Drawn from the biblical Book of Esther's account of how the Jews were spared genocide in ancient Persia, Purim is commemorated with the wearing of all kinds of fancy dress costumes, donating food for feasts - and drinking to excess.But this year, Israel, which began emerging from its third national lockdown on Feb. 21, reimposed night curfews for the long Purim weekend and limited access to Jerusalem.Purim parties were banned, with fines for anyone hosting them. That led to spontaneous street parties in Tel Aviv. Police commander Ziv Saguy said they were giving out 200 fines an hour.Long traffic jams formed on the road to Jerusalem as police tried to stop large groups of reaching the holy city for the festival. Some people ditched their vehicles and walked up the highway instead.Some ultra-Orthodox have also defied state-ordered closures of schools and synagogues, touching off clashes with police.
As tensions between Beijing and Canberra continue to simmer, Chinese investment in Australia has slumped to its lowest level in six years.The annual tracking study from the Australian National University recorded A$1 billion Australian dollars of Chinese investment in 2020, consisting of real estate, mining and manufacturing deals.That's a 61% fall, larger than the 42% decrease in foreign direct investment globally measured by the United Nations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That's according to Shiro Armstrong, the director of the East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.Australia announced a shakeup of its foreign investment laws in 2020 to give the government the power to veto, or force the sale of a business if it creates a national security risk.Chinese company Mengniu abandoned a deal to buy the Australia dairy firm Lion Dairy and Drinks from Japanese company Kirin in August, after the Australian government indicated it would block the sale.The Chinese embassy said in November that 10 Chinese investments had been blocked in Australia on national security grounds, among a list of 14 grievances Beijing had about Australian government policy.China has since imposed dumping tariffs on Australian wine and barley, and restricted the unloading of Australian coal at Chinese ports.Chinese investment in Australia peaked at A$16.5 billion Australian dollars in 2016.
Multiple manhole explosions were reported in Manhattan early on February 28, with at least one person hospitalized for injuries, local media reported.Jessica Solomon said she captured this video on E 56th Street at around 7:37 am on Sunday. Social media users reported hearing explosions as early as 4:30 am.Storyful has contacted the New York City Fire Department and Con Edison for comment. Credit: Jessica Solomon via Storyful
The artist's last photography project is called 'Social Distance Stacks', and to make it happen, he set up dancers, musicians and actors in air-filled bubbles, hoping to show the impact of social distancing during the pandemic."We are all in a certain isolation, in an isolated own bubble, which we are not allowed to get out of," he said."I show people who are allowed to be in their bubbles and can not get close," Mehnert explained.
Protesters threw bottles at police and marched right up to a barricade of shipping containers and barbed wire at the entrance to the base of the 1st Infantry Regiment in Bangkok, one of several army units that government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha transferred to the king's control in 2019.The Thai youth-led political movement rose up last year to demand Prayuth's resignation and broke taboos by calling for reforms of the monarchy.Public criticism of the king is illegal in Thailand, with insults to the monarchy punishable by up to 15 years in prison under the country's strict lese majeste law.
In the largest single crackdown yet, dozens of democrats and activists were charged in Hong Kong Kong Sunday (February 28) With conspiracy to commit subversion. Sam Cheung, an activist and a participant in an unofficial primary election last summer, was charged after reporting to a local police station, accompanied by his wife.More than 50 other democrats were arrested on Jan. 6 in the largest national security operation since the law's passage last June and later released on bail. Former lawmaker Helena Wong was among those arrested."After we went through these few years, even for people like me who are devoted to the democratic movement for decades since the 1980s, we realized, as long as we don't give up, the seeds of democracy will germinate in the hearts of Hong Kong people. Neither the National Security Law nor the National Security Police can take this seed away from our hearts. Therefore, I have great confidence in the people of Hong Kong that the democratic movement will continue."They were accused of organising and participating in an unofficial "primary election" last July aimed at selecting the strongest candidates for a legislative council election.Hong Kong police said in a statement they had laid a charge against 47 people, and they'll appear in court Monday morning.The police say 99 individuals have been arrested for suspected violations of the security laws so far- which critics see as a threat to Hong Kong's freedoms and autonomy.The laws punish acts of subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorism with possible life imprisonment.
