‘Potentially catastrophic’ Hurricane Irma nears US

Highly dangerous Category 5 Hurricane Irma is rolling towards the Caribbean and southern United States, packing winds of 295 kilometres per hour as Texas and Louisiana still reel from devastating Hurricane Harvey.

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Irma’s eye was forecast to cross the northern Leeward Islands, east of Puerto Rico, on Tuesday night or early Wednesday (local time) , and hurricane warnings were in place from there to the British and US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in a statement.

0:00 View of Hurricane Irma from the International Space Station Share View of Hurricane Irma from the International Space Station

The NHC called Irma a “potentially catastrophic” Category 5 hurricane and tweeted that it was “the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic (Ocean) outside the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico in NHC records”. Category 5 is the highest NHC designation.

Category 5 #Irma with 185-mph winds- #Hurricane preparations in the NE Leeward Islands should be nearing completion 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/tW4KeGdBFb pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/tMhL53YX5I

— NHC Atlantic Ops (@NHC_Atlantic) September 5, 2017

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Irma was about 295 km east-southeast of Barbuda in the eastern Caribbean and moving west at about 22 kph, according to the NHC. Maximum sustained winds were 295 kph, with hurricane-force winds extending 96 km from the eye.

Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello urged the 3.4 million residents of the US territory to seek refuge in one of 460 hurricane shelters before the storm is expected to hit as early as Tuesday night.

0:00 Florida Governor urges residents to be prepared for Irma Share Florida Governor urges residents to be prepared for Irma

He will ask US President Donald Trump to declare a federal state of emergency before the storm passes to allow disbursement of US emergency funds.

Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency, and said on Tuesday he also asked Trump to make a “pre-landfall” emergency declaration.

#Irma key messages for Advisory 26. #Hurricane preparations should be rushed to completion in the NE Caribbean. 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/tW4KeGdBFb pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/3OSkumDsdV

— NHC Atlantic Ops (@NHC_Atlantic) September 5, 2017

Irma is expected to reach southern Florida on Saturday, and shares in insurance companies with exposure in the state tumbled in Tuesday trading.

Airlines cancelled flights to the region, and American Airlines added three extra flights to Miami from San Juan, St Kitts and St. Maarten.

Residents of Texas and Louisiana were still reeling from Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas as a Category 4 hurricane, dumping several feet of rain, destroying thousands of homes and businesses, killed an estimated 60 people and displaced more than 1 million others.

‘Cruel’ and ‘self-defeating’: Obama slams Trump’s decision to scrap ‘Dreamers’ program

Former President Barack Obama has called President Donald Trump’s decision to phase out the so-called DACA program “cruel” and “self-defeating”.

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The program provided nearly 800,000 young immigrants a reprieve from deportation. The Trump administration announced it’s rescinding the program and leaving it to Congress to come up with an alternative.

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Obama did not mention Trump by name in his statement but wrote in a Facebook post a “shadow has been cast” over some of the nation’s best and brightest young people.

Targeting them is wrong “because they have done nothing wrong”, he said.

Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2017

Obama says it’s up to members of Congress to act and he joins his voice with the majority of Americans who hopes Congress will step up.

“Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally,” Obama said. “It’s a political decision, and a moral question.”

“Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us.”

The action was announced not by the president but by Jeff Sessions, his attorney general, who called theprogram an unconstitutional overreach by Obama. There would be an “orderly, lawful wind-down,” Sessions said.

Trump issued a written statement saying that “I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents. But we must also recognise that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws.”

0:00 US rescinds protections for young immigrants Share US rescinds protections for young immigrants

Trump later told reporters he has “great heart” for illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children and he wants Congress to produce a legislative solution for them.

“I have a great heart for the folks we’re talking about, a great love for them,” Trump said 

“I can tell you in speaking to members of Congress they want to be able to do something and do it right and really we have no choice.”

The administration said nobody covered by the program, which provided work permits in addition to deportation protection and primarily benefits Hispanics, would be affected before March 5.

Most of the people covered by DACA are in their 20s.

People react toAttorney General Jeff Sessions announce the end of the program that protects immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, known as DACA, AAP

By deferring the actual end of the program, Trump effectively kicked responsibility for the fate of those covered by DACA to his fellow Republicans who control Congress. But neither Trump nor Sessions offered details of the type of legislation they would want to see, and Trump’s spokeswoman offered only a broad outline.

