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Posts Tagged ‘associated press’

A year on, Morocco’s democracy movement founders

Posted by Admin on February 18, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/moroccos-democracy-movement-founders-113855263.html;_ylt=Am4j2RGFmuTQ_wwlLaPx5bOs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNhajJzdmI5BG1pdAMEcGtnAzFmZmE4MDdhLWY1NzUtM2MwYi1iMDc4LWNiZDIzMGFkMmU2NwRwb3MDOARzZWMDbG5fQVBfZ2FsBHZlcgNlOTcyZjMyMC01YTI1LTExZTEtYmY2Yi04NzgzNjU3NmQ0Nzg-;_ylv=3

By PAUL SCHEMM | Associated Press – 1 hr 40 mins ago

RABAT, Morocco (AP)Morocco‘s pro-democracy February 20 movement spearheaded the country’s version of the Arab Springand sent the centuries-old monarchy scrambling to reform. Now, a year after its birth, the youth-led group appears to have lost its way.

And while the movement struggles for relevance, Morocco’s problems are far from solved: Social discontent and clashes between police and unemployed graduates are on the rise as the economy suffers from the effects of Europe‘s financial crisis.

Like the Occupy movements in the United States, Morocco’s pro-democracy groups now need to find out if they can keep the fight going.

On Sunday, the movement will try with countrywide anniversary demonstrations to rekindle some of the fire that at its peak in March put 800,000 people from all walks of life on the streets calling for an end to corruption, greater democracy and social justice.

The protesters shook the cities of Morocco and achieved some of the things they wanted, bringing their country a new constitutionand free elections.

Since that time, however, the numbers at the weeklydemonstrations have plummeted to a few thousand in the larger cities as ordinary people abandoned the movement, apparently satisfied with King Mohammed VI‘s reforms, including granting more powers to elected officials — or scared away by a tougher response to the protests.

Elections on Nov. 25 were won by a moderate Islamist opposition party promising many of the things once shouted at demonstrations.

Moroccan authorities have trumpeted their “third way” of dealing with the Arab Spring, steering between revolution and repression in favor of reforms with stability. Social unrest has continued though, including violent clashes between police and unemployed graduates calling for government sector jobs.

The youth-led movement has had a hard time harnessing that simmering anger.

“The problem with February 20 is that it is elitist and doesn’t have a rapport with the people,” saidMouad Belghouat, a 25-year-old rapper with February 20 whose songs excoriating the palace and social inequalities in the country became the soundtrack for the movement. The movement’s demands weren’t all realized, he said, “so we continue to go into the streets.”

Belghouat, who goes by the named El-Haqed, or the Enraged, was jailed for four months for getting into a fight with a regime supporter in the gritty, low income suburb of Casablanca where he lives. His supporters say the charges were trumped up.

“You can’t talk to people about parliamentary monarchy, they think the king is sacred, so you have to talk to them about unemployment and those stealing the wealth of the country,” he said, explaining that he and his friends in the movement now go to neighborhoods and have discussions to raise people’s consciousness.

It also helps that his rap songs appeal to the young, unemployed and disenfranchised youth that swell the crumbling slums surrounding Casablanca, Tangiers and other large cities.

The movement’s protests always had an artistic side to them, with street theater often accompanying the colorful marches through the streets.

In one Casablanca protest, a man with the mask of a hated adviser of the king dangled a baguette on a fishing rod above the grasping hands of three ragged figures representing the people.

There is no denying that in the initial months of the protests, February 20 achieved more than generations of party politics had accomplished in opening up Morocco.

“It succeeded in breaking a taboo, it brought out into the open calls against corruption and the domination of certain figures on the economy,” said Omar Bendoro, a political analyst at Rabat University. Close associates of the king from wealthy families are perceived to dominate the economy.

After years of repression, people are no longer afraid to make their discontent known, whether about lack of water, electricity or civil rights, he added.

“Social problems have always existed, but now the people explode because there is a chance that the powers-that-be will take them seriously,” Bendoro said.

The king, due either to the street rallies or fears of Egyptian- or Tunisian-style revolutions, agreed in March to amend the constitution, bowing to longtime demands from political parties.

Under the new constitution the prime minister has more powers and comes from the party that won the most votes, rather than whomever the king felt like choosing under the old system. Ultimate power, however, still rests with the monarch and his court of close advisers.

Even as the concessions, including raising public sector wages, blunted popular anger, activists say there was a second, darker, prong to the official response — one that targeted the movement itself.

Starting in May, demonstrations began to be attacked by riot police and hired thugs, and some activists started receiving late night visits from security officers.

“There were two levels at work, the institutional and the non-institutional, which was the intimidation, beatings and propaganda — particularly propaganda about the Islamists,” said activist Abadila Maaelaynine.

State media said the demonstrators were being infiltrated by radical communists and hardline Islamists from the banned Adl wal Ihsane (Justice and Charity) movement, which did have a big presence in the demonstrations.

The accusations stuck, further cooling public ardor for the movement, and soon the demonstrations became more of a weekly — later monthly — traffic nuisance than a real vehicle of political change.

“We failed to become more innovative in what we were doing and it’s time to admit that,” said Zeinab Belmkaddem, a young activist with the movement, which is now looking to start a political party and build up a lasting network tied to the people.

“We don’t want to just stay in the streets, we tried that for a year — been there done that — that’s it, but at the end of the day what happened is that others took advantage and that’s what happened with the PJD,” she said bitterly, referring to the Islamist party that won elections.

The party has been a clear beneficiary of the movement.

“The process of democratization in the country is moving in a good direction,” said Mustapha Khalfi, once the editor of the PJD’s newspaper and now the minister of communication and government spokesman. “Moroccan society has the feeling that what is happening in politics has an impact on daily life and most importantly when they participate it can make a difference.”

Khalfi is quick to praise the February 20 movement for its early efforts, but noted that it has since lost momentum and popularity and it is the new government that is now looking to satisfy people’s demands for jobs.

Activists, however, question whether the limited powers given to the new government will be enough to enact the deep reforms that the people crave — especially as daily frustrations mount.

“Now the people are waiting to see what they can do,” said the rapper Belghouat. “They will be disappointed.”

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Syrian forces fire on anti-Assad crowd in capital

Posted by Admin on February 18, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/chinese-envoy-meet-syrian-leader-u-n-condemnation-011432194.html;_ylt=Av1812XJ_k8gLm9NCAGS0SOs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNmbjVja3RuBG1pdAMEcGtnAzAxNDFhYzQwLTYyZGUtM2FhYi04YzdlLTQyNmJjMjE2NDZiMgRwb3MDMQRzZWMDbG5fUmV1dGVyc19nYWwEdmVyAzgzYmIyZmUwLTVhMjgtMTFlMS1iYTU1LTZjMWQxM2Q0ZTJmYQ–;_ylv=3

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Angus MacSwan | Reuters – 1 hr 19 mins ago

AMMAN/BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian security forces fired live ammunition to break up a protest against President Bashar al-Assadin Damascus on Saturday, killing at least one person, opposition activists said.

A Chinese envoy met the Syrian leader earlier in the day and urged all sides to end 11 months of bloodshed, while backing a government plan for elections.

The shooting broke out at the funerals of three youths killed on Friday in an anti-Assad protest that was one of the biggest in the capital since a nationwide uprising started.

“They started firing at the crowd right after the burial. People are running and trying to take cover in the alleyways,” said a witness, speaking to Reuters in Amman by telephone.

The opposition Syrian Revolution Coordination Union said the gunfire near the cemetery had killed one mourner and wounded four, including a woman who was hit in the head.

Up to 30,000 demonstrators had taken to the streets in the Mezze district of Damascus, witnesses said.

