MOUTH OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER – Oil from a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico was starting to ooze ashore, threatening migrating birds, nesting pelicans, river otters and mink along Louisiana's fragile islands and barrier marshes. Crews in boats were patrolling coastal marshes early Friday looking for areas where the oil has flowed in, the Coast Guard said. Storms loomed that could push tide waters higher than normal through the weekend, the National Weather Service warned.
A top adviser to President Barack Obama said Friday that no new oil drilling would be authorized until authorities learn what caused the explosion of the rig Deepwater Horizon. David Axelrod told ABC's "Good Morning America" that "no additional drilling has been authorized and none will until we find out what has happened here." Obama recently lifted a drilling moratorium for many offshore areas, including the Atlantic and Gulf areas.
The leak from a blown-out well a mile underwater is five times bigger than first believed. Faint fingers of oily sheen were reaching the Mississippi River delta late Thursday, lapping the Louisiana shoreline in long, thin lines. Thicker oil was about five miles offshore. Officials have said they would do everything to keep the Mississippi River open to traffic.
Kuala Lumpur: Seventy-five illegal Sri Lankan immigrants on their way to Australia have left a leaking boat that was in danger of capsizing, ending a two-day stand-off with Malaysian authorities, officials said Monday.
Police stopped the fishing trawler on Friday during a routine patrol and towed it to a base in northern Penang state, marine police official Rosli Sufian said.
The immigrants initially refused to leave the boat, demanding assurance that they would be given asylum. Rosli said the Sri Lankans eventually relented and disembarked on Sunday when police boarded the boat.
He declined to say whether any assurances were given. The Sri Lankans have been detained in a centre for illegal immigrants until it can be assessed whether they are refugees or human trafficking victims. "Of course they were reluctant and quite aggressive," he said. "The boat had a problem. Most probably it was going to capsize ... We couldn't let them drown."
Rosli said the boat crew is believed to have escaped when police approached the boat. The boat still is afloat near a beach and the people on board, including about a dozen children, were hoping to reach Australia to seek asylum there, he added
Sydney: Australian firebrand politician Pauline Hanson, who once claimed Asians were in danger of swamping the country, Wednesday said she would not sell her house to a Muslim because they did not fit with “our way of life”.
Pauline Hanson, who rose to prominence in the 1990s as head of the right-wing, anti-immigration One Nation Party, is selling her Queensland home to emigrate to Britain.
She said she had no intention of letting a Muslim buy the property.“Because I don’t believe that they are compatible with our way of life, our culture,” she told commercial television.“And I think we are going to have problems with them in this country further down the track, so I have no intention of selling my home to a Muslim.”
Hanson, who gained popularity spearheading a movement which she claims merely bucked “political correctness,” also said she would not sell her property to an Asian who did not live in the country.
But she said she would have no problem with handing the million-dollar rural homestead over to “an Australian who is of Asian background”.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd refused to respond directly to the comments from Hanson, a former fish and chip shop owner who was elected to the national parliament in 1996 and claimed “we are in danger of being swamped by Asians” in her maiden speech.
“I think the thing of which we are most proud of in this country is our great and continuing tradition of tolerance and acceptance of diversity,” Rudd told reporters in Sydney. “That’s the Australia I know.”
Hanson lost her seat in 1998 and was briefly jailed for fraudulent spending of electoral funds before the judgement was overturned, before making a failed run for the national parliament in 2007.
Hanson, who says she is moving to Britain because she has “had enough” and wants some peace in her life, has always maintained her views are not racist.
MOGADISHU, Somalia – Hundreds of Somali soldiers trained with U.S. tax dollars have deserted because they are not being paid their $100 monthly wage, and some have even joined the al-Qaida-linked militants they are supposed to be fighting. The desertions raise fears that a new U.S.-backed effort beginning next month to build up Somalia's army may only increase the ranks of the insurgency.
Somalia's besieged U.N.-backed government holds only a few blocks of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, while Islamic insurgents control the rest of the city and most of the country. That turmoil — and the lawless East African nation's proximity to Yemen, where al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is based — has fed fears that Somalia could be used to launch attacks on the West.
In an effort to rebuild the tattered Somali military, the United States helped fund a training program for nearly 1,000 soldiers in neighboring Djibouti last year, Western diplomats told the AP. The French-trained troops were supposed to earn $100 a month, but about half of them deserted because they were not paid, Somali army Col. Ahmed Aden Dhayow said.
"Some gave up the army and returned to their ordinary life and others joined the rebels," he said.
Somalia's state minister for defense, Yusuf Mohamed Siyad, confirmed some trainees had joined the al-Shabab militants, but he declined to specify the number of deserters.
