By Amantha Perera POLONNARUWA, Sri Lanka (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Rice farmer Weerasinghearchchilage Darmarathana is used to periodic flooding in his low-lying village of Galella in central Sri Lanka. The 60-year-old has lived all his life on the flood plains of the country’s longest river, the Mahaweli, in Polonnaruwa District, some 250 km (155.34 miles) northeast of the capital Colombo. “It used to be maybe twice, three times a year the road would go under, but the last year has been insane,” said the paddy farmer. In his recollection, Galella has never been flooded with the same frequency as in the last two months of 2015. The village was hit six times in less than two months, Darmarathana said, after unusually heavy rains battered the region in November and December. Over a million people were marooned in Sri Lanka’s Northern, North Central and Eastern Provinces, and over 400 homes and other buildings were destroyed. An advisory issued by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in early December attributed the rains to the current El Niño weather phenomenon, likely to be the strongest since 1997-1998. Extreme rainfall also caused havoc in India late last year, including extensive flooding in the city of Chennai. “The consensus that strong El Niño conditions has led to abnormal rainfall during the northeast monsoon season in South Asia indicates that El Niño had a part to play in the sequence of extreme weather events in India,” the ESCAP advisory said. Excessive El Niño-linked rainfall across southern India and northern Sri Lanka was expected to continue into early 2016, it added. Sri Lankan authorities said they were prepared. “Historically El Niño has meant more rains in this region, so we have been making our predictions on those lines,” said Lalith Chandrapala, head of the island’s Department of Meteorology. Chandrapala said the country could be in a position to benefit from the El Niño-induced rains, which began in mid-November on the back of a weak monsoon he assessed to be 75 percent below average. “We have been telling agencies like the Department of Agriculture to advise farmers to prepare for rains,” he said. CHANGING MINDSETS The ESCAP report also noted that the waters from the current bout of rains could be used for the upcoming planting season. As the heavy rains struck when there was no harvest, agricultural losses have been negligible. Pradeep Koddiplili, deputy director at the Disaster Management Centre, said no warnings had yet been issued for potential El Niño-related crop damage, mainly because the rains had coincided with the preparation of fields for planting. But disaster risk experts working in rural areas say awareness of changing weather patterns remains low and could prevent farmers making the most of the unseasonal rains. Sarath Wickramasinghe, a disaster risk reduction specialist with the Sri Lanka Red Cross who works in North Central Province, said people in the country’s dry zone lacked sufficient infrastructure and knowledge to adapt to shifting rains. "They are traditionally geared for the monsoon, which comes twice a year - even some officials are," he said. "That mindset needs to be changed." Farmers must adjust to long dry spells, like that experienced in parts of Sri Lanka between June and October 2015, broken by heavy rains. “Right now the cultivation cycles follow the traditional monsoon,” he added. Farmer Darmarathana from Galella has worked according to the monsoon since he started farming in the 1970s. “I don’t know any other timetable,” he said. “Someone needs to teach me the new methods, if there are any.” Wickramasinghe said the approach of traditional farmers needed to evolve “if we are to gain any kind of advantage from the changing rain patterns”. The Red Cross and the U.N. Development Programme have launched a pilot project in Polonnaruwa District to help farmers adapt to uncertain weather and climate conditions. Targeting 100 families in Nagastenne village, it provides them with assistance including seeds and technical knowledge to develop sustainable agriculture methods, such as water harvesting, and to restore degraded land. (Reporting by Amantha Perera; editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)
Daredevil Alex Harvill, 28, crashed his motorcycle while practicing to perform a 351-foot jump at an airshow in Washington state on June 17.
- The New York Times
A Canadian couple who drew widespread criticism for flying to a small Indigenous community in January to get vaccinated pleaded guilty Wednesday to violating local coronavirus restrictions, according to court records. The couple, Rodney and Ekaterina Baker of Vancouver, British Columbia, appeared virtually in Yukon Territorial Court and pleaded guilty to charges under the territory’s Civil Emergency Measures Act, which was enacted during the pandemic and required people to isolate themselves for
- Lexington Herald-Leader
The child made it back to the boat, but the man slipped under the water.