Footage of the funeral broadcast live on the Internet showed women ululating to honor the victims. Mourners shouted: “We sacrifice our blood, our soul for you martyrs. One, one, one, the Syrian people are one”.

Assad described the turmoil racking Syria as a ploy to split the country.

“What Syria is facing is fundamentally an effort to divide it and affect its geopolitical place and historic role in the region,” he was quoted by Syrian state television as saying after meeting Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun.

CHINESE SUPPORT

Zhai, speaking hours before the shooting at the funerals, said Chinabacked Assad’s plan for a referendum on February 26 followed by multi-party elections to resolve the crisis. The opposition and the West have dismissed the plan as sham.

The Chinese envoy appealed for an end to violence from all sides, including the government and opposition forces. His comments nevertheless amounted to a show of support against world condemnation of Assad’s crackdown on the popular uprising.

China supports the path of reform taking place in Syria and the important steps that have been taken in this respect,” he said.

China’s state news agency Xinhua highlighted Zhai’s comments that China was “deeply concerned by the escalating crisis”. The Syrian TV report quoted him as saying: “The Chinese experience shows a nation cannot develop without stability.”

Beijing and Moscow have been Assad’s most important international defenders during the crackdown which has killed several thousand people and divided world powers. The United Nations, the United States, Europe, Turkey and Arab powers want Assad to step down and have condemned the ferocious repression.

Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution on February 4 calling on Assad to quit and also voted against a similar, non-binding General Assembly resolution on Thursday.

BOMBING THE OPPOSITION

Syrian government forces meanwhile renewed their bombardment of the opposition stronghold of Homs on Saturday.

A blanket of snow covered Homs, on the highway between Damascus and the commercial hub Aleppo, as Syrian troops pounded mainly Sunni Muslim rebel districts with rockets and artillery.

The troops were close to Baba Amro, a southern neighborhood that has been target of the heaviest barrages since the armored offensive began two weeks ago, activists said.

“Troops have closed in on Baba Amro and the bombardment is mad, but I don’t know if they are willing to storm the neighborhood while it is snowing,” activist Mohammad al-Homsi said from Homs.

“There is no electricity and communications between districts are cut, so we are unable to get a death toll… there is no fuel in most of the city.”

The military has also opened a new offensive in Hama, a city with a bloody history of resistance to Assad’s late father. The Assad clan are Alawites, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, in a majority Sunni country.

Assad, who succeeded his father Hafez when he died in 2000 after 30 years in power, says he is fighting foreign-backed terrorists.

The uprising began with civilian protests in March, but now includes a parallel armed struggle led by the loosely organized Free Syria Army, made up of army deserters and local insurgents.

Syria’s other significant ally is Iran, itself at odds with the West. An Iranian destroyer and a supply ship sailed through the Suez canal this week and are believed to be on their way to the Syrian coast, a source in the canal authority said.

The West is concerned that the conflict is sliding towards a civil war that could spread across the region’s patchwork of ethnic, religious and political rivalries.

But it has ruled out Libya-style military intervention, instead imposing sanctions and urging a fragmented opposition, which includes activists inside Syria, armed rebels and politicians in exile, to present a common front against Assad.

Tunisia, which is hosting a meeting on Syria next week, said on Friday Arab countries would encourage the opposition to unite before they would recognize them as a government-in-waiting.

(Additional reporting by Mohammed Abbas in Beirut; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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Solar storm hits earth

Posted by Admin on January 28, 2012

http://in.news.yahoo.com/photos/major-solar-storm-headed-to-earth-1327375802-slideshow/

The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, are seen near the city of Tromsoe, northern Norway, late Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. Stargazers were out in force in northern Europe on Tuesday, hoping to be awed

The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, are seen near the city of Tromsoe, northern Norway, late Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. Stargazers were out in force in northern Europe on Tuesday, hoping to be awed by a spectacular showing of northern lights after the most powerful solar storm in six years. (AP Photo/Scanpix Norway, Rune Stoltz Bertinussen)

The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, are seen near the city of Tromsoe, northern Norway, late Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. Stargazers were out in force in northern Europe on Tuesday, hoping to be awed

The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, are seen near the city of Tromsoe, northern Norway, late Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. Stargazers were out in force in northern Europe on Tuesday, hoping to be awed by a spectacular showing of northern lights after the most powerful solar storm in six years. (AP Photo/Scanpix Norway, Rune Stoltz Bertinussen)

The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, are seen near the city of Trondheim, Norway Tuesday Jan. 23, 2012. Stargazers were out in force in northern Europe on Tuesday, hoping to be awed by a spectacul

The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, are seen near the city of Trondheim, Norway Tuesday Jan. 23, 2012. Stargazers were out in force in northern Europe on Tuesday, hoping to be awed by a spectacular showing of northern lights after the most powerful solar storm in six years. (AP Photo/Emil Bratt Borsting)

The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, are seen near the city of Trondheim, Norway Tuesday Jan. 23, 2012. Stargazers were out in force in northern Europe on Tuesday, hoping to be awed by a spectacul

The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, are seen near the city of Trondheim, Norway Tuesday Jan. 23, 2012. Stargazers were out in force in northern Europe on Tuesday, hoping to be awed by a spectacular showing of northern lights after the most powerful solar storm in six years. (AP Photo/Emil Bratt Borsting)

solar storm

This handout image provided by NASA, taken Sunday night, Jan. 22, 2012, shows a solar flare erupting on the Sun‘s northeastern hemisphere. Space weather officials say the strongest solar storm in more than six years is already bombarding Earth with radiation with more to come. The Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado observed a flare Sunday night at 11 p.m. EST. Physicist Doug Biesecker said the biggest concern from the speedy eruption is the radiation, which arrived on Earth an hour later. It will likely continue through Wednesday. It’s mostly an issue for astronauts’ health and satellite disruptions. It can cause communication problems for airplanes that go over the poles. (AP Photo/NASA)

The Solar Dynamics Observatory captures an M8.7 class flare in a handout photo released by NASA

The strongest geomagnetic storm in more than six years was forecast to hit Earth’s magnetic field on Tuesday, and it could affect airline routes, power grids and satellites.A coronal mass ejection – a big chunk of the Sun’s atmosphere – was hurled toward Earth on Sunday, driving energized solar particles at about 5 million miles an hour (2,000 km per second), about five times faster than solar particles normally travel, the center’s Terry Onsager said.”When it hits us, it’s like a big battering ram that pushes into Earth’s magnetic field,” Onsager said from Boulder, Colorado. “That energy causes Earth’s magnetic field to fluctuate.”
The Solar Dynamics Observatory captures an M8.7 class flare in a handout photo released by NASA January 23, 2012.
REUTERS/NASA/SDO/AIA/Handout

SDO's AIA instrument at 171 Angstrom shows the current conditions of the quiet corona and upper transition region of the Sun as seen in a handout by NASA

This energy can interfere with high frequency radio communications used by airlines to navigate close to the North Pole in flights between North America, Europe and Asia, so some routes may need to be shifted, Onsager said.It could also affect power grids and satellite operations, the center said in a statement. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station may be advised to shield themselves in specific parts of the spacecraft to avoid a heightened dose of solar radiation.
SDO’s AIA instrument at 171 Angstrom shows the current conditions of the quiet corona and upper transition region of the Sun as seen in a handout photo released by NASA January 23, 2012.
REUTERS/NASA/SDO/AIA/Handout

Large Solar Flare Expected To Affect Earth

In this handout from the NOAA/National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center, shows the coronal mass ejection (CME) erupting from the sun late January 23, 2012. The flare is reportedly the largest since 2005 and is expected to affect GPS systems and other communications when it reaches the Earth’s magnetic field in the morning of January 24. (Photo by NOAA/National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center via Getty Images)

