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U.S. officials are testing a new wildfire retardant after two decades of buying millions of gallons annually from one supplier, but watchdogs say the expensive strategy is overly fixated on aerial attacks at the expense of hiring more fire-line digging ground crews. The Forest Service says tests started last summer are continuing this summer with a magnesium-chloride-based retardant from Fortress. Fortress contends its retardants are effective and better for the environment than products offered by Perimeter Solutions. That company says its ammonium-phosphate-based retardants are superior. The Forest Service used more than 50 million gallons of retardant for the first time in 2020 as increasingly destructive wildfires plague the West.

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Companies that want to sell shampoo bottles, food products and other items wrapped in plastic in California will have to cut down their use of the material. That's under a bill signed Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom that sets the nation's most stringent plastics reduction rules. It would require producers to use 25% less plastic for single-use products 2032. That could be met through using less material, switching to another type of packaging or making the products refillable or reusable. It was negotiated by lawmakers, environmental and business groups. Backers of a similar ballot measure have removed their initiative from the November ballot.

AP
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India banned some single-use or disposable plastic products Friday as a part of a federal plan to phase out the ubiquitous material in the nation of nearly 1.4 billion people. Officials said that making, importing, stocking, or selling these banned items will lead to fines and, in some cases, jail time. It's part of a long-term effort by India to cut down on plastic waste. Reducing the manufacture and consequent waste of plastic is crucial for India to meet its goal for reducing carbon emissions. The first step targets plastic items that aren’t very useful but have a high potential to become litter.

AP
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Russian forces are battling to surround the Ukrainian military’s last stronghold in a long-contested eastern province, as shock still reverberates from a Russian airstrike on a shopping mall that killed at least 18 people. Moscow’s battle to wrest the entire Donbas region from Ukraine saw Russian forces pushing toward two villages south of Lysychansk while Ukrainian troops fought to prevent their encirclement. The U.S. director of national intelligence said Wednesday the most likely scenario is a “grinding struggle” in which Russia consolidates its hold over southern Ukraine by the fall. Meanwhile, search teams and relatives raced to find people missing in the wreckage of the Amstor shopping center in the city of Kremenchuk.

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Russian forces are seeking to swallow up the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the eastern Luhansk region while pressing their momentum following the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the charred ruins of Sievierodonetsk. The military said Moscow-backed separatists were now in full control of the chemical plant that was the last Ukrainian holdout in the city. Russia also launched dozens of missiles Saturday on several areas across the country far from the heart of the eastern battles. Ukraine's air command says some of the missiles were fired from Russian long-range Tu-22 bombers deployed to Belarus for the first time. Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that Moscow plans to supply Belarus with the Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile system.

AP
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A series of clandestine, against-the-odds helicopter missions to reach besieged soldiers are being celebrated in Ukraine as one of the riskiest, most heroic feats of military derring-do in the four-month war against Russia. The flights delivered supplies and evacuated wounded during the last-ditch defense of the Azovstal steel mill. It was surrounded by Russian forces in the brutalized city of Mariupol. Ukrainian troops were pinned down for weeks, their supplies running low, their dead and injured stacking up. Ukraine’s president first spoke of the sometimes deadly helicopter resupply missions only after Azovstal’s defenders started surrendering in May. The Associated Press has found and interviewed some of the wounded who were rescued from the death trap.

AP
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Russian attacks are laying down a curtain of fire across areas of eastern Ukraine where pockets of resistance are denying Moscow full military control of the region. A regional official told The Associated Press on Tuesday that “everything that can burn is on fire.” Russia’s war has caused alarm over food supplies from Ukraine to the rest of the world and gas supplies from Russia. It has also raised questions about security in Western Europe. The Russian military currently controls about 95% of the eastern Luhansk region. But Moscow has struggled for weeks to overrun it completely despite deploying additional troops and having a massive advantage in military assets.

AP
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As Colombia’s voters put aside a longtime antipathy to leftists and chose one as their new president, they also have carved out another milestone — electing the country's first Black vice president. When former leftist rebel Gustavo Petro takes office as president on Aug. 7, a key player in his administration will be Francia Marquez, his running mate in Sunday’s runoff election. Marquez is an environmental activist from La Toma, a village surrounded by mountains where she first organized campaigns against a hydroelectric project. She then challenged wildcat gold miners who were invading collectively owned Afro-Colombian lands. Analysts say her appeal to Afro-Colombian voters was a key factor in Petro being able to eke out his narrow victory.

AP
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Russian hostilities in Ukraine are preventing grain from leaving the “breadbasket of the world.” That is making food more expensive across the globe and threatening to worsen shortages, hunger and political instability in developing countries. World food prices were already climbing, and the war made things worse, preventing some 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain from getting to the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia. Weeks of negotiations on safe corridors to get grain out of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports have made little progress, with urgency rising as the summer harvest season arrives.

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An ambitious California proposal aims to reduce plastic production for single-use products like shampoo bottles and food wrappers by 25% starting next decade. The bill introduced late Thursday aims to bring environmental and business groups together to avoid a similar ballot measure slated to go to voters in November. California has been at the forefront of setting restrictions on single-use plastic, but the industry has successfully fought some of the broadest efforts. The bill would require plastic producers operating in the state to raise $500 million annually for a fund to mitigate pollution. But at least one proponent of the ballot measure hasn't committed to withdrawing it if the bill passes.