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Star Citizen Devs Angry, Forced to Work Through Life-Threatening Texas Storm

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The devastating snowstorm that hit Texas in mid-February killed at least 70 people and set record cold temperatures all across the state. Insufficiently winterized power infrastructure failed, plunging millions of people into darkness. Houses burned as homeowners attempted to light fires in dirty chimneys. A number of video game companies reached out to help their employees through the rocky time, including EA, Aspyr, Owlchemy, Certain Affinity, and Activision-Blizzard. Cloud Imperium Games also made public claims about helping to support its employees through a difficult time, but multiple people who work at the company have claimed this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Kotaku spoke with six employees at the company. As the storm moved in, a CIG office manager told employees to plan on working extra-long hours to make up for the shutdown, with “this week/weekend as a first option.” The manager continued, “Assuming roads are clear we also can manage a few people in the studio. If all else fails then enter PTO for whatever time you cannot make up.”

If you asked me to pick a game developer I trusted to understand the difficulty of any given task, Cloud Imperium Games would be at the bottom of my list. Image is of Austin following the February storm, from the ESA. CC BY-SA 2.0

CIG employees report organizing among themselves to share tips on surviving the Texas storm even as the head office made no attempt to do so. The company made no effort to distribute aid or information about where to go and what to do if you found yourself in a precarious and previously uncontemplated survival situation. CIG had no response for what employees who could not take PTO were supposed to do.

“I still felt obligated to check in on teams every couple hours,” said one source. “I just felt like I had to do it, even though most people weren’t talking those days. Everyone was just focusing on surviving.”

“I was talking to some other people in the [Austin] office, and apparently, some of the blowback from the other offices is that they were like ‘Oh, they just want a snow day. Why should we give them a snow day?’” another source told Kotaku.

An Amazing Explanation

CIG’s explanation for why its executives had so completely failed to respond to what was happening in Texas arrived in employee inboxes on Feb. 21, after the storm was over. According to management, the reason executives expected business as usual all week is that none of them had been paying attention to the news coming out of Texas.

This is incompetence or gaslighting in its purest form. It was literally impossible to glance at the news and not see something about the catastrophe in Texas that week. Any given individual might be utterly head-down in a project and working like crazy, but the idea that not a single person in the C-suites or their various assistants had the tiniest idea about the size of a disaster affecting one of its development studios implies either complete disengagement from the day-to-day business of running the company or an equally unacceptable inability to prioritize literal employee survival over the need to get a new spaceship texture turned in by Friday. Chris Roberts eventually sent out an email to the entire company stating that no employee pay would be affected by the storm.

Star Citizen has raised $ 31.3 million dollars since November from crowdfunding.

Star Citizen broke its own fundraising records for 2020. Last June, it announced it had raised over $ 300M. Currently, it’s raised over $ 350M. Here’s their funding graph, showing a monthly intake of between $ 3M and $ 16M per month going back to last August. That’s not everything CIG has ever raised; private investment has accounted for at least an additional $ 62M being pumped into the company over time. One estimate puts the total amount raised by CIG between $ 450M and $ 470M to-date. Star Citizen claims 604 developers and the median wage for a game programmer in Austin according to Glassdoor is $ 50,432 and $ 64,355 according to Salary.com. Giving its employees a week of unexpected time off to deal with an incredibly rare emergency was never going to break the corporate bank. Nor was it going to matter to Star Citizen’s release date, given that neither the single-player nor multi-player version of the game have one.

“While I think the company ultimately came to the right decision…CIG’s slow and hesitant response and general lack of communication hit hard for employees that are already low on morale and feel this company doesn’t care about them,” one source told Kotaku. “With all those things on top of a game that feels like it’s coming closer and closer to a gacha for expensive ships and no actual gameplay, useless features being constantly shoved in and removed, where marketing holds absolute power over any other department, employees start to feel disheartened after awhile.”

Feature image by CIG. 

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DeBues-Stafford donates track winnings to help homeless Texans after winter storm

Gabriela DeBues-Stafford was joking Saturday night about losing a bet and having to buy Bowerman Track Club teammate Sinclaire Johnson drinks after winning a women’s 1,500-metre race at the Texas Qualifier. It didn’t take long for the generous runner to make use of $ 750 US in prize money — but not at a local watering hole.

On her way back to the hotel, DeBues-Stafford decided during a phone call with husband Rowan to donate the winnings to Austin Mutual Aid, a citizen volunteer group that provides direct relief and housing to those on the streets.

