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Showing posts from June 5, 2014

In North American rail towns, some try to stop oil trains

Albany, New York Sheriff Craig Apple assured a room of concerned citizens that county emergency crews were prepared to handle an oil-train accident involving three or four tank cars. Firefighters have been training to combat railcar fires with foam, and evacuation plans are detailed in a 500-page emergency response plan, Apple told residents in a May 12 address. But he was blunt about the potential impact of a larger derailment: "Look, let's face it, there's going to be mayhem." Albany's tracks handle as much as a fourth of the oil pumped from North Dakota's booming Bakken Shale, or up to several 100-car trains per day, each carrying 70,000 barrels. It is one of several spots along North America's new oil-by-rail corridors where residents and officials are restless, following six fiery derailments in the past 10 months. Some want to limit or halt the traffic, fearful that existing precautions will not prevent deadly blasts, air and waterway pollution

Alaska wildfire scorches more than 100,000 acres, threatens homes

Firefighters in Alaska on Sunday were battling a massive wildfire that was pushing towards hundreds of homes and vacation cabins, with residents urged to be ready for a possible mandatory evacuation, state emergency officials said. _0"> The Funny River wildfire was burning on more than 110,000 acres inside the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in southern Alaska, expanding from about 96,000 acres on Saturday, according to the Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team. Crews reported some progress late Saturday, saying the six-day-old blaze was 20 percent contained. The Alaska Air National Guard and Anchorage Fire Department have joined 409 firefighters battling the blaze on the ground, emergency officials said. More than 1,300 residents were placed under an evacuation advisory and urged to be ready to leave home should a mandatory evacuation order be issued. Wildfires in Alaska's wooded areas are not uncommon during the summer months, but warm and dry spring conditions

Aging veterans build online honor roll of fallen comrades

Air Force veteran Don Skinner, 83, wakes at dawn's early light, downs a cholesterol pill, blood thinner and some instant coffee then boots up his computer to spend eight hours each day telling war stories of the fallen who can't speak for themselves. The reverential routine is a calling for Skinner, the oldest of 200 volunteers who create online profiles of men and women who died in the line of duty. These accounts can be viewed in a Roll of Honor on the website, an online meeting place for veterans and their loved ones. "These people's stories have got to be told," said Skinner, who was awarded a Purple Heart Medal and a Bronze Star Medal as a commanding sergeant who tended to his wounded comrades during an assault in Vietnam in 1968 despite being critically wounded himself. His service from 1949 to 1974 included the Korean War. Between treatments for bladder and colon cancer, Skinner, a widower living in Aiken, South Carolina, has resea

Police officer for Arizona American Indian community killed on duty

A police officer on a Native American Indian reservation in Arizona was shot dead while sitting in his patrol vehicle after ordering a car to pull over, police said Sunday. _0"> Jair Cabrera, an officer on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in metropolitan Phoenix, died early Saturday after being hit by a bullet that pierced the windshield of his police car, according to the Salt River Police Department. Cabrera, 37, was the first officer to die on the reservation in the line of duty, the department said. Cabrera had ordered the car to stop at a local gas station when the occupants opened fire, according to FBI spokesman Special Agent Perryn Collier. It was not clear if Cabrera had returned fire. The three occupants of the car were taken into police custody and at least one was facing criminal charges, the FBI said. The Salt River community is home to two Native American tribes: the Pima and the Maricopa, according to the community's website. The police d

Senator to renew gun control push after California shooting spree

Senator Richard Blumenthal said on Sunday he wanted to revive gun control legislation rejected by Congress in the wake of the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut, school massacre, saying it could have helped prevent this weekend's deadly California shooting spree. _0"> Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said on CBS's "Face the Nation" program the legislation, which failed last year, could be revised to emphasize the mental condition of potential gun buyers. "Obviously, not every kind of gun violence is going to be prevented by laws out of Washington," he said. "But at least we can make a start and I am going to urge that we bring back those bills, maybe reconfigure them, center on mental health, which is a point where we can agree that we need more resources to make the country healthier and to make sure that these kinds of horrific, insane, mad occurrences are stopped. "And the Congress will be complicit if we fail in that," he said

Three shot dead at South Carolina oceanfront hotel

Three people were killed and a fourth wounded in a shooting at a oceanfront hotel in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the U.S. Southeast, police said on Sunday. Officers responded to a call of shots fired at the Bermuda Sands resort on the Myrtle Beach boardwalk around 11 p.m. EDT on Saturday, according to the Myrtle Beach Police Department. Two men and one woman were pronounced dead at the scene and the fourth was transported to a local hospital in unknown condition, he said. The shooting came on a weekend when Myrtle Beach was packed with visitors for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the unofficial start of the summer season, and for an annual sports rally called the Atlantic Beach Bikefest. "We certainly don't like to see any type of incident where somebody dies during this event, or any event that Myrtle Beach has," Myrtle Beach Police Captain David Knipes told WISTV. "To have three people (killed) in one night

