Deadly heat hits the globe

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Saturday, 22nd June 2024.

Deadly heatwaves have hit parts of the globe, with climate scientists warning it is an indication of more extreme weather to come.

A weather phenomenon known as a “heat dome” is causing temperatures in the US to soar dangerously high, leaving tens of millions of people enduring heat that hasn’t been seen in decades. Around 270 million people in the US are experiencing temperatures of around 32.2OC this week due to the heat dome, which traps air and sunshine in place, usually meaning each day becomes hotter than the last.

Heavy rain and hail has now fallen on an evacuated village in New Mexico where a wildfire resulted in the deaths of two people. The rain has offered hope to firefighters dealing with the fire, which tore through the village of Ruidoso, but has now brought a different threat in the form of high winds and flash floods.

Extreme heat has also hit parts of Mexico, where more than 100 people have died, while a tropical storm in the Gulf has claimed more lives and caused more destruction.

More than 550 pilgrims are suspected to have died after completing the hajj in the searing heat of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Temperatures there have sat in excess of 40OC in several areas of the country as more than a million Muslims descend on the holiest site in Islam, with 51OC recorded on Monday.

Local media in Egypt also reported dozens of fatalities among Egyptian pilgrims.

In India, the unrelenting heat has also seen recent temperatures regularly surpass 40OC. The heatwave across swathes of India has also killed more than 100 people, according to data from India’s Health Ministry The data recorded showed that of the 40,272 cases of suspected heat stroke between March 1 and June 18, 457 were reported on Tuesday.

And evacuations were necessary in Greece as wildfires tore through homes and businesses amid scorching summer temperatures. Summer wildfires also plagued nearby Turkey, where two villages were evacuated.

Balkan countries suffer blackouts amid major heatwave

The Balkans suffered major blackouts on Friday after temperatures approached 40OC in the region’s first heatwave of the year. Parts of Albania, Bosnia, and Croatia reported temporary outages, while almost all of Montenegro was without power for several hours.

“The malfunction occurred as a result of a heavy load on the grid, a sudden increase in power consumption due to the high temperatures,” said Montenegro’s Energy Minister Sasa Mujovic.

Albanian broadcaster Top Channel TV said the regional issue was caused by an interconnector failure in Montenegro.

Tourists in the Croatian city of Dubrovnik were left stranded around midday, with restaurants, pubs and supermarkets all closing due to the power outage.

The blackouts also caused traffic lights to stop working, leading to traffic jams in cities like Split, Croatia, and the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo.

Greece introduces the six-day work week

From the construction industry to the tourism sector, Greek employers cannot find the staff they need. The government’s solution: longer working hours. A new law enables employers to implement a six-day work week as of July 1.

After 15 years of recession and austerity and three rescue packages that came with tough conditions attached, labour in Greece is no longer strictly regulated. Collective agreements have been frozen for years, and in many businesses, staff work on the basis of individual employment contracts.

While the 40-hour work week is still officially in place, employers are permitted to require staff to work up to two unpaid hours per day for a limited period in return for more free time.

In theory, this additional work is voluntary. In reality, however, workers in many businesses and workplaces are forced to work longer hours without receiving any form of compensation.

The authorities – themselves short-staffed – rarely carry out checks to make sure that labour laws are being observed. Making sure that the authorities can do such monitoring tasks effectively is not a priority for the conservative government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

But even before the law on the six-day work week comes into force on July 1, Greek workers work longer hours than any other workforce in Europe. With an average 41 hours per week, they work more than all other EU citizens, notes Eurostat. What’s more, the pay they get for these long hours is low by European standards. With a minimum monthly wage of €830, Greece ranks 15th in the EU in this respect. In terms of purchasing power, it ranks second last in Europe.

From July 1, many workers in industry, retail, agriculture and some service sectors will have to work a six-day work week if their employers decide that it is necessary. A supplement of 40 per cent of the daily wage will be paid for the sixth day of labour.

The hospitality sector is excluded from this regulation because the five-day work week was abolished there last year.
In most European countries, trade unions are fighting for a reduction in working hours without a reduction in pay. The aim is, among other things, to boost employment. The logic is that the 35-hour or four-day work week limits overtime, thereby forcing employers to hire additional staff.

Faced with low wages, limited career opportunities and ever-longer working hours without decent compensation, many Greeks seek work abroad. What’s more, a rising number are refusing to work in tourism because many see the working conditions in the sector as akin to modern slavery.

Israeli strikes on tent camps near Rafah kill at least 25 and wound 50

Israeli forces shelled tent camps for displaced Palestinians north of Rafah on Friday, killing at least 25 people and wounding another 50 according to Gaza’s Health Ministry and emergency workers, in the latest deadly attack in the tiny Palestinian territory where hundreds of thousands have fled fighting between Israel and Hamas.

According to Ahmed Radwan, a spokesperson for the Civil Defence first responders in Rafah, witnesses told rescue workers about the shelling at two locations in a coastal area that has become filled with tents. The Health Ministry reported the number of people killed and wounded in the attacks.

The locations of the attacks provided by Civil Defence were just outside an Israeli-designated safe zone. The Israeli military said they were investigating the strikes at the reported coordinates. Israel has previously bombed locations in the vicinity of the “humanitarian zone” in Muwasi, a rural area on the Mediterranean coast that has filled with sprawling tent camps in recent months.

The strikes came as Israel pushed ahead with its military operation in Rafah, where over a million Palestinians have sought refuge from fighting elsewhere in Gaza. Most have now fled Rafah, but the UN says no place in Gaza is safe and humanitarian conditions are dire as families shelter in tents and cramped apartments without adequate food, water, or medical supplies.

