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U.S. four-month death toll highest so far

first_imgAnd with President George W. Bush now sending thousands more U.S. troops to Baghdad and western Anbar province, despite opposition in Congress and the American public’s increasing war weariness, the prospect looms of even higher casualties. The shadowy insurgency has managed to counter or compensate for every new U.S. military technique for defeating roadside bombs, which over time have proliferated and grown increasingly powerful. The U.S. has spent billions trying to counter that threat, and the Bush administration in its budget 2008 request to Congress this week asked for another $6.4 billion to find more effective defenses against it. The Pentagon’s terse death announcements only begin to tell the story: Sgt. Corey J. Aultz, 31, of Port Orchard, Wash., and Sgt. Milton A. Gist, 27, of St. Louis, died Jan. 30 in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, of wounds from an improvised bomb that detonated near their vehicle. Three days earlier, three soldiers – one just 19 years old – were killed by a roadside bomb in Taji, just north of Baghdad. And a week before that, four soldiers, from towns in the four corners of this country – Florida, New Hampshire, Oregon and California – were killed by a roadside bomb not far from Fallujah. WASHINGTON – More American troops were killed in combat in Iraq over the past four months – at least 334 through Jan. 31 – than in any comparable stretch since the war began, according to an Associated Press analysis of casualty records. Not since the bloody battle for Fallujah in 2004 has the death toll spiked so high. The reason is that U.S. soldiers and Marines are fighting more battles in the streets of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, and other cities. The top killer is the roadside bomb, but hostile forces also have had more success lately shooting down U.S. helicopters. Pentagon officials said initial indications from the crash of a Marine CH-46 helicopter on Wednesday, killing all seven aboard, are that it was caused by mechanical trouble, not hostile fire. In some respects it is the urban warfare that U.S. commanders thought they had managed to largely avoid after U.S. troops entered Baghdad in early April 2003 and quickly toppled the Saddam Hussein regime. The increasingly urban nature of the war is reflected in the fact that a higher percentage of U.S. deaths have been in Baghdad lately. Over the course of the war, at least 1,142 U.S. troops have died in Anbar province, the heart of the Sunni Arab insurgency, through Feb. 6, according to an AP count. That compares with 713 in Baghdad. But since Dec. 28, 2006, there were more in Baghdad than in Anbar – 33 to 31. The surge in combat deaths comes as the Pentagon begins adding 21,500 troops in Iraq as part of Bush’s new strategy for stabilizing the country. Most are going to Baghdad, but some are being sent Anbar. With the buildup, U.S. forces will be operating more aggressively in Baghdad as they try to tamp down sectarian bloodshed, a tactical shift that senior military officials say raises the prospect of even higher U.S. casualties. “There’s clearly going to be an increased risk in this area,” Adm. William Fallon, Bush’s choice to be the next commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, told his Senate confirmation hearing last week. Risk is already extraordinarily high from known threats, including roadside bombs. The frustrating fact about the hunt for a solution to the roadside bomb is that the Americans have improved their ability to find and disarm them before they detonate, and they have outfitted troops in better body armor. But the insurgents still manage to adjust: new tactics in planting the bombs, new, more powerful explosives, different means of detonating them and, amazingly, a seemingly endless supply of materials. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that 70 percent of U.S. casualties are caused by such bombs. He said that lately Iran, allegedly in league with renegade Shiite groups in southern Iraq, has had a hand in supplying a more lethal version so powerful it can destroy a U.S. Abrams battle tank, which is shielded with heavy armor. On Jan. 22, Army National Guard Spc. Brandon L. Stout, 23, of Grand Rapids, Mich., was killed by one of those more powerful bombs, known as an explosively formed projectile, that went off near his vehicle in Baghdad. A week earlier, four soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in the northern city of Mosul. It is not possible to fully track the trend in bomb-caused deaths by month. The U.S. military considers such information secret because it is considered potentially useful to the insurgents and their backers. Also, the Marines do not announce the specific cause of any of their combat deaths, whereas the Army does. Hostile forces also have had more success lately shooting down U.S. helicopters, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged Tuesday. He said four U.S. helicopters in recent weeks have been shot down by small arms fire, including a Black Hawk in which all 12 National Guard soldiers aboard were killed. What’s more, there have been troubling new twists to some other attacks, including the sneak attack in Karbala that killed five U.S. soldiers; four of them were abducted and executed by unknown gunmen. U.S. officials say they are studying the possibility that Iranian agents either planned or executed that Jan. 20 attack. A leading war critic, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said he was aware that U.S. casualties were rising, particularly in Anbar province. “It doesn’t surprise me at all because they are targeting American troops,” he said. Under a new approach announced by Bush on Jan. 10, U.S. troops will be paired up with Iraqi brigades in each of nine districts across Baghdad, rather than operating mainly from large U.S. bases. “Our troops are going to be inserted into the most difficult areas imaginable – right into neighborhoods, right in the face of the Iraqis,” Sen. Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said. “How are we going to avoid the inherent risks that are created?” The recent rise in U.S. combat deaths has developed with relatively little notice in Congress, which has focused on the broader issue of whether to begin withdrawing forces and, now, whether to opposed Bush’s troop buildup. The American public clearly has soured on the war. In an AP-Ipsos poll taken Jan. 8-10 , 62 percent said they thought, looking back, that it had been a mistake to go to war, while 35 percent said invading was the right decision. Gates, while not ruling out a rise in casualties during the buildup, told reporters Jan. 26 that he sees a possibility that some insurgents and renegade militias will back off temporarily “in the hope that they can wait us out and filter back once we’re gone.” That could mean a decline in the U.S. casualty rate, at least temporarily. And if Bush’s plan – which couples a troop buildup with stronger economic development efforts and a renewed push to get the Iraqis to reconcile their political differences – works as intended, then a drop-off in deaths might be longlasting. The 334 U.S. troops killed in action in Iraq over the past four months does not include 36 who died of non-hostile causes like vehicle accidents. The previous highest total for those killed in action during any four-month period was 308 between September and December 2004, which included the November battle to retake the city of Fallujah. The recent increase is not linked to variations in U.S. troop levels. That number shifted from about 137,000 troops at the end of January 2006 to a range of 130,000-150,000 during summer and fall before ending the year at 128,000. It has risen now to about 138,000, with the buildup in Baghdad just getting started. Since the start of the war in Iraq, nearly 3,100 U.S. troops have died, of which nearly 2,500 were killed in action.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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Mailbag: who’s to blame for the Sharks current losing skid?

