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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.
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