By Sruthi Gottipati and Jatindra Dash GANJAM/BHUBANESWAR, India (Reuters) - A mass evacuation saved thousands of people from India's fiercest cyclone in 14 years, but aid workers warned a million would need help after their homes and livelihoods were destroyed. Cyclone Phailin was expected to dissipate within 36 hours, losing momentum on Sunday as it headed inland after making landfall from the Bay of Bengal, bringing winds of more than 200 kph (125 mph) that ripped apart tens of thousands of thatched huts, mangled power lines and tore down trees. Authorities in the eastern state of Odisha said the death toll stood at 15 people, all killed as the storm slammed in from the ocean. Most died under falling trees and one was crushed when the walls of her mud hut fell in. The low number of casualties stands in contrast to the 10,000 killed by Odisha's last big cyclone in 1999. The building of hundreds of shelters since, warnings which started five days before the storm and mass evacuations - often by force - minimized loss of life, aid officials said. Almost a million people in Odisha (formerly Orissa) state and adjacent Andhra Pradesh spent the night in shelters, some after wading though surging rivers to higher ground. Others sought safety in schools or temples. "The loss of life has been contained this time with early information and speedy action of government," said Sandeep Chachra, executive director of ActionAid India. Indian media commentators were effusive in praise for the evacuation operation and for accurate forecasting by India's Met office. Before the storm, some foreign forecasters had warned that India was underestimating its strength. Authorities cancelled the holidays of civil servants during the popular Hindu Dussehra festival, deployed disaster response teams with heavy equipment as well as helicopters and boats for rescue and relief operations. Over the years, organizations like the Red Cross have mobilized thousands of volunteers across the cyclone-prone region, who are not only trained in basic first aid but also help with evacuations and relief distribution. Drills are organized so people know what to do when an alert is issued, locking up their homes, leaving cattle in safe places and taking only a few clothes and important documents with them. "The 1999 cyclone was a real wake-up call for India. It was at a time when economic growth was high and India was seen as developing rapidly. It was embarrassing to be seen to be not taking care of their people, even with all this development," said Unni Krishnan, head of disaster response for children's charity Plan International. The death of at least 89 worshippers at a temple celebrating Dussehra in central India on Sunday was a reminder that disasters with many casualties remain common. In July floods and landslides killed nearly 6,000 people in India's Himalayan foothills. DESTRUCTION Phailin left a trail of destruction along the coast, overturning cars and large trucks. Storm surges from the sea submerged farmland near the coast, while heavy rain flooded towns inland. Along the highway through Ganjam district in Odisha, the countryside was ravaged. An electricity tower lay in a mangled heap, poles were dislodged, lines tangled and power was out in much of the state. In villages, cranes lifted trees off crushed houses. A barber shop was tilted to one side. The students' common room at Berhampur University was a gaping hole, its facade knocked out by the cyclone. "The wind was so strong I couldn't get out of here," Gandhi Behera, a cook in a nearby snack shop said. The Indian Red Cross said its initial assessments showed that over 235,000 mud-and-thatch homes owned by poor fishing and farming communities had been destroyed in Ganjam district alone. It expects thousands of people to need help in coming days. Plan International said it was concerned about the health and sanitation needs of close to a million people and the impact of the storm on people's livelihoods. "They cannot stay in the shelters for long as they are overcrowded and sanitation issues will crop up with the spread of diseases such as diarrhea and dysentery, especially amongst young children," Mangla Mohanty, head of the Indian Red Cross in Odisha, said by phone from Ganjam district. In some parts of the state, people were making their way through destroyed farmland toward their broken homes. Dozens crammed onto mini-trucks and others trudged with sacks of belongings. Mothers carried babies in their arms. "There are no farms left. Everything has disappeared into the water," said S. Dillirao, a paddy farmer, as he stood on his inundated land. Seawater had swept into his fields. "There's no way a single crop will grow here now," he said. (Additional reporting by Nita Bhalla and Sujoy Dhar; writing by Sanjeev Miglani; editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Andrew Roche)
