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California faces historic power outage due to fire danger

SAN FRANCISCO: Millions of people were poised to lose electricity throughout northern and central California after Pacific Gas & Electric Co. announced Tuesday it would shut off power in the largest preventive outage in state history to try to avert wildfires caused by faulty lines.PG&E said it would begin turning off power to 800,000 customers…

California faces historic power outage due to fire danger

SAN FRANCISCO: Millions of people were poised to lose electricity throughout northern and central California after Pacific Gas & Electric Co. announced Tuesday it would shut off power in the largest preventive outage in state history to try to avert wildfires caused by faulty lines.PG&E said it would begin turning off power to 800,000 customers in 34 counties starting after midnight Wednesday amid forecasts of windy, dry weather that create extreme fire danger. To the south, Southern California Edison also said Tuesday that more than 106,000 of its customers in parts of eight counties could face power cuts.Outages are planned in more than half of California’s 58 counties, although not everyone in those counties will have their power cut.The news came as residents in the region’s wine country north of San Francisco marked the two-year anniversary of deadly wildfires that killed 44 and destroyed thousands of homes. San Francisco is the only county in the nine-county Bay Area where power will not be affected.The utility had warned of the possibility of a widespread shut-off Monday, prompting residents to flock to stores for supplies as they prepared for dying cellphone batteries, automatic garages that won’t work and lukewarm refrigerators.Flashlights, batteries and propane tanks for barbecues were in high demand as people prepared for an outage that PG&E said may last “several days.”“We sold out of lanterns this morning. The shelf is completely empty,” said Howard Gibbs, the manager at Ace Hardware in the town of Lafayette, 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of San Francisco. “We’ve got just a few flashlights left, and we’re down to our last couple propane tanks, too.”Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf asked residents Tuesday not to clog 911 lines with non-emergencies and urged people to be prepared. The city canceled all police officers’ days off in preparation for the outages.“We all know the devastation that fires can cause,” she said.In 1991, a grass fire torched the Oakland Hills, killing 25 people and destroying more than 3,000 homes.PG&E said it was informing customers by text and email about where and when the power would be cut. But its website, where it directed people to check whether their addresses would be affected, was not working most of the day Tuesday after being overloaded with visitors.Gov. Gavin Newsom said PG&E had no choice given that it would have faced liability for fire damage but he said customers are right to feel outraged. The utility needs to upgrade and fix its equipment so massive outages aren’t the norm going forward, he said.“No one is satisfied with this, no one is happy with this,” he said.The outage will also affect portions of the agricultural Central Valley, the state’s northern and central coasts and the Sierra Nevada foothills where a November wildfire blamed on PG&E transmission lines killed 85 people and devastated the town of Paradise.Jennifer Siemens, who lost her home in Paradise, rents a house in the nearby town of Oroville and said she was bracing for a third blackout in a month.Siemens had her car gassed up, had stocked up on bottled water and flashlights and made sure all the family’s electronic devices were fully charged.“What’s wrong with the power lines that they have to do this so much?” asked Siemens. “We don’t want any more fires, obviously, but I feel like they are going a little overboard.”Winds can knock down live wires and power poles or drive trees and other vegetation into contact with them — and some of California’s most destructive blazes in recent years were started by PG&E power lines.But the planned outages will not be limited to fire-prone areas because the utilities must turn off entire distribution and transmission lines to much wider areas to minimize the risk of wildfires.San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric sought bankruptcy protection in January, saying it could not afford an estimated $30 billion in potential damages from lawsuits stemming from recent wildfire. As part of ongoing bankruptcy litigation, last month the company agreed to pay $11 billion to a group of insurance companies representing claimants from deadly Northern California wildfires in 2017 and 2018.In Southern California, the largest numbers of potentially affected customers were in Los Angeles County and to the east in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.Public agencies throughout the region were urging people to prepare by buying water and non-perishable food, getting a full tank of gas, having cash at hand and parking vehicles outside garages or making sure they know how to manually open their garage doors.The California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention said it increased staffing in preparation for extreme fire weather and what was expected to be the strongest wind event so far this fire season.“With some of the most destructive and deadliest fires occurring October through December, we need Californians to not be complacent,” said Cal Fire Chief Thom Porter in a news release. “Residents need to be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice in the event of a wildfire.”At the Dollar General store in Paradise, people were buying candles, gas cans, ice, flashlights, batteries and canned food and the store ran out of ice chests Tuesday morning, said manager Ben Humphries.Humphries, who moved to Oroville with his family after losing his home in Paradise, said his family lost power two times already in the last month and he was making sure they had enough fuel for their generator and plenty of ice in coolers.But he said there was a sense of irony to PG&E’s aggressive action in the area now, after the company opted not to turn off the power ahead of the Nov. 8 fire that wiped out Paradise.“I understand their concerns but in my opinion it’s too little too late, we already had our town burned to the ground,” Humphries said.

