craft that blasted off Thursday night would be used for national security and navigation.It’s the first of a new generation of Global Positioning System satellites going into orbit. A dozen such Boeing-built satellites will be launched over the next several years to replace 20-year-old satellites now in service.This will be the first GPS mission to launch on a Delta 4, after 49 missions launched atop the smaller Delta 2 between 1989 and 2009. Future GPS spacecraft will be lifted into orbit on the Delta 4, on the Atlas 4 and on ULA’s .(This version CORRECTS location of launch to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.)
Pirates threaten boats on US-Mexico border lakeBy CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN, Associated Press
ZAPATA, Texas – The waters of Falcon Lake normally beckon boaters with waterskiing and world-record . But this holiday weekend, fishermen on the waters that straddle the U.S.-Mexico border are on the lookout for something more sinister: pirates.Twice in recent weeks, fishermen have been robbed at gunpoint by marauders that the local sheriff says are „spillover” from fighting between rival Mexican drug gangs.Boaters are concerned about their safety, and the president of the local Chamber of Commerce is trying to assure people that everything’s fine on the U.S. side of the lake.At the his family has owned for 50 years, Jack Cox now sleeps with a loaded shotgun at his feet and a handgun within reach.In the American waters, Cox said, „you’re safer, but you’re not safe.” Mexican regularly cross to set their nets illegally, why wouldn’t gunmen do the same? he asked.Two weeks ago, the Texas Department of Public Safety warned boaters to avoid the international boundary that zig-zags through the lake, which is 25 miles long and 3 miles across at its widest point. Authorities also urged anyone on the water to notify relatives of their boating plans to aid law enforcement in case of trouble.Since issuing the warning, most boats have stayed on the U.S. side.”That’s a good indication. It means they’re getting the message,” and Wildlife Capt. Fernando Cervantes said Thursday as he patrolled with two other game wardens. „They’re still coming out, but they’re not going across.”The border is marked by 14 partially submerged concrete towers that mark the Rio Grande’s path before the lake was created in 1954.Game wardens and the U.S. Border Patrol watch over the lake but do not cross into Mexican waters, and no Mexican law enforcement is visible.Men armed with assault rifles robbed fishermen on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake on April 30 and May 6. They traveled in the low-slung, underpowered commercial Mexican fishing boats that are familiar here. They asked for money, drugs and guns, and took what cash was available. No one was hurt.A third incident happened a couple of days before the warning was issued, but Cervantes said the fishermen were able to escape without the thieves boarding their boat.The attacks „were really unusual,” Cervantes said. „We had never seen it, and then they started up.”Violence on the Mexican side of the lake has been climbing for several months.A fractured partnership between the region’s dominant Gulf Cartel and its former enforcers, the Zetas, plunged many of the area’s Mexican border cities into violence. Police stations were attacked, officers killed and rolling gun battles between the gangs and with the Mexican military became commonplace.”To me, this is spillover violence,” Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez Jr. said. „I don’t do the Chamber of Commerce talk. I talk reality.”Still, the sheriff says, boaters should safe provided they stay on the American side.Cox, 81, says it was only a matter of time before the violence from Mexico crept onto the water. And the idea that gunmen looking to score easy cash from fishermen would not cross the lake’s imaginary boundary doesn’t make sense, he said.That perspective is what worries Chamber of Commerce President Paco Mendoza.”What’s keeping our town alive is our lake,” Mendoza said. In recent years, drilling in the county’s oilfields has virtually stopped, and the wells are no longer producing like they once did. In those days, oilfield workers packed Zapata’s restaurants and hotels, he said. So Zapata increasingly looks to the lake for economic growth. Five are scheduled between now and July, and a few big ones are set for next year.”As far as we know, all of our contracts are still in play,” Mendoza said. Falcon Lake landed on the national map of fishing destinations after the 2008 Bassmaster Elite Series tournament, where bass-fishing world records were broken. The pirate warning could hurt businesses that depend on the lake, „but anglers will continue to come to Falcon because of the ,” Mendoza said.Norma Amaya, who runs a tackle shop with her husband, insists there is plenty of good fishing in U.S. waters. She points to a photo taken in December of a woman holding a 13.2-pound bass and smiling broadly. Amaya said her husband’s had had a couple cancellations since the pirate warning, but they are still booked solid for next year’s peak season, which runs from December to March.They’ve stopped selling Mexican because no one is fishing over there now. Robert Amaya stopped taking clients into Mexican waters back in March, when violence was peaking in Mexico.”It is dangerous over there (in northern Mexico), I wouldn’t advise anyone to cross,” she said.Norma Amaya said the reports of pirates „have been blown out of proportion. It’s probably just some hoodlums. I don’t think the cartels want the exposure.”As he helped launch his cousin’s bass boat from Falcon Lake State Park, Ronnie Guerra said he hadn’t heard much about the pirates. But he knew enough to stay on his side of the lake.”We already know what’s going on on the other side,” he said. „It’s been going on for a long time.”
Alaska pipeline company restarts pipelineBy BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press
JUNEAU, Alaska – The operator of the trans-Alaska pipeline system said late Friday it has restarted the 800-mile line idled after a contained spill this week.The pipeline was shut down for 79 hours and 40 minutes, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. spokeswoman said. That’s its longest shutdown in at least a decade, surpassing the more than 66 hours it was down in November 2002 due to an earthquake.The line from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez has been down since Tuesday, when Alyeska said a power failure during a planned shutdown allowed about 5,000 to spill into a containment area at Pump Station 9, about 100 miles south of Fairbanks.”New oil has successfully been pumped through Pump Station 9 and we’re doing that now steadily,” Egan said Friday night. „That’s a significant milestone after a shutdown.”There were no injuries and no impact to the environment due to the spill or subsequent oil recovery and restart operations, she said.Alyeska has so far recovered 1,000 barrels of pooled oil from the containment area, Egan said.Alyeska got federal approval for the restart after addressing questions and concerns raised by the federal Pipeline and . The agency on Thursday issued Alyeska a corrective action order, seeking documentation and other details surrounding its plans to restart and mandating specific steps — including having personnel present 24-7 at the pump station where power was lost — once the line was back up.Egan said a crew „will staff the pump station 24 hours a day until normal operations resume,” adding about 200 people remain involved in managing the incident, including 125 people at the site and a team in Fairbanks.The spilled oil flowed into a storage tank at the pump station, then into the containment yard. The extra staffing will continue until that tank is back in service, Egan said, adding she had no estimate when that might be.Alyeska had ordered production levels drastically cut — eventually to 8 percent of normal output — to keep from filling storage facilities before the line could be restarted safely. The company estimated that bought it time until noon Friday, but after that deadline passed, Egan said there remained a „little margin” and no immediate need to order . Oil producers have been told they can resume 100 percent production, she said.Damon Hill, a spokesman for the pipeline agency, described the corrective action order as routine for these types of incidents.The letter required certain actions surrounding the restart and mandated monitoring of and reporting on the after the line is back up. An agency official, in issuing the order, found that a failure to require such steps, in light of factors such as the hazardous nature of oil, the age of the infrastructure and investigations into the cause „would result in likely serious harm to life, property and the environment.”Both the pipeline agency and the state Department of Environmental Conservation are investigating the .The trans-Alaska pipeline carries oil from the state’s North Slope to Valdez, where tankers pick it up and deliver it to refineries. Last month, the pipeline moved 645,113 barrels of oil per day, on average. Average in the U.S. is about 5.5 million barrels a day.The system is owned by a consortium of companies. The largest, with a nearly 47 percent stake, is BP Pipelines (Alaska) Inc. Its parent company, BP PLC, has been dealing with the that resulted when a rig it leased in the Gulf of Mexico exploded last month. BP’s work in Alaska has drawn attention since 2006 when 200,000 gallons of oil spilled at Prudhoe Bay.The other major owners of the pipeline are subsidiaries of the other main players, Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips.
