Saturday, 18 May 2013

Welcome to Naija Gist: North Korea launches short-range missiles

Welcome to Naija Gist: North Korea launches short-range missiles: Two missiles fired in the morning, followed by another in the afternoon, according to South Korea's defence ministry. ...

Welcome to Naija Gist: Guantanamo hunger strike enters 100th day

Welcome to Naija Gist: Guantanamo hunger strike enters 100th day: Activists demanding the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison have marked the 100th day of a hun...

Welcome to Naija Gist: Somaliland waits for worldwide recognition

Welcome to Naija Gist: Somaliland waits for worldwide recognition: Citizens and leaders in the autonomous region of Somalia say they are historically and politically a separate country. ...

Welcome to Naija Gist: France legalises same-sex marriage

Welcome to Naija Gist: France legalises same-sex marriage: President Hollande signs bill into law after Constitutional Council dismisses legal challen...

Welcome to Naija Gist: Deadly Iraq violence spills into fourth day

Welcome to Naija Gist: Deadly Iraq violence spills into fourth day: At least seven people killed in apparent sectarian attacks following the country's deadliest day in months. ...

Welcome to Naija Gist: Soldiers comb Boko Haram hideouts, kill 35

Welcome to Naija Gist: Soldiers comb Boko Haram hideouts, kill 35: Troops yesterday used jets and attack helicopters to bombard Boko Haram Islamic camps in  Sambisa Game Reserve, in Borno State, which is o...

Welcome to Naija Gist: Nigerian warplanes strike 'Boko Haram camps'

Welcome to Naija Gist: Nigerian warplanes strike 'Boko Haram camps': Troops shell rebel targets with jets and helicopters as offensive following declaration of state of emergency continues. ...

Welcome to Naija Gist: Nigeria launches air raids on militant Islamist gr...

Welcome to Naija Gist: Nigeria launches air raids on militant Islamist gr...: Nigerian warplanes struck militant camps in the northeast on Friday in a major push against an Islamist insurgency, drawing a sharp ...

North Korea launches short-range missiles


Two missiles fired in the morning, followed by another in the afternoon, according to South Korea's defence ministry.


Tensions had eased until Saturday's missile launch by North Korean, led by Kim Jong-un [AFP]
North Korea has fired three short-range missiles from its east coast, South Korea's defence ministry says, but the purpose of the launches was unknown.
Launches by the North of short-term missiles are not uncommon, but the ministry would not speculate whether Saturday's launches were part of a test or training exercise.
"North Korea fired short-range guided missiles twice in the morning and once in the afternoon off its east coast," an official at the South Korean Ministry of Defence spokesman's office said by telephone.
The official said he would not speculate on whether the missiles were fired as part of a drill or training exercise.
"In case of any provocation, the ministry will keep monitoring the situation and remain on alert," he said.
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Follow coverage of escalating threats in Northeast Asia
Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett in Seoul quoted a government spokesperson who would not be named as saying it was probably a KNO2-type missile, that is a short-range guided ballistic missile - the shortest of North Korea's arsenal.
The missile travelled in a northeasterly direction, he said.
"That's interesting because it takes the missiles away not only from South Korean territory but also from Japanese territory."
The ministry said the country had reinforced monitoring and was maintaining a high-level of readiness to deal with any risky developments.
A Japanese government source, quoted by Kyodo news agency, noted the three launches, but said none of the missiles landed in Japan's territorial waters.
'Retaliation unlikely'
Tension on the Korean peninsula has subsided in the past month after running high for several weeks following the imposition of tougher UN sanctions against North Korea following its third nuclear test in February.
The North had for weeks issued nearly daily warnings of impending nuclear war with the South and the US.
Our correspondent said that this could be seen as a way of backing up some of the rhetoric, but doing so in a relatively conservative manner.
"These sorts of short range tests don't attract the same kind of approach that longer range or nuclear tests carry with them and they were fired north easterly. So they are likely not to provoke any sort of retaliatory measure from South Korea or Japan."
North Korea conducts regular launches of its Scud short-range missiles, which can hit targets in South Korea.
It conducted a successful launch of a long-range missile last December, saying it put a weather satellite into orbit.
The US and its allies denounced the launch as a test of technology that could one day deliver a nuclear warhead.
During the weeks of high tension, South Korea reported  that the North had moved missile launchers into place on its east coast for a possible launch of a medium-range Musudan missile.
The Musudan has a range of 3,500km, putting Japan in range and possibly the US South Pacific island of Guam.

Guantanamo hunger strike enters 100th day


Activists demanding the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison have marked the 100th day of a hunger strike there by submitting a petition to the White House containing some 370,000 signatures.
A group of activists wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods like those used on detainees at Guantanamo Bay gathered outside the White House on Friday to call for the immediate closure of the controversial jail.
"Immoral, illegal, ineffective," a banner read.
Richard Killmer, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, said that "years of detention without charge or trial have created a sense of desperation and hopelessness among the men at Guantanamo, which has led over 100 of them to join a hunger strike".
Colonel Morris Davis, a former military prosecutor at Guantanamo, handed over the petition to the White House.
Activists also brandished an effigy of President Barack Obama, referencing his past vow to close the US military prison.
Out of 166 inmates, 102 are on hunger strike at Guantanamo, with 30 being fed through tubes. One inmate continued to be hospitalised but prison officials said his life was not in danger.
Inmates are restrained and a feeding tube is pushed through their nose and into their stomach - a practise the UN compares to torture.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Dr Otmar Kloiber, Secretary General at the World Medical Association, said the force-feeding was "degrading and inhuman".

Somaliland waits for worldwide recognition

Citizens and leaders in the autonomous region of Somalia say they are historically and politically a separate country.

