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Impeachment No. 2: Trump’s presidency inches toward ignominious new milestone

Donald Trump’s norm-shattering presidency risks earning ignominious new distinctions over the coming days that will trail him into his post-presidency and far into the afterlife. 

The U.S. president’s political epitaph will carry the legacy of two upcoming votes in the House of Representatives, including on impeachment in the fallout of last week’s mob attack on the U.S. Capitol that he’s accused of inspiring.

Trump will soon likely become the only U.S. president impeached twice; the only president formally targeted for expulsion under the 25th amendment; and, possibly but far less likely, the only president convicted by the Senate and barred from ever seeking office again. 

The first in this series of votes is expected Tuesday night after 7:30 p.m. ET. in the House.

“The president represents an imminent threat to our Constitution, our country and the American people, and he must be removed from office immediately,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said Monday.

The U.S. Capitol, seen behind a new security fence, will witness votes on the 25th amendment Tuesday and impeachment Wednesday. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

“The president’s threat to America is urgent, and so too will be our action.”

Pelosi laid out a two-step plan that begins with a vote on the 25th amendment to the U.S. constitution, enacted in the wake of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

It allows a change in leadership if a body of Congress, the vice president, and more than half the cabinet agree to oust the president. 

Plan A and Plan B

Given the slim chances of Vice-President Mike Pence and the majority of the cabinet turning on the president, Democrats have prepared Plan B for the next day, an article of impeachment to be voted on as early as Wednesday that accuses the president of inciting an insurrection for his role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol last week.

The resolution noted that Trump addressed a rally shortly before his supporters mounted the attack and says he made statements that “encouraged and foreseeably resulted in” the lawless actions at the Capitol. 

Some Republicans say they’re scared of their own supporters. Seen here, the crowd outside the U.S. Capitol last week. (Stephanie Keith/Reuters)

Impeachment appears to have the votes to pass the House, based on its Democratic support alone although it could also attract a few Republicans.

The question many will ask, and Republicans are certainly asking, is: Why now? Trump is slated to leave office in a week and has just promised a peaceful transition.

The main Republican argument against impeachment is that this move will drop a match on a country that’s a political tinder box.

Top Republican pushes back on impeachment

That tinder box already shows signs of blowing — the FBI warns of plans for armed protests across the country; there is chatter on social media about militia attacks; at least 10,000 National Guard troops are being called to the capital; and even the Washington Monument is being shut down amid threats.  

Republicans are urging their rivals to move on, and let President-elect Joe Biden launch his presidency under unifying terms, focused on enacting his own agenda.

Even one Democratic senator thinks this is a poor idea. 

Joe Manchin of West Virginia called this a terrible moment for impeachment: “This is so ill-advised,” Manchin told Fox News. He predicted impeachment would fail again in a Senate trial just like it did last year, and only sour the start of Biden’s presidency.

Democrat Jamie Raskin lost his son to suicide on Dec. 31. He was back at work, co-authoring the impeachment charge against Trump. (Tom Williams/Reuters)

That’s because an impeachment might not even get to a Senate trial until after the presidential transition — raising the question of what difference this now makes.

Two arguments for impeaching now

Impeachment supporters offer two retorts to that.

One is principled; the other practical. 

On the matter of principle, they say the current U.S. president richly deserves this reprimand that will stain his legacy, and say it also establishes necessary boundaries for future presidential behaviour.

Some legal scholars interviewed agreed Trump deserves this sanction.

Joseph Ellis is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who participates in published rankings of the best to worst presidents in history.

“The second impeachment will solidify that certainty that Donald Trump will be listed last [on the lists of best to worst president],” Ellis said.

“Without question Trump is the worst president in American history.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to move immediately with impeachment. (Erin Scott

He said the president, in his opinion, has probably committed five or six known impeachable acts throughout his presidency.

Then there’s a practical reason — and it has more to do with the four-year period ahead of us than the four years we’ve just witnessed.

It’s about whether Trump can be stripped of his political power going forward, a power that stems in part from his ability to run for office again. 

Could strip Trump of ability to run again

It’s notable that the impeachment article drafted by Democratic lawmakers refers to the Constitution’s 14th amendment. Written after the Civil War, it forbade anyone engaged in insurrection from ever again seeking political office.

So if the House impeaches Trump, Senate Republicans will have two hot potatoes to handle.

One is the obvious question of whether to convict Trump. The second, arguably more consequential, question: If the Senate did actually convict him, what penalty would it impose? 

That punishment could include disqualification from future office, which would require a simple majority vote, according to historical precedent in non-presidential impeachment cases.

Don’t automatically assume Senate Republicans will be as supportive of Trump as the last time he was impeached. 

One observer suspects many Washington Republicans would love to bury Trump politically. Legal ethics scholar Clark Cunningham said they would have a variety of motivations for wanting to sideline Trump — including those with their own ambition to run for president in 2024.

“I think very few people in the Senate, including Republicans, want Donald Trump running for president again or exercising substantial leadership in this country,” said Cunningham, a professor of law and ethics at Georgia State University. 

WATCH | There could be violence at Biden’s inauguration, FBI warns:

The FBI warns more violence may be brewing in Washington and all state capitals as Joe Biden’s inauguration looms while experts warn those trying to remove U.S. President Donald Trump from office may be using the wrong approach. 2:52

“I don’t think there’s any question about that.”

That’s why Cunningham thinks Democrats should try building bipartisan consensus however possible, including in the drafting of the impeachment article.

Republican: We’re scared of Trump supporters

He says the current wording is a mistake. Cunningham said proving that someone incited an insurrection is too complicated, hinging on interpretations of the definition of “incitement” and “insurrection.” Cunningham says seditious conspiracy would have been a simpler allegation to prove.

Republicans have another reason to fear going along with this, one that speaks to the gravity of this American political moment.

It involves angering people like that mob that stormed the Capitol. 

A rookie congressman from Michigan, Republican Peter Meijer, wrote in an op-ed about the terror his colleagues face. He said he knows one lawmaker who voted to overturn the election results last Wednesday night out of fear that family members might be harmed.

Meijer, who voted to confirm Biden’s presidency, said: “I have been called a traitor more times than I can count. I regret not bringing my gun to D.C.”