House approves pared-back tax and spending billBy ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press
WASHINGTON – House Democrats on Friday salvaged a bill to continue providing unemployment checks to people out of work more than six months and revive tax breaks popular with families and businesses.But demanded by Democratic moderates unhappy about voting to increase the deficit will mean layoffs next year by state governments and no health insurance subsidies for people laid off after Memorial Day.The House approved the legislation in a 215-204 vote that capped a turbulent week for , who were forced to kill $24 billion in aid to cash-starved states and $7 billion for health insurance subsidies for laid-off workers. The programs were created by last year’s economic stimulus bill and Democratic leaders had wanted to extend them.Left standing is the unemployment insurance extension and a grab bag of unfinished business, including numerous spending measures and a renewal of more than 50 tax breaks for individuals and businesses.The legislation, which now faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, spends about $115 billion on tax breaks and spending such as assistance for doctors facing lower Medicare payments, a sought by minority lawmakers and settlements of long-running class-action lawsuits brought against the government by black farmers and American Indians.Offsetting tax increases such as a new levy on investment and hedge fund managers helped bring the bill’s drag on the federal deficit down to $54 billion, according to the .Despite House action, Democrats will miss a deadline of passing a jobless benefits measure before Memorial Day. The Senate left Washington Friday without acting on the legislation. The extended benefits program for the long-term jobless expires June 2, though the immediate impact will be relatively slight.Still, it’s an embarrassment for Democrats and is the third time this year that the program will have lapsed, though only a small fraction of the 11 million people receiving unemployment benefits have been left in the lurch.President Barack Obama issued a statement praising the measure, but said Congress should restore in future legislation the funding cut from the measure and also pass aid to school districts to help them avert teacher layoffs. But such moves face an uphill road after this week’s events.The weeklong turmoil in the House reflected increasing anxiety among fiscally conservative „Blue Dog” Democrats unhappy about adding to the deficit as the national debt closes in on $13 trillion. A version circulated last week would have added $134 billion to the deficit and was declared dead on arrival by deficit-conscious lawmakers.Lawmakers also approved, by 245-171, a $23 billion provision to delay a scheduled 21 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements to doctors until 2012.The move to drop the was a big blow to the nation’s governors, who are desperate for fiscal relief as weak tax revenues are forcing painful cutbacks, including layoffs and furloughs of state workers. Many states had already incorporated the money into their budgets for next year.Democrats say that continuing unemployment benefits would not only help the jobless but provide a since the money is typically spent immediately and spurs demand.”With this vote, we can help families across the country and continue the path we set out on last year to help dig the country out of a terrible recession,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.Republicans countered that the $58 billion in tax increases to partially pay for the measure — including $11 billion from quadrupling to 34 cents the that oil companies pay into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund — are job killers. And they lambasted the new spending in the measure.”This is not a jobs bill,” said Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif. „It is just another extension of the ‘tax too much, spend too much, borrow too much’ philosophy that we have come to expect” from Democrats.About 200,000 people per week are set to begin losing jobless benefits when an extension of unemployment insurance expires next week, though lawmakers are likely to seek to restore them after the fact.The passed Friday would be partially offset by tax increases on investment fund managers, oil companies and some international businesses. The tax increases total about $57 billion over the next decade. Changes giving more time to improve their finances would raise $2 billion.Democrats lauded a provision that they said would cancel a tax break for companies that ship U.S. jobs overseas.(This version CORRECTS the vote total on the Medicare reimbursements provision to 245-171, not 245-177.)
Alaska sues feds over predator controlBy MARK THIESSEN, Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The state of Alaska sued the U.S. Friday, seeking a court order allowing it to go ahead with a controversial predator control program.At issue is the state’s plan to kill wolves to preserve a caribou herd inside the Alaska Maritime on Unimak Island, beginning as early as Tuesday.Last week, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced it would begin shooting some wolves on Unimak, the eastern-most island in the Aleutian chain, to protect caribou as part of its aerial predator control program.While the program is in place in at least six locations around Alaska, it would be the first time in recent history that aerial predator control would be used inside a national refuge in Alaska.The department planned on using two biologists and four pilots to kill wolves.The feds responded Monday, cautioning the state that killing the wolves without a special use permit would be considered „a trespass on the refuge” and immediately referred to the U.S. attorney.The state has interpreted that as federal officials blocking the program. The lawsuit, which names U.S. Fish and Acting Director Rowan Gould, his agency and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, seeks a court order allowing the state to kill seven wolves while the litigation continues.The state announced the lawsuit after federal business hours. Bruce Woods, a spokesman for the federal agency in Alaska, was reached at his home Friday, but said he could not comment because he had not seen the lawsuit.Caribou are an important subsistence food for approximately 62 people living on the island, but the animal numbers have been declining. In 2002, there were more than 1,200 caribou. Last year, fewer than 300 were counted. The state has an unofficial estimate of up to 30 wolves.The state says the killing of wolves is imperative to protect this year’s caribou calves.However, the federal agency says it is required by law to follow a certain process. That, Woods told The Associated Press earlier this week, is a process the state is well aware of but apparently doesn’t want to wait for.”We definitely are saying that any significant action conducted on a in Alaska requires a special use permit by the service,” he said.The federal agency also says it has been working with the state to better understand the biological factors in the herd’s decline since concerns were raised in December. It has issued permits to allow additional radio collaring and biological sampling of wolves and caribou.The actions of Fish and Wildlife have set the stage for the worst possible outcome — the potential disappearance of this caribou herd and a total loss of subsistence opportunity in the area for the foreseeable future,” Alaska Fish and Game Commissioner Denby Lloyd said in a prepared statement.”We pushed as hard as we could, recognizing that time was running out fast, but I wasn’t going to put my employees into a situation in which the federal government prosecutes them for carrying out their state responsibilities,” he said.The lawsuit claims Fish and Wildlife is violating the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act, the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, the Administrative Procedure Act and a memorandum of understanding with the state.