The Horn of Africa has been ravaged by war and famine for decades, and now one of Somalia's regions, hopes to become an independent state.
Somaliland sits on the Gulf of Aden and is officially regarded as an autonomous region of Somalia. The two were, however, separate until 1960. During the civil war in the 1980s, 40,000 people from Somaliland were killed, and nearly half a million fled.
The region then declared independence in 1991. Since then, it has held four peaceful elections.
Ahmed Mahamoud Silany, the president, told Al Jazeera that Somaliland would like to retain its independence, despite Somalia's calls to be united with region.
"I think I have been very clear too, that we are going to retain our independence," he said.
"We would like to remain friends with Somalia, we would like to cooperate with them.
"But as far as our independence is concerned. It is not I who has decided, it's not my government who has decided.
"It the people of Somaliland, and the history of Somaliland, which has decided that Somaliland is going to be, and has always been a different country."
Foreign investment
Al Jazeera's Nazanine Moshiri, reporting from Hargeisa on Friday, said that while war has raged in Somalia for decades, Somaliland has managed to unite its people.
"It is now the biggest exporter of livestock to Saudi Arabia," she said. "Much of the progress has been down to Somalis sending money from abroad."
Poverty, however, remains high and because Somaliland is not recognised as an independent state, it is not eligible for international development loans.
The UN and the African Union have both rejected calls to recognise Somaliland.
"Without recognition, it cannot get the foreign investment it needs," our correspondent said, adding that aid is instead sent to Somalia.
On Tuesday, in response to a move by Somalia to assume full control of Somalia's entire airspace, including Somaliland, Mohamud Hashi Abdi, Somaliland's civil aviation minister, issued a ban against all UN flights from its airports.
"We had already signed an agreement which allows an independent panel to control the airspace," Hashi was quoted by local media as saying in Hargeisa.
Elsewhere in southern Somalia's Jubaland, a "warlord" assumed presidency of the region on Wednesday.
Ahmed Madobe was elected Jubaland's "president" by a conference of about 500 elders and local leaders, but was challenged by Barre Hirale, a former Somali defence minister.
"I was nominated president of Jubaland by the elders ... I call on the people to support my presidency to assist me in bringing peace," Hirale said.
Potential rift
Madobe is a key ally of Kenya, and his appointment risks opening a rift between Kenya and Somalia, according to AFP news agency.
With tensions already high, the move raised the risk of clashes between rival factions in the southern port city of Kismayo, a former stronghold of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab, where Kenyan troops in an African Union force are now based.
Jubaland lies in the far south of Somalia and borders both Kenya and Ethiopia, and control is split between multiple forces including clan militia, the al-Shabab, Kenyan and Ethiopian soldiers.
Jubaland joins other semi-autonomous regions of the fractured Horn of Africa nation, including Puntland in the northeast, which wants autonomy within a federation of states, and Somaliland in the northwest.

France legalises same-sex marriage

President Hollande signs bill into law after Constitutional Council dismisses legal challenge by opposition party.

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The issue of same-sex marriage has pushed both opponents and proponents onto the streets in recent days [AFP]
French President Francois Hollande has signed a gay marriage and adoption bill into law, a day after the country's Constitutional Council threw out a legal challenge by the conservative opposition.
Hollande, trying to turn the page on months of bitter opposition to the measures, said it was "time to respect the law and the Republic".
The Constitutional Council approved the bill on Friday, which was also the International Day Against Homophobia.
The ruling cleared the way for France to become the 14th country to legalise same-sex marriage.
French deputies approved the bill in parliament last month after a several days of often stormy debate.
Recent polls suggest that opinion in France is fairly evenly split on both gay marriage and adoption.
Conservative challenge
The main opposition UMP party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy immediately challenged the move on constitutional grounds.
Friday's statement by the Constitutional Council, however, said same-sex marriage "did not run contrary to any constitutional principles", and that it did not infringe on "basic rights or liberties or national sovereignty".
The council did say that gay marriage did not automatically mean the "right to a child": the "interest of the child" would be the overriding factor in such cases, it ruled.
Reacting to the ruling Friday, Jean-Francois Cope, UMP party chief, told TF1 television: "It is a decision that I regret, but that I respect."
'Celebration time'
Hollande had given warning that he would brook no resistance.
"I will ensure that the law applies across the whole territory, in full, and I will not accept any disruption of these marriages," he said.
Gay rights groups hailed the decision as a watershed.
"Now it's celebration time," said Nicolas Gougain, spokesman of the LGBT association representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
Gay rights watchdog SOS Homophobie added: "Our country has taken a great step forward today although it's regrettable that it was taken in a climate of bad faith and homophobic violence."
The issue of gay marriage has divided France, which is officially secular but overwhelmingly Catholic. Protests against the bill drew hundreds of thousands, with a handful of hard-core protesters clashing with police.
Violent protest
Late on Friday, between 200 and 300 protesters gathered in central Paris to denounce the ruling backing the bill and calling on Hollande to resign.
One police officer was injured after a flammable liquid was thrown in his face.
Earlier, a group of bare-chested men wearing white masks staged their own protest against gay marriage on one of the bridges over the Seine. They call themselves the "Hommen" - a riposte to the bare-breasted feminist protesters known as the "Femmen".
Opponents of the law plan another major protest rally in Paris on May 26.
As the French bill got the green light to become law, a report by the European Union's Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) highlighted the problems that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people still face across Europe.
It said two-thirds of the community were still afraid to show their sexuality in public - and a quarter had been victims of physical or verbal attacks.

Deadly Iraq violence spills into fourth day


At least seven people killed in apparent sectarian attacks following the country's deadliest day in months.


About 300 people have died in May so far in Iraq amid fears of a new round of sectarian bloodshed [Reuters]
Deadly violence in Iraq has spilled into a fourth day, with reports that at least seven people have been killed and three more injured, amid fears over a new round of sectarian bloodshed.
Two police officers were killed on Saturday after an improvised device exploded at a federal police base south of Mosul, a mainly Sunni Muslim area in the country's north, Al Jazeera's Omar Al Saleh, reporting from Erbil, said.
He said one soldier was killed west of Mosul in a similar attack, which also wounded three soldiers.
Reuters news agency reported that four people were killed in a bomb attack in Fallujah, 65km west of Baghdad.
In Anbar, hundreds of armed men gathered near the headquarters of a security command, while others ambushed a patrol and kidnapped 10 security force personnel, police said.
There, security forces attempted to arrest Mohammed Khamis Abu Risha, who is wanted in connection with the killing of five soldiers, near Ramadi to the west of Baghdad, sparking clashes with armed tribesmen in which two of them were killed, a police captain said.
Khamis, the nephew of Ahmed Abu Risha, a powerful tribal sheikh, said that two members of his tribe were killed.
Deadliest day
The violence comes a day after more than 70 people were killed in bombings in majority Sunni districts in Baghdad and surrounding areas, in what has been noted as the deadliest day in Iraq in more than eight months.
Friday's attacks included Shia Muslims at bus stops and outdoor markets in scenes reminiscent of the retaliatory attacks between the two Islamic branches in 2006-2007 that claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Martin Kobler, the UN envoy in Baghdad, called for Iraqi leaders to stop the violence.
"It is the responsibility of all leaders to stop the bloodshed in this country and to protect their citizens," he said in a statement on Friday.
"Small children are burned alive in cars. Worshippers are cut down outside their own mosques. This is beyond unacceptable."
Al Jazeera's Dominic Kane reports on Friday's attacks
In the deadliest attack on Friday, twin bombings near a Sunni mosque in Baquba, north of Baghdad, killed 41 people and injured dozens.
One bomb exploded as worshippers were departing the Saria mosque while a second went off after people gathered at the scene of the first blast, police said.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Adding to the sectarian tensions, the bodies of two Iraqi Shias killed fighting in neighbouring Syria alongside President Bashar al-Assad's forces arrived home on Friday, providing evidence that members of the majority community have joined the war.
Growing worry
Al Jazeera's Saleh said the sectarian nature of recent attacks were worrying Iraqis.
"You have attacks on Shia worshippers, you have attacks on Sunni worshippers. It appears that whoever is behind those attacks wants to ignite sectarian strife," he said.
"It's an indication that security conditions are really going downhill in this country. There is a huge and growing sense of fear among Iraqis."
Tension has flared since Sunnis began protesting against what they say is mistreatment at the hands of the mainly Shia-led government, including random detentions and neglect.
The protests, which began in December, have largely been peaceful, but the number of attacks rose sharply after a deadly security crackdown on a Sunni protest camp in the country's north on April 23.
So far in May, at least 300 people have been killed in the violence. The death toll for this year is around 1,500 people.

