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Thousands flee wildfires near Halifax : In The News for May 29

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of May 29 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
A helicopter carrying water flies over heavy smoke from an out-of-control fire in a suburban community outside of Halifax that spread quickly, engulfing multiple homes and forcing the evacuation of local residents on Sunday May 28, 2023.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of May 29 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

The Halifax Regional Municipality has opened an evacuation centre to accommodate thousands of residents fleeing wildfires near suburban communities northwest of Halifax.

The evacuation centre at the Canada Games Centre, located at 26 Thomas Raddall Drive, was opened to support impacted residents -- especially residents without family supports or insurance.

A rapidly spreading wildfire, fed by strong winds and tinder-dry woods, has damaged or destroyed dozens of homes in the region.

Amid thick plumes of smoke, residents fled from the Tantallon area Sunday afternoon after the RCMP issued an emergency alert about rapidly advancing "structure and forest fires." Over the next six hours, another three alerts called for more evacuations as the fire grew.

The evacuation orders apply to an area that appears to stretch over 75 square kilometres, most of which is about a 30-minute drive northwest of downtown Halifax.

Firefighters withdrew from the woods for their own safety through the overnight hours, but are expected to continue dousing flames inside the subdivisions.


Also this ...

It’s election day in Alberta in what polls suggest could be a nail-biter finish between the province's two dominant parties.

Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party is fighting to win a second consecutive majority government, while Rachel Notley’s NDP is trying to regain the government it lost to the UCP in 2019.

Both leaders have been premier and leaders of the official Opposition.

To win, the NDP would have to continue its dominance in Edmonton, flip the majority in Calgary and hope for some help in smaller cities, while defeating scores of UCP incumbents including cabinet ministers.

The NDP needs to swing 20 seats in the 87-seat legislature.

Polls suggest the UCP should continue its near total domination in rural areas and smaller centres, giving it a cushion of up to 40 or so seats to reach the threshold of 44 needed to form a majority government.


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

If rising oceans aren't worry enough, add this to the risks New York City faces: The metropolis is slowly sinking under the weight of its skyscrapers, homes, asphalt and humanity itself.

New research estimates the city's landmass is sinking at an average rate of 1 to 2 millimeters per year, something referred to as ``subsidence.''

That natural process happens everywhere as ground is compressed, but the study published this month in the journal Earth's Future sought to estimate how the massive weight of the city itself is hurrying things along.

More than 1 million buildings are spread across the city's five boroughs. The research team calculated that all those structures add up to about 1.7 trillion tons (1.5 trillion metric tons) of concrete, metal and glass _ about the mass of 4,700 Empire State buildings _ pressing down on the Earth.

The rate of compression varies throughout the city. Midtown Manhattan's skyscrapers are largely built on rock, which compresses very little, while some parts of Brooklyn, Queens and downtown Manhattan are on looser soil and sinking faster, the study revealed.

While the process is slow, lead researcher Tom Parsons of the U.S. Geological Survey said parts of the city will eventually be under water.


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

A United Nations committee is meeting Monday in Paris to work on what is intended to be a landmark treaty to bring an end to global plastic pollution, but there is little agreement yet on what the outcome should be.

The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for Plastics is charged with developing the first international, legally binding treaty on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.

This is the second of five meetings due to take place to complete the negotiations by the end of 2024.

At the first meeting, held six months ago in Uruguay, some countries pressed for global mandates, some for national solutions and others for both.

Humanity produces more than 430 million tons of plastic annually, two-thirds of which are short-lived products that soon become waste, filling the ocean and, often, working their way into the human food chain, the United Nations Environment Program said in April. Plastic waste produced globally is set to almost triple by 2060, with about half ending up in landfill and under a fifth recycled, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Because it's a short timeline for treaty negotiations, experts say it's critical decisions are made about the objectives at this meeting.

The treaty could focus on human health and the environment, as desired by the self-named ``high ambition coalition'' of countries, led by Norway and Rwanda, with limits on plastic production and restrictions on some of the chemicals used in plastics, for example.

The coalition is committed to an international, legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution by 2040. It says that this is necessary to protect human health and the environment while helping to restore biodiversity and curb climate change.


On this day in 1914 ...

More than 1,000 people died when the Canadian Pacific liner ``Empress of Ireland'' collided with a Norwegian freighter in dense fog and sank in the St. Lawrence River near Rimouski, Que. The accident occurred in the early morning hours when most aboard were sleeping and the liner sank in just 14 minutes. Eight-hundred and forty passengers were among those killed, eight more than had died in the sinking of the Titanic. But the tragedy never achieved the fame of the earlier disaster, in part because attention was soon diverted to the outbreak of the First World War.


In entertainment ...

The critically acclaimed HBO drama ``Succession'' has ended after its fourth and final season finale aired at 9 p.m. ET. The show's dedicated fans watched the whopping 88-minute finale Sunday to find out how the show's central question would be answered: Which of the Murdoch-esque Roy family siblings will prevail? The fans have also turned online to find emotional support, memes and endless theories about the series. Show creator Jesse Armstrong told The New Yorker earlier this year that ``there's a promise in the title of `Succession.'''


Did you see this?

As temperatures rise in the North, scientists say it's affecting how Arctic ground squirrels hibernate _ and it could have serious consequences for the species.

The furry critters survive the harsh Arctic winters by burrowing underground and hibernating for eight months before emerging in the spring ready to eat and breed. As the males go through seasonal puberty every year, they normally wake up about a month earlier so they are ready to mate when the female Arctic ground squirrels resurface.

But in a new study published in Science, researchers found that over the past 25 years, female squirrels have been ending hibernation about 10 days earlier in response to earlier spring thaw while the males have not.

``If this continues, females are going to be ready to mate with males before males are physiologically able to mate with females,'' said senior author Cory Williams, assistant professor in the department of biology at Colorado State University, who has been studying Arctic ground squirrels for more than 15 years.

Researchers said that could mean fewer ``date nights,'' which could affect reproduction.

Williams said because male squirrels end hibernation early, they are less responsive to environmental cues than females. He said so far, the changes among female hibernation patterns haven't affected squirrel populations and, in the future, males could adapt to stay in phase with females.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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