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tv   BBC News  BBC News  December 31, 2021 4:00am-4:31am GMT

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this is bbc news. i'm simon pusey. our top stories: a force of nature: wildfires rip through parts of colorado, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing thousands to flee. we know that there are structures, both homes and businesses, that have been burned and lost. i'm speaking about hundreds of structures. this is the scene live in boulder county. it has been described as the most destructive wildfire in the modern history of colorado. diplomacy or deterrence: president biden�*s phone call to president putin, laying out the us position over ukraine. south africa says it has passed the peak of the omicron—driven covid wave. 3, 2, 1...happy new year! and last—minute checks
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and tests as the countdown to new year celebrations begins. welcome to our viewers on pbs in america and around the globe. wildfires in the american state of colorado have destroyed hundreds of homes and prompted the evacuation of 30,000 people in two towns north of denver. the national weather service described it as a life—threatening situation and ordered the residents of louisville and superior to leave. here's the sheriff of boulder county, joe pelle, at an earlier news conference. it has been a harrowing day in boulder county with two significant fires fuelled by dry conditions and very high winds. we currently have thousands of individuals in the south part of our county and in the areas of
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superior and louisville who have been evacuated. we know that there are structures, both homes and businesses, that have been burned and lost. i'm speaking about hundreds of structures. we know that people are anxiously waiting for word about the conditions of their homes and their neighbourhoods, and want to assure you that our fire personnel are working as hard as they can to save additional structures as we speak, and when it is safe to do so, we'll start the emotional and painful process of assessing damages. christina sanjuan is a meteorologist in colorado. she told me more about the situation on the ground. the latest update from officials have told us that they believe this fire was actually caused by a downed powerline. however, we have very strong wind gusts right now and the wind actually got up to about 110mph earlier this afternoon and it doesn't look to let up, really as we head into the overnight hours. would you say this is a kind of perfect storm —
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you've got these very strong winds and also, very high temperatures — would you describe it as that? all the right components are there for ourfire danger to be so extreme. we are in an extreme drought in this part of the state here because we haven't gotten much moisture, and so you add that with incredibly strong winds, like what we're seeing out there right now, and itjust makes an already bad situation worse, in terms of the fire crews trying to get a handle on the fire. how are local people coping, christina, and have the authorities done enough to help? it's very devastating, the videos that we're seeing coming out. people that potentially could go home to not even have a house in the first place. we do have lots of resources. i know that our governor had issued a state of emergency, so that's going to allow more folks to come and help. so they are responding appropriately and doing the best and everything they can. 30,000 people evacuated. that is a massive number.
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do you think we're likely to see that number rise? hopefully not. i have full faith that the firefighters will at least get some sort of containment on this so that it doesn't actually reach out into other parts of the state here. and also the good news, if there is any in this situation, would be that we're going to have some snow coming in tomorrow afternoon, so that should at least assist the fire crews. i guess it is all really dependent on those weather conditions and exactly what happens in terms of whether this fire is brought under control, because it sounds like it's so big that it is going to be hard for fire services to really control it on their own? absolutely, and it also limits what we can put into the air in terms of doing water drops onto the fire because it's too windy to send anybody up in an air plane or a helicopter. so they're just doing the best that they can on the ground. would you say there are any preventative measures that could be taken in the future or is this just one of those things?
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it's kind ofjust one of those things. now, we warned people. we knew that we were going to have very strong wind, we knew that the fire danger would be incredibly high, but something as a powerline coming down and then that kickstarting the fire kind of is just one of those things that you wouldn't be able to prevent. christina sa njuan speaking there. us presidentjoe biden has again told russia's president, vladimir putin, that the us and its allies will "respond decisively" if russia further invades ukraine. this during the second call between the two leaders in less than a month amid concerns over russian troops massing at the ukrainian border. a kremlin spokesperson said that putin had made it clear that any new large scale sanctions would be a "colossal mistake. " louisa pilbeam reports. it was the us president who made the telephone call to vladimir putin at the russian�*s request. a call between two of the world's most powerful men that lasted 50 minutes. the white house released
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a statement following the call. a senior white house official described the tone of the conversation as serious and substantive, but said the russian president had given no indication of what he will do regarding ukraine. they also said both leaders have expressed their support for diplomacy. this military activity is what sparked the telephone call. russia insists around 100,000 of its tents and troops massed on the ukraine border are militarily drills and denies planning an invasion. putin is demanding assurances from the west that ukraine will not be allowed to join the military alliance of nato�*s 30 countries, which he sees as a threat to russia.
