Daily Archives

24 Articles

Posted by Ukrap on

Пентагон скликає нараду виробників зброї – для допомоги Україні

Засекречене обговорення включатиме пропозиції щодо пришвидшення виробництва наявних та розробки нових систем, які мають ключове значення для допомоги Міністерству оборони України

Posted by Worldkrap on

Pakistan to Seek Deepening of ‘Important’ Ties With US

Pakistan’s new government said Tuesday it would “constructively and positively” engage with the United States to promote “shared goals” of regional peace, security and development.

The Pakistan parliament elected Shehbaz Sharif as the country’s new prime minister on Monday after a no-confidence vote ousted incumbent Prime Minister Imran Khan, ending his nearly 4-year-old coalition government.

“We welcome U.S. reaffirmation of long-standing ties with Pakistan,” Sharif’s office said in response to remarks by White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday in which she underscored the criticality of Washington’s ties with Islamabad regardless of its leader.

“We look forward to deepening this important relationship on the principles of equality, mutual interest and mutual benefit,” the Pakistani statement said.

On Monday, Psaki said the Biden administration supported the “peaceful upholding of constitutional democratic principles” and does not support one political party over another in Pakistan.

“We value our long-standing cooperation with Pakistan, have always viewed a prosperous and democratic Pakistan as critical to U.S. interests,” she said.

Psaki said the “long, strong and abiding” relations will continue under new leaders in Islamabad. She declined to say whether Biden had any immediate plans to speak to Sharif.

Islamabad’s traditionally tumultuous relationship with Washington suffered setbacks under Khan, who took power in 2018 as the head of a coalition government with a thin majority in parliament.

Throughout his nearly four years in office, Khan relentlessly criticized Washington for what he said was a flawed war in neighboring Afghanistan, which ended last August.

In the weeks leading up to his ouster, Khan repeatedly alleged the U.S. had colluded with his political opponents to topple his government to punish him for moving Pakistan closer to China, and Russia in particular.

Washington has rejected the allegations, and so has the Pakistani opposition.

Domestic concerns

Analysts say repairing ties with the U.S. would be a key priority for Sharif, but domestic political and economic issues are likely to keep him busy.

Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations and the U.S., does not anticipate immediate foreign policy initiatives, saying the new government will not have much time because the next elections are due in October 2023.

“The priorities of the Sharif government will be domestic, mainly dealing with the challenge of a troubled economy afflicted by inflation and the need to finance the growing current account deficit,” she said.

Lodhi said she expects Pakistan’s relations with China and Saudi Arabia to strengthen under Sharif. She said efforts may be directed to mend ties with the U.S. and the European Union, the two biggest destinations for Pakistani exports.

“But before engagement with the U.S. can be undertaken, the government would want to put the foreign conspiracy charge made by Imran Khan to rest by an in-camera session of parliament’s national security committee to examine this allegation, which the new prime minister has pledged to call,” she noted.

Khan said he has left behind a ciphered diplomatic message from the Pakistani ambassador in Washington that proves his allegations the U.S. was behind the “foreign conspiracy” that toppled his government.

The ousted prime minister and his party lawmakers resigned from parliament in protest of Sharif’s election, and Khan is set to address a series of public rallies on Wednesday to demand an early election.

Russia and China

The governments of China and Russia both congratulated Sharif Tuesday on his election.

“China and Pakistan are all-weather comprehensive strategic cooperative partners with rock-solid and unbreakable relations. China looks forward to working together with the Pakistani side,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing.

The Russian embassy in Islamabad said in a tweet that Putin “expressed hope that Shehbaz Sharif’s activities will contribute to further development of Pakistan-Russia cooperation.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry had also accused Washington of being behind the vote of no-confidence against Khan, saying he was being punished over his Moscow visit.

India, Pakistan relations

Sharif also reached out to rival India on Tuesday, expressing his desire to improve relations between the two nuclear-armed nations, which have gone to war several times over the disputed Kashmir region.

“Pakistan desires peaceful & cooperative ties with India. Peaceful settlement of outstanding disputes including Jammu & Kashmir is indispensable,” Sharif tweeted in response to wishes from his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi.

