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TOPIC: vanuatu


Vanuatu Combines Old And New Techniques For Disaster Prep

The death toll after Cyclone Pam hit the South Pacific nation was notably low thanks to new warning systems and ancient shelters. But saving the local economy may be harder than saving lives.

PORT VILA — The property damage from the March 13 cyclone across the South Pacific archipelego of Vanuatu is huge, having hit some 80% of buildings and homes, and devastating farmlands and flattering the landscape.

But what may be most interesting in the aftermath of the destruction is the rather modest loss of human life. Initial reports of dozens killed was revised last week to a death toll of 11.

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Israel Votes, Greece Gets The Finger, Cervantes' Tomb

Photo: Omer Messinger/ZUMA
Millions of Israelis are voting today to elect a new parliament and potentially a new prime minister in a tightly fought election that has become a referendum on incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu, who is running for a fourth term. Late polls show center-left opponent Isaac Herzog, leader of the Zionist Union, with a slight advantage over “Bibi.”

  • Netanyahu, however, made several attempts to attract right-wing voters and consolidate his Likud base in the late hours of the campaign. In a last-minute speech Monday, he said there would be no Palestinian state if he were reelected, disavowing a 2009 speech in which he supported a two-state solution, Haaretz reports.
  • The Likud party admitted to forging a recording of the Kulanu party leader promising to support Netanyahu, according to a Kulanu spokesman quoted by The Jerusalem Post.
  • Late surveys showed about 15% of voters were undecided going into today’s election.
  • Voting ends at 10 p.m. local time, and the first results are expected to be published immediately afterwards.
  • Although the formation of the new parliament, the Knesset, could be set by Wednesday, it could take weeks to determine the next prime minister, as negotiations to form the required coalition governmental could be difficult.

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On this day in 1969, Israel elected Golda Meir. Time for your 57-second shot of history.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces killed six people — a man, his wife and their three children — in an alleged poison gas attack Monday in the village of Sarmin, in the Idlib province. Medical sources said they died as a result of what was likely chlorine released from barrel bombs dropped by government helicopters, the Syrian monitor group added. Reuters quoted a Syrian military source as saying these claims were propaganda. “We confirm that we would not use this type of weapon, and we don't need to use it.”

At least 115 civilians, including 14 children, were killed in a series of “ruthless airstrikes” on the Syrian city of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of ISIS, between Nov. 11 and 29 last year, a new Amnesty International report says. The human rights group added that some of these strikes gave “every indication of being war crimes.” Several non-military targets, including a busy market, a mosque and a transport hub, were also hit. Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director, said that “Syrian government forces have shown flagrant disregard for the rules of war.”

As Clarin’s Miguel Jurado reports, buildings, tarmac and air conditioning are turning many cities into fetid, airless saunas. Experts urge more trees and grass to mitigate the heat of increasingly hot cement jungles. “Certainly there is global warming and we all suffer it, but in cities like Buenos Aires, insufficient greenery, buildings and tarmac make it much hotter than surrounding regions,” the journalist writes. “Our founder Pedro de Mendoza wasn’t wrong to plan the city facing a river, but because everything we build now blocks its pleasant breeze, we can see how Buenos Aires has become overheated and its air polluted.”
Read the full article, Scorching Cities Like Buenos Aires Are Not Just About Global Warming.

U.S. and Iranian delegations resumed talks on Iran’s nuclear program today in the Swiss city of Lausanne. Led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the talks aim to reach a political agreement by the end of the month, the Swiss daily Le Matin reports. But Western officials warn that tough issues remained unresolved. "We are trying to get there, but quite frankly we still do not know if we will be able to," a senior U.S. official told reporters. "Iran still has to make some very tough and necessary choices to address the significant concerns that remain about its nuclear program."

“There is no occupation of Crimea,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a press conference today. The statement confirms Russia’s refusal to return Crimea to Ukraine, despite U.S. and European warnings that they would not drop sanctions over the peninsula’s annexation last year, Reuters reports. “Crimea is a region of the Russian Federation and of course the subject of our regions is not up for discussion,” Peskov added.

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Cyclone Trashes Vanuatu, Dilma Under Fire, Ibrahimovic Disses France

Photo: Luo Xiangfeng/Xinhua/ZUMA
A tearful Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale urged the world to send humanitarian help immediately to the South Pacific archipelago after cyclone Pam devastated the country over the weekend. “The humanitarian need is immediate,,” he said. According to aid agencies, up to 150,000 people could be left homeless in the country of 267,000 inhabitants. Expressing fears that the powerful cyclone had “wiped out” development, Lonsdale said the disaster “means that we will have to start anew again.” The death toll officially stands at eight, but it’s expected to rise dramatically in the coming days.

