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Venezuela blackout devastates country’s second city as world focuses on Caracas

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The air in the crowded emergency ward was already thick with the rusty smell of dried blood when the door burst open and two men barged in, screaming for help.

Between them, they carried a third man: barefoot, bare-chested – and bleeding freely from a deep wound which had nearly severed his right arm.

Two doctors ran over to help; one examined the wounded man while the other told his friends to go and find bottled water and sutures; there were none left in the hospital.

The nationwide blackout which struck Venezuela on 7 March caused chaos across the country, paralyzing airports and hospitals, cutting phone and internet services, and shutting down water supplies.

But nowhere was the havoc as intense as in the country’s second city, Maracaibo, which was convulsed by a wave of looting and violence on a scale unseen for decades.

Video posted on social media showed chaotic scenes in which crowds forced their way into shops to steal food, medicines and valuables.

“It was total madness,” said Ricardo Acosta, a vice president of a business association in the surrounding Zulia state.

At the city’s University Hospital, the scene in casualty was like something from a war film. Dozens of patients and their families were crowded into the sweltering ward, a few lying on beds, others slumped on the bloodstained floor.

The hospital is Maracaibo’s largest – and one of just two with their own emergency generators, although power was connected only in the emergency ward. www.theguardian.com

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Trump confirms he is considering attempt to buy Greenland

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Donald Trump has confirmed he is considering an attempt to buy Greenland for strategic reasons, though he said the idea is “not No1 on the burner”.

The US president’s interest, reported earlier this week, was greeted internationally with widespread hilarity but with indignation in Greenland and Denmark.

The government of the semi-autonomous Danish territory insisted it was not for sale. The Danish prime minister called any discussion of a sale “absurd”.

Nonetheless, on Sunday White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow first confirmed the story in an interview, before Trump spoke to reporters as he left New Jersey to return from vacation to Washington.

Saying the “concept came up” and he was “looking at it”, the man who runs a notoriously leaky White House also questioned how the idea found its way to the press.

Trump sought to tie the idea of a US purchase of the world’s largest island – not including the continent of Australia – to his own area of professional expertise, saying it would be “essentially a large real estate deal”.

“Denmark essentially owns it,” he said. “We’re very good allies with Denmark, we protect Denmark like we protect large portions of the world. So the concept came up and I said, ‘Certainly I’d be.’ Strategically it’s interesting and we’d be interested but we’ll talk to them a little bit. It’s not No1 on the burner, I can tell you that.”

(Via The Guardian)

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‘Back on track’: Trump, Xi seal trade war truce

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US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping struck a trade war truce on Saturday, as Washington vowed to hold off on further tariffs and declared negotiations with China “back on track”.

The ceasefire that halts damaging trade frictions came in a hotly anticipated meeting between the leaders of the world’s top two economies on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

Trump hailed the meeting in the Japanese city of Osaka as “excellent”.

“We are right back on track,” he added.

There was little in the way of concrete details on what was agreed, but Trump confirmed Washington had committed not to impose any new tariffs on Beijing’s exports and that the two sides would continue talks.

“We won’t be adding an additional tremendous amount of $350 billion left which could be taxed or could be tariffed. We’re not doing that, we are going to work with China on where we left off to see if we can make a deal,” Trump said at a press conference.

“We will be continuing to negotiate.”

The outcome was likely to be seen as a win for avoiding any new tariffs.

“The base case scenario was met at G20 and while we are no worse for wear, let’s see what the G20 hangover brings,” said Stephen Innes, market analyst at Vanguard Markets.

– ‘Down the tubes’ –

Trump struck a conciliatory tone from his arrival in Japan for the summit, despite saying China’s economy was going “down the tubes” before he set out for Osaka.

He said he was ready for a “historic” deal with China as the leaders kicked off their meeting, and Xi told him that dialogue was better than confrontation.

In their final statement, the G20 leaders admitted that “most importantly, trade and geopolitical tensions have intensified,” echoing hard-won language from their finance ministers at a meeting earlier this month.

There were few more concrete details about the closed-door discussions but Trump suggested a potentially softer position on the Chinese telecoms firm Huawei, which has been a sticking point in the trade war.

He said US companies could sell equipment in cases “where there’s no great national security problem” to the firm, which Washington fears poses security risks.

But it was not immediately clear whether the comments marked a material change on Huawei, which has essentially been barred from accessing crucial US technology.

The tete-a-tete between the US and Chinese leaders — the first since the last G20 in December — cast a long shadow over this year’s gathering in Osaka.

Protectionism and tariffs wars have proved a major headwind for a world economy already buffeted by geopolitical tensions and Brexit.

On Friday, the European Union and the South American trade bloc Mercosur offered a ray of trade hope by sealing a blockbuster deal after 20 years of talks, with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hailing it as a “strong message” in support of “rules-based trade”.

– ‘Go much further’ –

Trade has proved far from the only contentious issue on the summit table, with climate change another major sticking point.

Negotiations ran into the night, with US opposition proving difficult to overcome.

In the end, a deal of sorts was reached, with 19 members — minus the United States — agreeing Saturday to the “irreversibility” of the Paris climate deal and pledging its full implementation.

The language in the final statement after the Osaka summit mirrored that agreed during last year’s G20 but this did not satisfy French President Emmanuel Macron who urged leaders to go “much further” on climate change.

Trump has dominated the headlines from the summit, and once again caught observers by surprise by tweeting early Saturday that he was open to meeting North Korea’s Kim Jong Un while in South Korea this weekend.

“If Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!,” he wrote.

He later said he would be happy to step over the border into North Korea, which would represent an extraordinary move for a US leader after decades of enmity between Washington and Pyongyang. (via AFP)

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Pope tells Catholics to live for God not wealth on Easter vigil

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VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis led the world’s Roman Catholics into Easter at a vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday night, urging the faithful to live not for transient things like wealth and success but for God.

The largest church in Christendom was dark at the start of the long service as the pope carved into a candle the numbers of the year 2019 and the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet – Alpha and Omega – signifying that God is the beginning and end of all things.

Easter, the most important day in the Church’s liturgical calendar, commemorates the day Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead.

Francis, marking his seventh Easter season as pope, wove his homily around the Bible account of the women who went to Jesus’ tomb only to find it empty and the large stone that had sealed it had been cast away.

“God takes away even the hardest stones against which our hopes and expectations crash: death, sin, fear, worldliness,” he said.

“There is another stone that often seals the heart shut: the stone of sin. Sin seduces; it promises things easy and quick, prosperity and success, but then leaves behind only solitude and death. Sin is looking for life among the dead, for the meaning of life in things that pass away,” he said.

During the Mass, Francis welcomed eight adult converts into the Church, conferring on them the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. They were from Italy, Albania, Ecuador, Indonesia and Peru.

On Sunday, the 82-year-old leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics is due to say a Mass in St. Peter’s Square and read the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (To The City and The World) message. (Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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