Two weeks earlier, failing electrical infrastructure led to many Texans losing power, heat, clean water and having little access to food during below-freezing temperatures from Winter Storm Uri. DeBues-Stafford, who had previously donated to AMA, liked the fact the group offered a variety of services and support to the community.

Austin Mutual Aid was launched last March to assist Texans experiencing homelessness in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following Winter Storm Uri, it accepted monetary donations to help the city’s unhoused population while volunteers also collected donations of blankets, coats and non-perishable foods.

“I wasn’t looking at this race as a pay-day,” the Toronto native told CBC Sports, noting Beer Mile Media came in late to sponsor Saturday’s 1,500. “It didn’t feel right to fly in [from Portland, Ore.], make [money] off the hospitality of Austinites devastated by a storm and fly out.

“I thought about Texas and the devastation of the storm a lot in the weeks leading up to the race and feel very lucky the running community was still able to host us at a meet. I’m happy the money will go to rehabilitating the community.”

In an Instagram post, DeBues-Stafford provided details to her followers for a chance to win a pair of Nike shoes, or another Nike item, along with a signed card. The first requirement is to donate any amount to a charity in Texas focused on rehabilitating and uplifting the community.

DeBues-Stafford has set a March 8 deadline after receiving 30 entries in the first 24 hours.

During her short stay in Austin, DeBues-Stafford didn’t have the opportunity to speak with anyone who is unhoused.

“I did see several groups of tents [homeless camps] during drives and runs,” she said, “which unfortunately isn’t uncommon in any city I’ve visited, especially since the start of the pandemic.”

Serious Olympic medal contender

Fortunately, DeBues-Stafford added, she has been in a financial position since 2019 to donate more regularly to organizations. In the past, she has supported the Red Cross Society during the Australian wildfires, Black Legal Action Centre and Black Health Alliance in Toronto, TAIBU Community Health Centre in the Greater Toronto Area, and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada.

On the track, world No. 4 DeBues-Stafford will be a serious medal contender at her second Olympics this summer in Tokyo.

Surprised by the slow pace of Saturday’s race, she clocked a time of 4:10.09 in her first outdoor 1,500 since the world championship final on Oct. 5, 2019 in Doha, Qatar, where the 25-year-old lowered her Canadian record to 3:56.12.

WATCH | DeBues-Stafford runs 3:56.12 PB at 2019 worlds:

Canada’s Gabriela DeBues-Stafford places 6th with a time 3:56.12, Sifan Hassan claims gold. 7:02

DeBues-Stafford pointed out her two previous 1,500s — each indoors in Scotland (4:05.89) and Liévin, France (4:05.27) in February 2020 — were huge disappointments.

She recalled being “burned out emotionally and broken physically” following an [altitude] training camp, too much travel in [2019] and after the Feb. 8 Millrose Games in New York City, where she set Canadian indoor marks in the 1,500 and women’s mile.

“I could barely walk, let alone run, without a limp,” said DeBues-Stafford, who joined the Bowerman group last summer. “I felt so weak and powerless in those races [and it] really hung over my psyche. On top of that, a relapse of Graves’ disease — an autoimmune condition causing the thyroid to become hyperactive — [in the summer of 2020] left me very weak going into the fall.

“Questions like, ‘Will I ever be the same athlete as I was in 2019 [when I set eight national records and 11 personal-best times]’? fuelled anxiety.

“The biggest takeaway [on Saturday] was the relief of feeling strong and in control in a race again,” DeBues-Stafford continued. “I feel like my old self and that is huge for my confidence.”

And when will she get around to buying Johnson drinks?

“Likely sometime after [Johnson’s] race this weekend,” DeBues-Stafford said. “The weather has been very nice in Portland lately, so we’re hoping for an outdoor drink.”

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Tokyo Olympics chief faces storm over comments about women

Derogatory comments about women made earlier in the week by Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee and a former prime minister, could force him to resign.

It’s one more problem the postponed Tokyo Olympics don’t need as organizers and the International Olympic Committee try to pull off the games in the midst of a pandemic. They are to open on July 23.

The organizing committee said Thursday it did not have a statement but expected to have one later in the day.

In an online meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee board of directors earlier in the week, Mori was reported by the daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun saying women talk too much in meetings. His comments have created a storm in Japan where women are grossly under-represented in politics and in board rooms.

In an interview with the Japanese newspaper Mainichi published on Thursday, the 83-year-old Mori apologized and suggested he could resign.

“I had no intention to disrespect women,” Mainichi reported him saying. “I believe I must carry out my responsibility, but if calls for my resignation grow, I may have to resign.”

