Category Archives: Disasters

America Is On The Same Glide Path As The Fatal Germanwings Flight

America Is On The Same Glide Path As The Fatal Germanwings Flight

Germanwing airplane plane

The pilot was locked out of the cockpit. That phrase finally revealed the full horror of the crash of Germanwings flight 9525.

Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz waited for the pilot to leave the cockpit then locked the door to prevent his re-entry. After which Lubitz, for reasons unknown and perhaps unknowable, deliberately steered the jet into a harrowing 8-minute plunge, ending in an explosive 434 mph impact with a rocky mountainside. One hundred fifty men, women and children met an immediate, unthinkably violent death.

Lubitz, in his single-minded madness, couldn’t be stopped because anyone who could change the jet’s disastrous course was locked out.

It’s hard to imagine the growing feelings of fear and helplessness that the passengers felt as the unforgiving landscape rushed up to meet them. Hard, but not impossible.

ISIS Tweet: We Are Coming to America
ISIS Tweet: We Are Coming to America

America is in very deep trouble and we feel the descent in the pits of our stomachs. We hear the shake and rattle of structures stressed beyond their limits. We don’t know where we’re going anymore, but do know it isn’t good. And above all, we feel helpless because Barack Obama has locked us out.

He locked the American people out of his decision to seize the national healthcare system.

He locked us out when we wanted to know why the IRS was attacking conservatives.

He locked us out of having a say in his decision to tear up our immigration laws and to give over a trillion dollars in benefits to those who broke those laws.

Obama locked out those who advised against premature troop withdrawals. He locked out the intelligence agencies who issued warnings about the growing threat of ISIS.

He locked out anyone who could have interfered with his release of five Taliban terror chiefs in return for one U.S. Military deserter.

And, of course, Barack Obama has now locked out Congress, the American people, and our allies as he strikes a secret deal with Iran to determine the timeline (not prevention) of their acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Was Andreas Lubitz depressed, insane, or abysmally evil when he decided to lock that cockpit door and listen to no voices other than those in his head? Did he somehow believe himself to be doing the right thing? The voice recordings from the doomed aircraft reveal that as the jet began its rapid descent, the passengers were quiet. There was probably some nervous laughter, confusion, a bit of comforting chatter with seat mates, followed by a brief period in which anxiety had not yet metastasized into terror. It was only near the end of the 8-minute plunge that everyone finally understood what was really happening. Only near the end when they began to scream.

Like those passengers, a growing number of Americans feel a helpless dread as they come to the inescapable conclusion that our nation’s decline is an act of choice rather than of chance.

The choice of one man who is in full control of our 8-year plunge. I wonder when America will begin to scream.

Dr. RICHARD S. WELLS

More than 2,200 confirmed dead in Nepal earthquake

More than 2,200 confirmed dead in Nepal earthquake

By BINAJ GURUBACHARYA and KATY DAIGLE

Sunday, making buildings sway and sending panicked Kathmandu residents running into the streets a day after a massive earthquake left more than 2,200 people dead.

The cawing of crows mixed with terrified screams as the magnitude 6.7 aftershock pummeled the capital city early Sunday afternoon. It came as planeloads of supplies, doctors and relief workers from neighboring countries began arriving in this poor Himalayan nation.

“The aftershocks keep coming … so people don’t know what to expect,” said Sanjay Karki, Nepal country head for global aid agency Mercy Corps. “All the open spaces in Kathmandu are packed with people who are camping outdoors. When the aftershocks come you cannot imagine the fear. You can hear women and children crying.”

Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake spread horror from Kathmandu to small villages and to the slopes of Mount Everest, triggering an avalanche that buried part of the base camp packed with foreign climbers preparing to make their summit attempts. At least 17 people died there and 61 were injured.

The earthquake centered outside Kathmandu, the capital, was the worst to hit the South Asian nation in over 80 years. It destroyed swaths of the oldest neighborhoods of Kathmandu, and was strong enough to be felt all across parts of India, Bangladesh, China’s region of Tibet and Pakistan. By Sunday afternoon, authorities said at least 2,169 people had died in Nepal alone, with 61 more deaths in India and a few in other neighboring countries.

At least 721 of them died in Kathmandu alone, and the number of injured nationwide was upward of 5,000. With search and rescue efforts far from over, it was unclear how much the death toll would rise.But outside of the oldest neighborhoods, many in Kathmandu were surprised by how few modern structures — the city is largely a collection of small, poorly constructed brick apartment buildings — collapsed in the quake. While aid workers cautioned that many buildings could have sustained serious structural damage, it was also clear that the death toll would have been far higher had more buildings caved in.

On a flight into Kathmandu on Sunday morning, an AP correspondent was unable to spot any collapsed buildings.

Aid workers also warned that the situation could be far worse near the epicenter. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered near Lamjung, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Kathmandu, in the Gorkha district.

Roads to that area were blocked by landslides, hindering rescue teams, said chief district official Prakash Subedi. Teams were trekking through mountain trails to reach remote villages, and helicopters would also be deployed, he said by telephone.

