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Torrential Rains Kill 32 People in China

Heavy rains and flooding in southern China have killed around 32 people so far and impacted millions of others, and caused billions of yuan worth of economic losses. In recent weeks, heavy rainfall in the southern part of the country has triggered severe landslides and flooding, damaging roads, crops, and homes. 

Severe flood seasons wreak havoc in China

China is grappling with increasingly devastating flood seasons which have been fueled by climate change. In Guangxi province, at least seven people were killed due to landslides. State news agency Xinhua reported that at least one person remains missing. 

In Hunan province, at least ten people were killed this month, while three are missing. 286,000 people have been evacuated, and over 1.79 million residents were affected by the incessant rains, officials stated at a recent news conference. 

Over 2,700 homes have suffered severe damage or collapsed, and 96,160 hectares of crops have been destroyed – this is a heavy loss for a province that is a major rice producer for China. Officials have estimated that direct economic losses as a result of the rains are more than 4 billion yuan or $600 million. 

Last month, landslides and flooding killed at least five people in southwestern Yunnan province, eight people in coastal Fujian province, and two children in Guangxi province. 

Authorities on alert for flood season

Summer floods are a common occurrence in China, especially in agricultural areas along the Yangtze River that are densely populated. This year, authorities have stated they are on high alert for the flood season, which began this month. Scientists, however, have been warning for several years that climate change would amplify severe weather events, making them more frequent and deadlier over time. 

Last year, Henan, a region that does not normally experience heavy flooding, saw what some people called a “once in a thousand years” rainfall at some weather stations. The capital of Zhengzhou was also ill-prepared for extreme flooding. City officials did not pay attention to five consecutive red alerts for torrential rain, which eventually caused flood water to gush into tunnels, trapping hundreds of people in the city’s subway system and killing 12 of them. 

The tragedy raised questions over just how prepared Chinese cities are for severe weather events. Ahead of the current flood season, Chinese weather officials warned of a high number of severe weather events. According to China’s National Climate Center, extreme torrential rains are likely to batter the southwestern and southern parts of the country.

Roe v. Wade Has Been Overturned

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The US Supreme Court officially reversed Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022, declaring that women’s constitutional right to abortion, which was upheld for almost half a century, no longer exists. 

Justice Samuel Alito, when writing for the court majority, said that the 1973 Roe ruling and subsequent high court decisions that reaffirmed Roe “must be overruled” since they were “egregiously wrong” and the arguments made were “exceptionally weak” and so “damaging.” 

Vote for overturning Roe was 6 to 3

The decision does not come as a surprise since Alito’s draft opinion was leaked in early May. However, the US Supreme Court officially reversing the landmark ruling means nearly half of the states will immediately roll back abortion rights – more restrictions are expected to follow soon as well. This indicates that abortion will not be available to people in large parts of the country. 

This decision may also mean that the question of abortion will become a focal point during the upcoming fall elections. Joining Justice Alito’s opinion were Justice Clarence Thomas and the three Trump appointees – Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barett. Chief Justice Roberts also concurred in the judgment.

Dissenting Alito’s opinion were Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. They wrote, “With sorrow—for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent.”

Going forward, abortion rights will essentially be determined by individual states unless Congress acts. Several states, including Mississippi, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, have the decades-old abortion ban still on their books. Now, with Roe overturned, these states can revert quickly to a pre-Roe environment. Officials in these states can ask the courts to reinstate old laws. 

Similar to the leaked draft

Justice Alito’s final opinion on Roe v. Wade was strikingly similar to the leaked draft he wrote earlier this year. His current opinion repeats the scornful language he used in the draft.

In his opinion, Alito wrote, “What sharply distinguishes the abortion right from the rights recognized in the cases on which Roe and Casey rely is something that both those decisions acknowledged: Abortion destroys what those decisions call ‘potential life’ and what the law at issue, in this case, regards as the life of an ‘unborn human being.’ This line was also present in his draft. 

A broad majority of Americans, however, did not want to see the landmark ruling overturned. In a May poll conducted by CNN, Americans stated 66% to 34% that they did not want the United States Supreme Court to overturn the decision.

