North AmericaStay updated with Business News, Pakistan news, Current world news and latest world news with Business Recorder.., 25 May 2015 17:20:58 +0000SRA Framework 2.0en-gbCalifornia beach town cleans up after oil spill BARBARA: A small army of clean-up workers toiled Friday to scoop up crude oil deposits from a picturesque California beach, three days after a pipeline rupture unleashed thousands of gallons into the ocean.

The scenic Refugio State Beach and its neighbor El Capitan would usually be swarming with tourists over America's Memorial Day weekend, but were closed until further notice following Tuesday's spill.

Plastic bags filled with blackened sand piled up, and the stench of oil could be smelled from miles around. Workers had made significant progress on the beach but rocks remained coated in oil.

"The beaches are starting to look a lot better than they did a couple of days ago, but still it will be a long process," said David Mosley, a Coastguard spokesman.

"Something like that, it can take days or weeks to get back to pre-spill."

Some 300 clean-up workers have been mobilized and new teams are still arriving. Their ranks are boosted by many volunteers, but these need equipment and to undergo a brief training session before they can get to work.

Clean-up operations also aim to pump slicked oil from the ocean. About 105,000 gallons (40,000 liters) are estimated to have spilled.

Only a portion of this made it to the sea, but this was enough to form an oil slick about nine miles (14 kilometers) long.

Workers were also cleaning the hill overlooking Refugio beach, the site of the rupture. The leak affected a pipeline operated by Plains All America Pipeline.

Patrick Hodgins, a senior director with the company, said it could take months to find out what happened to the two-foot (60 centimeter) wide pipeline which dates back to 1987.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri)North AmericaSat, 23 May 2015 07:14:59 +0000
Bacteria blamed in indigenous Mexican baby deaths CITY: Bacteria -- and not a contaminated vaccine as initially suspected -- were to blame for the recent deaths of two Mexican babies and for sickening 29 others, according to an official investigation.

The babies, from the indigenous town of Simojovel in southern Chiapas state, became sick after receiving Hepatitis B shots earlier this month.

Mexican health authorities said Friday that studies carried out on the babies detected a type of Staphylococcus bacterium that is commonly found on people's skin.

Experts concluded that "bacterial contamination occurred during the process of handling and application of the vaccine," and that this came from a single source of infection, officials from the IMSS national public health care system said in a statement.

As of Friday, two infants remained hospitalized while 27 others had been discharged.

On May 8, health care workers arrived in Simojovel to give tuberculosis and Hepatitis B vaccines. A total of 32 of the 52 children who were vaccinated had some sort of reaction, and two of them died that night.

Many indigenous communities in Chiapas, one of the poorest states in Mexico, are far from cities and lack access to health services.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri)North AmericaSat, 23 May 2015 07:02:10 +0000
US Senate approves fast-track trade authority for Obama The US Senate overcame bitter divisions on trade policy Friday and passed legislation that gives President Barack Obama authority to swiftly forge international trade pacts, including a landmark Pacific Rim accord under negotiation.

The measure now heads to the House of Representatives where its fate is uncertain.

While Senate passage is a dramatic victory for Obama, the bill clearly faces a fierce debate in the lower chamber, where lawmakers signalled there is intense opposition from within Obama's own Democratic Party.

Passage of the so-called trade promotion authority bill allows the administration to finalize negotiations with 11 other Asian and Pacific nations and bring the trade deal to Congress for an up-or-down vote, with lawmakers not permitted to make changes.

The bill, which pushes Obama's top legislative priority in his second term, passed on a 62-37 vote, with all but a handful of Republicans backing their rival in the White House.

TPA is "likely the most important bill we'll pass this year," said Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, who co-wrote the legislation that lays out 150 ambitious US trade priorities including human rights, environment and labor protections.

"It shows that when the president is right we will support him."

But most Democrats voted no, highlighting some of their fiercest opposition to Obama in his six-plus years in office.

Senate Democrat Jeff Merkley crystalized the sentiments of many free-trade critics, who say the accord will promote a hemorrhaging of American jobs, much like the North American Free Trade Agreement is blamed for doing a generation earlier.

"We have lost five million jobs and 50,000 factories," Merkley told his colleagues. "This is simply the wrong direction to go."

Supporters said the Pacific trade accord -- the largest in history -- will eliminate trade tariffs and level the playing field for US exports.

And TPA will ensure the most progressive framework of any global trade deal, they said.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri)North AmericaSat, 23 May 2015 05:31:02 +0000
Canada inflation drops to 0.8pc in April Low oil and gas prices brought inflation down in April but Canadians paid more for almost everything else, the government statistical agency said Friday.