He added: “It was careless of me, and I would like to apologize.”

WATCH | Understanding the Tokyo Olympics’ pandemic ‘playbook’:

With less than six months to go to the Tokyo Olympics, organizers have said the Games will go on no matter what. Now, they’ve released some preliminary guidelines explaining how that will happen. 1:37

On Tuesday in a online meeting, Asahi reported him saying: “Women are very competitive. When one of them raises her hand, they probably think they have to say something, too. And then everyone says something.”

His comment came when he was asked about the presence of few women on the board of the Japanese Olympic Committee.

“If we are going to have more women directors, someone has remarked, then meetings go on for a long time unless we restrict the comments. I’m not saying who that is.”

The Tokyo Olympics he leads are already swamped with problems.

About 80 per cent of Japanese in polls says the games should be postponed or cancelled in the midst of a pandemic. They also have spoken out on rising costs that may total more than $ 25 billion US to put on these Olympics.

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Indian farmers storm historic Red Fort in Republic Day protests

Thousands of Indian farmers protesting against agricultural reforms overwhelmed police on Tuesday and stormed into the historic Red Fort complex in New Delhi after tearing down barricades and driving tractors through roadblocks.

Police fired tear gas in an unsuccessful bid to force the protesters back. One protester was killed, a witness said, and Delhi police said 86 officers had been injured across the city.

Some of those who scaled the walls of Red Fort carried ceremonial swords, scattering police who tried to prevent them from entering. Footage from Reuters partner ANI showed police jumping from the ramparts to escape. Once inside, the protesters hoisted flags.

Angered by laws they say help large, private buyers at the expense of producers, farmers have camped outside the capital for almost two months, posing one of the biggest challenges to Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he came to power in 2014.

“Modi will hear us now, he will have to hear us now,” said Sukhdev Singh, 55, a farmer from the northern state of Punjab.

The body of one protester draped in an Indian tricolour lay in the street after the tractor he rode overturned in one clash, said a witness, Vishu Arora.

“He died right there,” Arora said.

WATCH | Indian farmers converge on capital to protest reforms:

Thousands of Indian farmers converged on the capital, New Delhi, to continue their lengthy protest against agricultural reforms that they say will cost them money. 1:00

A Reuters witness saw several police and protesters with head injuries following clashes at the Red Fort, from whose ramparts Modi delivers an annual speech.

The government ordered internet services in some parts of the capital to be blocked, according to mobile carrier Vodafone Idea, in an attempt to prevent further unrest.

Breakaway protests condemned

Tens of thousands of farmers began the day in a convoy of tractors festooned with flags along the city’s fringes.

But hundreds of protesters — some on horseback — broke away from approved routes, heading for government buildings in the city centre where the annual Republic Day parade of troops and military hardware was taking place.

They commandeered cranes and used ropes to tear down roadblocks, forcing constables in riot gear to give way, Reuters witnesses said. A second group rode tractors to a traffic junction, also breaching barricades after clashes with police.

Police accused those who diverged from the agreed routes of “violence and destruction.”

“They have caused great damage to public property and many police personnel have also been injured,” a police statement said.

Protest organizer Samyukt Kisan Morcha said the groups deviating from set routes did not represent the majority of farmers.

“We also condemn and regret the undesirable and unacceptable events that have taken place today and dissociate ourselves from those indulging in such acts,” the group of farm unions said in a statement.

Amarinder Singh, chief minister of Punjab state where many of the protesters came from, called the clashes “shocking.”

“The violence by some elements is unacceptable,” he said in a tweet. “It’ll negate goodwill generated by peacefully protesting farmers.”

Farmers’ unrest concerns government

Agriculture employs about half of India’s population of 1.3 billion, and unrest among an estimated 150 million landowning farmers worries the government.

Nine rounds of talks with farmers’ unions have failed to end the protests, as farm leaders rejected the government’s offer to delay the laws for 18 months, making a push for repeal instead.


A farmer in New Delhi covers his face to protect himself from tear gas during the protest on Tuesday against controversial farm laws introduced by the government. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters)

“The farm organizations have a very strong hold,” said Ambar Kumar Ghosh, an analyst at New Delhi think-tank the Observer Research Foundation.

“They have the resources to mobilize support, and to continue the protest for a long time. They have also been very successful in keeping the protest really focused.”

India showcases its military hardware with a parade every year on Republic Day, which marks the adoption of its constitution in 1950.

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Senators kick into overdrive to storm past Maple Leafs in season opener

Brady Tkachuk didn’t want to call it a statement win.

