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Sri Lanka Crisis: Mahinda Rajapaksa Short Of Magic Number To Prove Majority: Keheliya Rambukwella

Mahinda Rajapaksa replaced Ranil Wickremesinghe as Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister (AFP)


Sri Lankan strongman and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa remains short of the ‘magic number’ 113 required to prove his majority in parliament, his spokesman acknowledged Friday, days ahead of the floor test in the House.

Sri Lanka is facing a major constitutional crisis after President Maithripala Sirisena ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replaced him with Mr Rajapaksa and suspended parliament.

Without specifying the exact figure of the lawmakers supporting Mr Rajapaksa, United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters, “At the moment we have 105 to 106 MPs.”

Mr Rambukwella is one of the ministers appointed after the political crisis erupted on October 26. He is currently the incumbent media and information minister.

Mr Sirisena had earlier claimed at a public rally that he has the support of 113 parliamentarians in the 225-member House to prove the premiership of Mr Rajapaksa.

His comments came after Speaker Karu Jayasuriya slammed Mr Sirisena’s “unconstitutional and undemocratic” actions to sack Mr Wickremesinghe and suspend parliament, saying he will not recognise Mr Rajapaksa as the new premier unless he wins a floor test.

With eight United National Party (UNP) and one Tamil National Alliance (TNA) legislators defecting to the Rajapaksa camp, the former president was hopeful of passing the floor test.

Mr Sirisena had suspended parliamentary proceedings until November 16 after abruptly firing Mr Wickremesinghe and replacing him with Mr Rajapaksa.

However, owing to domestic and international pressure, Mr Sirisena later issued a notice to reconvene parliament on November 14.

The sudden constitutional crisis came amid growing tensions between Mr Sirisena and Mr Wickremesinghe on several policy matters with the President has been critical of the Prime Minister and his policies, especially on economy and security.

Meanwhile, Mr Wickremsinghe remains confident of proving his majority in parliament.

Mr Wickremesinghe, whose party dubbed Mr Sirisena’s move a “constitutional coup”, has refused to vacate his official residence, saying he is the lawful prime minister and that the president has no constitutional right to replace him.

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Scientists Warn Of Climate ”Time Bomb” For World’s Groundwater

The team has called for immediate action to ensure future generations aren’t left high and dry.

Paris, France: 

Future generations face an environmental “time bomb” as the world’s groundwater systems take decades to respond to the present day impact of climate change, scientists warned on Monday.

Found underground in cracks in soil, sand and rock, groundwater is the largest useable source of freshwater on the planet and more than two billion people rely on it to drink or irrigate crops.

It is slowly replenished through rainfall — a process known as recharge — and discharges into lakes, rivers or oceans to maintain an overall balance between water in and water out.

Groundwater reserves are already under pressure as the global population explodes and crop production rises in lockstep.

But the extreme weather events such as drought and record rainfall — both made worse by our heating planet — could have another long-lasting impact on how quickly reserves replenish, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change.

An international team of researchers used computer modelling of groundwater datasets to put a timescale on how reserves may respond to the changing climate.

“Groundwater is out of sight and out of mind, this massive hidden resource that people don’t think about much yet it underpins global food production,” said Mark Cuthbert, from Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences.

“The effect we are having now is going to have this really long lag-time in terms of climate change. There’s a memory in the system — and the memory is very large in some places,” he told AFP.

Cuthbert and his team found that only half of all groundwater supplies are likely to fully replenish or re-balance within the next 100 years — potentially leading to shortages in drier areas.

“This could be described as an environmental time bomb because any climate change impacts on recharge occurring now, will only fully impact the baseflow to rivers and wetlands a long time later,” Cuthbert said.

‘Massive lags’

The process through which rainwater is filtered through bedrock and accumulated underground can take centuries and varies greatly by region.

As climate change delivers longer droughts and bigger superstorms, the extremes of rainfall become more pronounced, impacting groundwater reserves for generations to come.

The team found that reserves in arid areas took far longer — several thousand years in some cases — to respond to alterations in climate than reserves in more humid parts.

“Parts of the groundwater that’s underneath the Sahara currently is still responding to climate change from 10,000 years ago when it was much wetter there,” Cuthbert said. “We know there are these massive lags.”

The team said their research showed one of the “hidden” impacts of climate change, and called for immediate action to ensure future generations aren’t left high and dry.

“Some parts of the world might get wetter, some might get drier but it’s not just the overall amount of rainfall that is important, it is also how intense the rainfall is,” Cuthbert added.

