Aug 10, 2009

Failed rescue: 2 beached whales die off Fla. shore

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Rescuers failed in a frantic bid to save a mother whale and her baby after the pair ran aground off a South Florida beach Monday as hundreds looked on, many in tears. Neither animal survived despite efforts to keep them alive with moist towels and umbrellas to protect their drying skin from the scorching sun.

A team of marine mammal specialists tried to save the distressed whales after they became trapped in shallow waters at Hollywood beach, just north of Miami. The mother died and the calf had to be euthanized, authorities said.

Swimmers spotted the whales around 1 p.m. in waist-deep water and tried to encourage them to head back toward deeper water. The whales briefly swam away, but returned and headed toward the beach.

The mother - which experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration identified as a beaked whale - was about 10 to 12 feet long. The calf was about half her size.

Some placed towels on the whales trying to keep them moist, and volunteers waded into the water and held umbrellas over the animals in hopes of further shielding them from the sun as a summertime crowd of about 300 tourists and residents looked at the somber scene.

After the mother died, the calf was brought next to her and euthanized by a NOAA marine mammal specialist.

"I have tears in my eyes," said Eileen Vulpis of Coral Springs. "Everyone here is upset, everyone really thought they were going to try to save the baby."

Blair Mase, a stranding coordinator for NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, said beaked whales normally do not survive in captivity, and that the calf would have been unable to live without its mother.

Dozens of people with video and still cameras waded into the water, trying to get closer to the whales as authorities kept others back behind yellow police tape. A police helicopter hovered nearby.

Experts will perform necropsies on both whales, Mase said.

Mase said whales can beach themselves for a variety of reasons, including climate conditions, disorientation after hearing a loud noise, sickness and parasites.

There are normally one or two so-called "beaching events" of beaked whales a year in South Florida, according to NOAA experts. But they noted it's still traumatic for beachgoers to witness.

Some in the crowd were parents trying to explain what was happening to their young children.

"Whales tear at our heartstrings," said Mase.

Clinton presses Angola to fight corruption

nited States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses a press conference in Luanda, August 9, 2009.Clinton pressed Angola on Sunday to do more to fight corruption during a two-day visit to the oil-producing country aimed at bolstering ties between the two nations. REUTERS
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed Angola yesterday to do more to fight corruption during a two-day visit to the oil-producing country aimed at bolstering ties between the two nations.

Angola rivals Nigeria as Africa’s biggest oil producer but about two-thirds of the population live on less than $2 a day. It ranks 158th on Transparency International’s 180-nation corruption list.

“Corruption is a problem everywhere and where it exists it undermines people’s faith in democracy, it distorts governance,” Clinton said at a news conference alongside Angolan Foreign Minister Assuncao dos Anjos.

Corruption has been a theme of Clinton’s trip to Africa, echoing US President Barack Obama when he visited Ghana last month. She praised Angola for publishing its oil revenues online and for working with U.S. officials to increase transparency.

“Of course we raised this issue with the minister but I think it is only fair to add that Angola has begun taking steps to increase transparency,” said Mrs Clinton, the first US secretary of state to visit since 2002. A senior US official said Clinton had been very direct in her discussions with the foreign minister regarding Angola’s record on corruption and also urged the African nation to play a bigger role in the region.

“They are moving in the right direction, so its better to encourage them,” the US official said. US-Angolan ties have improved since the end of Angola’s 27-year civil war, during which Washington helped bankroll one of the losing groups, Unita, now the main opposition party.

Unita urged Mrs Clinton to press the government not to delay the first post-war presidential election. (Reuters)

NY pilot who radioed warning: Plane like missile

The wreckage of a helicopter is lifted by crane from the Hudson River and placed on a boat as seen from Hoboken, N.J., Sunday, Aug. 9, 2009. Divers recovered a piece of a submerged helicopter and a fifth body Sunday as investigators searched the Hudson River for wreckage from the helicopter and a small plane that collided in midair, killing nine people.

NEW YORK -- The pilot who radioed a desperate, last-minute warning says a plane that struck a helicopter over the Hudson River "looked like a cruise missile hitting a target."

