Europe and North Atlantic

A collection of writing from the Europe and the North Atlantic


Dramatic video released from London attacks

June 8, 2017

By Paisley Dodds and Danicia Kirka

LONDON (AP) — Dramatic video footage released Thursday captures the moment when armed police swooped into a busy market area near London Bridge on Saturday night and shot dead three attackers who had just left a trail of bloodshed, killing eight people and wounding scores.

The surveillance camera footage shows the first police car rolling forward as the attackers lunge at a man to stab him during the late night attacks. Within minutes, the attackers are shot dead and another police car arrives as people are seen running for their lives.  Read More>>


London attacker’s mom blames internet for radicalizing son

June 07, 2017

By Paisley Dodds and Nicole Winfield

LONDON (AP) — The youngest of the London Bridge attackers pleaded with his mother to settle with him in Syria but instead moved to Britain where his extremist views hardened and he fell into the company of a bloodthirsty gang that launched the latest attack on British streets, his mother said Wednesday.

Valeria Khadija Collina last spoke with her 22-year-old son, Youssef Zaghba, by telephone just two days before he and two other men plowed a van into a crowd near London Bridge and went on a stabbing rampage. Eight people were killed and dozens wounded. All three of the assailants were shot dead. Read More>>


London attacker was cheerful on eve of rampage

March 24, 2017

By Paisley Dodds

BIRMINGHAM, England — Long before his short stints in jail turned into years behind bars, Khalid Masood was known as Adrian Elms, with a reputation for drinking and an unpredictable temper.

At least twice he was convicted of violent crimes, well before he stabbed a police officer to death Wednesday with a motion one horrified witness described as like “playing a drum on your back with two knives.”

But as he checked out of his hotel to head toward London for his deadly rampage, the manager said he was struck by his guest’s friendly and outgoing manner.

Within hours, Masood drove his rented SUV ac

ross the crowded Westminster Bridge, leaving a trail of dead and wounded. Then he jumped out and attacked the officer at Parliament with a blade in each hand, before being shot to death by police. Read More>>


 

Iraq suicide bomber was a former Guantanamo detainee who won massive payout from British government

Feb. 22, 2017

By Paisley Dodds

LONDON (AP) — A suicide bomber who attacked a military base in Iraq this week was a former Guantanamo Bay detainee freed in 2004 after Britain lobbied for his release, raising questions about the ability of security services to track the whereabouts of potential terrorists.

The Islamic State group identified the bomber as Abu Zakariya al-Britani, and two British security officials also confirmed the man was a 50-year-old Briton formerly known as Ronald Fiddler and as Jamal al-Harith.

He was one of 16 men paid a total of 10 million pounds (now worth $12.4 million) in compensation in 2010, when the British government settled a lawsuit alleging its intelligence agencies were complicit in the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, according to the officials.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. Read More>>


Rights advocates warn of backlash if Trump pursues torture

Jan. 26, 2017

By Paisley Dodds

LONDON (AP) — It took more than a year’s worth of beatings, sleep deprivation, psychological abuse and threats to his family before former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg said he cracked and confessed to being a member of the al-Qaida terror network. The only problem, he said, was that it was a lie.

It was only a matter of weeks for Mourad Benchellali, a Frenchman detained first at Kandahar in Afghanistan. “Because I was afraid, because I hurt, and because I told myself, when this is all worked out, I’ll tell the truth. But for now, better to tell them what they want to hear,” he said.

Chris Arendt, a former guard at the U.S. detention facility in Cuba, said he routinely saw what could be defined as torture, including prisoners being unnecessarily pepper-sprayed or taken for interrogations that never happened. Instead, they were left shackled for hours as a means of punishment.

During the year he spent at the U.S. detention facility in 2004, Arendt said it was clear that most of the detainees had relatively little valuable intelligence.

