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February on course to break unprecedented number of heat records

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February is on course to break a record number of heat records, meteorologists say, as human-made global heating and the natural El Niño climate pattern drive up temperatures on land and oceans around the world.

A little over halfway into the shortest month of the year, the heating spike has become so pronounced that climate charts are entering new territory, particularly for sea-surface temperatures that have persisted and accelerated to the point where expert observers are struggling to explain how the change is happening.

“The planet is warming at an accelerating rate. We are seeing rapid temperature increases in the ocean, the climate’s largest reservoir of heat,” said Dr Joel Hirschi, the associate head of marine systems modelling at the UK National Oceanography Centre. “The amplitude by which previous sea surface temperatures records were beaten in 2023 and now 2024 exceed expectations, though understanding why this is, is the subject of ongoing research.”

Humanity is on a trajectory to experience the hottest February in recorded history, after a record January, December, November, October, September, August, July, June and May, according to the Berkeley Earth scientist Zeke Hausfather.

He said the rise in recent weeks was on course for 2C of warming above pre-industrial levels, though this should be the brief, peak impact of El Niño if it follows the path of previous years and starts to cool down in the months ahead.

That would normally be good news if a temperature-lowering La Niña follows, but Hausfather said the behaviour of the climate had become more erratic and harder to forecast. “[Last year] defied expectations so much that it’s hard to have as much confidence in the approaches we have used to make these predictions in the past,” he said.

“I’d say February 2024 is an odds-on favourite to beat the prior record set in 2016, but it’s by no means a foregone conclusion at this point as weather models suggest that global temperatures will fall back down in the coming week.

So while I think these extreme temperatures provide some evidence of an acceleration in the rate of warming in recent years – as climate models expect there to be if CO2 emissions do not fall but aerosols do – it’s not necessarily worse than we thought.”

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It’s called democracy’ – Trump defends trying to influence election

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The prosecution in Donald Trump’s trial has insisted that the former President “orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election” in his efforts to cover up an alleged affair with the adult film star, Stormy Daniels.

The prosecution said this on Monday in its opening statement in Trump’s criminal trial.

However, the defense countered that “there’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election – it’s called democracy”.

Apart from hearing the opening statements from both sides, the trial also briefly heard from its first witness, David Pecker.

Pecker was the former publisher of the National Enquirer, a central figure in Trump’s alleged crimes.

A jury of seven men and five women living in Manhattan will weigh whether Trump’s alleged efforts to conceal an affair with Daniels, which he feared would damage his bid for the White House, were illicit.

The former President was dragged to court with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the early 2023.

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One Killed, 7 Missing As 2 Japanese Navy Helicopters Crash In Pacific Ocean During Training

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One person has been killed while seven others are missing after two Japanese navy helicopters carrying eight crew members crashed in the Pacific Ocean south of Tokyo during nighttime.

The two SH-60K choppers from the Maritime Self-Defense Force were carrying four crew each and lost contact late Saturday near Torishima island, about 600 kilometres (370 miles) south of Tokyo, the country’s Defense Minister Minoru Kihara told reporters.

AP reports that Kihara said the cause of the crash was not immediately known, but officials believe the two helicopters “highly likely” collided before crashing into the water.

The navy chief of staff, Adm. Ryo Sakai, said training involving the SH-60s will be suspended until the cause of the crash is determined and preventive measures are adopted.

Rescuers recovered a flight data recorder, a blade from each helicopter, and fragments believed to be from both choppers in the same area, signs that the two SH-60Ks were flying close to each other, Kihara said.

Search and rescue efforts for the missing crew were expanded Sunday with the deployment of 12 warships and seven aircraft. Japan Coast Guard patrol boats and planes also joined the operation.

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Togo’s parliament approves constitutional reforms extending Gnassingbé’s rule

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Togo’s parliament has given approval to a new constitution that extends President Faure Gnassingbé’s term.

The parliament on Friday gave the approval which shifts the West African nation from a presidential to a parliamentary system of government.

It also modifies both the term limits and methods of presidential election.

The reforms enable Gnassingbé to remain in power until 2031, after which he could be appointed to the new position of “president of the council of ministers”.

The new arrangement, when effective, transforms the president to prime minister – continuing his family’s 57-year rule.

The parliament initially passed the amendment in March.

However, further consultations and a second parliamentary vote were scheduled due to fierce backlash.

Opposition groups said the reforms amounted to a constitutional coup, but Yawa Tségan, human rights minister, said the move will “improve democracy in the country”.

Gnassingbé came to power in 2005 after the death of his father, who took over the coastal West African country in 1967 via a coup.

Violent police crackdowns on political demonstrations have been routine under Gnassingbe, as they were during his father’s rule.

Groups of civil society organisations (CSOs) have called on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to intervene in the amendments.

Other West African countries which have made constitutional reforms to allow presidents extend their tenures in office include Central African Republic, Rwanda, Congo Republic, Ivory Coast, and Guinea.

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