On Monday, Modi congratulated Sharif on Twitter. “India desires peace and stability in a region free of terror, so that we can focus on our development challenges and ensure the well-being and prosperity of our people,” the Indian prime minister said.

Kashmir has sparked two of the three wars between India and Pakistan since they gained independence from Britain in 1947. The divided region remains a primary source of bilateral military tensions, as both claim it in its entirety.

Relations between India and Pakistan plunged to historic lows under Khan, who routinely likened the Modi-led Hindu nationalist government to the Nazis.

The two countries came close to another war over Kashmir in February 2019, and bilateral tensions escalated months later when New Delhi scrapped a decades-old semi-autonomous status of the Indian-controlled part of majority-Muslim Kashmir, prompting Khan to intensify his criticism.

Shehbaz’s older brother, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, had good relations with Modi and hosted him at his residence in Lahore in December 2015 when the Indian leader made a surprise trip to Pakistan.

Analysts are skeptical about a major change in bilateral relations, citing the limited stint of the new Pakistani government and with no letup in tensions over Kashmir.

“New initiatives with India are unlikely as the government’s life span is uncertain until fresh elections, but efforts to reduce tensions are possible,” former ambassador Lodhi said.

Posted by Ukrap on

У Шанхаї для частини мешканців послабили жорсткі обмеження через COVID-19

Послаблення карантинних заходів стосується понад шести з половиною мільйонів людей

Posted by Worldkrap on

Russia Arrests Opposition Figure Following Prediction About Putin

A prominent Russian opposition activist was arrested Monday near his home in Moscow and sentenced to 15 days in jail for allegedly disobeying a police order. 

The arrest comes just hours after Vladimir Kara-Murza gave an interview to CNN in which he called the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin “murderous” and predicted the war in Ukraine would lead to Putin’s downfall. 

“I have absolutely no doubt that the Putin regime will end over this war in Ukraine,” he told CNN, adding that it “doesn’t mean it’s going to happen tomorrow. The two main questions are time and price. And by price, I do not mean monetary — I mean the price of human blood and human lives, and it has already been horrendous. But the Putin regime will end over this, and there will be a democratic Russia after Putin.” 

In 2015 and again in 2017, Kara-Murza claimed he had been poisoned by Putin’s government. He said the poisonings were a result of his effort to get the United States and Europe to sanction Putin and other Russian officials. 

The first case reportedly left him with kidney failure. 

“Twice in the last seven years, Russian authorities have tried to kill (Kara-Murza) for seeking personal sanctions against thieves and murderers and now they want to throw him in jail for calling their vile and bloody war a war. I demand his immediate release!” Kara-Murza’s wife, Yevgeniya, tweeted. 

On Twitter Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was troubled by the arrest. 

“We are monitoring this situation closely and urge his immediate release,” he added.  

 

Kara-Murza’s lawyer said he will appeal the sentence. 

In March, Russia passed strict laws making use of the words “war” or “invasion” to describe Russia’s action in Ukraine prosecutable. 

 

Posted by Ukrap on

Нідерланди затримали ще 6 повʼязаних із російськими власниками яхт – уряд

Затриманим яхтам дозволяється брати участь у ходових випробуваннях у обмеженому районі

Posted by Ukrap on

Переговори з Росією зараз проводяться в онлайн-режимі, дуже важко – Подоляк

Переговори з Росією продовжуються в онлайн-режимі в робочих підгрупах, але дуже важко. Про це в ефірі Свобода Live заявив Михайло Подоляк, радник глави Офісу президента України.

«Зараз переговорний процес відбувається в онлайн-форматі на рівні робочих підгруп. Обговорюються юридичні аспекти. В цьому сенсі безумовно тяжко. з точки зору комунікації – тяжко..», – сказав він.

За його словами, безумовно, потрібна буде зустріч президентів.

«Тому що лише на рівні президентів можна вирішити принциповий спір між Україною і Росією, зупинити війну. Але для того, щоб ця зустріч відбулася потрібно мати певні позиції. Для України певні позиції чіткі – ми маємо довести, що вміємо воювати, ми це вже довели; що Росія буде втрачати дуже багато, не лише в санкційному, економічному сенсі, а й на полях битв. І коли це все матимемо, на переговорах буде значно простіше відстоювати свою позицію», – зазначив він.

