August 30, 2012
A magnitude-4.2 earthquake rattled communities 100 miles east of San Diego on Monday night, despite observations from earthquake experts that a series of small to moderate earthquakes seemed to be slowing down and getting smaller in magnitude.
Earthquakes are unpredictable, according to U.S. Geological Survey Geophysicist Shengzao Chen, and prior to the 7 p.m. quake, a slowing seemed to be in effect with most of Monday's temblors under magnitude-2.5, and occurring in intervals of no greater than 30 minutes.
On Sunday, a swarm of earthquakes shook Imperial County and were felt in surrounding counties. Most were minor, but two registered at magnitude-5.5 and magnitude-5.3.
Scientists say the aftershocks and jolts could last for days.
No injuries were reported in the region, which has a long history of such earthquake swarms.
"The type of activity that we're seeing could possibly continue for several hours or even days," U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Robert Graves said.
The seismic activity is not unusual, but scientists have puzzled over the cause. The last significant swarm occurred in 2005, when a thousand quakes, the largest at magnitude-5.1, shook the south shore of the Salton Sea. In 1981, a cluster of quakes hit a region five miles to the northwest of Sunday's sequence, with the largest measuring a magnitude-5.8. The region was very active in the 1960s and 1970s.
"They seem to light up and turn off for reasons we don't understand," USGS seismologist Susan Hough said.
Despite the shaking, the swarms have not triggered any significant quake in the past, Hough said.
The quakes pushed 20 mobile homes at a trailer park off their foundations, rendering them uninhabitable, said Maria Peinado, a spokeswoman for the Imperial County Emergency Operations Center. A red-tile roof apparently collapsed and landed on a wooden fence.
Sporadic power outages, at one point affecting 2,500 Imperial Irrigation District customers, also prompted authorities to evacuate 49 patients from one of the county's two hospitals, Peinado said. Police also received numerous calls about gas leaks and water line breaks.
"It's not uncommon for us to have earthquakes out here, but at this frequency and at this magnitude it's fairly unusual," said George Nava, the mayor of Brawley, a town of 25,000.
"And the fact that the aftershocks keep coming are a little alarming," he said.
At the El Sol Market, food packages fell from shelves and littered the aisles.
"It felt like there was quake every 15 minutes. One after another. My kids are small and they're scared and don't want to come back inside," said Mike Patel, who manages Townhouse Inn & Suites.
A TV came crashing down and a few light fixtures broke inside the motel, Patel said.
The first quake, with a magnitude of 3.9, occurred at 10:02 a.m. on Sunday. The USGS said more than 300 aftershocks struck the same approximate epicenter.
Some shaking was felt along the San Diego County coast in Del Mar, some 120 miles from the epicenter, as well as in southwestern Arizona and parts of northern Mexico.
USGS seismologist Lucy Jones said earthquake swarms are characteristic of the region, known as the Brawley Seismic Zone.
"The area sees lots of events at once, with many close to the largest magnitude, rather than one main shock with several much smaller aftershocks," Jones said.
Sunday's quake cluster occurred in what scientists call a transition zone between the Imperial and San Andreas faults, so they weren't assigning the earthquakes to either fault, Graves said.
August 30, 2012
By MATTHEW BARAKAT Associated Press
A U.S. judge on Tuesday awarded $21 million to seven people who sued a former prime minister of Somalia now living in Virginia, claiming he tortured and killed his own people more than two decades ago.
The judgment against Mohamed Ali Samantar, 76, of Fairfax comes at the end of an eight-year legal battle that went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Seven Somali natives filed the lawsuit in 2004 in federal court in Alexandria against Samantar, who served as vice president, defense minister and prime minister throughout the 1980s under dictator Siad Barre, until the months before the regime collapsed in 1991.
The suit claimed Samantar personally ordered the killings and torture of members of the minority Isaaq clan.
Samantar denied the accusations and claimed immunity from the lawsuit. On the day the trial was to begin, he entered a default judgment. While he accepted legal liability for the killings, he denied wrongdoing.
One of the plaintiffs, Aziz Deria of Bellevue, Wash., said that the ruling vindicates efforts to hold Samantar accountable.
"The case was never about money," said Deria, who has little expectation of recovering his $3 million share of the judgment against Samantar, who is bankrupt. "This case was about having an opportunity to be in court with Samantar and prove he was in charge of what was happening."
Samantar's lawyer, Joseph Peter Drennan, said he will appeal the ruling. In fact, the case is already on appeal. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering whether Samantar was properly denied immunity.
The case, first filed in 2004, has had a tortuous path through the courts. At first, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema dismissed the case, ruling that Samantar enjoyed legal immunity as a former foreign official. But the U.S. Supreme Court rejected that argument. Eventually, the State Department argued in a legal filing that Samantar could not claim immunity because Somalia had no central government that could claim immunity on his behalf.
