November 27

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July 9th, 2014
04:49 AM ET

Israel: Ground Operation 'Might Become Necessary'

As rockets and missiles fly back and forth between Gaza and Israel, the Israeli military - saying it doesn't expect the crisis to resolve itself soon - is preparing for a ground incursion.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told CNN such an operation "might become necessary," and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said the security operation against the militant group Hamas "will probably not end within several days."

On Tuesday, the Israeli Cabinet gave the authorization for the military to call up 40,000 troops if needed, 10,000 more than were called up during Israel's offensive into Gaza in November of 2012. Only about 1,000 have been called up so far.

"I hope ... that it's not going to escalate into an all-out war," said Maen Rashid Areikat, the Palestinian representative to the United States. "For the Israelis, they have to know that there's no military solution to this problem."

Still, recent days have brought a dramatic escalation in the conflict.

Militants fired more than 130 rockets at Israeli civilians, Israel said Tuesday. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it targeted about 160 "terror sites" in Gaza in the early hours of Wednesday, after carrying out 150 airstrikes the day before.

"Overnight, terror organizations in the Gaza Strip suffered a severe blow, as the numerous IDF strikes in Gaza managed to significantly impair terrorist capabilities and prevent possible schemes against Israelis," said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman.

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July 8th, 2014
04:30 AM ET

Israel Ramps Up Strikes Against Hamas

An Israeli security operation against the militant group Hamas "will probably not end within several days," Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday.

The development appeared to confirm fears that the conflict would continue to escalate.

"We will not tolerate rocket fire and we are prepared to expand the operation and to exact a heavy toll on Hamas," he said.

Overnight, Israel ramped up its airstrikes on Hamas in Gaza.

The Israeli military's Operation Protective Edge against Hamas has entered a "substantial phase," with airstrikes hitting around 50 targets, including militant houses and military compounds, Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner told CNN.

"We are determined to restore a state of security," he said.

Hamas security sources reported at least 60 Israeli airstrikes across Gaza, including from F-16s, Apache helicopters and drones. The sources said at least 10 people were wounded.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Israel to immediately stop its strikes, warning the operation would drag the region into instability.

Abbas said a truce was needed to "spare the innocent from mass destruction."

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June 17th, 2014
04:40 AM ET

Deadly Tornadoes Tear Through Towns

It was a menacing sight - two powerful tornadoes swirling side by side through the countryside of northeastern Nebraska.

At one point, the twin twisters straddled a state highway.

"It was terribly wide," Marianne Pesotta told CNN affiliate KETV in the town of Pilger. "I drove east (to escape). I could see how bad it was. I had to get out of there."

The decision to flee may have saved her life.

Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger said up to three-quarters of Pilger, a town of about 350 people, was destroyed Monday. The severe weather also caused damage in the towns of Wisner, Stanton and Pender.

All four communities are within about 40 miles of each other, about and hour and a half northwest of Omaha.

The aftermath was almost too much to take for some like Marilyn Andersen, another Pilger resident

"I've never been through this before," she told affiliate KMTVthrough tears. "It was an experience, and I don't want to go through it again."

Two deaths were reported. Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger said a five-year-old was killed in Pilger, but didn't say how. Another person died outside of town, he said.

Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk said 16 people were critically injured by the storm system.

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May 29th, 2014
04:46 AM ET

MH370: 'Discounted as the Final Resting Place'

The 850 square kilometers scanned off the coast of western Australia in the hunt for a missing Malaysia Airlines plane are not the "final resting place of MH370," the agency leading the search said Thursday.

The search area is where four acoustic pings originally thought to be from the black boxes of the Boeing 777 were heard in early April.

"The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has advised that the search in the vicinity of the acoustic detections can now be considered complete and in its professional judgment, the area can now be discounted as the final resting place of MH370," a statement from the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said.

Unlikely to be from Flight 370

Hours earlier, a U.S. Navy official told CNN that the pings at the center of the search for the past seven weeks are no longer believed to have come from the plane's black boxes.

The acknowledgment came Wednesday as searchers wrapped up the first phase of their effort in the southern Indian Ocean floor without finding any wreckage from the jetliner.

Authorities now almost universally believe the pings did not come from the onboard data or cockpit voice recorders but instead came from some other man-made source unrelated to the jetliner that disappeared on March 8, according to Michael Dean, the Navy's deputy director of ocean engineering.

If the pings had come from the recorders, searchers would have found them, he said.

Dean said "yes" when asked if other countries involved in the search had reached the same conclusions.

"Our best theory at this point is that (the pings were) likely some sound produced by the ship ... or within the electronics of the Towed Pinger Locator," Dean said.

The pinger locator was used by searchers to listen for underwater signals.

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May 15th, 2014
04:45 AM ET

Thousands Told to Flee San Diego Fires

San Diego County is hoping for a break Thursday - a day after wildfires ravaged the landscape, threatening homes, universities, a military base and a nuclear power plant.

"Let's hope for a calm day," said County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who marveled at the outbreak that saw San Diego go from one wildfire to nine, charring more than 9,000 acres.

