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Monthly Archives: August 2010

Putin participates in opening ceremony of Russia-China oil pipeline’s Russian section

Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

August 29, 2010

(KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin took part in the opening ceremony of the Russian section in the Russia-China oil pipeline, which took place in Russia’s Far Eastern Amur region on Sunday.

At the beginning of the opening ceremony Putin called the pipeline a multidimensional project to step up Moscow-Beijing energy cooperation. “This is vital project for us as we diversify the deliveries of our strategic raw materials. Thus far, we made the major deliveries to Europe…The Asia-Pacific region received unsubstantial volumes,” Putin said.

Setting the pipeline in operation will change the situation dramatically, the premier emphasized. “We will deliver 30 million tons of oil and, in case of expansion, 50 million tons to the Asia-Pacific Region.”

“The implementation of this project is a crucial task for Russia and our Chinese friends. It means stabilization of supplies and energy balance for China, and for us it creates entry to new challenging markets, in this particular case, to the growing market of China,” Putin said at the ceremony.

The project is part of the East Siberia – Pacific oil pipeline, which was launched into operation in December 2009 and is designed to pump up to 1.6 million barrels (220,000 tons) of crude per day from Siberia to the Far East and then on to China and the Asia-Pacific region.

The Russia-China pipeline will stretch from the town of Skovorodino in the Amur region to the city of Daqing in China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province.

“I recall how Chinese President Hu Jintao broached the issue of the project’s implementation in time of one of his visits to Moscow. We were then discussing the rout of the project, were the pipeline would lie: to the north or to the south of the Lake Baikal,” Putin said at the opening ceremony.

He emphasized that both Russia and China have known that the issues are complicated but all of them would be successfully resolved.

“I hope, our Chinese friends will tell the Chinese president and the prime minister about the fact… that the project has been accomplished in Russia. But Chinese friends will have to work for a while. Major efforts are ahead for them – 930 kilometers [of the pipeline] should be put up, these are high-technology operations,” Putin said.

“But I am absolutely confident that Russian oil will enter China this year,” he added.

In March, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said the construction of the pipeline would be finished by the end of the year and become fully operational in 2011.

Russia’s largest oil company Rosneft, oil pipeline monopoly Transneft and China’s state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) are partners in the project. In line with the contract, the Chinese side provided the Russian companies with a $25-billion loan to construct the pipeline. In exchange, the Russian side agreed to pump 15 million tons of oil per year via the pipeline in 2011-2030.

Photostream : Volcano erupts in North Sumatra, Indonesia

Mount Sinabung spews volcanic smoke in Karo, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2010. The volcano spewed hot lava and sand high into the sky early Sunday in its first eruption in 400 years causing thousands of people living around its slope to evacuate their homes. (Getty Images)

Villagers who flee erupting Mount Sinabung rest at a temporary shelter in Karo, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2010. The volcano spewed hot lava and sand high into the sky early Sunday in its first eruption in 400 years causing thousands of people living around its slope to evacuate their homes. (Getty Images)

Villagers who live on the slope of Mount Sinabung receive food at a temporary shelter in Karo, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2010. The volcano spewed hot lava and sand high into the sky early Sunday in its first eruption in 400 years causing thousands of people living around its slope to evacuate their homes. (Getty Images)

A villager comforts her son at a temporary shelter as they fled from erupting Mount Sinabung in Karo, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2010. The volcano spewed hot lava and sand high into the sky early Sunday in its first eruption in 400 years causing thousands of people living around its slope to evacuate their homes. (Getty Images)

Villager wear mask to protect their respirations from volcanic ash from Mount Sinabung in Karo, North Sumatera, Indonesia, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2010. The volcano blew up thick smoke and materials on Friday causing hundreds of people fled their villages despite the absence of evacuation order from authorities. Indonesia has 500 volcanoes, more than any other countries in the world. (Getty Images)

Mount Sinabung erupted in Tanah Karo, North Sumatera (August 28, 2010) Photo : DETIK.COM

People flee as unexpected volcano erupts in Tanah karo, North Sumatera (Indonesia) Photo : DETIK.COM

Photostream : German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg visits Afghanistan

German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (L) and the President of the lower house of parliament Norbert Lammert leave after a ceremony at a memorial for killed soldiers at the German Bundeswehr army camp Marmal in Masar-i-Sharif, north of Kabul in Afghanistan on August 28, 2010. Zu Guttenberg and Lammert are on a visit to German Bundeswehr armed forces serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. (Getty Images)