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the talks are the second in recent weeks in a bid to de—escalate tensions. earlier this month, the presidents spoke via video link, but president biden told the russian leader there would be severe economic consequences if they invade, but ruled out us military action. under the christmas lights in ukraine's capital, kyiv, the country's people are in the glare of a noble diplomatic crisis between two powers that many still believe could lead to an invasion of their country. louisa pilbeam, bbc news. let's get some of the day's other news. the bodies of 15 people killed when a trailer carrying migrants overturned in mexico were returned to guatemala on thursday. in all, 56 people were killed in the crash in chiapas state earlier this month. of the 37 guatemalan nationals identified among the victims, the remains of only 19 have so far been returned. dozens of migrants have died
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from violence or accidents in mexico over the past decade. a stranded boat carrying around 120 rohingya refugees from myanmar has arrived in indonesia after it was towed by the country's navy. authorities initially refused to help the boat, but local fishermen organised protests supporting the refugees. they also ferried food and water to those on board. the arduous reconstruction process is under way on the spanish island of la palma. excavators are digging their way through the solidified lava flows while engineers are working to ensure conditions are safe. the eruption of the volcano was declared over on christmas day after three long months of spewing ash and molten rock over the island. more than 3,000 buildings were destroyed, along with hundreds of acres of farmland, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes. israeli officials have approved a fourth coronavirus vaccination. the health ministry says a second booster shot will benefit people with weakened immune systems who are more vulnerable
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to the 0micron variant. on thursday, the country reported the highest number of cases since september. to south africa now, the first country to identify cases of the 0micron variant of coronavirus last month. well, authorities there say all indicators suggest it has passed the peak of the fourth wave of infections. the government is lifting with immediate effect the curfew it imposed to combat the new variant. it's also easing other restrictions. the authorities said there had been an almost 30% drop in the number of new cases during the week ending on december 25. i asked dr mati hlatshwayo davis, director of health for the city of st louis, if it is too soon to say the fourth wave is in decline. it is too soon, but honestly, it is a credit to south africa who have been exemplary from the start. besides having some of the best scientific experts
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at their disposal, obviously being the ones who we can credit with even making us aware of this virus, with superior genomic sequencing, they have been doing this right. i travelled there within the last three months and i'll tell you something — mitigation strategy is way ahead of anything i'm seeing here. so, i think it's a combination of a demographic that's much younger and a commitment to excellent public health strategy. do you think south africa are really setting an example for countries around the world? because obviously each country is different and each province within each country is different, but as you say, they take lockdown seriously there. absolutely, and they have from the start. i mean, this is a country that, when the numbers are not favourable, will lock down, will even limit alcohol consumption to decrease social gatherings and businesses. when i was there, there was no shop i could walk into that i was not asked to use hand sanitiser or be fully masked.