The aid group World Vision said in a statement that remote mountain communities, including in Gorkha, were totally unprepared for the level of destruction caused by the earthquake.

Villages near the epicenter “are literally perched on the sides of large mountain faces and are made from simple stone and rock construction. Many of these villages are only accessible by 4WD and then foot, with some villages hours and even entire days’ walks away from main roads at the best of times,” the group’s local staff member, Matt Darvas, said in the statement.

He said he was hearing that many of the villages may have been completely buried by rock falls.

“It will likely be helicopter access only for these remote villages,” he said.

Nepal’s worst recorded earthquake in 1934 measured 8.0 and all but destroyed the cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan.

With people fearing more quakes, tens of thousands of Nepalese spent Saturday night outside under chilly skies, or in cars and public buses. They were jolted awake by strong aftershocks early Sunday.”There were at least three big quakes at night and early morning. How can we feel safe? This is never-ending and everyone is scared and worried,” said Kathmandu resident Sundar Sah. “I hardly got much sleep. I was waking up every few hours and glad that I was alive.”

As day broke, rescuers aided by international teams set out to dig through rubble of buildings — concrete slabs, bricks, iron beams, wood — to look for survivors.

In the Kalanki neighborhood of Kathmandu, police rescuers finally extricated a man lying under a dead person, both of them buried beneath a pile of concrete slabs and iron beams. Before his rescue, his family members stood nearby, crying and praying. Police said the man’s legs and hips were totally crushed.

Hundreds of people in Kalanki gathered around the collapsed Lumbini Guest House, once a three-story budget hotel and restaurant frequented by Nepalese. They watched with fear and anticipation as a single backhoe dug into the rubble.

Police officer RP Dhamala, who was coordinating the rescue efforts, said they had already pulled out 12 people alive and six dead. He said rescuers were still searching for about 20 people believed to be trapped, but had heard no cries, taps or noises for a while.Most areas were without power and water.

The United Nations said hospitals in the Kathmandu Valley were overcrowded, and running out of emergency supplies and space to store corpses. Plumes of smoke, meanwhile, rose above the capital as friends, relatives and others gathered by the river to quickly cremate loved ones’ remains.

Most shops in Kathmandu were shut; only fruit vendors and pharmacies seemed to be doing business. Karki, of Mercy Corps, said there were long lines outside pharmacies because people fear they will run out of medicine.

Fruit seller Shyam Jaiswal vowed not to raise prices, though stocks were fast running out.

“This is all we will have for awhile. We don’t expect any more shipments for at least a week. More people are coming now. They cannot cook so they need to buy something they can eat raw. We try to help everyone. But we are not raising prices. That would be illegal, immoral profit. That would be wrong,” Jaiswal said.

The quake will likely put a huge strain on the resources of this impoverished country best known for Everest, the highest mountain in the world. The economy of Nepal, a nation of 27.8 million people, relies heavily on tourism, principally trekking and Himalayan mountain climbing.

With Kathmandu airport reopened, the first aid flights began delivering aid supplies. The first to respond were Nepal’s neighbors — India, China and Pakistan, all of which have been jockeying for influence over the landlocked nation. Still, Nepal remains closest to India with which it shares deep political, cultural and religious ties.

Indian air force planes landed Sunday with 43 tons of relief material, including tents and food, and nearly 200 rescuers, India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said. The planes were returning to New Delhi with Indian nationals stranded in Kathmandu. More aid flights were planned for Sunday.

India suffered its own losses from the quake, with at least 61 people killed there and dozens injured. Sunday’s aftershock was also widely felt in the country, and local news reports said metro trains in New Delhi and Kolkata were briefly shut down when the shaking started.

A 62-member Chinese search and rescue team also arrived Sunday. Other countries sending support Sunday included the United Arab Emirates, Germany and France.

An elderly injured woman is taken home through earthquake debris after treatment.

Pakistan prepared to send four C-130 aircraft, carrying a 30-bed temporary hospital comprising army doctors, surgeons and specialists. An urban search and rescue team was also sent with ground-penetrating radars, concrete cutters and sniffing dogs. Pakistan was also sending 2,000 ready-to-eat meal packs, water bottles, medicines, 200 tents, 600 blankets and other necessary items.

When the earth first shook, residents fled homes and buildings in panic as walls tumbled, trees swayed, power lines came crashing down and large cracks opened up on streets. After the chaos of Saturday — when little organized rescue and relief was seen — there was more order on Sunday as rescue teams fanned out across the city.

Workers were sending out tents and relief goods in trucks and helicopters, said disaster management official Rameshwar Dangal. He said government and private schools have been turned into shelters.

Mukesh Kafle, the head of the Nepal Electricity Authority, said power has been restored fully to main government offices, the airport and hospitals.