Brinkema then allowed the case to go to trial. Samantar's lawyer objected, saying the judge was granting excessive deference to the State Department — Brinkema had said she would have dismissed the case if the agency determined it could harm international relations.
After Samantar defaulted at the outset of the trial in February, the trial proceeded without him.
During the shortened trial, the plaintiffs presented evidence including a 1989 BBC interview in which Samantar acknowledged a leadership role in the bombing of Hargeisa, a city in the northern part of the country. Hargeisa was home to a large Isaaq population and a stronghold of a regional movement to break off from Somalia.
The evidence also included testimony from an army colonel who said he overheard a series of radio communications in which Barre was urging moderation in a bombing campaign, while Samantar advocated a harsher attack.
Several plaintiffs — some who live in the U.S. like Deria and others who still live in Somalia — told chilling stories of narrowly escaping summary execution, suffering beatings and spending years in solitary confinement in jail. Deria sued on behalf of his brother and father, who were killed.
The San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability, which represented the plaintiffs, said Brinkema's ruling is the first anywhere in the world to hold a leader in the Barre regime responsible for the crimes it perpetrated.
"This is a remarkable result for our clients, who faced down one of the most powerful men in their country's history and forced him to concede liability for his crimes," said Steven Schulman, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers.
But Drennan said Samantar continues to deny wrongdoing, and believes that efforts to hash out these claims in a U.S. court are counterproductive to the efforts to promote reconciliation and a cohesive national government in Somalia.
The lawsuit "needs to be seen for what it is — politics and clan warfare in the courtroom," Drennan said.
Deria, on the other hand, said holding Samantar formally accountable for atrocities in Somalia's civil war is the best way for Somalia to move forward. He said that clan retribution can be set aside when people can be assured of justice through the legal system and that he hopes the case can highlight to the Somali people that justice is attainable.
"This is the civilized way of dealing with criminals," he said.
August 30, 2012
Robin Roberts says Friday will be her last day co-anchoring “Good Morning America” for a while.
On Monday’s edition of the ABC News wakeup program, Roberts made official the start date for what’s being called her “extended medical leave.”
Roberts told viewers in July that she has MDS, a blood and bone marrow disease once known as preleukemia.
She says she will be hospitalized next week to prepare for the bone marrow transplant that will take place about 10 days after that.
But looking further ahead, Roberts noted she is luckier than many workers who become ill. She says her bosses have been generous in giving her the needed time off, and her job is waiting for her when she’s well enough to return. She described herself as “very blessed.”
August 30, 2012
By BRETT ZONGKER Associated Press
A year after the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial opened to visitors on the National Mall, the group behind the monument is still working with the National Park Service to change an inscription quoting the civil rights leader and is planning to bring new programs to the site.
Critics, including the poet Maya Angelou, complained last year that the inscription didn’t accurately reflect King’s words from a 1968 sermon about how he would like to be remembered. It reads: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.”
The phrase is inscribed without quotation marks because it is paraphrased. But the full quotation seems more modest. The U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the park service, ordered in February that the memorial should display the full quote.
The full quotation reads: “Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.” The new text will be slightly smaller than the current inscription.
Harry Johnson, president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the work to change the inscription will wait until after the height of the summer tourist season. Then the $120 million memorial’s original sculptor and stone carver will return likely in September or October to change the words carved in the central “Stone of Hope.”
“We’re trying for the least amount of disruption so that no harm is done to the stone,” Johnson said of the upcoming stone work. Previously, the memorial group fought the change saying an alteration would harm the design and cause a mismatch in the memorial’s granite color.
Now plans call for Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin to chip away stone from the current inscription, add new granite and then smooth the lines of the stone to help hide the patch work. Then third-generation stone carver Nicholas Benson of Newport, R.I., will add the full quotation to the memorial.
Organizers plan to complete the work by King’s birthday in January, though it’s not yet clear how much the work will cost. Johnson said the memorial foundation will help the park service pay for the stone work.
Between 1.5 million and 2 million people have visited the memorial in its first year, Johnson said.
The memorial group also is announcing plans to continue supporting the monument honoring King by becoming a booster organization to help the park service fund programs and maintenance at the memorial site.
Plans call for adding a multimedia walking tour using mobile devices like iPads to allow visitors to hear King’s speeches as they read some of his historic words engraved in the monument. A donor has already offered to provide the electronic equipment, and the memorial site is equipped with wireless Internet service, Johnson said.
“Our plan is to just talk about the significance of the quotes and give more of a walking history of the memorial,” he said. “That was in the plan originally. So now it’s time to take that a step further.”
The Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial is seen in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012.