Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing at least 10 passengers and wounded 30, in a predawn raid that set off worldwide condemnation and a diplomatic crisis.
Israel's tough response triggered widespread condemnation across Europe; many of the passengers were from European countries. The raid also strained already tense relations with Israel's longtime Muslim ally Turkey, the unofficial sponsor of the mission, and drew more attention to the plight of Gaza's 1.5 million people.
Turkey's deputy prime minister says Turkey is withdrawing its ambassador to Israel, canceling three joint military drills and calling on the U.N. Security Council to convene in an emergency session about Israel.
The moves come after 10 pro-Palestinian activists on an aid flotilla were reported killed and dozens wounded by Israeli forces.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc says Turkey is withdrawing its ambassador on Monday and also calling back a youth soccer team from Israel. He equates Israel's actions with "piracy."
Furious Turkish protesters tried to storm Israel's Consulate in Istanbul then marched toward the city's main square denouncing Israel over the deaths, which drew condemnation from around the world. Arab countries expressed outrage and European nations with passengers aboard the ships summoned the Israeli ambassadors to their countries and called for an investigation.
Turkey, which currently holds a rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council, demanded it meet about the killings, which Bulent Arinc equated with "piracy." He denied Israeli statements that some on the ships headed for the Gaza Strip were armed and had attacked the Israeli soldiers.
The raid was a devastating blow to relations between the long-time allies, already deeply strained by tensions over Israeli actions in Gaza. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was cutting short his Latin America tour and was expected to return home on Tuesday.
On the same juncture, Israel's prime minister has expressed his support for the militray's actions in a deadly raid against an aid flotilla sailing to the blockaded Gaza Strip. Benjamin Netanyahu's office says he spoke Monday to top Israeli diplomatic and security officials by telephone from Canada and voiced his "full backing" for the military.
Last friday Guatemala's Pacaya two volcano started erupting lava blanketing the country's capital with ash and forcing thousands of people to flee their homes and disrupting air traffic as ash drifted over major cities. Now another catastrophe hit central America. The Tropical Storm Agatha made landfall near the nation's border with Mexico with winds up to 45 mph (75 kph) on Saturday and was dissipating rapidly Sunday over the mountains of western Guatemala. The death toll in Central America from landslides and flooding triggered by the year's first tropical storm surged to 83 on Sunday, as authorities struggled to clear roads of debris and reach cut-off communities. Torrential rains that have pounded an area stretching from southern Mexico nearly to Nicaragua eased somewhat, as rivers continued to rise and word filtered out from isolated areas of more deaths in landslides. As of Sunday afternoon, 75,000 people in Guatemala had been evacuated, many to shelters. At least 3,500 homes sustained major damage. Thirteen died in one landslide that tore through the community of San Antonio Palopo on the steep banks of Lake Atitlan, a popular tourist attraction 65 kilometers (40 miles) east of Guatemala City. Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom said 4.3 inches (10.8 centimeters) of rain had fallen in Guatemala City's valley in one 12-hours period. The rains unleashed chaos in the department of Quetzaltenango, 125 miles (200 kilometers) west of Guatemala City, where a boulder loosened by rains crushed a house, killing four people including two children. Four children were killed when rain-soaked earth gave way in the town of Santa Catarina Pinula, about six miles (10 kilometers) outside the capital. Cesar George of Guatemala's meteorological institute said the coastal community of Champerico had received 11.8 inches (30 centimeters) of rain in 30 hours. Rainfall from the Guatemalan interior also flooded rivers coursing away from the storm toward the Atlantic. The Motagua River flooded 19 communities near Guatemala's northeastern border with Honduras. In El Salvador, there were at least 140 landslides throughout the country. Civil defense officials said the Acelhuate River that passes through the capital, San Salvador, had risen to dangerous levels and was threatening to overflow into city streets. Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras all declared emergencies designed to increase immediate government aid and resources. Guatemala City's La Aurora airport remained closed Sunday because of heavy ash that fell from last week's eruptions of Pacaya volcano. But volcanic activity had tapered off Sunday , allowing helicopters and small planes to deliver aid to communities still unreachable on washed out roads. The Honduran national emergency agency Copeco reported one man was crushed to death by a wall that collapsed in the town of Santa Ana, near the capital of Tegucigalpa. Flooding and slides destroyed 45 homes in the Honduras and prompted authorities to evacuate 1,800 people, according to figures released by the agency.
New Zealand Animal Welfare Commercial Slaughter Code states that animals must be stunned before slaughter, making the ritual Jewish shechita illegal.