Soldiers comb Boko Haram hideouts, kill 35

Troops yesterday used jets and attack helicopters to bombard Boko Haram Islamic camps in  Sambisa Game Reserve, in Borno State, which is one of their strongholds killing a number of  the insurgents. The Sambisa Camps are believed to be  harbouring their training and enrolment base.
Over 3,600 military personnel comprising the Army, Navy, Police, the Department of State Security, DSS and other security agencies and men of Counter Terrorists Squad, CTS, are said to be involved in the campaign to rout the Boko Haram insurgents from their hideouts in the affected states.
Heavy weapons belonging to the insurgents including anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns were destroyed by the military  fighter jets even as the Nigerian Army’s artillery long range surface to air guns were also being used.
Nigerian-Army
Director of Defence Information, Brigadier-General Chris Olukolade told Reuters that several camps had been attacked, including the game reserve in Borno state, but did not give further details.
“A number of insurgents have been killed. There are a lot of casualties. It is not just Sambisa, every camp is under attack. But we have not done the mopping up operations on the ground to determine the numbers killed,” Olukolade said, adding that, “there have been air strikes since Wednesday, and were continuing yesterday. I cannot tell you the actual number of terrorists killed, but I am optimistic we are making headway, and at the end of the operation, we will be commended.”
An unconfirmed report however, said that one of the air strike jets was shot by the insurgents, ‘’but the pilots manoeuvred it successfully and landed safely at the base.’’
This military offensive continued just as the Army said yesterday that its personnel in Daura, Katsina State foiled an attempt by the Boko Haram sect to overrun the ancient town by attacking and bombing government and public institutions like police stations and banks, causing mayhem and disrupting the peace of the residents of the area.
Borno and Yobe states and their environs have remained for two days without communication as all  the GSM networks were cut off to enable the military accomplish their mission without hitches.
No fewer than 35 of the insurgents had so far been killed during the air strikes on their training camps.
Military Spokesman, Olukolade confirmed that jets and helicopter gunships had been used to attack several camps.
Nigerian forces are trying to regain territory controlled by increasingly well-armed Boko Haram Islamist insurgents in their north-eastern stronghold states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, which were put under a state of emergency by President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday.
At Gamboru,  Ngala and Marte towns on the border with Cameroon in northern Borno, residents said that heavily armed troops and tanks arrived on Wednesday, sealing off previously unmanned border posts.
Some sources said that many innocent people, particularly those residing in the remote areas along were not aware of the operations.The Defence Headquarters in an update on the battle to dislodge Boko Haram from the Northern borders of the country, confirmed earlier reports that it destroyed some terrorists camps in Northern and Central Borno.
In a statement in the evening,  Olubolade said the soldiers destroyed much of the insurgents’ weapons and logistics including vehicles, fuel dumps, containers and power generators.
The statement read, “advancing troops of Special Task Force, STF, have destroyed some terrorists camps sited in the forests of northern and central Borno. Heavy weapons including anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns were also destroyed in the process.
“The casualties inflicted on the insurgents in the cause of the assault will be verified during mop up. The Defence Headquarters is quite satisfied with the progress of the operation and the fighting spirit of participating troops. The STF has been enjoined to sustain the tempo.
“Meanwhile, border posts have all been manned by security agents to prevent escape or infiltrations by insurgents.”
Meanwhile, the Army said that in the ensuing battle that followed the foiled attack by Boko Haram to overrun Daura, lasted for four hours, it lost two soldiers, just as an officer was shot and wounded while five Boko Haram terrorists were killed and their vehicle recovered.
The Chief of Civil Military Affairs, CMA, Major General Bola Koleoso,  who spoke on the issue said, “Two Boko Haram terrorists were killed during gunfire exchange while three who escaped in their vehicle, had a road traffic accident and died thus bringing the death to five.
“The distress call (over the attack), came to our unit (35 Battalion) located in Katsina. Immediately, our troops moved into Daura to take charge of the situation. Some quantities of Improvised Explosive Devices, IED’s were recovered. Two Golf cars, 10 AK 47 riffles  used by the terrorists were recovered.”
Keleoso said some of the terrorists escaped with bullet wounds and requested members of the public, to report to the nearest security agency, any person found with such wounds.
“Additionally, hospitals and clinics are also warned not to treat any cases of gunshot wounds without reporting such cases to security agencies. We also wish to emphasize that civilians who hide Boko Haram terrorists will put themselves in danger as they will be acting against the public and national interests,” he said.
On the attack on Bama where Boko Haram terrorists attempted to overrun the Army Barracks there, Gen Koleoso said, “All of us are aware of what happened in Bama, the accusations and all. But it has been found that Boko Haram Terrorists in fake army camouflage uniforms were actually responsible for the burning of the houses and the killing of the civilians.
“The following day, after the incident, several civilians were treated in the multi-national JTF clinic in Baga by our medical team. Our uniforms are being used in disguise.
’’In fact, in a number of instances, these terrorists have burnt down buildings and vehicles in Maiduguri and all these dastardly acts were blamed on the soldiers of the Nigerian army  just because they could not distinguish the fake uniform worn by impersonators from the well kitted and trained members of the Nigerian Army.”
On fears being expressed that the massive deployment of troops in the entire Northern flank for the operation to flush out Boko Haram in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states might affect security arrangements in other parts of the country where there are crisis, the CMA said, “Nigerians should feel free to  go about their normal activities. Nigerians should feel very safe. Our barracks and formations are still in place. It doesn’t mean that because of the emergency, then troops will not be available for other operations.”

Nigerian warplanes strike 'Boko Haram camps'


Troops shell rebel targets with jets and helicopters as offensive following declaration of state of emergency continues.



Rights groups have criticised Nigerian soldiers for committing abuses during military operations [EPA]
Nigerian warplanes have struck suspected Boko Haram camps in the country's northeast as part of an ongoing military offensive against the armed group.

Troops used jets and helicopters on Friday to hit targets in their biggest military campaign since Boko Haram launched a revolt almost four years ago.
The air raids, which began after President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa, drew a sharp warning from the US, which called on the government to ensure rights are not violated.

