Perth, Oct 9 (AP/UNB) — About 500 firefighters were battling out-of-control wildfires in eastern Australia that have destroyed up to 30 homes.
More than 40 bushfires were burning across New South Wales state. Temperatures were cooler Wednesday after strong winds and stifling heat restricted firefighting efforts Tuesday.
More than 100,000 hectares (380 square miles) have burned with the small village of Rappville, population 250, among the worst affected. About 50 people sheltered in the local school overnight.
NSW Rural Fire Service deputy commissioner Rob Rogers said some people had been taken to hospitals with minor burns and breathing difficulties. The number of injures wasn't given, and the extent of the fire damage was still to be determined.
"We're just making sure we know what properties are damaged or lost, people are accounted for and making those areas as safe as we can so that people who haven't lost their homes can return," he said.
"There's power lines still down, there's a lot of trees falling down, so there's a lot of work to do," he added.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was a dangerous situation. "Fortunately, there's been no loss of life, which is something always to be thankful for, but there are remaining very serious threats today," he said.
Rain is expected across northern New South Wales on Friday.
Perth, Oct 8 (AP/UNB) — Activists blocked major roads and demonstrated in Australian cities Tuesday in a second day of global protests by the Extinction Rebellion movement demanding more urgent actions to counter climate change.
In Brisbane, protesters chained themselves to intersections in the city center and three people locked themselves onto barrels filled with concrete. A protester hanging from a harness beneath Brisbane's Story Bridge and brandishing "climate emergency" flags was taken into police custody and charged with unregulated high-risk activity.
Queensland police confirmed 29 people - ranging in age from 19 to 75 - were arrested in the city, and six others were arrested in Sydney after lying in a downtown street intersection.
More than 100 protesters dressed as bees at Sydney's Hyde Park to highlight their claim that insects are under threat due to the impact of humans on the environment.
Some activists camped at Melbourne's Carlton Gardens overnight before marching to a street corner locked down by more than 100 protesters in inclement weather. Police arrested 59 people for blocking an intersection.
"I don't know that shutting the city down necessarily wins you many friends," Victoria premier Daniel Andrews said.
In Perth, about 50 protesters converged outside the offices of The West Australian, the city's daily newspaper. The front page of Tuesday's paper was left intentionally blank for protesters to use as a placard.
Two protesters were arrested after trying to enter the offices of Seven West Media - which houses The West Australian.
A bigger event is planned for Friday, when activists are set to descend on Perth's city center.
The activists are running a "Spring Rebellion" series of demonstrations to pressure the Australian government into declaring a climate emergency.
Founded in Britain last year, Extinction Rebellion has chapters in some 50 countries and wants to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2025.
On Monday, activists with the movement stopped traffic in European cities and smeared themselves and emblems of Wall Street in fake blood and lay in New York streets.
In Berlin, 300 people blocked Potsdamer Platz, placing couches, tables, chairs and flowerpots on the road. They earlier set up a tent camp outside German Chancellor Angela Merkel's office out of dissatisfaction with her government's climate policy.
Merkel's chief of staff, Helge Braun, criticized the group's tactics.
"We all share an interest in climate protection, and the Paris climate targets are our standard in this," he told ZDF television. "If you demonstrate against or for that, that is OK. But if you announce dangerous interventions in road traffic or things like this, of course that is just not on."
Olympia, Aug 22 (AP/UNB) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who has ended his climate change-focused 2020 presidential bid, is set to announce Thursday that he'll seek a third term as governor.
Two people close to Inslee told The Associated Press that Inslee planned to make the announcement in an email to supporters. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the announcement publicly.
Inslee, who made fighting climate change the central theme of his presidential campaign, announced Wednesday night that he was ending his campaign after nearly six months.
Inslee said that he was confident that Democrats would select a nominee who would champion climate change issues but that it had become clear that he wouldn't be the person selected. Inslee said he was not endorsing anyone but would support whoever is the nominee.
"I believe we're going to have a candidate to fight this battle," he said on MSNBC. "I'm inspired by the people I've met across the country. I'm not going to carry the ball but we're going to make sure somebody is."
Inslee, who had previously been scheduled to visit New Hampshire on Thursday, will now be back in Washington state for a morning news conference at Planned Parenthood in Seattle regarding the Title X family planning program.
While the filing deadline for the state's 2020 elections isn't until next May, three Democrats had already signaled they would run for governor, but only if Inslee didn't: Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and King County Executive Dow Constantine. The political dominos continued with Democratic candidates lining up to run for attorney general and lands commissioner if Ferguson and Franz end up not seeking reelection to their posts.
Franz said Wednesday night that she's not disappointed that she won't be entering the governor's race, saying that she loved her current job and has "a lot of work to do."
State Republican Party Chairman Caleb Heimlich said that he thinks Inslee could be vulnerable in a reelection bid.
"Getting elected to a third term is a tough task," he said. "And doing so on the heels of a failed presidential campaign where you sent a message to voters that you want a different job, that doesn't sit very well."
A few Republicans have already announced plans to run for governor, including Phil Fortunato, a state senator, and Loren Culp, the police chief of Republic, in eastern Washington. A Republican has not occupied the governor's office in more than three decades.
Governors in Washington state aren't subject to term limits, though most haven't served more than two terms. The last three-term governor in Washington was Republican Gov. Dan Evans, who served from 1965 until 1977.
Inslee, 68, became the third Democrat to end his presidential bid after U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California pulled out of the primary last month, followed by former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper last week.