NASA Revives Voyager 2 Probe at Solar System’s Edge By Zoe Macintosh SPACE.com
NASA engineers have fully revived the far-flung Voyager 2 probe on the edge of the after fixing a computer glitch that scrambled its messages home for nearly three weeks.A single bit flip in one location in the 33-year-old probe’s memory storage caused the problem, and was remotely reset Sunday by engineers at NASA’s , Calif. After a computer reset, the Voyager 2 is back on track, they said.The malfunction began April 22 while Voyager 2 was flying 8.6 billion miles (13.8 billion km) from Earth in the heliosphere, the magnetic bubble that surrounds our solar system. Mission scientists could not decipher the probe’s messages and put the spacecraft in an engineering mode to just send health updates to Earth.The actual cause of the computer glitch is still unknown, NASA’s Voyager 2 project manager Ed Massey told SPACE.com.Voyager 2 hiccup in deep space-Memory bit flips and other electronic problems have affected spacecraft, and even Voyager 2 and its twin , in the past. But they occurred when the spacecraft were much closer to Earth, around 1 or 2 astronomical units (AU).One AU is the distance between the Earth and the sun, about 93 million miles (151 million km). That’s close enough for their onboard systems to be affected by the electric charge of the sun’s , Massey said.”In some spacecraft that are closer to the sun one could think of single event upsets caused by solar activity. But we’re so far away, it’s hard to say that’s what caused it,” he added. „We’re like 93, 94 AU out.”Way, way out there-The two Voyager probes are currently the farthest human-built objects from Earth. Voyager 1 is about 10.5 billion miles (16.9 billion km) away from Earth and in perfect health. Their signals take nearly 13 hours to travel to NASA’s worldwide Deep Space Network of listening antennas and back.After detecting the problem on Voyager 2, engineers ordered Voyager 2 on May 6 to only send engineering data to Earth until they could solve the glitch. That occurred on May 12, when engineers realized that a single memory location had been changed from a 0 to a 1.By May 19, commands to reset the bit were sent to and the probe resumed sending science data to Earth on May 22. NASA announced the deep space operation’s success this week.NASA launched Voyager 2 in 1977 primarily aimed at studying Saturn, though the spacecraft gained fame for its so-called „grand tour” of the solar system that also included flybys Jupiter, thanks to a planetary alignment that only occurs once every 176 years.Now, both Voyager 2 and Voyager 1 are headed out of the solar system entirely. Scientists hope the data they are sending back will help answer questions surrounding the magnetic bubble around the solar system.No known source of magnetic or electric field exists in the membrane which separates the heliosphere from , said Massey. Voyager 2 has occupied this region since 2007, said Massey, and has not seen any problems.”The real question is whether we’ll ever know,” He said.
Pale Blue Crescent: Earth Photographed from Deep Space By Tariq Malik SPACE.com
Two , one headed to Venus and another limping home from an asteroid, have beamed home snapshots of Earth that reveal our planet in different hues amid a sea of stars. The latest photos of Earth come from Japan’s brand new Venus Climate Orbiter Akatsuki and the Hayabusa asteroid probe.Akatsuki launched May 20 alongside a novel solar sail vehicle and other smaller payloads to begin a six-month trek toward the second planet from the sun. Hayabusa is returning to from the asteroid Itokawa, which it visited in late 2005 and is due to land in Australia in June.The Technicolor Earth-The photos of Earth from space by Akatsuki reveal a stunning crescent as the planet appeared to the probe’s ultraviolet and infrared cameras.In ultraviolet, the Earth appears as a dazzling blue sliver, while the same crescent has a vibrant orange hue in infrared. Akatsuki (which means „Dawn” in Japanese) was flying about 155,342 miles (250,000 km) from Earth when it photographed the planet.Akatsuki also used its long-wave infrared camera to take a snapshot of the entire Earth, though the planet may be unrecognizable to the uninitiated. Earth’s trademark blue oceans and white clouds are rendered only in black and white.Japan’s Akatsuki mission is expected to observe Venus in to study its ever-present clouds and hidden surface. The spacecraft is expected to reach Venus in December and spent two years studying the planet.The IKAROS solar sail vehicle also launched with the Akatsuki probe and will make a pit stop at Venus before heading off to the far side of the sun. Both spacecraft are doing well, JAXA officials said.Asteroid probe spies Earth-The other is an ultra-long shot that came earlier this month from Japan’s beleaguered asteroid probe Hayabusa, which means „Falcon” in Japanese.Hayabusa photographed Earth and the moon, from a distance of nearly 8.4 million miles (13.5 million km) on May 12.”The Earth was seen so brightly that the image contained [a] strong smear in it, but the image clearly separates the Moon from the Earth,” officials with the (JAXA) said in a statement.Hayabusa used the CCD sensor on its star tracker device to take the portrait of Earth and the moon as they hovered between the constellations Sagittarius and Capricornus. In the photo, the moon is clearly seen as a separate bright object to the left of Earth, which is so bright it overwhelmed Hayabusa’s sensor. Many stars, which Hayabusa’s star tracker also picked up, are visible and can be identified in the image.Homebound Hayabusa-Hayabusa launched in 2003 to visit the asteroid Itokawa and snatch samples of the so they could be returned to Earth.But the 950-pound (430-kg) spacecraft has suffered a series of setbacks.Telemetry has shown it did not fire the projectile device intended to kick up material from Itokawa’s surface after it landed. hope that some material managed to enter Hayabusa’s sample container despite the glitch.A fuel leak, power outage and communications drop out beset the probe during its seven-year voyage. Its ion engines have also suffered multiple failures, though JAXA engineers managed to revive some systems and send the probe on a long detour through space in order to return it to Earth.Hayabusa is currently on track to land in the Australian outback sometime in June, about three years later than its original scheduled return.
