The Guardian 2024-07-03 06:12:34


Four dead as category 5 Hurricane Beryl wreaks havoc across Caribbean

Storm moving towards southern Hispaniola and expected to hit Jamaica, with ‘life-threatening winds’, on Wednesday

  • Why Hurricane Beryl foretells a scary storm season

At least four people have died after Hurricane Beryl wreaked “almost complete destruction” on small and vulnerable islands in the Caribbean.

The monster hurricane, which is now barrelling towards Jamaica, has strengthened to category 5 status, which means it can achieve wind speeds of over 157mph (253km/h).

On Tuesday, the US National Hurricane Centre said that the eye of the storm was moving quickly towards southern Hispaniola, the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and was “expected to bring life-threatening winds and storm surge” to Jamaica on Wednesday.

Beryl, the 2024 Atlantic season’s first hurricane and the earliest storm on record to reach the highest category, left a trail of “utter devastation” in Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

According to early reports from the two multi-island nations, hundreds of buildings, including homes, schools, hospitals and police stations, have been badly damaged or completely destroyed.

At least 90% of building structures are believed to have been affected on the Grenadine island of Union, part of SVG.

There was also a country-wide electricity blackout, and Beryl has severely affected communication and transportation channels, leading to difficulties in assessing the true impact of the devastation on some islands.

“The situation is grim,” Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell told Grenadians as he gave an update on the Grenadian islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique early on Tuesday.

“There is no power, there is almost complete destruction of homes and buildings on the island. The roads are not passable, and in many instances, they are cut off because of the large quantity of debris strewn all over the streets.”

“In half an hour, Carriacou was flattened,” Mitchell told a press conference late on Monday.

On Tuesday, officials in the two countries were assessing the damage and seeking support from regional and international agencies.

On social media, the prime minister said the government was working to get relief supplies to both Carriacou and the island of Petite Martinique on Tuesday. “The state of emergency is still in effect. Remain indoors,” he wrote on Facebook.

In St Vincent and the Grenadines, the prime minister, Ralph Gonsalves, spoke about the “pain and suffering” across the nations and praised the resilience of the Vincentian people. He told reporters: “Hurricane Beryl has come and gone and has left in its wake immense destruction.

“The faces of our men and women are strained and anxious. But tomorrow, we get up with the conviction to rebuild our individual lives and our family’s lives. To rebuild our country, to recover.”

But as the prime minister focused on recovery, the country was on alert for another developing weather system. On Tuesday evening, the SVG National Emergency Management Organisation warned residents of an impending tropical wave, which is expected to bring heavy showers, gusty winds and thunderstorms.

In Grenada’s attorney general, Claudette Joseph, told reporters that the country was working with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, the World Food Programme and Samaritan’s Purse on relief and rebuilding efforts.

Beryl ripped doors, windows and roofs off homes across the south-eastern Caribbean on Monday after making landfall on the island of Carriacou in Grenada as the earliest category 4 storm in the Atlantic in recorded history, fuelled by record warm waters.

From St Lucia island south to Grenada, the streets were strewn with shoes, trees, downed power lines and other debris. Banana trees were snapped in half and cows lay dead in green pastures with homes made of tin and plywood tilting precariously nearby.

A hurricane warning was in effect for Jamaica, with a hurricane watch for Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, Cayman Brac and Haiti’s entire southern coast.

Caricom, the regional intergovernmental organisation, was holding an emergency meeting to discuss support to the islands affected by Beryl.

Beryl gained its strength from record warm waters that are hotter now than they would be at the peak of hurricane season in September, according to meteorologists who say the hotter water temperatures are a result of the global climate crisis driven primarily by the burning of fossil fuels.

The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse contributed reporting

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Explainer

Why Hurricane Beryl foretells a scary storm season

Hot sea temperatures are fueling storm’s explosive growth into an unprecedented early whopper

Hurricane Beryl’s explosive growth into an unprecedented early whopper of a storm shows the literal hot water the Atlantic and Caribbean are in – and the kind of season ahead, experts said.

Beryl smashed multiple records even before its major-hurricane-level winds approached land. The powerful storm is acting more like monsters that form in the peak of hurricane season thanks mostly to water temperatures as hot or hotter than the region normally gets in September, five hurricane experts told the Associated Press.

Beryl set the record for earliest category 4 with winds of at least 130mph (209km/h ) – the first-ever category 4 in June. It also was the earliest storm to rapidly intensify with wind speeds jumping 63mph (102km/h) in 24 hours, going from an unnamed depression to a category 4 in 48 hours.

Late Monday, it strengthened to a category 5, becoming the earliest hurricane of that strength observed in the Atlantic basin on record, and only the second category 5 hurricane in July after Hurricane Emily in 2005, the National Hurricane Center said. Category 5 storms have winds exceeding 157mph .

