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'A friend to thousands, a leader of millions' – former UN chief Kofi Annan dies aged 80

'A friend to thousands, a leader of millions' - former UN chief Kofi Annan dies aged 80Ghana announced a week of national mourning on Saturday following the death of Kofi Annan, as tributes came in from across global politics for the former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace price winner. Annan, perhaps the world's most famous Ghanaian and a source of great national pride, passed away after a brief illness at the age of 80. A statement from the Kofi Annan foundation said he had passed away peacefully, with his wife Nane and  their children Ama, Kojo and Nina by his side. The career diplomat, who served Secretary-General from 1997 to 2006, is credited with raising the UN's international profile during his two terms and won over many world leaders with his "calm charisma". His early career was marked by the UN's failure to prevent civilians during the Rwandan genocide in 1994, when he was head of the body's peacekeeping division. He was later key in the development of the responsibility to protect doctrine, which was adopted in 2005 as a pledge by all member states to take action against genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness… pic.twitter.com/42nGOxmcPZ— Kofi Annan (@KofiAnnan) August 18, 2018 Tributes to the West African diplomat poured in from politicians of all stripes on Saturday, among them Tony Blair, former Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak and Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister. "I’m shocked and distressed to hear the news about Kofi. He was a good friend whom I saw only weeks ago. Kofi Annan was a great diplomat, a true statesman and a wonderful colleague who was widely respected and will be greatly missed," said Mr Blair. And, in a sign that Annan's appeal extended far beyond western liberal democracies, Mr Zarif wrote on Twitter: "Extremely saddened by passing of Kofi Annan, a toweing global leader and an unwavering champion for peace, justice and rule of law. Rest in peace my dear old friend." Russian President Vladimir Putin said: "I sincerely admired his wisdom and courage as well as his ability to make balanced decisions even under the most dire and critical circumstances." Current UN chief Antonio Guterres voiced deep sadness at the news, describing his predecessor, who was the first secretary-general from sub-Saharan Africa, as "a guiding force for good". Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with the UN in 2001 "for their work for a better organised and more peaceful world". Former United Nations (UN) secretary-general Kofi Annan  Credit: Denis Balibouse/REUTERS "He rose through the ranks to lead the organisation into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination," Mr Guterres added. "Like so many, I was proud to call Kofi Annan a good friend and mentor." Theresa May also paid tribute to the "great leader and reformer" in a post on Twitter. "Sad to hear of the death of Kofi Annan. A great leader and reformer of the UN, he made a huge contribution to making the world he has left a better place than the one he was born into. My thoughts and condolences are with his family," she said. In a statement to the Sunday Telegraph, Jack Straw, the former UK foreign secretary, paid tribute to Annan for "navigating the UN through the immense post-9/11 turmoil with consummate skill" and described him as a "truly great man." Sad to hear of the death of Kofi Annan. A great leader and reformer of the UN, he made a huge contribution to making the world he has left a better place than the one he was born into. My thoughts and condolences are with his family. pic.twitter.com/P0SWagShJM— Theresa May (@theresa_may) August 18, 2018 Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the UK parliament's foreign affairs committee, added: "Kofi Annan was one of the great international champions…his quiet voice was always worth hearing and we are all the poorer for his death." Born in Kumasi, the capital city of Ghana's Ashanti region, Annan was the son of an executive of a European trading company, the United Africa company, a subsidiary of the Anglo-Dutch multinational Unilever. After ending his second term as UN chief, Annan went on to take high-profile mediation roles in Kenya and in Syria. He later set up a foundation devoted to conflict resolution and joined the Elders group of statesmen which was founded by Nelson Mandela to promote universal human rights. The UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said he was grief-stricken over Annan's death. "Kofi was humanity's best example, the epitome, of human decency and grace. In a world now filled with leaders who are anything but that, our loss, the world's loss becomes even more painful," he said. "He was a friend to thousands and a leader of millions."    



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National Guard deploys thousands of soldiers to California

National Guard deploys thousands of soldiers to CaliforniaNational Guard soldiers are supporting response efforts, providing unique military capabilities to contain the fires.



