By Robert A. Vella
Here’s a roundup of world news concerning the public health and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, the horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria (resulting from President Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops), the unstable situation in Afghanistan, and the recent effects of climate change in Europe and Brazil.
ROME, March 4 (Reuters) – The Italian government has decided to close schools and universities across the country until mid-March in a further attempt to contain the worst coronavirus outbreak in Europe, Ansa news agency reported on Wednesday.
The government shuttered schools and universities in the worst-affected regions in northern Italy some 10 days ago and quarantined a handful of towns at the epicenter of the outbreak. However, the contagion has spread, with at least 79 people dying and more than 2,500 infected.
Both leaders underlined the need to reach agreement at the start of the Kremlin talks. Russian President Vladimir Putin said they they need to work out steps to end fighting and prevent damage to bilateral relations. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also voiced hope for finding a settlement and pointed at blossoming Russia-Turkey trade.
Until the latest crisis, Putin and Erdogan had managed to coordinate their interests in Syria even though Moscow backed Syrian President Bashar Assad while Ankara supported the government’s foes throughout Syria’s nine-year war. Both Russia and Turkey appear eager to avoid a showdown now also, but the sharply conflicting interests in Idlib province make it difficult to negotiate a mutually acceptable compromise.
A Russia-backed Syrian offensive to regain control over Idlib — the last opposition-controlled region in the country — has resulted in Turkey sending thousands of troops into Idlib to repel the Syrian army. Clashes on the ground and in the air have left dozens dead on both sides. Russia, which has helped Assad reclaim most of the country’s territory, has signaled it won’t sit by while Turkey routs his troops now.
The fighting has also pushed nearly a million Syrian civilians toward Turkey. Erdogan responded by opening Turkey’s gateway to Europe in an apparent bid to persuade the West to offer more support to Ankara.
WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday the Trump administration would take “all necessary measures” to shield U.S. military and other personnel from a war-crimes investigation by the International Criminal Court.
The international court, based in the Hague, ruled on Thursday that its prosecutors could move forward with an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Taliban, Afghan forces and American military and CIA personnel.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump said he had a “very good talk” with a top Taliban leader and insisted the group wants to cease violence, a U.S. military drone on Wednesday targeted the militant group — retaliation for an uptick in Taliban attacks against Afghan forces.
The mixed signals underscored the fragility of the U.S.-Taliban deal signed last weekend that aims at ending America’s longest war.
The EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) data dates back to 1855. It said the average temperature for December, January and February was 1.4C above the previous winter record, which was set in 2015-16. New regional climate records are usually passed by only a fraction of a degree. Europe’s winter was 3.4C hotter than the average from 1981-2010.
The unseasonal heat has led to the failure of the ice-wine harvest in Germany and snow having to be imported for sporting events in Sweden and Russia. In Helsinki, Finland, the average temperature for January and February is more than 6C higher than the 1981-2010 average. In the UK, serious flooding is likely to have been made worse by higher temperatures, as in 2015.
Violent rain has killed scores of people and forced thousands from their homes this year in Brazil’s most populous states, a disaster experts blame on climate upheaval but also rampant urbanization.
Flash floods, landslides and other havoc wrought by torrential rain have killed at least 29 people in recent days in the states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Another 25 are missing.
That comes after more than 50 people were killed by heavy rain that devastated the state of Minas Gerais in January.