It’s still early to gauge the political effects of last week: some polling suggests Trump’s support has dropped to its lowest level in three years, and that Republicans oppose the Capitol storming, but other polling suggests Republicans overwhelmingly wanted Biden’s win overturned and were split on the riot.

The first dilemma belongs to Trump’s vice-president.

WATCH | Law prof says there are few options to remove Trump from office:

The few constitutional tools available to remove U.S. President Donald Trump from office are unlikely to work, says Lawrence Douglas, a professor of law at Amherst College in Massachusetts, citing the level of co-operation required to use such tools and the short time frame before Trump leaves office. 6:18

Pence received death threats on social media sites, including Twitter and Parler, since presiding over the congressional ceremony certifying Biden’s win. His relationship with Trump is publicly strained.

And if the House of Representatives tonight votes to invoke the 25th amendment, the next move is his, in deciding whether to try getting a majority of the cabinet to boot Trump.

There’s no way that happens, said one law professor who wrote a prescient book before the election on scenarios that might unfold if Trump refused to admit defeat.

Lawrence Douglas told CBC News that he can’t imagine Pence enraging the majority of Republican voters.

“[Maybe] if we lived in a less deformed political landscape,” said the professor at Amherst College.

“I can’t imagine Mike Pence doing that. We need to distinguish between what should happen and what’s going to happen. I really cannot imagine Mike Pence doing that.”

Then it’s on to impeachment — again.

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Canada Soccer condemns ‘hateful,’ racist comments made toward Alphonso Davies, Jordyn Huitema

Canada’s soccer body posted a message on Twitter on Saturday condemning ‘hateful’ racist comments directed toward Canadian national soccer team stars Jordyn Huitema and Alphonso Davies, who are in a relationship.

A photo posted to Huitema’s Instagram account in late August of the two players vacationing in Spain drew a flood of racist comments.

Canada Soccer posted that the organization “stands firm against racism and discrimination of any kind both in the game and around the world. We are appalled with the hateful comments made to members of our players through social media.

“Share love not hate and work together for a better world.”

Canadian national men’s team head coach John Herdman echoed the sentiment, posting a message on Twitter 

“We see the best in human nature from Alphonso/Jordyn two kids I’ve worked with and then the worst with the moronic comments from the small minority of humans that will just never get it. … ” Herdman wrote.

Davies, 20, was named the top Canadian men’s soccer player for 2020 and co-winner of the Lou Marsh last week. This past season he helped his Bayern Munich club capture the German championship and went on to become the first Canadian man to win a Champions League title.

Huitema, 19, signed a four-year deal with Paris Saint-Germain of the French Division 1 Féminine in 2019, and has seven goals in 27 appearances with the club.

WATCH | 2020 showed the whole of sports is greater than the sum of its parts:

Athletes around the world raised a collective voice in an unprecedented show of power. 5:03

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CBC | Sports News

Kershaw shines against Rays to put Dodgers back on course toward World Series glory

Clayton Kershaw’s glittering career lacked two of the most satisfying accomplishments: a win deep in the World Series and a championship ring.

He took the mound Sunday night with the Los Angeles Dodgers shaken, and Kershaw steadied his team with a gritty performance, plus one particular delivery home that will long be remembered.

Now with one more victory, the Dodgers would claim their first title since 1988.

Kershaw beat the Tampa Bay Rays for the second time in six days, escaping a fourth-inning jam with a quick reaction throw to cut down Manuel Margot trying for a rare steal of home, and the Dodgers held on for a 4-2 win and a 3-2 Series lead.

“Well, it’s happened to me before, at least one other time that I can remember,” Kershaw said. “Carlos Gomez tried it against me in Houston one time. You know, I work on that with the first basemen.”

Max Muncy, looking on from first, was ready.

“I was fortunate enough to see one or two guys break hard, so I knew what to expect when he broke,” Muncy said. “I sprinted toward Kersh and said, `Home! Home! Home!'”

Mookie Betts and Corey Seager sparked a two-run first inning, and Joc Pederson and Muncy homered off long-ball prone Tyler Glasnow, whose 100 mph heat got burned.

Joc Pederson of the Dodgers celebrates a solo home run in the second inning. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

His scraggly dark brown hair dangling with sweat, Kershaw was cruising when Dodgers manager Dave Roberts removed the 32-year-old left-hander in favour of Dustin May after getting two outs on two pitches in the sixth inning.

The mostly pro-Dodgers fans in the pandemic-reduced crowd of 11,437 booed when Roberts walked to the mound, well aware of what happened with the bullpen the previous night, when closer Kenley Jansen wasted a ninth-inning lead in a stunning 8-7 loss.

Those boos quickly turned to cheers as the LA rooters saluted Kershaw, a three-time NL Cy Young Award winner, as he walked to the dugout. Kershaw improved to 13-12 in post-season play, including 4-1 this year.

May, Victor Gonzalez and Blake Treinen combined for two-hit scoreless relief. May got five outs, Gonzalez stranded a pair of runners in the eighth by retiring Randy Arozarena and Brandon Lowe on flyouts, and Treinen got three outs to become the fourth Dodgers pitcher with a post-season save.

“Kersh, a lot of credit goes to him for what we’ve been able to do in this World Series,” Treinen said. “There’s a tough narrative on him. He’s a phenomenal pitcher on the biggest stage.”

Los Angeles starter Clayton Kershaw pitched five and-two-third innings on Sunday, setting a new mark for post-season strikeouts with his 206th and then 207th K to become the all-time leader. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Margot singled leading off the ninth, but Austin Meadows struck out, Joey Wendle flied out and Willy Adames struck out.

Thirty of the previous 46 teams to win Game 5 for a 3-2 lead have won the title, but just six of the last 14. Teams that wasted 3-2 leads include last year’s Houston Astros.

Los Angeles did not have an obvious candidate to start Game 6 on Tuesday, when Game 2 winner Blake Snell starts for Tampa Bay,

Walker Buehler, the 26-year-old right-hander who has supplanted Kershaw as the Dodgers’ ace, is waiting in the wings for a a Game 7, like a Hollywood understudy ready for a leading role.