President Joe Biden will continue his flurry of executive orders on Monday, signing a new directive to require the federal government to “buy American” for products and services. Why it matters: The executive action is yet another attempt by Biden to accomplish goals administratively without waiting for the backing of Congress. The new order echoes Biden's $400 billion campaign pledge to increase government purchases of American goods.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.What they're saying: "President Biden is ensuring that when the federal government spends taxpayer dollars they are spent on American made goods by American workers and with American-made component parts," the White House said in a fact sheet.The big picture: Biden’s action kick offs another week in which the president will seek to undo many Trump policies with executive actions, while signaling the direction that he wants to take the country. * Biden will also reaffirm his support for the Jones Act, which requires maritime shipments between American ports to be carried on U.S. vessels. * Last week, Biden signed an order to attempt to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors and workers to $15 an hour.The bottom line: Former President Trump also attempted to force the federal government to rely on U.S. manufacturers for procurement with "buy American" provisions. * But supply chains — with some parts and components made outside of the U.S. — require long and complicated efforts to boost domestic manufacturing. Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- Associated Press
A federal judge on Sunday blocked the release of a Tennessee man who authorities say carried flexible plastic handcuffs during the riot at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell for the District of Columbia set aside an order by a judge in Tennessee concerning the release of Eric Munchel of Nashville. After testimony at a detention hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Frensley for the Middle District of Tennessee determined Friday that Munchel wasn’t a flight risk and didn’t pose harm to the public.
- The Telegraph
Israel will ban passenger flights in and out of the country from Monday for a week as it seeks to stop the spread of new coronavirus variants. "Other than rare exceptions, we are closing the sky hermetically to prevent the entry of the virus variants and also to ensure that we progress quickly with our vaccination campaign," said Benjamin Netanuahu, the Israeli prime minister. It came as a study in Israel reported a 60 per cent drop in over-60s being hospitalised with coronavirus three weeks after being vaccinated, in the latest sign that the jabs are effective. According to Maccabi, an Israeli healthcare provider, there was a significant decrease in hospitalisations from day 23 onwards, which was two days after patients received their second jab. Also on Sunday, Israel expanded its rapid vaccination drive to include 16-18 year-olds in an effort to get them back in schools to take their winter examinations. The winter matriculation certificate is a significant part of university and military admissions. At least one dose has been administered to around a quarter of Israel’s 9 million-strong population. The vaccine is generally available to over 40s or, with parental permission, those aged between 16 and 18. Israel struck a deal with Pfizer at the beginning of January that allowed them to expedite delivery of the vaccine, in return for sharing extensive data on their vaccination campaign with the rest of the world. Yuli Edelstein, the Israeli health minister, told The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday that the data from their vaccination programme suggests a first dose offered around 30 per cent protection from coronavirus.
A U.S. aircraft carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt has entered the South China Sea to promote "freedom of the seas", the U.S. military said on Sunday, at a time when tensions between China and Taiwan have raised concern in Washington. U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement the strike group entered the South China Sea on Saturday, the same day Taiwan reported a large incursion of Chinese bombers and fighter jets into its air defence identification zone in the vicinity of the Pratas Islands.
- Associated Press
A former pathologist at an Arkansas veterans hospital has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient he misdiagnosed. Robert Morris Levy, 54, of Fayetteville was sentenced Friday in federal court. Prosecutors said Levy diagnosed a patient with lymphoma when the patient actually had a small-cell carcinoma.
