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Sunday, May 25, 2014

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

First lady gives weekly address on Nigerian girls

WASHINGTON (AP) — Michelle Obama on Saturday criticized the kidnapping of scores of Nigerian schoolgirls as an "unconscionable act" carried out by a terrorist group she said is determined to keep them from getting an education — "or grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls."

Taking over the president's weekly radio and Internet address on the eve of the American holiday for honoring mothers, the first lady said that, like millions of people around the world, she and President Barack Obama are "outraged and heartbroken" over the April 15 abduction of the girls from their dormitory.
"In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters," Mrs. Obama said, referring to Malia, 15, and Sasha, 12. "We see their hopes, their dreams and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now."
What happened in Nigeria is not an isolated incident, the first lady said, but is "a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions."
Mrs. Obama mentioned the case of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who survived being shot in the head as she traveled to school in 2012. Malala has become an outspoken advocate for the rights of all girls to get an education, the same message Mrs. Obama delivered in her first solo address to the nation.
Mrs. Obama noted that more than 65 million girls worldwide do not attend school even though educated women earn more money and have healthier families.
"When more girls attend secondary school, that boosts their country's entire economy," she said. "So education is truly a girl's best chance for a bright future, not just for herself, but for her family and her nation."
That is also true in the U.S., the first lady said. She expressed hope that what happened in Nigeria will inspire boys and girls across the U.S. to be serious about getting an education.
"I hope that any young people in America who take school for granted, any young people who are slacking off or thinking of dropping out, I hope they will learn the story of these girls and recommit themselves to their education," she said.
Mrs. Obama recently launched a domestic initiative called "Reach Higher" to encourage young people to pursue education beyond high school, whether they enroll in a professional training program or attend a community college or a four-year institution.
In Saturday's address, the first lady asked the nation to pray for the Nigerian girls' safe return.
"This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education — grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls," she said. "Let us hold their families in our hearts during this very difficult time, and let us show just a fraction of their courage in fighting to give every girl on this planet the education that is her birthright."
The Nigerian government's inability to rescue the girls nearly a month after they were abducted by the Boko Haram organization has sparked worldwide outrage, including protests and a social media campaign. The U.S. and other countries have sent teams of technical experts to assist the Nigerian government's search effort.
Authorities have said more than 300 girls were abducted from their school in the country's remote northeast. Fifty-three escaped and 276 remain captive.
President Obama said this week that the U.S. will do everything to help Nigeria find them.
Mrs. Obama added her voice this week to the calls for the girls' safe return by tweeting a photo of herself in the White House. She appears sad and holds a white sign with the message "(hashtag) Bring Back Our Girls." The tweet was signed "-mo," indicating that she sent it herself.
Boko Haram means "Western education is sinful." The group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, has claimed responsibility for the abduction and has threatened to sell the girls

Chris Brown admits probation violation, sentenced

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chris Brown on Friday admitted a probation violation over an altercation last year outside a hotel in Washington, D.C., and was sentenced to remain on probation and serve an additional 131 days in jail.
Brown appeared in court Friday and admitted he committed a crime in Washington in October. His mother and other supporters watched Friday's court proceedings.
Superior Court Judge James R. Brandlin sentenced Brown to serve a year in county jail but gave him credit for nearly eight months of time served. The credits include time the Grammy winner has spent in rehab and jail, as well as credits for good behavior while behind bars.
His admission came in a felony assault case filed after Brown attacked pop singer Rihanna hours before the 2009 Grammy Awards. The pair was dating at the time.
Brown has been in custody since mid-March, when he was arrested after being dismissed from a court-ordered rehab sentence.

Brown faces a misdemeanor assault charge in Washington after a man accused the singer of hitting him outside a hotel in the nation's capital.
Brown responded "Yes sir," repeatedly to questions posed by Brandlin during Friday's hearing, including a question about whether he was acknowledging he committed a crime in Washington. It is unclear whether that will have any impact on Brown's pending case.
Brandlin said Brown will have to complete the remainder of his 1,000 hours of community labor once he is released from jail.
The judge said he took into account that Brown was relatively young when he attacked Rihanna, and that he had a previously undiagnosed mental illness before the case began.
Brown, 25, will remain on probation until Jan. 23, Brandlin ordered.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Divers begin pulling bodies from sunken ferry

MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — After more than three days of frustration and failure, divers on Sunday finally found a way into a submerged ferry off South Korea's southern shore, discovering more than a dozen bodies inside the ship and pushing the confirmed death toll to 50, officials said.
More than 250 people are still missing, most of them high school students on a holiday trip, and anguished families are furious with the pace of rescue efforts. Divers had previously failed to enter the ferry, officials said, because of extremely strong currents and bad visibility due to foul weather. They have yet to find any survivors in the ship.
The penetration by divers into the ferry follows the arrest of the captain on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Two crew members also were taken into custody, including a rookie third mate who a prosecutor said was steering in challenging waters unfamiliar to her when the accident occurred.
Beginning late Saturday, when divers broke a window, and continuing into Sunday, multiple teams of divers have found various routes into the ferry, discovering bodies in different spots, coast guard official Koh Myung-seok said at a briefing. Thirteen bodies have been found in the ship, while other bodies were found floating outside, said coast guard official Kim Jin-cheol.
A 21-year-old South Korean sailor, surnamed Cho, also died from injuries he sustained Wednesday while working on a warship going to help rescue passengers in the ferry, said Commander Yim Myung-soo of the South Korean navy.
Coast guard spokesman Kim Jae-in said that among the dead, 23 are students.

Meanwhile, on an island near the submerged ferry, about 200 police in neon jackets blocked about 100 relatives of missing passengers who'd been walking on a main road in an effort, they said, to travel to the presidential Blue House in Seoul to voice their complaints to the president.
"The government is the killer," they shouted as they pushed against a police barricade.
"We want an answer from the person in charge about why orders are not going through and nothing is being done," Lee Woon-geun, father of missing passenger Lee Jung-in, 17, said. "They are clearly lying and kicking the responsibility to others."
Relatives are desperate to retrieve bodies before they decompose beyond recognition, Lee said.
"After four or five days the body starts to decay. When it's decayed, if you try to hold a hand it might fall off," he said. "I miss my son. I'm really afraid I might not get to find his body."

The ferry's captain, Lee Joon-seok, 68, was arrested along with one of the Sewol's three helmsmen and the 25-year-old third mate, prosecutors said.
Lee, speaking to reporters Saturday morning as he left the Mokpo Branch of Gwangju District Court to be jailed, defended his much-criticized decision to wait about 30 minutes before ordering an evacuation.
"At the time, the current was very strong, the temperature of the ocean water was cold, and I thought that if people left the ferry without (proper) judgment, if they were not wearing a life jacket, and even if they were, they would drift away and face many other difficulties," Lee said. "The rescue boats had not arrived yet, nor were there any civilian fishing ships or other boats nearby at that time."
The Sewol had left the northwestern port of Incheon on Tuesday with 476 passengers on an overnight journey to the holiday island of Jeju in the south, including 323 students from Danwon High School in Ansan. It capsized within hours of the crew making a distress call to the shore a little before 9 a.m. Wednesday. Most of the missing passengers are believed to be trapped inside the 6,852-ton vessel.
With the chances of survival increasingly slim, it is shaping up to be one of South Korea's worst disasters. The loss is more keenly felt because of so many young people, aged 16 or 17, on board. The country's last major ferry disaster was in 1993, when 292 people were killed.
By the time the evacuation order was issued, the ship was listing at too steep an angle for many people to escape the tight hallways and stairs inside. Several survivors told The Associated Press that they never heard any evacuation order.
Senior prosecutor Yang Jung-jin told reporters that the third mate was steering the ship Wednesday morning as it passed through an area with lots of islands clustered close together and fast currents. According to investigators, the accident came at a point where the ship had to make a turn. Prosecutor Park Jae-eok said investigators were looking at whether the third mate ordered a turn so sharp that it caused the vessel to list.
Yang said the third mate has six months of experience, and hadn't steered in the area before because another mate usually handles those duties. She took the wheel this time because heavy fog caused a departure delay, Yang said, adding that investigators do not know whether the ship was going faster than usual.
Helmsman Park Kyung-nam identified the third mate as Park Han-kyul. The helmsman who was arrested, 55-year-old Cho Joon-ki, spoke to reporters outside court and accepted some responsibility.
"There was a mistake on my part as well, but the steering had been turned much more than usual," Cho said.
Lee has four decades of experience at sea. He had been captaining ferries for 10 years by the time he was interviewed by the Jeju Today website in 2004, and said he had sailed on ocean freighters for 20 years before that.
But he was not the Sewol's main captain, and worked on the ship about 10 days a month, helmsman Oh Yong-seok said.
Lee was not on the bridge when the ship began to list. "I gave instructions on the route, then briefly went to the bedroom when it happened," he told reporters.
According to the court, Lee faces five charges, including negligence of duty and violation of maritime law, and the two other crew members each face three related charges.
Lee was required by law to be on the bridge helping his crew when the ferry passed through tough-to-navigate areas, said Yang, the senior prosecutor.
Yang said Lee also abandoned people in need of help and rescue, saying, "The captain escaped before the passengers." Video aired by Yonhap showed Lee among the first people to reach the shore by rescue boat.
Yang said the two crew members arrested failed to reduce speed near the islands and failed to carry out necessary measures to save lives.
It's not clear why the two crew members made the sharp turn, Yang said. He said prosecutors would continue to look into whether something other than the turn could have made the ferry sink, but he added that there were no strong waves that could have knocked down the ferry at the time.
Prosecutors will have 10 days to decide whether to indict the captain and crew, but can request a 10-day extension from the court.
Three vessels with cranes arrived at the accident site to prepare to salvage the ferry, but they will not hoist the ship before getting approval from family members of those still believed inside because the lifting could endanger any survivors, said a coast guard officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.
___
Klug reported from Seoul. Associated Press writers Youkyung Lee and Jung-yoon Choi in Seoul and Gillian Wong in Jindo, South Korea, contributed to this report.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Thailand gives radar data 10 days after plane lost

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's military said Tuesday that its radar detected a plane that may have been Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 just minutes after the jetliner's communications went down, and that it didn't share the information with Malaysia earlier because it wasn't specifically asked for it.
A twisting flight path described Tuesday by Thai air force spokesman Air Vice Marshal Montol Suchookorn took the plane to the Strait of Malacca, which is where Malaysian radar tracked Flight 370 early March 8. But Montol said the Thai military doesn't know whether it detected the same plane.
Thailand's failure to quickly share possible information regarding the fate of the plane, and the 239 people aboard it, may not substantially change what Malaysian officials know, but it raises questions about the degree to which some countries are sharing their defense information, even in the name of an urgent and mind-bending aviation mystery.
With only its own radar to go on, it took Malaysia a week to confirm that Flight 370 had entered the strait, an important detail that led it to change its search strategy.
When asked why it took so long to release the information, Montol said, "Because we did not pay any attention to it. The Royal Thai Air Force only looks after any threats against our country, so anything that did not look like a threat to us, we simply look at it without taking actions."
He said the plane never entered Thai airspace and that Malaysia's initial request for information in the early days of the search was not specific.

"When they asked again and there was new information and assumptions from (Malaysian) Prime Minister Najib Razak, we took a look at our information again," Montol said. "It didn't take long for us to figure out, although it did take some experts to find out about it."
Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12:40 a.m. Malaysian time and its transponder, which allows air traffic controllers to identify and track the airplane, ceased communicating at 1:20 a.m.
Montol said that at 1:28 a.m., Thai military radar "was able to detect a signal, which was not a normal signal, of a plane flying in the direction opposite from the MH370 plane," back toward Kuala Lumpur. The plane later turned right, toward Butterworth, a Malaysian city along the Strait of Malacca. The radar signal was infrequent and did not include any data such as the flight number.
He said he didn't know exactly when Thai radar last detected the plane. Malaysian officials have said Flight 370 was last detected by their own military radar at 2:14 a.m.
The search area for the plane initially focused on the South China Sea, where ships and planes spent a week searching. Pings that a satellite detected from the plane hours after its communications went down have led authorities to concentrate instead on two vast arcs — one into central Asia and the other into the Indian Ocean — that together cover an expanse as big as Australia.
Thai officials said radar equipment in southern Thailand detected the plane. Malaysian officials have said the plane might ultimately have passed through northern Thailand, but Thai Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong told reporters Tuesday that the country's northern radar did not detect it

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

No action to unlock Morogoro Road jam

Germany contractor Strabag in charge of major construction works along Dar es Salaam’s Morogoro Road has said it is not responsible to open the completed sections to ease the snail-paced traffic jams as ordered by the government.
 
Responding to residents complaints over the traffic jams, on Friday last week, Works Minister, Dr John Magufuli, ordered the contractor to open sections of the over 20-kilometres long road (Mbezi to the city centre) to reduce traffic congestions.
 
“It is not our responsibility to open any sections of the road so as to be used as we continue with construction of the other sections,” said Yahya Mkumba, Strabag Public Relations Officer when contacted over the matter yesterday in Dar es Salaam.
 
“It is the duty of Tanzania National Roads Agency (Tanroads),” he explained.
 
The Tanroads Public Relations Officer, Asha Malima said she was not in a position to comment because she is off duty but did not offer a replacement contact to respond on her behalf.
 
