National News Content

7 Poll Workers Killed By Landmine Amid Historic Niger Vote

WXXI US News - Sun, 02/21/2021 - 7:39pm
Seven workers with Niger's election commission were killed in a landmine explosion during a day of voting that's expected to bring the country's first democratic transition of power since becoming an independent nation. Media reports say a vehicle belonging to Niger's election commission struck a landmine in the rural community of Dargol. The vehicle was carrying election workers to polling stations in the country's southwest. "They were leaving to drop off the ballot boxes and the members of the polling station," Harouna Mounkaila, the commission's vice president, told Reuters . Three other workers were seriously wounded, Mounkaila told the news service. It was unclear if the vehicle was deliberately targeted. Dargol is in the western region of Tillaberi, where Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali meet. Armed groups with links to al-Qaida and ISIS have strengthened their foothold in the region and launch frequent attacks, according to Al Jazeera . Suspected Islamist militants killed at least

Immigration Policymaker On Biden's Reform Plans

WXXI US News - Sun, 02/21/2021 - 6:03pm
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit MICHEL MARTIN, HOST: And now we want to turn to the controversy around one of country music's biggest young stars, Morgan Wallen. He was captured on video using a racist slur a few weeks ago after a night out of drinking, and the reaction was dramatic. His music was pulled from country music radio, his record label suspended his contract indefinitely, and the Academy of Country Music says he is ineligible for next award season. But fans, or maybe people with other agendas, seem to have other ideas. Sales of his albums increased by more than a thousand percent the day after the video posted. So that got us thinking about what this episode says about country music, or perhaps the country, so we called someone who's been thinking a lot about this, Rissi Palmer. Rissi is one of only a handful of Black female artists to make the country charts. She's also the host of "Color Me Country." That's a show on Apple Music that puts the focus on Black,

Mediterranean Oil Spill Injures Wildlife, Closes Israel's Beaches

WXXI US News - Sun, 02/21/2021 - 4:19pm
A suspected oil tanker leak off the coast of Israel last week has led to Israel's biggest maritime ecological disaster in many years, with authorities closing the country's beaches and beginning a massive cleanup effort. Chunks of sticky, black tar began washing up late last week. On Sunday, Israel's Environmental Protection Ministry warned people to avoid going to beaches from the country's northern border with Lebanon all the way to the south near the Gaza Strip. Tar exposure can make people sick and irritate the skin. More than 4,000 volunteers from the Israeli nonprofit group EcoOcean have helped remove tar from beaches so far, according to the ministry. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority warned that the "consequences will be seen for years to come." Israeli environmental minister Gila Gamliel said Saturday that there are no more oil slicks visible off Israel's coast, "which is an encouraging condition." However the ministry warned that large waves are forecast this week. The

Violence Erupts In Barcelona On 5th Night Of Protests Over Jailed Rapper

WXXI US News - Sun, 02/21/2021 - 4:01pm
A fifth night of protests in Barcelona over the arrest of a rapper, convicted of criticizing the country's monarchy and glorifying a separatist group, turned violent Saturday with protesters throwing objects at police, setting fires and looting and vandalizing many luxury shops. Police arrested Pablo Hasél last Tuesday for a 2018 conviction under Spain's Public Security Law, which bans the glorification of terrorist groups and insults against the Spanish monarchy. Authorities cite politically inflammatory lyrics and social media posts for charging Hasél, but his arrest immediately set off days of protests and sparked a debate over freedom of expression. Thousands took to the streets Saturday night, protesting Hasél's conviction and nine-month sentence. At one point, demonstrators hurled projectiles and flares at police, who fired foam bullets to break up the crowds. Shops on the city's tony shopping district, Passeig de Gràcia, were looted and vandalized. Videos and photos from the

