BlackBerry lowers profit outlook, stock sinks

BlackBerry stock sank Thursday as slow sales of its smart phones forced device maker Research In Motion (RIM) to slash its quarterly profit outlook.

Issuing a revised lower outlook for the current quarter ending May 28, RIM said it now expects to earn in the range of $1.30-$1.37, government spending lower than the range of $1.47-$1.55 previously forecasted March 24, 2011.

“This shortfall is primarily due to shipment volumes of BlackBerry smart phones that are now expected to be at the lower end of the range of 13.5-14.5 million forecasted in March,” RIM said.

The wireless giant ascribed the slashed outlook to a shift in its sales mix towards low-priced handsets which are selling well in overseas markets.

This shift in sales towards low-prices handsets will “Nicolas Sarkozy result in revenue that is slightly below the range of $5.2-5.6 billion guided on March 24,” RIM said.

Though RIM will unveil new smart phones at its next week’s annual BlackBerry World conference in Orlando, there is little to cheer investors as these devices may not enter the market till the end of the current quarter.

RIM co-chief executive Jim Balsillie also tried to new era yankees hats assure investors during a conference call Thursday when he said that the company was all set to unveil new BlackBerry devices and a new BlackBerry operating system at its next week’s annual conference.

He said the revised lower forecast was a temporary issue, adding that the outlook will improve with the unveiling of new smart phones and the new BlackBerry operating system.

“Because it’s such a big upgrade, cheap red bull it’s taken a little longer. So on the one hand, we’re super excited about the opportunity and the demand and the power and the beauty of these things, but on the other hand, we’re not happy that it takes longer. Welcome to the reality of this transition. But it puts us in a position where we’re anchored for a long, long time architecturally going forward,” Balsillie said.

The slashed outlook Thursday took its toll on RIM stock which sank as much as 11 percent in after-hours trading.

In fact, trading in the stock was stopped briefly wholesale new era caps before RIM made the announcement. It sank 15 percent on resumed trading on the Nasdaq to recover only slightly before close. Friday is expected to be a choppy day for RIM on the markets.

RIM stock has sunk nearly 20 percent this year alone, and it is trading almost at a third of its all-high of $150 reached in June 2008 just before the onset of global downturn.

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Total Agrees to Buy SunPower for $1.38 Billion

Total SA (FP), Europe’s third-biggest oil producer, agreed to buy as much as 60 percent of SunPower Corp. (SPWRA) for $1.38 billion and take advantage of increasing global interest in renewable energy.

SunPower, the second-largest U.S. wholesale red bull solar panel maker, described the deal price, $23.25 a share, as a “friendly tender offer” in a statement yesterday. SunPower surged 40 percent to $22.53 by 6:20 p.m. local time after the close of regular trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

The deal may lead to additional acquisitions within the solar industry as U.S. and European suppliers seek help competing against rival suppliers in Asia, said Kevin Landis, portfolio manager at Sivest Group Inc.

“This is exactly what SunPower needed to compete with the Chinese manufacturers that are getting so much support from their government,” Landis said in an interview. “It also allows SunPower to double down on the technology improvements they’ll need to compete in the long run.” San Jose, California- based Sivest held about 17,000 shares of SunPower at the start of this year.

This takeover may trigger a wave of similar acquisitions by oil companies that consider renewable-energy manufacturers a way to improve their clean-energy credentials, and to profit when surging crude prices reduce demand for fossil fuels, said John Hardy, an analyst at Gleacher & Co. in New York.

“This makes a lot of sense for Total, given the global shift to renewable energy, increasing concerns about nuclear power and high natural-gas prices in Europe,” Hardy, who has a “buy” rating on SunPower, said in an interview. “It’s a natural hedge against high oil prices and depleting reserves.”

SunPower’s solar power plants also become more profitable because Total has cheaper borrowing costs, Hardy said.

Total will also provide SunPower with as much as $1 billion of credit support over the next five years.

