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Driver hits cop at Capitol

UPDATED: 7:50 a.m.

A woman struck a U.S. Capitol Police cruiser with a vehicle near the Capitol on Wednesday morning and was taken into custody, police said.

The incident occurred near the Botanic Gardens. A District of Columbia police spokeswoman, Margarita Mikhaylova, says it's possible that an officer fired shots.

There were no immediate reports of injuries. D.C. fire department spokesman Doug Buchanan says ambulances were sent to the scene but did not take anyone to the hospital.

Earlier, a witness said a car was stopped at a checkpoint and police ordered a woman driving a vehicle to stop. The witness, on Capitol Hill to visit lawmakers, declined to permit her name to be used.

The incident prompted a large police response. Streets near the Capitol were closed.



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Bizarre stunt at Auschwitz

A Polish prosecutor says that 11 people who slaughtered a sheep at Auschwitz last week, stripped naked and chained themselves together were peace activists protesting wars across the world.

The bizarre stunt at the former Nazi German death camp, which also involved unfurling a banner with the word "Love," occurred Friday by the gate with the words "Arbeit Macht Freit" (Work Will Set You Free).

Mariusz Slomka, deputy regional prosecutor in Oswiecim, said Wednesday the stunt was carried out by four women and seven men aged 20-43 who had organized it over the internet. The 11 were six Poles, four Belarusians and one German.

Slomka said that they have all been charged with desecrating a remembrance site, while the person who slaughtered the sheep, a Belarusian, faces additional charges.



Everest a mountain of trash

Mountaineering expedition organizers in Nepal are sending huge trash bags with climbers on Mount Everest during the spring climbing season to collect trash that then can be winched by helicopters back to the base camp.

Dambar Parajuli of the Expedition Operators Association of Nepal said Wednesday that bags have already been sent to the base camp to be carried by climbers, guides and porters to higher elevations.

Each bag can hold up to 80 kilograms of trash and can be hooked to helicopters at Camp 2 to be flown back to the base camp. The helicopters after dropping off supplies and equipment at the camp located at 6,400 metres generally fly back empty.

Hundreds of climbers and their guides are expected to attempt to scale the 8,850-metre peak during the spring season. Climbers generally arrive in April and attempt to reach the summit in May when weather conditions are favourable. They leave behind a lot of garbage.

Climbers also say it is urgent to remove the trash left by previous expeditions at Camp 2, which was set up in 2014 and 2015 when tragedies forced an early end to the climbs. The 2014 season was cancelled after 16 Nepalese guides were killed in an avalanche, and the following year an earthquake-triggered avalanche swept the base camp killing 19 people.



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Cop car thief runs out of gas

A driver who called for help after running out of gas is accused of stealing a deputy's squad car in South Dakota and leading authorities in a pursuit before once again running out of fuel.

Troy James is charged with felony grand theft. Officials say James called for assistance early Monday on Highway 281 near the town of Tulare, saying his car had stopped and he apparently ran out of fuel.

Sheriff Kevin Schurch tells the Aberdeen American News the responding deputy tried to detain James because he was acting bizarrely. Schurch says James pushed the officer out of the squad and took off. He says James was apparently armed.

The South Dakota Highway Patrol and other officers joined in pursuing James. He was eventually caught about 225 kilometres away.



Cyclone Down Under

Residents of Australia's cyclone-battered tropical northeast emerged from their homes on Wednesday to find roofs lying in their yards, boats flung onto rocks and roads blocked by tangles of fallen trees and power lines, as emergency officials tried to reach communities cut off by the powerful storm.

Cyclone Debbie, which slammed into the coast of Queensland state on Tuesday with winds up to 260 kilometres (160 miles) an hour, weakened quickly as it moved inland and was downgraded to a tropical low by Wednesday morning.

Australia's military sent vehicles, aircraft and supplies to the region, and clean-up efforts were expected to begin later Wednesday. Around 60,000 houses were without power, and several communities remained isolated with no access to communications. Emergency workers were trying to reach those areas to ensure residents were safe, Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said.

