Archive | March, 2011

TOKYO: Radioactivity 10,000 Greater Than Standard At Nuclear Plant

31 Mar

Japan's nuclear plant neighbours face tsunami cleanup Play Video Video:Japan’s nuclear plant neighbours face tsunami cleanup

By RYAN NAKASHIMA and MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press Ryan Nakashima And Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press :

TOKYO – Officials with the company that operates Japan‘s tsunami-stricken nuclear plant say radioactive contamination in groundwater underneath a reactor has been measured at 10,000 times the government health standard.

A spokesman for plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. says the company doesn’t believe any drinking water supply is affected.

Contaminated water has been pooling at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power complex since it was damaged by the devastating earthquake and tsunami. It has already leaked into the ocean.

Spokesman Naoyuki Matsumo says the elevated levels of iodine-131 were measured in groundwater 15 meters underneath one of six reactors at the plant. Iodine is a radioactive substance that decays quickly, with half disappearing in eight days.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

FUKUSHIMA, Japan (AP) — Japan is increasingly turning to other countries for help as it struggles to stabilize its tsunami-stricken nuclear plant and stop radiation leaks that are complicating efforts to recover the bodies of some of the thousands swept away by the towering wave.

French, American and international experts — even a robot — are either in Japan or on their way, and French President Nicholas Sarkozy visited Tokyo on Thursday to meet with the prime minister and show solidarity.

Workers are racing to find the source of contaminated water that has been pooling in the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The leaks have often forced workers to flee the plant, preventing them from restarting important cooling systems.

“The amount of water is enormous, and we need any wisdom available,” said nuclear safety agency spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama.

Experts from French nuclear giant Areva, which supplied fuel to the plant, are helping figure out how to dispose of the contaminated water that has begun leaking into the ground and the sea.

“We are not a supplier only for happy days,” CEO Anne Lauvergeon told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday. “We are effectively also there when things become difficult.”

Officials from the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., said they welcome the help.

“U.S. nuclear plants aren’t by the ocean, unlike Japanese ones, so we think the French may be able to help us more than the Americans,” said TEPCO Manager Teruaki Kobayashi.

Officials with his company also said they expect to use a remote-controlled robot sent by the U.S. within a few days to evaluate areas with high radiation. They are also setting up a panel of Japanese and American nuclear experts and American military personnel to address the crisis.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the tsunami and magnitude-9.0 earthquake. Some saw their homes destroyed by the wall of water, while others have been ordered to leave a 12-mile (20-kilometer) zone around the plant because of radiation leaks. Authorities have recommended that people in a 20-mile (30-kilometer) band might also want to leave.

Frustrated evacuees had begun trickling back into the smaller zone to gather belongings and check on their homes, but officials in Fukushima prefecture posted warnings at evacuation centers telling them not to go back for any reason.

“There is not only a risk that you may be contaminated, but also that you could contaminate others in the evacuation centers when you return,” the warnings said. “The national government is now considering whether to allow brief return visits, so please bear with us.”

The radiation has forced police officers trying to recover the dead from the evacuation zone to don white hazmat suits and radiation monitors. Officials believe more than 19,000 people died, but so far only about 11,000 bodies have been found. Local media estimate that hundreds of corpses remain.

“We find bodies everywhere — in cars, in rivers, under debris and in streets,” a police official from the hard-hit Fukushima prefecture said Thursday. He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

In the small coastal city of Miyako, many people still have no idea what happened to their relatives. Residents watched intently Thursday as a firefighter in a boat and two tractors cleared the bay of rubble, part of cleanup efforts under way along hundreds of miles (kilometers) of Japan’s northeastern seaboard.

Giant tractors and dump trucks cleared roads and sorted debris into giant piles. Huge barges with onboard cranes docked offshore and scooped up wreckage in the shallow bays.

“I lost three grandchildren,” says Isamu Aneishi, 69, who sat on a log for hours and watched the men search the bay.

A vacant lot outside Miyako has been turned into a car graveyard, with hundreds of wrecked vehicles from across the region deposited in neat rows. Some looked ready to be driven away, while others were little more than mangled heaps of metal. Many were marked with red spray paint, indicating bodies had been found inside, and some still had keys in the ignition. Residents walked up and down the rows looking for their cars.

