New York, Jul 3 (AP/UNB) — Fifty-two people became U.S. citizens on Tuesday during a naturalization ceremony held at New York's 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
Families and friends of the new citizens waved American flags as a recording of the song "God Bless the USA" by country singer Lee Greenwood reverberated through the crowd.
"As citizens of this great country, American history is now your history," U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli told participants. "Our American future is yours to help shape. And we expect you to help shape it."
Republican President Donald Trump congratulated the new citizens, who hailed from 28 countries, in a video message.
"I didn't expect this feeling of mine. So now I'm really an American citizen — and so happy about that," said 56-year-old Ancilla Alforque Abella, a native of the Philippines.
Dahsong Kim, whose family came to the U.S. from South Korea when she was 6 years old, mixed a little pragmatism with her happiness. She noted that her friends have been saying, "Welcome to America."
But the 34-year-old attorney corrected them: "And I'm like — 'well, no, I've actually been an American this entire time.'"
The difference, she said, is that she's now an American "on paper."
"I wanted to make it known ... that immigrants are Americans too. And I hope that sort of plays out in my story in some way," she said.
Felix Maria Castillo Lachapelle, who came from the Dominican Republic, said he now will enjoy "democracy that I did not have before."
Other new citizens came from Albania, Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Cuba, Dominica, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, India, Iraq, Jamaica, Kosovo, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Venezuela.
Honolulu, Jul 3 (AP/UNB) — Federal officials raised the alert level Tuesday for the world's largest active volcano, Hawaii's Mauna Loa, which last erupted in 1984.
The U.S. Geological Survey changed the level from "normal" to "advisory" following a steady increase in earthquakes and ground swelling that began in March.
An eruption is not imminent, but scientists are closely monitoring Mauna Loa because of its reputation for "evolving very quickly" and sending lava far and wide, USGS research geophysicist Ingrid Johanson told The Associated Press in a phone interview last month.
"Lava can go from the rift down to the ocean on the west side of Mauna Loa on the order of a couple hours," Johanson said. "The rate of the eruption is just really fast."
Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since 1843.
Its lava flows have stretched to the south and west coasts eight times and neared Hilo, on the east side, seven times. During its last eruption, lava flows came within 4.5 miles (7.2 kilometers) of Hilo, the Big Island's largest city.
The alert level on Mauna Loa was last raised to advisory in 2015. A similar period of increased activity occurred around 2004, but the USGS Volcano Alert Level system was not yet in place at that time.
"Advisory" is the second of four alert levels and means scientists have detected elevated activity or unrest. The next level, "watch," means there is heightened activity with more potential for eruption or that an eruption is ongoing but poses little threat. The highest level, "warning," means a dangerous eruption is imminent or underway.
An alert-level change is not something the USGS does lightly, said Janet Babb, an agency geologist and spokeswoman. It must balance the need to keep people informed and the risk of causing panic. "A lot of discussion goes into it because it has ramifications," Babb said.
Mauna Loa currently is experiencing 50 to 75 earthquakes a week, a steady increase since March when there was a pronounced change. And the bulging of the ground, known as deformation, indicates magma is entering the volcano's plumbing system.
Yet gas emissions have been low and steady in recent months, and "that tells us that there isn't magma rising to very shallow depths," Johanson said.
And scientists would expect to see 50 to several hundred earthquakes per day — not per week — ahead of an eruption, USGS volcanologist and geologist Frank Trusdell said.
"It's above background, but it isn't the amount of earthquakes we would expect to see prior to an eruption," Trusdell said.
Mauna Loa's smaller neighbor to the south, Kilauea, has long been the world's most active volcano.
It made headlines last year as molten rock exploded from its flank in one of its largest eruptions in recorded history. More than 700 Big Island homes were destroyed and thousands of people were displaced.
Trusdell said there is historical evidence of a "general correlation" between the two volcanoes.
"If you look at the long-term eruptive history of both volcanoes, when one volcano in the past was active, it seems like the other volcano was quiet," Trusdell said.
Kilauea stopped erupting for the first time in more than 30 years in 2018.
But "it is not as if Kilauea is stealing Mauna Loa's volume," he said. "It has more to do with the interaction and the buttressing of the volcanoes."
Mauna Loa and Kilauea are fed by different portions of a hot spot deep within the Earth's crust, but Mauna Loa basically rests up against Kilauea and both volcanoes are sliding to the south. When Kilauea stops moving, it can cause pressure to build in Mauna Loa.
"With the eruption over in (Kilauea's) east rift zone, maybe the flank will stop," Trusdell said. "Then Mauna Loa's flank will buttress up against the immobile Kilauea and the trickle of magma that has been feeding the volcano will build positive pressure and drive an eruption."
But there have been times that both volcanoes have erupted simultaneously, and there are other factors at play, Trusdell said.
