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US ready to support Ukraine, help Kiev with defence

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says Washington is concerned about the situation in Ukraine and is ready to support Kiev.

Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum on Saturday, Austin said that the US is “very concerned” about the alleged buildup of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border and will try to ensure that Kiev “has what it needs” to defend its “sovereign territory.” The Pentagon chief said he was not going to speculate on different scenarios pertaining to the alleged Russian aggression on its borders.

Over the past several weeks, Ukraine and some Western countries have expressed concern about the alleged increase in what they characterise as “aggressive actions” by Russia on their border. However, Russia has refuted the accusations by saying it is moving troops within its own territory and at its own discretion.

US President Joe Biden plans to discuss the issue of Ukraine, as well as other topics, during the upcoming video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, December 7.

Biden told reporters earlier this week, answering a question about the issue of Ukraine, that he expected a “long discussion” with the Russian President.

Russia has repeatedly said that it stands by its right to move armed forces freely within its territory. On November 23, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated that Russia does not have any aggressive plans with regard to Ukraine. The Kremlin has also expressed concerns about Kiev having aggregated almost half of all its armed forces on the contact line with the Donbas region in the east of the country.

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EUROPE SCORCHED

The extreme temperatures witnessed in Europe during the last fortnight are the results of our
own making, and maybe this is a wake-up call for humans to stop playing with nature.

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When we think of Europe, we mostly think of cold and enjoyable weather, as compared to our scorching heat and humid weather. But in 2022, the European continent is facing one of its worst summers ever.

Usually, by Indian standards, even the European summers are considered to be much better than our winters, but record-breaking heat affecting parts of Western Europe during the last fortnight, with UK temperatures exceeding 400C (104F) for the first time since record-keeping began in 1772, has proved us wrong.

Extreme heat-wave warnings have been issued in France.

Temperatures rose in many other countries in Europe, with 64 different areas in France experiencing record highs and temperatures in Portugal reaching 47 degree Celsius. The dangerously high temperatures have had other additional consequences, too, with Portugal reporting more than 1,000 heat-wave-related deaths in the last fortnight. At least 13 people have died in open water-related incidents in the UK.

Extreme heat-wave warnings were issued in France and record July temperatures were reported in the Netherlands. In Paris, the thermometer crossed 40 degrees for the third time this summer. In addition, wildfires continue to sweep across parts of Southwest Europe. As well as increasing ozone pollution, the European heat wave is also exacerbating the scale and intensity of wildfires currently raging across southern Europe, especially in south-western France, Spain and Portugal. The worst affected regions to date include the Gironde region south of Bordeaux, Extremadura and Galicia in Spain, and parts of Portugal.

This is also accompanied by the fact that Europe is witnessing more and more floods in the regions where they were unheard of, like in Germany and the UK. Experts blame climate change for the soaring temperatures across the world, especially in Europe, and have warned that worse is yet to come.

SCIENTIFIC VIEW

The Guardian reported Prof. Richard Allan, of the University of Reading as saying that climate change is intensifying these heat waves as greenhouse gas increases raise temperatures and a warmer, more thirsty atmosphere dries out the soil, so that more of the sun’s energy is available to heat the ground rather than evaporating water. According to Mariam Zachariah, a climate scientist at Imperial College London, the buildup of CO2 from burning fossil fuels has made heat waves more intense and common around the world, including in Europe.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) warned last week that Europe’s heat wave could persist into the middle of next week, whereas the negative impacts of climate change are bound to continue at least until the 2060s. At a joint press briefing with the World Health Organisation (WHO), Robert Stefanski, chief of Applied Climate Services at the WMO, said that record heat waves are becoming more frequent because of climate change.

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) scientists are predicting very high levels of surface ozone pollution across a large region of Europe as temperatures soar. They also warn about very high levels of ozone pollution in southern Europe caused by the heatwave that could now affect north-western regions in the coming week. The prediction comes after extremely high surface ozone pollution was experienced across western and southern Europe, particularly along the west coast of Portugal and parts of northern Italy.