“This is my third time coming here,” said Yasuhiro Ichihashi, 42, who watched his car get swept out of the parking lot at his factory from high ground. “They keep adding more cars every day, so I come back to check.”

Meanwhile, at the nuclear plant 140 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo, workers go inside in shifts and are often forced to turn back because radiation levels are too high.

They have been lauded as heroes, but Kazuma Yokota, head of the Fukushima local office Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said he saw them living under harsh conditions during a recent inspection visit. They got only two meals a day and just one blanket each when it was time to sleep.

“They sleep on the floor, inside a conference room, or even in the hallway or in front of a bathroom. That’s where they sleep, with only one blanket each to wrap themselves around,” he told a televised news conference. Nishiyama said TEPCO is working to improve the conditions.

Sarkozy, the first major international leader to visit since the disaster, praised the work being done at the plant.

“Every image I have seen is really, really disturbing, and I am really impressed by the workers in Fukushima who work at the nuclear plant with courage,” he said before meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

After the meeting, he urged the world to learn from Japan’s crisis and suggested that the Group of 20 nations set international nuclear safety standards.

“It’s completely abnormal that these international safety norms don’t exist,” Sarkozy said. The International Atomic Energy Agency does have standards, but nations are not bound by them.

Video: Pressure on Japan to widen nuclear evacuation zone AFP

Slideshow: Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Plant

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Associated Press writers Eric Talmadge in Fukushima, Jay Alabaster in Miyako and Shino Yuasa in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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Dublin: Stress Tests Show That Banks Need €24bn Of Further Capital: UPDATED

31 Mar

FILE - This is a Thursday, Nov. 4 2010 file photo  of a Bank of Ireland building in Dublin, Ireland. Bank of Ireland shares fell 7 percent Wednesday M

 AP – FILE – This is a Thursday, Nov. 4 2010 file photo of a Bank of Ireland building in Dublin, Ireland. …

The Central Bank has published crucial stress tests on the Irish banks, which show that €24bn of capital will need to be raised by the banks to help them cope with potential losses.

 Patrick Honohan - Said aim was to create a sustainable Irish banking system
Patrick Honohan – Said aim was to create a sustainable Irish banking system
The Central Bank has published crucial stress tests on the Irish banks, which show that €24bn of capital will need to be raised by the banks to help them cope with potential losses.

The €24bn is comprised of:

– €13.3bn for AIB

– €5.2bn for Bank of Ireland

– €1.5bn for EBS

– €4bn for IL&P

The figures are only appropriate in an ‘adverse and unlikely’ situation, according to Central Bank Governor, Prof Patrick Honohan.

The Central Bank today published the Financial Measures Programme Report, which details the outcome of its review of the capital and funding requirements of the domestic Irish banks.

The Central Bank also set targets for how far the banks must reduce in size, through a combination of run-downs of assets and sales of assets.

Prof Honohan said the aim was to create a sustainable Irish banking system through a combination of recapitalisation, deleveraging and reorganisation.

Prof Honohan said smaller, but sounder, Irish banks should be in a better position to provide loans and other financial services to households and businesses to support the Irish economy.

The stress tests were based on estimates that, in a worst-case scenario, the four banks could lose almost €9.5bn from residential mortgage loans over the next three years.

In total, the assessment found that the banks could face losses of €37.7bn over the next three years under the worst-case, or ‘stressed’ scenario.

The tests found that banks would need €18.7bn in new capital to meet new Central Bank targets, but the bank also added another €5.3bn to bring what it called ‘a layer of resilience’ in case of possible further losses after 2013.

Mr Honohan has said there would be majority state ownership in all banks.

He said that this had proven to be one of the costliest banking crises in history.

Speaking about mortgages, Mr Honohan said he did not predict a lot of home repossessions but said the stress tests were predicting a worst case scenario.

He said he did not predict anything like the number of home repossessions that are predicted and calculated in the stress tests.

He said the Central bank also has a role in consumer protection and would work with the banks to ensure there is better and more considered processes for working out distressed loans or mortgages.

The Financial Regulator, Matthew Elderfield, said banks needed to be up-front with customers; he said people should approach banks and agree a deal if they have loans which are in difficulty.

