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Syrian regime celebrated after Marie Colvin assassination, US lawsuit claims

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A stash of evidence alleging Bashar al Assad’s Syrian regime assassinated journalist Marie Colvin has been unsealed in a Washington DC court.

The files include a graphic Skype video that captures the final moments of Ms Colvin and fellow journalist Remi Ochlik, as well as testimonies from high-ranking defectors that claim officials celebrated their deaths.

The two journalists were killed in February 2012 when a rocket hit the media centre in Homs where they were covering the escalating Syrian civil war.

The lawsuit is the first instance of a case for war crimes against the Assad government reaching a court, seven years into a brutal conflict that has seen more than half a million people killed.

Journalists globally have expressed solidarity with the slain reporters
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Journalists globally have expressed solidarity with the dead reporters

In the video, one of nearly 200 files released in court on Monday, explosions can be heard growing closer as frantic voices shout in Arabic, before one can be heard shouting “she’s dead”.

Other documents include testimony by a Syrian defector who said an official responsible for the strike was rewarded with a luxury car, and recalled an intelligence officer responding to news of Colvin’s death with morbid glee.

“Marie Colvin was a dog and now she’s dead. Let the Americans help her now,” Major General Rafiq Shehadeh is accused of saying.

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Witnesses also claim a network of informants carefully tracked the location of journalists and fixers in Syria, while testimony from the scene of Ms Colvin’s death alleged artillery falling on the media centre was “not indiscriminate”.

Other high-ranking defectors say they heard officials plotting to falsify evidence about rebel violence and saw journalists and media activists as a major threat.

The accounts cannot be independently verified by Sky News but have been shown to be consistent with evidence from other sources.

A picture taken on March 8, 2018 shows a Syrian child walking down a street past rubble from destroyed buildings, in the rebel-held town of Douma in the Eastern Ghouta enclave on the outskirts of Damascus
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Large swathes of Syria have been levelled in the years after Colvin’s death

Ms Colvin, a US citizen and veteran war correspondent writing for the Sunday Times, had been covering the violent government response following democracy protests in Syria.

In one of her final reports, published by the Sunday Times, she wrote “the scale of human tragedy” in Homs has been “immense” with inhabitants “living in terror”.

“On the lips of everyone was the question: ‘Why have we been abandoned by the world?'” she wrote.

:: Surrender or starve – the desperate fight for survival in Ghouta

More than six years after she was killed, no foreign journalists are known to remain in rebel-held areas of Syria, some of which have now been described as “hell on earth” as they face continuing bombardment and siege.

Since February, eastern Ghouta has come under particular onslaught, with recent allegations that a chemical attack killed more than 70 people in the suburb of Douma.

The Syrian government has not issued an official response to the lawsuit, but has previously made a blanket denial of the claims, stating Ms Colvin entered Syria illegally and was responsible for her own death.

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Climate change: Area of forests the size of France has regrown worldwide since 2000 | Climate News

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An area of forests larger than France has regrown around the world since 2000, new data suggests.

A mapping study undertaken by the Trillion Trees project found that almost 59 million hectares of forests have grown back worldwide since the turn of the millennium.

The regrown forest area could store almost 5.9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is more than the annual emissions of the US.

forest mongolia
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In Mongolia’s northern boreal forests 1.2 million hectares of forest have regenerated. Pic AP

But environmentalists warn “vastly” more hectares of trees are being burned and cut down each year.

The study is a joint venture between WWF, BirdLife International and Wildlife Conservation Society, which looks at areas around the world where woodlands are regenerating.

They range from active restoration, where native trees and shrubs are planted, assisted natural regeneration, where the forest is encouraged to regrow by measures such as clearing invasive species or fencing land to prevent grazing and “spontaneous natural regeneration” where trees come back of their own accord.

The study highlights areas such as the Atlantic Forest in Brazil, where 4.2 million hectares have regrown since 2000, through planned efforts to restore the forest, more responsible industry practices and human migration to cities.

In Mongolia’s northern boreal forests, the study suggests 1.2 million hectares of forest have regenerated in the last 20 years, in part down to work undertaken by WWF and the Mongolian government’s increased emphasis on protected areas.

Pic AP
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An area of 4.2 million hectares has regrown in Brazil since 2000. Pic AP
Brazil
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Brazil’s Atlantic Forest has seen a regeneration since 2000. Pic AP
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One of the reasons for the forest regrowth is because people are migrating to cities.

Central Africa and the boreal forests of Canada are also regeneration hotspots, according to the study, which examined more than 30 years of satellite data.

The survey comes after a report from WWF earlier this year which highlighted that forests almost twice the size of the UK was destroyed in global hotspots around the world between 2004 and 2017.

William Baldwin-Cantello, director of nature-based solutions at WWF, said that to avoid dangerous climate change and reverse the loss in nature, there is a need to halt deforestation and restore natural forests.

