TIME weather

Western New York Braces for Floods

FDNY firefighters from New York City load a rescue boat to prepare for possible flooding following a massive snow storm in Williamsville
Firefighters from New York City load a rescue boat to prepare for possible flooding following a massive snow storm in Williamsville, New York on November 23, 2014. Mark Blinch —Reuters

State officials were mobilized over the weekend to prepare for the deluge

New York officials warn that the record-breaking amount of snow that has been blanketing the western parts of the state might wreak more havoc, as warmer weather threatens to inundate the area with water.

With temperatures set to hit the high 40s this week, the National Weather Service issued flood warnings on Sunday for several counties. Creeks have reportedly started to swell as the seven feet of snow that overwhelmed the region begins to melt.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said state officials had been activated over the weekend to prepare for potential flooding.

“With the possibility of flooding in areas already hit hard by major snowfall over the past few days, we have launched a massive deployment of emergency personnel and resources to western New York,” he said.

Cuomo said more than 500 National Guard members had been mobilized, while hundreds of water pumps and thousands of sandbags were in place to help combat any deluge.

TIME weather

After Epic Snowstorm Pummels Western New York, Forecasters Now Warn of Rain

Officials warn that weekend rains could put additional stress on roofs or cause flooding

After relentless, lake-effect snowfall blanketed much of western New York this week, officials warned on Thursday that a new peril is now looming — rain.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz told a press conference on Thursday that forecasted rain over the weekend might put additional strain on already stressed roofs as the snow absorbs the precipitation.

“There will be a rain starting on Saturday that will not initially create a situation where the snow will melt, but it will actually act as a sponge,” said Poloncarz, according to CNN. “So the water that is falling will go into the snow pack and will actually act as a sponge until it finally starts releasing it.”

Making matters worse, the National Weather Services warned early Friday that bouts of rainfall along with the arrival of warmer air could cause flooding over the weekend.

“Much warmer air will arrive over the weekend and into early next week along with rain showers at times … Potentially bringing a flood risk to areas which were buried by lake effect snow,” read a statement released by the agency.

Forecasts aside, authorities made steady progress and began clearing roads as snow continued to fall throughout Thursday. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown boasted on his Facebook page that city workers had removed more than 24,000 tons of snow from the city’s south side as of Thursday evening. However, the mayor warned residents that pedestrian travel was still prohibited in South Buffalo.

During a press conference earlier in the day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said state employees had cleared large swaths of highway clogged with several feet of snow but urged New Yorkers to refrain from driving in affected areas.

“Phase two of the storm is on its way and safety continues to be our top priority,” said the governor. “As snow removal efforts continue, we urge people to stay inside and off the roads so that we can get people back to their everyday routines as quickly as possible.”

After weathering three days of record snowfalls, homebound Buffalo residents also coped with back-to-back announcements that neither of the city’s beloved sports franchises would be able to host scheduled home games this weekend.

The NHL announced that Friday’s game between the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers had been postponed indefinitely. Then the NFL said that the Bills home game against the New York Jets on Sunday will now take place more than 200 miles west in Detroit on Monday night.

TIME Ukraine

Report: U.S. Will Boost Nonlethal Aid to Ukraine

Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk arrive for their meeting in Kiev, Ukraine, 21 Nov. 21,2014.
Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk arrive for their meeting in Kiev, Ukraine, 21 Nov. 21,2014. Sergey Dolzhenko—EPA

Vice President Joe Biden said to be discussing aid during his visit

The Obama Administration is ready to increase its delivery of nonlethal aid to the Ukrainian government, but will refrain from furnishing Kiev with weapons to use in its fight against pro-Russian forces in the country’s southeast, according to a new report.

Reuters, citing unnamed U.S. officials, reports that Vice President Joe Biden will discuss the aid with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s administration during his trip to Kiev, where he landed Thursday.

The new nonlethal aid is said to include surplus supplies from the Pentagon’s inventory, including Humvees and radar systems.

Biden’s arrival in the Ukrainian capital coincides with the release of a new U.N. report claiming that at least 1,000 people have been killed in the country since the government and separatists signed a cease-fire deal in September.

Read more at Reuters.

TIME weather

Buffalo Braces for More Snow as Winter Storm Inundates Western New York

“It’s going to get worse in some ways before it gets better”

National weather forecasters are predicting that yet another one to three feet of snow will likely fall over western New York state during the next 48 hours after a mammoth winter storm earlier this week.

The forecasts come as the National Weather Service warned late Wednesday that existing snow loads on buildings in affected areas may be reaching their “critical levels and result in structural failure.”