“I thought that if I confessed I would at least get access to the courts and my interrogations would stop being so adversarial,” said the 48-year-old Begg, who confessed in 2003 but wasn’t released until 2005, along with three other British detainees. Like most Guantanamo detainees, he was never charged. Read More>>


British ex-spy behind Trump dossier

Jan. 13, 2017

By Danica Kirka and Paisley Dodds

The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Christopher Steele, the one-time British spy who has compiled an explosive dossier on President-elect Donald Trump, is a well-regarded operative who wouldn’t make up stories to satisfy his clients, according to diplomatic and intelligence experts who know him.

Steele, 52, worked for MI6, Britain’s overseas intelligence agency, and served in Moscow in the early 1990s. After leaving the agency, he and a partner started Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd. in 2009. The firm provides strategic advice, gathers intelligence and conducts cross-border investigations, according to its website.

“I know him as a very competent, professional operator who left the secret service and is now operating his own private company,” Andrew Wood, Britain’s ambassador to Russia from 1995 to 2000, told the BBC on Friday. “I do not think he would make things up. I don’t think he would, necessarily, always draw correct judgment, but that’s not the same thing.”

In a tweet Friday, Trump described the “phony allegations” as having been compiled by his political opponents and a “failed spy afraid of being sued.” He did not mention Steele by name.

In Moscow, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said the reported author of a dossier claiming that Russia has compromising material on Trump “is not known to the Kremlin.” Spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday also reiterated the Kremlin’s view that the allegations are false. Read More>>


Islamic State has trained 400 fighters to target Europe, AP says

March 23, 2016

By Paisley Dodds and Lori Hinnant

PARIS – The Islamic State group has trained at least 400 fighters to target Europe in deadly waves of attacks, deploying interlocking terror cells like the ones that struck Brussels and Paris with orders to choose the time, place and method for maximum carnage, The Associated Press has learned.

The network of agile and semiautonomous cells shows the reach of the extremist group in Europe even as it loses ground in Syria and Iraq. The officials, including European and Iraqi intelligence officials and a French lawmaker who follows the jihadi networks, described camps in Syria, Iraq and possibly the former Soviet bloc where attackers are trained to attack the West. Before being killed in a police raid, the ringleader of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks claimed to have entered Europe in a multinational group of 90 fighters, who scattered “more or less everywhere.”

But the biggest break yet in the Paris attacks investigation – the arrest on Friday of fugitive Salah Abdeslam– did not thwart the multipronged attack just four days later on the Belgian capital’s airport and metro that left 31 people dead and an estimated 270 wounded. Three suicide bombers also died. Read More>>


Leaked Isis documents reveal recruits have poor grasp of Islamic faith: Recruits ordered ‘The Koran for Dummies’ and ‘Islam for Dummies’ to prepare for jihad

Aug. 16, 2016

By Aya Batrawy, Paisley Dodds and Lori Hinnant

The jihadi employment form asked the recruits, on a scale of one to three, to rate their knowledge of Islam. And the Isis applicants, herded into a hangar somewhere at the Syria-Turkey border, turned out to be overwhelmingly ignorant.

The extremist group could hardly have hoped for better.

At the height of Isis’ drive for foot soldiers in 2013 and 2014, typical recruits included the group of Frenchmen who went bar-hopping with their recruiter back home, the recent European convert who now hesitantly describes himself as gay, and two Britons who ordered “The Koran for Dummies” and “Islam for Dummies” from Amazon to prepare for jihad abroad. Read More>>


Britain braces for possible copycat attacks

May 24, 2013

By Paisley Dodds

LONDON _ Britain is bracing for clashes with right-wing extremists and possible copycat terror attacks after the brutal slaying of a young soldier, whose grieving family spoke Friday of their loss.
London police said more than 1,000 officers will be sent to potential trouble spots with armed response units. Most British police officers don’t carry weapons.
Wednesday’s attack was captured on video by passersby and made for gruesome viewing _ one man is seen with his hands stained red with blood and holding two butcher’s knives as he angrily complained about the British government and troops in foreign lands. A lifeless body is seen on the street behind him.
Terror analysts say the attackers wanted the publicity to inspire copycat attacks, and that they are already seeing an increase in chatter on extremist sites calling for such attacks.
“We can see the tempo being raised,” said Maajid Nawaz, a former jihadist who is now with the London-based anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation. Read More>>


