Nation & World News

India’s Modi Makes A Name For Himself — Literally — In Meeting With Obama

By Krishnadev Calamur on January 26th, 2015 | Last updated: January 26, 2015 at 3:03 pm

There are many ways in diplomacy to make a name for yourself. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have taken this message literally.

Modi’s meeting with President Obama on Sunday dominated the headlines for what the U.S. president called a “breakthrough understanding” on a civilian nuclear agreement signed in 2008. But the attention Monday, when Obama attended India’s Republic Day parade with Modi, was on what the Indian leader wore during Sunday’s meeting.

The pinstripes on the suit, in case you can’t see it clearly, read “Narendra Damodardas Modi.”

The reaction on social media was scathing.

Some even pointed out that the personalized suit was made famous by ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Modi, we should point out here, is often lauded for his fashion choices — something this blogger seldom, if ever, is.

On Sunday, Modi began by greeting Obama at the airport in a cream-colored kurta and orange shawl. At a later meeting, Modi had changed into his now-famous pinstriped suit. That evening, at a banquet in Obama’s honor at the presidential palace, Modi donned a gray Indian jacket.

Designers interviewed by India Today, a newsmagazine, praised Modi’s choice, which was tailored by Jade Blue in Ahmedabad in the prime minister’s home state of Gujarat. One designer said the pinstriped suit could have cost up to $8,100.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
News from NPR | Leave a comment

Greece’s Left-Wing Prime Minister Takes Charge

By Krishnadev Calamur on January 26th, 2015 | Last updated: January 26, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Alexis Tsipras, who led his left-wing Syriza party to a momentous win in Greece‘s parliamentary election, was sworn in today amid fears about what his win means for the country’s bailout agreements with the European Union.

Reporter Joanna Kakissis in Athens, who is following the story, tells our Newscast unit that Tsipras now leads the first anti-austerity government in Europe. She adds:

“As scores of news photographers clicked away, Alexis Tsipras took his oath of office today in Athens. He said he promised to uphold the Constitution and look out for the welfare of Greeks. Tsipras is an atheist, so he refused a religious oath — the custom in this Greek Orthodox country. He’s the first prime minister to do so. He’s only 40, so he’s also the youngest leader in Greece since 1865.

“His first act as premier was to lay flowers at a monument to resistance fighters who battled the Nazis in World War II. Tsipras has said he wants to seek repayment of a wartime loan that Greece was forced to give the Nazis.”

Syriza won 149 seats in the 300-seat Parliament, just two seats short of an absolute majority. It will govern with a small right-wing party called Independent Greeks, which won 13 seats. Joanna says the Independent Greeks is a nationalist party that also opposed the bailout, and is known for its conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism.

The new government says it wants to renegotiate the terms of Greece’s two EU bailouts. Those bailouts resulted in billions being loaned to Greece, which was on the brink of a default, in exchange for severe — and deeply unpopular — austerity measures.

But reporter Teri Schultz in Brussels tells Newscast that the EU has warned Greece not to expect any leniency.

“Greek voters were warned from many corners of the EU that putting the Syriza party in power would not be welcome, as leader Alexis Tsipras says he’ll renegotiate terms of the bailouts that kept Athens from bankruptcy — twice,” Teri says. “EU leaders say a Syriza government will be responsible for paying Greece’s debts, but everyone is nervous what will happen if the required reforms really are called off in Athens.”

Syriza’s win means that for the first time since the fall of Greece’s military junta in 1974, neither the outgoing conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy Party nor the center-left PASOK will be in charge of Greece.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
News from NPR | Leave a comment

‘Quad Copter’ Flew Into, Crashed On White House Grounds, Secret Service Says

By Krishnadev Calamur on January 26th, 2015 | Last updated: January 26, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Updated at 3:20 p.m. ET

The Secret Service has identified a device that was found overnight on the White House grounds as a “quad copter.” The agency says the person who had been operating the device reported that it crashed after they lost control.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, the Secret Service said an individual called around 9:30 this morning to “self-report” the crashed copter. The agency adds that the person has been cooperative, and that the incident seems to stem from “recreational use of the device.”

