A team of Navy SEALs boarded and took control of an oil tanker carrying Libyan oil, southeast of Cyprus, at the request of the Libyan and Cypriot governments, the Defense Department said in a statement Monday.
Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said the SEALs boarded the Morning Glory on Sunday night local time in international waters; the vessel was seized earlier this month by three armed Libyans.
"The SEAL team embarked and operated from the guided missile destroyer USS Roosevelt," Kirby said in the statement.
NPR's Leila Fadel reported on the operation for our Newscast unit. She said:
"Anti-government rebels who control three vital ports in the east had sold and loaded the crude oil onto the tanker bypassing the central government's authority. The rebel group wants their share of Libya's oil wealth and more autonomy in the east. The move embarrassed an already weak central government."
No one was hurt in the operation, which was approved by President Obama, the Pentagon statement said. The tanker was headed back to a Libyan port to return the oil.
The New York Times reports that the Morning Glory was sailing under a North Korean flag, but that country disavowed any role in the operation. The newspaper added:
"News reports have said it was operated by a company based in Alexandria, Egypt, and that after leaving Libyan waters it appeared to have sailed the Mediterranean in search of a buyer for its oil."
Already in the news for a recall involving 1.6 million small vehicles with faulty ignition switches, General Motors on Monday added 1.2 million SUVs and nearly 400,000 other vehicles to its list of models with problems that need fixing.
The new recalls, which GM has listed here:
— "1.18 million Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia models from the 2008-2013 model years, Chevrolet Traverse from the 2009-2013 model years, and Saturn Outlook from the 2008-2010 model years." According to the company, the problem stems from what can happen if drivers don't pay attention to the "service air bag warning light." If that light's ignored too long, GM says, the air bags will be disabled.
— "303,000 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana [commercial vans] from the 2009-2014 model years with gross vehicle weight under 10,000 pounds." They need to have more protection built into their instrument panels for passengers who aren't wearing seat belts.
— "63,900 Cadillac XTS full-size sedans from the 2013 and 2014 model years." There's a problem with the brakes that GM says "could lead to overheating, melting of plastic components and a possible engine compartment fire."
The company says it has set aside $300 million this quarter to account for the costs of those repairs as well as the fixes to the small vehicles' ignition switches. It says the need for the latest recalls emerged after new CEO Mary Barra's "request for a comprehensive internal safety review."
The Detroit Free Press reminds readers that GM "is facing four investigations over the timeliness of its reporting to federal safety regulators reports of crashes or deaths that may have been caused by defective ignition switches on 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalts, Pontiac G5s, 2003-07 Saturn Ions, 2006-07 Chevrolet HHR SUVs and Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky sports cars."
As Morning Edition reported last week, the faulty ignition switches "have been linked to a dozen deaths. GM has had information about the defect for more than a decade."
General Motors has also been the focus of a safety group's allegation that 303 people died in crashes of those small vehicles when their air bags failed. But as the Free Press has also reported, that group's study has been challenged by other researchers and "death counts can be misleading in the midst of a recall" because the fatalities might be attributable to factors other than the cause of the recalls.
Other automakers have their issues too, of course. Among the most recent: Honda is recalling nearly 800,000 Odyssey minivans because of a danger that a leaky fuel pump could cause a fire.
Green food may mean party time in America, where St. Patrick's Day has long been an excuse to break out the food dye. But in Ireland, where the Irish celebrate their patron saint on March 17, green food has bitter connotations that recall the nation's darkest chapter, says historian Christine Kinealy.
The reason, Kinealy explains, is the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, which forced so many Irish to flee mass starvation in their homeland in search of better times in America and elsewhere. Those who stayed behind turned to desperate measures.
"People were so deprived of food that they resorted to eating grass," Kinealy tells The Salt. "In Irish folk memory, they talk about people's mouths being green as they died."
At least a million Irish died in the span of six years, says Kinealy, the founding director of Ireland's Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. Which is why, for an Irishwoman like Kinealy, who hails from Dublin and County Mayo, the sight of green-tinged edibles intended as a joyous nod to Irish history can be jolting, she says.
"Before I came to America, I'd never seen a green bagel." She says. "For Irish-Americans, they think of dying food green, they think everything is happy. But really, in terms of the famine, this is very sad imagery."
Of course, Americans have long embraced St. Patrick's Day traditions that might bemuse the folks back in Ireland, where festivities are a lot more subdued, Kinealy notes.
For instance, St. Paddy's Day Parades? Those originated here in the late 1700s. (George Washington was known to give his Irish soldiers the day off so they could join the celebrations, she says.)
