DETROIT – A judge has cleared the way for nine members of a Michigan militia to be released from jail while awaiting trial on a charge of conspiring to overthrow the government.U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts lifted
a stay late Wednesday night that is keeping the nine in jail while prosecutors pursue an appeal of her order to release the defendants with strict conditions, including electronic monitoring.Roberts ruled about six hours after the government claimed the public could be at risk if the militia members go home.They won’t be released until they’re returned to federal court to be processed, which could happen Thursday.THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.DETROIT (AP) — A judge has cleared the way for nine members of a Michigan militia to be released from jail while awaiting trial on a charge of conspiring to overthrow the government.U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts has lifted the stay that is keeping the nine in jail while prosecutors pursue an appeal of her order that releases the defendants with strict conditions, including electronic monitoring.Roberts ruled Wednesday night, about six hours after the government claimed the public could be at risk if the militia members go home.
Somali pirates board oil tanker; warship en route By KATHARINE HOURELD, Associated Press
NAIROBI, Kenya – Somali pirates armed with automatic weapons boarded an oil tanker with $50 million of oil on Wednesday but the ship’s Russian crew locked themselves into a safe room to wait for a Russian warship rushing to the scene, a European Union Naval spokesman said.The pirates launched the attack on the Liberian-flagged ship, which is named the Moscow University, at dawn. Cmdr. John Harbour, the EU Naval Force spokesman, said the crew evaded the pirates for several hours while sending out distress calls. They locked themselves in a secure room when the pirates boarded.A maritime patrol aircraft flew over the 106,000 ton ship on Wednesday afternoon but it was not moving, said Harbour. It is unclear if pirates or the 23 Russian crew retained control of the ship. The ship is carrying 86,000 tons of crude oil, worth roughly $50 million.A Russian warship was heading to the ship at full speed but had not arrived by nightfall, Harbour said. He declined to say how long the warship would take to arrive or what action it might take, citing security.”We think it’s unlikely that they would use explosives to try to force open the door,” said Harbour.”Pirates know killing or injuring crew members would up the stakes considerably.”If crew members were hurt, he warned, the Russians could respond „very robustly.”There was no word on the crew’s condition. Safe rooms are typically stocked with food, water and communications equipment and have reinforced metal doors that can only be opened from the inside if locked.The attack occurred about 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of the Somali coast. The ship was not registered with the Maritime Security Center, said Harbour. The ship’s route was from the Red Sea to China, the ship’s owner said.The owner, Novoship, said in a statement that the captain sent a distress call to the Russian anti-submarine warship the Marshal Shaposhnikov before communications were severed. It said the pirates attacked using automatic weapons.Novoship is a subsidiary of Sovcomflot, which is owned by the Russian government.In February, Danish special forces prevented the hijacking of a ship after pirates had boarded the Ariella. Special forces from the Danish Absalon boarded the ship while the crew locked themselves in a secure room.But naval interventions have also faced criticism.On Wednesday, a French prosecutor said a French rescuer was responsible for killing the skipper of a sailboat hijacked by Somali pirates during a rescue operation.Chief prosecutor Hever Pavy in the western French city of Rennes said investigators found a French military bullet had killed Florent Lemacon in April 2009 when a special intervention team came to rescue his yacht, the Tanit, off the Somali coast.Four other hostages were saved after a week on the hijacked ship. Three suspected pirates who survived the rescue operation are on trial in France.Pirates currently hold more than 300 hostages taken from ships attacked off East Africa in the last several months. Eleven suspected Somali pirates were indicted in U.S. federal court late last month, but the international community has had problems formulating an accepted policy to try and jail pirate suspects.Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said Wednesday that Kenya is renegotiating several agreements signed with the U.S, Canada and European Union to prosecute and jail pirates.Kenya in 2008 signed agreements to prosecute and detain Somali pirates captured by international warships patrolling Indian Ocean waters off the Somali coast.Wetangula said he gave notice two weeks ago of Kenya’s unwillingness to continue prosecuting and incarcerating Somali pirates because some of the countries that agreed to give financial support to Kenya’s strained justice system had failed to do so.”We have fulfilled our obligations but some of our partners haven’t,” Wetangula told reporters. He declined to name specific countries. „What we will not do or we will not accept is a situation where we are single-handedly, as a country, carrying the responsibility for fighting piracy when piracy affects everybody.”Kenya needs financial assistance to hire Somali interpreters and build prison facilities for pirates, he said. One sticking point is what happens to pirates after their jail terms are up.”We have accepted them, prosecuted them and sent them to jail. Somebody else must receive them after their jail terms and these are the issues we are discussing with the countries that captured them and brought them here,” he said.Associated Press reporters Tom Odula in Nairobi and David Nowak in Moscow contributed to this report.