Noonan announces bank restructuring details

Speaking in the Dáil after the announcement of the tests, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan announced details of the restructuring of the banking sector.

He said there will be two universal, full-service banks and a restructured Irish Life & Permanent.

What he called the ‘first pillar’ bank will be based on Bank of Ireland, with the second one a combination of AIB and the EBS building society.

Mr Noonan said that two new strong universal banks will be created.

He said that 30 September, 2008 will go down as the blackest day in Ireland since the civil war.

He said on that day the decision was made to support and maintain Anglo Irish Bank.

He said the previous Government ducked and dived and procrastinated, that it did not fix the banks and that it paved the road to disaster.

NEWS UPDATE:

Ireland’s beleaguered banking sector will require a further €24 billion recapitalisation, pushing the total cost of bailing out the banks to €70 billion.

The figure was determined by the Central Bank’s long-awaited stress tests on Bank of Ireland, Allied Irish Banks, Irish Life and Permanent and the EBS.

This will be the fifth attempt to draw a line under the banking crisis, which have so far cost the State €46 billion, and will bring the entire banking sector under Government control.

It also means the State will require substantially more of the €35 billion earmarked for the banks under the EU/IMF bailout deal than previously envisaged.

The recapitalisation will coincide with a major restructuring of the sector, the details of which are being outlined by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan in the Dail.

The stress tests, which gauged the banks’ ability to cope with unanticipated downturns in the economy, indicated AIB will need a further €13.3 billion based on estimated losses.

Bank of Ireland, which is already 36 per cent State-owned, will require a further €5.2 billion while Irish Life and Permanent will need a further €4 billion, bringing both lenders into majority Government ownership for the first time.

EBS will require about €1.5 billion and is now expected to be merged with AIB. Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide were not tested as they are to be run down over time.

Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan said the intensive nature of the tests were designed to respond to ”market scepticism” about the Irish banks.

He said a pre-requisite for banks to return to normal is that they have capital to meet even the markets “gloomy prognostications”.

“This is what we regard as an adverse and unlikely scenario but we don’t expect it to be this bad,” Prof Honohan said.

Share trading in BoI and AIB was temporarily suspended today, pending the stress test results and any subsequent related announcements by the banks.

The Central Bank sought the suspension “to avoid the possibility of a disorderly market due to the circulation of information or rumours during the day”.

“The upshot of the increased scrutiny, oversight, forecast conservatism and loan-deposit timetable is that the holes to be filled in the Irish banking system will swallow the entire €35 billion,” Brian Devine, chief economist at NCB Stockbrokers said.

Stockwell, S.London: Five-Year-Old Girl’s Shooting – Intended ‘Target’ Of Gunmen Contacts Police: UPDATED

31 Mar

LATEST NEWS UPDATE: THIRD MAN ARRESTED:

A third man has been arrested in connection with the shooting of five-year-old Thusha Kamaleswaran.

Third arrest in girl shooting probe Enlarge photo

Mother’s plea over shooting of girl

Man remanded over shop shootings

The 18-year-old was arrested on Sunday and taken to a south London police station, where he remains in custody, Scotland Yard said. He is also being held in connection with the shooting of 35-year-old Roshan Selvakumar in the incident at a shop in Stockwell, south London.

Last week, Thusha’s mother urged people to help the police and save another family from suffering the same tragedy.

Sharmila Kamaleswaran said what had happened to her daughter had left her feeling empty inside. She said: “This incident has caused much shock for me and my family.

“As any mother, I have deep love for all my children and what has happened to my daughter Thusha has left me feeling empty inside. I cannot eat or sleep properly until she opens her eyes. My daughter Thusha is such a sweet, quiet and helpful child, always smiling and laughing. I cannot wait to hear her voice again and hold her.

“I thank everyone who is praying for her. I ask for any person who knows about those responsible for this to come forward and speak to the police. I do not wish this to happen to another family.

“I thank all hospital staff who are involved in the care of my daughter Thusha. I thank the press for highlighting this story but ask that they respect the privacy of my family, especially my other children who themselves are having to deal with the tragic nature of their sister’s injuries.”