New Zealand has become the fourth country to outlaw Jewish ritual slaughtering, authorities said Sunday, after Iceland, Norway, and Sweden took similar measures in the past. Under the newly instated Animal Welfare Commercial Slaughter Code, announced by Agriculture Minister David Carter, commercially killed animals would have to be stunned before slaughter, making kosher slaughter, or shchita, illegal, according to the Jewish Australian News service.
According to the report, while the new regulations are to take immediate effect, kosher beef will be able to be imported into New Zealand.
Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, the former leader of the Auckland Hebrew Congregation, told the Jewish Australian News that "there is a strong body of veterinary and animal welfare research which continues to confirm shechita as a humane method of slaughter of the highest standard."
Minister Cater reached the contentious decision, despite the fact that the report compiled by The National Animal Welfare Advisory Council, on which Carter based his decision, stated that "that the rights of the New Zealand Jewish community to practice its religious beliefs accorded by the Bill of Rights Act must be balanced against animal welfare considerations."
The Australian news agency added that the report also said that other alternatives short of an outright ban on shechita could be made available to the government.
JERUSALEM – Israel, thought to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, has rejected a new U.N. call to come clean about its secretive nuclear program, calling it a "deeply flawed and hypocritical" act that ignores the threat posed by its sworn enemy Iran. Israel declared late Saturday that it would not take part in a 2012 conference on establishing a nuclear-free Middle East — an Arab-led initiative backed by top ally U.S. and the 188 other signatories to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Although a series of U.S. conditions put the conference in doubt, the resolution, and the surprising U.S. support it received, added new pressure on Israel to give up what is almost universally believed to be a sizable nuclear arsenal. Israel refuses to confirm or deny the suspicions.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to discuss the resolution with President Barack Obama when the two meet in Washington Tuesday, the Israeli leader's office said.
Netanyahu was traveling in Canada Sunday, and a government spokesman declined what contacts had been made with the U.S. over the resolution.
But an Army Radio reporter traveling with Netanyahu in Toronto said his office unsuccessfully lobbied the U.S. to block the resolution ahead of Friday's vote.
Israel's so-called policy of nuclear ambiguity is a cornerstone of its military deterrence. It has long said that a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace must precede such weapons bans.
Israel has never signed the non-proliferation treaty, which requires members to open nuclear facilities to inspection and to disarm. In its statement, it noted that since it's not a member, it is not a party to the resolution.
"This resolution is deeply flawed and hypocritical: It ignores the realities of the Middle East and the real threats facing the region and the entire world," the government statement said.
It "singles out Israel" yet "the terrorist regime in Iran, which is racing to develop nuclear weapons and which openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map, is not even mentioned in the resolution," it added.
Despite its assertions to the contrary, Iran is widely suspected to be seeking to build nuclear weapons.
Israel sees Iran as its fiercest threat because of its nuclear program, its ballistic missiles capable of hitting the Jewish state and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repeated references to Israel's destruction.
The Arab proposal for a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction was first endorsed at a 1995 non-proliferation conference but never acted on. At this month's review of the treaty at U.N. headquarters, many delegates considered a conference to begin talks on a nuclear-free Middle East to be a critical part of the final resolution.
The review's spotlight on Israel put the Jewish state in an uncomfortable position. While it tirelessly lobbies the international community to preventing Iran from acquiring atomic weapons, it insists on maintaining a veil of secrecy around its own nuclear capabilities.
Details and pictures leaked in 1986 to the Sunday Times of London by Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at Israel's Dimona nuclear plant, led foreign experts to conclude Israel has dozens of nuclear weapons.
After Friday's vote, U.S. National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones said Mideast peace and full compliance by all countries in the region to their arms control and nonproliferation obligations "are essential precursors" of a nuclear-free Middle East.
The compliance demand appeared to be aimed at Iran, which is a party to the nonproliferation treaty.
Jones also faulted the resolution's decision to single out Israel while failing to mention Iran, which he said poses the greatest threat of nuclear proliferation in the region.
A sticking point had been a passage naming Israel, reaffirming "the importance of Israel's accession to the NPT," a move that would require it to destroy its arsenal. On the other hand, the final document did not single Iran out by name as a member nation that has been found to be in noncompliance with U.N. nuclear safeguards agreements. Source: AP
GUATEMALA CITY – Explosive eruptions shook two huge volcanoes in Central and South America on Friday, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes and disrupting air traffic as ash drifted over major cities.
Guatemala's Pacaya volcano started erupting lava and rocks Thursday afternoon, blanketing the country's capital with ash and forcing the closure of the international airport. A television reporter was killed by a shower of burning rocks when he got too close to the volcano, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of Guatemala City.