German soldiers listen to German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (2nd L) during his visit to the German Bundeswehr army camp Marmal in Masar-i-Sharif, north of Kabul in Afghanistan on August 28, 2010. Zu Guttenberg and Lammert are on a visit to German Bundeswehr armed forces serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.  (Getty Images)

German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg talks to German Bundeswehr army soldiers during breakfast at camp Marmal in Mazar-e-Sharif, north of Kabul, August 29, 2010. Zu Guttenberg and the President of the lower house of parliament Norbert Lammert visited German Bundeswehr armed forces troops with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. (Getty Images)

German army Bundeswehr Major general Hans-Werner Fritz (3R), German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (R) and the President of the lower house of parliament Norbert Lammert (2R) attend a ceremony a memorial for killed soldiers at the Bundeswehr camp Marmal in Masar-i-Sharif, north of Kabul, August 28, 2010. Zu Guttenberg and Lammert visit German Bundeswehr armed forces with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. (Getty Images)

German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (L) and the President of the lower house of parliament Norbert Lammert attend a ceremony at a memorial for killed soldiers at the German Bundeswehr army camp Marmal in Masar-i-Sharif, north of Kabul, August 28, 2010. Zu Guttenberg and Lammert visit German Bundeswehr armed forces with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. (Getty Images)

Camerons release first pictures of newborn daughter

British Prime Minister David Cameron holds on August 28, 2010 his baby daughter, Florence Rose Endellion Cameron, who was born on August 24 during the premier’s summer holiday in Cornwall. (Getty Images)

(KATAKAMI / GUARDIAN.CO.UK) — The first pictures have emerged of the prime minister with the latest addition to clan Cameron – Florence Rose Endellion.

While politicians are often reviled for their baby-kissing antics to garner popular approval, David Cameron can probably be forgiven for sharing a tender moment with his own daughter.

Florence joins siblings Nancy and Arthur at No 10, along with their mother, Samantha, who is reportedly recovering extremely well after the delivery.

Weighing 6lb 1oz, Florence was delivered by caesarian section at the Royal Cornwall hospital in Treliske on Tuesday.

She had been due in seven or eight weeks, but took the couple by surprise while they were on a family holiday in Cornwall.

When Samantha Cameron announced her pregnancy before the election, many thought it was just the ‘bump’ (sorry) the Tory leader needed to win the election. Matters took a slightly different course of events, as I’m sure the PM himself could attest.

Florence becomes the second child born to a serving leader in a decade after Leo Blair in 2000, who was the first legitimate child born to a serving prime minister in over 150 years — since the birth of Francis Russell in July 1849.

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday Aug. 28, 2010 touches noses with his new baby daughter, Florence Rose Endellion Cameron who was born on Tuesday Aug. 24, while the family were taking their summer vacation near Truro in Cornwall, southwestern England. Cameron’s wife Samantha returned to their holiday home with the baby on Friday. Florence is the couple’s fourth child. (Getty Images)

British Prime Minister David Cameron holds on August 28, 2010 his baby daughter, Florence Rose Endellion Cameron, who was born on August 24 during the premier’s summer holiday in Cornwall. Cameron’s wife Samantha left the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro with her new baby on August 27 and returned to their holiday home where the family is continuing their holiday. Cameron will become the first British prime minister to take statutory paternity leave, his deputy confirmed on August 27. (Getty Images)

British Prime Minister David Cameron holds his baby daughter, Florence Rose Endellion Cameron at an unspecified location on August 28, 2010 in Cornwall, England. Mr. Cameron’s wife Samantha gave birth to their fourth child on August 24. The couple were on their summer holiday at Daymer Bay when the Prime Minister’s wife went into labour. The Prime Minister’s wife Samantha returned to their holiday home from hospital with Florence yesterday where the family are continuing their holiday. (Getty Images)

British Prime Minister David Cameron, right, with his wife Samantha, pose on the coastal path, at Daymer Bay beach in Cornwall, England, Sunday, Aug. 22, 2010, where the family are on holiday. (Getty Images)

David Cameron picks black and white family portrait for Christmas card (December 2008) Photo: TOM STODDARD/GETTY

Indonesia : One dies in Mount Sinabung eruption

Mount Sinabung

Jakarta (KATAKAMI / ANTARA) – One local resident was reported to have died following the eruption of Mount Sinabung in Tanah Karo district, North Sumatra at 0.15 am local time on Sunday.