Among the destroyed buildings in Kathmandu was the nine-story Dharahara Tower, a Kathmandu landmark built by Nepal’s royal rulers as a watchtower in the 1800s and a UNESCO-recognized historical monument. It was reduced to rubble and there were reports of people trapped underneath.

The Kathmandu Valley is listed as a World Heritage site. The Buddhist stupas, public squares and Hindu temples are some of the most well-known sites in Kathmandu, and now some of the most deeply mourned.

The head of the U.N. cultural agency, Irina Bokova, said in a statement that UNESCO was ready to help Nepal rebuild from “extensive damage, including to historic monuments and buildings of the Kathmandu Valley.”

Nepali journalist and author Shiwani Neupane tweeted: “The sadness is sinking in. We have lost our temples, our history, the places we grew up.”

39,000 illegal immigrant kids coming to U.S.

39,000 illegal immigrant kids coming to U.S.

By VÍCTOR MANUEL RAMOS  victor.ramos@newsday.com

border illegal immigration immigrants children crossing

Many of the children coming from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala likely will be resettled where there are established Central American communities, such as Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk counties, said Marc Rosenblum, the report’s author.

“They are coming from similar communities and are headed to similar communities,” said Rosenblum, deputy director of the institute’s U.S. Immigration Policy Program. “The local impact is that whatever challenges school districts and local health care systems are under already are likely to increase.”

The second wave of immigrants, as some are calling it, is expected even as localities and school systems struggle to absorb about 53,500 children who arrived in the last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, 2014. Those minors continue to move through a multistep immigration court process to decide whether they can stay or are to be deported.

More than 3,000 of those minors moved in with relatives or sponsors on Long Island, making the region one of the top places in the nation to receive the children.

Some Long Island school districts saw enrollment spikes from the recent arrivals and felt pressured to give them needed classroom instruction and other educational services. At the same time, immigrant advocates and other groups, including New York Communities for Change and the Long Island chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, mobilized to protect the children’s rights.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said Wednesday that he and Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) will reintroduce a proposal to send emergency funding to school districts that are receiving the young immigrants. The two co-sponsored a bill that stalled last year.

“Because of a failed federal policy, financial responsibility must fall on the federal government and not the Long Island taxpayer,” King said in a statement.

Israel Wednesday called the bill to reimburse schools “common-sense, bipartisan legislation to provide emergency relief.”

So far this fiscal year, 12,065 unaccompanied minors have been referred for resettlement by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said a spokesman for the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, which shelters the children until they are released to relatives or sponsors. About 620 of those had come to Long Island and New York City as of February — 178 in Suffolk and 113 in Nassau.

In addition to unaccompanied minors, children also arrive in the United States with their mothers or other relatives, a trend that is expected to continue. Those children are counted separately in federal statistics as being part of family units.

Victoria Campos, an immigration attorney with offices in Huntington Station, Bay Shore and Riverhead, said she has about 25 newcomers among her clients, but most of her cases are from 2013 and 2014. She has seen a decline recently, noting there is a months long lag until attorneys see new cases.

“I tend to agree that there is going to be a second wave,” said Campos, adding that “a lot of the minors that have come are here because something traumatic has happened in their lives,” and conditions in their countries haven’t improved in the past year.

They are fleeing a host of ills, including high crime, gang violence and poverty in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Cities in those countries have some of the highest murder rates in the world.

The recent surges in border crossings have been felt more acutely where there were established immigrant populations.

The Hempstead school district became the focus of investigations by the state attorney general’s office and the State Education Department after advocates complained that newly arrived children were turned away from school last fall.

There are larger concerns for the region’s affected school systems, now in the midst of figuring out budget plans for the 2015-16 school year.

border illegal immigration immigrants children crossing gang ms13

The US’s ‘open border’ policy has allows numerous ‘children’ into our country who while technically are children under the age of 18, are part of the extremely violent gang MS13 plus part of many drug cartels.  Many Americans will be victimized and killed because of Mr. Obama’s blatant disregard for securing our border.

Illegal immigrant children surge across border at highest rate since last summer’s peak

Illegal immigrant children surge across border at highest rate since last summer’s peak

illegal alien children border

The second wave of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children has begun, with more than 3,000 of them surging across the Mexican border into the U.S. last month — the highest rate since the peak of last summer’s crisis and a warning that another rough season could be ahead.

Immigration officials warned that they expected another surge as the weather improved. Although the numbers are down some 40 percent compared with last year’s frenetic pace that sparked a political crisis for the Obama administration, fiscal year 2015 is shaping up to mark the second-biggest surge on record.

Authorities report having captured 15,647 children traveling without parents who tried to jump the border in the first six months of the fiscal year. Through this point in 2014, they had apprehended 28,579.

Just as worrisome is the rate of whole families — usually mothers with young children — who are crossing. So far this fiscal year, authorities have captured 13,911 “family units,” down 30 percent from last year.

“These statistics show that the surge of illegal arrivals from Central America was never really over,” said Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the Center for Immigration Studies.

She said the Obama administration and Congress have not taken steps to end the “pull factors.”