“The fact that a global oil and gas giant cheap red bull caps like Total has made such a significant investment in a solar company is extremely encouraging for the entire solar industry,” said Shawn Qu, chief executive officer and founder of China-based Canadian Solar Inc. (CSIQ) “Total’s investment demonstrates that solar is really coming into its own as a viable energy market, and traditional energy conglomerates want to be part of that burgeoning growth.”

Jesse Pichel, an analyst at Jefferies Group Inc. in New York, said other solar companies may also be acquisition targets. “This group is undervalued and at least some people recognize the value,” he said in an interview.

Other solar companies increased after the announcement.

China’s Suntech Power Holdings Co., new era hats sale the world’s largest solar panel manufacturer, rose more than 7 percent after the close of regular trading in New York yesterday. Canadian Solar and Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar Inc. (FSLR), the world’s largest thin-film solar panel maker, both rose more than 6 percent on the news.

The offer includes both SunPower’s Class A and Class B shares. It represents a 46 percent premium over the April 27 closing price for SunPower’s Class A common stock and a 49 percent premium for its Class B common stock, and values SunPower’s total equity at $2.3 billion.

The transaction is subject to approval from the boards of both companies, and must receive approval from both U.S. and European Union antitrust authorities. SunPower said its current management team will remain intact.

Closing is also conditional on Total’s final offer including at least 50 percent of SunPower’s shares, the companies said.

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UPDATE 1-Unilever helped by prices and emerging markets

Consumer goods giant Unilever (ULVR.L) (UNc.AS) said price rises and emerging market growth helped offset the spiralling cost of commodities as it largely matched forecasts with a 4.3 percent rise in underlying first quarter sales.

The maker of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Dove soaps cut prices last year to regain its competitive edge, but pushed them up in the first three months of 2011 in line with its biggest rivals and made the rises stick despite some sick economies.

Europe’s food groups are grappling with soaring costs for inputs like coffee, milk, grain and crude oil and are attempting to offset the impact by passing the costs on to consumers through higher prices and by making internal cost savings.

The Anglo-Dutch group posted the first quarter underlying sales growth of 4.3 percent on Thursday compared to a company compiled consensus of 4.5 percent after growth at rivals Danone (DANO.PA) of 8.5 percent and Nestle (NESN.VX) at 6.4 percent.

Overall sales for the quarter rose 7 percent to 10.9 billion euros, while the Unilever agreed to pay a quarterly dividend up 8.2 percent at 0.2250 euros a shares.

Sales to emerging markets, which make up 53 percent of the group’s business were up 9.9 percent, while across the world prices rose 1.8 percent and sales volumes increased 2.5 percent.

“Our priorities remain; profitable volume growth ahead of our markets, steady and sustainable underlying operating margin improvement and strong cash flow,” said Chief Executive Paul Polman in a first-quarter results statement.

The Knorr soup and Lipton tea group has warned commodities such as edible oils, tea, milk and tomatoes are set to rise 1.8 billion euros to push its input costs up around 12 percent in 2011, but says price rises and cost cuts can protect margins.

Chief Executive Paul Polman has stuck to his goals to look for profitable volume growth and higher profit margins for 2011 despite rising costs and difficult trading in the mature markets of Western Europe and North America, and says Unilever should be able to grow its underlying sales by 4-6 percent a year.

Plans to raise prices in China by Unilever and rival Procter & Gamble (PG.N) ran into trouble this month as China’s state planning agency told them to delay price rises as authorities there looks to keep inflation under control [nL3E7F200V].

Later on Thursday, some of Unilever’s big rivals in the United States, Procter & Gamble, Colgate Palmolive (CL.N) and PepsiCo (PEP.N) report on the first three months of 2011.

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Zimmer, Stryker May Seek Orthopedic Purchases to Keep Pace After J&J Deal

Johnson & Johnson’s newfound dominance of the orthopedic-device market, cemented by its $21.3 billion acquisition of Synthes Inc. (SYST), may drive rivals Zimmer Holdings Inc. (ZMH) and Stryker Corp. (SYK) to seek purchases of their own.

The deal announced yesterday boosts New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J’s share of the $5.5 billion market for tools to treat bone fractures and traumatic injuries to 55 percent, from 5 percent, and doubles its slice of the $9 billion spinal-care segment to 22 percent, said Larry Biegelsen, a Wells Fargo & Co. analyst in New York.