Asian stock markets tumble on Europe debt woes By AP
TOKYO – Asian stock markets fell sharply Thursday as fears Greece’s debt crisis will spread to other European countries and undermine the global recovery continued to rattle investors.Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average plunged 3.2 percent to 10,709.15 as investors returned after the „Golden Week” holidays. Japanese markets were closed Monday through Wednesday.South Korea’s Kospi shed 33.54, or 2 percent, to 1,685.61, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was off 348.25, or 3.2 percent, at 20,251.05 and Australia’s benchmark lost 1.7 percent to 4,593.1 in a regionwide rout. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and mainland China also retreated.Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrials fell 0.6 percent to 10,866.83 as investors questioned whether a $144 billion aid package for Greece would be adequate to keep debt problems in Europe from spreading.European Union officials tried to calm fears that Greece’s crisis is spreading, insisting the debt-ridden country is a unique case combining profligacy and tampered accounts.A drop in the euro and a rise in the dollar also battered markets around the world. The stronger dollar hurts U.S. stocks by cutting into profits of U.S. companies that do business abroad. A higher dollar also hurts commodity prices by reducing demand from foreign buyers.The weaker euro hurt Japanese companies who do significant business in Europe. Canon Inc. was down 3.3 percent, and rival camera maker Nikon Corp. fell 3.1 percent.Financial issues declined across Asia, with Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. down 4.3 percent and South Korea’s KB Financial Group Inc. tumbling 4.6 percent.The euro was trading at $1.2841 from $1.2823 late Wednesday. The dollar stood at 93.85 yen from 93.89 yen.Oil prices were up slightly after tumbling the day before. Benchmark crude for June delivery rose 15 cents to $80.12 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost $2.77 to settle at $79.97 a barrel on Wednesday.
Fed’s Rosengren: Ultra-low rates still needed By Kristina Cooke and Emily Flitter REUTERS
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The economy is showing signs of improvement but the recovery still has a long way to go and ultra-low interest rates are still needed, a top Federal Reserve official said on Wednesday.Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren said in a speech to the Money Marketeers of New York University that even with more positive recent economic data, the economy remains vulnerable to negative shocks.He said he agrees with forecasters who expect disinflation — a reduction in the rate of inflation — in the near term.”With inflation expectations stable, core PCE inflation rates declining and significant excess capacity in the economy, accomodative monetary policy remains appropriate,” he said.Rosengren, seen as one of the more „dovish” Fed officials, more focused on economic growth than the risks of inflation, is a voter on the Fed’s policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee this year.The Fed cut interest rates to near zero in December 2008 and has kept them there since to aid economic recovery. It also pumped billions of dollars into the financial system by buying longer-term assets, more than doubling its balance sheet to over $2 trillion.Rosengren spent much of his speech countering concerns that the Fed’s extraordinary policies could fuel inflation once the economic recovery gathers steam. He said it would be „unusual” to see the inflation rate increasing in the early stages of the recovery.”Even with rapid growth in the economy, spurred by accommodative monetary policy and stimulative fiscal policy, it is likely to take years before we approach the growth and inflation rates that would really reflect achievement of the two elements of the Federal Reserve‘s dual mandate,” Rosengren said. The Fed’s dual mandate is price stability and full employment.He argued that even if bank lending picked up dramatically, the Fed has the tools it needs to drain the excess reserves it created in its fight against the financial crisis.”We have a variety of tools. We could sell some of our long-term assets, thereby increasing longer-term interest rates. We now pay interest on reserves, and that rate could be increased to discourage bank lending,” Rosengren said.Once banks have recapitalized and economic resources are more fully utilized, Rosengren said he would not want to have a large stock of excess reserves in the