With a 175-76 regular-season record, five ERA titles and an MVP, Kershaw ranks alongside Dodgers greats Sandy Koufax, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser. He won World Series openers in 2017 and again this year, but he faltered in Game 5 in both 2017 and 2018 and has never won a title.

Tampa’s Randy Arozarena hits an RBI-single during the third inning. (Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press )

A Dallas native pitching near his offseason home, Kershaw shut down the Rays on two runs and five hits with six strikeouts and two walks. He is 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA in 15 2/3 innings over two starts in this Series with 14 strikeouts and three walks. Kershaw also set a career post-season record with 207 strikeouts, two more than Justin Verlander’s previous mark.

Provided a 3-0 lead, Kershaw allowed Tampa Bay to pull within a run in the third when Kevin Kiermaier singled, Yandy Diaz tripled on a ball down the right-field line that skipped past Betts and Arozarena’s single. The 25-year-old Cuban rookie asked for the ball after his record 27th post-season hit, one more than San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval in 2014.

“I didn’t have my stuff like I did in Game 1,” Kershaw said. “My slider wasn’t there as good as it was, so fortunate to get through there.”

Kershaw escaped a first-and-third, no-outs jam in the fourth after Margot walked leading off, stole second and continued to third when the ball got away from second baseman Chris Taylor for his second big error in two games. Hunter Renfroe also walked, but Wendle popped out and Adames struck out.

Manuel Margot of the Rays is tagged attempting to steal home by Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes during the fourth inning. (Tony Gutierrez/Associates Press )

With Kiermaier at the plate, Margot bolted for home as Kershaw raised both hands over his head in his instantly recognizable stretch position. While many pitchers might have panicked and perhaps balked, Kershaw coolly and quickly stepped off the rubber and calmly threw to catcher Austin Barnes.

Barnes grabbed the ball and got his mitt down on the Margot’s outstretched hand while the runner’s helmet tumbled off and cut his own lip.

Margot went on his own, manager Kevin Cash said, and became the first runner caught stealing home in the Series since Minnesota’s Shane Mack in Game 4 in 2001.

Globe Life Field’s roof was closed on the cool, rainy night, as it was for Game 3, and the visiting Dodgers broke on top within 10 pitches against Glasnow, a lanky 6-foot-8 right-hander who appeared to be overthrowing.

Glasnow allowed four runs and six hits in five innings, leaving him 0-2 with a 9.64 ERA in the Series. The two home runs raised his total to a record nine in a single post-season.

Betts doubled on a 99 mph fastball leading off and scored two pitches later when Seager pulled a curveball into right field for a single and his 19th post-season RBI. This Series joined 1932 as the only years with runs in four straight top of the first innings.

Randy Arozarena, left, of the Rays gets tagged at second by Chris Taylor of the Los Angeles Dodgers during the third inning. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Seager advanced on a wild pitch, Muncy drew his 20th walk of the post-season and after a two-out wild pitch, Cody Bellinger hit a grounder that was stopped with no play by Lowe, the second baseman positioned on the right field grass. Seager scored the Dodgers’ 58th run with two outs this post-season and became the first player to cross the plate in each of the first five Series games since the Yankees’ Derek Jeter in 2000.

Glasnow tied a Series record with two wild pitches in the 34-pitch inning and set the mark with three in the game.

Pederson hit a 428-foot opposite-field drive to left on a fastball at the letters for a 3-0 lead in the second.

Glasnow retired eight straight before Muncy homered in the fifth to make it 4-2. He became the record ninth Dodgers player to homer in the post-season, one more than the 1989 Oakland Athletics of Bash Brothers fame.

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CBC | Sports News

NBA moves toward late July restart with approval of 22-team format

The NBA’s Board of Governors has approved a 22-team format for restarting the league season in late July at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida, another major step toward getting teams back onto the court and playing games again.

The format calls for each team playing eight games to determine playoff seeding plus the possible utilization of a play-in tournament for the final spot in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference post-season fields, a person familiar with the situation said Thursday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the league had not yet revealed the vote result publicly.

It is the most significant step yet in the process of trying to resume a season that was suspended nearly three months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic. There are numerous other details for the league to continue working through — including finalizing specifics of what the testing plan will be once teams arrive next month at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex and the calculating the financial ramifications of playing a shortened regular season.

Another person, also speaking to AP on condition of anonymity because the details of the ongoing talks have not been publicly released, said the National Basketball Players Association and the NBA are continuing to work on a “lengthy” medical protocols document. The details of that document will be shared with teams once those discussions are completed, said the person, who added that teams should receive them in plenty of time for them to prepare for their arrivals at the Disney-ESPN complex.

If all 22 teams that are going to Disney play their allotted eight games before the post-season begins, the NBA would play 1,059 games in this regular season. That means 171 regular season games would be cancelled, which could cost players around $ 600 million in salary.

ESPN’s Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World in Florida, where the NBA is expected to resume its season in isolation. (The Associated Press)

Those 22 clubs would play somewhere between 71 and 75 regular season games if the Disney portion of the schedule is completed, down from the customary 82-game slate. The teams who didn’t qualify for the restart will see their seasons end after having played somewhere between 64 and 67 games.

But one of the biggest hurdles is now cleared, and if things go according to plan an NBA champion for a season unlike any other will be crowned in October. The season could go into that month if the league goes ahead with its plan for the same playoff rules as usual, that being every round utilizing a best-of-seven format.

Teams are likely to be allowed to open training camps in late June before arriving at the Disney complex around July 7. Once there, camps will continue and teams will likely have the chance to have some scrimmages or “preseason” games against other clubs before the regular season resumes.

WATCH | Sports weigh risk, reward ahead of potential returns:

CBC Sports’ Jamie Strashin details the various return to play scenarios unfolding across the professional sports landscape. 2:52

Thursday’s move by the board of governors — one that came, coincidentally, on the same day this season’s NBA Finals would have started if these were normal times — was largely a formality. The NBA considered countless restart options after suspending the season on March 11, whittled that list down to four possibilities last week and from there the 22-team plan quickly began gaining momentum.

The 22-team plan includes all teams that were holding playoff spots when the season was stopped, plus all other clubs within six games of a post-season berth.

Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston and reigning NBA champion Toronto had already clinched playoff berths. Now with only eight games remaining for each team, it means that eight other clubs — Miami, Indiana, Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Utah, Oklahoma City and Houston — have post-season spots secured, and Dallas virtually has one as well.

That leaves nine teams vying for three remaining playoff berths. In the East, Brooklyn, Orlando and Washington are in the race for two spots. In the West, Memphis, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix will jostle for one spot.

WATCH | When and how could sports return?:

Sports around the world are formulating plans to get back to action, Rob Pizzo rounds up the latest news from each.  3:20

If the gap between eighth place and ninth place in either conference is four games or less when the shortened regular season ends, those teams will go head-to-head for the No. 8 seed. The team in ninth place would have to go 2-0 in a two-game series to win the berth; otherwise, the No. 8 seed would advance to the post-season.

Thursday’s decision also means that the seasons for Atlanta, Cleveland, New York, Golden State, Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago and Charlotte are over. The Knicks will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season, the third-longest current drought in the league behind Sacramento and Phoenix — who still have chances of getting into the playoffs this season.

And with the Hawks not moving on, it also means Vince Carter has almost certainly played the final game of his 22-year NBA career — the longest in league history.

Carter, the first player in NBA history to appear in four different decades, has steadfastly insisted that he is retiring after this season. He appeared in 1,541 NBA games, behind only Robert Parish (1,611) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560) on the league’s all-time list.

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Astronomers Spot Ancient Black Hole Beaming Radiation Toward Earth

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The universe is crawling with black holes — we’ve even taken a picture of one. Despite that, these extreme stellar objects never stop surprising astronomers. A team from the University of Insubria in Italy spotted a supermassive black hole beaming a jet of energetic particles in our direction. That in and of itself isn’t terribly rare, but the age of this black hole is. Analysis suggests this object existed in the earliest years after the big bang, blasting particles at our corner of the universe for billions of years. 

The University of Insubria used data from the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) to discover the black hole, which is known as PSO J030947.49+271757.31. Like other supermassive black holes, this one is at the center of a distant galaxy. There are a few labels that can apply to objects like this. It’s an “active galactic nuclei” because the center is very bright across large swaths of the electromagnetic spectrum. This black hole is a specific class of active nuclei called a blazar. That distinction simply means that the beam of radiation pointed in the direction of the observer, which is all of us on Earth. An active galactic nuclei that isn’t aimed at the observer is known as a quasar.  

The spectrum of PSO J030947 was clearly indicative of a blazar when it appeared in the team’s data. However, the redshift came as a surprise. This object has a redshift value of 6.1, the largest ever observed for a black hole. That tells astronomers that PSO J030947 is about 13 billion light-years away. Therefore, it was out there firing a beam of radiation toward Earth less than a billion years after the big bang. 

This black hole could be a boon for scientists interested in studying the early universe. The beams lancing out through space are a result of matter falling into the accretion disc around the black hole. The signals from blazars like PSO J030947 can carry information about the region of space they call home. According to the team, there could 100 other objects like PSO J030947, but they might all be quasars with beams pointed in different directions. 

The current study focuses on the black hole’s approximate age and location. Additional studies will have to determine how large it is and what the radiation can tell us about the universe 13 billion years ago.

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‘Catastrophe’ looms as displaced Syrians flee toward closed Turkish border

“The children. Thousands of children under the trees.”  

That’s the answer that came crackling back from Dr. Tammam Lodami on the phone from the northern Syrian town of al-Dana when asked for a description of conditions on the ground.  

North of Idlib city and west of Aleppo, the town is caught between a two-pronged advance by Syrian government troops and their Russian backers as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seeks to regain control of the last opposition enclave in the country.  

“This is the case,” Lodami said as he struggled to convey the scale of the crisis he’s witnessing, the arrival of tens of thousands of Syrians displaced by the conflict and headed towards a closed Turkish border with no shelter and temperatures dipping as low as –7 C.  

“My English is humble,” he said. “I want to reach my voice to the world.”  

But very little seems capable of permeating the indifference of the world and that elusive body known as the diplomatic community these days, not even when warnings sound of another possible escalation in a war about to enter its 10th year.  

Dr. Tammam Lodami, a dentist who now works as an administrator for the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations in the northern Syrian town of al-Dana, says the town where he normally practises is overflowing with people displaced from elsewhere in the country. (Submitted by Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations)

“You can consider these days as a catastrophe,” said Lodami, a dentist by trade who now works for the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM).

“Families leave their towns and homes for fear of indiscriminate bombardment. [The Syrian regime forces] target hospitals, medical centres, ambulances, schools, markets and civilians. Everything.”

‘Fastest-growing displacement’

Syria has spent the war systematically corralling rebel opposition fighters, extremist groups, political activists and hundreds of thousands of displaced people into Idlib province.

Now the Assad regime seems to be coming for its opponents, among them al-Qaeda-linked miliants, with Russian airstrikes paving a brutal path for troops on the ground.  

Regime forces began their advance in April 2019,  but it has been picking up steam.  Some 800,000 Syrians have fled their homes in northwestern Syria since early December, according to the UN’s office for humanitarian affairs.

On Tuesday, spokesperson Jens Laerke described it as the largest number of people displaced in a single period since the start of the Syrian crisis almost nine years ago.

It’s “the fastest-growing displacement we’ve ever seen in the country,” he said at a news conference in Geneva.  

An internally displaced girl looks out from a tent in Azaz, Syria, on Thursday. (Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)

It’s not difficult to understand why when faced with the daily images of the damned coming out of Idlib:  relatives weeping over the charred bodies of loved ones killed in airstrikes, White Helmet rescue workers plucking bloodied and crying children out of the rubble.  

Roads leading toward the Turkish border are clogged with vehicles loaded down with families lucky enough to have them or to clamber on carrying what they can.

Many are headed toward Atmeh, a sprawling camp of about one million people along Syria’s still-closed border with Turkey.

‘Emergency conditions’

Dr. Okbaa Jaddou, a pediatrician there, said their hospital has only 40 beds.

“On [these] beds, we put 80 [children] or maybe 120 [children], because [there are]  so many people now,” he said in a Skype interview on Wednesday. “We are operating in emergency conditions.”

Originally from Hama, a city further south, Jaddou has been living at Atma for two years.  