- LA Times
Utah Jazz great John Stockton claims he's done a 'significant amount of research' in a documentary that endorses COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theories.
- LA Times
A growing contingent of medical experts is questioning the conventional wisdom that healthy children should get COVID-19 shots as soon as possible.
- The Daily Beast
Comedy CentralUnlike Jimmy Kimmel, The Daily Show’s Jordan Klepper couldn’t get the MyPillow guy to come to him. So he did what he does best and went to the MyPillow guy.In his latest field piece from MAGA world, the long-serving correspondent traveled to Mike Lindell’s “free speech Woodstock” in Wisconsin with the hope of interviewing some of the election truthers who are still holding out hope that Donald Trump will return to the White House this summer. He likely never could have imagined tha
- Raleigh News and Observer
Both victims were from North Carolina.
- The Telegraph
When Bruce Springsteen returns to the stage in New York next week, fans won’t have to have been born in the USA to get in - but it will help if they’ve been vaccinated there. The first Broadway show to reopen since last March will require attendees to show proof of their inoculations. However, only vaccines approved by the US Food and Drug Administration will be accepted. So far, that list is limited to Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson, meaning any prospective concert-goers who hav
30 live wolves chased a group of Chinese actors during a performance of "Tuoling Legend" last week, but the theatre claims the wolves are trained.
- The Telegraph
Italy’s government is under huge pressure to staunch the arrivals of migrants from the coast of North Africa as the country recorded a nine-fold increase in the number of asylum seekers reaching its shores since 2019. Latest figures show the migration landscape shifting, with many more attempts to reach Spain and Italy than Greece, which has adopted hardline policies. On Friday, Greece’s migration minister said the government had adopted the measures so “we don’t send the wrong message of incent
- Miami Herald
A state park in northwest Florida on the Gulf was on high alert Thursday after a swimmer was bitten by a shark.
- USA TODAY
He lost his fantasy league. 15 hours at Waffle House and 9 waffles later, his punishment was complete.
"I recommend absolutely no one do this," Lee Sanderlin said after eating nine waffles at Waffle House. The reason? He lost his fantasy football league
- The Telegraph
For those fortunate enough to own a home in a Bahria Town development, the elite suburb promises to offer a respite from the clamour of life in much of Pakistan. Prospective residents from Karachi are lured with assurances that they can swap the blackouts, floods and rubbish heaps of the port metropolis for a luxury lifestyle in a manicured architectural fantasia. Brochures offer world class amenities, a floodlit golf course and even a replica Parthenon. Yet two weeks ago the haven of Bahria Tow
- Idaho Statesman
It was put on the market by Zak Bagans, a paranormal investigator, who bought the home in 2019.
- USA TODAY
Disney and Pixar's latest animated film, Luca, follows two young sea monsters as they explore the Italian Riviera on land—here's how to watch it.
- The Daily Beast
NBCNow that President Joe Biden is back from his big summit with Vladimir Putin, Seth Meyers used his final “A Closer Look” segment of the week on Thursday to dig into the blatant, if not shocking, hypocrisy that Fox News has displayed in its coverage.“The very same people who approve of Donald Trump’s friendly attitude towards Putin are claiming Biden wasn’t tough enough,” the Late Night host said, noting that “even Putin was willing to admit that he was dealing with a more experienced statesma
Olympic swimmer Simone Manuel said she had depression, insomnia, and other symptoms of 'overtraining syndrome'
Gold-medalist Simone Manuel stopped training for three weeks due to physical and mental burnout. She didn't qualify for the Olympics on Thursday.
- Business Insider
Trump said "nobody had heard of" the holiday, which commemorates the liberation of enslaved Black Americans, according to a forthcoming book.
Spiders in Australia have covered the countryside in webs, and people can't decide if it's creepy or beautiful
Millions of spiders in eastern Victoria wrapped their silks together to get to higher ground, blanketing the region of Gippsland in giant webs.
- USA TODAY Opinion
Nothing is more important for our democracy than ensuring that Trump does not escape justice forever simply because he was once elected president.