Briefs 0112


France launches military operations against Mali extremists

BAMAKO, Mali — France launched a military operation Friday to help the government of Mali defeat al-Qaida-linked militants who captured more ground this week, dramatically raising the stakes in the battle for this vast desert nation.

French President Francois Hollande said his country acted because the “terrorists are a threat to France, to Europe and the world.” He vowed that the operation in Mali would last “as long as necessary.”

France said it was taking the action in Mali at the request of President Dioncounda Traore, who declared a state of emergency because of the militants’ advance.

The arrival of the French troops in their former colony came a day after the Islamists moved the closest yet toward territory still under government control and fought the Malian military for the first time in months, seizing the strategic city of Konna.

For the past nine months, the Islamic militants have controlled a large swath of northern Mali, a lawless desert region where kidnapping has flourished.

CDC: Nearly all states now reporting widespread flu

NEW YORK — Flu is more widespread across the nation, but the number of hard-hit states has declined, health officials said Friday.

Flu season started early this winter, and includes a strain that tends to make people sicker. Health officials have forecast a potentially bad flu season, following last year’s unusually mild one. The latest numbers, however, hint that the flu season may already have peaked in some spots.

Flu was widespread in 47 states last week, up from 41 the week before, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday. Many cases may be mild. The only states without widespread flu are California, Mississippi and Hawaii.

The hardest hit states fell to 24 from 29, with large numbers of people being treated for flu-like illness. Dropped off that list were Florida, Arkansas and South Carolina in the South, the first region hit this flu season.

Recent flu reports have included the holidays when some doctor’s offices were closed, so it will probably take a couple more weeks to know if the flu has peaked in some places or grown stronger in others, CDC officials said Friday.

After fire, fuel leak, FAA to conduct review of Boeing’s 787

WASHINGTON — The government stepped in Friday to assure the public that Boeing’s new 787 “Dreamliner” is safe to fly, even as it launched a comprehensive review to find out what caused a fire, a fuel leak and other worrisome incidents this week.

Despite the incidents, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood declared, “I believe this plane is safe, and I would have absolutely no reservations about boarding one of these planes and taking a flight.” Administrator Michael Huerta of the Federal Aviation Administration said his agency has seen no data suggesting the plane isn’t safe but wanted the review to find out why safety-related incidents were occurring.

The 787 is the aircraft maker’s newest and most technologically advanced airliner, and the company is counting heavily on its success. It relies more than any other modern airliner on electrical signals to help power nearly everything the plane does. It’s also the first Boeing plane to use rechargeable lithium ion batteries, which charge faster and can be molded to space-saving shapes compared to other airplane batteries. The plane is made with lightweight composite materials instead of aluminum.

A fire ignited Monday in the battery pack of an auxiliary power unit of a Japan Airlines 787 empty of passengers as the plane sat on the tarmac at Boston’s Logan International Airport. Also this week, a fuel leak delayed a flight from Boston to Tokyo of another Japan Airlines 787.

By wire sources