News Midday Update: Pirates fire on US cruise ship in hijack attempt; strollers, backpacks, umbrellas among banned items at inauguration; Delta details planned capacity cuts

Pirates chased and shot at a U.S. cruise ship with more than 1,000 people on board but failed to hijack the vessel as it sailed along a corridor patrolled by international warships, a maritime official said Tuesday.

The M/S Nautica, carrying 656 international passengers and 399 crew members, was sailing through the Gulf of Aden on Sunday when it encountered six bandits in two speedboats, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Malaysia.

The pirates fired at the passenger liner but the larger ship was faster than the pirates' vessels, Choong said.

In a statement on its Web site, Oceania said pirates fired eight rifle shots at the liner, but that the ship's captain increased speed and managed to outrun the skiffs.

All passengers and crew are safe and there was no damage to the vessel, it said.

The Nautica was on a 32-day cruise from Rome to Singapore, with stops at ports in Italy, Egypt, Oman, Dubai, India, Malaysia and Thailand, the Web site said. Based on that schedule, the liner was headed from Egypt to Oman when it was attacked.

Associated Press

Strollers, backpacks, umbrellas among banned items at inauguration

Camera and cell phone, yes. Backpack, no.

If you're planning a trip to the Jan. 20 inaugural ceremony of President-elect Barack Obama, be warned: Backpacks, signs, umbrellas and thermoses are forbidden.

The list of prohibited items on the Capitol grounds includes the obvious - firearms, explosives and knives - along with some head-scratchers, like coolers, strollers and laser pointers.

Strollers take up a lot of space, and "they're made up of hard metal or plastic, just like umbrellas. Anything like that is not permitted," said Carole Florman, communications director for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. That includes chairs.

"Unfortunately, this is not a festival," Florman said, noting the difficulty of screening hundreds of thousands of visitors.

The committee is also warning visitors to expect to stand for several hours in the cold, normally 37 degrees F at noon, and park outside the city.

Associated Press

Delta details planned capacity cuts

Delta Air Lines Inc. hinted Tuesday that more job cuts could be on the way as it disclosed that it will reduce consolidated system capacity by 6 percent to 8 percent in 2009, compared to the current year.

The Atlanta-based carrier's president, Ed Bastian, spoke to investors during a conference in New York.

In a regulatory filing ahead of the speech, the world's biggest carrier said domestic capacity in 2009 will be reduced 8 percent to 10 percent compared to 2008, while international capacity will be reduced 3 percent to 5 percent next year compared to this year.

The news comes as a global financial crisis hits airlines hard by reducing demand for seats.

"Once again, Delta must take the necessary steps to adjust our business accordingly and make certain seat capacity meets customer demand," Bastian and Chief Executive Richard Anderson said in a memo to employees. "These economic hurdles are difficult, and we remain committed to building our company on a durable financial foundation with industry-leading liquidity. Remember that speed wins so we will be decisive and not delay."

The memo also said that Delta is analyzing the impact on staffing as it pertains to the planned further capacity reductions and "as in the past, we will offer voluntary programs to adjust staffing needs." The memo did not elaborate.

Associated Press


- Georgians are headed to the polls to vote in Senate runoff election between incumbent Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin. Come back to our Web site for the latest developments and results.


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