Europe is the continent that is warming the most

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

Europe is the fastest warming continent, with temperatures rising around double the global average, according to the report on the ‘European State of the Climate 2023’ drawn up by Copernicus and the World Meteorological Organisation, noting that the three warmest years have been since 2020 and the 10 warmest since 2007. Heat-related mortality has increased by 30 per cent in the last 20 years. According to estimates from the International Disaster Database, in 2023, in Europe, 63 people died from storms, 44 from floods and 44 from fires. Economic losses are estimated at over €13.4 billion.

The report is full of data and contrasts: the “prolonged summer” (June to September) saw heat waves, fires, droughts and floods. With only one positive aspect: energy production from renewable sources in Europe has reached a record 43 per cent, surpassing production from fossil sources. But if one looks at the climate in north-western Europe, the hottest June ever recorded was experienced, while in the Mediterranean areas rainfall was recorded well above the average for the month. In July, this pattern almost reversed. At the height of the July heat wave, 41 per cent of southern Europe was affected by at least “severe heat stress”, with potential health impacts. On the one hand the heat, on the other the rainfall which in 2023 in Europe was seven per cent higher than the average.

Across the European river network average, river flows were the highest ever recorded in December, with “exceptionally high” flows in almost a quarter of the river network. In 2023, a third of Europe’s river network recorded river flows above the ‘major’ flood threshold and 16 per cent exceeded the ‘severe’ flood threshold.

A record-breaking black hole identified

A record-breaking black hole, hiding in the Milky Way just 2,000 light years away, has been identified. So far unnoticed, it is the most massive black hole in our galaxy born from the collapse of a star, with a mass that is 33 times greater than that of the Sun. It was identified thanks to data collected by the Gaia mission of the European Space Agency. The discovery, published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, was led by the French national centre for scientific research, the Cnrs, and also saw the collaboration of the National Institute of Astrophysics, the Italian Space Agency, ad main Italian universities. Previously identified black holes of this type in the Milky Way are on average about 10 times more massive than the Sun, and even the second largest known, called Cygnus X-1, reaches only 21 solar masses, making this new discovery exceptional. “No one expected to find a black hole of such high mass lurking nearby, so far undetected,” comments Italian Pasquale Panuzzo of the CNRS, who led the study. “This is the kind of discovery you make once your lifetime. as a researcher.”

18 children among 22 killed in Israeli strikes on Rafah

Israeli strikes on the southern Gaza city of Rafah overnight killed 22 people, including 18 children, health officials said Sunday. The first Israeli strike in Rafah killed a man, his wife and their three-year-old child, according to the nearby Kuwaiti Hospital, which received the bodies. The woman was pregnant and the doctors saved the baby, the hospital said. The second strike killed 17 children and two women from an extended family. Israel has carried out near-daily air raids on Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million has sought refuge from fighting elsewhere. It has also vowed to expand its ground offensive against the Hamas militant group to the city on the border with Egypt despite calls for restraint, including from the US. “In the coming days, we will increase the political and military pressure on Hamas because this is the only way to bring back our hostages and achieve victory. We will land more and painful blows on Hamas – soon,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. He didn’t give details.

180 bodies found in mass grave in Khan Younis hospital

Palestinian civil defence crews have uncovered a mass grave inside the Nasser Medical Complex in Gaza’s Khan Younis, with 180 bodies recovered so far, Al Jazeera has learned, as Israel has continued bombardment of the devastated coastal enclave for more than six months. The discovery on Saturday, and continuing into Sunday, comes after the Israeli military withdrew its troops from the southern city on April 7. Much of the Khan Younis is now in ruins after months of relentless Israeli bombardment and heavy fighting. Al Jazeera reported “the bodies include elderly women, children and young men”.  Last week, a mass grave was discovered at al-Shifa Hospital following a two-week siege. It was one of several mass graves found at al-Shifa – the largest medical facility in the coastal enclave. Israel’s war on Gaza has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, devastated Gaza’s two largest cities and left a swath of destruction across the territory. At least two-thirds of the casualties are children and women. It also says the real toll is likely higher as many bodies are stuck beneath the rubble left by air strikes or are in areas that are unreachable for medics.