But he made it clear the Ottawa Senators — only just emerging from the darkest days of their rebuild — won’t be an easy out in 2021.

And the rest of North Division should probably take notice after Friday.

Tkachuk had a goal and two assists, Matt Murray made 20 saves in his Ottawa debut, and the Senators defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 in their first game in more than 10 months.

WATCH | Sens put 5 past Leafs to win Battle of Ontario:

Ottawa defeats Toronto 5-3, Brady Tkachuk leads the way with 3 points. 0:56

“That’s going to be the way we play,” said Tkachuk, an alternate captain at 21 years of age. “We have a couple other levels to get to.”

Thomas Chabot, Austin Watson, Derek Stepan and Chris Tierney also scored for Ottawa. Josh Norris, with his first NHL points, Drake Batherson and Nikita Zaitsev added two assists each in the first of nine meetings between the Ontario rivals in a pandemic-shortened season.

John Tavares, with a goal and an assist, Zach Hyman and Alexander Kerfoot replied for the Leafs. Frederik Andersen stopped 19 shots for Toronto, which will look to rebound when the teams play the rematch Saturday back inside an empty Canadian Tire Centre because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“With the way the schedule’s set up, you gotta have a short-term memory,” Stepan said. “We got a good win, but we’ve got to put our work boots back on.”

WATCH | Hockey arenas could be a dangerous place during COVID-19 era:

The NHL is back, which is great news for hockey fans — especially those who can’t play indoors these days. We look at the reasons why your local arena could be a dangerous space when it comes to COVID-19. 8:27

The Leafs, widely viewed as Stanley Cup contenders and the betting favourite to win the division, have now given up nine goals through six periods to start the schedule.

“We were just playing a little bit too loose,” said Toronto centre Auston Matthews, whose team led 1-0 and 2-1 before Ottawa exploded with four straight goals. “That’s a team that works hard. They’re not going to go away. That’s on all of us.

“We’ve got to make sure we put our foot on the gas and [have] no mercy.”

Friday’s tilt marked the Senators’ first game in 310 days after they unknowingly took part in the final contest of the 2019-20 regular season March 11 in Los Angeles against the Kings. The league suspended its schedule the following day because of the widening coronavirus pandemic, and 30th-ranked Ottawa wasn’t included in the 24-team summer restart.

“Amazing feeling,” Tkachuk said. “You miss those winning ways.”

Genesis of rebuild

Playing their first home date since March 5 — a stretch of 316 days — the Senators unveiled an off-season roster remake that includes No. 3 overall pick Tim Stutzle, who celebrated both his NHL debut and 19th birthday, Murray, defencemen Erik Gudbranson, Josh Brown and Braydon Coburn, as well as Stepan, Watson, Evgenii Dadonov and Cedric Paquette up front.

The Leafs, Senators and Canada’s other five NHL franchises have been grouped together in the one-time-only North Division for the abbreviated 56-game 2020-21 campaign to avoid cross-border travel into the U.S.

Given where the franchise stands in the genesis of its rebuild, the Senators aren’t expected to challenge for one of the division’s four post-season spots, but showed what’s possible when they compete at a high-level and play with structure.

“The team did a heck of a job keeping them to the outside,” Murray said. “I really liked our effort all the way up and down.”

Stutzle holds own

Picked third in October’s NHL draft, Stutzle is the most-hyped prospect in the nation’s capital since Ottawa drafted Jason Spezza — now in the twilight of his career with the Leafs — second overall back in 2001. Nicknamed “Jimmy” by roommates Tkachuk and Norris, the German forward finished with just over 12 minutes of ice time and one shot.

“Jimmy played well,” Tkachuk said. “He looked really good. Great speed. You can just clearly tell he’s going to be a stud — not only on our team, but throughout the whole league.

“He’s an unbelievable player.”

Tied 1-1 after 20 minutes, the Leafs went ahead at 9:15 of the second when Kerfoot fired a shot through traffic past Murray, who was playing his first game with Ottawa after an off-season trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But the Senators got back even 1:13 later when Tkachuk outmuscled T.J. Brodie to deflect Zaitsev’s effort. Watson then got in on the action at 12:32, ripping a shot in off the crossbar to give Ottawa its first lead.

WATCH | Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson against idea of fans at Sens games:

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches comment after Senators owner Eugene Melnyk backtracks on his request to have fans attend home games. 1:41

Tierney then made it 4-2 at 15:03 when he swatted at a loose puck that glanced in off Brodie as the Leafs, who beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 in overtime Wednesday in their opener, were once again soft in front of Andersen.