While Inslee had qualified for the first two presidential debates this summer, he struggled to gain traction in the crowded Democratic field and was falling short of the requirements needed to appear on two high-profile stages next month: the third DNC debate in Houston and a CNN town hall focused on climate change, Inslee's key issue.
He had recently hit one of the markers — 130,000 unique donors. But he had yet to reach 2% in any poll and would have needed to hit that level of support in four qualifying polls.
Inslee is a former congressman and served as Democratic Governors Association chairman in 2018, when the party flipped seven Republican-held gubernatorial seats. He kicked off his campaign in March in Seattle, standing in front of a blue-and-green campaign logo with an arc of the Earth, declaring climate change the nation's most pressing issue.
Inslee was a champion for the clean energy industry in Congress and wrote a book on the topic. And he's pushed for state policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. On the day he announced his presidential bid, the state Senate passed a key piece of his legislative climate agenda, a measure that seeks to eliminate fossil fuels like natural gas and coal from the state's electricity supply by 2045. The measure was later passed by the House and signed by Inslee in May.
In addition to pushing for a dedicated debate on climate change, Inslee's campaign has been rolling out climate proposals, including calling for the nation's entire electrical grid and all new vehicles and buildings to be carbon pollution free by 2030. He's also proposed a clean break between the federal government and the fossil fuel industry, ending tax breaks for oil companies and banning all drilling and extraction on federal lands and beneath federal waters.
Inslee released his sixth and final climate proposal, a plan focused on agriculture and farmers, hours before he announced he was dropping out of the race.
In a video released Tuesday on Twitter, Inslee thanked supporters for helping him pass the 130,000 individual donor mark.
"Together we have put the climate crisis front and center in the 2020 race," he said. "And thanks to you, every candidate knows they have to have a robust plan to defeat the climate crisis."
Canberra, Jul 4 (AP/UNB) — An Australian student released after a week in detention in North Korea described his condition to reporters Thursday in Beijing as "very good" without saying what happened.
Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced to Parliament that Alek Sigley, 29, had been released hours earlier following intervention from Swedish diplomats on Wednesday and had been taken to the Australian Embassy in Beijing.
Sigley looked relaxed when he arrived at Beijing airport. He did not respond to reporters' questions about what had happened in Pyongyang.
"I'm OK, I'm OK, I'm good. I'm very good," Sigley said.
His father, Gary Sigley, said his son would soon be reunited with his Japanese wife Yuka Morinaga in Tokyo.
"He's fine. He's in very good spirits. He's been treated well," the father told reporters in his hometown of Perth.
Sigley's friend and fellow student of North Korea, University of Technology Sydney academic Bronwyn Dalton, said she had recently spoken Sigley's wife, who was thrilled by the news.
"We were jumping up and down and we love Sweden," Dalton told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
"He's a fine, young, emerging Asian scholar, he is very applied to his studies. I really doubted whether he did actually anything wrong by the regime," Dalton said.
Swedish diplomats had raised concerns about Sigley with North Korean authorities in Pyongyang where Australia does not have an embassy.
"Alek is safe and well. Swedish authorities advised the Australian government that they met with senior officials from the DPRK yesterday and raised the issue of Alek's disappearance on Australia's behalf," Morrison said, using the official acronym for North Korea.
Morrison thanked Swedish authorities for "their invaluable assistance in securing Alek's prompt release."
"This outcome demonstrates the value of discrete behind-the-scenes work of officials in resolving complex and sensitive consular cases in close partnership with other governments," Morrison said.
The Pyongyang university student and tour guide had been out of contact with family and friends in Japan and Australia since Tuesday last week.
He had been active in social media about his experiences in North Korea and had boasted about the extraordinary freedom he had been allowed as one of the few foreign students living in Pyongyang.
Morrison's announcement was the first confirmation that he had been detained.
Morrison said he discussed Sigley's disappearance with other world leaders attending the Group of 20 summit last week and accepted offers to find out what happened to him. Morrison had dined with President Donald Trump in Osaka but declined to say with whom he had discussed Sigley's disappearance.
North Korea has been accused in the past of detaining Westerners and using the detainees as political pawns to gain concessions. Australia advises people to reconsider their need to travel to North Korea and warns that foreigners have been subject to arbitrary arrests and long detentions.
Leonid Petrov, an Australian National University expert on North Korea and friend of Sigley, last week speculated that Sigley had been "deliberately cut off from means of communications" temporarily because Trump was in the region.
Trump had his third meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday and became the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korea when he crossed the demarcation line at the Demilitarized Zone. They held a 50-minute meeting inside a building on the south side of the border and agreed to resume nuclear negotiations but didn't disclose details.
Melbourne, Jun 4 (AP/UNB) — A gunman was arrested after killing at least four people and wounding several others Tuesday in the tropical Australian city of Darwin, officials and media said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the incident was not terrorism related. "This is a terrible act of violence that has already, I'm advised, taken the lives of four people," Morrison told reporters in London.
A 45-year-old man was in custody following the shooting, Northern Territory Police Duty Superintendent Lee Morgan told Guardian Australia.
"At this stage, we've got reports of four deceased and a number of other people who have been shot," Morgan said.
Police contacted by The Associated Press declined to comment.
A man fired a pump action shotgun at the Palms Hotel in the Darwin suburb of Woolner in the late afternoon, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported. Police attended three crime scenes in the city of 100,000 related to the gunman, ABC said.
Police earlier said the suspect was described as wearing a high-visibility shirt and driving a white dual-cab pickup truck, Australian Associated Press reported.