The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Chad and recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to eastern Chad, the Chad/Sudan border area, and the Chad/Central African Republic border area.  This Warning is due to the insecurity caused by high levels of violent crime, the continuing risk of clashes between Chadian government and rebel forces, and the constant risk of sudden outbreak of conflict among the populations living in these areas.  In particular, the risk of kidnapping for ransom or as part of factional conflict appears to be on the rise.  The U.S. Embassy in Chad has prohibited official government travel to eastern Chad without express authorization.  U.S. citizens affiliated with humanitarian relief efforts should review security precautions and consider measures to mitigate exposure to violent crime.  U.S. citizens residing in Chad should exercise extreme caution throughout the country.  This replaces the Travel Warning for Chad dated November 23, 2009 to remind U.S. citizens of continuing security concerns in Chad.

The incidence of violent crime in eastern Chad is highly variable.  Outbreaks of robbery and carjacking at gunpoint, kidnapping and attempted kidnapping, and murder follow periods of calm without warning.  The level of violence in each incident has increased significantly. Robbery victims have been beaten and killed.  In addition, armed rebel groups continue to be a threat to the region.  Criminal and rebel activity tends to increase during the dry season, which lasts from late September to July.  The overall security situation remains fluid and potentially dangerous.  Violent criminal gangs are difficult to interdict.  The Government of Chad is unable to guarantee the safety of visitors in eastern Chad.  If rebels approach the capital, N’Djamena, the U.S. Embassy may decide to evacuate non-emergency personnel and family members of Embassy personnel on short notice.  Family members of Embassy personnel under the age of 21 are not authorized to reside in Chad.  Commercial flights continue to operate from N’Djamena International Airport, but flights are subject to change when rebel activity intensifies.

U.S. citizens affiliated with humanitarian relief efforts in eastern Chad are strongly urged to adhere closely to the policies and procedures of their organizations to mitigate risks from violent crime.  All should coordinate travel plans with their UN partner agency security officers in Abéché and N’Djamena, and follow UN Department for Safety and Security (UNDSS) guidance regarding safety and security.  The Government of Chad requires all individuals traveling to or residing in refugee-affected areas in eastern Chad to obtain permits issued by the Ministry of Territorial Administration in N’Djamena, and to register in Abéché upon arrival in eastern Chad.  U.S. citizens who intend to enter Sudan from Chad, despite the Department’s Travel Warnings for both countries, must obtain the appropriate visas and permits in advance of entry into Sudan.  Further information is available in the Department’s Travel Warning for Sudan.

The U.S. Embassy is not able to support evacuation from eastern Chad.  All U.S. citizens affiliated with humanitarian relief efforts in eastern Chad must have an evacuation plan developed with the United Nations Agencies, which have aircraft and other logistical support.  The Embassy strongly recommends that all U.S. citizens in Chad be prepared to implement their personal evacuation or safe haven plans on short notice should the situation warrant it, and exercise extreme caution.  U.S. citizens in Chad should closely monitor news media and the U.S. Embassy’s website.     

U.S. citizens traveling to or resident in Chad should register with the U.S. Embassy by completing a registration form online, and provide contact information and specific travel data if traveling outside the capital.  Registration enables the Embassy to contact U.S. citizens in case of emergency and provide updates on the security situation. The U.S. Embassy is located in N’Djamena on Avenue Felix Ebou; mailing address B.P. 413, telephone (including after hours emergencies): (235) 251-70-09; alternate numbers 251-62-11, 251-90-52, 251-92-33, 251-77-59, 251-92-18; fax (235) 251-56-54.  Travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. or outside the U.S. and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  For further information, please consult the Country Specific Information for Chad and the Worldwide Caution, which are available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website.   

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(By travel.state.gov)

A 72-year-old woman was among several people rescued after trying to cross to a small uninhabited island.

A rescue helicopter, lifeboat and coastguard rescue team were called to Sully Island, Vale of Glamorgan.

The woman was taken to hospital after injuring her ankle wading through waist high water when cut off by the tide on Saturday afternoon.

Swansea coastguard urged people to heed local warning signs about the dangers of crossing to the island.

The woman was taken to hospital in an ambulance.

