Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Summit Agrees Nuclear Protection

World leaders have agreed to secure all vulnerable nuclear material within four years.

The four-point plan agreed by the 47 leaders at a summit in Washington would make a real contribution to a safer world. The plan calls for every nation to safeguard nuclear stocks and keep material out of terrorists' hands. Earlier the US and Russia agreed to get rid of some weapons-grade plutonium.

Several countries including Mexico, Chile and Ukraine agreed to give up their stocks of highly-enriched uranium - which can be processed into weapons.

Former Cold War foes Russia and the US signed an agreement to dispose of 34 tonnes of surplus weapons-grade plutonium - enough, said American officials, to make 17,000 nuclear warheads.

Demjanjuk 'Is Victim Of Hitler'

John Demjanjuk, accused of helping to murder nearly 28,000 Jews at a Nazi death camp, has told a German court he is "one of Hitler's victims".

Demjanjuk was "forcibly deported to Germany" and used as "slave labor" he said in a statement read out in court. The family of the Ukrainian-born former US carworker says he is in poor health and is unlikely to survive the trial. Demjanjuk, who is 89, denies being a camp guard at Sobibor, in Nazi-occupied Poland.

"I find it an unbearable injustice that Germany is trying to make me, a prisoner of war, into a war criminal with this trial," Demjanjuk said in a statement read out by his lawyer to the court in the southern city of Munich.

"I am grateful to my medical staff who have helped to reduce the worst pain and allowed me to get through this trial which I feel is torture."

The statement went on: "Germany is to blame for the fact that I have lost my whole reason for living, my family, my happiness and any future or hope."

The statement is his first since the trial began in November 2009. Demjanjuk lay motionless on a stretcher while the statement was read out. Doctors say he is fit to stand trial but have asked for limited hearings.

This is the second time Demjanjuk has appeared in court. Two decades ago, he was sentenced to death in Israel, convicted of being Ivan the Terrible, a notoriously sadistic guard at the Treblinka death camp. But that ruling was overturned after new evidence showed that another Ukrainian was probably responsible.

Indonesia Plane Breaks On Landing

A passenger aircraft carrying more than 100 people crashed on landing in the Indonesian province of Papua today. At least 20 people were injured when the Boeing 737 Merpati Nusantara Airline plane veered off the end of the runway into a river and broke in half.

Officials said heavy rain may have caused the crash but that the pilots had followed safety regulations. Indonesia relies heavily on air travel but has one of the worst aviation safety records in Asia.

Passenger Zainal Hayat, 52, said the plane had flown safely but "just didn't stop" when it touched down.

"It skidded very fast and I felt it hit something twice before it stopped and tumbled down," he said. "All the passengers were in a total panic, some even screamed and cried."

Indonesia's director general of civil aviation said the plane had come to a halt with its tail section in a small river, about 220 yards from the runway.

Herry Bhakti Singayuda told the AFP news agency all 103 passengers and six crew had escaped and the injured had been taken to hospital, some with broken limbs.

Senate Mine Hearing To Eye Enforcement Problems

The Senate plans to explore weaknesses in federal mine safety laws when it convenes the first of a series of hearings this month on the deadly mining disaster in West Virginia.

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin says the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will meet April 27 to look at whether the system encourages mine operators to challenge safety violations and delay penalties.

Harkin, who chairs the committee, said he doesn't expect the initial hearing to explore specific causes of the explosion that killed 29 mine workers.

There is no witness list yet, but it could be the first time that Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is called to testify about the accident at the Upper Big Branch mine his company owns.

President Obama is meeting tomorrow with federal labor and mine safety officials to discuss preliminary data on what may have caused the accident.

Harkin said a future hearing by a panel that oversees the Labor Department budget will look at whether Congress has provided federal mine safety agencies enough money to process appeals. No date has been set for that hearing.

A key question will be how to curb the massive backlog of challenges to mine safety citations that is currently overwhelming the understaffed agency handling enforcement cases, Harkin said. Since 2006, the backlog of cases has jumped from roughly 2,700 cases to more than 16,000 now.

The Upper Big Branch mine was repeatedly cited for problems with its methane ventilation system and for allowing combustible dust to build up in the months leading up to the accident. But Massey filed legal challenges to many of those citations.

By tying up the violations up in legal proceedings for months or years, Massey was able to delay the Mine Safety and Health Administration from using them in determining whether the mine showed a potential pattern of violations.

Blankenship has defended his company's record and disputed accusations from some miners that he puts coal profits ahead of safety.

Police: Nurse Helps At Crash, Is Carjacked

A nurse who left her vehicle at a gas station to help a nearby accident victim was the victim of a carjacking and dragged about 20 yards after she tried to grab the keys, Los Angeles police said Monday.

The nurse, who police didn't identify, was filling up her car at the gas station near the city's Pico-Union neighborhood early Sunday when she saw another car hit a traffic signal pole, which then fell on a pedestrian, Officer Carlos Ortega said.

The Good Samaritan nurse left the keys in her car and ran across the street to help, police said. But Deserie Guzman allegedly hopped in the nurse's car and started the engine.

When the nurse ran back, Guzman allegedly hit the gas, police said. The nurse was dragged until she fell, hit her head on the pavement and blacked out.

"I don't know if she was holding on, trying to turn the car off, or got stuck on the steering wheel and couldn't get loose," Ortega said. "She wasn't clear on that because she was knocked out."