Chinese Military Jet Crashes in Residential Area

A Chinese air force fighter jet collided with residential houses during a training mission in central China. According to state media, one person was reportedly killed on the ground, and two others were injured. The reports of the military accident were unusual because China typically keeps such incidents secret or focuses on the heroic role of the pilot in preventing casualties on the ground. 

Complaints from foreign governments

Chinese fighter jets have recently been accused of flying dangerously close to military surveillance planes operated by foreign governments. The Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said that a J-7 aircraft crashed while on a mission near an airport in Xiangyang in Hubei province. The pilot ejected safely, but a few residential buildings were ravaged. The pilot, as well as those injured in the crash, was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment. The cause of the event is under investigation.

The J-7 is a single-engine, Soviet-designed aircraft dating from the 1950s. It was produced for nearly five decades until production ended in 2013. Large numbers of these jets continue to operate to ensure regional air protection. China also sold an export variant, the F-7, to over a dozen countries. However, a majority of them have since retired the jets. 

Industry under scrutiny

China’s civil aviation industry has come under pressure in recent months in the wake of the still-unexplained crash of a China Eastern Airlines plane in which all 132 passengers on board were killed. Then, a Tibet Airlines plane carrying 122 people veered off the runway and caught fire while departing from the southwestern city of Chongqing. There were no casualties, but many passengers sustained minor injuries.

Australia and Canada have recently expressed concerns about the recklessness of Chinese fighter pilots. According to the Canadian military, Chinese fighter jets risked collision by attempting to divert a Canadian long-range patrol aircraft from its path, forcing the Canadian crew to change direction quickly. 

China’s defense

Australia has accused a Chinese fighter jet of engaging in a dangerous, aggressive act against an Australian air force plane carrying out aerial surveillance in the South China Sea. Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said that China’s J-16 fighter jet accelerated suddenly and cut in front of the Australian jet. As a result, it released chaff with tiny bits of aluminum created to confuse radars, which were absorbed into the latter’s engine. 

The Chinese have defended the actions of their pilots, blaming foreign countries for leading close-in surveillance to suppress China’s development.

Millions in the US Under Excessive Heat Warnings

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Scorching heat is expected to make a large swath of the Sun Belt sizzle, with temperatures spanning around 100 degrees Fahrenheit for tens of millions of people residing around the Texas Gulf Coast and California’s Central Valley. The heat wave sweeping across Arizona, Nevada, and California has put more than 15 million people under excessive heat warnings and 16 million more under heat advisories.

Record-breaking heat

Forecasters say that the mercury in Houston will reach 98 degrees, which could surpass Space City’s 2020 record of 97 degrees. People residing in and around Sacramento, California, will be cranking up their car air conditioners as temperatures are expected to reach 100 degrees. Other record-breaking highs include Waco, Texas, at 99 degrees, Las Vegas at 108 degrees, and Phoenix at 111 degrees.

These cities could face temperatures even hotter than the record-breaking highs. For instance, the thermometer is expected to stay between 113 and 114 degrees in Phoenix over the weekend. The heat in Las Vegas is expected to go as high as 110, with no good news in sight for Waco, where temperatures will range between 103 and 106 degrees during the period.

Preventive measures needed

The Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department closed a pair of popular hiking trails due to excessive heat. But even in areas where high heat is normal, too many people do not follow common safety precautions, such as bringing water with them when they go outside for even short periods of time, Las Vegas fire spokesman Tim Szymanski said. 

“That water can be precious and lifesaving. It’s amazing how many people go out for a hike here (in extreme heat), it’s ridiculous. They don’t bring water with them, and those end up being life-and-death situations. They’ll be like, ‘I’ll just go down the trail for a half-mile’ and they’re overwhelmed in less than an hour,” he stated.

Millions of people residing in the region will also be affected by extreme storms. Deadly gusts of wind are expected to lash at the Texas Panhandle before moving into eastern Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and northwest Arkansas later in the evening. Oklahoma City, Norman, Tulsa, Wichita, and Amarillo are the five most populous cities in that region. Forecasters predict that storms and high winds will move east, reaching the Ozarks and the Gulf Coast. The storm system is expected to touch cities such as Little Rock, Arkansas; Shreveport, Louisiana; Mobile, Alabama; and New Orleans.