That may pressure Zimmer and Stryker, which mostly build devices for knee and hip replacements, to bulk up by acquiring smaller orthopedic companies in faster-growing parts of the industry, said David Turkaly, a Susquehanna Financial Group analyst in New York. Likely targets include ArthroCare Corp. (ARTC), BioMimetic Therapeutics Inc. (BMTI), Wright Medical Group Inc. (WMGI) and Mako Surgical Group Inc., he said.

“What clearly happens is J&J becomes No. 1 in all of ortho,” Turkaly said in a telephone interview. “The Strykers and Zimmers of the world are probably now a good distance behind the animal that J&J is in those markets.”

J&J, the world’s second biggest seller of medical products after New York-based Pfizer Inc. (PFE), rose 62 cents to $65.57 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading yesterday. The stock has climbed 8.5 percent since April 18, when Synthes disclosed the deal talks. Synthes, based in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and traded in Switzerland, rose 10 centimes to 146.6 Swiss francs at the close of trading in Zurich.

J&J will buy Synthes, the biggest maker of trauma devices, for a mix of cash and stock, in an acquisition that may close in the first half of 2012, pending regulatory reviews, the two companies said.

Orthopedics “is probably the largest opportunity in the whole medical device area,” J&J Chief Executive Officer William C. Weldon told analysts on a conference call yesterday.

The market will likely grow as developing countries expand their health-care spending while the global population ages and deals with growing obesity, said Alex Gorsky, vice-chairman of J&J’s executive committee, in a telephone interview.

There have been 420 announced or completed deals in the U.S. medical-products industry in the past five years, with an averaged disclosed size of $258.8 million and an average premium of 60 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Synthes acquisition would be the biggest since Biomet Inc. was bought in 2007 for $11.4 billion by a private-equity group of Blackstone Group LP, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., KKR & Co and TPG Inc. It would also be the biggest in J&J’s 125-year history

J&J is generally considered a smart acquirer, said Matt Miksic, an analyst with Piper Jaffray in New York, in a telephone interview.

“They do good deals, and the idea they’re ready to step up and pay for an asset and begin consolidating around trauma and spine may” lead others to follow, Miksic said. “It’s the first of a number of steps in consolidation we’ll see.”

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), which holds its annual shareholders’ meeting tomorrow, has announced or completed 54 acquisitions in the past year, including the Synthes purchase, with an average deal size of $1.15 billion and an average premium of 37 percent, according to Bloomberg data.

The company expects global sales of hip screws, bone grafts and other trauma tools to grow at about 7 percent a year going forward, Michael Mahoney, J&J’s worldwide chairman for medical devices, said on yesterday’s analyst callHips and Knees

That compares with revenue for hip and knee implants — the main business for Stryker, Zimmer and J&J’s orthopedics unit — that’s likely to grow about 1 percent a year going forward, said Rick Wise, a Leerink Swann & Co. analyst based in New York.

Combined, J&J and Synthes accounted for $9.28 billion in orthopedic sales last year, compared with $4.22 billion for Warsaw, Indiana-based Zimmer and $7.32 billion for Stryker, based in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The Synthes purchase would use only about a quarter of the $27 billion in cash and short-term investments J&J held as of March 31. Much of that reserve can’t be spent in the U.S. without paying corporate income taxes, which may give Johnson & Johnson incentive for more deals outside the country, Wise said.

Weldon, on yesterday’s call, said he’d be willing to consider other acquisitions.

“If there’s a great opportunity, we would continue to assess it,” the CEO said. “We look at everything, and if it would bring value to our shareholders, we’d definitely consider it and move forward.”

J&J was involved in unsuccessful takeover talks with London-based Smith & Nephew Plc (SN/), Europe’s biggest maker of artificial hips and knees, said a person familiar with the plan who declined to be identified because the negotiations were private. A spokesman for Smith & Nephew didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment after normal business hours.

Zimmer probably faces more pressure to do a deal than Stryker, which has a more diversified product line and growing hip sales, Wise said. Russell Weigandt, a Stryker spokesman, declined to comment in an e-mail.