Large Solar Flare Expected To Affect Earth

The space weather center said the geomagnetic storm’s intensity would probably be moderate or strong, levels two and three on a five-level scale, five being the most extreme.
Text Courtesy : Reuters

http://in.news.yahoo.com/photos/major-solar-storm-headed-to-earth-1327375802-slideshow/

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Beijing releases pollution data; US figures higher

Posted by Admin on January 24, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/beijing-releases-pollution-data-us-figures-higher-021659057.html;_ylt=AlKJPQohYJ29ASKTCs8_U1Ws0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTQ3N29ramJpBG1pdANTZWN0aW9uTGlzdCBGUCBTY2llbmNlBHBrZwNhMmNiYTI2Ni1mOGEwLTNkNTAtOGU4Zi03ZDVjZGM3NGY4NzEEcG9zAzMEc2VjA01lZGlhU2VjdGlvbkxpc3QEdmVyA2E2MjQ0MDUwLTQ1ZTAtMTFlMS05ZWZlLTI2OTYwZjY4OWU2NQ–;_ylg=X3oDMTFvdnRqYzJoBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANob21lBHB0A3NlY3Rpb25zBHRlc3QD;_ylv=3

By LOUISE WATT | Associated Press – Sat, Jan 21, 2012

BEIJING (AP) — Caving to public pressure, Beijing environmental authorities started releasing more detailed air quality data Saturday that may better reflect how bad the Chinese capital‘s air pollutionis. But one expert says measurements from the first day were low compared with data U.S. officials have been collecting for years.

The initial measurements were low on a day where you could see blue sky. After a week of smothering smog, the skies over the city were being cleared by a north wind.

The readings of PM2.5 — particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in size or about 1/30th the average width of a human hair — were being posted on Beijing’s environmental monitoring center’s website. Such small particulates can penetrate deep into the lungs, so measuring them is considered a more accurate reflection of air quality than other methods.

It is the first time Beijing has publicly revealed PM2.5 data and follows a clamor of calls by citizens on social networking sites tired of breathing in gray and yellow air. The U.S. Embassy measures PM2.5 from a device on its rooftop and releases the results, and some residents have even tested the air around their neighborhoods and posted the results online.

Beijing is releasing hourly readings of PM2.5 that are taken from one monitoring site about 4 miles (7 kilometers) west of Tiananmen Square, the monitoring center’s website said Saturday. It said the data was for research purposes and the public should only use it as a reference.

The reading at noon Saturday was 0.015 milligrams per cubic meter, which would be classed as “good” for a 24-hour exposure at that level, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. The U.S. Embassy reading taken from its site on the eastern edge of downtown Beijing said its noon reading was “moderate.” Its readings are posted on Twitter.

Steven Andrews, an environmental consultant who has studied Beijing’s pollution data since 2006, said he was “already a bit suspicious” of Beijing’s PM2.5 data. Within the 24-hour period to noon Saturday, Beijing reported seven hourly figures “at the very low level” of 0.003 milligrams per cubic meter.

“In all of 2010 and 2011, the U.S. Embassy reported values at or below that level only 18 times out of over 15,000 hourly values or about 0.1 percent of the time,” said Andrews. “PM2.5 concentrations vary by area so a direct comparison between sites isn’t possible, but the numbers being reported during some hours seem surpisingly low.”

The Beijing center had promised to release PM2.5 data by the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year on Monday. It has six sites that can test for PM2.5 and 27 that can test for the larger, coarser PM10 particles that are considered less hazardous. The center is expected to buy equipment and build more monitoring sites to enable PM2.5 testing.

Beijing wasn’t expected to include PM2.5 in its daily roundups of the air quality anytime soon. Those disclosures, for example “light” or “serious,” are based on the amount of PM10, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide in the air.

Beijing interprets air quality using less stringent standards than the U.S. Embassy, so often when the government says pollution is “light,” the embassy terms it “hazardous.”

“There has been tremendous amounts of attention in the Chinese media — whichever newspaper you pick up, whichever radio station you listen to, channel you watch — they are all talking about PM2.5 and how levels are so high,” said Andrews.

“What has been so powerful is that people are skeptical, and I think rightly skeptical,” about the government’s descriptions of data, he said.

___

Online:

Beijing center’s readings (in Chinese): http://zx.bjmemc.com.cn/

The U.S. Embassy’s Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/beijingair

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Syria rejects new Arab League plan to end crisis

Posted by Admin on January 24, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/syria-rejects-arab-league-plan-end-crisis-070421433.html;_ylt=AnzTTNzI67qMmLNiaSP7YVas0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNsNHBjOTFnBG1pdANUb3BTdG9yeSBGUARwa2cDOGU4ZjIxNGItMGJhZS0zNzUyLThlOTItM2Y1MWY1ZmY0ZTA4BHBvcwM3BHNlYwN0b3Bfc3RvcnkEdmVyAzEyNzc1ZTQwLTQ1ZGMtMTFlMS1hOTVmLWM3ODg2MWQ3YTgyNg–;_ylg=X3oDMTFvdnRqYzJoBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANob21lBHB0A3NlY3Rpb25zBHRlc3QD;_ylv=3

By BASSEM MROUE and BEN HUBBARD | Associated Press – 27 mins ago

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria on Monday rejected the Arab League‘s wide-ranging new plan to end the country’s 10-month crisis, saying theLeague’s call for a national unity government in two months is a clear violation of Syrian sovereignty, as violence raged.

Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets in a suburb outside the capital, Damascus to mourn for 11 residents who were either shot dead by security forces or killed in clashes between army defectors and troops a day earlier, activists said.

An activist group said 23 people were killed in Syria on Monday.

The crowd in Douma — which one activist said was 60,000-strong — was under the protection of dozens of army defectors who are in control of the area after regime forces pulled out late Sunday, said Samer al-Omar, a Douma resident.

The reports could not be independently confirmed.

In Syria’s north, opposition figure Radwan Rabih Hamadi was killed in an ambush by unknown gunmen in the rebellious Jabal al-Zawiya mountain region, activists said. Hamadi, 46, was a prominent figure in the revolt against President Bashar Assad.

Assad blames the uprising that erupted in March on terrorists and armed gangs acting out a foreign conspiracy to destabilize the country. His regime has retaliated with a brutal crackdown that the U.N. says has killed more than 5,400 people.

There is growing urgency, however, to find a resolution to a crisis that is growing increasingly violent as regime opponents and army defectors who have switched sides have started to fight back againstgovernment forces.

The Arab League has tried to stem the bloodshed by condemning the crackdown, imposing sanctions and sending a team of observers to the country. On Sunday, the League called for a unity government within two months, which would then prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held under Arab and international supervision.

The proposal also provides for Assad to give his vice president full powers to cooperate with the proposed government to enable it to carry out its duties during a transitional period.

The state-run news agency, SANA, said Damascus considers the plan “flagrant interference in its internal affairs” and the latest turn in an international plot against Syria.

It was not immediately clear what steps, if any, Syria could take to counter the Arab League’s stance.

The European Union backed the Arab plan Monday, and it extended existing sanctions against Assad’s government by adding 22 more officials and eight companies to the blacklist.

In New York, German U.N. Ambassador Peter Wittig called Monday on fellow Security Council members to endorse the Arab League’s new plan to end the violence in Syria, including formation of a national unity government.

“The decisions taken in Cairo may be a game-changer, also for the Security Council,” Wittig told a small group of reporters.

Omar Idlibi, a spokesman for the Syrian National Council opposition group, said the Arab efforts do not go far enough. He and many other opposition figures demand Assad leave power and say anything less will just give the regime time to bury the revolt.

But there are significant splits in the opposition about the way forward.

Hassan Abdul-Azim, who heads the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, or NCB, said the Arab plan is an “advanced step as the Arab League has started dealing with matters more seriously.”

