SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Nearly 700 endangered pig-nosed turtles were confiscated at Soekarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta, Indonesia, on March 15, according to news reports.
Awen Supranata, the head of the Jakarta Natural Resources Center, believes the turtles were destined for Europe or Asia as part of an illegal pet trade, the Associated Press reported.
The person responsible for shipping the 687 turtles remains under investigation, Supranata told AP. (Related: "Six Bizarre Animal Smuggling Busts.")
These rare freshwater turtles can be found only in northern Australia and southern Papua New Guinea. Due to illegal trade, fishing, and hunting, the reptiles are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The turtles will be treated and monitored by the Jakarta Natural Resources Center before being released back into the wild.
This incident comes only days after another illegal pet trade activity was thwarted in Thailand. Two smugglers were caught at Thailand's Suvarnabhumi International Airport with 54 ploughshare tortoises. That's roughly 10 percent of the species' estimated wild population of 600, according to IUCN, which lists the tortoise as critically endangered.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – France has sent soldiers to Central African Republic to secure the airport of the capital Bangui, a diplomatic source said, after rebel forces entered the north of the city.
"A company of troops has been sent to secure the airport. The airport is now secure," said the source on Saturday. "We have asked our citizens to remain at home. For the time being, there is nothing to be worried about. There is no direct threat to our citizens at the moment."
A second diplomatic source said that Paris had requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss a
solution to the crisis in the landlocked former French colony at the heart of Africa.
Nelson Ndjadder, a spokesman for the Seleka rebel coalition, said earlier on Saturday that his fighters entered the capital and were heading to the presidential palace in the centre of town.
He also said they had shot down a government military helicopter which had been attacking their forces since Friday.
The Seleka rebels resumed hostilities this week in the mineral-rich former French colony, vowing to topple
President Francois Bozize whom it accuses of breaking a January peace agreement to integrate its fighters into the army.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Bangui, Central African Republic's Deputy Prime Minister Parfait Mbaye, said the rebel advance "should be condemned by the African union".
"The coup d’etat attempt by Seleka rebels is still ongoing. Fighting is now taking place on the outskirts of Bangui. We can only condemn this attempt to take power by force... We are very sorry to see what is happening in our country."
The rebels are said to have driven back government forces and taken control of the neighbourhood around Bozize's private residence. Officials said Bozize was in the presidential palace in the town centre.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Bangui, Sylvain Groulx of Doctors without Borders, said the fighting has not yet reached to centre of the capital.
"We are about two-to-three kilometres from the centre of Bangui and we cannot hear any shooting but we have heard the same information that a group of rebels has entered the capital," Groulx said.
"There has been some fighting in different places in and around Bangui throughout the day," Groulx added.
"It seems that the rebels have taken control of a town called bouali where there is a hydro-electric dam, the main power source for Bangui. All the power in the capital was cut. The hospitals we are supporting have been provided with fuel for generators.
South African troops
The violence is the latest in a series of rebel incursions, clashes and coups that have plagued the landlocked nation in the heart of Africa since its independence from France in 1960.
Pretoria has sent some 400 soldiers to train Bozize's army, joining hundreds of peacekeepers from the Central African regional bloc.
Regional peacekeeping sources said the South Africans had fought alongside the Central African Republic's army.
"I don't understand why we are making such a big deal about the presence of South African troops," Mbaye told Al Jazeera.
"We have an agreement with South Africa, a member of the African union and they are currently helping Central African forces. We salute South African forces and the South African people."
State radio announced late on Friday that South Africa would boost its troop presence after Bozize met his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma in Pretoria.
Captain Zamo Sithole, senior operations communications officer at South Africa's National Defence Force said: "We are there in the CAR to protect our properties there, and our troops there."
A South African Defence Ministry spokesman declined to comment.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating a possible drone sighting reported over New York City by a commercial airline pilot on Monday.
The operator of a Boeing 777 flown by Italy’s Alitalia told air traffic controllers at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York that he encountered an unmanned aerial vehicle a few hundred feet in front of his aircraft while flying over Brooklyn, NY Monday afternoon.
“We saw a drone, a drone aircraft,” the pilot is radioing to JFK airport’s control tower in audio released Monday night.
The unidentified flying object was described hovering around 1,500 feet off the ground around five miles outside of JFK. The pilot of Flight AZA 60 did not take any evasive action and managed to land the flight without further incident, although a near-collision could have jeopardized the safety of the passengers should the reported drone have caused the Alitalia pilot to erratically maneuver the aircraft.