Friday’s strikes took place less than a month after an Israeli bombing triggered a deadly fire that tore through a camp for displaced Palestinians in southern Gaza, drawing widespread international outrage, including from some of Israel’s closest allies, over the military’s expanding offensive into Rafah.

Israel says it is targeting Hamas fighters and infrastructure and that it is trying to minimise civilian deaths. It blames the large number of civilian casualties on militants and says it’s because they operate among the population.

Meanwhile, reports say Palestinian resistance groups, primarily al-Qassam and al-Quds Brigades, continue to engage Israeli forces in Gaza. They report multiple attacks on Israeli military targets, including tanks, vehicles, and soldier gatherings, using various weapons such as rockets, mines, and drones. The resistance claims to have inflicted significant casualties and equipment losses on Israeli forces, particularly in Rafah and surrounding areas.

Ukraine can hit inside Russia “anywhere” – US

In a shift in stance, the United States has told Ukraine that it can use American-supplied weapons to hit Russian forces “anywhere”, its forces attack from across the border, and not just the region near Kharkiv, Politico reports. quoting US officials.

This subtle shift, which according to the officials is not a change in policy, comes weeks after the US quietly signaled the green light to Kyiv to strike inside Russia in retaliation to a cross-border assault on the city of Kharkiv.
During that time, the US officials stressed that the policy was limited to the Kharkiv region, among other restrictions.

Since then, the Ukrainian forces have used American weapons to strike into Russia at least once, destroying targets in the city of Belgorod, and managing to hold back the Russian assault.

On the other hand, Ukraine and other European officials have asked the US to loosen its restrictions, allowing Ukraine to strike anywhere inside Russia.

Earlier on Tuesday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told PBS that the agreement with Ukraine about firing American weapons into Russia extends to “anywhere that Russian forces are coming across the border from the Russian side to the Ukrainian side to try to take additional Ukrainian territory,” as reported by Politico.

Recently, Russia has indicated that it might soon move to the northeastern city of Sumy, which is also near the Russian border. In that case, the policy would apply there as well, Sullivan added.

Tories slump to fourth in election fundraising table

The Tories raised less than £300,000 in donations during the second week of the general election campaign, official data shows. According to Electoral Commission figures, the Conservatives were only the fourth-best supported party between June 6 and 12 when they received £292,500.

The fundraising efforts of Rishi Sunak’s party were dwarfed by Labour, who raked in £4,383,400 over the same period – nearly 15 times as much. The £742,000 donated to Reform UK was almost twice as much as the amount given to the Tories, while the Liberal Democrats scooped £335,000. The Green Party received £20,000 over the same period, according to the watchdog’s data.

In the run-up to polling day on July 4, all registered political parties must submit four weekly reports setting out donations and loans received over £11,180. In total, UK political parties received donations worth £5.8million between June 6 and 12. This was more than the £3.25million in total donations received by parties between May 30 and June 5. During the first reporting period of the general election campaign, the Tories received £574,918, Labour £926,908, the Lib Dems £454,999, and Reform £140,000.

Milei snubbed in Spain, low-key in Berlin

Argentine President Javier Milei arrived in Madrid on Friday to a rock star greeting from right-wing conservatives at an event organised by the Spanish far-right VOX party. Milei was snubbed by the Spanish government as well as the nation’s royals.

Speaking at the Vox event, Milei railed against the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and repeated claims that Sanchez’s wife Begona Gomez is corrupt. The Spanish Foreign Ministry accused Milei of engaging in a “frontal attack on our democracy, on our institutions and Spain”. Milei has rejected calls to apologise, preferring to continue his attacks.

The second stop on Milei’s EU tour will be Germany, where he will accept an award from the Friedrich Hayek Society – named for the liberal Austrian-British economist Friedrich August von Hayek.

Milei will wrap up his stay in Germany with a one-hour meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz. A spokesperson for the Argentine President said that he requested a simple working meeting rather than one involving pomp. Plans originally entailed a military reception and a news conference, both of which were dropped as a courtesy to the South American.

President Milei will conclude his trip to Europe with a stop in the Czech Republic.

Trump holds edge in swing states and ties Biden in Minnesota: poll

A new poll in swing states that will decide who wins the White House shows Donald Trump holding narrow leads in states Biden carried in 2020 – and even a tie in Minnesota.

Democrats have carried Minnesota for the last dozen presidential elections, sometimes winning by the narrowest of margins. Trump and Biden tied at 45 in the latest Emerson College/The Hill poll.

Things are nearly as tight in Pennsylvania, a state Biden has visited repeatedly as president, with Trump leading Biden 47 to 45.

In a major midwest battleground that Biden carried four years ago, Trump leads 47 to 44 in Wisconsin, which is preparing to play host to the Republican National Convention.

Trump’s lead is 46 to 45, well within the poll’s error margin. The lead grows to two points when Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is included. He takes five percent in the state.

Trump’s lead in the batch of swing states come even as Biden has improved his position somewhat in a spate of national polls – raising the prospect that a Democrat could once again prevail in the popular vote while still managing to lose the White House through the Electoral College system that decides the outcome.

Trump’s lead is down to a tenth of a percentage point in the FiveThirtyEight average – with the former president at 40.6 and Biden at 40.5 percent.

That comes after Biden snagged a two-point lead in the new Fox News poll, they tied in a YouGov/Economist poll, Biden leads 44 to 43 in a Morning Consult poll and leads 41 to 39 in a YouGov/New York Post poll.

EUFA Euro20214: Friday’s results

Group E: Slovakia v Ukraine 1-2; and Group D: Poland v Austria 1-3 and Netherlands v France 0-0. Today’s programme: Group F: Georgia v Czechia (3pm) and Turkey v Portugal (6pm); Group E: Belgium v Romania (9pm). Copa America Group A (played at 2 am this morning): Peru v Chile 0-0.

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