Beryl is on an unusually southern path, especially for a major hurricane, said University at Albany atmospheric scientist Kristen Corbosiero.

It made landfall Monday on the island of Carriacou with winds of up to 150mph, and is expected to plow through the islands of the south-east Caribbean. Beryl may stay near its current strength for another day before it begins weakening significantly, according to the late Monday forecast.

“Beryl is unprecedentedly strange,” said Weather Underground co-founder Jeff Masters, a former government hurricane meteorologist who flew into storms. “It is so far outside the climatology that you look at it and you say: ‘How did this happen in June?’”

Forecasters predicted months ago it was going to be a nasty year and now they are comparing it to record-busy 1933 and deadly 2005 – the year of Katrina, Rita, Wilma and Dennis.

“This is the type of storm that we expect this year, these outlier things that happen when and where they shouldn’t,” University of Miami tropical weather researcher Brian McNoldy said. “Not only for things to form and intensify and reach higher intensities, but increase the likelihood of rapid intensification. All of that is just coming together right now, and this won’t be the last time.”

Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach called Beryl “a harbinger potentially of … even more potential threats and more – and not just a one-off – maybe several of these kinds of storms coming down later.”

The water temperature around Beryl is about 2F to 3.6F (1C to 2C ) above normal at 84F (29C), which “is great if you are a hurricane”, Klotzbach said.

Warm water acts as fuel for the thunderstorms and clouds that form hurricanes. The warmer the water and thus the air at the bottom of the storm, the better the chance it will rise higher in the atmosphere and create deeper thunderstorms, said the University at Albany’s Corbosiero.

Sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic and Caribbean “are above what the average September [peak season] temperature should be looking at the last 30-year average”, Masters said.

It’s not just hot water at the surface that matters. The ocean heat content – which measures deeper water that storms need to keep powering up – is way beyond record levels for this time of year and at what the September peak should be, McNoldy said.

“So when you get all that heat energy you can expect some fireworks,” Masters said.

This year, there’s also a significant difference between water temperature and upper air temperature throughout the tropics.

The greater that difference is, the more likely it becomes that storms will form and get bigger, said MIT hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel. “The Atlantic relative to the rest of the tropics is as warm as I’ve seen,” he said.

Atlantic waters have been unusually hot since March 2023 and record warm since April 2023. Klotzbach said a high-pressure system that normally sets up cooling trade winds collapsed then and hasn’t returned.

Corbosiero said scientists are debating what exactly climate change does to hurricanes, but have come to an agreement that it makes them more prone to rapidly intensifying and increases the strongest storms.

“This is sort of our worst scenario,” Corbosiero said. “We’re starting early, some very severe storms … Unfortunately, it seems like it’s playing out the way we anticipated.”

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Trump hush-money trial: judge postpones sentencing to September

Judge Juan Merchan agrees to pause proceedings to weigh whether immunity ruling could imperil conviction

The judge overseeing Donald Trump’s criminal case in New York postponed his sentencing to 18 September, agreeing on Tuesday to pause proceedings to weigh whether the US supreme court’s recent ruling on immunity could imperil the conviction.

The decision by Judge Juan Merchan to delay the sentencing marks an unexpected setback for the case. It remains unclear whether it will affect what sentence Trump receives given the date is weeks before the 2024 election.

Trump became the first president to be criminally convicted last month when a Manhattan jury found him guilty on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in an illicit hush-money scheme to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

The sentencing had been set for 11 July – days before the start of the Republican national convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he was set to formally be named the GOP nominee for president – after his own lawyers requested that timetable.

But the expected sentencing date was cast into doubt after Trump’s lawyers asked to have the case re-evaluated, and the sentencing postponed, in light of the supreme court’s decision on Monday that conferred broad immunity on former presidents for official acts undertaken in office.

The supreme court held that core executive functions of the presidency have absolute immunity from prosecution, official acts of the presidency are presumptively immune, and unofficial acts carry no immunity.

Trump’s criminal prosecution in New York was largely centered on his efforts to suppress negative stories during the 2016 election campaign and pre-dated his time in office, though some of the evidence at trial included personal actions Trump took while he was president.

The motion to set aside Trump’s conviction could struggle.

Trump actually raised the official acts argument before his New York trial, asking for certain tweets that Trump sent as president to be suppressed. Merchan denied the motion, ruling that Trump had filed it too close to trial.

The Trump legal team would need to be able to show that not only were the tweets examples of official acts – the supreme court held that presidents making communications to the public are a function of the office – that could not be used as evidence at trial, but that Merchan was wrong on the timeliness matter.

In a letter to the judge responding to Trump’s request, prosecutors wrote that the Manhattan district attorney’s office did not oppose Trump’s request.