South African virus variant found in NY resident, Cuomo says

WXXI US News - Sun, 02/21/2021 - 3:28pm
NEW YORK (AP & WXXI News) The first case of the South African coronavirus variant has been discovered in a New York state resident, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday. The South African variant case involved a resident of Long Island's Nassau County, Cuomo said in a news release. The sequencing was conducted at Opentrons Labworks Inc's Pandemic Response Lab, a New York City-based commercial lab, and verified at the Wadsworth Center in Albany. A Connecticut resident who had been hospitalized in New York City was found to have the South African variant last week. The mutated version of the virus, originally identified in South Africa, was first found in the United States last month. Scientists believe it is more easily spread than other virus strains. Cuomo said the variant's arrival in New York means that COVID-19 safety measures like wearing masks and maintaining distance from other people are more important than ever. "We are in a race right now — between our ability to vaccinate and

White House: China And WHO Need To 'Step Up' On Investigation Into Origin Of Pandemic

WXXI US News - Sun, 02/21/2021 - 2:52pm
President Biden's national security adviser said Sunday that the administration has concerns over the data China has provided to the World Health Organization regarding the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. "We need a credible, open, transparent international investigation led by the World Health Organization," Jake Sullivan said in an interview with CBS' Face the Nation. Sullivan said the Biden administration has questions about an upcoming report from the WHO about the pandemic's origins. "We do not believe that China has made available sufficient original data into how this pandemic began to spread, both in China and then eventually around the world," he said. "And we believe that both the WHO and China should step up on this matter." He said Biden did "raise the issue of COVID-19 and the need for all countries to shoulder responsibility" during his recent call with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Earlier this month a WHO team presented its initial findings after wrapping up a

7 Dead In Nigerian Air Force Crash After Reported Engine Failure

WXXI US News - Sun, 02/21/2021 - 2:14pm
An investigation is underway to determine what caused a small Nigerian air force passenger jet to crash Sunday, killing all seven people on board. The Beechcraft King Air B350i aircraft crashed while attempting to return to the airport in the capital city Abuja after reporting engine failure, according to a tweet by Air Vice Marshal Ibikunle Daramola, an air force spokesman. The twin turboprop plane was en route to the central Nigerian city of Minna, roughly 60 miles northwest of Abuja. The air force has not provided the names of those killed in the crash. Photos from the area show a charred and broken fuselage laying in a field. A witness described the moments leading up to the crash. "As he (the plane's pilot) was going down, he struggled to go back to the airport, at the end he just crashed," Alaba Lawal told Reuters . "I just saw the whole thing explode, fire and smoke together. ... When I got there I saw dead bodies on the ground." Another witness, Olugbenga Alaade, said,

Texas Residents Face Steep Electric Bills After Storm

WXXI US News - Sun, 02/21/2021 - 1:32pm
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST: President Joe Biden has declared a major disaster in Texas. That will make federal funds available for temporary housing, home repairs and low-cost loans as the state recovers from days of extreme winter weather. Warmer temperatures are bringing some relief, but now some Texans who didn't lose power are feeling the pain from their energy bills. The state has a deregulated electrical market, and without fixed-rate plans, these folks are being charged several thousand dollars from last week alone. Joining us to explain is Maria Halkias of the Dallas Morning News. Good morning. MARIA HALKIAS: Hi, Lulu. Thanks for having me. GARCIA-NAVARRO: How high are some of these electricity bills? I've seen some astonishing numbers. HALKIAS: Yeah. Five thousand, 7,000, almost 17,000. GARCIA-NAVARRO: Wow. HALKIAS: Yeah. GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's a lot just for a week. HALKIAS: (Laughter) Just for five days, yeah. It's - the temperatures started dropping over the weekend,