The agency said an on-duty Secret Service officer saw and heard the 2-foot-wide commercial “quad copter” fly low onto the grounds of the executive mansion at about 3:08 a.m. ET. It crashed on the southeast side, the agency said in a statement.

“There was an immediate alert and lockdown of the complex until the device was examined and cleared,” a spokesman said, adding that an investigation is under way.

Earlier, the White House said the device posed no threat to the first family.

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are in India; their daughters, Sasha and Malia, stayed behind in Washington with their grandmother, Marian Robinson.

“There is a device that has been recovered by the Secret Service at the White House,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, who is with Obama in New Delhi. “The early indications are that it does not pose any sort of ongoing threat to anybody at the White House.”

Drones, as we have previously reported, come in a variety of sizes, and are used in counterterrorism, surveillance, aerial photography and even as toys.

The incident follows a spate of security lapses at the White House for which the Secret Service has been widely criticized. As we previously reported:

“The Secret Service was criticized last year after several lapses, including one in which a knife-wielding man scaled the White House fence and made it inside the executive mansion’s main level. The scandal resulted in the resignation of its then-director, Julia Pierson.

“In December, a panel appointed by the Department of Homeland Security recommended changes at the Secret Service, saying it was ‘starved for leadership.’ ”

Several top officials at the Secret Service were asked to leave earlier this month.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
News from NPR | Leave a comment

From New Jersey To Maine, Northeast Braces For Massive Blizzard

By Krishnadev Calamur on January 26th, 2015 | Last updated: January 26, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Update at 12:20 p.m. ET

Nearly 30 million people in the Northeast are bracing for what the National Weather Service is calling a potentially historic blizzard that could bring more than 2 feet of snow today and Tuesday to parts of the region.

Blizzard warnings have been issued all the way from the New Jersey shore to coastal New England from this afternoon through late Tuesday.

The National Weather Service said New York could get as much as 2 feet of snow; Boston and Providence, R.I., could get up to 2.5 feet. Wind gusts of up to 50 mph are expected inland, and some gusts could reach 75 mph on the Northeastern coast.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for Bronx, Dutchess, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Ulster and Westchester counties.

Nonessential state workers in those counties are being asked to leave at 3 p.m. New York City’s subway service will operate on a limited schedule after 7 p.m., he said.

“This is going to be a serious blizzard that should not be taken lightly,” Cuomo said.

In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy, besides declaring a state of emergency, announced a travel ban for all roads starting at 9 p.m. tonight.

“People need to take this storm seriously,” he said. “If current predictions are accurate, we will need people to stay off the roads so that emergency personnel and utility crews can get to the places they need to get to, and to make sure that our plows can keep critical roadways clear.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency for the state and authorized a staggered dismissal at 1 p.m. for state officers and nonessential workers. He said state offices will also be closed Tuesday.

In Boston, Logan Airport officials said no flights will leave the airport after 7:30 p.m. There will be no air traffic at the airport on Tuesday.

“This could be a storm the likes of which we have never seen before,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday.

De Blasio said today that all nonemergency traffic will need to be off the road after 11 p.m.

Weather Underground puts it this way: “By the time its last flake falls on Wednesday, the Blizzard of 2015 will likely pile up some epic snowfall amounts which may rank in the top ten in recorded history for all three of these cities.”

The nor’easter could cripple travel. Already, thousands of flights have been canceled or delayed. Daniel Baker, CEO of the aviation tracking site FlightAware.com says this could be a good chance for stranded airline customers.

“The good news is that every airline is offering fee-free changes, and in some cases cancellations and rescheduling opportunities,” he says.

Chris Dolce, Weather.com meteorologist, says, “Avoid all travel, as it will be extremely dangerous with blizzard or near-blizzard conditions likely.”