Since Trump took office in January, Congress has been unable to pass any major legislation, most notably failing on a healthcare overhaul, and lawmakers have been bitterly divided over immigration in the past.

0:00 New York angered after Trump ends immigration program Share New York angered after Trump ends immigration program

The looming congressional elections in November 2018 could also complicate prospects for compromise between the two parties and within an ideologically divided Republican Party.

The Democratic attorney general of Massachusetts, Maura Healey, said a coalition of states planned to file suit in the coming days to defend DACA, and one advocacy group announced its own legal action.

0:00 Protests outside the White House after DACA announcement Share Protests outside the White House after DACA announcement

“President Trump’s decision to end DACA is a deeply shameful act of political cowardice and a despicable assault on innocent young people in communities across America,” said Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives.

“This is a sad day for our country,” added Facebook Inc (FB.O) founder Mark Zuckerberg. “The decision to end DACA is not just wrong. It is particularly cruel to offer young people the American Dream, encourage them to come out of the shadows and trust our government, and then punish them for it.”

Nearly 800,000 people stepped forward, admitted their illegal immigrant status and provided personal information to the government to apply for the DACA program, and now face the potential of being deported starting in March.

The “Dreamers” are a fraction of the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, most of whom are Hispanic.

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Supporters of the program argue that people covered by it were raised and educated in the United States and integrated into society, with scant ties to their countries of origin. Opponents of DACA argue against amnesty for illegal immigrants and say that such immigrants take jobs from US citizens.

“The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible,” the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement.

Sessions said the action does not mean DACA recipients are “bad people or that our nation disrespects or demeans them in any way.”

“To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here. It’s just that simple. That would be an open-border policy and the American people have rightly rejected that,” Sessions said.

Ending DACA was the latest action by Trump that is sure to alienate Hispanic Americans, a growing segment of the US population and an increasingly important voting bloc. Most of the immigrants protected by DACA came from Mexico and other Latin American countries.

The Mexican government said it “profoundly laments” the decision to phase out DACA and would strengthen efforts to guarantee consular protections for affected Mexican youth.

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Government to seek advice to save a number of coal-fired power stations

The advice, to be compiled by the Australian Energy Market Operator, comes amid confusion over the future of the Liddell power station in NSW.

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Owner AGL told the stock market on Wednesday it would close the Hunter Valley plant in 2022, reaffirming a decision announced in April 2015.

“AGL will continue to engage with governments, regulators and other stakeholders to deliver appropriate outcomes but notes that the company has made no commitment to sell the Liddell power station nor to extend its life beyond 2022,” the company said.

However, the prime minister said AGL had told him it was prepared to “discuss the sale of the power station to a responsible party”.

0:00 Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg on AGL Liddell Power station statement Share Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg on AGL Liddell Power station statement

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Mr Turnbull said the government had been advised that after 2022, when the Liddell plant was scheduled to close, there would be a 1000MW gap in baseload, dispatchable power generation.

The Snowy Hydro 2.0 project would not be available in time to fill the gap.

“What are now doing is ensuring that we put in place all of the options that we can examine to make sure that that 1000 megawatt gap in dispatchable power is not realised,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.

It was too early to speculate whether AGL, which would meet with the government next week, would be offered financial incentives to keep the Liddell plant running.

Mr Turnbull said keeping Liddell open was one option, but “no doubt there are others”.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said another part of the solution lay in a “strategic reserve” of electricity which was estimated to cost $50 million a year to stave offload shedding.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce earlier said AGL was open to selling the plant in order to provide electricity to NSW residents and businesses until 2027.

Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon, whose seat is in the NSW Hunter Valley, accused Mr Turnbull of offering false hope.

“Liddell is almost 50-years-old; no-one would be happier than me as the local member to think that we could extend the life of Liddell but it’s not going to happen,” he said.

Nationals senator and former resources minister Matt Canavan predicts people would be lining up to buy the station.

Turnbull holds ‘warm’ talks with Trump on North Korea

The pair held a half-hour discussion on Wednesday morning on the security threat posed by Kim Jong-un’s regime but also talked about IS in the Philippines.