Works ministry Head of Communication, Martin Ntemo, explained that ‘just because Strabag has not yet opened the sections of the road does not mean that the firm has ignored the minister’s order. There are procedures to be followed,” he said.
 
Giving an example he said Strabag would have to (before opening any section of the road) inspect and evaluate the said sections, a process that “…might force the government to pay extra billions of shillings for expedited procedures to complete the sections for opening or the subsequent damage to the sections if opened before due completion,” he said.
 
Ntemo called on Morogoro Road users to be patient, reassuring them that there was no foul play and that the procedures are protocol and might take a few days before the sections are opened.
 
Up to yesterday, two days after the government order, no section of the Morogoro Road had been opened; worsening traffic jams at Morogoro and Kawawa junction, Morogoro and Mandela/Sam Nujoma Road and Morogoro Road from Ubungo to Mbezi.
 
Kimara and Mbezi residents spent up to two hours commuting from Ubungo to Mbezi Mwisho – a distance of less than 10 kilometres.
 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Obama to Russia: There will be 'costs' for Ukraine By JULIE PACE 1 hour ago President Barack Obama walks away from the podium after speaking about the ongoing situation in Ukraine in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Obama warned Russia "there will be costs" for any military intervention in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) . View gallery . . . WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is warning Russia "there will be costs" for any military maneuvers it launches in Ukraine, a move U.S. and Ukrainian officials say they believe is already underway. Related Stories Obama could pull Russia trip amid Ukraine tumult Associated Press Obama warns Russia of 'costs' for intervention in Ukraine Reuters US warns Russia on Ukraine, nudges Georgia to West Associated Press Russia Warned Over Unrest in Ukraine's Crimea Region The Wall Street Journal Obama warns Russia over military moves in Crimea Associated Press Officials say Obama may retaliate by canceling a trip to Russia this year for an international summit and could cut off trade discussions with Moscow. But it's unclear whether those moves will have any impact on Russia's strategy on Ukraine, which is at the center of what many see as tensions between East and West. "Any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing," Obama declared Friday. Such action by Russia would represent a "profound interference" in matters that must be decided by the Ukrainian people, he said. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that while he would not address specific U.S. options, "this could be a very dangerous situation if this continues in a provocative way." Asked about options in a CBS News interview, he said that "we're trying to deal with a diplomatic focus, that's the appropriate, responsible approach." A spokesman for the Ukrainian border service said Friday that eight Russian transport planes had landed with unknown cargo in Ukraine's Crimea region. Serhiy Astakhov told The Associated Press that the Il-76 planes arrived unexpectedly and were given permission to land, one after the other, at Gvardeiskoye air base. U.S. officials said they also believed Russian personnel had entered Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea with an ethnic Russian majority and a Russian naval base. The State Department urged U.S. citizens to defer nonessential travel plans in Ukraine because of "the potential for instability." View gallery Russia's Ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin, … Russia's Ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin, second from right, listens as U.K. Ambassador to … Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to host the Group of Eight economic summit in June in Sochi, the site of the recently completed Winter Olympics. The U.S. is in discussions about the summit with European partners, and it is difficult to see how some of those leaders would attend the summit if Russia has forces in Crimea, according to the administration officials. They were not authorized to discuss the situation by name and spoke only on condition of anonymity. Obama canceled a bilateral meeting with Putin last year after Russia granted asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, though Obama still attended a separate international meeting in Russia. For the U.S., levying punishments on Russia is complicated by the various issues on which the White House needs Moscow's help. Among them: ending the bloodshed in Syria, negotiating a nuclear agreement with Iran and transporting U.S. military troops and equipment out of Afghanistan through Russian supply routes. A somber Obama decried the situation in Ukraine and warned about deeper outside intervention. "The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine," he said. View gallery President Barack Obama speaks about Ukraine in the … President Barack Obama speaks about Ukraine in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White Hous … Political turmoil in Ukraine has pushed President Viktor Yanukovych from office. Yanukovych held a news conference in Russia on Friday in which he said he was not asking Moscow for military assistance and called military action "unacceptable." Yanukovych, who still regards himself the president, also vowed to "keep fighting for the future of Ukraine" and blamed the U.S. and the West for encouraging the rebellion that forced him to flee last weekend. One catalyst for the massive demonstrations that led to Yanukovych's ouster was his rejection of a partnership agreement with the European Union in favor of historical ties with Moscow. That EU agreement would have paved the way for Ukraine's greater integration with the West, including potential affiliation with NATO, something to which Russia strongly objects. Secretary of State John Kerry and other senior U.S. officials have tried without success to dispel widespread sentiment in Russia that the United States and Europe are trying to pry Ukraine out from under Russian influence. But in Moscow, Russian officials have been accusing the U.S. and its allies of meddling, fomenting anti-Russia sentiment and actively encouraging Ukraine's Western aspirations at the expense of its historical connections. View gallery President Barack Obama speaks about Ukraine in the … President Barack Obama speaks about Ukraine in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White Hous … There was no known contact Friday between Obama and Putin, who last spoke a week ago. Kerry did call Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for the second time in two days to press the Kremlin to keep its promise to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Lavrov repeated Putin's pledge to do just that, while pointing out that Russia has broad interests in Ukraine, Kerry said. Kerry reiterated the U.S. view that Russian military intervention in Ukraine following the ouster of the country's Russia-backed leader would run counter to Russia's self-professed opposition to such operations in other countries, such as Libya and Syria. ___ Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