Ben Lane warned fellow helicopter pilot Jeremy Clarke on Saturday that the plane was bearing down on him.

Lane tells the Daily News that another pilot heard him scream "Watch out! Watch out!"

He doesn't remember screaming. But he does recall seeing a wing and chopper blades falling before both aircraft plummeted, killing nine.

He searched for survivors, but there were none.

Lane says a crash was inevitable along the busy corridor. He says helicopter pilots stay in constant radio contact. But many small plane pilots - he calls them "weekend warriors" - do not.

Typhoon Morakot leaves 6 dead, 3 missing on Chinese mainland

FUZHOU/HANGZHOU, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- Typhoon Morakot has left six people dead and three others missing on the Chinese mainland after a powerful landing in east China Sunday, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said late Monday.

Pedestrians wade through a flooded street in Cangnan, east China's Zhejiang Province, Aug. 10, 2009. Rainfall brought by typhoon "Morakot", the 8th this year, has flooded the county seat of Cangnan.(Xinhua Photo)
Photo Gallery>>>

Four deaths were reported in Zhejiang Province and one each in Fujian Province and Jiangxi Province, the ministry said. Two people in Zhejiang and another in Fujian are missing.

More than 8.8 million people in the three provinces and Anhui Province as well were affected by Morakot, which forced local authorities to relocate 1.4 million.

It toppled more than 6,000 houses and inundated 387,300 hectares of cropland, the ministry said. Direct economic losses have amounted up to 9 billion yuan (1.3 billion U.S. dollars), it said.

Vice Premier Hui Liangyu headed Monday to worst-hit regions in Fujian and Zhejiang to visit residents as well as military and police staff that are fighting the typhoon.

Hui, also head of the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, first visited Xiapu and hard-hit Fuding city upon arriving in Fujian.

He made an on-the-spot inspection of the situation after Typhoon Morakot swept across the region, and visited relocated residents.

Hui asked local governments to be on high alert for flooding, landslides, and mud-rock flows that may occur after heavy rains, and at the same time closely watch the safety of reserviors.

Morakot weakened to become a tropical storm early Monday, yet still caused heavy flooding and grave losses along its path in China.

The Zhejiang Meteorological Station announced Monday that Morakot was slowing and weakening as it was moving northwestward, bringing heavy rain to northern Zhejiang.

In Xiapu county, the typhoon's landing point, at least 136,000 people suffered property losses from flooding and landslides caused by Morakot, which packed winds up to 118 km per hour on its arrival.

Zhang Changjian, deputy county head and director of the county's flood control and drought relief headquarters, said the county's agriculture and fishery industries had been severely battered, with direct losses estimated at 200 million yuan (29 million U.S. dollars).

He said 14 townships were flooded, and eight roads were blocked by floods and landslides.

The county seat of Cangnan is flooded on Aug. 10, 2009 in east China's Zhejiang Province. Rainfall brought by typhoon "Morakot", the 8th this year, has flooded the county seat of Cangnan. (Xinhua Photo)
Photo Gallery>>>

Xie Xiaoping, manager of the Xiapu Power Co. Ltd., said staff had been working around the clock to ensure power supplies, but some villages saw short blackouts.

A total of 155 passenger vessel sailings were cancelled and more than 48,000 vessels were recalled to ports in Fujian, where 505,000 people were evacuated from their homes as authorities raised the typhoon alarm to a red alert, its highest level, Sunday.

Wenzhou City, in Zhejiang, reported the first death in the typhoon on Sunday after three adults and a 4-year-old boy were buried when the torrential rain brought five houses down. After they were rescued, the boy died, according to the city's flood-control headquarters.

In Zhejiang, more than 3.4 million people suffered property losses as hundreds of villages were flooded and more than 1,800 houses collapsed, according to the Provincial Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

In Cangnan, one of Zhejiang's 20 flooded counties, vehicles left parked on main roads were submerged in water measuring 1 meter in depth.

