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Delhi a 'gas chamber' from haze; Syria joins Paris accord, making U.S. solo dissenter; more in world news


Haze makes Delhi a 'gas chamber'

The toxic haze blanketing New Delhi was so severe Tuesday that schools planned to close, flights were delayed and the chief minister of Delhi state said the city had "become a gas chamber." For chest surgeon Arvind Kumar, the situation is adding to a growing health crisis in the region. "I don't see pink lungs even among healthy nonsmoking young people," he said Tuesday. "The air quality has become so bad that even if you are a nonsmoker, you are still suffering." The thick, acrid fog is not new to Delhi, where it settles around this time every year, covering the capital in vehicle emissions and smoke from the burning of crops in neighboring states and from fireworks from Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. But in recent years, the problem appears to have worsened. On Tuesday, levels of the most dangerous air particles, called PM 2.5, reached more than 700 micrograms per cubic meter in parts of the city, according to data from the U.S. Embassy. Experts say prolonged exposure to such high concentrations of PM 2.5 is equivalent to smoking more than two packs of cigarettes a day. An article last month in The Lancet found pollution was responsible for up to 2.5 million deaths in India in 2015, more than in any other country.


5 naked people arrested in crash

Police say they're searching for the naked truth after a bizarre collision on a rural road. Royal Canadian Mounted Police Cpl. Laurel Scott said officers responded to a Monday report of a car colliding with a truck in Nisku, Alberta. When they arrived, they found five people in the car were naked. Scott said Tuesday the five were arrested. She wasn't sure of the charges, though police consider it a "purposeful collision." She called the incident "very bizarre" and added: "We are trying to sort through all the different information we have so we can figure out from start to finish what this incident is all about." Police said they believe drugs or alcohol may have been a factor.

United Nations

Syria joins Paris climate accord, leaving only U.S. opposed

Then there was one. Syria announced during United Nations climate talks Tuesday that it would sign the Paris agreement on climate change. The move, which comes on the heels of Nicaragua signing the accord last month, will leave the United States as the only country that has rejected the global pact. A White House spokeswoman said there had been no change in the United States' position. The Paris agreement, struck in 2015 under former President Barack Obama, calls on nearly 200 countries to voluntarily curb greenhouse gas emissions. At the time, only Nicaragua and Syria did not join. Nicaraguan leaders argued the deal did not go far enough nor helped protect vulnerable countries enough. But despite those flaws, the country signed. Syria has been mired in a civil war since 2011 and, due to European and U.S. sanctions, its leaders had been unable to send representatives to negotiate or sign the pact.It was not clear what changed, and the Syrian delegate who spoke Tuesday did not elaborate.


10 N. Korean defectors detained; activist says 'we fear the worst'

Ten North Koreans were arrested in China and face being deported to their totalitarian homeland, a rights activist in South Korea said Tuesday. A 3-year-old boy, his mother and another North Korean left their hometown near China 10 days ago, said the Rev. Kim Seung-eun. They were hiding with seven other North Koreans in a house in Shenyang that was raided by police Saturday, Kim said. A manager of activists and smugglers from his church in South Korea, Kim said one of his people had gone to the police station Monday but had not been allowed to see the North Koreans. "When we checked again today, the refugees were gone," he said Tuesday. "We fear the worst." In Seoul, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said South Korea was "closely monitoring" the case "so that the defectors will not be forcibly repatriated." The North Korean group was waiting for smugglers to take them into Laos and Thailand to fly to South Korea. Kim said more than 100 North Korean refugees had been detained in China and deported since the beginning of last month. "These refugees' plight has gotten little attention," he said.


Roman road uncovered in digging

Authorities say workers digging in the western city of Aachen have uncovered an ancient Roman road. City archaeologist Andreas Schaub told the dpa news agency Tuesday the road is about 6 yards wide and is thought to date back to the second century. Schaub said the road could have connected the important settlement in Aachen to what is today the Dutch city of Maastricht. Experts are trying to determine how long the road was in use. It was discovered as workers dug to install security barriers for the Christmas market. — tbt* wires