Search This Blog

Saturday, June 4, 2011

British Helicopters Destroy Libyan Targets

British combat helicopters have destroyed a radar installation and military checkpoint during their first operation in Libya - despite coming under fire.

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that RAF Apaches successfully completed their mission of hitting the targets near the town of Brega overnight.

Forces loyal to leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi fired at one of the choppers, but they both returned safely to the Royal Navy helicopter carrier, HMS Ocean, which is stationed off the Libyan coast.
A variety of weapons were used, including hellfire missiles.
Major General Nick Pope, the communications officer for the Chief of the Defence Staff, emphasised that UK and Nato forces have been clear that their mission was to protect Libyan civilians under threat of attack.
He described it as "appropriate to employ attack helicopters to help intensify the effect that Nato can deliver at key points against regime forces which continue to threaten their own people."
Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, Nato's commander of the operation in Libya, said: "This successful engagement demonstrates the unique capabilities brought to bear by attack helicopters.
The ops room on HMS Ocean, where apache helicopters are being flown from into Libya
Apache Attack Helicopters are operated by Royal Navy crews
"We will continue to use these assets whenever and wherever needed, using the same precision as we do in all of our missions."
The attack helicopters have been brought in because they provide more flexibility to track and engage pro-Gaddafi forces who deliberately target civilians and attempt to hide in populated areas.
Commander of the UK task group, Commodore John Kingwell said the attack helicopters are unique because they can "identify and engage targets with huge precision".
"That enables us to provide protection to civilians in Libya," he added.
Helicopters on board HMS Ocean. Apaches have been flown into Libya
Both Apache helicopters returned safely to HMS Ocean after the operation
The Evening Standard's defence correspondent, Robert Fox, said the attack will send a strong "psychological message" to Col Gaddafi that his forces are being "pinned down".
He said: "I have noticed in Whitehall that people are very clear about the way things are going in Libya."
Twelve French attack helicopters are also being used in Libya.
Earlier this week, Defence Secretary Liam Fox acknowledged the "increased risk" attached to the deployment of attack helicopters, but stressed they would play a key role in bringing a halt to the dictator's attacks on his own people.
The use of Apaches has alarmed some MPs about the prospect of an escalation in the conflict and the danger to British lives.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Deadly E.coli Is 'New Super Toxic' Strain

The E.coli which has struck down four more people in the UK after killing 17 across Europe is an "entirely new super-toxic" strain, scientists have said.

News that researchers may be narrowing down the strain causing the outbreak came as it emerged three suspected cases of the bug had been found in the US.

A statement from the Beijing Genomics Institute said the bacteria contained several genes that were resistant to antibiotics.
Analysis shows the bacterium is an enterohemorrhagic E.coli (EHEC) O104 strain, but is a "new serotype - not previously involved in any E.coli outbreaks".
More than 90% of the bacterium is the same as a virulent strain that causes serious diarrhoea, but the new strain has "also acquired specific sequences", the statement said.
Hilde Kruse, a food safety expert at the World Health Organisation, said earlier: "This is a unique strain that has never been isolated from patients before."
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) confirmed the new cases in the UK as it urged British families to wash their fruit and vegetables.
It takes the number of infections in Britain to seven after three other cases surfaced soon after the outbreak in northern Germany in mid-May.
The HPA said three of those infected in the UK had been struck with the more severe hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) - a rare and lethal complication arising from infection associated with E.coli.
The agency said the seven cases - three British nationals and four Germans; two living and one holidaying in England - are linked to recent travels in Germany.
Health officials have urged Britain to wash all fruit and vegetables amid an E.coli outbreak in Europe.
Britons have been urged to wash fruit and vegetables before eating
It sent a strong message to people travelling to Germany to follow the advice of authorities and avoid eating raw tomatoes, cucumbers and leafy salad including lettuce, especially in the north of the country.
And it urged anyone returning to the UK from Germany with illness, including bloody diarrhoea, to seek urgent medical attention, ensuring they mention their recent travel
As the Food Standards Agency confirmed there was no evidence to suggest the deadly bug had contaminated salads being sold in Britain, the HPA told consumers they should still be cautious when preparing food.
"It is a good idea to wash fruit and vegetables before you eat them to ensure that they are clean, and to help remove germs that might be on the outside of them," it said.
Health experts have said more people are expected to be infected as researchers work to try and pinpoint the cause of the outbreak.
Some have said it could take months before the origin is found, while others say it may never surface.
The deadly E.coli bacteria has infected more than 1,500 people across Europe with cases reported in Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland as well as the UK and Germany.
With no relief in sight, Russia is doing everything possible to ensure it remains infection free and has extended its ban on vegetable imports to all of the EU.
Viktor Semenov, MP and head of Greenhouses of Russia Association, criticised the decision, saying the measures were "too large scale and too sudden".
The EU Commission has also called for the immediate withdrawal of Russia's ban.
But Dmitry Bobkov from the Russian agriculture ministry defended the move saying it would benefit local farmers.
He added: "The EU share in imported vegetable is not that big. For example, cucumbers from EU are only 5% of the imported cucumbers at the Russian market."
Health officials have urged Britain to wash all fruit and vegetables amid an E.coli outbreak in Europe.
Spain's cucumber exports were stopped after they were initially blamed
And days after Spain's organic cucumbers were cleared of carrying the infection, its government has vowed it will seek compensation from Germany, who wrongly linked its produce to the E.coli outbreak.
Spanish farmers were forced to stop exports and destroy thousands of tons of cucumbers with losses expected to run in to the millions.
In Valencia, farmers dumped some 300kg of cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and other produce outside the German consulate in protest.
The outbreak is already considered the third-largest involving E.coli in recent world history.
Twelve people died in a 1996 Japanese outbreak that reportedly originated in radish sprouts and made more than 12,000 ill - and seven died in a 2000 Canadian outbreak traced to drinking water.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Google In New 'Chinese Hacker' Attack