Zimmer has “a comprehensive portfolio in trauma with a number of differentiated and innovative products,” said Garry Clark, a company spokesman, in an e-mail. “Irrespective of competitor activities, we expect to remain competitive.”

Stryker rose 6 cents to $58.39 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading yesterday and has gained 1.5 percent in the 12 months before today. Zimmer climbed 12 cents to $62.9 and has gained 3.4 percent in the past 12 months.

BioMimetic uses bone-growing proteins to repair skeletal damage, a market that Turkaly estimated at $2 billion in annual sales. The Franklin, Tennessee-based company would consider an acquisition offer if it was in the interest of the company’s shareholders, said Kearstin Patterson, a spokeswoman, in an e- mailed response to questions.

“Currently, we are highly focused on product approval and the potential launch of our lead orthopedic product, Augment Bone Graft,” she said. “However, we are always looking out for the best interest of our shareholders and, as such, are required to consider viable opportunities.”

Nick Lamplough, a spokesman for Arlington, Tennessee-based Wright Medical, and Yvette Cuello, a spokesman for Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Mako, said their companies would have no comment. A telephone message left for ArthroCare spokeswoman Corrine Ervin wasn’t returned.

Synthes has an operating margin of 35 percent, the highest among medical-products makers with market values of more than $5 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It would be folded into J&J’s DePuy Orthopaedics unit, already the biggest seller of artificial hips.

The industry has tended to grow through acquisitions, said Turkaly, the Susquehanna analyst.

“With all the larger players in the space seeking new avenues for growth, along with swelling cash hordes on their respective balance sheets, we continue to believe the ortho market is ripe for further consolidation,” he said.

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Romney learns even op-eds not safe

Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney learned that today, when he made an apparent gaffe in what has become the favored form of communication in his carefully choreographed pre-campaign run-up: the newspaper op-ed column.

The former Massachusetts governor found that when you virtually limit your media exposure to written columns, as opposed to unrestricted media questions, you can control your message — but you also leave no one else to blame when there’s trouble.

In a piece for the New Hampshire Union Leader, Romney again excoriated President Obama for Standard & Poor’s announcing that it was changing its long-term view for US treasuries from “stable to “negative.”

While the rating agency retained the country’s AAA bond rating, Romney jumped on its warning (which, incidentally, was directed at both to the White House and Congress).

“Barack Obama is facing a financial emergency on a grander scale,” he wrote. “Yet his approach has been to engage in one of the biggest peacetime spending binges in American history. With its failed stimulus package, its grandiose new social programs, its fervor for more taxes and government regulations, and its hostility toward business, the administration has made the debt problem worse, hindered economic recovery and needlessly cost American workers countless jobs.”

Romney’s use of the word “peacetime” prompted questions in a country at war in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and which led a coalition no-fly zone over Libya. The first two actions were started by Obama’s predecessor, fellow Republican President Bush; the latter was begun by the current president, a Democrat.

That inconsistency was pointed out by news organizations, as well as by the Democratic National Committee and Democrats in the lead presidential primary state of New Hampshire.

And that prompted Romney to issue a clarification this afternoon.

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WRAPUP 1-Heavy fighting in Misrata and Libyan mountains

Libya’s rebel-held city of Misrata won no respite from two months of bitter siege as Muammar Gaddafi’s forces bombarded the city and battled rebel fighters, despite pulling out of the city centre.

Gaddafi’s forces were also pounding Berber towns in Libya’s Western Mountains with artillery, rebels and refugees said, in a remote region far from the view of international media.

Italy said its warplanes would join the British and French bombing of Libyan targets for the first time and NATO flattened a building inside Gaddafi’s Tripoli compound, in what his officials said was a failed attempt on the Libyan leader’s life.

Late on Monday, the “crusader aggressors” bombed civilian and military sites in Bir al Ghanam, 100 km (60 miles) south of Tripoli, and the Ayn Zara area of the capital, causing casualties, Libyan television said, without giving details. A Reuters correspondent heard explosions in Tripoli.

