Troubled contractor agrees to export-violation fines

The troubled security firm formerly known as Blackwater will pay $42 million in fines to settle thousands of violations of U.S. export control regulations, according to The New York Times.

The newspaper reported on its website Friday that the Moyock, N.C.-based company now known as Xe Services reached a settlement agreement with the State Department.

The alleged violations included providing sniper training for Taiwanese police officers, illegal weapons exports to Afghanistan and making unauthorized proposals to train troops in south Sudan, the newspaper said. The State Department requires government approval before the transfer of certain types of military technology or knowledge to other countries.

A Xe spokeswoman confirmed the deal to The Associated Press but did not immediately know the amount. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said he was unaware of the settlement and had no comment.

The settlement involves practices from before Blackwater was rebranded as Xe Services.


Israel calls on Lebanon to block ships to Gaza

Israel urged Lebanon and the international community on Friday to prevent ships from sailing to Gaza from the Lebanese port of Tripoli to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory.

Israeli U.N. Ambassador Gabriela Shalev said in letters to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council that her country reserves the right under international law “to use all necessary means” to prevent the ships from violating the naval blockade.

Shalev said a group of individuals “with suspected ties to the Hezbollah terrorist organization” has announced that the vessel Mariam will depart from Tripoli on Sunday en route to Gaza via a port in Cyprus.

In Tripoli, activist Samar al-Hajj said the Mariam will be carrying medicine and that all the passengers will be women activists.

Al-Hajj said Lebanon’s president, prime minister and parliament speaker refused to meet with her, which appeared to signal the government’s lack of support for the venture.


Pakistan thanks world for giving to flood victims

Pakistan thanked the world Friday for opening its wallets and said more than 20 million flood victims now know that nations and people around the globe are standing with them during the worst disaster the country has ever faced.

Wrapping up a two-day meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, Pakistani U.N. Ambassador Abdullah Haroon said the initial outpouring from some 70 countries was “a good beginning.”

At the start of the meeting Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said donors had given just half of the $460 million the U.N. appealed for to provide food, shelter and clean water for to up to 8 million flood victims over the next three months. He insisted all the money was needed now.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said at the end of Thursday’s session that he was assured the $460 million goal “is going to be easily met,”

But U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes said after Friday’s session ended that the U.N. appeal wasn’t fully funded yet. “At the moment, we’re about 70 percent funded, about $350 million,” he said.

PORTIMAO, Portugal

Dutch teenager set to leave on solo world sailing trip

A 14-year-old Dutch girl will set off today on a controversial attempt to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world, her representatives said.

Laura Dekker’s ambition to complete the yearlong trip has fueled a global debate over the wisdom of allowing young sailors to take on the tremendous risks of sailing the high seas alone.

The girl who grew up on a sailboat faces a host of challenges –including favorable winds to send her across the Atlantic Ocean from her jumping-off point in a marina in the resort city of Portimao at the southwestern tip of Portugal.

Late Friday, seas were so calm that the ocean looked like a mirror, and Laura was still out in her boat, performing last-minute tests on her red-hulled 38-foot yacht, Guppy.




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