Firefighters deployed across the country, jumping on every hotspot that flared up.

"It's been a pretty amazing day," she said Wednesday evening. "Everyone needs to be on high alert."

Temperatures cooled overnight and the winds calmed, giving those fighting the flames a bit of a break.

Additional air tankers and firefighting helicopters will join the effort Thursday, according to Jacob. She said she's certain more fires will spring up with the new day, but was praying they wouldn't.

The region is bone dry after months of little rainfall and temperatures are brutally hot, especially for May. Wildfire season typically peaks in over the summer and into the fall.

Thursday will be the hottest day of the week, according to theNational Weather Service, with forecast highs between 98 and 106.

We'll have the latest updates on "Early Start."

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April 29th, 2014
04:34 AM ET

75 Million People Under Storm Threat

The scope is staggering. Some 75 million Americans are under threat of severe weather on Tuesday.

People from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast, and from the Midwest to the East Coast, are advised to keep their eyes to the sky and their ears to the radio. That's a third of the country.

The greatest risk will again be in the Deep South, with Mississippi and Alabama in the bull's eye for the worst of the storms.

The first two days of this powerful spring storm system, which is expected to rage into Wednesday, claimed 29 lives in six states.

We'll have the latest updates on "Early Start."

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April 28th, 2014
03:58 AM ET

'Houses Are Just a Pile of Brick'

A brutal band of severe weather battered the central Plains and mid-South late Sunday, killing at least 12 people in Arkansas and one in Oklahoma.

Some of the worst damage was north of Little Rock, Arkansas, where reported tornadoes devastated the towns of Mayflower and Vilonia.

"It's chaos here," said Vilonia Mayor James Firestone. "Our downtown area seems like it's completely leveled."

The nightmare is all too familiar for the community of about 3,800 people. Another storm ransacked the town almost three years ago to the day and followed essentially the same path, the mayor said.

"There's a few buildings partially standing, but the amount of damage is tremendous," Firestone said Sunday. "There's gas lines spewing. Of course, power lines down. Houses are just a pile of brick."

We'll have the latest on "Early Start" at 4am ET.

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April 9th, 2014
06:30 AM ET

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: 2 New Signals in Search Area Buoy Hope

In a sea of uncertainty, two bits of good news emerged Wednesday.

Searchers picked up fresh signals that officials hope are locator beacons from the data recorders of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

The Australian ship Ocean Shield had first picked up the underwater pulses Saturday. But then, for the next three days, nothing.

On Tuesday, the ship once again reacquired the signals. That's four signals in the same broad area: two on Saturday; two on Tuesday. All of the signals are within 17 miles of one another.

"I believe we are searching in the right area, but we need to visually identify wreckage before we can confirm with certainty that this is the final resting place of MH370," said Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, who's coordinating the Australian operation.

The second piece of good news? Authorities analyzed the signals picked up Saturday and determined they weren't natural occurrences, but likely came from specific electronic equipment. Some marine life make similar sounds.

"They believe the signals to be consistent with the specification and description of a flight data recorder," Houston said. "I'm now optimistic. We'll find the aircraft or what's left of the aircraft in the not too distant future."

Signals getting weaker

Wednesday is Day 33 in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which went missing March 8. It was carrying 239 people.

Authorities haven't given up trying. Instead, they are pinning their hopes on the pings.

But time is not on their side.

The batteries powering the flight recorders' locator beacons are certified to be working for 30 days. Stored in a plane's tail, they are designed to begin sending off distinct, high-pitched signals as soon as they come in contact with water.

"The signals are getting weaker. Which means we're either moving away from the search area or the pinger batteries are dying," Houston said.

The first signal, at 4:45 p.m. Perth Time on Saturday, lasted 2 hours 20 minutes.

The second, at 9:27 p.m. Saturday, lasted 13 minutes.

The third signal was picked up Tuesday at 4:27 p.m. That lasted 5 minutes 32 seconds.

The fourth, at 10:17 p.m. Tuesday, was 7 minutes long.

"It's certainly encouraging that more signals have been detected," Pentagon spokesman Adm. John Kirby told CNN. "There is still much work to do, however."

U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Matthews did not join the speculation over the new signals, instead sticking to the black and white world of science.

"I'm an engineer so we don't talk emotions too much," he said.

Matthews is overseeing the American equipment being used aboard the Ocean Shield to pick up the signals.

Scouring for debris

There's still no indication of wreckage from the plane. And so the visual search goes on.

Wednesday's effort includes up to 11 military planes, four civilian aircraft as well as 14 ships. Three of them - the Ocean Shield farther north, and the British HMS Echo and Chinese Haixun 01 to the south - will be focusing underwater.

All told, everyone involved will be scouring a 29,000-square-mile zone centered about 1,400 miles northwest of Perth.

That's roughly the size of South Carolina.

But it still pales in comparison to the once nearly 3 million miles, at sea and on land, the searchers were scouring for signs of the lost aircraft a few weeks ago.