The development highlights a key problem facing efforts to rebuild the bankrupt nation's army — guaranteeing funding for soldiers' salaries, not just their training.
Failure to resolve the pay issue could threaten the success of a U.S. and European Union training program beginning in Uganda next month that has been touted as the biggest effort to rebuild the army in 20 years.
Funding for the Somali army is a complex affair involving contributions from donor nations, the U.N. and the Somali government. Individual countries sometimes pledge to cover salaries for a limited number of soldiers for a few months, and when the money runs out, salaries don't get paid.
The U.S. has provided $2 million to pay Somali soldiers and purchase supplies and equipment in Mogadishu since 2007, according to the State Department. Another $12 million went toward transport, uniforms and equipment, but the U.S. has declined to say how much of that paid for training.
During a recent AP visit, dejected-looking soldiers sat under dust-covered thorn trees at the government's main military base, Camp Jazira, which lacks toilets, a clinic or even a perimeter fence. They had not been paid, some for months, they said, adding that their wages were intercepted by senior officials.
KIEV, Ukraine – Lawmakers brawled, threw eggs at each other and set off smoke bombs in Ukraine's parliament Tuesday as the legislature erupted into chaos over a vote allowing the Russian navy to keep using a port on the Black Sea.
The Kremlin's influence has surged in Ukraine since the election victory of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, infuriating Ukrainians who resent Moscow's influence, and inflaming the violent passions that plague the politics of the former Soviet republic.
The controversy over the home port for the Russian Black Sea Fleet has been one of the most emotionally fraught consequences of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Russia found one of its major fleets headquartered in a foreign country's port — Sevastopol, on the Crimean peninsula that extends from mainland Ukraine into the Black Sea. Sevastopol is about 200 miles from the nearest Russian territory. Ukrainian nationalists who resented Moscow's long dominance of their land regarded the Russian fleet's presence as tantamount to military occupation. Former pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko had vowed that the fleet's lease of the port would not be renewed when it expired in 2017. Yanukovych and Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev agreed last week that the lease would be extended for 25 years past that expiration. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited Kiev on Monday to discuss the matter with Yanukovych.
WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama yesterday renewed his commitment to a “new beginning” with the Muslim world, vowing no let-up in US efforts to promote Middle East peace, curb militant violence and boost economic development.
Seeking to build on his outreach to Muslims in a speech in Cairo last June, Obama used a US-hosted Muslim business conference to underscore what his administration has done so far and to pledge further work to overcome mistrust. While Obama has made progress toward mending America’s image in the Islamic world, he still faces stiff challenges in his handling of the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the nuclear standoff with Iran and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I knew that this vision would not be fulfilled in a single year, or even several. But I knew we had to begin and that all of us have responsibilities to fulfill,” Obama told the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship.
The focus on business development marked the Obama administration’s strategy of trying to broaden the conversation with Muslims beyond the “war on terrorism” that dominated the Bush-era approach and alienated many.
But, speaking to an audience of 250 business people from more than 50 countries, Obama also waded into some of the hot-button issues between Washington and the Muslim world that he acknowledged “have often been a source of tension.”
Many Muslims are especially disappointed by Obama’s failure so far to advance Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking despite promising in his first days in office to make it a high priority.
He assured his audience he would not abandon US diplomatic efforts, which have been stymied by a dispute with Israel over Jewish settlement building and divisions among the Palestinians.
“Despite the inevitable difficulties, so long as I am president, the United States will never waver in our pursuit of a two-state solution that ensures the rights and security of both Israelis and Palestinians,” Obama pledged. But he offered no new initiative to revive long-stalled peace talks.
Obama also asserted that the United States was “responsibly ending” the war in Iraq and “in Afghanistan, Pakistan and beyond, we’re forging new partnerships to isolate violent extremists, combat corruption and foster the development that improves lives and communities.”
The two-day conference sought to deliver on a promise Obama made in his Cairo speech, in which he pledged to do more to boost economic development and bolster US business ties with the Muslim world.
Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, had been widely criticized by Muslims for the perception that his administration viewed them mostly through the lens of terrorism. Under Bush, America’s image in the Muslim world suffered mostly because of the Iraq war, the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal and the Guantanamo detention center.
“There’s so much more we can do together, in partnership, to foster opportunity and prosperity in all our countries,” Obama said as he sought to focus more on talking about doing business together.
While the summit was widely viewed as a positive step, analysts said Obama ultimately would be judged in the Muslim world not by his hosting of business conferences but on his handling of big geopolitical issues. Aside from the Middle East, Obama has struggled to advance on other fronts. The administration is pushing ahead with its strategy for the war in Afghanistan despite increasingly brittle relations with Afghan leader Hamid Karzai.