Among those is the policy that requires children from Central America to be released into the U.S. rather than quickly returned to their home countries. Once released, those children usually fail to appear for deportation proceedings.

The Congressional Research Service told Congress in late March that 62 percent of the children failed to show up for their cases before immigration judges from July through February. All of them were ordered deported, but the workload of officials made deportation unlikely in most cases.

The Obama administration last year initially blamed bad economies and growing gang violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala for sparking the surge, but later acknowledged that human traffickers were marketing the journey by pointing out a loophole in U.S. immigration system that requires non-Mexican children to be released into the U.S. while they await final immigration decisions. That gives them a chance to abscond and disappear into the shadows with the more than 11 million other illegal immigrants in the country.

“Those are pretty bad outcomes for immigration hearings,” Ms. Vaughan said. “Lots of no-shows and few people getting relief. These statistics show that the administration’s response has been a failure.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency that oversees the Border Patrol, didn’t return a message for comment Monday, but Homeland Security spokeswoman Marsha Catron said the Obama administration has poured manpower and resources into trying to secure the border and vowed to update plans “to ensure we are as prepared as possible for any potential scenario.”

She said agencies now have more detention beds to hold families, which means they can be deported at a faster pace. She also pointed to a new program that will allow Central American children to apply from their home countries to join their parents in the U.S., including those who are gaining tentative legal status under Mr. Obama’s deportation amnesty.

“We will remain vigilant and continue working aggressively to address underlying causes of unlawful migration,” Ms. Catron said.

Analysts have been debating what other steps are needed to stem another surge this year.  Really? It’s that complicated?  Secure the border!  Stop offering any government handouts!

Fukushima radiation has reached North American shores

Fukushima radiation has reached North American shores

by Tracy Loew, Statesman Journal

nuclear radiation exposure reactor

Seaborne radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster has reached North America.

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution detected small amounts of cesium-134 and cesium-137 in a sample of seawater taken in February from a dock on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

It’s the first time radioactivity from the March 2011 triple meltdown has been identified on West Coast shores.

Woods Hole chemical oceanographer Ken Buesseler emphasized that the radiation is at very low levels that aren’t expected to harm human health or the environment.

“Even if the levels were twice as high, you could still swim in the ocean for six hours every day for a year and receive a dose more than a thousand times less than a single dental X-ray,” Buesseler said. “While that’s not zero, that’s a very low risk.”

Massive amounts of contaminated water were released from the crippled nuclear plant following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami. More radiation was released to the air, then fell to the sea.

Frustrated by the absence of monitoring by U.S. federal agencies, Buesseler last year launched a crowd-funded, citizen-science seawater sampling project.

He’s tracked the radiation plume across 5,000 miles of the Pacific Ocean, using highly sensitive, expensive equipment at his Cape Cod, Massachusetts, laboratory. There, he analyzes samples sent to him by West Coast volunteers and scientists aboard research cruises.

In October, he reported that a sample taken about 745 miles west of Vancouver, British Columbia, tested positive for cesium-134, the so-called fingerprint of Fukushima because it can only have come from that plant.

It also showed higher-than-background levels of cesium-137, another Fukushima isotope that already is present in the world’s oceans because of nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s.

In November, Buesseler reported that Fukushima radiation had been identified in 10 offshore samples, including one 100 miles off the coast of Eureka, California.

The Vancouver Island sample was taken Feb. 19 from a dock in Ucluelet, a working harbor community in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

It contained 1.5 becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3) of cesium-134, the Fukushima fingerprint, and 5 Bq/m3 of cesium-137. A becquerel is a basic unit of radioactivity.

That compares to 50 million Bq/m3 of the isotopes near Japan just after the meltdown and about 1,000 Bq/m3 near Japan now, Buesseler said.

Scientific models have predicted that in general, the plume would hit the shore in the north first, then head south toward California.

That may be difficult to document, however, because Buesseler’s sampling is not regular or systematic and depends on volunteer fundraising.

In Oregon, particularly, there have been only four sampling sites, and only one still is active.

And ocean currents can be unpredictable.

“We expect more of the sites will show detectable levels of cesium-134 in coming months, but ocean currents and exchange between offshore and coastal waters is quite complex,” Buesseler said. “Predicting the spread of radiation becomes more complex the closer it gets to the coast, and we need the public’s help to continue this sampling network.”

Buesseler’s group has recently teamed with a similar, Canadian-funded program called InFORM, led by Jay Cullen at the University of Victoria, Canada. It will add about a dozen monitoring stations along the coast of British Columbia.

Cruises with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, will add about 10 new sampling sites offshore.

And Woods Hole has received support from the National Science Foundation to analyze about 250 seawater samples that will be collected next month on a research ship traveling between Hawaii and the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.

tloew@statesmanjournal.com, (503) 399-6779 or follow at Twitter.com/SJWatchdog

To learn more about the radiation monitoring project, visit www.ourradioactiveocean.org. The most recent seawater sampling results will be posted on the site by midday Monday, April 6.

