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Taliban aim to sign deal with US by end of month: report

Taliban aim to sign deal with US by end of month: reportThe Taliban are aiming to reach a withdrawal agreement with the US by the end of January and are prepared to "scale down" military operations ahead of signing the deal, according to their chief spokesman. The statement by Suhail Shaheen to Pakistani daily Dawn comes as the group and the US held discussions in Doha this week, after insurgent sources told AFP they had offered to initiate a brief ceasefire. "We have agreed to scale down military operations in days leading up to the signing of the peace agreement with the United States," Shaheen told Dawn in a report published Saturday.




POSTED JANUARY 18, 2020 3:29 AM

ICE ups ante in standoff with NYC: 'This is not a request'

ICE ups ante in standoff with NYC: 'This is not a request'Federal authorities are turning to a new tactic in the escalating conflict over New York City's so-called sanctuary policies, issuing four “immigration subpoenas” to the city for information about inmates wanted for deportation. “This is not a request — it's a demand,” Henry Lucero, a senior U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official, told The Associated Press. Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration said Saturday the city would review the subpoenas.




POSTED JANUARY 18, 2020 7:23 PM

Khamenei: Iran gave U.S. 'slap on face', calls missile strikes 'day of God'

Khamenei: Iran gave U.S. 'slap on face', calls missile strikes 'day of God'Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a Friday sermon that Iran's missile strikes on U.S. targets in Iraq this month delivered a "slap on the face" to the United States, showing the Islamic Republic had divine support. During a spike in tension, Iran launched missiles at U.S. targets on Jan. 8 in response to a U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3 that killed Qassem Soleimeni, a powerful Iranian general who was close to Khamenei.




POSTED JANUARY 17, 2020 3:54 AM

Body of woman who was missing for almost 6 years found in car submerged in NJ river

Body of woman who was missing for almost 6 years found in car submerged in NJ riverVanessa Smallwood of Maple Shade, N.J., was 46 at the time of her disappearance. She was identified in a statement from New Jersey State Police.




POSTED JANUARY 19, 2020 12:05 AM

The TSA apologized after an agent pulled a Native American passenger's braid and said "giddyup!" during a pat down

The TSA apologized after an agent pulled a Native American passenger's braid and said "giddyup!" during a pat downTara Houska was going through security at the Minneapolis airport on Monday when she said an agent humiliated her by whipping her braids.




POSTED JANUARY 17, 2020 12:43 PM

There's Something Missing from Trump's China Deal: Opioids

There's Something Missing from Trump's China Deal: OpioidsLet's hope they deal with it soon.




POSTED JANUARY 18, 2020 6:00 AM

US court dismisses suit by youths over climate change

US court dismisses suit by youths over climate changeA federal appeals court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit by 21 young people who claimed the U.S. government's climate policies and reliance on fossil fuels harms them, jeopardizes their future and violates their constitutional rights, potentially dealing a fatal blow to a long-running case that activists saw as an important front in the war against environmental degradation. The Oregon-based youth advocacy group Our Children's Trust filed the lawsuit in 2015 in Eugene on behalf of the youngsters. It sought an injunction ordering the government to implement a plan to phase out fossil fuel emissions and draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide emission.




POSTED JANUARY 17, 2020 1:32 PM

Groom accused of sexually assaulting teenage waitress at wedding spared jail

Groom accused of sexually assaulting teenage waitress at wedding spared jailA man accused of sexually assaulting a woman at his own wedding reception pleaded guilty to misdemeanours after more serious charges against the New Jersey groom were dropped, keeping him out of prison.In a Pennsylvania court on Thursday, 32-year-old newlywed Matthew Aimers received six years of probation as part of a plea agreement on misdemeanour charges of simple assault, indecent exposure and disorderly conduct during his November 2018 reception. Charges of indecent assault, imprisonment of a minor and harassment were dropped.




POSTED JANUARY 17, 2020 3:19 PM

Was the Taal Volcano eruption large enough to influence the climate?

