Revealed: How Hong Kong crisis may help Donald Trump win 2020 US election – expert

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Mr Trump has been one of the staunchest critics of how China handled the initial stages of the COVID-19 outbreak. The US President has also insisted there could be strong ramifications over the implementation of China’s new law over Hong Kong. Under the new legislation, the Chinese government now has greater powers to tackle terrorism and foreign interference. 

US officials have claimed the new security law may well hinder the country’s semi-autonomous status. 

The new laws also triggered protests in Hong Kong for the first time in months. 

Dr Steve Hewitt, Senior Lecturer in American and Canadian Studies at the University of Birmingham, insisted Mr Trump may well be forced to intervene on the matter due to the upcoming presidential election this year. 

He told Express.co.uk: “I mean, Mr Trump is behind in the polls at the moment so this would seem a good way to connect China as not just an economic threat but also where the coronavirus originated and connect those two things and potentially use that as a wedge issue to try to run to win the election.

“There are people within his administration who are strongly in favour of confronting China. 

“They want to challenge China and curtail its power.

“This was obviously one of the driving forces in the Trump campaign in 2016.

“I think there is an element that would see this as a useful issue to use against China and that you might be able to find other countries that will also be onside.”

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In the latest US election poll conducted by Reuters and Ipsos, Democrat President Joe Biden currently sits ahead of the US President. 

In the poll released last week, Mr Biden led the President by six percent. 

According to the poll, 45 percent supported the challenger while 39 favoured the incumbent. 

Following the implementation of the new law in China, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo told Congress: “Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China“.

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He said on Wednesday: “Today, I reported to Congress that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China, given facts on the ground.

“The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong.”

Until this point, the US has given Hong Kong a status whereby it is granted favourable trading terms. 

The status, however, has been conditional on the Secretary of State maintaining the island still has partial autonomy from China.

In support of the US, the UK, Australia and Canada also criticised the restrictive legislation. 

In a joint statement, they said: “Hong Kong has flourished as a bastion of freedom.

“China’s decision to impose the new national security law on Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration.

“We are also extremely concerned that this action will exacerbate the existing deep divisions in Hong Kong society.”

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Kim Jong-un makes first appearance at military meeting – promises to improve nuclear arms

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State news outlet KCNA announced the “crucial measures” were taken at the meeting “for considerably increasing the firepower strike ability of the artillery pieces of the Korean People’s Army”. The news agency added: “Set forth at the meeting were new policies for further increasing the nuclear war deterrence of the country.” The Central Military Commission meeting centred on “putting the strategic armed forces on a high alert operation”.

Kim Jong un’s belligerent strategy was put in place for the “development of the armed forces of the country”.

The effort and resources funnelled into developing North Korea’s military take on a stark new meaning when considering the millions of malnourished citizens of the country.

Last month the head of the UN World Food Programme called for the White House and other western donors to put children’s lives before politics and fund a major injection of aid to North Korea.

Due to flooding and a heatwave last year, North Korea is facing a shortfall of 1.4m tonnes in food production this year.

The shortfall includes wheat, rice, potatoes, and soybean.

An estimated 11 million people, or 40 percent of the population, are already undernourished.

One in five children are stunted due to chronic malnutrition.

The World Food Programme’s executive director David Beasley told the Guardian: “This is a serious issue and children are going to be severely impacted if we do not do something by the time the lean season truly kicks in by June.

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“Russia has responded and is sending in 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat.

“China is doing something too.

“Western donors are still hoping that the breaking of the political impasse will take place so that everyone can come in together.”

North Korea has struggled to feed its people for more than two decades.

A famine in the 1990s left as many as one million dead.

This was about five percent of the population at the time.

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EU on brink: Leading economist warns eurozone will collapse within a year – Italy to LEAVE

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French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have this week proposed a £447billion (€500bn) bailout for member states hit hardest by COVID-19, but experts have warned the funds may not be enough to prevent the economic turmoil in nations including Italy, Spain and Greece. The fund which is yet to be approved by all 27 EU member states, comes amid deep divisions within Europe, after Germany’s top court ruled the European Central Bank’s (ECB) plan for mass bond-buying to stabilise the eurozone partly violates the German constitution.

On the EU bailout, US economist Nouriel Roubini, lecturer New York University’s Stern School of Business, told German business magazine Wirtschaftswoche: “The fund is smaller than Italy, Spain and Greece had hoped.

“Perhaps that will be compensated for if most of the disbursements become subsidies instead of loans.”