Outline of Iran Nuclear Deal Sounds Different From Each Side

Outline of Iran Nuclear Deal Sounds Different From Each Side

By

Secretary of State John Kerry, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and Federica Mogherini of the European Union. CreditFabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Negotiators at the nuclear talks in Switzerland emerged from marathon talks on Thursday with a surprisingly detailed outline of the agreement they now must work to finalize by the end of June.

But one problem is that there are two versions.

The only joint document issued publicly was a statement from Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, and Federica Mogherini, the European Union foreign policy chief, that was all of seven paragraphs.

The statement listed about a dozen “parameters” that are to guide the next three months of talks, including the commitment that Iran’s Natanz installation will be the only location at which uranium is enriched during the life of the agreement.

But the United States and Iran have also made public more detailed accounts of their agreements in Lausanne, and those accounts underscore their expectations for what the final accord should say.

A careful review shows that there is considerable overlap between the two accounts, but also some noteworthy differences — which have raised the question of whether the two sides are entirely on the same page, especially on the question of how quickly sanctions are to be removed.

The American and Iranian statements also do not clarify some critical issues, such as precisely what sort of research Iran will be allowed to undertake on advanced centrifuges during the first 10 years of the accord.

“This is just a work in progress, and those differences in fact sheets indicate the challenges ahead,” said Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Obama administration officials insist that there is no dispute on what was agreed behind closed doors. But to avoid time-consuming deliberations on what would be said publicly, the two sides decided during Wednesday’s all-night discussions that each would issue its own statement.

American officials acknowledge that they did not inform the Iranians in advance of all the “parameters” the United States would make public in an effort to lock in progress made so far, as well as to strengthen the White House’s case against any move by members of Congress to impose more sanctions against Iran.

“We talked to them and told them that we would have to say some things,” said a senior administration official who could not be identified under the protocol for briefing reporters. “We didn’t show them the paper. We didn’t show them the whole list.”

The official acknowledged that it was “understood that we had different narratives, but we wouldn’t contradict each other.”

No sooner were the negotiations over on Thursday, however, than Mr. Zarif posted to Twitter a message that dismissed the five-page set of American parameters as “spin.”

In an appearance on Iranian state television Saturday, Mr. Zarif kept up that refrain, saying that Iran had formally complained to Secretary of State John Kerry that the measures listed in the American statement were “in contradiction” to what had actually been accepted in Lausanne.

Mr. Zarif, however, did not challenge any nuclear provisions in the American document. Instead, he complained that the paper had been drawn up under Israeli and congressional pressure, and he restated Iran’s insistence on fast sanctions relief, including the need to “terminate,” not just suspend, European Union sanctions.

David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security and an expert who has closely monitored the nuclear talks, said that Mr. Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran may be engaged in their own spin to camouflage the significance of the concessions they made.

“Iran conceded a considerable amount in this deal, and Zarif and Rouhani may want to break the news back home slowly,” Mr. Albright said.

Assuming that was the Iranians’ motivation, Mr. Albright noted a potential downside to the tactics.

“When negotiations resume, Iran may believe it created additional room to backtrack on its commitments, assuming the U.S. is right about what was agreed in the room,” he added.

A review of the dueling American and Iranian statements show that they differ in some important respects. The American statement says that Iran has agreed to shrink its stockpile of uranium to 300 kilograms, a commitment the Iranian statement does not mention.

The Iranian statement emphasizes that nuclear cooperation between Iran and the six world powers that negotiated the agreement will grow, including in the construction of nuclear power plants, research reactors and the use of isotopes for medical research. That potential cooperation is not mentioned in the American statement.

The American statement says that Iran will be barred from using its advanced centrifuges to produce uranium for at least 10 years. Before those 10 years are up, Iran will be able to conduct some “limited” research on the centrifuges. The Iranian version omits the word “limited.”

In other cases, the two sides agree on some measures, but explain the implications very differently. In an important compromise, Iran will be allowed to convert its Fordo underground nuclear installation to a science and technology center.

In explaining this provision, the American statement notes that almost two-thirds of the centrifuges at Fordo will be removed and that none of those that remain will be used to enrich uranium for 15 years. The provision, Obama administration officials assert, carries no serious risk for the United States but will enable the Iranians to save face.

The Iranian statement stresses that the deal means that more than 1,000 of the centrifuges will be kept there, though it suggests only several hundred will be in operation to produce industrial or medical isotopes. As reported by Iranian journalists, Abbas Araqchi, the country’s deputy foreign minister, said that the modifications made at the Fordo installation could be rapidly reversed if the United States did not hold up its end of the deal.

The starkest differences between the American and Iranians accounts concern the pace at which punishing economic sanctions against Iran are to be removed. The Iranian text says that when the agreement is implemented, the sanctions will “immediately” be canceled.

American officials have described sanctions relief as more of a step-by-step process tied to Iranian efforts to carry out the accord.