Israel angered by possible US sanctions against army unit

The Israeli government has responded with indignation after a report that the United States plans to sanction a West Bank unit of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Under the reported plan, members of the Netzah Yehuda unit – which is accused of human rights violations – would be barred from receiving US military support or training. A report by the US news outlet Axios said it had information from three US government sources that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken would announce the sanctions within days. The decision is based on incidents that all took place in the West Bank and occurred before the October 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel, the report said.

“Sanctions must not be imposed on the Israel Defense Forces,” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said on X. He added that his government would oppose such measures with all possible means, calling them “the height of absurdity and a moral low”. Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz said the ‘Netzah Yehuda’ battalion is “an inseparable part of the Israel Defense Forces, subject to military law and operating in full compliance with International law”.

Israel calls on EU to sanction Iran over missile project

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called on his EU counterparts on Sunday “to impose sanctions on the Iranian missile project”, adding that “the project puts the world in danger” and “We must stop Iran before it is too late.” On X, Katz recalled that “Iranian missiles have a range of up to 3,000 kilometers”. At the same time he instructed the Israeli embassies in EU member-states “to increase the campaign against Iran in view of the meeting of European foreign ministers to discuss sanctions”.

Rockets fired from Iraq towards US military base in Syria

An Iraqi militant group has said it will resume attacks on US forces in the country, as it appeared to claim responsibility for a strike on an American military base in north-eastern Syria which saw at least five rockets launched from Iraq’s town of Zummar. Sunday’s strike against US forces is the first since early February, when Iranian-backed groups in Iraq stopped their attacks against US troops. It comes one day after Iraq’s prime minister, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, returned from a visit to the United States and met with Joe Biden at the White House. Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah said Iraqi armed groups had decided to resume attacks on the US presence in the country after seeing little progress on talks to achieve the exit of American troops during al-Sudani’s visit to Washington.

Blinken heading back to China over military aid to Russia

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to China om Wednesday for a three-day visit during which he would meet with the country’s senior leaders in Shanghai and Beijing “to discuss a range of bilateral, regional and global issues including the crisis in the Middle East, Russia’s war against Ukraine, Taiwan Strait issues and the South China Sea”, according to the US State Department. Blinken will also discuss “the ongoing work to fulfill the commitments made by Presidents Biden and Xi at the Woodside Summit in November on resuming counter-drug cooperation, military-to-military communication, artificial intelligence and strengthening people-to-people ties, and will reiterate the importance of the United States and China responsibly managing competition, even in areas where our two countries disagree.

Analysts said Blinken “will head to Beijing this week, with a warning for China to curb its technical support for Russia’s military – in the midst of fears in Western capitals that Chinese aid to Moscow for manufacturing of military hardware is ramping up. “We’re prepared to take steps when we believe necessary against firms that … severely undermine security in both Ukraine and Europe,” Politico quotes a State Department official saying ahead of Blinken’s trip. “We’ve demonstrated our willingness to do so regarding firms from a number of countries, not just China.” At a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Italy, late last week, the West’s top diplomats issued a joint warning to Iran that if it is found to be sending ballistic missiles and related military technology to Russia then it would face further sanctions. Speaking following the G7 meeting, Blinken said that China is Russia’s “primary contributor” when it comes to industrial support for arms. “We see China sharing machine tools, semi-conductors, other dual use items that have helped Russia rebuild the defence industrial base,” Blinken said.

Ukrainian army damages Russian ship in Sevastopol

The Ukrainian army announced on Sunday that it hit and damaged the Russian ship ‘Kommunua’ in the city of Sevastopol by the Black Sea. The ‘Kommunua’ was a submarine supply ship which was also used in rescue operations. The Moscow-appointed governor of the region also reported attacks and fires in Crimea. Russian ballistic missiles had also been fired at logistics facilities in the Odesa port infrastructure, confirmed the Ukrainian army. Following the recent aid package announced by the US House of Representatives, some anticipate Russia will step up its offensive in the immediate future.

