North AmericaStay updated with Business News, Pakistan news, Current world news and latest world news with Business Recorder.., 23 Sep 2014 12:21:00 +0000SRA Framework 2.0en-gbExpats defend paradise in hurricane-hit Mexico SAN LUCAS: Armed with nothing more than an air horn and walkie-talkie, US retiree Antonio Lucero helps fellow expats protect their piece of paradise from thieves after Hurricane Odile crushed Mexico's Los Cabos beach resorts.

Lucero is among thousands of foreigners, mostly Americans and some Canadians, who have made the sun-soaked southern tip of Baja California peninsula their home, while luxury hotels greet a steady stream of tourists from north of the border.

But Odile brought chaos to idyllic beaches, knocking out power, destroying wooden homes in poorer neighborhoods and sparking a wave of looting in shops when it tore across the region last week.

Fearing their homes would be the next target of looters, residents took security into their own hands, even though the federal government deployed 8,000 security forces to restore order and the initial looting subsided.

"I don't feel threatened, but I feel vulnerable," Lucero told AFP as the bespectacled and mild-mannered American took his turn patrolling the street with a neighbor.

They feel nervous because the powerful storm blew out the doors and windows of their homes, while disruptions to phone services make it impossible to call the police.

Lucero's neighborhood, where most residents are Americans, is not enclosed. It has no security guard or fence.

Residents park sport-utility vehicles at the entrance of the neighborhood to block access to strangers. The neighborhood watchmen write down the information of visitors.

Neighbors alert each other of any theft by honking their horns three times. Some people guard the street with machetes or sticks.

"Firearms are not permitted in Mexico, so how can you protect yourself?" said Lucero, a native of the US state of Colorado.

Russell Klaesson, a 47-year-old yacht technician from California, led the plan to defend the enclave of 200 people.

"We are not out to attack, we are just here trying to defend ourselves," said Klaesson, who carries a large knife in a leather sheath hanging on his belt.

"We will do it until the community decides we don't need to do it anymore."

More than 5,000 foreigners, 85 percent of them Americans and many retirees, live in Los Cabos, a municipality of 238,000 people, according to the state tourism department.

The storm turned vacations into nightmares for the 30,000 tourists who became stranded after Odile wrecked local airports, damaged roads and broke a bridge.

While the tourists were rescued in an airlift throughout last week, foreign residents stayed behind in communities without electricity, water and telephones.

Of the six people who died in the storm, five were foreigners -- from Britain, South Korea and Germany. A British man who had been on a sailboat was found dead on Monday, two days after his wife.

- 'Very scared' -

Tourism Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu said that only 16 percent of power had been restored in Los Cabos, one week after Odile knocked down electricity poles across the resort.

Sixty percent of water service was restored, she said.

Foreign residents are not the only ones defending their neighborhoods.

At night, Mexicans light bonfires in darkened streets as they keep watch with sticks, machetes and golf clubs.

"People are very scared right now because of the hurricane. Many people were left without homes and we are here defending ourselves against criminals," said Raul Campos, a 25-year-old salesman standing next to a searing bonfire in Cabo San Lucas.

Although soldiers have been patrolling the streets at night in recent days, many people feel better maintaining their own watch system.

"Until the military feels that the town is safe enough for them to leave, then I'll start buying into it," Klaesson said. "Until then, I don't see why we should just quit."

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui)North AmericaTue, 23 Sep 2014 04:32:14 +0000
New toxic spill traced to Mexico mine CITY: Civil protection authorities have confirmed new toxic spills in northwestern Mexico, where a massive acid spill from a copper mine contaminated waterways.

Sonora's civil protection union said it "implemented protocols to protect the surrounding Sonora River population, after confirmed reports of toxic spills from the Buenavista del Cobre mine," a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico.

Environmental protection agency PROFEPA said late on Sunday that the spills were triggered by heavy rains from Hurricane Odile, stressing that the level of contamination was not a health hazard.

During an overflight of the mine, civil protection authorities observed the spill spreading to tributaries leading to the Bacanuchi River.