Two Sumatran orangutans at Denver Zoo in Colorado were recently treated to bubble bath as a form of enrichment.Video by Denver Zoo shows orangutans Jaya and Eirina splashing around as they search for treats hidden in the water.Denver Zoo said the orangutans were given the bubble baths as a “creative way” of keeping them enriched as temperatures outside dipped to single figures. Credit: Denver Zoo via Storyful
A woman in Columbia, South Carolina, has been forced to leave her apartment because of a bat infestation.Dionne Wilks said she first noticed bats inside her apartment on February 2. Speaking to Storyful, she said she thought “nothing of it” at the time as she had left her windows open overnight.When she spotted more bats in her apartment on February 8 and February 10, she knew there was a problem.Wilks said she contacted the apartment building management and submitted a maintenance request for help, but it took them several days to send someone.Wilks said a doctor advised her and her son to get a post-exposure rabies vaccine and that she’d had to stay in hotels while the problem was addressed.The apartment management company told WIS News 10 they were aware of the problem and working to fix it. They said they expected the bats to be gone by Friday, February 26.Wilks told Storyful she’d been told she could move back in on Monday, March 1. However, she said: “I do not want to stay there. It’s bat guano all over that apartment.”A GoFundMe page for Wicks and her son has raised over $1,700 at the time of writing. Credit: Dionne Wilks via Storyful
Myanmar is being described as a battlefield. In the bloodiest day of weeks of demonstrations against a military coup the police brutally cracked down on protesters across the country. Witnesses say they’re using all means possible - stun grenades, tear gas and bullets. Protesters were killed when the police opened fire in the country’s largest city Yangon. One doctor said a man had died after being brought to hospital with a bullet wound in the chest. Police also opened fire in the southern town of Dawei, killing three and wounding several. But the deadly force isn’t stopping the masses from pouring on to the streets."We are facing so many crack downs across the country, but yet people came out to protest again without fear. We have so much courage from CRPH (Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw) and our U.N. ambassador in the U.K. Even the rangers are joining the movement."The country has been in chaos since the army seized power and detained elected government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership on Feb. 1st. The military are alleging fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide. The coup has brought to a halt tentative steps towards democracy after nearly 50 years of military rule.Police and the spokesman for the ruling military council did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.As hundreds are detained across the country the crackdown appears to show a determination by the military to impose its authority in the face of widespread defiance.The next hearing in Suu Kyi's case is on Monday
Fresh protests in Barcelona over the jailing of a Spanish rapper turned violent on Sunday, with ten people arrested for assaulting the cops by nightfall.Trash cans were set on fire, broken glass covered the sidewalks, and police lines formed around crowds.Demonstrations began earlier this month, after rapper Pablo Hasel was arrested and taken to start his nine-month jail sentence.Known for being anti-establishment, Hasel was convicted in 2018 for breaking free speech laws glorifying terrorism and insulting royalty.In tweets and lyrics, he called Spain's former King a mafia boss, likened Spanish judges to Nazis and referenced a Basque separatist group, ETA.On Saturday, some 2,000 people in masks and holding banners marched through Barcelona, calling for his release.Police put up barricades downtown, as businesses and a police van went up in flames.Pressure now mounts on Spain's government to uphold its recent promise to relax free speech laws.
BROADCAST AND DIGITAL RESTRICTIONS~**BROADCASTERS: NO USE. DIGITAL: NO USE AUSTRALIA BROADCASTERS. NO USE ABC, CNN, FOX, UNIVISION, TELEMUNDO, BBC AMERICA, NBC. VIDEO MUST BE USED IN ITS ENTIRETY. EXISTING GRAPHICS MAY BE OVERWRITTEN BY CLIENT'S OWN GRAPHICS BUT NO FURTHER EDITS ARE PERMITTED, INCLUDING FOR LENGTH. For Reuters customers only.~** "Mr. Biden, are you going to punish the Crown Prince?""There'll be an announcement on Mondayas to what we are going to be doing with Saudi Arabia generally."U.S. President Joe Biden reiterated on Saturday that he would be making an 'announcement' on Saudi Arabia on Monday, over the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.That follows a US intelligence report made public on Friday, which revealed that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, had approved the execution.However a White House official played down the upcoming announcement, suggesting no new significant steps should be expected after Friday's moves.The U.S. imposed a visa ban on some Saudis believed to have been involved in the murder and sanctioned others.Until his death in 2018, Khashoggi had written opinion columns critical of the Crown Prince's policies.He was killed and dismembered in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.The Crown Prince has consistently denied any involvement and the Saudi government on Friday rejected the U.S. report, reiterating their claims that Khashoggi was killed by a rogue group.Biden's administration faces growing pressure to take a tougher stance on the Crown Prince, who had not been sanctioned despite being blamed.
Prominent congressional conservatives, including Senators Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley and Representatives Steve Scalise and Matt Gaetz, were among the Trump loyalists speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, which the former president will address on Sunday.If there was any doubt that CPAC this year was devoted to Trump, the gold-colored statue of the former president, dressed in a jacket, red tie and Stars-and-Stripes boxing shorts was on display at the conference site.Two participants wheeled the larger-than-life statue through the conference center lobby, according to a video on social media. It was initially unclear why the statue, showing a cartoonish version of Trump with an oversize head, was there.The statue drew instant derision online, with commentators comparing it to the golden calf that enraged the prophet Moses in the Old Testament.
