A US army major has opened fire on fellow soldiers at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, killing 12 people and injuring 31, officials say.

Base commander Lt Gen Bob Cone said that the gunman had not been killed, as earlier stated, but was in custody.

Major Nidal Malik Hasan identified as the gunman

Two other suspects were questioned, but the army now says only one gunman was involved in the incident.

Lt Gen Cone said the motive for the shooting was not known. One of the dead was a policeman, others were soldiers.

President Barack Obama described it as "a horrific outburst of violence".

Speaking at a press conference in Washington, he said: "It is difficult enough when we lose these brave men and women abroad, but it is horrifying that they should come under fire at an army base on US soil."

He extended his condolences to the families of the victims, adding: "We will make sure that we get answers to every single question about this horrible incident."

The gunman has been named as Major Nidal Malik Hasan. He is now said to be wounded after being shot a number of times, but in a stable condition in custody.

"His death is not imminent," said Lt Gen Cone.

Maj Hasan, aged 39, was a military psychiatrist and was reportedly due to be sent on a mission to Iraq.

His cousin said Maj Hasan - a US-born Muslim - had been resisting such a deployment.

"He hired a military attorney to try to have the issue resolved, pay back the government, to get out of the military. He was at the end of trying everything," Nader Hasan told Fox News.

He also said that Nidal Malik Hasan had been battling racial harassment because of his "Middle Eastern ethnicity".

Prior to Fort Hood, Maj Hasan served as a psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, which treats wounded troops from combat zones.

Witness' account

The shooting had begun at about 1330 (1930 GMT) on Thursday at a personnel and medical centre at Fort Hood, where soldiers who are preparing to deploy go for last-minute medical check-ups, Lt Gen Cone said.

He said the gunman had two weapons, one semi-automatic, which "might explain the rate of fire".

Asked whether the shootings were a terrorist act, Lt Gen Cone said: "I couldn't rule that out but I'm telling you that right now, the evidence does not suggest that."

Two more suspects were apprehended in an adjacent facility, he said, but eyewitness accounts suggesting there might have been more than one gunman were later discounted.

A serviceman stationed at Fort Hood who asked to remain anonymous told the BBC: "I heard the emergency announcement over the speakers outside and saw people rushing to get indoors."

Local congressman John Carter, speaking to NBC News, said gunfire had erupted half an hour before a graduation ceremony was due to begin.

News Sourse: BBC News


One gunman killed, two suspects in custody

Twelve people have been killed and 31 injured in a shooting at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, the commander there has said.

Lt Gen Bob Cone said the shooter had been killed in the incident and two suspects arrested. All were American soldiers. The base is locked down.

Lt Gen Cone said the motive for the shooting was not known. One of the dead was a policeman, others were soldiers.

President Barack Obama described it as "a horrific outburst of violence".

US media reports have named the gunman as Major Malik Nadal Hasan. He was reportedly in his late 30s or early 40s and due to be sent on a mission to Iraq.

Speaking at a press conference in Washington, President Obama said: "It is difficult enough when we lose these brave men and women abroad, but it is horrifying that they should come under fire at an army base on US soil."

Mr Obama said the White House was working with the Pentagon, FBI and Department of Homeland Security to make sure Fort Hood was secure.

Fort Hood, near the town of Killeen, is the largest US base in the world.

Lt Gen Cone said the shooting had begun at about 1330 (1930 GMT) at a personnel and medical centre at Fort Hood, where soldiers who are preparing to deploy go for last-minute medical check-ups.

He said the shooter, who had two handguns, had opened fire and "due to the quick response of the police forces, was killed".

Two more suspects were apprehended in an adjacent facility, he said, adding that some eyewitness accounts suggested there might have been more than one shooter.

A serviceman stationed at Fort Hood who asked to remain anonymous told the BBC: "I heard the emergency announcement over the speakers outside and saw people rushing to get indoors.