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
News from NPR | Leave a comment

Hagel: Stress Of ‘Nonstop War’ Forcing Out Good Soldiers

By Scott Neuman on January 26th, 2015 | Last updated: January 26, 2015 at 9:04 am

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, speaking to NPR’s Morning Edition, says he’s concerned about retaining qualified U.S. military service members amid the “stress and strain” of more than 13 years of continuous warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In one of his last interviews in the job he’s held since February 2013, Hagel refers to the “hidden consequences” of “nonstop war” faced by American combat forces since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. He calls the situation “unprecedented in the history of this country.”

He tells Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep that such a protracted combat role means that the same people keep rotating back to the front lines: “four, five, six combat tours — [the] same people.”

Hagel says that when, in a recent meeting, he spoke with a group of six promising young U.S. military officers, “five out of the six said they were uncertain over whether they were going to stay in the service and most likely would get out.

“And why? Because of family issues, because of stress and strain,” he tells Inskeep.

In the wide-ranging interview with NPR, Hagel also speaks about the chaotic situation in Yemen, the challenges of identifying and training a moderate Syrian opposition, as well as the difficulty faced by President Obama in closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center and the administration’s sometimes controversial, hands-on involvement in national security matters.

Hagel, a former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska who is the first enlisted combat veteran to lead the Defense Department, says that “it’s going to be very difficult” to close Guantanamo by the end of the president’s term, “especially if the Congress further restricts where these last 122 detainees will go, how they will be dealt with.”

On the subject of Yemen, Hagel says the White House is “working our way through what the facts are” after President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his Cabinet resigned amid a near-coup by sectarian Houthi rebels.

“I think until we get a better understanding of how the Yemenis want to go forward in governing, then that will determine the future relationships,” he says.

“But we want to continue to have that relationship, which has been important, with the government,” he says of the country that has simultaneously given rise to some of the world’s most hardened jihadis and worked closely with the U.S. to eliminate the threat.

Concerning Syria, Hagel says there’s no question about the need to train moderate forces to “take back their communities and their towns and their cities” from insurgents of the self-declared Islamic State.

However, he says, “[this] issue in Syria is not going to be solved militarily. This is going to require … a political change, a shift. There is a military dynamic to it, but the military dynamic cannot lead and will not lead.”

Hagel’s deputy, longtime Pentagon official Ashton Carter, has been nominated by Obama to take over the key Cabinet post. He has yet to be approved by the Senate.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
News from NPR | Leave a comment

Got $15 Million? Actor Rowan Atkinson Has A Car For Sale

By Scott Neuman on January 25th, 2015 | Last updated: January 26, 2015 at 10:03 am

Mr. Bean is selling his car.

No, not the lime green British Leyland Mini that was the prop for so many of the character’s antics. We’re talking about the purple McLaren F1 “supercar” owned by the actor who plays Mr. Bean, Rowan Atkinson. It’s the same car that Atkinson famously wrapped around a tree in 2011.

The 59-year-old Atkinson is selling the vehicle, which can reach 240 mph, The Telegraph says. It’s expected to fetch offers of around $15 million.

Atkinson, who also starred in The Blackadder series, bought the car nearly 20 years ago, “for the quality of the thinking that went into its design,” he tells the Telegraph.

“[Now] it has become a thing of value, it is time for it to be enjoyed by someone else,” he said. It’s also possible that the crash four years ago may have set Atkinson back a bit: the repair bill was reportedly $1.4 million (luckily the actor himself wasn’t seriously injured). Auto Evolution reports that it took four weeks just to calculate the repair costs and another year to get the work done.

The BBC’s Top Gear called it “a ruddy expensive fix.”

