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Archive for October 13th, 2010|Daily archive page

Alleged Qaeda bomber innocent dupe: US court hears

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 8:10 am

 US prosecutors painted a man accused in the bombings of two US embassies in Africa as an Al-Qaeda killer, but defense lawyers called him an innocent man, wrongly swept into the war on terror.

The opening statements in a New York federal court finally kicked off the politically charged trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first former inmate of the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be brought before a civilian judge.

Ghailani faces a staggering 286 criminal counts including murder and conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction during the 1998 attacks against the embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that killed 224 people.

Prosecutor Nicholas Lewin said Ghailani was an integral part of Osama bin Laden’s world of America-hating militants and that he helped supervise the construction of the massive truck bomb that rammed into the US embassy in Tanzania’s capital Dar-es-Salaam.

VIDEO: First civilian trial of Guantanamo prisoner opens

“He and his accomplices were committed to Al-Qaeda’s overriding goal to kill Americans,” Lewin said.

“We will prove both of these massacres in East Africa were the work of a single Al-Qaeda cell. And this man, Ahmed Ghailani, was a vital part of that cell,” Lewin said, pointing dramatically at the defendant, who sat impassively, wearing a gray v-neck sweater.

The prosecution’s first witness was John Lange, the Dar-es-Salaam embassy’s acting ambassador in 1988, who described escaping the wrecked building and encountering a burned man lying on the ground “in the last gasps of life.”

Other government witnesses will include a convicted former al-Qaeda militant who has agreed to testify against Ghailani in hopes of being given a lighter sentence, Lewin said.

Speaking softly, defense lawyer Steve Zissou attempted to sow doubt in the jurors’ minds as they embarked on a trial being watched closely in Washington for evidence of whether civilian courts can handle defendants transferred from the legal murk of Guantanamo.

Zissou portrayed Ghailani, a small, youthful-looking Tanzanian in his mid-30s, as an unwitting accessory in the deadly, double-bomb plot concocted by radical, older friends.

Ghailani was a “dupe” who “tagged along” and when he helped buy the truck used in the Dar-es-Salaam blast, he had no idea what the purpose was, Zissou said.

“All of errands that he did were all part of totally normal business arrangements.”

“The case is going to come down to one simple question: did he know?

“At the end of this case you are going to conclude that the answer to that question is no,” Zissou said.

President Barack Obama believes that some terror suspects should be brought before ordinary criminal courts.

He has also pledged to close the controversial prison facility at Guantanamo, where Ghailani arrived after being held by the CIA in secret prisons and subjected to so-called “enhanced interrogation” or what his lawyers call torture.

Ghailani is now being tried in an ordinary courthouse, an impressive federal complex that daily delivers justice to a huge assortment of alleged fraudsters, murderers, and lesser defendants.

Yet the trial is anything but ordinary.

Opening statements were delayed for a week after Judge Lewis Kaplan excluded a witness who prosecutors say admits to selling explosives to Ghailani before the bombings.

Kaplan said the witness could not be allowed because his identity was discovered as a result of Ghailani being subjected to CIA interrogations.

Reflecting security concerns around the case, the identities of the 12 jurors and six reserves will be kept secret.

Although they have not been sequestered, jurors’ trips to and from the court in the morning and evening will be made with court officers using confidential, pre-arranged pick-up points.

Kaplan also told the jury to isolate themselves from what promises to be heavy media coverage of the case.

“You are not to send or receive any e-mails, tweets or other form of communication that touch on this case,” he instructed them. “Stay away from the Internet, away from the library.”

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the trial is that there appears to be little chance of Ghailani ever walking free, regardless of what the jury decides.

Kaplan has ruled that even if acquitted in court Ghailani could be detained for life as an “enemy combatant”.

Source: SGGP

US lifts Gulf of Mexico deepwater drilling ban

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 8:10 am

The United States lifted a ban on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico imposed after the BP oil spill, but set operators tough new safety conditions, officials said.

“We have decided it is now appropriate to lift the suspension on deepwater drilling for those operators that are able to clear the higher bar that we have set” for safety, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.

President Barack Obama ordered a six-month freeze on deepwater offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico shortly after a blowout on the BP Deepwater Horizon undersea well that killed 11 rig workers and sparked the worst oil disaster in US history.

