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Avenging the Death of Qassem Soleimani

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Death toll rises after Typhoon Phanfone hits Philippines

Typhoon Phanfone has killed at least 28 people in central Philippines on Christmas Day and left 12 missing, while thousands have been forced to flee their homes.

The locally known as Typhoon Ursula ravaged three provinces, as it fist made landfall on Eastern Samar province on Tuesday and continued to sweep west across the Eastern Visayas region, southern Luzon and Western Visayas the next day.

The typhoon tore roofs off houses and destroyed water and power lines, and led to severe floodings and landslides in many cities, according to the government’s office of civil defence.

Flights and ferries were canceled, leaving behind thousands travelling on their way home, while many major roads remain impassable and internet and mobile networks are cut in badly damaged areas.

According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), a total of 58,400 people were pre-emptively evacuated ahead of the typhoon, forced to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in temporary evacuation shelters at school gymnasiums and bus terminals.

“Ursula”, that touched gusts of 95 kilometres per hour, was reported to be easing in strength on Thursday, as it moved over the western Philippines toward the South China Sea .

“I join in the pain that affected the dear people of the Philippines because of the Typhoon Phanfone. I pray for the numerous victims, for the injured and for their families,” said Pope Francis.

Rescue operations in flooded communities are still taking place, while the death toll is constantly rising.

Philippines are struck by more than 20 typhoons annually with Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 being the deadliest, leaving more than 6,000 victims behind. Typhoon Kammuri hit Philippines just three weeks ago, killing at least 17 people, as it ripped the capital Manila and neighbour areas.

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Australian bushfires continue to rage as death toll rises – Channel 4 News

21 Dec 2019

Australia’s bushfires are taking more lives and communities. As temperatures in western Sydney climb towards 47 celsius.


Out of control across several states now – Australia’s bushfires are taking more lives and communities. As temperatures in western Sydney climb towards 47 celsius – officials in New South Wales are urging people to delay any Christmas travel plans – warning strong winds could push the flames in unpredictable directions.

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison finally returned from his controversial holiday in Hawaii – to a political firestorm over his handling of a national crisis.


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New Zealand volcano: Search fails to find last two victims as death toll hits 16

A search has failed to locate the bodies of the last two victims of a volcano eruption in New Zealand that claimed the lives of at least 16 people.

It came as New Zealand police confirmed the 16th victim died on Saturday at Sydney’s Concord Hospital, one of several Australian hospitals where survivors suffering from severe burns were being treated.

It comes as the first five victims were officially named by police. 

On Sunday, two four-person teams landed on the volcanic White Island by helicopter to search a location thought to be where one of the remaining bodies might be. 

The teams were wearing heavy protective clothing due to the toxic air and gases present on the island as a result of the eruption.

Their breathing apparatus allowed them to search for only 75 minutes.

The searchers were unable to locate either body and returned to the mainland where they underwent decontamination. 

New Zealand Police national operations commander John Tims said the search will continue.

Members of a dive squad conduct a search during a recovery operation around White Island (NEW ZEALAND POLICE via REUTERS)

“We have always anticipated recovering all bodies from the island, and we remain deeply committed to that goal, to allow families some closure,” he said.

“We are now debriefing, reassessing and coming up with a new plan going forward.”

Mr Tims said the process of identifying victims and releasing bodies to their loved ones was ongoing in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city.

“We will continue to release the names of those who have died as soon as we are able to,” he said.

Five victims have so far been named, four of whom are Australians.

The first to be named was Krystal Browitt, a veterinary nursing student from Melbourne, Australia, who turned 21 on November 29.

On Sunday, Zoe Hosking, 15, and her stepfather Gavin Dallow, 53, both from Adelaide, were confirmed as dead. Lisa Dallow, Zoe’s mother, is being treated for severe burns.

Anthony Langford, 51, of Sydney, has also been confirmed dead. He was travelling with his wife Kristine Langford and their children Jesse, 19, and Winona, 17.

Jesse survived the eruption and was identified in a New Zealand hospital on Tuesday evening. His mother and sister are still unaccounted for.

The fourth person identified on Sunday is New Zealand resident Tipene Maangi, 24.

Two British women were among those admitted to hospital in New Zealand after the volcano erupted.

All 13 Australians who suffered burns were transported to hospitals around Australia for treatment, at least eight of whom are reported to be in a critical condition.

Navy and police divers are expected to resume the search of waters around the island later on Sunday.