California gunman, in manifesto, said police nearly thwarted plot

A 22-year-old man who killed six people before taking his own life in a rampage through a California college town said in a chilling manifesto that police who knocked on his door last month to check on his welfare nearly foiled his plot. Elliot Rodger, the son of a Hollywood director, stabbed three people to death in his apartment before gunning down three more victims on Friday night in the town of Isla Vista near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). Rodger, who posted a threatening video railing against women online shortly before his rampage, stalked Isla Vista in his car and on foot, firing on bystanders in a killing spree that ended when he killed himself after a shootout with sheriff's deputies, police said. But less than a month before his attacks, after he had planned the killings and obtained the guns he would use, the community college student opened his door to a knock to find about seven officers looking for him. "I had the stri

Ukraine defends vote despite unrest, Putin pledges 'respect'

Vladimir Putin promised that Russia would work with the new Ukrainian administration formed after a presidential election on Sunday that the Kiev government said on Saturday would anchor the ex-Soviet state to the West. In the eastern region where at least 20 people were killed in recent days, there was less violence, though in fighting near Slaviansk between pro-Moscow rebels and Ukrainian paratroopers, unconfirmed local media reports spoke of up to four deaths. The separatists reject an election run by a fascist "junta" in Kiev and national electoral officials said few ballot papers had yet been issued in two eastern regions with over 12 percent of the electorate, implying most there will be denied a vote.   true       Denouncing an "atmosphere of terror" directed against local electoral officials in the east, Europe's OSCE democracy agency pulled out most of the dozens of international monitors it had posted to Donetsk region out of fears for their secur

EU set for election 'Super Sunday,' with far-right vote in spotlight

European elections reach their culmination on "Super Sunday" when the remaining 20 of the EU's 28 countries go to the polls, with the vote expected to confirm the dominance of pro-European centrists despite a rise in support for the far-right and left. class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Germany , class="mandelbrot_refrag"> France , class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Spain and Poland are among the major EU member states voting on Sunday, representing the bulk of the 388 million Europeans eligible to cast ballots and elect the 751 deputies to sit in the European Parliament from 2014-2019. After years of economic crisis, rising unemployment and poor growth, many Europeans have come to question the wisdom of ever-closer EU integration and are expected to vote for Eurosceptic parties on the right or left promising radical changes. Opinion polls suggest at least a quarter of seats in the parliament will go to anti-EU or protest groups, but at lea

Opposition to Thai coup simmers, ex-PM in 'safe place'

Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was in a "safe place" on Saturday after being held by the army following a coup, an aide said, as opposition to the takeover grew among her supporters and pro-democracy activists. The army moved on Thursday after failing to forge a compromise in a power struggle between Yingluck's populist government and the royalist establishment, which brought months of sometimes violent unrest to Bangkok's streets. Consolidating its grip, the military dissolved the Senate on Saturday, the only legislative assembly still functioning in class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Thailand . It also sacked three senior security officials who were seen as close to the ousted government. The military detained Yingluck on Friday when she and about 150 other people, most of them political associates, were summoned to an army facility in Bangkok. More people were summoned over the weekend, including some outspoken academics and journalists.

Three people killed in shooting at Brussels Jewish Museum

Two women and a man were killed and one person seriously injured during a shooting at the Jewish Museum in central Brussels on Saturday, with Belgian officials saying anti-Semitic motives could not be ruled out. A spokeswoman for Brussels prosecutors office said there was no clear information about the perpetrator, although a fire brigade official said earlier that the shooter had driven up to the museum, gone inside and fired shots. "Regarding the motive, we have little information. Everything is possible," Ine Van Wymersch told a news conference. "We know that the location, the Jewish Museum in Brussels, makes one think of it being an anti-Semitic attack, but we do not have enough to confirm this is the case." Belgium's interior minister, Joëlle Milquet, was quoted by the RTBF Belgian television station, saying: "It's a shooting ... at the Jewish Museum ... All of this can lead to suspicions of an act of anti-Semitism." Israeli Prime Minis

Gunman kills six in drive-by shooting in California college town

A gunman killed six people and wounded seven others in a drive-by shooting in a Southern California college town, spraying bullets from his car until it crashed and he was found dead inside, authorities said on Saturday. Authorities were investigating a possible link between the Friday night shooting in the town of Isla Vista near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara and a threatening video posted online. In the YouTube video, which Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown said appears to have been made by the suspected gunman, a young man bitterly complains of loneliness and rejection by women and says he plans to kill people. Witnesses to the violence reported seeing someone driving a black BMW through the streets and shooting at people in Isla Vista, a beachside community where many college students live. "It's obviously the work of a madman," Brown told a news conference. "There's going to be a lot more information that will come out that