The moratorium was due to expire at the end of next month.

Oil rigs are seen in the Gulf of Mexico in August 2010.

The new rules, which were laid out by the Interior Department two weeks ago, toughen up companies’ obligations on drilling and workplace safety, well containment and spill response, said Salazar.

Key among the tough new rules is an obligation for the CEO of any company wishing to drill in deep water to “certify that the rig has complied with all new and existing rules,” he said.

Executives from the companies involved in the BP-leased well that blew out have blamed each other for the accident which happened some 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the coast of Louisiana.

But even if the moratorium was being lifted, deepwater drilling was not expected to resume soon, said Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM).

Oil and gas companies need time to implement the new rules and draw up applications for offshore leases “and it will obviously take us time to review those applications and do due diligence,” said Bromwich.

American Petroleum Institute president Jack Gerard welcomed the lifting of the drilling ban but worried that “a de facto moratorium could be created by delays in the processing and approval of permits, which will reduce production, government revenues and American jobs.”

Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana, where residents were hard hit by the moratorium on drilling, was relieved that the ban had been lifted, but voiced concern that a slow-moving permitting process would end up smothering the local oil and gas industry.

We hope that the new regulations and new policies will make drilling safer for both the people working offshore and the environment in the future.

“At the same time, we hope the regulations will not delay the permitting process for deepwater or other drilling, which ends up smothering the industry,” Nungesser said.

Republican Congressman Darrell Issa also urged the government to “avoid a de facto moratorium-by-regulatory-delay … that would be just as damaging to the Gulf economy as a blanket moratorium.”

A study in July estimated that a six-month moratorium would cost more than 8,000 jobs in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas and wipe out nearly 2.1 billion dollars in economic activity in the Gulf states.

Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, who has called the moratorium a “reckless” move that endangered the environment and jobs, welcomed Tuesday’s announcement as “a step in the right direction.”

“But it must be accompanied by an action plan to get the entire industry in the Gulf of Mexico back to work,” including an acceleration of the permitting process, she added.

Environmental groups, meanwhile, said the ban had been lifted too soon.

“Scientists haven’t even assessed the full ecological impact of the BP disaster and yet the government is in a rush to allow oil companies to get back to drilling. It is irresponsible to say the least, reckless at worst,” said Greenpeace USA director Phil Radford.

Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the moratorium should have stayed in place.

“To ensure a disaster like this never happens again, we must know what caused it in the first place. We?re still waiting for that answer and until we get it, the moratorium should remain in place,” he said.

The Sierra Club said the moratorium had been only a temporary fix, and the real solution was to wean the United States off oil.

“The only way to make sure we don?t see another drilling disaster is to end our dependence on oil,” said Sierra Club president Michael Brune.

“The BP disaster was a wake up call, but our leaders keep hitting the snooze button,” he said.

Source: SGGP

‘No risk’ of currency war: Geithner

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 8:10 am

There is “no risk” of a global currency war erupting, despite recent currency interventions by nations ranging from Japan to Colombia, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said.

Geithner acknowledged in an interview on “The Charlie Rose Show” broadcast on Bloomberg TV that Brazil has made reference to the possibility, but he brushed aside fears.

“They used that phrase,” Geithner said. However “there is no risk of that.” Geithner’s comments came despite a failure this weekend by the world’s top finance officials meeting in Washington to reach a consensus on measures that could head off a potential currency battle.

A Chinese bank worker counts US dollar notes alongside stacks of 100-yuan notes in central China’s Anhui province

In a statement, the International Monetary and Financial Committee — the policy arm of the IMF — on Saturday stopped short of any specific call on China or others to change policies of using a low currency and accumulation of reserves to boost exports.

The International Monetary Fund steering committee, which has been struggling to address friction among key economies including China and the United States, noted “tensions and vulnerabilities” due to “widening global imbalances” but said the organization should continue to study the situation

Geithner on Saturday said the IMF “must strengthen its surveillance of exchange rate policies and reserve accumulation practices,” adding that “excess reserve accumulation on a global scale is leading to serious distortions in the international monetary and financial system.”

Recent IMF figures showed Beijing had currency reserves of 2.447 trillion dollars, the largest in the world and nearly 30 percent of the global total.