The Buenavista copper mine is one of the biggest in the world, with annual production of 200,000 tonnes.

On August 6, a leak in a container caused an environmental catastrophe that spilled 40,000 cubic meters of sulfuric acid in the Tinajas stream, located in the town of Cananea, which connects the Bacanuchi River to the Sonora River.

The spill contaminated water reaching seven towns, affecting a total of about 20,000 inhabitants.

On Friday, the Sonora government announced a break with the company, saying mining executives have hampered investigations.

Grupo Mexico has set side $147 million to pay for damages. It has also been fined $3 million.

Lawmakers have also called for scrapping the concession to Grupo Mexico after what is considered the worst environmental disaster in recent times for the country's mining industry.

The federal government has ruled out any suspension of the company's rights to use the mine

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Saad Jabri)North AmericaMon, 22 Sep 2014 10:02:25 +0000
Obama readies climate change push at UN summit President Barack Obama will seek to galvanize international support in the fight against climate change on Tuesday when he addresses the United Nations, with time running out on his hopes of leaving a lasting environmental legacy.

Obama has warned that failure to act on climate change would be a "betrayal" of future generations, but faced with a Congress reluctant to even limit greenhouse gas emissions -- let alone ratify an international agreement -- his options appear limited.

Tuesday's climate summit in New York kicks off a process that will culminate in Paris at the end of 2015, where the world's powers will hope to seal a new global climate change pact.

"Internationally, this is the opportunity for the president to leave his mark on the issue," said Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington-based think-tank.

Obama's last meeting with heads of state to try to strike a climate deal, in Copenhagen five years ago, ended in bitter disappointment.

"I think that people are justified in being disappointed about the outcome in Copenhagen," Obama said at the time, lamenting the failure to agree a timetable to reduce emissions over the coming decades.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri)North AmericaMon, 22 Sep 2014 03:58:07 +0000
NASA's MAVEN spacecraft enters Mars orbit NASA's MAVEN spacecraft began orbiting Mars on Sunday, on a mission to study how the Red Planet's climate changed over time from warm and wet to cold and dry.

"Based on observed navigation data, congratulations. MAVEN is now in orbit," said Dave Folta of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center just before 10:30 pm (0230 GMT).

The unmanned orbiter has traveled more than 10 months and 442 million miles (711 million kilometers) to reach Mars for a first-of-its kind look at the planet's upper atmosphere.

The data from the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft aims to help scientists understand what happened to the water on Mars and the carbon dioxide in its atmosphere several billion years ago.

How Mars lost its atmosphere is one of science's biggest mysteries. The answers could shed light on the planet's potential to support life -- even if that was just microbial life -- long ago.

MAVEN's findings are also expected to help add to knowledge of how humans could survive on a future visit to the Red Planet, perhaps as early as 2030.

"Mars is a cool place, but there is not much atmosphere," said John Clarke of the MAVEN science team.

"It is very cold, it is well below zero. The atmosphere is about half a percent of what we are breathing," he added.

"But we know that Mars could change and it was probably different in the past. There is a lot of evidence of flowing water on the surface from Mars's ancient history."

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri)North AmericaMon, 22 Sep 2014 03:51:53 +0000
Tropical Storm Polo skirts Mexico's battered Pacific coast Tropical Storm Polo was due Sunday to skirt Mexico's Baja California peninsula, a region still reeling after being leveled several days earlier by Hurricane Odile.

At 0000 GMT Sunday, Polo was passing about 105 miles (170 kilometers) south of Baja California, with maximum sustained winds of 45 miles (75 kilometers) per hour.

Polo was moving toward the northwest at eight miles (13 kilometers) per hour.

It was expected to remain off the southern tip of Baja California, but nevertheless generate sizeable ocean swells and carry heavy rains that could cause flash floods and mudslides.

One week earlier, Odile thrashed the Mexican coast as a powerful category three hurricane on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale, flooding hotels and flattening homes.