The consumer price index fell to 0.8 percent in the month, according to Statistics Canada.

Analysts had expected a rate of 1.0 percent after it was 1.2 percent in March.

Statistics Canada said the prices of meat, fresh vegetables, restaurant meals, passenger vehicles, clothing and footwear increased.

Gasoline, natural gas and mortgage interest costs fell.

At 2.3 percent, the core inflation rate used by the Bank of Canada in setting key lending rates, however, remained above the central bank's 2.0 percent target.

Its next rate announcement is scheduled for Wednesday.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui)North AmericaFri, 22 May 2015 15:41:43 +0000
Obama praises US senators for 'big step forward' on trade US President Barack Obama praised US senators on Thursday for advancing legislation that would help him complete a trade pact with Asian countries, a major policy priority for the White House.

"I want to thank a bipartisan group of senators who took a big step forward this morning on a trade agenda that is consistent with strong labor standards, strong environmental standards," Obama said at the beginning of a meeting with members of his cabinet.

Copyright Reuters, 2015

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui)North AmericaThu, 21 May 2015 19:55:09 +0000
BP oil spill caused dolphins' lung disease, deaths: study Dolphins swimming in the oil-contaminated waters of the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 BP spill suffered unusual lung lesions and died at high rates because of petroleum pollution, US scientists said Thursday.

The latest findings in the journal PLOS ONE present the strongest evidence to date that the environmental disaster that was unleashed when the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, 2010, pouring 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean, was the reason for an unusually high number of dead or dying bottlenose dolphins washing up on the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Dolphins take big, deep breaths right at the surface of the water, where oil sheens are most concentrated, and "where there is a good chance of inhaling oil itself," said lead author Stephanie Venn-Watson, a veterinary epidemiologist at the National Marine Mammal Foundation.

"Dolphins were negatively impacted by exposure to petroleum compounds following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and exposure to these compounds caused life threatening adrenal and lung disease that has contributed to increased dolphin deaths in the northern Gulf of Mexico."

- Unusual lesions -

Unusual lesions in the lungs and adrenal glands, which regulate hormones and stress response, were a key sign that something was wrong with dolphins in the area of the spill, according to the research which compared autopsies of 46 dolphins that were stranded and died in the spill area from June 2010 to August 2012 to a comparison population of stranded dolphins off the Gulf coast of Florida.

"We found that dolphins that died after the oil spill had distinct adrenal gland and lung lesions that were not present in the stranded dolphins from other areas," said Kathleen Colgrove, a veterinary pathologist at the University of Illinois.

"These dolphins had some of the most severe lung lesions I have ever seen in wild dolphins from throughout the US."

One in three of the stranded dolphins in the spill area had a thinned adrenal gland cortex, a rate that was significantly higher than the reference population of stranded dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida, in which one in 10 had such a condition.

"The thinning of the adrenal gland cortex was a very unusual abnormality for us, that has not been previously reported in dolphins in the literature," Colgrove told reporters during a conference call to discuss the findings, which are the latest in a series of research papers on dolphin health in the region after the spill.

- Bacterial pneumonia -

One in five of the oil spill dolphins had bacterial pneumonia, a serious lung disease that was severe enough to cause or contribute to the animals' deaths.

By comparison, bacterial pneumonia was found in just one of 50 of the Florida dolphins to which the autopsies were compared.

Studies in other animals have shown that inhaling oil can cause adrenal dysfunction, lung disease and bacterial pneumonia, which Venn-Watson described as "one of the most common outcomes of chemical inhalation injury in other animals."

Scientists ruled out other diseases known to have killed dolphins in high numbers in the past, such as brucellosis and morbillivirus, saying that the pathogens were found at similar levels in the oil spill dolphins and the reference group of dolphins in Florida, indicating that they were not the primary cause for the increase in strandings.

They also ruled out cancers, autoimmune diseases, fungal infections and tuberculosis.

"No feasible alternative causes remain that can reasonably explain the timing, location and nature of these distinct lesions," said Venn-Watson.

A 2013 study on cetaceans in Louisiana's Barataria Bay, found that dolphins were missing teeth, had lung lesions and high prevalence of disease after the worst oil spill in US history.

"We feel that this study is a critical link in the chain," said Venn-Watson.

More than 1,200 dolphins have washed up in area of the Gulf of Mexico affected by the spill since April 29, 2010.

An additional 114 were stranded from February, two months prior to the spill, until April 20, according to figures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In response to the study, BP took issue with the scientific findings.