"I hear President Biden saying 'America's back'. Back to what?" Pompeo said to an enthusiastic audience. "Back to President Biden killing a pipeline?" he asked.House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also appeared on Saturday and told the gathering that the Republicans will surely win back the House in the 2022 mid-term elections."I would bet my house," he said during a short panel.Trump is expected to talk on Sunday about the future of the party and lay out policy differences within a group riven by differences in the wake of his chaotic four years in office.Many other senior Republicans did not attend this year's event. They included former Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.Some advisers say they want Trump not to use his speech to re-litigate the 2020 election at length but instead offer a road map to Republicans' regaining control of the House of Representatives and the Senate in the 2022 congressional elections.CPAC is an event organized by the American Conservative Union, whose chairman, Matt Schlapp, is close to Trump. It is a prime venue for speakers who want to gauge interest in whether they should run for president based on the enthusiasm they generate.
U.S. regulators authorized Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use Saturday – one day after a panel of outside experts backed the one-shot immunization.Now that it has the blessing of the Food and Drug Administration, J&J plans to ship three to four million doses next week. On Thursday, President Joe Biden, pledged to quickly distribute J&J’s vaccine pending its approval. "We have a plan to roll it out as quickly as Johnson & Johnson can make it.” More than 50 million vaccine shots have been administered nationwide – a point Biden highlighted as the halfway point of his goal of vaccinating 100 million people in the first 100 days after taking office. Distribution of J&J’s vaccine is a lot easier than those already available in the U.S. made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. Its vaccine can be stored in normal refrigerator temperatures instead of ultra-cold storage. And it’s the only one that requires just a single shot. A trial found that J&J’s vaccine was 66% effective at preventing moderate-to-severe cases of COVID-19. And it was 100% effective at preventing hospitalizations 28 days after vaccination. The company is developing a second-generation vaccine that would target the more transmissible South African variant. It plans to start Phase 1 trials by this summer.
Gunmen in Nigeria on Saturday released 27 teenage boys who were kidnapped from their school earlier this month.Their release was met by tearful loved ones.On February 17 - 42 people including 27 students were abducted by an armed gang that stormed a secondary school in Niger state. One boy was killed during the raid.One remains in the hospital, according to the Niger state governor.Also on Saturday, police mounted a search for 317 schoolgirls who were abducted Friday in a nearby state. Concerned parents waited in the school compound for updates.One of them said he was hopeful his daughter would be brought back home - saying the captors were bandits:“...They are already after ransom, so I know and believe that when the government settles with them, they will be able to release our daughters.''Schools have become targets for mass kidnappings for ransom in northern Nigeria by armed groups, whose agenda is unclear.The highest profile school kidnapping was that of more than 270 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram from the town of Chibok in 2014. Around 100 girls remain missing.
BROADCAST AND DIGITAL RESTRICTIONS~**Broadcasters: NO USE MYANMAR / MUST ON SCREEN COURTESY "DAWEI WATCH" Digital: NO USE MYANMAR / MUST ON SCREEN COURTESY "DAWEI WATCH". For Reuters customers only.Myanmar's U.N. Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun has been fired. The announcement was made on state television and comes a day after he urged the United Nations to use "any means necessary" to reverse the February 1st military coup.He had told the U.N. General Assembly he was speaking on behalf of the ousted civilian government of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. "In addition to the existing support, we need further strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup, to stop oppressing the innocent people, to return the state power to the people and to restore the democracy." The coup has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters to the streets and drawn condemnation from Western countries, with some imposing limited sanctions.Police launched their most sweeping crackdown yet in three weeks of protests on Saturday in towns and cities across Myanmar.One woman was shot and wounded and dozens of people were detained.The country has been in turmoil since the army seized power and detained Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership.The military alleging fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide.Protesters poured on to the streets in the main city Yangon, despite according to witnesses, the use of tear gas, stun grenades and shots being fired in the air. Activists have called for another day of protests on Sunday.
A recently discovered bomb from World War II was disposed of during a controlled detonation on February 27 in Exeter, England.The bomb, which was uncovered a day earlier, led to the evacuation of some 2,600 properties in the area as well as residence halls at the University of Exeter prior to its detonation.“The impact of the blast has been significant and debris has been thrown at least 250-metres away,” said the Devon and Cornwall Police. “The crater is around the size of a double decker bus.”This video, shared by the Exeter City Council, shows the detonation on Saturday. Credit: Exeter City Council via Storyful
Billionaire Warren Buffett expressed his optimism for America and his company despite the pandemic that struck his businesses. In his widely read annual letter for shareholders released Saturday, he wrote, “Never bet against America.” He also expressed his optimism for Berkshire. The company bought back a record of nearly $25 billion of its stock last year – signaling that investors have undervalued the conglomerate. His businesses include auto insurer GEICO and the railroad BNSF, whose strong results helped lift quarterly operating income 14%. Gains in stocks like Apple drove the bottom line up 23%. Curiously, Buffett did not specifically mention the pandemic in his letter even though it led to a loss of more than 31,000 jobs in Berkshire’s workforce. The health crisis also drained aerospace industry demand for parts, driving his company, Precision Castparts to cut more than 40% of its workers last year. Buffett admitted in the letter that he had overpaid when he shelled out $32 billion to buy it in 2016. He called that mistake “a big one.”He also disclosed that Berkshire will hold its annual shareholders meeting this year in Los Angeles - not in Omaha, where tens of thousands of people gather every year for what the “Oracle of Omaha” calls the “Woodstock for Capitalists.”