“I was displaced and I [haven’t] found any place more safe than the Syrian-Turkish border because the [Syrian] regime has bombed everywhere.”  

“If the situation [continues], we are going to see a very big crisis on the Turkish-Syrian border.”

Internally displaced people receive bread at a makeshift camp in Azaz, Syria, on Thursday. (Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)

Idlib was supposed to be a “de-escalation zone,” agreed to in a ceasefire deal worked out between Turkey, which supports some rebel groups inside Idlib, and Russia.

An estimated 1,800 civilians, according to new reports, have been killed since then.  

The recent deaths of a number of Turkish soldiers killed by Syrian shelling has raised tensions considerably. Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered troop reinforcements to the border.

Alarm bells

“If there is the smallest injury to our soldiers on the observation posts or other places, I am declaring from here that we will hit the regime forces everywhere from today,” he said to thundering applause in the Turkish parliament, “regardless of the lines of the [ceasefire].”  

The prospect of Syrian and Turkish troops trading fire in a direct confrontation has sounded alarm bells.  

“What we must absolutely prevent is this developing into wider conflict between the Turks, the Syrians and the Russians,” said Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a director of the group Doctors Under Fire and an adviser to NGOs working in Syria.

An ex-soldier and chemical weapons expert, he would like to see NATO countries, including Canada, do more to support Turkey in the current crisis.

But Turkey has also angered Western allies in recent months by moving against Syrian Kurds in the northeast credited with helping allied troops fighting the Islamic State or ISIS.  

Roads leading towards the Turkish border are clogged with vehicles loaded down with families. (Submitted by Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations)

De Bretton-Gordan said the view in the United Kingdom at least is that it shouldn’t get involved until it’s all over and then help to pick up the pieces.  

“You know, I’ve had meetings with British government ministers asking for this but there is a view certainly here in London that the whole of Idlib that’s not under Turkish or Russian control is being run by the Jihadis. That’s just not the case.”  

Doctors on the ground at the Bab al Hawa hospital near the Turkish border estimate that 95 per cent of the victims of the latest offensive are civilian, with two-thirds women and children.  

Morale threatened

“Three million civilians trapped,” said de Bretton-Gordon. “If there’s no medical support to help them, their morale completely goes. And as we know at the moment, most of them are rushing towards the Turkish border.”  

The presence of a stronger Turkish military presence along that border offers comfort to those sheltering nearby, according to Jaddou, but few believe Turkey is strong enough to face Syria given the Russian and Iranian allies supporting Damascus.  

“Ten minutes ago, I heard four bombings from Turkish cannons,” he said.  

“But these four bombings cannot change the situation because Russia supports the Assad regime with their war planes.

“Idlib, the last opposition castle, is going to surrender. Because people with only rifles cannot fight war planes.”  

Lodami described an ever-growing ‘catastrophe’ to CBC News by phone from al-Dana in Idlib province, where for the past few days he says he’s witnessed thousands of Syrians trying to escape fierce fighting. (Submitted by Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations)

In al-Dana, Lodami doesn’t want to talk about the Turkish-Syrian confrontation. It’s a political question and he is concerned with helping the needy, he said.  

“How we will [face] our God with the children?” he asks. “All the world.  All the world there is a very big problem. They don’t give any care or interest in these children and women under the trees.”  

Ask him what their immediate needs are and the answer comes without a pause.

“We need peace. Just peace.” 

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Are Tesla Cybertruck, Mustang Mach-E Moving the Needle Toward EVs?

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The Los Angeles Auto Show/Automobility last month was a coming-out party for EVs targeting the US market, currently still below 2 percent of sales. Audi, BMW, Hyundai, Mercedes, Toyota, Volkswagen, and others announced or showcased electric and electrified vehicles. All were overshadowed by the introductions of the Ford Mustang Mach-E and the Tesla Cybertruck.

But will these two controversial, high-profile vehicles set off a rush toward EVs? They will generate heated discussion. The Mach-E should do well, as well as an EV can do circa 2021. There are lots of questions about the viability of an electric pickup truck, how much pickup buyers are seduced by the Tesla name, whether Tesla can turn any profit on Cybertruck, and if the wedge design will be changed as it moves toward production.

Tesla is well past 250,000 pre-orders, but the deposit is just $ 100, for a truck that goes into production – Tesla says – at the end of 2021, with the most powerful, three-motor, version in production in 2020 – again, Tesla says. Tesla has a history of shipping late. Tesla has taken deposits of up to $ 250,000 for the Roadster 2.0, a limited production vehicle yet to ship. The deposit amount has been $ 2,500 for the Model Y compact crossover and $ 1,000 for the Model 3 sedan, currently Tesla’s best-seller. It may be the low-deposit price generating large numbers of potential customers appeals to investors.

There are lots of other questions about Cybertruck: How easily can a stainless steel body be painted? (Not hard, with proper prep work.) What will it look like with side mirrors and headlamps? How much more will it weigh than a traditional pickup – 1,000, 2,000 pounds more?

Tesla Cybertruck with concept Tesla ATV (electric, of course).

Critics Have Been Unkind (Again) to Tesla

“Tesla’s ‘Cybertruck’ looks like the kind of vehicle that The National Guard would have used at Kent State University in May 1970,” says Anton Wahlman, an industry analyst writing in The Street. “Imagining these Cybertrucks roll down the streets of America will definitely give the impression that martial law has just been imposed, and that you are supposed to shelter in place while the government comes to arrest protesters.”

Wahlman is short TSLA stock (he’s betting the price will go down) and adds, “Once you buy into the Tesla image realignment from flower-power greenie to military occupation [style truck], there are many practical questions that have to be answered:

1. How much will it cost to manufacture this truck? $ 100,000 or more like $ 200,000? Clearly at the advertised prices — as low as $ 39,900 — this will lose a lot more than any Tesla that came before it. If that’s accurate, then it’s the biggest flaw of them all.
2. The 500-mile range for the high-end version obviously is totally unrealistic given the weight and cost of the batteries that would have to be involved.
3. The usual Tesla questions: Testing, durability and quality? Experienced vehicle manufacturers take many years to sort that out.