Posted by Ukrap on

Сьогодні вдалося евакуювати понад 2,6 тисяч людей – Верещук

На 12 квітня влада анонсувала 9 евакуаційних коридорів. Минулої доби вдалося евакуювати 4 354 людини

Posted by Worldkrap on

US Consumer Prices Surge at Fastest Pace in 40 Years  

U.S. consumer prices jumped 8.5% in March compared to a year ago, the biggest annual surge in more than 40 years, the government reported Tuesday.  

Price increases hit American consumers in key segments of the world’s biggest economy, with gasoline costs spiraling for motorists, housing prices jumping and the cost of food up at grocery stores, according to the report by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

The higher living costs for essential products are hitting consumers where they most feel it — in their wallets — and offsetting or surpassing workers’ bigger paychecks from wage increases. 

The inflation rate is also overshadowing the rapid recovery of the U.S. economy from the coronavirus pandemic that swept into the country two years ago, with the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs in recent months and the unemployment rate dipping to 3.6%, near the five-decade-low, pre-pandemic figure. 

The government’s report gave no indication that prices are easing, with inflation jumping 1.2% from February to March, up from eight-tenths of a percentage point from January to February.  

The March inflation figure was the first that reflected the surge in gasoline prices at service stations following Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, which roiled world oil markets while also disrupting global shipping and food supplies. 

According to the motorists’ group AAA, the average price of a gallon of gasoline (3.785 liters) reached $4.10, up 43% from a year ago, although it has fallen back somewhat in the past couple of weeks. Tuesday’s government report showed the energy index increasing 11% in March following a 3.5% increase in February. The gasoline index rose sharply in March, increasing 18.3% after rising 6.6% in February.   

Higher fuel prices have in turn boosted transportation costs for the shipment of goods, including food.  

The food index rose 1% in March compared to February. It is up 8.5% compared to the prior 12 months. 

In an effort to curb consumer spending and cut inflation, policy makers at the country’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, last month approved a quarter percentage point increase in its benchmark interest rate and could raise the rate again at each of its six remaining meetings in 2022. 

Such rate increases have a direct bearing on borrowing costs consumers and businesses pay, which could cut their spending and possibly curb inflation over the coming months. But the effect of the rate increases is uncertain.  

Increasing inflation in the United States also could play a key role in November’s congressional elections.  

Democrats now hold narrow control of both houses of Congress, but polls show voters blaming Democratic President Joe Biden for the increased prices they are paying, which in turn could give Republicans a chance to retake control of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. 

Posted by Ukrap on

У Міноборони наголошують: зарано повертатися на Київщину і у Київ

Людям, які покинули свої домівки через бойові дії, зарано повертатися на Київщину, зокрема і Київ, заявляє заступниця міністра оборони Ганна Маляр.

«На Київщину ще зарано повертатися, тому що нас ще чекають складні часи. Я маю на увазі всю Україну. І це може змінюватися щодоби, тому що це динамічна ситуація. Станом на зараз ще зарано повертатися, навіть у Київ», – cказала вона в ефірі спільного телемарафону.

12 квітня голова обласної військової адміністрації Олександр Павлюк заявив, що жителям деокупованих міст Київської області повертатися додому поки що не рекомендують. Він припустив, що  кінець травня є більш-менш реально датою, коли люди можуть безпечно повертатися на Київщину. 

2 квітня Київщина, в тому числі Ірпінь, Буча, Гостомель, була звільнена від російських військ.

Posted by Worldkrap on

UK PM to Be Fined Over Attending Parties During Lockdowns

Britain’s prime minister and finance minister will have to pay fines for attending parties and violating the country’s pandemic lockdown rules, the government said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak have been under investigation for 12 parties at both No. 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office, some of which were attended by the ministers and their staff.

“The prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer have today received notification that the metropolitan police intend to issue them with fixed penalty notices,” a government spokesperson said.

Police said some 50 people would face fines or other penalties over the parties.