Private Rocket Makers Team Up to Build Robot Landers By SPACE.com
Two California companies, one a rocket engine builder and the other a mock moon lander champion, have teamed up to develop new private unmanned vehicles that NASA could send to the moon, Mars and asteroids.The companies are XCOR Aerospace, specializing in , and Masten Space Systems — which won a $1 million NASA contest to build and fly robotic vehicles on simulated hops on the moon. The two companies hope to combine their areas of expertise in anticipation of NASA-sponsored unmanned lander projects, according a joint announcement this week.”It seems like NASA may actually be interested in a commercial approach to landers,” Michael Mealling, of Masten , told SPACE.com Tuesday.Under NASA’s new space plan proposed by President Barack Obama, commercial spacecraft and services have a larger role than before. That new plan, if approved by Congress, would cancel NASA’s earlier Constellation program in charge of new moon landers and other vehicles. The shuttle fleet is retiring later this year after two final missions.Mealling said may not be the only potential customer for the team’s unmanned landing craft and technology. The swarm of private teams and groups competing in the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize to send robot probes to the moon, move them around and beam back live video is another possibility, he said.”There are Google X Prize teams out there that might end up wanting some of this stuff too,” Mealling said.XCOR and Masten happen to be „next door neighbors” in California’s Mojave Desert, said Dave Masten, founder and President of Masten Space Systems.”We’ve worked together on many tactical problems over the years and our corporate cultures mesh well,” Masten said in a statement. „Working together on something like this simply made too much sense.”XCOR Aerospace has created liquid oxygen (LOX)/Methane powered propulsion systems for NASA, and built similar engines for the public debut of the Rocket Racing League, which showcases NASCAR-style competitions in the sky.But the Rocket Racing League later switched to engines made by Armadillo Aerospace for unknown reasons. XCOR disputed that its engines had any problems.Masten Space Systems claimed a first prize for Level 2 of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge in October 2009. The company’s Xoie vehicle beat long-time front-runner Armadillo Aerospace, a Texas-based team led by video game developer John Carmack.Both Masten and XCOR have proposed development of their own individual suborbital rocketships in the past, such as XCOR’s Lynx concept. But now they look to jointly market their complementary skill sets and services to NASA as , according to the joint statement.”It’s a no brainer, Dave’s team is the absolute best New Space company when it comes to VTVL and autopilot unmanned operations — they demonstrated that in October by winning NASA’s lander challenge,” said Andrew Nelson, chief operating officer of XCOR Aerospace, in a statement. „And we feel our LOX/methane engines are unsurpassed in the trade space today by anyone.””We should bring this tandem set of best in class capabilities to NASA, it just makes sense for them and for us,” Nelson concluded.
There may be enough oxygen in the waters of to support millions of tons worth of fish, according to a new study. And while nobody is suggesting there might actually be fish on Europa, this finding suggests the Jovian satellite could be capable of supporting the kinds of life familiar to us here on Earth, if only in microbial form.Europa, which is roughly the moon, is enveloped by a global ocean about 100 miles deep (160 km), with an icy crust that may be only a few miles thick. From what we know of Earth, where there is water, there is a chance at life, so for many years scientists have speculated that this Jovian moon could support extraterrestrials.As we learned more about Jupiter’s effect on its moons, the possibility for life on Europa grew even more likely. Studies showed the moon could have enough oxygen to support the kind of life we are most familiar with on Earth.The ice on the surface, like all water, is made from hydrogen and oxygen, and the constant stream of radiation pouring in from Jupiter reacts with this ice to form free oxygen and other oxidants such as hydrogen peroxide. The reactivity of oxygen is key to generating the energy that helped multi-cellular life flourish on our planet.Still, researchers had thought there was no effective method for delivering any of this oxygen-rich matter into Europa’s ocean. Scientists had assumed the primary way for surface materials to migrate downward was from the impacts it would suffer from cosmic debris, which regularly bombards everything in our . [Photos of Jupiter’s moons.]However, past calculations suggested that even after a few billion years, such „impact gardening” would never lead to an oxygenated layer more than some 33 feet (10 meters) deep into the ice shell, nowhere far enough down to reach the underlying ocean.However, the new study suggests this oxygen-rich layer could be far thicker than before thought, potentially encompassing the entire crust. The key is looking at other ways to stir Europa’s crust, explained researcher Richard Greenberg, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at Tucson.The Europa experiences from Jupiter leads to tidal forces roughly 1,000 times stronger than what Earth feels from our moon, flexing and heating Europa and making it very active geologically. This could explain why its surface appears no older than 50 million years old — its surface underwent complete turnover in that time.A major resurfacing process on Europa seems to be the formation of double ridges, which cover at least half of its surface. may be causing fresh ice from below — probably newly frozen ocean water — to push upward and over the surface, where it would slowly get oxygenated.As ridges pile on top of ridges, older material gets buried, shoving this oxygen-rich matter downward. After one or two billion years, this process alone could spread oxidants throughout the entire crust, thus reaching the ocean, Greenberg calculated.Other mechanisms could help stir Europa’s crust also. Parts of the surface could partially melt from below, leading rafts of ice to break loose and tumble around before they froze back in place.Roughly 40 percent of Europa’s crust appears to be covered with the ensuing „chaotic terrain.” Also, as matter comes up from below and widens cracks, the nearby surface crumples, burying some material. These extra processes could help push some oxidants downward, but it would still take at least two billion years or so before radiation loaded the entire crust with oxygen.As ice on the base of this oxygenated crust melts, even with the most conservative assumptions, after only a half-million years oxidant levels in the ocean would reach the minimum oxygen concentration seen in , which on Earth is enough to support small crustaceans, Greenberg found. In only 12 million years, oxidant concentrations would reach the same saturation levels of Earth’s oceans, enough to support our largest sea life. Given the cold temperatures and high pressures likely seen in Europa’s ocean, it could actually take in more oxygen than Earth’s oceans could before its water reached its saturation point.”I was surprised at how much oxygen could get down there,” Greenberg said.One concern about all this oxygen was that it might actually do more harm than good. The extraordinary reactivity of oxygen could in principle disrupt the chemical processes that are thought to lead to the origin of life and that may have been an aspect of early life. On Earth, life had more than a billion years to evolve, before oxygen became plentiful in the atmosphere, and that delay gave organisms plenty of time to develop genetic mechanisms and physical structures that allowed them to use oxygen, instead of being destroyed by it.The delay of 1 to 2 billion years before oxygen in Europa’s crust made its way into its ocean is roughly the same amount of time it took life on Earth to develop before oxygen became a problem, so life might have enough of a respite to develop on the Jovian moon. Assuming life on Europa respired at rates similar to fish on Earth, the continuous rate of oxygen delivery there could sustain roughly 3 million metric tons of life, Greenberg said.One might not have to wait for a probe to land on Europa to detect any oxygen there. „Spectroscopy done by telescopes on Earth or in orbit can tell what substances are mixed into the ice,” Greenberg said.Greenberg detailed his findings May 6 in the journal Astrobiology.