The European Commission has forecast Italy’s economy will contract by as much as 9.5 percent this year, while the public debt is expected to jump to 158.9 percent of GDP – rising to 170 percent in 2021.

Mr Roubini has warned “the danger comes from Italy” if the ECB is unable to help surface the county’s debt through bonds.

The economist warns the consequences are fatal if a financial solution cannot be found, he said: “Otherwise the eurozone will collapse within a year.”

He added: “Even if the ECB helps, Italy has to restructure the bonds.

“Remember, Italy is a problem ten times bigger than Greece.”

A bond is debt-based investment, where funds are loaned to a Government for an agreed rate of interest.

Mr Roubini indicated Italy may not be able to keep up with repayments if Europe’s single currency has a sudden economic bounce back.

He said: “If the value of the euro does not fall enough, Italy’s only option is to leave the eurozone.”

Ms Merkel and Mr Macron published a proposal to help the EU and borrow €500bn as a common debt shared out between member states.

The funds would be transferred to regions and industries hit hardest and increase the EU’s 2021-2027 budget which is already close to €1 trillion.

The French President said: “That’s a real change in philosophy, I believe this is a very deep transformation and that’s what the European Union and the single market needed to remain coherent.

“It’s what the euro zone needs to remain united.”

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The plan to share debt across the EU has called divisions with the so-called frugal northern countries of bloc, such as the Netherlands, Finland and Austria – as the vast majority of the borrowed funds will go to other nations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the financial package should be paid back over a long period and that Berlin would shoulder roughly 27 percent of the funds, as it already does for the regular EU budget.

Ms Merkel said: “We must act in a European way so that we get out of the crisis well and strengthened.”

The European Commission will present its own proposal for a Recovery Fund linked to the EU’s next long-term budget on May 27.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “It acknowledges the scope and the size of the economic challenge that Europe faces, and rightly puts the emphasis on the need to work on a solution with the European budget at its core.

“This goes in the direction of the proposal the Commission is working on which will also take into account the views of all member States and the European Parliament.”

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What’s going on? North Korea cracks down on ‘grasshopper markets’ – hint at internal chaos

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And the situation has become so bad at one point police used weapons on residents protesting at the situation, an insider has claimed. Officially, the Hermit State – led by Kim Jong-un – has no cases of the disease – but the knock-on impact on the country’s economy is proving a worry in itself.

Major marketplaces across the region have already been closed down, piling pressure on people who earn most of their income from side businesses selling a range of everyday goods such as clothes, cooking oil, meat and other food, because they struggle to live on government-assigned jobs which pay a monthly salary averaging barely £4 a month.

As a result, so-called grasshopper markets, named after merchants who grab their goods and flee at the first sign of trouble, have become increasingly common – prompting the authorities to launch a crackdown on these as well.

A resident of Ryanggang, who requested anonymity to speak freely, told RFA’s Korean Service Sunday: “Authorities shut down marketplaces in the province starting May 15 as part of their coronavirus measures.

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“The authorities are stepping up their crackdown to prevent us from starting up grasshopper markets.”

Hyesan, the province’s capital had three official markets, in Hyesin, Wiyon and Ryonbong markets, all open for three hours a day.

However, the source added: “But now these have been closed and the authorities are now starting to crack down on businesses that try to defy the closure.

“As most of the residents make their living in marketplaces, residents are getting angry that the government is shutting them down.

“Authorities aren’t paying attention to the livelihood of residents that have become more difficult due to the coronavirus crisis.”

The source said: “When Wiyon market shut down, some of the merchants opened a grasshopper market in the alley, but the cops showed up and kicked them out.”

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“They made even grasshopper markets unavailable, so now there is friction between groups of inspectors and residents.”

Residents are also becoming suspicious of the government’s motives, the insider said.

They added: “Is it really due to the coronavirus or is it a trick to drive residents to rural mobilisation?”

Another resident of Ryanggang told a similar story.

They said: “Residents protest fiercely when the cops come in and shut down grasshopper markets.

“Some of the merchants who have to close down when the police come by end up getting in shouting matches and physical fights in the grasshopper market.

“Most of the residents are living from hand to mouth.

“And they became even more desperate when authorities made the decision to shut down the markets.

“There was even a small disturbance in which residents protested in groups against the police, who tried to suppress them by actually using weapons against them.”

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ISIS chief captured: Iraq Intelligence Service ‘arrest candidate to succeed al-Baghdadi’

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Abdul Nasser Qardash, said to be one of the possible successors to former leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been captured in Iraq. Iraq’s official news agency INA, reported that the National Intelligence Service announced the arrest of the candidate to succeed the terrorist Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

A security source told the publication the National Intelligence Service had managed to arrest the alleged Abdul Nasser Qirdash.