British Muslim couple handed life sentence for killing westernized daughter

August 4, 2012

By Paisley Dodds
LONDON (AP) — The girl was murdered by her Pakistani parents for her Western ways. And it was her little sister who bravely told jurors how her mother and father suffocated the 17-year-old with a plastic bag — gripping testimony that led to her parents’ murder conviction on Friday.

Justice Roderick Evans sentenced Iftikhar, 52, and Farzana Ahmed, 49, to life in prison for killing their daughter, Shafilea, in 2003. The couple — first cousins from the Pakistani village of Uttam — were ordered to serve a minimum of 25 years in prison.

In Britain, more than 25 women have been killed in so-called “honor killings” in the past decade. Families have sometimes lashed out at their children on the belief that they have brought their household shame by becoming too westernized or by refusing a marriage.

Shafilea was only 10 when she began to rebel against her parents’ strict rules, according to prosecutor Andrew Edis.

The young girl would hide make-up, false nails and western clothes at school, changing into conservative clothes before her parents picked her up. Read more >>


Interpol chief says countries not using databases

January 19, 2012

By Paisley Dodds
LONDON — Interpol’s chief sounded an alarm Thursday that countries are still failing to check identity documents against its database — a warning that comes just months before the 2012 Olympics.

Ron Noble, secretary-general of the international police agency based in France, said out of the 1.1 billion travelers last year, ID documents of about 500 million people were not checked against Interpol’s database, which is one of the world’s most detailed.

“It will take a tragedy — a specific kind of tragedy — for behavior to change,” Noble told The Associated Press after speaking to foreign correspondents in London.

Noble has said Britain is the only EU country to systematically check passports against those registered with Interpol as missing worldwide. Britain carried out 140 million checks last year against the database — more than the rest of Europe combined. Read more >>


Russian whistleblower’s death in UK unexplained

November 29, 2012

By Paisley Dodds
LONDON (AP) — British officials are investigating the unexplained death of a Russian businessman, a key witness against Russian officials who allegedly stole $230 million from a London hedge fund in a money laundering scheme.

Alexander Perepilichny’s body was discovered Nov. 10 outside his rented house south of London. Police said a second post-mortem on the 44-year-old former milk factory owner would begin Friday after a previous one had proven inconclusive. It could still take months to get the new toxicology results, Surrey Police spokeswoman Nicola Burress said.

The case evokes memories of the 2006 death of former Russian spy-turned-Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with polonium-210, a rare radioactive isotope that was secretly slipped into his tea at a London hotel. The case took relations between Moscow and London to a post-Cold War low, a relationship that has yet to fully recover.

The latest Russian death is linked to the same money laundering scheme that was being investigated by Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer hired by the London-based hedge fund Hermitage Capital. Magnitsky died in a Moscow jail in 2009 amid torture claims, and his death has spurred efforts in Europe and the U.S. to punish Russian officials who may have been complicit in human rights abuses. Read more >>


AP EXCLUSIVE: FBI terror profile merges identities

June 29, 2011

By Paisley Dodds

The FBI‘s most-wanted list features a dated black-and-white photograph for the man wanted in connection with the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. Saif al-Adel, reads the glaring red banner, alias Muhammad Ibrahim Makkawi.

There’s only one problem: Intelligence officials and people who say they know al-Adel and Makkawi tell The Associated Press that they are two different men.