“Although we believe defendant’s arguments to be without merit, we do not oppose his request for leave to file and his putative request to adjourn sentencing pending determination of his motion,” wrote Joshua Steinglass, one of the lead prosecutors who secured Trump’s conviction.

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Google’s emissions climb nearly 50% in five years due to AI energy demand

Tech giant’s goal of reducing climate footprint at risk as it grows increasingly reliant on energy-hungry data centres

Google’s goal of reducing its climate footprint is in jeopardy as it relies on more and more energy-hungry data centres to power its new artificial intelligence products. The tech giant revealed Tuesday that its greenhouse gas emissions have climbed 48% over the past five years.

Google said electricity consumption by data centres and supply chain emissions were the primary cause of the increase. It also revealed in its annual environmental report that its emissions in 2023 had risen 13% compared to the previous year, hitting 14.3m metric tons.

The tech company, which has invested substantially in AI, said its “extremely ambitious” goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2030 “won’t be easy”. It said “significant uncertainty” around reaching the target included “the uncertainty around the future environmental impact of AI, which is complex and difficult to predict”.

Google’s emissions have risen by nearly 50% since 2019, the base year for Google’s goal of reaching net zero, which requires the company removing as much CO2 as it emits.

The International Energy Agency estimates that data centres’ total electricity consumption could double from 2022 levels to 1,000 TWh (terawatt hours) in 2026, approximately Japan’s level of electricity demand. AI will result in data centres using 4.5% of global energy generation by 2030, according to calculations by research firm SemiAnalysis.

Data centres play a crucial role in training and operating the models that underpin AI models like Google’s Gemini and OpenAI’s GPT-4, which powers the ChatGPT chatbot. Microsoft admitted this year that energy use related to its data centres was endangering its “moonshot” target of being carbon negative by 2030. Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, admitted in May that “the moon has moved” due to the company’s AI strategy.

Microsoft’s co-founder, Bill Gates, said last week that AI would help combat the climate crisis because big tech is “seriously willing” to pay extra to use clean electricity sources in order “to say that they’re using green energy”.

Big tech companies have become major purchasers of renewable energy in a bid to meet their climate goals.

However, pledges to reduce CO2 emissions are now coming up against pledges to invest heavily in AI products that require considerable amounts of energy for training and deployment in data centres, along with carbon emissions associated with manufacturing and transporting the computer servers and chips used in that process. Water usage is another environmental factor in the AI boom, with one study estimating that AI could account for up to 6.6bn cubic metres of water use by 2027 – nearly two-thirds of England’s annual consumption.

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Demiral double takes Turkey past Austria and into quarter-finals

A tie that had promised noise, tempo and a rattling intensity delivered emphatically. At its conclusion Turkey’s substitutes and staff could hurtle on to the pitch in celebration of a quarter-final spot, their colleagues having seen out wave after wave of Austria pressure that did not yield a leveller. They will face the Netherlands in Berlin after seeing out a game they led for all bar the first 57 seconds, the centre-back Merih Demiral scoring the second-fastest goal in European Championship history and adding another in the second half. Despite a response from Michael Gregoritsch and a frantic finale that brought heroics from the Turkey keeper Mert Gunok, there was to be disappointment for Ralf Rangnick’s highly fancied team.

The smart money had been on an early goal; the surprise was that it came from Turkey. They had been well warned about Austria’s propensity to score inside the first 10 minutes and, when Rangnick’s side poured forward from kick-off, it seemed reasonable to anticipate more of the same.

But Turkey won a corner inside 30 seconds and an already deafening crowd, whipped into further frenzy by Kaan Ayhan’s whirling arms before it was taken, were about to unleash pandemonium. What a scrappy effort it was, Arda Guler’s inswinger from the right looking like drifting in until Christoph Baumgartner blocked on the line. He only succeeded in knocking it against Stefan Posch at point-blank range and the ball was goalbound until Patrick Pentz scooped clear. The reprieve lasted a millisecond: Demiral smashed the loose ball in and Turkey were ahead after under a minute. This was bedlam, the opening stages played at a phenomenal tempo with play ripping from end to end. Baumgartner, perfectly at home here as an RB Leipzig player, almost equalised immediately but drilled just wide. Then a Romano Schmid corner almost wrought an equaliser remarkably similar to the opener, his low delivery running across the face of goal before Demiral somehow bundled clear with Baumgartner in attendance.

It had been billed as a contest between Turkish emotion and Austria’s mechanised drills. Vincenzo Montella, who had urged his players not to be overcome by thirst to avenge the 6-1 friendly defeat they were dealt in Vienna three months ago, had thought rather more logically and set Turkey up with a back three. Perhaps that was an effort to stop Austria from swamping them in central areas, particularly given their suspended captain Hakan Calhanoglu was not around to call the tune.

