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Oct. 29, 2010 at 5:06 PM   |   Comments

Obama: Yemen packages had explosives

NEWARK, N.J., Oct. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday two suspicious packages containing explosive material shipped from Yemen were addressed to Chicago synagogues.

The packages were spotted at airports in Birmingham, England, and the United Arab Emirates late Thursday and prompted alerts at U.S. airports that resulted in plane searches at Newark, N.J., and Philadelphia, as well as searches of UPS trucks in New York. Obama said the packages were believed sent by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, an offshoot of al-Qaida that is known to want to commit terrorist attacks in the United States. Administration officials said the packages were rendered "inert."

Obama said initial examination showed the packages "did apparently contain explosive material." As a result, additional protective measures have been put into place.

Obama pledged "to spare no effort to investigate the origins (of the packages) and their connection" to terrorists.

Obama said the United States is working closely with Yemeni officials and administration officials have spoken directly with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"Last night, intelligence and law enforcement agencies discovered potential suspicious packages on two planes in transit to the United States," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement Friday.

Authorities in the United States and abroad worked together, identified and examined "two suspicious packages, one in East Midlands, United Kingdom, and one in Dubai," Gibbs said.

Officials gave the all-clear sign for Newark Liberty International Airport following Friday morning's search.

A law enforcement official told CNN the suspicious package in Britain was an altered toner cartridge, containing wires, a circuit board and a white powder. It had been shipped from Sana'a, Yemen, to Chicago. Officials said a similar package was found in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

"The president directed U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies and the Department of Homeland Security to take steps to ensure the safety and security of the American people, and to determine whether these threats are a part of any additional terrorist plotting," Gibbs said.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was behind the failed bombing attempt aboard a Northwest Airlines flight above Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement it was beefing up security.


Halliburton says cement report wrong

HOUSTON, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Halliburton Friday criticized a report concluding the cement mixture used on the BP Gulf of Mexico well that exploded was deficient and shifted blame to BP.

The presidential commission headed by former Sen. Bob Graham appointed to investigate the deadly April 19 disaster and subsequent massive oil spill released a report Thursday saying tests performed on a cement mixture comparable to that used by Halliburton showed the mixture was unstable. The report also accused Halliburton of being aware of the mixture's deficiencies.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig was owned by Transocean and leased by BP.

In a statement posted on its Web site, Halliburton said internal tests conducted on a cement slurry mixture that didn't meet standards in February were preliminary and the mixture was not the same as that used on the ill-fated well.

"Halliburton believes that significant differences between its internal cement tests and the commission's test results may be due to differences in the cement materials tested," the company said. "The commission tested off-the-shelf cement and additives, whereas Halliburton tested the unique blend of cement and additives that existed on the rig at the time Halliburton's tests were conducted.

"BP subsequently instructed Halliburton to increase the amount of retarder in the slurry formulation from eight gallons per 100 sacks of cement to nine gallons per 100 sacks of cement," Halliburton said. "Tests, including thickening time and compressive strength, were performed on the nine gallon formulation (the cement formulation actually pumped) and were shared with BP before the cementing job had begun. A foam stability test was not conducted on the nine gallon formulation."

Halliburton noted cementing wells "is a complex endeavor" and failures are not uncommon in the industry.

"Halliburton believes that had BP conducted a cement bond log test, or had BP and others properly interpreted a negative-pressure test, these tests would have revealed any problems with Halliburton's cement. … BP, as the well owner and operator, decided not to run a cement bond log test even though the appropriate personnel and equipment were on the rig and available to run that test," Halliburton said.

The statement again blamed BP's well design for the disaster as well as the failure of Transocean's blowout preventer.


Gunman wounds 3 at Nevada Walmart

RENO, Nev., Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Police surrounded a Walmart in Reno, Nev., after an armed man wounded three people there Friday morning.

The store was evacuated, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported. Scores of police from local, state and federal agencies gathered in the parking lot with the shooter still believed to be inside the store.

Walmart reported that one of the wounded was in critical condition. Police described one as a manager at the store.

Reno Police Lt. Mohammad Rafaqat said the gunman might be a Walmart employee.

The shooting occurred at around 8:30 a.m.

The first responders split into three teams, one for evacuation of the store, one to get the injured to medical help and the third to find and arrest the shooter, the Gazette-Journal said.


FBI: Washington shooter may be Marine

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- A U.S. Marine with a grudge may be behind a series of shootings at government targets in Washington, officials said Friday.

The National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., became a target Thursday night for the second time, The Washington Post reported.

The FBI said its agents are working on the assumption the same person is behind that shooting and three earlier ones. The agency said Thursday the same gun was used to fire at the museum and the Pentagon Oct. 17 and 19, and this Tuesday at an empty recruiting office in Chantilly, Va.

At a Washington news conference Friday, FBI officials said the gunman should surrender to authorities. They did not give details on why they believe the shooter is likely to be a Marine.

Museum employees found bullet holes in a window Friday morning. The shooting occurred while the museum was closed overnight.

Gwenn Adams, a spokeswoman, said the museum was shut down for the day while investigators examine the scene. She said it was expected to reopen Saturday morning.


At least 94 dead in Thailand flooding

BANGKOK, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Flooding in Thailand has killed at least 94 people in the last three weeks, health officials said Friday.

The Emergency Medical Institute said the victims include 78 men and 16 women, Thai News Agency reported. The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department said the waters had receded in 11 provinces, but major problems continued in the other 27.

In Bangkok, the Chao Phraya River was expected to crest by early afternoon.

Around 3,000 businesses with 250,000 employees have been disrupted by the floods, and 306 schools were underwater, disaster officials said.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Wednesday the floods, the worst in the country in several years, might be a man-made disaster, the Bangkok Post reported.

"Heavy flooding in many provinces is caused by construction that blocks the flow of the water. After the water recedes we'll have to look into this problem again," he said.

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