Brodie’s miserable night continued when he gave the puck away behind the Toronto net to Stepan in the third. Batherson’s stick broke on his shot, but the puck dribbled to Stepan, who swept Ottawa’s 5-2 goal past Andersen at 6:15.

The Leafs got a power play not long after that, and Tavares snapped his second of the season in off the post just 52 seconds later for Toronto’s second power-play goal of the night and fourth already in 2021, but the visitors were unable to get any closer.

Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe lamented his team’s inability to press after Kerfoot’s goal made it 2-1.

“We lost three or four shifts in a row coming off of that goal,” he said. “If we’re a team that wants to accomplish anything, the game should be over from there. We should be able to take care of the lead and then build on the lead.

“We showed that we’re not there yet.”

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U.S. Congress confirms Biden’s win after pro-Trump rioters storm Capitol

Pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday during a chaotic protest aimed at thwarting a peaceful transfer of power, forcing lawmakers to be rushed from the building and interrupting challenges to Joe Biden’s electoral college victory.

Congress returned later Wednesday after the Capitol was cleared by law enforcement and has now formally certified Biden’s election victory.

Here are the latest developments, including a pledge from the U.S. president — who has for months refused to concede and made baseless allegations of voter fraud — promising an “orderly transition” on Jan. 20.

3:55 a.m. ET: U.S. President Donald Trump said there “will be an orderly transition on January 20th” after Congress concluded the electoral vote count certifying president-elect Joe Biden’s victory and after a day of violence when pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Trump said in a statement tweeted by his social media director Dan Scavino: “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th.”

He went on: “I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again.”

Trump’s account is currently locked by Twitter.

Trump has spent the last two months refusing to concede the election and making baseless allegations of mass voter fraud that have been rejected by dozens of courts and Republican officials, including his former attorney general.

Vice-President Mike Pence presided over the formal session that ended early Thursday morning tallying the electoral college vote.

WATCH | U.S. Congress validates Biden-Harris win:

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence announced the certification of the electoral college vote, confirming Joe Biden’s presidential election victory and Kamala Harris as vice-president. 0:49

3:41 a.m. ET: U.S. Congress formally validated Joe Biden’s presidential election victory on a day that saw a time-honoured ceremony become a nightmare of political terror. 

The House and Senate certified the Democrat’s electoral college win early Thursday after a violent throng of pro-Trump rioters spent hours Wednesday running rampant through the Capitol. A woman was fatally shot, windows were bashed and the mob forced shaken lawmakers and aides to flee the building, shielded by Capitol Police.

The rampage began shortly after President Donald Trump repeated his unfounded claims of election fraud to thousands of rallying demonstrators he’d invited to Washington. Many then surged to the Capitol after he incited them to go there as lawmakers debated the electoral votes.

More than six hours after the violence erupted, lawmakers resumed their session.

Thirteen Republican senators and dozens of Republican representatives had planned to force debate and votes on perhaps six different states’ votes. The assault on the Capitol made some Republicans squeamish about trying to overturn Biden’s win, and challenges were lodged only against Arizona and Pennsylvania. Both efforts lost overwhelmingly.

Biden defeated Trump by 306-232 electoral votes and will be inaugurated on Jan. 20.

WATCH | See how the siege on the U.S. Capitol unfolded: 

CBC News’ David Common breaks down what happened on Capitol Hill on Wednesday and how U.S. President Donald Trump stoked discontent among his supporters before he lost the election. 3:44

3:25 a.m. ET: Republican Sen. Ted Cruz defended his objection to the electoral college results as “the right thing to do.” The Texas senator condemned the violence that erupted as supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in an extraordinary attack over the election outcome.

Cruz led the first challenge to Joe Biden’s defeat of Trump by objecting to Arizona’s results. He sought to have Congress launch a commission to investigate the election. His effort was roundly defeated in the House and Senate.

Cruz said he was confident the country will have a “peaceful and orderly transition of power.”

3:10 a.m. ET: The House joined the Senate in turning aside Republican objections to Pennsylvania’s electoral vote for president-elect Joe Biden. Lawmakers in the House voted 282-138 against the objection as the counting of electoral college votes continued into the early hours of Thursday morning. The Senate shut down the same objection 92-7 just after midnight, and unlike the House, declined to debate before voting.

After a long day dominated by pro-Trump rioters’ deadly storming of the Capitol, it was the second state for which a group of Republicans tried and failed to reverse the will of voters. Some Republican lawmakers have backed President Donald Trump’s bogus claims that the election was fraudulent.

