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Canadians affected by destructive California wildfires speak out




Images of billowing dark plumes and bright flames devouring landscapes and structures continue to emerge from California.

As multiple wildfires burn, officials have been working around the clock to keep them from destroying yet more communities. Adding to the already arduous task has been the wind.

Edmonton-born Thousand Oaks resident Dana Baker is a professor at California State University. For the time being, she is hunkered down at home, but her van has been packed with provisions in case she has to flee on short notice.

“We have food, water, clothing,” she told Global News. “That’s going to be in the car for the foreseeable future because I think that’s basically the only plan when you’re driving in a direction that you don’t know what the direction is going to be.”

READ MORE: Deadliest wildfires in California’s history continue to burn, killing at least 42

The Camp Fire, located in the northern part of the state, has consumed 125,000 acres and is only 30 per cent contained. Forty-eight people have been killed, making this the deadliest wildfire in California’s history.

Baker resides in an area that has been at the mercy of the Woolsey Fire, which has destroyed more than 96,000 acres and is just 35 per cent contained.

She has been sleeping with a military-grade face mask and hard hat at her bedside as a precaution.

“One of the things that’s been tough is to know where to go to seek safety because the fires are cropping up in different areas.”

READ MORE: Newfoundland woman pleads for help to find missing family in fire-ravaged Northern California

Elias Toufexis and his wife Michelle Boback-Toufexis now call Agoura Hills home. They were under an evacuation order, but that has since been lifted.

“I drove around the neighbourhood and the further I got, the less I was able to see,” Elias recalled of last week.

“You know when you go camping and you stand next to a campfire? And then you go home and you smell the campfire. That’s what our car smelled like, so it was everywhere. So we said, ‘We’ve got to get out of here.’”

They live a short distance from Thousand Oaks, where only days ago, a gunman went on a rampage at a nightclub, killing 12 people.

“The morning that we got the news about the shooting, that afternoon the fire started,” Michelle recounted. “The neighbourhood was just shut down so nobody’s really grieved together yet. I think that’s going to start happening now that the evacuation is lifted.”

The couple, both actors from British Columbia and Quebec, have two young children. Michelle’s parents were in town visiting when the fire broke out and the family was forced to flee.

READ MORE: Still in shock over bar massacre, California town now menaced by approaching wildfires

They say that despite the stress and confusion of the situation, the resilience and generosity of Californians shone through.

“We’ve only been here a short time and there were offers from everyone we knew. ‘Come stay with us. Do you need money for the hotel? Do you need food? Do you need me to bring you something?’” said Elias.

While their house was untouched, others in the community were not so fortunate. Several of their friends have lost their homes.

Meg De Bassecourt and her husband moved from Toronto to Woodland Hills about six months ago. After leaving their home behind, she returned on Tuesday with their three young children.

“Moving from Canada to the states has made me resilient,” she told Global News. “We’re just kind of going with it because there’s not much you can do. You’re powerless in this situation.”

READ MORE: Air quality alert: San Francisco residents don masks under lingering cloud of wildfire smoke

De Bassecourt described a thick, oppressive smoke that compromised the air quality and blanketed the sky.

According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC), there has been no formal request from the United States for assistance. They have been in constant communication with the National Interagency Coordination Centre in Boise, Idaho.

Executive director of the CIFFC, Kim Connors, said California still has a number of resources at its disposal, including assistance from other states.

“When we see something as devastating as the fires in California or in Fort McMurray, everybody wants to help, but in the case of firefighting expertise, the state of California is probably the best state in the U.S. in terms of being positioned for this.”

Two CL-415 aircraft, similar to the one pictured here, are helping to battle the wildfires in California.

Ministère des transports du Québec

There is, however, a longstanding arrangement in place between Transport Quebec and L.A. County. Since 1994, they have been loaning the Americans two CL-415 aircraft to deal with wildfires. They are currently assisting in the fight.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali



Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu

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Harris accepts VP nomination



Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself



Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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