Thursday, April 28, 2011

In the news:

Today's news from around the world:

Japan's nuclear plants 'can't keep reactors cool'

The plant at Tsuruga needs 3500 kilowatts to safely cool its reactors, but the backups can only deliver 1020 kilowatts, says Kyodo - and that can't be fixed til next March. The agency's sources says the power available will "only run measuring gauges and small-scale water injection devices". And at the Tomari power station, a 3,200 kilowatt backup generator cannot "achieve stable shutdown" of the reactors - and that won't be fixed until some time in the next two years.

If confirmed, Kyodo's story is appalling news for Japan. Nuclear power stations can never be switched off since residual heat from low level fission must continually be transported away from the core. The lack of backup power means further accidents are waiting to happen

Ecuador raises alert as Tungurahua volcano spews ash

Ecuador has declared an amber alert after the Tungurahua volcano started spewing ash again.

A plume more than 7km (4.3 miles) high could be seen emerging from the volcano in central Ecuador.

The authorities evacuated residents living near the volcano's rim and ordered local schools to close.

"According to our observations, damages to crops, pastures and small effects to the health of people are already evident," the Ecuadorean geophysics institute said.

Gov't officials skeptical about Hamas-Fatah agreement

Barak admitted that Israeli intelligence had foreseen a low probability for a reconciliation agreement between the two factions, and noted that Palestinian officials were also skeptical about it.

The defense minister also reiterated Israeli's position that it would not hold any discussions with Hamas, "a murderous organization whose aim is to destroy Israel."

However, he said that if a joint Palestinian government were to rise, Israel would hold talks with the new government only if Hamas would dismantle its terrorist infrastructure and recognize Israel and previous agreements made with the PLO.

"Hamas isn't changing its charter, hasn't ceased to be a terrorist organization, serves Iran and smuggles weapons," Peres said

'Syria, Hezbollah to compete over firing Scud at Tel Aviv'

If war breaks out between Israel, Syria, and Hezbollah, Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime will "play powerful cards" in south Lebanon and will not hesitate to respond, senior security officials in Syria said, according to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai.

According to the officials, in case of war with Israel, Syria and Hezbollah will compete with each other over who will fire the first Scud or Fateh missile at Tel Aviv.

The Syrian officials also warned that the deteriorating security situation in Syria and damage to the country's stability may also have an effect on the situation in Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon.

Israel wary of change in security arrangements with PA

IDF braces for what sources call 'shaky future' of security collaboration between Israel, Palestinian forces following Hamas, Fatah reconciliations

"Despite statements to the contrary in Egypt, we know that the deal between Hamas and Fatah is plagued by serious misgivings and differences that cannot be bridged easily," a military source said.

Any change in the Palestinians' modus operandi in the West Bank will require the IDF to bolster its presence on the ground, especially in the more sensitive sectors.

The IDF is also gearing for more extreme scenarios, including seeing Palestinian police officers take actions against Israel

Hamas: We won't negotiate peace with Israel

Mahmoud al-Zahar says peace with Israel not on new Palestinian government's agenda. Meanwhile, Fatah and Hamas officials outline terms of reconciliation agreement, stress deal is first step on the way to establish independent state, in joint press conference in Cairo

The Palestinian factions have reconciled in the hopes of establishing an independent state, they said in a press conference on Wednesday. Fatah Central Committee Member and chief negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed said, "The agreement is the beginning and we shall take quick steps to end the occupation and establish an independent Palestinian state."

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader who participated in the talks said that peace with Israel was not on the table. "Our program does not include negotiations with Israel or recognizing it," Zahhar said in Cairo. "It will not be possible for the interim national government to participate or bet on or work on the peace process with Israel."

Lieberman: Palestinian unity will lead to Hamas West Bank takeover

A Palestinian reconciliation deal signed between rival factions Fatah and Hamas is the result of recent Mideast unrest, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday, adding he feared Hamas would eventually take over the West Bank.

Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official who participated in the reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas, said Wednesday that the interim Palestinian government would not be able to hold peace negotiations with Israel.

"One of the clauses of the agreement is the release of hundreds of Hamas prisoners from Palestinian jails, which would flood the West Bank with armed terrorists, and the IDF must prepare accordingly," Lieberman said.

Food prices to hit record

Global food prices may rise 4.4% to a record by the end of the year, driven by demand for meat, oilseeds and grains used to make ethanol, adding to costs that mean inflation is accelerating from the U.S. to China.

The United Nations’ Food Price Index may climb to 240 points from 229.84 last month, said William Adams, a fund manager at Zurich-based Resilience AG, which has US$22.2-million of assets. Global corn stockpiles are shrinking the most in seven years, inventories of nine edible oils will drop to the lowest since 1974 and U.S. beef stocks will be the smallest since 1999, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates.

“The stockpiles are being severely depleted,” said Mr. Adams, who correctly forecast gains in heating oil and gasoline prices last year. “Eventually it gets to the consumer. The U.S. government isn’t subsidizing pork chops like it is ethanol.”

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