Thousands of tourists have had to be airlifted from Baja's Los Cabos and La Paz airports in the wake of Odile, and the region continues to suffer widespread power outages several days after the storm.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui)North AmericaSun, 21 Sep 2014 07:24:01 +0000
White House briefly evacuated Friday Journalists and officials at the White House were briefly evacuated from the building late Friday, an AFP photographer at the scene reported.

President Barack Obama had departed earlier in the evening for Camp David, the presidential weekend retreat, and was not at the White House at the time.

US media reported that the evacuation was triggered by a security breach when a man succeeded in scaling the White House fence.

According to reports, security agents apprehended the individual and the evacuation ended after about an hour.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri)North AmericaSat, 20 Sep 2014 06:11:43 +0000
Kinder Morgan builds out Gulf Coast logistics hub in US oil boom To capitalize on a flood of domestic and Canadian crude into the US Gulf Coast, logistics giant Kinder Morgan Energy Partners is spending more than $1.5 billion in Houston to build the most flexible oil and fuel transport hub in the country.

The company's expanding infrastructure smorgasbord includes a bit of almost everything at the increasingly crowded Houston Ship Channel all next door to the biggest concentration of refiners in the country.

The buildout, executives say, responds to the increasingly dynamic world of physical crude trading in North America, where the variety of available crudes is growing, and is aimed at securing their central position in moving oil from the US shale boom to market.

Customers want multiple options to switch delivery modes on a dime and snag the best price for refinery feedstocks. They need more dock and storage space to handle surging volumes of fuel being shipped overseas.

"More of them are producing more than they can consume in the United States. So they want to take it to water, either for movement up and down the coast or to export because you see a tremendous amount of growth," John Schlosser, president of Kinder Morgan's terminal division, said of refiners.

Schlosser, who spoke to Reuters on a tour of the company's facilities, said the company was doubling down on its core business.

"Our bread and butter is the midstream that's where we're making all of our investments," he said. "It's like connecting the dots."

Kinder's latest push is to add storage and pipeline connections to final domestic destinations, a huge oil-by-rail offloading operation, and a wider export platform.

The company recently acquired US-flagged tankers that can move crude and products between domestic ports as required under the Jones Act. Docking space it added opens customer opportunities to export refined products and coal internationally.

"It gives us the opportunity to touch customers in an additional way beyond just the terminal or the pipeline footprint," Schlosser said.


Kinder's spending in Houston is a piece of hundreds of millions of dollars in pipeline, storage, distribution and ship berthing investments being made across the Gulf Coast in the oil and chemicals industries.

Those include Enterprise Products Partners' and Enbridge Inc's $2 billion expansion of the Seaway Oklahoma-to-Texas crude oil pipeline, Oiltanking Partners LP's $340 million oil storage expansion in Beaumont and Magellan Midstream Partners' $1 billion BridgeTex pipeline joint venture with Occidental Petroleum Corp. "It's about creating a nimble and adaptable infrastructure.

When everything is in flux and in constant change you have to have the ability to be flexible, to adapt to new streams and to new requirements," Javier del Olmo, Oiltanking's vice president of engineering, recently told analysts.

Enterprise also is expanding its Enterprise Crude Oil Houston (ECHO) storage and distribution complex in south Houston with connections to southeast Texas refineries that provide a fifth of US refining capacity.

Brent Secrest, vice president of onshore crude oil pipelines and terminals for Enterprise, said the key is the so-called "last mile" getting incoming crude to its final stop.

"Ultimately the barrels are going to have to clear the market, and (Enterprise's) vision is to build the most comprehensive distribution system on the Gulf Coast," he said.

US crude production averaged 8.6 million barrels per day (bpd) in August, up 72 percent from 2008, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Energy consultancy Turner Mason & Company projects that US output will reach about 12 million bpd early in the next decade. "The impetus is on us to find places to put it," Enterprise's Secrest said.