SAN'A, Yemen - The British ambassador narrowly escaped what appeared to be a suicide attack on his armored car while traveling to work Monday morning, Yemeni officials said. British Embassy spokeswoman Chantel Mortimer said the ambassador, Timothy Torlot, was unhurt, but the attack underlined the precarious security in Yemen. An impoverished Arab nation in the southern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen has in recent years become a haven for al-Qaida militants taking advantage of the government's limited authority outside major cities and the control of rural areas by heavily armed tribes.
The Yemeni officials said the vehicle was passing through a poor neighborhood in the eastern part of San'a when an explosion went off nearby. They said they believed the attacker was wearing an explosives belt and that he was killed in the explosion.
There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, but it bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida.
Witnesses said the attacker was a young man who wore a school uniform, apparently as a disguise. The officials said the Noqm neighborhood where the attack took place was popular with militants.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The Foreign Office in London said the embassy has been closed to the public and warned all British nationals in Yemen to "keep a low profile and remain vigilant."
"We can confirm that there was an incident in San'a this morning. There was a small explosion beside the British Ambassador's car. He was unhurt. No other embassy staff or British nationals were injured," the Foreign Office said in a statement.
"We are working urgently with the Yemen authorities to investigate what happened," it added.
Security was visibly tightened around the U.S. and British embassies following the attack. The area of the explosion was sealed off as Yemeni and British officials inspected the scene of the attack.
Yemen has been embroiled in a war against the al-Qaida militants, who have threatened to target foreign interests and diplomatic missions. Earlier this year, a number of Western embassies, including the U.S. and British embassies, shut down for days in response to threats of attack by an al-Qaida offshoot in Yemen.
PHOENIX, USA — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law the nation's toughest legislation against illegal immigration Friday, a sweeping measure that supporters said would take handcuffs off police but which President Barack Obama said could violate people's civil rights.
The bill, sent to the Republican governor by the GOP-led Legislature, would make it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally. It would also require local police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are illegal immigrants.
Brewer, who faces a tough election battle and growing anger in the state over illegal immigrants, said the law "protects every Arizona citizen," and said the state must act because the federal government has failed.
"We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act," Brewer said after signing the law. "But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation."
The bill takes effect in 90 days after the current legislative sessions in the next several weeks.
Obama said in Washington that he's instructed the Justice Department to examine the Arizona bill to see if it's legal, and said the federal government must enact immigration reform at the national level — or leave the door open to "irresponsibility by others." "That includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe," Obama said.
Civil rights activists have said the bill would lead to racial profiling and deter Hispanics from reporting crimes.
Brewer said she wouldn't tolerate racial profiling.
Hundreds of protesters gathered at the State Capitol complex Friday calling on Brewer to veto the legislation.
Demonstrators have been camped outside the Capitol since the measure passed out of the Legislature on Monday. Their numbers have grown steadily throughout the week, with buses bringing protesters from as far away as Los Angeles. About a dozen supporters of the measure also gathered.
U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat who opposes the measure, said he's closing his Arizona offices at noon Friday after his staff in Yuma and Tucson were flooded with calls this week, some from people threatening violent acts and shouting racial slurs.
The bill's Republican sponsor, state Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa, said Obama and other critics of the bill were "against law enforcement, our citizens and the rule of law."
Pearce said the legislation would remove "political handcuffs" from police and help drive illegal immigrants from the state.
"Illegal is illegal," said Pearce, a driving force on the issue in Arizona. "We'll have less crime. We'll have lower taxes. We'll have safer neighborhoods. We'll have shorter lines in the emergency rooms. We'll have smaller classrooms."
Arizona has an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants and is the state with the most illegal border crossings, with the harsh, remote desert serving as the gateway for thousands of Mexicans and Central Americans.
Other provisions of the bill allow lawsuits against government agencies that hinder enforcement of immigration laws, and make it illegal to hire illegal immigrants for day labor or knowingly transport them.
OPPOSITION Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will have to face the Committee of Rights and Privileges over his 1Malaysia-One Israel accusation, but not before MPs, especially from the Opposition bloc, shouted their objections over the “flawed motion” at every opportune moment in the three-hour debate. Things got so noisy that Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abd Aziz ended his reply to points raised during the debate of the motion to refer Anwar to the all-powerful committee.
At one point, Nazri even told the Opposition: “If you want to find a reason to walk out, find something else (as the reason to do so).”