She spoke as a man was remanded in custody charged with two counts of attempted murder following the double shooting.

Anthony McCalla, 19, of Oakdale Road, Streatham, south London, will appear next at the Old Bailey on June 10. He appeared at Camberwell Green Magistrates’ Court on Saturday charged with shooting the little girl and bystander Mr Selvakumar.

On Friday night, a 14-year-old boy arrested on suspicion of attempted murder in connection with the shootings was bailed to a date later this month.

————–

NEWS UPDATE:

A man is due to appear in court charged with two counts of attempted murder following the shooting of five-year-old Thusha Kamaleswaran and a 35-year-old man.

Man in court over girl’s shooting Enlarge photo

Man Charged With Five-Year-Old Girl’s Shooting

Anthony McCalla, 19, of Oakdale Road, Streatham, will appear before Camberwell Green Magistrates’ Court charged with shooting the little girl and bystander Roshan Selvakumar at a shop in Stockwell, south London.

Police have also arrested a 14-year-old boy on suspicion of attempted murder in connection with the shootings.

Relatives are maintaining vigils at Thusha’s hospital bedside while detectives build up a “continuity trail” of the attackers’ movements. Police said the child remained in a “critical but stable” condition.

Meanwhile, beat police are beefing up their presence around Stockwell Food and Wine store as sources said up to 50 gangs were operating in the south London area.

Close family friend Velluppillai Navaratnam, 49, from Croydon, south London, said it was a “very difficult time” for Thusha’s relatives.

Thusha – believed to be London’s youngest gun crime victim – was hit in the chest and Mr Selvakumar suffered a head wound as two black youths cowered in the store after being chased by three other black youths on bicycles.

Police said Mr Selvakumar’s condition was stable.

Detectives revealed Thusha’s 12-year-old brother, three-year-old sister and mother had been in the shop but were unhurt during the shooting. The store’s owners are the children’s aunt and uncle.

Crimestoppers is offering a £50,000 reward for information leading to the gun attackers’ capture.

—————

One of the youths thought to have been the target of a gang who accidentally shot a five-year-old girl in south London has contacted police.

Five-Year-Old Gun Victim Remains Critical CLICK ON IMAGE TO Play video

Detective Chief Inspector Tony Boughton revealed the development as a £50,000 reward was offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the shooting of Thursha Kamaleswaran.

Police are hunting for three youths who are believed to have opened fire after chasing two others into the shop at about 9.15pm on Tuesday.

As the pair hid inside, the gunman stopped at the door and opened fire indiscriminately, hitting Thursha and a 35-year-old shopkeeper. 

Detective Inspector Broughton said that the youth who had come forward was assisting police with their inquiries.

“He has given his account of what happened to him, running into the shop and taking cover.

“We are still trying to trace the other individual and appeal to him to come forward.” 

Thursha – believed to be the capital’s youngest gun crime victim – is still in critical condition after being shot in the chest. The bullet only narrowly missed Thursha’s heart, reports said.

“It is clear now there were other children in the shop when the shooting occurred,” Detective Inspector Broughton said.

“Thursha, the five-year-old victim, was visiting the shop owners who are her auntie and uncle. With Thursha and her mother were her siblings, a three-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy.”

The 35-year-old man, who was also shot in the head during the incident at the Stockwell Food & Wine shop in Lambeth, also remains in hospital.

Sky reporter Rhiannon Mills in Lambeth said: “As both victims remain in a critical but stable condition, a large police investigation is still under way at the shop on Stockwell Road.

“A number of forensic officers have been heading into the building this morning, clearly trying to piece together more details about what happened on Tuesday night.

“It’s an incident that’s obviously shocked local people and police hope that may encourage more witnesses to come forward. With suggestions this may have been gang related, they believe the answers to this crime lie in the community.”

The reward was offered as part of a joint initiative between Crimestoppers and the Association of Convenience Stores to show that violence against shopkeepers is unacceptable.

Director of Operations at Crimestoppers Dave Cording said: “This is a heinous crime, for an innocent five-year-old child and shopkeeper to receive such horrific injuries is utterly despicable.

“I hope the offenders will be swiftly brought to justice and would urge anyone with information to contact the charity, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or our online service at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.  