Kinder is widening its crude handling, with a major 300,000- bpd crude and condensate pipeline stretching from the Eagle Ford shale to Houston, as well as a 210,000-bpd oil-by-rail joint venture with privately held short-line railroad operator Watco Companies that started up this summer.

Some of that condensate, a very light form of crude oil that makes up about half of the Eagle Ford's output, will feed a 50,000-bpd condensate splitter Kinder aims to start up in November and a second one next year to double that output.

Splitters perform more complicated processes than oilfield condensate stabilizers that remove natural gas liquids from crude, but are more simple than a refinery.

It "splits" condensate into naphtha, a element of gasoline, diesel, jet fuels and other petroleum components that BP Plc will buy and then sell.

Kinder is also adding docks and pipelines to its two major complexes in Galena Park and Pasadena along the ship channel, including a coal and petroleum coke export facility.

And this year's $962 million acquisition of American Petroleum Tankers and State Class Tankers brought US-flagged oil shipping in house, another option requested by customers.

"The reality is, (customers) don't know where their markets are going to be tomorrow, or 10 years from now, or even two years from now," Schlosser said. "They want to know that they can go to A, B, C, D or E, depending on what makes the most sense."

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Muhammad Iqbal)North AmericaFri, 19 Sep 2014 16:29:32 +0000
Man kills six grandchildren in US shooting A man killed his daughter and six grandchildren, the youngest just three months old, in a mass shooting at a house in the US state of Florida on Thursday.

The shooter, identified as Don Charles Spirit, 51, then killed himself, said Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert Schultz.

The oldest child was age 10.

"I haven't seen anything like this at all," Schultz, who was visibly shaken, told reporters.

"This county, this community is going to be devastated from this. It is a small county, we are all family here.

"We're asking for prayers for this community and the families involved."

Spirit had contacted emergency services saying that he was considering harming himself and others, but when police arrived at the home in the small town of Bell, his daughter and young grandchildren were all dead, police said.

Spirit reportedly killed himself while police were there.

In an incident later ruled an accident, Spirit shot and killed his nine-year-old son during a 2001 hunting trip, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The child died instantly from a bullet wound to the head, caused by Spirit's rifle going off while he cleaned rust from the barrel, the paper said.

Thursday's grisly episode is sure to revive passionate debate about gun ownership in the United States, where 11,000 people were murdered by gun violence in 2011, according to FBI figures.

However firearms-control activists face fierce opposition from America's powerful pro-gun lobby, which staunchly opposes any effort to limit any restriction of the second amendment of the US Constitution, which protects citizens' rights to own guns.

US President Barack Obama tried and failed to introduce a ban on assault weapons and to require more stringent background checks for gun buyers after the Newtown massacre in which 20 children and six adults were killed in December 2012.

The measures foundered against the strong support for gun rights in the US Congress and the power of the firearms lobby.

The National Rifle Association and other gun groups then mounted a successful counter-campaign, warning members that the US government was bent on taking guns away.

US school shootings have become a periodic tragic occurrence in recent years, generally generating public debate on gun control in their aftermath.

The topic was once again in the US news last month, when a nine-year-old girl learning to fire an Uzi submachine gun accidentally killed her instructor when she lost control of the powerful weapon.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui)North AmericaFri, 19 Sep 2014 04:13:18 +0000
Seattle leaders call for safeguards amid boom in oil train shipments

imageSEATTLE: Seattle officials called on Wednesday for more safeguards for crude oil trains travelling through the city in increasing numbers, warning some rail infrastructure was antiquated and could contribute to a catastrophic accident.

An oil tanker accident in the city could be "a catastrophe for our community in terms of risk to life, property and environment," Seattle's Office of Emergency Management said in a report.

Citing a series of devastating accidents linked to oil train derailments, including one in Canada that killed 47 people in a city in Quebec last year, the report said new safety measures should be enacted as more crude oil shipments move through the largest city in the Pacific Northwest.

"An incident requiring warning, evacuation or rescue could easily affect tens of thousands of people in densely populated sections of Seattle," it concluded.