"In our office we're okay but we're hearing about the deaths. It's horrible and very shocking.

"We are still on lockdown. I am hearing that at least nine people may be dead. This is so terrible and frightening."

Hilary Shine, of the Killeen Fire Department told,

"It has schools, a hospital, a convenience store even. And it has a large daytime population - including civilians working on the base - with as many as 80,000 in this area during the daytime."

Local congressman John Carter, speaking to NBC News, said gunfire had erupted half an hour before a graduation ceremony was due to begin.

Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said in a statement: "I am shocked and saddened by today's outburst of violence at Fort Hood that has cost seven of our brave service members their lives and has gravely injured others.


U2 barrier causes anger at Berlin wall concert

A U2 show marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall has run into controversy - after organisers built a wall around the venue.

A two metre barrier has been erected around the Brandenburg gate to keep out people without tickets for the show.

The U2 show is part of the MTV Europe Music Awards, which take place later.

Ten thousand tickets were given away free online and snapped up within hours.

Now police in the city say they're expecting as many as 100,000 people to descend on the square in front of the Brandenburg gate to try and catch a glimpse of U2.

Mr Henkel, Christian Democrat floor leader in the Berlin city-state parliament, said: "It would have been so much better if as many Berliners as possible could have taken part.

"We don't know who's responsible for this, whether it's U2 or MTV.

He continued: "10,000 people is a lot, but U2 could have had an even bigger audience enjoying their music at this wonderful location."

U2 manager Paul McGuinness said Berliners think it is "pretty ironic" that an event to mark the falling of the wall has resulted in another one being constructed.

Fans, too, were displeased.

"It's completely ridiculous that they are blocking the view," said Louis-Pierre Boily, a Canadian fan who travelled to Berlin despite failing to secure tickets for the show.

"I thought it's a free show, but MTV probably wants people to watch it on TV to get their ratings up," he added.

Berlin politicians had previously dissuaded US President Barack Obama from visiting the city as part of the celebrations, for fear his security operation would require several main roads be blocked off.

It is now feared road blocking will be necessary to accommodate U2's fans.

Calls to representatives of U2 and MTV seeking comment have not yet been returned.


Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change party calls off boycott

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has called off his party's boycott of the unity government with President Robert Mugabe.

Mr Tsvangirai said he was giving Mr Mugabe 30 days to implement the power-sharing agreement on "the pertinent issues we are concerned about".

The prime minister was speaking after a regional summit in Mozambique.

Mr Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change party boycotted the government on 16 October.

Four heads of state from the regional grouping have been meeting in the Mozambique capital Maputo to end the stalemate in the Zimbabwe government which has threatened to see the country plunge further into crisis.

Cabinet meeting

Regional mediators the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), which is the guarantor of last year's power-sharing agreement, have instructed the parties that they have 15 days to resolve outstanding issues.

The next Zimbabwe cabinet meeting is on Tuesday, and the MDC spokesman, Nelson Chamisa, said his party's ministers would attend.

Mr Tsvangirai walked out of a coalition government in protest at the detention of a senior MDC aide on terrorism charges and over Mr Mugabe's failure to implement political agreements.

The aide, Roy Bennett, was later released on bail.

The MDC also said there had been "increased violent" attacks on party members by militants from President Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

Zanu-PF described the comments, on 27 October, as "cheap propaganda" following the MDC's decision to end co-operation.



Can scientists make a space elevator?

This concept image from NASA shows what a space elevator and transfer station could look like.

Now, 30 years after "2001" author Arthur C. Clarke wrote about an elevator that rises into outer space, serious research is happening all over the world in an effort to make the far-fetched-sounding idea a reality.

The benefits of a fully realized elevator would make carrying people and goods into space cheaper, easier and safer than with rocket launches, proponents say, opening up a host of possibilities.

Restaurants and hotels for space tourists. Wind turbines that provide energy by spinning 24 hours a day. A cheaper, easier and more environmentally friendly way to launch rockets.