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“It was a very good call, very warm discussion, very constructive,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Naturally we focused on the threat posed by North Korea. We are absolutely of the one mind in condemning this reckless conduct.”

It was the pair’s third phone call since Mr Trump became President and follows their heated discussion in February – leaked details of which revealed the tense talks over the Australia-US refugee swap deal.

In their latest call, Mr Trump and Mr Turnbull reaffirmed the importance of the alliance and agreed that North Korea posed a “grave threat” to international security.

But both stressed that China held the greatest leverage over North Korea.

“We will both continue to encourage China to bring more economic pressure to bear on North Korea to bring this regime to its senses,” Mr Turnbull said.

The PM heading into his phone call with @realDonaldTrump this morning. pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/7dY7DMv4lw

— The PMO (@thepmo) September 5, 2017

However, Mr Turnbull could not go into what potential steps the US could take against the regime.

“A lot of our conversation I can’t go into,” the Prime Minister said.

“Everybody wants to get this dangerous situation resolved, bring this reckless, dangerous, provocative regime to its senses without conflict. A conflict would be catastrophic – everyone understands that.”

Meanwhile, Labor leader Bill Shorten will head to South Korea and Japan with his foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong in September.

The pair will meet political leaders and government officials to express support for allies amid threats from North Korea. 

I’ll travel to Japan and Sth Korea this month with @SenatorWong to show bipartisan support for regional partners in these challenging times.

— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) September 6, 2017

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi under mounting pressure

Pressure is mounting on Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi to halt violence against Rohingya Muslims that has sent nearly 125,000 of them fleeing over the border to Bangladesh in just over 10 days.

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says there is a risk of ethnic cleansing and regional destabilisation and has written to the UN Security Council urging restraint and calm to avoid a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

Reuters reporters witnessed hundreds more exhausted Rohingya arriving on boats near the Bangladeshi border village of Shamlapur on Tuesday, suggesting the exodus is far from over.

Government sources in Dhaka, who did not want to be named, told Reuters Myanmar has been laying landmines over the past three days along the border to stop Rohingya Muslims from returning.

“They are putting the landmines in their territory along the barbed-wire fence” between a series of border pillars, said one of the sources.

Bangladesh will on Wednesday formally lodge a protest against the laying of land mines so close to the border, the sources said.

The International Organization for Migration are calling for urgent increases in humanitarian assistance saying there’s now a funding gap of $US18 million ($A23 million) for lifesaving servces over the next three months.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said after meeting Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka that Jakarta was ready to help Bangladesh in dealing with the crisis.

“This humanitarian crisis shall be ended. I want to repeat, this humanitarian crisis shall be ended”, she told reporters in Dhaka, a day after she held talks in the Myanmar capital.

The latest violence in Myanmar’s northwestern Rakhine state began on August 25, when Rohingya insurgents attacked dozens of police posts and an army base. The ensuing clashes and a military counter-offensive have killed at least 400 people and triggered the exodus of villagers to Bangladesh.

Myanmar officials blamed Rohingya militants for the burning of homes and civilian deaths, but rights monitors and Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh say the Myanmar army is trying to force them out with a campaign of arson and killings.

When asked if the violence could be described as ethnic cleansing, Guterres told reporters on Tuesday: “We are facing a risk, I hope we don’t get there.”

The treatment of Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s roughly 1.1 million Muslim Rohingya is the biggest challenge facing Suu Kyi, who has been accused by Western critics of not speaking out for the minority that has long complained of persecution.

Myanmar says its security forces are fighting a legitimate campaign against “terrorists.”

Argentina held by Venezuela at home

The home side had won all six of their previous home qualifiers against Venezuela and were expected to do the same against the team that is bottom of the South American group and without a win in 10 games.

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Argentina’s failure to take all three points left them fifth in the standings with two matches remaining, out of the top four spots which bring with them direct qualification for the finals.

Venezuela are well out of the running but got the opening goal just four minutes into the second half.

Jhon Murillo ran onto an incisive through ball and expertly chipped the advancing goalkeeper to give the visitors a surprise lead.

The advantage, though, lasted just four minutes and when Argentina equalized it came from the same left flank where all of their most dangerous attacks originated.