Boko Haram, an armed group that is fighting Western influence and wants to form an Islamic state, has staged a series of deadly attacks, mainly in the predominantly Muslim north.
A military source said at least 30 fighters had been killed in the fighting.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, issued a statement saying "we are ... deeply concerned by credible allegations that Nigerian security forces are committing gross human rights violations".
The violations, he said, "will, in turn, only escalate the violence and fuel extremism".
Restraint urged
The US is the biggest foreign investor in Africa's most populous nation, notably in its energy sector, and buys a third of Nigeria's oil.
The US "condemns Boko Haram's campaign of terror in the strongest terms", Kerry said, urging Nigeria's armed forces to show restraint and discipline.
 
Rights groups have previously compiled reports blaming security forces and Boko Haram for rights abuses.
Brigadier-General Chris Olukolade, Nigerian defence spokesman, said in a statement that troops destroyed several Boko Haram camps and weapons stockpiles in forests around Borno state, epicentre of the uprising and relic of a medieval Islamic empire.
"Heavy weapons including anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns were also destroyed in the process," he said.
"The special operations ... resulted in the destruction of much of the insurgents' weapons and logistics such as vehicles, containers, fuel dumps and power generators."
He said the death toll among the fighters would be verified during mopping-up exercises in the camps, including in the Sambisa game reserve in Borno.
A military source said at least 30 fighters had been killed in one operation.
Boko Haram fighters, seen as the main security threat to Africa's biggest oil producer, have been staging bolder attacks since last month, including one on the town of Bama that left 55 dead.

Nigeria launches air raids on militant Islamist group Boko Haram

Nigerian warplanes struck militant camps in the northeast on Friday in a major push against an Islamist insurgency, drawing a sharp warning from the United States to respect human rights and not harm civilians.

French children kidnapped 'by Boko Haram' in Cameroon
Boko Haram have forged ties with al-Qaeda linked groups in the Sahara Photo: AFP
Troops used jets and helicopters to bombard targets in their biggest offensive since the Boko Haram group launched a revolt almost four years ago to establish a breakaway Islamic state and one military source said at least 30 militants had been killed.
But three days after President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the northeast, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a strongly worded statement saying: "We are ... deeply concerned by credible allegations that Nigerian security forces are committing gross human rights violations, which, in turn, only escalate the violence and fuel extremism."
The United States is the biggest foreign investor in Africa's most populous nation, notably in its energy sector, and buys a third of Nigeria's oil. Washington "condemns Boko Haram's campaign of terror in the strongest terms", Kerry said, but urged Nigeria's armed forces to show restraint and discipline.
Nigerian defence spokesman Brigadier-General Chris Olukolade said in a statement that troops destroyed several Boko Haram camps and weapons stockpiles in forests around Borno state, epicentre of the uprising and relic of a medieval Islamic empire: "Heavy weapons including anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns were also destroyed in the process," he said.
"The special operations ... resulted in the destruction of much of the insurgents' weapons and logistics such as vehicles, containers, fuel dumps and power generators."
He said the death toll amongst the insurgents would be verified during mopping up exercises in the camps, including in the Sambisa game reserve in Borno state. A military source said at least 30 insurgents had been killed in one operation.
Nigerian forces are trying to regain territory controlled by well-armed militants in remote northeastern stronghold states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, placed under a state of emergency on Tuesday.
The Islamists, seen as the main security threat to Africa's top oil producer, have been staging bolder attacks since last month, including one on the town of Bama that left 55 dead.
Nigerian authorities fear they are creating an enclave in remote border areas, as al Qaeda linked militants did in the deserts of Mali before the French forced them out in January.
But previous efforts to crush Boko Haram have always proved temporary, forcing them to dissipate into hiding places or across borders, where they wait, regroup and then come back.
The military is already overstretched in the north, by operations against oil theft in the south and foreign missions.
More troops arrived on Friday in the Borno state capital Maiduguri, where Boko Haram was founded as a clerical movement opposed to Western culture, but which after a military crackdown on it killed 800 people, morphed into a full armed rebellion and forged ties with al-Qaeda linked groups in the Sahara.

Deep sea 'gold rush' moves closer

Nautilus operation The idea of exploiting precious metals on the ocean floor has been considered for decades

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The prospect of a deep sea "gold rush" opening a controversial new frontier for mining on the ocean floor has moved a step closer.
The United Nations has published its first plan for managing the extraction of so-called "nodules" - small mineral-rich rocks - from the seabed.
A technical study was carried out by the UN's International Seabed Authority - the body overseeing deep sea mining.
It says companies could apply for licences from as soon as 2016.

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I don't think we own the deep ocean in the sense that we can do what we like with it”
Dr Jon Copley University of Southampton
The idea of exploiting the gold, copper, manganese, cobalt and other metals of the ocean floor has been considered for decades but only recently became feasible with high commodity prices and new technology.
Conservation experts have long warned that mining the seabed will be highly destructive and could have disastrous long-term consequences for marine life.
The ISA study itself recognizes that mining will cause "inevitable environmental damage".
But the report comes amid what a spokesman describes as "an unprecedented surge" of interest from state-owned and private mining companies.
Sharing the proceeds The number of licences issued to prospect for minerals now stands at 17 with another seven due to be granted and more are likely to follow. They cover vast areas of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.
One of the most recent to be granted was to UK Seabed Resources, a subsidiary of the British arm of Lockheed Martin, the American defence giant.
Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the ISA was set up to encourage and manage seabed mining for the wider benefit of humanity - with a share of any profits going to developing countries.
Chimneys  
The chimneys of hydrothermal vents contain many metals in high abundance
Now the ISA is taking the significant step of moving from simply handling bids for mineral exploration to considering how to license the first real mining operations and how to share the proceeds.
The ISA's legal counsel, Michael Lodge, told the BBC: "We are at the threshold of a new era of deep seabed mining".
The lure is obvious: an assessment of the eastern Pacific - a 5 million sq km area known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone - concluded that more than 27 billion tonnes of nodules could be lying on the sand.
Those rocks would contain a staggering 7 billion tonnes of manganese, 340 million tonnes of nickel, 290 million tonnes of copper and 78 million tonnes of cobalt - although it's not known how much of this is accessible.
A map shows the spread of licensed areas across the zone.
Right incentives According to the planning study, the ISA faces the challenge of trying to ensure that nodule mining's benefits will reach beyond the companies themselves while also fostering commercially viable operations.
The plan relies on providing operators with the right incentives to risk what would be expensive investments without losing the chance for developing countries to get a slice of the proceeds.
But the ISA identifies what it calls a "Catch-22" in this brand new industry as it tries to assess which companies are skilled enough to carry out the work.
"Competence cannot be gained," it says, "without actual mining at a commercial scale, but at the same time mining should not be allowed without prior demonstration of competence."
A key factor in the ISA's thinking is the need for environmental safeguards, so the document calls for monitoring of the seabed during any mining operation - though critics wonder if activity in the ocean depths can be policed.
The prospect of deepsea mining has already sparked a vigorous debate among marine scientists, as I found earlier this year on a visit to the British research ship, James Cook, exploring the hydrothermal vents of the Cayman Trough.
The expedition's chief scientist, Dr Jon Copley, a biologist from the University of Southampton, urged caution:
"I don't think we own the deep ocean in the sense that we can do what we like with it," he said. "Instead we share responsibility for its stewardship.
"We don't have a good track record of achieving balance anywhere else - think of the buffalo and the rainforest - so the question is, can we get it right?"
Extinction risk And Professor Paul Tyler, also a biologist, of the National Oceanography Centre, warned that unique species would be at risk.
"If you wipe out that area by mining, those animals have to do one of two things: they disperse and colonise another hydrothermal vent somewhere or they die.
"And what happens when they die is that the vent will become biologically extinct."
However, Professor Rachel Mills of the University of Southampton, a marine chemist, called for a wider debate about mining generally on the grounds that we all use minerals and that mines on land are far larger than any would be on the seabed.
She has carried out research for Nautilus Minerals, a Canadian firm planning to mine hydrothermal vents off Papua New Guinea.
"Everything we are surrounded by, the way we live, relies on mineral resources and we don't often ask where they come from.
"We need to ask whether there is sustainable mining on land and whether there is sustainable mining in the seas.
"I actually think it is the same moral questions we ask whether it's from the Andes or down in the Bismarck Sea."
This debate is set to intensify as the reality of the first mining operations comes closer.