Presidential Special Staff for Natural Disaster Andi Arif said in his twitter social network account he was informed by a resident of Cinta Rakyat village that a local resident Surbakti (54) had died.

Andi said that Surbakti died on the way when he was evacuated from his home to a safer place. He suffered from a breathing problem.

The 2,460 meter-high Mt Sinabung erupted early on Sunday at 0.15 a.m Western Indonesian Standard Time (WIB).

According to the Indonesian Red Cross office for North Sumatra, about 14,000 residents have been evacuated to safer plances.

The volcano had been inactive for many years with the previous eruption event occurring in 1600. Ash spewed into the atmosphere up to 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) high and lava was seen near the crater.

Indonesia : Twelve thousands evacuated over Mount Sinabung in eruption


Villager wear mask to protect their respirations from volcanic ash from Mount Sinabung in Karo, North Sumatera, Indonesia, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2010. (Getty Images)

Jakarta (KATAKAMI / ANTARA) – About 12 thousand local residents around Mount Sinabung which erupted at 0:15 am local time on Sunday have been evacuated to safer places, a red-cross official said.

“Based on temporary data collected by the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) a total of 12 thousand locals of 14 villages in three sub districts have been evacuated,” Muhammad Irsal, a member of PMI`s disaster mitigation task force (Satgana), said when he was contacted through the phne here on Sunday.

Mt Sinabung has been spewing thick smokes and vulcanic ashes since Friday night.

Since then, North Sumatra branch of PMI has sent 5 personnel to the location.

Muhammad Irsal is one them who is now in the disaster location in Sigaranggarang village, near Mt Sinabung.

He said that locations impacted by the mount eruption included Bekerah, Simacan, Suka Nalau, Sigaranggarang, Kota Gunung, Kuta Rakyat and Kota Bayakan villages in Namanparang sub district; Sukameria and Selandi villages in Payung sub district; and Mardinding, Kutambaru and Terdaji villages in Payung sub district.

The PMI personnel worked hand-in-hand with the Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), local government, health services and social affairs services in evacuating residents.

Until Sunday morning, the locations around Mt Sinabung have been sterilized and deserted because all residents have been evacuated, according to Irsal.

“We felt strong tremors last night. It was a vulcanic quake. After that, the crater of Mount Sinabung spewed glowing lava. And trees in the mount slopes were burnt. It was followed by thick clouds that caused visibility to be only about five meters. We soon helped locals to evacuate to safer locations,” Irsal said.

He said that on Saturday night, PMI had distributed some 500 masks before it sent three personnel from North Sumatra office and one ambulance car to carry out mobile monitoring around the locations.

President Medvedev attends the blessing ceremony unveiling the icon above the gates of the Kremlin’s Spasskaya Tower

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Orthodox Patriarch Kirill walk to attend a blessing ceremony of the gate icon at the Spasskaya tower of Moscow’s Kremlin on August 28, 2010. (Photo: the Presidential Press and Information Office)

August 28, 2010

(KATAKAMI / KREMLIN.RU) — Dmitry Medvedev took part in the ceremony unveiling the icon on the Moscow Kremlin’s Spasskaya Tower.

The unveiling of the icon above the Spasskaya Tower’s gate is timed to coincide with the celebration of the Assumption of the Virgin. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia conducted a prayer service for the consecration of the icon.

The Fund of St Andrew the Apostle took the initiative to restore the Kremlin gate icons. This initiative benefited from the support of the President and the blessing of the Patriarch.

After studies were conducted in the niches of the Spasskaya and Nikolskaya towers, the icons were found hidden under a layer of plaster in April 2010.

The icon on the Spasskaya Tower depicts Jesus Christ and two saints, St Sergius of Radonezh and St Varlaam of Khutyn, below him. The exact date the fresco was painted is not known, but it was not before the middle or second half of the 17th century. The icon gave the tower its name, which before that time was known as Frolovskaya Tower.

The last mention of the icon is from the 1930s, when a decision to cover the icon with plaster was taken. An icon of St Nicholas (on Nikolskaya Tower) was also immured at the same time.

The icon of St Nicholas dates from the late 15th or early 16th century. The image over the gate was damaged during fighting in October 1917. Restoration work on Nikolskaya Tower will last a few months longer.