Now the Joint Terrorism Task Force says they are investigating in order to determine what exactly the Alitalia pilot spotted.
Laura Brown, a spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration, tells CNN that the FAA is also investigating the incident. One source speaking to the New York Post on condition of anonymity though says the pilot was certain it was a drone that he spotted.
“He was very clear as to what he saw,” the source says. According to the Post’s report, the pilot described the aircraft as “a black drone about a meter square, with helicopter rotors on the corners.”
“In all the years I’ve been with the airport, I can’t remember a similar incident,” one investigator adds the paper.
Earlier this year, New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly told Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen Adler that the NYPD has considered acquiring a drone for surveillance purposes, but claims to not have one in its arsenal just yet.
“The only thing we would do is maybe use the cheap $250 ones to take a look and see the size of the demonstration or something along those lines,” Kelly said.
As preliminary reports on this week’s drone sighting continue to trickle in, some commentators have speculated that the aircraft spotted on Monday may have been just a hobbyist’s drone not equipped with the space-age technology outfitted on high-tech drones. According to an airport shuttle driver that spoke with 1010 WINS Radio, remote-controlled aircraft are routinely flown in the area by amateurs.
“I see it many times,” the driver, Fyezil, tells the radio station. “Sometimes, I see them flying so high.”
The US Department of Homeland Security keeps a fleet of drones for surveillance over the nation’s borders, and military drones are regularly tested over select bases scattered across the nation. One of those exercises last year went awry when a 44-foot drone engaged in a routine maintenance flight crashed in the Chesapeake Bay around 100 miles outside of Washington, DC.
ABC News claims that a second pilot caught on tape also reported seeing the drone Monday afternoon.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Tokyo's Narita International Airport operator says 3,400 travelers spent the night in the terminal after snow caused airlines to cancel 71 flights.
In the season's first snowfall in the Japanese capital, about 8 centimeters (3 inches) of snow fell in central Tokyo and around Narita on Monday — a national holiday in Japan. The snow snarled traffic and caused train delays.
Airport officials distributed sleeping bags, water and crackers to stranded travelers. Normal flight operations at Narita resumed Tuesday, except for a few delays.
Major train operator JR East said trains were running on schedule Tuesday.
Sections of several highways around Tokyo were still closed Tuesday as workers cleared away snow and ice.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Insurance Auto Auctions Inc., a salvage auto auction company specializing in total-loss vehicles, acquired cars and trucks damaged by super storm Sandy and are temporarily storing them at Calverton Executive Airpark in Calverton, N.Y.
The cars are expected to be removed from the site within three to six months, and will be auctioned online to a variety of buyers.
The company made a deal with the town of Riverhead, N.Y., to store the vehicles at the airport for nearly $3 million.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A passenger plane overshot the runway at a Moscow airport Saturday, killing four of the eight people on board, according to emergency management officials.
The four others were injured in the crash of the Tupolev airliner, officials said. All eight were crew members; initial reports indicated 12 people were aboard the plane, but authorities later revised that figure.
The Russian Red Wings Airlines flight was arriving to Vnukovo International Airport from the Czech Republic. - www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof flew into Bahrain today to do a report on government repression, but he was denied entry into the country and detained at the airport for a few hours. Kristof went on Twitter to complain about his detainment by going after the country’s human rights abuses and pointing out that reality show star Kim Kardashian was allowed passage into the country mere weeks ago. Kristof at one point suggested creating a Kardashian-style sex tape to gain entry to Bahrain.
Kristof explained that Bahraini officials informed him he was on a government blacklist that prevented him from entering the country. He said the government isn’t letting him in the country because they do not want “witnesses to its nightly repression in Shia villages.”But Kristof kept his little plight in perspective, pointing out in a number of tweets that Bahraini citizens are subject to worse punishments than getting held up at the airport. At one point, he remarked that people are “feeling way too sorry for me,” since he’s not being arrested or anything, he’s just stuck at the airport and tweeting from a Starbucks. Kristof found it amusing that he was denied access to the country while Kim Kardashian was welcomed into Bahrain, tweeting this tongue-in-cheek message to his followers:
Here are some of the highlights, including some lighter moments (in mostly chronological order, though I've grouped some together):
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A charter bus carrying 32 members of a church group hit a concrete overpass at Miami International Airport after the driver got lost Saturday, killing two men on board and leaving three others critically injured, officials said.
The large, white bus was too tall for the 8-foot-6-inch entrance to the arrivals area, said airport spokesman Greg Chin. Buses are supposed to go through the departures area, which has a higher clearance, he said.
