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Friday, March 25, 2011

Bob Herbert Leaving New York Times

Bob Herbert

Bob Herbert Leaving New York Times

Bob Herbert is leaving the New York Times after 18 years as an op-ed columnist for the paper, the Times announced Friday.

Herbert's final column will run on Saturday. He has been a writer for the Times since 1993, becoming one of the country's most prominent progressive columnists.

In a message to staffers, Herbert said that "for some time now I have grown eager to move beyond the constriction of the column format, with its rigid 800-word limit, in favor of broader and more versatile efforts.” He said that he wanted to write "more expansively and more aggressively about the injustices visited on working people, the poor and the many others in our society who find themselves on the wrong side of power.”

He said he will also work on a new book, as well as a "soon-to-be-announced effort to help bolster progressive journalism.”

Herbert's departure is the second high-profile exit from the Times' op-ed page this month. Frank Rich also bolted the paper for New York magazine, citing the same feeling of constriction and the desire to try new things. It also comes as the Times is dramatically overhauling its opinion pages, both in print and online.

Japan Reactor Nuclear Core May Have Been Breached : NPR

"Twin Tower" ; Air stack of the 7th ...Image via WikipediaJapan Reactor Nuclear Core May Have Been Breached : NPR

The operators of the damaged Fukishima Dai-chi power plant say there's evidence that radioactive water leaking from the third reactor came from its core. This reactor has been the source of major concern since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northern Japan, and led to the current crisis at the power facility.

Officials say they have not found evidence of an actual breach in the reactor. There are many pipes and connections leading to the core that could be the source of leaking water.

But the utility also found extremely high levels of radiation in the water, and detected radioactive isotopes that are not ordinarily present in cooling water.

Since the accident began, there's been considerable speculation as to whether radiation leaks are coming from the reactors themselves, or from spent fuel stored in pools that may have been damaged.

The news comes a day after three workers were exposed to high levels of radioactivity while laying electrical cable in the basement of a building near Unit 3. Two of the men were taken to a local hospital for treatment of possible radiation burns. They were then brought to Japan's National Institute of Radiological Sciences in the Tokyo area.

In a statement on Friday, Tokyo Electrical Power Co., or TEPCO, which runs the plant, indicated that the workers had ignored high readings on their dosimeters, which measure the presence of radiation. The men were employed by a contractor for TEPCO. Their condition since they were brought in for treatment on Thursday is unknown.

The Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan also expanded its call for a voluntary evacuation around the plant, to a radius of 30 kilometers, about 18 miles. Since March 15, residents living within 20 kilometers — about 12 miles — have been urged to leave the area, and those living within the 30-kilometer range had been told to remain indoors.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says local governments are being told to call for voluntary evacuations 30 kilometers out. The government said that the main concern was not radiation exposure, but that services in this area had been severely disrupted by the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear crisis.

The U.S. government has also told its citizens to stay 50 miles away from the plant.

Food And Water Concerns

Radiation leaks have contaminated some food and water around the plant. Tokyo residents were warned on Wednesday that tap water had tested high for radioactivity, and that they should not allow infants to drink the water.

That order was rescinded the next day when readings dropped. But water systems in a number of cities continue to test above the levels considered safe for small children.

Japan has restricted the sale and consumption of produce, fruit and milk produced around the plant. And the United States and other countries have banned the import of some food products from the affected area.

Damage To Reactor Buildings

Japan's Self-Defense Forces released a video of the damaged reactor buildings, shot from a military helicopter. The film shows extensive damage to many of the buildings.

The roofs of several reactor buildings have been reduced to the steel framework, and steam is clearly leaking from a number of places. Since the earthquake, there have been a number of explosions traced to leaking hydrogen within the reactor buildings.

Official say that work continues to revive the cooling equipment that lost power after the natural disaster struck. External power has been restored to all six reactors.

Technicians are also beginning to pump fresh water, instead of seawater, into Unit 1. TEPCO has been injecting seawater into some of the reactors to keep nuclear fuel from overheating, but there's concern that salt deposits from the seawater could make it more difficult to move heat away from the fuel. The company plans to replace seawater with fresh water at Units 2 and 3, which have also suffered fuel damage.

