Berlin, July 24 (AP/UNB) — Europeans cooled off in public fountains Wednesday as a new heat wave spread across parts of the continent and is already breaking records.
Belgium registered its highest-ever temperature while the Netherlands saw its hottest day in 75 years.
And the mercury is expected to rise even further.
Paris and other parts of France could see temperatures exceeding 40 C (104 F) on Thursday along with Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
The heat is putting pressure on authorities to help protect the elderly and the sick. Air conditioning is not common at homes, offices, schools or hospitals in European cities.
The weather is also aggravating droughts since it hasn't rained much in many parts of Europe this summer. The combination of heat, wind and possible lightning from thunderstorms also increases the risk of wildfires.
WHY IS IT SO HOT?
The second likely-to-be-record-breaking heat wave in two months in Europe includes some of the same ingredients of the first — hot dry air coming from northern Africa. That hot air is trapped between cold stormy systems in the Atlantic and eastern Europe and forms "a little heat dome," said Ryan Maue, a private meteorologist in the U.S.
This heat wave is a relatively short event where the heat comes with a southerly wind — and dust — from Africa's Sahara Desert, in contrast to the big European heat waves of 2003 and 2010 which lasted much longer and were sustained by a stationary high pressure system with little wind, experts say.
At the end of June, several countries reported record temperatures, and France hit its all-time heat record: 46 C (114.8 F) in the small southern town of Verargues.
IS CLIMATE CHANGE CAUSING THIS?
Heat waves are happening more frequently in large parts of Europe, Asia and Australia, experts say. As the world warms, scientists say there will be more and hotter heat waves, but attributing single events to climate change involves precise computer modeling and calculations.
A team of European climate scientists did a quick, non-peer reviewed analysis of Europe's June heat wave and found man-made warming made it at least five times more likely.
"Either of the two European heat waves this summer would have been remarkable in isolation. But now we are seeing multiple episodes of record heat in a given summer. By mid-century, we will simply call these episodes 'summer' — if we continue on this trajectory," said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann, who wasn't part of the European group.
The heat waves aren't just because the world is 1 degree Celsius warmer than before the industrial era, but also because climate change and the melting of Arctic sea ice has slowed down the jet stream, which is the river of air that moves weather along, Mann said. The slow jet stream is "a big part of the story when it comes to these very persistent heat extremes we have seen in recent summers," Mann said in an email.
HOW HOT COULD IT GET THIS WEEK AND WHERE?
Temperatures in France especially are likely to be 15 C (27 F) higher than normal, with Paris likely to break its all-time hottest record mark of 40.4 degrees (104.7 Fahrenheit). Surrounding areas around Paris may hit 41 or 42 C (106 to 108 Fahrenheit), weather experts said.
The Dutch meteorological institute tweeted that Wednesday's heat wave broke a record that stood for nearly 75 years of the hottest temperature ever recorded in the Netherlands. The Dutch weather service Weerplaza said that the southern city of Eindhoven reported a temperature of 39.3 (102.7 F) this afternoon.
Belgium measured its highest temperature since records were first kept in 1833.
In sun-baked Kleine Brogel in northeastern Belgium, temperatures rose to 39.9 C (102.3 F), and the weather forecaster of the Royal Meteorological Institute said that it was "the highest ever Belgian temperature."
Also, temperatures won't cool down much at night, and maybe stay around 24 C or higher (75 F).
The German Weather Service has put the entire country on heat alert and said the 2015 national heat record of 40.3 C, which is currently held by the Bavarian community of Kitzingen, could be broken this time.
WHAT ARE PEOPLE AND AUTHORITIES DOING TO STAY COOL?
France in particular is haunted by the 2003 heat wave that killed an estimated 15,000 people there, most of them isolated elderly people whose families in many cases were on vacation. The country has since taken measures to try to ensure such a catastrophe isn't repeated.
Those measures include a color-coded heat alert system to warn people when temperatures are expected to rise to dangerous levels in their area. The alert system went to its maximum level of red for the first time during last month's heat wave, when France saw its highest-ever recorded temperature.