Washington maintains that China purchases large amounts of dollars to keep the yuan artificially low, which distorts global trade by boosting Chinese exports.

Source: SGGP

Intel posts 3 billion dollar quarterly net profit

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 8:09 am

 US computer chip giant Intel posted a quarterly net profit of nearly three billion dollars on Tuesday and record revenue of more than 11 billion dollars.

Earnings per share of 52 cents were slightly better than the 50 cents expected by Wall Street analysts.

Revenue rose 18 percent during the quarter ending September 25 to 11.1 billion dollars, roughly what the company forecast in August when it slashed its third quarter revenue outlook due to lower demand for computers.

Intel, the world’s biggest manufacturer of computer chips, said it expected revenue of 11 billion to 11.8 billion dollars during the current quarter.

The Intel logo is displayed outside the firm’s offices in Santa Clara, California

Intel shares were up 0.91 percent at 19.95 dollars in after-hours electronic trading.

“Intel’s third-quarter results set all-time records for revenue and operating income,” Intel president and chief executive Paul Otellini said.

“These results were driven by solid demand from corporate customers, sales of our leadership products and continued growth in emerging markets,” Otellini said in a statement.

“Looking forward, we continue to see healthy worldwide demand for computing products of all types and are particularly excited about our next-generation processor, codenamed Sandy Bridge, and the many new designs around our Intel Atom processors,” he said.

In a conference call with financial analysts, Otellini said Sandy Bridge represented the “largest increase in computing performance in our history.”

“Early demand is much higher than anticipated,” he said.

Otellini also said he did not expect tablet computers such as Apple’s iPad and upcoming devices running Google’s Android platform to significantly impact personal computer sales.

“Sure, at the margins they probably will, we saw the same things with netbooks,” he said.

“But three years later, both the PC and netbook markets have grown,” the Intel chief said. “In the end, the tablet category will be additive to our bottom line and not take away from it

“We think that tablets are exciting and we fully welcome their arrival,” he said.

Source: SGGP

Serbia fans clash with Italian police after cancelled match

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 8:09 am

Fourteen people were hospitalised early Wednesday after Serbian fans clashed with Italian police following the two countries’ cancelled Euro 2012 qualifying match in Genoa, northern Italy.

In violence before, during, and after the match, some Serbian fans targeted not just Italian fans and local police but their own team’s goalkeeper.

Serbian supporters burn an Albanian flag at Luigi Ferraris stadium in Genoa on October 12, 2010

The most seriously injured in the violence early Wednesday was a member of Italy’s paramilitary caribinieri, who was rushed to hospital after an explosive device detonated in his face. A Serbian fan also suffered facial injuries.

The match was abandoned Tuesday night just six minutes in, after Italy’s goalkeeper was hit by a flare, which Serbian fans were throwing onto the pitch and at Italian supporters.

After the game, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Italian police kept Serbian fans hemmed into a gated parking area, intending to release them in small groups to waiting buses.

The clashes started when some of the fans managed to break out and police in riot gear moved to try to get them under control

“It’s scandalous,” said Serbian FA president Tomislav Karadzic after the match.

“Those who organised these incidents are in Belgrade,” he added.

“It’s an attack against the state and the state must resolve this problem.”

Wednesday morning’s violence was just the latest incident in a series of clashes that started the previous day.

On Tuesday, before the match, Italian police moved in when Serbian fans attacked one of their vehicles.

There was more trouble when the Serbia players left their team hotel, as Serbian fans attacked first-choice goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic, who was hit by a flare thrown on to the team bus.

Although not seriously hurt, he was taken to hospital for checks. Once at the Marassi stadium, he stayed inside the Italians’ changing rooms and refused to play.

Before the kick-off, Serbian fans threw flares and firecrackers at Italy supporters — and onto the pitch — while three fans climbed onto a security screen and for a while refused to get down.

The start was delayed by 35 minutes, and police, firemen, and stewards were still trying to bring order to the area surrounding the away fans as players came out onto the pitch.

Riot police were eventually called in and stationed themselves between the Italian and Serbian supporters while the players were sent back to the changing rooms.

When the players came back out to keep warm, members of the Serbian team went over to the away stand to try to calm the fans down, which appeared to work.

But there was trouble again soon after Scottish referee Craig Thomson blew for kick off. Six minutes in, a flare appeared to hit Italy goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano and Thomson halted the match.