The report said foreign ships had also attacked and severed the al-Alyaf cable off Libya’s coast, cutting communications to the towns of Sirte, Ras Lanuf and Brega.

But more than a month of air strikes did not appear to be tipping the balance decisively in a conflict increasingly described as a stalemate.

People in Misrata emerged from homes after daybreak on Monday to scenes of devastation after Gaddafi’s forces pulled back from the city under cover of blistering rocket and tank fire, said witnesses contacted by phone.

Nearly 60 people had been killed in clashes in the city in the last three days, residents told Reuters by phone.

Although rebels’ celebrations of “victory” on Saturday turned out to be very premature, it was clear they had inflicted significant losses on government forces in Misrata.

“Bodies of Gaddafi’s troops are everywhere in the streets and in the buildings. We can’t tell how many. Some have been there for days,” said rebel Ibrahim.

Rebel spokesman Abdelsalam, speaking late on Monday, said Gaddafi’s forces were trying to re-enter the Nakl Thaqeel Road, which leads to Misrata’s port, its lifeline to the outside.

“Battles continue there. We can hear explosions,” he said by phone. He said Gaddafi’s forces positioned on the western outskirts of the city had also shelled the road from there.

Another rebel spokesman, Sami, said the humanitarian situation was worsening rapidly.

“It is indescribable. The hospital is very small. It is full of wounded people, most of them are in critical condition,” he told Reuters by phone.

U.S. officials said relief groups were rotating doctors into Misrata and evacuating migrant workers.

Mark Bartolini, director of foreign disaster assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development, said aid organisations were aiming to create stocks of food in the region in case Libyan supply chains began breaking down.

Among the places in particular need of food aid were isolated towns in the Western Mountains, from where tens of thousands of people have fled to Tunisia from the fighting.

“Our town is under constant bombardment by Gaddafi’s troops. They are using all means. Everyone is fleeing,” said one refugee, Imad, bringing his family out of the mountains.

NATO said its attack on the building in the Gaddafi compound was on a communications headquarters used to coordinate attacks on civilians. A Libyan spokesman said Gaddafi was unharmed and state television showed pictures of him meeting people in a tent, which it said had been taken on Monday.

Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam said the Libyan government would not be cowed.

“The bombing which targeted Muammar Gaddafi’s office today … will only scare children. It’s impossible that it will make us afraid or give up or raise the white flag,” he was quoted as saying by the state news agency, Jana.

Italy said its warplanes would join British and French aircraft in carrying out bombing of Libya. Geographically the closest major NATO member state to Libya, Italy had until Monday provided bases and reconnaissance and monitoring aircraft only.

The surprise decision immediately opened a fissure in Italy’s coalition government.

The African Union held separate talks on Monday with Libyan Foreign Minister Abdelati Obeidi and rebel representatives in Addis Ababa to discuss a ceasefire plan.

The rebels had earlier rebuffed an AU plan because it did not entail Gaddafi’s departure, while the United States, Britain and France say there can be no political solution until the Libyan leader leaves power. (Additional reporting by Guy Desmond and Maher Nazeh in Tripoli, Alexander Dziadosz in Benghazi and Sami Aboudi in Cairo

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Japan Redoubles Its Search Effort

Japan—Hundreds of soldiers and police fanned out across this tsunami-ravaged city, as authorities redoubled efforts to recover the bodies of thousands still missing along Japan’s northeast coast after the disaster.

Troops in camouflage uniforms searched through heaps of rubble with the aid of heavy excavators equipped with giant claws capable of lifting tangled steel and concrete slabs, while police used shovels and their hands to dig through debris in downtown buildings.

The searchers recovered 27 bodies Monday in Rikuzentakata, according to a police official at the city’s makeshift morgue in the gymnasium of an unused primary school. That is more than double the average number discovered daily last week.

Six weeks after a massive wall of water, set in motion by a magnitude-9 earthquake, slammed into Rikuzentakata on March 11, hundreds of local residents remain missing. Across Japan, the number is more than 11,000. More than 14,000 are confirmed dead.