Bernie Kemble, duty watch manager, said: “We strongly advise that members of the public take account of the many signs and warning notices that are placed around the causeway advising on tide times and when to cross.

“When the coastguard team arrived they discovered that the water was waist deep, and although other members of the public managed to get out this particular woman fell and hurt herself.”

Sully Island lies midway between the towns of Penarth and Barry.

Access to the island, which is about 450m (490 yards) off the mainland, is on foot across a causeway at low tide from the car park of the Captain’s Wife pub.

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(By BBC News)

WASHINGTON (AP) – Spirit Airlines said it will work with other air carriers to keep flying if its pilots strike on Saturday.

Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson said on Tuesday that the airline is “partnering with other air carrier providers to continue to serve our customers.” She declined to identify whom Spirit planned to work with, or to say how much of its schedule it will maintain in a strike.

Spirit is negotiating a new contract with its pilots, who are in a 30-day “cooling-off period” mandated by federal law before they can strike or the company locks them out. If there’s no deal, the pilots have said they will walk out when the cooling-off period ends at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. The talks are being held in Washington and are guided by the National Mediation Board.

Spirit is a small, privately held carrier based in Miramar, Fla. It operates about 150 flights per day, many of them from the eastern U.S. to Latin America.

Sean Creed, a Spirit captain and the head of its Air Line Pilots Association unit, doubted that the airline had arrangements that would keep it flying through a strike.

“Obviously they’re free to replace us according to the law,” he said. “I think if they were going to have a plan to continue operation, it would need to have some specific details.”

Creed and the airline both said the final issues are pay and work rules.

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(Washington (AP) USAToday)

From media reports: The Local reported pilots of four regional airlines in Sweden launched a strike on Monday. The four airlines affected were Avia Express, Avitrans Nordic, Golden Air, and Svenska Direktflyg.

The strike was disrupting domestic flights at most airports in Sweden but has the potential to expand and include international and charter flights on Wednesday if the airlines and the Swedish Airline Pilots Association are unable to reach an agreement.

The industrial action was organized to protest the use of freelance pilots and other work related issues.

The worst flight disruptions on Monday were reported at Bromma and Ronneby.

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(By STOCKHOLM (AP) USAToday)

Emergency crews have finished cleaning up debris from public areas in the tornado-ravaged town of Lennox Head on the NSW north coast, but residents whose properties are still littered with asbestos remain in limbo.

Ballina and Byron Shires have been declared natural disaster zones after Thursday’s violent tornado, which caused extensive damage to around 30 homes.

The New South Wales’ Government says residents cannot expect the State Emergency Services (SES) to clean up asbestos on private properties.

State Emergency Services Minister, Steve Whan, says that responsibility falls to residents.

“The difficulty we have is that it is private property, it’s freehold land and so we need to work with the owners of land and insurance companies on how we go about cleaning up the massive destruction to buildings on those sites,” he said.

“This is not something where you can expect emergency services and council workers to just move in on people’s properties and do things.”

Mr Whan says a special recovery committee meets tomorrow to examine how to help locals with the clean up.

The Ballina Shire’s mayor, Phil Silver, says he will ask the committee to consider helping residents in cases where debris has blown onto their land from public areas.

But he says residents are otherwise forced to take responsibility themselves.

“Private damage, private debris is a private issue. Now, where possible council will, under its own accord, help out,” he said.

“And if we’ve got pensioners or people who are distressed we will do our best to assist them. But ultimately the disaster funding at this point does not extend to private property.”

Residents are being warned to treat loose asbestos with caution as they clean up. Some have donned protective clothing for the clean-up.

Dave Foley says he is taking every precaution as he clears his yard.

“I’ve got a 12-year-old and a 13-year-old and I’m a builder so I’m aware of the dangers of asbestos ’cause I’ve worked with it before,” he said.

“I’m aware of it enough that I want to get it out of my yard as quickly as possible.” 

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(By Jean Kennedy, ABC News)

BUCHAREST, May 28, 2010 (AFP) – Romanian transport workers will stage a one-day strike on Tuesday against the government’s planned austerity cuts, trade unions announced Friday.

The Bucharest metro railway, tram and trolley system will come to a halt Tuesday, Metrorex union leader Ioan Radoi said during a press conference.

“This will be part of our movement of solidarity with civil servants”, who have called an “unlimited” strike starting Monday.