In the village of Calderas, close to the eruption, Brenda Castaneda said she and her family hid under beds and tables as marble-sized rocks thundered down on her home.
"We thought we wouldn't survive. Our houses crumbled and we've lost everything," Castaneda said while waiting for rescue teams to take them to a shelter at a nearby school.
Meanwhile, strong explosions rocked Ecuador's Tungurahua volcano, prompting evacuations of hundreds of people from nearby villages.
Ecuador's National Geophysics Institute said hot volcanic material blasted down the slopes and ash plumes soared 6 miles (10 kilometers) above a crater that is already 16,479 feet (5,023 meters) above sea level.
Winds blew the ash over the country's most populous city, Guayaquil, and led aviation officials to halt flights out of the Pacific port and from Quito to Lima, Peru.
In Guatemala, at least 1,910 people from villages closest to the Pacaya volcano were moved to shelters. Some 800 homes were damaged in the initial eruption late Thursday. A second eruption at midday Friday released ash in smaller amounts from the 8,373-foot (2,552 meter) mountain, according to the Central American country's Geophysical Research and Services Unit.
The unit reported an ash plume 3,000 feet (1,000) meters high that trailed more than 12 miles (20 kilometers) to the northwest.
The capital's La Aurora airport would be closed at least until Saturday, said Claudia Monge, a spokeswoman for the civil aviation agency. Flights were being diverted to Mundo Maya airport in northern Guatemala and Comalapa in El Salvador.
The television reporter who was killed, Anibal Archila, had appeared on Channel 7 broadcasts standing in front of a lava river and burning trees, talking about the intense heat. Neither of the eruptions was expected to disrupt airports in neighboring countries like Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul volcano did in Europe.
MUMBAI, India - Bride Sapna Walde, from Shindurwapa village in the Gondia district, collapsed and died of heat exhaustion, whilst her husband-to-be Satyavan Ghedan from Vaizapur village in Chandrapur, also died. Another couple, due to be married, have also died in the soaring temperatures.A heat wave has gripped the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, claiming
130 lives in the last four days including the two brides and two grooms who succumbed to the intense heat during mass marriage ceremonies. The coal-yielding city of Chandrapur in eastern Vidarbha was recorded as
the hottest area in the region at 48.3C; the Gandhian district of Wardha
recorded 48C; whilst Nagpur had a high of 47.2C on May 25.
Meanwhile,Yavatmal, Akola, Amravati, Buldhana and Washim climbed higher than 48C
and Jalgaon reached 50C on Thursday,the highest recorded temperatureso far this summer.
Kishor Tiwari, president of a farmer's organisation called Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, told Gulf News from Nagpur, that hospitals in the region are flooded with sunstroke patients.
"Even though the government has opened air-conditioned emergency wards, farmers in distant places are unable to travel to the hospitals in the heat. Even birds and animals are dying," he said.
He added that the water crisis in the region is adding fuel to the scorching heat as the area is already reeling under drought and the state administration has shown its inability to tackle the crisis.
To describe how unbearable the conditions were, he said: "There was a full moon yesterday night but it seemed as though the sun was shining since the temperature hovered at 42C."
NEW ORLEANS – A thick, 22-mile plume of oil discovered by researchers off the BP spill site was nearing an underwater canyon, where it could poison the food Chain for sea life in the waters off Florida. The discovery by researchers on the University of South Florida College of Marine Science's Weatherbird II vessel is the second significant undersea plume reported since the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20. The plume is more than 6 miles wide and its presence was reported Thursday.
The cloud was nearing a large underwater canyon whose currents fuel the foodchain in Gulf waters off Florida and could potentially wash the tiny plants and animals that feed larger organisms in a stew of toxic chemicals, another researcher said Friday.
Larry McKinney, executive director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, said the DeSoto Canyon off the Florida Panhandle sends nutrient-rich water from the deep sea up to shallower waters.
McKinney said that in a best-case scenario, oil riding the current out of the canyon would rise close enough to the surface to be broken down by sunlight. But if the plume remains relatively intact, it could sweep down the west coast of Florida as a toxic soup as far as the Keys, through what he called some of the most productive parts of the Gulf.
The plume was detected just beneath the surface down to about 3,300 feet, said David Hollander, associate professor of chemical oceanography at USF.
Hollander said the team detected the thickest amount of hydrocarbons, likely from the oil spewing from the blown out well, at about 1,300 feet in the same spot on two separate days this week.