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Why did the Genoa bridge collapse – and how thousands of other structures in Italy are at risk

Why did the Genoa bridge collapse - and how thousands of other structures in Italy are at riskItalian prosecutors are opening an investigation into the Genoa bridge collapse, as questions swirled over what caused the structure to crumble.  At least 38 people died when a 650-foot portion of the Morandi motorway bridge in northern Italy disintegrated on Tuesday. The 51-year-old structure, designed by celebrated Italian engineer Riccardo Morandi, has been beset with problems since its construction in the 1960s, leading to expensive maintenance and drawing fierce criticism from engineering experts. Possible mafia connections have been raised. Dave Parker, Technical Editor Emeritus of New Civil Engineer told Radio 4's Today programme that the quality of the materials could have been affected by mafia involvement in the construction industry.  "According to urban myths, the mafia had a very big finger in the pie of the concrete industry back then, charging full price and putting less cement in," he said.  Genoa motorway bridge collapses Concerns have also been raised about the integrity of other structures built following the Second World War, with one engineering body saying tens of thousands of bridges and viaducts in Italy could be at risk. Giuseppe Conte, the Prime Minister, said "all infrastructure" across the country needed to be double-checked. "We must not allow another tragedy like this to happen again," he added. Danilo Toninelli, the Transport Minister,  said the collapse was "unacceptable" and that if negligence played a role "whoever made a mistake must pay." Built between 1963 and 1967, the bridge had a maximum span of 718 feet, a total length of 0.7 miles, and concrete piers – vertical structures buttressing the arches of a bridge – that reach 295 feet in height. 'Structural doubts' over design The technology of pre-stressed reinforced concrete used in the construction was the hallmark of its designer, Mr Morandi, who died in 1989. Dubbed patent "Morandi M5", he had used the technology for other works, including a wing of the Verona Arena in 1953. This technique also characterises another, even longer and just as problematic Morandi bridge: the 5.4 mile long General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge that spans the bay of Maracaibo, Venezuela, and was completed in 1962. It partially collapsed in 1964 after being hit by an oil tanker and was rebuilt.  The Morandi bridge in Genoa had always presented "structural doubts", according to an article published by specialist engineering website "Ingegneri.info", which called it "a tragedy waiting to happen". Antonio Brencich, a professor of reinforced concrete construction at the University of Genoa, echoed those concerns.  "It was affected by extremely serious corrosion problems linked to the technology that was used (in construction). Morandi wanted to use a technology that he had patented that was no longer used afterwards and that showed itself to be a failure," Professor Brencich told Radio Capitale. Professor Brencich has long been a critic of the bridge. Two years ago, he told "Ingegneri.info" that the bridge's construction went over budget and poor calculations over concrete viscosity led to an uneven road surface which wasn’t fully corrected until the 1980s. Safety work had been commissioned Mr Toninelli said the company that has the concession to operate that section of highway said its maintenance on the bridge was up to date and no work was being done at the time of the collapse. But he added that they were about to launch a 20 million euro (£17.8 million) bidding process for significant safety work on the bridge. "There has not been sufficient maintenance and checks, and safety work for many bridges and viaducts and bridges in Italy constructed – almost all – during the 1960s," he said. The tender provided for a strengthening of the bridge’s pier cables, including those of pier nine, the one that collapsed on Tuesday. Notwithstanding the importance of a road that sees 25 million vehicles pass along it every year, the demolition of the bridge was being studied as far back as 2009. Bridges such as the Morandi viaduct should have a lifespan of at least a century, "Ingegneri.info" reported, but the structure had been the subject of major maintenance work in the years after its completion, in particular to repair cracks and combat degradation of the concrete. In the early 2000s the suspension cables put in place in the 1980s and 1990s were replaced. "Fifty years ago, we had unlimited confidence in reinforced concrete, we thought it was eternal, but now we know that it only lasted a few decades," Diego Zoppi, former president of the Genoa branch of the order of architects, told reporters on Tuesday. Rescue teams work among the rubble of the collapsed Morando highway bridge in Genoa Credit: AP Mr Zoppi warned that it was impossible to say similar tragedies would not happen again without serious work on infrastructure built after the Second World War. "The Italy built in the 1950s and 1960s is in urgent need of renovation. The risk of collapses is underestimated, the works built at that time are coming to an age when they are at risk." 'Tens of thousands need to be replaced' The Italian CNR civil engineering society said structures as old as the Morandi Bridge had exceeded their lifespan. It called for a "Marshall Plan" to repair or replace tens of thousands of bridges and viaducts built in the 1950s and 1960s. Updating and reinforcing the bridges would be more expensive than destroying and rebuilding them with technology that could last a century. They cited previous accidents: a bridge that fell in April 2017 in the northern province of Cuneo, crushing a carabinieri police car after the officers and driver had barely managed to get away in time; and an overpass that in the northern city of Lecco that collapsed under exceptional weight, crushing a car and killing the driver. A truck is seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge site in the port city of Genoa, Italy  Credit: Reuters Experts also said it was possible the thunderstorm could have contributed to the collapse after witnesses said it was struck by lightning shortly before it crumbled. "As this reinforced and pre-stressed concrete bridge has been there for 50 years it is possible that corrosion of tendons or reinforcement may be a contributory factor," said Ian Firth, former president of The Institution of Structural Engineers. He called the bridge "an unusual design." "The fact that there was reported to be a storm at the time may or may not be particularly relevant.” Mehdi Kashani, an associate professor in structural mechanics at the University of Southampton, said maintenance issues and pressure from "dynamic loads," such as traffic and wind, could have resulted in "fatigue damage in bridge components."