The political opposition in Britain has called for Johnson’s resignation over the scandal.

Johnson apologized over one incident saying he thought it was a work event.

The parties were held during 2020 and 2021, according to news reports.

One event, captured in a photo published by the BBC, shows Johnson and others gathered at the No. 10 Downing Street garden drinking wine in May 2020 when other citizens were not allowed to leave their homes without a reason, and outdoor gatherings were limited to two for exercise.

Some information in this report comes from Reuters.

Posted by Worldkrap on

WTO Warns Against Dividing World Economy Over War in Ukraine

The WTO warned Tuesday that Russia’s war in Ukraine had darkened the prospects for world trade as it sounded the alarm against the global economy dividing into rival blocs over the conflict.

The World Trade Organization said the war would damage world trade growth this year and drag down global gross domestic product (GDP) growth as well.

“This is not the time to turn inward,” WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told a press conference at the global trade body’s headquarters in Geneva.

 

“In a crisis, more trade is needed to ensure stable, equitable access to necessities. Restricting trade will threaten the well-being of families and businesses and make more fraught the task of building a durable economic recovery from COVID-19.”

The former Nigerian foreign and finance minister said countries and international organizations must work together to facilitate trade amid sharp inflation pressures on essential supplies and growing difficulties for supply chains.

“History teaches us that dividing the world economy into rival blocs and turning our backs on the poorest countries leads neither to prosperity nor to peace,” said Okonjo-Iweala.

The WTO said world GDP, at market exchange rates, is expected to increase by 2.8% in 2022 — down 1.3% percentage points from the previous forecast of 4.1% — after rising 5.7% in 2021.

Growth should rise to 3.2% in 2023 — close to the average rate of three percent between 2010 and 2019.

The WTO now expects merchandise trade volume growth of 3% in 2022 — down from its previous forecast of 4.7% — and then 3.4% in 2023.

‘Immense human suffering’

“The war in Ukraine has created immense human suffering, but it has also damaged the global economy at a critical juncture. Its impact will be felt around the world, particularly in low-income countries, where food accounts for a large fraction of household spending,” Okonjo-Iweala said.

“Smaller supplies and higher prices for food mean that the world’s poor could be forced to do without. This must not be allowed to happen.”

The WTO said Western sanctions on Russian businesses and individuals were likely to have a strong effect on commercial services trade.

In 2019, the European Union accounted for more than 42% of Russia’s services imports and 31.1% of its services exports.

“Prior to the pandemic, travel/tourism and air transport services were the largest traded services by Russia, accounting for 46% of its exports and 36% of its imports,” said the WTO.

“These services, already hit hard by the pandemic, may be heavily affected by economic sanctions.”

The WTO said the war in Ukraine was not the only factor currently weighing on world trade.

It said lockdowns in China to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were once again disrupting seaborne trade at a time when supply chain pressures appeared to be easing.

“This could lead to renewed shortages of manufacturing inputs and higher inflation,” it said.

Posted by Worldkrap on

Multiple People Injured, Shot in NYC Subway Attack 

An attack in a New York City subway station on Tuesday left several people shot and injured. 

Authorities say the attack happened during rush hour and rescue personnel were dispatched to the 36th Street station in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood. 

At least 13 were injured, including five who were shot. There were also reports that a smoke grenade was used. Of the five shooting victims, two were believed to be seriously wounded. 

Photos and videos posted to social media show bloodied victims and smoke hanging in the air. 

The suspect, who was reportedly wearing an orange construction vest and gas mask, is still on the loose. City police are conducting a manhunt. 

“My subway door opened into calamity. It was smoke and blood and people screaming,” eyewitness Sam Carcamo told radio station 1010 WINS. 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has not provided further details on the attack. New York Governor Kathy Hochul said she’d been briefed on the attack. 

The White House has also been briefed on the events. 

The attack comes against a backdrop of rising violent crime in New York City, including many attacks on the subway. 

Adams has said reducing crime is a priority. 

Some information in this report comes from The Associated Press. 