system.Asked by the audience whether he would prefer to raise interest rates or sell assets first when the time comes to tighten monetary policy, he said:”My personal preference would be to start with short-term interest rates.”Rosengren would not rule out the Federal Reserve extending currency swap lines to Europe to help them cope with the Greek debt crisis. „I wouldn’t foreclose on any option… Hopefully it won’t be necessary,” he said in response to an audience question..ASSET BUBBLES?In his speech Rosengren said the Fed should be vigilant in monitoring for asset bubbles, but that he sees no such problems emerging at the moment. If asset bubbles were to emerge, it would be best to counter them in a targeted way through supervisory tools, he said.In Washington earlier on Wednesday, Thomas Hoenig, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City said policymakers need to act quickly to enact „hard” rules to limit the amount of leverage financial institutions can take on or risk another financial crisis.”If we take action now, then when the next economic correction occurs there will be less devastation to our economy,” Hoenig said in prepared testimony to be delivered Thursday to the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. A copy was obtained by Reuters.”If we don’t change policy now, then this crisis will be remembered only in textbooks and leverage will rise again and lead to another crisis,” Hoenig said. While Hoenig was referring specifically to regulatory policy, he has also been one of the most vocal proponents of the need for Fed interest rate hikes to avoid fueling bubbles in financial markets.Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Plosser also in Washington on Wednesday, told lawmakers regulators had been „humbled” by the financial crisis.But he cautioned against regulatory reforms that would cut the Fed’s supervisory power over smaller banks, saying this would run the risk of the Fed losing its Main Street perspective and exacerbate the problem of the biggest firms being perceived as „too big to fail”. In remarks to a Joint Economic Committee staff meeting, Plosser also reiterated the need for a credible process of dealing with failed financial firms and warned of the dangers of politicization of the Fed, the U.S. central bank.
NASA picks May 14 launch for Atlantis’ last flight By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Space shuttle Atlantis is set to blast off on its final flight next week. NASA‘s top managers agreed Wednesday to set May 14 as the launch date. Liftoff would be at 2:20 p.m.Atlantis will fly to the International Space Station, carrying up a crew of six and a load of supplies. Much of that is crammed inside a Russian-built module that will be attached permanently to the orbiting lab complex. The astronauts will venture out on three spacewalks to plug in fresh batteries and tack on a spare antenna.The 12-day mission is scheduled to be the last for Atlantis. NASA is retiring its three shuttles at the end of this year. After this flight, only two will be left.But Atlantis won’t be dismantled and head to a museum when the flight is over. Instead, the spaceship will be prepped for a potential rescue mission for NASA’s very last shuttle flight. That final trip, by Endeavour, is scheduled for November at the earliest.Discovery is supposed to make its last trip in September.At a news conference, NASA’s shuttle program manager noted that the mission comes on the heels of Discovery’s recently completed trip to the space station.”It’s 15 days since we last landed. Nine days until we launch,” program manager John Shannon said. „This is the kind of pace that this team thrives on.”Launch director Mike Leinbach said shuttle workers are not distracted by the end of the program — at least not while they’re on the job. Any venting is saved for lunch time or the end of the day, he said.”They know the end is coming and they’re making their plans,” Leinbach said. „We’ve gotten past the denial stage of change, and we’re into the exploration and the acceptance change.”President Barack Obama visited Kennedy Space Center on April 15, laying out a strategy for sending astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars by 2035. In doing so, he canceled plans made by his predecessor in 2004 to return astronauts to the moon. He also did not call for any additional shuttle missions, as some had hoped.If there is to be one additional flight to the space station, NASA officials said they would like to know by June so they have enough time to train a crew and prepare the cargo.
