U.S.Trump EPA weighs reviving massive Mississippi flood project ELLEN KNICKMEYER AND JEFF AMY•In this photo provided by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, Gov. Phil Bryant looks out at the backwater flooding surrounding the Valley Park community and neighboring farmland in Issaquena County, Miss. during a Wednesday, April 3, 2019 flyover by state and federal officials. (Ray Coleman/Mississippi Emergency Management Agency via AP)WASHINGTON (AP) — As Mississippi’s governor toured massive flooding in the state, the Trump administration said Wednesday that it is giving another look to a long-dead flood control and drainage project in the Mississippi Delta that had been killed by the George W. Bush administration because of its potential impact on wetlands and wildlife.The project, which the late Sen. John McCain once called „one of the worst projects ever conceived by Congress,” had called for huge pumps to be built at the confluence of the Yazoo and Mississippi Rivers in Mississippi. It was rejected by the Bush administration in 2008.”Had that veto not occurred, we believe that the flooding, particularly in the Yazoo backwater, would have been much less damaging,” said Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, after touring the region by helicopter.Opponents say the pumps could worsen flooding downstream.After touring the flooded region, Bryant told journalists that he had spent Monday and Tuesday in Washington, lobbying the administration to override the 2008 EPAs decision to kill the project. On Wednesday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler confirmed to a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing that his agency is now reconsidering that 2008 decision.Communities along the lower Mississippi River have been dealing with flooding for nearly two months. More than 500,000 acres (200,000 hectares) are submerged in the region, including more than 200,000 acres (80,000 hectares) of farmland. Farmers say flooding is harming them financially.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local agencies are deploying a complex system of levees, dams, floodgates and floodways to try to contain high water and limit damage along the more than 2,000-mile river.Floodwaters „have placed a tremendous burden on the lives and property of thousands of Mississippians,” Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Mississippi Republican, told Wheeler at Wednesday’s hearing.Bryant, who has aligned himself tightly with President Donald Trump, said Wednesday that more than 1,100 homes are affected, although some of those are not flooded, but in areas with roads cut off by flooding. Water is so common in the region that some people build small levees around their houses.Environmentalists say the pumps would be capable of draining more than 200,000 acres (80,000 hectares) of wetlands — an area larger than all five boroughs of New York City.The soggy and frequently flooded lowlands have comparatively few houses but are vital to waterfowl and other wildlife, environmental groups say. The National Wildlife Federation said the pumps would serve primarily „so large landowners can increase agricultural production on marginal lands that have always flooded.”Bob Irvin, president of the American Rivers conservation group, said in an email Wednesday that the EPA was moving to revive a „zombie” project.”Nothing has changed since the first Bush administration recognized that the Yazoo Pumps project was an environmental disaster and an economic loser,” Irvin said.The Bush administration had invoked the Clean Water Act, saying it would cause „unacceptable damage” to valuable resources. At the time, it was one of only about a dozen times the federal water law had been invoked to reject a project outright.The pump project has been heavily pushed by the Delta Council, a farming and business lobbying group that includes many large farmers in the fertile Mississippi Delta. Before retiring from the Senate, Thad Cochran, long a proponent of the project, made a final attempt last year to put language in a spending bill ordering pump construction to begin despite the EPA veto; it failed.Sharkey County Supervisor Bill Newsom, who also manages a cotton gin, is one of many proponents of the pumps. He says farming is the only industry in the region, and says he doesn’t want to drain the region’s wetlands, just control flooding.”We’re just simply wanting to have a flood level we can live in,” Newsom said last month._Amy reported from Jackson, Mississippi. Associated Press writer Rogelio Solis in Flowood, Mississippi contributed to this report.
•BEIRA, Mozambique (Reuters) – Hundreds of thousands of people are in need of food, water and shelter after Cyclone Idai battered Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.As of Wednesday, at least 843 people had been reported killed by the storm, the flooding it caused and heavy rains before it hit. Following is an outline of the disaster, according to government and United Nations officials:MOZAMBIQUE-Cyclone Idai landed on the night of March 14 near the port city of Beira, bringing heavy winds and rains. Two major rivers, the Buzi and the Pungue, burst their banks, submerging entire villages and leaving bodies floating in the water.People killed: 598 People injured: 1,641Houses damaged or destroyed: 112,076;Crops damaged: 715,378 hectares;People affected: 1.85 million;Confirmed cholera cases: 1,428;Confirmed cholera deaths: 1 ZIMBABWE-On March 16, the storm hit eastern Zimbabwe, where it flattened homes and flooded communities in the Chimanimani and Chipinge districts.;People killed: 185, according to government. The U.N. migration agency puts the death toll at 259.;People injured: 200;People displaced: 16,000 households;People affected: 250,000MALAWI-Before it arrived, the storm brought heavy rains and flooding to the lower Shire River districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje, in Malawi’s south. The rains continued after the storm hit, compounding the misery of tens of thousands of people.People killed: 60People injured: 672;People displaced: 19,328 households;People affected: 868,895(Reporting by Emma Rumney and Stephen Eisenhammer in Beira, Tom Miles in Geneva, MacDonald Dzirutwe in Harare and Frank Phiri in Blantyre; Writing by Alexandra Zavis, Alexander Winning and Joe Bavier; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Pritha Sarkar)
Temperatures in Alaska and Australia rose to record-breaking levels last month, igniting fresh concerns among climate scientists as a new report found that Canada is rapidly warming faster than the global average.