- The Telegraph
The acrimonious split within Republican ranks widened over the weekend as Donald Trump made his foray back into politics, backing the re-election of a hard-line supporter as chair of the party in Arizona. His wholehearted support for Kelli Ward was seen by allies as the former president firing a warning shot across the bows of any Republican senators considering backing his impeachment. Underlining Mr Trump’s grip on the Republican grassroots, the Arizona party also voted to censure John McCain’s widow, Cindy, former senator Jeff Flake and governor Doug Ducey, who refused to back the former president’s claims of election fraud. Mr Trump’s intervention came amid reports that he is considering setting up a “Patriot Party” which would spearhead primary challenges to his opponents in the 2022 mid-term elections. The former president has already amassed a massive war chest with his Save America political action committee declaring last month that it had raked in $207.5 million in donations.
- NBC News
Brittney Gilliam had taken her family for a "Sunday funday" when officers with guns drawn ordered her and the four underage girls with her to exit the car.
New U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, during his first phone call with his Japanese counterpart, reaffirmed America's commitment to Tokyo to defending a group of East China Sea islets claimed by both Japan and China, the Pentagon said. Austin, in talks with Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, confirmed that Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan security treaty, which stipulates U.S. defence obligations to Japan, covers the uninhabited islands, the Pentagon said in a statement.
- The Week
Senate Democrats are drawing a line at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) demand that a power-sharing agreement in the 50-50 Senate include a pledge to retain the legislative filibuster. "If we gave him that, then the filibuster would be on everything, every day," Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) told NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday's Meet the Press. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered McConnell "word for word" the same power-sharing agreement used in the first half of 2001, and McConnell's insistence on adding the filibuster pledge is "a non-starter."But until Schumer and McConnell reach agreement on the Senate's operating rules, Republicans still retain much of the majority they lost last Wednesday."Without an organizing accord, Republicans remain in the majority of most Senate committees," and "veteran Democrats eager to seize the gavels and advance their long dormant agendas can only wait and wonder," The Washington Post explains. "Newly sworn-in Democratic senators cannot get committee assignments until an organizational deal is struck," leaving the old GOP-majority structures in place, and "Democrats can't unilaterally impose an organizing agreement because they would need Republican support to block a filibuster."The filibuster has evolved into a sclerotic de facto requirement for a 60-senator supermajority on all legislation. Frustration with obstruction by the minority led Senate Democrats to end the filibuster for some presidential appointees and lower-court judges in 2013, and McConnell continued eroding the filibuster as majority leader, killing it for Supreme Court nominees and further easing the confirmation of presidential appointees.A handful of Democratic centrists would prefer to keep the filibuster — for now. But there is mounting pressure from inside and outside the chamber. "There is absolutely no reason to give Sen. McConnell months and months to prove what we absolutely know — that he is going to continue his gridlock and dysfunction from the minority," said Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for the anti-filibuster liberal coalition Fix Our Senate.More stories from theweek.com Josh Hawley knows exactly what he's doing Trump must be prosecuted 5 scathingly funny cartoons about Biden's COVID-19 push
- Associated Press
The patter of paws is being heard in the White House again following the arrival of President Joe Biden's dogs Champ and Major. Major burst onto the national scene late last year after Biden, then president-elect, broke his right foot while playing with the dog at their home in Wilmington, Delaware. The Bidens adopted Major in 2018 from the Delaware Humane Association.
- The Telegraph
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced the establishment of its embassy in Tel Aviv as the US national security advisor announced that America hopes to build “on the success of Israel’s normalisation agreements” under the Biden administration. The UAE cabinet decision to approve establishing the embassy comes after they signed the Abraham Accords in September, becoming the first Gulf state to establish a full diplomatic relationship with Israel. No further details about the embassy were given in UAE media. While Israel’s government recognises Jerusalem as its capital, the international community does not, with Palestinians claiming East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Most countries base their embassies in Tel Aviv. Before the deal, Israel only had peace deals with only two Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan - where it has fortified embassies. Most Arab countries had previously refrained from recognising Israel, believing that recognition should only be granted if serious concessions are made in the Palestinian peace process. Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco later agreed to follow in the UAE’s footsteps and normalise ties with Israel under US-brokered deals.