Price of Petrol in UK Makes Biggest Jump in 17 Years

The price of petrol in the UK has made its biggest single-day jump in 17 years, and the cost of filling a regular family car is now on the verge of crossing £100 ($124.58) for the first time. 

On June 7, the cost for a liter of petrol came up to an average of 190.73p, up a staggering 2.23p from the previous day. Some gas stations, including a BP garage on the A1 close to Sunderland, are already selling petrol for over £2 ($2.49) a liter. 

Diesel prices soar as well

Diesel prices in the UK are also at a record high, having hit 186.6p on June 7. It was up 1.4p from the previous day. The rising price of diesel significantly impacts the larger economy, given that businesses typically use the fuel to fill larger vehicles like trucks and vans. 

Soaring fuel prices have been blamed on rising demand for petrol and diesel across the world, including in China and the United States, as COVID-19 restrictions loosen. That said, oil has fallen from its peak, which was seen at the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war. 

Fuel prices cause a row between RAC and AA

The RAC (Royal Automobile Club) recently urged the government to intervene in order to cushion the cost of fuel at gas stations. However, the AA (Automobile Association) was quick to take a hit at the RAC for its comments, blaming “reckless speculation” for increasing fuel prices in the country. The spat between the two key motoring bodies in the UK came as a surprise to everyone. 

AA’s Luke Bosdet said, “Reckless speculation is leading to rip-off prices at the pump. Yesterday’s more than 2p-a-liter leap in average UK petrol prices is a huge shock and fuels concern that speculation of a £2 liter just gives the fuel trade license to pile on extra cost and the misery.” 

An RAC spokesman rebutted the claim and argued that retailers were determining prices based on wholesale costs as opposed to speculation. 

Retailers accused of not passing fuel duty cut to consumers

In March, chancellor Rishi Sunak reduced fuel duty marginally. However, fuel retailers are being accused of not passing this cut to consumers. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng wrote to fuel retailers to say it was “unacceptable that different locations even within the same retail chain have widely different prices.”

Fire Kills At Least Seven in South Korea

A fire caused as a result of suspected arson spread through an office building in Daegu city in South Korea. Police officers said the blaze killed at least seven people and injured many others. Dozens of firefighters arrived at the location and quickly put out the fire, which started in the late morning hours in a seven-story building near the district court of Daegu city. 

At least seven people, including the suspected arsonist, were confirmed dead. Around 49 others sustained injuries, mostly as a result of smoke inhalation, and required medical intervention. According to the Daegu Fire Department, many survivors are being treated in the city’s hospitals. 

Lack of sprinklers led to high casualties

Park Seok-jin, chief of Daegu’s Suseong district fire department, said the high number of casualties was due to the building not having any sprinklers on office floors. He didn’t specify if there were any lapses in safety standards. 

Jeong Hyeon-wook, an official from Daegu Metropolitan Police, said the security camera footage indicates that the suspect left his home holding a container with both hands. Jeong said the suspect might have used this container to set the fire. At present, police are investigating the arsonist’s possible motives. A team from the National Forensic Services has also been deployed to the site. 

No prosecutions likely, police say

Jeong further added that because the suspect is dead, it’s uncertain if anyone will be prosecuted over the incident unless, of course, police are able to find an accomplice. 

A series of photos have been released showing people awaiting rescue personnel on crowded balconies and the rooftop as smoke continued to emerge from the building, which is located in an affluent business district in Daegu. Rescue workers, wearing oxygen masks and helmets, finally escorted people out of the building using the front door. Those who had passed away by then were carried out on stretchers. 

Rescue personnel broke windows and used ladders to get to the second floor, where the fire started. Forensic investigators and police officials were seen closely examining the damaged doors and walls of the building.

Daegu is the fourth-largest city in South Korea and is home to over 2.4 million people. The city was the site of one of the worst arson attacks in the country after a man set himself on fire on a subway train. The incident, which happened in 2003, left 192 people dead. 

Increasing Prices Are Pushing Consumers to Dollar Stores

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The Great Recession in 2008, which pushed many Americans into financial hardship, made them more likely to shop at dollar stores and inspired others to visit such stores for the first time. Now, more than a decade after the same phenomenon appeared at US discount chains, shoppers are turning to these outlets again in an effort to manage sky-high gas prices and the fastest growth in inflation in 40 years.