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it has been exemplary, you know, and i think that is the lesson to the world who are a few weeks behind south africa in this course with 0micron. you can get there, but you have to do what it takes and, unfortunately, we're not seeing that everywhere. do you think it might be slightly too soon to start easing restrictions as south africa is doing with curfews? 0h, absolutely not, not here in the us. we are seeing sky—high numbers. we have broken records for case positivity rates in case counts in st louis. 0ur hospitals are at capacity. we don't have healthcare workers available to fully staff them because of those numbers. but more shocking to me as a public health expert, is we don't have the resources we need to really do what we need to do to get this under control. testing is limited. antigen tests are not available as they are in the uk and other places. new cdc guidelines came out this week
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for which we are seeing still waiting for data to really review the recommendation for many of the isolation and quarantine to be slashed to five days. this is not reassuring for me, and so we need to see the same commitment that south africa has shown from the federal government across states. but the unique political system here, where states have autonomy and, therefore, there isn't standardisation, is problematic. i have a city that uniquely can implement a mask mandate — that is not the case for the counties directly surrounding me. it is absolutely unacceptable to be at this place almost two years in. here in the uk, there are still problems with accessing covid—i9 tests. the government has promised that millions more will be made available on new year's eve as infections break new record highs by the day. eight special hubs are being set up at hospitals across england in preparation for a surge in 0micron admissions. 0ur health correspondent sophie hutchinson reports. the start of building work on the next wave of nightingale hubs. this one is at st george's
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hospital in south—west london. the government says it's a contingency measure in case of a surge in covid patients, but there's concern about who will staff them. we would prefer that the government take steps to avoid needing to use that extra surge capacity, purely because there just aren't the number of staff needed to safely provide the care for any patients that are requiring care, and that's with the priority needs to be, to ensure that we've got staff to safely care for people that need care. eight nightingale units will be set up in hospital grounds to care for around 100 covid patients each. and hospital admissions are now rising sharply in the uk, almost doubling in england in the past week. and that follows several weeks of soaring infections reaching record highs, but many people are still finding it hard to get tested.
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well, we thought we'd come to the local pharmacy to see if they have any lateral flow test, but you don't need to go in to see that they are out of stock. so let's try this one. staff suggested we go down the road to another pharmacy. well, i got lucky. the pharmacist here does have a box of tests. he says, in fact, he gets a delivery every day, but as soon as people find out that he's got them, they can run out in half an hour just because of the sheer size of the demand for them. eve burke, a teacher in burcher, has covid along with her husband and two children. she's hoping to get back to work next tuesday, but can't find any lateral flow tests. i've been trying since yesterday, going onto the government website and refreshing hourly to get lfts sent to our home, because we can't go to a place to pick them up, and i've been messaging friends, asking if anybody has any spare that they can drop off, but the issue is everybody is in the same position
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and if they do have some lfts at home, they're holding onto them themselves. so, we're now down our final box of lateral flow tests. the government says 8 million lateral flow tests will be available by tomorrow, but mark burdon, who runs six pharmacies in north—east england, hasn't seen any extra supply. i tried ordering an additional supply this afternoon and that order was rejected. so, unfortunately, we're going to have to start to turn people away once the current supplies are exhausted. it's very frustrating when you've got people in front of you and you're unable to have them the tests that they're asking for. and lateral flow tests become even more important from tomorrow in northern ireland and wales. as in england, people with covid will be able to end self—isolation earlier after seven days rather than ten, if they can get the tests
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and get two negative results. sophie hutchinson, bbc news. stay with us on bbc news. still to come: the james webb space telescope begins to unfold its sun shield in a complex process involving hundreds of moving parts. the most ambitious financial and political change ever attempted has got under way with the introduction of the euro. tomorrow in holland, we're going to use money we picked up in belgium today. and then we'll be in france and, again, it will be the same money. it's just got to be the way to go. george harrison, the former beatle, is recovering in hospital after being stabbed at his 0xfordshire home. a 33—year—old man from liverpool is being interviewed by police on suspicion
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of attempted murder. i think it was good. just good? no, fantastic! that's better! big ben bongs this is bbc world news. the latest headlines: more than 500 homes have been destroyed and thousands of people evacuated as wildfires spread through colorado. a woman who gave key evidence in the trial of ghislaine maxwell has spoken publicly today, saying she hopes the guilty verdict will bring some solace to other survivors. annie farmer, the only witness to use her real name during testimony, said the case demonstrated that no one was above the law. maxwell was found guilty yesterday, by a jury in new york,
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of grooming underage girls to be abused by her friend jeffrey epstein. her lawyers say they will appeal against the verdict. this report by our correspondent aleem maqbool contains some flashing images. good morning, america. guilty. good morning. guilty - — a long—awaited verdict... the downfall of the british formersocialite, now a convicted sex trafficker, has been headline news here and one of the four women brave enough to testify to put her behind bars, who was abused as a teenager, has been giving her reaction. i wasn't sure that this day would ever come and ijust feel so grateful that the jury believed us and sent a strong message that perpetrators of sexual abuse and exploitation will be held accountable, no matter how much power and privilege that they have. mr maxwell, can we have a statement on behalf of the family, please? there's been no sense of contrition as yet from the siblings of ghislaine maxwell, or regrets for the victims she played a part in sexually abusing.