"Nature has flung her worst at the people of north Queensland," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters. "It is now our job to make sure that every agency pulls together ... to provide support to the people of north Queensland who have had a very tough day and night."

There were no reports of deaths from the storm. One man was injured after a wall collapsed in the town of Proserpine, Stewart said. He was in stable condition.

Proserpine was one of the worst-hit areas, along with the resort town of Airlie Beach and the town of Bowen. There was also serious damage to resorts on the idyllic Whitsunday Islands, a popular tourist destination, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said. Around 200 people vacationing on Daydream Island were awaiting evacuation, and water supplies were running low.

"There would be nothing more tragic than waking up and seeing walls that have come in from your houses, roofs that have gone off, and debris that is lying across your roads," Palaszczuk told reporters.

At the port of Shute Harbour, 10 kilometres (6 miles) east of Airlie Beach, the storm tossed around 30 vessels onto the rocks, Whitsundays Regional Council Mayor Andrew Willcox said.

Queensland Fire and Rescue Service Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the state emergency services department had received 800 calls for help, and that number was expected to rise as power came back on in communities.

The area produces sugarcane and a wide range of fruits and vegetables, including mangoes and peppers, and farmers were just beginning to check on damage to their crops Wednesday morning.

Farmer Bill Atkinson, who lives 25 kilometres (15 miles) from Airlie Beach, said the storm had battered his property, tearing roofs off sheds, knocking down trees and partially destroying his sugarcane.

"It's going to be sad. It hasn't done (the crop) any favours," he said. "The cane is bent over, the tops are cracked off."



Living under the bridge

Homeless residents of a makeshift loft built under a California bridge have been given 72 hours to get out.

The structure was built right underneath the traffic surface in Concord, Calif., but when news broke about it, police ordered the people out.

It had a large window in the front, wooden beams and a ladder to access the loft, which was suspended between two concrete support structures.

Trash was scattered over the ground, according to Claycord News.

The homeless men who were living in the loft were told they have 72 hours to move their belongings.



Head of probe under fire

The chairman of the House intelligence committee refused Tuesday to step away from its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, as fresh political allegations brought new cries of protest from Democrats.

Asked if he should recuse himself, committee chairman Devin Nunes responded, "Why would I?" Later in the day, the White House vehemently denied a report that it had sought to hobble the testimony of a former acting attorney general before Nunes cancelled the hearing where she was to speak.

President Donald Trump's spokesman, Sean Spicer, lashed out at reporters, claiming they're seeing conspiracies where none exist.

"If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's a Russian connection," he suggested.

The embattled House committee is conducting one of three probes into the election campaign, its aftermath and potential contacts between Trump officials and Russians. The Senate intelligence committee is doing its own investigation, and since late July the FBI has been conducting a counterintelligence investigation into Russia's meddling and possible co-ordination with the Trump campaign.

Nunes' decision to cancel Tuesday's hearing was the latest in a series of actions that Democrats contend demonstrate that his loyalty to Trump is greater than his commitment to leading an independent investigation. The California Republican, who was a member of Trump's presidential transition team, has said he met with a secret source last week on White House grounds to review classified material that showed Trump associates' communications had been captured in "incidental" surveillance of foreigners in November, December and January.

Nunes would not name the source of the information, and his office said he did not intend to share it with other members of the committee.

Nor would he disclose who invited him on the White House grounds for the meeting. He described the source as an intelligence official, not a White House official. In an interview on CNN, he suggested the president's aides were unaware of the meeting.

Trump has used Nunes' revelations to defend his unproven claim that Barack Obama tapped phones at Trump Tower. In a series of tweets Monday night, Trump said that instead of probing his associates, the committee should be investigating his Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton's ties to the Kremlin.

"Trump Russia story is a hoax," he tweeted.

Adding to the swirl of questions was the publication of a series of letters dated March 23 and March 24 involving a lawyer for former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates.

Yates, along with former CIA Director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper, had agreed to testify publicly before the House intelligence committee.



Chinese anger in France

Chinese immigrants and China's government are protesting a police killing in Paris that prompted violent street clashes and exposed the fears and frustrations of France's large Asian community.

