, temporary powers such as barring people from woodlands, is a response to forecasts of inland temps above 104 degrees Fahrenheit beginning Sunday in what could be the country’s third heat wave this summer.

Portuguese Interior Minister José Luís Carneiro said the armed forces would provide extra forest patrols on those days. He also announced that the Civil Protection Agency will get additional funding to hire another 500 firefighters.

In Spain’s Valencia, meanwhile, four people were still hospitalized after suffering severe burns Wednesday when several passengers tried to jump off a train that had stopped and tried to go back amid surrounding flames. The train had inadvertently headed into the fast-spreading wildfire.

Regional government head Ximo Puig has requested a report from the firefighting services to clarify why the train was allowed to proceed through an area that was burning.

Spain has been hit harder than any other European country by forest fires this year, according to the European Commission’s Copernicus Earth observation program. This year, wildfires in Spain have burned four times more land than they did during the last decade.

Up to early August, 43 large wildfires — those affecting at least 1,235 acres — were recorded in the Mediterranean country, while the average in previous years was 11.

The European Forest Fire Information System estimates Spain has seen 704,000 acres burn this year — four times higher than the average since records began in 2006.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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European Drought Dries Up Rivers, Kills Fish, Shrivels Crops

By Associated Press
August 12, 2022

The European Commission’s Joint Research Center warned that drought conditions will get worse and potentially affect 47% of the continent.

Once, a river ran through it. Now, white dust and thousands of dead fish cover the wide trench that winds amid rows of trees in France’s Burgundy region in what was the Tille River in the village of Lux.

From dry and cracked reservoirs in Spain to falling water levels on major arteries like the Danube, the Rhine and the Po, an unprecedented drought is afflicting nearly half of Europe. It is damaging farm economies, forcing water restrictions, causing wildfires and threatening aquatic species.

There has been no significant rainfall for almost two months in the continent’s western, central and southern regions. In typically rainy Britain, the government officially declared a drought across southern and central England on Friday amid one of the hottest and driest summers on record.

And Europe’s dry period is expected to continue in what experts say could be the worst drought in 500 years.

Climate change is exacerbating conditions as hotter temperatures speed up evaporation, thirsty plants take in more moisture and reduced snowfall in the winter limits supplies of freshwater available for irrigation in the summer. Europe isn’t alone in the crisis, with drought conditions also reported in East Africa, the western United States and northern Mexico.

The European Commission’s Joint Research Center warned this week that drought conditions will get worse and potentially affect 47% of the continent.

The current situation is the result of long periods of dry weather caused by changes in world weather systems, said meteorologist Peter Hoffmann of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research near Berlin.

“It’s just that in summer we feel it the most,” he said. “But actually the drought builds up across the year.”

Climate change has lessened the temperature differences between regions, sapping the forces that drive the jet stream, which normally brings wet Atlantic weather to Europe, he said.

A weaker or unstable jet stream can result in unusually hot air coming to Europe from North Africa, leading to prolonged periods of heat. The reverse is also true, when a polar vortex of cold air from the Arctic can cause freezing conditions far south of where it would normally reach.

Hoffmann said observations in recent years have all been at the upper end of what the existing climate models predicted.

The drought has caused some European countries to impose restrictions on water usage, and shipping is endangered on the Rhine and the Danube rivers.

Millions in the U.K. were already barred from watering lawns and gardens under regional “hosepipe bans,” and 15 million more around London will face such a ban shortly.

The Rhine, Germany’s biggest waterway, is forecast to reach critically low levels in the coming days. Authorities say it could become difficult for many large ships to safely navigate the river at the city of Kaub, roughly midway between Koblenz and Mainz.

The drought is also hitting U.K. farmers, who face running out of irrigation water and having to use winter feed for animals because of a lack of grass. The Rivers Trust charity said England’s chalk streams — which allow underground springs to bubble up through the spongy layer of rock — are drying up, endangering aquatic wildlife like kingfishers and trout.

Even countries like Spain and Portugal, which are used to long periods without rain, have seen major consequences. In the Spanish region of Andalucia, some avocado farmers have had to sacrifice hundreds of trees to save others from wilting as the Vinuela reservoir in Malaga province dropped to only 13% of capacity.

Some European farmers are using water from the tap for their livestock when ponds and streams go dry, using up to 26 gallons a day per cow.

EU corn production is expected to be 12.5 million tons below last year and sunflower production is projected to be 1.6 million tons lower, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Forecasters Trim Hurricane Season Outlook A Bit, Still Busy

By Associated Press
August 4, 2022

NOAA now predicts 14 to 20 named storms instead of its May forecast which was 14 to 21.

This hurricane season may be a tad quieter than forecasters initially thought, but it will still likely be busier than normal, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others predict.