Ceremony consecrating the icon above the gate of the Kremlin’s Spasskaya Tower (Photo: the Presidential Press and Information Office)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (R) and Orthodox Patriarch Kirill (L) attend a blessing ceremony of the gate icon at the Spasskaya tower of Moscow’s Kremlin on August 28, 2010.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Orthodox Patriarch Kirill attend a blessing ceremony of the gate icon at the Spasskaya tower of Moscow’s Kremlin on August 28, 2010.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev attends the blessing ceremony of an ancient Orthodox icon on Kremlin’s Spassky Gate in Moscow, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2010. The icon was discovered in April in the Kremlin’s Spassky Tower after spending years hidden inside the tower. (Getty Images)

John Lennon’s toilet sells for £9,500 at auction


(File) Yoko Ono poses for photographers during a press conference before a charity concert to commemorate her late husband John Lennon in Saitama, suburban Tokyo, 09 December 2002, one day after the 22nd aniversary of his death. (Getty Images)

August 28, 2010

(KATAKAMI / Reuters Life!) – A toilet that belonged to late Beatle John Lennon fetched 9,500 pounds at auction on Saturday, around 10 times its estimate, the sale organisers said.

Lennon, who was murdered in New York in 1980, had the porcelain lavatory removed from Tittenhurst Park in Berkshire, where he lived from 1969 to 1971, and replaced with a new one.

The builders who took away the white and blue lavatory were told to “put some flowers in it or something,” according to the auction catalogue.

Builder John Hancock stored it in his shed for 40 years until he died recently and the lavatory was sent for sale, British media reports said.

The toilet was among Beatles memorabilia sold at auction as part of the Beatle week festival in Liverpool. The pre-auction estimate was 750 to 1,000 pounds.

Anne-Marie Trace, who works at the Beatles Shop in Liverpool which organised the sale, said the high price paid had taken the organisers by surprise.

“I think it’s the most unusual item we’ve ever had in our auction,” she told Reuters.

The buyer was not identified but Trace said it was likely it was “going overseas.”

More details released on Ambassador Doug Kmiec car accident

U.S. Ambassador To Malta Doug Kmiec

Los Angeles, Calif., Aug 28, 2010 / 07:49 am (CNA).- Authorities released more details surrounding a car accident earlier this week which killed a 74-year-old religious sister and caused serious injuries to a priest and Ambassador Doug Kmiec.

Preliminary Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol reports state that at about 1:40 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 25, Ambassador to Malta Doug Kmiec, Our Lady of Malibu pastor Msgr. John Sheridan, and Sister Mary Campbell were involved in a one car collision at Mulholland Highway and Malibu Canyon Road.

Sr. Mary Campbell, who, according to Malibu Surfside News taught generations of  Our Lady of Malibu students, died at the scene.

Ambassador Kmiec, along with 94-year-old Msgr. Sheridan suffered injuries. After surgeries at the UCLA Medical Center Trauma Center, the ambassador is reported to be in good condition and  improving. Although doctors have been able to stop most of Msgr. Sheridan’s internal bleeding, he has been treated for several broken ribs and remains in critical condition. The priest is also being carefully monitored for pneumonia and infection.

California Highway Patrol Officer Leland Tang said Ambassador Kmiec was driving westbound on Mullholland when his 2009 Hyundai Accent crashed into a drainage ditch after veering off the road.

Tang reported that the cause of Kmiec losing control of the vehicle is unknown.

Authorities have said the accident remains under investigation and that dashboard control adjustment may be a factor in the collision.

According to Malibu Surfside News, Archbishop of Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney visited the hospital Wednesday night and issued a statement asking the local community and those elsewhere to “please keep all three of these wonderful and devoted disciples of Jesus Christ very much in your prayers.”

Our Lady of Malibu announced plans to schedule a blood drive in Msgr. Sheridan’s name.

14 militants, 2 policeman killed in Russia

Five militants killed in special operation in North Caucasus
14 militants killed in special operation in North Caucasus

August 28, 2010

NALCHIK, Russia (KATAKAMI / AP) – At least 14 suspected militants and two police officers were killed during security raids in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus, police said Saturday.

Nine suspected militants were killed in two separate shootouts with police in the Kabardino-Balkariya republic late Friday, a police spokesman Roman Golubev told The Associated Press. Two of those killed were suspected of organizing a bombing in May that killed one man and wounded dozens, Russia’s Investigative Committee, the country’s main investigative body, said in a statement.

Separately, five suspected militants and two police officers were killed in another shootout Friday in the nearby republic of Dagestan, local police spokesman Magomed Tagirov said.

