Turkey Evacuates Panicked Tourists by Boat From Wildfires 

Panicked tourists in Turkey hurried to the seashore to wait for rescue boats Saturday after being told to evacuate some hotels in the Aegean resort of Bodrum because of the dangers posed by nearby wildfires, Turkish media reported.Coast guard units were leading the operation and authorities asked private boats and yachts to assist in evacuation efforts from the sea as new wildfires erupted. Video showed plumes of smoke and fire enveloping a hill close to the seashore.The death toll from wildfires raging in Turkey’s Mediterranean towns rose to six Saturday after two forest workers were killed, the country’s health minister said. Fires across Turkey since Wednesday have burned down forests and some settlements, encroaching on villages and tourist destinations and forcing people to evacuate.The minister of agriculture and forestry, Bekir Pakdemirli, said Saturday that 91 of the 101 fires that broke out amid strong winds and scorching heat had been brought under control. Neighborhoods affected by fire in five provinces were declared disaster zones by Turkey’s emergency and disaster authority.Government assistancePresident Recep Tayyip Erdogan inspected some damage Saturday from a helicopter.Speaking from the town of Manavgat, Erdogan announced that the Turkish government would cover the rents for people affected by fire and rebuild their homes. He said taxes, social security and credit payments would be postponed for those affected and small businesses would be offered credit with zero interest.”We cannot do anything beyond wishing the mercy of God for the lives we have lost, but we can replace everything that was burned,” he said.A man watches wildfires in Kacarlar village near the Mediterranean coastal town of Manavgat, Antalya, Turkey, July 31, 2021.Erdogan said the number of planes fighting the fires had been increased from six to 13, including planes from Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran, and that thousands of Turkish personnel, as well as dozens of helicopters and drones, were assisting the firefighting efforts.At least five people have died from the fires in Manavgat and one died in Marmaris. Both towns are Mediterranean tourist destinations. Tourism is an important source of revenue for Turkey, and business owners were hoping this summer would be much better than last year, when pandemic travel restrictions caused tourism to plummet.Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 400 people affected by the fires in Manavgat were treated at hospitals and released, while 10 others were still hospitalized for fire injuries. In Marmaris, 159 people were treated at a hospital and one person was still undergoing treatment for burns.In southern Hatay province, flames jumped into populated areas but later apparently were brought under control.Common occurrencesWildfires are common in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions during the arid summer months. Turkey has blamed some previous forest fires on arson or outlawed Kurdish militants. Erdogan said Saturday that authorities were investigating the possibility of “sabotage” causing fires.Meanwhile, a heat wave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from Africa, has led to wildfires across the Mediterranean.Firefighters on the Italian island of Sicily battled dozens of blazes Saturday fueled by high temperatures, prompting the region’s governor to request assistance from Rome. Some 150 people trapped in two seaside areas in the city of Catania were evacuated late Friday by sea, where they were picked up by rubber dinghies and transferred to Coast Guard boats.Temperatures in Greece and nearby countries in southeast Europe are expected to climb to 42 degrees Celsius (more than 107 Fahrenheit) Monday in many cities and towns.

У Києві затримали чоловіка, який стріляв з вікна у перехожих

На записі чутно, як він заявляє, що йде «стріляти по хохлах». Після пострілу чоловік висловив сподівання, що поцілив у людину

Virus Pass Protesters March in France, Clash With Police in Paris 

Thousands of people protested France’s special virus pass by marching through Paris and other French cities on Saturday. Most demonstrations were peaceful but some in Paris clashed with riot police, who fired tear gas.About 3,000 security forces deployed around the French capital for a third weekend of protests against the pass that will be needed soon to enter restaurants and other places. Paris police took up posts along the Champs-Elysees to guard the famed avenue.With virus infections spiking and hospitalizations rising, French lawmakers have passed a bill requiring the pass in most places as of August 9. Polls show a majority of French support the pass, but some are adamantly opposed. The pass requires a vaccination or a quick negative test or proof of a recent recovery from COVID-19 and mandates vaccine shots for all health care workers by mid-September.For anti-pass demonstrators, liberty was the slogan of the day.Hager Ameur, a 37-year-old nurse, said she resigned from her job, accusing the government of using a form of blackmail.”I think that we mustn’t be told what to do,” she told The Associated Press, adding that French medical workers during the first wave of COVID-19 were quite mistreated. “And now, suddenly we are told that if we don’t get vaccinated it is our fault that people are contaminated. I think it is sickening.”Tensions flared in front of the famed Moulin Rouge nightclub in northern Paris during what appeared to be the largest demonstration. Lines of police faced down protesters in up-close confrontations during the march. Police used their fists on several occasions.Protesters attend a demonstration called by the “yellow vest” movement against France’s restrictions, including a compulsory health pass, to fight the COVID-19 outbreak, in Paris, July 31, 2021.Tear gas, water cannon, injuriesAs marchers headed eastward and some pelted police with objects, police fired tear gas into the crowds, and plumes of smoke filled the sky. A male protester was seen with a bleeding head and a police officer was carried away by colleagues. Three officers were injured, the French press quoted police as saying. Police, again responding to rowdy crowds, also turned a water cannon on protesters as the march ended at the Bastille.A calmer march was led by the former top lieutenant of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who left to form his own small anti-EU party. But Florian Philippot’s new cause, against the virus pass, seems far more popular. His contingent of hundreds marched Saturday to the Health Ministry.Among those not present this week was Francois Asselineau, leader of another tiny anti-EU party, the Popular Republican Union, and an ardent campaigner against the health pass, who came down with COVID-19. In a video on his party’s website, Asselineau, who was not hospitalized, called on people to denounce the “absurd, unjust and totally liberty-killing” health pass.French authorities are implementing the health pass because the highly contagious delta variant is making strong inroads. More than 24,000 new daily cases were confirmed Friday night, compared with just a few thousand cases a day at the start of the month.The government announcement that the health pass would take effect August 9 has driven many unvaccinated French to sign up for inoculations so their social lives won’t be shut down during the summer holiday season. Vaccinations are now available at a wide variety of places, including some beaches. More than 52% of the French population has been vaccinated.About 112,000 people have died of the virus in France since the start of the pandemic.

