Flood in China : 127 killed, 2000 missing in fresh landslides in China

Fflood fury continued to wreak havoc in China where 127 people were killed and 2,000 were missing after one of the worst landslides hit the remote Gansu province today, submerging a township inhabited by 1.3 lakh people, mostly Tibetans.

Flood waters with sludge and rocks from a blocked river on spate buried an entire village, devouring everything in its wake, including several multi-story buildings.

Hundreds of homes were toppled and several residents were still trapped in the Chengguan Township and several villages in northwest China’s Zhouqu County in the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province, official media reports said, quoting ruling Communist party officials.

“76 people were injured, while nearly 2,000 others in the county were still missing. About 45,000 people have been evacuated,” Xinhua news agency said, quoting a statement from the provincial civil affairs department.

The Tibetan Autonomous region which has a population of over 1.3 lakh has been submerged by the landslides.

Sludge as thick as two meters was spread across some major roads in the county.

Many trapped residents were waiting for rescuers atop buildings, an official statement said, adding that a primary school and some governmental offices in the county were also damaged.

Thirty three percent of the people of the prefecture were Tibetans.

As soon as the news broke out, prime minister Wen Jiabao rushed to the spot while president Hu Jintao ordered all out efforts by the army and civilian forces to mount a massive rescue efforts to save people.

Wen has set up temporary headquarters for rescue work aboard a plane heading for landslide-hit Zhouqu County to coordinate the relief activities.

The tragedy occurred last night with torrential rains which led to the landslides, said Diemujiangteng, head of the county.

The Bailong River on the banks of which the township was built had overflowed and a large body of slow moving water engulfed the Chengguan township.

“Many people were trapped. Now sludge has become the biggest problem to rescue operations. It’s too thick to walk or drive through,” he said.

“It’s very hard to locate the people washed away by floods. It’s hard to say what their chances of survival are,” he said.

Peng Wei, head of the county’s fire department said, “the county is in a valley and the river runs through the middle.”

Government figures issued before the fresh disaster had put the number of people killed or missing in the devastating floods in the country this year at over 2,000.

Plane hijacking foiled at Moscow airport

Moscow, July 29 (IANS) A man who allegedly tried to hijack a passenger plane at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport was detained Thursday.

The plane on a domestic flight from Russia’s North Caucasus city of Mineralniye Vody to Moscow was due to land at 1145 GMT, Xinhua reported.

However, ‘before the aircraft landed, one of the passengers had a message passed to the captain that one of the people on board possesses valuable information for law enforcement agencies,’ said a transportation police spokesman.

The captain then reported the incident to ground services and steered the aircraft to a special landing site.

The man, 40, then demanded appearances of senior officials and reporters at the airport, while taking all the people on board the plane as hostages.

However, as one of the passengers fell ill and the hijacker allowed doctors to board the plane, special forces personnel disguised as doctors aboard and seized him.

Ericsson Q2 undershoots, parts shortages hurt

Ericsson , the world’s number one mobile network gear maker, missed expectations for second-quarter core profit as operators stayed wary about investing and parts shortages again hit sales.

Ericsson shares were down 5.6 percent at 0947 GMT, the leading decliners in an 0.7 percent easier STOXX 600 European technology sector, following a run of outperformance.

Highlighting a problem that rivals Nokia Siemens Networks and Alcatel-Lucent have also cited this year, Ericsson said an industry-wide scarcity of components and supply chain bottlenecks were weighing on turnover.

A general economic rebound has touched off a scramble for common parts that pits network equipment makers against a range of manufacturers in the automotive and consumer electronics sectors.

Ericsson estimated the problem sliced 3 billion to 4 billion Swedish crowns ($411-548 million) from sales in the quarter.

“Given the best assumptions we have, there is going to be a gradual improvement in the second half of 2010,” Chief Executive Hans Vestberg told reporters and analysts after the results.

Despite the profit miss, Sanford Bernstein analyst Pierre Ferragu was upbeat. Without the component shortage, sales would have been in line and profit higher than expected, he said.

With growth in mobile broadband in North America, Japan and parts of Western Europe strong and India set to improve after a weak quarter, he saw upside for Ericsson.

“In the next two quarters, if the component shortage vanishes away, you will have a bit of a catch-up.”

Ericsson trades at around 16 times earnings per share for this fiscal year versus 12.6 times for Nokia and 14 for Cisco Systems .

RECOVERY?

The telecoms equipment market has begun to show signs of life, but customers’ spending is well below pre-crisis levels.

Ericsson, which has slashed billions of crowns from its cost base to offset falling demand, said on Friday cost-cutting would remain a priority while market conditions remain tough.

Some analysts had hoped the second quarter would provide clear evidence markets were rebounding after the downturn.

But Vestberg said the effects of the crisis were lingering.

“We don’t believe that the market is growing, actually,” he said, adding that Ericsson was keeping or adding market share.

Sales at Ericsson’s network unit — its biggest earner — slid as operators in some developing markets stayed cautious.