Officials took almost an hour to formally call off the game following protracted talks between football officials and the referee.

“Before the game the Serbian goalkeeper (Stojkovic) was in our dressing room and wasn’t just afraid to play he was also afraid for his return home,” Italy coach Cesare Prandelli told reporters afterwards.

Stojkovic used to play for Red Star Belgrade but now plays for rivals Partizan Belgrade, which has angered hardcore Red Star fans.

The fans who caused the trouble at the match were linked to these two teams, ANSA news agency reported, citing witnesses at the scene.

“The Serbian players felt these fans were doing everything they could to stop the match being played,” Prandelli added.

Source: SGGP

Ahmadinejad boosts Hezbollah with Lebanon visit

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 8:08 am

 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has begun his first state visit to Lebanon, giving a strong show of support to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah and stirring up the country’s tumultous political divides.

Thousands of Lebanese — mostly Hezbollah backers — are lining the main highway into the capital from Beirut’s airport, where Ahmadinejad arrived Wednesday. Loudspeakers blasted songs as women sold Hezbollah flags and balloons to onlookers.

Poster of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is seen between Lebanese and Iranian flags ,a day ahead of his visit, in Beirut , Lebanon, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010.

Iran is the most powerful ally of Hezbollah, which holds widespread support among Lebanon’s Shiites and boasts the country’s strongest military force. But Ahmadinejad’s visit has sparked concern among Western-backed factions locked in a political struggle with Hezbollah over the direction of the country.

Source: SGGP

Argentina seeks to lessen tensions over Falklands

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 8:08 am

Argentina pledged to use diplomatic channels to protest British military exercises near the disputed Falkland Islands that have provoked new tensions between London and Buenos Aires.

“We are very concerned by this acceleration or provocation by the United Kingdom, but we are not going to fall for any provocation and we will not stray from the law, diplomacy and peace,” Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman told reporters.

He said Argentina had not been informed ahead of time about the British military exercises around the disputed territory, which Buenos Aires calls the Malvinas Islands.

The Foreign Office has said the exercises are “routine” and have “been carried out every six months for the last 28 years.”

An Argentine war veteran wears a t-shirt reading Will be back!… for our Land… for our death… for our honor…in April 2010 in Buenos Aires

But Argentina on Saturday decried the maneuvers and military build-up as an “unacceptable provocation,” and on Monday lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations in response.

The country’s UN envoy Jorge Arguello told Argentine radio he had delivered a letter of protest to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, a copy of which had been given to the British embassy in Buenos Aires.

President Cristina Kirchner has denounced the exercises as a “militarization of the South Atlantic” and warned that the maneuvers could spark an arms race in the region.

She posted several messages on the social networking site Twitter, including one describing the British moves as “typical 19th century colonialism.”

On Tuesday, the twelve-member Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) issued a statement “expressing its most formal and energetic protest” against the British operation, “demanding the British government to abstain” from carrying them out.

The statement, issued in Quito — Ecuador currently holds the group’s rotating presidency — adds that the regional group reiterates its “firm support for the legitimate rights” of Argentina over the archipelago, and the regional interest for a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

Around 3,000 people live on the barren South Atlantic islands, which lie 450 kilometers (280 miles) off the Argentine coast.

Britain has held the archipelago since 1833. In 1982, Argentina’s military junta invaded, prompting a short but bloody war that left 649 Argentine troops and 255 British troops dead.

Source: SGGP

China protected Kim’s oldest son over attack plot

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 8:08 am

Aides to the youngest son and heir apparent of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il planned an attack last year on Kim’s oldest son but were warned off by China, a report said Wednesday.

South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper, citing a government source, said close aides of youngest son Jong-Un plotted an attack on Jong-Nam after the leader had picked Jong-Un as heir apparent in January 2009.

Jong-Nam has been living mainly in Beijing and the Chinese territory of Macau since falling out of favour with his father.

In an frank interview with Japan’s TV Asahi broadcast Tuesday, he expressed opposition to another hereditary power transfer in the communist state.

File photo of the man believed to be Kim Jong-Nam, the eldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.

Chosun quoted its source as saying Jong-Un’s aides last year tried “to do something to Kim Jong-Nam, who has a loose tongue abroad” but China apparently warned them not to lay a hand on him on Chinese soil.