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they released a statement, saying "we believe firmly in our sister's innocence. "we're very disappointed with the verdict." one of maxwell's lawyers, who questioned the motives of the women who came forward to testify, said this wasn't the end. obviously, we are very disappointed with the verdict. we have already started working on the appeal and we are confident that she will be vindicated. but legal experts appear to agree ghislaine maxwell's chances of clearing the high legal bar to win an appealare slim. her crimes were carried out during her long association with the disgraced financier jeffrey epstein, who died in prison, but they mingled with the rich and influential, including — famously — prince andrew. their powerful connections left many of their accusers wondering if they'd ever be held accountable. it's been such a long, hard journey to get here, so yesterday's decision, i think, will take a little while to sink in. i'm pleased that she will never — she will never be able again,
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ever, to hurt anybody else and, for that, i feel very pleased. all the while she'd been living her lavish lifestyle, she'd been hiding dark secrets. but finally, that's all caught up with ghislaine maxwell. aleem maqbool, bbc news, in new york. and a short time ago, aleem gave us this update from new york. well, you heard there from just two of the people who accused jeffrey epstein and ghislaine maxwell, one of whom, of course, testified in court, about their relief and how they hope that it would mean that others came forward who were victims of sexual abuse more broadly. and that's what we've been hearing across us, from lawyers, from advocates of those who have suffered sexual abuse, that in a country where it is notoriously difficult to get a conviction sometimes for
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sexual abuse, that they do hope, because this was such a high—profile case they did ending convictions, that it would help others to come forward. aleem maqbool there. the james webb space telescope, launched on christmas day, is starting to unfold its sun shield in a complex process involving hundreds of moving parts. all of them have to trigger at the right time and in the right order for the telescope to work. 0ur science editor rebecca morelle has the story. mission control: and lift-off! the moment of launch for an astronomy mission like no other as the james webb space telescope blasted off. then the rocket casing opened up and the telescope was released into the darkness of space with a million—mile journey ahead. but as it travels, it has a fiendishly difficult task to do — unfolding. it's so big, we didn't have any rocket that's big enough to launch it, you know, fully deployed, so we had to build this telescope to be folded up, to fit
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inside the rocket. this is really, really difficult engineering but, you know, nasa has never shied away from doing hard things and so, i have full confidence that it's going to work. unfurling the sun shield is the most difficult part of this process. it's enormous — the size of a tennis court. first, its two halves are lowered into position, then the booms are deployed. the operation involves 400 pulleys, 400 metres of cabling and more than 100 release mechanisms that have to fire at exactly the right time. finally, the material is pulled taut and the five layers of the sun shield, each as thin as a human hair, separate. the whole process has been rehearsed again and again on earth, but doing this in space will be nail—biting. it's made of floppy material and it has to be held onto by a series of pins which release, one by one, pull it out, make it tight, release another bit,
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pull it out again, until slowly, over days, you pull out this tennis court—sized object. so, for many people working on the project, that's where the real nerves are. the sun shield protects the telescope from the heat and light of the sun. the difference between the hot and cold sides is huge — 300 degrees celsius. the telescope needs to operate in the coldest and darkest conditions to see the most distant stars. for the first time, we'll be able to see all the way back to the time when these very first galaxies formed and that will allow us to actually get images of them, verify that they are the very first galaxies, and then we can study how galaxies have evolved over the history of the universe. the images that eventually come back from james webb will be even more spectacular than these, taken by hubble, but there's still work to do. the sun shield will take several days to open, and that's just the start of this complex unfolding process. with so much at stake, it's a tense time for the team. rebecca morelle, bbc news.