Scientists envision all of the above -- possibly within our lifetimes.

"Space elevator-related research is valid, but there are hurdles to overcome," said David Smitherman, a space architect at NASA's George C. Marshall Space Flight Center.

This week in the Mojave Desert, three teams of engineers are competing for $2 million offered up by

NASA for anyone who can build a prototype of an elevator able to crawl up a kilometer-high tether while hauling a heavy payload.

"We haven't had any winners yet, but we truly do expect to have at least one winner, probably more [this year]," said Ted Semon, spokesman for The Spaceward Foundation, which has run the competition for the past several years.

Most models for an elevator into space involve attaching a cable from a satellite, space station or other counterweight to a base on Earth's surface.

Scientists say inertia would keep the cable tight enough to allow an elevator to climb it.

The inspiration for researchers to pursue a space elevator started, as many scientific advances have, in the fantastical world of science fiction.

In Clarke's 1979 novel "The Fountains of Paradise," he writes about a scientist battling technological, political and ethical difficulties involved in creating a space elevator.

In the years that followed, Clarke, who died last year, remained an outspoken advocate for researching and funding the elevator.

Others are now carrying the torch.

"Space elevator research is important because it is a way to build a bridge to space instead of ferrying everything by rocket," said Smitherman, who has conducted research and published findings on the effort.

"Look at the cost and efficiency of a bridge versus a ferry on Earth and then look at the cost and inefficiency of the rocket ferries we use today and you will see why so many people are looking for a 'bridge' solution like the space elevator."

Microsoft is among the sponsors an annual Space Elevator Conference, and teams in Japan and Russia are among those working to turn the theory into reality -- even if they all admit they have a long way to go.

Even the most avid proponents of the research admit there are big hurdles that need to be overcome.

The first, scientists say, is that there's currently not a viable material strong enough to make the cables that will support heavy loads of passengers or cargo into orbit. According to NASA research, the space elevator cable would need to be about 22,000 miles long. That's how far away a satellite must be to maintain orbit above a fixed spot on the Earth's equator.

"Right now, if you use the strongest material in the world, the weight of the tether would be so much that it would actually snap," said Semon, a retired software engineer. He said the super-light material would probably need to be about 25 times stronger than what's now commercially available.

In a separate competition, his group offers a prize to any team that can build a tether that's at least twice as strong as what's currently on the market.

Another issue, scientists say, is how to keep the cable, or the elevator itself, from getting clobbered by meteorites or space junk floating around in space. Some suggest a massive cleanup of Earth's near orbit would be required.

And then there's the cost. Estimates are as high as $20 billion for a working system that would stretch into orbit.

Many think it would be private enterprise, not a government, that would spring for the earliest versions of the elevator.

Professor Brendan Quine and his team at York University in Toronto, Canada, think they have the answers to at least some of those problems.

They've built a three-story high prototype of an elevator tower that would rise roughly 13 miles (20 kilometers) -- high enough to escape most of the earth's atmosphere.

"At 20 kilometers, you still have gravity; you're not in orbit," Quine said. "But for a tourist, you can see basically the same things an astronaut sees -- the blackness of space, the horizon of the Earth."

In the stratosphere, the tower also could potentially be used to launch rockets, he said. The most expensive and energy-sucking part of any space launch now is blasting from the ground out of the atmosphere.

Constructed from Kevlar, the free-standing structure would use pneumatically inflated sections pressurized with a lightweight gas, such as hydrogen or helium, to actively stabilize itself and allow for flexibility. A series of platforms or pods, supported by the elevator, would be used to launch payloads into Earth's orbit.

Quine acknowledged that the prototype is just a first step toward realizing the elevator and that several more prototypes are needed to fine-tune details.

He estimated that the cost of the basic tower would be about $2 billion -- the equivalent of a massive skyscraper in places like New York -- and that the technology to build it could be ready in less than 10 years.