They could not stop Philipp Lienhart meeting another corner, but the centre-back headed over. Austria kept coming back but as the first half developed they were clearly finding difficulties creating space. It was Guler, trying to catch Pentz out with an audacious attempt from halfway, who provided the next excitement before Demiral spurned a fine opportunity to double his tally when crashing a header off target at the near post.

Turkey were breaking smartly, brilliant play down the right by Baris Alper Yilmaz begging a cross to the unmarked Kenan Yildiz. In the event Yilmaz overcooked it, but he and his teammates had their opponents where they wanted them. Ismael Yuksek drew roars by running back to dispossess a surging Schmid; for all their energy and pressing, Austria had lacked poise when nearing the penalty area. When they did find another opening, Baumgartner stabbed wide.

By the interval Turkey were broadly in control. Rangnick switched things up, introducing the offensive left-back Alexander Prass and the giant forward Gregoritsch. They tore out of the blocks again, Gregoritsch heading wide before Turkey were finally picked apart. Stefan Posch’s cute ball played Marko Arnautovic in but Gunok, hitherto well protected, did superbly to block.

At this point Turkey were under a barrage, Konrad Laimer slaloming into the area but skewing wide. Then the right-back Posch saw a shot blocked and Austria were beginning to find an extra man all over the attacking third. But they had not made it count and there was an obvious risk of punishment.

It arrived shortly after Turkey, via a run and shot from Ferdi Kadioglu, had at last ventured forward. That momentum was channelled, almost instantly, into a corner. Guler was pelted with plastic cups as he shaped to take it, but was undeterred from whipping in another gorgeous delivery that Demirel converted emphatically after rising above Kevin Danso.

Game over? It never quite seemed likely. Austria never slow down and finally scored from their own corner, Gregoritsch stationed to slam in Posch’s header after Marcel Sabitzer had crossed.

There was an epic quality to proceedings now, rain driving down steadily and Austria hurling bodies upfield. Baumgartner beat Gunok to a cross but headed wide and was later wayward again, too. Then, with virtually the final action, he drew an astonishing save from the keeper and bedlam duly ensued.

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Robert F Kennedy Jr brushes off sexual assault allegation: ‘I am who I am’

Independent candidate says ‘I am not a church boy’ after ex-nanny tells Vanity Fair he assaulted her at his home in 1998

Robert F Kennedy Jr has responded to an allegation that he sexually assaulted an employee by stating: “I am not a church boy,” as scrutiny grows over his long-shot run for the presidency.

The independent candidate, who is seen as a threat by both the Biden and Trump campaigns, made the statement after his former babysitter told Vanity Fair that Kennedy assaulted her at his home in 1998.

Eliza Cooney, who worked for Kennedy and his then wife as a live-in nanny at the family’s home in Mount Kisco, New York, said Kennedy touched her leg at a business meeting and later appeared shirtless in her bedroom before asking her to rub lotion on his back.

A few months later, Kennedy blocked Cooney in the kitchen “and began groping her”, Vanity Fair reported. Cooney told the magazine that Kennedy touched her inappropriately.

“My back was to the door of the pantry, and he came up behind me,” Cooney said.

“I was frozen. Shocked.”

The assault was interrupted, Cooney said, when a male worker entered the kitchen.

Asked about the sexual assault allegation on the Breaking Points podcast, Kennedy said: “The [Vanity Fair] article is a lot of garbage.”

He added: “Listen, I have said this from the beginning. I am not a church boy. I am not running like that.

“I said in my … I had a very, very rambunctious youth. I said in my announcement speech that I have so many skeletons in my closet that if, if they could all vote, I could run for king of the world.

“So, you know, Vanity Fair is recycling 30-year-old stories. And, I’m not, you know, going to comment on the details of any of them. But it’s, you know, I am who I am.”

Asked if he was denying that he assaulted Cooney, Kennedy said: “I’m not going to comment on it.”

The Kennedy campaign did not respond to a Guardian request for comment.

Cooney said she kept the alleged assault secret until the #MeToo movement prompted many women to come forward with stories of abuse in 2017. She told her mother, and after Kennedy announced his campaign for the presidency in 2023 Cooney told two friends and a lawyer, Elizabeth Geddes. Geddes did not respond to a request for comment.

Kennedy, 70, initially ran against Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination before launching a campaign as an independent in October last year.

As the son of Robert F Kennedy, the US senator for New York who was assassinated in 1968, and the nephew of John F Kennedy, who was assassinated while serving as president in 1963, Kennedy’s campaign drew widespread attention but has been littered with controversies.

In July 2023 a video surfaced of Kennedy making false claims that Covid-19 was “ethnically targeted” to attack Black people and white people while sparing Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people, while Kennedy has also claimed that wifi causes “leaky brain”.

He has also linked antidepressants to school shootings, and in 2023 Kennedy claimed that chemicals in water are making kids transgender.