Abdul-Azim told The Associated Press that the plan would put more pressure on Assad’s regime and “tells it that it’s impossible to keep matters as they are.”

Syria appeared to get a serious boost Monday from its powerful allies in Russia. Russia’s business daily Kommersant reported that Moscow has signed a contract to sell 36 Yak-130 combat jets to Syria — a deal that, if confirmed, would openly defy international efforts to pressure Assad’s regime.

The Arab League’s observer mission has come under heavy criticism for failing to stop the violence in Syria.

On Monday, the head of the mission defended the observers’ work, saying their presence had cut down on the bloodshed. Speaking at League headquarters in Cairo, Sudanese Gen. Mohammed Ahmed al-Dabi told reporters the observers have witnessed violence from both the Syrian security forces and armed opposition groups.

“When the delegation arrived, there was clear and obvious violence,” he said. “But after the delegation arrived, the violence started to lessen gradually.”

On Sunday, Arab League foreign ministers extended the mission for another month. The mission’s one-month mandate technically expired on Thursday.

Violence continued inside Syria on Monday.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops and army defectors clashed Monday near the western town of Qusair, close to the Lebanese border. It said five soldiers were killed and 13 were wounded.

The Observatory added that 20 civilians were killed by security forces in different parts of Syria, nine of them in the northwestern province of Idlib that borders Turkey.

The LCC put Monday’s death toll at 23.

It was impossible to reconcile the discrepancy.

Syria has prevented most independent media coverage and until recently has refused to issue visas for most foreign journalists. In recent weeks, the regime has begun to permit entry for journalists on trips escorted by government minders.

___

Hubbard reported from Cairo. Anita Snow contributed reporting from the U.N.

___

Bassem Mroue can be reached on http://twitter.com/bmroue

 

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Calm prevails as Occupy deadlines pass in 2 cities

Posted by Admin on November 28, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/calm-prevails-occupy-deadlines-pass-2-cities-122035346.html

By ANDREW DALTON and GEOFF MULVIHILL | AP – 9 mins ago

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Deadlines for Wall Street protesters to leave their encampments came and went in two cities with no arrests in Philadelphia and a festive, party-like atmosphere as protesters in Los Angeles defied the order clear out early Monday.

Protesters defied the mayor’s deadline to vacate their encampment near City Hall in Los Angeles, with about 1,000 flooding into the area as hundreds of tents remained standing as they have for nearly two months.

A celebratory atmosphere filled the night with protesters milling about the park and streets by City Hall in seeming good spirits. A group on bicycles circled the block, one of them in a cow suit. Organizers led chants with a bull horn.

“The best way to keep a non-violent movement non-violent is to throw a party, and keep it festive and atmospheric,” said Brian Masterson.

Police presence was slight right after the 12:01 a.m. PST Monday deadline, but it began increasing as the morning wore on. At the same time, the number of protesters dwindled.

“People have been pretty cooperative tonight. We want to keep it peaceful,” police Cmdr. Andrew Smith told The Associated Press.

He refused to discuss how or when police will move to clear the park, but he said: “We’re going to do this as gently as we possibly can. Our goal is not to have anybody arrested. Our goal is not to have to use force.”

A deadline set by the city for Occupy Philadelphia to leave the site where it has camped for nearly two months passed Sunday without any arrests.

The reactions to the expired deadlines in Los Angeles and Philadelphia were far different from those in other cities in recent weeks, where pepper spray, tear gas and police action have been used in the removal of long-situated demonstrators since the movement against economic disparity and perceived corporate greed began with Occupy Wall Street in Manhattan two months ago.

Dozens of tents remained at the encampment outside Philadelphia’s City Hall Monday morning, twelve hours after a city-imposed deadline passed for the protesters to move to make way for a construction project.

No arrests were immediately reported Monday. The camp appeared mostly quiet amid a heavy police presence, but around 5 a.m. EST a handful of people were marching one of the city’s main business corridors banging drums.

The scene outside City Hall was quiet most of the day Sunday. But the sound of protesters’ drumming did bring complaints from several people living in nearby high-rise apartment buildings.

In Los Angeles, by 2:30 a.m., most protesters had moved from the camp site in the park to the streets. That put them technically in compliance with the mayor’s eviction order, but could lead to confrontation with police if they try to clear the streets.

There have so far been no arrests or reports of violence.

“We’re still here, it’s after 12, ain’t nobody throwing anything at the cops, they haven’t come in and broken anyone’s noses yet, so it’s a beautiful thing,” said Adam Rice, a protester standing across the street from police in riot gear.

In Philadelphia, along the steps leading into a plaza, about 50 people sat in lines Sunday with the promise that they would not leave unless they were carried out by authorities. For a time, they linked arms. But as it seemed that a forceful ouster was not imminent, they relaxed a bit. A police presence was heavier than usual but no orders to leave had been issued.

A few dozen tents remained scattered on the plaza, along with trash, piles of dirty blankets and numerous signs reading, “You can’t evict an idea.”

Several hundred supporters surrounded those who were prepared to face arrest for one of the Occupy movement meetings known as a general assembly.

The meeting started out with logistics — making sure those sitting in had quarters to make calls from jail and that someone was gathering important medical information — but it soon turned to big ideas.

The protesters described their many hopes for a better world. Among them: reparations for slavery and Native American lands, better and more inspiring schools, recognizing gay marriage, and end to homelessness, fewer TVs and better pay for artists. Some of those who spoke with hope and joined in rendition of “Lean on Me,” had goggles with them, just in case pepper spray is used.

There was a sense that the occupation in front of Philadelphia’s Gothic-style City Hall would soon be over, but hope that the movement would last.

“This is just baby steps,” said R.W. Dennen, who said he felt a bit guilty that he wasn’t preparing to be arrested.

Elsewhere on the East Coast, eight people were arrested in Maine after protesters in the Occupy Augusta encampment in Capitol Park took down their tents and packed their camping gear after being told to get a permit or move their shelters.

Protesters pitched tents Oct. 15 as part of the national movement but said Sunday they shouldn’t have to get a permit to exercise their right to assemble. Occupy leaders said a large teepee loaned by the Penobscot Indians and a big all-weather tent would stay up.

In Philadelphia, Steve Venus was fortifying the area around his tent with abandoned wood pallets left over from those who had already packed up. He said the $50 million construction project, including a planned ice skating rink, was not a good enough reason for Occupy Philadelphia to leave the plaza.

Venus, 22, said that by enforcing the deadline, the city was essentially telling Occupy supporters “your issues are not important. The only issue that’s important is the ice skating rink.”

On Friday, Mayor Michael Nutter expressed support for the movement’s ideals but said protesters must make room for the long-planned project, which they were told of when they set up camp Oct. 6.

Nutter was out of town Sunday, but his spokesman reiterated that “people are under orders to move.”

The mayor himself had an exchange on Twitter with hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, who asked Nutter “to remember this is a non-violent movement — please show restraint tonight.”

Nutter’s response: “I agree.”

Graffiti, lack of sanitation and fire hazards, including smoking in tents, were among the city’s chief concerns at Dilworth, which had about 350 tents at the height of the movement.

___

Mulvihill reported from Philadelphia. Associated Press Writers Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia, Glenn Adams in Augusta, Maine, contributed to this story.