Police said that one man, Serafin Castillo, 86, of Miami, died at the scene. A second man, Francisco Urana, 56, also of Miami, died later at a hospital.
Chin said passengers told him they were part of a group of Jehovah's Witnesses headed to West Palm Beach. Police said in a news release that the group had chartered the bus to take them to a church convention there.
The group was made up of congregation members of Sweetwater's Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, said Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maro
"This is a tragic accident that has affected many families, as well as, our Sweetwater family," Maro said in a press release. "I am pursuing all avenues to get in touch with the appropriate persons to officially extend our help to the congregation and those who were hurt."
A phone number listed for the center in Sweetwater went unanswered.
At the airport, two large signs warn drivers of large vehicles not to pass beneath the concrete overpass. One attached to the top of the concrete barrier reads: "High Vehicle STOP Turn Left." The other, placed to the left of the driveway and several feet in front of the barrier, says all vehicles higher than the 8-foot-6 threshold must turn left.
Three people were at hospitals in critical condition. The other 27 surviving passengers were hurt, but their injuries were less extensive, authorities said.
Eight of the 14 patients taken to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital were in stable condition while two others were in critical, said hospital spokeswoman Lidia Amoretti. Three others were expected to be discharged later Saturday.
A majority of the injuries were facial due to the frontal impact, said Miami-Dade Police spokesman Det. Alvaro Zabaleta.
"People that are passengers on a chartered bus, you are putting total confidence on the driver and they're high back chairs," he said. "It's just like sitting on a plane. You really don't get to see anything in front of you until of course they felt the impact – the force takes them forward and a lot of them, the majority of them, were facial injuries."
Zabaleta said the driver was not familiar with the airport area and it was too early to say if charges would be filed.
"The preliminary info tells us that he wasn't too familiar with the area surrounding the airport, and that's what led him to take perhaps the wrong ramp that led him onto the property of the airport, and because of not being familiar with the airport, did not know or really see the height requirement in order for that bus to clear the overpass," he said. "Unfortunately, we all know, he misjudged it and that's what obviously caused the accident."
Osvaldo Lopez, an officer with the Miami-Dade Aviation Department, said he first heard a loud noise Saturday morning and was certain it was some sort of car wreck.
He said he went inside the bus to help and found several passengers thrown into the center aisle. He said the passengers, many of whom were elderly, remained calm after the wreck.
"It was just very bloody," he said of the scene.
After helping the passengers, Lopez suffered some injuries of his own – his left arm and a finger on his right hand were both bandaged.
Fire trucks and police cars swarmed the area around 7:30 a.m. Saturday, and the bus was blocked off by yellow police tape. A white cooler that had been filled with water bottles was on its side behind the bus, the front of which remained wedged beneath the overpass for hours before it was towed away.
The bus was privately owned and typically used for tours, though police believe all the passengers were local residents, said Miami-Dade police Lt. Rosanna Cordero-Stutz. The driver was unfamiliar with the area near the airport and did not intend to wind up at the arrivals area, Cordero-Stutz said. Investigators were interviewing the driver, who suffered minor injuries.
The bus was going about 20 mph when it struck the overpass Saturday morning, Chin said.
The bus model is commonly used for charters and tours, with the driver seated low to the ground and passenger seats in an elevated area behind the driver's seat.
Markings on the bus show it was owned by Miami Bus Service Corp.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records found online show the company has had no violations for unsafe driving or controlled substances and alcohol. It also had not reported any crashes in the two years before Oct. 26, 2012.
The records show it did receive three citations related to driver fatigue in April 2011.
The company owns three motor coaches, according to the records. Miami Bus Service Corp. officials did not immediately respond to a phone message Saturday.- www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Ready for a holiday season full of airport stress? We didn't think so. But, fear not!
We have pulled together a smattering of airports around the globe with interesting diversions for the heavily-delayed, canceled or just plain bored.
While we already know what not to buy at the airport, what about things you can invest yourself in: a relaxing spa, a fitness center or even a museum? At airports around the world, you can get in the holiday spirit (literally, at Munich airport), by shopping, browsing art or getting massaged to your heart's content.
Herewith, 14 airports that make the usual doldrums of flying a delight.
source: huffington posr
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - A rebel group created just seven months ago seized large parts of the strategic provincial capital of Goma, home to more than 1 million people in eastern Congo, and its international airport on Tuesday, according to a rebel spokesman, residents and eyewitnesses.
Explosions and machine-gun fire rocked the lakeside city as the M23 rebels pushed forward on two fronts: toward the city centre and along the road that leads to Bukavu, another provincial capital which lies to the south.