Nigeria's Boko Haram kills 28 in three village attacks

Suspected Islamist Boko Haram gunmen rampaged through three villages in northern Nigeria, killing 28 people and burning houses to the ground in a pattern of violence that has become almost a daily occurrence, according to police and witnesses. All three attacks happened on Thursday in remote parts of Borno state, the epicenter of Boko Haram's increasingly bloody struggle for an Islamic kingdom in religiously mixed Nigeria. One took place right next to Chibok, by the Cameroon border, from where more than 200 school girls were abducted last month. The most deadly was in the town of Kerenua, near the Niger border. Scores of militants opened fire on residents, killing 20 of them, and burned houses, a police source said. Since the girls' abduction on April 14, at least 450 civilians have been killed by the group, according to a Reuters count. A spate of bombings across north and central Nigeria has killed hundreds, including two in the capital Abuja and one in the central cit

A bitter pill as China crackdowns squeeze pharma margins

A crackdown on corruption and pricing in China's fast-growing pharmaceutical market has squeezed profits and margins, raising a red flag to global Big Pharma that the days of easy growth in the country may be over. A Reuters' analysis of more than 60 listed Chinese healthcare firms shows average profit margins declined to around 10 percent last year from 15 percent in 2012. Average net profits fell 2.1 percent, down from close to 20 percent growth in previous years. China has been a magnet for the big global pharmaceutical companies and other healthcare firms as growth slows in Europe and the United States. It is the largest emerging drugs market and is set to be the global number two overall within three years, according to consultancy IMS Health. While global drugmakers withhold their China profit figures, the analysis suggests profit growth is harder to come by - a concern as many global firms look to China as a future growth driver. "Most companies, local and for

China, Japan exchange barbs over action by warplanes in East China Sea

class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Japan and class="mandelbrot_refrag"> China on Sunday accused each other's air forces of dangerous behavior over the East China Sea, with Japan saying Chinese aircraft had come within a few dozen meters of its warplanes. _0"> Japan's defense minister accused Beijing of going "over the top" in its approach to disputed territory. China's defense ministry said Japanese planes had carried out "dangerous" actions during its joint maritime exercises with class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Russia . Tensions have been running high between class="mandelbrot_refrag"> China and its neighbors over Beijing's assertive stance on claiming land and sea territory. Japan's defense ministry said Chinese SU-27 fighters came as close as 50 meters (170 feet) to a Japanese OP-3C surveillance plane near disputed islets on Saturday and within 30 meters of a YS-11EB electronic intell

Police hunt Brussels Jewish Museum shooter, France tightens security

Belgian police on Sunday were hunting a gunman who shot dead two Israelis and a French woman at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, in an attack French President Francois Hollande said was without doubt motivated by anti-Semitism. Security around all Jewish institutions in Belgium was raised to the highest level following Saturday's shooting, while French authorities stepped up security after two Jews were attacked near a Paris synagogue. Belgian officials released a 30-second video clip from the museum's security cameras showing a man wearing a dark cap and a blue jacket enter the building, take a Kalashnikov rifle out of a bag, and shoot into a room, before walking out.   true       "From the images we have seen, we can deduce that the perpetrator probably acted alone and was well prepared," said Ine Van Wymersch, a spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutor's office. "It's still too early to confirm whether it's a terrorist or an anti-Semitic attack;

Business aviation picks up, but jet surplus persists

class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Business aircraft are taking to the skies again as many economies around the world improve, but a surplus of jets delivered just before the recession means the equivalent of 2,750 jets remain parked in hangars. An excess of jets is depressing prices for planes, particularly older ones, and clouding the outlook for manufacturers of new jets, such as Bombardier Inc, Gulfstream and Cessna. Some companies are cutting back on corporate jet travel and reducing executives' use of corporate jets for personal trips. With so many jets not being flown, businesses are finding it more difficult to justify new purchases, said Rolland Vincent, president of Rolland Vincent Associates, a jet consulting firm that works with Utica, New York-based JetNet. "It's like having a lot of cars in your driveway," Vincent said. "If you don't use them that much, you're not going to be out shopping for another one." The recovery in

At dinner with Putin, menu of Crimean flounder and Russian grievances

You can't say Vladimir Putin lacks a pointed sense of humor. The entrée at the Russian president's dinner for news agency editors on Saturday night was "Crimean flounder." No kidding. As dinner was ending in the ornate Konstantinovsky Palace, Putin was asked whether he speaks regularly with U.S. president class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Barack Obama . "We have some contacts," he shrugged. "But now I have to go speak with Mr. (Francois) Hollande and Mrs. (Angela) Merkel," the French president and the German chancellor, respectively. With that he gave a champagne toast, and left. But before that he spoke at length on many topics during a three-hour interview before and during a seven-course dinner that included "soft smoked sturgeon salad" and "white asparagus soup with black caviar" as well as the recently Russified flounder. The topics ranged from the over-arching ( class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Ukraine