“Climate science says that changes in rainfall intensity are very significant for groundwater.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Deep Freeze Grips Eastern United States, 12-Year-Old Dies In Chicago

The NWS issued wind-chill advisories and warnings for more than 10 states. (File)

Winter winds brought extreme cold and ice-slicked roads to the Midwestern and Eastern United States on Monday, with the U.S. Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday and an ongoing government shutdown allowing many to heed official advice to stay indoors.

The arctic blast of frigid air has followed a January storm that dumped more than a foot (30 cm) of snow and sleet across the Northeast, which started melting Sunday.

In a Chicago suburb, a 12-year-old girl died after a snow fort she had built after church on Sunday collapsed on her, according to the Arlington Heights Police Department. A 9-year-old girl she was playing with was treated for hypothermia after being dug out of the snow and was expected to survive, police said.

Temperatures fell to single-digits Fahrenheit (about -20 C) from New York City to Boston and through northern New England and froze melting snow late on Sunday and early Monday, said Marc Chenard at the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. Winds up to 30 to 40 miles per hour (48-64 kph) added possibly deadly wind chill.

“This is definitely dangerous, life-and-death kind of weather happening,” Chenard said. “Minnesota and Wisconsin will see temperatures in the negative 20s.”

“Boston will be just 3 degrees (Fahrenheit) this morning, with wind chills of minus 12 or more,” he said. “New York City and D.C. will be in that same range, maybe hitting the teens later today. It’ll be record or near-record cold.”

The NWS issued wind-chill advisories and warnings for more than 10 states, from North Dakota and to East Coast metropolitan centers.

High temperatures for Monday are forecast at 17 Fahrenheit (minus 8 Celsius) for New York City and 12 F (minus 11 C) for Boston.

Many Americans had the day off work on Monday, either because of the holiday or because they are among the furloughed federal government workers who find themselves in the longest shutdown in U.S. history, caused by an impasse over funding U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans to build more barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border.

More than 7,500 flights were delayed, mostly in New York and New England, according to, down from more than 14,000 on Sunday.

Tuesday’s weather will be only slightly warmer, Chenard said, with temperatures reaching the low 20s Fahrenheit in the Northeast.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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No Politics Please For Baghdad Bikers Aiming To Unite Iraq


Roaring along Baghdad’s highways, the “Iraq Bikers” are doing more than showing off their love of outsized motorcycles and black leather: they want their shared enthusiasm to help heal Iraq’s deep sectarian rifts.

Weaving in and out of traffic, only the lucky few ride Harley Davidsons – a rare and expensive brand in Iraq – while others make do with bikes pimped-up to look something like the “Easy Rider” dream machines.

“Our goal is to build a brotherhood,” said Bilal al-Bayati, 42, a government employee who founded the club in 2012 with the aim of improving the image of biker gangs and to promote unity after years of sectarian conflict.


The Iraq Bikers – who now number 380 – are men of all ages, social classes and various faiths

That is why the first rule of his bikers club is: you do not talk about politics.

“It is absolutely prohibited to talk politics among members,” Bayati told Reuters as he sat with fellow bikers in a shisha cafe, a regular hangout for members.

“Whenever politics is mentioned, the members are warned once or twice and then expelled. We no longer have the strength to endure these tragedies or to repeat them,” he said, referring to sectarian violence.


These bikers fly the Iraqi flag from the panniers of their machines

With his black bandana and goatee, the leader of the Baghdad pack, known as “Captain”, looks the epitome of the American biker-outlaw.

But while their style is unmistakably US-inspired – at least one of Bayati’s cohorts wears a helmet emblazoned with the stars and stripes – these bikers fly the Iraqi flag from the panniers of their machines.

The Iraq Bikers – who now number 380 – are men of all ages, social classes and various faiths. One of their most recent events was taking part in Army Day celebrations.


The aim of the bikers club is to promote unity in Iraq after years of sectarian conflict

Some are in the military, the police and even the Popular Mobilization Forces, a grouping of mostly Shi’ite militias which have taken part in the fight to oust ISIS from Iraq in the last three years.

“It is a miniature Iraq,” said member Ahmed Haidar, 36, who works with an international relief agency.

But riding a chopper through Baghdad is quite different from Route 101. The bikers have to slow down at the many military checkpoints set up around the city to deter suicide and car bomb attacks.

And very few can afford a top bike.

“We don’t have a Harley Davidson franchise here,” said Kadhim Naji, a mechanic who specialises in turning ordinary motorbikes into something special.

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