A nationwide protest against left-wing Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff drew at least 1.5 million people across 147 cities in the country Sunday. Shouting "Fora, Dilma!" ("Dilma out!") and dressed in the national flag's colors of blue, green and yellow, the protestors marched against the deteriorating state of Brazil's economy, inflation and corruption. Read more on our 4 Corners blog.

Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted in a pre-recorded documentary on Russian TV yesterday that during the height of the Ukraine crisis he was ready to arm Russia’s nuclear weapons if his country had been attacked over the Crimea annexation. Of the ouster of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Putin said the “armed coup” was masterminded by “our American friends.”

  • The broadcast came amid growing rumors about Putin’s 10-day absence from public sight. But the Russian leader appeared, as planned, in St. Petersburg for a meeting with the president of Kyrgyzstan.
  • Hours before the meeting, Putin ordered the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet and paratrooper units on full alert for combat readiness drills, state media Sputnik reports.

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Speaking of the Ukraine conflict, a year ago today, Crimea voted to join Russia. Time for your 57-second shot of history.

Some 5,000 people marched in the streets of Lahore, Pakistan, today in a second day of protests after the Taliban launched twin bombings of churches that killed 15 people and left more than 70 wounded. Pakistani newspaper Dawn characterized the marches as an unusual twist in which “all of a sudden, the targeted became the targeters.” But the newspaper warned they could “mark the start of a dangerous yet sadly logical new phase in Pakistan’s sectarian conflict.”

The number of cars in Dubai has doubled in the last eight years to 1.4 million at the end of 2014, meaning the city now has a higher vehicle density than New York or London, with 540 cars per 1,000 inhabitants.

The Venezuelan National Assembly has granted President Nicolas Maduro the power to govern by decree until the end of 2015,El Universal reports. The “anti-imperialist” law is a response to U.S. sanctions against Venezuelan officials and what Maduro described as a Feb. 12 U.S.-backed coup attempt. The opposition denounces the move as a power grab. On Saturday, Venezuelan troops started a 10-day military drill to counter the U.S. “threat.” Read more in English from AP.

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AsLe Monde’s Adéa Guillot reports, the 38-year-old new Greek Parliament Speaker Zoi Konstantopoulou is ambitious and unafraid to anger foe or friend. And fighting corruption is at the top of the agenda for the arguably most powerful woman in Greece. “There’s a real generational and sexism problem among those who have governed Greece until now, but they’ll have to get used to it,” she tells the journalist. “I intend to change this parliament, turn it into a model of democracy and freedom but also responsibility.”
Read the full article, Zoi Konstantopoulou, Greece's Madame Speaker And Syriza Secret Weapon.

Check what this week’s New Moon has in store, thanks to Simon’s latest horoscope from The Eternal City.

China has overtaken Germany to become the world’s third-largest arms exporter, behind the U.S. and Russia, The Wall Street Journal reports. Beijing’s move to produce more sophisticated weapons and its partnerships in Africa saw its exports rise by 143% in the last five years, as Germany’s and France’s fell sharply.

“In 15 years, I’ve never seen such a bad referee. In this shit country. This country doesn’t even deserve PSG.” Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain soccer team, threw this verbal grenade after his team lost 3-2 to Bordeaux in the French Ligue 1 yesterday. Urged to apologize, the sore loser said that his “remarks were not aimed at France or the French people. I was talking about football and not something else.”

Where Pigs And Bananas Help Face Climate Change

PORT VILA — The small boat slices through the turquoise water that separates Efate from Pele — two of the 80-some islands that make up Vanuatu, a Melanesian archipelago in the southwest Pacific.

Kaltuk Kalomor, Vanuatu's Minister of Agriculture, is standing onboard, pointing out the receding coastline, a consequence of the rising sea level and erosion. “People didn’t believe it at first, but now they see that some people are going to have to move their homes,” he says.

The other two passengers on the boat are from Kiribati, and came along to learn from Vanuatu’s experience adapting to climate change. Located 2,000 kilometers away from Vanuatu, smack in the middle of the Pacific, Kiribati has an altitude of less than three meters above sea level. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report predicts a 90-centimeter increase in the sea levels by 2100. The President of Kiribati is seriously envisioning a mass population exodus from his country.

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