Anwar’s supporters kept shouting and interrupting Nazri, saying that the motion was defective and this went on for 30 minutes after lunch. The House had been debating the motion since 10am.
A flustered Deputy Speaker Datuk Ronald Kiandee said since no one wanted to listen to Nazri, they might as well get on with the voting on the motion. The motion was approved after a loud “Setuju!” from backbenchers.
Many from the Opposition bloc left the Dewan right after that, saying they would not support a “flawed motion”.
Outside the Dewan, Nazri said the motion against Anwar was like a charge in court.
“This is the allegation from the Government and Anwar will have to defend himself before the committee. The committee will hear him out before deciding whether there will be a punishment to be meted out,” he told reporters.
Earlier, when Nazri tabled the motion, several Opposition MPs including Gobind Singh Deo (DAP–Puchong), R. Sivarasa (PKR–Subang) and N. Gobalakrishnan (PKR–Padang Serai) stood to object.
At the lobby after the walkout, Anwar, the Permatang Pauh MP, pointed out that the wording in the motion seemed to insist that the committee had to recommend to the House the punishment he had to face, instead of first ascertaining if he was right or wrong in making the allegations.
The motion reads: “On March 17, while debating the Royal Address, Permatang Pauh had said 1999 OneIsrael. 2009 Apco advise Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib 1Malaysia. The statement has misled the House with serious allegations abusing the rights and privileges as an MP which is also in contempt of the House. For that, Permatang Pauh should be referred to the Committee of Rights and Privileges and the committee to mete out appropriate punishment on him.”
Baghdad, Iraq - A series of bombs targeting Shiite areas rocked Baghdad on Friday, killing at least 63 people in an apparent backlash after Iraq touted a series of blows against a weakened Al Qaida-led insurgency. Eight people were also killed by bombs in the Sunni west of the country, less than a week after Iraqi security forces backed by US troops killed Al Qaida's top two leaders in Iraq.
Thirteen blasts hit different areas of the Iraqi capital around the time of Friday prayers, mostly near Shiite mosques and at a marketplace, an interior ministry source said.
Three bombs targeted worshippers outside the main office of fiery anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr in the crowded Sadr City. Those blasts killed 39 people and wounded 56, generating denunciations of the security forces. Some youths threw stones at an Iraqi army vehicle.
In another attack, 11 were killed by a car bomb and a suicide bomber near a Shiite mosque in Al Ameen district in southeastern Baghdad. A car bomb killed five near a mosque in Al Hurriya neighbourhood.
Several hours earlier, seven members of one family were killed in a series of blasts in Khalidiya.
VIENNA – Iran has agreed to give the U.N. nuclear monitoring agency greater inspection and monitoring rights to a sensitive site where it is enriching uranium to higher levels, diplomats said Friday.
The move — indirectly confirmed by a senior Iranian envoy — comes as Tehran mounts a diplomatic offensive meant to stave off new U.N. sanctions for its defiance of Security Council demands that it curb nuclear activities that could be used to make weapons.
Iran began enriching uranium to near 20 percent two months ago and says it will be turned into fuel rods for a research reactors that manufacture medical isotopes for cancer patients. It says it was forced to take this step because the big powers refused to meet it half way on a moribund plan that would have supplied the rods from abroad.
The International Atomic Energy Agency had pushed in vain for greater access to the enrichment operation since the start of the project, seeking to realign monitoring cameras already set up to oversee Iran's long-standing enrichment plant that is churning out much-lower-level uranium. It has also been asking for more frequent inspections, said the diplomats, who asked for anonymity because their information is confidential.
They said Iran agreed in principle about 10 days ago to give the IAEA the greater overview it sought, but the increased access and monitoring still had to be put in place.
"The have not agreed to the full measures sought by the agency but enough so that the agency would be happy" after being stonewalled for two months, said one of the diplomats.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, the chief Iranian envoy to the IAEA, indirectly confirmed agreement, saying the two sides had "constructive talks" on the issue.
Iran last year rejected a U.N.-backed plan that offered nuclear fuel rods in exchange for Iran's stock of lower-level enriched uranium. That swap would have curbed Tehran's capacity to make a nuclear bomb.
Six world powers — the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany — endorsed the confidence-building proposal. Backed by the IAEA, the deal foresaw shipping 2,420 pounds (1,100 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium from Iran to Russia to be enriched to 20 percent, then to France for processing into fuel rods for the research reactorthat makes nuclear isotopes needed for medical purposes.