Air Force Launches Advanced New GPS Satellite By Tariq Malik SPACE.com
This story was updated May 28 at 12:03 a.m. ET. The first of an advanced new fleet of navigation satellites for the U.S. Air Force soared into space late Thursday in a blazing night launch from a seaside pad in Florida.The new global positioning system (GPS) satellite, called GPS 2F-1, blasted off atop an unmanned Delta 4 rocket at 11 p.m. EDT (0300 Friday GMT) from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.GPS 2F-1 lifted off after a week of delays due to bad weather and technical issues. It is the first of a planned fleet of 12 new satellites to provide around-the-clock navigation ultra-precise navigation and timing services for military and civilian.”These next-generation satellites provide improved accuracy through advanced atomic clocks; a more jam-resistant military signal and a longer design life than earlier GPS satellites; and a new civil signal that benefits aviation safety and search-and-rescue efforts,” said Craig Cooning, vice president and general manager for Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems, which built the new satellite.The GPS satellite network currently in use today flies about 11,000 miles (17,702 km) above the Earth and beam continuous navigation signals to provide accurate longitude, latitude, altitude and time information for users on Earth. The network was originally developed for the U.S. military but has since found use for a wide range of commercial applications.”GPS is used by nearly a billion people worldwide for everything from farming and aviation to public safety, disaster relief and recreation, not to mention its military purpose of providing precision navigation and timing to combat forces,” said Air Force GPS Wing Commander Col. David Madden. „GPS 2F will increase the signal power, precision and capacity of the system, and form the core of the GPS constellation for years to come.”The new GPS 2F-1 is a solar-powered satellite designed for a 12-year mission. It has twice the signal accuracy of previous navigation satellites and is equipped with a new signal capability for more robust by civilian and commercial aviation applications, Boeing officials said.The satellite uses the U.S. military’s „M-code” and variable power to increase its resistance against jamming during warfare.Thursday night’s Delta 4 launch also marked a milestone for the expendable Delta rocket family, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month. The very first Delta rocket – a Thor-Delta booster – launched on May 13, 1960.The type of Delta 4 booster that launched GPS 2F-1 made its spaceflight debut in 2002 and has flown 13 successful missions, according to the United Launch Alliance (ULA), which provided the mission’s expendable rocket.GPS 2F-1 is the first GPS satellite to launch on a Delta 4 rocket. Previous navigation satellites lifted off atop ULA’s smaller Delta 2 boosters. Future GPS 2F constellation satellites are expected to fly on the Delta 4 rockets or Atlas 5 boosters in ULA’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.
Sea otter that survived ’89 spill dies in Seattle By AP
SEATTLE – A 21-year-old northern who survived the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska died Thursday at the Seattle Aquarium.Nuka had lived at the aquarium since 2001 after spending the earlier part of her life at a Chicago aquarium.Aquarium officials say Nuka was considered geriatric and her health had been declining over the past several months. Aquarium staff and mammal biologists and her veterinarian decided the time had come to euthanize her.Nuka was the oldest of the aquarium’s sea otters.
Nuclear treaty conference backs steps to disarm By CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS – The 189 member nations of the on Friday adopted a detailed plan of small steps down a long road toward nuclear disarmament, including a sharply debated proposal to move toward banning doomsday arms from the Middle East.The 28-page was approved by consensus on the last day of the monthlong conference, convened every five years to review and advance the objectives of the 40-year-old NPT.Under its action plan, the five recognized nuclear-weapon states — the United States, Russia, Britain, — commit to speed up arms reductions, take other steps to diminish the importance of atomic weapons, and report back on progress by 2014.The final document also calls for convening a conference in 2012 „on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other .”This Arab idea of a WMD-free zone is designed to pressure Israel to give up its undeclared nuclear arsenal. Despite the decision here, U.S. officials questioned whether Israel could be persuaded to attend the conference.U.S. National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones said in a statement late Friday that the U.S. has „serious reservations” about the conference and „deplores” the decision to single out Israel in the Mideast section of the document. As a cosponsor of the 2012 conference, he said the United States will ensure that it will only takes place „if and when all countries feel confident that they can attend.””Because of (the) gratuitous way that Israel has been singled out, the prospect for a conference in 2012 that involves all key is now in doubt,” Jones said.Iran and Syria had dissented loudly on various points in the final hours, but no objections were raised in the concluding session. After the declaration’s approval, Iran’s chief delegate joined with the others in hearty applause beneath the U.N. General Assembly hall’s soaring dome.”All eyes the world over are watching us,” the conference president, Libran Cabactulan of the Philippines, said before gaveling the final document into the record.The decision was „an important step forward towards the realization of the goals and objectives of the treaty,” Egypt’s Maged Abedelaziz said afterward, speaking for the 118-nation Nonaligned Movement of mainly developing countries.”The final document this conference adopted today advances President Obama’s vision” of a , U.S. Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher told the assembled delegates.Under the 1970 nonproliferation treaty, nations without nuclear weapons committed not to acquire them; those with them committed to move toward their elimination; and all endorsed everyone’s right to develop peaceful nuclear energy.The last NPT conference, in 2005, failed to adopt a consensus declaration, in part because U.S. President George W. Bush had withdrawn U.S. backing for such nonproliferation steps as ratifying the treaty banning all nuclear tests. President Barack Obama’s support for an array of arms-control measures improved the cooperative atmosphere at the 2010 conference.For the first time at an NPT review, the final declaration laid out complex action plans for all three of the treaty’s „pillars” — nonproliferation, disarmament and peaceful nuclear energy.The five recognized weapons states did manage to strip earlier drafts of specific timelines for disarmament negotiations, such as a proposal that they consult among themselves on how to disarm and report back to the 2015 conference, after which a high-level meeting would convene to negotiate a „roadmap” for abolishing nuclear weapons.But in the final draft the five weapons states committed to „accelerate concrete progress” toward reducing their atomic weaponry, and to report on progress in 2014 in preparation for the 2015 NPT review session.The document calls on them also to reduce the role of nuclear arms in their military doctrines and consider downgrading the alert status of weapons systems, and it held out the possibility of negotiations on a global treaty abolishing nuclear arms.Cuba expressed the disappointment of many non-nuclear-weapon states here that the did not accept a firmer timetable, saying it had done „all we could to set a timetable with 2025 as the deadline for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.”The disarmament action plan also inevitably leaves a major gap, since it doesn’t obligate four nations that are not members of the treaty — India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea, all of which have or are suspected of having nuclear arsenals.On the Middle East, Arab states and Israel’s allies had been at odds over wording in the plan to convene a conference in 2012 to begin a process to turn the region