The unwelcome news surfaced after large swaths of Erie Country were blanketed with more than five feet of snow, leading to driving bans and the closure of 140 miles of New York’s major transport artery Interstate 90.

In Buffalo, officials scrambled to respond to the crisis. During a press conference on Wednesday, Mayor Bryon Brown said municipal authorities successfully removed 5,000 tons of snow from the city’s south side but insisted that residents continue to adhere to a newly instituted driving ban. At least seven people have been killed in the area as result of the storm.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that harder times lay ahead as state officials worked desperately to clear roads and respond to emergencies caused by the storm.

“It’s going to get worse in some ways before it gets better.” Cuomo told reporters. “This is a very difficult situation to deal with.”

Read next: This Insane Time-Lapse Video Shows Snow Blanketing Buffalo

 

TIME Crime

At Least 3 Wounded in Shooting at Florida State University

Florida State Shooting
Students call their friends still locked down in Strozier Library after a shooting at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla., on Nov. 20, 2014 Steven Cannon—AP

The campus was put on lockdown as police conducted a sweep

Correction appended, Nov. 20

An unidentified gunman was shot and killed by police after opening fire at Florida State University’s Strozier Library just after midnight Thursday in an attack that left at least three people wounded.

“We are reaching out to campus administrators to ensure anyone who witnessed this is able to get counseling,” a police spokesman told reporters. “We don’t have any other concerns about other shooters or any other threats to the campus.”

Officials sent out emergency-alert text messages warning students of a “dangerous situation” and calling on them to “seek shelter.” As the situation unfolded, social media was rife with images and videos of students taking cover on the university’s campus as police warned over a loud speaker that there had been a shooting at the library.

At least two individuals were being treated at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare hospital for gunshot wounds, according to ABC news.

An official at Florida State University Police Department declined to comment on the incident when contacted by TIME but said a statement would be released soon.

“This is always stuff you hear about happening at other schools like there are other crazed gunman at colleges but not at Florida State,” student Blair Stokes, who was in the library during the incident, told CNN. “I think this is another issue about gun control and about how we can be doing more in America.”

— With reporting by Turner Cowles

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the number of people treated at a local hospital for gunshot wounds. It was two people.

TIME Ukraine

Russia Wants a ’100% Guarantee’ That Ukraine Won’t Join NATO

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with members of the All-Russia Popular Front in Moscow on Nov. 18, 2014 Alexei Druzhinin—AP

Comment's come as NATO's secretary-general accuses Kremlin of "destabilizing" Ukraine

A top adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that the Kremlin wants “a 100% guarantee” that Ukraine will be prevented from joining NATO.

Dmitri Peskov told the BBC that NATO’s eastward expansion continued to make Russia “nervous.” His comments echoed similar tough talk coming from President Putin, who promised a crowd attending a forum in Moscow on Tuesday that Russia would never be subdued by Washington.

“Throughout history no one has ever managed to do so toward Russia — and no one ever will,” RT quoted Putin as saying.

Putin’s remarks came as NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg accused the Russian leadership of “destabilizing” Ukraine and breaking a two-month-old truce by continuing to support separatist forces fighting in the country’s southeast.

“We see the movement of troops, of equipment, of tanks, of artillery, of advance air-defense systems, and this is in violation of the cease-fire agreements,” said Stoltenberg, after arriving at the European Union headquarters in Brussels. “We call on Russia to pull back its forces from eastern Ukraine and to respect the Minsk Agreements.”

The alliance, along with independent monitors, has issued numerous reports during the past two weeks claiming that the Russian military is moving armored columns across the border into Ukraine, where rebel militias have been shelling strategic locations in the war-torn Donbass region on a daily basis.

In Moscow on Tuesday, Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned during a press conference that there was no end in sight to the conflict in Ukraine unless all parties to the Minsk accord stuck to the cease-fire.

“There are no grounds for optimism in the current situation,” Steinmeier told reporters, according to Agence France-Presse.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel struck an even harsher tone — labeling Russia’s incursions into Ukraine as “dangerous and irresponsible.”

“The violations of sovereignty and international law that the Russians have perpetuated continue to require responses,” said Hagel, adding that the U.S. has begun working with NATO “in shifting our entire rotational rapid deployment focus.”

But as politicians verbally spar over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the humanitarian disaster inside the country continues unabated. Last week, the U.N.’s refugee agency, UNHCR, warned that Europe was facing its largest displacement crisis in more than two decades as winter arrives.