The paper said Jong-Nam reportedly has close ties with China’s powerful “princelings”, an elite group of the children of senior officials.

“Kim Jong-Nam won’t go back to the North but stay in China,” the source added.

South Korea’s intelligence agency declined comment on the newspaper report.

Jong-Un’s status as leader-in-waiting was effectively made public after Pyongyang made him a four-star general and gave him key ruling party posts late last month.

He appeared Sunday with his father at a massive military parade seen as a coming-out party.

Jong-Nam fell out of favour when he was caught trying to enter Japan with a fake passport in 2001.

China is the impoverished North’s sole major ally and economic lifeline, its biggest trade partner and energy supplier.

“Personally I am opposed to the hereditary transfer to a third generation of the family,” Jong-Nam told TV Asahi in the interview conducted in Beijing on Saturday.

Leader Kim Jong-Il succeeded his own father Kim Il-Sung, who died in 1994.

However, the 39-year-old Jong-Nam also said he would accept his father’s choice and that “for my part, I am prepared to help my younger brother whenever necessary while I stay abroad”.

A North Korea expert at Seoul’s Dongguk University, Kim Yong-Hyun, said Jong-Nam’s comments appeared to be a signal from the regime.

“His interview is seen as a message to the outside world that there is no internal friction over the transfer of power,” the professor told AFP.

“Jong-Nam is also saying he will continue to stay abroad. The interview indicates there is no room for him to play in North Korea’s current power structure.”

Source: SGGP

Canada fails in U.N. council bid

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 8:07 am

Canada suffered a humiliating defeat on Tuesday when it was forced to withdraw from the race for a seat on the prestigious U.N. Security Council, conceding victory to Portugal in the annual election.

In addition to Portugal, the 192-nation General Assembly elected Germany, India, South Africa and Colombia to two-year seats on the council. Canada had been vying with Germany and Portugal for the two seats in their geographic group but pulled out when it became clear that it lacked adequate support.

There are five veto-holding permanent members of the Security Council — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, the victors of World War Two — and 10 temporary elected members without vetoes.

But the elected members have some power because a council resolution needs nine votes in favor as well as no vetoes. Several Western diplomats said the presence of India and South Africa on the council would complicate matters if Washington were to push for new sanctions against Iran in the coming two years.

The five newly elected nations will serve two-year terms beginning in January 2011 and ending in December 2012 on the 15-nation body, the powerhouse of the United Nations with the authority to impose sanctions and deploy peacekeeping forces.

Canada has served six terms on the council and never lost a bid for a seat in the past.

In Ottawa, foreign affairs pundits largely blamed the embarrassing failure on Canada’s belated campaign, as well as on policies which were likely to have alienated many delegations — such as a strongly pro-Israel Middle East policy and reductions in bilateral aid to poor African nations.

But Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon blamed the opposition for what he described as an extremely disappointing defeat.

“I do not think this is a repudiation of Canada’s foreign policy,” Cannon told reporters at U.N. headquarters.

“Unfortunately back home in Canada the leader of the opposition determined that Canada did not speak with one voice,” he said. “He came out clearly indicating that Canada did not deserve a seat.

Opposition Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff had publicly questioned whether Canada under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper deserved to be on the council.


When South Africa was on the council in 2007/2008, it was a headache for the United States, France and Britain.

It joined Russia and China in voting down sanctions against Zimbabwe’s leaders, was reluctant to sanction Iran over its nuclear program and stood with China against condemning Myanmar. In the end it did vote for two sanctions resolutions against Tehran in 2007 and 2008 after pushing to dilute them.

South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said tone of the issues her country would push is a suspension of the International Criminal Court’s prosecution of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for genocide in Darfur — something the U.S., British and French delegations oppose.

“We’ll give it our best shot,” she said.

India, which has close trade ties with Iran, and possibly Portugal, are also expected to be reluctant if new U.N. sanctions against Tehran are proposed, diplomats said. But Germany, which joined Britain, France and the United States in negotiating previous sanctions, would boost the Western camp.

Berlin ran afoul of the previous U.S. administration during its last council stint by opposing the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In the first round of voting, only Germany managed to cross the 127-vote threshold in the category known as “Western Europe and Others,” getting 128 votes. India, South Africa and Colombia were uncontested in their respective geographic groups and secured ample votes in the first round.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin that the government was delighted with the results.