Those objecting to Pennsylvania’s votes included 80 House Republicans and Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, who is considered a potential 2024 presidential contender.

2:20 a.m. ET: A small group of House lawmakers confronted each other early Thursday morning as the congressional count of electoral votes stretched into the wee hours and a Pennsylvania Democrat charged that Republicans had been telling “lies” about his state’s votes.

Rep. Morgan Griffith, a Republican from Virginia., objected after Rep. Conor Lamb, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, said a breach of the Capitol by an angry mob earlier in the day was “inspired by lies, the same lies you are hearing in this room tonight.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shot down the objection, but a few minutes later Republicans and Democrats streamed to the middle aisle, with around a dozen lawmakers getting close to each other and arguing. But the group quickly broke up when Pelosi called for order on the floor.

President Donald Trump has falsely claimed there was widespread fraud in Pennsylvania and other states and Republicans have echoed those claims as they have challenged electoral votes.

WATCH | What happens to Trumpism after Trump? 

U.S. President Donald Trump’s term is almost over, but many expect his brash style of politics, which has come to be known as Trumpism, to be present in the Republican party long after he’s gone. 7:25

12:55 a.m. ET: The Senate quickly killed Republican objections to Pennsylvania’s electoral vote for president-elect Joe Biden.

Senators voted 92-7 after midnight to derail the GOP attempt to overturn Pennsylvania’s support for the Democrat.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believes no other states’ votes will be challenged. That means Congress’s formal certification of Biden’s victory could finish quickly once the House votes on the Pennsylvania challenge.

The Senate rejected the effort to cancel Pennsylvania’s votes without any debate.

Those objecting to Pennsylvania’s votes included 80 House Republicans and Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley, who is considered a potential 2024 presidential contender.

12:15 a.m. ET: Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri have objected to the counting of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes, triggering up to two hours of debate in the House and Senate.

The objections come 11 hours after the congressional count to confirm Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential victory began, and after lawmakers had to evacuate both chambers for several hours to escape a mob that had violently breached the Capitol.

Hawley said last week that he would object to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes, saying Congress should investigate voter fraud. President Donald Trump has falsely said since his defeat that there was widespread fraud in the election.

Biden won Pennsylvania by just over 80,000 votes. Since the Nov. 3 election, Trump and his allies filed at least a half-dozen lawsuits challenging Biden’s win on various grounds, including that many or all of the state’s mail-in ballots were illegal.

The lawsuits failed as judge after judge found no violation of state law or constitutional rights, or no grounds to grant an immediate halt to certifying the election.


A man carries a Confederate battle flag inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, near the entrance to the Senate after breaching security defences. (Mike Theiler/Reuters)

11:20 p.m. ET Wednesday: The House voted overwhelmingly to reject an objection to president-elect Joe Biden’s win in Arizona, joining the Senate in upholding the results of the election there.

The objection failed 303-121 on Wednesday night, with only Republicans voting in support.

Earlier Wednesday, supporters of President Donald Trump breached the U.S. Capitol, forcing a lockdown of the lawmakers and staff inside. Trump has claimed widespread voter fraud to explain away his defeat to Biden, though election officials have said there wasn’t any.

Now that Arizona is out of the way, Congress will reconvene as the joint session and make its way through the rest of the states that have objections.

11:10 p.m. ET Wednesday: Four people died as supporters of President Donald Trump violently occupied the U.S. Capitol. Washington, D.C., Police Chief Robert Contee said the dead on Wednesday included a woman who was shot by the U.S. Capitol Police, as well as three others who died in “medical emergencies.”

Police said both law enforcement and Trump supporters deployed chemical irritants during the hours-long occupation of the Capitol building before it was cleared Wednesday evening by law enforcement.

The woman was shot earlier Wednesday as the mob tried to break through a barricaded door in the Capitol where police were armed on the other side. She was hospitalized with a gunshot wound and later died.

D.C. police officials also said two pipe bombs were recovered, one outside the Democratic National Committee and one outside the Republican National Committee. Police found a cooler from a vehicle that had a long gun and Molotov cocktail on Capitol grounds.

Have questions about what’s happening in U.S. politics? Send us an email at ask@cbc.ca

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Iota weakens to storm in Central America but death toll rises as rain, floods bash region

 Unleashing torrential floods even as it weakened, Storm Iota churned through Central America on Tuesday, causing swollen rivers to burst their banks, flipping roofs onto streets and killing at least nine people across the region.