“By October, UNHCR estimated that more than 800,000 people have been displaced, representing the largest displacement of people in Europe since the Balkan wars,” read a statement released by the U.N. “It is the latest refugee crisis in a year that has seen several, and is stretching resources thin.”

Read next: Putin’s Loss of German Trust Seals the West’s Isolation of Russia

TIME Libya

Report: ISIS Takes Control of a Libyan City

An armed motorcade belonging to members of Derna's Islamic Youth Council, consisting of former members of militias from the town of Derna, drive along a road in Derna, eastern Libya
An armed motorcade belonging to members of Derna's Islamic Youth Council, consisting of former members of militias from the town of Derna, drive along a road in Derna, eastern Libya on October 3, 2014. Reuters

Derna is just hours from Tobruk, where what's left of the central government is based

Militants loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) are now in control of a Libyan city of near the Egyptian border, according to a new report.

CNN, citing unnamed Libyan sources, reports that militants control Derna, a city only a few hours from Tobruk, where the remnants of Libya’s central government fled to after being forced out of the capital this summer. Approximately 300 of the 800-strong force in control of Derna are reportedly hard-line Libyan jihadists who fought with ISIS in Iraq an Syria.

The report is the latest sign of ISIS looking to expand its footprint across the Middle East despite U.S.-led air strikes against it in Iraq and Syria. Libya has been in turmoil since the fall of former strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011

Read more at CNN

Read next: Terrorism-Related Deaths Up 60% Last Year, Study Says

TIME Baseball

Marlins Sign Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton in the Largest Contract in U.S. Sports History

Miami Marlins v Milwaukee Brewers
Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins makes some contact at the plate during a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on September 11, 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Mike McGinnis — Getty Images

The 25-year-old slugger is set to make more than $300 million over 13 years

The Miami Marlins spared absolutely no expense this week to ensure that their star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton stayed with the franchise.

Late on Monday, the baseball club announced through their website that the team and Stanton had agreed on a new, record-setting 13-year contract worth $325 million — making the deal the largest in North American sports history, according to CBS Sports.

“This is a landmark day,” said Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, according to MLB.com. “I’m happy for the city. I’m happy for him. And I’m thrilled for baseball. We have a player who is committed to us, and we’ve committed to him for the life of his career.”

Miami’s all-out financial offensive to keep one of baseball’s best sluggers on their roster is likely designed to inject new momentum in the franchise’s fan base, after years of disappointment. The Marlins have failed to reach the playoffs since 2003 and recorded the lowest payroll in the league in 2014.

The team is scheduled to hold a formal press conference later this week in Miami to announce the finer details of their new contract with Stanton.

TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong Protesters Greet Court Officials With Indifference

Farcical scenes as bailiffs take down some barricades then retreat leaving other barriers untouched

Hong Kong officials began enforcing the first of several court injunctions and started removing barricades in part of the downtown Admiralty district on Tuesday morning, in the first attempt to clear the streets through judicial means since the Umbrella Revolution began almost two months ago.

But if the action was meant as a show of strength by the unpopular administration of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying against protesters who are demanding free elections, it was a failure and at times degenerated into farce.

The injunction had been obtained by the owners of an office building, CITIC Tower, against demonstrators who had erected barricades partially blocking vehicular access to the property, which looms over Tim Mei Avenue on the fringe of Hong Kong’s largest protest area.

However, bailiffs were only able to hastily remove a few barricades because the locations of those targeted for removal were only vaguely marked on maps relating to the injunction, allowing protesters to dispute the precise terms of the court order.

Nervous looking representatives of CITIC Tower were drowned out by a cocksure protester with a loudhailer as they attempted to negotiate. Nimble young students in hoodies and face masks were also able to seize metal barriers before white-gloved, middle-aged bailiffs could reach them. The students then carried the barriers off to reinforce barricades erected elsewhere.

Pro-democracy legislator Albert Ho, who has been giving legal advice to the protesters, said the fact that a private entity such as CITIC Tower had to resort to a civil action to clear the barricades showed the government’s weakness.

“The only explanation is that the administration has lost its confidence — because of a lack of authority and a lack of legitimacy — to enforce the law,” he said.

Earlier in the day, uniformed and plainclothes police remained on standby as bailiffs read out a court order to smirking students before dismantling the makeshift barricades. But none of the expected clashes materialized. Instead, most demonstrators lazed in the bright fall sunshine, while 18-year-old student leader Joshua Wong nonchalantly skateboarded up and down the road.

Around the corner on Harcourt Road, the main protest area, dubbed Umbrella Square, lay unmolested. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of tents, formed a sea of color. At the western extremity of the site a large yellow banner read “Welcome to the Hong Kong Commune.”

