EarthLink – News
Police stop 4 kids who drove SUV 600 miles down Aussie coast
By ROD McGUIRK | Mon, July 15, 2019 01:56 EDT
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Four children aged 10 to 14 packed fishing rods in a parent’s SUV, left a farewell note then drove more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) down the Australian east coast before they were stopped by police the next day, an officer said on Monday.
When the children were stopped by police near Grafton in New South Wales state at 10:40 p.m. Sunday, they locked the doors and refused to get out, Acting Police Inspector Darren Williams said.
A police officer used a baton to break a window of the Nissan Patrol, that had been reported stolen, Williams said.
Police were not sure which child or children drove or why they left Rockhampton in Queensland state on Saturday. The children are a 14-year-old boy, two 13-year-old boys and a 10-year-old girl.
Williams said they possibly shared the driving.
“It’s a long way, in excess of 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from Rockhampton down to Grafton. I couldn’t imagine one person actually driving all that way in two days,” Williams told reporters.
The children are suspected of failing to pay for gasoline at gas stations in two towns, Williams said.
They were also chased by police in the New South Wales town of Glen Innes, where a 13-year-old was suspected to be driving, Williams said.
“There was a short pursuit up there with the Highway Patrol and due to the age of the driver and the road conditions, that was terminated by the Highway Patrol officers … and the general duties police that were involved,” he said.
The 14-year-old lived in Grafton, which might have been the children’s destination, Williams said.
Police have yet to interview the children because they cannot be questioned without a parent or guardian being present. Williams said they will be charged, but did not list the alleged offenses.
Williams did not know if the children were related or how they knew each other.
He did not know what the children had written in the note that was left in Rockhampton.
Schools are closed in New South Wales for the midyear vacation, while the school vacation ended in Queensland on Monday.
Drivers must be at least 17 years old in Queensland to apply for a license.
EarthLink – News
UK says seized Iranian oil tanker could be released
By AYA BATRAWY | Sun, July 14, 2019 02:21 EDT
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Britain will facilitate the release of a seized Iranian tanker if Iran can provide guarantees the vessel would not breach European sanctions on oil shipments to Syria, Britain’s top diplomat said, as European nations called for new talks to ease tensions in the Persian Gulf.
The comments by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt late Saturday could help de-escalate tensions that have spiked in recent days. In apparent retaliation for the seized tanker, Iranian paramilitary vessels tried to impede the passage of a British oil tanker through the Strait of Hormuz, only turning away after receiving “verbal warnings” from a British navy vessel accompanying the ship, the British government said.
Hunt said he held a “constructive call” with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif and reassured him “our concern was the destination, not the origin, of the oil.” Hunt wrote that Zarif told him Iran is not seeking to escalate.
The Foreign Office elaborated in a statement, saying: “This was about the enforcement of EU Syria sanctions: action was taken because of where the oil was going — a sanctioned Syrian entity — not because it was from Iran.”
On Sunday the leaders of Britain, France and Germany called for an end to “the escalation of tensions” in the region, which come a year after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
Prime Minister Theresa May, President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel said they were “deeply troubled by the attacks we have witnessed in the Persian Gulf and beyond, and by the deterioration of the security in the region.”
They called for talks to end the standoff and “signs of goodwill” from all sides.
Ali Rabiei, an Iranian government spokesman, said British authorities would release the ship because “the tanker’s destination was not what the British announced,” according to state TV. Iranian officials had earlier denied the ship was bound for Syria.
A day earlier, Iran had reiterated its demands that the British navy release the tanker, accusing London of playing a “dangerous game” and threatening retribution.
The tanker’s interception came on the heels of already high tensions in the Persian Gulf as the Trump administration continues its campaign of maximum pressure on Iran.
Since pulling out of the nuclear deal, Trump has re-imposed harsh sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports, exacerbating an economic crisis that has sent its currency plummeting.
The U.S. has also sent thousands of troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Middle East in recent weeks.
Iran recently begun surpassing uranium enrichment limits set in its 2015 nuclear deal, saying these moves can be reversed if the other parties to the agreement — Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia and the European Union — come up with enough economic incentives to effectively offset the U.S. sanctions.
The Iranian supertanker, carrying 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, was seized with the help of British Royal Marines earlier this month off Gibraltar, a British overseas territory at the southern tip of Spain.