first_imgANAHEIM, Calif. — A four-game losing streak and shellacking from the Vegas Golden Knights provided for than enough fodder to re-ignite the season of anxiety in Sharks territory.Erik Karlsson missed his 10th straight game in Los Angeles on Thursday. Radim Simek is out indefinitely with a major-knee injury. Joe Pavelski is on the shelf now, as well, Logan Couture missed Thursday’s game with flu-like symptoms and the Sharks are looking down the barrel of a potential first-round playoff matchup …last_img

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Bond Exchange secures growth capital

first_img11 September 2008The Bond Exchange of South Africa (Besa) has secured the necessary approvals in support of its rights issue to raise new capital, with underwriting partners that include the New Zealand Exchange, local banks and other financial institutions securing the transaction.“We are tremendously excited by what the fresh capital injection and new partners will deliver for our business,” Besa chief executive Garth Greubel said in a statement last week.“The effect of this transaction is to significantly strengthen our shareholder and capital base, with certain strategic partners also being represented on the board, while maintaining our commitment to the bond market and existing shareholders.”The rights issue is the second phase of Besa’s development strategy, following the exchange’s demutualisation in 2007.After the rights issue, at least 30% of Besa’s equity will be held by strategic partners, providing valuable support in order to execute the exchange’s vision of building better markets. Formalities relating to the transaction will be concluded at Besa’s annual general meeting towards the end of September.BondClear projectAccording to Besa, a project that will contribute significantly in driving growth is BondClear, a new central counterparty clearing house that it is presently establishing. BondClear will provide clearing and central counterparty (CCP) services to South African financial markets, initially for interest-rate derivatives listed on the bond exchange.“We are optimistic about BondClear, in which NASDAQ OMX is a direct shareholder,” Greubel said. “NASDAQ OMX is one of the world’s largest exchange companies, with trading technology capabilities across six continents.”Shareholder and market support for the rights, the BondClear project and other strategic initiatives that Besa is undertaking have been positive, while company management has already received irrevocable commitments in writing from shareholders, in excess of the necessary requirements, approving the capitalisation transaction.Strong market performanceAccording to Besa, these initiatives are being undertaken against the backdrop of strong market performance in the exchange’s core bonds franchise.Annual bond market turnover topped R13.8-trillion in calendar 2007. During 2008 bond turnover surged, with a record monthly figure of R1.486-trillion reported in February.This has since been consistently exceeded from May through to August, when turnover reached a new record R1.956-trillion for the month. It is anticipated that turnover will top R17-trillion for 2008, representing an annualised velocity of 28 times market cap.Besa now faced one of the most exciting and ambitious phases in the company’s development as an exchange, Greubel said.“Our new capital will leave us well positioned to drive value through our existing core business and extend our set of products and services to financial market participants, as well as accelerating financial market infrastructure development in South Africa,” he said.“We are excited by what the future holds for us as a business and the positive contribution it will make towards strengthening competition in South African financial markets.”SAinfo reporter Would you like to use this article in your publicationor on your website?See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

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SA ‘ahead of schedule for 2010’

first_img“Working with other stakeholders such as the 2010 Local Organising Committee, we are glad to announce that we have made significant progress in pursuit of our goal to host a successful 2010 Fifa World Cup,” Motlanthe said. South Africa ‘on course’ Source: BuaNews “We have also started to pay focused attention to all the 2010 legacy projects, so that the facilities are used for the maximum benefit of our people and our country beyond 2010,” he said. South Africa will meet its infrastructure deadlines well ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe told Parliament in Cape Town this week. “We are, however, confident that the economic benefits flowing from the 2010 Fifa World Cup competition will soften some of the cutting effects of this economic crisis,” he said. There are only three matches left before the curtain is drawn on Fifa’s “Festival of Continental Champions” – a test run for staging the World Cup – and no major incidents have been reported. Budget overrunscenter_img He pointed out that oversight visits conducted by members of the inter-ministerial committee had helped to ensure that the government and other stakeholders met their deadlines on infrastructure programmes. Motlanthe cautioned, however, that budget overruns by some host cities, especially in light of the current economic difficulties, needed to be addressed urgently so as to ensure that their expenditure was within budget. Motlanthe said that if anything was needed to confirm South Africa’s readiness to host world soccer’s showpiece event, the Confederations Cup under way had demonstrated that the country was on course to meet its objectives. 25 June 2009 The tournament “has also helped us identify areas that require improvement to deliver the best World Cup ever,” Motlanthe said, adding that the government was convinced that Bafana Bafana would continue improving ahead of 2010. The government had also noted concerns over delays in the construction of the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, and discussions with the affected parties were taking place to resolve all outstanding matters.last_img read more

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South Africa’s weather and climate

