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Tuesday
May032011

'NY Times' 'Stopped the Presses' Sunday; Only 3rd Time Since Vietnam

Jonathan Torgovnik/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- News of Osama bin Laden's death came late on Sunday night – not too late for broadcasters or new media outlets, but it almost missed the morning papers.

The fabled phrase seems quaint now, but at The New York Times on Sunday night, a top editor called out, "Stop the presses!"

The paper says it has only happened two other times since the 1960s: once when Lyndon Johnson announced that he would not run for re-election, and again when it was unclear who won the 2000 election.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May032011

Osama Bin Laden Evidence Trove: US Hopes to Follow Money Trail

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S agents charged with disrupting and dismantling al Qaeda are hoping Sunday's harrowing raid of Osama bin Laden's Pakistani compound yields valuable financial clues that could help them expose the underpinnings of the entire organization, including the identities of the major donors who have bankrolled the terror network.

American authorities are ready to follow the money, experts say, hoping detailed ledgers and financial records were scooped up during the raid in which bin Laden was killed. They say any wealthy financiers whose donations helped support the bin Laden terror network now have reason to be nervous.

"Al Qaeda has traditionally been funded by deep-pocket donors," said Stuart Levy, who served as the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence and is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "If people have been giving money, and they don't know yet whether their name is being identified in this intelligence, or that their name might be on a list of potential donors, they might have real reason to worry."

Top counterterror officials said the Navy SEALs who conducted the raid on bin Laden's fortified lair did not leave empty handed. But they have not disclosed what exactly they carried away along with bin Laden's corpse.

John Brennan, the president's chief counterterrorism advisor, told reporters the military team "took advantage of their time there to make sure that we were able to acquire whatever material we thought was appropriate."

He wouldn't describe in detail what they found, but said the quantity of the material was not as encouraging as its quality. A special CIA team has been designated to go through it.

"We feel as though this is a very important time to continue to prosecute this effort against al-Qaida, take advantage of the success of yesterday and to continue to work to break the back of al-Qaida," Brennan said.

Levy noted that in Iraq, detailed financial books were discovered in 2007 that provided a roadmap for al Qaeda in Iraq's financial structure. In 2010, a drone strike by U.S. forces took out the man believed to be al Qaeda's chief financial officer, Saeed al-Masri. Little is known about the bookkeeping that occurred after that.

"Others replaced him, but we don't know that they exerted the same control," Levy said.

Whether bin Laden took over that work himself, or kept those records with him remains unclear. But if he did, Levy said, those records could do lasting damage to the entire al Qaeda network.

Investigators are relishing the chance to put their hands on actual records that will enable them to dissect bin Laden's operations, said John Nagl, a counter-terrorism expert who serves as president of the Center for New American Studies. His ability to operate in the world without leaving a trace of himself is what helped him evade capture for more than a decade.

"He did a very good job in hiding himself from the outside world," Nagl said. "He cut himself off from all electronic emissions."

But for his use of couriers whom the CIA was eventually able to track, he may never have been found, Nagl said. "The ability to track his curriers, to find someone he trusted, then to follow that person all the way back to the rats nest was absolutely essential in this," he said.

Regardless of what records have been uncovered in the raid, bin Laden's death will in some respects cripple al Qaeda's ability to raise money – and not just because bin Laden served as an inspirational leader to his followers, Levy said. The network's infamous leader served as a stabile presence for donors who wanted to support the al Qaeda mission. Now, those soliciting donations will have no way to prove to potential donors that they really represent the terror movement.

"That could really create chaos for their fundraising," Levy said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May032011

White House to Release Photo of Osama Bin Laden Tuesday?

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama and White House officials are discussing the possibility of releasing a photograph of Osama bin Laden's corpse Tuesday, a top source tells ABC News.

The photograph, according to sources who have seen it, is bloody and gruesome, with a bullet wound to his head above his left eye.

There are concerns its release could be inflammatory, though officials also say it's important to put to rest any skepticism about the death of this nation's public enemy number one.

Officials said Monday they are "99.9 percent" certain that bin Laden was shot dead in Pakistan.  They cited CIA photo analysis matching physical features, such as bin Laden's well above-average height.  A U.S. intelligence official also told ABC News that bin Laden's DNA was compared with DNA from several of his relatives.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May032011

Army Corps Breaks Open Missouri Levee to Save Town

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock (file photo)(CAIRO, Ill.) -- The Army Corps of Engineers activated the first set of explosions at the Birds Point, Missouri levee late Monday in an effort to save Cairo, