Friday, February 17, 2012

Mexico's president to U.S.: 'No more weapons'

Mexico's president called on U.S. officials to stop gun trafficking across the border Thursday, saying the move would be the best thing Americans could do to stop brutal drug violence.

"The criminals have become more and more vicious in their eagerness to spark fear and anxiety in society," President Felipe Calderon said. "One of the main factors that allows criminals to strengthen themselves is the unlimited access to high-powered weapons, which are sold freely, and also indiscriminately, in the United States of America."

Speaking in Ciudad Juarez, the border city across from El Paso, Texas, that has become Mexico's murder capital, Calderon said a dramatic increase in violence in Mexico was directly connected with the 2004 expiration of the U.S. assault weapons ban.

The message was familiar. The Mexican president has asked U.S. lawmakers to renew the ban on assault weapons before, most notably in a 2010 speech to the U.S. Congress.

But the backdrop Thursday was dramatically different. Calderon stood in front of a massive new sign, constructed with tons of decommissioned arms. "NO MORE WEAPONS," the sign said -- in English. Americans on the other side of the border are the intended audience, Calderon said. more

NATO fighter jets sent to Baltic Sea sky over Russian bomber flights

Two German fighter jets F-4 Phantom were sent to the sky over Baltic Sea to escort of Russian bombers. “Today in the morning two German fighter jets, part of the NATO Air Policing mission (deployed in Siauliai Air Base), were sent to the sky. They identified and escorted two Russian aircraft TU-22M flying over the Baltic Sea,” Ugne Naujokaityte, spokesperson of the Ministry of National Defence of Lithuania told Baltic News Service on February 17, Alfa.lt reported.

According to her, the Russians have informed Lithuanians about these flights, however, the Minister of Defence of Latvia Artis Pubriks expressed his suspicions stating that Russia is planning to hold large scale military exercises in the Baltic Sea. He also said that that these moves are related to the referendum over the status of Russian language in Latvia, which is to take place on 18 of February

“We plan to find out via diplomatic channels as to whether Russia can provide additional and more detailed information in the framework of Russian-NATO cooperation to avoid further misunderstandings,” Pabriks told BNS. “Failure to receive more detailed explanations regarding the purpose of these exercises would make Latvian people believe there’s a connection between Russia’s strategic military exercises and the referendum in Latvia,” the minister continued. source

Iranian Naval ships enter Suez, possibly en route to reinforce Syrian position

(Reuters) - Two Iranian naval ships have sailed through Egypt's Suez Canal into the Mediterranean, in a move likely to be keenly watched by Israel.

"Two Iranian ships crossed through the Suez Canal (on Thursday) following permission from the Egyptian armed forces," a source in the canal authority said Friday.

The destroyer and a supply ship could be on their way to the Syrian coast, the source added. Iran and Syria agreed to cooperate on naval training a year ago, and Tehran has no naval agreement with any other country in the region.

Two Iranian warships sailed along the strategic waterway on February 17 last year, in a move that Israel called a "provocation."

Syria and Iran are hostile to Israel.

Egypt's military, which has a close defense ties with the United States, has been governing the country since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak a year ago.

The Suez Canal cuts through Egypt and allows shipping to pass from the Middle East to Europe and vice versa, without going around southern Africa.

Deadly bird flu studies to stay secret for now

(Reuters) - Two studies showing how scientists mutated the H5N1 bird flu virus into a form that could cause a deadly human pandemic will be published only after experts fully assess the risks, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

Speaking after a high-level meeting of flu experts and U.S. security officials in Geneva, a WHO spokesman said an agreement had been reached in principle to keep details of the controversial work secret until deeper risk analyses have been carried out.

The WHO called the meeting to break a deadlock between scientists who have studied the mutations needed to make H5N1 bird flu transmit between mammals, and the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), which wanted the work censored before it was published in scientific journals.

Biosecurity experts fear mutated forms of the virus that research teams in The Netherlands and the United States independently created could escape or fall into the wrong hands and be used to spark a pandemic worse than the 1918-19 outbreak of Spanish flu that killed up to 40 million people.

"There must be a much fuller discussion of risk and benefits of research in this area and risks of virus itself," the WHO's Gregory Hartl told reporters.

