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Added May 28, 2010 with 32 photos
Added May 28, 2010 with 20 photos
PORT FOURCHON, La., May 28 (UPI) -- President Obama picked up tarballs on a beach in Louisiana during a visit Friday to assess BP's efforts to plug the massive Gulf of Mexico oil leak.

Obama, along with Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen and the Lafourche parish president, Charlotte Randolph, strolled the white sand of Fourchon Beach. Obama knelt to pick up the nickel- to quarter-sized tarballs on the beach where yellow tape cordoned off the water and 7 miles of boom resembled a string of pompoms.

Looking to the water, Obama said conditions were ideal for keeping oil away from the shores.

"It's calm, which means that a lot of boats are out there right now and they're in a position where they can help prevent (the oil) from getting close to shore," he said.

The president praised Lafourche's work in responding to a spill now estimated to be at least twice the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska. "This parish has been as effective as any in coordinating and working to make sure they respond quickly."

Obama's administration has received criticism for its response to the spill. A USA Today/Gallup poll indicated 53 percent of Americans believed the government has done a poor job responding to the emergency.

BP reported some progress as it continued to try to cap the spill using a so-called "top kill" method. The full top kill procedure could take up to two more days, BP said. The method involves pumping heavy fluid, known as drilling mud, into the head of the leaking well on the sea floor. Officials said they hoped the drilling mud would stop the flow so cement could be pumped in to seal the well.

Oil has been spilling into the gulf since April 20 when the drilling platform Deepwater Horizon exploded. It sank two days later. Eleven rig workers died.

U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia Minuit said oil is spewing at a rate of between 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day, CNN reported. The spill rate means 260,000 to 540,000 barrels had leaked as of 10 days ago -- more than the 250,000 barrels spilled when the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska's Prince William Sound.

Added May 28, 2010 with 35 photos
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WEST POINT, N.Y., May 22 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama told West Point's graduating class Saturday the country must play a leading role in building international alliances.

"The international order we seek is one that can resolve the challenges of our times," Obama said, including countering violent extremism and insurgency, stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and securing nuclear materials, preventing conflict, helping poor countries feed themselves and care for their sick and fighting global warming.

"If we are successful in these tasks, that will lessen conflicts around the world," the president told about 20,000 people at the academy, on the Hudson River north of New York City. "It will be supportive of our efforts by our military to secure our country. We must pursue a strategy of national renewal and global leadership."

Noting this is the ninth straight wartime West Point graduation, Obama said the threat of global terrorism "is no less important today than it was in those days after 9/11."

He said the war against international terrorism differs from other wars in one key respect: "There will be no simple moment of surrender to mark the journey's end -- no armistice, no banner headline. Though we have had more success in eliminating al-Qaida leaders in recent months than in recent years, they will continue to recruit, and plot, and exploit our open society."

Obama said failed terror plots like the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner and the failed Times Square car-bombing "show that pressure on networks like al-Qaida is forcing them to rely on terrorists with less time and space to train" them.

Added May 22, 2010 with 8 photos
MANGALORE, India, May 22 (UPI) -- Indian authorities said Saturday they have begun an inquiry into what caused an airliner crash that killed at least 159 and injured seven, three seriously.

The inquiry by the Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation will be assisted by an Air India team, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said, the Press Trust of India reported.

Patel told reporters an initial investigation show there was no problem with the 4-year-old runway at Mangalore or the Air India Express jet. The aircraft overshot the runway by about 2000 feet.

The pilot, a British national of Serbian origin, and the Indian co-pilot had made several landings at the same airport, he said.

Patel said the aircraft's black box, an instrument that records what went on in the cockpit, has not yet been recovered, PTI reported.

The plane arriving at Bajpe airport on a flight from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates apparently touched down late and skidded off the runway into the valley, where it burned, The Hindu reported. Mangalore's airport is described as a "tabletop," set on a hill with steep cliffs not far from the runway.

The accident occurred on the longer of the two runways at the airport, which is 8,000 feet long. The shorter runway is 6,000 feet long, PTI reported.

Earlier, authorities said they believed cloudy conditions and reduced visibility may have contributed to India's worst air disaster in 14 years, The Times reported in London.

Mohammad Umer Farooqi, a young Mangalore man returning from a job-hunting trip in Dubai, said from a hospital that he jumped from the plane when he saw a hole in the fuselage, landing on the hillside.

"Then the plane veered off toward some trees on the side and then the cabin filled with smoke," he said. "I got caught in some cables but managed to scramble out."

He covered his face with his hands while he plunged through the hole to avoid the flames.

Police said the bodies of 120 passengers have been recovered.

Added May 22, 2010 with 13 photos
GRAND ISLE, La., May 22 (UPI) -- The mayor of Grand Isle, the only inhabited island on Louisiana's Gulf Coast, closed the beach to the public Friday after oil from the BP spill washed ashore.

Mayor David Camardelle closed the 8-mile-long island's beach to its 1,500 residents and the thousands more tourists who normally flock to the vacation spot to fish and swim, The Miami Herald reported Friday.

Lisa Rhobus, who runs the Cajun Holiday Motel, told the Herald all her rooms were booked before the disaster, but now every reservation has been canceled.

"The only paying people I have at Cajun Holiday are workers helping with the cleanup. This could just about kill Grand Isle," Rhobus said.

A giant oil slick 7 miles from Grand Isle was spotted from helicopters Friday.

"It's coming our way. All that oil you're seeing on Grand Isle beach now -- that's nothing compared to what's coming," one deputy sheriff told the Herald.

Added May 21, 2010 with 17 photos
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