The terrorist had been high up in the organisation while Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was leader.

Writing on Twitter, Feras Kilani, Arabic Special Correspondent at the BBC, wrote: “In intentional play with the phrase ‘potential candidate to succeed Al-Baghdadi’ used by Iraqi intelligence, Abdul Nasser Qirdash, because of his importance, is not Abdullah Qirdash, the senior leader of the organization, and the latter is not from behind al-Baghdadi, but rather al-Qurashi, whose name is Amir Muhammad Abd al-Rahman al-Salabi, which was confirmed by Washington.

“The matter seems to have a direct relationship to internal accounts, as the intelligence service is still affiliated with Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi, although information confirms that he has been in detention for some time and is being questioned, perhaps before the formation of the government that was announced a few days ago.

al-Baghdadi rose to prominence in ISIS after his detainment with Al Qaeda commanders at the American Camp Bucca, in Iraq.

He would become directly involved in ISIS’s atrocities and human rights violations including the genocide of Yazidis in Iraq, extensive sexual slavery, organized rape, floggings, and systematic executions.

He directed terrorist activities and massacres as well as embracing brutality as part of the organization’s propaganda efforts, producing videos displaying executions via hacking, stoning, and burning.

Back in October, al-Baghdadi killed himself by detonating a suicide vest during the Barisha raid, killing two children in the process.

On October 31 2019, ISIS confirmed that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was dead, and named Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi as his replacement.

This is a breaking story…more to follow

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Iran war warning: US Navy ready to open fire on ships which come too close

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The notice to mariners comes in the wake of Mr Trump’s announcement that any ships which harassed Navy vessels faced turning themselves into targets. The Navy notice states: “Armed vessels approaching within 100 meters of a US naval vessel may be interpreted as a threat.”

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the new notice to mariners was not a change in the US military’s rules of engagement.

The Pentagon has previously said Mr Trump’s threat was aimed at underscoring the Navy’s right to self-defence.

The Bahrain-based US Naval Forces Central Command said in a statement that its notice was “designed to enhance safety, minimise ambiguity and reduce the risk of miscalculation”.

Tension has spiked between Washington and Tehran since Mr Trump’s election as President in 2016.

Last month 11 Iranian vessels came close to US Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Gulf, in what the US military characterised as “dangerous and provocative” behaviour.

At one point, the Iranian vessels came within 10 yards (nine meters) of the US Coast Guard cutter Maui.

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Mr Trump responded by issuing his warning.

However, Tehran blamed the incident on the US.

The head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards responded to Trump by threatening to destroy US warships if its security is threatened in the Gulf.

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Already poor relations between the two countries have worsened since Mr Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Joint Plan of Comprehensive Action (JPOCA), Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers, and subsequent reimposition of economic sanctions.

And, in early January, the US killed top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad.

Iran retaliated on January 9 by firing missiles at bases in Iraq, causing brain injuries among US troops stationed at one of them.

Close interactions with Iranian military vessels were not uncommon in 2016 and 2017, with US Navy ships firing warning shots on several occasions.

However, Iran halted such manoeuvres prior to the incident in April.

Earlier this month, Mr Trump hinted at the possibility of further strikes against Iranian targets.

The President claimed he had “very good information” that Iran-backed militias were planning more assaults.

He added: “If it happens again, that would go up the food chain.

“This response will be bigger if they do something.”

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Germany on the brink: Economic slump of at least ten percent – Merkel faces grim forecast

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The federal government currently predicts an economic slump of 6.3 percent. However, in a damning prediction for the economy, the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) is predicting an even worse economic slump. DIHK president, Eric Shweitzer stated Germany’s economy will drop by at least ten percent going forward.

If Germany were to reach the double-digit figures, it would represent the greatest decline seen in the country since the post-war period.

Mr Schweitzer said: “Based on our survey results, we currently have to assume a decline in gross domestic product in the double-digit percentage range.

“When we look around the world, we now feel all the signs of a global economic crisis.”

In order to try and salvage the economy, the German government passed a vast €750billion (£669billion) aid package in March.

The government has also pledged to take on debt for the first time since 2013.

There are also tax relief measures for small to medium-sized companies.

However, despite those measures, Mr Schweitzer insisted it is not enough.

He added: “That won’t be enough for many companies until the end of the year.

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“They must be able to offset the losses of this year against profits from previous years.

“That quickly brings money into the till.”