Protesters gathered Tuesday in northeast Paris for a second day of demonstrations over the fatal shooting of a Chinese man in his apartment, and police launched an internal investigation into a death that took on diplomatic implications.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had summoned a representative of the French embassy in Beijing Tuesday and urged French officials to "get to the bottom of the incident as soon as possible."

Chinese authorities "hope that Chinese nationals in France can express their wishes and demands in a reasonable way," Hua said.

Residents and police gave conflicting accounts of what happened before the man was shot to death by police on Sunday evening.

Police said an officer fired in self-defence during a raid after the man wounded an officer with a "bladed weapon." Rumours circulated among Chinese immigrants that 56-year-old Shaoyo Liu was in front of his children while cutting up fish with scissors and had not hurt anyone.

Protesters outraged by the killing and baton-wielding police clashed for several hours on Monday night. Three police officers were injured and 35 protesters arrested, authorities said Tuesday.

With chants of "murderers" and candles that spelled "opposition to violence" lining the road, scores of demonstrators broke down barricades, threw projectiles and set fire to cars.

Authorities said 26 demonstrators were held for participating in a group planning violence, six for throwing projectiles, and three others for violence against police that saw a police car damaged by arson.

Witnesses said that one man of Chinese origin was injured in the clashes, according to China's state-run Xinhua News Agency.

France's Foreign Ministry responded Tuesday by calling the security of Chinese in France "a priority."



Homeless vets fear Trump

The push to end homelessness among veterans would suffer without the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which is up for elimination under President Donald Trump's proposed budget, nonprofits and local officials say.

The council co-ordinates the efforts of 19 federal agencies that play a role in preventing and ending homelessness among all Americans. But the strides made with veterans — for whom homelessness has been effectively ended in three states and dozens of communities amid a concerted effort — make the proposed cuts particularly upsetting to advocates.

Homeless advocates in any given state consult the council, whose annual budget is about $3.5 million, on which strategies are working elsewhere as they seek to house veterans. They worry momentum will slow.

"We've learned how to end homelessness," said Nonie Brennan, chief executive of the non-profit All Chicago. "It would be a tremendous shame if we were not able to continue to implement these strategies in our communities across the country."

Adding to the ire and confusion, the budget proposal also says the Trump administration will support Department of Veterans Affairs programs for homeless and at-risk veterans and their families, but doesn't elaborate. Trump, who promised on the campaign trail to support veterans, wants to give the VA a 6 per cent increase.

Still, the federal government needs someone to make sure housing resources are well spent and to look across agencies for solutions instead of just down at their own, advocates say.

"Without co-ordination and oversight and giving some thought to how the money should best be spent, the money may not go to the people who need it most," said Hank Hughes, of the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, said Tuesday that he and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, have introduced legislation to prevent the council from being shuttered. They say it takes a collaborative, comprehensive approach to reducing and preventing homelessness.

The White House's $1.15 trillion plan, released this month, emphasizes military and other security-related spending and slashes many domestic programs. The proposal is the first step in a lengthy process that requires congressional approval.

Proponents of small government praised it. The interagency council, created during President Ronald Reagan's administration, is one of 19 independent agencies for which Trump proposed eliminating funding.

"The federal government needs to prioritize what it does," said Dan Holler at Heritage Action for America, the advocacy arm of the conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation.

The number of homeless veterans nationwide is down 47 per cent, or about 35,000 people, since 2010, but there are roughly 40,000 more, HUD said in August. Homelessness among veterans is effectively ended in Virginia, Connecticut and Delaware and in about 40 communities, according to the council, including in New Jersey's most populous county.



Largest crisis in 70 years

The world's largest humanitarian crisis in 70 years has been declared in three African countries on the brink of famine, just as President Donald Trump's proposed foreign aid cuts threaten to pull the United States from its historic role as the world's top emergency donor.

If the deep cuts are approved by Congress and the U.S. does not contribute to Africa's current crisis, experts warn that the continent's growing drought and famine could have far-ranging effects, including a new wave of migrants heading to Europe and possibly more support for Islamic extremist groups.