Those militants allegedly had ties to warlord Magomedali Vagabov, who was behind the Moscow metro bombings in April that 40 killed people and left scores wounded, the investigative agency statement said. Vagabov himself was killed in a shootout with security forces in Dagestan last week, authorities said.

Security forces were searching the mountains outside the village of Gubden on Saturday for the group’s remaining members, Dagestan police spokesman Vyacheslav Gasanov said.

Russia has been fighting an Islamic insurgency in its southern regions following two wars in Chechnya in the past 15 years. The militants say they seek an Islamic emirate across the North Caucasus. While violence has subsided in Chechnya, militants are becoming increasingly active in neighboring regions.

More than 30 militants have been killed in raids in North Caucasus this month and a number of “terrorist attacks” have been prevented, federal security chief Alexander Bortnikov told President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday in remarks broadcast on state-run television.

Rights activists say the militants’ attacks have been provoked in part by extrajudicial killings, torture and kidnappings allegedly carried out by police under the pretext of fighting terrorism.

Dagestan’s leader appealed to Medvedev earlier this month to bolster security forces in the republic, citing a surge in terrorist activity.

NKorean leader appears to be headed home

A man believed to be North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (2nd R) walks out of a hotel while surrounded by security guards before heading to a car convoy in Jilin, China, in this video frame grab provided by Japan’s national public broadcasting organization, NHK, August 27, 2010.

August 28, 2010

CHANGCHUN, China (KATAKAMI / AP)  – North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il apparently headed home Saturday after a secretive and surprise trip that reportedly included a meeting with China’s top leader to appeal for diplomatic and financial support for a succession plan involving his youngest son.

Reporters have followed a motorcade — apparently used by the reclusive Kim — around several cities in northeast China. The 35-vehicle convoy accompanied by police cars with flashing lights was seen headed to the train station in Changchun.

Kim rarely leaves North Korea and when he does he travels by special train. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported the train left the station, although it did not give a destination.

North Korea does not announce Kim’s trips until he returns home, and China has refused to say if he is in the country, even though a Japanese television station had a grainy picture of him.

Kim was reportedly accompanied by his son, Kim Jong Un, believed to be in his 20s. Many North Korea watchers predict the son will be appointed to a key party position at a ruling Workers’ Party meeting early next month — the first such gathering in decades.

To pull off the event with sufficient fanfare, North Korea will need Chinese aid, particularly following the devastating floods that battered the country’s northwest this month, analysts said.

“The convention needs to be festive with the party giving out food or normalizing day-to-day life for its people, but with the recent flood damages they are not able to,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute think tank outside Seoul.

“The most important thing on Kim’s agenda is scoring Chinese aid, which will ensure that the meeting will be well received by the people.”

Asked whether Kim was visiting China, a duty officer with the press office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry said: “China and North Korea consistently maintain high-level contacts. We will release the relevant information in good time.”

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi sidestepped a question from his visiting Japanese counterpart about widespread reports saying Kim was visiting China, Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Satoru Satoh said. Yang made no response to the query but said China will continue cooperating with Japan on the North Korea issue, Satoh said.

South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper and Yonhap both reported that Kim was believed to have met Chinese President Hu Jintao in Changchun on Friday.

The Dong-a Ilbo newspaper carried a similar report, saying the two are believed to have discussed the North’s succession, the resumption of six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, and ways to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation.

China, as North Korea’s biggest diplomatic ally and a major source of food aid and oil, would expect to be kept in the loop about major political transitions in the North, but the Beijing leadership is not likely to be enthusiastic about the prospect of another dynastic succession next door, said Zhu Feng, director of Peking University’s Center for International and Strategic Studies.

Kim also badly needs Chinese aid because of flooding earlier this month that damaged or destroyed more than 7,000 homes, and inundated 17,800 acres (7,200 hectares) of farmland close to the border with China, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported this week.

KCNA said China has already agreed to deliver some aid to help North Korea cope with the disaster but didn’t give specifics.

The North faces chronic food shortages and has relied on outside aid to feed much of its 24 million people since a famine that is believed to have killed as many as 2 million people in the 1990s.

In an attempt to improve its meager economy, it has experimented with limited market reforms and sought foreign investment, mostly from China and South Korea. But tensions with the South have caused trade and joint economic projects with the South to wither and raised the importance of Pyongyang’s ties to Beijing.

