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South Africa maintains it will conduct military drills with Russia and China



South Africa military drills with Russia and China

Pretoria, South Africa- International relations and Co-operation Minister, Naledi Pandor, has said the country will go ahead in hosting military drills with Russia and China from the 17th to the 27th of February, 2023, in the Indian ocean in the KwaZulu-Natal province.

Pandor made the remarks during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was in South Africa on Monday.

All over the world countries conduct military exercises, there should be no compulsion for any country that it can’t conduct them with any of its partners and it’s part of natural cause of relations and we need to explain this to the public,” said the Minister.

In addition, Pandor said South Africa will always advocate for a diplomatic solution in the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

South Africa’s desire is that there should be a diplomatic solution and negotiations should be something we all work towards particularly in the context of the United Nations as the premium institution. We hold on to it and as to who mediates the international community should look into and as South Africa we want peace,” said Pandor.

Moreso, Lavrov said the military exercise is transparent and has been done before by other countries adding that Russia is also in favour of a peaceful settlement with Ukraine.

Our exercises are transparent. We together with our partners have provided information and it’s available, of course there will be mixed reactions and there are those who are always trying to monopolize the international relations and it’s well known that we supported the negotiations early during the special military operation, two delegations agreed on principles. It is well known,” said Lavrov.

However, Ukrainians in South Africa held a small protest against the visit, with some waving signs reading “Go home Lavrov” and “Stop the lies! Stop the war.”



Residents of Williams Lake, B.C., get front-row view of battle to save their town



WILLIAMS LAKE, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA – Residents of Williams Lake, B.C., got a front-row look at the wildfire fight to save their community, with water bombers swooping low and dropping red fire retardant, crews spraying structure fires from ladders and RCMP evacuating residents.

The BC Wildfire Service said fire crews were “mopping up” Monday after Sunday’s dramatic battle to save the B.C. Interior community.

The River Valley fire reached the western edge of the town, destroying some structures in an industrial area and prompting evacuations as the city declared a local state of emergency.

Resident Spencer Stratton said “well over 100 people” had gathered about a block away from the fire front to watch crews battle the flames.

“Everybody was panicked, (which was) understandable because the fire was less than a road across from us,” he said.

“It was one set of buildings away from us — that’s how close the fire was.”

The River Valley fire, which the BC Wildfire Service said had grown to 40 hectares in size by Monday, is one of more than 330 blazes burning in B.C., with clusters along B.C.’s boundary with Alberta as well as in the central Interior.

Fire activity has been surging across B.C. The Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness said there are about 440 properties on evacuation order and 3,000 under alert, calling the situation “dynamic and everchanging.”

Stratton said he watched as the River Valley fire crept into the outskirts of the town by around 6 p.m. Sunday, spreading to buildings and vehicles at local businesses.

Videos shared on social media showed smoke billowing from behind businesses on MacKenzie Avenue as fire spread behind a school bus depot. Stratton said the buses were unscathed.

WL Forestry Supplies said in a Facebook post that the MacKenzie Avenue store had been saved thanks to the efforts of fire crews.

“We got lucky. Lost some equipment out back, but nothing serious,” the post said, adding that power was out and the store was closed.

Cariboo-Chilcotin legislator Lorne Doerkson said in social media posts that the fire “burned into our community last night very quickly,” prompting an “incredible response” from the BC Wildfire Service as a well as the Williams Lake Fire Department and other first responders.

Doerkson, who said there had been “explosions” during the firefight Sunday on the outskirts of town, said the efforts of the fire crews “had a massive impact.”

“There are some small spot fires, but I will say that there are very many groundcrews and equipment fighting what is left of this fire,” he said in a Facebook post around midnight Sunday.

In another post Monday he said fire crews from as far as Barrière more than 200 kilometres away had been involved.

Stratton said he remained calm and slept “peacefully” Sunday night at his home about eight kilometres from the fire, knowing crews were working to contain the blaze.

He said he went to MacKenzie Avenue Monday and the fire “looked contained,” although firefighting continued.

The wildfire service said firefighting aircraft would be working Monday to “cool down hot spots.”

“I believe they have it under control,” Stratton said.

But other residents weren’t so certain. Stephanie Symons said Monday that she had been getting messages and calls from friends “wondering what to do and if it’s time to pack up and go.”

“The fire is still very much active and flaring back up so I can’t tell you much other than we are all stressed and it’s not over,” Symons said in a message. “We just got a severe thunderstorm warning on top of all this so we are nowhere near in the clear yet.”

Environment Canada issued the warning just before 11 a.m. Monday. The BC Wildfire Service noted in its situation report Monday that the province had seen more than 20,000 lightning strikes on Sunday. It had previously said fires are showing up in areas that have seen dry lightning strikes in recent days.

Rob Warnock, the director of the Williams Lake emergency operations centre, said residents had been told they can go home after the tactical evacuations conducted by Mounties on Sunday.

Warnocksaid in a video posted to the city’s website last night that those homes remain subject to an evacuation alert, meaning residents must be ready to leave again quickly.

The alert spans properties along Mackenzie Avenue, Country Club Boulevard, Fairview Drive, Woodland Drive, Westridge Drive and Tolko’s Lakeview Mill.

Warnock said the blaze was sparked when a tree fell on power lines in the river valley on the city’s west side at about 5:45 p.m. Sunday, though the BC Wildfire Service website said Monday that the official cause is still under investigation.

With the winds at the time, Warnock said the fire “made a big run” down the valley on Sunday.