In a further damning update on the Germany economy, the state’s Bundesbank has stated the country will suffer a severe contraction in the second quarter.

The country suffered a 2.2 quarter on quarter shrink in the first three months of the year as it moves into recession.

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That represents the biggest fall since the 2008-09 financial crash.

The Bundesbank said: “Despite the easing measures that have been introduced, social and economic life in Germany is still very far from what was previously considered normal.

“The available economic indicators paint a correspondingly bleak picture.”

These measures comes as shops have begun to reopen in order to progress from lockdown.

However economic output is down across the continent.

France saw a 5.8 percent drop while Italy registered a 4.7 percent fall in GDP. 

Across the European Economic Area which includes Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, figures showed a drop of 3.8 percent in GDP.

Both France and Germany have led the way in creating a new €500billion (£446billion) to fund European recovery.

Germany, the largest economy in the bloc has come under severe pressure to agree a new relief fund by Italy and Spain who have both been severely hit by the virus.

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.

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China slaps 80 percent tariff on Australian barley in payback for coronavirus inquiry call

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Australian trade minister Simon Birmingham indicated Australia may appeal the imposition of China’s 73.6 percent anti-dumping tariff and 6.9 percent anti-subsidy tariff that will be applied to all Australian barley from Tuesday onwards. In a statement released by the Australian government, Mr Birmingham said: “Australia is deeply disappointed with China’s decision to impose duties on Australian barley. We reject the basis of this decision and will be assessing the details of the findings while we consider the next steps.

“We reserve all rights to appeal this matter further and are confident that Australian farmers are among the most productive in the world, who operate without government subsidy of prices.”

But, a statement on China’s Ministry of Commerce website gave the country’s reasons for the tariff, it read: “The investigating authority has ruled that there was dumping of imported barley from Australia and the domestic industry suffered substantial damage.”

Diplomatic relations between the two nations are rapidly deteriorating.

China is furious that Australia has called for a probe into the spread of coronavirus.

Britain and 122 other countries have also demanded an inquiry, but China points to Australian prime minister Scott Morrison’s record on coronavirus and declared the move is “political manoeuvering” by someone trying to distract from his own inadequacies.

Chinese president Xi Jinping said yesterday that China acted “with openness and transparency” in tackling the coronavirus outbreak.

Now the World Health Organisation, with the backing of China, has announced a plan to conduct a review of the coronavirus pandemic when it subsides.

The WHO said it would be a “comprehensive evaluation” that would review “lessons learned” from the global response to the virus outbreak.

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The inquiry announced by the WHO is expected to stop short of looking into contentious issues such as the origins of the virus.

China has allowed a new narrative to percolate, one that reframes the chain of events, suggesting the virus may not have originated in Wuhan, and China, because of Xi Jinping’s authoritarian efforts, was the most successful country in handling it.

But, EU spokeswoman Virginie Battu-Henriksson announced at the World Health Assembly conference several key questions that needed to be answered as part of a review.

She said: “How did this pandemic spread?

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“What is the epidemiology behind it?

“All this is absolutely crucial for us going forward to avoid another pandemic of this kind.”

In the UK, a Foreign Office spokesman said yesterday: “There will need to be a review into the pandemic, not least so that we can ensure we are better prepared for future global pandemics.

“The resolution at the World Health Assembly is an important step towards this.”

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Hurricane tracker: ‘Intense’ storms spark weather warnings – maps and satellite images

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Two dangerous storms are currently churning around the world – starting hurricane season early this year. There are storm warnings in place across the southeastern United States and India, as storms track towards the warning areas.

Tropical Storm Arthur is the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, and is being closely monitored by forecasters from the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) and local meteorologists.

North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said of Storm Arthur: “This early season storm reminds us that we always need to be prepared for severe weather.”

Elsewhere in the Bay of Bengal, the first named storm of the Pacific hurricane season – Cyclone Amphan – was recorded as intensifying by 110 mph in just 36 hours.

Meteorologist Alex Lamers said on Twitter: “That would certainly put it in a rare class of rapid intensification events globally.” Below are details of both weather systems, the latest satellite images and maps.

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  • Tropical storm Arthur tracker update: Where is Storm Arthur now?

Tropical Storm Arthur

Tropical storm Arthur is the first named storm of the season, and is tracking close to eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia, where it is forecast to bring rain and gusty winds on Monday.

As of the latest National Hurricane Centre (NHC) update, Arthur was centered around 55 miles east-northeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and is moving to the northeast at a rate of 16mph.

The NHC reports maximum sustained winds are near 50mph with higher gusts.