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Thousands of Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria could be forced out of their temporary homes

Thousands of Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria could be forced out of their temporary homesEvery two weeks or so, the automated voice would tell Analee Dalmau and hundreds of other displaced Puerto Rican families that the deadline was looming, that they would soon have to move out of their hotel rooms, that their refuge would no longer be covered by federal funds. Dalmau, 24, fled her home near the island’s tropical rain forest after Hurricane Maria lashed the US territory more than 10 months ago. It’s not just for us, but for our kids,” Dalmau says.



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Thousands in China mosque standoff over demolition plan

Thousands in China mosque standoff over demolition planBEIJING (AP) — Thousands of Muslims gathered at a mosque in northwestern China on Friday to protest its planned demolition in a rare, public pushback to the government's efforts to rewrite how religions are practiced in the country.



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8-Year-Old Boy Presents Police with Thousands He Raised with Lemonade Stand

8-Year-Old Boy Presents Police with Thousands He Raised with Lemonade StandAn 8-year-old Missouri boy presented the Blue Springs Police Department with thousands of dollars he raised with his lemonade stand.



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Powerful quake kills 82 on Indonesia's Lombok island, thousands flee homes

Powerful quake kills 82 on Indonesia's Lombok island, thousands flee homesBy Nyimas Laula DENPASAR, Indonesia (Reuters) – At least 82 people were killed when Indonesia’s resort island of Lombok was hit by a powerful magnitude 7.0 earthquake on Sunday, triggering widespread panic as thousands fled their homes for emergency shelters as buildings collapsed. Singapore Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, who was on the 10th floor of a hotel in the Lombok town of Mataram at the time of the quake, wrote on Facebook that his room shook violently and walls cracked. Most of the victims were killed by falling rubble in northern and western parts of Lombok.



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Thousands more evacuated from California's largest wildfire

Thousands more evacuated from California's largest wildfire(Reuters) – Thousands more mountain residents were evacuated from the path of California’s biggest wildfire on Friday as fatigued firefighters battled gusting winds driving one of the state’s worst fire seasons in a decade. The Mendocino Complex Fire grew to 157,450 acres (63,700 hectares) late Friday, about half the size of Los Angeles, forcing nearly 16,000 homeowners to flee a blaze that has destroyed 88 structures about 93 miles (150 km) north of San Francisco, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire). Its size overtook the deadly Carr Fire, about 100 miles (160 km) to the northeast, which is among 17 major blazes burning in tinder-dry forests and woodland peppered with dead trees from the state’s 2011-2017 drought.



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3D-Printed Gun Blueprints Are Already Being Downloaded By Thousands Of People

3D-Printed Gun Blueprints Are Already Being Downloaded By Thousands Of PeopleAs state officials and congressional lawmakers scramble to block the



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California wildfires: Six dead and tens of thousands forced to flee homes

California wildfires: Six dead and tens of thousands forced to flee homesFirefighters are rushing against uncertain weather forecasts to contain a multitude of wildfires in northern California that have already claimed the lives of at least six people and forced 50,000 to flee their homes. With hot, dry conditions and high winds fuelling the blazes, 12,000 firefighters have been drafted in to try to contain 17 wildfires that have destroyed buildings in its path – including the home of a fire chief. As those firefighters continued to fight the blaze, families of the dead on Sunday told their harrowing tales of loss.



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