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Nebraska man on death row for killing 4 – but Texas woman says she’ll marry him: report

A 33-year-old Nebraska man on death row for killing four people within 10 days in 2013 has at least one friend still in his corner: a 46-year-old Texas woman who reportedly has confirmed that she and the killer plan to marry.

But Dawn Arguello of Lubbock isn’t happy that Nikko Jenkins – who authorities say committed the murders within three weeks of being released from prison on a robbery and assault conviction – recently had her name tattooed on his face.


“I was very (ticked) off that he did that,” Arguello told the Omaha World-Herald. “He doesn’t need to be self-mutilating like that.”

Arguello added she isn’t happy about the way her husband-to-be has been portrayed in the local press.

“If you believe the media,” she said, “he’s the most hated man in Nebraska besides Charles Starkweather.”

Nikko Jenkins has been linked to four murders committed within 10 days in 2013, authorities say.

Nikko Jenkins has been linked to four murders committed within 10 days in 2013, authorities say.

The reference was to the 1950s serial killer of 11 people whose story inspired several movies, including “Badlands” in 1973 and “Natural Born Killers” in 1994. After his conviction in one of the murders, Starkweather was executed in Nebraska in 1959 at age 20.

Jenkins is not like Starkweather at all, she said.

“He’s not what the media has made him out to be,” she told the World-Herald. “He’s an enigma. He has feelings. He’s very sensitive.

“He’s not what the media has made him out to be. He’s an enigma. He has feelings. He’s very sensitive.”

— Dawn Arguello, fiancee of death-row inmate

“He’s very intelligent,” she added, “and, yes, he’s very manipulating.”

According to authorities, Jenkins received help from family members in executing the four murders to which he’s been linked. They say he convinced his sister and a female cousin to lure two men with a promise of sex acts in an Omaha park, then Jenkins himself appeared and suddenly blasted the two men in their heads with a shotgun.

A few days later, Jenkins, his sister and another man went to a neighborhood in Omaha, supposedly to commit a robbery. Instead, Jenkins killed the man, authorities said.

Then a few days after that, Jenkins pulled a mother of three out of her SUV and killed her, according to authorities.

Jenkins’ death sentence, issued in 2017, was Nebraska’s first since the state’s voters reinstated capital punishment in a November 2016 vote.


In 2014, however, the Nebraska Legislature ordered a special investigation into Jenkins’ case because some critics noted that, while in prison prior to the murders, Jenkins had spent more than half of his sentence in solitary confinement. The critics claimed the isolation may have had an effect on his mental health, possibly resulting in the killing spree so soon after he was released.

Arguello met Jenkins while doing volunteer work for a nonprofit organization that advocates for death-row inmates and their families. She also has a criminal record of her own, with convictions for misdemeanor domestic violence, felony child abuse and felony credit card abuse, the World-Herald reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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A1 crash: Campaigner questions road upgrade delay after death

Karl Heaney and his mother MonicaImage copyright
Monica Heaney

Image caption

Monica Heaney has campaigned for upgrades to the A1 duel carriageway since the death of her 27-year-old son Karl

Delayed upgrades will cost more lives on one of Northern Ireland’s most dangerous roads, a campaigner has said.

Monica Heaney was speaking after the death of a 75-year-old woman in a road traffic incident on the A1, between Banbridge and Dromore in late November.

“I just wish the upgrades could happen quicker,” said Ms Heaney, whose son Karl was killed on the road last year.

The Department of Infrastructure said it was assisting the PSNI investigation into the most recent death.

Part of the main route between Belfast and Dublin, the road has been the site of two fatal crashes in 2019.

Karl Heaney, from Warrenpoint, County Down, died in a crash on the A1 between Banbridge and Dromore in May 2018.

He was the driver of one of the cars involved in a two-car collision.

A spokesperson for the Department for Infrastructure said it recognised the importance of the work on the A1.

‘More people will die because of the delay’

The proposed development of the A1 was first published in 2011.

Along with her son’s partner, Ciara Sands, Ms Heaney has launched a petition calling for upgrades to be made to the road.

So far the petition has received more than than 12,000 signatures.

“It will mean that more people will die as a result of the delay,” said Ms Heaney.

“The year Karl died it was three people who died, and this year it has been two. Next year it will be another two families who lose a loved one.”

She added that if there was a car crash, “someone is responsible for that but the layout of the road has contributed to it”.

Why is the road so dangerous?