Deep sea 'gold rush' moves closer

Nautilus operation The idea of exploiting precious metals on the ocean floor has been considered for decades

Related Stories

The prospect of a deep sea "gold rush" opening a controversial new frontier for mining on the ocean floor has moved a step closer.
The United Nations has published its first plan for managing the extraction of so-called "nodules" - small mineral-rich rocks - from the seabed.
A technical study was carried out by the UN's International Seabed Authority - the body overseeing deep sea mining.
It says companies could apply for licences from as soon as 2016.

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I don't think we own the deep ocean in the sense that we can do what we like with it”
Dr Jon Copley University of Southampton
The idea of exploiting the gold, copper, manganese, cobalt and other metals of the ocean floor has been considered for decades but only recently became feasible with high commodity prices and new technology.
Conservation experts have long warned that mining the seabed will be highly destructive and could have disastrous long-term consequences for marine life.
The ISA study itself recognizes that mining will cause "inevitable environmental damage".
But the report comes amid what a spokesman describes as "an unprecedented surge" of interest from state-owned and private mining companies.
Sharing the proceeds The number of licences issued to prospect for minerals now stands at 17 with another seven due to be granted and more are likely to follow. They cover vast areas of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.
One of the most recent to be granted was to UK Seabed Resources, a subsidiary of the British arm of Lockheed Martin, the American defence giant.
Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the ISA was set up to encourage and manage seabed mining for the wider benefit of humanity - with a share of any profits going to developing countries.
Chimneys  
The chimneys of hydrothermal vents contain many metals in high abundance
Now the ISA is taking the significant step of moving from simply handling bids for mineral exploration to considering how to license the first real mining operations and how to share the proceeds.
The ISA's legal counsel, Michael Lodge, told the BBC: "We are at the threshold of a new era of deep seabed mining".
The lure is obvious: an assessment of the eastern Pacific - a 5 million sq km area known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone - concluded that more than 27 billion tonnes of nodules could be lying on the sand.
Those rocks would contain a staggering 7 billion tonnes of manganese, 340 million tonnes of nickel, 290 million tonnes of copper and 78 million tonnes of cobalt - although it's not known how much of this is accessible.
A map shows the spread of licensed areas across the zone.
Right incentives According to the planning study, the ISA faces the challenge of trying to ensure that nodule mining's benefits will reach beyond the companies themselves while also fostering commercially viable operations.
The plan relies on providing operators with the right incentives to risk what would be expensive investments without losing the chance for developing countries to get a slice of the proceeds.
But the ISA identifies what it calls a "Catch-22" in this brand new industry as it tries to assess which companies are skilled enough to carry out the work.
"Competence cannot be gained," it says, "without actual mining at a commercial scale, but at the same time mining should not be allowed without prior demonstration of competence."
A key factor in the ISA's thinking is the need for environmental safeguards, so the document calls for monitoring of the seabed during any mining operation - though critics wonder if activity in the ocean depths can be policed.
The prospect of deepsea mining has already sparked a vigorous debate among marine scientists, as I found earlier this year on a visit to the British research ship, James Cook, exploring the hydrothermal vents of the Cayman Trough.
The expedition's chief scientist, Dr Jon Copley, a biologist from the University of Southampton, urged caution:
"I don't think we own the deep ocean in the sense that we can do what we like with it," he said. "Instead we share responsibility for its stewardship.
"We don't have a good track record of achieving balance anywhere else - think of the buffalo and the rainforest - so the question is, can we get it right?"
Extinction risk And Professor Paul Tyler, also a biologist, of the National Oceanography Centre, warned that unique species would be at risk.
"If you wipe out that area by mining, those animals have to do one of two things: they disperse and colonise another hydrothermal vent somewhere or they die.
"And what happens when they die is that the vent will become biologically extinct."
However, Professor Rachel Mills of the University of Southampton, a marine chemist, called for a wider debate about mining generally on the grounds that we all use minerals and that mines on land are far larger than any would be on the seabed.
She has carried out research for Nautilus Minerals, a Canadian firm planning to mine hydrothermal vents off Papua New Guinea.
"Everything we are surrounded by, the way we live, relies on mineral resources and we don't often ask where they come from.
"We need to ask whether there is sustainable mining on land and whether there is sustainable mining in the seas.
"I actually think it is the same moral questions we ask whether it's from the Andes or down in the Bismarck Sea."
This debate is set to intensify as the reality of the first mining operations comes closer.