first_imgSouth Africa is a subtropical region, moderated by ocean on two sides of the triangle-shaped country and the altitude of the interior plateau. These account for the warm, temperate conditions so typical of South Africa – and so popular with its foreign visitors.Swimmers enjoying the waves at Umhlanga Rocks, KwaZulu-Natal province: Beach scene. (Image: Brand South Africa)Brand South Africa reporterThe country is bordered on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and on the east by the Indian Ocean; their waters meet at Cape Agulhas, at the southernmost tip of the continent.The coastline stretches 2 798 kilometres from a desert border with Namibia in the northwest, down the icy Skeleton Coast to Cape Agulhas, then up along the wide beaches and green hills on the coast of the Indian Ocean, to the border with subtropical Mozambique in the northeast.Sea surface temperature influences the climate of South Africa’s coastal regions: the warm subtropical east and the cooler regions of the west coast. (Animation adapted from NOAA Oceans Visualizations by Mary Alexander)South Africa is famous for its sunshine. It’s a relatively dry country, with an average annual rainfall of about 464mm; the world average is about 860mm. While Western Cape gets most of its rainfall in winter, the rest of the country is generally a summer-rainfall region.Temperatures in South Africa tend to be lower than in other countries at similar latitudes – such as Australia – mainly because of its greater elevation above sea level.On the interior plateau, the altitude – Johannesburg lies at 1 694 metres – keeps the average summer temperatures below 30°C. In winter, for the same reason, night- time temperatures can drop to freezing point, and lower in some places.South Africa’s coastal regions have the warmest winter temperatures in the country. There is, however, a striking contrast between temperatures on two different coasts, a result of the warm eastern Agulhas current and cold western Benguela current that sweep the coastlines.In the southern hemisphere our seasons are opposite to those of Europe and North America, so, yes – we spend Christmas on the beach! Summer Boulders Beach in Simonstown south of Cape Town is famous for its African penguin colony. Summertime on the Cape peninsula has glorious months of rain-free sunshine. (Image: South African Tourism)Over much of South Africa, summer, which lasts from mid-October to mid- February, is characterised by hot, sunny weather – often with afternoon thunderstorms that clear quickly, leaving a warm, earthy, uniquely African smell in the air.Western Cape, with its Mediterranean climate, is the exception, getting its rain in winter. Autumn Vineyards in the Hex River Valley winemaking region of the Western Cape. (Image: South African Tourism)Autumn in South Africa is from mid-February to April. It offers the best weather in some respects. Very little rain falls over the whole country, and it is warm but not too hot, getting colder as the season progresses.In Cape Town, autumn is fantastic, with hot sunny days and warm, balmy nights which many people spend outdoors. Winter Wild waves break against the rocky shore of the Wild Coast in the Transkei region of the Eastern Cape. (Image: South African Tourism)Winter in South Africa – from May to July – is characterised in the higher-lying areas of the interior plateau by dry, sunny, crisp days and cold nights, sometimes with heavy frosts. It’s a good idea to bring warm clothes.Western Cape gets most of its rain in winter, with quite a few days of cloudy, rainy weather that can be quite stormy with high winds. On 1 June 2013, for example, a cold front accompanied by an intense upper-air trough led to heavy rains and flooding in places over Cape Town, mainly in the informal settlements.Heavy snow falls occurred over the high-lying areas in the south-western parts of Western Cape and Northern Cape, while it was extremely cold over the interior of the two provinces.However, wonderful days are spread throughout winter that rival the best of a British summer.The hot, humid KwaZulu-Natal coast, as well as the Lowveld (lower-lying areas) of Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces, offer fantastic winter weather with sunny, warmish days and virtually no wind or rain.The high mountains of the Cape and the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal usually get snow in winter. Spring Springtime daisies carpet the Namaqualand region of the Northern Cape. (Image: South African Tourism)Nowhere in South Africa is spring, which lasts from August to mid-October, more spectacular than in Northern Cape and Western Cape. Here the grey winter is forgotten as thousands of small, otherwise insignificant plants cover the semi-arid plains in an iridescent carpet of flowers.The journey to see the flowers of the Namaqualand is an annual pilgrimage for many South Africans. Best time of the year to travel? An old car holds a garden of succulent plants outside a roadside stall in the Northern Cape. (Image: Media Club South Africa)That depends on what you want to do. The Namaqualand flowers are obviously best in August and September. Winter is a good time for game watching, as the veld is not as lush as it is in summer and the lack of rain means animals are more likely to congregate around water holes and rivers.Southern right whales hang around off our coasts from about mid-June to the end of October, making for spectacular whale watching.Diving is best in most of the country outside summer (ie, from April through September), and so is surfing – but that certainly doesn’t limit either activity to those times.River rafting is better in Western Cape at the end of winter, and in KwaZulu-Natal in the height of summer (late November to mid-February). In Mpumalanga and Limpopo, it’s less time dependent.The “shoulder” seasons – spring and autumn – are best for hiking, as summer can be hot over most of the country. In the Drakensberg, summer thunderstorms are dangerous, while there is a good chance of snow in winter. In Western Cape, the winters are wet, so it’s not necessarily the best time for hikes.If you’re a birder, the palaeoarctic migrants arrive around November and the intra- African migrants usually by mid-October.Of course, if you want to lounge around on the beaches, mid-summer is the best time – though everyone else will be there too. And – big bonus – the beaches of northern KwaZulu-Natal are warm and sunny even in midwinter.Gallery: South Africa’s plant lifeRead more:Sout h Africa’s wildlife wondersWhale watching in South AfricaAdventure experiencesSouth Africa: coastal playgroundSouth Africa’s year-round beachesScuba diving in South Africa SouthAfrica.info reporter and South African TourismUpdated: 8 November 2015Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SouthAfrica.info materiallast_img read more