Marcos Acuna, who had replaced the injured Angel Di Maria after 25 minutes, fought off his marker and the cross was knocked into his own goal by Rolf Feltscher.

Mauro Icardi had a good shout for a penalty waved away after an hour but Argentina, with Lionel Messi not at his commanding best, looked lacklustre throughout and were unable to stamp their authority on the match.

Neither they nor Venezuela created many clear-cut chances and the home side trooped off to the boos of their disgruntled fans.

Brazil top the 10-team group and are the only South America side to have so far qualified for Russia 2018.

Uruguay, who won 2-1 away at Paraguay, are in second-place with 27 points, followed by Colombia on 26.

Peru, who have not played in the World Cup Finals since 1982, beat Ecuador 2-1 earlier in the evening to move into fourth place with 24 points, ahead of Argentina on goal difference.

The fifth-placed side go into an intercontinental playoff against New Zealand.

(Writing by Andrew Downie, editing by Nick Mulvenney)

‘Abu Kevin’: Video of Arabic speaking Swedish security guard goes viral

Abdullha Abdulhameed, an Iraqi man in Sweden, posted the video of his encounter with Swedish security guard Kalle Alm speaking fluent Arabic video to Facebook.

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The original clip has been viewed almost 850,000 times and shared more than 5000 times, the BBC reports.

In the video, Mr Abdulhameed asks how Mr Alm, also called “Abu Kevin” which means father of Kevin, if he really is Swedish.

“Yes I’m originally Swedish,” Mr Alm responds.

“How did this happen? How did you learn Arabic?” Mr Abdulhameed asks.

Abu Kevin explains he is married to a Syrian woman and has two children, Kevin and Sandy.

He added that he learnt Arabic from watching well-known Syrian TV show “Ghawwar Toshe”.

“I love speaking Arabic, I learned from watching TV,” Abu Kevin said.

Mr Abdulhameed first met Abu Kevin three years ago in the Swedish town of Västerås, and when he bumped into him again at an unidentified checkpoint he made sure he filmed the encounter.

“I was shocked the first time I met Kalle,” Mr Abdulhameed told SVT Nyheter.

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“I couldn’t believe that a Swedish security guard spoke Arabic and knew about a show that is broadcast on Syrian TV,” he said.

Arab social media users embraced Abu Kevin, praising his fluent Arabic.

Social media reaction to Abu Kevin video.Sveriges verklighet

“Instead of his wife having to learn the language, she had him learn hers. Good on her. Seriously though, good on him for learning to speak this way this fast,’ Basel Any wrote on Facebook.

“:D it’s a proper old damascene accent, with all its stretches,” Rhama Kouly wrote.

Basem Khaled Khaled joked to his friends, “I’ve been trying to teach you Swedish for two years, Swedes already learnt Arabic.”

Another user, Mazen Al Atrash, said “I think there is no point of us learning Swedish anymore, soon enough Uncle Gostav will start preaching in Syrian Aleppo dialect.

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Low carb, high fat diet improves memory, research suggests

The very low carbohydrate, high fat ketogenic diet has been linked to improved memory and longevity in mice, although it did lead to weight gain.

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The findings of two independent mouse studies, published in journal Cell Metabolism, have raised the hope that ketogenic diets can extend the length of time someone lives in good health.

“The older mice on the ketogenic diet had a better memory than the younger mice. That’s really remarkable,” said senior author of the paper Eric Verdin, President and CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Ageing in California.

“The fact that we had such an effect on memory and preservation of brain function is really exciting,” he said.

However, mice allowed to remain on the ketogenic diet will eventually become obese, he said.

The ‘keto’ diet is where carbohydrate intake is so low that the body shifts to producing ketones to help fuel organs. Both fasting and exercise can also kick off the process of ketosis. The keto diet is so ultra low in carbs it also causes ketosis, whereas other diets can be low in carbs but not produce this.

US researchers fed the mice in both studies one of three diets starting in mid-life: a ketogenic diet, a control diet, or an average low-carb, high-fat diet.

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For the ketogenic diet, 90 per cent of the calories came from fat.

The researchers then tested the mice at various ages in tasks such as mazes, balance beams, and running wheels.