Mafia boss Peppe Pesce gives himself up

Supporters and relatives turned up outside the police station
This week the boss of one of southern Italy's most powerful mafia dynasties sensationally handed himself in to police after three years on the run - and now faces 16 years in jail. The BBC was inside the police station when it happened.
At 4:15pm local time on Wednesday, 'Ndrangheta boss Giuseppe "Peppe" Pesce walked into the Carabinieri station in his native Rosarno like a man who had come to pay a parking ticket.
Freshly shaven and smiling incongruously, the mafioso - one of Calabria's most-wanted - was only a quarter of an hour late for the deadline he had set for his own surrender to the authorities.
The special Carabinieri team who had been hunting him obsessively for nearly three years looked resentful. Being denied the chance to capture him themselves seemed to have temporarily blinded them to the enormous symbolism of this criminal's public gesture.
Mafia bosses never normally turn themselves in. In extreme circumstances, if faced with certain death at the hands of their rivals or when too old or ill to survive in hiding, they may strike secret "face-saving" deals where authorities pretend to have captured them against their will.
Peppe Pesce with police 
 Peppe Pesce is measured up by police after handing himself in
Instead, there he was, healthy 33-year-old Peppe Pesce. The undisputed scion of one of the supreme clans of the 'Ndrangheta, Italy's little-known but most powerful mafia organisation, amenably holding out his hands - palms up - for the black ink to be rolled over them ahead of old-fashioned fingerprinting.
The authorities had been so incredulous Pesce would turn up - as his lawyers had secretly told them he would - that no other journalists had been forewarned, in case news leaked and made him change his mind.
I was lucky to be the only one there, on a follow up trip to a BBC This World documentary on the 'Ndrangheta I had recently made with historian John Dickie. As the Pesces featured prominently in it I knew this was to be an extraordinary day in Calabria.
Empire This was no family of mafia quitters. The Pesce are a criminal dynasty. Peppe Pesce inherited the baton of "regent" of the clan after his older brother Francesco "Ciccio" Pesce was captured in an underground bunker in 2011. Ciccio had taken the boss's mantle over from their father Antonino, as Antonio had from grandfather Don Peppino.
Giuseppe Pesce leaving police station  
Pesce waves to crowds
Over half a century they had built a family empire worth at least £200m through drug trafficking across Europe, as well as extortion, violence and corruption in their own ravaged Calabrian backyard. This is the way of the 'Ndrangheta which, unlike the Sicilian Mafia, favours bloodline over merit.
From the mafioso perspective, I assumed he would be bringing the ultimate disgrace to himself and his own family. But I was wrong. As news of Peppe's appearance spread in Rosarno, the Carabinieri station turned into a pilgrimage site.
In pairs, small groups, leaning on walking sticks or carried in push-chairs, dozens and dozens of relatives and well-wishers from six months old to 90, came to pay their respects to the fallen boss.

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His three-year-old daughter had hardly ever seen her fugitive father and turned away from his outstretched arms”
The Carabinieri were faced with a difficult decision. Whether or not to show magnanimity to a man who had not seen his family in three years and most likely will not for many more.
Grandmother Giuseppa, fully clad in black from head to toe, was among the first to be allowed in the room where her grandchild was sitting. Covering the last tooth left in her mouth with a hand, she wept.
"Where are you going?" she asked.
"Come on, grandma. To prison, of course," he said.
"I will never see you again," she said.
"Don't worry," he said and laughed dismissively. "I'll hurry up. I have done nothing wrong. I am in the goat business."
The second, younger-looking grandmother chimed in. "Your innocence will be proved, just as Christ was resurrected," she said.
An open mafia bunker  
The BBC series saw police expose bunkers used as mafia hideouts
One after the other, aunts, cousins, in-laws streamed in, hugged him and kissed him. Some cried, most were jovial, a few were quick and deferential.
As Peppe became increasingly relaxed in his chair, the exercise began to look like a presidential audience of sort.

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As Peppe Pesce was led to a car to be taken to jail, the crowds had lined up along the road and he smiled and waved to his family's cheers”
But plainclothes Carabinieri were paying close attention to each and every visitor as they filled out the gaps in their mental map of the clan. Their magnanimity suddenly made a lot more sense.
Peppe's mother and younger sister came in last. As they bawled, they were holding his three-year-old daughter. She had hardly ever seen her fugitive father and turned away from his outstretched arms.
"Is it true you don't eat much, my baby?" he asked.
"Yes," she said.
"Listen to daddy - if you don't eat, you'll never grow up," he said.
"I want to stay small," the three-year-old replied. Peppe Pesce went quiet. In a corner of the room, I had a knot in my stomach.
Nearly all of the visitors were women. Most men in the Pesce family are now behind bars.
House arrest Only two weeks ago, in one of the most significant anti-'Ndrangheta trials to date, 42 members of the Pesce clan received a total of 500 years in jail. Peppe Pesce was sentenced to 16 years for Mafia association in absentia, which he will now begin to serve, in a high-security jail.
The net had been closing around Peppe Pesce for months as, one by one, his accomplices had been arrested. Only two weeks ago his wife, who is seven months pregnant, was put under house arrest for passing her husband's orders around.
"This is a major success for the authority of the state. But don't be fooled," said Alessandra Cerreti, who led the investigation and prosecution against the clan.
"These are never individual decisions. Usually they are clan strategies. By sacrificing one they hope to relieve the pressure we are putting on the whole organisation. But it won't work."
As Peppe Pesce was led to a car be taken to jail, the crowds had lined up along the road. He smiled and waved to his family's cheers and claps.
As the first ever 'Ndrangheta boss to surrender to the state was driven away, an old aunt cupped her hand around her mouth and yelled: "Make sure you eat well."

France gay marriage: Hollande signs bill into law

File pic of women posing during a march in favour of gay marriage in Paris, 27 January 2013 The first gay wedding can be held on 28 May - 10 days after Mr Hollande signed the bill
France's president has signed into law a controversial bill making the country the ninth in Europe, and 14th globally, to legalise gay marriage.
On Friday, the Constitutional Council rejected a challenge by the right-wing opposition, clearing the way for Francois Hollande to sign the bill.
He said: "I have taken [the decision]; now it is time to respect the law of the Republic."
The first gay wedding could be held 10 days after the bill's signing.
But Parliamentary Relations Minister Alain Vidalies told French TV he expected the first ceremonies to take place "before 1 July".
Constitutional challenge Mr Hollande and his ruling Socialist Party have made the legislation their flagship social reform since being elected a year ago.
After a tortured debate, the same-sex marriage and adoption bill was adopted by France's Senate and National Assembly last month.
The bill was quickly challenged on constitutional grounds by the main right-wing opposition UMP party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy.
But the Constitutional Council ruled on Friday that same-sex marriage "did not run contrary to any constitutional principles," and that it did not infringe on "basic rights or liberties or national sovereignty".
It said the interest of the child would be paramount in adoption cases, cautioning that legalising same-sex adoption would not automatically mean the "right to a child".
Comedian Frigide Barjot, who has become a leading mouthpiece for the anti-gay marriage movement, denounced the ruling as "a provocation" and called for the campaign to continue.
Catholic concerns Scores of protesters took to the streets of Paris to voice their opposition to the ruling on Friday: previous, occasionally violent, demonstrations against the bill have drawn hundreds of thousands onto the streets.
UMP President Jean-Francois Cope said he regretted the Constitutional Council's decision but would respect it. Another senior UMP figure, Herve Mariton, said the party would come up with alternative proposals in 2017 that were "more respectful of the rights of children".
The anti-gay marriage lobby, backed by the Catholic Church and conservative opposition, argues the bill will undermine an essential building block of society.
Opinion polls have suggested that around 55-60% of French people support gay marriage, but only about 50% approve of gay adoption.
France is now the 14th country to legalise gay marriage after New Zealand last month.
It is also the ninth country in Europe to allow same-sex marriage after legalisation in the traditionally liberal Netherlands and Scandinavia, but also in strongly Catholic Portugal and Spain. Legislation is also moving through the UK Parliament.
But the measure has aroused stronger than expected opposition in France - a country where the Catholic Church was thought to have lost much of its influence over the public.
In January, a protest in Paris against the bill attracted some 340,000 people according to police - one of the biggest public demonstrations in France in decades. Organisers put the figure at 800,000.
Since then, both sides have held regular street protests.
Mr Hollande has been struggling with the lowest popularity ratings of any recent French president, with his promises of economic growth so far failing to bear fruit and unemployment now above 10%.
Map showing countries where same-sex marriage has been approved