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Hell and high water

Posted by Admin on November 9, 2011

http://in.news.yahoo.com/deadly-flooding-in-india%E2%80%8E-.html;_ylt=Ag2B510rF03b7KqijuDm4kph_t5_;_ylu=X3oDMTQ2YWZvNzhxBG1pdANtb3Jlb253aWRlc2NyZWVuBHBrZwM1ZGQ0OWJhMi1mZTRjLTM5OTYtYWJlZi03Njc4ZjllMDQ0OWYEcG9zAzMEc2VjA01lZGlhRmVhdHVyZWRDYXJvdXNlbAR2ZXIDZjZhYTVkYjQtZWRhZS0xMWUwLWFkOWUtMWY0ZjBhNWU3MWM2;_ylg=X3oDMTJuamcybnFkBGludGwDaW4EbGFuZwNlbi1pbgRwc3RhaWQDMGJjYzhmOWMtYWRmMi0zNmM2LTk1MTItMzQ0NGY5MjFlNmU1BHBzdGNhdAMEcHQDY29taWMtZ2FsbGVyeQ–;_ylv=3

The annual cycle of drought and flood in India routinely makes headlines but it appears that this time the floods have the upper hand. Prolonged and intense monsoon rainfall has led rivers in northern and eastern India to flow above the danger mark, breach banks and overflow into habitation. As the Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and other influencers debate if the Below Poverty Line cap for daily expenditure must be raised above Rs 32 (Rs 26 in rural India), untamed waters have devastated the livelihoods of about 4 million people in north and east India. In Orissa alone, 2.2 million people have been affected. Over 1,700 rural roads have been damaged and the state government has earmarked Rs 1,210 crore to bring life back to normal while it has asked the Centre for Rs 3,265 crore as compensation. The states of Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are also struggling to cope as rivers in spate have swept away people, livestock, bridges and homes.

Mon, Oct 3, 2011

AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout

AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout

A woman carries her injured son through flood waters at Pahanga village in Orissa’s Jajpur district. Monsoon rains have destroyed mud huts and flooded wide swaths of north and east India, leaving hundreds of thousands of people marooned by the raging waters.


 

AP Photo/ Aftab Alam Siddiqui

AP Photo/ Aftab Alam Siddiqui

At Kasimpurchak near Danapur Diara in Patna, a boat turns into a veritable Noah’s Ark as villagers share it with cattle to cross a flooded river. In Bihar, an estimated 2,512 boats have been deployed to evacuate 68,000 people as floods destroyed standing crops in 114,000 hectares of land and damaged over 15,000 homes and public buildings.


AP Photo/Kevin Frayer

AP Photo/Kevin Frayer

Boys row a makeshift banana raft on their way to a marooned community near Patamundi, about 120 kilometers north of Bhubaneshwar, India. The Orissa government has decided to withdraw air-dropping of relief materials as water levels have receded and most of the worst-hit areas are now accessible by road and some by boat. The death toll in the second spell of floods has risen to 40, an official said.


AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout

AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout

Villagers carrying relief materials brave floodwaters at Rasulpur village in Orissa’s Jajpur district. The southwest monsoon, which brings rain from June through September, is vital to agriculture but also cause floods and landslides.


AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout

AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout

Twenty out of Orissa’s 30 districts have been affected by successive floods and road communication has been snapped in several areas. The state government has decided to construct permanent helipads in coastal region for relief operation.


AP Photo/Biswaranjan RoutA villager stands on all that is left of a bridge at Rasulpur village in Orissa’s Jajpur district. Several bridges have been washed off, disrupting road connections across the beleaguered state. Three hundred rural bridges will be restored at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore under the Orissa Rural Bridges Scheme.


AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout

AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout

A woman returns to her village through flood waters at Rasulpur village in Orissa’s Jajpur district. A spokesperson of the National Rural Health Mission said 978 women in advanced stages of pregnancy had been marooned by the worst floods to hit the state in three decades.


AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout

AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout

A girl sleeps at her mud hut surrounded by flood waters at Pahanga village in Orissa’s Jajpur district. Nearly a thousand villages have been marooned by floods sparked by two spells of incessant monsoon rain.


AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout

AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout

A villager returns to his marooned house in Bari village, about 130 kilometers from Bhubaneshwar. The state government said it would spend Rs 1208 crore within 45 days on restoration and reconstruction work.


AP

AP

Village boys cross a flooded area on a makeshift raft in Orissa. The state government has decided to waive the examination fee for high school students in flood-affected areas.


AP Photo/Bikas Das

AP Photo/Bikas Das

Villagers ford floodwaters at Patamundi near Kendrapara, about 120 kilometers north of Bhubaneshwar. The state government has sought Rs 3,265 crore as grant from the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) towards damages suffered in the twin floods in September.


AP Photo/Kevin Frayer

AP Photo/Kevin Frayer

Flood-displaced boys fish in floodwaters. An estimated 1109 villages have been marooned in two spells of flooding in 10 districts of Orissa.


REUTERS/Mukesh Gupta

REUTERS/Mukesh Gupta

Men ride a bicycle through a flooded road after a heavy downpour on the outskirts of Jammu. Monsoon rains were one percent above normal in mid-September, weakening from 39 percent above average in the previous week, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said, easing concerns that heavy rains could damage planted crops.


AP

AP

Townsfolk in Varanasi wade through flood waters caused due to excess rainfall. Monsoon rains caused mud-walled homes to collapse and rescuers are struggling to reach affected villages in eastern Uttar Pradesh.


REUTERS/Parivartan Sharma

REUTERS/Parivartan Sharma

A car submerged in a flooded underpass after heavy rains in Noida, near New Delhi. Above-normal monsoon rains affected life all over north India.

Posted in Earth Changes, India Forgotten | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Hell and high water

Floods threaten Bangkok as north starts to rebuild

Posted by Admin on November 7, 2011

http://in.news.yahoo.com/floods-threaten-bangkok-north-starts-rebuild-104703813.html

By PAILIN WEDEL – Associated Press | AP – 2 hours 12 minutes ago

BANGKOK (AP)Floodwaters from Thailand‘s flood-ravaged central heartland pushed farther into Bangkok on Monday, as residents of long-submerged provinces north of the capital started to rebuild their lives.

The water slowly advancing through Bangkok’s northern and western neighborhoods is threatening the city’s subway system, two key industrial estates and the emergency headquarters set up to deal with the flooding that has claimed more than 500 lives nationwide.

Evacuations have been ordered in 12 of Bangkok’s 50 districts, with residents of the northern district of Klong Sam Wa told to leave Monday. The evacuations, which also effect parts of several other districts, are not mandatory, and many people are staying to protect homes and businesses. But the orders illustrate how far flooding has progressed into the city and how powerless the government has been to stop it.

The flooding began in late July and some provinces to the north of Bangkok have been inundated for more than a month. The waters have started to recede in recent days, revealing the massive cleanup effort that lies ahead.

For two months, Anan Dirath was forced to live on the second floor of his home in Nakorn Sawan province. But now that the water has receded to knee level, it’s time to clean up.

He armed his two teenage children with mops, scrub brushes and garbage bags. Wading in the water, his family began scrubbing dirt off the walls and collecting the garbage around the house. He said the dirt was difficult to wash off and he has had to scrub the paint off to get rid of it.

“Oh my pretty home. It used to be a pretty two-story home,” he said Monday.

In nearby Nakorn Sawan town center, where the water has dried completely, the government sponsored a cleanup day last week when roads were scrubbed down to get rid of the oily mud left from the floods. Back hoes were used to carry garbage away.

The cleanup also has begun in some parts of Thailand’s ancient capital of Ayutthaya. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is to visit the province Tuesday to witness recovery efforts.

Yingluck says a plan to be put before the Cabinet on Tuesday would allocate 100 billion baht ($3.3 billion) for post-flood reconstruction.

Her government has come under fire for failing to predict the threat to Bangkok. Residents also have been frustrated by widely differing assessments of the flooding situation from the prime minister, Bangkok’s governor and the country’s top water experts and officials.