HIGH FATALITY RATE

The H5N1 virus, first detected in Hong Kong in 1997, is entrenched among poultry in many countries, mainly in Asia, but so far remains in a form that is hard for humans to catch. Read More

Snow-related deaths hit 103 this winter in Japan

Heavy snow has claimed the lives of 103 this winter, topping the 100 mark for the seventh time since the end of World War II, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency stated on Feb. 16.

While high, the number is well below the 131 snow-related deaths last winter.

Seventy-eight of this year's fatalities occurred while people were removing snow, and agency officials are calling on snow removal workers to engage in such work with at least one other person and take strict safety precautions. Falling snow and avalanches took the lives 17 and four, respectively. Sixty-seven of the 103 people were 65 or older.

Niigata Prefecture reported 23 deaths, followed by Hokkaido with 21 and Yamagata with 15. A total of 663 people suffered injuries in snow-related accidents.

The central government's study panel on snow disaster prevention in December recommended doing snow removal with multiple coworkers and a cellphone, wearing a lifeline and helmet, fixing ladders firmly and being extra careful when temperatures rise. Read More

Japan Freight Railway Train Derails, crashes into shelter after failing to stop at red light

ABIRA, Hokkaido -- A Japan Freight Railway Co. (JR Freight) train derailed and crashed into the wall of a snow shelter here after failing to stop at a red light on Feb. 16.

The crash happened at JR Higashi-Oiwake Station. Despite the red stop signal, the train continued and entered a short side track, continuing past the end over a gravel pile and hitting the wall. The engine derailed, followed by four of the 15 freight cars behind it. There were no injuries reported.

According to JR Freight and other sources, the train was signaled to stop as the schedule was off and a JR Hokkaido super-express train was coming from the opposite direction. The driver has said he tried to slow down at a yellow signal two kilometers before the station, but the train, which was moving at 95 kilometers per hour, did not respond. He says he applied the emergency brake but the train did not stop in time. JR Freight is investigating the possibility that the cold or snow reduced the brakes' effectiveness. Read More

Monju fast breeder reactor's sodium detector hits trouble

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A sodium detector at Japan's prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju went out of order, the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Thursday.

But neither sodium leakage nor damage to the environment has been reported, said the agency under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

The state-run Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the operator of the Monju reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, is currently working to repair the detector, it said.

An alarm sounded at the central control room shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday notifying of trouble at the detector. A fan that sends air around the sodium coolant piping to the detector apparently came to a halt, it said. Source

Arrests made in Italy after discovery of $6 trillion in fake U.S. bonds

(CNN) -- Italian authorities on Friday arrested eight people in possession of an estimated $6 trillion in counterfeit U.S. Treasury bonds, according to Italian paramilitary police and an Italian news agency.

The discovery of the fake bonds -- made to look as if they were printed by the U.S. Federal Reserve in 1934 -- came about as part of an investigation into a local mafia association.

The arrest order for the alleged criminals was issued by a preliminary investigative judge in the southern Italian city of Potenza, police noted.

Italian authorities, working with their Swiss counterparts, learned about the counterfeit bonds by way of eavesdropping on wiretapped phones, police said.

The total of $6 trillion is more than twice the Italy's national debt.

The Italian news agency, ANSA, reported that the bonds were also discovered "alongside copies of the Treaty of Versailles rolled inside lead cylinders."

CNN can not independently verify that account. Source

FBI arrests man suspected of plotting Suicide attack on Capitol

The FBI has confirmed the arrest Friday of a man suspected of plotting a suicide attack against the U.S. Capitol, which was first reported by Fox News. The unidentified man was arrested after a lengthy undercover FBI terrorism investigation, the Justice Department said.

"FBI agents today arrested an individual in the vicinity of the Capitol," Andrew Ames, spokesman for the FBI Washington D.C. field office, told Yahoo News Friday. "The arrest was the culmination of an extensive operation during which the individual was closely monitored. At no time was the public in any danger."

Ames declined to comment on the Fox News report that the arrested man is from Morocco.
Mike Levine of Fox News noted that the man was in his mid 30s and the FBI grew suspicious of him because he had expressed interest in carrying out an attack. "The man thought undercover FBI agents assisting him in his plot were associates of al Qaeda," wrote Levine.

"Explosives the suspect allegedly sought to use in connection with the plot had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement and posed no threat to the public," Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd told Yahoo News in a statement Friday, adding that additional information on the case would be released soon. Source