There are also public service announcements on television, radio and in public transportation systems about risks of high temperatures, telling people to drink water and watch out for isolated elderly people.
Millions of euros in extra funding for emergency services, including more staff members in hospitals and nursing homes overwhelmed in 2003. A government report at the time blamed the death toll on lack of coordination among government agencies, nursing homes that lacked air conditioning and overnight staff, lack of a public alert system, and other problems.
Still, few homes in France or Germany have air conditioning, and many public buildings also lack air conditioning, including hospitals and schools.
In the Netherlands, local authorities have taken an unusual precaution — with trucks scattering salt on the roads like they usually do in the winter.
The salt spreaders are usually used to prevent ice forming on Dutch roads in the cold, but Arnhem municipality started using them to cool off asphalt that is baking in the heat wave.
The city says in a statement that the salt "attracts moisture from the air and cools the asphalt." It also prevents the asphalt from becoming sticky.
Across London, authorities started handing out water and sunscreen to homeless people and opened day centers for them to rest and shower. In the Lewisham district of the British capital, garbage collectors will start working as early as 5 a.m. in the morning to beat the heat.
London police warned people not to swim in the city's River Thames after a young man died there Tuesday night.
"Whilst at times, the Thames may look appealing, especially in this hot weather, it remains very dangerous all year round," police said in a statement. "On initial entry the water can seem warm on the surface, but further in it can be freezing cold and there are often very strong undercurrents."
WHEN IS IT OVER?
The heat wave will end in a few days. On the weekend, temperatures are expected to fall. However, quite often end of a heat wave brings storms, including lightning and heavy flooding.
London, Jul 24 (AP/UNB) — Boris Johnson became Britain's new prime minister Wednesday, vowing to lead the U.K. out of the European Union, "no ifs, ands or buts."
Standing outside the shiny black door of 10 Downing St., Johnson said that "after three years of unfounded self-doubt, it is time to change the record."
He derided "he doubters, the doomsters, the gloomsters" who believe the ebullient but chaotic Johnson cannot succeed in breaking the Brexit impasse that defeated his predecessor, Theresa May.
Johnson has just 99 days to make good on his promise to deliver Brexit by Oct. 31, come what may.
The former mayor of London and foreign secretary is getting Britain's top job in politics after winning a contest to lead the governing Conservative Party.
Famed for his bravado, quips in Latin and blond mop of hair, Johnson easily defeated Conservative rival Jeremy Hunt, winning two-thirds of the votes of about 160,000 party members across the U.K.
He replaces May, who announced her resignation last month after Parliament repeatedly rejected the withdrawal agreement she struck with the 28-nation bloc. That has left Britain stranded in Brexit limbo as the U.K.'s departure from the EU was delayed past its long-scheduled March exit date.
Johnson took office in a day of carefully choreographed political drama that began with May attending the weekly Prime Minister's Questions period in the House of Commons for the last time.
The usually boisterous session was subdued, with Conservative colleagues praising May's sense of duty and opposition leaders offering best wishes, while aiming their fire at her replacement. May just shook her head when Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn asked if she would help him stop "the reckless plans of her successor," who has vowed to leave the EU if necessary without a Brexit divorce deal.
May offered Johnson slightly muted praise, saying she was pleased to hand over to a Conservative committed to "delivering on the vote of the British people in 2016 and to delivering a bright future for this country."
And she fired back at Corbyn: "As a party leader who has accepted when her time was up, perhaps the time is now for him to do the same?"
As she left the Commons chamber, May was given a standing ovation by Conservative lawmakers, many of whom helped bring her down by rejecting her Brexit deal.
After saying goodbye to Downing Street staff, May stood outside the prime minister's residence and spoke publicly for the last time as Britain's leader.
With husband, Philip, by her side, May said it had been "the greatest honor" to serve as prime minister.
Reminding her successor of the risks posed by a disruptive Brexit, May said the new government's priority must be "to complete our exit from the European Union in a way that works for the whole United Kingdom."