Hunt told reporters on Saturday that he told Zarif if the U.K. could receive sufficient guarantees that that tanker was not headed for Syria “then we would be able to resolve the situation following of course, due process in the Gibraltar courts.”
In recent days, Hunt has called for “cool heads” to prevail to ensure there is no “unintended escalation.”
The U.K., meanwhile, is accelerating the dispatch of the HMS Duncan to relieve the HMS Montrose, the frigate operating in the Persian Gulf that warned away the Iranian vessels. The HMS Duncan, a destroyer, is larger than the HMS Montrose.
Police in Gibraltar said Friday they arrested four crewmen of the Iranian ship, including its captain and chief officer. All are Indian nationals.
A senior Spanish official had said the interception was carried out at the request of the United States, but later Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told parliament no other government had asked the territory to act.
Associated Press writers Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran and Jill Lawless in London contributed.
EarthLink – News
Weakened Barry still poses flood, tornado risks
By REBECCA SANTANA and JONATHAN DREW | Mon, July 15, 2019 02:08 EDT
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Even though Tropical Depression Barry did not unleash catastrophic flooding in Louisiana, many across the Gulf Coast were urged to take heed of tornado and flash-flood warnings Monday as the storm moved north.
Barry was downgraded from a tropical storm on Sunday afternoon but continued to pose a threat. Much of Louisiana and Mississippi were under flash-flood watches, as were parts of Arkansas, eastern Texas, western Tennessee and southeastern Missouri.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards urged residents to be cautious as they ventured outside after a weekend in which many had sheltered indoors.
He said he was “extremely grateful” that the storm had not caused the disastrous floods that had earlier been forecast. More than 90 people had been rescued in 11 parishes, but there were no reports of weather-related fatalities, Edwards said.
“This was a storm that obviously could have played out very, very differently,” he said. “We’re thankful that the worst-case scenario did not happen.”
Forecasters warned of a continued threat of heavy rains into Monday as the center of the storm trudged inland. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Sunday parts of south-central Louisiana could still have rainfall totals of up to 12 inches (30 centimeters), with isolated pockets of 15 inches (38 centimeters).
In Mississippi, forecasters said 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain had fallen in parts of Jasper and Jones counties, with several more inches possible.
Barry’s center was moving from northern Louisiana into Arkansas.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Sunday the city was “beyond lucky” that rainfall there fell well short of early predictions of a deluge that could overwhelm the city’s pumping systems.
“We were spared,” she said at a news conference, while noting the city was ready to help nearby parishes hit harder.
About 51,000 customers in Louisiana, 1,800 customers in Mississippi and another 1,700 customers in Arkansas were without power Sunday night, according to poweroutage.us.
Edwards thanked the public for taking officials’ warnings seriously over the weekend, but he also reminded residents that it is still relatively early in the Atlantic’s hurricane season.
“Based on what we’ve experienced, I think (we will be) even better prepared for next time — and we do know that there will be a next time,” Edwards said.
Drew reported from Raleigh, North Carolina. Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Kevin McGill in New Orleans; Jay Reeves in Mandeville; Rogelio Solis in Morgan City; Jeff Martin in Atlanta; and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina.
For the latest on Tropical Storm Barry, visit https://apnews.com/Hurricanes .
EarthLink – News
Russia launches major new telescope into space after delays
By MATTHEW BODNER | Sat, July 13, 2019 12:19 EDT
MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian Proton-M rocket successfully delivered a cutting-edge space telescope into orbit Saturday after days of launch delays, Russia’s space agency said.
Roscosmos said the telescope, named Spektr-RG, was delivered into a parking orbit before a final burn Saturday that kicked the spacecraft out of Earth’s orbit and on to its final destination: the L2 Lagrange point.
Lagrange points are unique positions in the solar system where objects can maintain their position relative to the sun and the planets that orbit it. Located 1.5 million kilometers (0.93 million miles) from Earth, L2 is particularly ideal for telescopes such as Spektr-RG.
If all goes well, the telescope will arrive at its designated position in three months, becoming the first Russian spacecraft to operate beyond Earth’s orbit since the Soviet era. The telescope aims to conduct a complete x-ray survey of the sky by 2025, the first space telescope to do so.
The Russian accomplishment comes as the U.S. space agency NASA celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969.