Railway workers will in their turn decide on Monday if they go on a one-day strike next week, union leader Iulian Mantescu said.

Public sector employees oppose a 25-percent slash in wages announced by the government in a bid to bring the budget deficit down to 6.8 percent of gross domestic product.

State pensions and several social allocations will also be cut by 15 percent, according to the plan which should help authorities save up to three billion euros by year end.

Prime Minister Emil Boc on Wednesday said the cuts were vital in order to secure new instalments of a 20-billion-euro rescue package from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.

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The death toll in the train collision in eastern India has gone up to 71, a railways spokesman said.

At least 149 people were injured when two trains collided after one was derailed by what officials said was an act of Maoist sabotage.

The Calcutta-Mumbai passenger train derailed overnight in West Bengal where a section of track had been removed.

Carriages and passengers were thrown in front of a goods train travelling in the opposite direction.

Officials said rescue workers were still struggling to free survivors.

They said the toll was expected to rise as many people have yet to be cut free from the wreckage in the Jhargram area of West Midnapore – about 150kms (90 miles) west of Calcutta.

The area is known to be a stronghold of Maoist rebels.

Maoist claim

The state police chief said a 46cm (1.5ft) portion of the train track was missing, and that the Maoists had claimed responsibility for the act of sabotage.

“We have recovered two posters by a local Maoist militia from the site of the accident,” said West Bengal Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh.

“They have claimed responsibility for the incident in the posters.”

The rebels had called for observance of a “black week” of protests from Friday to Wednesday in five states – including West Bengal – where they wield considerable influence.

Early reports said the passenger train had been derailed by an explosion.

The incident happened at 0130 local time (2000 GMT) on Thursday.

Some 14 hours later, rescue workers were still using sledge hammers and gas cutters to break into carriages where survivors were thought to be trapped, the BBC’s Amitabha Bhattasali reported from the scene.

Bodies are still being removed from mangled carriages and helicopters are airlifting injured passengers to nearby hospitals.

Hundreds of police, troops and emergency workers are involved in the search and recovery effort.

Crushed bodies

Railway spokesman Soumitra Majumdar said five coaches of the passenger train, the Gyaneshwar Express, had been derailed due to missing “fish plates” – which join rails together.

These coaches then fell on to the neighbouring track where they were rammed by the goods train, he said.

There were 13 carriages – including 10 sleeper coaches and a coach with unreserved seating – on the passenger train, the Times of India reported.

Our correspondent said three carriages were totally wrecked, while several others were damaged.

Among the emergency teams sent to the scene were 12 doctors and 20 paramedics from Kharagpur, and two doctors from the Kalaikunda airbase in the district, the newspaper reported.

India’s railway minister, Mamata Banerjee, has visited the crash site to oversee the rescue operation.

The government has been under pressure following a wave of Maoist-led violence, the most audacious one taking place in April when 76 paramilitary troopers were ambushed and killed.

It was the single biggest attack on the Indian security forces by the rebels.

The BBC’s Amitabha Bhattasali describes devastation at the crash scene

The death toll in the train collision in eastern India has gone up to 71, a railways spokesman said.

At least 149 people were injured when two trains collided after one was derailed by what officials said was an act of Maoist sabotage.

The Calcutta-Mumbai passenger train derailed overnight in West Bengal where a section of track had been removed.

Carriages and passengers were thrown in front of a goods train travelling in the opposite direction.

Officials said rescue workers were still struggling to free survivors.

They said the toll was expected to rise as many people have yet to be cut free from the wreckage in the Jhargram area of West Midnapore – about 150kms (90 miles) west of Calcutta.

The area is known to be a stronghold of Maoist rebels.

Maoist claimThe state police chief said a 46cm (1.5ft) portion of the train track was missing, and that the Maoists had claimed responsibility for the act of sabotage.

“We have recovered two posters by a local Maoist militia from the site of the accident,” said West Bengal Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh.

“They have claimed responsibility for the incident in the posters.”

The rebels had called for observance of a “black week” of protests from Friday to Wednesday in five states – including West Bengal – where they wield considerable influence.

Early reports said the passenger train had been derailed by an explosion.

The incident happened at 0130 local time (2000 GMT) on Thursday.