NOAA forecasters Thursday trimmed their hurricane season outlook from a 65% chance for above normal activity to 60% and increased the odds of a normal season from 25% to 30% because of uneven sea surface temperature, including a patch of cooler water off Portugal. Parts of the Atlantic are warmer than normal, but the variability had forecasters “backing off on the higher end” of their predictions, said lead hurricane outlook forecaster Matthew Rosencrans.

The weather agency now predicts 14 to 20 named storms instead of its May forecast which was 14 to 21. The predicted number of hurricanes remains the same at six to 10 while those storms that hit major category of at least 111 mph are now forecast to be three to five instead of three to six. The forecast includes the three tropical storms that formed in June and early July, about average for this time of year, but quieter than the last few years.

An average season has 14 named storms with seven becoming hurricanes and three of those being majors, according to NOAA. There were 21 named storms last year, a record 30 in 2020 and 18 in 2019.

“While the tropics have been relatively quiet over the last month, remember that it only takes one landfalling storm to devastate a community. This is especially critical as we head into what the team here anticipates is likely to be a busy peak of the season,” Rosencrans said in a press briefing.

A persistent La Nina — the natural cooling of parts of the Pacific that changes weather worldwide — weak trade winds and some warmer than normal Atlantic water temperatures still point to a busy season, Rosencrans said. But the patches of cool water, with temperatures closer to normal than originally predicted in some places, “could kind of tamp down on activity,” he said.

Colorado State University, which pioneered hurricane season forecasts, also dialed back its predictions for the season compared to what it said in April. The school now predicts 18 named storms, down from 19, with eight becoming hurricanes, down from nine. Colorado State predicts four major hurricanes, same as it forecast in April.

“I don’t think the season is going to be a dud, but it’s taking its sweet time getting going,” said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach, head of the school’s forecast team.

Klotzbach said this year with its strong La Nina and nearer to average water temperatures seems similar to 1999, 2000, 2011 and last year, which featured a devastating Hurricane Ida that hit Louisiana and sloshed into the Northeast with heavy rain, causing many deaths in the New York-New Jersey region.

“Hopefully, we’ll have no Idas this year, but the overall environment is very similar,” Klotzbach said.

About 90% of Atlantic storms happen from August on. Hurricane season peaks from mid-August to mid-October with the season ending on Nov. 30.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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President Biden Announces Steps To Tackle Climate ‘Emergency’

Pres. Biden made a speech at an ex-coal plant, which embodies the transition to clean energy that he is seeking but has struggled to realize thus far.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced modest new steps to combat climate change and promised more robust action to come, saying, “This is an emergency and I will look at it that way.”

The president stopped short, though, of declaring a formal climate emergency, which Democrats and environmental groups have been seeking after an influential Democratic senator quashed hopes for sweeping legislation to address global warming. President Biden hinted such a step could be coming.

“Let me be clear,” President Biden said. “Climate change is an emergency, and in the coming weeks I’m going to use the power I have as president to turn these words into formal, official government actions through the appropriate proclamations, executive orders and regulatory power that a president possesses.”

President Biden delivered his pledge at a former coal-fired power plant in Massachusetts. The former Brayton Point power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts, is shifting to offshore wind power manufacturing, and President Biden chose it as the embodiment of the transition to clean energy that he is seeking but has struggled to realize in the first 18 months of his presidency.

Executive actions announced Wednesday will bolster the domestic offshore wind industry in the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast, as well as expand efforts to help communities cope with soaring temperatures through programs administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies.

The trip comes as historic temperatures bake Europe and the United States. Temperatures reached 115 degrees in Portugal as wildfires raged in Spain and France, and Britain on Tuesday shattered its record for highest temperature ever registered. At least 60 million Americans could experience triple-digit temperatures over the next several days as cities around the U.S. sweat through more intense and longer-lasting heat waves that scientists blame on global warming.

Calls for a national emergency declaration to address the climate crisis have been rising among activists and Democratic lawmakers after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., last week scuttled talks on a long-delayed legislative package.

White House officials have said the option remains under consideration. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday declined to outline a timetable for a decision aside from saying no such order would be issued this week.

Gina McCarthy, President Biden’s climate adviser, said President Biden is not “shying away” from treating climate as an emergency.

“The president wants to make sure that we’re doing it right, that we’re laying it out, and that we have the time we need to get this worked out,” she told reporters on Air Force One.

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said he was “confident that the president is ultimately ready to do whatever it takes in order to deal with this crisis.”

“I think that he’s made that clear in his statement last Friday, and I think coming to Massachusetts is a further articulation of that goal,” Markey told reporters Tuesday.

An emergency declaration on climate would allow the president to redirect federal resources to bolster renewable energy programs that would help accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. The declaration also could be used as a legal basis to block oil and gas drilling or other projects, although such actions would likely be challenged in court by energy companies or Republican-led states.