Oil-by-train shipments in the United States have been growing rapidly over the past three years to get oil to markets as pipeline infrastructure has lagged.

Last year, US railroads moved 11 times more crude oil than all oil moved by trains from 2005 to 2009, according to federal transportation data.

Each week about 15 trains carrying a million gallons of crude oil travel through Washington state, much of the oil coming from Bakken reserves in North Dakota, according to federal transportation data.

"This crude oil is highly flammable and easily ignited at normal temperatures by heat, static discharges, sparks, or flames," the report said.

An area of primary concern was the Great Northern Tunnel, a mile-long rail tunnel beneath downtown Seattle. Owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, the 110-year-old tunnel was grandfathered ahead of current safety codes.

In a letter to the railway this week, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray called the freight and passenger tunnel "antiquated."

"In the event of a fire in the tunnel, first responders may not even be able to enter the tunnel to address the emergency," the letter said.

"The rapid increase in volume in crude oil shipments only makes it more likely that such an accident will occur."

Murray and city officials have asked the railway to make a number of improvements, including installing a fire and vapor suppression system and radio communications. The railway said it was addressing the city's concerns and had made a series of improvements on tracks in the tunnel.

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Muhammad Iqbal)North AmericaWed, 17 Sep 2014 20:56:56 +0000
Judge pauses Detroit's bankruptcy trial again

imageDETROIT: US Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes ordered a week-long break in Detroit's bankruptcy trial on Wednesday, giving the last major objector to the city's restructuring plan time to rework its case.

The hearing will be adjourned from Friday and reconvene on Sept. 29. It was also placed on hiatus last week for three days while the city applied finishing touches to a settlement with another creditor, Syncora Guarantee Inc.

Syncora formally withdrew its objections to the plan in on Tuesday, leaving Financial Guaranty Insurance Co (FGIC), which has $1.1 billion on the line, to lead the fight against the plan and the questioning of witnesses. The insurer said it needed time to organize its case.

The hearing to determine if the plan is fair and feasible began on Sept. 2 and was expected to stretch through the middle of October.

Even with the recess, the judicial and legislative processes of the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in US history will keep progressing.

On Friday, the city council is expected to vote on the creation of a water authority, part of another settlement Detroit reached last week.

Then, Rhodes will hold an evidentiary hearing on Monday on the city's policy of shutting off water to delinquent bill payers. Civil rights attorneys have filed a class action seeking to halt Detroit's attempt at reducing a $90 million backlog of unpaid bills and asked Rhodes to issue a temporary restraining order.

Meanwhile, FGIC and other, mostly smaller, creditors must file any objections to the latest version of the plan within the week-long break. They also must complete expert reports, and conduct any needed discovery and depositions.

The latest version of Detroit's plan to restructure its $18 billion in debt and other obligations, released on Tuesday, offers FGIC some of the same terms of the Syncora settlement, which could garner it a 13.9 percent recovery.

FGIC is pushing to monetize or sell the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts instead. But if Rhodes approves the plan as it currently stands he could impose its terms on FGIC in what is known as a "cramdown."


Also on Wednesday, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan urged the city council to support a proposed Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA)that would allow the city to maintain control of its water and sewer services, while gaining $50 million a year for 40 years from leasing the systems to the new regional authority.

Detroit and at least one of three southeast Michigan counties served by the city's water and sewerage department must approve the deal by Oct. 10. Without an affirmative vote on Friday, Duggan said Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr could opt to privatize the system.

Council President Brenda Jones raised concerns that Detroit must put the authority before voters under the city charter. But Duggan said there was no time for a vote, while his legal staff said Michigan law suspended Detroit's charter as long as Orr is emergency manager.

A few blocks away at the bankruptcy hearing, the water and sewer department's director, Sue McCormick, testified she supports the proposed authority.

"I think it is - for the city and for the system a very good solution," she said, adding the authority would help the department meet capital needs, keep costs down, and promote affordability.

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Muhammad Iqbal)North AmericaWed, 17 Sep 2014 20:49:51 +0000