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Australia marks quietest fire season in a decade



Australia marks quietest fire season in a decade

MELBOURNE – Australia’s most populous state has closed out its quietest fire season in a decade, its fire service said, as the coolest and wettest summer in years offered a reprieve from the uncontrolled blazes that torched large swathes of the country the year before.

The current bushfire season has seen half the number of callouts in New South Wales state, at 5,500, as the previous season, the NSW Rural Fire Service said on Wednesday and burned 31,000 hectares compared to 5.5 million hectares razed across the state during last season’s Black Summer wildfires.

The less hazardous fire conditions were underpinned by a La Nina weather pattern, which saw Australia registering its wettest weather in four years and its coolest in nine though it also had the downside of causing massive floods in parts of the country’s east coast.

“Today marks the official end of the statutory Bush Fire Danger Period,” the RFS said in a social media post.

Fires this year blackened nearly half of the World Heritage listed Fraser Island, home to the world’s only tropical forest that grows on sand, off the country’s north east coast. In Western Australia state, fires burned more than 70 homes.

Australia’s climate has warmed by around 1.44°C (34.592°F) since 1910, while southern Australia has seen a reduction of 10–20 percent in cool season rainfall between April and October in recent decades, according to its Bureau of Meteorology.

Wildfires destroyed an area the size of Turkey, killed 33 people and billions of animals and destroyed nearly 3,000 homes from September 2019 to March last year.

This month, Australians on the east coast have been inundated with rain and the worst floods in more than half a century, with tens of thousands of people evacuated.

Authorities this week began recovery efforts as water levels receded.

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La Noxe speakeasy is hidden inside an NYC subway station





To find NYC’s most exclusive new watering hole, you’ll need to head underground. 

Cocktail lounge La Noxe is now open to the public — if the public can find it, let alone get past the 1,500-person waitlist. The 600-square-foot speakeasy is tucked behind a discreet door inside a subway station.

Instead of heading through the turnstiles at the 28th Street stop of the 1 train line, those in the know stop at the bottom of the first flight of stairs at the southeast corner of 28th Street and Seventh Avenue. There, they knock twice on the black door at their right, hoping for a cancellation on the lengthy waitlist. 

Midtown resident Michael Flowers was one of the thirsty straphangers who tried his luck Sunday night.

“I wanted to have a drink in a subway station. You can only do so many roof decks, and this is the polar opposite,” he said as he sipped on a spicy kale-mezcal blend called the Secret Garden ($17).

Jey Perie, co-owner of La Noxe, now slinging drinks from beneath the 28th Street 1 train station's stairs.
Jey Perie, co-owner of La Noxe, now slinging drinks from beneath the 28th Street 1 train station’s stairs.
Stefano Giovannini

It was his second attempt at landing a coveted seat. “We stopped by once and they turned us away,” said Flowers, who was there with his girlfriend.

The unique space wasn’t what La Noxe’s France-born founder Jey Perie, 37, had in mind when he set out to found his own venue after eight years as a partner at former Williamsburg club Kinfolk.

“No one believed I should do a bar in such a tiny place,” Perie told The Post.

But when he saw a listing for the location — which also has a main street-level entrance at 315 Seventh Ave. ——— he fell in love.

Customers John Genova and Caitlin Henry enjoyed drinks at the bar on a recent evening.

Stefano Giovannini


Indira Reyes and Michael Flowers got in not off the waitlist but the street after ringing the bell and getting lucky on Sunday, April 11.

Stefano Giovannini

And now, so has the public. While the bar has been sporadically open since getting its liquor license March 17, 2020 — the day shelter-in-place orders were announced for NYC due to the coronavirus pandemic — a recent viral post has left would-be customers desperate for entry.

“It really blew up on TikTok,” said La Noxe co-founder and Perie’s wife, Mariko Gale-Perie, adding that the bar’s three-person team has been scrambling to keep up with reservation requests ever since a clip revealing its unlikely location circulated in late March. Some have even tried to make reservations for the 15-person capacity space as far out as 2022. 

The bar has a small but growing vinyl library, and encourages patrons to bring their favorite record to play on Sundays.
The bar has a small but growing vinyl library, and encourages patrons to bring their favorite record to play on Sundays.
Stefano Giovannini

The spot is open from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, but Perie eventually hopes to expand his hours until 4 a.m., as well as operate as a coffee shop during the day.