Taliban Assault Major Afghan Cities as US Troops Exit

Government forces in Afghanistan battled a major assault Saturday by Taliban insurgents on Lashkar Gah, the capital of embattled southern Helmand province, and officials said clashes were ongoing inside parts of the city.Both warring sides reportedly suffered heavy casualties. The fierce fighting forced civilians to flee to safety amid allegations the Afghan air force had bombed and destroyed a city hospital.An Italian medical charity, Emergency, confirmed fighting was taking place inside the city of Lashkar Gah. “Our hospital is full. Four extra bed spaces added so far,” the organization tweeted.🔴 FILE – Afghan security forces stand near an armored vehicle during fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters in the Busharan area on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, May 5, 2021.The Taliban also have previously assaulted and tried to seize control of Lashkar Gah but they were beaten back mainly because Afghan forces at the time had the backing of U.S. military airstrikes.That cover is no longer available to Afghan forces, though U.S. officials confirmed conducting some strikes against Taliban positions in Helmand in recent days, apparently to keep them from threatening the provincial capital.The insurgents control almost all the districts around Lashkar Gah.Taliban hang twoThe Taliban hanged two men Saturday from the entrance gate of a nearby town, accusing them of kidnapping children.An insurgent statement sent to journalists said the men were found guilty of the crime by a Taliban court. The incident revived memories of the harsh Islamic rule the Taliban had imposed on most of Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.The U.S.-led military coalition invaded Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban weeks after deadly terror strikes against America in September 2001 that Washington said were plotted by al-Qaida leaders from their sanctuaries on Afghan soil at the time.VOA’s Afghan Service contributed to this report.

Ledecky Wins Third Gold Medal in 800-Meter Freestyle

The Fiji’s women’s rugby team triumphed over Britian Saturday to take home the bronze medal and register a historic victory. The Fijian athletes’ 21–12 win made them the first women from their country to ever win Olympic medals.  
Meanwhile, Katie Ledecky is now the first swimmer to win a gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle in three consecutive Olympics. The 24-year-old U.S. swimming phenom says she is looking forward to competing in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.   She’s leaving Tokyo with a bundle of medals — gold in the 800- and the 1,500-meter races, in addition to silver in the 400 and the 4×200 relay.U.S. Swimmer Caleb Dressel set a world record and won his third gold medal of the Tokyo Games in his 49.45-second triumph in the 100-meter butterfly.Simone Biles Makes Mental Health the Talk of the Tokyo GamesOlympians in many sports have spent the past two days coming forward to recount their own battles while offering support to BilesAmerican gymnast Simone Biles will not compete Sunday in the finals for the uneven bars and the vault.  USA Gymnastics did not say whether Biles will compete in next week’s floor exercise and balance beam finals.  Biles withdrew from the team and individual all-round competitions earlier this week, saying she had mental health issues and trouble maneuvering in the air.  She posted on Instagram, “Literally can not tell up from down.”  Ivan Litvinovich won the gold in the men’s trampoline final.  The score for the 20-year-old from Belarus was 61.715, while China’s Dong Dong won the silver with 61.235.  New Zealand’s Dylan Schmidt took home the bronze.  On Saturday, the Olympic Games announced 21 new COVID-19 cases among people connected with the Olympics, bringing the total number to 246, including 26 athletes.  Olympic Swimming: More Gold for Dressel, Ledecky and McKeownBritain wins the inaugural mixed medley relay