Research analyst Sean Chandler in Seeking Alpha says the Cybertruck’s unibody construction is a detriment to traditional pickup buyers who’re used to pickups and bigger trucks being built on a frame with the body. Then the manufacturer can put anything on top to make it an ambulance, delivery truck, dump truck, RV, and so on. Ford’s best-selling F-150, sold just as a pickup, can be had in three cab configurations, three bed lengths, and three degrees of ruggedness and load-hauling (F-150, F-250, F-350). Chandler, who is long (bets TSLA goes up), says:

If Tesla built a box frame customizable chassis with a 100-200kWh battery with single, dual, or triple motor configurations, third-party manufacturers would probably go crazy over this. UPS (NYSE:UPS) and FedEx (NYSE:FDX) could have low-cost electric delivery trucks or vans built to their specifications. This would even hurt Amazon (AMZN), which has poured hundreds of millions into Rivian and ordered 100,000 vans; that’s how badly an ICE alternative delivery truck is desired. Shuttle buses, school buses, motorhomes, ambulances, and so much more could benefit from a low-cost (long-term), efficient, and reliable all-electric design. … When it comes to the battery and powertrain, nobody comes close to Tesla.

Mustang Mach-E Is Simpler to Love

The Mustang Mach-E is a simple story: Ford is an international automaker and needs to build for a world market, as well as try to stoke life into US EV sales. It took what might have been the next Ford Escape in EV form and decided to a) call it a Mustang and b) give it performance attributes an Escape EV wouldn’t have received.

Mustang fanboys don’t like it one bit. But Corvette traditionalists are crying in their beer about the Vette being mid-engined, as if that’s a bad thing.

If you think of the Mach-E as one more compact/midsize crossover for Americans shopping, or taking kids to soccer practice or ballet class, it’s fine. The 15-inch screen is a nice taste of the future.

That Ford chose to have the rollout at Hawthorne Airport near LAX, the same place Tesla did it’s rollout five days later (and where its design studios are sited), well, what’s wrong with a little competitive psychology?

Mustang Mach-E

Why the EV Market Hasn’t Taken Off

Several factors keep EVs from being 5 percent or 20 percent of US sales. Some of the issues are perceptual.

  1. They cost more. Even if service is less complicated.
  2. The tax credit is going away for Tesla with GM to follow. And even $ 7,500 doesn’t always recapture the price delta versus a comparable gas-engine car.
  3. Range anxiety is real. At least in buyers’ minds, and certainly if it’s the family’s only vehicle.
  4. The public charging infrastructure isn’t there (except Tesla).
  5. Urbanites and suburban apartment-dwellers don’t have ready access to charging at home.
  6. The EV cost-of-energy advantage disappears at public charging stations.
  7. Inductive chargers and robotic charging arms aren’t ready.
  8. People too unmotivated to plug in don’t use PHEVs as EVs, negating their value as EVs and making it less likely they’ll buy another.
  9. Some California towns charge more for electricity the more you use, raising the cost of home charging to the equivalent of burning gasoline.
  10. Cold weather does a number on EV range.

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Will Drone Strike, Oil Shortage Fears Move Us Toward EVs, High-MPG Cars?

When a drone strike knocked out a Saudi Aramco oil facility producing 5 percent of the world’s oil supply, the shockwaves were nearly instantaneous. Crude oil prices jumped almost 20 percent Monday and could spike higher, depending on how fearful the markets are that the strike could be replicated this week, this month or this year.

In the overlapping worlds of automobiles and energy conservation, there are questions about whether this will move buyers to smaller cars and/or highly fuel-efficient battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Transportation uses a quarter of the world’s energy. Here’s our analysis on how we’ll be affected.

What Happens to Big-Car Sales?

Near-term, sales of big vehicles may soften once the news sinks in, which it will the next couple times you refuel you car and you see gasoline that cost about $ 2.50 a gallon (US average of all blends, all regions the week before the strike) climb above $ 3 a gallon: a 20-gallon fill-up becomes $ 60, not $ 50. Look for softer buyer demand for pickup trucks not used in commercial work — you can’t downsize from a Ford F-350 to a Ford Ranger if you’re towing a 15,000-pound backhoe — as well as big SUVs and mainstream-priced performance cars. High-end cars will be affected less (at least if the buyer still has a job and a year-end bonus). That a 2019 Ferrari GTC4Lusso gets 13 mpg (and requires premium gas at that) is immaterial when you paid $ 250,000 and drive it 2,500 miles a year at most.

Sales will come back unless there are ongoing oil price shocks. Americans over time build higher energy and fuel costs into their budgets unless gas hits $ 4 a gallon and that same 20-gallon fill-up reaches $ 80. In the short term, through year’s end at least, this is a great time to buy the full-size SUV or pickup of your dreams while dealer lots are awash in big vehicles and factories may kick in $ 5,000-plus incentives.

The average US gasoline price, according to AAA, was $ 2.564 per gallon (9/16/2018), an average of all regions and all formulations. Costliest-gas states are in the West, plus New York State, with lowest prices in the South and Southeast.

What Happens to Gasoline Prices?

Gasoline prices will rise, quickly. Eventually, they’ll fall back unless there are new price shocks (more oil field attacks, attacks on tankers at sea, attacks on pipelines). President Trump Monday ordered the release of oil from the US’ strategic petroleum reserve to make up for the Saudi shortfall. He also expedited agency approvals for Texas and other oil pipelines now in the permitting process stage. That will be resisted by environmentalists and (mostly) Democrats who see this as an end-run around longstanding procedural safeguards, which in some ways it is.

A cynic and perhaps a realist will note oil prices fall more slowly than they shoot up. You may notice your airport car-rental has a shuttle bus “energy fee” of a dollar or two that was probably tacked on in 2012 when gasoline (the US average price, in current prices) topped $ 4 a gallon, the highest gas price in US history, and it just never went away.

(AAA photo)

By AAA calculations, the average price of gasoline in the US at the start of the week, a day after the Saudi Aramco attacks, was $ 2.56 per gallon. That’s a meaningless figure to an individual motorist because fuel prices depend on state taxes and in some states (such as California) special formulations to reduce volatility and creation of gasoline vapors. Summer formulations have 1.7 more energy content while winter fuels and cost more.