Dozens injured in head-on train crash in Connecticut

Governor Dannel Malloy said the damage was "pretty devastating"
About 60 people have been injured, five critically, after a head-on, rush-hour collision between two commuter trains near New York City, officials say.
Some 250 people were on the trains involved in Friday evening's crash. No fatalities have been reported.
Officials said a train that left New York City's Grand Central station en route to New Haven, Connecticut, derailed then was hit by another train.
Amtrak has suspended its service between New York and Boston.
Metro-North Railroad described it as a "major derailment", just outside Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said the front of one of the trains had been extensively damaged and its wheels were "sticking into the other train".

One of the five people with the most serious injuries was described as being in a "very critical" condition.
Investigators are trying to find out what caused the crash, which came shortly after 18:00 local time (22:00 GMT).
Gov Malloy said he had no reason to believe it was anything other than an accident.
Bridgeport Police Chief Joseph Gaudett said most of those hurt were walking wounded.
"Everybody seemed pretty calm," he told the Associated Press. "Everybody was thankful they didn't get seriously hurt. They were anxious to get home to their families."
But Canadian passenger Alex Cohen told NBC Connecticut that "people were screaming... they had to smash a window to get us out".
One witness, Brian Alvarez, told CNN: "I saw this one car and it was completely destroyed and they were pulling people out of the car. They were all bloody."

David Beckham: Sir Alex Ferguson praises 'amazing person'

David Beckham: Sir Alex Ferguson praises 'amazing person'

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has described David Beckham as an "amazing person" and says his ability to reinvent himself is "absolutely incredible".
Paris St-Germain midfielder Beckham, 38, has said he will retire from football at the end of the season.
He played for 11 years under Ferguson at United between 1992 and 2003.
"You talk about longevity and in many ways reinventing himself, it has been absolutely incredible," Ferguson said.

Beckham's success under Ferguson

Premier League (6) : 1995-96, 1996-97, 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2002-03
FA Cup (2): 1995-96, 1998-99
FA Community Shield (4): 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997
FA Youth Cup (1): 1991-92
Uefa Champions League (1): 1998-99
Intercontinental Cup (1): 1999
"When he went to America there wasn't a person in this place who really thought he could have a career," Ferguson added about Beckham's move to LA Galaxy in 2007.
"Yet he went on and still played for his country, he played for AC Milan in European ties and he played for PSG in European ties, and I don't think anyone could have imagined that."
When Ferguson retired last week, Beckham described him as a "father figure".
The United boss signed the Leytonstone youngster as an 11-year-old in 1991 and Beckham graduated from the 'Class of 92' along with Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Nicky Butt.
Beckham went on to make almost 400 appearances under Ferguson, winning six Premier League titles, a Champions League medal and two FA Cups.
But the pair had a fall-out in 2003 following an FA Cup defeat by Arsenal when Ferguson kicked a boot in the Manchester United dressing room which hit Beckham in the face.
Later that year, Beckham moved to Real Madrid for £24.5m.
The former England captain joined LA Galaxy four years later and Ferguson praised the part his athletic ability had played in such a successful career. In winning the Ligue 1 title with PSG last week, Beckham became the first English player to win top-flight league titles in four different countries.

Beckham's club football career

David Beckham
  • 1992-2003: Manchester United (394 apps, 85 goals)
  • 1994-1995: Preston North End (loan) (five apps, two goals)
  • 2003-2007: Real Madrid (157 apps, 19 goals)
  • 2007-2012: Los Angeles Galaxy (118 apps, 20 goals)
  • 2009-2010: Loan spells at AC Milan (33 apps, two goals)
  • 2013: Paris St-Germain (13 apps, no goals)
Ferguson added: "The one thing he always had was unbelievable stamina as a kid. He had the best stamina in the club.
"He could run all day, and that has allowed him to stay in the game at that kind of level, playing for his country in his mid 30s. Coming from American football to do that is quite amazing, and he is an amazing person.
"I think he's picked the right time [to retire]. He's won the league again with PSG and he is exactly the same as me, he has plenty of things to do.
"He's a young man, we know that fashion will be his role I would imagine but he will have plenty of things to do."
Manchester United manager-in-waiting David Moyes added to the Beckham tributes, having played with him when he was at loan at Preston in the 1994-95 season.
The Everton boss said: "He's been a great player, a tremendous ambassador. I think everyone who is English is tremendously proud of what David Beckham has done over the years and how he has conducted himself.
"I was very fortunate to play with David when he came to Preston North End, he was a great lad then, very humble and really just wanted to play.
"Everybody who was part of that team [at Preston] still remembers him and still wants to talk about how they played in a team with David Beckham. I'm no different."

Passengers bloodied after trains derail, collide in southwest Connecticut

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Witness: I saw broken, bloody limbs

Two Metro-North passenger trains heading in opposite directions collided during rush hour Friday evening in southwestern Connecticut, damaging both trains and leaving dozens injured -- some of them critically -- authorities said.
A train heading from New Haven to New York City derailed around 6:10 p.m., hitting the other train in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said. That caused some cars on the second train, which was destined for New Haven, to likewise leave the tracks.
Gov. Dannel Malloy told reporters Friday night that five people were "critically injured," one of whom was in "very critical condition."
Two of the 26 people being treated at Bridgeport Hospital are in critical condition, said spokesman John Cappiello.
Trains collide in Connecticut Trains collide in Connecticut
Raw: Aerials of Conn. train accident
St. Vincent's Medical Center, also in Bridgeport, treated 41 patients from the incident, hospital spokeswoman Lucinda Ames said. One of those was in serious condition and in intensive care, while the others mostly had minor injuries like "you might get in a car accident."
By 9:45 p.m., 11 of the 67 who had gone to hospitals had been released.
A passenger in a middle car of the New York-bound train, Chris Martin, recalled to CNN how his car went dark after the crash, then someone over the intercom "called all the doctors up front."
He and others aboard his "pretty full train" were evacuated, most of them physically fine if emotionally shaken. But there were signs of injuries outside, as Martin said he personally saw eight or nine ambulances and a number of wounded people on stretchers.
Brian Alvarez, who saw the wreckage, described the scene as "pretty graphic."
"I saw this one car and it was completely destroyed, and they were pulling people out of the car," Alvarez said. "... They were all bloody."
Power was shut off along the line and service has been halted -- westbound past Bridgeport, which is about 60 miles northeast of New York City on the Long Island Sound, and eastbound beyond South Norwalk -- because of the derailment.
Amtrak also announced early Friday night that it had suspended all travel between New York and Boston indefinitely after the crash.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said such travel headaches could persist for weeks, because the two tracks affected by the derailment -- which are both "shot right now" -- may take weeks to repair. Because of a bridge replacement project, those two tracks are the only way in and out of New York City by train from that part of Connecticut.
Workers will need to not only remove disabled trains, but also remove the tracks, regrade the rail bed, then lay down the tracks again, according to Finch.
"This is our pipeline to New York City, and it's going to be shut down for some time," the mayor said. "And it's going to cost this region a great deal of money, frankly, not just to repair it but the lost wages and the lost economy."
Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board will head the investigation into the crash. Terry Williams, a Washington-based spokesman for that agency, said a team should be on site by 9 a.m. Saturday.
"We have no reason to believe that it's anything but an accident," Gov. Malloy said