The strongest storm on record to reach Nicaragua, Iota struck the coast late on Monday, bringing winds of nearly 249 km/h and flooding villages still reeling from the impact of Hurricane Eta two weeks ago.

But by Tuesday night, the winds had fallen to 80 km/h as Iota weakened to a tropical storm but heavy rainfall continued, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Iota was drenching already saturated towns and villages as it moved inland over southern Honduras and as authorities reported many people missing with some of the worst-hit areas still cut off.

“We’re flooded everywhere, the rain lasted almost all night and now it stops for an hour then comes back for two to three hours,” said Marcelo Herrera, mayor of Wampusirpi, a municipality in the interior of northeast Honduras crossed by rivers and streams.


Women walk in the rain brought by Hurricane Iota, in La Lima, Honduras on Tuesday. The Honduran government closed bridges and highways across the country on Tuesday, while opening more than 600 shelters where some 13,000 residents sought refuge. (Delmer Martinez/The Associated Press)

“We need food and water for the population, because we lost our crops with Eta,” he told Reuters.

The Honduran government closed bridges and highways across the country on Tuesday, while opening more than 600 shelters where some 13,000 residents sought refuge.

The double punch of Eta and Iota marked the first time two major hurricanes had formed in the Atlantic basin in November since records began. The Nicaraguan port of Puerto Cabezas, still partly flooded and strewn with debris left by Eta, again bore the brunt of the hit.

Frightened residents huddled in shelters.

“We could die,” said Inocencia Smith at one of the shelters. “There is nothing to eat at all,” she added, noting Eta had destroyed local farms.

Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo said at least six people had died as they were dragged down by raging rivers.

The wind tore the roof off a makeshift hospital. Patients in intensive care were evacuated, including two women who gave birth during the first rains on Monday, the Nicaraguan officials said.

‘In the hands of God’

Two people died on Providencia island, part of Colombia’s Caribbean archipelago near the coast of Central America, after it was clipped by Iota, President Ivan Duque said on Tuesday evening.

Nearly all of the infrastructure on Providencia — home to some 6,000 people — had been damaged or destroyed.

Panama’s government said a person had died in its western Ngabe-Bugle region due to conditions caused by the storm.

A resident of Brus Laguna on the Honduran coast told local radio a boy was killed by a falling tree, although the mayor, Teonela Wood, said she had no reports of fatalities.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said flooding from Iota risked causing disaster after Eta.


Two people died on Providencia island, part of Colombia’s Caribbean archipelago near the coast of Central America, after it was clipped by Iota. In this photo released by the Presidency of Colombia, President Ivan Duque, second left, tours the island on Tuesday. (Nicolas Galeano/Colombia Presidential Press Office/The Associated Press)

“We are very concerned about the potential for deadly landslides in these areas as the soil is already completely saturated,” IFRC spokesman Matthew Cochrane told a media briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

About 100,000 Nicaraguans and Hondurans had been evacuated from their homes, authorities said.

Iota was about 56 kilometres southeast of the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, the NHC said, moving west at 19 km/h where it could provoke “catastrophic flash flooding and mudslides.”

The center added that Iota could dump up to 76 centimetres of rain in some areas.

“We are in the hands of God. If I have to climb up trees, I’ll do it,” said Jaime Cabal Cu, a farmer in Guatemala’s Izabal province. “We don’t have food, but we are going to wait here for the hurricane that we’re asking God to stop from coming.” 

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Cuba braces for storm Eta after deadly toll in Central America

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans began evacuating their homes on Saturday as Tropical Storm Eta neared the Caribbean island’s southern coast, threatening torrential rain and flooding after killing dozens in Central America.

The storm is expected to make landfall in central Cuba overnight, the Cuban meteorology’s office said, warning of winds of 90-110 kkm/h, a storm surge and heavy coastal flooding.

Inundations could be a problem more broadly, it said, given that Cuba was already waterlogged in the wake of recent heavy rains, and Eta could potentially dump more than 30 centimetres of water on the country. Already, outer bands of rain had unleashed 9.5 centimetres of water on eastern Cuba.

Cuban authorities, who are known for preparedness in the face of natural disaster, said that farmers were moving their livestock to secure locations and harvesting as much crop as possible before the storm hit.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said damaging tropical storm-force winds, with hurricane-force winds possible, were expected from Sunday night in the Florida Keys and parts of southern Florida.


A soldier helps a person to cross a flooded street after passage of Eta in La Lima, Honduras, on Saturday. (Jorge Cabrera/Reuters)

Heavy rainfall could also spark flash flooding there, it said.