Nokia Siemens Networks reported on Thursday quarterly sales fell 5 percent and forecast a flat equipment market this year.

Many analysts concur with NSN’s outlook for this year and see the market staying stagnant even further out. In addition, competition from Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE is fierce while NSN is hungry for market share.

NSN announced this month it would buy Motorola’s telecom network equipment business, putting more pressure on Ericsson in the U.S. market.

Just days after annoucing the Motorola deal, NSN said it had won a $7 billion order from operator LightSquared to build and operate a high-speed wireless network.

Ericsson’s operating profit excluding joint ventures and restructuring costs came in at 5.3 billion Swedish crowns ($715 million), below the average estimate of 5.8 billion in a Reuters poll of analysts and 6.1 billion a year ago.

Ericsson’s group sales fell 8 percent year-on-year to 48 billion crowns versus a poll forecast of 50.5 billion.

The gross margin of 39 percent was well above forecasts thanks to cost cutting and a favourable business mix.

(Additional reporting by Victoria Klesty, Patrick Lannin, Adam Cox, Sven Nordenstam and Oskar Von Bahr; Editing by Michael Shields)

Arizona preparing appeal of immigration ruling

PHOENIX – Arizona is preparing to ask an appeals court to lift a judge’s ruling that put most of the state’s immigration law on hold in a key first-round victory for the federal government in a fight that may go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gov. Jan Brewer called Wednesday’s decision by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton “a bump in the road” and vowed to appeal.

Protesters in Phoenix went ahead with plans Thursday for a march to the state Capitol and a sit-in at the office of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The sheriff said if protestors were disruptive, they’d be arrested, and he vowed to go ahead with a crime sweep targeting illegal immigrants.

Paul Senseman, a spokesman for Brewer, said Arizona would ask the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco later Thursday to lift Bolton’s preliminary injunction and to expedite its consideration of the state’s appeal.

Bolton indicated the government has a good chance at succeeding in its argument that federal immigration law trumps state law. But the key sponsor of Arizona’s law, Republican Rep. Russell Pearce, said the judge was wrong and predicted the state would ultimately win the case.

Opponents of the law said the ruling sends a strong message to other states hoping to replicate the law.

“Surely it’s going to make states pause and consider how they’re drafting legislation and how it fits in a constitutional framework,” Dennis Burke, the U.S. attorney for Arizona, told The Associated Press. “The proponents of this went into court saying there was no question that this was constitutional, and now you have a federal judge who’s said, ‘Hold on, there’s major issues with this bill.'”
He added: “So this idea that this is going to be a blueprint for other states is seriously in doubt. The blueprint is constitutionally flawed.”

In her temporary injunction, Bolton delayed the most contentious provisions of the law, including a section that required officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws. She also barred enforcement of parts requiring immigrants to carry their papers and banned illegal immigrants from soliciting employment in public places — a move aimed at day laborers that congregate in large numbers in parking lots across Arizona. The judge also blocked officers from making warrantless arrests of suspected illegal immigrants.

“Requiring Arizona law enforcement officials and agencies to determine the immigration status of every person who is arrested burdens lawfully present aliens because their liberty will be restricted while their status is checked,” said Bolton, a Clinton administration appointee who was assigned the seven lawsuits filed against Arizona over the law.

Other provisions that were less contentious were allowed to take effect Thursday, including a section that bars cities in Arizona from disregarding federal immigration laws.

The 11th-hour ruling came just as police were preparing to begin enforcement of a law that has drawn international attention and revived the national immigration debate in a year when Democrats are struggling to hold on to seats in Congress.

The ruling was anxiously awaited in the U.S. and beyond. About 100 protesters in Mexico City who had gathered at the U.S. Embassy broke into applause when they learned of the ruling via a laptop computer. Mariana Rivera, a 36-year-old from Zacatecas, Mexico, who is living in Phoenix on a work permit, said she heard about the ruling on a Spanish-language news program.

“I was waiting to hear because we’re all very worried about everything that’s happening,” said Rivera, who phoned friends and family with the news. “Even those with papers, we don’t go out at night at certain times there’s so much fear (of police). You can’t just sit back and relax.”

More demonstrators opposed to the law planned to gather Thursday, with the Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the immigrant-rights group Puente saying they would march from the state Capitol.

Lawmakers or candidates in as many as 18 states say they want to push similar measures when their legislative sessions start up again in 2011. Some lawmakers pushing the legislation said they would not be daunted by the ruling and plan to push ahead in response to what they believe is a scourge that needs to be tackled.

Arizona is the nation’s epicenter of illegal immigration, with more than 400,000 undocumented residents. The state’s border with Mexico is awash with smugglers and drugs that funnel narcotics and immigrants throughout the U.S., and the influx of illegal migrants drains vast sums of money from hospitals, education and other services.