US Poverty Rate, Slashed During COVID-19, Set to Rise as Relief Expires

The United States made tremendous progress lifting its citizens out of poverty with an expansion of public assistance programs during the coronavirus pandemic, but now, with many emergency measures set to expire, millions face the grim possibility of a return to impoverishment.A sobering report from the Urban Institute, a prominent liberal-leaning think tank in Washington, this week projects poverty levels in the U.S. will sit at 7.7% through the end of 2021, down from 13.9% in 2018. The decline can be attributed to a suite of policies, including stimulus checks, enhanced unemployment insurance payments and eligibility, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments and refundable child tax credits.The impact of these various programs was especially pronounced among children. In 2018, government programs kept the rate of poverty among Americans under the age of 18 at 14.2% rather than the 26.9% rate that would have been the case without government assistance. But in 2021, a year when 30.1% of children would have been living in poverty without government assistance, the addition of pandemic-related relief to normal assistance programs drove the child poverty rate down to 5.6%.Amazing … or not“On the one hand, it was rather amazing to see the projected poverty rates that low,” said Laura Wheaton, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and one of the report’s authors. “But then on the other hand, when we look at the amount of resources that have been provided, it’s not surprising.”The report finds that by the end of 2021, governments at the federal and state levels will have plowed more than $1 trillion dollars in benefits into the bank accounts of low-income Americans, far more than the $237 billion they paid out in 2018.“The average person below poverty is getting almost two and a half times more from the government in 2021, than they did in 2018,” Wheaton said. “And so that really makes a difference.”Support is going awayThe majority of the additional support injected into the economy this year is expected to disappear in the near term. Stimulus checks have been distributed and no additional round of payments is on the horizon; expanded unemployment insurance is scheduled to sunset by later this year — and has already been canceled in some states; likewise, expanded SNAP payments are ending. Most of the subsidy programs were financed through deficit spending.The only additional benefit not slated to disappear is monthly child tax credit refunds. However, according to the Urban Institute analysis, those have a far lower effect on poverty levels than other relief programs.This leaves U.S. policymakers with some difficult choices.Defining povertyIn the U.S., the “poverty threshold” is a level of income below which an individual or family cannot afford the basic necessities of life. For example, in 2021, a family of four living in the contiguous 48 states is considered to be in poverty if its annual income falls below $26,500.For its report, the Urban Institute relied on what is known as the Supplemental Poverty Measure, created by the Census Bureau, which takes a family’s income plus government payments into account to determine whether or not income is below the poverty line.The report from the Urban Institute states its conclusions in fairly anodyne language, saying, “Our projections demonstrate that government benefits can reduce poverty well below traditional levels when substantial resources are devoted to that task.”It continues, “Policymakers who want to make some aspects of the higher level of support permanent will need to consider the appropriate levels and types of increased supports, the best ways to fund such efforts, and the potential macroeconomic implications of various choices.”Other poverty researchers were more pointed in their observations.A ‘policy choice’“Often, we think of poverty as an inevitable social problem; but this is indicating how it’s actually a policy choice in many ways,” said Sarah Halpern-Meekin, a professor in the LaFollette School of Public Affairs and the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.At the most basic level, she said, the major lesson here is simple: “Policy works. If we give folks money, they will end up above the poverty line. That, I think, is the most fundamental lesson.”Indivar Dutta-Gupta, the co-executive director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown Law School, agreed, saying, “The central takeaway from the Urban Institute report…is that poverty is a choice, but not by the people who experience it so much as it is by national policymakers.”What next?While the primary lesson in the report may be simple, interpreting it for the future is quite a bit more complex. The benefits people received during the pandemic were broadly understood to be temporary, which means that it’s dangerous to extrapolate from the results of the past year to the future effects of similar policies.“One mistake we could make is assuming that whatever we saw people doing over this last year tells us how these policies would affect people’s behavior during ‘normal’ times,” Halpern-Meekin said. “People react differently to policies when they’re temporary. You react differently to money when it’s your monthly wages that you expect to get over and over again versus a big gift from your aunt or something like that.”She said it is important to be careful when trying to generalize from the experience of the pandemic.“Because families are encountering extraordinary circumstances because of the pandemic, the set of choices that they have to make with their money in terms of employment, around child care and schooling, etc., are different than the options and choices they would have during other periods of time,” she said.Reassessing the need for supportAt the least, the success of the pandemic-era programs at lowering poverty ought to prompt a reassessment by policymakers of who actually needs government support, Dutta-Gupta said.He noted that one aspect of the relief programs implemented during the pandemic was a simple expansion of eligibility, for example, by making unemployment insurance payments available to people who would not ordinarily have qualified. By some estimates, only about three in 10 of the people who received unemployment benefits during the pandemic would have qualified before it.“The truth is some of the hardship that was addressed through the extraordinary emergency and temporary responses during the pandemic were long-standing problems,” Dutta-Gupta said. “Now, policymakers face a choice. Do they want to go back to a system that was excluding, in this case, the vast majority of unemployed workers? Or did they learn something about the shortcomings of our system for protecting unemployed workers and across the board?” 

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