Relief officials now say the confirmed death toll from the earthquake and tsunami has reached 10,000, with more than 17,000 people still missing. Nearly 300,000 people are believed homeless, and the number of evacuees will now increase, with the government's decision to expand the safety zone around the plant.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

U.S.-Led Assault Nears Goal in Libya -

U.S.-Led Assault Nears Goal in Libya -

WASHINGTON — An American-led military campaign to destroy Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s air defenses and establish a no-fly zone over Libya has nearly accomplished its initial objectives, and the United States is moving swiftly to hand command to allies in Europe, American officials said Monday.

But the firepower of more than 130 Tomahawk cruise missiles and attacks by allied warplanes have not yet succeeded in accomplishing the more ambitious demands by the United States — repeated by President Obama in a letter to Congress on Monday — that Colonel Qaddafi withdraw his forces from embattled cities and cease all attacks against civilians.

Libyan government forces continued to engage in scattered fighting on Monday, defying the United Nations resolutions authorizing the allied strikes. The resolution demands an immediate cease-fire by Colonel Qaddafi’s forces and an end to attacks on civilians.

Pentagon officials are eager to extract the United States from a third armed conflict in a Muslim country as quickly as possible. But confusion broke out on Monday among the allies in Europe over who exactly would carry the military operation forward once the United States stepped back, and from where.

In Washington, lawmakers from both parties argued that Mr. Obama had exceeded his constitutional authority by authorizing the military’s participation without Congressional approval. The president said in a letter to Congress that he had the power to authorize the strikes, which would be limited in duration and scope, and that preventing a humanitarian disaster in Libya was in the national interest.

At the United Nations, the Security Council rejected a request from Libya for a meeting to discuss the situation.

Qaddafi forces were holding out against the allied military campaign to break their grip. Rebel fighters trying to retake the eastern town of Ajdabiya said their advance was halted on Monday by tank and rocket fire from government loyalists still controlling entrances to the city. Dozens of fighters fell back to a checkpoint about 25 miles north of Ajdabiya, in Zueitina.

By the early afternoon, the fighters said at least eight of their confederates had been killed in the day’s fighting, including four who were killed when a tank shell struck their pickup truck.

In the western city of Misurata, forces loyal to Colonel Qaddafi were still at large and were using civilians as human shields, Reuters reported, but that could not be immediately confirmed.

At the Pentagon, officials said that the intensive American-led assault unleashed over the weekend was a classic air campaign, chosen by Mr. Obama among a range of military options, which was intended to have coalition aircraft in the skies above Libya within days and without fear of being shot down. “You don’t do that piecemeal,” a United States military official said. “You do it all at once, and you do it as fast as you can.”

The targets included radar installations, fixed and mobile antiaircraft sites, Libyan aircraft and hangars, and other targets intended to make it safe for allied aircraft to impose the no-fly zone. They also included tanks and other ground forces engaged with the rebels around the country, reflecting the broader aim of pushing Colonel Qadaffi’s forces to withdraw from disputed cities. Communications centers and at least one Scud missile site were also struck.

Explosions and antiaircraft fire could be heard in and around Tripoli on Monday in a third straight night of attacks there against Colonel Qadaffi’s forces.

United States military officials said that there were fewer American and coalition airstrikes in Libya on Sunday night and Monday, and that the number would probably decline further in coming days. But Gen. Carter F. Ham, the head of the United States Africa Command, who is in charge of the coalition effort, said that there would be strikes on Colonel Qaddafi’s mobile air defenses and that some 80 sorties — only half by the United States — were flown on Monday.

General Ham also said he had “full authority” to attack the regime’s forces if they refused to comply with President Obama’s demands that they pull back from Ajdabiya, Misurata and Zawiya.

By Monday night, explosions and antiaircraft fire could be heard in and around Tripoli in the third straight day of attacks.