Computer attacks originating in China tried to break into the email accounts of US government officials, military personnel and Chinese political activists, Google says.

Google traced the "spear phishing" emails to Shandong Province in central China.
But the country's foreign ministry has rejected the claims, saying "blaming these misdeeds on China is unacceptable".
Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: "Hacking is an international problem and China is also a victim.
"The claims of so-called support for hacking are completely unfounded and have ulterior motives."
Shandong province was also the origin of a cyber attack on Google’s computer systems in 2009 - an assault that soured the company's relations with the Chinese government, and prompted Google to move its Chinese-language site to Hong Kong.
More recently, a company in Shandong was linked to a cyber attack on several of the world’s biggest oil companies.
According to internet security company Symantec, China is the source of nearly 30% of the world’s malicious emails.
Though it is impossible to prove conclusively that the attacks are linked to the Chinese government, experts have long suspected official involvement in hacking activities originating in the country.
The Google China headquarters in Beijing
Google has had an uneasy relationship with the Chinese regime
A series of incidents - including the Google attacks of 2009, and the discovery of the Ghostnet cyber espionage network in the same year - have targeted foreign governments, Beijing-based diplomats, Chinese political activists and journalists.
The Tibetan government-in-exile has also been a repeated victim.
A recent investigation revealed murky connections between hackers and the Chinese Government.
A conference organised by hackers in a Beijing hotel was sponsored by an internet security firm with connections to the Chinese military, and was attended by Chinese police officers.
"Phishing" attacks work by sending an email containing a link or attachment that, when opened, installs "malware" on the target’s computer, allowing the hacker to steal information.
To succeed, the victim must believe that the email is authentic. Google says the subject line of one of the emails sent in the recent attack was "Fw: Draft US-China Joint Statement".
Holly and hacker
The latest attack comes following an announcement from American officials that deliberate infiltration of vital US information networks may be considered an "act of war".
Earlier this week, a Pentagon spokesman told the Wall Street Journal that the US would consider "all appropriate options" in response to foreign cyber attacks.
"If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks," he said.
Britain is also a major target for foreign hackers. Cybercrime and internet espionage are now estimated to cost the UK £27bn a year.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Japan 'Underestimated' Tsunami Nuclear Risk

Japan underestimated the risk of tsunamis to its coastal nuclear power plants, a British-led UN safety team has concluded.

The report also said Japan needs to closely monitor public and workers' health after the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant, as a result of the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

