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Archive for October 19th, 2010

Saudis say al Qaeda targeting France: minister

Posted by Admin on October 19, 2010

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20101017/ts_nm/us_france_terrorism;_ylt=AkN3rnFBr2jog9pb0YyimZ134T0D;_ylu=X3oDMTJwa29lODhvBGFzc2V0A25tLzIwMTAxMDE3L3VzX2ZyYW5jZV90ZXJyb3Jpc20EcG9zAzEyBHNlYwN5bl9hcnRpY2xlX3N1bW1hcnlfbGlzdARzbGsDc2F1ZGlzc2F5YWxx

PARIS (Reuters) – Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said on Sunday that France had been warned by Saudi Arabia that al Qaeda was targeting Europe and especially France.

“Several hours or days ago, there was a new message from the Saudis that said al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was without doubt active or planning to be active in Europe, especially France,” he told French radio RTL.

“This is not about overestimating the threat or underestimating it,” he said. “I am indicating, based on all these elements, that the threat is real.”

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), an arm of al Qaeda thought to include Yemenis and Saudis, has stepped up attacks on Yemeni and Western targets since it claimed a failed U.S. airliner bombing in December.

Impoverished Yemen, which is struggling to end a civil war in the north and a separatist rebellion in the south, is trying with U.S. help to crush AQAP, which has been based in Yemen since 2006, when SaudiArabia mounted a counter-terrorism drive against its Saudi arm.

Hortefeux’s remarks indicated that the new warning was not connected with the heightened alert in France in late September based on a tip-off that a female suicide bomber was planning to attack its transport system.

police source told Reuters at that time that the information about the threatened attack had come from Algeria.

France has not suffered a major attack since 1995 when the Algerian Armed Islamic Group killed eight people and wounded dozens bombing a Paris metro station.

(Reporting by Thierry Leveque; writing by Nina Sovich; editing by Tim Pearce)

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AP Interview: CG admiral asks for Arctic resources

Posted by Admin on October 19, 2010

ABOVE NORTHERN ALASKA – The ice-choked reaches of the northern Arctic Ocean aren’t widely perceived as an international shipping route. But global warming is bringing vast change, and Russia, for one, is making an aggressive push to establish top of the world sea lanes.

This year, a Russian ship carrying up to 90,000 metric tons of gas condensate sailed across the Arctic and through the Bering Strait to the Far East. Last year, a Russian ship went the other way, leaving from South Korea with industrial parts. Russia plans up to eight such trips next year, using oil-type tankers with reinforced hulls to break through the ice.

All of which calls for more U.S. Coast Guard facilities and equipment in the far north to secure U.S. claims and prepare for increased human activity, according to Rear Admiral Christopher C. Colvin, who is in charge of all Coast Guard operations in Alaska and surrounding waters.

“We have to have presence up there to protect our claims for the future, sovereignty claims, extended continental shelf claims,” Colvin told The Associated Press in a wide-ranging interview conducted aboard a C-130 on a lumbering flight to the Arctic Ocean.

The advent of Russian shipping across the Arctic is of particular concern to Alaska and the U.S. because “there’s one way in and out of the Arctic Ocean for over half the world, and that’s the Bering Strait,” Colvin said.

The 56-mile wide strait lies between northwestern Alaska and Siberia, separating the North American and Asian continents and connecting the Bering Sea to the Arctic Ocean.

“The Bering Strait will end up becoming a significant marine highway in the future, and we’re seeing it with Russia, the way they are promoting this maritime transportation route above Russia right now, today.”

Warming has facilitated such travel. The National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado reported last month that Arctic sea ice coverage was recorded at a summer low of 1.84 million square miles. It said sea ice melted to the third-lowest level since satellite monitoring began in 1979.

More open water is something Colvin’s veteran icebreaker captains confirm.

They’re also concerned about the state of their fleet.

The Coast Guard has three icebreakers, of which only one — the Healy — is operational. The two other icebreakers, the Polar Sea and the Polar Star — “are broken right now,” Colvin said. Both are docked in Seattle, with the Polar Sea expected back in service next June. The Polar Star isn’t expected back until 2013.

Help could be on the way. A bill that awaits President Obama’s signature would have the government conduct a 90-day review of the icebreaker fleet, looking at possibly renovating the current fleet and building new icebreakers.

Colvin said it’s imperative the Coast Guard has icebreakers operating in the Arctic, and not only to have a presence there to protect U.S. claims.

“We need to have U.S. vessels with U.S. scientists operating in the U.S. Arctic, conducting research,” he said.

Such research was the basis for last week’s flight to the Arctic Ocean, deploying two buoys to collect information from both ice floes and the open ocean. However, the buoys in the University of Washington project failed. The first was not deployed after a malfunction aboard the C-130, and the other did not transmit data after it was dropped out the back of the plane and fluttered to the open water via a parachute.

Icebreakers aren’t the only need for the Coast Guard. It also needs operations in northern Alaska since the closest base is in Kodiak, about 1,000 miles to the south.

“What I’d like to see someday is a hangar in Barrow,” he said of the nation’s northernmost city. It would have to be large enough to house a Coast Guard C-130 and perhaps H60 helicopters.

He bases that need on an incident in October 2008 when the Coast Guard flew one of the cargo planes to theNorth Pole. They had to stop on the way back in Barrow, and left the airplane outside overnight.

Arctic temperatures caused the seals on the propellers to freeze, forcing a four-day delay to fly mechanics to Barrow to change out all the seals.