“We fully expected them to emphasize things that are helpful in terms of selling this at home,” said a second Obama administration official, who was granted anonymity to discuss the deliberations. “We believe that everything in our document will not need to be renegotiated.”

But with three months of hard bargaining ahead, some experts worry that the lack of an agreed-upon, detailed public framework can only complicate the negotiations — and may even invite the Iranians to try to relitigate the terms of the Lausanne deal.

“I think it is a troubling development,” said Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who has been critical of the Obama administration’s handling of the talks. “They will exploit all ambiguities with creative interpretations.”

French investigators: Co-pilot accelerated plane on descent

French investigators: Co-pilot accelerated plane on descent

By The Associated Press

Germanwing plane crash airplane

PARIS (AP) — The co-pilot of the doomed Germanwings flight repeatedly sped up the plane as he used the automatic pilot to descend the A320 into the Alps, the French air accident investigation agency said Friday.

The chilling new detail from the BEA agency is based on an initial reading of the plane’s “black box” data recorder, found blackened and buried at the crash site Thursday.

It strengthens investigators’ initial suspicions that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz intentionally destroyed the plane — though prosecutors are still trying to figure out why. All 150 people aboard Flight 9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf were killed in the March 24 crash.

The BEA said the preliminary reading of the data recorder shows that the pilot used the automatic pilot to put the plane into a descent and then repeatedly during the descent adjusted the automatic pilot to speed up the plane.

The agency says it will continue studying the black box for more complete details of what happened. The Flight Data Recorder records aircraft parameters such as the speed, altitude, and actions of the pilot on the commands.

Based on recordings from the plane’s other black box, the cockpit voice recorder, investigators say Lubitz locked the pilot out of the cockpit and deliberately crashed.

Lubitz spent time online researching suicide methods and cockpit door security in the week before crashing Flight 9525, prosecutors said Thursday — the first evidence that the fatal descent may have been a premeditated act.

German prosecutors have said Lubitz’s medical records from before he received his pilot’s license referred to “suicidal tendencies,” and Lufthansa, Germanwings’ parent company, said it knew six years ago that Lubitz had had an episode of “severe depression” before he finished his flight training.

In Marseille, prosecutor Brice Robin said that his investigation focuses on France for now, but he has filed a formal request for judicial cooperation from Germany that could expand the scope of his probe.

Robin underlined French investigators’ conviction that he was conscious until the moment of impact, and appears to have acted repeatedly to stop an excessive speed alarm from sounding.

“It’s a voluntary action that guided this plane toward the mountain, not only losing altitude but correcting the aircraft’s speed,” he said Thursday.

The mountain rescue officer who found the data recorder, Alice Coldefy, described Friday the unexpected discovery in a spot that had already been repeatedly searched.

“I found a pile of clothes, we were searching it, we were moving them downhill and while doing this I discovered a box. The color of the box was the same as the gravel, of the black gravel, that is everywhere at the crash site,” she told reporters in Seyne-les-Alpes.

So-called black boxes are actually orange, but this one had burned up in the crash and blended with the dark earth covering the area, known to local guides as “the black lands.”

“I didn’t realize I had found it and I wasn’t thinking it was possible to find it among all this debris,” she said.

Mountain officers and trained dogs are continuing to search the site. When the terrain is fully cleared of body parts and belongings, a private company will take out the large airplane debris.

By 2030 It Could be Michiganistan

By 2030 It Could be Michiganistan

“It couldn’t happen here” is the attitude, but Islamic fundamentalism may become more prevalent in the U.S. in coming years

The Muslim population of the United States is set to increase from around 2.6 million today to 6.2 million in 2030, mainly as a result of immigration.

Islam Dominate World Muslim terrorist

Since the massacre at the offices of the French satirical magazineCharlie Hebdo in January, the U.S. media has understandably devoted attention to the problem of radical Islam in Europe. The fact has been widely reported that thousands of European Union citizens have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join the self-styled Islamic State.  Almost as much coverage has been given to stories of French Jews emigrating to Israel.

Obama Muslim dressed like Islam supportsAnd there have been numerous articles about Michel Houellebecq’s diabolically timed novel Soumission, which imagines France in 2022 with a Muslim president introducing sharia law and being fawned over by the Parisian establishment.

The implication of many of these articles is: “How utterly terrifying. Thank heavens it couldn’t happen here.”

Mainly as a result of postwar migrations, there are now more than 20 million Muslims living in the European Union. In France – where accurate census data on religious affiliation are not collected – the Muslim share of the population is now estimated at between 7 and 8 percent. That is an order of magnitude larger than the current Muslim share of the U.S. population.

Yet, as the European experience shows, demographic change can happen rapidly, as a consequence of migration patterns, differentials in birth rates and – in the case of religious affiliation – rates of conversion and apostasy. In 1990 Europe (the whole continent minus Russia) had a Muslim population of 16 million. It had nearly doubled by 2010. It will be 40 million by 2030.