The discovery was important, he said, because it confirmed that the substance found in the water was not naturally occurring and that the plume was at its highest concentration in deeper waters. The researchers will use further testing to determine whether the hydrocarbons they found are the result of dispersants or the emulsification of oil as it traveled away from the well. The first such plume detected by scientists stretched from the well southwest toward the open sea, but this new undersea oil cloud is headed miles inland into shallower waters where many fish and other species reproduce.
Many Islamist militants in Pakistan believe it is permissible or honorable to kill non-Muslims, or even those Muslims who do not share their views.
LAHORE, Pakistan–An official says suicide bombers and gunmen have killed more than 70 people at two mosques of a minority sect in eastern Pakistan. Lahore deputy commissioner Sajjad Bhutta also said more than 80 people were wounded in Friday's attacks.
The attacks by suspected Islamist militants in Lahore city targeted the Ahmadi sect, which has experienced years of state-sanctioned discrimination and occasional attacks by radical Sunnis. It has never before been hit on such a large scale or coordinated fashion.
One of the attackers climbed atop the minaret of one of the mosques, firing an assault rifle and throwing hand grenades, TV footage showed. Outside, police were engaged in a fierce gunfight with the attackers, an Associated Press reporter at the scene said.
Police officer Imtiaz Ahmad said several attackers were inside and were suspected to be holding hostages.
Outside the other mosque several kilometers (miles) away, a witness complained of police inaction when the attackers struck.
"I asked the policeman to open fire. He told me he could not because he only had four bullets in his gun," said Ghalib Hussain.
Dr Rizan Nasir said 20 people had been killed in one mosque. Figures were not available for the other.
Pakistan has seen scores of attacks by groups of Islamist militants against government, Western and security force targets over the past three years. Lahore, the second largest city in the country and a vital a military and political center, has been the scene of several.
It is a very rare occasion where someone is left behind after the plane is landing. Usually the Air Hostess check everything is in order before they left the plane. However, A woman from Ferndale, Michigan was left alone on a plane for hours after it had landed. For that, she is suing United Airlines for that.
Ginger McGuire was aboard a United Express flight from Washington, DC to Philadelphia. She says she fell asleep during the flight. It landed shortly after midnight Tuesday but no one woke her up until a cleaning crew found her four hours later.
United Airlines says they are working with a regional partner carrier to determine why the plane wasn't cleared upon landing.
McGuire told reporters, "I fell asleep on the plane and next thing you know I wake up, it's 4:00 in the morning. Nobody's on the plane. Nothing."
McGuire has hired Geoffrey Fieger who is filing a lawsuit for false imprisonment, emotional distress and negligence.
LOS ANGELES – Former paint salesman Lee DeWyze was the surprise winner of "American Idol" on Wednesday, beating front-runner Crystal Bowersox on a night that saw the talent show's former champions reunite to bid farewell to Simon Cowell.
DeWyze, a 24-year-old Chicago native, won the coveted title and a recording contract after a nationwide phone and text vote based on the contestants' performances the night before.
"Idol" judges had all but anointed Bowersox the winner after her three songs on Tuesday outclassed a nervous DeWyze. But Americans made up their own minds and chose DeWyze.
"I have never been happier in my life," said a stunned DeWyze, choking back tears after the result was announced at the climax of a two-hour finale that featured performances by Christina Aguilera, Janet Jackson and Joe Cocker.
"It felt like a huge weight is off my shoulders. Now that this big step is done, it's on to the next step, which is to make an album and go on tour and do all the things I've wanted to do for a long time," he told reporters later.
Initially shy, he blossomed in later rounds of the show, and emerged as a serious threat to Bowersox after a rousing version of the Leonard Cohen classic "Hallelujah" last week.
His cover of U2's "Beautiful Day", his first single, was made available immediately on iTunes. His debut album, on a Sony Music Entertainment record label, will likely follow in the fall.
Bowersox, 24, said she had sensed before the show that DeWyze would take the title. "I knew Lee was going to win and people seem to be surprised by that, but I just had a feeling.
"I couldn't be happier for him...We both win. Both of us are going to have very successful careers and we're going to be friends for a long time," she told reporters backstage.
ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska – China has signaled it could soon join the U.S. and its allies in blaming North Korea in the sinking of a South Korean warship, senior American officials said Wednesday. Speaking after strategic talks this week in Beijing, the U.S. officials said China indicated it is prepared to hold North Korea accountable for the March 26 torpedo attack and could join in some kind of formal rebuke by the U.N. Security Council.
The move would represent a breakthrough for the White House, because so far China has resisted condemning North Korea for the incident, which cost the lives of 46 South Korean sailors. China has long been North Korea's patron and ally, propping up Pyongyang's Stalinist-style regime with financial and military aid as well as diplomatic support.
