Global Review – 19th August

Deaths reported as storms strike Europe

Massive storms lashing central and southern Europe killed at least 13 people – including three children – in Italy, Germany, Austria and France. Hurricane-force winds of up to 220 kph – a wind speed that is equivalent to a major Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic basin – battering the French island of Corsica resulted in a falling tree killing a 13-year-old girl on a campsite Thursday. A man died in a similar incident and an elderly woman was killed when her car was hit by the detached roof of a beach hut. Two other people, a fisherman and a female kayaker, died out at sea. Later French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who arrived in Corsica to inspect storm damage, reported a sixth death. Dozens more people were injured on both land and sea. On the French mainland, some southern areas were hit by power cuts and streets were flooded in the country’s second city, Marseille. Communters at a Paris airport could not believe their eyes seeing fuel bowsers and catering vans being blown off onto the runway. Socoa, France, located in the far southwest portion of the country near the border with Spain, was deluged with over 76 millimetres of rain early Thursday morning with rainfall rates over 50 millimetres per hour, which caused intense flash flooding and inundated areas in a matter of minutes. Wreckage from the storm system was also reported at sites in Austria, Slovakia and Italy, where a man and a woman were killed by falling trees in separate incidents in the region of Tuscany and, in Venice, masonry was blown off the belltower of St Mark’s Basilica. Meanwhile, streets in Provence, France, and London, flooded due to heavy rains. In Austria four people, including two girls, were killed as a result of falling trees. “The area of low pressure that spawned storms in France will continue to move across north-central Italy and across the Alps into western Europe this weekend causing heavy rain and severe thunderstorms once again,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Robert Richards explained. Severe thunderstorms will be most again strike across north-central Italy and the islands of Corsica and Sardinia, with the main risks being torrential downpours, damaging wind gusts, hail and even isolated tornadoes. Cities such as Florence and Bologna in Italy could be affected by the thunderstorms. But in southern Italy, the heatwave continued, with temperatures of up to 40OC recorded in Sicily. Many parts of Europe have seen weeks of exceptionally hot and dry weather. And across the Mediterranean Sea in Algeria, at least 38 people have died in forest fires.

Moscow intervenes in Italy’s electoral campaign

Russian national security council vice-president Dmitri Medvedev has invited Europeans to “punish” their “idiotic governments” at the polls and his appeal immediately became a case in Italy on the eve of elections marked by fear of interference by Moscow. There were immediate condemnations from the centre-left, with the Democratic Party attacking the “ambiguity” of a right that remains silent for long hours, before Matteo Salvini had his say in the evening: “I am not interested in the insults of the Dems. The Italians will vote and not the Russians… I am not interested in making a controversy with the rest of the world,” said the leader of the League. But Enrico Letta replies: “Russia has put the ballot in the ballot box. The League has an agreement signed in 2017 with United Russia, Putin’s party. This agreement must be cancelled; if they do not do it it is very serious for the sovereignty of our country.”  Writing on Telegram, his favourite channel, Medvedev said: “If the price for European democracy is the cold in apartments and empty refrigerators, this ‘democracy’ is for the insane”, referring to the consequences of the sanctions against Russia for the war in Ukraine. So act, European neighbours! Winter is much warmer and more comfortable in the company of Russia than in splendid isolation with the gas stove turned off,” Medvedev concluded using the threat of cutting off Russian gas supplies to Europe.

Radioactive plume’ would hit nine EU nations in hours

The head of Russia’s radiological protection forces Lt Gen Igor Kirllov presented a slide yesterday which showed that in the event of a nuclear disaster, Germany, Poland and Slovakia would be heavily affected by the radiological fallout. However, Olga Kosharna, an expert in nuclear energy and nuclear safety who previously worked at the State Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Ukraine, told the radiation could reach several other surrounding countries depending on which way the wind is blowing during a “severe” accident. She said: “In this scenario, [south blowing winds], the radioactive plume, [could] travel to Bulgaria, Romania, and the Black Sea region. In 23 hours it will reach Turkey.” She added: “If it is an eastern wind, the plume will go to Poland, Hungary or the Czech Republic.” She said it was possible the fallout could hit the occupied Crimean peninsula or even regions of Russia. Zaporizhzhia is Europe’s largest nuclear plant and a nuclear disaster there could cause a catastrophe many times larger than the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. The news comes following a visit by the Turkish President to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv where he met with Ukrainian President Zelensky and UN Secretary General António Guterres. At a press conference following the meeting Guterres urged both sides to withdraw military equipment and soldiers from the plant. He will, later today, visit the port city of Odesa to observe efforts to clear the way for Ukraine to export grain to ease the global food shortage, which has worsened due to the war. After meeting, Zelensky said there can be no peace negotiations without the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. “People who kill, rape, hit our cities with cruise missiles every day cannot want peace.”
Ankara-Kiev agreement for reconstruction after war damage

An agreement for the reconstruction of infrastructure destroyed during the war between Russia and Ukraine was signed by Ankara and Kiev during the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Lviv, where he met his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky. This was announced by Turkish news ageny, Anadolu. Earlier, Erdogan said this at a media conference that Turkey is “on Ukraine’s side”.

Finland’s PM says she didn’t do drugs at ‘wild’ party

Finland’s prime minister Sanna Marin says she did not take any drugs during a “wild” party in a private home, adding she did nothing wrong when letting her hair down and partying with friends. A video posted on social media shows six people dancing and mimicking a song in front of a camera, including Marin. Later in the video, Marin, 36, is on her knees on what seems to be the dance floor with her arms behind her head dancing while mimicking a song. “I’m disappointed that it has become public. I spent the evening with friends. Partied, pretty wild, yes. Danced and sang,” she was quoted Thursday as saying by Finnish broadcaster YLE. “I have not used drugs myself, or anything other than alcohol. I’ve danced, sung and partied and done perfectly legal things. I have also not been in a situation where I would know that others are doing it that way,” Marin said, according to the ‘Hufvudstadsbladet’ newspaper.

Pope rules out inquiry into Canada cardinal

Pope Francis has ruled out a formal church investigation into a sexual assault claim against Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet after a preliminary inquiry found no basis for one, the Vatican said Thursday.Ouellet, himself once considered a strong candidate to be pope, was named in court documents this week relating to a class action suit targeting more than 80 members of the clergy in the archdiocese of Quebec. The 78-year-old is accused of abusing a female intern, identified only as “F”, from 2008 to 2010, when he was archbishop of Quebec.

Americans spend more time on Netflix than traditional TV

Streaming in the US beats cable TV for the first time in history. In July, Americans spent more time watching content from services like Netflix, YouTube, and Hbo Max than traditional TV. This is what emerges from the Nielsen surveys, according to which streaming captured 34.8% of the total time spent in front of the TV in July while cable TV 34.4%. Americans spent 22.6% more of their time ahead of last year, while cable TV dropped 8.9%, signaling how Americans continue to cut back on traditional TV services.

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