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Originally published Friday, January 23, 2009 at 1:10 PM

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Ask AP: Afghanistan's insurgents, pets on a plane

Amazingly, every passenger and crew member survived the splashdown of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River. But the sight of that half-submerged Airbus A320 raised a worrisome question: Were any pets traveling in the cargo hold beneath the cabin?

Amazingly, every passenger and crew member survived the splashdown of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River. But the sight of that half-submerged Airbus A320 raised a worrisome question: Were any pets traveling in the cargo hold beneath the cabin?

That's one of the questions in this edition of "Ask AP," a weekly Q&A column where AP journalists respond to readers' questions about the news.

If you have your own news-related question that you'd like to see answered by an AP reporter or editor, send it to newsquestions@ap.org, with "Ask AP" in the subject line. And please include your full name and hometown so they can be published with your question.

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Have there been any whisperings or evidence to suggest that Russia is currently arming the insurgents who are attacking NATO troops, much as the U.S. supplied insurgents during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan?

Lucas A. Gualtieri

Columbus, Ohio

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In the 2 1/2 years I've been reporting for The Associated Press from Afghanistan, I've never heard even a hint of rumor that Russia might be cooperating with Taliban militants.

Russia, in fact, would have little to gain from helping the Taliban. Russia worries a lot about Sunni radicalism in its own Muslim-dominated regions and has raised concerns that the Taliban were inspiring or even supporting those radicals.

Also, Russia in November allowed Spain and Germany to use Russian rail lines to ship supplies for the NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, however, still has many relics from the decade that the Soviet Union spent occupying it.

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Children in Kabul play on burned-out Soviet tanks. Those same tank hulls litter main roads throughout northern Afghanistan. A few Afghans still speak Russian, and I've met with an Afghan air force general who trained in the Soviet Union to become a cosmonaut. (He never made it into space).

AK-47s, also known as Kalishnikov rifles, are a dime a dozen in Afghanistan - another relic of the Soviet invasion, though the Russians say the Afghan government is buying AKs made outside of Russia, since the Soviets licensed the design to other countries.

But even the ubiquitous AK is starting to be replaced in some quarters, as the United States provides M-16 and M-4 rifles to the Afghan army.

Jason Straziuso

AP Correspondent

Kabul, Afghanistan

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I almost hate to ask, but in the recent crash in the Hudson, were there any pets trapped in the undercarriage of the plane?

Bev Sawyer

Pawleys Island, S.C.

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Yet more good news on last week's splash landing in the Hudson River, just a few hundred yards from the Manhattan skyline:

"We have confirmed there were no pets on Flight 1549," US Airways spokesman Morgan Durrant said.

Unlike some other airlines, US Airways doesn't transport pets in the cargo compartments of its aircraft, Durrant went on to explain. Dogs, cats and other pets would only have been allowed in the passenger cabin - and this particular flight had none aboard.

The airliner made an emergency landing in the water after both of its engines failed, for reasons still being investigated. All 155 people on board survived.

Harry R. Weber

AP Airlines Writer

Atlanta

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The earth's atmosphere has gone through many warming and cooling cycles and is currently believed by many to be warming. What evidence would indicate that a cooling cycle has begun?

Terry Hoffman

Kaneohe, Hawaii

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First, it would have to get cooler - for many years and worldwide.

The overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that the world is now warming for man-made reasons, due to greenhouse gases. That's based on decades of observations, measurements of heat reaching the surface and an understanding of the physics of the atmosphere.

Something similar and just as scientifically robust would be required to indicate that a cooling cycle has begun.

"It would take actual observations to say that we're cooling; it would take many decades of that," said Andrew Weaver, a climate expert at the University of Victoria in Canada.

Worldwide - and records need to be global - 2008 was tied for the eighth warmest year in records that go back to 1880, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. True, last year was a tad cooler than 2007 or the record-setting year of 2005, but it was close to a full degree warmer than the 100-year average.

In fact, eight of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 and the other two weren't much earlier - 1997 and 1998. You can see the top-10 rundown here: http://tinyurl.com/ajv4wo

The average temperature for 2008 was 57.8 degrees. Climate skeptics have seized on that year as what they call evidence of a cooling cycle, because it was slightly cooler than every year since 2001. That shows how much climate expectations have changed - people claim there's evidence of a cooling cycle because a year was only the eighth hottest year on record.

The same logic would say that Babe Ruth was in a downward cycle when he hit only 35 and 41 home runs in 1922 and 1923, after hitting 59 and 54 the previous years - never mind that he would have totals well above 45, and even as high as 60, in later years.

Weather varies year to year. Even when the world is warming, not every year can be hotter than the previous year, mostly because of the influence of Earth's oceans and weather effects like El Nino and La Nina, Weaver said.

Seth Borenstein

AP Science Writer

Washington

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Have questions of your own? Send them to newsquestions@ap.org.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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