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More than half of the koalas living on a coastal reserve have been killed as parts of Australia are destroyed by a record number of intense bushfires.

About 350 of the 500 to 600 koalas on the reserve in the New South Wales coast town of Port Macquarie have died in the bushfires, according to Koala Conservation Australia.

Thousands of people were forced to flee their homes on Friday when 17 fires were burning at emergency levels and more than 50 smaller blazes were also burning out of control, officials said.

A smoke-filled sky in Port Macquarie, on the New South Wales coast. Pic: Mireya Reyes
A smoke-filled sky in Port Macquarie, on the New South Wales coast. Pic: Mireya Reyes

By Saturday morning Australian time, 12 were burning at emergency levels across the state, the Sydney Morning Herald said.

More than 1,000 firefighters and 70 aircraft have been deployed to battle the blazes, but strong winds and erratic fire behaviour are hampering their efforts, ABC said.

New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS) commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said: “We are in uncharted territory … we’ve never seen this many fires concurrently at emergency warning level.

“It is a very volatile and very dangerous set of circumstances that we are experiencing right across these fire grounds in New South Wales.”

Homes and buildings have been destroyed on the state’s mid north coast, NSWRFS said, while admitting “the exact number won’t be known for some time”.

There are reports of property damage, and minor injuries to both firefighters and members of the general public, officials said.

An helicopter drops water on a bushfire in Harrington, on the New South Wales coast
A helicopter drops water on a bushfire in Harrington

The sky over Port Macquarie turned red, according to posts on social media.

In Queensland, where emergencies had been declared for three fires early on Friday evening, around 6,500 people in several towns including Cooroibah and Tewantin, were told to leave by the state’s fire and emergency services.

More than 50 fires in all were burning in the state to the north of New South Wales.

People living in parts of the Sunshine Coast and further inland were told to leave their homes as the danger spread towards suburban Brisbane with a number of homes there under threat on Friday afternoon.

Fires have consumed at least 20,000 hectares of the Wollemi National Park, 62 miles west of Sydney
Fires have consumed at least 20,000 hectares of the Wollemi National Park, 62 miles west of Sydney

This is one of Australia’s worst bushfire seasons with a record number of emergency warnings and firefighters battling dozens of fires.

Animal carers at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, where injured koalas are being nursed, believe it will take at least 10 days to assess the full damage to the koala population.

The Australian native species, whose numbers are estimated at anywhere between 50,000 to 100,000, could be extinct by mid-century due to the double threat from fires and climate change, James Tremain of the Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales said.

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Should Trump be impeached? Voters are as split as politicians | US News



It was a fascinating end to a week of intense testimony.

Fiona Hill, the daughter of a British coal miner, started with a stark warning to those claiming that it was Ukraine and not Russia who meddled in the 2016 US election.

The former aide to then national security adviser John Bolton delivered a stern rebuke of lawmakers, and implicitly Donald Trump, for pushing a “fictional narrative”.

Fiona Hill, former senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council
Fiona Hill claimed Moscow is ‘gearing up’ to repeat its interference in the 2020 US presidential election

They were, she said, perpetuating a Putin lie and undermining public faith in American democracy.

Some Republicans on the intelligence committee, including ranking member Devin Nunes, continue to advance the idea that Russian interference was a “hoax”.

In Moscow, Vladimir Putin sounded almost gleeful with the fact that theory was getting such a public and official airing.

“Thank God,” he declared. “No one is accusing us of interfering in the US elections anymore. Now they’re accusing Ukraine.”

But Ms Hill – composed, robust and clearly concerned – told the hearing that Russia was busy gearing up to meddle in 2020 too.

She also provided a withering assessment of Gordon Sondland, the EU ambassador who, in a stunning U-turn on Wednesday, stated that there was definitely a quid pro quo and that “everyone was in the loop”.

David Holmes and Fiona Hill
Fiona Hill and David Holmes gave evidence at the impeachment inquiry on Thursday

Ms Hill said Mr Sondland had carried out a “domestic political errand” for Mr Trump while she and her colleagues were involved in “national security policy”.

She told House investigators that she came to realise he wasn’t simply operating outside official diplomatic channels, as some assumed, but was in fact carrying out instructions from Mr Trump.

Mr Sondland had admitted exactly that the day before.

Ms Hill and David Holmes, a state department adviser in Kiev, claimed it was abundantly clear that Mr Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was pursing political investigations of Democrats and Joe Biden in Ukraine.

She said she knew then it would “come back to haunt us”. She added that her former boss, Mr Bolton, had also expressed concern that a “drug deal” was being cooked up.

But he, like so many in the White House, has not testified.

How impeachment works for a US president in two minutes.

How impeachment works

You only have to step outside for a few minutes to see how differently the public viewed their pair.

One man declared her “elitist and “irrelevant”. Another woman called her “the very best of America”. It all comes down to who you believe.

As a long day drew to a close, Mr Nunes told the room that this was simply a “show trial”, driven by Democrats who had reached their verdict before they had even begun.

Today and throughout this impeachment process, Republicans have characterised the evidence as third-hand and third-rate.

Ms Hill was not on the July call that sparked this inquiry and she like so many others, they argue, should be discounted.

I would say up to half of those I have met in the long queues outside the hearing think the Republicans have a point.

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Voters are just as split as those who are representing them.

So what next? Well, Democrats could file articles of impeachment before Christmas and hold a vote.

Given they have the majority, it is certainly looking like they would vote to impeach President Trump.

But it is also likely that the Republican-controlled Senate won’t vote to convict him.

It’s also absolutely plausible that he wins a second term.

The president’s supporters seemed almost resigned to the idea that he’ll be impeached, but also determined to keep him in office.

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UK defies US over ‘illegal’ Israeli expansion into West Bank | World News



Britain has defied the US by urging Israel to stop its “counterproductive” expansion into the occupied West Bank.

The Foreign Office has waded into the debate after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the White House was softening its position on Israeli settlements in the territory.

It was the latest move from the Trump administration to anger Palestinians, as it weakened their claims to ownership of the state and put Washington at odds with other nations working to end the long-running conflict.

Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump administration does not consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank a violation of international law
Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump administration does not consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank a violation of international law

Responding to the change in policy, the Foreign Office said: “The position of the UK on settlements is clear. They are illegal under international law, present an obstacle to peace, and threaten the viability of a two-state solution.

“We urge Israel to halt its counterproductive settlement expansion.”

The announcement by Mr Pompeo had angered Palestinians, with a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas claiming settlements are illegal under international law.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the US government had “lost credibility to play any future role in the peace process”.

Since becoming US president, Donald Trump has made a number of foreign policy decisions in favour of Israel.

The most controversial move was to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the Middle Eastern country, angering those who labelled it a severe blow to the Middle East peace process.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed in October, to form a government
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been struggling to form a new government despite US backing

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly welcomed the support of Mr Trump, although his backing has done nothing to help him form a new government despite two elections this year.

In more bad news for Mr Netanyahu, he has been indicted on corruption charges including fraud and bribery.

The allegations include suspicions that he accepted hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of champagne and cigars from billionaire friends – and offered to trade favours with a newspaper publisher.

Mr Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in three corruption cases and – in Donald Trump style – has previously dismissed the investigations into him as a “witch hunt”.

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Israeli PM Netanyahu indicted on corruption charges



Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been indicted on corruption charges, the country’s attorney general has announced.

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