One of the fiercest storms to hit Central America in years, Eta struck Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday with winds of 241 km/h before weakening to a tropical depression as it moved inland and into neighbouring Honduras and Belize.

Across swaths of the mostly poor countries wedged between Mexico and Colombia, high winds, torrential rains and catastrophic flooding caused deadly mudslides and damaged hundreds if not thousands of homes.

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Tropical storm Eta forms, ties record for most named storms in single Atlantic season

Tropical storm Eta formed in the Caribbean late Saturday, tying the record for most named storms in a single Atlantic hurricane season.

The system reached maximum sustained winds of 65 km/h late Saturday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory. It’s centred 435 kilometres southeast of Kingston, Jamaica.

Forecasters expect Eta to become a hurricane by Monday. The system is forecast to be near the northeastern coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras by Monday night. A hurricane watch was issued for parts of both countries. Eta was moving west at about 24 km/h.

Eta is the 28th named Atlantic storm this season, tying the 2005 record for named storms. However, this is the first time the Greek letter Eta is being used as a storm name; in 2005, after the season ended, meteorologists went back and determined there was a storm that should have gotten a name but didn’t.

Hurricane season still has a month to go, ending Nov. 30. And in 2005, Zeta formed in the end of December.


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Tropical storm Zeta strengthens into hurricane as it heads for Mexico

Tropical storm Zeta strengthened to a hurricane on Monday afternoon as it continued on a track for Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula resorts and was forecast to possibly make U.S. landfall in the central Gulf Coast by midweek. 

Zeta, the earliest ever 27th named storm of the Atlantic season, was about 170 kilometres southeast of Cozumel island Monday afternoon, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It had maximum sustained winds of around 128 km/h.

The hurricane was moving northwest at around 17 km/h after being nearly stationary over the weekend. Zeta was expected to move over the Yucatan Peninsula late Monday before heading into the Gulf of Mexico, where it would approach the U.S. Gulf Coast by Wednesday, forecasters said, though it could weaken by then.

Trees felled by Hurricane Delta barely three weeks earlier still litter parts of Cancun, stacked along roadsides and in parks. There is concern they could become projectiles when Zeta scrapes across the peninsula.

There are still a number of stoplights around the vacation destination that have not been repaired since Delta.

Local authorities are taking the storm seriously, but with a distinctly less alarmed tone than when Delta strengthened to a Category 4 storm off the coast.

Quintana Roo state suspended alcohol sales Monday and Governor Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez said everyone should be off the streets by Monday afternoon.


Beach hotel workers cover doors and windows with plywood as they prepare for the arrival of tropical storm Zeta in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The state government said 71 shelters were being prepared for tourists or residents who might need them. (Tomas Stargardter/AP photo)

Residents were pulling their boats from the water, but the sort of panic buying seen in the run-up to Delta was not evident Monday. 

State officials reported nearly 60,000 tourists in the state as of midweek. The state government said 71 shelters were being readied for tourists or residents who might need them.

Joaquin said he hoped it would not be necessary in most cases to move guests out of their hotels.

The forecast track would have Zeta hitting Cozumel and striking the mainland just south of Playa del Carmen. Delta made landfall Oct. 7 between Playa del Carmen and Cancun with winds of up to 175 km/h.

The government was still handing out aid, including sheet roofing, to Yucatan residents hit by Hurricane Delta and tropical storm Gamma earlier this month.

Zeta had been dawdling Sunday because it was trapped between two strong high pressure systems to the east and west, said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.

The hurricane centre said Zeta could bring 10 to 20 centimetres of rain to Mexico, the Cayman Islands and parts of Cuba before drenching the central U.S. Gulf Coast.

The storm could make landfall anywhere from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, forecasters said.


This satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows tropical storm Zeta on Sunday, Oct. 25. Zeta was trapped between two strong high pressure systems to the east and west over the weekend. (NOAA/NESDIS/STAR/The Associated Press)

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards urged citizens to monitor the storm as the state activated its Crisis Action Team.

Zeta broke the record for the previous earliest 27th Atlantic named storm that formed on Nov. 29, 2005, said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

This year’s season has so many storms that the hurricane centre has turned to the Greek alphabet after running out of assigned names.

Zeta is the furthest into the Greek alphabet the Atlantic storm season has gone.

There was also a tropical storm Zeta in 2005, but that year had 28 storms because meteorologists later went back and found they missed one, which then became an “unnamed named storm,” Klotzbach said.

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