“No personal details are taken and communication routes are not traced or recorded – no one will know who you are.”

:: Witnesses or anyone with any information can also call the Operation Trident incident room on 020 8247 4553.

NEWS UPDATE:

One of the youths thought to have been the target of the gang which accidentally shot five-year-old Thursha Kamaleswaran has contacted police.

Target of girl shooting gang traced Enlarge photo

The news came as sources revealed that up to 50 gangs operate in the area where Thursha and another bystander became innocent victims of a vicious turf war.

Detectives investigating the shooting at the Stockwell Food and Wine Shop in south London on Tuesday night have called in Territorial Support Group officers to reassure locals fearing “tit for tat” attacks.

Chief Superintendent Nick Ephgrave called for people in the area to come forward if they have information about the “truly shocking event”.

A shopkeeper, believed to be Roshan Selvakumar, 35, was also hit, suffering a head wound during the attack.

They were caught up in the violence when two black youths cowered in the store after being chased by three other black youths on bicycles. As the pair hid inside, one youth stopped at the door and opened fire indiscriminately.

The three attackers, who a witness said were aged between 14 and 17, fled from the Stockwell Road shop along Broomgrove Road and into the Stockwell Park Estate.

The victims, who police said were Sri Lankan and unrelated, were rushed to hospital in south London, where they are both in a critical but stable condition.

Thursha was visiting relatives when the attackers struck. Police said her brother and sister were also in the shop at the time of the shooting, but they were unhurt when two shots were fired.

Crimestoppers are offering a £50,000 reward for information leading to the attackers’ capture.

NEWS UPDATE:

A teenager targeted by gangsters who accidentally shot five-year-old Thursha Kamaleswaran has been arrested after coming out of hiding to help detectives find the gun attackers.

Shop gang shooting target arrested Enlarge photo

A Met police spokesman said: “Trident detectives investigating a shooting in Stockwell that left a five-year-old girl and a 35-year-old man critically injured have arrested a man.

“The 19-year-old man was arrested in south London and is currently in custody at a south London police station whilst inquiries continue.”

The youth told officers he cowered behind shop shelves as the little girl and another bystander were caught in the crossfire of a suspected botched turf war attack inside a shop.

Relatives are maintaining vigils at Thursha’s hospital bedside while detectives built up a “continuity trail” of the attackers’ movements.

Meanwhile, beat police are beefing up their presence around Stockwell Food and Wine store as sources said up to 50 gangs were operating in the south London area.

Extra police support – including several specialist Territorial Support Group officers – have been called in to provide help to reassure locals that there are no “tit for tat” retaliation attacks.

Thursha – believed to be London’s youngest gun crime victim – was hit in the chest and 35-year-old Roshan Selvakumar, suffered a head wound as two black youths cowered in the store after being chased by three other black youths on bicycles.

Detectives revealed her 12-year-old brother, three-year-old sister and mother had been in the shop but were unhurt during the shooting on Tuesday night. The store’s owners are the children’s aunt and uncle.

Reward Offered Over Five-Year-Old Shooting

Girl fights for life after shooting

Five-Year-Old Gun Victim Remains Critical

Man quizzed over shooting of girl

Man arrested over shooting of girl

Girl’s Shooting: Cops Arrest 19-Yr-Old Man

BREAKING NEWS: Public Alert: International Police Dragnet For “Violent” Twin British Paedophiles

31 Mar

Two brothers who are both high-risk child sex offenders have become the first twins to be put on the most-wanted list of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

www.ceop.police.uk/wanted

Twin sex offenders are most wanted Enlarge photo

Kenneth and Thomas Parker, aged 56, who have links to the Sussex and Warwickshire areas, are both wanted for breaching notification requirements of the sex offenders’ register.

Thomas Parker is wanted for a recall to prison but the notification breaches mean they both could be jailed.

A CEOP spokesman said the brothers were the 23rd and 24th people to have their details published on its Most Wanted website.

They are both believed to have been in mainland Europe but their current location is not known. The brothers also have connections to France, the Netherlands and Portugal and are believed to be together, the spokesman said.

Kenneth Parker is 5ft 8in, of medium build with short brown hair. He has distinctive tattoos on both his arms: a fish and wings from a Para regiment on his left arm, and a dragon and a panther on his right.