The National Meteorological Center said violent rainstorms would continue in south Jiangsu, southeast Anhui, northeast Jiangxi, Shanghai, most parts of Zhejiang and Fujian, and Taiwan over Monday.

The center issued the highest alert at 6 p.m. Sunday in response to expected rainstorms in these regions, advising people to stop work outdoors, and urging authorities to clear drainage channels in cities and villages.

The center also warned of possible flooding near Taihu Lake, Jiangsu Province, as downpours reached 100 to 130 mm.

The West Lake in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang, was closed Sunday, and navigation along the Qiantang River, one of its tributaries, stopped.


Typhoon Morakot also brought great losses to Taiwan. According to the island's disaster response center, Morakot had killed 12 people and injured 52, while 32 were still missing as of Monday.

Taiwan's meteorological department lifted the typhoon alert at 10 a.m., but continued to forecast rainstorms in the area south of Miaoli County.

Although typhoon Morakot has left Taiwan, the weather conditions on Monday remained unstable and some mountainous areas might have very heavy rainstorms, landslide and flooding, the forecast said.

The mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) expressed sympathy to the Taiwan people who suffered from the typhoon via the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF).

The mainland was deeply concerned with the great losses in Taiwan and conveyed condolences and hoped the Taiwan people could resume normal living and working conditions as soon as possible, said a letter from the ARATS to the SEF on Monday.

Obama underplays Buy American policy

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and U.S. President Barack Obama pose for the official photo at the end of the North American Leaders' Summit in Guadalajara on Aug. 10, 2009. REUTERS

Controversial procurement plan won't endanger trade, U.S. President says as summit with Harper and Calderon wraps up in Mexico
Steven Chase and Josh Wingrove

Guadalajara, Mexico — From Tuesday's Globe and Mail Last updated on Monday, Aug. 10, 2009 11:16PM EDT

Barack Obama is playing down Buy American government procurement policies that exclude Canadian suppliers, suggesting it is an isolated problem and raising hopes that local U.S. governments might cut deals with provinces to expand cross-border bidding.

The always diplomatic U.S. president was telling Canadians, in other words, to stop overreacting.

“I do think it's important to keep this in perspective. This in no way has endangered the billions of dollars of trade taking place between our two countries,” Mr. Obama said Monday as he wrapped up a brief North American Leaders' Summit in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been lobbying Mr. Obama for help in obtaining Canada an exemption from American measures that shut Canadian firms out of the bidding for U.S. state and municipal contracts funded by the President's stimulus package.

The Prime Minister failed to clinch any guarantees during the two-day summit, but Mr. Obama said he believes there could be ways of improving access for provinces to local government procurement in the United States.

“There may be mechanisms whereby states and local jurisdictions can work with the provinces to allow for cross-border procurement practices that expand the trading relationship.”

Canadian municipal leaders who are fighting the Buy American provision were encouraged by the President's comments.

“This is the first time publicly that the President had acknowledged that there is an issue … he's willing to take a look at it, which we have to think is positive,” said Rick Bonnette, Mayor of Halton Hills, Ont. The town of 55,000 spearheaded a Federation of Canadian Municipalities resolution two months ago calling for Canadian products to be included in U.S. stimulus spending. It was signed by about a dozen Canadian municipalities that are threatening to stop buying U.S.-made products
Canadian exporters say they're feeling the pinch. At Hayward Gordon, a Halton Hills company specializing in industrial water pumps, American business that once made up three-quarters of the firm's orders is drying up.

“It's millions of dollars in orders that are starting to pile up,” said John Hayward, the company's second-generation president who believes the worst is yet to come.

“It's about to hit us like a tidal wave,” he said. “I have to compete against American companies here [in Canada] and sometimes lose orders to them, and I can't turn around and compete in the U.S. And there's a hell of a lot wrong with that.”

However, Mr. Obama – busy trying to push through controversial health care reforms, nurse the U.S. economy back to health and secure Afghanistan – made it clear that Buy American provisions are not something that greatly trouble him.

“I want to assure you your Prime Minister raises this with me every time we see each other,” he said after the Three Amigos meetings with Mr. Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon. “[But] I think it's also important to keep it in perspective, that in fact we have not seen some sweeping steps toward protectionism,” he said.