“Germany will work hard during its term to push ahead on reforms of the U.N. Security Council,” she said. “That is the expectation that a lot of people in the world have.”

Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri told reporters that Security Council reform would be high on India’s agenda too.

Germany is one of the top contributors to the United Nations and one of several countries, along with India, Japan and Brazil, that are considered prime candidates for permanent seats on the council if U.N. member states ever expand it.

The five rotating members serving on the council until the end of 2011 are Bosnia, Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon and Nigeria. The five nations leaving the council at the end of this year are Austria, Turkey, Mexico, Japan and Uganda.

Source: SGGP

Paula becomes Cat. 2 hurricane, threatens Cancun

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 8:07 am

A strengthening Hurricane Paula roared toward Mexico’s resort-dotted Yucatan Peninsula late Tuesday as authorities ordered evacuations on two small islands.

The storm was expected to hit the islands of Cozumel, Isla Mujeres and Holbox as it passed just off Yucatan’s southern coast Wednesday morning, officials said.

The hurricane smashed homes and forced schools to cancel classes in Honduras early Tuesday, then grew into a Category 2 storm with top sustained winds of 100 miles per hour (160 kph) on its way to the Yucatan, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Moving north at near 9 mph (15 kph), Paula’s center was expected to pass just to the east of Cancun, then decrease in forward speed after that, the center said. It said the hurricane could get close to western Cuba by Wednesday night or early Thursday.

Fishermen try to secure a boat as before the estimated arrival of hurricane Paula to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010

The center warned that preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.

Authorities of the Caribbean state of Quintana Roo state, where Cancun is located, ordered the evacuation of 1,500 residents of Isla Holbox and 60 fishermen from Isla Contoy. The evacuees were taken to the town of Kantunilkin, on the Yucatan peninsula.

More than 1,800 tourists remained on Cozumel late Tuesday after authorities suspended all sea transportation. City officials said three shelters were available on the island but that only a family of six had arrived at one of them Tuesday night.

Quintana Roo state prosecutors said in a statement that a U.S. man drowned when he went swimming in heavy surf near his hotel. Mickey Goodwin, a 54-year-old Texas resident, ignored warnings and red flags alerting the dangerous waves, prosecutors said.

In Cancun, 15 flights were canceled Tuesday and seven international flights for Wednesday would be canceled, Cancun airport commander Jose Chavez said.

Dozens of boat owners in Cancun hauled yachts and other vessels to shore, while sea tour operators canceled reservations. At least one company, Transbordadores del Caribe, canceled ferry trips from Playa del Carmen to the resort island of Cozumel south of Cancun, though others were still operating while the still-mild weather.

Armando Galmiche closed down his water-skiing tour business in Cancun and canceled 15 reservation he had for Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s already low season for tourism and, with this hurricane, things are going to get worse,” he said, lamenting the loss of revenue.

Along Cancun’s popular strip of night clubs and discotheques, workers took down billboards and other large objects ahead of heavy winds.

Peter Bruin, a 25-year-old tourist from Rotterdam, Netherlands, was taking a stroll along the city’s hotel zone, unaware that a hurricane was heading to Cancun.

“I hadn’t heard anything but I’m not afraid,” Bruin said. “It will be my first hurricane experience.”

Early Tuesday, heavy rains and high winds destroyed 19 homes in northeastern Honduras, said Lisandro Rosales, head of Honduras’ emergency agency. Officials closed schools along the country’s Atlantic coast and some airports were reported closed.

Tuesday afternoon, the hurricane was centered about 85 miles (135 kilometers) south-southeast of Cozumel.

Paula was expected to dump from 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 centimeters) of rain on Honduras, northern Belize, eastern portions of the Yucatan Peninsula and parts of western and central Cuba.

The government of Mexico issued a hurricane warning for the country’s Caribbean coast from Punta Gruesa north to Cabo Catoche, including the island of Cozumel. Warnings are issued when hurricane conditions are almost certain to occur.

A hurricane warning also was in effect for Cuba’s westernmost province of Pinar del Rio.

Forecasters warned of possible flooding and landslides and suggested residents avoid fishing trips or water sports.

Source: SGGP