Thomas Parker is 6ft and slim. He has cropped brown hair and may have facial hair. He has a scar by his left eye and also has distinctive tattoos on his arms of a Chinese carp, a naked woman, a swallow, a stallion’s head and a wizard.

A CEOP spokesman said: “It should be noted that they have both demonstrated violent tendencies in the past.”

CEOP chief executive Peter Davies said: “I want to ask members of the public to once again help us in locating these two dangerous individuals.”

Detective Chief Inspector Nigel Jones, from Warwickshire Police, said: “We have done everything we can to locate Thomas Anthony Parker, a convicted high-risk child sex offender and the next step is to work with international agencies like CEOP to appeal to the public throughout Europe to contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 if you have information on either twin.”

NEWS UPDATE:

Twin British paedophile brothers are being hunted by child protection investigators after fleeing to Europe.

Hunt For ‘Violent’ Twin British Paedophiles Enlarge photo

Kenneth and Thomas Parker, 56, are described as high-risk child sex offenders with “violent tendencies”.

They are both wanted for travelling abroad without telling the authorities of a change of address, as they must under the terms of the Sex Offenders Register.

The brothers’ photographs have been posted on the “most wanted” website of the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) centre.

Kenneth Parker was jailed for gross indecency with a young boy and indecent assaults on a boy and girl.

Thomas Parker went to prison for indecent assault on a girl and has similar convictions in France.

They are thought to be travelling together and have connections with France, Holland and Portugal.

Ceop’s chief executive Peter Davies said: “I want to ask members of the public to help us in locating these two dangerous individuals.”

Kenneth Parker is 5ft 8in tall, medium built with short brown hair. He has distinctive tattoos on both arms, a fish and Parachute Regiment wings on his left arm and a dragon and panther on his right arm.

His twin brother Thomas is around 6ft tall and of slim build. He has cropped brown hair and a scar by his left eye.

He, too, has distinctive tattoos on his arms – a Chinese carp, a naked woman, a swallow, a stallion’s head and a wizard.

The brothers face another jail term of up to five years for allegedly breaching the Sex Offenders Register.

:: Anyone with information about them is urged to call local police or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Finglas, Dublin: Four Men Arrested As Gardai Seize Cannabis Resin During Drugs Handover

31 Mar

Four men are being questioned following a seizure following a seizure of cannabis resin in Finglas in Dublin.

Ballymun Garda Station - Suspects can be detained for up to one week
Ballymun Garda Station – Suspects can be detained for up to one week

Four men are being questioned following a seizure following a seizure of cannabis resin in Finglas in Dublin.

Gardaí believe two of the men in custody are members of a Finglas criminal gang, while a third man, who is from the UK, was arrested during the drugs handover.

The arrests are a result of a joint operation between the Garda National Drugs Unit and the PSNI.

Gardaí believe that the drugs were sourced through Northern Ireland.

Two vans have also been seized one in Dublin and one in Northern Ireland.

The four men in custody are being detained in Finglas and Ballymun garda stations and can be questioned for up to a week.

LONDON: Libyan Foreign Minister Flees Home To His British Spy-Masters: UPDATED

31 Mar

Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa has dealt a heavy blow to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi by being one of his closest allies to quit and flee to Britain, according to a government spokesperson.

Libyan rebels in headlong retreat Play video

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We can confirm that Moussa Koussa arrived at Farnborough Airport on 30 March from Tunisia. He travelled here under his own free will. He has told us he is resigning his post.

The spokesman added: “Koussa is one of the most senior figures in Gaddafi’s government and his role was to represent the regime internationally – something that he is no longer willing to do… We encourage those around Gaddafi to abandon him and embrace a better future for Libya that allows political transition and real reform that meets the aspirations of the Libyan people.”

Kusa has long been a key player in Gaddafi’s regime, and previously acted as the country’s representative in Britain.

He was widely credited with persuading the dictator to reach an accommodation with the West and stop developing weapons and funding terrorism.