Kennedy, a former environmental lawyer, is polling at 9.1% of the national vote, according to FiveThirtyEight’s average, and is highly unlikely to win the presidency.

But both the Biden and Trump campaigns fear he could pull votes away from them in key states. Kennedy will be on the ballot in Michigan, a crucial swing state which the president won by 150,000 votes in 2020, and is working to gain ballot access in Wisconsin, which Biden won by 20,000 votes.

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Robert F Kennedy Jr brushes off sexual assault allegation: ‘I am who I am’

Independent candidate says ‘I am not a church boy’ after ex-nanny tells Vanity Fair he assaulted her at his home in 1998

Robert F Kennedy Jr has responded to an allegation that he sexually assaulted an employee by stating: “I am not a church boy,” as scrutiny grows over his long-shot run for the presidency.

The independent candidate, who is seen as a threat by both the Biden and Trump campaigns, made the statement after his former babysitter told Vanity Fair that Kennedy assaulted her at his home in 1998.

Eliza Cooney, who worked for Kennedy and his then wife as a live-in nanny at the family’s home in Mount Kisco, New York, said Kennedy touched her leg at a business meeting and later appeared shirtless in her bedroom before asking her to rub lotion on his back.

A few months later, Kennedy blocked Cooney in the kitchen “and began groping her”, Vanity Fair reported. Cooney told the magazine that Kennedy touched her inappropriately.

“My back was to the door of the pantry, and he came up behind me,” Cooney said.

“I was frozen. Shocked.”

The assault was interrupted, Cooney said, when a male worker entered the kitchen.

Asked about the sexual assault allegation on the Breaking Points podcast, Kennedy said: “The [Vanity Fair] article is a lot of garbage.”

He added: “Listen, I have said this from the beginning. I am not a church boy. I am not running like that.

“I said in my … I had a very, very rambunctious youth. I said in my announcement speech that I have so many skeletons in my closet that if, if they could all vote, I could run for king of the world.

“So, you know, Vanity Fair is recycling 30-year-old stories. And, I’m not, you know, going to comment on the details of any of them. But it’s, you know, I am who I am.”

Asked if he was denying that he assaulted Cooney, Kennedy said: “I’m not going to comment on it.”

The Kennedy campaign did not respond to a Guardian request for comment.

Cooney said she kept the alleged assault secret until the #MeToo movement prompted many women to come forward with stories of abuse in 2017. She told her mother, and after Kennedy announced his campaign for the presidency in 2023 Cooney told two friends and a lawyer, Elizabeth Geddes. Geddes did not respond to a request for comment.

Kennedy, 70, initially ran against Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination before launching a campaign as an independent in October last year.

As the son of Robert F Kennedy, the US senator for New York who was assassinated in 1968, and the nephew of John F Kennedy, who was assassinated while serving as president in 1963, Kennedy’s campaign drew widespread attention but has been littered with controversies.

In July 2023 a video surfaced of Kennedy making false claims that Covid-19 was “ethnically targeted” to attack Black people and white people while sparing Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people, while Kennedy has also claimed that wifi causes “leaky brain”.

He has also linked antidepressants to school shootings, and in 2023 Kennedy claimed that chemicals in water are making kids transgender.

Kennedy, a former environmental lawyer, is polling at 9.1% of the national vote, according to FiveThirtyEight’s average, and is highly unlikely to win the presidency.

But both the Biden and Trump campaigns fear he could pull votes away from them in key states. Kennedy will be on the ballot in Michigan, a crucial swing state which the president won by 150,000 votes in 2020, and is working to gain ballot access in Wisconsin, which Biden won by 20,000 votes.

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At least 87 killed in crush at Hindu gathering in northern India, say officials

More than 150 people also injured in tragedy after sermon at celebration of deity Shiva in Hathras, south-east of Delhi

At least 87 people have been killed in a crowd crush at a Hindu religious gathering in northern India, and more than 150 others were taken to hospital with serious injuries, local officials have said.

The crush happened when thousands of devotees tried to leave a prayer meeting, or satsang, with a local religious leader in Hathras district, Uttar Pradesh state.

“The scenes were unbelievably horrific,” said Vijay Singh, a 45-year-old devotee from Agra, whose sister-in-law was one of the victims. She was pushed into a ditch after the family were separated. Singh’s wife witnessed her last moments and barely managed to escape, he added.

“My wife said the crowd was pushing each other because they were struggling to breathe. My sister-in-law fell in the ditch, and due to the violent pushing many others fell in the ditch.”

The bodies of 60 victims had been taken to health centres in Hathras, and another 27 dead were taken to hospitals in neighbouring Etah district, local officials said.

The dead brought to Etah were mostly women, officials there said, with three children and one man among the victims.