Such a declaration would be similar to the one issued by President Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, who declared a national emergency to build a wall on the southern border when lawmakers refused to allocate money for that effort.

President Biden pledged last week to take significant executive actions on climate after monthslong discussions between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., came to a standstill. The West Virginia senator cited stubbornly high inflation as the reason for his hesitation, although he has long protected energy interests in his coal- and gas-producing state.

For now, Manchin has said he will only agree to a legislative package that shores up subsidies to help people buy insurance under the 2010 health care law and allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices that will ultimately lower the cost of pharmaceuticals for consumers.

The White House has indicated it wants Congress to take that deal, and President Biden will address the climate issue on his own.

The former Brayton Point power plant closed in 2017 after burning coal for more than five decades. The plant will now become an offshore wind energy site.

A new report says the U.S. and other major carbon-polluting nations are falling short on pledges to fight climate change. Among the 10 biggest carbon emitters, only the European Union has enacted polices close to or consistent with international goals of limiting warming to just a few more tenths of a degree, according to scientists and experts who track climate action in countries.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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U.K. Weather Turmoil Spurs Calls To Adapt To Climate Change

The country got a break Wednesday from the dry, hot weather that is gripping much of Europe as cooler air moved in from the west.

Britain’s record-breaking heatwave has spurred calls for the government to speed up efforts to adapt to a changing climate, especially after wildfires created the busiest day for London firefighters since bombs rained down on the city during World War II.

The country got a break Wednesday from the dry, hot weather that is gripping much of Europe as cooler air moved in from the west. Forecasters predict London will reach a high of 79 Fahrenheit on Wednesday, down from the national record 104.4 F set Tuesday at Coningsby in eastern England.

Even so, travel was disrupted for a third day as rail operators repaired damage caused by the heat, and firefighters continue to mop up hotspots at the scene of Tuesday’s fires.

Britain needs to prepare for similar heatwaves in the future because manmade carbon emissions have already changed the climate, said Professor Stephen Belcher, chief scientist at the Met Office, the U.K.’s national weather service. Only aggressive emissions reductions will reduce the frequency of such events, he said.

“Everything is still to play for, but we should adapt to the kind of events we saw yesterday as an occasional extreme event,” Baker told the BBC.

Climate scientists have been surprised by the speed at which temperatures in Britain have risen in recent years and the widespread area affected by this week’s event. Thirty-four locations around the U.K. on Tuesday broke the country’s previous record-high temperature of 100 F, set in 2019.

The weather walloped a country where few homes, schools or small businesses have air conditioning and infrastructure such as railroads, highways and airports aren’t designed to cope with such temperatures. Thirteen people, including seven teenage boys, are believed to have died trying to cool off after getting into difficulty in rivers, reservoirs and lakes.

Fifteen fire departments declared major incidents as more than 60 properties around the country were destroyed on Tuesday, Cabinet Office Minister Kit Malthouse told the House of Commons.

One of the biggest fires was in Wennington, a village on the eastern outskirts of London, where a row of houses was destroyed by flames that raced through tinder-dry fields nearby. Resident Tim Stock said he and his wife fled after the house next door caught fire and the blaze rapidly spread.

“It was like a war zone,” he said. “Down the actual main road, all the windows had exploded out, all the roofs had caved, it was like a scene from the Blitz.”

The London Fire Brigade received 2,600 calls Tuesday, compared with the normal figure of about 350, Mayor Sadiq Khan said, adding that it was the department’s busiest day since the World War II. Despite lower temperatures on Wednesday, the fire danger remains high because hot, dry weather has parched grasslands around the city, Khan said.

“Once it catches fire it spreads incredibly fast, like wildfires like you see in movies or in fires in California or in parts of France,” Khan told the BBC.

Phil Gerigan, leader of the National Fire Chiefs Council’s resilience group, said wildfires are an emerging threat tied to climate change that is stretching the capacity of fire departments. Britain may need to expand its capacity to fight wildfires, adding more aerial tankers and helicopters, he told the BBC.

“As we look towards the future, it’s certainly something that the U.K. government and fire and rescue services need to consider,” he said. “Have we got the capability, the assets, to be able to meet what is a significantly emerging demand?”

Wildfires continue to spread destruction in other parts of Europe. Nearly 500 firefighters struggled to contain a large wildfire that threatened hillside suburbs outside Athens for a second day as fires burned across a southern swath of the continent.

A respite from the severe heat helped improve conditions in France, Spain and Portugal, countries that have battled blazes for days.

Britain’s travel network also suffered during the hot weather, with Luton Airport briefly shut down by a heat-damaged runway and trains forced to run at reduced speeds because of concerns the heat would warp rails or interrupt power supplies.

Some disruptions remained Wednesday, with the main train line from London to Edinburgh closed as crews worked to repair power lines and signaling equipment damaged by fire.