Thousands of protesters have occupied crucial roads in the Admiralty district — a city-center area of gleaming corporate towers and the central government offices — and two other major commercial areas since a campaign of civil disobedience first commenced on Sept. 28.

They are seeking full democracy for Hong Kong, with the right to freely nominate and vote for candidates for the city’s top job. At present, the territory’s sovereign power, China, will only permit direct elections if it vets the candidates.

However, seven weeks in, the movement appears to be losing part of the goodwill it once enjoyed among the city’s residents. Ongoing traffic delays are forcing some parents to leave home before dawn to get their children to school on time, while retailers in the protest zones have seen their takings plummet.

A new survey published by the Chinese University of Hong Kong this week claimed that approximately 67% of the city’s residents are now in favor of the demonstrators leaving the streets.

But the feeble enforcement action on Tuesday shows that it will be difficult to dislodge the protesters, who continue to enjoy high levels of morale.

“Students and activists will respect the judgment of the courts,” Joshua Wong told TIME. “But it’s unnecessary to clear the whole of Tim Mei Avenue.”

For now, the protest site remains virtually unchanged. But many believe that today was merely a dress rehearsal for what is to come.

“This morning is more or less intended to be a show for the public,” said legislator Ho. He said he thought that the government also wanted to show the more radical protesters encamped across Victoria Harbor in the Mong Kok area of Kowloon, that it was serious about enforcing the law.

Others believe that it is only a matter of time before the government takes a tougher approach. “We think they are waiting for the right time to do something,” said protester Alex, 22. “We just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

With reporting by Helen Regan / Hong Kong

TIME G20

Russian Incursions Into Ukraine Will Loom Large at the G-20 Summit

Putin looks back at Obama as they arrive with Xi Jinping at APEC Summit plenary session in Beijing
Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, looks back at U.S. President Barack Obama, left, as they arrive with Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit plenary session in Beijing on Nov. 11, 2014 Reuters

Talks about the global economy may well be overshadowed

Leaders from across the world are set to gather in Australia for the G-20 summit this weekend to discuss the health of the global economy; however, tensions between the White House and the Kremlin over Russian incursions into southeastern Ukraine are casting a long shadow over the forum.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told media that “the focus of this G-20 is growth and jobs,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported. However, White House officials say they’re ready to press the Ukraine issue with European leaders once President Barack Obama arrives in Brisbane.

“At the G-20, I imagine the President will have a chance to see his European counterparts — Chancellor [Angela] Merkel and others — and be able to have discussions on the margins there about the situation in Ukraine,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Burma on Thursday.

During the past week, the Obama Administration has been particularly strident in its criticism of Russia’s fresh forays into Ukraine. At a U.N. Security Council session earlier this week, U.S. envoy Samantha Power accused Moscow of systematically undermining a two-month-old peace accord between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian rebels.

Power’s comments followed the publication of numerous reports from European monitors confirming the movement of unmarked, heavily armed columns in separatist-held territory this week, sparking fresh fears that Russia may be helping the rebels prepare for all out conflict with Kiev.

Experts say that Russian support for the separatists shows no sign of abating, even as falling oil prices and Western sanctions continue to pummel the country’s floundering economy.

“Putin’s aggression seems to just to keep on getting greater and greater,” says John Besemeres, a professor and adjunct fellow at the Australian National University’s Center for European Studies. “This is strange behavior from someone who wants to get sanctions lifted.”

But even as Washington and Moscow continue to trade barbs over Ukraine, Putin may be privy to a harsher welcome from the Australian public. The G-20 summit in Brisbane will mark the first time President Vladimir Putin has visited Australia since the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which killed nearly 300 people including 38 Australians.

Anger continues to simmer throughout the country over Russia’s alleged role in providing rebel forces with the sophisticated weapons system that shot down the jet, even though Moscow has denied having a hand in the downing of the flight.

In September, Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten issued several calls to ban Putin from attending the summit. Online petitions have also echoed the demand. Last month, Prime Minister Abbott threatened to “shirt-front” Putin when he saw the Russian leader at the G-20, using a term from the Australian football code that refers to the illegal making of a head-on charge to bring an opponent to the ground.

“There is public anger about that issue. That public anger hasn’t entirely gone away,” Rory Medcalf, security-program director at Australian think tank the Lowy Institute, tells TIME.

During a question-and-answer session with reporters in Canberra, Abbott called on Moscow “to come clean and to atone” for its alleged role in the downing of MH17. Keeping the agenda focused on jobs and not on Russia is going to be a tough call.

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