According to estimates by the Pew Research Center, the Muslim population of the United States is set to increase from around 2.6 million today to 6.2 million in 2030, mainly as a result of immigration, as well as above-average birth rates.

Although in relative terms this will still represent less than 2 percent of the total U.S. population (1.7 percent, to be precise, compared with around 0.8 percent today), in absolute terms that will be a larger population than in any West European country except France. Between now and 2030, the Muslim population of the United States will be growing faster than that of any EU member state (with two exceptions where the absolute numbers are tiny: Ireland and Finland). The annual growth rate will be more than double that of France.

As an immigrant of Somali origin, I have no objection to other people coming to America to seek a better life for themselves and their families. My concern is with the attitudes many of these new Muslim Americans will bring with them – and with our capacity for changing those attitudes.

Approximately two fifths of Muslim immigrants between now and 2030 will be from just three countries: Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Iraq. Another Pew study – of opinion in the Muslim world – shows just how many people in these countries hold views that most Americans would regard as extreme. (Data on opinion are unavailable for the other two big “sender” countries, Somalia and Iran.)

Three quarters of Pakistanis and more than two fifths of Bangladeshis and Iraqis think that those, like me, who leave Islam should suffer the death penalty. More than 80 percent of Pakistanis and two thirds of Bangladeshis and Iraqis regard sharia law as the revealed word of God. Only tiny fractions would be comfortable if their daughters married Christians. Only a minority regards honor killings of women as never justified. A quarter of Bangladeshis and one in eight Pakistanis think that suicide bombings in defense of Islam are often or sometimes justified.

People with views such as these pose a threat to us all, not because those who hold them will all turn to terrorism. Most will not. But such attitudes imply a readiness to turn a blind eye to the use of violence and intimidation tactics against, say, apostates and dissidents – and a clear aversion to the hard-won achievements of Western feminists and campaigners for minority rights.

Of course, “it” might still not happen here if the United States is as successful at turning these immigrants into an assimilated, “hyphenated” community as it was a century or so ago when the immigrants were Irish, Italian and Jewish.

But will the melting pot work its magic this time? Ten years ago, the late Samuel Huntington feared that it already had ceased to function, citing what he saw as problems of assimilation with Mexican immigrants. If he were still with us, I suspect he would be a lot more worried about what is happening in Muslim America.

According to a detailed survey of Muslim Americans, about 8% of those surveyed said that suicide bombing and other violence is often or sometimes justified to defend Islam from its enemies. Indeed, more than a fifth of Muslim Americans say there is a great deal or a fair amount of support for extremism in the Muslim American community.

About 20% say that Muslim Americans want to remain “distinct from the larger American society.” Indeed, half say they think of themselves first as a Muslim, second as American, despite the fact that 81% of those polled were U.S. citizens.

Finally, there is a singular feature of American life that, for historical reasons, is not a factor in Europe: the high rate of conversions to Islam among African-Americans. Nearly a quarter (23%) of all Muslim Americans are in fact converts, many of them — just under two thirds according to Ihsan Bagby, a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Kentucky — African-Americans.

It has been more than fifty years since the heavyweight boxing champion of the world, Cassius Clay, astounded his audience by changing his name to Muhammad Ali and joining the Nation of Islam. Today, more and more African-Americans are following his example, though their route to Islam is a different one.

According to J. Michael Waller of the Institute of World Politics, Muslim inmates comprised between 17 and 20% of the U.S. prison population in 2003, but most of them arrived in jail as non-Muslims. According to his research, 80% of prisoners who “find faith” while behind bars convert to Islam.

Last month, I was dismayed to learn that Fouad al-Bayly, the Egyptian-born imam of the Islamic Center of Johnstown, PA — who in 2007 said that I deserved to die for “defaming” Islam — has been paid thousands of dollars by the Department of Justice to offer religious instruction to inmates in prisons. The European experience shows that radicalization is a serious problem, one that we ignore at our peril.

Who, then, can help build a better future for assimilation of Muslims in America?

In 2011, when Pew conducted its detailed study of American Muslims, nearly half of American Muslims (48%) surveyed said that Muslim leaders in the United States had not done enough to speak out against Islamic extremists; only about a third (34%) said that Muslim leaders had done enough in challenging extremists.

It is these Muslims — dissident Muslims, disenchanted with the current “official” leadership of the American Islamic community, concerned about illiberal views held in their community — in whom I place my hopes for a better future.

Such dissident Muslims include Asra Nomani, Zuhdi Jasser and Irshad Manji, all reformist Muslims who have clashed with “official” Islamic groups to reform Islam and grant greater equality to women. The reformers can help build a future of successful assimilation. But they cannot achieve it alone.

U.S. officials urgently need to choose better partners in the Muslim-American community — not the likes of Fouad al-Bayly. The assumption that Europe’s problem of failed assimilation “couldn’t happen here” just because American assimilation worked well in the past is much too complacent.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s new book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, comes out this week. She is a Fellow of the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a Visiting Fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, and the founder of the AHA Foundation.