US Man Imprisoned in North Korea Arrives Home

Aijalon Gomes reaches for his mother Jacqueline McCarthy after arriving at Logan International Airport in Boston, Friday, Aug. 27, 2010. Former President Jimmy Carter flew to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, this week on a private mission to secure a pardon for the 31-year-old American. (AP)

August 28, 2010

(KATAKAMI / VOA)  — Aijalon Mahli Gomes has arrived in the northeastern U.S. city of Boston, Massachusetts, where he was immediately mobbed by family members who welcomed him home after eight months in a North Korean prison.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter secured the American citizen’s release during a mission to Pyongyang.  A chartered flight carrying the two men landed in Boston early Friday afternoon.

Television footage showed Gomes hugging Mr. Carter and family members surrounding Gomes and the former president at the airport in Boston.

In a statement Friday, the Gomes’ family described his eight months in captivity as a “long, dark and difficult period,” and they thanked Carter for his efforts.  The family passed by media microphones at the airport without commenting.

In New York, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the North Korean decision to release Gomes on humanitarian grounds and urged nations to send emergency aid to North Korea, which has been suffering from devastating floods.

The U.S. State Department said earlier that it welcomed the release, and said that was the sole purpose of Mr. Carter’s private mission.  There had been widespread media speculation that Mr. Carter also would hold political talks with the North Koreans.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was reported to be visiting China during most of Mr. Carter’s stay in Pyongyang.  But official North Korean media reported the former president did meet with senior officials, including the second-in-command, Kim Yong Nam.

The reports said Kim reiterated to Mr. Carter the North’s interest in a return to six-party talks on its nuclear program and the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Gomes was detained in January after entering the isolated country from China.  He was sentenced in April to eight years of hard labor and fined $700,000 for illegally crossing the border.

U.S. concerns about Gomes increased following reports that he tried to commit suicide last month.

Gomes had been teaching English in South Korea.  His friends described him as a passionate Christian activist who was influenced by U.S. missionary Robert Park, who entered North Korea a month before Gomes.  Park was arrested and expelled from the country two months later.

Mr. Carter previously traveled to North Korea in 1994 to meet with Kim Jong Il’s father, Kim Il Sung.  The talks led to a landmark nuclear disarmament pact. 

President Obama’s Weekly Address : The End of Combat Operations in Iraq

(File) President Obama with U.S. troops during his visit to Camp Victory, Iraq, Pete Souza, 4/7/09

August 28, 2010

(KATAKAMI / WHITE HOUSE GOV) — On Tuesday, after more than seven years, the United States of America will end its combat mission in Iraq and take an important step forward in responsibly ending the Iraq war.

As a candidate for this office, I pledged I would end this war.  As President, that is what I am doing.  We have brought home more than 90,000 troops since I took office.  We have closed or turned over to Iraq hundreds of bases.  In many parts of the country, Iraqis have already taken the lead for security.

In the months ahead, our troops will continue to support and train Iraqi forces, partner with Iraqis in counterterrorism missions, and protect our civilian and military efforts.  But the bottom line is this: the war is ending.  Like any sovereign, independent nation, Iraq is free to chart its own course.  And by the end of next year, all of our troops will be home.

As we mark the end of America’s combat mission in Iraq, a grateful nation must pay tribute to all who have served there.  Because part of responsibly ending this war is meeting our responsibility to those who have fought it.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now make up America’s longest continuous combat engagement.  For the better part of a decade, our troops and their families have served tour after tour with honor and heroism, risking and often giving their lives for the defense of our freedom and security.  More than one million Americans in uniform have served in Iraq – far more than any conflict since Vietnam.  And more than one million who have served in both wars have now finished their service and joined the proud ranks of America’s veterans.

What this new generation of veterans must know is this: our nation’s commitment to all who wear its uniform is a sacred trust that is as old as our republic itself.  It is one that, as President, I consider a moral obligation to uphold.

At the same time, these are new wars; with new missions, new methods, and new perils.  And what today’s veterans have earned – what they have every right to expect – is new care, new opportunity, and a new commitment to their service when they come home.

That’s why, from the earliest days of my Administration, we’ve been strengthening that sacred trust with our veterans by making our veterans policy more responsive and ready for this new century.

We’re building a 21st century VA, modernizing and expanding VA hospitals and health care, and adapting care to better meet the unique needs of female veterans.  We’re creating a single electronic health record that our troops and veterans can keep for life.  We’re breaking the claims backlog and reforming the process with new paperless systems.  And we are building new wounded warrior facilities through the Department of Defense

But for many of our troops and their families, the war doesn’t end when they come home.  Too many suffer from Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – the signature injuries of today’s wars – and too few receive proper screening or care.  We’re changing that.  We’re directing significant resources to treatment, hiring more mental health professionals, and making major investments in awareness, outreach, and suicide prevention.  And we’re making it easier for a vet with PTSD to get the benefits he or she needs.