Images on social media also appeared to show women accounted for many of the dead laid out in the courtyard of a Hathras hospital, although they could not be independently verified.

One of the dead was 60-year-old Eashwar Pyaari, a devotee who lived in Etah and often went to religious gatherings to “find peace”, her son Ramdas said in a phone interview from the hospital, where he was waiting to collect her body.

“I had written my phone number on a piece of paper and gave it to my mother so she could reach me if she needed me. I received a call from a stranger who found it on her body. That’s when I found out she was killed in the stampede today,” he said.

“It’s been a devastating few hours for us,” he added. “I didn’t have the heart to tell the grandchildren that their beloved grandmother is dead.”

Police said overcrowding may have contributed to the tragedy, the latest in a grim succession of mass deaths at religious events in India.

“Every year, these kinds of incidents keep repeating themselves, and we learn nothing,” MP Manoj Kumar Jha told the New York Times.

“Both the state and federal governments have failed to develop a sensitive approach toward crowd management. As a nation we are good at drawing crowds but not good at managing them.”

Organisers had a permit for 5,000 people to attend the event, which was held in a tent, but it drew a crowd of over 15,000, Indian media reported. Video footage appeared to show the structure collapsed, as women wailed over the dead.

“As we tried to exit towards a field, suddenly a commotion started, and we didn’t know what to do,” an unidentified witness told broadcaster India Today, adding that the venue had a narrow exit.

The leader of the satsang, named Bhole Baba, is from Etah, which is about 200 km (125 miles) south-east of New Delhi, Indian media reported. He claimed to have been in the intelligence services, before pursuing religious leadership over two decades ago.

The prime minister, Narendra Modi, offered condolences to the families of those killed, and his office said victims’ families would be given 200,000 rupees ($2,400) compensation and the injured 50,000 rupees.

The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, said relief and rescue operations were on a “war footing” and he had ordered an investigation into the deaths.

Recent mass casualties at religious gatherings include at least 112 people killed in 2016 at a temple complex in Kerala state. A crowd of thousands had gathered to mark the Hindu new year when a banned fireworks caused a huge explosion that tore through concrete buildings and started a fire.

In 2013, at least 115 people were crushed to death or died in a river in central Madhya Pradesh state, when a rumour that a bridge was about to collapse sparked panic among pilgrims visiting a popular temple for a festival.

Agencies contributed reporting

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Texas congressman becomes first House Democrat to call on Biden to withdraw

Lloyd Doggett breaks ranks and says Biden should not continue presidential run after Trump debate calamity

The first congressional Democrat has broken ranks and called on Joe Biden to withdraw his presidential candidacy following last week’s calamitous debate performance against Donald Trump.

Lloyd Doggett, a House member for Texas, became the first Democrat in the House of Representative to urge the president to stop aside amid continuing signs of underlying alarm in the wider party over his electability triggered by his faltering display in Atlanta.

As senior party figures continued to offer Biden public support even amid fevered behind-the-scenes concern, Doggett brought his own misgivings into the open, saying he had hoped last week’s debate “would give some momentum” to the president’s stagnant poll ratings in key battleground states.

“It did not,” he said. “Instead of reassuring voters, the President failed to effectively defend his many accomplishments and expose Trump’s many lies.”

He urged Biden to follow the path of a previous Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson, and announce that he would not accept the party’s nomination as candidate – a potential move commentators have dubbed as an “LBJ moment” (after Johnson’s full initials).

“I represent the heart of a congressional district once represented by Lyndon Johnson. Under very different circumstances, he made the painful decision to withdraw,” Doggett said. “President Biden should do the same.”

Johnson withdrew from the 1968 election race amid a a popular groundswell of opposition to the war in Vietnam and primary challengers in his own party, including from Robert F Kennedy, whose son is running as an independent candidate in the 2024 election and polling at levels that could further hurt Biden in a close race.

Doggett – at 77, just four years younger than the 81-year-old president – praised Biden’s legislative achievements in office but said the time had come to hand over to a younger generation, pointing out that he had pledged during the 2020 election campaign to be a transitional figure.

“While much of his work has been transformational, he pledged to be transitional,” he said. “He has the opportunity to encourage a new generation of leaders from whom a nominee can be chosen to unite our country through an open, democratic process.

“My decision to make these strong reservations public is not done lightly nor does it in any way diminish my respect for all that President Biden has achieved.

“Recognising that, unlike Trump, President Biden’s first commitment has always been to our country, not himself, I am hopeful that he will make the painful and difficult decision to withdraw. I respectfully call on him to do so.”

It remains to be seen if Doggett’s public stance will encourage other worried Democrats to put their heads above the parapet amid a steady drip of anecdotal and polling evidence that last Thursday’s CNN debate has had a corrosive effect on the president’s standing.