And that quintessential dish of the holiday, corned beef — it may be delicious, but it's most definitely not Irish.
As Smithsonian.com noted last year, in Gaelic Ireland, cows were a symbol of wealth and a sacred animal, kept more for their milk than their meat - which was only consumed once an animals' milking days were over. In the Irish diet, meat meant pork. It wasn't until Britain conquered most of Ireland that Irish "corned beef" came into existence — to satisfy the beef-loving English.
"Ironically, the ones producing the corned beef, the Irish people, could not afford beef or corned beef for themselves," Smithsonian notes.
Funny enough, the Irish didn't learn to love corned beef until coming to America - where they picked up the taste from their Jewish neighbors in the urban melting pot of New York City.
But these days, even the Irish back in the homeland have to come to accept this Irish-American dietary quirk, Kinealy says. As tourist season revs up and Americans head to the Emerald Isle to celebrate St. Paddy's Day, "a lot of pubs in Ireland will offer corned beef because they know the tourists like it. It's come full circle."
Researchers say they've discovered that gravitational waves rippled through the fabric of space time in the first sliver of a second after the Big Bang, the first direct evidence for a mysterious ultra-rapid expansion at the dawn of the universe. If confirmed, it would represent one of the most profound insights in decades to emerge from the field of cosmology.
Scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics used an experiment known as Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization (BICEP2), which involves a telescope based at the South Pole, to detect waves in the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background at just 10-35 of a second after the Big Bang some 13.8 billion years ago.
How small a moment is that? For the 13.7 blog, astrophysicist Adam Frank defines it as " decimal point with 35 zeros after it, which looks like this: T = 0.00000000000000000000000000000000001 second."
Among the most important implications of the discovery would be for what's called inflation theory, an idea first posited in the 1980s by physicist Alan Guth.
Inflation, according to Frank, who did not take part in the research, is something that can be thought of as an "inflating balloon" in which a tiny pocket of space-time is stretched to become the entire observable universe.
"The violence of the early universe was so extreme that it would leave space-time itself ringing like a bell. Almost as soon as inflation was proposed some scientists predicted that in would leave a 'gravity wave' signature," Frank says.
That first microsecond came well before the galaxies, stars and planets that make up our familiar present-day universe.
As The Associated Press writes: "Right after the Big Bang, the universe was a hot soup of particles. It took about 380,000 years to cool enough that the particles could form atoms, then stars and galaxies. Billions of years later, planets formed from gas and dust that were orbiting stars. The universe has continued to spread out."
Theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, at Arizona State University, said that if verified, the discovery "gives us a window on the universe at the very beginning."
"It's just amazing," he is quoted by the AP as saying. "You can see back to the beginning of time."
Attorneys general from 28 states are urging drugstores and large retailers to stop selling tobacco products. In letters sent to Kroger, Wal-Mart, and other store chains, the officials ask companies to follow the example of pharmacy chain CVS, which announced last month that it's ending tobacco sales.
The bipartisan group of officials sent signed letters to leaders of five of the country's biggest retailers whose stores include pharmacies: Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Safeway, and Kroger. They warned that selling tobacco in the stores "normalizes" the products, potentially undermining anti-smoking campaigns.
NPR's Joel Rose reports for our Newscast unit:.
"The letters argue that it is contradictory for pharmacies and drugstores that offer health care services to also sell 'dangerous and devastating tobacco products.'
"New York's Eric Schneiderman and Ohio's Mike DeWine led the bipartisan group, which also includes attorneys general from Arizona, Connecticut and Illinois.
"The letters do not explicitly mention the possibility of legal action if stores decline to ban tobacco products. They simply urge the companies to follow the lead of drugstore chain CVS, which is voluntarily removing tobacco from its stores."
The attorneys general describe a need to prevent young Americans from taking up smoking, as well the risks of second-hand smoke. They say at least 480,000 preventable deaths were caused by tobacco-related diseases last year.
A letter sent to Kroger states, "Health care costs and productivity losses attributable to smoking cost the nation at least $289 billion each year."
More from the letter:
"There is a contradiction in having these dangerous and devastating tobacco products on the shelves of a retail chain that services health care needs. The availability of such products in a retail store that also serves as a pharmacy normalizes tobacco use; furthermore, selling tobacco products in the same store as smoking-cessation products is likely to increase impulse tobacco purchases among those trying to quit and undermines their efforts. In a recent year, nearly 70 percent of smokers said they wanted to quit; however, only approximately 4 percent were able to do so."