In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, AP reporters around the globe began hunting for fresh details on al-Adel – al-Qaida‘s so-called third man because of his strategic military experience. Traversing a reporting trail that spanned from Europe to Egypt and from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, a different picture started to emerge about al-Adel: that the FBI might have been working off a flawed profile of him that merged his identity with another person. Read More>>


Fringe leader linked to Norwegian shooting suspect speaks of growing anger

July 26, 2011

By Paisley Dodds
LUTON, England — The leader of a British far-right group to which Anders Behring Breivik claims links called the attacks a sign of growing anger in Europe against Muslim immigrants, while a politician in a party in Italy’s governing coalition called some of the gunman’s ideas “great.”

After a wave of near universal revulsion against the attacks, the comments were among the first public statements that appeared to defend the extremist views that drove the Norwegian gunman to carry out the massacre.

Stephen Lennon, leader of the English Defense League (EDL), told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he does not condone Breivik’s rampage but “the fact that so many people are scared — people have to listen to that.”

“What happened in Oslo shows how desperate some people are becoming in Europe,” said Lennon, 28. “It’s a ticking time bomb. If they don’t give that frustration and anger a platform as such and a voice — and a way of getting emotion out in a democratic way — it will create monsters like this lunatic.” Read more >>


 Britain braces for possible copycat attacks

May 24, 2013

By Paisley Dodds

LONDON _ Britain is bracing for clashes with right-wing extremists and possible copycat terror attacks after the brutal slaying of a young soldier, whose grieving family spoke Friday of their loss.
London police said more than 1,000 officers will be sent to potential trouble spots with armed response units. Most British police officers don’t carry weapons.
Wednesday’s attack was captured on video by passersby and made for gruesome viewing _ one man is seen with his hands stained red with blood and holding two butcher’s knives as he angrily complained about the British government and troops in foreign lands. A lifeless body is seen on the street behind him.
Terror analysts say the attackers wanted the publicity to inspire copycat attacks, and that they are already seeing an increase in chatter on extremist sites calling for such attacks.
“We can see the tempo being raised,” said Maajid Nawaz, a former jihadist who is now with the London-based anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation. Read More>>


G4S hurts its future with Olympic contract debacle

July 17, 2012

By Paisley Dodds

LONDON — Just months ago, a senior executive from the G4S security firm boasted that the London Olympics would make his British company as synonymous with major events as Switzerland is with watches.

Not anymore. In the last few days, that picture has gone from showcase to fiasco.

In a parliamentary hearing broadcast live in Britain, the chief executive of the G4S acknowledged Tuesday that his company’s failure to hire enough Olympic security guards has turned into a nationwide embarrassment. It also has pushed the company from the big stage to a big loss — one that might be felt long after the Summer Olympics that start July 27 and end Aug. 12.

Britain’s government will deploy an additional 3,500 servicemen at the games after G4S failed to recruit all of the 10,400 private security guards it had promised that would protect 100 Olympic-related venues. Extra police officers have also been called in to help. Read More>>


Pope Benedict XVI’s immunity could be challenged in British visit under ‘universal jurisdiction’ legal doctrine

April 4, 2010

By Paisley Dodds
LONDON – Protests are growing against Pope Benedict XVI’s planned trip to Britain, where some lawyers question whether the Vatican’s implicit statehood status should shield the pope from prosecution over sex crimes by pedophile priests.

More than 10,000 people have signed a petition on Downing Street’s web site against the pope’s 4-day visit to England and Scotland in September, which will cost U.K. taxpayers an estimated 15 million pounds ($22.5 million). The campaign has gained momentum as more Catholic sex abuse scandals have swept across Europe.

Although Benedict has not been accused of any crime, senior British lawyers are now examining whether the pope should have immunity as a head of state and whether he could be prosecuted under the principle of universal jurisdiction for an alleged systematic cover-up of sexual abuses by priests.