In Santiago, Chile, Mr. Obama restated that the United States would soon turn over full responsibility to the allies to maintain the no-fly zone. He also sought to distinguish the stated goals of the United Nations-authorized military operation — protecting Libyan civilians, establishing a no-flight zone and forcing Colonel Qaddafi’s withdrawal from the cities — with his own administration’s demand, not included in the United Nations resolution, that Colonel Qaddafi had to leave office.

“It is U.S. policy that Qaddafi needs to go,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference with the Chilean president, Sebastián Piñera. “And we’ve got a wide range of tools in addition to our military effort to support that policy.” Mr. Obama cited economic sanctions, the freezing of assets and other measures to isolate the regime in Tripoli.

United States military commanders repeated throughout the day that they were not communicating with Libyan rebels, even as a spokesman for the rebel military, Khaled El-Sayeh, asserted that rebel officers had been providing the allies with coordinates for their airstrikes. “We give them the coordinates, and we give them the location that needs to be bombed,” Mr. Sayeh told reporters.

On Monday night, a United States military official responded that “we know of no instances where this has occurred.”

Earlier in the day, General Ham repeatedly said in answer to questions from reporters that the United States was not working with the rebels. “Our mission is not to support any opposition forces,” General Ham said by video feed to the Pentagon from the headquarters of Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany.

Mr. Sayeh said that there were no Western military trainers advising the rebel fighters, but that he would welcome such help. He added, with evident frustration, that the rebel fighters on the front in Ajdabiya “didn’t take orders from anybody.”

Like other rebel military officials, Mr. Sayeh said the rebels had been working to better organize their ranks to include members of specialized units from the Libyan Army that would attack Colonel Qaddafi’s forces when the time was right. But evidence of such a force has yet to materialize.

The rebels appeared to have fallen into some disarray as they returned from Ajdabiya, with one commander at the checkpoint trying to marshal them with a barely functioning megaphone. He tried organizing the assembled fighters into columns for an attack, but nearly fell off the truck as he ordered the fighters to move.

“I know most of you are civilians,” he said. “But we have to charge.” Only a few trucks inched forward as other fighters stood and argued among themselves.

At NATO headquarters in Brussels on Monday, members of the military alliance came to no agreement on who would take the lead on a no-fly zone or how to proceed on enforcing a United Nations arms embargo against Libya.

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said responsibility for the no-fly zone would be transferred to NATO. But France objected to that, with its foreign minister, Alain Juppé, saying: “The Arab League does not wish the operation to be entirely placed under NATO responsibility. It isn’t NATO which has taken the initiative up to now.”

Turkey, a NATO member that has opposed the use of force in Libya and was still seething over being omitted from a planning meeting in Paris on Saturday, refused on Sunday to back a NATO military plan for the no-fly zone. But its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, denied that his country was against NATO participation in the operation, saying only that he wanted assurances that it would be brief and not end in an occupation.

Elisabeth Bumiller reported from Washington, and Kareem Fahim from Benghazi, Libya. Contributing reporting were David D. Kirkpatrick from Tripoli, Libya; Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker from Washington; Steven Erlanger and Alan Cowell from Paris; Clifford J. Levy from Moscow; and Julia Werdigier from London.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 21, 2011

An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect title for Alain Juppé. He is the foreign minister of France, not its prime minister.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Arab League condemns broad bombing campaign in Libya - The Washington Post

Muammar al-Gaddafi at the 12th AU summit, Febr...Image via WikipediaArab League condemns broad bombing campaign in Libya - The Washington Post

By Edward Cody, Sunday, March 20, 1:01 PM

CAIRO — The Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa, deplored the broad scope of the U.S.-European bombing campaign in Libya and said Sunday that he would call a league meeting to reconsider Arab approval of the Western military intervention.

Moussa said the Arab League’s approval of a no-fly zone on March 12 was based on a desire to prevent Moammar Gaddafi’s air force from attacking civilians and was not designed to endorse the intense bombing and missile attacks — including on Tripoli, the capital, and on Libyan ground forces — whose images have filled Arab television screens for two days.