Guzman, 28, sped off toward the freeway, hit another car about a mile away and tried to flee on foot, he said. Two men who saw what happened followed Guzman up an Interstate 10 onramp and offered her a ride, Ortega said.

"They didn't see the first incident and thought she was trying to flee the scene of the accident. So they wanted her to think they're helping her out," he said.

Guzman got in the backseat, he said. The two men tried to take her to a California Highway Patrol station on the freeway, but it was closed. They returned to the scene of the first accident and flagged down police, who arrested Guzman.

Jasen Jack, 27, of Atlanta, who caused the original accident, was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. The pedestrian who was hit with the traffic signal pole died. The nurse suffered minor injuries.

At Least 3 Dead In North Georgia Navy Plane Crash

Navy investigators are expected to arrive Tuesday in north Georgia at the scene of a Navy plane that crashed in dense woods, killing at least three crew members.

Officials say the Florida-based plane just missed a house when it crashed Monday and authorities were looking for a fourth person believed to be aboard.

Naval Air Station Pensacola spokesman Harry White said authorities had not confirmed whether the pilot was among those killed when a T-39N Sabreliner training plane went down. He says no one on the ground was injured.

White says the plane was part of Training Air Wing 6, which conducts routine cross-country missions through Fannin County, where it crashed, about two hours north of Atlanta, on the edge of the North Carolina and Tennessee borders.

Jackie Kennedy Interviews To Be Published

During the first half of 1964, just months after her husband was assassinated, Jacqueline Kennedy sat for seven interviews with historian and family friend Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

Speaking at her home in Washington, D.C., the former first lady discussed her marriage and her White House years, election year campaigning and President Kennedy's thoughts about a second term. The interview is part of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library's Oral History and, at Mrs. Kennedy's request, was kept sealed for an indefinite time. Since the death of Jacqueline Kennedy, in 1994, and son John Kennedy, Jr., in 1999, decisions about the tapes have been handled by daughter Caroline Kennedy.

Now, with the 50th anniversary of her father's inauguration coming next year, Caroline Kennedy is allowing the conversations to come out.

According to two officials familiar with negotiations, Hyperion will issue the transcripts in September 2011 and release 6½ hours of audiotape, providing a new and extended opportunity to hear the famously breathy voice of Jacqueline Kennedy, who never published a memoir, about subjects she rarely discussed in public.

The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the deal. Caroline Kennedy will serve as editor and write an introduction for the book, currently untitled, and a historian, who is yet to be determined, will provide annotation.

Schlesinger, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, died in 2007.

Caroline Kennedy has published several books with Hyperion, including a collection of her mother's favorite poems, and has worked for years with editor Gretchen Young, who acquired the book and audio and electronic rights.

Census: No Evidence Of A Conservative Boycott

Census Bureau director Robert Groves said Monday he is heartened by the high level of participation so far in the 2010 census, with no indications that large numbers of conservatives were only partially filling out the form or boycotting the government count.

Groves noted that perhaps 1 or 2 percent of the 10-question forms returned so far have been incomplete, which is what officials previously anticipated.

Groves' comments, which came at a news conference to urge Americans to mail back their census forms by Friday, seemed to tamp down anecdotal reports in recent weeks that anti-government sentiment might spur a mass boycott among conservatives who consider the census form to be overreaching.

Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and Ron Paul, R-Texas, are among those who have been vocal in expressing their intent to refuse to provide information about anything except the number of people in their household, saying that providing anything more would be an invasion of privacy.

With five days left for people to mail back census forms, about 65 percent, or more than 77 million households, have completed and mailed back their census forms. That number puts the U.S. on track to match or surpass the 2000 mail-back rate of 72 percent. The Midwest leads, while the southern and western U.S. and big cities such as New York, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia are lagging.

Groves said most of the lagging areas are either rural or have dense populations, or have more minority and non-English speaking people. That was also the case in 2000.

He urged those in big cities and border regions to step up their response to avoid visits by census takers.

The Census Bureau is asking people to have their forms postmarked by Friday as it prepares to send more than 600,000 census takers to homes beginning May 1. Homes that have not yet received census forms can call 1-866-872-6868 between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. to submit information by phone or find out where to pick up a form at more than 40,000 help centers around the country.

The Census Bureau has estimated it would save $1.5 billion in follow-up visits if everyone who received a census form mailed it back. The population count, conducted every 10 years, is used to distribute U.S. House seats and more than $400 billion in federal aid.

The highest participation rates are in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan and Nebraska, where return rates range between 71-76 percent. North Carolina and South Carolina, which have participation of 67 percent and 66 percent, have topped their mail-back rate from 2000.

Alaska ranks at the bottom in participation, with 54 percent of households returning their forms. It's followed by New Mexico, Louisiana, West Virginia, New York, Hawaii, Mississippi and Oklahoma, each with rates of less than 60 percent.

Woman Named 'Village Idiot' For Hair Blaze

A woman whose hair caught fire when her hairspray-coated follicles ignited as she lit a cigarette is now a southern Indiana town's reigning "Village Idiot."

Dani Hamm earned the honorary title this month by getting the most votes from regulars at the Story Inn, a restaurant and bar about 15 miles east of Bloomington where she's a bartender.

The title awarded every April comes with a $100 bar tab at the rural inn. Hamm was driving to work in February when she lit up a cigarette and then heard a "whoosh" as her hair ignited.

She wasn't injured because she used her hands to douse her hair, which she had coated with a liberal layer of hairspray.

AP; Reuters; UPI; AFP; BBC; Sky News; WSB; Georgia Radio Network.

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