In an effort to better curate his new nook, Perie only books La Noxe to 80 percent capacity a night, leaving room for friends and random passersby to enjoy its cocktail list and menu of various seafood plates ($8 to $18), arepas ($10) and small bites. 

In addition to curious commuters, drop-ins have also included an MTA employee who works in the station’s booth. “He’s a DJ also — he gave me his demo tape,” said Perie. “He was so surprised to see a bar here.”

Over the decades, the space has housed a variety of businesses, from a barber shop to a luncheonette, a music studio and, most recently, a massage parlor. 


Diego De La Fuente prepares one of the bar’s $17 cocktails.

Stefano Giovannini


La Noxe

Stefano Giovannini

“They were the real speakeasy,” said Perie of the previous tenants, who he says operated more as a “sex parlor” and were evicted in late 2018. 

While he doesn’t love the prohibition-era term, Perie does appreciate the intimacy and curiosity of running a bar in such a small, strange location. “No matter how much instruction I give people, they get lost — that’s part of the magic,” he said. 

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Some GOP-led states target abortions done through medication




Some GOP-led states target abortions done through medication

About 40% of all abortions in the U.S. are now done through medication — rather than surgery — and that option has become all the more pivotal during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abortion rights advocates say the pandemic has demonstrated the value of medical care provided virtually, including the privacy and convenience of abortions taking place in a woman’s home, instead of a clinic. Abortion opponents, worried the method will become increasingly prevalent, are pushing legislation in several Republican-led states to restrict it and in some cases, ban providers from prescribing abortion medication via telemedicine.

Ohio enacted a ban this year, proposing felony charges for doctors who violate it. The law was set to take effect next week, but a judge has temporarily blocked it in response to a Planned Parenthood lawsuit.

In Montana, Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte is expected to sign a ban on telemedicine abortions. The measure’s sponsor, Rep. Sharon Greef, has called medication abortions “the Wild West of the abortion industry” and says the drugs should be taken under close supervision of medical professionals, “not as part of a do-it-yourself abortion far from a clinic or hospital.”

Opponents of the bans say telemedicine abortions are safe, and outlawing them would have a disproportionate effect on rural residents who face long drives to the nearest abortion clinic.

“When we look at what state legislatures are doing, it becomes clear there’s no medical basis for these restrictions,” said Elisabeth Smith, chief counsel for state policy and advocacy with the Center for Reproductive Rights. “They’re only meant to make it more difficult to access this incredibly safe medication and sow doubt into the relationship between patients and providers.”

Other legislation has sought to outlaw delivery of abortion pills by mail, shorten the 10-week window in which the method is allowed, and require doctors to tell women undergoing drug-induced abortions that the process can be reversed midway through — a claim that critics say is not backed by science.

It’s part of a broader wave of anti-abortion measures numerous states are considering this year, including some that would ban nearly all abortions. The bills’ supporters hope the U.S. Supreme Court, now with a 6-3 conservative majority, might be open to overturning or weakening the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established the nationwide right to end pregnancies.

Legislation targeting medication abortion was inspired in part by developments during the pandemic, when the Food and Drug Administration — under federal court order — eased restrictions on abortion pills so they could be sent by mail. A requirement for women to pick them up in person is back, but abortion opponents worry the Biden administration will end those restrictions permanently. Abortion-rights groups are urging that step.

With the rules lifted in December, Planned Parenthood in the St. Louis region would mail pills for telemedicine abortions overseen by its health center in Fairview Heights, Illinois.

A single mother from Cairo, Illinois, more than a two-hour drive from the clinic, chose that option. She learned she was pregnant just a few months after giving birth to her second child.

“It wouldn’t have been a good situation to bring another child into the world,” said the 32-year-old woman, who spoke on the condition her name not be used to protect her family’s privacy.

“The fact that I could do it in the comfort of my own home was a good feeling,” she added.

She was relieved to avoid a lengthy trip and grateful for the clinic employee who talked her through the procedure.

“I didn’t feel alone,” she said. “I felt safe.”