The average gallon of gasoline, says the Institute for Energy Research, has 52 cents per gallon of federal, state, local and fee taxes, while diesel has an average tax burden of 60 cents a gallon. The national government charges 18.4 cents a gallon for gas, 24.4 cents a gallon for diesel. The average state gasoline tax is 23 cents a gallon. Alaska, Virginia, Missouri, Mississippi, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana are all at about 15-20 cents a gallon, while New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Washington (state) and Pennsylvania are at 41-58 cents a gallon.

In the past 30 years, the US has been through the most dramatic gas price shifts since it started tracking gasoline consumption and prices circa 1920. The late 1990s were the cheapest time to buy gas, with the price dropping to $ 1 a gallon in some parts of the US in 1998; that’s equal to $ 1.55 in today’s prices. In the past decade, prices have ranged — expressed in 2017 dollars — from $ 2.20 a gallon to $ 4 a gallon. There were twin historical peaks of $ 4 a gallon in 2012 ($ 3.85 at the time) and $ 3.80 a gallon in 2008 ($ 3.65 at the time). Because of the recent-era swings, from a dollar a gallon to $ 4 a gallon inside 15 years, drivers over age 30 may look back at recent history and conclude that what goes up must come down, and vice versa. Regardless, all of this is cheap compared with what most of the world pays.

Will the US Encourage the Sale of Efficient Cars?

Expect demands for more efficient cars from some political quarters. The reality: There will be demands but probably little action. The opposite may happen: President Trump wants to undo, by executive action, the longstanding agreement that California can set its own, tougher, emissions standards. Lower emissions generally mean less fuel consumption and vice versa. Carbon dioxide emissions are directly related to how much fuel a car burns, and CO2 is a cause of greenhouse gases that the overwhelming majority of scientists say is causing global warming, which they also say is real.

Trump’s plans to unilaterally undo the California exemption may or may not pass court scrutiny. Legislation that would increase (not relax) fuel economy standards might pass the house (controlled by Democrats), but it wouldn’t pass the Senate (controlled by Republicans), and if it did, it might well be vetoed by the President. It will become an election issue, probably framed as protecting the environmental future for our children versus keeping America safe, strong, and energy-independent.

Representatives from automaker states such as Michigan and the New South (Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi) would like to see tax credits for EVs extended from 200,000 cars per automaker to 600,000. Tesla and GM already hit the cap; Nissan will get there in a couple of years, then Ford. That, too, faces uncertain prospects. The majority of EVs and PHEVs getting tax credits are sold in the dozen states are Democratic-leaning; only Pennsylvania among those states voted for Trump in 2016.

Last week’s Frankfurt Motor Show had lots of electric-vehicle announcements, but the private talk among automakers was a concern that European market car-buyers are not fully on-board with the idea that EVs are their near-term future. Europe is better suited to EVs than the US because its population, larger than that of the US, is more evenly distributed geographically. So there’d be fewer public charging stations necessary for long-distance travel, but seldom used. Europe is also more on edge about the Saudi oil field attack because they are more dependent on outside oil that comes from less-stable countries. Europe is also more dependent on other countries, including Russia, for natural gas.

Freefly Systems’ Alta 8 drone: 20-pound lifting capacity for $ 18,000.

The US Benefits in Some Ways

Much of America’s most recent success finding new energy sources within its borders involves fracking — or hydraulic fracturing, as Big Oil calls it, as most people have mixed emotions about fracking. Pumping chemicals — or liquids, or water solutions, as the oil industry prefers — into rock formations until they give up their oil and natural gas is higher cost than pumping oil out of underground reservoirs in West Texas or the now-burning sands of Saudi Arabia. That puts more (mostly) Americans to work in the energy business, as well as in Canada’s oil territories. Mostly because of shale oil production/fracking, the US this year produces more oil than anyone else at 18 percent of global oil production, with Saudi Arabia at 12 percent and Russia at 11 percent.

The coming price shock will encourage some Americans toward smaller and more efficient vehicles. Energy consumption, pollution, and climate change may be more of an issue in the 2020 election and is likely to show up as a significant division between Republicans and Democrats. It will probably benefit Democrats more.

More Rules for Drone Users

“Black Sunday” (1977): Bomb-laden blimp attacks the Super Bowl.

It was not initially clear what was the delivery mechanism that landed 10-17 separate strikes at the at Saudi Aramco oil plant in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, and two at the nearby Khurais oil field on Saturday. Government and intelligence sources initially said it was drones launched but without specificity, whether it was a long-range military drone or a shorter-range civilian/commercial drone; some sources said cruise missiles.

Large civilian/commercial drones with battery-powered electric motors carry 10-20 kg, or 22 to 44 pounds, which can be a lot of explosive and concussive force. By Tuesday, reports indicated the weapons-platforms were military-style drones (and a cruise missile can be called a variant of a drone). But the scary prospect remains of weaponized drones disrupting a sporting event, outdoor concert, parade, or state fair. In the 1977 movie Black Sunday (made the year Tom Brady was born), a blimp loaded with explosives attacks the Super Bowl. (This is fiction, not a documentary.) A drone could re-create the terror of Black Sunday for $ 25,000 or less.

The upshot is governments around the world may think about how freely drones should roam. They may restrict flight in more areas, or require more licensing, especially of drones able to lift more than 5-10 pounds. This is at the same time drones are doing more useful things, such as search and rescue, geological mapping, and replacing helicopters for newsgathering (for the price of a couple of hours of helicopter time, you can own a drone that shoots 8K video). In other words, government’s desire to clamp down on things it worries might be dangerous bumps up against individuals’ and businesses’ interest in using drones to make products and services more useful and more affordable. Not to mention those hypothetical Amazon deliveries.

Top image credit: Getty Images

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‘Is it going fast enough? Hell no.’ The slow march toward gun control in the U.S.

An assault weapons ban. A federal gun buyback program. Stricter background checks. Banning high-capacity magazines. The list of proposals from the 2020 field of Democratic presidential candidates to address gun violence in the United States reads like an advocate’s wish list.

But will any of it get passed? Will the bloody weekend in which 31 people were killed and dozens injured in separate mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio represent a turning point in the debate?

Gun control advocates say they’ve seen the tragic pattern — shock, grief, sadness, anger, a call to action, and then nothing — play itself out too many times to know that one moment will not immediately change everything.