Some 14 hours later, rescue workers were still using sledge hammers and gas cutters to break into carriages where survivors were thought to be trapped, the BBC’s Amitabha Bhattasali reported from the scene.

Bodies are still being removed from mangled carriages and helicopters are airlifting injured passengers to nearby hospitals.

Hundreds of police, troops and emergency workers are involved in the search and recovery effort.

Crushed bodiesRailway spokesman Soumitra Majumdar said five coaches of the passenger train, the Gyaneshwar Express, had been derailed due to missing “fish plates” – which join rails together.

These coaches then fell on to the neighbouring track where they were rammed by the goods train, he said.

There were 13 carriages – including 10 sleeper coaches and a coach with unreserved seating – on the passenger train, the Times of India reported.

Our correspondent said three carriages were totally wrecked, while several others were damaged.

Among the emergency teams sent to the scene were 12 doctors and 20 paramedics from Kharagpur, and two doctors from the Kalaikunda airbase in the district, the newspaper reported.

India’s railway minister, Mamata Banerjee, has visited the crash site to oversee the rescue operation.

The government has been under pressure following a wave of Maoist-led violence, the most audacious one taking place in April when 76 paramilitary troopers were ambushed and killed.

It was the single biggest attack on the Indian security forces by the rebels.

Maoist rebels have in recent months stepped up attacks in response to a government security push to flush them out of their jungle bases.

They have attacked police, government buildings and infrastructure such as railway stations.

Earlier this month they blew up a bus in the state of Chhattisgarh, killing 35 people.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the insurgency as India’s biggest internal security challenge.

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 (by bbc.co.uk)

PARIS (AP) — Strikes across France delayed flights, closed schools and frustrated commuters Thursday as workers protested government plans to raise the retirement age past 60 — one of the lowest even in Europe.

President Nicolas Sarkozy says retiring so young is now untenable given growing life spans, but unions see his planned reforms to France’s over-stretched pension system as yet another blow to Europe’s cherished social model.

His government wants to raise the retirement age to 61 or 62 — reforms that have been under discussion since well before the current European debt crisis. Sarkozy has called them his main priority this year.

Despite the protests, France’s retirement plans pale before the harsh austerity measures instituted by other European nations, including Greece, Ireland and Portugal. Spain and Italy have also announced recent austerity plans as a debt crisis that started in Greece has weakened the euro and raised questions about the future of currency shared by 16 nations.

Some unions say France’s pension budget shortfall could be reduced by raising workers’ monthly contributions.

“Even though we need pension reform, extending the retirement age is the most unjust way,” the head of the CFDT union, Francois Chereque, said on France-2 television. He criticized “the purely financial logic” of the government’s plan and it’s “obsession … with aligning with Germany” on retirement.

Germany recently raised its retirement age from 65 to 67 to offset an aging population. Many EU countries have 65 as the general retirement age, though some allow for earlier departures for women and those in professions considered arduous.

To express their anger, French workers for the government and private companies from Nestle to oil giant Total walked off the job Thursday and planned scores of protests in Paris and other cities and towns.

Striking train drivers reduced commuter traffic around Paris, although international train routes did not appear to be affected. Aviation authorities expected flights at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle to be reduced by 10 percent and those at Orly airport by 30 percent because of the strikes.

About 14 percent of teachers nationwide were on strike, and about 8 percent of hospital workers.

The French government, which had long danced around the retirement age issue, has been increasingly bold in recent days.

“It is totally logical that the government follow this option, we will push back the legal age” of retirement, Labor Minister Eric Woerth said Wednesday.

France is only slowly emerging from its worst recession in decades, and labor relations are tense after waves of job cuts.

Polls show most French voters think something must be done to keep the pension system from collapsing. For two decades, successive governments have made gradual moneysaving measures, but ambitious changes have been thwarted by protests.

The government is also considering raising the number of working years required to receive a full pension. Currently 40 years are required for most professions, rising to 41 in 2012, but that could go higher in a new pension reform.

The government will finalize its pension reform proposal in July — the heart of holiday season, when it is hard for unions to organize protests — and submit it to parliament in early September.

French life expectancy in 2007 was 77 for men and 84 for women, several years above the European average, according to U.N. statistics.

