- - Monday, August 2, 2010


Veiled airline passengers trigger security probe

MONTREAL | Transportation Minister John Baird ordered a probe after a video posted on YouTube showed two fully veiled women boarding a passenger airplane without showing their faces.

Canadian authorities want to ensure that airline personnel are verifying the identities of all of passengers before they board flights.

The video purportedly shows a group of passengers boarding an Air Canada flight from Montreal’s Pierre-Elliott Trudeau airport to London’s Heathrow airport on July 11.

The short clip, shot by a British traveler, shows a man boarding a flight with four women, two with face veils, two without. The man presents their passports, and the veiled women are allowed to board, apparently without showing their faces.

The footage is shot at a distance and it is impossible to see what happens next.

“If the reports are true, the situation is deeply disturbing and poses a serious threat to the security of the air traveling public,” Mr. Baird said.

“If our current security policies in this area are deemed to be lacking, our government will take the necessary steps to protect the safety and security of the traveling public.”


Police say kidnappers found victims on Web

SAO PAULO | Brazilian police dismantled a kidnapping ring that used profile information on social-networking sites to track victims to their jobs or favorite bars or clubs.

Nine people were arrested last week — mostly young men who spent hours on the Internet planning their crimes, authorities said Monday.

Police uncovered the group while investigating the kidnapping of a 19-year-old man in the interior of Sao Paulo state. Investigators monitored the suspects’ communications to rescue the victim.

Authorities did not say how many other people the group kidnapped or how long the ring had been acting in and around Sao Paulo.

The group searched profiles for postings of expensive trips, luxury cars and big houses. Then they would look up where potential victims worked and where their favorite social hangouts were, said an officer who could not be identified because of departmental policy.

“They used all this information to begin evaluating their crimes,” police investigator Wilson Negrao told Globo TV.

After picking their victims, authorities said, the group would study their routines and show up at the places they frequented.

With details of the victims’ possessions, the group had a good idea of how much ransom they could push relatives to pay, police said.


U.S. to reopen consulate in violence-hit city

The United States said Monday that it will reopen its consulate in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez after closing it for two days pending a security review.

“It’s closed today. But having … evaluated the security situation, it will reopen tomorrow,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters.

The consulate first closed Friday after Mr. Crowley said “threat information” was being evaluated.

A major processing center for Mexicans seeking visas for the United States, it also was shut down after the fatal shootings in March of three people linked to the consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s notorious crime capital.

The State Department said the consulate processed more than 94,000 immigrant visas and more than 144,000 non-immigrant visas in the past fiscal year.

“Given the temporary closing of the consulate, all visa applicants will be rescheduled for their interviews at a later date,” it said.

Mexico has been gripped by drug-related bloodshed that has continued unabated despite a military clampdown on the country’s powerful drug gangs ordered by President Felipe Calderon after he took office in December 2006.

In March, gunmen killed Lesley Enriquez, an American working at the consulate, her American husband, Arthur Redelfs, and Jorge Alberto Salcido, the Mexican husband of another U.S. consular employee, in ambushes just minutes apart.

U.S. and Mexican investigators said they suspected members of the Los Aztecas gang carried out the hit.

About 25,000 people have died in drug violence since 2006, including 7,000 this year alone, particularly in towns and cities near the U.S. border.


Exporter accused of killing 280,000 sharks for fins

RIO DE JANEIRO | A conservation watchdog group on Monday accused a Brazilian company of illegally fishing 280,000 sharks that were killed to feed Asia’s appetite for shark-fin.

The Environmental Justice Institute, a Brazilian group, lodged a lawsuit against seafood exporter Sigel do Brasil Comercio demanding $800 million in environmental damages.

“As we can’t put a value on life, we have calculated the impact on the ecosystem,” said the director of the group, Cristiano Pacheco.

He said the killing of so many of the predators would have a negative effect on the balance between maritime species.

The company caught the sharks off the northern Brazilian state of Para between March 2009 and May 2010, according to information from the Brazilian state environmental agency Ibama given to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.


Plane crash kills two in firefighting effort

VICTORIA, British Columbia | Two pilots were confirmed dead Sunday in the crash of a Canadian water-bombing plane that was fighting a forest fire.

The wildfire and steep terrain kept rescue workers from reaching the crash site after the plane went down Saturday night about 100 miles northeast of Vancouver.

The plane, carrying two pilots, was chartered by the provincial government from Conair in Abbotsford, British Columbia, to battle wildfires about 11 miles south of Lytton. Conair had a second plane shadowing the one that crashed and was able to pinpoint the location of the site.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police confirmed the pilots’ deaths and said the plane was badly damaged after it crashed and burst into flames.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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