On a visit to South Korea this weekend, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is likely to express regret for the deaths and hint that China will accept the results of an international investigation blaming North Korea, the U.S. officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the discussions with China.
Wen is also expected to leave open the possibility of backing action against Pyongyang at the U.N. Security Council, although it's not clear how far Beijing is prepared to go in rebuking its historic ally.
In Seoul earlier Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the world must respond to the "unacceptable provocation" represented by the sinking of a South Korean warship, as Pyongyang engaged in blistering rhetoric against Seoul and Washington.
Clinton told reporters after talks with South Korean leaders that "the international community has a responsibility and a duty to respond" to the sinking, which "requires a strong but measured response." She spoke at a joint news conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan.
Clinton did not say what that response should be, but two U.S. officials said the U.N. could take a variety of actions, ranging from tightening sanctions to a statement rebuking Pyongyang.
As one of five permanent members of the Security Council with veto authority, China can block any measure the U.N. tries to take.
Clinton spent hours discussing the sinking with top Chinese leaders during strategic and economic talks in Beijing on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, before spending a few hours in Seoul Wednesday.
"I believe that the Chinese understand the seriousness of this issue and are willing to listen to the concerns expressed by both South Korea and the United States," she said in South Korea. "We expect to be working with China as we move forward in fashioning a response."
Tensions on the divided Korean peninsula have risen sharply since international investigators issued a report last week saying a North Korean submarine was likely responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan, a corvette patrolling the Yellow Sea.
South Korea began implementing a package of punitive measures against the North on Tuesday — ranging from slashing trade, resuming propaganda warfare and barring the North's cargo ships.
After meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Clinton endorsed the moves. "We're very confident in the South Korean leadership, and their decision about how and when to move forward is one that we respect and will support," she said.
She praised the investigation of the sinking as "very thorough, highly professional" and "very convincing." She said both the United States and South Korea had offered China "additional information and briefings about the underlying facts of that event."
"We hope that China will take us up on our offer to really understand the details of what happened and the objectivity of the investigation that led to the conclusions," she said.
China is not the only potential roadblock the U.S. and its allies face when it comes to pushing a tough response through the U.N. Security Council. Russia is another of the veto-holding permanent council members and must also be persuaded to take action.
The Kremlin said in a statement Wednesday that President Dmitry Medvedev has sent a group of experts to Seoul to study the international investigation's findings. "Medvedev considers it a matter of principle to establish the reason for the sinking of the ship," the statement said. South Korea's Yu, asked about the possibility of China or Russia blocking action by the U.N. Security Council, said they "will take time, I'm sure, but they will not be able to deny the facts."
KUALA LUMPUR : Malaysia's decision to give up its railway land in Singapore for joint redevelopment has received the thumbs up from Malaysians in general. Many see it as a major step towards improving bilateral ties, and resolving outstanding legacy issues that have plagued ties between the two neighbours. It made headlines in all of Malaysia's main newspapers - a landmark agreement between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Singapore counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong that ends a 20-year deadlock.
Malayan Railways (KTM) will move its Tanjong Pagar station near Singapore's financial district to Woodlands by July next year.
Some industry experts have hailed it as a breakthrough, and see relations improving between Singapore and Malaysia.
"Singapore is our number one source of tourists. For the development of southern parts of Johore, we will welcome it, especially from Singapore, which is just our next door neighbour. This is very positive from Bandar Iskandar, and generally it's a good signal for better things to come," said Dr Victor Wee, chairman of the Malaysia Tourism Board.
In Kuala Lumpur, public reaction has been generally positive, although some would rather wait for details to be firmed up. "In general, I would say it looks good for both countries. It's always tough negotiating with Singapore, that's my concern," said Jamaluddin Ismail, a Malaysian businessman.
"I don't know whether it's good for us or bad for us, it needs time to tell," said another Malaysian resident.
The railway land that has been freed up will be developed by a company that's 60 per cent owned by Malaysia's Khazanah Nasional Berhad, and 40 per cent owned by Singapore's Temasek Holdings.
One option is to swap the KTM land for other plots of equivalent value, after a valuation has been carried out. "It must be very transparent. It should be a situation where both sides gain, and at the same time, not one party is having major advantage over the other," said Khoo Kay Kim, an associate professor at University Malaya.
While all eyes are on the land swap deal, in particular the valuation of Malaysia Railway or KTMB's land in Singapore, analysts have reminded both sides to look at the big picture and decide in the interest of long term relations of both countries.