Floodwaters in the city continued to flow south Monday toward the still-unaffected central business district. In Chatuchak, a few miles (kilometers) north of there, water was nearly knee deep around Mo Chit Skytrain station, the northernmost stop on the capital’s elevated train system.

Water was also rising near three subway stops in the same area. Both mass transit networks are functioning normally, though some exits have been barricaded and closed.

Chatuchak is home to the government’s national flood relief headquarters, which is housed in the Energy Ministry — a building now surrounded by water. The relief headquarters moved last week out of Bangkok’s Don Muang airport after it, too, was flooded. The city’s main airport remains open.

Also in Chatuchak, water has begun approaching a main road near the Mo Chit bus terminal, a major gateway to northern Thailand.

___

Associated Press writers Vee Intarakratug, Todd Pitman and Chris Blake contributed to this report.

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“Stage Two” of the BP Gulf of Mexico Environmental Disaster New Drilling Permits amid 28,000 Unmonitored Abandoned Wells

Posted by Admin on October 28, 2011

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=27279

by Rady Ananda

Global Research, October 25, 2011
24,486 permanent and 3,593 temporarily abandoned wells in the Gulf of Mexico [Image]
Since BP’s catastrophic Macondo Blowout in the Gulf of Mexico last year, the Obama Administration has granted nearly 300 new drilling permits [1] and shirked plans to plug 3,600 of more than 28,000 abandoned wells, which pose significant threats to the severely damaged sea. Among those granted new permits for drilling in the Gulf, on Friday Obama granted BP permission to explore for oil in the Gulf, allowing it to bid on new leases that will be sold at auction in December.

Reports Dow Jones: “The upcoming lease sale, scheduled for Dec. 14 in New Orleans, involves leases in the western Gulf of Mexico. The leases cover about 21 million acres, in water depths of up to 11,000 feet. It will be the first lease auction since the Deepwater Horizon spill.” [2]

Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey objected to BP’s participation in the upcoming lease sale, pointing out that: “Comprehensive safety legislation hasn’t passed Congress, and BP hasn’t paid the fines they owe for their spill, yet BP is being given back the keys to drill in the Gulf.”

Environmental watchdog, Oceana, added its objection to the new permits, saying that none of the new rules implemented since April 2010 would have prevented the BP disaster. “Our analysis shows that while the new rules may increase safety to some degree, they likely would not have prevented the last major oil spill, and similarly do not adequately protect against future ones.” [3]

Detailing the failure of the Dept. of Interior’s safety management systems, Oceana summarizes:

  • Regulation exemptions (“departures”) are often granted, including one that arguably led to the BP blowout;
  • Economic incentives make violating rules lucrative because penalties are ridiculously small;
  • Blowout preventers continue to have critical deficiencies; and
  • Oversight and inspection levels are paltry relative to the scale of drilling operation.

Nor have any drilling permits been denied [4] since the BP catastrophe on April 20, 2010, which still spews oil today [5].

28,079 Abandoned Wells in Gulf of Mexico

In an explosive report at Sky Truth, John Amos reveals from government data that “there are currently 24,486 known permanently abandoned wells in the Gulf of Mexico, and 3,593 ‘temporarily’ abandoned wells, as of October 2011.” [6]

Over a year ago, the Dept. of Interior promised to plug the “temporarily abandoned” (TA) wells, and dismantle another 650 production platforms no longer in use. [7] At an estimated decommissioning cost of $1-3 billion [8], none of this work has been started, though Feds have approved 912 permanent abandonment plans and 214 temporary abandonment plans submitted since its September 2010 rule. [9]

Leaking abandoned wells pose a significant environmental and economic threat. TA wells are those temporarily sealed so that future drilling can be re-started. Both TA wells and “permanently abandoned” (PA) wells endure no inspections.

Over 600 of those abandoned wells belong to BP, reported the Associated Press last year. “Experts say abandoned wells can repressurize, much like a dormant volcano can awaken. And years of exposure to sea water and underground pressure can cause cementing and piping to corrode and weaken.” [10]

The AP added that some of the permanently abandoned wells date back to the 1940s.  And Amos advises that some of the “temporarily abandoned” wells date back to the 1950s.

A three-month EcoHearth investigation revealed that a minimum of 2.5 million abandoned wells in the US and 20-30 million worldwide receive no follow up inspections to ensure they are not leaking. Worse:

“There is no known technology for securely sealing these tens of millions of abandoned wells. Many—likely hundreds of thousands—are already hemorrhaging oil, brine and greenhouse gases into the environment. Habitats are being fundamentally altered. Aquifers are being destroyed. Some of these abandoned wells are explosive, capable of building-leveling, toxin-spreading detonations. And thanks to primitive capping technologies, virtually all are leaking now—or will be.” [11]

Sealed with cement, adds EcoHearth, “Each abandoned well is an environmental disaster waiting to happen. The triggers include accidents, earthquakes, natural erosion, re-pressurization (either spontaneous or precipitated by fracking) and, simply, time.”

As far back as 1994, the Government Accountability Office advised that there was no effective strategy in place to inspect abandoned wells, nor were bonds sufficient to cover the cost of abandonment. Lease abandonment costs estimated at “$4.4 billion in current dollars … were covered by only $68 million in bonds.” [12]

The GAO concluded that “leaks can occur… causing serious damage to the environment and marine life,” adding that “MMS has not encouraged the development of nonexplosive structure removal technologies that would eliminate or minimize environmental damage.”

Not only cement, but seals, valves and gaskets can deteriorate over time. A 2000 report by C-FER Technologies to the Dept. of Interior identified several  different points where well leaks can occur, as this image (p. 26) reveals.  [13]

To date, no regulations prescribe a maximum time wells may remain inactive before being permanently abandoned. “The most common failure mechanisms (corrosion, deterioration, and malfunction) cause mainly small leaks [up to 49 barrels, or 2,058 gallons]. Corrosion is historically known to cause 85% to 90% of small leaks.”

Depending on various factors, C-FER concludes that “Shut-In” wells reach an environmental risk threshhold in six months, TA wells in about 10-12 years, and PA wells in 25 years.  Some of these abandoned wells are 63 years old.

The AP noted that none of the 1994 GAO recommendations have been implemented. Abandoned wells remain uninspected and pose a threat which the government continues to ignore.

Agency Reorganization

Not only was nothing was done with the 1994 GAO recommendations to protect the environment from abandoned wells, its 2003 reorganization recommendations [14] were likewise ignored.  In a June 2011 report on agency reorganization in the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill, the GAO reports that “as of December 2010,” the DOI “had not implemented many recommendations we made to address numerous weaknesses and challenges.” [15]

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) was renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) last May after MMS drew heavy fire for malfeasance, including allowing exemptions to safety rules it granted to BP. An Office of Inspector General investigation revealed that MMS employees accepted gifts from the oil and gas industry, including sex, drugs and trips, and falsified inspection reports. [16]

Reorganization proceeded.  Effective October 1, 2011, the Dept. of the Interior split BOEMRE into three new federal agencies: the Office of Natural Resources Revenue to collect mineral leasing fees, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) “to carry out the offshore energy management and safety and environmental oversight missions.” The DOI admits:

“The Deepwater Horizon blowout and resulting oil spill shed light on weaknesses in the federal offshore energy regulatory system, including the overly broad mandate and inherently conflicted missions of MMS which was charged with resource management, safety and environmental protection, and revenue collection.” [17]

BOEM essentially manages the development of offshore drilling, while BSEE oversees environmental protection, with some eco-protection overlap between the two agencies. [18]

Early this month, BSEE Director Michael Bromwich spoke at the Global Offshore Safety Summit Conference in Stavanger, Norway, sponsored by the International Regulators Forum. He announced a new position, Chief Environmental Officer of the BOEM:

“This person will be empowered, at the national level, to make decisions and final recommendations when leasing and environmental program heads cannot reach agreement. This individual will also be a major participant in setting the scientific agenda for the United States’ oceans.” [19]

Bromwich failed to mention anything about the abandoned wells under his purview. Out of sight, out of mind.

