PUNTA ARENAS, Chile – A rare
calm in Antarctic seas and the swift
response by a passing ship helped save
all aboard a Canadian cruise liner that
struck an iceberg in the night and sank,
rescued passengers and experienced
sailors said Saturday.

The MS Explorer, a Canadianoperated
cruiser built in 1969 as a
pioneer among rugged go-anywhere
tourist ships that plied waters from the
Amazon to the Arctic and Antarctic
circles, struck ice Friday, took on
water and dipped beneath the waves
more than 15 hours later.

All 154 passengers and crew spent
hours bobbing in life rafts on chilly
seas before a Norwegian cruise ship
plucked them up shivering but safe
and took them to two military bases on
King George Island for flights out.

American Ely Chang of Urban,
Calif., was among the first to get out
of a Chilean Hercules C-130 in Punta
Arenas, clutching his life jacket like
a precious souvenir and reminder of
anxious hours spent adrift.

“It was very cold, but I’m so happy
because we all survived this, and
everyone’s all right. Now I’m going
home,” he said.

Others in Antarctica counted the
survivors lucky.

“They were fortunate because other
ships just happened to be in the area
and came to their aid rapidly,” said
Lt. Col. Waldemar Fontes, chief of
the small Uruguayan base where the
rescued tourists and crew took shelter
overnight. “The seas were calm and
there weren’t any storms. That doesn’t
happen often in Antarctica.”


MALIBU, Calif. – Fire crews hoped
mild temperatures and gentle winds
Sunday would help them solidify
gains against the sprawling wildfire
that destroyed dozens of homes in this
upscale coastal community.

Hot, powerful winds that fanned the
blaze across 4,720 acres starting early
Saturday were not expected Sunday,
Los Angeles County Fire Inspector
Ron Haralson said.

The fire was about 40 percent
contained, with few flames visible to
the three water-dropping helicopters
deployed over the fire zone, Haralson

Forty-nine homes were destroyed
Saturday by the fast-moving wildfire
pushed by Santa Ana winds. Twentyseven
other homes were damaged
and 10,000 to 14,000 people were

Some residents whose property
made it through last month’s fire unscathed
weren’t so lucky this time.

“This time I lost,” said a soot-covered
Glen Sunyich, who watched his
stucco and tile house he built in 1990
slowly burn to the ground. “It means
that I didn’t build it well enough.”

Investigators had determined that
the fire, which broke out along a dirt
road off a paved highway, was caused
by humans, but had not determined if
it was started intentionally, said county
fire inspector Rick Dominguez.


ALEXANDRIA – Its most virulent
critics have dubbed it “Terror High,”
and 12 U.S. senators and a federal
commission want to shut it down.

The teachers, administrators and
some 900 students at the Islamic Saudi
Academy in Fairfax County have heard
the allegations for years – after the Sept.
11 attacks and then a few years later
when a class valedictorian admitted

he had joined al-Qaida.

Abdalla al-Shabnan, the school’s
director general, said criticism of the
school is based not on evidence, but
on preconceived notions of the Saudi
educational system.

The school, serving grades K-12 on
campuses in Fairfax and Alexandria,
receives financial support from the
Saudi government, and its textbooks
are based on Saudi curriculum. Critics
say the Saudis propagate a severe
version of Islam in their schools.

But al-Shabnan said the school
significantly modified those textbooks
to remove passages deemed intolerant
of other religions.

Most recently, the Religious Freedom
Commission – an independent
federal agency created by Congress
– issued its report, saying it was
rebuffed in its efforts to obtain
textbooks to verify claims they had
been reformed.

The commission recommended that
the academy be shut down until it
could review the textbooks to ensure
they do not promote intolerance.

Since the commission’s report,
the academy has given copies of
its books to the Saudi Embassy,
which then provided them to the
State Department. The commission
is waiting to get the books from the
State Department.

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