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Welcome to Naija Gist: Beckham: The man who broke football's gay taboo?

Welcome to Naija Gist: Beckham: The man who broke football's gay taboo?: It was only a few months ago there was news David Beckham had signed on with a new team -- and now he is retiring. Click through f...

Beckham: The man who broke football's gay taboo?

It was only a few months ago there was news David Beckham had <a href='http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2013/01/31/beckham-to-join-paris-saint-germain-club-says/' target='_blank'>signed on with a new team</a> -- and now <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/16/sport/football/david-beckham-retires-football/index.html?hpt=hp_t2'>he is retiring.</a> Click through for a look back at Beckham through the years. It was only a few months ago there was news David Beckham had signed on with a new team -- and now he is retiring. Click through for a look back at Beckham through the years.
David Beckham was always adept at curling the ball around a wall -- but when it came to the barrier of homosexuality in football, he broke straight through it.
Former England captain Beckham, who announced his retirement from football Thursday, was the first superstar footballer to embrace his "gay icon" status, freely giving interviews to gay magazines and openly talking about his gay fan base.
That attitude was the catalyst for a change, according to author and journalist, Chas Newkey-Burden.
Beckham: I want to go out on top
Beckham brand will outlast soccer career
David Beckham calls it a career
"What David Beckham did was break the long silence about homosexuality in football," Newkey-Burden told CNN.
"Before Beckham came along, it was basically a taboo but he changed all that.
"He openly courted his gay fan base, saying he loved being a gay icon and was happy for his wife to broadcast that around.
"He was the first to give interviews to gay magazines -- before that, no footballer would have done that.
"He also changed the way footballers were looked at. He was inherently good looking, but it was that he paid so much attention to his appearance that was unprecedented."
In an interview with the BBC given in 2007, Beckham spoke of his pride at being tagged as a "gay icon".
"Maybe it's things like (the fact) I like to look after myself, I like to look smart and presentable most of the time," he said at the time.
"I always liked to look good, even when I was a little kid. I was given the option when I was a page boy once of either wearing a suit or wearing knickerbockers and long socks and ballet shoes -- and I chose the ballet shoes and knickerbockers."
2011: Beckham: I always want to win
David Beckham's life in Paris
Beckham: Tom Cruise is hotter than I am
Once Newkey-Burden spent five months trying to organize an interview with the midfielder, only for the player himself to sanction the piece after reading one of the journalist's articles on football and homosexuality in Four Four Two magazine.
"David read the piece I did about how far football had come in dealing with homophobia," Newkey-Burden recalled.
"I know he was very moved by the fact I wrote how he had opened the door to change and that is what swung getting me the interview with him.
"Look, there are 92 league clubs in England with each squad having around 20 players, so statistically, there must be some gay players, " added the journalist.
"One day it will be common place for footballers to come out and David Beckham will have played a part in that.
"He opened the door and it is the person who opens the door who makes the difference.
"Beckham said to the world: 'I'm straight, I'm the England captain and I think it's cool people are gay.'"
Despite Beckham embracing his "gay icon" status, football continues to struggle with homophobia.
Last February, U.S. football star Robbie Rogers announced he was retiring from football after "coming out" -- leaving Swedish player Anton Hysen as the only openly gay player in Europe.
Rogers might yet make a return given he has been training with Los Angeles Galaxy.
Beckham was also key in footballers becoming fashionistas and attracting interest from the mainstream media, according to Newkey Burden.
"Gay football fans don't want 11 neatly coiffured and manicured players to admire," said the journalist and celebrity biographer who has written books about Adele, Brangelina, Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton.
"They're more attracted to the old-fashioned kind of player like Vinny Jones or Alan Shearer if I'm honest.
The career of David Beckham The career of David Beckham
\'Box Office\' Beckham thrills French audience 'Box Office' Beckham thrills French audience
"But Beckham was someone who was proud to be a gay icon and made it cool too.
"Just look at the number of metrosexuals who have emerged since Beckham.
"It's now OK for players to have silly, floppy hair and dress in the way they do. He did that."
Players now try to trend it like Beckham more often than they try to bend it like Beckham.
From wearing his wife's underwear to parading around in a sarong, the former Manchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain man has never been one to shy away from experimentation.
While former Spice Girl Victoria has gone on to establish herself as a leading fashion designer, it is Beckham who brought men into the 21st century with his eye for the latest trends.
From his outrageous hair styles to his love of grooming and moisturizing, Beckham relaunched the notion of the metroxsexual along with his very own brand of cologne.
Whether it was by provocatively modelng in his Armani underwear or being paraded in front of the press in another exquisitely tailored suit, Beckham set the bar high when it came to looking sharp.
"Beckham was the antithesis to the godawful lad culture of the late Nineties," GQ.co.uk fashion editor Nick Carvell told CNN.
"Being a footballer who was clearly motivated by fashion trends and absolutely loved clothes, he turned the idea of what it meant to be a stylish sportsman at the time on its head.
"Sure he made some mistakes along the way (cornrows), but that's what made him a trendsetter -- he always led and never followed.
"He was certainly one of the first celebrities to de-stigmatize grooming pursuits that were previously seen as girls-only (his early penchant for highlights comes to mind).
"Lots of people would say that it helps he has an athlete's body, but there are plenty of sportsman who dress appallingly.
"I think it's his willingness to try new things combined with a clear appreciation for a good tailor.
"He might have worn the occasional eye-raising get-up when he was younger, but it always fitted perfectly."
That infamous sarong, which he was pictured wearing in 1998, was certainly one "eye-raising item" but as Newkey-Burden explains, Beckham had no regrets.
"When I interviewed him in 2006, I asked Beckham if he regretted wearing that 'dress'. He said: 'No, that's one of the things I'd do again!'"
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