December 31, 2019

Thousands of Australians were forced to flee to beaches on Tuesday as wildfires continued to blaze in New South Wales and Victoria.

About 4,000 people sought refuge on nearby beaches in the town of Mallacoota in Victoria, with thousands along the New South Wales coast needing to evacuate their homes, CNN reports. Fires have been raging in Australia for the past several months, and 70 new fires reportedly started in Victoria on Monday, while more than 60 fires haven't yet been contained in New South Wales.

"It was like we were in hell," a vacationer in New South Wales told CNN. "We were all covered in ash."

"It should have been daylight but it was black like midnight and we could hear the fire roaring," a local business owner in Mallacoota told BBC News. "We were all terrified for our lives."

After the death of a father and son in Cobargo, at least 11 people have died amid Australia's devastating fire season, during which more than 900 homes have been destroyed in New South Wales, The New York Times reports. Victoria Emergency Services Commissioner Andrew Crisp said there have been "significant" property losses, The Associated Press reports.

Australian military aircraft and vessels will assist in the emergency services, BBC News reports, and the United States and Canada have also been asked to help in the effort. CNN reports that weather conditions are expected to improve in the next 24 hours before worsening by the end of the week, again "bringing dangerous fire conditions." Brendan Morrow

January 28, 2019

A woman in New York City just experienced one of the most terrifying weekends imaginable, spending three days awaiting rescue while trapped in an elevator.

The New York Post reports that the 53-year-old woman on Friday got stuck in the private elevator of the Upper East Side townhouse where she works as a housekeeper, and because the owners were gone for the entire weekend, she wasn't found until they arrived home on Monday morning. She didn't have a phone with her when she got trapped, ABC News reports.

Firefighters were reportedly called to the five-story building on Monday in order to pry open the doors and rescue the woman, who was subsequently taken to the hospital, and CBS News reports she is in good condition. The building's elevator passed an inspection in July; The New York Times reports that the city's Department of Buildings is currently investigating the incident. Brendan Morrow

December 1, 2018

The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that caused serious infrastructure damage in and around Anchorage, Alaska, on Friday has been attended by at least 193 other quakes in the state over the course of two days, the U.S. Geological Survey reported Saturday.

Though tremors are common in Alaska, Friday's major quake was unusual. "It was very loud when it came," said Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. "It was very clear that this was something bigger than what we normally experience."

No deaths have been reported in connection to the weekend's earthquakes, and the effects of the big one were likely muffled by its depth of about 25 miles below the surface.

"We're lucky at this point that it was pretty deep," explained Joey Yang, civil engineering chair at the University of Alaska Anchorage. "By the time it reached the surface the energy dissipated quite a bit. It did not cause as much damage as you would think." Bonnie Kristian

October 24, 2018

The suspicious package that arrived at CNN's New York City headquarters on Wednesday was addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan, the network reported.

CNN's bureau at the Time Warner Center was evacuated after a suspicious device was delivered, suspected to contain explosives. Network anchor Wolf Blitzer reported that the package that arrived and was removed from the premises by the New York City Police Department's bomb squad was addressed to Brennan. Brennan is a contributor to MSNBC, but has occasionally appeared as a guest on CNN as well. He frequently criticizes President Trump while appearing on the networks.

CNN's offices were evacuated shortly after the Service Service intercepted explosive devices on their way to former President Barack Obama and to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Law enforcement officials told CNN that all three devices appear to be similar and are being treated as a connected attack. Brendan Morrow

October 8, 2018

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a dire report on Monday, warning that in order to avoid catastrophic climate change by as early as 2040, governments around the world must take "unprecedented" action to limit global warming to "well below" 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

The panel is under the auspices of the United Nations, and the report was written by 91 scientists from 40 countries who examined more than 6,000 scientific studies. They found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, by 2040, the atmosphere will heat up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels, causing a mass die off of coral reefs, intense droughts, coastal flooding, and food shortages.

Previously, scientists believed the threshold was 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Bill Hare, author of previous IPCC reports and a physicist, told The New York Times the report is "quite a shock, and quite concerning. We were not aware of this just a few years ago."

The report states that in order to prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050. There must also be an increase in wind and solar power, and the use of coal as a source of electricity must drop from nearly 40 percent today to between one and seven percent by 2050. President Trump has rejected the science and near universal agreement on climate change, and wants to see coal used even more than it is today. Catherine Garcia

December 13, 2016

Millions of Americans living in rural communities could be at risk of drinking and bathing in toxic water, a year-long investigation by USA Today has found. Four million Americans live in regions where small water operators skipped required safety tests and around 100,000 people get their water from operators that discovered high lead levels but failed to take action to remove it in a timely fashion. An additional 850 small water utilities have not tested for lead since 2010 despite having a recorded history of lead contamination in the system.

Ranger, Texas, is one such system out of about 130 since 2010 where operators failed to take action in a timely manner to treat known dangers in the water:

Three years ago, the city found excessive levels of copper [in the water]. Nine months after that, three of 20 sites tested over the limit of 15 parts per billion of lead. Under federal law, both required immediate action, but documents show the city waited until this fall to start planning to control corrosion. Testing this September found five sites above the limit for lead, the Walton home topping the list at 418 parts per billion. The federal limit is 15.

Similar scenarios play out in hundreds of mostly struggling communities — cities built on boom-bust industries like oil and coal, isolated rural places and mobile home parks housing the poorest people in town. [USA Today]

Additionally, "the bar for running tiny water systems is low," USA Today reports. Or, in the words of Paul Schwartz, who works with the Campaign for Lead Free Water to remove the toxin from drinking supplies, "you might have to get more training to run a hot dog stand than a small water system."

Read more of the findings, and what is being done to protect families, at USA Today. Jeva Lange

May 29, 2014

On Tuesday, China sentenced 55 prisoners — on charges ranging from acts of terrorism to murder. But the sentencing didn't take place in a courtroom. Instead, it was carried out in a stadium packed with 7,000 people in the country's volatile northwestern Xinjiang region. The sentencing was meant to be a "show of force" following last week's deadly attack on a vegetable market.

Wearing orange vests, prisoners were seen standing on a dozen trucks parked in two rows in the middle of the stadium. Police forced defendants to bow their heads when their verdicts were read, while the audience members, who appeared to have dressed up for the occasion, looked on. Few details have been revealed about who the prisoners are, but of the names reported, all are believed to be members of the region's Muslim Uighur community.

The mass sentencing comes during China's year-long effort aimed at clamping down on "violent terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism" that have rocked the region. --Jordan Valinsky

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