Universal jurisdiction — a concept in international law — allows judges to issue warrants for nearly any visitor accused of grievous crimes, no matter where they live. British judges have been more open to the concept than those in other countries. Read more >>


Slain Youngster Mourned in Liverpool

September 6, 2007

By Paisley Dodds
LIVERPOOL, England — Thousands of mourners dressed in soccer jerseys packed a cathedral Thursday for the funeral of Rhys Jones, an 11-year-old shot dead while walking home from a soccer game and laid to rest in a coffin emblazoned with the crest of his favorite team.

As Stephen Jones carried his son’s small coffin down the aisle _ his face etched with grief _ applause echoed through the church in a gesture bestowed here at the funerals of soccer greats.

Mourners wore their favorite soccer jerseys _ blue for Rhys’ favorite of Everton, or red for Liverpool _ in a show of solidarity that transcended traditional soccer rivalries.

“This is another unbearable loss for Liverpool,” said John McMurray, 43. “It feels like we just keep getting punched.”

The funeral was broadcast on national television. The slaying reopened debate in about youth violence in a country where gun crime is rare, but concern about lawless youngsters is rife.  Read more >>


 11-year-old buried in Liverpool as Britain confronts growing youth violence, gun crime

September 6, 2007

By Paisley Dodds
LIVERPOOL, England – An 11-year-old boy whose death has moved the nation was mourned Thursday in Liverpool, a port city where his violent and seemingly random killing is the latest local tragedy in a history marked by adversity.

Rhys Jones was shot in the neck Aug. 22 by another youth on a bicycle as he played soccer with his friends outside a pub in a well-heeled housing development that borders one of Liverpool’s poorer, gang-ridden neighborhoods.

Thousands turned out for the funeral, which was broadcast live in Britain.

Applause thundered though the city’s towering Anglican cathedral as Rhys’ father and three other pallbearers carried his tiny blue coffin up the aisle.

The family asked mourners to wear their favorite soccer jerseys – either blue for Rhys’ favorite team of Everton, or red for Liverpool – in a show of solidarity that transcended the city’s traditional soccer rivalry.  Read more >>


Britain Tracing Poison That Killed Spy

Nov. 28, 2016
By PAISLEY DODDS

LONDON — The British government began tracking radioactive hotspots in London on Monday to trace the poison that killed a former KGB agent, and three people who reported possible symptoms of contamination underwent testing.

Britain announced a formal inquest into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, but Home Secretary John Reid warned against rushing to conclusions over who might be responsible for the killing of the ex-spy turned Kremlin critic.

Litvinenko died Thursday after falling ill from what doctors said was poisoning by polonium-210, a radioactive isotope usually manufactured in specialized nuclear facilities. High doses of polonium, which is deadly if ingested or inhaled, were found in Litvinenko’s body.

“The nature of this radiation is such that it does not travel over long distances, a few centimeters at most, and therefore there is no need for public alarm,” Reid said in a special address to the House of Commons.

Police were able to interview Litvinenko in the hospital before he died, and are retracing Litvinenko’s steps on the day he said he fell ill. Read More>>


Blair Denies U.S. Rushed to Iraq War

June 30, 2005

By Paisley Dodds
LONDON – Prime Minister Tony Blair firmly denied Wednesday that the Bush administration signaled just months after September 11 that a decision was made to invade Iraq, sating he was “astonished” by claims that leaked secret memos suggested the U.S. was rushing to war.

In an interview with the Associated Press a day after President Bush delivered a televised defense of the war in Iraq, Blair said defeating the insurgency was crucial to protecting security worldwide, and joined Bush in linking the war with the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“What happened for me after Sept. 11 is that the balance of risk changed,” said Blair, interviewed on the stone terrace overlooking the garden of his No. 10 Downing Street offices, where policy meetings on Iraq were held before the invasion. Read more >>


Russian whistleblower’s death in UK unexplained

November 29, 2012

By Paisley Dodds
LONDON (AP) — British officials are investigating the unexplained death of a Russian businessman, a key witness against Russian officials who allegedly stole $230 million from a London hedge fund in a money laundering scheme.