Canadian officials fear that Buy American is a creeping and persistent problem and that U.S. lawmakers may keep passing legislation, beyond the stimulus package, that bars Canadian firms from competing for work. But Mr. Obama gave little indication he considered the procurement barriers a long-term problem, saying while he's no fan of the Buy American provisions, they were simply a drawback of a hastily passed stimulus package.

“It's not a general provision but was it restricted to a very particular aspect of our recovery package,” he said, noting the measure does not break World Trade Organization regulations.

“It was not something that I thought was necessary but it was introduced at a time when we had a very severe economic situation and it was important for us to act quickly and not get bogged down in debates around this particular provision.”

At a mid-west gathering of the Council of State Governments, a policy and networking organization for politicians from across the U.S., several Canadian politicians were pressing more than 500 lawmakers to adopt a resolution opposing the Buy American provisions Monday.

“There was a lot of misunderstanding about these policies among politicians on the state level,” said NDP MP Jim Malloway from the conference in Overland Park, Kansas. “They assumed that their allies in Canada would be excluded from the provisions and were shocked to hear that Canada might be harmed by this.”

The draft resolution, which encourages “local, state and provincial governments to adopt open procurement policies within our regions and between our two countries”, will go to a vote Tuesday morning. Judging by conversations with his U.S. counterparts, Mr. Malloway expects the motion to be adopted with little opposition.

Mr. Harper said he expects to discuss the matter “at greater length” with Mr. Obama in their upcoming meetings – a tête-à-tête at the White House in mid-September and a Group of 20 economic summit later that month.

Days before the meeting, Canada's premiers had signalled they're prepared to strike a new trade deal to open their procurement markets to the United States in return for exemptions from Buy American policies, and put their weight behind Mr. Harper. The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters trade association has also called for an end to the Buy American clause. Mr. Bonnette believes the broad opposition will give Mr. Harper a strong mandate in negotiations.

“Hopefully it will all get ironed out,” the mayor said. “Our companies base their business plans on an integrated market. It's pretty hard to separate one country from the other.”

With a report from Patrick White in Winnipeg

Bayon Information Center opens in Siem Reap, Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- Based in Siem Reap provincial town, Bayon Information Center, serving as a showcasing center that reflects 15-year attainment of JSA/JASA (Japanese organization) in rehabilitating Bayon temple, was officially opened for the public on Aug. 6, the official news agency AKP reported on Monday.

Siem Reap provincial governor Sou Phirin, APSARA Authority General Director Bun Narith and representatives from Japanese Embassy and UNESCO partook in the opening ceremony organized by JASA organization.

The center provides not only information on history and temple sin Angkor area but also other researches as well as international cooperation projects. Photographic and video presentations and verbal explanation are means for showcasing the resources available in the center.

As part of its effort to restore current Angkorean temples, the Japanese government has picked Bayon as key focus given its priceless and unique natures. National conciliation effort represented one of Bayon's most valuable natures.

Cambodia Made It Again into the International Media

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 624

Cambodia made it again into the international media – together with Norway, it may be said.

Norway is hardly known in Cambodia – a small country of only about 4.5 million people compared to Cambodia’s around 14 million. Few people may know that the Norwegian branch of the international group of Save-the-Children fund organizations – Redd Barna – has been co-operating with the Ministry of Education of Cambodia over the years. And the organization Norwegian People’s Aid made it sometimes into the Cambodian press because of its involvement in landmine clearance and other activities related to dealing with landmines.

Since 1992 people from Norway are involved in Cambodia, providing technical assistance to the Cambodian Mine Action Center [CMAC]. But Norwegian People’s Aid does not work only on direct landmine clearance. In 1997, NPA was requested by the local authorities to assist in the resettlement of 5,000 displaced families on mine-free and de-mined land. In January 2007, requested by the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority [CMAA], NPA cooperated in Empowering CMAA, to analyze, plan, and use mine action data.

