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28 May

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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Country suffers one of the worst bouts of hot weather for several years, with more than 1,000 heat-related deaths in southern state of Andhra Pradesh alone

A farmer sits on his dried-up land near Andhra Pradesh

A farmer sits on his dried-up land near Andhra Pradesh. Southern India has borne the brunt of the sudden spell of hot, dry weather. Photograph: Jagadeesh Nv/EPA

The death toll in India’s heatwave has climbed towards 1,500 as the country sweltered in one of the worst bouts of hot weather for several years.

Southern India has borne the brunt of the sudden spell of hot, dry weather. So far more than 1,000 people have died in the state of Andhra Pradesh, more than double the total number of heat-related deaths last summer, authorities said.

“This is the highest death toll due to heatwave ever in the state,” said Tulasi Rani, the special commissioner for disaster management in Andhra Pradesh. “Last year around 447 people died due to heat. This year the heatwave is continuing for a longer period than in previous years.”

Rani said temperatures were two to five degrees higher than the seasonal average.

The death toll in neighbouring Telangana, where temperatures hit 48C (118F) over the weekend, stood at 340.

Dr T Padmaja, the medical and health officer in Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur district, one of the worst affected areas, said leave had been cancelled for doctors.

Local authorities across India have launched intensive awareness campaigns, asking people to stay indoors between 1pm and 4pm and advising them to wear broad-brimmed hats and light-coloured cotton clothes, use umbrellas and drink lots of fluid……………..

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The inspector general’s report undermines the Beltway consensus that expiring portions of Patriot Act are crucial counter-terrorism tools

‘There’s no evidence that the authorities are necessary or effective, and they have raised significant constitutional concerns,’ according to the ACLU.

‘There’s no evidence that the authorities are necessary or effective, and they have raised significant constitutional concerns,’ according to the ACLU. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

For all the acrimony over the future contours of US domestic surveillance, a consensus has emerged: the expiring portions of the Patriot Act that do not govern the mass collection of US phone records are critical counter-terrorism tools.

The only dissent from that consensus: the Justice Department’s internal watchdog, which has found that a provision heralded by everyone from across the political spectrum to be at best marginally useful.

Yet the Washington surveillance debate, which is heading for a sort of resolution in an extraordinary Senate session on Sunday, has all but ignored last week’s groundbreaking Justice Department inspector general report on the key provision, known as Section 215.

Advocates of surveillance reform, particularly those who believe a bill called the USA Freedom Act that junks the bulk collection of US phone records does not go far enough, have been stunned and frustrated that the report has not sounded the death knell of Section 215. But while the Obama administration has already ensured the end of the National Security Agency’s bulk US phone records collection, Senate inertia may end up killing the most controversial provision of the 2001 Patriot Act………………..

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A provision quietly inserted into last year’s Cromnibus spending bill increased the maximum party committees can accept to over $334,000 – and Republicans are out-raising Democrats among these mega-donors by an 11-to-1 margin

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus: a thumbs up for mega-donors. Photograph: Rick WIlking/Reuters

and Russ Choma in Washington

A new loophole stuck into a budget bill last year allows donors to gives hundreds of thousands of dollars to political parties. However, only the Republican party is benefiting from it.

A provision quietly inserted into the combination continuing resolution/omnibus spending bill – or Cromnibus – last year increased the maximum that party committees can accept from $33,400 to over $334,000 each year. (The limits were also increased for senate and congressional campaign committees to $234,000 apiece.)

And while Republicans are already taking advantage of this and have several donors giving this amount, Democrats are not keeping up.

According to the most recent FEC finance reports, while the Republican National Committee has six donors who have given the maximum of $334,600 to the GOP, not a single Democratic donor has even approached these totals in gifts to the Democratic National Committee. This imbalance is less pronounced but still present in contributions to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Campaign Committee versus those to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee……………….

 

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South-east Asian group urged to act tough on Burma over Rohingya refugees, but principle of non-interference means emergency summit could prove short on answers

Monks and protesters march to denounce foreign criticism of the country’s treatment of stateless Rohingya Muslims in Rangoon.

Monks and protesters march to denounce foreign criticism of the country’s treatment of stateless Rohingya Muslims in Rangoon. Photograph: Staff/Reuters

An emergency international summit called to tackle the migrant boat crisis in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, convening in Bangkok on Friday, may prove long on talk and short on answers if countries shy away from coordinated joint action to address the root causes in Burma and Bangladesh, diplomats and aid groups say.

The summit’s Thai hosts – who have invited 17 countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, other Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) members and Australia – say they want immediate, collective steps to deal with the recent surge in Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing Burma and economic migrants leaving Bangladesh.

“It is an urgent call for the region to comprehensively work together to address the unprecedented increase of irregular migration across the Bay of Bengal in recent years,” said Panote Preechyanud, of the Thai foreign ministry. But with little sign of agreement on what to do or who should do it, such calls look destined to go unanswered………………………

Migrants wait to be rescued off Aceh, Indonesia. About 3,500 migrants have fled by sea in the past month.

Migrants wait to be rescued off Aceh, Indonesia. About 3,500 migrants have fled by sea in the past month. Photograph: S. Yulinnas/AP

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Other News & Analysis

 

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  • Natural resources minister Greg Rickford attended closed-door meeting to deliver pep talk in 2014 to urge executives to spreading oil industry’s message

    Alberta tar sands

    Routes within the Suncore Oil Sands site in Northern Alberta. Rickford commiserated with executives about criticism of tar sands oil, suggesting it was misguided. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

    An oil industry lobby group successfully recruited a Canadian cabinet minister to deliver a pep talk and dispense strategic planning advice at a closed door meeting in a luxury Rocky Mountains resort, the Guardian has learned.

    In the 21 October 2014 session, Greg Rickford, the natural resources minister, urged the 40 to 50 assembled executives to work harder to spread the oil industry’s message.

    “You are fighting an uphill battle for public confidence,” he said. “Our messages are not resonating.”

    The 2,900-word prepared speech makes no mention of climate change or the conclusions of studies that say most of the tar sands will have to stay in the ground to avoid catastrophic global warming.

    Instead, Rickford commiserated with the executives about criticism of tar sands oil, suggesting it was misguided.

    “Much of the debate over energy is characterized by myth or emotion,” he said, accusing scientists and campaigners of “crowding out the real facts”.

    “You’ve heard them all: that the oil sands are a major source of global greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

    The meeting at the Banff Springs Hotel was the annual strategy session of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the main lobby group in Alberta’s tar sands.

    A copy of Rickford’s speech and briefing notes were obtained under freedom of information request by the Greenpeace campaign group and made available to the Guardian. Bloomberg was first to report on the speech…………..

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