Alexander Perepilichny’s body was discovered Nov. 10 outside his rented house south of London. Police said a second post-mortem on the 44-year-old former milk factory owner would begin Friday after a previous one had proven inconclusive. It could still take months to get the new toxicology results, Surrey Police spokeswoman Nicola Burress said.

The case evokes memories of the 2006 death of former Russian spy-turned-Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with polonium-210, a rare radioactive isotope that was secretly slipped into his tea at a London hotel. The case took relations between Moscow and London to a post-Cold War low, a relationship that has yet to fully recover.

The latest Russian death is linked to the same money laundering scheme that was being investigated by Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer hired by the London-based hedge fund Hermitage Capital. Magnitsky died in a Moscow jail in 2009 amid torture claims, and his death has spurred efforts in Europe and the U.S. to punish Russian officials who may have been complicit in human rights abuses. Read more >>


Philip Treacy, Royal Wedding Hat Designer: Hats Are ‘A Cheaper Form Of Cosmetic Surgery’

April 19, 2011

By Paisley Dodds
LONDON — France has the beret, while America has the humble baseball cap.

But Britain’s love of hats is in a different stratosphere. Bowlers, baker boys, top hats, boaters, deerstalkers and countless ladies creations have been worn by royals and commoners alike through the centuries – a beloved tradition that will be in full force at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s April 29 wedding.

Bookmakers are already betting on the color of Queen Elizabeth II’s hat – odds are on yellow – and the designer making the princess-to-be’s honeymoon headpiece. The salmon-colored tricorn hat that Princess Diana wore as she left for her honeymoon in 1981 spawned hundreds of copies.

“When people think of hats, they think of her majesty the queen,” designer Philip Treacy, who is making some hats for royal wedding guests, told The Associated Press on Monday. “They’re exciting hats to make, because hats and royal weddings are both about magic, happiness and a sense of celebration.”

Theories abound on why Britain became a country of mad hatters – an expression referring to the Alice in Wonderland character whose loopy persona was based on the many milliners who suffered neurological damage as they inhaled the mercury used to cure pelts.  Read more >>


London boot camp held for pint-size ‘princesses’

April 3, 2011

By Paisley Dodds
LONDON — With Britain’s royal wedding around the corner, wannabe princesses gathered Saturday at a posh London hotel for a crash course on how to curtsy, what to say to the queen and how keep pesky crumbs off their lips when eating finger sandwiches.

At first glance, the scene smacked of the 1964 film “My Fair Lady,” except Audrey Hepburn’s working class character had been replaced by a crew of tafetta-wearing pre-teens who gleefully walked with books on their heads and learned how to stir tea without clanging the cutlery.

The April 29 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton has fueled a bonanza of opportunities for niche entrepreneurs.

“It gives girls the ability to know that they can be in any situation — whether it’s with the queen, their parents, their teacher, a friend — and know that they’re behaving the right way. And I think that’s important, royalty or no royalty,” says Jerramy Fine, 33, the American founder of Princess Prep.  Read more >>


London Riots 2011: Facial Recognition Technology Considered For Olympic Games Used To Identify Rioters

August 11, 2011

By Paisley Dodds
LONDON — Facial recognition technology being considered for London’s 2012 Games is getting a workout in the wake of Britain’s riots, a senior police chief told The Associated Press on Thursday, with officers feeding photographs of suspects through Scotland Yard’s newly updated face-matching program.

Chief Constable Andy Trotter of the British Transport Police said the sophisticated software was being used to help find those suspected of being involved in the worst unrest London has seen in a generation.

But he cautioned that facial recognition makes up only a fraction of the police force’s efforts, saying tips have mostly come from traditional sources, such as still images captured from closed circuit cameras, pictures gathered by officers, footage shot by police helicopters or images snapped by members of the public. One department was driving around a large video screen displaying images of suspects.  Read more >>


U.K. far right promises vigilantism in riots

August 9, 2011

By Paisley Dodds
LONDON – The leader of a British far-right group says its members are taking to the streets of British cities in an attempt to quell riots that have spread across the country for four nights.