So far, their program Mines and Explosive Detection Dogs – through the NPA Global Training Center for Mine Detection Dogs co-operating with CMAC – found interest also in the Khmer press.

How is it possible that the people of this small country are involved in such work internationally? What is the background of the Norwegian People’s Aid? Norwegian People’s Aid has developed out of the Norwegian Labor Movement – struggling for their own rights, and extending the same spirit to others: “We support people in their struggle for more power and influence over their own lives and in the development of their societies.” The organization has about 12,000 members all over Norway: organizing work in Norway like First Aid and other emergency services, running receptions centers for refugees, voluntary activities for elderly and disabled people, as well as work against racism.

And the financial basis? A lot comes from individual regular supporters. But the Norwegian Television System is also assisting with fund raising for public concerns by organizing every year a Telethon: one whole Sunday afternoon and evening is dedicated to information about a specific issue, and at the same time, almost every house in the country is visited by volunteers collecting money. In this way, the 4.5 million Norwegians – “financial crisis or not” – collect normally around US$20 million and more millions during a few hours. And in preparation of these events – dedicated to problems of drug addition, physical disabilities, education, de-mining – a lot of further information is in newspapers, on radio, and on TV. In relation to Cambodia, this included recently also information about the conflicts between the residents around the Boeung Kak lake and the business plans of developing high rise buildings and to beautify Phnom Penh.

The Motto of the Kingdom of Norway is “Everything for Norway” – and this pride in their own identity leads to international outreach, support, and cooperation, at present in more than 30 countries, always trying to work with local partners and with local authorities. As for mine action, Norwegian People’s Aid is one of the leading organizations worldwide. But the work in this field of special competence is based on four wider concerns:

- Work against oppression, poverty and unfair distribution of resources.
- Fighting racism and discrimination.
- Working for gender equality, and against violence and abuse.
- Prevention, promoting voluntarism and building competence.

With these goals, the Norwegian People’s Aid found a natural partner in the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization [CDPO], working – in their own words –

“to develop the networks of people with disabilities so as to support, protect, serve and promote their rights, achievements and interests, in order to bring about their fuller participation and equality in society.


People with Disabilities have a right to participate fully and equally in society.

One voice of People with Disabilities.
Empowerment of People with Disabilities.


Develop the networks of people with disabilities so as to support, protect, serve and promote their rights, achievements and interests, in order to bring about their fuller participation and equality in society.

To promote and bring about positive changes in attitudes in Cambodian society towards people with disabilities…”

After a Miss Landmine event had been organized with Norwegian cooperation in 2008 in Africa, in Angola, also a country suffering from decades of civil war and the devastation landmines bring, a similar event was planned and prepared in Cambodia in 2009, with the following goals – with which the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization agreed and they prepared an event together, based on the following convictions: [depending on your browser setting, if you wait several seconds, a "slide show" may start]


- Female pride and empowerment.
- Disabled pride and empowerment.
- Global and local landmine awareness and information.
- Challenge inferiority and/or guilt complexes that hinder creativity-
- historical, cultural, social, personal, Asian, European.
- Question established concepts of physical perfection.
- Challenge old and ingrown concepts of cultural cooperation.
- Celebrate true beauty.
- Replace the passive term ‘Victim’ with the active term ‘Survivor’
- And have a good time for all involved while doing so!

Twenty women have been finally selected, and their pictures were to be displayed in the cultural center of the Meta House in Phnom Penh. They come from the provinces and cities of Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kampot, Kompong Cham,Kompong Chhnang, Kandal, Kep, Kompong Speu, Kompong Thom, Mondolkiri, Pailin, Phnom Penh, Preah Sihanouk, Preah Vihear, Prey Veng, Pursat, Siem Reap, Stung Treng, Svay Rieng, and Takeo.

They range in age between 18 and 48, they survived a mine explosion between 1979 and 2000, they are farmers, or selling cake at a market, work in a factory, or are students. And their pictures show that they are, in spite of having survived a terrible experience, claiming their “right to participate fully and equally in society” according to the Vision of the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization.