Was the Taal Volcano eruption large enough to influence the climate?The Taal volcano roared to life last weekend for the first time in more than 40 years, sending a massive plume of volcanic ash towering over the Philippines.This was the first time that Taal has erupted since 1977, an event that marked the end of an active period for the volcano that had begun in 1965. Taal did show signs of unrest periodically throughout the 1990s, but it did not erupt during that period, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.The eruption, which began on Jan. 12, 2020, has forced more than 125,000 people to evacuate the Philippine province of Batangas, where the volcano is located. A state of calamity has been declared for the zone surrounding the volcano, according to The Associated Press. People watch as Taal Volcano erupts Sunday Jan. 12, 2020, in Tagaytay, Cavite province, outside Manila, Philippines (AP Photo/Aaron Favila) During the height of the eruption, a large plume of searing hot volcanic ash blossomed approximately 50,000 feet, about 9.5 miles, into the atmosphere, with some materials making it into the stratosphere, according to observations from NASA. The eruption was accompanied by incredible displays of volcanic lightning, which made for breathtaking video footage, fountains of scalding lava and more than 400 earthquakes.The aftermath of the eruption had the country's president, Rodrigo Duterte, using no uncertain terms to describe the impact on the surrounding communities."It is now a no man's land," Duterte declared, according to Al Jazeera. "It's like heaven and earth fell on it."The fallout downwind of the eruption has blanketed areas dozens of miles away from the volcano itself, including Metro Manila, located about 101 km (63 miles) north of the eruption."Ash fallout to the ground can pose significant disruption and damage to buildings, transportation, water and wastewater, power supply, communications equipment, agriculture, and primary production leading to potentially substantial societal impacts and costs, even at thicknesses of only a few millimeters or inches," the USGS explains on its volcano hazards website. "Additionally, fine-grained ash, when ingested can cause health impacts to humans and animals. "The deteriorating air quality due to the ash has caused at least six people to be sent to a hospital in Tagaytay City in Cavite due to respiratory ailments, The Associated Press reported. One death has also been reported after a vehicle crashed on a slippery, ash-covered road.The abundance of ash in the atmosphere surrounding Taal snarled air traffic, causing more than 600 flights across the region to be canceled. If the fine volcanic ash enters the engines of an airplane, it can have disastrous results, endangering the lives of all those aboard the flight."Volcanoes do affect the weather, and some major ones affect the climate if you define climate as anything beyond a year or two," Dr. Joel Myers, Founder, President and Chairman of AccuWeather, said.In extremely powerful volcanic eruptions, the ash and aerosols released in the eruption can pass through the troposphere, the lowest layer of Earth's atmosphere, and penetrate into the stratosphere, the second layer of the atmosphere. If enough of the ash and other pollutants released in the eruption make it into the stratosphere, they can influence the climate around the globe. The boundary between the troposphere and stratosphere is about 6 miles (10 km) above the ground, a little higher than where commercial jets typically fly."The most significant climate impacts from volcanic injections into the stratosphere come from the conversion of sulfur dioxide to sulfuric acid, which condenses rapidly in the stratosphere to form fine sulfate aerosols," the USGS explained.These aerosols high in the atmosphere reflect light from the sun back into space, resulting in a cooling effect in Earth's lower atmosphere."There is no question that very large volcanic eruptions can inject significant amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere," scientists at the USGS say, but they also note that "the carbon dioxide released in contemporary volcanic eruptions has never caused detectable global warming of the atmosphere."Significant volcanic eruptions in the tropics can also have more of an influence on the global climate than those closer to the poles."Because of atmospheric circulation patterns, eruptions in the tropics can have an effect on the climate in both hemispheres while eruptions at mid or high latitudes only have an impact the hemisphere they are within," the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research explained. The time-series animation above shows the growth and spread of the volcanic plume from January 12-13, as observed by Japan's Himawari-8 satellite. (NOAA) The most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history directly influenced temperatures around the globe for years and was responsible for what became known as the ‘Year Without a Summer.'"One of the most dramatic examples" of this phenomenon over the last few 100 years was the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815, Myers said. That eruption "caused a few years of cold weather, some of it extraordinary," he explained. "This includes 1816, the Year Without a Summer, when frost occurred in New England in every month of the year - affecting crops and on one July day when snow flurries were reported in Long Island Sound."AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said that scientists are also unsure that the Tambora eruption was the sole factor behind the Year Without a Summer. Kottlowski, who is also AccuWeather's chief hurricane expert, said, "There are potentially other factors that couldn't be measured at the time or weren't understood at the time that could've been contributing factors to the unusual weather in the Northeast that year. "A more recent example of a volcano having a direct correlation with a decrease in the global temperature took place in the early 1990s following the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.The eruption of Mount Pinatubo was more powerful than that of Mount St. Helens, sending an enormous plume of volcanic ash and aerosols as high as 28 miles (40 km)."Nearly 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide were injected into the stratosphere in Pinatubo's 1991 eruptions, and dispersal of this gas cloud around the world caused global temperatures to drop temporarily (1991 through 1993) by about 1°F (0.5°C)," according to the USGS.Pinatubo's eruption was orders of magnitude larger than that of Taal's eruption earlier this year, so any impacts on the global climate through the balance of 2020 and into 2021 from the eruption are likely to be minimal or negligible.However, if the early January eruption of Taal is followed up by a series of larger eruptions that disperse large quantities of aerosols into the stratosphere, then the probability of the volcano influencing the global climate would increase.Taal has spewed smaller ash and steam explosions throughout the week, and as of Friday, it was still under alert for a hazardous eruption, The Associated Press reported. Officials have warned that "life-threatening" subsequent eruptions remain a real possibility.




POSTED JANUARY 17, 2020 2:56 PM

U.S. Supreme Court takes up presidential Electoral College dispute

U.S. Supreme Court takes up presidential Electoral College disputeAs the 2020 race heats up, the Supreme Court agreed on Friday to hear a dispute involving the complex U.S. presidential election system focusing on whether Electoral College electors are free to break their pledges to back the candidate who wins their state's popular vote, an act that could upend an election. The Supreme Court will take up appeals in two cases - from Washington state and Colorado - involving electors who decided to vote in the Electoral College process for someone other than Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 even though she won the popular vote in their states.




POSTED JANUARY 17, 2020 5:08 PM

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