Civilians ran down sidewalks and roads looking for cover and children shouted in alarm as gunfire crackled in the distance. A man clutched a thermos as he ran. A white tank with UN emblazoned on its side rolled down a Goma street, passing a Congolese army tank.
The UN peacekeepers, known by their acronym MONUSCO, were not helping the government forces during Tuesday’s battle because they do not have a mandate to engage the rebels, said Congolese military spokesman Olivier Hamuli, who was frustrated over the lack of action by the peacekeeepers.
“MONUSCO is keeping its defensive positions. They do not have the mandate to fight the M23. Unfortunately, the M23 did not obey the MONUSCO warnings and went past their positions (at the airport). We ask that the MONUSCO do more,” he said.
The rebels are believed to be backed by neighbouring Rwanda, which is accused of equipping them with sophisticated arms, including night vision goggles and 120 mm mortars, according to reports by the United Nations. One Congolese military commander said Rwandans were among the rebels his men were battling. The claim could not be immediately independently verified.
“We already took the airport and part of the city,” said rebel spokesman Col. Vianney Kazarama, reached by telephone on Tuesday. “We are now inside the city of Goma.”
An official at the United Nations peacekeeping base in Goma, who insisted upon anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the press, confirmed that the airport had fallen. A factory owner whose business faces the airport said he saw the rebels go onto the tarmac. By late morning, the rebels had entered the city centre, though it remained unclear if they controlled the sprawling regional capital.
Goma was last threatened by rebels in 2008 when fighters from the now-defunct National Congress for the Defence of the People, or CNDP, stopped just short of Goma, after intense international pressure. Their backs to the wall, the Congolese government agreed to enter into talks with the CNDP and a year later, on March 23, 2009, a peace deal was negotiated calling for the CNDP to put down their arms in return for being integrated into the national army.
The peace deal fell apart this April, when up to 700 soldiers, most of them ex-CNDP members, defected from the army, claiming that the Congolese government had failed to uphold their end of the deal. They charged that they were not properly paid and equipped and that the government has systematically discriminated against ethnic Tutsis, which make-up the majority of their ranks.
Although M23 is tapping in to long-held grievances regarding the marginalization of Tutsis in Congo, analysts and country experts say the real reason for the rebellion is over control of Congo’s vast mineral riches, a good chunk of which is concentrated in North Kivu province, where Goma is located, as well as neighbouring South Kivu, of which Bukavu is the capital.
The United Nations and humanitarian groups warned that the fall of Goma could result in a humanitarian catastrophe. The city is home to several large camps of internally displaced people and already one camp housing over 60,000 refugees was broken up by the advance of the rebel army.
Sasha Lezhnev, policy analyst at the Washington-based Enough Project, said the international community and specifically U.N. peacekeepers need to do more to stop the rebel advance.
“(The fall of Goma) would represent a sharp escalation in the conflict, and really highlight the need for the international community to play a bigger role in resolving this conflict ... It could amount to a huge emergency,” he said.
Germany, which is a member of the UN Security Council, called on the rebels to halt their military action immediately. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement that he called on Congo’s neighbours, a reference to Rwanda and Uganda which are accused of backing M23, to not do anything to worsen the crisis. “I expect of Congo’s neighbouring states that they refrain from doing anything which further exacerbates the situation,” Westerwelle said.
Several in-depth investigations by the United Nations Group of Experts have shown that M23 is being propped up by Rwanda, which is providing them with arms as well as with soldiers.
Over the weekend, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called Rwandan President Paul Kagame and asked him to call the M23 leaders and ask them to stop their advance, according to a statement issued at UN headquarters in New York. In January, Rwanda will assume a seat on the United Nations Security Council, creating a diplomatic minefield in light of what is happening in Goma.
On Tuesday, a colonel in the Congolese army who was in Goma fighting the rebels said by telephone that the soldiers he is fighting are Rwandan. He requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press.
If the rebels succeed in taking Bukavu, it will mark the biggest gain in rebel territory since at least 2003, when Congo’s last war with its neighbours ended.
Fidel Bafilemba, a researcher for the Washington-based Enough Project who lives near the road to Sake, the first town on the drive to Bukavu, said: “The road to Sake seems to be controlled by the M23. A lot of people are fleeing toward the centre of town, carrying mattresses, belongings on their heads.”
Another resident living near the strategic road, Jean-Claude Bampa, spoke on the telephone over loud gunfire in the background. “I can hear gunshots everywhere, it is all around my home,” he said on Tuesday morning. “We are stuck inside and are terrified. I pray this will be over soon.”