News Blackout Placed On China Train Wreck

BEIJING, July 31 (UPI) — China says it has implemented a blackout on news coverage of the deadly high-speed train wreck that has resulted in some critical newspaper articles.

The Chinese Communist Party fired off a directive this weekend limiting coverage of the disaster to positive stories.

The New York Times said Sunday the order forced a hurried remake of several Saturday editions with investigative stories and commentaries replaced by cartoons and features.

Forty people were killed and 192 were injured July 23 when two high-speed trains collided in Zhejiang Province. The incident sparked an unusual outburst of online criticism of Beijing over the government’s development policies and alleged soft-pedaling of its failure and shortcomings.

The Times said the news blackout appeared to stir up even more bad blood. One anonymous editor said in an online commentary, “This country is being humiliated by numerous evil hands.”

Juarez Cartel Leader Under Arrest

JUAREZ, Mexico, July 31 (UPI) — Law enforcement officials in the United States said a reputed leader of a Juarez drug cartel was in the custody of Mexican authorities this weekend.

The El Paso (Texas) Times said U.S. officials did not provide any details on the arrest of Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez, a ranking leader of the La Linea drug ring who is under indictment for the slayings of three Americans from the U.S. Consulate in the border city.

Mexican authorities say Acosta has been a particularly ruthless player in the Juarez drug trade over the years. He is accused of ordering gunmen to shoot up a birthday party last year that left 15 young people dead.

Acosta was captured Friday after a shootout in Chihuahua City neighborhood. He is the highest-ranking member of the Juarez cartel to be arrested since 2008, the Times said.

The newspaper said La Linea has reputedly been getting more vocal and direct in its challenges to American narcotics agents working in Juarez. Graffiti has been popping up in the city warning the “gringos of the DEA” to back off.

NYPD Monitoring Domestic Rightist Threats

NEW YORK, July 31 (UPI) — New York police were on the lookout for right-wing domestic terrorists even before the Norway massacre, Commissioner Ray Kelly said Sunday.

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Kelly said: “I can tell you, in New York City, we have a task force in our intelligence division that looks at white supremacist/anti-government groups and individuals.

“In fact, just a few days before the [July 22] Norway massacre, we had a teleconference with our century partners — this is 100 law enforcement agencies in the northeast quadrant of the country — and that was the specific subject.”

“It is an ongoing issue that law enforcement has to continue to focus on, and I believe we are,” Kelly added.

“We follow certain individuals on the Internet,” he said. “They put out their feelings quite clearly. A lot of them are careful about not advocating violence.

“For instance, the individual in Norway, although he had a lot of Internet activity, did not advocate violence. He put his manifesto on the Internet six hours before he started the attacks. They’re somewhat careful about advocating violence.”

Remains Of POW Return Home After 60 Years

NEW YORK, July 31 (UPI) — A U.S. Army private from New York who died in a Korean War POW camp 60 years ago has finally returned home, his family said.

The remains of Pvt. John Lavelle, of Brooklyn, New York, reached Kennedy Airport Saturday, the New York Daily News reported.

“It was unbelievable,” said Lavelle’s niece, Mary O’Brien. “There wasn’t a dry eye.”

Lavelle was 24 when he was captured in December 1950 by enemy forces near Kuni-ri, a town in what is now in North Korea. He died of what is believed to be malnutrition in a Chinese POW camp in 1951.

His remains were turned over to U.S. officials in 1954, but the Army couldn’t positively identify them. They were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii as unknown.

The remains were exhumed a year ago when Army researchers found evidence suggesting the remains were Lavelle’s. The identification was made possible by dental records.

The remains arrived in New York in a wooden casket draped by an American flag. A Port Authority fire truck sprayed water over the plane as it taxied down the runway before members of an Army honor guard removed the casket to a waiting hearse.

Gloria Webber, Lavelle’s sister, said the return of her brother’s remains have finally brought her family “closure.”

“We’re so happy to see that he’s back [home],” said Webber, 81. “We’re nice and relaxed. There’s no more worrying.”

Lavelle will be buried in Calverton National Cemetery in Long Island Monday.

Yemen Air Force Bombs Its Allies In Error

SANAA, Yemen, July 31 (UPI) — The Yemeni military admitted Sunday that its airstrikes have accidentally killed at least 11 allied tribesmen fighting Islamic extremists.

The bombing took place near Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province in the south, where al-Qaida-linked fighters took over in May and have been at war with the government.

“We give our condolences to the brave tribal fighters who were killed in the Abyan air attack,” an official who would not be named told CNN. “Coordination between the tribes and the government forces is limited, and that is why the raid missed its target.”

