FedEx to scan every parcel at two Texas facilities after blast

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People evacuate as emergency vehicles stage near the site of another explosion, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Austin, Texas. (AP)
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Members of Austin Police Department block off part of Mission Oaks Boulevard following an explosion in Austin, Texas, U.S., in this March 19, 2018 photo. (REUTERS)
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A law enforcement officer runs on Brodie Lane in Austin, Texas, moments after an explosion on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (AP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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FedEx to scan every parcel at two Texas facilities after blast

CHICAGO: FedEx Corp. will screen every package at the Texas facility where a parcel exploded on Tuesday, according to a FedEx manager, describing extraordinary steps the company is taking in response to a series of bombings in the state capital.
The package delivery company will also X-ray entire truckloads of parcels at its sorting facility outside Austin, and then divert them elsewhere for sorting and delivery, said the FedEx employee who was not authorized to speak on the record. The source does not work at the sorting facility but was briefed on the situation.
FedEx spokesman Jim McCluskey said he had no immediate comment.
The blast at FedEx on Tuesday was one of five explosions in Texas in the past 18 days. A sixth explosion on Tuesday night did not appear related, authorities said. The five attacks have killed two people, injured others and left hundreds of federal and local investigators scrambling to find the perpetrator and a motive.
Package screening is not routine at the nation’s big delivery companies such as FedEx, United Parcel Service Inc. or the US Postal Service. The industry delivers a total of around 40 million parcels in the United States each day, industry experts said. Checking every package on a regular basis would virtually paralyze their operations.
FedEx will carry out the special screenings at the sorting facility in Schertz, Texas where the package exploded, injuring one worker, and at a second location in Austin, where another explosive device was found, the employee said. The second package was turned over to police.
“FedEx in conjunction with the authorities are field X-raying all the packages one at a time,” the employee said. “From then on, we will be doing bulk X-rays of entire trailers.”
Packages will likely be delayed by a day or two at the facility, and FedEx was re-routing all other packages to its hub in Houston to avoid further delays, he said.
FedEx has provided law enforcement with “extensive evidence from our advanced technology security systems designed to protect the safety of our teammates, our customers and the communities we serve,” Chief Executive Officer Fred Smith told analysts on Tuesday after the company reported quarterly financial results.
FedEx will provide authorities with the location where the package was picked up by the driver and the time, the employee said, providing authorities with a wealth of data.
Satish Jindel, a founder of the delivery company that became FedEx Ground and now serves as president of ShipMatrix, which tracks on-time shipments, said it was highly unlikely that the industry would move toward routine screening. Package bombs are rare, he said, making it unrealistic to check every package, every day, considering the enormous cost.
“They don’t, they can’t, and they shouldn’t, and it would be unreasonable and ignorant for this country and for people to expect it,” Jindel said. “It would shut the economy down.”
For now, the industry will likely rely on employees who are trained to flag suspicious packages, Jindel said.
UPS spokesman Glenn Zaccara said the world’s largest package delivery company has security measures in place and was cooperating with law enforcement in their investigation, but declined to comment further.
DHL Worldwide Express said it had “standard” security and screening procedures in place and that its security teams were monitoring the situation in Texas.
The US Postal Service uses technology, targeted screening and employee training to stop suspicious packages, spokesman Dave Partenheimer said.
The FedEx manager with knowledge of the incident said the blast appeared to have been set off by a mechanical arm that diverts packages along a conveyer belt. When the arm came out and hit the package, it exploded on the sorter just as it entered a chute, he said.
“The good thing is it went off when it was going down the chute,” he said. “The chute actually shielded anybody below from the blast.”
 


UK warns dual nationals over travel to Iran, as France holds on envoy nomination

Updated 3 min 6 sec ago
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UK warns dual nationals over travel to Iran, as France holds on envoy nomination

  • Britain is seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in April 2016
  • France will not name a new ambassador to Tehran before getting information from Iran following a foiled plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris last June

LONDON: Britain on Wednesday advised British-Iranian dual nationals against all but essential travel to Iran, tightening up its existing travel advice and warning it has only limited powers to support them if detained.
“The Foreign Secretary (Jeremy Hunt) has taken the decision to advise against all but essential travel by UK-Iranian dual nationals to Iran,” a foreign office spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
“British citizens who also hold Iranian nationality face risks if they travel to Iran, as we have seen all too sadly in a number of cases. The Iranian government does not recognize dual nationality, so if a dual national is detained our ability to provide support is extremely limited.”
Earlier this month Britain’s Middle East minister Alistair Burt used a visit to Iran to discuss cases of detained dual nationals, alongside other diplomatic issues.
Britain is seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter, now aged four, after a family visit.
She was convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment, a charge denied by her family and the Foundation, a charity organization that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News.
Meanwhile, France will not name a new ambassador to Tehran before getting information from Iran following a foiled plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris last June, French officials said on Wednesday.
An Iranian diplomat based in Austria and three other people were arrested on suspicion of plotting the attack on a meeting of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
Iran has said it had nothing to do with the plot, which it called a “false flag” operation staged by figures within the opposition group itself.
The incident has hit relations just as France and its European partners are seeking to salvage a 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers.
France’s ambassador to Iran departed in the summer. Iran has also yet to replace its departed ambassador to Paris.
“We have a charge d’affaires today in Tehran and there is a high-level dialogue between French and Iranian authorities,” said a French presidential source.
“We are working together to bring to light what happened around this event ... I wouldn’t say there is a direct link (in not appointing an ambassador), but Iran has promised to give us objective facts in the coming weeks that would allow us to pursue our diplomatic relationship as it is today.”
A French diplomatic source said the nomination had indeed been suspended as a result of the alleged plot.
France’s Foreign Ministry in August told its diplomats and officials to postpone non-essential travel to Iran indefinitely, citing the plot and a hardening of Tehran’s attitude toward France, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.
President Emmanuel Macron is likely to discuss the issue with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani when they meet on Sept. 25 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the source said.
Along with Britain and Germany, France is trying save a 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, which was thrown into disarray when US President Donald Trump pulled out of the accord in May and re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran.
Even so, tensions between Paris and Tehran have grown in recent months as Macron and his government have become increasingly frustrated with Iran’s activities in the Middle East region, in particular its ballistic missile program.