Posted by Ukrap on

NYT задокументувала кілька десятків убивств мирних жителів Бучі

Видання публікує інтерактивну карту, на якій позначені місця, де знайшли тіла

Posted by Ukrap on

«Азов»: постраждалі від отруйної речовини в Маріуполі – у «відносно задовільному стані»

Оборонці Маріуполя називають основні симптоми постраждалих: гіперемія обличчя, підвищення тиску, сухість та печія в області ротоглотки та очей

Posted by Ukrap on

Японія запровадила санкції проти 398 громадян Росії, в тому числі доньок Путіна

У переліку також 385 депутатів Держдуми Росії й дружина та донька Сергія Лаврова

Posted by Worldkrap on

Russian War Worsens Fertilizer Crunch, Risking Food Supplies

KIAMBU COUNTY, KENYA — Monica Kariuki is about ready to give up on farming. What is driving her off her about 40,000 square feet (10 acres) of land outside Nairobi isn’t bad weather, pests or blight — the traditional agricultural curses — but fertilizer: It costs too much.

Despite thousands of miles separating her from the battlefields of Ukraine, Kariuki and her cabbage, corn and spinach farm are indirect victims of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion. The war has pushed up the price of natural gas, a key ingredient in fertilizer, and has led to severe sanctions against Russia, a major exporter of fertilizer. 

Kariuki used to spend 20,000 Kenyan shillings, or about $175, to fertilize her entire farm. Now, she would need to spend five times as much. Continuing to work the land, she said, would yield nothing but losses.

“I cannot continue with the farming business. I am quitting farming to try something else,” she said. 

Higher fertilizer prices are making the world’s food supply more expensive and less abundant, as farmers skimp on nutrients for their crops and get lower yields. While the ripples will be felt by grocery shoppers in wealthy countries, the squeeze on food supplies will land hardest on families in poorer countries. It could hardly come at a worse time: The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said last week that its world food-price index in March reached the highest level since it started in 1990. 

The fertilizer crunch threatens to further limit worldwide food supplies, already constrained by the disruption of crucial grain shipments from Ukraine and Russia. The loss of those affordable supplies of wheat, barley and other grains raises the prospect of food shortages and political instability in Middle Eastern, African and some Asian countries where millions rely on subsidized bread and cheap noodles. “Food prices will skyrocket because farmers will have to make profit, so what happens to consumers?” said Uche Anyanwu, an agricultural expert at the University of Nigeria.

The aid group Action Aid warns that families in the Horn of Africa are already being driven “to the brink of survival.” 

The U.N. says Russia is the world’s No. 1 exporter of nitrogen fertilizer and No. 2 in phosphorus and potassium fertilizers. Its ally Belarus, also contending with Western sanctions, is another major fertilizer producer. 

Many developing countries — including Mongolia, Honduras, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, Mexico and Guatemala — rely on Russia for at least a fifth of their imports. 

The conflict also has driven up the already-exorbitant price of natural gas, used to make nitrogen fertilizer. The result: European energy prices are so high that some fertilizer companies “have closed their businesses and stopped operating their plants,” said David Laborde, a researcher at the International Food Policy Research Institute. 

For corn and cabbage farmer Jackson Koeth, 55, of Eldoret in western Kenya, the conflict in Ukraine was distant and puzzling until he had to decide whether to go ahead with the planting season. Fertilizer prices had doubled from last year. 

Koeth said he decided to keep planting but only on half the acreage of years past. Yet he doubts he can make a profit with fertilizer so costly. 

Greek farmer Dimitris Filis, who grows olives, oranges and lemons, said “you have to search to find” ammonia nitrate and that the cost of fertilizing a 10-hectare (25-acre) olive grove has doubled to 560 euros ($310). While selling his wares at an Athens farm market, he said most farmers plan to skip fertilizing their olive and orange groves this year. 

“Many people will not use fertilizers at all, and this as a result, lowers the quality of the production and the production itself, and slowly, slowly at one point, they won’t be able to farm their land because there will be no income,” Filis said. 

In China, the price of potash — potassium-rich salt used as fertilizer — is up 86% from a year earlier. Nitrogen fertilizer prices have climbed 39% and phosphorus fertilizer is up 10%. 