At the beginning of the 2018 Kilauea eruption, a large earthquake struck the Big Island and destabilized the entire region.
Trusdell said if the theory is correct and the motion caused by the 6.9 magnitude earthquake isn't that significant, Mauna Loa could be "reawakening."
But it's too early to be certain, he warned.
"The last time we had a large earthquake like this it took a decade for the flank to decelerate," Trusdell said. "It could be that this complicates that simple relationship of one volcano buttressing against the other because the flank is still moving."
Dallas, Jul 2 (AP/UNB) — Federal investigators said Monday that they have started analyzing the cockpit voice recorder from a small plane that struck a hangar after taking off from a suburban Dallas airport, and local officials have released the names of six of the 10 people killed in the fiery crash.
Two crew members and eight passengers died when the Beechcraft BE-350 King Air crashed into the unoccupied building Sunday morning at Addison Municipal Airport, north of Dallas.
Clay Jenkins, the top Dallas County official who presides over the board of commissioners, said Monday evening that the medical examiner's office confirmed 52-year-old Brian Mark Ellard, 58-year-old Stephen Lee Thelen, 28-year-old Matthew Palmer, 15-year-old Alice Maritato and 13-year-old Dylan Maritato were among those killed. Jenkins said in a tweeted statement that the names of the other victims would be released after officials identified their remains and informed their families.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Diocese of Dallas identified a sixth victim as Ornella Ellard. The diocese said the woman was the mother of Alice and Dylan Maritato, and that the teens attended area Roman Catholic schools. It said Brian Ellard was the teens' stepfather.
The plane was scheduled to fly to St. Petersburg, Florida. Witnesses and local authorities said the aircraft struggled to gain altitude then veered into the hangar not far from a busy commercial strip and densely populated residential neighborhoods.
National Transportation Safety Board officials said at a news conference Monday afternoon that the cockpit voice recorder was being analyzed at the board's laboratory in Washington. Comments between pilots and background noise from recorders sometimes helps investigators understand what went wrong.
The private plane was not required to have a flight data recorder, a device that tracks the performance of virtually every system on board. The fire was so intense that investigators only know that the landing wheels were still in their down position when the plane struck the hangar. The rest of the craft was destroyed.
Without a flight data recorder and with little of the plane remaining, NTSB investigators will rely on physical evidence at the crash site, videos, radar information and witness accounts to determine the cause of the crash.
"NTSB has been doing accident analysis for a very long time, and usually we can get pretty close," said board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg.
Todd DeSimone, the general manager of Chicago-based jet charter company Planemasters, said Monday that he sold the plane to a company based in Addison called EE Operations.
No one has responded to a message left at a phone number associated with EE Operations. The company's agent in Delaware, where EE Operations is registered, said it would forward a request for comment.
Federal Aviation Administration records list an Addison business address for the company. A receptionist at the building said through an intercom that she could not comment on the crash and declined to let a reporter inside Monday afternoon.
The twin-engine plane's tail number, N511EF, was registered in April, FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said Monday. The FAA registry confirmed that the plane was registered to EE Operations.
The pilots used the plane's previous tail number in radio communications Sunday and for the flight plan, said Lunsford, who added that questions about why they were using the old number would be addressed in the investigation.
Edward Martelle, a spokesman for the town of Addison, said the plane was taking off at the south end of the airport and had just lifted off the runway when it veered left, dropped its left wing and went into the hangar.
David Snell, who was getting ready to fly from Addison with a friend Sunday morning, told KDFW-TV that the plane didn't sound right on takeoff.
"It looked like it was clearly reduced power. I didn't know if it was on purpose or not, but then, when the plane started to veer to the left, you could tell it couldn't climb. My friend and I looked at each other and we're like, 'Oh my God. They're going to crash,'" Snell said.
Air-traffic control tower audio from around the time of the crash does not capture any pilot indicating an emergency or trouble with a plane. But pilots waiting to take off soon thereafter can be heard seeking updates and being told repeatedly to wait.
The plane went down a week after another fatal crash involving a Beechcraft King Air.
On June 21, a different model crashed shortly after takeoff in Hawaii, killing 11 people in the deadliest civil aviation accident since 2011. The skydiving plane also rolled to one side just after takeoff. It became inverted and crashed a short distance from the runway, the NTSB said. It was engulfed in flames and everyone on board died.
Although the registered owner remained the same, the aircraft had recently relocated to Hawaii after it was involved in a 2016 accident in California that left it with significant damage.
Landsberg said the NTSB is not in a position to make any comparisons between the two crashes yet.
"They're different types of aircraft and we take each accident on its own," Landsberg said. "Obviously at some point there might be further analysis of various makes and models, but these are two completely different models."