The conflict-fueled hunger crises in Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan have culminated in a trio of potential famines hitting almost simultaneously. Nearly 16 million people in the three countries are at risk of dying within months.

Famine already has been declared in two counties of South Sudan and 1 million people there are on the brink of dying from a lack of food, U.N. officials have said. Somalia has declared a state of emergency over drought and 2.9 million of its people face a food crisis that could become a famine, according to the U.N. And in northeastern Nigeria, severe malnutrition is widespread in areas affected by violence from Boko Haram extremists.

"We are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations," Stephen O'Brien, the U.N. humanitarian chief, told the U.N. Security Council after a visit this month to Somalia and South Sudan.

At least $4.4 billion is needed by the end of March to avert a hunger "catastrophe" in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in late February.

But according to U.N. data, only 10 per cent of the necessary funds have been received so far.

Trump's proposed budget would "absolutely" cut programs that help some of the most vulnerable people on Earth, Mick Mulvaney, the president's budget director, told reporters last week. The budget would "spend less money on people overseas and more money on people back home," he said.

The United States traditionally has been the largest donor to the U.N. and gives more foreign aid to Africa than any other continent. In 2016 it gave more than $2 billion to the U.N.'s World Food Program, or almost a quarter of its total budget. That is expected to be reduced under Trump's proposed budget, according to former and current U.S. government officials.



Book returned after 35 years

A patron who stole a book from a Montana library in 1982 has returned it after reading it at least 25 times, having it restored and having the author sign it.

The man said having the stolen copy of Richard Matheson's 1975 novel "Bid Time Return" had been bugging him. He included a $200 donation to the Great Falls Public Library while asking "for a chance at redemption here."

The man called the book fascinating and said he considered it one of the greatest sci-fi/romance stories ever written, the Great Falls Tribune reported Tuesday. It is the story of a dying man who falls in love with a portrait and wills himself back in time to meet the woman.

"This is not my book, it belongs in the Great Falls Public Library — wrongfully taken, yes, but if you can, kindly take into consideration it has been loved and cared for all these years and know I am sorry for taking it," the man wrote. Library officials did not release his name.

Library Director Kathy Mora recently told trustees that while she didn't condone the theft, "the effort and funds he put into caring for the book are remarkable."

Matheson, who died in 2013, is best known for his 1954 novel "I Am Legend" which was made into a movie starring Will Smith in 2007. Other books include "The Shrinking Man," ''Hell House" and "What Dreams May Come," all of which were made into movies.



Trump tosses 'clean' energy

Declaring "the start of a new era" in energy production, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that he said would revive the coal industry and create jobs.

The move makes good on his campaign pledge to unravel former President Barack Obama's plan to curb global warming. The order seeks to suspend, rescind or flag for review more than a half-dozen measures in an effort to boost domestic energy production in the form of fossil fuels.

Environmental activists, including former Vice-President Al Gore, denounced the plan. But Trump said the effort would allow workers to "succeed on a level playing field for the first time in a long time."

"That is what this is all about: bringing back our jobs, bringing back our dreams and making America wealthy again," Trump said, during a ceremony at the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters, attended by a number of coal miners.

The order initiates a review of the Clean Power Plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants. The regulation, which was the former president's signature effort to curb carbon emissions, has been the subject of long-running legal challenges by Republican-led states and those who profit from burning oil, coal and gas.

But just as Obama's climate efforts were often stymied by legal challenges, environmental groups are promising to fight Trump's pro-fossil fuel agenda in court.

In addition to pulling back from the Clean Power Plan, the administration will also lift a 14-month-old moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands.

The Obama administration had imposed a three-year moratorium on new federal coal leases in January 2016, arguing that the $1 billion-a-year program must be modernized to ensure a fair financial return to taxpayers and address climate change.

Trump accused his predecessor of waging a "war on coal" and boasted in a speech to Congress that he has made "a historic effort to massively reduce job-crushing regulations," including some that threaten "the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners."



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