Kevin McEvoy, a New Zealand air force commodore involved in the effort, noted that authorities once "didn't even know which haystack" to look in for the aircraft.

"I think we have got a much clearer picture around the areas that we need to concentrate on," McEvoy told CNN's Erin Burnett from Auckland.

Authorities greatly reduced that area after analyzing satellite data to determine Flight 370 had set off from Kuala Lumpur toward Beijing, turned around to go back over the Malay Peninsula, then ended up in the southern Indian Ocean.

Why? No one really knows.

The best chance to answer that question may rest wherever the plane - and its so-called black boxes, with their trove of information about the plane and its movements - now resides.

Search planes dispatched day after day looking for evidence of the missing airliner - a floating wing, a seat cushion, anything - thus far have come up empty.

The latest, greatest hopes have come from crews listening underwater for signs of Flight 370.

The ocean to contend with

The first such possible breakthrough came last Friday and Saturday, when a Chinese ship detected pulses that may have been from the plane. No more have been heard since.

According to McEvoy, "the main focus" centers around the site of Ocean Shield's discovery. The ship used more advanced detection gear than that aboard the Chinese vessel and was found some 375 miles away, leading Houston to believe they are separate signals.

Beyond the dwindling battery life, there's all the ocean to contend with: The Ocean Shield signals were in water about 2.6 miles deep, meaning a number of things could literally get in the way of or otherwise disrupt the pulses.

To make sure the waters in the area isn't roiled any further, air and sea traffic there is being limited. That's why there's no rush to put in underwater drones to take photos.

Ocean Shield can search six times the amount of area with a towed pinger locator than can be done with the sonar on a drone, Houston said.

"The better the Ocean Shield can define the area, the easier it will be for the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle to subsequently search for aircraft wreckage," he said. "Bear in mind with the Air France disaster, it took the underwater vehicle 20 days to get to the wreckage."

A painstaking process

If more pulses are detected, it's not as if they'll lead down in a straight line to the flight recorders. As is, the pings that were heard could have emanated from anywhere within a 5-mile radius, said Mary Schiavo, a former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Finding more signals could narrow the search area. Without them, authorities could then start the painstaking process of using side-scanning sonar to try to find the aircraft on the ocean's bottom.

Somewhat 'befuddling'

The absence of wreckage near these detected signals leaves some skeptical, worried that the Chinese and Australian ship's finds could be yet another false lead in an investigation that's been full of them.

Acknowledging "a very high-speed vertical impact" could explain the lack of aircraft remnants, CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien said there's reason to be cautious.

"It's either the most extraordinary event, or those pings weren't real," O'Brien said. "It's somewhat befuddling."

Sarah Bajc, the partner of American passenger Philip Wood, isn't convinced about anything. She told CNN's Erin Burnett she thinks the plane was hijacked.

"All of us pretty well agree that until there's the bulk of the plane, the bulk of the bodies discovered, and a black box intact, we won't believe that it's final evidence," Bajc said early Wednesday from Beijing. "I don't think the authorities have given us much confidence of their investigative skills so far."

The lack of clarity makes it hard to "grieve properly and ... move on" - something that she's not yet willing to do.

"I want to fight to find him, in whatever form that ends up being," said Bajc, who is coordinating with other passengers' kin to press for answers. "And I think most of the families feel the same way."

Until they get answers, family members like Steve Wang are clinging to hope while trying to hold themselves together. His mother was on the plane.

"We're just going through so many kinds of emotion," Wang said. "Desperate, sad and helpless - something like that. Everything."

March 25th, 2014
05:52 AM ET

2 Shot Dead at Va. Naval Station

A sailor and a civilian died after a shooting at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia late Monday night, the U.S. Navy said.

The incident took place at Pier 1 around 11:20 p.m., according the station's Facebook page.

No other injuries were reported.

Naval Station Norfolk was briefly locked down before the restriction was lifted.

Authorities did not release details about the shooting. But spokesman Jim Moir said the civilian suspect was shot and killed by Navy Security Forces.

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January 13th, 2014
05:54 AM ET

Southwest Airlines Plane Lands at Wrong Missouri Airport

Welcome to Branson, Missouri. Well, maybe not.

A Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago's Midway Airport was scheduled to land at Branson Airport in southwest Missouri on Sunday night. Instead, the Boeing 737-700 touched down at Taney County airport - about seven miles away, and with a runway significantly shorter.

Authorities have launched an investigation on the mix up. But passengers were relieved the error didn't lead to something more serious.

The Taney County airport doesn't normally handle big jets. Its runway is about half the length of the Branson airport - 3,738 feet compared to 7,140 feet.

That required the pilot to do a lot of heavy braking as soon as the Boeing 737-700 touched down.

Without the firm foot on the brakes, the plane could have overshot the end of the runway, tumbled down an embankment and onto U.S. 65.

"Really happy (the) pilot applied brakes the way he did," said Scott Schieffer, one of 124 passengers aboard Flight 4013. "Who knows what would have happened?"

The plane stopped about 300 feet from the end of the runway, according to Jeff Bourk, the executive director at Branson airport.

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