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State of emergency declared by New South Wales as Australia’s deadly bushfires rage

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(Last Updated On: January 2, 2020)

The Australian state of New South Wales has declared a state of emergency and could begin forced evacuations from fire-stricken areas. State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Thursday that the emergency declaration would come into effect Friday morning as weather conditions are expected to deteriorate significantly on Saturday, raising the fire danger even further.

This is the third time NSW has declared a state of emergency in as many months — the last two times, in November and December, were also for seven days and granted extraordinary powers to the Rural Fire Service.

Berejiklian said residents could also be subject to forced evacuations, road closures and any other means necessary to keep people safe.

The Australian fires have been burning for months now, and aren’t likely to stop anytime soon — Australia is still in the early months of summer, and temperatures typically peak in January and February. “The fire season still has a long time to run,” Morrison said in a news conference.

A total of 17 people have died across the country so far, with the most damage concentrated in NSW. Across the state, nearly 1,300 homes have been destroyed and another 442 damaged, according to the Rural Fire Service. Fires have consumed entire towns and ripped through bushland; the strong winds frequently change directions, which fan the flames and carry embers far distances.

Australia typically has a fire season during the dry, hot summer — but this year’s weather conditions are more extreme, leading to more devastating blazes. The country is gripped by one of the worst droughts in decades, and a heatwave broke nationwide records in December.

Source: CNN webpage

COVID-19

Al-Aqsa Mosque reopens to worshippers – Jerusalem

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(Last Updated On: May 31, 2020)

After over two months of lockdown for the Coronavirus, Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has been reopened, international news agencies.

The Council of Islamic Waqf, which oversees Muslim sites on the complex, said the restriction was lifted after the virus’ spread slowed down locally.

The council also imposed some precautionary measures to reduce the risk of contagion at Islam’s third-holiest site.

That is, worshippers must wear face masks and bring personal prayer rugs should they wish to pray in the mosque or on the grounds.

It worth mentioning that the Al-Aqsa Mosque which is located in the Old City of Jerusalem, is the third holiest site in Islam.

The mosque was built on top of the Temple Mount, known as the Al Aqsa Compound or Haram-e-Sharif in Islam.

Celebrating the reopening, dozens of Muslims gathered in front of the large wooden doors, pronouncing, “God is greatest, we will protect Al-Aqsa with our soul and blood.”

Reportedly, the resumption of prayers capped a somber period for Jerusalem’s Muslims, who this year marked the fasting month of Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr holiday without their usual daily visits to Al-Aqsa Mosque.

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Angry protesters take to streets over police brutality – USA

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(Last Updated On: May 31, 2020)

Clashes between the police and the protesters over George Floyd’s death in police custody have been intensified, western news outlets report.

As demonstrations escalated in several US cities, protesters in Minneapolis met a more determined response from police officers and National Guard troops.

Reports show that several other US states have activated National Guard troops to help quell the protests, some of which have turned violent.

Cities nationwide have also implemented curfews, but protesters appear undeterred.

It is noteworthy that Floyd died on Monday after a white officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck.

The officer has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter; however, the other officers have not been charged.

According to reports, protesters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, have pledged to continue until all four officers involved in the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, are charged.

In the meantime, the US President Donald Trump has ordered Pentagon to put military police on alert, saying they may be deployed to Minnesota.

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NASA postpones astronaut launch due to bad weather

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(Last Updated On: May 28, 2020)

NASA aborted its planned mission – the first crewed launch from American soil to the International Space Station – on Wednesday due to bad weather conditions.

The organization said in a tweet that the launch was scrubbed due to weather. “There were no issues with the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft.”

The mission was called off just 17 minutes before the launch.

“Today’s Launch America attempt was an instantaneous launch window. Due to orbital mechanics, we need to make sure that at the time we launch, we are able to reach the Space Station on time and accurately. Because of this, we could not wait for clear weather today,” NASA said.

NASA said that it would resume an attempt to launch the Demo-2 mission at around 3:22 local time on Saturday, May 30. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.

“A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin as American astronauts once again launch on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program,” NASA said in a statement.

NASA added that the mission will be SpaceX’s – a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company – final test flight for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and will provide critical data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft, and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, and landing operations.

“The test flight also will provide valuable data toward certification of SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station,” the statement said. 

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