“What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone,” he said in a statement carried by the Middle East News Agency. “And what we want is the protection of civilians and not the shelling of more civilians.”

Moussa’s declaration suggested that some of the 22 Arab League members were taken aback by what they have seen and wanted to modify their approval lest they be perceived as accepting outright Western military intervention in Libya. Although the eccentric Gaddafi is widely looked down upon in the Arab world, the leaders and people of the Middle East traditionally have risen up in emotional protest at the first sign of Western intervention.

A shift away from the Arab League endorsement, even partial, would constitute a major setback to the U.S.-European campaign. Western leaders brandished the Arab League decision as a justification for their decision to move militarily and as a weapon in the debate to obtain a U.N. Security Council resolution two days before the bombing began.

As U.S. and European military operations entered their second day, however, most Arab governments maintained public silence, and the strongest expressions of opposition came from the greatest distance. Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Evo Morales of Bolivia and former Cuban president Fidel Castro condemned the intervention and suggested that Western powers were seeking to get their hands on Libya’s oil reserves rather than limit the bloodshed in the country.

Russia and China, which abstained from the voting on the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing military intervention, also expressed regret that Western powers had chosen to get involved despite their advice.

In the Middle East, the abiding power of popular distrust of Western intervention was evident despite the March 12 Arab League decision. It was not clear how many Arab governments shared the hesitations voiced by Moussa, who has said that he plans to run for president in Egypt this year. But despite Western efforts to enlist Arab military forces, only the Western-oriented Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar has announced that it would participate in the campaign.

The Qatari prime minister, Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani, told reporters that the kingdom made its decision in order to “stop the bloodbath” that he said Gaddafi was inflicting on rebel forces and civilians in opposition-controlled cities. He did not describe the extent of Qatar’s military involvement or what the mission of Qatari aircraft or personnel would be alongside U.S., French and British planes and ships that have carried out the initial strikes.

Islam Lutfi, a lawyer and Muslim Brotherhood leader in Egypt, said he opposed the military intervention because the real intention of the United States and its European allies was to get into position to benefit from Libya’s oil supplies. “The countries aligned against Libya are there not for humanitarian reasons but to further their own interests,” he added.

But the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies in the youth coalition that spearheaded Egypt’s recent upheaval took no official position. They were busy with a referendum Saturday on constitutional amendments designed to usher democracy into the country. Similarly, the provisional military-run government took no stand, and most Cairo newspapers gave only secondary space to the Libya conflict.

When the Arab League approved imposition of a no-fly zone, only Syria and Algeria opposed the decision, according to Egyptian officials. Syria’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday reiterated its government’s opposition, as diplomatic momentum gathered for the U.S.-European operation, saying the country rejected “all forms of foreign interference in Libyan affairs.”

Al-Qaeda, which could be expected to oppose foreign intervention in an Arab country and embrace Gaddafi’s description of the Western campaign as a new crusade, made no immediate comment. This was probably due in part to the difficulty for the al-Qaeda leadership to communicate without revealing its position. But it also has brought to mind Gaddafi’s frequent assertions that al-Qaeda was behind the Libyan revolt and that he and the West should work hand in hand to defeat the rebels.

Iran and its Shiite Muslim allies in the Lebanese organization Hezbollah, reflexively opposed to Western influence in the Middle East, also were forced into a somewhat equivocal position, condemning Gaddafi for his bloody tactics but opposing the Western military intervention.

“The fact that most Arab and Muslim leaders did not take responsibility opened the way for Western intervention in Libya,” declared Hasan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, in a video speech Sunday to his followers. “This opens the way for foreign interventions in every Arab country. It brings us back to the days of occupation, colonization and partition.”

At the same time, Nasrallah accused Gaddafi of using the same brutal tactics against his opponents as Israel has against Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry, which previously criticized Gaddafi’s crackdown, expressed “doubts” Sunday about U.S. and European intentions. Like the Latin American critics, it suggested that the claims of wanting to protect civilians were just a cover for a desire to install a more malleable leadership in Tripoli and make it easier to exploit Libya’s oil.