The issue around safety on the road centres on the layout of the dual carriageway between Hillsborough and Loughbrickland.

A report from the Department for Infrastructure identifies a number of factors which increase danger on the road.

Currently there are gaps in the central reserve separating the opposing traffic flows, vehicles to turn right and perform U-turns.

There are also a number of private and farm access roads which join directly on to the A1.

Along long stretches of the route, there is no central reserve barrier.

These factors are aggravated by poor visibility in areas.

There have been a number of other incidents on the A1 this year.

In March, a man died in a crash on the road after a two-vehicle collision.

The collision happened close to the road’s junction with the Gowdystown Road, with two other people receiving non-life threatening injuries in the incident.

In January, a lorry struck a car and toppled over on the southbound carriageway.

‘Upgrade needs to happen’

A public inquiry into upgrading the road will be held in March and Ms Heaney wants to address it.

“They are going to be hearing from people who oppose the road, and are going to have meetings to try and resolve the issues,” she said.

“It is important that the voices of the victims are heard, to say why this upgrade needs to happen.”

She said the inquiry would likely push back the start of road improvement work by a year.

Ms Heaney added she appreciated a process to redevelop the road was in place, and it was frustrating for officials in the Department for Infrastructure.

Image caption

Karl Heaney died in a crash on the A1 in 2018

The department said the inquiry comes after a consultation on an earlier stage of the development process, including feedback on an environmental impact assessment report.

It said the consultation exercise had offered an opportunity for the public and other stakeholders to engage, and it had received more than 100 responses.

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Death of the delta: Louisiana communities on the brink | News

In parts of the United States, land is being lost at the rate of a football field every hour.

Ten years ago, Al Jazeera’s Nick Clark visited southern Louisiana, where he saw the destruction caused by oil extraction and rising sea levels.

He returns to find communities now living on the brink.

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Death threats to meat company managers complicated efforts to fix the beef price dispute – Dáil told

Michael Creed
Michael Creed

John Downing

Meat company managers received death threats at a firm which got an injunction against blockading beef farmers, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has told the Dáil.

Mr Creed was speaking as hundreds of independent farmers, many driving tractors, protested in Dublin city centre over low cattle prices. The Minister said these death threats added to difficulties in establishing a taskforce to deal with the beef crisis which dominated this summer and autumn.

The Leinster House protests follow blockades at beef processing factories over several months. TDs who spoke supporting the demonstrators, called for independent and non-aligned farmers to be recognised and represented at the taskforce.

The taskforce was promised as part of an agreement to end the protests. But the Mr Creed said all TDs were well aware of the specific issues involved in convening of the group, as farmers called for remaining injunctions to be lifted against farmers who picketed outside processing plants.

The Agriculture Minister said the injunctions that remained were granted to a company that is not part of the taskforce.

“What has compounded the difficulty is that senior management in that company have had death threats issued to them. And their partners and families have been intimidated in that local community,” Mr Creed told the Dáil.

While several TDs expressed support for the protesting farmers, Mr Creed said “we are grappling with very difficult issues”.

A Dáil row also erupted when the Minister said that Independent TD Mattie McGrath was “shrugging his shoulders” and might “dismiss the difficulty of death threats – but the Government doesn’t and the gardai don’t”.

Mr McGrath countered that he accepted that threats had been made and that the Government was taking them seriously and called on the Minister to withdraw his remarks. The Minister said previous experience had shown what followed from death threats and they were taking them very seriously.

Mr McGrath said the demonstrating farmers outside the Leinster House gates were non-political and they were worried about the perilous situation they faced. He had called on the Minister to meet them and to accept a letter from them. “ The taskforce isn’t doing the job, won’t do the job and it’s not business as usual,” Mr McGrath said.

The Tipperary TD also said he appreciated the support from Dublin-based People Before Profit, Brid Smith, who raised the issue. Ms Smith said there had been eight weeks of blockading of meat production plants and farmers were back to ask for the issues to be dealt with urgently.

She called on the Government to be inclusive of all farmer representative groups, and the Independent Farmers of Ireland who have re-grouped and have demanded the lifting of all injunctions so that meaningful talks can take place.

Fianna Fáil Cavan-Monaghan TD, Niamh Smyth, argued the Minister had not delivered on his commitment two months ago when farmers ended their protests to deliver on a taskforce.

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Black Death in China: A history of plagues, from ancient times to now

Finally — for many of them — came death.