Cost of the Macondo Blowout

Today, the GAO published its final report of a three-part series on the Gulf oil disaster. [20]  Focused on federal financial exposure to oil spill claims, the accountants nevertheless point out that, as of May 2011, BP paid $700 million toward those spill claims out of its $20 billion Trust established to cover that deadly accident. BP and Oxford Economics estimate the total cost for eco-cleanup and compensatory economic damages will run to the “tens of billions of dollars.” [21]

On the taxpayer side, the GAO estimates the federal government’s costs will exceed the billion dollar incident cap set by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (as amended). As of May 2011, agency costs reached past $626 million.

The Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund’s income is generated from an oil barrel tax that is set to expire in 2017, notes GAO.

With today’s District Court decision in Louisiana, BP also faces punitive damages on “thousands of thousands of thousands of claims.” U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier denied BP’s appeal that might have killed several hundred thousand claims, among them that clean up workers have still not been fully paid by BP. [22]

Notes

[1] U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, “Status of Gulf of Mexico Well Permits,” n.d. http://www.bsee.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Permits/Status-of-Gulf-of-Mexico-Well-Permits.aspx

[2] Tennille Tracy, “US Govt Approves First BP Deepwater Exploration Plan in US Gulf Under New Rules,” Dow Jones News Wire, 24 Oct. 2011. Reproduced athttp://www.firstenercastfinancial.com/news/story/45441-us-govt-approves-first-bp-deepwater-exploration-plan-us-gulf-under-new-rules

[3] Michael Craig and Jacqueline Savitz, “False Sense of Safety: Safety Measures Will Not Make Offshore Drilling Safe,” Oceana, 20 Oct. 2011http://na.oceana.org/sites/default/files/reports/OffshoreSafetyReport_Oceana_10-18-11.pdf

Also see Oceana’s online appendix showing an analysis of each new safety measure’s effect on safety.http://na.oceana.org/sites/default/files/OnlineAppendix_SafetyReport_Oceana_10-19-11.pdf

[4] U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, “Application for Permit to Drill (APD) Approval Process and Definitions,” n.d.http://www.bsee.gov/uploadedFiles/APD_Facts_and_Definitions_BSEE.pdf

[5] See, e.g.: David Edwards, “New evidence of a massive oil slick near Deepwater Horizon site,” Raw Story, 1 Sept. 2011.http://www.rawstory.com/rawreplay/2011/09/new-evidence-of-a-massive-oil-slick-near-deepwater-horizon-site/

Frank Whalen, “Oil Still Gushing from Bp Well in Gulf,” American Free Press, 2 Sept. 2011. http://americanfreepress.net/?p=341

Dahr Jamail, “Environmental Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico: The Escalation of BP’s Liability,” Global Research, 5 Oct. 2011. 
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=26947

Luis R. Miranda, “Gulf of Mexico Sea Floor Unstable, Fractured, Spilling Hydrocarbons,” The Real Agenda, 10 Oct. 2011. http://real-agenda.com/2011/10/10/gulf-of-mexico-sea-floor-unstable-fractured-spilling-hydrocarbons/

[6] John Amos, “Over 28,000 Abandoned Wells in the Gulf of Mexico,” 18 Oct. 2011. http://blog.skytruth.org/2011/10/abandoned-wells-in-gulf-of-mexico.html

[7] U.S. Dept. of the Interior, “Interior Department Issues ‘Idle Iron’ Guidance,” 15 Sept. 2010. http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/Interior-Department-Issues-Idle-Iron-Guidance.cfm

[8] Siobhan Hughes, “Plugs Ordered on Idle Wells: Move to Permanently Seal Sites in Gulf Could Cost Billions but Create New Work,” Wall Street Journal, 16 Sept. 2010.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703743504575493782591743858.html

[9] U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, “Idle Iron Update,” n.d. (pp. 9-16) https://www.noia.org/website/download.asp?id=47290

[10] Jeff Donn and Mitch Weiss, “Gulf of Mexico hides 27,000 abandoned wells,” Associated Press, 7 July 2010. http://www.dallasnews.com/news/state/headlines/20100707-Gulf-of-Mexico-hides-27-000-1068.ece

[11] Steven Kotler, “Planet Sludge: Millions of Abandoned, Leaking Oil Wells and Natural-Gas Wells Destined to Foul Our Future,” EcoHearth, 17 Aug. 2011.http://ecohearth.com/eco-zine/green-issues/1609-abandoned-leaking-oil-wells-natural-gas-well-leaks-disaster.html 

[12] U.S. Government Accounting Office, “Offshore Oil and Gas Resources: Interior Can Improve its Management of Lease Abandonment,” (GAO/RCED-94-82) May 1994.http://archive.gao.gov/t2pbat3/151878.pdf

[13] J.R. Nichols and S.N. Kariyawasam, “Risk Assessment of Temporarily Abandoned or Shut-in Wells,” C-FER Technologies, Oct. 2000.http://www.boemre.gov/tarprojects/329/329AA.pdf

[14] U.S. Government Accounting Office, “Results-Oriented Cultures: Implementation Steps to Assist Mergers and Organizational Transformations,” (GAO-03-669) 2 July 2003. http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-03-669

[15] U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Oil and Gas: Interior’s Restructuring Challenges in the Aftermath of the Gulf Oil Spill,” (GAO-11-734T) 2 June 2011.http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11734t.pdf

[16] U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Office of Inspector General, “Investigative Report – Island Operating Company, et al.,” 31 March 2010.http://www.govexec.com/pdfs/052510ts1.pdf

[17] U.S. Dept. of the Interior, “Interior Department Completes Reorganization of the Former MMS,” 30 Sept. 2011. http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/Interior-Department-Completes-Reorganization-of-the-Former-MMS.cfm#

[18] U.S. Dept. of the Interior, untitled document distinguishing the areas of responsibility between the BOEM and the BSEE. n.d.http://www.bsee.gov/uploadedFiles/A%20to%20Z%20Guide%20web%20version%281%29.pdf

[19] U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, “BSEE Director Delivers Remarks at the International Regulators Forum 2011 Global Offshore Safety Summit Conference,” 4 Oct. 2011. http://www.boemre.gov/ooc/press/2011/press1004.htm

[20] U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Actions Needed to Reduce Evolving but Uncertain Federal Financial Risks,” (GAO-12-86), 24 Oct. 2011. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d1286.pdf

[21] U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Preliminary Assessment of Federal Financial Risks and Cost Reimbursement and Notification Policies and Procedures,” 9 Nov. 2010. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d1190r.pdf

[22] Sabrina Canfield, “Judge Denies BP Appeal That Might Have Killed Thousands of Claims, Courthouse News Service,” 24 Oct. 2011.http://www.courthousenews.com/2011/10/24/40864.htm

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Posted in Global Research, Pollution | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “Stage Two” of the BP Gulf of Mexico Environmental Disaster New Drilling Permits amid 28,000 Unmonitored Abandoned Wells

Turkey earthquake death toll rises to 534

Posted by Admin on October 28, 2011

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/turkey-earthquake-death-toll-rises-to-534/196734-2.html

Posted on Oct 27, 2011 at 05:31pm IST

Ercis: Rain and snow on Thursday compounded difficulties for thousands rendered homeless in the powerful earthquake that hit eastern Turkey, and the government said the death toll has gone up to 534.

The prime minister’s center for crisis and emergency management said 2,300 people were injured and 185 were rescued from the rubble.