Russian space science missions have suffered greatly since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Budget cuts have forced the Russian space program to shift toward more commercial efforts.
A Russian Mars probe, called Mars 96, failed to leave Earth’s orbit in 1996. A later attempt to send a probe to Mars, called Fobos-Grunt, suffered a similar fate in 2011.
Work on Spektr-RG telescope began in the 1980s but was scrapped in the 1990s. Spektr-RG was revived in 2005 and redesigned to be smaller, simpler and cheaper.
In its modern form, the project is a close collaboration between Russian and German scientists, who both installed telescope equipment aboard the Russian spacecraft.
EarthLink – News
Louisiana faces triple threat of storm surge, river, rain
By REBECCA SANTANA | Sat, July 13, 2019 07:09 EDT
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — When it comes to water, New Orleans faces three threats: the sea, the sky and the river.
Tropical storms and hurricanes send storm surges pushing up against the city’s outer defenses. That’s what happened in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina’s surge caused widespread levee failures and left 80% of the city under water.
The massive rainfall from Tropical Storm Barry will have to be pumped out, taxing the city’s ancient and historically underfunded drainage system. And the Mississippi River, which drains most of the water that falls in a vast section of the United States and even parts of Canada, is held in check by tall levees.
Here’s a look at the defenses that protect the New Orleans area and risks that remain:
After Hurricane Katrina, billions of dollars were spent to improve the system of levees, pumps and other infrastructure that protects the city from storms coming up from the Gulf. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked to raise levees several feet, install new stronger floodwalls at critical places and strengthen almost every section of the 130-mile (210-kilometer) perimeter that protects the greater New Orleans area. The system is built to hold out storm surge of about 30 feet (9 meters) where the city’s boundaries meet the swamps and lakes near the Gulf of Mexico.
The post-2005 improvements include several massive floodgates that are shut when a storm approaches. In particular, a new surge barrier and gate that closes off the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal near the Lower 9th Ward has reduced the risk of flooding in an area long viewed as the city’s Achilles’ heel.
But experts note that the system was built to protect against what experts once estimated would be a 100-year level of storm surge — a surge that has a 1% chance of happening any given year. With rising seas from climate change and subsidence in Louisiana’s coast, there’s concern that these killer surges will hit more frequently.
Tropical Storm Barry’s rainfall is a particular problem for the low-lying city. Rainwater is pumped out through a century-old system of canals, drainage pipes and pumps — all suffering from decades of neglect, laid bare during a particularly bad August 2017 deluge that dropped as much as 9 inches (23 centimeters) in three hours.
Since then, the city’s Sewerage and Water Board, one of the key agencies responsible for drainage, has poured tens of millions of dollars into generating power to make sure there’s enough electricity to keep pumps working. And they’ve improved systems to allow operators to see in real-time how the pumps and turbines are operating. The city also has moved to clean out catch basins to make sure water flow isn’t impeded.
Ahead of Barry, officials said 118 of the city’s 120 drainage and constant-duty pumps are available. That includes major drainage pumps able to move 1,000 cubic feet (29 cubic meters) of water per second.
But officials also have cautioned that the system can’t prevent all flooding. An intense rainstorm or a slow-moving hurricane that sits over the city could overpower it. They’ve also emphasized the need to do more things such as ripping up concrete, and building water retention ponds and underground cisterns. These so-called “green” infrastructure projects are designed to let rainwater seep slowly underground instead of pumping it out.
The New Orleans area is protected from the mighty Mississippi River by levees that started going up right around the time of the city’s first settlers three centuries ago. Reinforced and strengthened over the years, they are now about 20 feet to 25 feet (6 to 7 meters) high, and are regularly inspected for seepage or other indications that the structural integrity is compromised.
The levees have never been overtopped in the city’s modern-day history, but the river remains swollen by months of rain across the Midwest, and its flows will push against a storm surge flowing upstream from the Gulf of Mexico.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said this would be the first time a hurricane made landfall in Louisiana when the Mississippi River was already at flood stage.
The river had been expected to crest at the same height as the lowest parts of the levees, but a positive forecast Friday night showed the river cresting slightly lower, raising hopes that the water will be contained.
Information from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, City of New Orleans, and Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans and The Associated Press.
For the latest on Barry, visit https://apnews.com/Hurricanes