May and her husband then traveled by ministerial Jaguar the mile (1.6 kilometers) to Buckingham Palace to advise Queen Elizabeth II to ask Johnson to form a new government. The palace confirmed in a statement that the 93-year-old monarch had accepted May's resignation.
May left the palace after a half-hour. Moments later, Johnson's car swept through the gates of the royal residence. He will be the 14th prime minister of the queen's 67-year reign.
There was a brief hiccup in the smooth handover when environmental protesters blocked Johnson's car by forming a human chain across the road outside the palace. They were quickly bundled aside by his police escort.
Greenpeace said its activists had tried to hand Johnson a letter calling for strong action against climate change.
Half an hour later, Johnson spoke in Downing Street, giving Britons a glimpse at his priorities and policy plans.
It was classic Johnson: upbeat but vague, a scattershot spray of promises from more police on the streets to better broadband to high animal welfare standards — and "a new deal, a better deal" on Brexit.
Now the real battle starts.
Johnson has vowed that Britain will leave the EU on Oct. 31, with or without a deal on departure terms. Economists warn that a no-deal Brexit would disrupt trade and plunge the U.K. into recession, and the EU is adamant that the deal it made with May will not be renegotiated.
Chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said "we are ready to listen and to work with" Johnson, but did not budge on the bloc's refusal to alter the deal.
"A no-deal Brexit will never be, never, the choice of the EU. But we are prepared," he said in Brussels.
Johnson, whose personal brand is built on optimism — and, critics say, an ambiguous relationship with facts — promised Tuesday to deliver Brexit "in a new spirit of can do."
"I say to all the doubters: 'Dude, we are going to energize the country, we are going to get Brexit done,'" he said.
To succeed, Johnson must win over the many Britons opposed to Brexit and resistant to his blustering charms.
In a sign he hopes to move beyond the largely white, male and affluent Conservative members who chose him as their leader, Johnson's office said his government would be a "Cabinet for modern Britain" with more women and a record number of ministers from ethnic minorities.
His administration is also set to include some pro-EU politicians, but many members will be strong Brexit supporters like Johnson. One of his senior advisers is set to be Dominic Cummings, lead strategist for the "Vote Leave" campaign in the 2016 EU membership referendum.
A contentious figure, Cummings was found to be in contempt of Parliament earlier this year for refusing to give evidence to a committee of lawmakers investigating "fake news."
Several senior members of May's government who oppose a no-deal Brexit resigned Wednesday before they could be fired by Johnson. Treasury chief Philip Hammond, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart and Justice Secretary David Gauke all quit, along with David Lidington, who was May's deputy prime minister.
"Given Boris's stated policy of leaving the EU by October 31 at all costs, I am not willing to serve in his government," Gauke said in his resignation letter.
Brussels, July 24 (AP/UNB) — Three decades ago, journalist Boris Johnson wrote stories for London’s Daily Telegraph playing up stereotypes about bumbling bureaucrats in the European Union wasting money and tying up U.K. businesses in red tape — articles the European officials deemed to be so false that they coined the word “Euromyth” to describe them.
Now he is becoming Britain’s prime minister, set to lead the country out of the EU, and Johnson showed last week that little has changed.
Brandishing a kipper at a campaign rally, Johnson alleged the EU had forced fishermen to plastic-wrap the British smoked fish delicacy in a special pillow of ice, pushing up costs and damaging the environment in another example of Brussels’ “regulatory overkill.”
The EU quickly said the allegation was false: The wrapping was a U.K. national regulation outside of the bloc’s scope.
EU Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis fired back at “Boris” in a tweet noting that “a fish rots from the head down. As potential future PM you need to keep a cool head.”
Johnson’s allegation was similar to what he and other like-minded British journalists in Brussels wrote in the early 1990s. Back then, European officials sought to debunk their stories that said things like all EU manure had to smell the same, or that it would outlaw excessively curved bananas. Johnson even returned to the banana ban theme during the Brexit referendum campaign three years ago.
The EU parliament’s chief Brexit official, Guy Verhofstadt, last month called Johnson “a man who continues to dissemble, exaggerate, and dis-inform the public about Brexit.”