While some strengthening is forecast during the next 24 hours, Arthur is likely to lose its tropical characteristics late tonight or Tuesday.

A tropical storm warning has been issued in eastern North Carolina, and rough surf and dangerous rip currents along much of the southeastern US coast.

Governor Roy Cooper said in a press release issued on Sunday: “Everyone in our coastal areas should remain aware and cautious as Arthur brushes our coast on Monday.

“Pay close attention to the forecast and don’t take chance in dangerous surf.”

Hurricane season officially begins on June 1, and as the first named storm of the season, Arthur has made 2020 the sixth straight hurricane season which has started early.

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  • Satellite images capture dangerous first typhoon of season

Tropical Cyclone Amphan

Tropical Cyclone Amphan is currently tracking across the Northwest Pacific Ocean at a rate of 6.9mph (six knots) over the past six hours.

Located approximately 609 miles (530 nautical miles) south-southwest of Kolkata, India, the first named storm of the Pacific Hurricane Season.

Amphan has strengthened with winds reaching or 160 mph, the equivalent to a super typhoon or a category 5 Atlantic hurricane.

Maximum significant wave height has been recorded as reaching 54 feet high.

The track of landfall is predicted around the Ganges River Delta and could be life threatening for millions in northeast India and Bangladesh.

The Indian state of Odisha has issued high alerts for 12 coastal districts and neighboring West Bengal, which is located on India’s border with Bangladesh, has sounded a cyclone alert in its six coastal districts.

This includes Kolkata, which is one of India’s most densely populated cities with more than 4.4 million inhabitants.

According to the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC) animated enhanced infrared satellite imagery shows an expansive system, spanning 600NM across, which has continued to consolidate with super-dense, deep and symmetrical central convection.

The JTWC also reports the cyclone has maintained a sharply outlined 11.5-mile wide round eye.

The microwave image also shows an eyewall replacement cycle taking place, with two distinct concentric eyewalls, with the JTWC report is typical for very intense cyclones.

The JTWC forecast Amphan will continue to track “generally northward in the Bay of Bengal along the Western Periphery of the near-equatorial ridge to the East”.

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Tropical Storm Arthur warning: First named storm of hurricane season churning off US coast

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Atlantic hurricane season officially starts in June, but this year it has started early with the arrival of Tropical Storm Arthur. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is currently monitoring the system as it tracks near the US coast.

Where is Tropical Storm Arthur?

According to the National Hurricane Center, Tropical Storm Arthur is currently moving in a north-northeastward direction.

Arthur currently has maximum sustained wind speeds of 40mph, according to the NHC’s 8am (EDT) advisory on Sunday.

The storm is currently 355 miles south-southwest of Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, and is moving at speeds of about 9mph.

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A Tropical Storm warning has been issued for Surf City to Duck NC, and Pamlico and Albermarle Sounds.

The NHC said: “At 800 AM EDT (1200 UTC), the center of Tropical Storm Arthur was located near latitude 30.3 North, longitude 77.4 West.

“Arthur is moving toward the north-northeast near 9 mph (15 km/h). A turn toward the northeast with an increase in forward speed is expected during the next 24 to 48 hours.

“On the forecast track, Arthur will remain well offshore the east coast of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina today, and then move near or just east of the coast of North Carolina on Monday.”

Tropical storm conditions are expected within the warning areas on Monday.

Arthur is expected to produce one to three inches of total rainfall over coastal regions of North Carolina tonight and on Monday.

However locally some areas could see much higher amounts of rainfall.

Arthur is also generating swells in parts of the US southeast coast, which are predicted to spread northward along the mid-Atlantic coast over the coming days.

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The NHC warns “life-threatening surf and rip current conditions” could be possible.

So far the impact of Tropical Storm Arthur has been felt in South Florida, with areas such as Miami and Ft. Lauderdale witnessing heavy rain of almost two inches per hour.

A flash flood warning was issued for Miami-Dade County, while thunderstorms and strong winds hit some parts of the metro area on Saturday evening.

By Tuesday Arthur is forecast to weaken to a non-tropical low-pressure system off the mid-Atlantic coast.

When is the Atlantic hurricane season?

Since 2015 at least one named storm has developed before Atlantic hurricane season is officially scheduled to start in June.

After Arthur, the next named storms which form in the North Atlantic will be named Bertha, Cristobal and Dolly for the 2020 season.

The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season was the fourth consecutive year of above-average hurricane activity, with 18 named storms.

The season’s strongest storm, Hurricane Dorian, became a Category 5 major hurricane, with maximum sustained wind speeds recorded at 185mph.

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