To make sure our troops, veterans, and their families have full access to the American Dream they’ve fought to defend, we’re working to extend them new opportunity.  Michelle and Jill Biden have forged a national commitment to support military families while a loved one is away.  We’ve guaranteed new support to caregivers who put their lives on hold for a loved one’s long recovery.  We’re funding and implementing the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which is already helping some 300,000 veterans and their family members pursue their dream of a college education.

And for veterans trying to find work in a very tough economy, we’ve devoted new resources to job training and placement. I’ve directed the federal government to hire more veterans, including disabled veterans, and I encourage every business in America to follow suit. This new generation of veterans has proven itself to be a new generation of leaders.  They have unmatched training and skills; they’re ready to work; and our country is stronger when we tap their extraordinary talents.

New care.  New opportunity.  A new commitment to our veterans.

If you’d like to send our troops and veterans a message of thanks and support, just visit whitehouse.gov.  There, you’ll find an easy way to upload your own text or video.

Let them know that they have the respect and support of a grateful nation.  That when their tour ends; when they see our flag; when they touch our soil; they’ll always be home in an America that is forever here for them – just as they’ve been there for us.  That is the promise our nation makes to those who serve.  And as long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, it’s a promise we’ll keep.  Thank you.

Putin stresses importance of new Far East space center

August 28, 2010

(KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin underlined on Saturday the significance of a planned new space center in Russia’s Far East.

“We began talking about the necessity of building such a space center in 2005,” Putin, speaking at the Amur Region site where the Vostochny Space Center is to be built, said.

Russia currently uses two launch sites: the Baikonur space center in the Central Asian Republic of Kazakhstan, which it has leased since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the Plesetsk space center in northwest Russia.

“The creation of a new space center…is one of modern Russia’s biggest and most ambitious projects,” Putin went on. “It will give us the opportunity not only to confirm Russia’s leading technological status…but will give hundreds, perhaps thousands, of young specialists the chance to prove their talents.”

He also said that while Russia had signed an agreement with “friendly” Kazakhstan on the continued use of Baikonur until 2050, the Kazakh center alone was not sufficient for “such a powerful space force as Russia.”

Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said earlier in the day that all Russian manned space fights would be launched from the Vostochny Space Center from 2018,

He also said that cargoes and satellites would be launched from the space center from 2015.

The new space center, which will employ 20,000-25,000 people, will ensure Russia’s independence in the launch of piloted space vehicles, currently carried out at Baikonur.

Construction is expected to start in 2011, with design and survey work already under way.

Putin said in July that Russia would allocate 24.7 billion rubles (around $811,000) for the next three years for the construction of the space center.

Russia troops kill five North Caucasus rebels

Five militants killed in special operation in North Caucasus
Five militants killed in special operation in North Caucasus

(KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Five militants were killed on Saturday morning in a special operation in Nalchik, the capital of Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, a police source said.

The source told RIA Novosti that the militants had been hiding out in a flat in the city. He also said that no police officers were injured in the operation.

Four militants were also killed on Friday in nearby Dagestan, a spokesman for the republic’s Interior Ministry said on Saturday.

Militant violence is common in Russia’s mainly Muslim North Caucasus republics, especially Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.

Obama to Visit New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina Anniversary

(KATAKAMI / VOA) — U.S. President Barack Obama is to visit the Gulf Coast city of New Orleans, Louisiana, Sunday to mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the region.

The massive storm and resulting flood killed more than 1,800 people and forced more than 1 million people from their homes.

New Orleans has been holding events all week to commemorate the anniversary.  Roughly 80 percent of the city was submerged by flooding after its levees were breached.

While much of the region has been rebuilt, some areas of New Orleans remain scarred by the storm.  Many people who fled their homes have not returned to the city.  A total of about 50,000 residential properties are still either uninhabitable or empty lots.

As the crisis unfolded, some residents in New Orleans were stranded on the rooftops of their flooded homes for days waiting for help.  Thousands of residents also sought refuge at the Superdome arena and New Orleans Convention Center, but ended up being stranded for days with little food or water.

The federal response to the disaster was widely criticized as slow and mismanaged, with critics blaming then-President George W. Bush and the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at the time, Michael Brown.