This endeavor is sponsored and funded, like many other international activities, by the people of Norway, in this case through the Arts Council Norway (Norsk Kulturråd) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

But Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation of Cambodia prohibited the planned event, as The Mirror reported already on Thursday, 6.8.2009, and the Miss Landmine website said: “all further activities on Cambodian territory are canceled as of today 2 August 2009.”

The Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization followed suit: “We totally support the content of the announcement of the Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation not to support the Miss Landmine contest, because it can create misunderstandings among the public towards the honor of disabled people, especially of disabled women.”

And the Minister of Women’s Affairs declared in The Cambodia Daily, that her Ministry had never given full support to this plan, as had been claimed.

This event brought Cambodia again into the international media: Soon after the prohibition, there was a report broadcast on BBC World Service, and a quick research showed that by now there are are about 250 reports in the media in Argentina, Chile, Denmark, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Lithuania, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, USA, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.

Many of these reports refer also to the pictures on the Miss Landmine website. To look at them, to read the individual short notes of every one of these 20 women standing form many, many more survivors, may explain why this planned event – and its prohibition – finds such wide international interest. What does it mean that the positions taken by the Cambodian authorities on the one side, and the people of Norway who supported the efforts which were welcome in Angola, and which seem to be welcome in the media reports around the world? Even when the language not of all reports can be understood, the pictures speak clearly.

Please recommend us also to your colleagues and friends.

Get the camera ready for this Cambodia Adventure!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

You won’t be able to resist getting snap-happy in Cambodia – the region is a melting pot overflowing with spectacular sights, fascinating history, other-worldly spirituality and unique culture, all fringed by dense jungle.

Tour Cambodia with a five-day extension before one of Contiki’s amazing new Asian itineraries and throw yourself head first into one of the sparkling jewels of South-East Asia. Learn about the genocide of the Khmer Rouge, visit the captivating Angkor Wat, sample traditional deep-fried spiders and delve deep into the country’s heartbeat.

Highlights of this tour include:

•Phnom Penh: discover the city once known as the Pearl of Asia with its broad French-style boulevards, boutique stores and unique local culture

•Siem Reap: travel by tuk-tuk to watch the sun set over one of the most stunning skylines in Asia and visit the floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake by wooden boat

•Angkor Wat: visit one of the biggest religious monuments ever built and marvel in its splendor, which was lost in the jungle for more than 600 years

The 5-day Cambodia Extension tour is priced from $725 per person, twin share (land only). Departures are available until May 2010.

Your amazing Cambodian tour will feature the expertise of local, English-speaking guides to show you the true Cambodian lifestyle and get you up close and personal with South-East Asia’s most unique culture.

This tour is an add-on before you begin one of Contiki’s fabulous new Asian itineraries. Accommodation and most meals are included in the itinerary, with dinners excluded to give you plenty of time to get out and sample the authentic local cuisine.

Contiki has been taking 18 to 35s around the globe to experience far off places and exotic cultures for over 45 years, so they know what young people want. Contiki’s trips include a perfect balance of sightseeing and adventure with loads of free time to experience all the destination has to offer.

Contiki’s 2009 Asia brochures are on travel agent shelves now!

Aug 9, 2009

SKorea doing everything to free citizens in North

The Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea's president said Friday the country is "doing everything it can" to win the release of its citizens detained in North Korea, after former President Bill Clinton brought home two American journalists.

The release of reporters Euna Lee and Laura Ling raised calls for Seoul to do more for five South Koreans being held in the North, one since late March.

With ties between the Koreas at a historic low, Pyonyang has refused to talk about the detainees, and South Korea has ruled out the possibility of sending an envoy to negotiate their release.

South Korean and Japanese officials said Clinton urged the North to free the South Koreans and to address a decades-old abduction of Japanese citizens during his landmark trip to Pyongyang earlier this week that included a rare meeting with leader Kim Jong Il.

"The government is doing everything it can" to win the freedom of a South Korean who worked a joint factory complex in the North and four fishermen abducted when their boat strayed into northern waters, President Lee Myung-bak said via his spokesman. "The government is fully aware of the concern and interest the people have in this issue.