In the eastern Chinese city of Tai’an, the manager of a 35-family cooperative that raises wheat and corn said fertilizer prices have jumped 40% since the start of the year. 

“We can hardly make any money,” said the manager, who would give only his surname, Zhao. 

Terry Farms, which grows produce on about 90,000 000 square feet (2,100 acres) largely in Ventura, California, has seen prices of some fertilizer formulations double; others are up 20%. Shifting fertilizers is risky, Vice President William Terry said, because cheaper versions might not give “the crop what it needs as a food source.” 

As the growing season approaches in Maine, potato farmers are grappling with a 70% to 100% increase in fertilizer prices from last year, depending on the blend. 

“I think it’s going to be a pretty expensive crop, no matter what you’re putting in the ground, from fertilizer to fuel, labor, electrical and everything else,” said Donald Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board. 

In Prudentopolis, a town in Brazil’s Parana state, farmer Edimilson Rickli showed off a warehouse that would normally be packed with fertilizer bags but has only enough to last a few more weeks. He’s worried that, with the war in Ukraine showing no sign of letting up, he’ll have to go without fertilizer when he plants wheat, barley and oats next month. 

“The question is: Where Brazil is going to buy more fertilizer from?” he said. “We have to find other markets.” 

Other countries are hoping to help fill the gaps. Nigeria, for example, opened Africa’s largest fertilizer factory last month, and the $2.5 billion plant has already shipped fertilizer to the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico. 

India, meanwhile, is seeking more fertilizer imports from Israel, Oman, Canada and Saudi Arabia to make up for lost shipments from Russia and Belarus. 

“If the supply shortage gets worse, we will produce less,” said Kishor Rungta of the nonprofit Fertiliser Association of India. “That’s why we need to look for options to get more fertilizers in the country.” 

Agricultural firms are providing support for farmers, especially in Africa where poverty often limits access to vital farm inputs. In Kenya, Apollo Agriculture is helping farmers get fertilizer and access to finance. 

“Some farmers are skipping the planting season and others are going into some other ventures such as buying goats to cope,” said Benjamin Njenga, co-founder of the firm. “So, these support services go a long way for them.” 

Governments are helping, too. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last month that it was issuing $250 million in grants to support U.S. fertilizer production. The Swiss government has released part of its nitrogen fertilizer reserves.

Still, there’s no easy answer to the double whammy of higher fertilizer prices and limited supplies. The next 12 to 18 months, food researcher LaBorde said, “will be difficult.” 

The market already was “super, super tight” before the war, said Kathy Mathers of the Fertilizer Institute trade group. 

“Unfortunately, in many cases, growers are just happy to get fertilizer at all,” she said. 

Posted by Worldkrap on

California Utility to Pay $55 Million for Massive Wildfires

Pacific Gas & Electric, the nation’s largest utility, has agreed to pay more than $55 million to avoid criminal prosecution for two major wildfires sparked by its aging Northern California power lines and submit to five years of oversight in an attempt to prevent more deadly blazes. 

The company didn’t acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement announced Monday with prosecutors in six counties ravaged by last year’s Dixie Fire and the 2019 Kincade Fire. The utility still faces criminal charges for a 2020 wildfire in Shasta County that killed four people. 

The civil settlements are designed to accelerate payments to hundreds of people whose homes were destroyed so they can start rebuilding more quickly than those who suffered devastating losses in 2017 and 2018 blazes ignited by PG&E’s equipment. Those fires prompted the utility to negotiate settlements that included $13.5 billion earmarked for victims — money that still hasn’t been completely distributed. 

The deal also thrusts the utility back into five years of independent oversight, similar to the supervision PG&E faced during its criminal probation after it was convicted of misconduct that contributed to a natural gas explosion that killed eight people in 2010. 

Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said that oversight was the biggest accomplishment to come from the settlement. 

“We have limited tools and criminal law to deal with corporations, and what we were able to do here was to get a five-year agreement that they will be overseen, that there will be an independent monitor, and that they will have to meet certain benchmarks,” she said Monday. 

All told, PG&E has been blamed for more than 30 wildfires since 2017 that wiped out more than 23,000 homes and businesses and killed more than 100 people. 