President Barack Obama walks away from the podium after speaking about the ongoing situation in Ukraine in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Obama warned Russia "there will be costs" for any military intervention in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is warning Russia "there will be costs" for any military maneuvers it launches in Ukraine, a move U.S. and Ukrainian officials say they believe is already underway

Officials say Obama may retaliate by canceling a trip to Russia this year for an international summit and could cut off trade discussions with Moscow. But it's unclear whether those moves will have any impact on Russia's strategy on Ukraine, which is at the center of what many see as tensions between East and West.
"Any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing," Obama declared Friday. Such action by Russia would represent a "profound interference" in matters that must be decided by the Ukrainian people, he said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that while he would not address specific U.S. options, "this could be a very dangerous situation if this continues in a provocative way." Asked about options in a CBS News interview, he said that "we're trying to deal with a diplomatic focus, that's the appropriate, responsible approach."
A spokesman for the Ukrainian border service said Friday that eight Russian transport planes had landed with unknown cargo in Ukraine's Crimea region. Serhiy Astakhov told The Associated Press that the Il-76 planes arrived unexpectedly and were given permission to land, one after the other, at Gvardeiskoye air base.
U.S. officials said they also believed Russian personnel had entered Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea with an ethnic Russian majority and a Russian naval base. The State Department urged U.S. citizens to defer nonessential travel plans in Ukraine because of "the potential for instability."
Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to host the Group of Eight economic summit in June in Sochi, the site of the recently completed Winter Olympics. The U.S. is in discussions about the summit with European partners, and it is difficult to see how some of those leaders would attend the summit if Russia has forces in Crimea, according to the administration officials. They were not authorized to discuss the situation by name and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
Obama canceled a bilateral meeting with Putin last year after Russia granted asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, though Obama still attended a separate international meeting in Russia.
For the U.S., levying punishments on Russia is complicated by the various issues on which the White House needs Moscow's help. Among them: ending the bloodshed in Syria, negotiating a nuclear agreement with Iran and transporting U.S. military troops and equipment out of Afghanistan through Russian supply routes.
A somber Obama decried the situation in Ukraine and warned about deeper outside intervention.
"The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine," he said.
Political turmoil in Ukraine has pushed President Viktor Yanukovych from office. Yanukovych held a news conference in Russia on Friday in which he said he was not asking Moscow for military assistance and called military action "unacceptable."
Yanukovych, who still regards himself the president, also vowed to "keep fighting for the future of Ukraine" and blamed the U.S. and the West for encouraging the rebellion that forced him to flee last weekend.
One catalyst for the massive demonstrations that led to Yanukovych's ouster was his rejection of a partnership agreement with the European Union in favor of historical ties with Moscow. That EU agreement would have paved the way for Ukraine's greater integration with the West, including potential affiliation with NATO, something to which Russia strongly objects.
Secretary of State John Kerry and other senior U.S. officials have tried without success to dispel widespread sentiment in Russia that the United States and Europe are trying to pry Ukraine out from under Russian influence.
But in Moscow, Russian officials have been accusing the U.S. and its allies of meddling, fomenting anti-Russia sentiment and actively encouraging Ukraine's Western aspirations at the expense of its historical connections.
There was no known contact Friday between Obama and Putin, who last spoke a week ago.
Kerry did call Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for the second time in two days to press the Kremlin to keep its promise to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Lavrov repeated Putin's pledge to do just that, while pointing out that Russia has broad interests in Ukraine, Kerry said.
Kerry reiterated the U.S. view that Russian military intervention in Ukraine following the ouster of the country's Russia-backed leader would run counter to Russia's self-professed opposition to such operations in other countries, such as Libya and Syria.