Today, many of us think of the plague as something confined to the history books — a grim symbol of the medieval period, before doctors knew about the existence of viruses or bacteria.

But this month, three people in China were diagnosed with two different forms of plague, highlighting that while the plague is not as serious an issue as it once was, it’s also not entirely a thing of the past.

Neither is debate about the cause of the disease, how it spread, and even where it came from.

Plagued by questions

For a disease that has impacted humans for centuries, there’s still plenty we don’t know about the plague.

Humans have been hit by three major plague pandemics over the past 2,000 years, resulting in nearly 200 million deaths. The first pandemic was in the 6th century, during the reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian I. The second — which was known as the Black Death — swept through medieval Europe, starting from the 14th century. The third pandemic began in China in the 19th century, and spread to other parts of Asia and the United States.
In the Middle Ages, many thought the disease had been sent by god as punishment for their sins. By the 20th century, scientists were pretty sure that all three pandemics were caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, which is found in small mammals and fleas. They knew that there were a number of varieties of Yersinia pestis, the most common of which are pneumonic and bubonic — the type that causes large sores.
14th-century plague of Florence as described by Giovanni Boccaccio.

But starting in the 1970s and 1980s, historians and biologists began pointing out that the second pandemic didn’t act like the third pandemic in a significant way: it killed many more people. That prompted people to posit that another disease had caused the Black Death, said historian Winston Black, who is writing a book that busts a number of plague theories.

“They’re often called the ‘plague deniers’ — they’re denying that the medieval Black Death was the bubonic plague,” Black said. “They’ve proposed anthrax, (and) something like an early Ebola.”

The turning point came in the 2000s, when scientists developed the ability to extract ancient DNA — including from medieval skeletons.

When scientists analyzed the skeletons of plague victims, they found fragments of Yersinia pestis, said Black. But that only led to another question: if the disease wasn’t genetically different, then why was the second pandemic so deadly?

In the past, that’s been attributed to the poor hygiene and close living quarters of people during the medieval period. But Black says that still doesn’t completely explain it, as others have lived in similarly bad conditions and not experienced such a rapid and deadly plague.

And there are other questions and misconceptions that remain over the Black Death.

Although the nursery rhyme “Ring Around the Rosie” is widely thought to be about the plague, Black said that was an incorrect theory created decades after the song was first sung. And the popular notion that doctors wore beaks — supposedly to protect them from infection — during the Black Death was also wrong, Black said — the mask wasn’t invented for hundreds of years after the second pandemic.

A world map that is believed by some to have been compiled by Zheng He(1371-1435), China's most famous navigator.
About a decade ago, some scientists argued that the plague could have originated in East Asia over 2,600 years ago. The second pandemic could have started in China, they said, and been brought to Europe through the Silk Road, an ancient trade route that connects China to Europe. They also posited that the disease could have been brought to Africa by Zheng He, a Chinese explorer who traveled around the world in the 15th century, and who has drawn comparisons with Italian explorer Marco Polo.
But scientists have since found DNA evidence that the plague could have existed much further back than previously thought — there’s evidence it existed in Europe some 5,000 years ago.

And the idea that the second pandemic, the Black Death, could have started in China is unlikely, Black said.

DNA evidence extracted from the skeletons of medieval plague victims, and genetic analysis of the bacteria, suggest that the outbreak probably originated in central Asia, and moved east into China, and west into Europe via trade routes, said Black.

Even if the second pandemic had come from China, the Zheng He theory isn’t feasible — as Black points out, if Zheng He’s ship was carrying plague-infested rats, the whole crew would most likely be dead before they reached Africa.

China’s brush with modern plague

But when it comes to the third pandemic, there are fewer questions. This time, scientists are sure it originated in China in the 19th century, in what is now the southwestern province of Yunnan.

That bubonic plague outbreak made its way to Hong Kong — then a British colony — and from there, spread via trade routes to other parts of Asia and the United States.

“It’s undeniable that there was this pathway of transmission from China to the outside world,” said Jack Greatrex, who is working on a PhD at Hong Kong University about the history of the plague in Hong Kong.

Plague inspectors on a street of Hong Kong, around 1890.

That outbreak sparked the third global plague pandemic. But it was another plague outbreak that would help shape China’s future.

In the 1910s, there was another outbreak of plague in Manchuria — now northeast China. Thousands were killed by pneumonic plague, the most severe strand.