into a zone free of nuclear and other mass-destruction weapons. This Arab proposal for a WMD-free zone, to pressure Israel to give up its undeclared arsenal of perhaps 80 nuclear warheads, was endorsed by the 1995 NPT conference but never acted on. Israel has long said a full Arab-Israeli peace must precede such weapons bans. But at this conference the U.S., Israel’s chief supporter, said it welcomed „practical measures” leading toward the goal of a nuke-free zone, and U.S. diplomats discussed possibilities with Israel.A sticking point had been a passage naming Israel, reaffirming „the accession to the NPT,” a move that would require it to destroy its arsenal.Iran demanded that this NPT session insist Israel join the treaty before a 2012 conference. Egypt’s Abdelaziz told reporters the Arab position was softer — that Israel’s accession to the treaty would come as „part of the process” begun in 2012.Although the Israelis apparently had acquiesced to U.S. urging that they take part in such a 2012 discussion, they objected to participating under terms in which they were the only nation mentioned in this way, diplomats said. In the end, the singling out of Israel remained in the text, and Tauscher said that would „seriously jeopardize” U.S. efforts to persuade the Israelis to attend 2012 talks.Establishment of a verifiable Mideast nuclear weapons-free zone should help allay international concerns about whether Iran’s ambitious nuclear program is aimed at building bombs, something Tehran denies. The Iranians have long expressed support for a nuke-free Mideast. Besides Israel’s attendance, other important details of a 2012 Mideast conference remain to be worked out, such as whether the talks are meant as the start of formal negotiations on a treaty.Iran had loomed as a potential spoiler, blocking consensus, at this conference. Facing possible new U.N. sanctions because of its nuclear program, the Iranians had sought to turn the spotlight instead on the , demanding the final document call for speedier disarmament moves.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.Although the Iranians did not block final agreement, Tauscher complained, „We note that Iran has done nothing to enhance the international community’s confidence in it by its performance in this review conference.”Iran’s Soltanieh said the Americans should „think twice” before making such statements, that „this was not the right reaction to a positive response, positive measure by our delegation joining the consensus.”The „limited measures” of the final document were „a step forward” toward global disarmament, he said.AP correspondent Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report.
Report: US weighs military option in Pakistan By AP
WASHINGTON – The U.S. military is developing plans for a unilateral attack on the Pakistani Taliban in the event of a successful in the United States that can be traced to them, The Washington Post reports.Planning for a retaliatory attack was spurred by ties between alleged Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and elements of the Pakistani Taliban, the Post said in an article posted on its website Friday night, quoting unidentified .The military would focus on air and missile strikes but also could use small teams of U.S. Special Operations troops currently along the border with Afghanistan, the Post said. could damage the militants’ ability to launch new attacks but also might damage U.S.-Pakistani relations.The CIA already conducts unmanned drone strikes in the country’s tribal regions. Officials told the Post that a U.S. would be considered only if a terrorist attacks persuaded President Barack Obama that the CIA campaign is ineffective.A senior U.S. official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Pakistan already has been told that it has only weeks to show in a crackdown against the Taliban.The U.S. has put Pakistan „on a clock” to launch a new intelligence and counterterrorist offensive against the group, which the White House alleges was behind the Times Square bombing attempt, according to the official.U.S. officials also have said the U.S. reserves the right to strike in the tribal areas in pursuit of and other high-value targets.At the same, the Obama administration is working to improve ties with Pakistani intelligence officials to head off attacks by militant groups, the Post reported.Officials quoted by the Post and the AP because of the sensitivity surrounding U.S. military and intelligence activities in Pakistan.Associated Press writer Kimberly Dozier contributed to this report.
Suspected sabotage derails train in India; 90 dead By BIKAS DAS, Associated Press
SARDIHA, India – canceled all night trains in an eastern Indian state on Saturday after a passenger express train derailed and was hit by a cargo train, killing at least 90 people and injuring hundreds. The government accused Maoist rebels of sabotaging the tracks. and paramilitary soldiers used cranes to lift and pry apart train cars to search for more bodies from the Jnaneswari Express, which was heading from Calcutta to suburban Mumbai when it derailed early Friday.”The death toll now stands at 90, and there are 149 people with injuries in hospitals,” said Soumitra Mazumdar, a railways spokesman.”We are doing everything possible to pull the bodies from the wreckage,” he said. said they believed bodies were still trapped between the engines of the two trains, which smashed together near the small town of Sardiha, about 90 miles (150 kilometers) west of Calcutta in West Bengal state.Railway authorities said they would not run any trains at night in West Bengal for at least the next four days, when Indian Maoist rebels have called a general strike.The area is a stronghold of the rebels, known as Naxalites, who have launched repeated and often-audacious attacks in recent months — despite government claims of a crackdown.Just 11 days ago, the rebels ambushed a bus in central India, killing 31 police officers and civilians. A few weeks before that, 76 soldiers were killed in a rebel ambush — the deadliest attack by the rebels against government forces in the 43-year insurgency. There have been dozens of smaller attacks.On Friday, the government vowed once again to crush the Naxalites.”The Maoists have done this work,” West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told reporters in Calcutta. „All-out efforts will be made to free the state and the country from this danger.”But analysts say the government is hobbled by vacillating policies, poorly trained and ill-armed security forces and vast tracts of India where the government has little influence and where poverty has brought considerable support to the Naxalites, who claim to be fighting on behalf of the rural poor.The rebels, who have tapped into the poor’s anger at being left out of the country’s economic gains, are now present in 20 of the country’s 28 states and have an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 fighters, according to the Home Ministry.”There is an absence of government, there is an absence of competence in government, there is an absence of coherence in response,” said Ajai Sahni, a New Delhi-based analyst with close ties to India’s security establishment. „The purpose of the Maoists is not to resolve grievances but to harvest them, and there are numerous grievances in the country to harvest.”In Sardiha, officials said the train tracks had been sabotaged but disagreed about exactly what had happened, with some saying it was caused by an explosion and others blaming cut rail lines.Bhupinder Singh, the top police official in West Bengal, said posters from the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities, a group local officials believe is closely tied to the Maoists, had been found at the scene taking responsibility for the attack.However, a spokesman for the group, Asit Mahato, denied any role, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.The Maoists seldom claim credit for their attacks.Railway said the Sardiha area had been the scene of earlier Naxalite attacks, and that trains were under orders to travel slowly through the region — in part so that drivers can keep watch for sabotaged tracks or bombs, and in part so the effects of a crash are lessened if a train does derail.Associated Press writers Tim Sullivan, Ashok Sharma, Muneeza Naqvi and Nirmala George in New Delhi contributed to this report.