NASA green lights Atlantis launch for May 14 By AFP
WASHINGTON (AFP) – NASA gave the green light Wednesday for the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis, officially setting the mission clock on its journey to the International Space Station for May 14 at 2:20 pm (1820 GMT).The decision from top managers at the US space agency came at the end of a flight readiness review at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, NASA said in a statement.Weather permitting, the mission will launch the shuttle on a 12-day trip to the ISS to deliver an integrated cargo carrier and a Russian-built mini research module.NASA late last month pushed back to November the launch of the shuttle Endeavour, one of the other three remaining shuttle missions, to modify an experiment module that is to be attached to the orbiting outpost.It had been scheduled to lift off July 29 but will now launch „no earlier than mid-November 2010” so that scientists can upgrade a magnet in the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer program to a longer-lasting device.The Endeavour’s rescheduling did not affect the launch of Atlantis, and replaces shuttle Discovery — set for a September 16 mission — as the last ever shuttle launch.The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is mothballing its shuttle program this year.Once the three shuttles are retired, the United States will rely on Russia to take astronauts to the station aboard three-seater Soyuz spacecraft until a new fleet of commercial space taxis is operational.A successor craft is scheduled to take off no earlier than 2015.By the time the final three missions are complete, the space shuttles — characterized by NASA as the most advanced machines ever built — will have flown 134 missions into orbit.The ISS, a joint project involving 16 countries, has cost around 100 billion dollars, mostly funded by the United States.
Meteor Shower Created by Halley’s Comet Peaks Thursday By Joe Rao SPACE.com
It’s been 24 years since Halley’s Comet last passed through the inner solar system, but remnants from the icy wanderer will light up the dawn sky this week in the Eta Aquarid meteor shower.The meteor shower is predicted to peak early on Thursday morning, May 6. Under ideal conditions (a dark, moonless sky) about 40 of these very swift meteors can be seen per hour. The shower appears at about one-quarter peak strength for about three or four days before and after May 6.The famous Halley’s Comet takes roughly 76 years to circle the sun and last passed through our cosmic neighborhood in 1986. Halley’s orbit closely approaches the Earth’s orbit in two spots, offering two chances each year to see meteor showers left over from the comet’s cosmic „litter.”One point is in the middle to latter part of October, producing a meteor display known as the Orionids. The other point comes in the early part of May, producing the Eta Aquarids.When and Where to Watch-There are, however, two drawbacks if you plan to watch for the Eta Aquarids meteors this year. [Meteor shower map.]First, there is the moon, which will be at Last Quarter on the peak morning and will likely „muscle in” on the fainter meteor streaks by brightening the early morning sky with its bright light.The other obstacle – at least for those watching from north of the equator – is that the radiant (the emanation point of these meteors) is at the „Water Jar” of the constellation Aquarius, which comes above the southeast horizon around 3 a.m. local daylight time, never gets very high as seen from north temperate latitudes, so the actual observed rates are usually much lower than the oft-quoted 40 per hour.In North America, typical rates are 10 meteors per hour at 26-degrees north latitude, half this at 35-degrees latitude and practically zero north of 40-degrees.Conversely, those who live in the Southern Hemisphere, where Aquarius rises much higher into the sky, consider this to be one of the best meteor showers of the year.Catch an Earthgrazer-For most, perhaps the best hope is catching a glimpse of a meteor emerging from the radiant that will skim the atmosphere horizontally – much like a bug skimming the side window of an automobile. Meteor watchers call such shooting stars „Earthgrazers.” They leave colorful, long-lasting trails.”These meteors are extremely long,” said Robert Lunsford, of the International Meteor Organization. „They tend to hug the horizon rather than shooting overhead where most cameras are aimed.””Earthgrazers are rarely numerous,” cautions Bill Cooke, a member of the Space Environments team at the Marshall Space Flight Center. „But even if you only see a few, you’re likely to remember them.”Comet Crumbs-If you do catch sight of one early these next few mornings, keep in mind that you’ll likely be seeing the incandescent streak produced by material which originated from the nucleus of Halley’s Comet.When these tiny bits of the comet collide with Earth, friction with our atmosphere raises them to white heat and produces the effect popularly referred to as „shooting stars.”So it is that the shooting stars that we have come to call the Eta Aquarids are really an encounter with the traces of a famous visitor from the depths of space and from the dawn of creation.