According to Mark Parrington, Senior Scientist at the CAMS, the potential effects of very high ozone pollution on human health can be significant in terms of respiratory and cardio-vascular illness. Higher levels can cause sore throats, coughing, headaches, and an increased risk of asthma attacks.The Climate and Clean Air Coalition estimates that ozone pollution causes approximately one million additional deaths per year. This is why it is crucial that we monitor surface ozone levels. Recently, the BBC published a revealing report which highlights how the major culprits responsible for environmental degradation planned and executed a bold campaign 30 years ago to spread doubt and persuade the public that climate change was not a problem. The tie-up between some of America’s biggest industrial players and a PR genius forged a devastatingly successful strategy that endured for years, and the consequences of which are all around us.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND BIG BUSINESS

The Global Climate Coalition (GCC)-which represents the oil, coal, auto, utilities, steel, and rail industries-hired a communications partner to change the narrative on Climate Change.The strategy was implemented through an extensive media campaign, including placing quotes and pitching opinion pieces. The groundwork was laid meticulously for the industry’s biggest campaign to date-opposing international efforts to negotiate emissions reductions at Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997.

This makes us wonder where we have gone wrong. It is indeed true to say that during the last 100 years, humans have wrecked the earth so much that nature is turning back on them.

We hear constant talk of environmental planning and tackling climate change effects, but find most governments wanting in fulfilling their pledges committed at different environmental fora, such as COP26 and other international bodies.

The basic requirement is that we ‘ll have to change our lifestyles too, to cope with the climate challenges. We’ll have to change the way we are constructing our commercial and residential buildings, all cladded in either glass or aluminium cladding, requiring more heat-intensive mechanisms to maintain a cooler temperature. In hotels worldwide, it is normal practise to maintain the building temperature at 17 degree Celsius. Why can’t we make it a more reasonable 210C? In addition, we also need to change our style of construction, using a judicious mix of stone, cement, and wood, not just relying on one particular product, besides ensuring less usage of wood. If we humans don’t act now instead of just preaching and making hollow promises, then we could just look forward to our own extinction much earlier than envisaged by nature.

Asad Mirza is a political commentator based in New Delhi. He was also associated with BBC Urdu Service and Khaleej Times of Dubai. He writes on Indian Muslims, educational, international affairs, interfaith and current affairs.

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US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi departs from Taiwan after controversial visit

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Nancy Pelosi

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi departed from the self-ruled island on Wednesday after a short trip. Pelosi trip raised tension in the Taiwan Strait.

“Our delegation has the distinct privilege of meeting with the President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen today,” Pelosi tweeted.

The two countries discussed how America and Taiwan can deepen their economic ties, and further strengthen the security partnership.

For over twenty years the US House Speaker was the highest-level US official to visit Taiwan. “It was also my high honor to receive from President @iingwen of Taiwan the Order of Propitious Clouds with Special Grand Cordon: a symbol of our treasured friendship. Make no mistake: America remains unwavering in our commitment to the people of Taiwan-now and for decades to come,” she added.

Earlier on Tuesday night, the US Congressional delegation landed in Taiwan. Since she landed Pelosi held several discussions with top leadership in Taiwan.

“There is a struggle between democracy and autocracy in the world. We cannot back away from that. As China uses its soft power in order to gain support, we’ve to talk about Taiwan in terms of its technological advancement and show people Taiwan’s courage to become more democratic,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi responded to China over her visit, “No more evidence is needed on what happened in Hong Kong, one country two systems didn’t happen. We don’t want anything to happen to Taiwan by force.”

During talks with Taiwanese leadership, Pelosi has made a bedrock promise to always stand with the island country.

However, China opposed the US House Speaker’s Taiwan visit terming the trip a serious violation of the one-china principle. As a part of military operations, China also announced live firing near Taiwan in response to Pelosi’s visit.

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US issues worldwide alert for citizens traveling abroad after Al-Zawahiri’s death

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Travel Alert

The US State Department has issued a worldwide alert to its citizens after the death of Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. The US has said to maintain a “high level of vigilance” while traveling abroad.

“As terrorist attacks, political violence (including demonstrations), criminal activities, and other security incidents often take place without any warning, U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and practice good situational awareness when traveling abroad,” the state department alert said.

“U.S. citizens abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate,” it added.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced the death of the most wanted terrorist Ayman al-Zawahiri. While addressing the media Biden said, “Justice has been delivered”.

“On 31 July 2022, the United States conducted a precision counter-terrorism strike in Afghanistan that killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s deputy and successor as leader of al-Qaida,” the US Department said.

Meanwhile, Ayman al-Zawahiri was one of the world’s most wanted terrorists and a mastermind of the 11 September 2001 attacks.