In television interviews this week, Brown said the administration made a “fatal mistake” by not disclosing how bad the situation really was.

Vacant properties are still prevalent in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, a historically African-American neighborhood that became a symbol of the devastation.

Katrina also destroyed homes across the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama when it slammed ashore on August 29, 2005.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the United States suffered more economic losses from Hurricane Katrina than any other storm in history.  The agency says damages and costs from the storm were estimated at around $125 billion.

In recent months, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has brought more devastation to the Gulf Coast.  The disaster has again crippled the seafood and tourism industries in the region.

American imprisoned in N. Korea returns to Boston

August 28, 2010

BOSTON  (KATAKAMI / AP) – An American held captive for seven months in North Korea stepped off a plane in his hometown Friday, looking thin but joyful as he hugged the former president who had helped win his release and family and friends surrounded him in a group embrace.

Aijalon Gomes was accompanied by former President Jimmy Carter, who had flown to Pyongyang to negotiate his freedom. Gomes, who had been teaching English in South Korea, was imprisoned and sentenced to eight years’ hard labor for crossing into the North from China on Jan. 25 for unknown reasons.

North Korea’s state-run news agency reported last month that Gomes had attempted suicide, leading his family to ask for his release on humanitarian grounds. North Korea said this week it would release Gomes to Carter if the former president went to get him.

Gomes hugged Carter and then his mother before his loved ones encircled him, praying and waving their hands skyward. One man gripped a small American flag, and others held a banner behind them that read: “Welcome home! Disciple of the Lord Aijalon Mahli Gomes. Salvation is ours.”

The banner also pictured a Christian cross and contained biblical references to Acts, Psalms, and Job, an Old Testament book about a man who survived great tribulation.

Gomes’ mother and family members hugged Carter and shook his hand before the group headed inside the terminal, as Gomes smiled and waved at loved ones along the way. A few minutes later, Carter reboarded the plane and left Boston.

In a statement released earlier Friday, the family thanked Carter and said it felt blessed to welcome Gomes home after what it called “a long, dark and difficult period.”

“I’m just joyful and grateful that my son is home and thank President Jimmy Carter for making sure that he was home safely,” Gomes’ mother, Jacqueline McCarthy, said as she left her home for the airport. “I thank God, I thank God, for everything everyone has done for us.”

The family also thanked the North Korean government “for caring for Aijalon during his darkest days, then agreeing to release him on humanitarian grounds.”


The statement requested privacy so Gomes could recover from the ordeal, saying that although he was returning home, “the journey towards healing really just begins today.” The family passed by media microphones at the airport without commenting.

But later outside McCarthy’s home, several of Gomes’ relatives spoke to the media and said Gomes appeared to be fine physically.

“He looks well, he looks very well,” his uncle Michael Farrow said.

His 19-year-old brother, Milton McCarthy Jr., described feeling “an overwhelming amount of joy and happiness” when he hugged Gomes.

“It was just like they said, a prayer being answered,” he said. “It was truly a blessing.”

Family members said they’d had a limited chance to speak with Gomes and added he wasn’t expected back at his mother’s home Friday, though they didn’t say where he was staying.

“He’s just grateful to be home, and he’s just thanking God for his safe return,” his cousin Ron Odom said.

In Washington, the Department of State welcomed the news of Gomes’ release, saying officials are “relieved that he will soon be safely reunited with his family,” spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

It was unclear what led Gomes to enter the repressive nation. He may have been emulating fellow Christian Robert Park, who was detained after he crossed into North Korea in December to highlight its human rights record, said Jo Sung-rae, a South Korean human rights advocate who met with Gomes. Park was expelled some 40 days later after issuing an apology carried by North Korean state media.

Gomes attended rallies in Seoul in January calling for Park’s release and was arrested in North Korea just two weeks later.

Gomes, whose full name is pronounced EYE’-jah-lahn GOHMZ’, grew up the inner-city Boston neighborhood of Mattapan, then headed to college at Bowdoin in Maine before going to South Korea to teach several years after graduating.

He was the fourth American in a year arrested for trespassing in North Korea, which fought the U.S. during the 1950-53 Korean War and does not have diplomatic relations with Washington. Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were arrested last March and released only after former President Bill Clinton made a similar trip to Pyongyang to plead for their freedom.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Gomes’ release and commended Carter. He took the occasion to appeal to donors for emergency humanitarian aid to North Korea, which has been affected by recent flooding, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said at U.N. headquarters in New York.