Meanwhile, a moderate earthquake, measuring 5.4 according to Turkey’s Kandilli seismology center, hit the neighboring province of Hakkari on Thursday, sending people rushing out of buildings in fear and panic. No damage was reported but NTV television said some people were slightly injured while trying to escape through windows.

That temblor was centered 90 miles (150 kilometers) south of the epicenter of Sunday’s devastating quake.

Turkish authorities delivered more tents after acknowledging initial problems in the distribution of aid for survivors of the 7.2-magnitude quake that shattered at least 2,200 buildings on Sunday.

Foreign assistance also began arriving after Turkey said it would accept help to house survivors through the winter. Israel, which has a troubled political relationship with Turkey, sent emergency housing units, blankets and clothing. Germany also dispatched supplies, including tent heating units. Britain said it was dispatching 1,000 tents to shelter some 5,500 people. Russia and Ukraine also contributed.

Some media reports had said rescuers pulled out a 19-year-old alive from the rubble on Thursday, but Mustafa Ozden, the head of the team that brought out the young man, told The Associated Press that he was rescued on Tuesday.

Rain gave way to intermittent snow, deepening the hardship of thousands of people either rendered homeless in the powerful earthquake or too afraid to return indoors amid aftershocks that continued to rattle the area.

In the worst-hit city of Ercis, families who managed to obtain tents shared them with others. Some people spent a fourth night outdoors huddled under blankets in front of campfires, either waiting for news of the missing or keeping watch over damaged homes.

Sermin Yildirim, who was eight months pregnant, was with her twins and husband. They shared a tent with a family of four who were distant relatives. Her apartment in a three-story building was not damaged but the family was reluctant to return.

“It’s getting colder, my kids are coughing. I don’t know how long we will have to stay here,” Yildirim said. “We were not able to get a tent. We are waiting to get our own.”

The Red Crescent organization and several pro-Islamic groups set up kitchens and dished out soup or meals of rice and beans.

People were seen gathering pieces of wood to light campfires or stove-heaters.

Muhlise Bakan, 41, was not happy to share her tent with her husband’s second wife, Hamide.

“I have four children, she has five,” Bakan said. “We were sleeping in separate rooms at our house, and now we are sleeping side by side here.”

However, she acknowledged the two women were now “closer” as they struggle together in hard times. Turkish law does not recognize second marriages, but still some men in the country’s southeast marry more then one wife in religious ceremonies that are accepted among conservatives.

Health problems increased the hardship for some quake survivors.

“I am very sick, I need medicine,” said Kevsel Astan, 40, who had a kidney transplant more than four years ago.

She said she was being treated at the state hospital until the quake struck. The damaged hospital has been evacuated and doctors are focusing on emergency cases.

Burke Cinar, a sociologist with a Turkish foundation, said the group was trying to get tents for the families of 15 children with leukemia in Ercis. She said about 100 leukemia patients live in quake-hit Van province.

Turkey’s weather agency predicted intermittent snowfall for the next three days.

More than a dozen television stations organized a joint aid telethon, amassing just under 62 million Turkish Lira ($37 million) in aid for the region.

Searchers sifted through piles of debris, recovering more bodies. They included two dead teenage sisters and their parents who were holding hands, and a mother clutching her baby boy, according to media reports.

Two teachers and a university student were rescued from ruined buildings on Wednesday, but there were no signs of survivors elsewhere and excavators were clearing debris from some collapsed buildings. One of the teachers later died in hospital, NTV reported on Thursday.

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Canadian Arctic nearly loses entire ice shelf

Posted by Admin on October 1, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/canadian-arctic-nearly-loses-entire-ice-shelf-214311365.html

By CHARMAINE NORONHA – Associated Press | AP – 23 hrs ago

TORONTO (AP) — Two ice shelves that existed before Canada was settled by Europeans diminished significantly this summer, one nearly disappearing altogether, Canadian scientists say in new research.

The loss is important as a marker of global warming, returning the Canadian Arctic to conditions that date back thousands of years, scientists say. Floating icebergs that have broken free as a result pose a risk to offshore oil facilities and potentially to shipping lanes. The breaking apart of the ice shelves also reduces the environment that supports microbial life and changes the look of Canada’s coastline.

Luke Copland is an associate professor in the geography department at the University of Ottawa who co-authored the research. He said the Serson Ice Shelf shrank from 79.15 square miles (205 square kilometers) to two remnant sections three years ago, and was further diminished this past summer.

Copland said the shelf went from a 16-square-mile (42-square-kilometer) floating glacier tongue to 9.65 square miles (25 square kilometers), and the second section from 13.51 square miles (35 square kilometers) to 2 square miles (7 square kilometers), off Ellesmere Island‘s northern coastline.

This past summer, Ward Hunt Ice Shelf‘s central area disintegrated into drifting ice masses, leaving two separate ice shelves measuring 87.65 and 28.75 square miles (227 and 74 square kilometers) respectively, reduced from 131.7 square miles (340 square kilometers) the previous year.

“It has dramatically broken apart in two separate areas and there’s nothing in between now but water,” said Copland.

Copland said those two losses are significant, especially since the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf has always been the biggest, the farthest north and the one scientists thought might have been the most stable.

“Recent (ice shelf) loss has been very rapid, and goes hand-in-hand with the rapid sea ice decline we have seen in this decade and the increasing warmth and extensive melt in the Arctic regions,” said Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, remarking on the research.

Copland, who uses satellite imagery and who has conducted field work in the Arctic every May for the past five years, said since the end of July, pieces equaling one and a half times the size of Manhattan Island have broken off. Co-researcher Derek Mueller, an assistant professor at Carleton University’s geography and environmental studies department, said the loss this past summer equals up to three billion tons. Copland said their findings have not yet been peer reviewed since the research is new, but a number of scientists contacted by The Associated Press reviewed the findings, agreeing the loss in volume of ice shelves is significant.

Scambos said the loss of the Arctic shelves is significant because they are old and their rapid loss underscores the severity of the warming trend scientists see now relative to past fluctuations such as the Medieval Warm Period or the warmer times in the pre-Current Era (B.C.).

Ice shelves, which began forming at least 4,500 years ago, are much thicker than sea ice, which is typically less than a few feet (meters) thick and survives up to several years.

Canada has the most extensive ice shelves in the Arctic along the northern coast of Ellesmere Island. These floating ice masses are typically 131 feet (40 meters) thick (equivalent to a 10-story building), but can be as much as 328 feet (100 meters) thick. They thickened over time via snow and sea ice accumulation, along with glacier inflow in certain places.

The northern coast of Ellesmere Island contains the last remaining ice shelves in Canada, with an estimated area of 217 square miles (563 square kilometers), Mueller said.

Between 1906 and 1982, there has been a 90 percent reduction in the areal extent of ice shelves along the entire coastline, according to data published by W.F. Vincent at Quebec’s Laval University. The former extensive “Ellesmere Island Ice Sheet” was reduced to six smaller, separate ice shelves: Serson, Petersen, Milne, Ayles, Ward Hunt and Markham. In 2005, the Ayles Ice Shelf whittled almost completely away, as did the Markham Ice Shelf in 2008 and the Serson this year.

“The impact is significant and yet only a piece of the ongoing and accelerating response to warming of the Arctic,” said Dr. Robert Bindschadler, emeritus scientist at the Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

Bindschadler said the loss is an indication of another threshold being passed, as well as the likely acceleration of buttressed glaciers able to flow faster into the ocean, which accelerates their contribution to global sea level.

Copland said mean winter temperatures have risen by about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade for the past five to six decades on northern Ellesmere Island.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects in paragraph 3 that Serson Ice Shelf shrank to two remant sections three years ago, not five years ago; and in paragraph 13 the size of the last remaining ice shelves in Canada. Minor style edits, For global distribution.)

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