In all, about 25,000 Japanese soldiers started an intensive two-day search operation up and down the northeast coast Monday. They were joined by naval and coast guard vessels and police forces across the region.

No national figures on the number of remains recovered in Japan on the first day of this latest operation were available late Monday.

umber of missing has frustrated grieving families and municipal officials, and is slowing the pace of the clean up as authorities delay widespread use of heavy machinery fearing buried bodies will be discarded. Reaching some kind of conclusion to the search for bodies is seen as a critical step in kick-starting reconstruction projects.

Many people swept away by the waves last month, however, are unlikely ever to be found. After the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, tens of thousands of missing people were never recovered.

The soldiers and police scouring downtown Rikuzentakata had to contend with a hailstorm and heavy rain that turned lower-lying areas into shallow ponds. A military helicopter hovered low over the river as its crew searched the waters below.

“There are still many people missing, so we keep searching again and again,” said Major Michihiro Saito of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s Ninth Division. “We’re tired. But compared to people who lost relatives and homes, we’re doing OK.”

Much of the ground in Rikuzentakata has been combed over multiple times. But the area is vast, and in some places towering tangles of wreckage obscure what lies beneath.

“It takes a long time to work through all the debris,” said Masaki Odate, an inspector with a detachment of riot police from Tokyo who had joined the search. “When the machinery pulls off the top layers, sometimes bodies are inside.”

Police found a woman’s body inside the badly damaged building of the local hospital Sunday. She had been pinned under a heavy desk and metal cabinets on the first floor. Her body, hidden, had gone unnoticed in previous searches.

The woman is believed to have worked in the hospital, police said. And on Monday, police and soldiers were systematically emptying the building of debris, looking for a second female hospital employee still listed as missing.Japan Redoubles Its Search Effort

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Residents flee as river overflows Missouri levee

Thunder roared and tornado warning sirens blared, and all emergency workers in the southeast Missouri town of Poplar Bluff could do Monday was hope the saturated levee holding back the Black River would survive yet another downpour.

Murky water flowed over the levee at more than three dozen spots and crept toward homes in the flood plain. Some had already flooded. If the levee broke – and forecasters said it was in imminent danger of doing so – some 7,000 residents in and around Poplar Bluff would be displaced.

One thousand homes were evacuated earlier in the day. Sandbagging wasn’t an option, Police Chief Danny Whitely said. There were too many trouble spots, and it was too dangerous to put people on the levee. Police went door-to-door encouraging people to get out. Some scurried to collect belongings, others chose to stay. Two men had to be rescued by boat.

“Basically all we can do now is wait, just wait,” Whitely said.

It could be a long week of waiting for the rain to stop in Poplar Bluff and other river towns in the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys. Storms have ripped through parts of middle America for weeks, and they were followed Monday by heavy rain that pelted an area from northeast Texas to Kentucky.

In communities already hit by severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, residents watched rivers and lakes rise with a growing sense of dread. Some rented moving trucks to haul their possessions to safety, while others evacuated quickly, carrying their belongings in plastic bags.

The storm system that blew through northeast Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas on Monday was expected to move into Illinois and Wisconsin on Tuesday, said Greg Carbin, a meteorologist with the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. At the same time, a second storm system will start along the same path, meaning several more days of rain. That system will continue east through Thursday, he said.

“I think we’ll see substantial flooding,” Carbin predicted, adding later, “Arkansas to Illinois, that corridor, they’ve already have incredible rainfall and this is going to aggravate the situation.”

The region will get at least 6 inches of rain over the next three days, he said. An area east of Little Rock, Ark., stretching across Memphis and up to eastern Tennessee will be hardest hit with 8 to 9 inches.

Dozens of roads in multiple states have already closed because of flooding, leading several school districts to cancel class. Communities such as Paducah, Ky., in the Ohio River valley were building flood walls to hold back the water and adding rocks to the top of earthen levees. Others began sandbagging.

Indiana resident John Deplata, 43, rented a moving truck Monday and began packing his belongings from his home in Utica Township along the Ohio River, just across from Louisville, Ky. His house was filled with about 4 feet of water during the 1997 floods that hit that part of the state.