Surging inflation

The economy today is faring better than it was during the financial crisis 14 years ago, a period when unemployment was high, and wages were stagnant. Today, more people have jobs, and wages are rising faster than in decades. Other economic indicators are positive as well. But inflation has risen sharply in recent months, with the Consumer Price Index spiking by 8.3% in 12 months. This means that workers’ fatter paychecks are not keeping up with the rising cost of essentials like food and energy.

Despite strong consumer spending, retailers including Walmart and Target say shoppers are changing their buying habits. As consumers become more concerned about their financial security, they buy fewer big-ticket items, such as electronics and furniture, and focus on necessities like food and household staples. Dollar stores benefit from this spending shift since they mainly sell food and household items in individual packages.

Growth of dollar chains

Dollar chains have seen tremendous growth since the Great Recession, adding thousands of new stores and widening their product selection to lure customers away from convenience stores, pharmacies, and supermarkets. Dollar General’s CEO Todd Vasos said on an earnings call that the company’s primary customers — individuals with annual household incomes under $40,000 — are making more intentional purchases.

Gas prices at $5 a gallon have prompted customers to focus on driving to the nearest stores, Vasos said. This is an opportunity for Dollar General, which has approximately 19,000 stores and often is the sole retailer in rural areas. Even higher-income shoppers have started shifting more of their purchases to the company. He stated, “Shopping patterns are definitely changing, and we’re seeing it happen right before our eyes.”

Dollar General’s plan to add more $1 products and inexpensive, private-label brands to its stores reflects the company’s effort to appeal to cash-strapped consumers. Dollar Tree (DLTR) reported that customers who are concerned with higher gas, rent, heating, and food costs are increasingly visiting its stores. The chain, targeting consumers with slightly higher incomes, recently increased its base price from $1 to $1.25.

British Journalist Goes Missing in the Amazon

A British journalist and an official belonging to an indigenous affairs agency are missing in Brazil’s Amazon. Authorities have expanded search efforts in the area, where violent conflicts between poachers, fishermen, and government agents have been reported.

The Vale do Javari Indigenous territory’s Univaja association of people report that Dom Phillips, who has regularly been writing for the British newspaper The Guardian, and Bruno Araújo Pereira were last spotted in the Sao Rafael community. 

Territorial conflict 

The missing pair were returning by boat from the Vale do Javari and were to go to Atalaia do Norte, but they never arrived at their destination. Pereira is a senior employee at the Brazilian indigenous affairs agency working in the Vale do Javari area. Before taking a leave of absence, he oversaw the agency’s regional office and coordinated isolated Indigenous groups. He usually carries a gun when he travels to remote areas to investigate illegal fishing and poaching.

Univaja stated that Phillips and Pereira were threatened during their reporting trip. Paulo Marubo, the association’s president, told The Associated Press that while they were camped out, two men journeyed by the river to the Indigenous territory’s boundary and waved a firearm at a Unijava patrol.  

An unlikely disappearance 

Phillips, a reporter who has been based in Brazil for more than a decade, received a yearlong fellowship from the Alicia Patterson Foundation for environmental reporting, which ran through January. Univaja said that the two men disappeared after arriving from their two-day trip to interview local Indigenous people in the Jaburu Lake region.

The place of their disappearance is the key access route to and from Brazil’s Vale do Javari Indigenous territory, home to several thousand Indigenous people scattered across dozens of villages. According to area residents, it is unlikely that the men would have gone missing in that sector. In an email, Margaret Engel, the Alicia Patterson Foundation’s executive director, wrote, “He is a cautious journalist with impressive knowledge of the complexities of the Brazilian environmental crisis. And he is a beautiful writer and a lovely person. The best of our business.”

Through a friend, Phillips’ wife Alessandra Sampaio, shared a series of messages on Twitter. “I can only pray that Dom and Bruno are well, somewhere, prevented from continuing on for some mechanical reason and that all of this becomes just one more story in a life replete with them. I know, however, the moment the Amazon is going through, and I know the risks that Dom always denounced,” she said.