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Us Censures China’s absenteeism amid global food crisis

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Us and China

China is facing criticism for not doing enough in the ongoing global food crisis amid the Russia-Ukraine war. The war has led to an escalation in global food prices as well as a threat to food security.

On Tuesday, Samantha Power, the head of US Agency for Development, addressed concerns about the growing global food security crisis for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

She delivered a speech titled “The Line Between Crisis and Catastrophe.” Samantha blames Rissia’s invasion of Ukraine for the exacerbation of the food crisis in Africa, and says the nation must put in efforts to stave off the situation of famine.

She said, ” Putin’s war has already driven millions of Ukrainians from lives of relative prosperity to destitution and dependence on humanitarian aid. But through his actions, he is also waging a war on the world’s poor, spiking food, fertilizer, and fuel prices while taking Ukrainian grain off the market.”

She talked about the severity of the food crisis, especially in the Horn of Africa, and also stated the steps the United States is taking to diminish global hunger and expressed concern about not taking action to prevent the situation from worsening .

 “We must battle together on three fronts, providing immediate humanitarian aid to the severely hungry and malnourished, providing sustained investment in global agriculture that will help farmers boost their harvests, and undertaking concerted diplomacy so that we mobilize more resources from donors, avoid export restrictions that can exacerbate the crisis, and lessen the burden on poor countries.” Power said.

Condemning China, the US aid chief said that the second largest economy “in particular stands out for its absence” in humanitarian efforts in East Africa.

In Power’s opinion, China could have exported more food and fertilisers to the global market to avert the crisis.

She states it would “significantly relieve pressure on food and fertilizer prices and powerfully demonstrate the country’s desire to be a global leader and a friend to the world’s least developed economies.”

In her speech she mentioned, “One country in particular stands out right now for its absence: the People’s Republic of China. Even before the war in Ukraine began, Beijing’s trade restrictions on fertilizer and hoarding of grain was inflating prices. While at the same time, the government offered little of the transparency into its stocks and production that might have soothed markets.”

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Kajol, all set for her debut with Disney+Hotstar

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Kajol

Bollywood actress Kajol is all set for her role in a new web series.  She is said to collaborate with the OTT Disney + Hotstar for an upcoming series.

The DDLJ actress made her Netflix debut in 2021 with the film Tribanga.

The actor, in a statement, expressed her desire to explore new format and said, “great thing as I love to take challenges head-on”.

She further added, “Being an avid fan of digital series, the concept has always been intriguing; and after following cool shows such as’ ‘Aarya’ and ‘Rudra’, I knew there was no other platform than Disney+ Hotstar to start my series journey.”

 The head of content at Disney+Hotstar and HSM entertainment Network, Gaurav Banerjee, said, “With the beloved star, we are setting out on an all-new journey to bring a unique story of love, emotions, and family.”

He also expressed delight at Kajol’s addition to the platform, saying she will “charm the viewers with her ethereal screen magic.”

The details of the show, the plotline and the names of the creators are yet to be disclosed by the OTT platform.

In an interview with PTI, Kajol said, “I will be starting the OTT show soon. It is a story about a woman and her journey. “

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Ivana Trump, first wife of Donald Trump dies at 73

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Ivana Trump

Former US President Donald Trump’s first and ex-wife Ivana Trump on Thursday was found dead at her home in Manhattan at 12:40 pm.

According to the sources, the 73 years old Ivana suffered cardiac arrest and was dead by the time paramedics reached her place.

Taking to Truth Social, Donald Trump’s social media platform, he wrote, “I am very saddened to inform all of those that loved her, of which there are many, that Ivana Trump has passed away at her home in New York City. She was a wonderful, beautiful, and amazing woman who led a great and inspirational life.”

Moreover, announcing the death, Eric Trump said, “Our mother was an incredible woman- a force in business, a world-class athlete, a radiant beauty, and a caring mother and friend. She will be dearly missed by her mother, three children and ten grandchildren.”

In 1988, Ivana Trump told Vanity Fair, “Donald calls me his twin as a woman.”

Notably, former President Donald Trump and Ivana Trump married in 1977 and divorced in 1992. Together they have three children and are the mother of Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump. Later she married twice with Riccardo Mazzucchelli in 1995 and Rossano Rubicondi in 2008.

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