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Trump to issue sanctions, stop trade deal, increase tariffs on Turkey

ANKARA: As Ankara pressed on with its offensive in northeastern Syria amid international criticism, Washington announced some 1,000 soldiers were withdrawn from the zone. With the US departure, the attention turns to how the regional actors, especially Turkey and Syria, will operate in their zones of influence in the war-torn country where the possible escape of…

Trump to issue sanctions, stop trade deal, increase tariffs on Turkey

ANKARA: As Ankara pressed on with its offensive in northeastern Syria amid international criticism, Washington announced some 1,000 soldiers were withdrawn from the zone.

With the US departure, the attention turns to how the regional actors, especially Turkey and Syria, will operate in their zones of influence in the war-torn country where the possible escape of Daesh fighters from prisons could result in more chaos.

Some experts claim that with the US decision to withdraw its forces, the territorial claim of northeastern Syria by the Kurdish YPG militia and its political wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has finished.

Turkey considers the SDF and YPG to be terrorists allied with the PKK, who have been involved in a bloody campaign for autonomy against Turkish states for decades. The PKK is listed as a terror group by Turkey, the EU and the US.

But, whether some 50,000 YPG fighters will be integrated into the Syrian Army or will try to maintain their autonomy is still a matter of concern.

Mazloum Abdi, commander-in-chief of the SDF, recently wrote for Foreign Policy that the Kurds are finally ready to partner with Assad and Putin.

Yury Barmin, an analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, said: “Damascus and the SDF struck a deal at the Russian base in Hmeymim to let the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) enter the Kurdish-controlled area in the northeast and deploy at the Syrian-Turkish border. The SAA is set to take control over Manbij, Kobane and Qamishli.”

However, Barmin told Arab News that a deal between Damascus and the SDF would greatly contribute to a buffer zone that Turkish President Recep Yayyip Erdogan intends to create in northern Syria, allowing Kurds to take some areas along the border without directly antagonizing Ankara. This policy, Barmin added, would be unacceptable to Moscow.

“There are now lots of moving targets and the goal of the Syrian Army — whether it will take some strategic cities or control the whole border along Turkey — is unclear for now. As Russian President Vladimir Putin is on his official visit to Saudi Arabia, his decision for Syria will be clearer when he returns home,” he said.

HIGHLIGHT

Some experts claim that with the US decision to withdraw its forces, the territorial claim of northeastern Syria by the Kurdish YPG militia and its political wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has finished.

Barmin also noted that Russia let Erdogan operate the Adana agreement to a certain extent, under which Turkey has the right to conduct cross-border operations.

“But now, Russia would like to show Turkey its own red lines in the region,” he said.

However, Navvar Saban, a military analyst at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies in Istanbul, said that the Syrian regime is not capable of striking a deal without being backed by Russians, and that Moscow would not want to lose its relationship with Ankara.

“Russians always talk about the Adana agreement. We are now talking about a renewal and reactivation of the agreement with new specifications to allow Turkey to go deeper into Syrian territories. In this way, the Russians will have a bigger chance to allow the Syrian regime and Turkey to communicate. It is something that will open the diplomatic channels,” Saban said.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump tweeted: “Big sanctions on Turkey coming! Do people really think we should go to war with NATO Member Turkey? Never ending wars will end!”

Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said that if the US is completely out of the way, Russia and Turkey will have to either agree or contest each other to take over the US territorial control in northeast Syria. He added that this might be the most crucial race in the coming weeks.

Concerning the diplomatic channels between Damascus and Ankara, Macaron thinks that the channels were and will remain open between Moscow and Ankara since they have common interests beyond Syria.

“If Turkey had no other option, it might have to settle for controlling a few border towns, but this means Erdogan can no longer effectively implement his plan to return Syrian refugees, most notably without funding from the international community. Ankara is more likely to succeed in striking such a deal with Moscow than with Washington,” Macaron told Arab News.

Many experts agree that the Syrian chessboard will be determined predominantly by Russian moves.

“Assad has no say in what will happen next, Russia is the decision maker and there is little the Syrian regime can do unless Iran forcefully intervenes to impact the Russian-Turkish dynamics in the northeast,” Macaron said.