PARIS – An attempt to shut down the electronics payload of the out-of-control communications satellite Galaxy 15 has failed, leaving the satellite – which ceased responding to ground commands last month – still in its uncontrolled „zombiesat” drift toward orbits occupied by other spacecraft, the satellite’s fleet operator Intelsat said Tuesday.Galaxy 15 is closing in on the geostationary orbital slot occupied by another C-band satellite, the AMC-11 spacecraft operated by SES World Skies, and with its stuck-on communications payload will be in a position to cause potentially severe interference with the SES satellite during a two-week period starting around May 23, according to Intelsat and SES estimates.The unsuccessful attempt to shut down the so-called „zombiesat” – a satellite industry term for failed satellites in orbit – occurred on Monday.In a Tuesday statement in response to Space News inquiries, Intelsat said it is researching other ways to shut down Galaxy 15 once the satellite has passed through the AMC-11 position and enters — for a limited period of time — a stretch of orbital terrain unoccupied by other C-band spacecraft.”We do not have an additional specific technical attempt identified at this time,” Intelsat said in the statement. „But we will not give up, and expect to have other options to pursue at that time. We are now cooperating with other operators and customers to minimize potential service disruptions caused by interference.”Galaxy 15 stopped responding to ground commands April 5 and since then has drifted out of its 133 degrees west longitude orbital slot on an eastward path along the geostationary arc at around 36,000 kilometers above the equator.After sending between 150,000 and 200,000 commands to the satellite to coax it back into service, Intelsat was forced to scrap its satellite-recovery efforts and to resort, on Monday, to a limited-duration effort to force the satellite to shut down its transponders. This was to be accomplished by sending a stronger series of signals designed to cause Galaxy 15’s power system to malfunction and force a shutdown of the satellite’s payload.That attempt, which Luxembourg-based, Washington-headquartered Intelsat had viewed as its last, best-understood option for Galaxy 15, was unsuccessful. With the satellite now nearing AMC-11, Intelsat is limited in what it can do besides assure itself of the satellite’s location. „There is no active testing of the payload,” the company said in its Tuesday statement.Sending radio signals strong enough to force a satellite to shut down could pose dangers to other spacecraft in the target area, which is why Intelsat had only a short window of time to „pulse” Galaxy 15 with signals intended to trigger a failure of its power system. That period lasted about 30 minutes on Monday.”Intelsat fully coordinated with neighboring operators the timing and the effects of this testing to neighboring spacecraft. It is our current understanding that no SES AMC-11 customers were affected by the disabling attempt,” Intelsat said.Intelsat and Luxembourg-based SES have been closely coordinating interference-avoidance options since the initial Galaxy 15 failure, knowing that at predicted drift speeds the satellite will enter AMC-11’s 131 degrees west slot to within 0.5 degrees of AMC-11 on or about May 23.SES officials say they are devising an elaborate series of maneuvers to create a maximum distance between Galaxy 15 and AMC-11 during the period of maximum threat. While they cannot guarantee that there will be no interference to media customers using AMC-11, the SES officials believe they have the resources, including teleport facilities to reroute traffic, required to minimize the problem during this two-week period. Continuing its eastward drift, Galaxy 15 will exit the AMC-11 orbital slot starting around June 7, when it is expected to have moved to 0.5 degrees to the east of the satellite. At that point, a new opportunity will be open to Intelsat as there is no C-band satellite at the next orbital station of 129 degrees west.What Intelsat might do to precipitate a shutdown remains unclear. Industry officials say the Galaxy 15 problem — a satellite operating at full payload power