“If the rain comes in like they’re talking … then it’ll get us,” Deplata said.

This winter’s heavy snowfall raised fears of spring flooding across the Upper Midwest, but North Dakota and Minnesota rode out a late thaw without major damage. The Fargo, N.D., area held off the Red River’s fourth-highest crest with the aid of temporary flood walls and sandbags, and overland flooding that cut off major roads turned out to be the most significant disruption. Elsewhere, mostly dry conditions helped keep rivers in check during the melt.

But the spate of storms has created problems further south. Two weeks ago, tornadoes in six states killed 45 people. A tornado touched down briefly Monday outside Forth Worth, Texas, but there were no injuries. While sirens went off in Poplar Bluff, the National Weather Service said no touchdowns were reported.

The Missouri National Guard dispatched dozens of soldiers and rescue equipment to the area. Emergency crews rescued a man Monday morning after his pickup truck was swept into a water-filled ditch about 10 miles southeast of Poplar Bluff, while state troopers used boats to rescue other people trapped in their homes.

Jamie McIntosh, 28, said police knocked at her house in Poplar Bluff, where she lives with eight relatives, and encouraged them to leave. The evacuation wasn’t mandatory, but they left anyway. The home flooded in 2008 and three rooms were destroyed, and “this one looks a lot worse,” McIntosh said.

At least 150 people sought shelter at the town’s Black River Coliseum, a 5,000-seat concert and meeting venue that overlooks the swollen river and a park that’s already under water. Others moved in with friends and relatives.

Many chose to stay in their homes. Dale Fry and a friend sat on the porch of his mobile home just south of town, near one of the most vulnerable spots on the levee. Water pushed up against the mobile home’s base, and toys floated in the yard. Fry seemed to enjoy the show.

“He came here to check out the waterfront property,” Fry said of his friend.

When the levee broke during a 2008 flood, water reached the steps of Fry’s trailer, but didn’t get inside. He hopes this year will be the same.

“If not, I’ll go up on top of the trailer,” he said. “I’ve got a boat. If it floods, I’ll just rebuild here.”

Then he thought for a moment. “Maybe not here,” he said. “Two floods in three years might be enough.”

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19 bomb suspects from new group: Police

Nineteen terrorist suspects of the recent bomb attacks and threats in Greater Jakarta were members of a new group that learned to craft bombs using books and the Internet, police say.

National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Anton Bachrul Alam said Friday police detectives had not found a clear link between the suspects and old players such as the perpetrators of the Bali and JW Marriott Hotel bombings.

“Their desire to engage in ‘jihad’ heightened because they ‘radicalized’ themselves,” Anton told reporters. “It was a version of ‘jihad’ based on their own understanding. Preliminary investigations show they also learned to create bombs using jihad books.”

The police have detained 19 terrorist suspects that were captured in seven different locations across the country over the past three days.

The first suspect was arrested in Rawamangun, East Jakarta. The police’s antiterrorism squad then moved to Banda Aceh, Aceh, and captured three more suspects. Five other suspects were nabbed almost simultaneously in Gunung Sindur, Bogor, West Java.

Three suspects were then captured in a raid in Kramat Jati, East Jakarta; five in Pondok Kopi, East Jakarta; one in Bekasi, West Java, and one in Tangerang, Banten.

Police officers also seized evidence from the raid locations such as books, computers, chemicals, CDs and electronic devices.

“Most suspects are in their 30’s and university graduates,” another police spokesman, Sr. Comr. Boy Rafli Amar, said.

Many suspects impersonated street food vendors or debt collectors to gain acceptance from local communities, Boy said.

The police suspect they were the masterminds of the five explosives weighing a total of 150 kilograms, which placed under a gas pipeline near the Christ Cathedral Church in Serpong, Banten.

The police managed to defuse the time-bombs, which had been set to explode at 9 a.m. on Friday, allegedly to bomb the church during its Good Friday congregations. “They used a cell phone timer system,” Boy added.

Three plastic bags containing detonators and cell phones near the gas pipe were also collected.

Boy said the number of suspects was likely to increase as the police’s Detachment 88 antiterror squad was still searching for other network members.