The report, from an International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) team, was led by Britain's top nuclear safety official Mike Weightman.
It highlighted some of the well-documented weaknesses that contributed to the crisis at the Fukushima facility, 150 miles north of Tokyo.
The plant was hit by a massive earthquake and then a tsunami in quick succession on March 11.
Water rushes into Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant
Fukushima was swamped by the huge tsunami waves
Among the criticisms was a failure to plan for a tsunami that would overrun the 19ft break wall at Fukushima and knock out back-up electric generators to four reactors.
This occurred despite multiple forecasts from a government agency and operator Tokyo Electric Power company's own scientists that such a risk was looming.
The IAEA team said Japan's crisis offered several lessons for the nuclear industry globally, including that plant operators should regularly review the risks of natural disasters.
It also recommended that "hardened" emergency response centres should be established to deal with accidents.
"The tsunami hazard for several sites was underestimated," the report's three-page summary said.
Japanese man being screened for possible radiation
Local residents were put at risk by nuclear radiation
"Nuclear plant designers and operators should appropriately evaluate and provide protection against the risks of all natural hazards."
Goshi Hosono, an aide to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, accepted the report, marking the first step in an effort by Japanese officials to show that the lessons learned from Fukushima can be applied to make its remaining reactors safe.
Hosono said the government would need to review its nuclear regulatory framework.
The IAEA team will submit its findings to a ministerial conference on nuclear safety in Vienna from June 20-24.
"We had a playbook, but it didn't work," said Tatsujiro Suzuki, a nuclear expert and vice chairman of Japan's Atomic Energy Commission.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pro-Mladic Serbians Clash With Riot Police

Protesters have clashed with riot police in Belgrade after several thousand Serbian nationalist supporters of jailed war-crimes suspect Ratko Mladic rallied to demand his release.

More than 100 people were arrested after rioters overturned bins, broke traffic lights and set off firecrackers in the city centre on Sunday night.

Doctors said six police officers were among 16 people taken to hospital with injuries.
The clashes began after a rally that drew at least 7,000 demonstrators, many singing nationalist songs and carrying banners honouring Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander.
The protest came hours before an expected appeal by the legal team for the alleged war criminal to appeal extradition to the UN war crimes court in The Hague, Netherlands.
Bosnian Serbs gather to pray for former wartime general Ratko Mladic - the man they see as a 'hero'.
Bosnian Serbs have also gathered to pray for Mladic
Some chanted right-wing slogans and a few gave Nazi salutes, and supporters of the extreme nationalist Serbian Radical Party were bussed in to attend the rally.
Right-wing extremists and hooligan groups also urged followers to appear in large numbers, creating the biggest test of Serbian sentiment and the government's resolve since Mladic's arrest last Thursday.
The demonstrators, who consider Mladic a hero, said Serbia should not hand him over to the war crimes court.
"Cooperation with The Hague tribunal represents treason," Radical Party official Lidija Vukicevic told the crowd.
Ratko Mladic's wife Bosiljka leaves the Belgrade Special Court.
Mladic's wife Bosiljka attended court in Belgrade
"This is a protest against the shameful arrest of the Serbian hero."
Demonstrators demanded Serbian President Boris Tadic, who ordered Mladic's arrest, should quit along with his government. A sign on the stage read, "Tadic is not Serbia."
More than 3,000 riot police were deployed around government buildings and Western embassies, and riot police tried to block small groups of extremists from reaching the rally.
Nationalists are furious that the Serbian government apprehended Mladic, 69, after nearly 16 years on the run, at a relative's home in a northern Serbian village.
Ratko Mladic
Pro-Mladic graffiti has appeared in Serbia
His arrest is considered critical to Serbia's efforts to join the European Union, and for reconciliation in the region after a series of ethnic wars of the 1990s.
Some 3,000 supporters also arrived by bus from other parts of Bosnia to a rally at Kalinovik on Sunday, the area where Mladic grew up.
Many wore black T-shirts with Mladic's picture and the words "Serbia in my heart" and said they would fight under Mladic again.
The Kalinovik protesters headed afterward to the shack Mladic was born in at the end of a steep, muddy road in the village of Bozanici, turning the shabby house into a pilgrimage site where his relatives addressed the crowd.
Mladic's family and lawyers have been fighting his extradition, arguing the former general is too ill to face charges.
However, a judge ruled on Friday the former Bosnian Serb military general could be extradited to The Netherlands.
The family plans to appeal the extradition and to demand an independent medical check-up - moves described by the authorities as a delaying tactics.
His lawyer Milos Saljic said that Mladic above all keeps demanding that he be allowed to visit the grave of his daughter, who committed suicide in 1994.
"He says if he can't go there, he wants his daughter's coffin brought in here," the lawyer said. He added: "His condition is alarming."

Monday, May 30, 2011

South African Leader In Libyan Mission

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma is expected to arrive in Tripoli today to attempt to broker a peace deal with the Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi

It is expected that Mr Zuma will meet face to face with Col Gaddafi - who hasn't been seen publicly for weeks and whose own officials admit is 'on the move' fearing Nato is trying to kill him.