that is no longer under control — is unprecedented. Intelsat has said it is seeking advice from satellite operators and manufacturers — not just the Galaxy 15 builder, Orbital Sciences of Dulles, Va., but also other companies with more experience with in-orbit problems — on possible options to force a shutdown. Current estimates are that Galaxy 15 will lose Earth orientation sometime in late July or early August. The exact date cannot be known. But when it loses Earth pointing, its solar arrays will lose their lock on the sun, draining the satellite’s batteries and causing the satellite to shut down on its own. Once the satellite leaves the vicinity of the AMC-11 and passes through the relatively safe neighborhood of 129 degrees west, it will enter a new neighborhood where it poses an interference threat similar to what AMC-11 now faces. But this time, it is only Intelsat-owned satellites and their customers at risk.Galaxy 15 will be moving through the operating areas of Intelsat’s Galaxy 13 in mid-July, and is expected to arrive at the Galaxy 14 neighborhood in late July. By mid-August, it will be at the orbital slot of Intelsat’s Galaxy 18.
Obama Establishes Florida Space Industry Task Force By Amy KlamperSPACE.com
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama appointed members of a new task force charged with determining how to spend $40 million the president pledged for work force training and economic development near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla., when the agency retires its space shuttle fleet this year.Led by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, the task force will „construct an economic development action play by August 15, 2010,” according to a May 3 memo released by the White House.Obama promised $40 million for work force training and economic development during a speech at Kennedy April 15. The following week, Bolden told a Senate panel that the president’s plan to spur economic development along Florida’s space coast would be funded from $2.5 billion NASA is requesting to cover the cost of canceling the Constellation program, a 5-year-old effort to replace the space shuttle with new rockets and spacecraft optimized for lunar missions.In February, Obama sent a $19 billion NASA budget proposal to Congress that called for canceling all of Constellation, including the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle. But during his April 15 visit to Kennedy Space Center, the president redirected NASA to produce a scaled-down version of the Orion capsule for use as a crew escape pod on the international space station. Obama also highlighted the $6 billion increase he is seeking for NASA over the next five years, some $2 billion of which he has pledged for modernizing Kennedy and other nearby launch facilities.”While all of the new aspects of my Administration’s plan together will create thousands of new jobs in Florida, past decisions to end the Space Shuttle program will still affect families and communities along Florida’s ‘Space Coast‘,” Obama wrote in the memo.The task force, which will remain in effect until May 4, 2013, will be composed of senior leaders from several cabinet-level agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Labor and Transportation, as well as participants from senior advisory bodies within the administration, according to the memo.
Calgary police lift downtown cordon, no bomb found By REUTERS
CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – A suspicious package that led police to evacuate buildings and cordon off a swath of Calgary’s downtown core on Wednesday afternoon turned out not to be a bomb, officials said.Police blocked off streets and buildings in the western city that is the capital of Canada’s oil and gas industry, and evacuated the first two floors of the building housing the headquarters of Imperial Oil Ltd.The Canadian headquarters of BP Plc is nearby.Calgary Police Service said in a release that bomb disposal technicians had examined a suspicious package and found it did not contain explosives.They have now lifted their barricades and are letting tenants return to the affected buildings.(Reporting by Scott Haggett; editing by Rob Wilson)