Lufthansa knew of co-pilot’s previous ‘severe depression’ in 2009

Lufthansa knew of co-pilot’s previous ‘severe depression’ in 2009

The co-pilot who crashed Flight 9525 into a French mountainside last week had informed the German carrier Lufthansa in 2009 about a “previous episode of severe depression,” the airline said on Tuesday, raising fresh questions about the series of decisions that allowed Andreas Lubitz to stay in the skies.

The admission that the company knew at least some of the history of Lubitz’s mental illness came after the company’s chief executive, Carsten Spohr, said publicly last week that Lufthansa — parent of the budget airline Germanwings for which Lubitz worked — had no previous knowledge of his medical history.

In a statement Tuesday, however, the carrier said it wanted to issue a “swift and seamless clarification.” In 2009, Lubitz had taken several months off during his training to become a pilot. When he resumed the program, Lufthansa said, he provided the airline “medical documents” that noted his bout of severe depression.

The company said it had forwarded those documents to prosecutors who are now handling the crash as a homicide case.

Under European aviation law, pilots with active and untreated cases of depression are prevented from flying. But if deemed medically cured, there may have been no legal impediment for Lubitz to continue his training and obtain his license, experts say.

However, pilots who have attempted “a single self-destructive act” — such as suicide — are legally barred from commercial flying. Also, pilots who are taking psychotropic medications — such as popular antidepressants — as part of their therapy, for instance, have some limitations, including a stipulation that they not be alone in the cockpit.

German prosecutors said Monday that Lubitz had suffered from “suicidal tendencies” for which he was treated over an extended period. The prosecutors said that the treatment occurred before he was issued a pilot’s license and that they had found no indications that he was recently suicidal.

But Germany authorities have said that he had been issued multiple doctors’ notes judging him unfit to work, including one covering the day of the plane crash. At least one of the notes was found torn up in his apartment.

The system depends on employees reporting their own medical conditions to their employers, and Lufthansa has said that it was not aware of the recent medical problems.

An official familiar with the investigation said Tuesday that authorities were not examining the Lufthansa Group for any negligence. Lufthansa provided investigators with information about Lubitz’s airline medical examinations and copies of previous correspondence with the airline, the official said. But since the depressive episode occurred in 2009, the official said that investigators did not believe Lufthansa was immediately culpable.

During Lubitz’s employment with Germanwings, starting in 2013, his medical certificates and examinations declared him flightworthy.

A Lufthansa spokeswoman said that the company had graduated him from its rigorous flight school, despite the previous depressive episode, because following medical checks “he was perceived to be healed.”

“At any time he was flying, he was declared fit to fly,” the spokeswoman said, who spoke on the condition that her name not be used, a German custom.

When asked whether Lufthansa had known about any subsequent psychological condition, she said: “Not that we are aware of.”

Germany’s medical examinations for pilots give a yes-or-no answer to employers about whether aviators are ready to fly, offering no space for additional information or caveats. Officials familiar with the investigation have said that one working theory is that Lubitz was concerned about losing his medical certificate when it came up for renewal later this year.

Michael Müller, chief executive of ATTC, a company that helps prepare pilot candidates for entering flight schools, including Lufthansa’s, defended the carrier’s track record. He said he was aware of at least one instance, for example, when the company had pulled a pilot from the cockpit after his ex-wife had committed suicide.

“I’m afraid it will never be possible to prevent these things from happening entirely,” he said. “In my view, Lufthansa did not fail. When a doctor says someone is healthy and he is certifying this, then he is allowed to fly. In a pilot’s career, it can happen that you get ill, also psychologically. You can’t simply say, ‘We’ll let him go.’ ”

The Lufthansa Group has already offered $53,635 to families of every victim to cover immediate living expenses. The new revelation was likely to open the airline to far greater damages. A Lufthansa spokesman said Tuesday that its insurer, Allianz, had set aside $300 million to pay for liability claims from victims’ families.

French President François Hollande visited German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Tuesday, where the two discussed the ongoing investigation into the catastrophe alongside a range of other issues.

Hollande called for bolstering the checks on pilots over European skies, saying that he was working toward “ensuring that we can strengthen our safety rules for piloting these aircraft.”

He said that more than 800 people were laboring at the mountain crash site to push the investigation forward as quickly as possible.

Separately, a French aviation investigation agency said Tuesday that it had begun a study of “systemic weaknesses” that may have led to the crash. The French Bureau of Investigations and Analyses for Civil Aviation Security said it would focus on the procedures used “to detect psychological profiles,” as well as look at cockpit safety rules.

German investigators offered few new details about the status of their inquiry on Tuesday. One official familiar with the investigation said that the initial questioning of Lubitz’s family and girlfriend had been completed but that investigators remained in contact with them as new issues arose.

The official said that neither Lubitz’s parents nor his girlfriend were aware of any suicidal impulses ahead of the plane crash.

Birnbaum reported from Düsseldorf.