“Reality does not square with Johnson’s ensorcelling combination of false promises, pseudo-patriotism, and foreigner bashing,” he added.
On Tuesday, EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans noted that Johnson had been ambivalent about Britain leaving the EU before he threw his weight behind the Brexit campaign.
“I would just suggest that you look at what he has been writing over the years. He took a long time deciding whether he was for or against the EU,” Timmermans said, adding: “The world’s politics is rife with ‘colorful’ people these days, so if you can’t deal with them, there’s not much you could do.”
Despite the disparaging comments on both sides, both Johnson and the EU will now have to work together on Brexit. He has committed to taking Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31 “do or die.” In political terms, that most likely means with or without a deal to soften the economic impact of the divorce
Johnson and his predecessor, Theresa May, are both Conservatives, but he vehemently opposes the EU divorce deal that she struck with the EU. Under the plan, Britain must pay a departure fee of 39 billion pounds ($48 billion), and adhere to its guarantees to avoid a hard customs border on the frontier between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K.
The EU is holding out the possibility of giving Britain another extension to the Brexit deadline if Johnson wants. But Johnson already has been preparing for withdrawing without a deal, something that financial experts say would be chaotic, costly and damaging to the British economy. Most economists think it would lead to a severe recession as firms face tariffs and other barriers on their exports. Brexit worries have weighed heavily on the British pound, which has fallen this month to near two-year lows.
Johnson has not made it easy for the EU to warmly embrace him.
Along with Nigel Farage of the Brexit Party, Johnson became a political foe of the EU during the Brexit referendum in spring 2016. The populist “Leave” campaign claimed, erroneously, that leaving the bloc would somehow get Britain’s National Health Service an additional 350 million pounds ($429 million) a week. There also were posters warning of a flood of immigrants to Britain from Turkey.
When the Leave side won by a margin of 52% to 48%, Johnson did not gain any friends in Brussels.
The same year, Johnson compared the EU’s aims to those of Adolf Hitler, arguing the bloc was trying to create a superstate that mirrored the Nazi leader’s attempts to dominate the European continent. At the time, EU Council President Donald Tusk called the comment “absurd.”
When negotiations on the withdrawal from the EU began in 2017, Johnson said the bloc could “go whistle” if it wanted a big exit payout from Britain for outstanding debts.
He also claimed his Brexit policy would be “having our cake and eating it.”
Tusk quickly retorted: “I propose a simple experiment. Buy a cake, eat it, and see if it is still there on the plate.”
Thailand, July 24 (AP/UNB) — Four people were killed in an attack on a military outpost in southern Thailand, where Muslim rebels are active, Thai police said.
An unknown number of assailants carried out the attack Tuesday night using firearms and explosives, triggering a gunfight that left four dead and three injured, said Pol. Col. Yanapong Ubolbarn, chief of the Muang Pattani police station.
Two people who were part of a village defense unit were killed immediately, while a soldier and a volunteer officer died in a hospital. The attack also left three other volunteer officers wounded.
A Muslim separatist insurgency has left about 7,000 people dead since 2004 in Thailand's three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala.
Police said the attackers Tuesday were riding on motorcycles as they threw explosives at the outpost. They waited for the explosions to subside before opening fire on the outpost and security officers. A firefight took place for several minutes before the attackers retreated.
The unidentified assailants also scattered nails on the road to intercept incoming vehicles that came to help the attacked security officials, police said.
Patna, Jul 24 (AP/UNB) — A government official says lightning has killed at least 20 people with thunderstorms and heavy rains lashing eastern India.
Disaster Management official Amod Kumar Sharan says the deaths occurred on Tuesday, raising overall death toll in Bihar state to more than 100 from lightning and flooding since the monsoon season started in June.
Last Sunday, 33 people were killed by lightning in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. They were mostly farmers working in the field.
Millions of people have been hit by floods, their homes and crops devastated by surging waters in the worst-hit Bihar and Assam states.
South Asia's monsoon rains, which hit the region from June to September, are crucial for the rain-fed crops planted during the season.