Stephen Lennon, leader of the English Defense League, told The Associated Press that up to 1,000 members planned to turn out in Luton, where the group is based, and others areas that have suffered unrest, including the northwestern city of Manchester.

Lennon said some members had were already carrying out patrols trying to deter rioters, and that hundreds more would join them Wednesday.

“We’re going to stop the riots — police obviously can’t handle it,” Lennon told the AP. Read more >>


Celebrities lend voice to appeals for G-8 breakthrough on poverty

July 6, 2005

By Paisley Dodds
GLENEAGLES, Scotland — Celebrities called on world leaders Wednesday not to miss the opportunity to clinch a deal on poverty at the G-8 summit, but U2 frontman Bono voiced fears that there was no immediate sign of a breakthrough.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair sat alongside Bono and rock star Bob Geldof, who later joined actor George Clooney to highlight the summit’s goals.

Bono said he was concerned a deal would not be reached.

“There is a sense that there is not a deal,” said the Irish rocker, wearing his trademark goggle sunglasses, leather and a khaki cap. “A lot has been accomplished but there is no sense that there is a real deal, a US$50 billion deal, we are not there on that. … Read more >>


Blair cautions that no G-8 agreements reached yet

July 6, 2005

By Paisley Dodds
GLENEAGLES, Scotland – British Prime Minister Tony Blair cautioned Wednesday that agreements have yet to be reached ahead of the G-8 summit, where talks will focus on relieving African poverty and combating global warming.

“You’ve got to be prepared to hold out for what’s right. There are no agreements yet,” Blair told reporters at the stately stone resort of Gleneagles as leaders of the world’s eight most industrialized nations were arriving for the summit, which has become the focus of intense global attention.

Blair deferred questions about what exact progress had been made on a climate change agreement _ a sticking point with the United States _ but said he was hopeful much could be done to create a fairer trade system. …Read more >>


Blair Denies U.S. Rushed to Iraq War

June 30, 2005
LONDON – Prime Minister Tony Blair firmly denied Wednesday that the Bush administration signaled just months after September 11 that a decision was made to invade Iraq, sating he was “astonished” by claims that leaked secret memos suggested the U.S. was rushing to war.

In an interview with the Associated Press a day after President Bush delivered a televised defense of the war in Iraq, Blair said defeating the insurgency was crucial to protecting security worldwide, and joined Bush in linking the war with the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“What happened for me after Sept. 11 is that the balance of risk changed,” said Blair, interviewed on the stone terrace overlooking the garden of his No. 10 Downing Street offices, where policy meetings on Iraq were held before the invasion. Read more >>


Iceland

Iceland’s volcanic ash sparks more flight disruptions

April 18, 2010
LONDON – A lingering volcanic ash plume forced extended no-fly restrictions over much of Europe Saturday, as Icelandic scientists warned that volcanic activity had increased and showed no sign of abating – a portent of more travel chaos to come.

The volcano in southern Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull glacier sends ash into the air Saturday, April 17, 2010. The Icelandic volcano that has kept much of Europe land-bound is far from finished spitting out its grit, and offered up new mini-eruptions Saturday that raise concerns about longer-term damage to world air travel and trade.

Although the ash plume has grown, a northerly wind was expected to allow enough visibility for scientists to fly over the volcano Saturday. Scientists want to see how much ice has melted to determine how much longer the eruption could spew ash. Because the volcano is situated below a glacial ice cap, the magma is being cooled quickly, causing explosions and plumes of grit that can be catastrophic to plane engines if prevailing winds are right.

“The activity has been quite vigorous overnight, causing the eruption column to grow,” Icelandic geologist Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson told The Associated Press on Saturday. “It’s the magma mixing with the water that creates the explosivity. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.” Read more >>


Iceland’s eruptions could have global consequences

March 22, 2010
REYKJAVIK, Iceland — Blasts of lava and ash shot out of a volcano in southern Iceland on Monday and small tremors rocked the ground, a surge in activity that raised fears of a larger explosion at the nearby Katla volcano.