Medication abortion has been available in the United States since 2000, when the FDA approved the use of mifepristone. Taken with misoprostol, it constitutes the so-called abortion pill.

The method’s popularity has grown steadily. The Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights, estimates that it accounts for about 40% of all abortions in the U.S. and 60% of those taking place up to 10 weeks’ gestation.

“Beyond its exceptionally safe and effective track record, what makes medication abortion so significant is how convenient and private it can be,” said Megan Donovan, Guttmacher’s senior policy manager. “That’s exactly why it is still subject to onerous restrictions.”

Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, which includes Cincinnati, says medication abortions account for a quarter of the abortions it provides. Of its 1,558 medication abortions in the past year, only 9% were done via telemedicine, but the organization’s president, Kersha Deibel, said that option is important for many economically disadvantaged women and those in rural areas.

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, countered that “no woman deserves to be subjected to the gruesome process of a chemical abortion potentially hours away from the physician who prescribed her the drugs. ”

In Montana, where Planned Parenthood operates five of the state’s seven abortion clinics, 75% of abortions are done through medication — a huge change from 10 years ago.

Martha Stahl, president of Planned Parenthood of Montana, says the pandemic — which increased reliance on telemedicine — has contributed to the rise in the proportion of medication abortions.

In the vast state, home to rural communities and seven Native American reservations, many women live more than a five-hour drive from the nearest abortion clinic. For them, access to telemedicine can be significant.

Greef, who sponsored the ban on telemedicine abortions, said the measure would ensure providers can watch for signs of domestic abuse or sex trafficking as they care for patients in person.

Yet advocates of the telemedicine method say patients are grateful for the convenience and privacy.

“Some are in a bad relationship or victim of domestic violence,” said Christina Theriault, a nurse practitioner for Maine Family Planning who can perform abortions under state law. “With telemedicine, they can do it without their partner knowing. There’s a lot of relief from them.”

The group has health centers in far northern Maine where women can get abortion pills and take them at home under the supervision of health providers communicating by phone or videoconferencing. It spares women a drive of three to four hours to the nearest abortion clinic in Bangor, Theriault said.

Maine Family Planning is among a small group of providers participating in an FDA-approved research program allowing women to receive the abortion pill by mail after video consultations. Under the program, the Maine group also can mail pills to women in New York and Massachusetts.

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Investigation finds Syria likely behind 2018 chlorine attack




Investigation finds Syria likely behind 2018 chlorine attack

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — An investigation by the global chemical weapons watchdog found “reasonable grounds to believe” that a Syrian air force military helicopter dropped a chlorine cylinder on a Syrian town in 2018, sickening 12 people, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Monday.

It is the second time that the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team has concluded that Syrian government armed forces likely were responsible for a gas attack. Last year, the team also found reasonable grounds to believe that the Syrian Arab Air Force was responsible for attacks using chlorine and the nerve agent sarin in March 2017 in the town of Latamneh.

Syria has repeatedly been accused of using chemical weapons during the country’s grinding civil war. The government of President Bashar Assad denies the claims.

In the latest report, the OPCW investigation team said it found evidence that a military helicopter belonging to the Tiger Forces of the Syrian air force dropped at least one chlorine cylinder on the rebel-held northern Syrian town of Saraqeb on Feb. 4, 2018.

“The cylinder ruptured and released chlorine over a large area, affecting 12 named individuals,” the watchdog said in a statement. Those affected all survived, the report said.

As part of the investigation, experts interviewed witnesses, analyzed samples and remnants collected from the town as well reviewing symptoms reported by casualties and studying satellite imagery and modeling gas dispersion patterns.

The OPCW can’t hold individuals criminally responsible for attacks. The report will be shared with the organization’s member states and the United Nations. The report will likely be discussed at a meeting of the OPCW member states later this month.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, condemned the use of chemical weapons by Syria and said those responsible must be held accountable.

“It is now up to the International Community to duly consider the reports and take appropriate action,” Borrell said in a statement.

The investigative team was established after Russia blocked the extension of a joint investigation mechanism set up by the U.N. and OPCW in 2015. That team accused Syria of using chlorine in at least two attacks in 2014 and 2015 and of unleashing sarin in an aerial attack on Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 that killed about 100 people.

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