"According to NOAA, the Gulf 'unusual mortality event' (UME) began in February 2010, months before the spill," said Geoff Morell, BP senior vice president for US communications and external affairs

"Even though the UME may have overlapped in some areas with the oil spill, correlation is not evidence of causation."

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui)North AmericaWed, 20 May 2015 20:20:40 +0000
One US Marine dead, 21 hurt in 'hard landing' One Marine was killed and 21 others required hospital treatment after their MV-22 Osprey aircraft made a "hard landing" during training in Hawaii on Sunday, the US military said.

The "mishap" was under investigation, a Marine statement said, and residents told local media they saw thick, black smoke rising from the area around Bellows Air Force Station.

"Twenty-two Marines were aboard at the time and all other 21 have been transported to local hospitals for assessment and treatment," the statement said.

The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit departed San Diego on May 10 on a seven-month deployment.

The MV-22 Osprey is a tilt-rotor aircraft that can carry 24 Marine combat troops and combines the maneuverability of a helicopter with the speed and range of a turboprop plane.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri)North AmericaMon, 18 May 2015 06:09:51 +0000
Six bodies recovered in Colombia mine collapse Rescuers Friday said they had found six bodies in a collapsed, unlicensed gold mine on an indigenous reservation in a central Colombian town.

Another nine miners were believed to still be missing after the accident on Wednesday in the northwestern town of Riosucio, where authorities are carrying out an investigation of the mine.

Rescuers were working into the evening to retrieve the sixth miner's remains, hours after the recovery of a separate body sapped the hopes of anxious relatives that more of the missing might still be found alive.

The first two bodies were spotted Thursday, with rescuers finding two more several hours later.

The workers are believed to be trapped in shafts 17 meters (55 feet) below ground.

The bodies were taken to the city of Pereira to be identified.

Search and rescue operations are due to be completed over the weekend, according to government disaster relief agency UNGRD.

The mine collapse occurred after a power failure prevented the operation of the pumps that drew water from the nearby Cauca River.

The head of the National Mining Agency told Radio Blu the organization would look into the the owners of the mine, which was in the process of legalization but was prohibited from digging the shafts that were involved in the collapse.

Investigators say a power cut in the area likely shut off the mine's water pumps, flooding the shafts and leading to the collapse.

The workers at the mine had no formal contract with the company for their high-risk work, the mining agency said in a statement.

Colombia is a major gold producer and business has boomed over the past decade as the price of gold has risen from less than $400 per ounce to almost $1,200.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri)North AmericaSat, 16 May 2015 05:52:24 +0000
US weapons 'expedited' to Iraq amid IS advance: Biden The United States is sending "continued and expedited" weapons to Iraq, Vice President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Friday, amid a major Islamic State group advance.

The phone call took place after Islamic State extremists seized a government compound in the city of Ramadi earlier in the day, edging closer to what would be their biggest victory in Iraq this year.

Biden thanked Abadi "for his steadfast leadership in Iraq and for promoting national unity at a time of significant security challenges, including today's ISIL attack on Ramadi," a White House statement said.

Using an alternative acronym for the IS group, the White House said that Biden reaffirmed "continued US support for the Iraqi government's ongoing efforts to defeat ISIL."

"The vice president assured the prime minister of continued and expedited US security assistance to confront ISIL," the White House added, including heavy weaponry, ammunition and supplies for Iraqi forces.

IS has threatened to take control of Ramadi for months.

The loss of the city, which Abadi has said would be the next target of government forces after wresting back Tikrit last month, would be a major setback.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri)North AmericaSat, 16 May 2015 05:46:31 +0000
US, Cuba to hold embassy talks next Thursday: State Department American and Cuban officials will meet on May 21 to discuss reopening embassies and tackle broader migration, security and environmental issues, the US State Department said Thursday.

The US top official for Latin America, Roberta Jacobson, will host a team from the Cuban government led by Havana's director of US affairs, Josefina Vidal.

A State Department spokesperson said reestablishing embassies would allow greater cooperation between the former Cold War foes, who announced in December they would move to thaw ties after 50 years of animosity.

"A US embassy in Havana will allow the United States to more effectively promote our interests and values, and increase engagement with the Cuban people," the spokesperson said in a statement.

"The United States and Cuba have seen growing communication on a variety of issues, including matters of mutual concern such as migration, law enforcement, access to information, environmental protection and trafficking in persons."

The two sides have held several rounds of talks since the historic rapprochement announcement last year, and US President Barack Obama met with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro in April -- the first sit-down between the nations' leaders since 1956.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri)North AmericaFri, 15 May 2015 05:25:47 +0000