“That just doesn’t work. We really need a structure that we can put our C-130s in to protect them when we come up here and operate,” he said.

Adventurers going to the opening Arctic are another reality for the Coast Guard. Two years ago, seven people went to the Arctic, including two people who had to be rescued while trying to kayak across the Bering Straight. This year, 18 thrillseekers ventured north. Future rescues are a certainty as more people venture to the Arctic.

“I’m sure people will say, ‘Why are we going to waste U.S. government money on a rescue?'” Colvin said. “But you know, that’s our responsibility, our requirements to rescue anybody that does get in distress.”

This month, Shell Oil said it has applied for one exploration well in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s north coast and will seek a permit for a second.

While Colvin said he is always concerned about a possible oil spill, he’s not as wary about oil exploratory operations in the summer months in open Arctic water.

“Open water, summer months, 24 hours of daylight, shallow water, that’s been done successfully throughout the world, I’m not particularly concerned about that,” he said.

“Where I become concerned is year-round production in the winter months up in the Arctic,” Colvin said, adding more science, research and information is needed before moving forward.

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Super typhoon lashes Philippines, knocks out power

Posted by Admin on October 19, 2010

CAUAYAN, Philippines – The strongest cyclone in years to buffet the Philippines knocked out communications and power as residents took shelter Monday, while flooding in Vietnam swept away a bus and 20 of its passengers, including a boy taken from his mother’s grasp by the raging waters.

Super Typhoon Megi, crossing the northern Philippines, was expected to add to the already heavy rains that have fallen on much of Asia. In China, authorities evacuated 140,000 people from a coastal province ahead of the typhoon.

Megi could later hit Vietnam, where flooding has caused 30 deaths in recent days, in addition to those missing and feared dead after a bus was snatched off a road by surging currents Monday.

Megi packed sustained winds of 140 miles (225 kilometers) per hour and gusts of 162 mph (260 kph) as it made landfall midday Monday at Palanan Bay in Isabela province, felling trees and utility poles and cutting off power, phone and Internet services in many areas. It appeared to be weakening while crossing the mountains of the Philippines’ main northern island of Luzon.

With more than 3,600 Filipinos riding out the typhoon in sturdy school buildings, town halls, churches and relatives’ homes, roads in and out of coastal Isabela province, about 320 kilometers (200 miles) northeast of Manila, were deserted and blocked by collapsed trees and powerlines.

One man who had just rescued his water buffalo slipped and fell into a river and probably drowned, said Bonifacio Cuarteros, an official with the Cagayan provincial disaster agency.

As it crashed ashore, the typhoon whipped up huge waves. There was zero visibility and radio reports said the wind was so powerful that people could not take more than a step at a time. Ships and fishing vessels were told to stay in ports, and several domestic and international flights were canceled.

Thousands of military reserve officers and volunteers were on standby, along with helicopters, including six Chinooks that were committed by U.S. troops holding war exercises with Filipino soldiers near Manila, saidBenito Ramos, a top disaster-response official.

“This is like preparing for war,” Ramos, a retired army general, told The Associated Press. “We know the past lessons, and we’re aiming for zero casualties.”

In July, an angry President Benigno Aquino III fired the head of the weather bureau for failing to predict that a typhoon would hit Manila. That storm killed more than 100 people in Manila and outlying provinces.

This time, authorities sounded the alarm early and ordered evacuations and the positioning of emergency relief and food supplies days before the typhoon hit. The capital was expected to avoid any direct hit, though schools were closed.

Megi was the most powerful typhoon to hit the Philippines in four years, government forecasters say. A 2006 howler with 155-mph (250-kph) winds set off mudslides that buried entire villages, killing about 1,000 people.

In central Vietnam, officials said 20 people on a bus were swept away Monday by strong currents from a river flooded by recent rains unrelated to Megi, while another 18 survived by swimming or clinging to trees or power poles.

One survivor treaded water for 3 1/2 hours as the current pushed her downstream and she was forced to let go of her 15-year-old son due to exhaustion. The boy is among the missing.

Officials said 30 other people died in central Vietnam from flooding over the weekend, and five remain missing.

Megi could add to the misery.

“People are exhausted,” Vietnamese disaster official Nguyen Ngoc Giai said by telephone from Quang Binh province. “Many people have not even returned to their flooded homes from previous flooding, while many others who returned home several days ago were forced to be evacuated again.”

China’s National Meteorological Center said Megi was expected to enter the South China Sea on Tuesday, threatening southeastern coastal provinces. The center issued its second-highest alert for potential “wild winds and huge waves,” warning vessels to take shelter and urging authorities to brace for emergencies.

Floods triggered by heavy rains forced nearly 140,000 people to evacuate from homes in the southern island province of Hainan, where heavy rains left thousands homeless over the weekend, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday.

Thailand also reported flooding that submerged thousands of homes and vehicles and halted train service. No casualties were reported, and nearly 100 elephants were evacuated from a popular tourist attraction north of the capital.

___

Associated Press writers Jim Gomez, Teresa Cerojano and Hrvoje Hranjski in Manila; Margie Mason and Tran Van Minh in Hanoi, Vietnam; and Chi-Chi Zhang in Beijing contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects that woman’s son was swept away by waters in Vietnam, not daughter, and corrects number of survivors in that accident to 18, not 17. Adds new photos. An interactive graphic is in the /storm_tracker/ folder. AP Video.)

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