Further testing, revealed that the diets influenced insulin signalling and gene expression patterns typically found in fasting.

While both studies showed improvements in mid-life lifespan and memory tests, one study also found that a ketogenic diet preserved physical fitness, such as grip strength, in old age.

“The magnitude of the changes surprised me,” said senior author Jon Ramsey, PhD, a professor at the University of California Davis.

Professor Helen Truby from the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food at Monash University says to ensure the body remains in a state of ‘ketosis’ means consuming extremely low levels of carbohydrate, which can be difficult for many people.

Prof Truby warns it could also mean people miss out on important nutrients.

“This would mean in a human adult only 20-30g of carbohydrates per day – a dietary pattern that would lead to deficiency in vitamins and minerals unless the diet is carefully constructed, and would usually require micro-nutrients and minerals to be provided by supplements,” Prof Truby said.

Former Brazil presidents Lulu, Rouseff charged amid corruption probe

Brazil’s top prosecutor has charged former presidents Luis Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff along with fellow Workers Party members with forming a criminal organisation, the latest accusations in Brazil’s sprawling corruption scandal.

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The prosecutor, Rodrigo Janot, alleges that eight members of the Workers Party, including Lula and Rousseff, committed a series of crimes involving state-owned oil firm Petrobras such as cartel formation, corruption and money laundering.

They are the first criminal charges to be levelled against Rousseff, who was impeached in 2016 for breaking budgetary laws.

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The 230-page document filed with the Supreme Court on Tuesday accused Lula of heading the organisation.

Lula’s lawyer said the law was being misused to persecute the former president.

The Workers Party said in a statement that the charges were baseless and being used to divert attention from other investigations, including one into a former federal prosecutor, referring to a case Janot announced on Monday.

A representative for Rousseff said the prosecutor’s office had offered no evidence of the crimes and called on the Supreme Court to guarantee the right to defend against them.

Lula, who is still Brazil’s most popular politician, is appealing a corruption conviction that would bar him from running for president in 2018. He faces four other corruption trials.

The charges stem from the Operation Car Wash investigation that uncovered a cartel of companies paying bribes to officials to secure Petrobras contracts, revelations that have spawned a host of investigations that has shaken Brazil’s political system and economy.

Burning coal profitable, PM says amid Liddell power station confusion

But there’s confusion over whether the Liddell power station will be sold, with its owner resolute it’s not selling it off, despite the Prime Minister asserting he’s in talks with the company to find a buyer.

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Mr Turnbull on Wednesday warned there will be up to 1000 megawatt shortage in baseload dispatchable power generation with the 2022 closure of the station, located in the NSW Hunter region.

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He said the station should remain open to ensure a stable supply of electricity.

‘It is very, very important to maintain dispatchable generation,” he said.

“You can’t run an electricity system just on solar panels and wind farms. You can’t.”

The Prime Minister said energy companies are benefitting from higher electricity prices.

“Burning coal to make electricity has never been more profitable than it is at the moment.”

He said he’s also in talks with the chief executive of AGL Andy Vesey, to keep Liddell open, despite Mr Vesey earlier claiming the company was adamant about exiting coal.

“They’ve said they want to get out of it but they have said they are prepared to discuss the sale of the power station to a responsible party,” the Prime Minister said.

“That is what we will be discussing further with Andy when we see him next week.”

However, AGL has said it’s made no promises to sell.

“The company has made no commitment to sell the Liddell Power Station nor to extend its life beyond 2022,” it said in a statement.

Labor accused the Prime Minister of having no plan on energy.

“We’ve seen in a statement by AGL to the ASX, to the stock exchange, that AGL has no plans to sell the Liddell power station,” opposition energy spokesman Mark Butler said.

“This just demonstrates that Malcolm Turnbull is making this up as he goes along. Rather than indicating to the country in its broadest sense that there is stable, viable energy policy for the country, he’s making this up.”

Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon, whose electorate encompasses Liddell, said the station is 50 years old and keeping it open would be costly.

“It’s very difficult to extend its life, it would take at least half a billion, probably a billion dollars, to get just a few more years out of it and even then it would be less reliable than it is now,” he said.

When asked for clarity on whether it was selling Liddell, AGL told SBS World News it was not making any further comment.

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