A new poll in New Hampshire – a state Biden won by 10 points in 2020 – showed him now two points behind Trump since the debate.

While Biden’s campaign have tried to frame the debate as one-off and pledged a fierce fightback, there have been mutterings of discontent within Democrat ranks.

State governors – some of whom have been touted as potential replacements – have reportedly complained that Biden has not personally reached out to them since the debate, while similar gripes have been attributed to Hakeem Jeffries and Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate respectively.

Other ostensibly supportive figures, including the former House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Jim Clyburn, a representative from South Carolina, have issued statements that hinted at ambivalence.

“I think it’s a legitimate question to say, is this an episode or is this a condition? When people ask that question, it’s completely legitimate – of both candidates,” Pelosi told MSNBC, adding that she heard “mixed” views on whether Biden was fit for the presidential campaign.

In another sign of simmering discontent, Peter Welch, a Democratic senator for Vermont, criticised the Biden campaign for dismissing concerns over the president’s age as “bedwetters”.

“But that’s the discussion we have to have,” he told Semafor. “It has to be from the top levels of the Biden campaign to precinct captains in the South Side of Chicago. … The campaign has raised the concerns themselves … So then to be dismissive of others who raise those concerns, I think it’s inappropriate.”

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Negotiated outcome most likely result of Russia-Ukraine war, major poll says

In thinktank’s survey of 15 European countries, few respondents believe Ukraine can secure an outright victory

A negotiated outcome with Russia, as opposed to an outright Ukrainian military victory, is now seen as the most likely outcome in most European countries, according to a major poll of 15 countries.

Support for Ukraine’s cause remains strong across Europe despite battlefield reverses, but European voters increasingly regard arming Ukraine as necessary not to achieve a complete Ukrainian battlefield victory, but instead to strengthen Ukraine’s hand in future negotiations with Russia.

The European Council of Foreign Relations (ECFR) thinktank polled 19,566 people in 15 countries in the first half of May 2024. The thinktank has regularly carried out surveys on Ukraine, but it is the first time it has also polled inside Ukraine itself, where it finds support for war and victory are strong, despite talk of weakening morale.

A total of 34% of Ukrainians currently say they trust the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, “a great deal”, while a further 31% trust him “quite a lot” – meaning that those who are keeping faith with their leader outnumber those who are not by two to one.

When asked about the most likely outcome of the war, 58% of Ukrainians foresaw a Ukrainian victory, 30% said it would end in a settlement, and only 1% expected Russia to emerge victorious. But a majority preferred ceding territory rather than abandoning sovereignty, defined by the right to join Nato and the EU.

Inside 14 European countries surveyed, only in Estonia was there a prevailing view (38%) that Ukraine would win the war outright. Nevertheless, majorities in Sweden and Poland wanted Europe to help Ukraine fight until all its territory is regained. Majorities in Italy, Greece and Bulgaria opposed this to the extent that they thought it was a bad idea to increase the supply of weapons to Ukraine. Overall, Italy emerged as the largest major European power least supportive of Ukraine. But in most European countries, large majorities still support sending more arms to Ukraine, even if it is to strengthen Ukraine’s negotiating hand.

A middle group of countries, including Czech Republic, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland, lack a national consensus on the war and the EU’s role.In no country , even the most hawkish, was there support for sending troops to Ukraine.

A total of 69% of Ukrainians said more weapons were needed to defend itself, but this view did not translate into a disillusionment with the EU. Seventy-five per cent of Ukrainians regarded the EU’s role as positive and saw Ukraine’s membership as necessary to win the war.

Asked to list 10 countries according to the reliability of their support to their homeland, Ukrainians ranked the UK top with 88%, saying Britain had been “very or mostly reliable”, followed by Lithiuania on 77%, although most countries on the list were regarded as reliable.

But some Ukrainians – a third – admitted they were strongly concerned that the US would strike a peace deal with Russia without involving Kyiv.

The poll shows that the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has failed to persuade the French to follow him into his personal transition towards adopting a much harder pro-Ukrainian position. One-third of France was in favour of supporting Ukraine in regaining its lost territory, another third would rather push Ukraine towards negotiating a peace deal with Russia, while the final third remained on the fence.

A co-author of the survey report and the chair of the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Ivan Krastev, said: “The striking thing about the state of public opinion, vis-a-vis Ukraine, is its remarkable stability – while the conflict has not frozen, in many aspects public attitudes have.”

Co-author and ECFR director Mark Leonard said: “Our new polling suggests that one of the key challenges for western leaders will be reconciling the conflicting positions between Europeans and Ukrainians on how the war will end. While both groups recognise the need for continued military provision, to help Ukraine push back at Russian aggression, there is a profound gulf around what constitutes a victory – and what the purpose of Europe’s support actually is.”