APNewsBreak: Diplomats say Iran removed equipment By GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press
VIENNA – U.N. revisiting an Iranian laboratory to follow up on activities that could be linked to a secret nuclear weapons program recently discovered that some equipment believed used in the experiments has disappeared, diplomats said Friday.One of the diplomats told The Associated Press that senior officials within the — the U.N. nuclear watchdog — were concerned that the removal was an attempted cover-up.Two others confirmed that some apparatus had gone missing. One said it was too early to , suggesting it could have been taken to another site for nothing more than maintenance. The three spoke on condition of anonymity because information surrounding the Iran nuclear probe is confidential.At issue is pyroprocessing, a procedure that can be used to purify uranium metal used in nuclear warheads.Iran in January confirmed to the agency that it had carried out pyroprocessing experiments, prompting a request from the nuclear agency for more information — but then backtracked in March in comments at a closed meeting of the IAEA’s governing board.”In fact there is not pyroprocessing R&D activity and the question raised has been a misinterpretation by the ,” said an excerpt of the Iranian statement made available this week to the AP.The experiments prompted IAEA experts to revisit the site — the Jabr Inb Jayan Multipurpose Research Laboratory in Tehran — where they found some of the equipment removed to an undisclosed site, said the diplomats. One of the two said the electrolysis unit used in separating out impurities from uranium metal was among the apparatus that had been removed. Another said chemical apparatus used in the process were now missing. said the agency would have no comment. Attempts to get Iranian comment were not immediately successful, with Vienna-based Iranian officials not answering their cell phones.Any Iranian pyroprocessing work, even on an experimental basis, would add to suspicions that Tehran is interested in — even though it insists it is solely interested in the atom as an energy source.The U.N. Security Council is currently considering a fourth set of sanctions in response to the Islamic Republic’s refusal to — which can create both nuclear fuel and the fissile core of warheads. It is also concerned about Tehran’s belated revelation earlier this year of a secret enrichment site under construction and its refusal to answer IAEA questions based on foreign intelligence and linked to suspicions of hidden nuclear weapons work.South Korea and the United States are currently experimenting with another nuclear use for pyroprocessing, which reprocesses spent nuclear fuel for a new breed of reactors. But this procedure is highly technical and does not match the nuclear profile of Iran, which does not have any used fuel to reprocess.One of the diplomats said the issue of missing equipment might figure in the next Iran report of IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, due later this week or early next week for review by the IAEA board starting June 7.Other than that, the report is unlikely to break new ground, noting that Iran’s low enrichment program is stagnating, and that Iran continues a pilot program of enriching to higher levels, near 20 percent, he said.Iran originally justified its decision to start enriching to higher levels by saying it needed the material to fuel its after a deal to secure such fuel from abroad fell apart.Earlier this week, it submitted a new plan to the IAEA that foresees Tehran swapping some of its low-enriched uranium for reactor fuel — terms similar to an earlier plan drawn up in October.On its face, the latest plan seems a significant concession, with Iran agreeing to ship 1,200 kilograms (2,640 pounds) to be stored in Turkey and to wait up to a year for higher-enriched uranium from . However, Iran is believed to have much more nuclear material stockpiled now.In October, such a swap would have left Iran with much less than the 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) of material needed to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb. Since then, Iran has continued to churn out low-enriched material, along with starting to enrich to near 20 percent.In March, the IAEA said Iran’s stockpile stood at around 2,100 kilograms (4,600 pounds). It has likely grown to an estimated 2,300 kilograms — about 5,000 pounds, or more than twice the amount needed to produce enough , according to David Albright of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, which has tracked Iran for signs of covert proliferation.From the West’s point of view, that destroys much of the incentive for an agreement. And Iran’s decision to continue its program to enrich to near 20 percent — whether or not it gets fuel from abroad — poses an even greater hurdle because it brings Tehran closer to weapons capability.
US sent only consular officer to Beshir inauguration By AFP
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States said Friday it sent only a young consular officer to Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir’s inauguration for a new five-year term, as a „reflection” of its difficult .State Department spokesman Philip acknowledged that the level of US representation was even below that of other nations, who sent their ambassadors or deputy chiefs of mission to Thursday’s inauguration.”It was a reflection of our relations with Sudan,” Crowley told reporters.When asked whether sending someone at all gave support to Beshir, who faces war crimes charges, Crowley replied that the United States had work there as it pressed for full implementation of a fragile 2005 peace deal.He also said the inauguration was not just for the president but also for the first vice president, Salva Kiir, the chairman of , who holds the post under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).But Crowley added: „No ceremony changes… the fact that…. President Beshir should cooperate with the and should be held accountable, and there should be ultimately justice in Sudan.”In 2009, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Beshir’s arrest on charges of war crimes and .