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(By  Jean-Marie Godard, USA Today)

BERLIN, May 27, 2010 (AFP) – A strike by ground staff on Thursday morning hit traffic at Berlin’s two airports Tegel and Schoenefeld, forcing the cancellation of dozens of flights, the operator and unions said.

At Schoenefeld to the south of the city, under expansion to become the German capital’s only airport, around 20 flights were cancelled, including to Rome, Paris and Brussels, unions said.

British low-cost airline EasyJet, which operates out of Schoenefeld, was particularly badly hit, cancelling most of its flights.

Trade union Verdi had called on 2,000 of its members working as ground staff to stage the warning strike in their dispute over pay and conditions. The industrial action was due to end at 10:00 am

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OFFICIAL WARNING: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to the Kingdom of Thailand due to recent violence, unrest, and rioting triggered by large-scale political demonstrations that occurred in Bangkok from March 12 to May 25, 2010, and  resulted in deaths and injuries. A 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. curfew and a state of emergency are still in effect in Bangkok and in 23 provinces: Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, Chonburi (with the exception of Pattaya), Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani, Nakhon Pathom, Nakhon Sawan, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Nan, Khon Kaen, Chaiyaphum, Nakhon Ratchasima, Udon Thani, Ubon Ratchathani, Mahasarakham, Roi-et, Nongbualamphu, Sakhonnakorn, Si Sa Ket, Kalisin, and Mukdahan. The state of emergency can affect civil liberties by limiting the right to assembly as well as freedom of movement, and may include imposing searches, checkpoints, and other restrictions.
 
Further civil unrest, sporadic violence, and attacks remain a risk anywhere in the country. Although protest areas have been cleared, the Thai government continues to deploy significant numbers of police and military forces in response to the recent unrest. Even though the demonstrations and associated violence had been focused mostly in Bangkok, unrest and demonstrations also occurred in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Khon Khen, and Udon Thani. Canadians are strongly advised to avoid any protest sites, military installations, or concentrations of security personnel, as well as prominent government buildings. Canadians should avoid non-essential movement, exercise caution, follow the advice of local authorities, and remain informed of developments by monitoring local media.
 
Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport remains fully operational and commercial flights are operating normally.  During curfew hours, it may be difficult to commute between Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Bangkok, even by taxi, due to a lack of public transportation. Thai authorities have advised that people needing to travel during curfew hours, particularly for scheduled air travel, should carry both their passport and evidence of travel. Although now operating, public transportation, including the SkyTrain (BTS), Metro (MRT), and bus routes, had been disrupted, at times by complete closures. Local information can be obtained from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) via telephone at 1672.

On May 19, 2010, Thai authorities used force to disperse protesters who had been encamped in Bangkok’s central business district, with the principal demonstration site centred at the Ratchaprasong intersection, and in other parts of the city since March 12, 2010. The military operation was followed by intense rioting, gunfire, explosions, arson, and clashes between security forces and demonstrators in Bangkok. Between May 13 and 19, 2010, the ongoing violence had caused dozens of deaths and over 400 injuries, as well as the temporary closure of the Embassy of Canada.  On May 7, 2010, two attacks on security personnel near the protest zone  one involving gunfire and the other a grenade attack  resulted in two deaths and more than a dozen injuries. On April 28, 2010, a clash between demonstrators and security forces just north of Bangkok killed one person and injured at least 10 others. On April 22, 2010, a series of grenade attacks on Silom Road killed one person and injured more than 80. On April 10, 2010, violent clashes in the area of the Democracy Monument resulted in over 800 casualties, including more than 20 deaths. Water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets, and live rounds were employed.  Previously, the areas of Ratchadamnoen Road, the Democracy Monument, Phanfa Bridge, and Government House in Bangkok were affected.
 
In recent years there have been several waves of mass political demonstrations and anti-government movements in Thailand, which have led to significant security problems and occasional violence. In April 2009, political demonstrations and civil unrest occurred in Bangkok and in many provinces throughout the country, which led to violent and fatal clashes between security forces, demonstrators, and private citizens. Mass demonstrations in Bangkok in 2008 included violent clashes and the use of explosive devices, which resulted in casualties and injuries and also forced the temporary closure of Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok. These events were preceded by a military coup in September 2006.

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(By voyage.gc.ca)

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