Scientists say history has proven that when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupts, Katla follows — the only question is how soon. And Katla, located under the massive Myrdalsjokull icecap, threatens disastrous flooding and explosive blasts when it blows.

Saturday’s eruption at Eyjafjallajokull (AYA-feeyapla-yurkul) — dormant for nearly 200 years — forced at least 500 people to evacuate. Most have returned to their homes, but authorities were waiting for scientific assessments to determine whether they were safe to stay. Residents of 14 farms nearest to the eruption site were told to stay away.

Several small tremors were felt early Monday, followed by spurts of lava and steam rocketing into the air. Read more >>


Iceland’s volcano continues sprinkling grit over Europe, keeping air travel at a standstill

April 17, 2010
LONDON — A lingering volcanic ash plume forced extended no-fly restrictions over much of Europe on Saturday, as scientists warned that activity at a volcano in Iceland had increased and showed no sign of abating — a portent of more travel chaos to come.

Scientists say that because the volcano is situated below a glacial ice cap, the magma is being cooled quickly, causing explosions and plumes of grit that can be catastrophic to plane engines if prevailing winds are right.

“The activity has been quite vigorous overnight, causing the eruption column to grow,” Icelandic geologist Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson told The Associated Press on Saturday. “It’s the magma mixing with the water that creates the explosivity. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.”

An expansive cloud of grit hovered over parts of western Europe on Saturday, triggering extended flight bans that stranded people around the globe. Forecasters said light prevailing winds in Europe — and large amounts of unmelted glacial ice above the volcano — mean that the situation is unlikely to change in the coming days. Read more >>


Iceland’s Katla volcano is getting restless

October 13, 2011
VIK, Iceland (AP) — If Iceland’s air-traffic paralyzing volcanic eruption last year seemed catastrophic, just wait for the sequel. That’s what some experts are saying as they nervously watch rumblings beneath a much more powerful Icelandic volcano — Katla — which could spew an ash cloud dwarfing the 2010 eruption that cost airlines $2 billion and drove home how vulnerable modern society is to the whims of nature.

Brooding over rugged moss-covered hills on Iceland’s southern edge, Katla is a much bigger beast than the nearby Eyjafjallajokul volcano, which chugged ash all over Europe for several weeks in an eruption that local scientist Pall Einarsson describes nonetheless as “small.”

Named after an evil troll, Katla has a larger magma chamber than Eyjafjallajokul’s. Its last major eruption in 1918 continued more than a month, turning day into night, starving crops of sunlight and killing off some livestock. The eruption melted some of the ice-sheet covering Katla, flooding surrounding farmlands with a torrent of water that some accounts have said measured as wide as the Amazon.  Read more >>


Iceland’s Katla Volcano Monitored After Seismic Activity Increases

September 6, 2011
REYKJAVIK, Iceland — A surge of small earthquakes has been reported around Iceland’s Katla volcano, but scientists said Tuesday there is no immediate concern that the increased seismic activity will trigger a dangerous eruption.

Although earthquakes around Katla are common, an increase in cluster earthquakes is not.

“It’s one of the most feared volcanos, so we’re closely monitoring it,” said Pall Einarsson of the University of Iceland. “That said, it’s normal for earthquakes to be detected around Katla. What’s a bit unusual is that we’re seeing swarms of small earthquakes, some occurring every 10 minutes or so.”

After flying over the area to monitor the situation Tuesday evening, scientists said they could not yet determine what caused the increased seismic activity. Although they detected signs that Katla was preparing for an eruption, they also emphasized that the volcano had also seen similar activity without erupting before.

Nevertheless, “there are signs of Katla being more active now than in the past few years so there is every reason to keep an eye on her,” said Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, a professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland, after the flight. Read more >>