By JULIAN E. BARNES

The Pentagon is repositioning warships and planes in the waters off Libya to be ready to enforce a no-fly zone or deliver humanitarian aid, military officials said Monday.

By shifting Naval and air forces in the Mediterranean, the U.S. is preparing the groundwork for possible intervention in the civil war that has engulfed Libya. In recent days, U.S. military leaders have been planning for a range of options, in the event the White House steps up the U.S. response.

“I think it’s safe to say as part of that we’re repositioning forces to be able to provide for that flexibility once decisions are made…to be able to provide options and flexibility,” Col. David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters on Monday.

Pentagon officials have been loathe to spell out specific contingency plans they are considering for Libya, but officials have acknowledged that they are preparing for humanitarian missions as well as a campaign to forcibly ground Libyan military aircraft.

International support appears to be growing for a coordinated effort to prevent Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from using helicopters or fighter planes to fire on protesters or the rebel army.

In Geneva Monday, foreign ministers from the U.S., Italy, France, the U.K. and Germany discussed the no-fly option, as well as the possibility of creating a humanitarian area in Libya under United Nations control.

The ministers, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, also demanded that Mr. Gadhafi step down.

Military officials said Navy ships and Air Force planes were being repositioned closer to Libya. But, for security reasons, the officials would not provide additional details.

Ms. Clinton said the U.S. was exploring “all possible options for action.”

The U.S. does not currently have any aircraft carriers or big-deck amphibious ships in the Mediterranean.

The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise went through the Suez Canal and entered the Red Sea on Feb 15. Although there are no plans to send the ship back to the Mediterranean, the fighter jets based on the carrier could be used to assist in a Libyan no-fly zone, as long as Egypt granted permission for the planes to pass through its air space, a military official said.

Write to Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com

Continue reading here: Pentagon Repositions Naval Forces Off Libya – Wall Street Journal

Oscar audience down, telecast widely panned – Reuters

On February 28, 2011, in Entertainment, Latest News, Television, by ayesha

LOS ANGELES | Mon Feb 28, 2011 12:47pm EST LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Television audiences for Sunday’s Oscar ceremony fell about seven percent compared to a year ago, according to early ratings data on Monday from major U.S. cities.

LOS ANGELES |
Mon Feb 28, 2011 12:47pm EST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Television audiences for Sunday’s Oscar ceremony fell about seven percent compared to a year ago, according to early ratings data on Monday from major U.S. cities.

Television critics widely panned the Oscar telecast, which was hosted for the first time by actors Anne Hathaway and James Franco in what was seen as a bid by organizers to attract younger viewers.

But the 3-/2 hour show, which awarded royal movie “The King’s Speech” best film honors and three other Oscars, held up well in the 18-49 demographic most coveted by advertisers, according to Nielsen figures.

The number of total U.S. viewers will be released later on Monday by Nielsen. But Sunday’s ceremony broadcast on ABC was already the most-watched TV show of the night, with more than double the audience of other TV networks combined.

Last year, the Oscars were watched by 41.7 million viewers in the United States — the largest TV audience for the ceremony in five years.

Reviews of Sunday’s efforts by Hathaway — at 28 the youngest host in Oscar history, and Franco, 32, the Oscar-nominated star of “127 Hours” — were harsh.

The Hollywood Reporter said the ceremony “could go down as one of the worst Oscar telecasts in history.”

The New York Times said “the prolonged effort to pander to younger viewers was downright painful” at times, while the Boston Herald remarked sourly that “references to the Internet, apps and Facebook do not make a show trendy, or alas, entertaining.”

Time magazine said the experiment of using actors rather than traditional comedians had largely failed, while Franco in particular “seemed to retreat into a haze, smirking, squinting and clasping his hands in front of him.”

Entertainment Weekly, however, said Hathaway and Franco were “marvelous Oscar hosts” calling them “funny, poised, relaxed, and smart.”

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

Continue reading here: Oscar audience down, telecast widely panned – Reuters

Texas fires scorch homes, force evacuations – Reuters

On February 28, 2011, in Latest News, by nadia

LUBBOCK, Texas | Mon Feb 28, 2011 12:41pm EST LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) – Wildfires fanned by high winds scorched more than 120,000 bone-dry acres across West Texas, destroying dozens of homes and a dog kennel and forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate, authorities said on Monday.

LUBBOCK, Texas |
Mon Feb 28, 2011 12:41pm EST

LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) – Wildfires fanned by high winds scorched more than 120,000 bone-dry acres across West Texas, destroying dozens of homes and a dog kennel and forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate, authorities said on Monday.

One sheriff’s deputy was injured in the Amarillo area, and an unknown number of dogs perished in the kennel fire as firefighters attempted to rescue the animals.

“They stayed as long as they could, and then they just had to open up the kennels,” Amarillo Fire Captain Wes Hall said.

The Texas Forest Service said 80 homes have been destroyed, many around Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle. Evacuations emptied a nursing home in Colorado City, a hospital in San Angelo, and the town of Matador.

“It’s just overwhelming, I just panicked,” said a woman who lost her home to the flames in Matador, a town of 700 people East of Lubbock.

“It was scary. It is something we have never seen in Matador, Texas, before.”

A 5-year-old girl died on Sunday in a highway traffic accident near Midland blamed on blinding smoke. Authorities closed a 60-mile stretch of smoke-choked Interstate highway 20 between Odessa and Big Spring.

“Visibility went to just about zero on Interstate 20 and we have a lot of vehicle pile-ups,” said Lewis Kearney of the Texas Forest Service.

Authorities had yet to determine a cause of the wind-whipped blazes, but the National Weather Service warned tinder-dry conditions would continue through Thursday.

“The winds are so high that we cannot fly any aircraft” to try to control the fires, the Forest Service’s Kearney said. “All of our suppression had to be done by bulldozers.”

Major fires were reported in five Texas counties, and a mandatory evacuation order was place in the panhandle.

Rescue workers drove down dusty back roads to ensure residents were out of the way of the fast-moving flames, said Jim Meador, an official in Motley County.

“The immediate concern right now is the homes that are out in the county, in rural areas, to make sure them folks are all right,” Meador said.

(Reporting by Elliott Blackburn in Lubbock and Jim Forsyth in San Antonio; Editing by Andrew Stern and Jerry Norton)

Continue reading here: Texas fires scorch homes, force evacuations – Reuters

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