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it may be a scaled—back welcome to 2022, thanks once again to the pandemic, but it simply wouldn't be new year's eve without some age—old traditions. but even the most familiar ways to welcome in the new year need a bit of practice, as tanya dendrinos reports. anticipation for the year ahead. traditional rituals were performed by peruvian shamans in lima as they made their predictions for 2022. from local politics to geopolitics, there was plenty being visualised — including, of course, football. translation: the peruvian national team, we can see i that they are going to the world cup. albeit another year of more subdued celebrations, the global welcoming committee is ready. holidaymakers were lining the shore of copacabana beach in brazil, while in new york, the iconic times square ball
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drop was tested. those 60 seconds, when the entire world is watching that ball behind me, we're all counting down together in unison, filled with joy — it's truly this thunderstruck moment where the world comes together in joy to count down the new year. nothing like it. across the atlantic, a beloved sound returned. big ben bongs. there will be no fireworks display for the second consecutive year in london but, after four years under wraps, big ben will be ringing in the new year. as for those making a wish... translation: less covid in the air. - everything is just covid. orchestra plays no doubt a common thread the world over, now rehearsed and ready. tanya dendrinos, bbc news. that is just about every move. more news on our website. you
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can also reach me on twitter. for now, thanks for watching. do stay tuned to bbc news. hello. the unusually mild weather is set to stick with us as we see out the end of 2021. we had temperatures up to 16 degrees on thursday — about eight degrees above average — and for the next few days, it stays exceptionally mild and quite blustery, too. the winds coming in from the south or the south—west and drawing in the air right from the subtropics, from the canary isles right up towards the uk and actually across much of central europe as well. so, to start off your friday morning first thing on new year's eve, we've got temperatures already well in double figures — some places not falling below about 13 degrees. now, through the day, then — new year's eve this is — we're looking for a bit of rain around. it's going to clear out of northern ireland into parts of central and southern scotland, also rain clearing away from the east coast. and actually, much of england, wales and northern ireland should see a bit more sunshine
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than we've seen over recent days, so a drier, brighter feel. temperatures up to about 15, 16, possibly 17 celsius. just a little bit cooler across the northern half of scotland but there should be some sunshine here. now, we could well break some records. the warmest ever new year's eve was back ten years ago in 2011 — colwyn bay got to 111.8 celsius — so we are set to see temperatures probably a degree or so higher than that. heading through new year's eve night now. if you've got plans, it's looking mostly dry, still very, very mild. could be some patchy rain across some northern and western areas as we see in the new year 2022 but new year's day once again looking very, very mild. we've got this very narrow band of showery rain which is going to cross its way slowly eastwards, followed by sunshine and showers for many areas. showers mainly towards the north—west, so quite a bit of dry weather for new year's day on saturday and again, you've guessed it, exceptionally mild — 13—16 celsius for most of us on new year's day. then that very mild air that's been with us starts to gradually ease away towards the near continent. we've still got mild air with us certainly from a south—westerly direction, but temperatures probably starting to come down just a notch as we head through sunday and into
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the first week of 2022. so, sunday really is going to be a day of some sunshine but also plenty of showers. you can see a rash of showers across the uk and temperatures somewhere between about 10—13 degrees — still above average but not the exceptionally mild weather of the next couple of days. looking ahead into next week, then, fairly unsettled, not quite as mild as it has been lately. bye for now.
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this is bbc news.
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the headlines: wildfires in the american state of colorado have destroyed hundreds of homes and prompted the evacuation of 30,000 people in two towns north of denver. the national weather service has described it as a life—threatening situation and ordered the residents of louisville and superior to leave. president biden has spoken on the phone with vladimir putin, urging the russian president to de—escalate tensions over the ukrainian crisis, but making it clear the us would respond decisively if russian troops cross ukraine's border. president putin says any new sanctions against russia would be a colossal mistake. south africa, where the 0micron variant was first detected, says the latest wave of cases may have peaked. the authorities say there was an almost 30% drop in new cases. the 0micron variant, while highly transmissible, had seen lower hospitalisation rates than previous waves.
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now on bbc news, hardtalk.

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