Earlier in the day, the city had asked residents to conserve as much water as possible for fire crews taking on the blaze.

B.C. Premier David Eby said Monday the government was bringing in all the resources it can to help people threatened by wildfires in the province.

“It’s an incredibly stressful time for a lot of British Columbians. We’ve got hundreds of people on evacuation order. We’ve got thousands on notice that they may need to evacuate their homes. And this is unfortunately, the beginning of the fire season that we were concerned about,” Eby said during an unrelated news conference.

The number of B.C. “wildfires of note,” that pose a risk to people or property or are highly visible, increased from one to four as fire activity spiked over the weekend.

A couple hundred kilometres northeast of Williams Lake, the Cariboo Regional District declared a local state of emergency due to the Antler Creek fire, issuing evacuation orders for the District of Wells and the historic mining tourist town of Barkerville over the weekend.

The evacuation was expanded Monday to include the popular tourist destination of Bowron Lake Provincial Park. Not all of the park is under evacuation order, but most of the lakes are included along with the Mount Tisdale Ecological Reserve, an area of alpine parkland.

In the southern Interior, the nearly 200-square-kilometre Shetland Creek wildfire prompted the Thompson-Nicola Regional District to expand an evacuation order along the Thompson River between Ashcroft to the north and Spences bridge to the south.

The district said about nine properties have been added to the order that now covers a total of 97 addresses, while residents of another 213 properties have been told to be ready to leave on short notice.

The BC Wildfire Service said nearly 140 firefighters and 12 helicopters are currently assigned to the blaze. The regional district has confirmed that some structures in the Venables Valley area have been lost to the fire.

The other fires of note are the Aylwin Creek and nearby Komonko Creek fires, both in the province’s southeast.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay has ordered multiple evacuation orders for both fires.

The intense fire activity across B.C. has been associated with a hot spell that sent temperatures in the Interior past 40 C in recent days. Environment Canada has 28 heat alerts in place for Interior and eastern B.C., although alerts have been lifted in western regions.

Smoke from the wildfires has also resulted in special air quality statements being issued for almost the entire eastern side of B.C., from the Washington border to Fort Nelson in the province’s northeast corner.

The B.C. Ministry of Transportation’s DriveBC information system said that Highway 1 remained closed for 39 kilometres, north of Spence’s Bridge to Cache Creek, where the wildfire service said the Shetland Creek fire had been showing “highly vigorous” behaviour on its eastern flank Sunday.

— By Brieanna Charlebois in Vancouver. With files from Chuck Chiang and Darryl Greer.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2024.

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Ryan Reynolds Jokes About Taylor Swift’s Astronomical Babysitting Rates



Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively are a Hollywood power couple with four adorable children. But juggling busy careers and a growing family can be a challenge, even for A-listers. Enter their close friend, pop icon Taylor Swift, who, according to Reynolds, might be their go-to babysitter. However, her services come with a hefty price tag (at least according to Reynolds‘ playful exaggeration).

During a recent E! News interview promoting their upcoming movie “Deadpool & Wolverine,” Hugh Jackman playfully suggested that Swift was the real nanny for Reynolds and Lively’s four children. This lighthearted jab sparked a humorous response from Reynolds.

Known for his sharp wit, Reynolds responded to Jackman’s comment with a hilarious quip. He stated that the cost of having Taylor Swift babysit would be “cost-prohibitive,” implying that her rates would be astronomically high. He even playfully added, “But I think what he meant was, ‘Cost-insane-what-are-you-doing-I’m-no-longer-you’re-accountant.'”

Reynolds and Lively, who tied the knot in 2012, share four children: James (9), Inez (7), Betty (4), and a one-year-old whose name and gender remain private. The couple has maintained a close friendship with Swift over the years. This strong bond is evident in their recent attendance at a stop of her Eras Tour in Spain, along with their three eldest children.

Swift’s friendship with the Reynolds family extends beyond casual hangouts. During the concert in Spain, she gave a heartwarming shout-out to the couple’s daughters. While introducing her album “Folklore,” she mentioned the names James, Inez, and Betty, sending the audience into a frenzy. This sweet gesture further highlights the special bond between the singer and the Reynolds children.

This isn’t the first time Swift has incorporated the girls’ names into her music.  Her 2020 album “Folklore” features a song titled “Betty” that tells a story of a love triangle involving characters named James, Inez, and Betty. Additionally, her 2017 album “Reputation” included a voice recording of James on the song “Gorgeous.”

Whether Swift truly babysits for the Reynolds family or not remains a playful mystery. However, one thing is certain: the singer holds a special place in the hearts of the Reynolds children and their parents.

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Gaza protesters at University of Victoria clearing encampment after trespass notice



VICTORIA – The University of Victoria says pro-Palestinian protesters are dismantling an encampment after almost three months at the campus.

The school had issued a trespass notice over the weekend, saying administrators saw “no further prospect for a successful dialogue” with the protesters.

The university said in an email Monday that the encampment set up on May 1 was being taken apart by the protesters.

Protesters had said on social media that the school gave them a deadline of Monday morning to vacate, but they were planning a “trespass breakfast” at that time without detailing the next steps.

The protest group has not responded to requests for comment.

Another pro-Palestinian encampment was voluntarily vacated at the University of British Columbia on July 7, while Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo launched legal action against protesters there after issuing a trespass notice on July 11.

The B.C. camps have been among a number of such protest sites at universities in Canada and the United States.

The protesters against the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza have been demanding that universities cut financial and academic ties with Israeli firms and institutions, among other things.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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