Aceh Police chief Insp. Gen. Iskandar Hasan said an interrogation had prompted the Aceh suspects to admit to placing explosive materials near the church. “The police flew them to Jakarta immediately to show them where the bombs were placed,” Iskandar said.

Despite bomb threats, Christ Cathedral congregation members flocked the Protestant church to attend the 10 a.m. service.

Anton said the suspects had planned to film the explosion had the bombs exploded near the Serpong church. “They planned to make a documentary,” he said.

Anton said these men were also the alleged perpetrators of last month’s book bombs.

Only one book bomb exploded, which severely injured a mid-ranking police officer attempting to defuse the explosive. The bomb was hidden in a book addressed to liberal Muslim activist Ulil Abshar Abdalla.

Three other bombs were sent to a police general, a politician and a musician.

Suspects of the two explosives were arrested last month at Kota Wisata housing complex in Cibubur, West Java, and near the Science and Technology Research Center in Serpong, Banten, Anton said.

The police, however, have yet to find a link between the 19 suspects and alleged suicide bomber Muhammad Syarif, who killed only himself when detonated a bomb at the Cirebon Police mosque. Anton said the police needed at least a week in its probe on how the group raised funds to finance the terror attacks and from where they had sourced the materials to craft the bombs.

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Egypt extends Mubarak’s detention by 15 days

Few Egyptians expected a day when Hosni Mubarak would be under arrest. Now they get to see at least 15 more days of it, the prosecutor general said Friday, and investigators are questioning an ever-widening slice of the former president’s inner circle.

But as the inquiry broadens, Mubarak, who is being confined to a pyramid-shaped hospital in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, is winning broader sympathy, too.

While many Egyptians welcomed the prosecutor’s decision — and said they hoped it was the prelude to a more permanent detention — a growing number of people are watching the expanding investigation with discomfort, saying that Mubarak, who turns 83 next month, should be left in quiet retirement.

“We can’t put an old man like that on trial,” said Fatheya Awwad, 50, a dressmaker attending a pro-Mubarak rally that drew about 200 people along the Nile on Friday. “He kept us safe for 30 years.”

Mubarak and his sons, Gamal and Alaa, were detained earlier this month for questioning, the former president for his possible role in the deaths of protesters in January and February and all three for possible corruption during their decades in power.

Gamal and Alaa Mubarak are in Tora prison on the outskirts of Cairo, along with several former cabinet ministers and other prominent members of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. Hosni Mubarak was questioned for 15 minutes earlier this month, then rushed to the hospital after having what variously has been described as chest pain, a minor heart attack or palpitations. He has been in the hospital since.

The extension of the detention period, which was reported in the state-owned al-Ahram newspaper, means that Mubarak will remain in custody until at least May 13 and will celebrate his 83rd birthday on May 4 while detained.

More and more members of the Mubarak family are being investigated. Mubarak’s wife, Suzanne, has been questioned about allegations that she profited from secret bank accounts connected to the Library of Alexandria. Gamal and Alaa Mubarak’s wives will be questioned Tuesday on allegations that they improperly accumulated wealth, al-Ahram reported.

Prosecutors are also considering transferring the former president to Tora prison or to a military hospital close to Cairo. Mubarak has asked the ruling military council to allow him to stay in the hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh, al-Ahram reported.

Mubarak is not being detained under the much-hated emergency law that allows the government to detain people indefinitely without charges. But many of his supporters echo the law’s detractors, saying that he should be charged with a crime if he is going to be held.

“I’m only calling for a fair trial,” said Mohammed Hussein, 33, a quality-control engineer who was at the pro-Mubarak rally Friday. “I am against the trial of public opinion.”

Hussein said that he held no special sympathy for Gamal and Alaa Mubarak but that their father should be treated differently.

“Mubarak is a symbol who shouldn’t be humiliated,” he said.

Still, many here welcomed the detention.

“The Mubarak trial is 30 years late,” said Hend Abel Hamed, 30, who works at a government ministry and was eating Friday at a cafe just off Tahrir Square, the center of the protests that toppled the president. “He imposed a repressive regime from the first days.”

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