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Despite the regeneration in forests across the world, deforestation is still causing climate issues,
Pic PA
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The latest study comes after the WWF found forests almost twice the size of the UK were destroyed between 2004 and 2017

“We’ve known for a long time that natural forest regeneration is often cheaper, richer in carbon and better for biodiversity than actively planted forests.

“This research tells us where and why regeneration is happening, and how we can recreate those conditions elsewhere,” Mr Baldwin-Cantello said.

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“But we can’t take this regeneration for granted – deforestation still claims millions of hectares every year, vastly more than is regenerated.

“To realise the potential of forests as a climate solution, we need support for regeneration in climate delivery plans and must tackle the drivers of deforestation, which in the UK means strong domestic laws to prevent our food causing deforestation overseas.”

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The UK’s High Level Climate Action Champion for COP26 plus, why tea could be changing.

Sky News has launched the first daily prime time news show dedicated to climate change.

The Daily Climate Show is broadcast at 6.30pm and 9.30pm Monday to Friday on Sky News, the Sky News website and app, on YouTube and Twitter.

Hosted by Anna Jones, it will follow Sky News correspondents as they investigate how global warming is changing our landscape and how we all live our lives.

The show will also highlight solutions to the crisis and show how small changes can make a big difference.

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Public praised for ‘heroic’ acts in detaining attacker in NZ supermarket stabbing | World News

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Shoppers and staff at a New Zealand supermarket have been praised for their courage in trying to stop an attacker armed with a knife while waiting for police to arrive.

The man stabbed four people, including two employees at the Countdown supermarket in the South Island city of Dunedin on Monday.

All four victims are in hospital, with three in a serious but stable condition, while the fourth is described as being in a moderate condition.

According to NZ media reports, one is a Department of Corrections officer, one is his wife (a nurse), the third is a manager at the supermarket and the other is a female employee.

New Zealand Police superintendent Paul Basham said he had watched CCTV footage of the attack and the efforts of bystanders to detain the man until police arrived were “nothing short of heroic”.

“This was a fast-moving and extremely traumatic event for every person in the supermarket – for the victims who were stabbed, for those who were present who tried to intervene and those who had to flee to a place of safety.

“What I can say is that those who intervened, some of whom became injured themselves, I think have acted selflessly and with great courage to prevent this man from hurting anybody else,” he said.

A man, 42, has been charged with four counts of attempted murder and he will appear in court later today.

He was also injured in the attack and was treated under police guard.

Supermarket staff embrace as police officers take a victim to an ambulance outside a Countdown supermarket in central Dunedin, New Zealand, Monday May 10, 2021. Pic: AP
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Four people were injured, including two supermarket employees. Pic: AP

The motivation for the attack has not been confirmed, with Mr Basham saying: “On the face of what we currently know, we believe this was a random attack”.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also praised the actions of those in the supermarket during the attack, describing them as “courageous acts…to protect those around them”.

Supermarket chain Countdown said employees were “shocked and devastated” by what had happened, adding: “We are deeply upset that customers who tried to help our team members were also injured”.

The company said its priority is the injured employees and “caring for our wider team in the wake of this extremely traumatic event”.

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COVID-19: Overweight and obese more likely to test positive for the virus | World News

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People with a higher body mass index – BMI – are more likely to test positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, a study suggests.

Research by Chaim Sheba Medical Centre in Israel found that people who are overweight – with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 – are 22% more likely to contract the virus.

The figure for people who are obese – with a BMI between 30 and 34.9 – rises to 27%.

For those who are morbidly obese, with a BMI at or above 40, the risk increases by 86%.

Some 26,030 people were tested between 16 March and 31 December last year and 1,178 positive COVID-19 tests were recorded.

Even after age, sex, and other medical conditions were considered, the relationship between BMI and the probability of a person testing positive remained significant, the researchers found.

The study authors concluded: “As BMI rises above normal, the likelihood of a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result increases, even when adjusted for a number of patient variables.

“Furthermore, some of the comorbidities associated with obesity appear to either be associated with an increased risk of infection or to be protective.”

People with diabetes were 30% more likely to test positive, while the likelihood was six times greater for those with high blood pressure.

But the risk was reduced for those with a history of stroke (by 39%), ischemic heart disease (by 55%) and chronic kidney disease (by 45%).

The researchers were unable to explain this.

Also, research by the IRCCS Policlinico San Donato research hospital in Italy, has found that abdominal obesity is more important than general obesity in predicting the severity of chest X-ray results in coronavirus patients.

Abdominal obesity is fat around the waist as opposed to general obesity, which is determined by BMI.

Chest X-ray severity scores were calculated by dividing each lung into three zones, with each one scoring a maximum of three points – zero for normal lung performance and three for poor function.

Some 59% of patients with abdominal obesity had a high score, whereas this was true for just 35% of those without abdominal obesity.

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