The Global Note: Cruise Disaster…Iran Attack “Far Off”…Suu Kyi “Mobbed”…Round The World Run

By Tom Nagorski

Jan 18, 2012 11:35am

-CRUISE DISASTER

-GREAT PICTURE…Satellite image of Giglio Island — and the Costa Concordia.

-SEARCH SUSPENDED…The search for the missing from the Costa Condordia wreck has been suspended – amid six foot swells that have shifted the shipwreck a few centimeters. The fear, of course, is for the safety of the divers. It’s not clear yet when the search will resume.

-SALVAGE BEGINS?…A Dutch marine salvage company, Smit Salvage, may begin transferring tons of fuel from the ship to barges today. The New York Times reports the process is expected to take two to four weeks, depending on the weather.

-CAPTAIN’S HOUSE ARREST QUESTIONED…Captain Francesco Schettino remains under house arrest this morning at his home near Naples — he is not allowed to communicate with anyone other than family members. The Captain’s lawyer Bruno Leporatti spoke to journalists a short while ago. He said he believes the judge made a courageous decision to grant house arrest — against “the pressure of public opinion,” and in accordance with the law. As for the Captain’s emotional state, he said Schettino is “affranto” (disconsolate, grief-striken), not only for the loss of his ship, but most importantly for the loss of human lives. Various Italian media sources are raisang the same question we did yesterday: isn’t he a flight risk? Prosecutors are reportedly asking for Schettino’s house arrest to be revoked, saying he admitted in his hearing yesterday that he was reckless in steering the ship.

-”I TRIPPED”…According to one account, Schettino told investigating magistrates in Grosseto, on the Italian mainland, that he ended up in the life boat by accident. During three hours of interrogation on Tuesday, he reportedly said: “The passengers were pouring onto the decks, taking the lifeboats by assault. I didn’t even have a life jacket because I had given it to one of the passengers. I was trying to get people to get into the boats in an orderly fashion. Suddenly, since the ship was at a 60 to 70 degree angle, I tripped and I ended up in one of the boats. That’s how I found myself there.”

-SPREADING THE BLAME…Phoebe NATANSON reports that three other people may be charged in the wreck today. They include the second officer in command, the marine operations director in charge of the crisis unit and the third officer in command Silvia Coronica. Investigators are also trying to establish broader responsibilities – they want to know about the ship’s Crisis Manager that night. Schettino called him three times, first at 22.05 and twice before 22.58 when the order to abandon ship was given. Investigators have asked for list of Schettino’s phone calls that night.

-COSTA CONCORDIA SAILED THAT “PASS-BY” 52 TIMES?…A La Repubblica report that the Costa Concordia passed too close to Giglio Island as many as 52 times suggests not only frequent malfeasance by the Captain – but also that the cruise line must have known this was going on.

-BACK IN THE U.S….As Barbara PINTO notes, the Minnesota church the missing American couple attend will hold a prayer service at 8p ET tonight. Church administrators are very close to the family of Barbara and Jerry Heil and say their children have received no new information on the fate of their parents.

IRAN ATTACK: “VERY FAR OFF”?

Alex MARQUARDT reports from Jerusalem: Israel is “very far off” from a decision on whether to attack Iran’s nuclear program, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said today. Barak was asked by Army Radio if the U.S. had asked Israel to warn them before any attack against Iran (Netanyahu is reported to have denied Obama’s request). Barak responded, “We haven’t made any decision to do this…This entire thing is very far off.” When pressed on timing, he responded “I wouldn’t want to provide any estimates. It’s certainly not urgent. I don’t want to relate to it as though tomorrow it will happen.” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey arrives in Jerusalem tomorrow for meetings with his counterpart and Barak. According to Haaretz, Dempsey will be told that in Israel’s estimation, Iran hasn’t yet decided whether it wants to build the bomb and that Iran faces an unprecedented threat to its stability.

ARAB-ISRAELI CYBERWAR

MARQUARDT again: The cyberattacks between Arab and Israeli hackers continue to heat up. Last night, the websites of the Riyadh and Abu Dhabi stock exchanges were attacked and by Israeli hackers calling themselves “Team IDF.” “We are operating in the name of the IDF,” they wrote. “If you don’t stop attacking us, we will paralyze your economy.” The Saudi Stock Exchange denied traffic had been disrupted. Another Israeli group called “Anonymous972″ published the e-mail addresses and other information for Saudi university students while a third Israeli group added 10,000 Arab accounts to the 30,000 email and Facebook accounts published Monday. This after a hacker named 0xOmar who says he published thousands of Israeli credit card numbers. On Monday, 0xOmar and a group calling itself “Nightmare” launched denial-of-service attacks against El Al and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. So far this appears to be individuals and not governments.