NEWS UPDATE:

Hillary Rodham Clinton
AP – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 30, …

 
By ADAM GOLDMAN and DONNA CASSATA, Associated Press Adam Goldman And Donna Cassata, Associated Press :

WASHINGTON – While the White House debates whether to arm rebels battling Moammar Gadhafi’s troops, U.S. officials have acknowledged that the CIA has sent small teams of operatives into Libya and helped rescue a crew member of a U.S. fighter jet that crashed.

Battlefield setbacks are hardening the U.S. view that the poorly equipped opposition probably is incapable of prevailing without decisive Western intervention, a senior U.S. intelligence official told The Associated Press.

Still, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday: “No decision has been made about providing arms to the opposition or to any groups in Libya. We’re not ruling it out or ruling it in.”

The CIA’s precise role in Libya is not clear. Intelligence experts said the CIA would have sent officials to make contact with the opposition and assess the strength and needs of the rebel forces in the event President Barack Obama decided to arm them.

An American official and a former U.S. intelligence officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, told the AP about the CIA’s involvement in Libya after the agency was forced to close its station in Tripoli, the capital.

They said CIA helped safely recover the F-15E Strike Eagle’s weapons specialist, who was first picked up by rebels after the crash March 21. The pilot was rescued by Marines.

The former intelligence officer said some CIA officers had been staging from the agency’s station in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

The New York Times first reported the CIA had sent in groups of operatives and British operatives were directing airstrikes.

Obama said in a national address Monday night that U.S. troops would not be used on the ground in Libya. The statement allowed for wiggle room as the president explores options in case he decides to use covert action to ship arms to the rebels and train them.

In that event, the CIA would take the lead, as it has done in the past such as in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks and the run-up to the Iraq invasion in 2003. In those covert action programs, CIA officers along with special operation forces were sent in, providing arms to opposition forces to help fight the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Lawmakers met Wednesday with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, and intelligence head James Clapper

“They’re absolutely committed to keeping the U.S. role limited,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. “Nobody is making guarantees we’ll be out in two weeks.”

The top NATO commander, U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis, has said he’s seen “flickers” of al-Qaida and Hezbollah among the rebels, but no evidence of significant numbers within the political opposition group’s leadership.

During the meeting, Clapper, compared the rebel forces to a “pick-up basketball team.” He indicated that intelligence has identified a few questionable individuals within the rebel ranks but no significant presence, according to lawmakers.

Lawmakers expressed frustration because administration officials couldn’t say when the U.S. operation might end.

Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said Clinton and Gates did not provide much information about the future in Libya.

“Do we arm the rebels? What happens if Gadhafi holds on? What is our next move?” said Smith.

Smith said arming the rebels may make sense, but added, “I think we have to figure out who exactly we would be arming. There are a lot of different rebel groups. I think we need greater intelligence on who is on the ground.”

The Pentagon put the cost of the Libyan operation so far at $550 million. Blumenauer said officials estimated the cost could be $40 million a month depending on the length of the operation for the U.S. “It could be higher,” he said.

Lawmakers, especially Republicans, are smarting from what they consider a lack of consultation from the administration and Obama’s decision not to seek congressional authorization for the use of force.

The briefings — the Senate had a separate session later Wednesday — came 12 days after the no-fly zone began. Obama did speak to congressional leaders the day before the military action began.

“I understand how evil Gadhafi is. I don’t understand the unwillingness to come to Congress first,” said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.

Republicans, however, don’t speak with one voice on the issue.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Obama’s 2008 presidential rival, said the president couldn’t wait for Congress to take even a few days to debate the use of force “there would have been nothing left to save in Benghazi,” the rebels’ de-facto capital.

Stavridis told the House Armed Services Committee that “the strike part of this and the aviation combat air patrol will be filled largely by the allies” and the U.S. will focus on things such as “intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, refueling, … combat search and rescue.”

An Associated Press-GfK poll found the country split on U.S. involvement in military actions in Libya, with 48 percent approving and 50 percent disapproving.

About three-quarters say it’s somewhat likely that U.S. forces will be involved in Libya for the long term. Fifty-five percent say they would favor the United States increasing its military action to remove Gadhafi from power, although only 13 percent favor U.S. ground troops, a step Obama has said he would not take.

The poll was conducted in the days leading up to the president’s speech.

___

Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor and Bradley Klapper contributed to this report.

