World this week
The US designation of the Houthi movement in Yemen as a terrorist organisation is likely to lead to a famine on a scale not seen for 40 years, the UN's most senior humanitarian official has said. Mark Lowcock, the director general of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, called for the decision to be reversed, saying the cost of food was likely to rise by as much as 400%, way beyond the reach of many aid agencies.
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, designated the Houthis, also known as Ansar Allah (Supporters of God), as a foreign terrorist organisation on Sunday, causing protests among NGOs worried that this would make it impossible for them to send food and other aid. In a speech to be given to the UN on Thursday, Lowcock, the first UN official to call for a reversal of the US designation, predicted a disaster, saying Yemeni commercial traders were already walking away from providing food because the risk was too high. About 70% of Yemenis live in areas controlled by the Houthis, making them especially vulnerable to the new US rules.
Earth's rising fever hit or neared record hot temperature levels in 2020, global weather groups reported. While NASA and a couple of other measurement groups said 2020 passed or essentially tied 2016 as the hottest year on record, more agencies, including the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, said last year came in a close second or third. The differences in rankings mostly turned on how scientists accounted for data gaps in the Arctic, which is warming faster than the rest of the globe.
NOAA said 2020 averaged 58.77 degrees (14.88 degrees Celsius), a few hundredths of a degree behind 2016. NASA saw 2020 as warmer than 2016 but so close they are essentially tied. The European Copernicus group also called it an essential tie for hottest year, with 2016 warmer by an insignificant fraction. Japan's weather agency put 2020 as warmer than 2016. The World Meteorological Organization, the British weather agency and Berkeley Earth's monitoring team had 2016 ahead.
A new investigation of the Flint water disaster led to charges against nine people, including former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and key members of his administration, who are accused of various crimes in a calamitous plan that contaminated the community with lead and contributed to a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires' disease, authorities said Thursday. Nearly seven years after the doomed decision to use the Flint River, pipes at more than 9,700 Flint homes have been replaced and water quality has greatly improved.
It's the second time that six of the nine people have faced charges; their previous cases were dropped in 2019 when a new prosecution team took over. Snyder is the biggest new name in the bunch, though his alleged crimes are not as serious as others: two misdemeanour counts of wilful neglect of duty.
President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9tn (£1.4tn) stimulus plan for the coronavirus-sapped US economy before he takes office next week. If passed by Congress, it would include $1tn for households, with direct payments of $1,400 to all Americans. The relief proposal includes $415bn to bolster the Covid-19 vaccine rollout and $440bn for small businesses. Biden, a Democrat, has promised to beat the virus that has so far killed more than 385,000 people in the US.
In a primetime speech on Thursday night from his home town of Wilmington, Delaware he said: "It's not hard to see that we're in the middle of a once-in-several-generations economic crisis with a once-in-several-generations public health crisis. A crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight and there's no time to waste. We have to act and we have to act now."
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