Pirates off Nigeria's coast kidnapped 15 sailors from a Turkish container ship in the Gulf of Guinea on Saturday in a brazen and violent attack that was farther from shore than usual. One sailor was killed in the raid, an Azerbaijani citizen, while those kidnapped are from Turkey, according to the respective governments and a crew list seen by Reuters. Accounts from crew, family members and security sources described a sophisticated and well-orchestrated attack on Saturday in which armed pirates boarded the ship and breached its protective citadel, possibly with explosives.
The president's views on some hot-button social issues have led to clashes with US Catholic hierarchy.
- Associated Press
Chinese state media have stoked concerns about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, despite rigorous trials indicating it is safe. A government spokesperson has raised the unsubstantiated theory that the coronavirus could have emerged from a U.S. military lab, giving it more credence in China. As the ruling Communist Party faces growing questioning about China's vaccines and renewed criticism of its early COVID-19 response, it is hitting back by encouraging conspiracy theories that some experts say could cause harm.
- The Week
The possibility of conflict with Iran prompted the United States military to begin using several extra ports and bases in Saudi Arabia for the first time over the course of the last year, The Wall Street Journal reports.The decision is seemingly all about expanding the ability to operate militarily and complicating Iran's options in Saudi Arabia should tensions with Tehran, which is at odds with both Washington and Riyadh, boil over in the future. "What it does is to give us options, and options are always a good thing for a commander to have," Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command told the Journal.McKenzie explained that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are negotiating infrastructure plans for the coastal port of Yanbu as well as two air bases to make them more usual for the U.S. military, and additional sites that have not been revealed are under consideration.As the Journal notes, the Biden administration has promised to take a tougher stance on human rights issues within Saudi Arabia, but the military base expansion effort — which began under the Trump administration — does suggest Washington will continue to count Saudi Arabia as a key ally. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.More stories from theweek.com Josh Hawley knows exactly what he's doing Trump must be prosecuted 5 scathingly funny cartoons about Biden's COVID-19 push
Drugmaker Merck & Co said on Monday it would stop development of its two COVID-19 vaccines and focus pandemic research on treatments, with initial data on an experimental oral antiviral expected by the end of March. Merck was late to join the race to develop a vaccine to protect against the coronavirus, which has so far killed more than 2 million people and continues to surge in many parts of the world including the United States. The company will record a pre-tax discontinuation charge in the fourth quarter for vaccine candidate V591, which it acquired with the purchase of Austrian vaccine maker Themis Bioscience, and V590, developed with nonprofit research organization IAVI, Merck said in a statement.
- The Independent
Biden news: Experts find major ‘gaps’ in Trump pardons as White House scrambles to rollout vaccine plan
Latest developments from Washington DC and beyond
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Israeli authorities on Monday extradited a former teacher accused of sexually abusing her former students in Australia, capping a six-year legal battle that had strained relations between the two governments and antagonized Australia's Jewish community.
- Associated Press
Indianapolis police arrested a 17-year-old boy Monday in the killings of five people, including a pregnant woman, who were shot to death inside a home in what the city's mayor called a “devastating act of violence.” The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement that the name of the suspect in Sunday's killings was “not being released at this time since the suspect is a juvenile." As officers were investigating, police received information about 4:40 a.m. that led them to a nearby home, where they found multiple adults dead inside from apparent gunshot wounds, Sgt. Shane Foley said Sunday.
The United States often sends ships and aircraft into the South China Sea to "flex its muscles" and this is not good for peace, China's Foreign Ministry said on Monday, after a U.S. aircraft carrier group sailed into the disputed waterway. The strategic South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade flows each year, has long been a focus of contention between Beijing and Washington, with China particularly angered by U.S. military activity there. The U.S. carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt and accompanied by three warships, entered the waterway on Saturday to promote "freedom of the seas", the U.S. military said, just days after Joe Biden became U.S. president..