In Alaska, the northernmost state is experiencing record-high temperatures earlier in the year than ever before, with multiple cities, including Fairbanks, having experienced its warmest March on record, according to the National Weather Service.
Last week, temperatures in the southeastern town of Klawock hit a balmy 70 degrees Fahrenheit. That unusually warm temperature was last felt on March 31, 2016, immediately before the planet experienced its warmest April on record, according to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
Meanwhile at the Anchorage International Airport, temperatures reached 50 degrees on Saturday, making the 18th straight day that the mercury rose above 40 degrees, CBS News reported.
From September to March of this year, the mean monthly temperatures at both the Anchorage International Airport and the Fairbanks International Airport were also the warmest on record, the National Weather Service Anchorage tweeted on Tuesday.
To put that into perspective, in the case of Anchorage, the maximum seven-month average temperature during those months was higher than any other year since 1952, when records for Anchorage began. In the case of Fairbanks, that same average was higher than any other year since 1929, when records for Fairbanks began, the NWS said.
Amid rising temperatures, meteorologists are forecasting what they believe will be the fourth earliest snowmelt on record across Anchorage, after the snow melted to less than an inch on Saturday ― 18 days earlier than when snowmelt on average occurs, on April 17. The earliest snowmelt ever recorded was March 22, 2016, the NWS Anchorage tweeted.
“Between a rapidly changing environment and lack of societal response, I’m very concerned,” climate expert Rick Thoman, of NOAA’s Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, told CBS News last week.
According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, Alaska “is among the fastest warming regions on Earth,” with it warming two to three times faster than the rest of the lower 48 states. This faces it with “a myriad of issues associated with a changing climate,” the NCA said, including a retreat of sea ice, a rise in storm surge, coastal flooding and erosion, and thawing permafrost and glaciers.
The NCA’s report noted that since the 1990s, Alaska has experienced high temperature records three times more than record low temperatures and in 2015 nine times more frequently.
Australia meanwhile sizzled to 118 degrees last month.
In the opposite hemisphere, Australia, as a whole, experienced its warmest March on record, with temperatures in one area reaching 118°F. This record follows Sydney experiencing its hottest day in 78 years back in January when temperatures hit 117°F.
March’s mean maximum and minimum temperatures were also above average for nearly the entire country, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said on Monday. The national mean temperature was 3.6°F (2.13°C) above average.
Blair Trewin, senior climatologist at the Bureau of Meteorology, said it wasn’t just the hottest March but the hottest start to a new year.
“It’s come in about 2.2 degrees (4°F) above the long term for the first quarter of the year,” he told Australia’s ABC News. “That’s nearly a degree hotter than the previous hottest first quarter of the year.”
That change, he said, is nothing ordinary.
“Even for an individual month that would be a very significant margin, but to be breaking a three-month-period record by nearly a degree is something which we would see very rarely, if ever, in a continent the size of Australia,” he said.
Records for individual hot days were also seen in South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, northern Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and Queensland.
The hottest March temperature recorded anywhere in the world was in Roebourne, Western Australia. There, the mercury hit 118.6°F (48.1°C) on the 10th, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
That record surpasses a previous 44-year record held by Mexico, a bureau forecaster told Western Australia’s PerthNow.
Canada faces its own climate concerns.
Back up north, scientists in Canada on Monday released a damning report that found that Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world and that the change is “effectively irreversible.”
According to the government report from Environment and Climate Change Canada, the average temperature in Canada is 3°F (1.7°C) higher today than it was 70 years ago, while the average global temperature is up 1.4°F (0.8°C). The Canadian Arctic has meanwhile risen by 4°F (2.3°C).
The rising temperatures threaten species that rely upon sea ice, snow and permafrost for survival while improving conditions for pests and diseases that Canada isn’t used to seeing.
“We are already seeing the effects of widespread warming in Canada,” said Elizabeth Bush, a climate-science adviser at Environment and Climate Change Canada. “It’s clear, the science supports the fact that adapting to climate change is an imperative. Urgent action is needed to reduce emissions.”
American tourist kidnapped in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park: Officials originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
An American woman was kidnapped on Tuesday evening while visiting Uganda’s most popular national park, authorities said.