Textron Aviation, the manufacturer of Beechcraft planes, is working with the NTSB in the agency's investigation of the Addison crash and is prohibited from offering further comment, company spokeswoman Stephanie Harder said Monday.
Lunsford, the FAA spokesman, said "it's still too early to draw any conclusions about any apparent similarities between this accident and any others."
While officials said they were examining records for the pilots involved in the Texas crash and the plane's maintenance, they did not give any information on either. The plane was 2 years old and would have undergone two annual inspections, Landsberg said.
United Nations, Jul 2 (AP/UNB) — The U.N. envoy for Myanmar said Monday that progress on alleviating the crisis that led more than 720,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh has been slow and if there is no action it will be time to "ring the alarm bell."
Christine Schraner-Burgener was responding to frustrated speeches and questions from many countries — from Bangladesh to Saudi Arabia to the United States — on the lack of progress in returning Rohingya nearly two years after they fled a violent crackdown by Myanmar's military.
She told the General Assembly there are "not a lot of changes on the ground," pointing to "many challenges" including Myanmar's civilian leaders having "to navigate an extremely difficult environment in which the military continues to have considerable political influence."
In addition, Schraner-Burgener said, "immense complexities" inside the country have been "an impediment" in addition to the Rohingya crisis. She cited Myanmar's 70 years of isolation, 21 armed groups still operating in the country, a lack of development, drug production and human trafficking.
She said her highest priority remains "ending the vicious cycle of discrimination and violence, especially in Rakhine," the western state that was home to the Rohingya who fled — and where she said 128,000 displaced Rohingya languish in camps, many for nearly seven years.
As a first step, Schraner-Burgener called for more to be done to end fighting in Rakhine between Myanmar's military and the Arakan Army, a well-trained guerrilla force from the Buddhist ethnic group seeking autonomy for Rakhine. She said the fighting has displaced 30,000 Buddhists and Muslims.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long considered the Rohingya to be "Bengalis" from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.
The long-simmering Rohingya crisis exploded in August 2017 when Myanmar's military launched what it called a clearance campaign in Rakhine in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. The campaign led to the mass Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh and to accusations that security forces committed mass rapes and killings and burned thousands of homes.
Amnesty International accused Myanmar's military in late May of a new round of widespread human rights violations in its battles against the Arakan Army since January 2019. The rights group said the military carried out indiscriminate killings of civilians as well as arbitrary arrests and torture, but it also said the Arakan rebels committed abuses against civilians including kidnappings though on a lesser scale.
Schraner-Burgener said the fighting involving the Arakan Army "is having a devastating impact on all local communities caught in the crossfire, independent of their religious or ethnic background." And "it is also further impacting efforts toward the dignified, voluntary and safe return of refugees," she said.
U.S. deputy political coordinator Elaine French expressed deep concern that little progress has been made in improving conditions in Rakhine, "while the military's conflict with the Arakan Army continue to escalate and civilian casualties rise by the day."
The United States agrees with the U.N. that conditions aren't conducive for Rohingya refugees to return, she said, and the government's suspension of internet service in Rakhine "casts further doubt on its commitment to creating conditions that allow people to feel they can live in safety and security."
Schraner-Burgener said that while there have not been "a lot of changes on the ground ... we have to continue because we want to see people who go back have freedom of movement" and access to health and education.
She told diplomats critical of the lack of progress: "I assure you also that I need to see action on the ground. If I don't see action, I will raise this and will also ring the alarm bell."
In a positive step, Schraner-Burgener said Myanmar has produced a draft national strategy to close camps for displaced Rohingya with support from international experts, the U.N. and others. But she stressed that this must be part of a larger effort that deals with their freedom to move, get jobs and receive basic services.
Myanmar's U.N. ambassador, Hau Do Suan, said the government has approved the return of about 13,000 Rohingya from Bangladesh, from two lists totaling over 30,000 Rohingya, and plans to send a high-level delegation to Cox's Bazar to explain arrangements for repatriation.
Despite challenges involving development, human rights and security including Arakan Army attacks, he said, Myanmar is determined to continue efforts "to build peace, stability, harmony and development in Rakhine state."
Rio De Janeiro, Jul 1 (AP/UNB) — Supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro turned out by the thousands Sunday in several Brazilian cities to defend the government and its justice minister, who faces accusations that he acted improperly while overseeing corruption allegations as a judge.
Justice Minister Sergio Moro tweeted acknowledgment of the crowds, saying "I see. I hear," along with photos of a mass rally in Rio de Janeiro.
The online news site The Intercept published leaked messages that it says show Moro while a judge worked too closely with prosecutors in going after leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Moro convicted da Silva of corruption.
Demonstrators said they doubted the content of the leaks and suggested they were part of an effort to end the sweeping crackdown on corruption that Moro led.