Hundreds of tribal leaders met in the capital, Sanaa, Saturday to form an alliance against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is still recuperating in Saudi Arabia from an assassination attempt nearly two months ago.

They chose Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, leader of the major Hashed tribe, as their chairman. In a speech he vowed, “Saleh will not rule Yemen after today as long as I live.”

Gadhafi Seeks PR Help To Repair Image

NEW YORK, July 31 (UPI) — Moammar Gadhafi is looking for PR firms in New York and London as he battles rebels in Libya, his diplomats say.

Dia Abubaker Alhutmany of the Libyan Mission United Nations confirmed the pitches to The New York Post, saying “the government is trying to have the support of people outside the country.”

Ali Darwish of the Libyan Information Ministry has e-mailed leading public relations firms, asking them to “present our just and fair case to the world,” the Post reported Sunday.

“Libya has been under an unjustified media and PR attack which led to NATO’s military involvement,” he wrote.

But he also promised discretion, saying, “We can formalize any deal with your organization through a third party to help move things forward fast.”

There have been no takers yet.

“I highly doubt any PR firm will positively respond to this very unorthodox … request,” said Ronn Torossian of New York firm 5WPR.

Quake Recorded Off Vanuatu Islands

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, July 31 (UPI) — U.S. seismologists said a strong earthquake with a magnitude 6.1 struck Sunday near the remote South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.

There were no immediate reports of damage on the islands and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any tidal wave warnings.

The quake was centered a little more than 200 miles northeast of Vanuatu and nearly 1,400 from New Zealand. The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter was a relatively shallow 19 kilometers (11.8 miles).

Vanuatu is located in a seismically active area of the Pacific but generally gets through the sometimes-sizable shakers unscathed.

Plane Crashes In Grand Canyon, 2 Dead

PHOENIX, July 31 (UPI) — A small plane carrying two men from Rock Hill, S.C., to Henderson, Nev., was found crashed in the Grand Canyon, with both occupants dead, officials said.

The plane, a single-engine Cirrus SR20 registered to Delaware-based Anansi Aeronautics LLC, was found Saturday near DeMotte Park in Kaibab Nation Forest, Coconino County (Ariz.) Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Gerry Blair told The Arizona Republic.

Blair confirmed both men aboard the plane were killed. Earlier reports from the Federal Aviation Administration said only the pilot was aboard.

Investigators said one of the men sent his wife a text message at 8:23 p.m. Saturday, saying they would arrive in Henderson in about 90 minutes. The plane disappeared from radar about 9 p.m.

The plane was reported missing by the pilot’s family when it failed to land in Henderson as scheduled.

Officials said the cause of the crash is being investigated.

Admiral Confident On Afghan Withdrawal

KABUL, Afghanistan, July 31 (UPI) — The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said Sunday in Kabul the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan wouldn’t hurt the country.

In his unannounced visit to the country, Mullen told reporters after consulting with U.S. commanders, the transition of responsibility to Afghan security and police officials was largely on track, The New York Times reported.

President Barack Obama announced earlier this year he wanted to bring 10,000 U.S. troops home by the end of this year and 23,000 more by the end of September 2012.

Mullen said he was satisfied that such a move wouldn’t derail Afghanistan’s progress.

“I am very confident that we can meet both the needs on the ground as well as the deadlines and the goals that have been laid out by the president,” he said.

The admiral said he was aware that Taliban and other extremist groups were targeting areas where U.S. and other NATO troops were vacating. He said the nature of small, targeted guerrilla operations suggested the Taliban had sustained heavy losses and weren’t able to mount major offensives any longer, the Times said.

Factions Battle In Benghazi After Killing

BENGHAZI, Libya, July 31 (UPI) — Libyan rebels said Sunday they have captured the camp of an enemy cell they blame for the assassination of their military chief.

Mustafa el-Sogezly, deputy interior minister of the Benghazi government, told The Financial Times four members of the group were killed and 12 wounded in a five-hour battle Sunday morning near the city, along with three rebel fighters killed and eight wounded.

Sogezly said the faction, calling itself the Shakir Brigade, was involved in killing Gen. Abdel Fattah Younis and freeing Gadhafi loyalists from prison during the ensuing turmoil Thursday night.

He said the group took orders from Tripoli via Gadhafi regime TV.

But Ali Tarhouni, the Transitional National Council’s oil minister, told the BBC that Younis was killed along with two other commanders by members of the Obaida ibn Jarrah Brigade, an Islamic extremist group allied with the rebels. The three bodies, shot and burned, were found outside Benghazi Friday.

And a Gadhafi regime spokesman blamed al-Qaida for the killing as speculation ran wild.

TNC Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jilil told Radio France Internationale that four judges acting on their own had summoned Younis — suspected as a double agent by some — to Benghazi for questioning before his murder.