Meghan and Harry Wanted £75 Present for Lilibet’s First Birthday

According to reports, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry hosted a family party for their daughter Lilibet’s first birthday at Frogmore Cottage. They wanted a very special gift to celebrate the occasion. A source shared that many ideas were discussed for the one-year-old’s birthday present, with a “£75 pink Volkswagen Beetle ride-on toy” being a popular option.

Zara and Mike Tindall’s three children, Mia, eight, Lena, three, and Lucas, one; Peter Phillips and Autumn Kelly’s daughters Savannah, 11, and Isla, 10; along with many of their royal second cousins attended the informal garden party with balloons, cake, and party games. 

Relaxed party

A source told The Sun that the atmosphere was relaxed and that it was a chance for Lilibet to get to know the family better on her first trip to the UK. They stated, “It was a lovely do and had everything you’d expect from a child’s birthday party. The idea was for it to be very relaxed and casual, with people free to pop in and out as they wished.” Tom Van Straubenzee, Princess Charlotte’s godfather, and his brother Charlie, who is the godfather of Lilibet’s brother Archie, were also on the guest list.  

Meghan and Harry did not attend many of the celebrations marking the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee last weekend, and they flew back to America before the festivities concluded. They attended a Thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday. However, they reportedly watched Saturday night’s Platinum Party on the TV at home with the Queen in Windsor. The Daily Mail stated that the couple was also seen through a window at the Trooping of the Colour, but they did not step out into the Buckingham Palace balcony alongside the working royals.

First public appearance

The celebrations marked the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s first public appearance with the Firm since shifting to the US two years ago when they quit their responsibilities as full-time royals. Publicly, neither Archie nor Lilibet were seen during the festivities. The royal family kept a relatively low profile during the celebrations, except for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who were cheered by the public when they arrived at St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Sussexes are believed to have taken their children to meet the Queen at Windsor Castle soon after they arrived in England. Speculation has been rife that the Queen canceled her appearances at the Epsom Derby and Party at the Palace earlier this month, reportedly due to mobility issues, and to meet the Sussexes.

US Summer Travel Deals This Year

With high gas prices and massive capacity cuts, air travel in the US has become extremely expensive. Airlines are canceling more flights due to oversaturation of their schedules and understaffing. As a result, air travel is becoming increasingly expensive for ordinary consumers.

Because of staffing shortages, many hotels have limited occupancy to 60% of their capacity. This helps them avoid selling the other 40% of their rooms due to limited staff support. Hotels have reduced some services, such as restaurants, laundry, and room service, because they cannot afford to sustain those expenses with the current staff size. So, travel deals will be few and far between for Americans during the upcoming summer season.

Hold on to redeeming your miles

It might seem tempting to redeem frequent flyer miles for flights when ticket prices are high, but not this summer. Airlines have been increasing the number of frequent flyer miles required to redeem award tickets, which means that redemption might not be as lucrative as it was. 

During the pandemic’s peak, when airlines were flying at 20% capacity and many flights were canceled entirely, some frequent flyer tickets could be claimed on as little as 7,500 miles. A flight from LA to New York could often be had for as little as 12,500 miles. However, those days are over. Airlines are now reluctant to give up revenue seats on planes for award tickets. Even if a frequent flyer has enough miles to redeem an award ticket, the number of miles needed has increased significantly. A trip to New York would now require 40,000 miles or more.

Book smartly

When booking a trip, consider whether you need a round-trip ticket. Often, it is cheaper to book each flight individually, using different airlines. Check the price of one-way tickets with two different airlines. There can be noticeable price swings in many cases depending on the demand for individual flights on specific days.  

Several US airports offer lower fares than their better-known counterparts and inexpensive taxi rides or parking. Consider Long Beach instead of LAX, Oakland instead of San Francisco, Providence instead of Boston, and Baltimore instead of Washington — which is regarded as Chicago’s third airport. Consider Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip, New York, as an alternative to LaGuardia or JFK. Buying a pass to use Amtrak is still a bargain. Passes start at $500 for adults and $250 for kids under 12. If you plan your travel wisely and purchase an unlimited pass, it can be a great way to see some of the United States’ most scenic routes.