___

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PUBLIC ALERT: Ballyvaughan, Co Clare: Gardai Appeal For Information As Search For Missing Woman Continues: UPDATED: Body Found

30 Mar

LATEST NEWS UPDATE:

GARDAÍ have confirmed they are treating the investigation into the death of a Co Clare woman with the same seriousness as a murder probe even though they cannot yet confirm what kind of investigation they are pursuing.

While gardaí have not yet mounted a full murder inquiry, they have confirmed that Deirdre McCarthy died a violent death and say that they expect results in the next few days but that many of the answers still lie in the local community.

Confirmation of a formal murder investigation is expected in days and at least one arrest is imminent.

The body of the 43-year-old single woman was found washed up at Fanore beach in Co Clare on Thursday.

Ms McCarthy was last seen alive on Sunday night and the alarm was raised on Monday afternoon.

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Khalid Jabbar carried out his postmortem examination at the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Limerick yesterday.

At a press briefing at Ennis Garda Station, Superintendent John Gilligan sympathised with the McCarthy family on their loss.

Supt Gilligan said the results of the postmortem could not be released until Dr Jabbar had made his conclusions: “We are satisfied that she died as a result of violence and while we are not specifically naming the type of investigation, we are treating the investigation at this point in time, with the same seriousness as a murder investigation.

“We think that whatever happened to Deirdre, the answer lies in the local community, a community which is now shook by her death. We want people to think about what happened; to think about what they may have seen or heard, anything unusual or suspicious, the sighting of a car or person. Something small often leads to the development of a further lead in the investigation so we are asking people to come forward.”

Gardaí have confirmed that Deirdre returned home to Turlough House on Sunday at around 11.30pm and that she had been given a lift home by friends.

The superintendent said: “11.30pm to 7.00am is the timeframe we are talking about. We believe that there was activity in the area. A car, or more than one car, would have passed up and down.

“A major part of the investigation is to establish a motive for what happened.”

Gardaí have confirmed that two vehicles have been technically examined but no arrests have yet been made.

Sources say Gardaí have spoken to one particular “person of interest” several times and that this local man is their main suspect.

Deirdre’s is survived by her mother Helen, Brother Tom and Sisters Helen, Christina, Bernie and Ann.

An incident room has been set up at Ennistymon Garda Station and investigators there can be contacted at 065-7072180.

NEWS UPDATE:

Gardaí are trying to establish if a body washed up on a Co Clare beach this morning is that of a missing woman.

 Clare - Discovery treated as suspicious
 Clare – Discovery treated as suspicious
 
Deirdre McCarthy - Last seen on Sunday night
Deirdre McCarthy – Last seen on Sunday night

Search for woman continues in Co Clare

Gardaí are trying to establish if a body washed up on a Co Clare beach this morning is that of a missing woman.

The discovery, which was made on Fanore Beach near Ballyvaughan, is being treated as suspicious.

It comes three days after a 43-year-old local woman disappeared.

Deirdre McCarthy had been last seen after returning to her home in Ballyvaughan after a night out on Sunday night.

Family members raised the alarm when she failed to turn up for an appointment on Monday morning.

Up to 50 local people, gardaí and local search and rescue teams have been involved in a search for Deirdre McCarthy.

Gardaí sought the assistance of the Garda Technical Bureau to assist them in their investigations.

—————–

A search continued in north Co Clare today for a 43-year-old local woman who has been missing since Sunday night or Monday morning.

Deirdre McCarthy - Failed to turn up for work on Monday morning
 Deirdre McCarthy – Failed to turn up for work on Monday morning

A search continued in north Co Clare today for a 43-year-old local woman who has been missing since Sunday night or Monday morning.

Deirdre McCarthy had been last seen after returning to her home in Ballyvaughan after a night out on Sunday night.

Family members raised the alarm when she failed to turn up for work on Monday morning.

Today up to 50 local people, gardaí and local search and rescue teams have been involved in the search.

Also today, gardaí sought the assistance of the Garda Technical Bureau to assist them in their investigations.

Deirdre is described as being 1.57m (5′ 2”) tall, with short, black hair and a medium build.

Gardaí have asked anyone with information to contact Ennistymon Garda Station on 065-7072180.