He said a more advanced -- and expensive -- elevator tower could be built to go higher into the stratosphere.

But for the purposes of actually ferrying everyday people into space, 20 kilometers makes the most sense, Quine said.

"The tower might be economically viable if you're able to transport 1,000 people a day to the to of it for about $1,000 a ticket," he said. "At the top, you'd probably want amenities -- hotels, restaurants. It could be a very pleasant experience, in contrast to zero gravity, which makes many people sick."

For now, advocates of making the elevator a reality say they'll keep at it. They'll continue reminding themselves that they wouldn't be the first to turn what started as an outlandish idea into good science.

"Every revolutionary idea seems to evoke three stages of reaction," Clarke once said. "They may be summed up by the phrases: One, it's completely impossible. Two, it's possible, but it's not worth doing. Three, I said it was a good idea all along."


Successive Air Strikes

The Saudi air force has attacked rebels in northern Yemen following Wednesday's killing of a Saudi security officer in a border area, reports have said.

Saudi F-15 and Tornado jets targeted strongholds of the Houthi rebels on the Yemeni side of border, spokesmen for the group and Arab media said.

But officials in Sanaa denied there had been any attacks on Yemeni territory.

The attacks came after a Saudi officer was killed and 11 were wounded in a raid by the rebels on the Jizan region.

The Houthis said on Wednesday that they had taken "full control" of a mountainous section of the border region of Jabal al-Dukhan.

In a statement on its website on Wednesday, the group said Saudi warplanes and helicopters had dropped phosphorus bombs on its fighters in the areas of al-Malahaid, Jabal al-Mamdud, al-Husama and al-Mujdaa.

On Thursday, a rebel spokesman based in Europe, Yehya Badr al-Din al-Houthi, told the BBC Arabic service that the attacks had continued.

"Yesterday, the Saudi aircraft attacked villages in the Ghamr district. They destroyed homes and killed and wounded 10 people, mainly women and children," he said.

"Today, the Saudi aircraft continued striking the village of Hasama and other villages near the Malaheez area."

Another spokesman for the group said civilians had been killed when bombs were dropped on a local market in Saada province, and that one rebel location had been hit by about 100 missiles in one hour.

A Saudi government adviser said the air force had targeted rebels who had seized Saudi parts of Jabal al-Dukhan, which they said had now been recaptured by troops.

The official said at least 40 rebels had been killed in the fighting.

"As of yesterday late afternoon, Saudi air strikes began on their positions in northern Yemen," the unnamed adviser told Reuters.

"There have been successive air strikes, very heavy bombardment of their positions, not just on the border, but on their main positions around Saada," he added.

A Yemeni defence ministry spokesman would only deny "the rebels' allegations of Saudi air raids against Yemeni villages", the AFP news agency said.

The London-based Arabic newspaper Elaph meanwhile reported that Saudi ground forces were also moving towards the Yemeni border.

The deployment was later confirmed by Arab diplomats, who told the Associated Press that army units and special forces were amassing in the area, and that several nearby Saudi towns and villages had been evacuated.

Saudi reconnaissance teams believed there were between 4,000 and 5,000 Houthis based in the mountainous border region, Elaph said.

The Saudi government adviser said no decision had yet been taken to send troops across the border, but made it clear that Riyadh was no longer prepared to tolerate the Yemeni rebels, Reuters reported.

"After what happened yesterday, it is clear they have lost track of reality and it has got to a point where there is no other way. They have got to be finished," he said.

The Yemeni government accuses the rebels of wanting to re-establish Zaydi Shia clerical rule, and of receiving support from Iran.

Earlier in the week, 10 rebels captured in 2008 were sentenced to death.

The Zaidi Shia community are a minority in Yemen, but make up the majority in the north of the country.

The insurgents first took up arms against the government in 2004, after which government forces killed or captured much of the Houthi leadership.