Lee did not elaborate on what measured were being taken, but he added that Seoul and Washington had fully coordinated on the American journalists' release.

Though Pyongyang has publicly refused to talk about the South Koreans it is holding, Seoul's Dong-a Ilbo newspaper reported Friday that the isolated regime had indicated it was willing to negotiate the worker's release when the chairwoman of Hyundai Asan, a South Korean firm with close business ties to the regime, visited Tuesday.

The paper, which cited unidentified government officials, said Hyun's deputy plans to travel to the industrial complex next week, and could bring the detained worker home.

Hyundai Asan denied the report, saying North Korean officials made no mention of the captive worker during the chairwoman's trip. The company said its president could make a routine visit to the North next week.

South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said he is not aware of the North's making such a suggestion. Deputy spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo also said there was no mention of the held worker in a Hyundai Asan report to the government on the chairwoman's trip.

On Thursday, Seoul's Foreign Ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young said he understood that Clinton conveyed to North Korea that the South Korean worker and fishermen "should be released on humanitarian grounds." He said South Korea hasn't heard how the North Koreans reacted.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told reporters that "Clinton urged Kim Jong Il to make progress" on the issue of abducted Japanese nationals. He cited an unidentified senior U.S. government official as the source of the information.

Nine killed as plane and helicopter collide over New York

Nine people were killed when a light plane and a helicopter collided over New York, sending both aircraft plunging into the Hudson River.

New Yorkers enjoying a beautiful summer afternoon watched in horror as the small plane carrying three people including a child clipped the back of the helicopter, which had just taken off on a sightseeing trip with five Italian tourists aboard.

One eyewitness told the NY1 TV he saw a wing come off the plane and the helicopter "fell like a stone" into the river.

Search and rescue craft immediately rushed to the crash site but it quickly became apparent there would be no survivors. Three bodies had been recovered by night fall and officials said they held out no hope of finding survivors.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: "This has changed from a rescue to a recovery mission. There's not going to be a happy ending."

Debbie Hersman, the chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said the helicopter, operated by Liberty Helicopter, a sightseeing helicopter company, had been located and marked with buoys and investigators were using side-scanning radar to try to locate the aircraft.

She said another Liberty pilot had witnessed the crash.

"He saw a small single-engine aircraft approaching from behind (the helicopter). ... He stated that he saw the right wing of the aircraft impact the helicopter," she said.

Witnesses spoke of a 'loud boom' as the aircraft collided, and crashed into the river.

"We heard a really loud crash which sounded like lightning or thunder,"one woman told local media. "They were both falling from the sky."

Witnesses described seeing a low-flying plane smashing into the helicopter, and then wreckage scattering. One of the plane's wings was severed by the impact.

Eyewitness Buzz Nahas told AFP he was the plane without one of its wings "fluttering" into the water.

"There was a loud pop, almost like a car backfire,"he said. "The helicopter dropped like a rock."

Witnesses also spoke of seeing debris - either part of the plane's wing or fragment of the chopper's rotor - fluttering down.

Chunks of debris also fell on the New Jersey side of the river, narrowly missing motorists.

The plane, headed for Ocean City, New Jersey, left Teterboro Airport in New Jersey at 11:54 a.m. (1554 GMT), the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said in a statement. It had landed at the airport 25 minutes earlier with the pilot aboard to pick up two passengers.

New York state Governor David Paterson offered the bereaved his condolences.

"What began as a beautiful day with blue skies has turned into a day of darkness for those who lost someone they love today," he said.

The collision took place in a densely crowded air corridor used by commercial flights, private pilots and tourist helicopters.

It came six months after the now famous successful splash landing in the Hudson by Captain Chesley Sullenberger after his Airbus jet lost power when it hit a flock of wild geese.

New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine called Saturday's accident "devastating" and said that safety measures needed checking.

"All of us in this region also need to take a long and serious look at the circumstances surrounding this crash to ensure that significant air traffic over the Hudson doesn't come at the risk of the safety of New Jersey families who live along the riverfront," he said.