Atkinson, a performance car aficionado and amateur race-car driver, also crashed another car recently — a 1964 powder-blue Ford Falcon Sprint. It happened last year when a fellow competitor in the Shelby Cup at Goodwood Revival lost control ahead of him and spun off the track. Atkinson was unable to swerve out of the way and hit the car head-on.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
News from NPR | Leave a comment

Ukraine’s President Hopes To Revive Shattered Peace Process

By Scott Neuman on January 25th, 2015 | Last updated: January 26, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko says he will “calm” fighting between his forces and Russian-backed separatists in the country’s east a day after rocket fire killed 30 people in and around the port city of Mariupol.

Poroshenko, speaking after an emergency meeting of Ukraine’s security council, said reviving a shattered peace deal agreed in September was the only way out of the conflict.

The Ukrainian leader also said that, in case there was any doubt, intercepted radio transmissions showed conclusively that it was the rebels who attacked government-held Mariupol, hitting an open-air market and a residential area.

The Associated Press notes that “the attack on Mariupol, a strategically situated port city that had been relatively quiet for months, alarmed the West and looked likely further to aggravate relations with Russia.”

President Obama, speaking in New Delhi, said the U.S. was prepared to “ratchet up the pressure on Russia” to get it to stop supporting the separatists.

“We are deeply concerned about the latest break in the ceasefire and the aggression that these separatists — with Russian backing, Russian equipment, Russian financing, Russian training and Russian troops — are conducting,” Obama told a news conference in India.

“I will look at all additional options that are available to us short of military confrontation and try to address this issue. And we will be in close consultation with our international partners, particularly European partners,” he said.

The BBC has a bit of background:

“More than 5,000 people have been killed in fighting since the rebels seized a large swathe of Donetsk and Luhansk regions last April, UN officials say. More than a million people have been displaced.

“Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of arming the rebels and sending its troops into Ukrainian territory.

“Russia has denied directly arming the separatists, and blames Ukraine for the upsurge in fighting.”

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
News from NPR | Leave a comment

Obama Proposes New Protections For Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

By Sam Sanders on January 25th, 2015 | Last updated: January 26, 2015 at 9:04 am

The Obama administration is proposing new protections for large portions of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The U.S. Department of Interior says it’s the first time it’s recommended additional protections and that their new recommendations have the potential to be one of the largest conservation measures “since Congress passed the visionary Wilderness Act over 50 years ago.”

The Department is recommending that millions more acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, including the Coastal Plain, be declared “Wilderness.” That would make the total area of the refuge declared Wilderness 12.28 million acres.

Wilderness is the highest level of protection available for public lands. It prohibits mining, drilling, roads, vehicles and permanent structures. The Department of Interior says less than 40 percent of the Refuge currently has Wilderness designation.

Interior plans to start managing the coastal plain area of the Refuge as Wilderness, but will need help from Congress to keep those new protections permanent. Only Congress has the power to make a Wilderness designation, and in a video released to YouTube Sunday, Obama challenged Congress’ to act on the issue.

“And I’m going to be calling on Congress to take it one step further,” Obama said from Air Force One during a trip to India, as the video interspersed scenic shots of arctic animals and landscapes. “Designating [ANWR] as a Wilderness so that we can make sure that this amazing wonder is preserved for future generations.”

The Washington Post reports that the administration’s Sunday announcement won’t be its only action on the Arctic. The Post’s Juliet Elperin reports that the Department of Interior will make certain parts of the Arctic Ocean off limits to drilling, in a plan set to be issued this week. Elperin also says the administration could impose “additional limits on oil and gas production in parts of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.”

Already, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has called the Interior Department’s plans a quote “stunning attack” on Alaska’s ability to develop a strong economy — because it might hinder oil and gas production.

“It’s clear this administration does not care about us, and sees us as nothing but a territory,” Murkowski said. “The promises made to us at statehood, and since then, mean absolutely nothing to them. I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska. But we will not be run over like this. We will fight back with every resource at our disposal.”

Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan joined Murkowski in the statement. “We will defeat their lawless attempt to designate ANWR as a wilderness, as well as their ultimate goal of making Alaska one big national park,” Sullivan said. “This decision disregards the rule of law and our constitution and specifically ignores many promises made to Alaska in ANILCA [Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act]. It is just one more example of President Obama thumbing his nose at the citizens of a sovereign state — and will put Alaska and America’s energy security in serious jeopardy.”

U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, and Gov. Bill Walker also voiced their dissent in the joint statement. Walker said increased oil production can help Alaska’s economy and that he’d “consider accelerating the options available to us to increase oil exploration and production on state-owned lands.”

The Department of Interior says the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is “home to the most diverse wildlife in the arctic, including caribou, polar bears, gray wolves, and muskoxen,” with hundreds of species calling the region home.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
News from NPR | 3 Comments

Several Killed In Egypt Amid Clashes Marking Anniversary Of Uprising

By Scott Neuman on January 25th, 2015 | Last updated: January 26, 2015 at 9:03 am

At least nine people are dead in the Egyptian capital following clashes between police and Islamist protesters marking the fourth anniversary of 2011 uprising that ousted then-President Hosni Mubarak.

The Associated Press said nine people had been killed, but Reuters and ITV News put the figure at 11. Both agencies cited unnamed security officials.

The AP says another 13 people were injured in clashes in the Matariyah area of the capital.

Reuters notes:

“The anniversary is a test of whether Islamists and liberal activists facing one of Egypt’s toughest crackdowns have the resolve to challenge the U.S.-backed government once again.

“Security forces have been stamping out dissent in Egypt since then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted elected president Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013 after mass protests against his rule.”

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
News from NPR | Leave a comment

‘Blizzard-Like’ Conditions Set To Hit Northeast

By Scott Neuman on January 25th, 2015 | Last updated: January 26, 2015 at 8:04 am

Updated at 7:15 p.m. ET

Parts of the U.S. northeast are bracing for as much as 2 feet of snow as a blizzard-like system bears down on the region.

The strong system could leave significant snowfall on the ground from Philadelphia to Maine beginning late tonight and continuing through Tuesday.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio urged residents of the city to expect unusually icy conditions and to “look out for your fellow New Yorkers … check on them.” Long Island could get 24 inches of snow, forecasters said.

“We’re asking people to stay out of the city parks for their own safety,” he said.

The Weather Channel runs down the basics:

— Moderate-to-heavy snow likely from portions of the coastal Mid-Atlantic (New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania) to New England.

— Peak impacts late Monday through Tuesday.

— Accumulations of 1 to 2 feet likely (locally 2+ feet possible).

— Blizzard or near-blizzard conditions will make travel impossible.

— Flight cancellations, major delays and possible airport closures late Monday through Tuesday.

— Damaging wind gusts and coastal flooding also expected.

— Lighter snowfall from the Midwest to the central Appalachians and Mid-Atlantic Sunday into early Monday.

The Associated Press quotes meteorologist Patrick Maloit as saying that areas east of New York City could receive more than a foot if the storm develops as forecast, adding it’s still “a big if.”

According to the AP:

“The storm, which brewed late Saturday around the Iowa-Minnesota line, is likely to track down into the central Appalachians and then very slowly traverse its way through the Northeast states and reach the Gulf of Maine late Tuesday night, he said. The slow movement of the storm, he said, could help produce quite a bit of snowfall and blizzard-like or blizzard conditions: at least three hours of wind gusts of 35 mph or greater and visibility of less than a quarter of a mile because of snow or blowing snow.

“The storm could stall before it tracks out to sea, bringing high wind, heavy precipitation and the potential for coastal flooding, the National Weather Service said. It would be the second wallop for the Northeast after what happened Saturday, when a storm crawling up the East Coast left a slushy, snowy coating from Pennsylvania to New England.”

Delta Airlines has canceled 600 flights on Monday, the AP reports, in anticipation of the storm.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
News from NPR | Leave a comment

Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Day Sponsorship Payments
Underwriting Payments