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EPA going after atrazine, again

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Many in agriculture are not pleased with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency release of its draft report for the ecological risk assessment of atrazine.Here is the abstract from the EPA draft report released yesterday.“This refined assessment presents the ecological risks posed by the use of the herbicide atrazine. Based on the results from hundreds of toxicity studies on the effects of atrazine on plants and animals, over 20 years of surface water monitoring data, and higher tier aquatic exposure models, this risk assessment concludes that aquatic plant communities are impacted in many areas where atrazine use is heaviest, and there is potential chronic risk to fish, amphibians, and aquatic invertebrates in these same locations. In the terrestrial environment, there are risk concerns for mammals, birds, reptiles, plants and plant communities across the country for many of the atrazine uses. EPA levels of concern for chronic risk are exceeded by as much as 22, 198, and 62 times for birds, mammals, and fish, respectively. For aquatic phase amphibians, a weight of evidence analysis concluded there is potential for chronic risks to amphibians based on multiple effects endpoint concentrations compared to measured and predicted surface water concentrations. The breadth of terrestrial plant species and families potentially impacted by atrazine use at current labeled rates, as well as reduced rates of 0.5 and 0.25 lbs. a.i./A, suggest that terrestrial plant biodiversity and communities are likely to be impacted from off-field exposures via runoff and spray drift. Average atrazine concentrations in water at or above 5 μg/L for several weeks are predicted to lead to reproductive effects in fish, while a 60-day average of 3.4 μg/L has a high probability of impacting aquatic plant community primary productivity, structure and function.”The report was a concern to the farmers who rely upon atrazine in their operations.“With more than 7,000 scientific studies over the past 50 years, atrazine has been proven to be a safe and effective crop management tool. It is one of the most reliable herbicides available,” said Chad Kemp, president of the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association. “We are dismayed and astounded that the EPA chose to fly in the face of guidance from its own Science Advisory Panel and base this assessment on studies the panel found flawed just four years ago. The trust level in this assessment plunges knowing that faulty studies were used as the basis of this evaluation.”Kemp said that farming without atrazine could cost corn farmers up to $59 per acre, according to a 2012 study by the University of Chicago.“And who pays the price for this not-so-scientific assessment? Consumers will face higher food costs as yields decrease and farm operating costs rise,” Kemp said. “We are deeply disappointed that the EPA has once again chosen to ignore science and, by doing so, has demonstrated its lack of support for and understanding of the farming industry and the negative economic impact its decisions place on consumers. We are urging all farmers and others who care about a plentiful, affordable food supply to contact the EPA and tell them to base their decision on sound science.”The EPA’s draft report on the herbicide atrazine is cause for alarm, according to the Triazine Network, a national coalition of farm organizations representing well over 30 agricultural crops in over 40 states. The group insists if EPA continues to use the same false logic or endpoints as noted in the preliminary risk assessment, it could lead to a de facto ban on atrazine.“EPA’s flawed atrazine report is stomping science into the dirt and setting farmers up for significant economic hardship. We challenge this latest proposal and insist EPA abide by federal law that requires the agency to make determinations based on credible scientific evidence,” said Gary Marshall, Triazine Network Chairman. Marshall is executive director of the Missouri Corn Growers Association. “Again and again, we must ask EPA to follow the law. A regulatory agency should not need to be reminded of that detail.”The Triazine Network asserts the federal agency discounted several high-quality studies and instead used studies EPA‘s own 2012 Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) deemed flawed. According to the latest report, EPA is recommending aquatic life level of concern (LOC) be set at 3.4 parts per billion (ppb) on a 60-day average. The EPA’s current LOC for atrazine is 10 ppb, however a diverse universe of scientific evidence points to a safe aquatic life LOC at 25 ppb or greater. The proposed level cuts average field application rates down to 8 ounces per acre.“At the proposed level, atrazine would be rendered useless in controlling weeds in a large portion of the Corn Belt, effectively eliminating the product,” Marshall said. “It sets a dangerous precedent when it comes to approving crop protection tools, puts farmers at a great economic disadvantage and would drastically set back conservation efforts. If EPA abandons the recommendations of their own Science Advisory Panels and more than 7,000 science-based studies in favor of activist agenda’s and politics; they will have lost all credibility”EPA reregistered atrazine in 2006 and began its regularly scheduled registration re-review June 2013. The process typically takes six years to complete. Once the draft report is published in the Federal Register, EPA will begin collecting comments for 60 days.last_img read more