After Days Of Mass Outages, Some Texas Residents Now Face Huge Electricity Bills

WXXI US News - Sun, 02/21/2021 - 1:01pm
Millions of Texas residents suffered last week when a winter storm caused a statewide electrical grid failure. But those who had power, even intermittently, are also paying a price — literally. Many residents face enormous bills for the electricity they used during the storm. Residents with variable-rate power plans are being hit the hardest. Such plans charge different prices for electricity depending on how much demand there is. The more demand, the higher the price. Variable-rate plans are enticing to many people because the price of electricity is often low during normal weather conditions and because it theoretically allows people to use more electricity when the price is lower — for example, by running appliances overnight. But when a winter storm caused Texas' grid to all but shut down last week, the wholesale price of electricity skyrocketed. One of the most popular wholesale plans in the state is offered by the company Griddy. As the storm moved in, the company took the

U.K. Moves To Speed Up Vaccinations, With Goal Of 1st Dose For All Adults By July 31

WXXI US News - Sun, 02/21/2021 - 10:54am
The British government has announced that every adult in the U.K. will be offered a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of July, one month earlier than initially planned. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the accelerated target will allow vulnerable people to be protected "sooner," which should help relax the lifting of lockdown restrictions across the country. Senior ministers met to discuss the plan Sunday. Johnson will unveil the plan to ease restrictions to the House of Commons on Monday. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC that about one-third of U.K. adults — about 17 million people — have already been vaccinated. The new target also calls for everyone over 50 or with an underlying health condition to get a vaccine shot by April 15, rather than the previous target of May 1. The U.K. uses both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines. Britain is delaying giving second vaccine doses until 12 weeks after the first in an effort to give as many people as possible partial

Route 31 bridge in Pittsford to close for rehab beginning this week

WXXI US News - Sun, 02/21/2021 - 10:32am
A section of a busy road in Pittsford will be closed for construction for several months. The NYS Transportation Department says that beginning the week of 2/22, construction is set to begin on the rehabilitation of the State Street Route 31 bridge over the Erie Canal in the Village of Pittsford. DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez says that the project will extend that bridge’s service life for another 30 years and help preserve its contribution to the village’s historic district and nearby Schoen Place. The $3.58 million project will replace the concrete bridge deck and its sidewalks, along with other work including repaving asphalt approaches to the bridge. The bridge in Pittsford is scheduled to close to traffic this week for up to 6 months. The detour will use Route 96, Route 31F, Route 153 and I-490. Additionally, local traffic will still be able to access Route 31 up to the construction site on either side of the bridge. A temporary traffic signal will be placed at the

'Allen V. Farrow' Digs Deep Into A Tale Of Celebrity, Power And Silence

WXXI US News - Sun, 02/21/2021 - 9:15am
My first thought, when I heard about HBO's docuseries Allen v. Farrow , was that this moment was inevitable. We are, in this current cultural moment, slogging through a long overdue re-examination of past pop culture scandals, reassessing them with fresh sensibilities. After learning tough lessons on the structural nature of racism and sexism — and the ability of powerful, charismatic celebrities to shape their own narrative and avoid consequences — journalists have returned to the stories of Bill Cosby, R. Kelly, Harvey Weinstein and Britney Spears with new, sharper insights. So it only makes sense that this project would come along now to tackle one of the weightiest scandals in Hollywood: allegations that Woody Allen, one of the most celebrated film directors/writers/performers of his generation, molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow when she was 7 years old in 1992. Allen has denied abusing or being sexually inappropriate with Dylan and has not been charged with a crime, which

Guards, Generosity, Patience: A Volunteer Effort To Vaccinate Public School Workers

WXXI US News - Sun, 02/21/2021 - 9:11am
At a high school in Washington, D.C., this past week, Bridget Cronin looked on as public school workers shuffled through the two dozen vaccination stations that lined the building's atrium. Volunteers alternated waving green placards to usher in the next patient. Red placards were on hand to signal the need for more vaccine doses. The mass vaccination event to immunize teachers and other public school workers in the district, held at Dunbar High School, was the culmination of weeks of long planning. "We've got a cool flow going, where people can quickly come, get assessed by a doctor or nurse, pharmacist at the table," said Cronin, vice president of operations integration at nearby Children's National Hospital, who was in charge of setting up and overseeing the vaccine drive. "It's all one-way traffic all the way through the site to keep everything moving." At Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., teachers and other school staff were immunized with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by