PG&E’s federal probation ended in late January, raising worries from the federal judge who tried to force the utility to reduce fire risks by requiring more maintenance and reporting. U.S. District Judge William Alsup warned that PG&E remained a “continuing menace to California” and urged state prosecutors to try to rein in the company that provides power to 16 million people. 

In a joint statement covering five of the six counties that settled, prosecutors said PG&E will be “essentially on a five-year probation” to be overseen by Filsinger Energy Partners, which already acts as a safety monitor for California power regulators. 

PG&E will have to underwrite the federal monitor’s costs, up to $15 million annually, in addition to the $55 million in other payments and penalties that the utility expects to incur in the settlement. 

As part of their settlement, Sonoma County prosecutors agreed to drop 33 criminal charges filed last year that accused PG&E of inadvertently injuring six firefighters and endangering public health with smoke and ash from the Kincade Fire that began in October 2019. 

Fire officials said a PG&E transmission line sparked the fire, which destroyed 374 buildings in wine country and caused nearly 200,000 people to flee as it burned through 311 square kilometers, the largest evacuation in county history. 

Prosecutors in the other five counties were exploring criminal charges in last year’s Dixie Fire before cutting the deal that they said will result in far larger payouts than had they hauled PG&E into court. Because there were no deaths in the Dixie Fire, prosecutors said the utility would have paid a maximum penalty of about $330,000 if it had been found guilty in a criminal case. 

Ravitch said state laws that limit punishment against a corporation to probation and fines helped motivate the settlement. She said if PG&E had been successfully prosecuted in the Sonoma County case it would have paid a fine of just $9.4 million, most of which would have gone to the state. 

Instead, the county will now receive more than $20 million earmarked for nonprofits that help people affected by wildfires and for Santa Rosa Junior College so that it can expand fire safety and vegetation management programs. It will also reimburse the DA’s office for the costs of investigating and litigating the case, she said. 

Even when PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths in the 2018 Camp Fire, the company was fined just $3.5 million. 

In a statement, PG&E CEO Patti Poppe said the utility welcomed the chance to be more transparent — and ultimately more accountable — for its operations. 

“We are committed to doing our part, and we look forward to a long partnership with these communities to make it right and make it safe,” Poppe said. 

The money that PG&E will pay as part of the settlements will account for just a sliver of its anticipated liabilities in the Kincade, Zogg and Dixie fires. As of December 31, PG&E estimated it will likely be held responsible for at least $2.3 billion in losses stemming from those wildfires. Some of the estimated $1.15 billion in damages caused by the Dixie Fire may be paid by a state-backed insurance fund that California lawmakers created after PG&E filed for bankruptcy in 2019. 

The Dixie Fire burned nearly 3,900 square kilometers in Butte, Plumas, Lassen, Shasta, and Tehama counties and destroyed more than 1,300 homes and other buildings. The blaze started on July 13, 2021, when a tree hit electrical distribution lines west of a dam in the Sierra Nevada, according to investigators with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. 

The settlement for the Dixie Fire was made by district attorneys in Plumas, Lassen, Tehama, Shasta and Butte counties, which will receive nearly $30 million. 

Although her office participated in the Dixie Fire settlement, Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett said she will continue to pursue a criminal case related to the Zogg Fire, which killed four. 

 

Posted by Worldkrap on

Ex-Officer Convicted of Storming Capitol to Disrupt Congress 

A federal jury on Monday convicted a former Virginia police officer of storming the U.S. Capitol with another off-duty officer to obstruct Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral victory. 

Jurors convicted former Rocky Mount police officer Thomas Robertson of all six counts he faced stemming from the January 6, 2021, riot, including charges that he interfered with police officers at the Capitol and that he entered a restricted area with a dangerous weapon, a large wooden stick. 

His sentencing hearing wasn’t immediately scheduled. 

Robertson’s jury trial was the second among hundreds of Capitol riot cases. The first ended last month with jurors convicting a Texas man, Guy Reffitt, of all five counts in his indictment. 