US journalist Terry Anderson, hostage in Lebanon for 7 years, dead at 76

Terry Anderson, the former Mideast correspondent for The Associated Press who was kidnapped in 1985 and held captive for nearly seven years in Lebanon, has died at 76, his daughter told CNN. Anderson died on Sunday at his home in Greenwood Lake, New York, according to his daughter, Sulome Anderson. “Though my father’s life was marked by extreme suffering during his time as a hostage in captivity, he found a quiet, comfortable peace in recent years,” she said in a statement to CNN. The cause of death was unknown, though his daughter told the AP he had recently had heart surgery. The AP journalist worked out of Kentucky, Tokyo, South Africa and ultimately Lebanon, after he volunteered to go there in 1982 following Israel’s invasion as the news agency’s chief Middle East correspondent. Anderson covered Lebanon’s civil war for three years before his capture in 1985. He was released in 1991, as the 16-year civil war ended.

ETA heirs win Basque elections but will not govern

With nearly all votes counted, the left-wing independence coalition EH Bildu – whose hegemonic formation, Sortu, is the heir to ETA’s former political showcase – obtained 27 of the 75 seats up for grabs, on equal terms merit with the Basque Nationalist Party. However, observers said it seems unlikely that the game of parliamentary alliances will allow them to govern the northern Spanish region. EH Bildu gained six seats compared to the previous parliament, while the PNV lost four. In terms of number of votes, however, the PNV obtained almost 30,000 more. The most likely scenario is that the Socialists of Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez, hand over their 12 deputies to the PNV to govern again, as has happened on several occasions.

Maldives’ pro-China party claims landslide victory

The party of Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu claimed a landslide victory at Sunday’s parliamentary election. Muizzu’s party, the People’s National Congress, won 66 of the first 86 seats declared by the Elections Commission of the Maldives – enough for a super-majority in the 93-seat parliament. Muizzu himself was not up for election but his party previously lacked enough seats in parliament to move ahead his agenda of abandoning the country’s “India First” policy and re-orienting toward China. Election chief Fuad Thaufeeq said turnout had reached 73 per cent of the country’s 284,663 eligible voters. The election came as India and China vie for influence in the low-lying Indian Ocean archipelago.

Iran announces new morality enforcement body

The commander of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) troops in the Iranian capital on Sunday announced the creation of a new enforcement body to uphold the country’s strict dress code for women. IRGC Tehran chief Hassan Hassanzadeh said members of the squad’s members have been trained to enforce the hijab “in a more serious manner” at public locations. The announcement follows reports that authorities have intensified morality sweeps in recent days, with shared images showing the uniformed officers descending on women as part of an operation officials said was codenamed Nour, or Light in Persian. In a related message imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi said women’s narratives of oppression will be heard and will “disgrace” the “misogynist” government. Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi has defended the Nour crackdown, saying “projects implemented in the area of hijab are being carried out within the framework of the law”. Vahidi called the hijab “one of the pillars of the [Iranian] system’s identity and a Shari’a principle” that “should not be allowed” to slip into lax enforcement.

Bronze statue for ‘Kaiser’ Beckenbauer

The late German football legend Franz Beckenbauer will be honored with a statue in front of Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena, a club supporters foundation announced Sunday. The great player and coach, also known as “der Kaiser” (the Emperor), is to be cast in bronze in an elegant pose as the game’s conductor. The Kurt Landauer Foundation said he will stand on a pedestal in the shape of the Bavarian flag’s rhombus. Beckenbauer, widely considered one of the best players of all time, passed away in January in Salzburg, and was buried in a cemetery south of Munich, near where he grew up. His statue will stand next to that of former teammate and Bayern striker Gerd Müller, which was unveiled in September. Müller, who still holds the Bundesliga goal scoring record, died in August 2021 at the age of 75.

Beckenbauer made his name at Bayern Munich, helping the club to their first promotion to the Bundesliga before winning league titles and European Cups with the side. Bayern also helped launch Beckenbauer’s stunning career in the German national team, where he won the World Cup both as a player and as a coach. Only three men have achieved that feat. Beckenbauer played a key role in the building of the Allianz Arena, which was opened in time for the 2006 World Cup, hosted in Germany.

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