Natural Gas Companies Have Their Own Plans To Go Low-Carbon

WXXI US News - Sun, 02/21/2021 - 8:00am
Darren Arnold lights the burners on a natural gas stove at a testing facility near Portland, Ore. He's using a new, lower-carbon gas mixture for NW Natural, a gas utility that serves 770,000 customers across the region. "For a cooktop burner, we're looking for a nice blue flame, nice little peaks on the tips of the flame," he says. "So everything looks really good. We'll also check the oven." Though it's burning a different fuel mixture, it still works like a regular gas stove. That's a key part of his company's plan to lower its carbon output, with an eventual goal of being a carbon-neutral gas system by 2050 . Fossil fuel companies face an existential threat as more governments and businesses tackle climate change and vow to zero-out carbon emissions. President Biden has a plan to do that in the U.S. , and some gas companies are recognizing they need a survival plan for the future. Dozens of cities have moved to restrict or ban natural gas in new buildings and use renewable

Merrick Garland Heads For Confirmation Hearing, 5 Years After He Was Denied A Vote

WXXI US News - Sun, 02/21/2021 - 7:00am
Most people know Judge Merrick Garland for what didn't happen to him. Five years ago, the Senate never acted on his nomination to the Supreme Court. This week, that will change, as a new chapter begins in Garland's lifelong commitment to public service. Garland, 68, will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday as President Biden's pick to serve as attorney general. This time, few obstacles stand in his path to confirmation. But the institution he's likely to join operates largely in a state of shock. The Justice Department is still reeling from political scandals from the Trump years — and racing to neutralize the threat from homegrown, violent extremists who participated in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Over a legal career that spans 44 years, Garland has confronted those kinds of problems before. It's one of the many reasons the White House selected him to serve as the nation's top law enforcement officer. "Having a well respected judge as attorney general will help

Disinformation Fuels A White Evangelical Movement. It Led 1 Virginia Pastor To Quit

WXXI US News - Sun, 02/21/2021 - 6:00am
Jared Stacy is still processing his decision to leave Spotswood Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, Va., last year. Until November, he was ministering to young parishioners in their 20s and 30s. But in the four years since he had joined the church as a pastor, Stacy had found himself increasingly up against an invisible, powerful force taking hold of members of his congregation: conspiracy theories, disinformation and lies. Stacy has seen the real consequences of these lies build up over the years; he says it has tainted the name of his faith. "If Christians in America are serious about helping people see Jesus and what he's about and what he claims, then the label 'evangelical' is a distraction because it bears, unfortunately, the weight of a violence," he told NPR. "I would not use that term because of its association with Jan. 6." That's the day the U.S. Capitol was attacked and invaded by a violent mob driven by what's commonly known as "the big lie": that President Biden wasn't

'Ropeless' Lobster Fishing Could Save The Whales. Could It Kill The Industry?

WXXI US News - Sun, 02/21/2021 - 6:00am
After three decades of fishing for lobsters in Cape Cod Bay in Massachusetts, Rob Martin knows his boat inside and out. "It's only 40 feet. It was big when I first got it and now it seems small," he says while warming up inside the cabin on a cold morning. Just as Cape Cod lobstermen have done for centuries, Martin used to check his traps by looking for buoys connected to cages on the ocean floor by ropes. But his buoys are gone and he is one of a handful of Massachusetts lobstermen testing ropeless fishing systems. "Everything's ready to go," he calls out as the boat idles about a half-mile outside the Cape Cod Canal, near where he last dropped his traps. With one hand Martin reaches for a pair of waterproof overalls and with the other he grabs his iPhone to open an app that sends acoustic signals to his traps 50 feet underwater. "I'm hitting the release command," he explains. "Release!" In seconds, the app lets out two quick beeps confirming that somewhere down below an air tank
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