Robertson didn’t testify at his trial, which started last Tuesday. Jurors deliberated for several hours over two days before reaching their unanimous verdict. 

One juror, who spoke to The Associated Press only on condition of anonymity, said as she left the courthouse, “I think the government made a really compelling case, and the evidence was fairly overwhelming.” 

A key witness for prosecutors in his case was Jacob Fracker, who also served on the Rocky Mount police force and viewed Robertson as a mentor and father figure. Fracker was scheduled to be tried alongside Robertson before he pleaded guilty last month to a conspiracy charge and agreed to cooperate with authorities. Fracker testified Thursday that he had hoped the mob that attacked the Capitol could overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. 

Robertson was charged with six counts: obstruction of Congress, interfering with officers during a civil disorder, entering a restricted area while carrying a dangerous weapon, disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted area while carrying a dangerous weapon, disorderly or disruptive conduct inside the Capitol building, and obstruction. The last charge stems from his alleged post-riot destruction of cellphones belonging to him and Fracker. 

During the trial’s closing arguments Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Risa Berkower said Robertson went to Washington and joined a “violent vigilante mob” because he believed the election was stolen from then-President Donald Trump. He used the wooden stick to interfere with outnumbered police before he joined the crowd pouring into the Capitol, she said. 

“The defendant did all this because he wanted to overturn the election,” Berkower said. 

Defense attorney Mark Rollins conceded that Robertson broke the law when he entered the Capitol during the riot. He encouraged jurors to convict Robertson of misdemeanor offenses but urged them to acquit Robertson of felony charges that he used the stick as a dangerous weapon and that he intended to stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College vote. 

“There were no plans to go down there and say, ‘I’m going to stop Congress from doing this vote,'” Rollins said. 

Fracker testified that he initially believed he was merely trespassing when he entered the Capitol building. However, he ultimately pleaded guilty to conspiring with Robertson to obstruct Congress. 

Under cross-examination by Rollins, Fracker said he didn’t have a “verbal agreement” with anybody to obstruct the joint session of Congress. Fracker said he believed everybody in the mob “pretty much had the same goal” and didn’t need for it to be “said out loud.” 

Robertson and Fracker drove with a neighbor to Washington on the morning of January 6. Robertson brought three gas masks for them to use, according to prosecutors. 

After listening to speeches near the Washington Monument, Fracker, Robertson and the neighbor walked toward the Capitol, donned the gas masks and joined the growing mob, prosecutors said. Robertson stopped to help his neighbor, who was having trouble breathing. Fracker broke off and entered the building before Robertson, but they reunited inside the Capitol. 

Defense attorney Camille Wagner told jurors that Robertson only went into the Capitol because he wanted to retrieve Fracker, who entered the Capitol a few minutes before Robertson. Wagner said the U.S. Army veteran was using the stick to help him walk because he has a limp from getting shot in the right thigh while working as a private contractor for the U.S. Defense Department in Afghanistan in 2011. 

Jurors saw some of Robertson’s vitriolic posts on social media before and after the Capitol riot. In a Facebook post on November 7, 2020, Robertson said “being disenfranchised by fraud is my hard line.” 

“I’ve spent most of my adult life fighting a counter insurgency. (I’m) about to become part of one, and a very effective one,” he wrote. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Aloi told jurors that Robertson was charged for his actions, not his political beliefs. Wagner also said Robertson should be judged by his actions, not his words. 

The town fired Robertson and Fracker after the riot. Rocky Mount is about 25 miles south of Roanoke and has roughly 5,000 residents. 

Robertson has been jailed since Cooper ruled in July that he violated the terms of his pretrial release by possessing firearms. 

More than 770 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the riot. Over 250 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors. 

Robertson’s trial is one of four so far for Capitol riot defendants. Two others had their cases decided by bench trials before the same judge. 

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden convicted New Mexico elected official Couy Griffin last month of illegally entering restricted Capitol grounds but acquitted him of engaging in disorderly conduct. On Wednesday, McFadden acquitted another New Mexico man, Matthew Martin, of all four charges that he faced. 

 

Posted by Ukrap on

На Донеччині через російські обстріли загинули три людини, ще вісім постраждали – ОВА