Four unidentified gunmen allegedly ambushed a group of tourists who were on an evening game drive with a guide in the Queen Elizabeth National Park in southwest Uganda around 6 p.m. local time Tuesday. They held the group at gunpoint before fleeing with their guide and 35-year-old American tourist Kimberly Sue Endicott, according to the Uganda Police Force.
A Canadian couple was left behind without a key to the vehicle. They contacted the camp manager who brought them to safety, officials said.
The tour guide, Congolese national Jean-Paul Mirenge Remezo, works for Wild Frontiers Uganda, a company spokesperson told ABC News. The American tourist, Endicott, was one of the three guests on a safari excursion when she and the guide were both abducted, the spokesperson said.
The kidnappers used one of the victim’s mobile phones to demand $500,000 as ransom, according to police.
„We strongly believe this ransom is the reason behind the kidnap,” Uganda Police Force deputy spokesperson Polly Namaye said in a statement Wednesday.
A joint operation by police, armed forces and wildlife authorities is underway to locate and rescue them, according to Ugandan government spokesman Ofwono Opondo.
The Queen Elizabeth National Park is located near Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Authorities have „cut off all exit areas on the border” in the search for the victims, according to Namaye.
„We strongly believe the perpetrators and victims could still be trapped within our search area, and we are hopeful that our efforts will lead to their successful recovery,” she said, adding that people shouldn’t be discouraged from visiting the national park in the future. „Strengthened safety measures have been put in place for both the local residents and visitors.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State told ABC News, „We are aware of reports of a U.S. citizen kidnapped in Uganda. Security forces are responding to the incident. We take seriously any threats against U.S. citizens abroad. The safety and protection of U.S. citizens overseas are among our top priorities. We have no further information to offer at this time.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, after meeting with the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s newly-elected president in Washington, ignored a question from reporters on Wednesday about the kidnapping.
ABC News’ Ben Gittleson, Luis Martinez and Cindy Smith contributed to this report.
Jean-Jacques Savin has spent nearly 100 days drifting across the Atlantic in a custom-made barrel
Bordeaux (AFP) – A 72-year-old Frenchman floating across the Atlantic in a custom-made barrel says he is in high spirits as he approaches the end of his journey, after nearly 100 days alone at sea enjoying „magnificent sunrises and sunsets.”
„The days are going by too fast,” Jean-Jacques Savin told AFP by satellite phone this week. „I’m not bored at all.”
The former French paratrooper and avid triathlete embarked on his trans-Atlantic test on December 26 from the Canary islands just west of Africa, aiming to reach the Caribbean in about three months just by drifting in ocean currents.
Capricious trade winds slowed his progress — not that it dented Savin’s enthusiasm for „experiencing this feeling of freedom, and admiring the richness of the ocean’s wildlife.”
Measuring three metres (10 feet) long and 2.10 metres across, his barrel is made from resin-coated plywood, heavily reinforced to resist waves and potential attacks by orca whales.
Inside the capsule, which weighs 450 kilograms (990 pounds) when empty, is a six-square-metre living space which includes a kitchen, sleeping bunk and storage.
A porthole in the floor allows Savin to look at passing fish.
Having already travelled some 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles), he estimates he has about 1,000 more to go. „I think I’ll arrive around April 20, I’m not sure where, maybe the Dominican Republic,” he said.
– Close calls –
His days have mainly gone smoothly, though there have been a few close calls. I’ve only had eight difficult nights, and one that was extremely difficult,” he said.
In late February, he nearly got rammed by a cargo ship that wasn’t responding to his radio calls.
„Luckily I shot up a flare. It was like being trapped on a railroad track and I was watching the oncoming train,” he said.
But the most perilous moment came on March 28, when his barrel was being pummelled by huge waves that were threatening to turn the vessel completely upside-down.
Tying himself to a safety rope, Savin crawled out to try to reattach a vertical stabiliser, only to find himself thrown off and dangling from his armpits, sometimes being dunked completely under the water.
It took half an hour of scrambling to pull himself back up, and Savin later posted pictures of his heavily bruised body on his Facebook page.
So far Savin has lost four kilos on his trip, eating freshly caught bream alongside freeze-dried food.
His stocks were replenished during a visit from the Ronald H. Brown, a US oceanography vessel based in Charleston, South Carolina.
„They spoiled me. I got mail, T-shirts, and lots of chocolate,” he said.
He’s now focussed on figuring out which coast to wash up on, though he added that „I will be sad to arrive.”
„I’d like to end up in Martinique or Guadaloupe,” he said, since it would be easier to get his ship back home since they are French overseas territories.
Afterwards he plans to write a book, and requests for speaking appearances have been pouring in.
But already Savin has another challenge in sight: swimming alone across the English Channel.