The meeting may give some sense of whether or not Col Gaddafi accepts that the time for talk has arrived - and it could be a significant indicator as to the dictator's thinking.
Publicly regime officials insist Col Gaddafi will not accept a deal which involves stepping aside, but privately some are starting to voice the view with me that he must step aside in order for the country to hold new elections.
Muammar Gaddafi appears on state TV
Col Gaddafi is trying to avoid death by Nato air strike
I was first here at the end of February and to hear something like that then would have been unthinkable.
Mr Zuma and Gaddafi are old friends.
The South African is widely reported to have accepted financial assistance from Gaddafi during his serial trials for fraud and rape, but has never confirmed this himself.
Mr Zuma's officials say he is visiting in his capacity as a member of the African Union High Level Panel for the Resolution of the Conflict in Libya.
South Africa is a member of the UN Security Council and despite voting for UN Resolution 1973 has criticised the bombing campaign.
Nato has unleashed a series of deadly airstrikes on the Libyan capital of Tripoli as it tries to oust leader Colonel Gaddafi.
Nato has started day raids against the regime in Tripoli
Mr Gaddafi has a circle of advisors but notoriously after nearly 42 years in power he is a political island.
There are several key factors which will make attempts to force Col Gaddafi out of the country more difficult.
He may see it as betraying the memory of his son Saif al-Arab and three grandchildren who were killed in a Nato air strike.
And it has to be remembered that the International Criminal Court is seeking arrest warrants for Col Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam.
British Apache helicopters are being deployed to Libya
British Apache helicopters are also trying to oust regime forces
Until now his son Saif al-Islam has continued to insist he and his father will "live in Libya and die in Libya".
Government officials insist the regime can weather the continuing and increasing Nato air strikes.
Over the last week the military actions has intensified and there've been daytime bombings for the first time over the long weekend.
This may signal a change in strategy by Nato sending a message to the dictator that they will continue to strike at the heart of his regime whenever they want.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Joy As Egypt Opens Gaza Border Crossing

Palestinians are delighted. Egypt's opening of the Rafah crossing, its border with the Gaza Strip, is literally the opening of the prison doors on the enclave after a four-year sentence. 

The move has created deep unease in Israel.
More than 1.4 million people have relied on food aid handouts from the UN, limited supplies through Israel, and goods smuggled under the crossing to survive an Israeli blockade which was imposed when Hamas drove the Palestinian Authority from power in Gaza in 2007.
The blockade was largely a reprisal for attacks on neighbouring Israeli towns by Hamas, and other Islamist groups, using home-made rockets.
The siege had been condemned in the UN, by the International Committee of the Red Cross and by the European Union.
Human rights groups argued that it was a massive example of collective punishment.
A Hamas policeman checks the passport of a Palestinian passenger at the Rafah border crossing
A Hamas policeman checks the passport of a Palestinian passenger
The first vehicles to cross into Egypt were ambulances taking patients for much-needed treatment to Cairo.
Soon, ordinary citizens began to flow across the border, although men between 18 and 40 will need a visa to enterEgypt, after undergoing a security check to ensure that they don't have links to terrorist groups.
Trade will not yet be allowed through the crossing - that will have to continue through the dozens of illegal tunnels dug to move weapons, food and people between Gaza and Egypt.
Israel will continue to have a stranglehold on what goods go in and out of Gaza - a grip, it says, is essential to prevent the importation of the raw materials for rockets.
But the opening of the crossing has a powerful political force behind it which, in the long term, may cause Israel more problems than Gaza's rocketeers.
Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak agreed to join Israel's siege of Gaza to prevent the growth of Hamas power in a move the new Egyptian foreign minister told al Jazeera, was a "disgusting matter".
Smoke billows from a targeted location inside the northern Gaza Strip on December 29,2008
Israel accuses Gaza residents of being behind rocket attacks
With the ousting of Mubarak, Egypt's new military council has bowed to public pressure to get more closely involved with the Palestinian cause.
First Cairo mediated a unity agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority after five years of open conflict.
Then came the opening of Gaza's border.
"This new Cairo spring is bearing fruit such as the Rafah opening and efforts to end the blockade," said Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian official.
Small wonder that the Jewish state's home front defence minister Matan Vilnai told Israeli public radio that the ending of the siege is a "a very problematic situation".
Much like the so-called Arab awakening itself.
The Arab street in countries with peace agreements with Israel, like Jordan and Egypt, has been inflamed by coverage of Israel's siege and its attacks inside Gaza, in which 1,400 Palestinians have been killed.
The street does not appear to understand the economic and strategic advantage of peace deals struck between Israel and Arab autocrats.
But across the Middle East it is on the streets where the agenda is being set.
Meanwhile, the Arab League announced it will seek full UN membership for a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
It said in a statement it would make the request at the UN General Assembly's meeting in New York in September.
Make Money Blogging