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New KTM RC 390 and RC 200 launched in India

first_imgKTM RC 390 launchedKTM RC 200 and RC 390, two highly anticipated motorbikes from the Austrian two wheeler manufacturer, in partnership with Bajaj Auto, have been launched on Tuesday. While the RC 390 is available at Rs 2.05 lakh, the  RC 200 was introduced at an attractive price of Rs 1.60 lakh  (Both prices are ex-showroom Delhi).Just like other KTM bikes manufactured in the past, the RC 390 and RC 200 are ready to go to the racetrack as soon as they are purchased. As mentioned in our previous story, both new bikes are based on the successful KTM Duke 390 and Duke 200, but set themselves apart through s sports-bike-like full fairing, twin headlamps, fairing-integrated underbelly exhaust, a new fuel tank and tail section, along with mirror mounted turn indicators. Riding geometryRiding geometry on both the KTM RC 390 and RC 200 are different from the Duke model as well, by virtue of new sporty clip-on handlebars and further pushed back footpegs, providing a low riding position on the RC duo. Racing geometry has been provided through a shorter wheelbase and reduced rake angle.Engine detailsDetails on the engines in these two bikes have already been mentioned earlier. The RC 390 has a 373.2 cc, 4-stroke engine with 43.5 bhp of power and 35 Nm of peak torque. Power-to-Weight ratio is an incredible 262 bhp/tonne. The KTM RC 200 comes with a 199.5 cc engine which delivers 25.5 bhp of power and 19.2 Nm of maximum torque, and a Power-to-Weight ratio of 162 bhp/tonne. No Antilock Braking System (ABS) has been provided with the RC 200.Unique Cockpit featuresadvertisement- Gear position indicator- Trip meters (f1, F2, F3)- Digital watch- Coolant temperature- Fuel level- Distance to next service- Distance to empty- Low battery charge- Low oil pressure- Shift RPM signalTo enhance the customer experience, KTM will organise an “Orange Day” on racing tracks across the country, for buyers to race their bikes. For those not interesting in racing their bikes, the company has organised the Touring Experience, which is comprised of camping by night. In addition, Orange rides will allow customers to go on day trips, which is suited to those who may not have time to venture out in the night.  At present, 150 dealerships of KTM are located across different parts of India.last_img read more