“We’re going to have to look and see,” said Idaho state Sen. Monty Pearce, a second cousin of Russell Pearce and a supporter of immigration reform in his state. “Nobody had dreamed up, two years ago, the Arizona law, and so everybody is looking for that crack where we can get something done, where we can turn the clock back a little bit and get our country back.”

Kris Kobach, the University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor who helped write the law and train Arizona police officers in immigration law, conceded the ruling weakens the force of Arizona’s efforts to crack down on illegal immigrants. He said it will likely be a year before a federal appeals court decides the case.

“It’s a temporary setback,” Kobach said. “The bottom line is that every lawyer in Judge Bolton’s court knows this is just the first pitch in a very long baseball game.”

In the meantime, other states like Utah will likely take up similar laws, possibly redesigned to get around Bolton’s objections.

“The ruling … should not be a reason for Utah to not move forward,” said Utah state Rep. Carl Wimmer, a Republican from Herriman City, who said he plans to co-sponsor a bill similar to Arizona’s next year and wasn’t surprised it was blocked. “For too long the states have cowered in the corner because of one ruling by one federal judge.”

The core of the government’s case is that federal immigration law trumps state law — an issue known as “pre-emption” in legal circles and one that dates to the founding of America. In her ruling, Bolton pointed out five portions of the law where she believed the federal government would likely succeed on its claims.

The Justice Department argued in court that the law was unconstitutional and that allowing states to push their own measures would lead to a patchwork of immigration laws across the nation and disrupt a carefully balanced approach crafted by Congress.

Arizona argues that the federal government has failed to secure the border, and that it has a right to take matters into its own hands.

For now, the federal government has the upper-hand in the dispute, by virtue of the strength of its arguments and the precedent on the pre-emption issue. The Bush administration successfully used the pre-emption argument to win consumer product cases, and judges in other jurisdictions have looked favorably on the argument in immigration disputes.

“This is clearly a significant victory for the Justice Department and a defeat for the sponsors of this law,” said Peter Spiro, a constitutional law professor at Temple University who has studied immigration law extensively. “They will not win on this round of appeals. They’ll get a shot after a trial and a final ruling by Judge Bolton.”

Obama not invited to Chelsea Clinton’s wedding

‘I was not invited to the wedding because I think Hillary and Bill, properly, want to keep this thing for Chelsea and her soon-to-be husband,’ Obama told the ladies of ABC’s ‘The View’ Wednesday.

Obama started out by joking, ‘You don’t want two presidents at one wedding! All the secret service, guests going through (metal detectors), all the gifts being torn apart …’

Then host Barbara Walters asked directly if former president Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had invited him to the nuptials, the president said no.

‘I was not invited to the wedding,’ he said. ‘because I think Hillary and Bill, properly, want to keep this thing for Chelsea and her soon-to-be husband.’

Obama said he agreed with the sentiment and told the hosts and the audience, ‘Sorry, ya’ll probably will not be getting invited to Sasha’s wedding or Malia’s wedding, either.’

Clintons are guarding the details of the upcoming nuptials like state secrets, and haven’t released any information. Hillary Clinton recently said she’s ‘under very strict orders’ not to talk about it. But count on pesky reporters to scoop out some.

Chelsea, 30, rumour has it, is all set to wed her investment-banker boyfriend Marc Mezvinsky, 32, Saturday at a posh private estate 90 miles north of Manhattan.

Built as a Beaux Arts style playground for John Jacob Astor IV more than a century ago, the estate features the sort of commanding view that once inspired Hudson River School painters, as well as 50 acres of buffer space to shield the party from prying eyes.

The guest list is suspected to number between 400-500 invitees, many of whom will likely stay at Rhinebeck’s Beekman Arms & Delamater Inn, which boasts a plaque that Bill and Hillary Clinton have eaten there.

The Hudson Valley News reported that attendees may include Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Streisand, Steven Spielberg, former Clinton adviser Harold Ickes, media mogul Ted Turner, former British prime minister John Major and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Speculation is rife on what dress Chelsea will wear. No confirmation on this yet, said Politico.

But after weeks of reports that the dress was either a design by Oscar de la Renta or Vera Wang, Chelsea’s visit to Wang’s store in New York Tuesday makes it likely she is going with the latter.

Three companies are said to be catering the event: Blue Ribbon Restaurants, The St. Regis Hotel and Olivier Cheng Catering.

TMZ reported this week that they had a copy of the playlist Clinton and her fiance gave to the live band playing at the wedding. The songs are a mix of oldies and pop hits, including several Michael Jackson songs – ‘Billie Jean’, ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’, ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ and ‘Rock With You’.

One element of the welcome package waiting for guests at their hotels will be a bottle of wine from a nearby vineyard called, quite appropriately, ‘Clinton Vineyards and Winery’, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Floral arrangements will be supplied by Boston-based Winston Flowers and the floral designer is Jeff Leatham – who counts the Four Seasons and Madonna as his clients.

And the deluxe portable toilets supposedly rented for the outdoor event cost an estimated $15,000, according to TMZ.

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