Among those stranded was Lee Ball, 46, who was trying to travel with his wife, Libby, and 10-year-old daughter, Amelie, from Worcestershire to London to get to Brussels for an Ed Sheeran concert. Their train was cancelled with less than 30 minutes notice, so they drove to another station — and waited.

“I’ve been up since 4:30 a.m., anxious, trying to get an answer from anywhere we can,” he said.

Communication from the train companies has been “appalling,” he said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Pres. Biden Is Holding Off On Climate Emergency Declaration For Now

On Wednesday, the president will announce other climate actions in Somerset, Massachusetts, but declaring an emergency won’t happen as of now.

President Joe Biden will travel to Massachusetts on Wednesday to promote new efforts to combat climate change, although he will not declare an emergency that would unlock federal resources to deal with the issue despite increasing pressure from climate activists and Democratic lawmakers.

The White House said Tuesday it has not ruled out issuing such a declaration later, which would allow the president to reroute funds to climate efforts without congressional approval. On Wednesday, President Biden will announce other new climate actions when he visits a former coal-fired power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts, which shuttered in 2017 but has since been reborn as an offshore wind power facility.

But since Sen. Joe Manchin hit pause on negotiations over climate spending and taxes last week, the public attention has shifted to a presidential emergency declaration and what the Biden administration could do with the newfound powers.

“It’s not on the table for this week,” Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary, said of a climate emergency declaration. “We are still considering it. I don’t have the upsides or the downsides of it.”

The president has been trying to signal to Democratic voters that he’s aggressively tackling global warming at a time when some of his supporters have despaired about the lack of progress. He has pledged to push forward on his own in the absence of congressional action.

Declaration of a climate emergency would be similar to one issued by former President Donald Trump boosting construction of a southern border wall. It would allow Pres. Biden to redirect spending to accelerate renewable energy such as wind and solar power and speed the nation’s transition away from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. The declaration also could be used as a legal basis to block oil and gas drilling or other projects, although such actions would likely be challenged in court by energy companies or Republican-led states.

The focus on climate action comes amid a heat wave that has seared swaths of Europe, with Britain reaching the highest temperature ever registered in a country ill-prepared for such weather extremes.

The typically temperate nation was just the latest to be walloped by unusually hot, dry weather that has triggered wildfires from Portugal to the Balkans and led to hundreds of heat-related deaths. Images of flames racing toward a French beach and Britons sweltering — even at the seaside — have driven home concerns about climate change.

The president vowed late last week to take robust executive action on climate after Sen. Manchin — who has wielded outsized influence on the president’s legislative agenda because of Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the Senate — hit the brakes on negotiations over proposals for new environmental programs and higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

One of the biggest backers of fossil fuels within the Democratic caucus, Sen. Manchin has blamed persistently high inflation for his hesitation to go along with another spending package. His resistance has enraged other congressional Democrats who have ramped up pressure on Pres. Biden to act on his own on climate.

“I think given the global crisis that we’re facing, given the inability of Congress to address this existential threat, I think the White House has got to use all of the resources and tools that they can,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I) VT, said. “That’s something that I’ve called for, a long time ago.”

Pres. Biden, who served in the Senate for more than three decades, “has been chained to the legislative process, thinking about his past as a senator,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, (D) OR, said at a news conference Monday night. “Now he’s unchained, and he has to go.”

John Podesta, board chairman of the liberal Center for American Progress and a former climate counselor for President Barack Obama, said environmental leaders met with senior White House officials on Friday to discuss policy ideas. Some proposals included ramping up regulations on vehicle emissions and power plants, reinstating a ban on crude oil exports and suspending new leases for oil drilling on federal lands and waters.

“If he’s going to make good on his commitments to do everything he can to bring emissions down, he’s got to pay attention to those critical regulatory issues that are facing him,” Podesta said.

Ben King, an associate director at independent research firm Rhodium Group, said the United States is “nowhere close” to meeting ambitious goals set by Pres. Biden for reducing emissions.

The president escalated the country’s emissions reduction target to at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030. Under current policies in place at the federal and state level, the U.S. is on track to reach a reduction of 24% to 35%, according to the Rhodium Group’s latest analysis.

“Absent meaningful policy action, we’re far off track from meeting the goals that the U.S. is committed to under the Paris accord,” King said, referring to a 2015 global conference on addressing climate change.

Even as Democrats and environmental groups pushed the president to act on his own, some legal scholars questioned whether an emergency declaration on climate change is justified.

“Emergency powers are designed for events such as terrorist attacks, epidemics and natural disasters,’’ said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

Such powers “aren’t intended to address persistent problems, no matter how dire. And they aren’t meant to be an end-run around Congress,’’ Goitein wrote in a op-ed for The Washington Post last year.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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