The polling was conducted by Datapraxis with YouGov, Norstat, Alpha Research and Rating Group in 15 countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Ukraine).

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Salman Rushdie stabbing suspect rejects plea deal over terrorism charge

Agreement would have shortened prison term but exposed alleged attacker to a federal terrorism-related charge

The man charged with stabbing author Salman Rushdie in 2022 rejected a plea deal on Tuesday that would have shortened his state prison term but exposed him to a federal terrorism-related charge, the suspect’s lawyer said.

Hadi Matar, 26, has been held without bail since Rushdie’s attack, in which he is accused of stabbing the acclaimed author more than a dozen times and blinding him as he was onstage, about to give a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York.

Matar’s attorney, Nathaniel Barone, confirmed that Matar, who lived in Fairview, New Jersey, rejected the agreement on Tuesday in Mayville, New York.

The agreement would have had Matar plead guilty in Chautauqua county to attempted murder in exchange for a maximum state prison sentence of 20 years, down from 25 years. It would have also required him to plead guilty to a federal charge of attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, which could result in an additional 20 years, attorneys said.

Rushdie, who detailed the attack and his recovery in a memoir, had spent years in hiding after the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, in 1989 calling for his death over the writer’s novel The Satanic Verses, which some Muslims consider blasphemous. The author re-emerged into the public in the late 1990s and has traveled freely over the past two decades.

Matar was born in the US but holds dual citizenship in Lebanon, where his parents were born. His mother has said that her son had become withdrawn and moody after visiting his father in Lebanon in 2018.

Rushdie wrote in his memoir that he saw a man running toward him in the amphitheater, where he was about to speak about the importance of keeping writers safe from harm. The author is on the witness list for Matar’s upcoming trial.

Representatives for Rushdie did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

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New Cuban radar site near US military base could aid China spying – report

CSIS calls site near Guantánamo a ‘powerful tool’ that will be able to monitor air and maritime activity of US military

Satellite images appear to show that Cuba is building a new radar site likely to be capable of spying on the US’s nearby Guantánamo Bay naval base, in the latest upgrade to the country’s surveillance capabilities long thought to be linked to China.

The base, under construction since 2021 but previously not publicly reported, is east of the city of Santiago de Cuba near the El Salao neighborhood, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said in a report published on Monday and later referenced by the Wall Street Journal.

Cuban vice foreign minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio denied that Cuba was harboring Chinese military interests on the island.

“[The] Wall Street Journal persists in launching an intimidation campaign related to #Cuba. Without citing a verifiable source or showing evidence, it seeks to scare the public with tales about Chinese military bases that do not exist and no one has seen, including the US embassy in Cuba,” de Cossio said on social media.

Cuba’s proximity to the US and its southern military bases makes it a good location for China, Washington’s top strategic rival, to seek to collect signals intelligence. The CSIS called the new site a “powerful tool” that once operational will be able to monitor air and maritime activity of the US military.

The facility, known as a circularly disposed antenna array with a diameter of approximately 130-200 meters, could be able to track signals as far as 3,000-8,000 nautical miles (3,452-9,206 miles) away, the CSIS said.

“Access to such an outpost would provide China with a highly strategic vantage point near Naval Station Guantanamo Bay,” it said, referring to the key US military base 45 miles (73km) east of Santiago, Cuba’s second largest city.

Such arrays were used heavily during the cold war, but Russia and the US have since decommissioned most of their sites in favor of more advanced technology, the CSIS said. However, the thinktank said China has been actively building new such arrays, including on reef outposts in the South China Sea.

Last year, Biden administration officials said Beijing has been spying from Cuba for years and made a push to upgrade its intelligence collection capabilities there beginning in 2019, allegations that both Beijing and Havana have denied.

State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel declined to comment on the report, but told a briefing on Tuesday that the US was “closely monitoring” China’s presence in Cuba.

“We know that the PRC [People’s Republic of China] is going to keep trying to enhance its presence in Cuba and the United States is going to keep working to disrupt it,” Patel said without giving details.

The White House national security council and the US defense department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

China’s embassy in Washington said the US had repeatedly “hyped up” the idea of China’s spying and surveillance from Cuba.

“Such claims are nothing but slander,” embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said.

The CSIS also said satellite images from March 2024 show Cuba’s largest active signals intelligence site at Bejucal, located in the hills near Havana and linked to suspected Chinese intelligence activity for years, has undergone “major updates” in the past decade, calling it a “clear indication of an evolving mission set”.

“Collecting data on activities like military exercises, missile tests, rocket launches and submarine maneuvers would allow China to develop a more sophisticated picture of US military practices,” the CSIS said.

It said certain radar systems installed in Cuba in recent years are in range to monitor rocket launches from Cape Canaveral and Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center, a likely interest for China as it seeks to catch up to US space launch technology.

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