The government launched a fresh offensive in August 2009 which has precipitated a new wave of intense fighting.

Aid agencies say tens of thousands of people have been displaced.



Staying Safe From Hidden Germs: in the time of H1N1

On a recent flight from San Francisco, California, to Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. Julie Gerberding was thrilled to get bumped up to first class. The thrill, however, quickly disappeared: As she did her victory walk to the front cabin, she noticed that the woman in the seat next to hers was hacking up a lung.

"She was on her cell phone, saying, 'I feel miserable. I just know I have swine flu,' " Gerberding remembered. "I thought to myself, 'Oh, great.' "

For the duration of her transcontinental flight, Gerberding played viral roulette as she sat shoulder-to-shoulder next to Ms. Sneezy in a confined space.

Gerberding, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had a few strategies for avoiding this woman's germs, some of which you can use on planes, trains, automobiles and anywhere else if you get stuck next to Typhoid Mary -- or, in this case, H1N1 Mary.

Gerberding's first step was to point the air vent in the ceiling toward the sick woman and away from herself.

"That helped point the germs towards her and away from me," she said.

She then pivoted her body -- she was sitting on the aisle seat -- away from Ms. Sneezy.

"There wasn't much else I could do. At some point, I just crossed my fingers," Gerberding said.

Actually, Gerberding realized later there was one more thing she could have done.

"I could have approached a flight attendant and said, 'The person sitting next to me has swine flu. Could you please offer her a mask?' In retrospect, I wish I had done that."

On airplanes, you're most likely to catch an illness from the people sitting in your row and in the row behind you, according to researchers at Purdue University, who developed an animation showing how germs move around an airplane.

"The bad news is if you're in that strike zone, you're at risk," Gerberding said. "If someone sitting right near you has the flu, there's a pretty good chance you'll get it. Flu is very transmissible."

Gerberding adds that you probably won't catch the flu from someone sitting several rows away, since circulating air on planes goes through a HEPA filter. "

The good news is, if you're not right in that strike zone, you're probably at low risk," she said.

Whenever you're out in public, you can catch a germ from anyone within about six feet of you; that's how far some germs can travel, according to Dr. Rhonda Medows, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health.

"Air droplet spray actually comes into your body. You're inhaling it. You're breathing those respiratory droplets," Medows said.

Another way you can catch a germ from someone is if you touch something a sick person has touched. For example, think about a busy escalator handrail.

"You and millions of others have touched it," Medows said. "And they could be sneezing, wiping their nose, coughing in their hands, and then they touch the handrail."

If you're healthy, your immune system should be able to fight off most of what's on a germy handrail, but even if you're in tip-top shape, chances are you have no immunity to the H1N1 virus, since it's so new.

Medows' strategy: After you touch something like a handrail, make a conscious effort not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth, and use hand sanitizer as soon as you can.

The National Institutes of Health offers more advice about preventing the spread of germs.

Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona known as "Dr. Germ," says his research shows that another potential bastion of germs are water fountains. Some schools have actually shut down their water fountains for the duration of flu season.

But you don't have to avoid water fountains. Gerberding says that if you want to drink from a fountain, follow these simple steps: Don't let your lips touch the spout, and before taking a sip, let the water run for a few seconds to flush away germs. Also, wash or sanitize your hands afterward, since the bar or button that turns on the fountain has probably been touched by many other hands before yours.

You might be wondering why Gerberding didn't go back to her seat in coach or ask for another one when she saw she'd be sitting next to Ms. Sneezy in first class.

"It was a full flight ,so someone else would have had to sit next to her," she explained. "And I'm healthy, so I figured if someone had to be near her, better me than someone who's immune-compromised in some way."

By the way, Gerberding didn't get sick from Ms. Sneezy on that long flight from San Francisco to Atlanta. She says she doesn't know whether it's because of her germ-prevention strategies or just dumb luck.