8/5/2019 News Briefs

A vendor is illuminated by candle light as she serves customers at her stall during a power outage on Sunday in Jakarta, Indonesia. Indonesia’s sprawling capital and other parts of Java island have been hit by a massive power outage affecting millions of people.

Indonesian capital hit by massive 8-hour power outage

JAKARTA, Indonesia | Indonesia’s sprawling capital and other parts of Java island were hit by a widespread power outage on Sunday that affected tens of millions of people.

The eight-hour blackout began at around noon and caused disruptions in cellphone services and cash machines. The new mass subway system in Jakarta, the capital, had to shut down.

Muhammad Kamal, the spokesman for the company that operates the subway system, said the company managed to safely evacuate all of the passengers who were stuck in trains during the blackout.

Television footage showed that traffic lights went off in Jakarta and other parts of Java, causing traffic problems.

State-owned electricity company PLN’s spokesman Made Suprateka said in a statement that the blackout was caused by problems with a gas turbine at a major power plant and by a disruption at another facility on Java. He said authorities were investigating the cause of the trips in the turbines.

Egypt begins restoration

on King Tut’s golden coffin

CAIRO | Egypt started the first-ever restoration work on a gold-covered sarcophagus of the famed boy pharaoh Tutankhamun, ahead of the country’s new museum opening next year, the antiquities minister said Sunday.

Khaled el-Anany told reporters that work on the outermost coffin, which is made of wood and gilded with gold, is expected to take at least eight months.

He said that’s because “the state of conservation is very fragile, as it was never restored” since 1922, when British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the intact 3,000-year-old tomb and the treasures it held.

The coffin remained in the tomb until July, when it was moved to the new Grand Egyptian Museum, being built near the famed pyramids of Giza outside Cairo.

Tutankhamun ascended the throne at age nine, ruling until his death at age 18 or 19.

Pope Francis encourages priests disheartened

by sex abuse fallout

VATICAN CITY | Pope Francis on Sunday sent a new letter to priests worldwide offering encouragement in light of the global sex abuse scandal that has shaken the Roman Catholic Church.

In a nearly 5,000-word letter sent on the feast day of St. John Vianney, patron of parish priests, the pope on Sunday acknowledged the “pain” of priests who “feel themselves attacked and blamed for crimes they did not commit.”

The pontiff said that priests have shared with him “their outrage at what happened, and their frustration that ‘for all their hard work, they have to face the damage that was one, the suspicion and uncertainty to which it has given rise, and the doubts, fears and disheartenment felt by more than a few.’”

Francis said “without denying or dismissing the harm” caused by the scandals, “it would be unfair not to express our gratitude” to priests who have fulfilled their duties “faithfully and generously.”

Francis said the Church is “fully committed” to reforms to ensure “that the culture of abuse will have no time to develop, much less continue.” He added that “if in the past, omission may itself have been a kind of response, today we desire conversion, transparency, sincerity and solidarity with the victims.”

Iran seizes tanker carrying ‘smuggled fuel’ in Gulf

TEHRAN, Iran | Iranian forces seized a ship in the Persian Gulf suspected of carrying smuggled fuel, state media reported Sunday, marking the Revolutionary Guard’s third seizure of a vessel in recent weeks and the latest show of strength by the paramilitary force amid a spike in regional tensions.

State TV and the semi-official Fars news agency reported that seven crew members were detained when the ship was seized late Wednesday carrying 185,000 gallons of “smuggled fuel” from Iran. The local reports did not provide further details on the vessel or the nationality of the crew.

The news agency reported the ship was seized near Farsi Island, where a Revolutionary Guard naval base is located. The island sits in the Persian Gulf between Saudi Arabia and Iran, north of the Strait of Hormuz.

— From AP reports

Guard commander Gen. Ramazan Zirahi was quoted by Iran’s state TV saying the ship was seized in Iranian territorial waters and had been transporting diesel fuel. State TV and other local media also ran footage of the ship, but did not show any flag or identifying marker for the vessel.

“This foreign vessel had received the fuel from other ships and was transferring it to Persian Gulf Arab states,” Zirahi said in comments carried by Fars new agency.

It was not immediately clear why a ship carrying Iranian fuel would transfer its cargo to energy exporting Gulf states, but smuggling has been a source of concern in Iran. Iranian media reported last month that some 8 million liters of government-subsidized Iranian fuel are smuggled daily to other countries where prices are much higher.

The new claims would make this the third vessel seized by the Guard in the past two weeks, and the second accused of smuggling fuel.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, said it did not have information to confirm the reports. Maritime tracking experts also said they did not have any immediate information about the incident or details on the vessel.

Maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global said that, if confirmed, this is likely to be “another relatively low key interception designed to signal to the West that Iran maintains the capability and intent to exercise its influence” in the Persian Gulf.

Tensions in the Persian Gulf have escalated recently, with the United States boosting its military presence in the region and six oil tankers targeted in the Gulf of Oman in unclaimed acts of sabotage that the U.S. blames on Iran. Iran has denied any involvement in those attacks.

In June, Iran shot down an American surveillance drone in the Strait of Hormuz. President Donald Trump came close to retaliating, but called off an airstrike at the last moment. Washington has since claimed that a U.S. warship downed an Iranian drone in the strait. Iran denies losing any aircraft in the area.

Maritime security in the region was further jolted in mid-July, when Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval forces confirmed they’d seized a United Arab Emirates-based oil tanker, the Panamanian-flagged MT Riah, for allegedly smuggling some 1 million liters (264,000 gallons) of fuel from Iranian smugglers to foreign customers.

Also in July, the Guard seized a British-flagged vessel near the Persian Gulf in the Strait of Hormuz, in what some Iranian officials suggested was retaliation for the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker in a British Royal Navy operation off Gibraltar, near Spain.

The U.K. says the Iranian oil tanker was suspected of violating European Union sanctions on oil shipments to Syria. Iran denies the ship was bound for Syria but has not disclosed its destination. Officials in Spain initially said the tanker was seized upon request from the United States.

The current tensions stem from Trump’s decision last year to withdraw the U.S. from Iran’s 2015 nuclear accord with world powers and impose sweeping sanctions on the country that have crippled its economy. In response, Iran began openly breaching limits set by the nuclear agreement to pressure European signatories to provide economic relief to help offset the sanctions.

Maritime security around the Persian Gulf is of international importance. The Strait of Hormuz sits at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, a shipping channel for one-fifth of all global crude exports. Petroleum products from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain are exported through the strait to countries around the world. Iran also uses the strait for its exports.

Some 67,533 ships sailed through strait last year, according to data from maritime publication Lloyd’s List sourcing research by Russell Group.

Ranjith Raja, a senior analyst at data firm Refinitiv, said this latest seized ship by Iran could be a barge or supply vessel rather than a commercial merchant tanker based on the amount of fuel it was allegedly transporting. Due to the numerous supply vessels operating in the area, it was not possible to pinpoint which ship had been seized, he said.