At the time, parts of China were occupied by foreign powers. Both the Russian and Japanese empires claimed they could manage the plague in Manchuria better than China, which showed China that disease could be a “security disaster” as it “legitimated colonial meddling,” said Miriam Gross, who studies public health in China and is a professor at the University of Oklahoma.

When the founder of modern China, Mao Zedong, came to power in 1949, he made disease control a priority. There were a number of reasons for that, but one was to show that China could handle its own affairs and didn’t need outside help, Gross said.

Chinese Cultural revolution poster about the so-called four pests: mosquitoes, rats, flies and sparrows.

So Mao put in place a number of measures to control the country’s rampant disease. One of his most famous and unusual proposals was the “Four Pests Campaign,” where Mao called for rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows to be eliminated. The rats were to be killed to control schistosomiasis, which is sometimes translated in English as “plague” although it is a different disease.

But the Four Pests Campaign led to the slaughter of millions of wildlife, which disrupted the country’s ecology and contributed to a mass famine during which millions of people died.

Ultimately, though, China did improve its overall health care across the country. Nevertheless, the plague — which had not been the main focus of the health push — has occasionally reared its ugly head. Yunnan was hit by another breakout between 1986 and 2005, and another case was diagnosed in Yunnan in 2016.

Why we’re so fascinated by the plague

Centuries on from the Black Death, people around the world continue to be transfixed by the plague in a way they’re not by other diseases.

These days, the plague is hardly the biggest health risk facing many countries. In 2017 alone, 219 million people caught malaria and 435,000 people died of the disease. By contrast, between 2010 and 2015, 584 people died of the plague worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
While the plague can be deadly if untreated, patients can easily be treated with antibiotics. After the plague diagnosis in China, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said there was an extremely low risk of it spreading, state media China Daily reported.

But even if the disease isn’t a major threat for most countries, it still interests scientists and historians, who are continuing to make discoveries about the Black Death, despite it occurring hundreds of years ago.

Staff members from a local disease control center wear prevention clothes and masks before entering a plague surveillance lab in Sichuan Province of China in August 28, 2019.

Greatrex, from Hong Kong University, said the plague continued to be haunted by its history. “You hear of the plague, and instantly you think of Black Death which ravages Europe, it has that enormous historical baggage,” he said. “It’s where lots of our ideas about what it means to have an epidemic comes from.”

Black, the historian, said the fascination with the Black Death comes from a deep cultural memory in the Middle East and Europe, where the disease was written about for centuries.

However, he said other diseases — such as malaria and Ebola — should be of greater concern.

“It’s so central to Western identity,” he said. “It’s part of our past, where something like malaria, which is so much more devastating in the last century, it doesn’t interest us.”

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California man held in Army veteran’s death also facing kidnap charge after police find hostage in his home: reports

A Southern California man arrested Monday in the alleged murder of a 34-year-old U.S. Army veteran also faces a kidnapping charge because police found a hostage in the suspect’s home, authorities said Wednesday, according to reports.

Antonio Silva, 27, of Santa Ana, is suspected of killing Adrian Darren Bonar, 34, whose body was found wrapped in a tarp in the trunk of a Lexus found abandoned in Anaheim last month.


Silva’s hostage had been at the house for at least two days and was released from a hospital Tuesday after treatment for unspecificed reasons, The Orange County Register reported. Also found in the home were two grams of fentanyl and firearms including two handguns and two rifles, KTLA of Los Angeles reported.

Antonio Silva is seen in an undated booking photo. (Anaheim Police Department via AP)

Antonio Silva is seen in an undated booking photo. (Anaheim Police Department via AP)

Bonar grew up in North County San Diego and was honorably discharged from the Army after serving during the Iraq War. His body was found in an abandoned car on a dirt road near a freeway in Anaheim Hills on Oct. 17. The vehicle may have been there as long as four days, KTLA reported.

Police didn’t give any more information about the manner of Bonar’s death nor about the circumstances under which Silva’s hostage was taken captive.

Adrian Darren Bonar, who served in the U.S. Army, was found dead Oct. 17 inside an abandoned vehicle, authorities say. (Anaheim Police Department)

Adrian Darren Bonar, who served in the U.S. Army, was found dead Oct. 17 inside an abandoned vehicle, authorities say. (Anaheim Police Department)


“Regardless of what Adrian may have been involved in, he’s the victim of this crime,” Anaheim Police Chief Jorge Cisneros said, according to The Register. “No one deserves to die in this fashion.”

The investigation is ongoing.

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