IRAQ: AFTER U.S. EXIT, THE VIOLENCE SPIKES

From the AP: Violence appears to have increased sharply since U.S. troops left Iraq a month ago, as insurgents have unleashed a wave of furious bombings targeting Baghdad neighborhoods, Shiite pilgrims and police facilities in Sunni areas. The deadly attacks have roots not only in the troops’ departure but also in a domestic political crisis that erupted in its wake. Shiite and Sunni leaders have squared off in a power struggle, one that analysts say insurgents are trying to turn into a full-scale civil war.

WORLD BANK WARNS OF GLOBAL RECESSION

As Molly HUNTER notes, the World Bank is out with its twice-yearly report – and it doesn’t look good. The World Bank significantly cut its forecasts for the U.S., Europe and emerging economies. It now projects the global economy will expand 2.5 percent this year and 3.1 percent in 2013. That’s down from a June forecast of 3.6 percent growth for both years. The reason? Europe’s debt crisis has worsened. And several big developing countries have taken steps to prevent growth from overheating and fueling inflation.

U.S. LOSING HIGH-TECH JOBS TO ASIA

The United States lost more than a quarter of its high-tech manufacturing jobs during the past decade as U.S.-based multinational companies placed a growing percentage of their research-and-development operations overseas, the National Science Board reported Tuesday. The rapid expansion of science and engineering capabilities in China and its neighbors pose a formidable economic challenge to the United States, according to the group, with Asia rapidly boosting the number of engineering doctorates it produces and research dollars it spends.

CEASEFIRE IN ONE SYRIAN TOWN

The BBC reports a rare thing in Syria: the Syrian army has declared a ceasefire in the town of Zabadani because of strong opposition support there. The Syrian army had been shelling the town since Friday, but agreed to stop hostilities as many of its own members defected to the rebels’ side.

REPORT: AID DELAY LED TO EAST AFRICAN FAMINE

The Guardian notes a report from aid organizations Oxfam and Save the Children that contends the 2011 famine in East Africa could have been avoided if the international community, donor governments and humanitarian agencies had responded earlier to clear warning signs that a disaster was in the making. The report, A Dangerous Delay, concludes that although drought sparked the east Africa crisis, human factors turned it into a disaster.

POLIO CASES TRIPLE IN AFGHANISTAN

Last week we noted the startling good news about the war on polio in India. Today – a darker side. The New York Times reports polio cases in Afghanistan tripled last year after years of steady declines. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is blaming the Taliban for standing in the way of vaccination teams, but health care workers say they’ve experienced no change in the militants’ tolerance for vaccination efforts.

AUNG SAN SUU KYI MOBBED AS SHE REGISTERS FOR ELECTIONS

The BBC reports hundreds of supporters turned out to see democracy activist and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi register to run for Myanmar’s Parliament. She made no public statement as she filed registration papers but as she left the office she was mobbed by hundreds of supporters.

RUSSIA: MISSILE FACTORY SCANDAL

From Alexandra NADEZHDINA: A young Russian blogger took photos at a missile factory near Moscow where she sneaked in and then posted the photos on the internet. This of course is raising questions about the country’s ability to protect its weapons and stockpiles. ( Izvestia, newsru.com and echo msk.ru report) pxs. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/russian-blogger-sneaks-missile-factory-moscow-raising-fears-security-article-1.1007614

JAPAN: THAT RADIOACTIVE CONCRETE

From Akiko FUJITA: A follow to my story about the radioactive apartments Monday…the gravel from the nuclear no-go zone which was used at the apartment has now been traced to local schools. The Nihonmatsu board of Education says the gravel was used in earthquake-proofing projects at local elementary and junior high schools. The material has also been traced to roads near schools, a golf course, and a public pool. Radiation readings haven’t escalated in the schools, so there are no immediate signs of the gravel’s impact. Kyodo reports levels have been high at the golf course – 1.8 microsieverts per hour, in some areas.

AMERICAN MISSING ON JAPAN’S MOUNT FUJI

FUJITA again: Akiko flags this report from Wood TV that an American man in Japan may be missing on Mount Fuji. Matt Johnson traveled to Japan on a business trip with plans to hike Mount Fuji in his free time and was reported missing when he did not show up to work at his company’s Japan office Monday. Helicopters are searching the area after Johnson’s car was spotted at the base of the mountain.

MAN ATTEMPTS AROUND-THE-WORLD RUN

The Miami Herald profiles Danish runner Jesper Olsen as he completes the south Florida leg of his attempt to run around the world. Olsen plans to finish his second (yes, second) run around the world on July 1 in Canada by running as much as 30 miles a day north along U.S. 1. He’s already run through Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South America.

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