Turkey PM: Critics of Iran should get rid of nukes By MARCO SIBAJA, Associated Press
RIO DE JANEIRO – Nations criticizing an Iranian nuclear fuel-swap deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey should eliminate their own nuclear weapon stockpiles, Turkey’s leader said Friday. made the comments just hours after claiming that the West was „envious” of Brazil and Turkey’s achievement in getting Iran to agree to the deal. U.S. officials have criticized the agreement, in part because it does not stop Iran from continuing to . The U.S. also says the deal is a ploy by Iran to delay new international sanctions.”Those who speak to this issue should eliminate nuclear weapons from their own country and they should bear the good news to all mankind by doing that,” Erdogan said while attending a U.N. conference in Rio de Janeiro.His comments were aimed at the U.S. and its massive nuclear stockpile.On Thursday, he remarked that „Those who criticize the accord are envious.”U.S. Secretary of Clinton said in Washington on Thursday that the U.S. has „very serious disagreements with Brazil’s diplomacy vis-a-vis Iran.””We think buying time for Iran, enabling Iran to avoid international unity with respect to their nuclear program, makes the world more dangerous, not less,” Clinton said during a talk at the Brookings Institution. „They have a different perspective on what they see they’re doing.”Clinton said one of the U.S. government’s main concern is that despite the fuel-swap deal, Iran is insisting on continuing to enrich uranium at a high level.Both Erdogan and Brazilian President say they do not see the nuclear fuel-swap deal as a solution to the Iranian nuclear standoff, but as a starting point to get Iran back to the negotiations.Under the deal, submitted this week to the , Iran agrees to ship 1,200 kilograms (2,640 pounds) of uranium to Turkey, where it will be stored. In exchange, Iran would get fuel rods made from 20-percent ; that level of enrichment is high enough for use in research reactors but too low for nuclear weapons.Among concerns by opponents of the deal is that Iran has continued to churn out low-enriched material and is running a pilot program of enriching to higher levels, near 20 percent. told reporters in Rio the fuel swap deal contains all the elements that the U.S. and other nations were seeking in similar agreement last year.”We are not defenders of Iran. We are trying to help peace,” Amorim said. „The agreement contains all that which was proposed by the Group of Vienna, especially by Russia, the , and now we need time to see if it will bear results.”Silva said that the deal was meant to resolve „a conflict that threatens much more than the stability of an important region of the planet.””The world needs a peaceful Middle East.”Last month, Obama and signed a new arms-control treaty that would limit each country’s stockpile of nuclear warheads to 1,550, down from the current level of 2,200 — bringing the arsenals to a level last seen in the 1950s. It replaces the , or START I, which expired in December.The treaty must be ratified by both the Russian parliament and the U.S. Congress.Associated Press Writers Bradley Brooks in Rio de Janeiro, Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo, and George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this report.
Leaders of SKorea, Japan, China head to summit By SANGWON YOON, Associated Press
, South Korea – Top military commanders gathered in Seoul on Saturday to discuss how to counter North Korean provocations, as leaders of South Korea, China, and Japan headed to the southern island of Jeju for a summit amid tensions over the sinking of a warship blamed on Pyongyang.International pressure is mounting on of the Cheonan, which killed 46 South Korean sailors in late March in one of the South’s worst military disasters since the 1950-53 Korean War. A multinational team of investigators said last week that evidence proved a North Korean torpedo sank the warship.North Korea has denied responsibility, and has warned that any retaliation or punishment would mean war., who has pledged to take North Korea to the U.N. Security Council, sought backing from key permanent member China, the North’s main ally.Laying out the , Lee urged Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during talks Friday to play an „active role” in convincing North Korea to admit its wrongdoing, the presidential Blue House said.Wen told Lee that his country „will defend no one” responsible for the sinking, Lee’s office said.Beijing will determine its stance after examining the investigation results, Wen told Lee, according to a briefing by presidential adviser Lee Dong-kwan.The three-way summit on Jeju Island is to focus on economic issues such as a proposed free-trade agreement.However, South Korean officials said the would be at the top of the agenda at the two-day talks, which end Sunday.The South Korean president announced a slate of punitive measures against the North, including cutting trade, resuming broadcasts across the border and launching large-scale naval exercises. U.S.-South Korean military drills are to follow in the coming months.On Saturday, some 20 military commanders met to discuss responses to the ship sinking, a Defense Ministry official said.”They discussed how to cope with different types of provocations and strengthen defense readiness against the North,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the meeting with the media.South Korea’s military reported no unusual moves by in the last week, he said.Japan, giving its backing to Seoul, also instituted new sanctions on North Korea.Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama paid his respects to the dead sailors Saturday during a visit to the National Cemetery in Daejeon, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Seoul, before continuing onto Jeju.North Korea has accused Seoul of fabricating evidence in the ship sinking.”The South Korean puppet regime’s faked sinking of the has created a very serious situation on the Korean peninsula, pushing it toward the brink of war,” Maj. Gen. Pak Rim Su, director of the powerful National Defense Commission’s policy department, said at a rare news conference covered by .
Obama: Liberia’s Sirleaf an inspiration to Africa By AFP
WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama lauded the „heroism” of Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Thursday, saying her commitment to democracy stood as an example for other troubled African nations.Obama met Sirleaf in the Oval Office, and pledged the United States would stand with Liberia at every step of the way of its democratic development.”I have been an extraordinary admirer of her work for many years now…. The United States and Liberia are close friends, longstanding partners, and Liberia is now emerging from a very difficult period,” Obama said.”Part of the reason it has been able to emerge is because of the heroism and courage of President Sirleaf.””She is committed to the rule of law, made strides in reforming the judiciary and in all these endeavors I want to make sure the people of Liberia understand… that the United States is a constant friend and partner.”Obama said Sirleaf’s example should be taken as inspiration to other African nations including, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Niger.Sirleaf said her country had made important progress, and she thanked Obama for his and America’s support.Africa’s first elected female head of state, Sirleaf said that she would not hide the fact that Liberia had challenges, but added that all basic freedoms were alive in her country today.”We said that we were going to make Liberia rise again. I come today on behalf of the Liberian people to say that we have made a lot of progress,” she said.”We have been able to maintain peace for seven years now.”Earlier Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Sirleaf to discuss elections next year in the west African country and various other issues, a statement said.Clinton said after their talks that Washington is a partner with Monrovia „in the promotion of democracy, the establishment of good governance, and development of a responsible security sector in Liberia.”The chief US diplomat said she sought to assure Sirleaf „of our continued support and engagement as Liberia progresses towards full economic and political recovery” after successive civil wars.”In this regard, we discussed Liberia’s preparations for national elections in 2011, progress on judicial and police reforms, and efforts to fight against official corruption,” Clinton said.The United States earlier this year threw its support behind Sirleaf’s 2011 re-election bid, with Clinton praising her role in combating gender violence, and creating special programs for the protection of women and children affected by violence during 14 years of brutal civil wars.Sirleaf’s announced candidacy in January came despite a report by Liberia?s Truth and Reconciliation Commission naming her among some 50 people who it recommended be banned from holding public office for 30 years for supporting warring factions during the conflict.Liberia was ravaged by successive civil wars which killed some 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003, leaving the country’s infrastructure ruined and the economy in tatters.Liberia was founded by free African-Americans and freed slaves from the United States in 1820.