MELBOURNE, Australia - The fire chief during deadly 2009 wildfires that killed 173 people in southeastern Australia resigned Friday in the wake of criticism that he failed to take an active role in managing the response to the disaster. Russell Rees, chief of Victoria state's Country Fire Authority, had been sharply criticized by the Bushfires Royal Commission, set up to study what went wrong during Australia's worst-ever fires on Feb. 7, 2009. The panel concluded that Rees failed to protect Victorians and was not actively involved in organizing the firefight.
Rees, who had more than a year left in his contract, said he was clearing the way for a new chief to implement changes to the organization.
When asked about his mistakes on the day known as Black Saturday, Rees said those issues were a matter for the commission. He said a new chief should be involved from the start in implementing any recommendations from the commission's final report, due at the end of July.
On Black Saturday, hundreds of fires raged across southeastern Australia as temperatures soared and powerful winds whipped blazes into firestorms. But the scale of the disaster deeply shocked Australia, where hundreds of wildfires scorch vast areas of forest and farmland every summer but rarely cause deaths.
The commission has also found that communications and other failures hampered efforts to fight the fires, and its findings have already prompted changes to laws and new procedures to try to cope with future events.
New Delhi, India - Australia and Britain on Thursday warned tourists of the increased risk of militant attacks in New Delhi, joining Canada and the US, which have urged foreigners to avoid parts of the Indian capital. The United States said Wednesday it had information of a "specific" threat to half-a-dozen of the city's shopping areas and markets which it described as "especially attractive targets."
The Canadian government said on its website that an attack could be carried out "in the following days or weeks in market areas" of Delhi frequented by foreigners, specifically in the Chandni Chowk area in Old Delhi.
Following this new advice, the Australian High Commission in New Delhi said Thursday it "strongly" advised Australians "to minimise their presence in market areas of New Delhi."
The advisories were upgrades to previous general advice warning of attacks on prominent business and tourist locations such as Western-owned hotels.
A statement from the British High Commission on Thursday warned that "there are increased indications that terrorists are planning attacks in New Delhi."
In February, a bomb ripped through a crowded restaurant popular with travellers in the western city of Pune, killing 16 people, including five foreigners.
It was first major incident since the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 10 Islamist gunmen launched an assault on multiple targets in India's financial capital, killing 166 people.
The last major attack in New Delhi was a series of bomb blasts in busy, upmarket shopping areas in September 2008 that killed 22 people and wounded 100 more.
New Delhi, India - Admitting that Maoism is the result of underdevelopment, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday advocated the need to ensure that the poor share equitably the benefits of development. He also told a function on the Civil Services Day here that those challenging the country's integrity and the state's authority will not be given any quarter. "No quarter can be given to those who have taken upon themselves to challenge the authority of the Indian state and the fabric of our democratic polity," Singh said.
Reiterating that Maoist insurgency in mineral-rich central India was the "gravest internal security threat", he said: "We cannot overlook the fact that many areas in which such extremism flourishes are underdeveloped and many of the people, mainly poor tribes, who live in these areas have not shared equitably the fruits of development.
"It is incumbent upon us to ensure that no area of our country is denied the benefits of our ambitious developmental programmes," he said.
Referring to the April 6 massacre of 76 security personnel by Maoists in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district, Singh said: "I have mentioned time and again that left-wing extremism is, perhaps, the gravest internal security threat that we face.
"Recent events have underscored the need for urgent and considered action to root out this problem."
The prime minister's remarks came a day after Maoist guerrillas simultaneously opened fire near at least five Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camps in Dantewada. No casualties were reported.
Listing out the challenges the nation faces, Singh said: "We face many new threats to the integrity of our country, both from within and from without. Terrorism and Left-wing extremism seek to challenge the very foundations of our democratic and secular polity.
Tens of thousands of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activists laid siege to the capital yesterday, crippling its heart, to denounce rising food prices in president Nitin Gadkari's first show of strength since taking charge in December.
Gadkari, however, fainted briefly due to the scorching summer heat as he led a mammoth procession from the Ramlila ground towards parliament, about four kilometres away. Senior colleagues immediately held the 53-year-old and helped him take rest on the road.
The Eyjafjallajokull (ay-yah-FYAH-lah-yer-kuhl) volcano continues to produce spectacular visual effects. Photographers have captured images of lightning, seemingly erupting directly from the volcano.
The bolts may look like Hollywood special effects, but they're very much the real deal. No CGI required. But as LiveScience reports, they're also still a "bit of a mystery." As the ash cloud from Iceland's volcaniceruption continues to hover over the European skies, flights to and from Europe remained suspended. The closing of European airspace has dealt a severe blow to the beleaguered airline industry. With the concept of pictures tell a thousand words let share the panoramic view of the following photographs;