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Britain’s William and Kate begin ‘complex’ tour of Pakistan

FORT WORTH, TEXAS: A white Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed a black woman through a back window of her home while responding to a call about an open front door was charged with murder on Monday after resigning from the force.Aaron Dean, 34, was booked into jail on a murder charge Monday afternoon.…

Britain’s William and Kate begin ‘complex’ tour of Pakistan

FORT WORTH, TEXAS: A white Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed a black woman through a back window of her home while responding to a call about an open front door was charged with murder on Monday after resigning from the force.Aaron Dean, 34, was booked into jail on a murder charge Monday afternoon. The police chief said earlier in the day that he acted without justification and would have been fired if he didn’t quit.Police bodycam video showed Dean approaching the door of the home where Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was caring for her 8-year-old nephew early Saturday. He then walked around the side of the house, pushed through a gate into the fenced-off backyard and fired through the glass a split-second after shouting at Jefferson to show her hands.Dean was not heard identifying himself as police on the video, and Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said there was no sign Dean or the other officer who responded even knocked on the front door.”Nobody looked at this video and said that there’s any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately,” Kraus said.Earlier in the day, Jefferson’s family had demanded that Dean, a member of the force for 1½ years, be fired and arrested.”Why this man is not in handcuffs is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community,” family attorney Lee Merritt said.Police went to Jefferson’s home about 2:25 a.m. after a neighbor called a non-emergency line to report a door ajar. In a statement over the weekend, the department said officers saw someone near a window inside the home and that one of them drew his gun and fired after “perceiving a threat.”The video showed Dean shouting, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” and immediately firing.Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family’s attorney.As for what, exactly, led Dean to open fire, the police chief said: “I cannot make sense of why she had to lose her life.” The chief said Dean resigned without talking to internal affairs investigators.The video included images of a gun inside a bedroom. Kraus said he did not know whether Jefferson was holding the weapon. But he said the mere fact she had a gun shouldn’t be considered unusual in Texas.”We’re homeowners in Texas,” the police chief said. “Most of us, if we thought we had somebody outside our house that shouldn’t be and we had access to a firearm, we would be acting very similarly to how she was acting.” Kraus said that, in hindsight, releasing the images of the weapon was “a bad thing to do.”Mayor Betsy Price called the gun “irrelevant.””Atatiana was in her own home, caring for her 8-year-old nephew. She was a victim,” Price said.Texas has had a “castle doctrine” law on the books since 2007 that gives people a stronger legal defense to use deadly force in their homes. The law was backed at the time by the National Rifle Association and is similar to “stand your ground” measures across the U.S. that say a person has no duty to retreat from an intruder.Fort Worth is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Dallas, where another high-profile police shooting occurred last year.In that case, white Dallas officer Amber Guyger shot and killed her black neighbor Botham Jean inside his own apartment after Guyger said she mistook his place for her own. Guyger, 31, was sentenced this month to 10 years in prison.A large crowd gathered outside Jefferson’s home Sunday night for a vigil after demonstrations briefly stopped traffic on Interstate 35. A single bullet hole was visible in the window of the single-story, freshly painted purple home, and floral tributes and stuffed animals piled up in the street.The police chief said Dean could face state charges and that he had submitted a case to the FBI to review for possible federal civil rights charges.Dean has not yet hired an attorney but will have one provided with financial support from the state’s largest police union, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, according to Charley Wilkison, executive director.Relations with the public have been strained after other recent Fort Worth police shootings. In June, the department released footage of officers killing a man who ignored repeated orders to drop his handgun. He was the fourth person Fort Worth police had fired upon in 10 days.Of the nine officer-involved shootings so far this year in Fort Worth, five targeted African Americans and six resulted in death, according to department data.Nearly two-thirds of the department’s 1,100 officers are white, just over 20% are Hispanic, and about 10% are black. The city of nearly 900,000 people is about 40% white, 35% Hispanic and 19% black.Calling the shooting “a pivotal moment in our city,” the mayor said she was ordering a top-to-bottom review of the police force and vowed to “rebuild a sense of trust within the city and with our police department.”Jefferson was a 2014 graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology. She was working in pharmaceutical equipment sales and was considering going to medical school, according to the family’s lawyer.

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Britain’s Johnson plays down Brexit breakthrough hopes

LONDON: British media are reporting that the wife of an American official who left the UK after being involved in a fatal road accident no longer has diplomatic immunity.BBC and Sky News said Sunday that UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had told the family of Harry Dunn that “immunity is no longer pertinent” because the…

Britain’s Johnson plays down Brexit breakthrough hopes

LONDON: British media are reporting that the wife of an American official who left the UK after being involved in a fatal road accident no longer has diplomatic immunity.BBC and Sky News said Sunday that UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had told the family of Harry Dunn that “immunity is no longer pertinent” because the suspect has left the UK The Foreign Office declined to comment.Dunn, 19, was killed in August when his motorcycle collided with a car outside a British air force base in southern England used by the US military. The alleged car driver, Anne Sacoolas, who is married to a US official, subsequently left Britain.Sacoolas’ lawyer, Amy Jeffress of Arnold and Porter, said: “Anne is devastated by this tragic accident” and wants to meet Dunn’s parents.

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