After the House of Representatives passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package early Saturday - the president spoke from the White House.Biden said he called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to thank her for supporting the American Rescue Plan… which passed by a mostly party-line vote of 219 to 212.“And with their vote, we're one step closer to vaccinating the nation. We are one step closer to putting 1400 dollars in the pockets of Americans. We're one step closer to extending unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who are shortly going to lose them.”(Flash)"Now the bill moves to the United States Senate, where I hope we will receive quick action. I have, we have no time to waste. If we act now decisively, quickly and boldly, we can finally get ahead of this virus. We can finally get our economy moving again. And the people of this country have suffered far too much for too long. We need to relieve that suffering.”Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris may have to cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate, where Republicans control 50 seats and Democrats and their allies control the other 50.Pelosi predicted the relief bill will pass Congress with or without a minimum wage increase and said Democrats would not give up on the matter of a wage hike.
A storm in Washington State left a layer of hail on Seattle streets on February 26, when local residents also reported seeing lightning.This footage shows hail falling on Friday evening. A layer is already visible on the street hail continues to patter down.On Friday evening, the National Weather Service (NWS) said it received reports of hail and lightning “around Whidbey Island,” located north of Seattle. The NWS’ Seattle office reported hearing thunder on Feb 26 as well. Credit: @slkfw via Storyful
Flooding near London, Kentucky, was captured by Johnnie Nicholson’s drone on February 27.The National Weather Service forecast possible flash flooding and flooding of area streams and rivers over the weekend.Nicholson told Storyful: “the video was shot south of London, Kentucky near Levi Jackson State Park.” Credit: Johnnie Nicholson via Storyful
A storm passing through the Seattle area late on February 26 brought hail and lightning to the area, which local residents recorded from their homes.This footage, taken @SeattleWXGuy, shows hail building up on his deck. Later, he uploaded footage of lightning visible from his home.On Friday evening, the National Weather Service (NWS) said it received reports of hail and lightning “around Whidbey Island,” located north of Seattle. The NWS’ Seattle office reported hearing thunder on Feb 26 as well. Credit: @SeattleWXGuy via Storyful
An emotional farewell from Captain Sir Tom's daughter, Hannah Ingram-Moore.As she bid farewell to the former officer who raised millions of pounds for Britain's health service during the pandemic."In all our musings and discussions we never, ever imagined what the last year of your life would be like. Who would have thought our little family gesture would become what it did. The first humble goal of £100 that quickly became a thousand believing that would be tough enough. We just could not believe it, could we, when it reached £38.9 million. We are so proud of the way you handled everything that happened.''"They too saw your belief in kindness and the fundamental goodness of the human spirit. A military guard of honor and Royal Air Force fly-past marked the funeral for the World War Two veteran. Moore died earlier this month after contracting COVID-19.Moore was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in recognition of his efforts.In line with current restrictions, the funeral at Bedford Crematorium in central England was attended by just eight members of Moore's immediate family. "We are so proud of everything you achieved and promise to keep your legacy alive.Six soldiers from the Yorkshire Regiment, the modern incarnation of Moore's wartime regiment, carried his coffin. An honor guard of 14 fired three volleys into the air, and a World War Two-era Douglas C-47 Dakota performed a fly-past.Once restrictions permit, the family plan to inter Moore's ashes in Yorkshire, northern England, where he will rest with his parents and grandparents.
The berg was compared in size to the English county of Bedfordshire, measuring to cover 1,270 square kilometres, according to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).The Halley Research Station, also situated on 150-metre thick Brunt Ice Shelf, is not expected to be impacted as it is located on an area of the iceshelf still connected to the continent, BAS said in a written statement.Scientists were expecting the calving of the iceberg to happen, after monitoring the area with GPS instruments and satellite imagery on a daily basis, BAS Director Professor Dame Jane Francis said.
Moore died on February 2 after contracting COVID-19.In the run up to his 100th birthday last year, he had been challenged to walk 100 laps of his garden to raise a modest 1,000 pounds.By the time he finished, on April 16, he was being willed on by millions in Britain and beyond, and the total raised was heading towards 39 million pounds ($54 million).