“It just takes a long time for the culture to slowly shift and change,” said Mark Barden, whose seven-year-old son Daniel was one of 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.

“It’s a slow progression of these horrible tragedies, coming at too great a cost, that creates this continuum of slow change.”

Mark Barden’s son Daniel was killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. Here, he embraces his daughter Natalie as they perform during a March for our Lives rally in Newtown, Conn., on Aug. 12, 2018. (Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images)

According to Barden, the first step to saving lives is sitting in the lap of U.S. senators right now: A bipartisan bill, passed in the House of Representatives in February, calling for stricter background checks on a greater number of gun sales.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday called on his Republican counterpart to hold an emergency session to pass the legislation but so far, Mitch McConnell hasn’t shown an interest in debating the bill.

Another measure that has strong public support is extreme risk protection orders, or so-called “red flag” laws, which allow families or law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from anyone deemed a risk to themselves or others.

“I think we have gone past that tipping point and our elected officials are behind the curve now,” Barden said.

Is progress fast enough? ‘Hell no’

In the wake of the twin shootings, U.S. President Donald Trump, who has made promises around gun control measures before, floated support for red flag laws on Monday. Though he also cited mental illness and violent video games as factors that need attention — something many experts were quick to reject.

According to Andrew Patrick, with the Washington-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Trump is following a standard pattern of shifting the attention away from guns.

“The inaction is not working and the American people recognize that,” he said.

Patrick agrees that things are shifting — but at a glacial pace. “The movement continues to go in the direction we want to see. Is it going fast enough? Hell no.”

Democratic presidential candidate and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker wants Americans to require a licence in order to buy or own a gun in the U.S. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Pushing the boundaries of the gun control discussion is the vast field of Democratic presidential candidates.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has one of the most ambitious plans to curb gun violence, calling for all gun owners to be licensed. His proposal is echoed by fellow candidate Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who released his own comprehensive plan to combat gun violence on Tuesday.

The ideas across the board have a similar theme, varying only in the details — a sign of how far the Democratic Party has come on the issue, says Matt Glassman, with the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University.

“Ten years ago, the Democratic Party still included a lot of pro-gun southern conservative Democrats. And they have basically disappeared from the party at the congressional level,” he said.

He notes, however, that the nearly two dozen presidential candidates pushing gun control platforms are trying to appeal to the activist base of Democratic voters who will go to the polls in the upcoming primaries. Those ideas may not translate to the general election, Glassman said, where Democrats are likely to see health care, education and the economy as more pressing issues.

Focus on shooters, not guns

Some gun rights advocates admit the mood in the country has shifted and there is an appetite for legislative change, but they warn there are limits to what gun owners will accept.

The focus for change must remain on people’s ability to obtain guns, not limiting the supply of guns themselves, says Jon Stokes, a contributing editor with The Firearm Blog.

“I don’t think there will ever be support for a ban for registration — certainly not for any kind of confiscation or buyback,” he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence leave the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House Monday after Trump delivered remarks on the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

And efforts to ban certain magazines, like the 100-round drum used by the shooter in Dayton, are a non-starter, he said, because while gun owners want to feel safe too, they worry about such limitations becoming a slippery slope.

“People are not going to support restrictions on that because then where does it stop? We all live in the same world and so we’re nervous in public, like everybody else,” he said. “But we’re also nervous about our rights.”

Stokes said he does believe there is support for strengthened background checks and red flag laws.

Solving everyday gun violence

Some experts say the U.S. needs to treat gun violence as a public health crisis in order to deal with it the way society has worked to address drunk driving and smoking.

Louis Klarevas, author of Rampage Nation: Securing America from Mass Shootings, says no one solution will work, and he’s not optimistic that this recent round of shootings will spur immediate action.

A piecemeal approach also won’t work, he said, noting it will take bans, background checks, licensing changes and red flag laws to collectively make a difference.

“It’s going to take all of those coming together — and tinkered and tailored in a way that they’re most effective — to significantly reduce gun violence in America.”

Barden, who works on violence prevention through a group he co-founded called Sandy Hook Promise, says his fight isn’t just about stopping high-profile mass shootings, but rather the everyday gun violence that plagues communities.

“We need to get folks to prioritize this issue and become vocal and active by petitioning their elected officials to vote the right way on this, or to vote them out,” he said.

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Europe’s record heat wave moves toward Greenland, threatening world’s 2nd largest ice sheet

The hot air that smashed European weather records this week looks set to move toward Greenland and could take the world’s second largest ice sheet close to or below the record low set in 2012, the United Nations said on Friday.

Clare Nullis, spokesperson for the UN World Meteorological Organization, said the hot air moving up from North Africa had not merely broken European temperature records on Thursday, but surpassed them by two, three or four degrees Celsius, something she described as “absolutely incredible.”

“According to forecasts, and this is of concern, the atmospheric flow is now going to transport that heat towards Greenland,” she told a regular UN briefing in Geneva.

“This will result in high temperatures and consequently enhanced melting of the Greenland ice sheet,” she said. “We don’t know yet whether it will beat the 2012 level, but it’s close.”

Melting of Greenland’s ice sheet, a key part of the global climate system, would lead to rising sea levels and unstable weather.

Greenland had not had an exceptional year until June, but its ice had been melting rapidly in recent weeks, she said, citing data from a Danish climate scientist.

“In July alone, it lost 160 billion tonnes of ice through surface melting. That’s roughly the equivalent of 64 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. Just in July. Just surface melt — it’s not including ocean melt as well.”

Greenland’s ice sheet covers 80 per cent of the island and has developed over many thousands of years, with layers of snow compressed into ice. 

The dome of ice rises to a height of 3,000 metres and the total volume of the ice sheet is approximately 2,900,000 cubic kilometres, which would raise global sea levels by seven metres if it melted entirely, according to the Polar Portal website.

The warmer air also had implications for Arctic ice extent, which as of July 15 was nearly the lowest on record, Nullis said.

She said increasingly frequent and intense heat waves were linked to manmade climate change.

“What we saw with this one was that temperature records weren’t just broken, they were smashed.”

She cited a study by Britain’s Met Office that found by 2050, record-breaking heat waves would happen every other year.

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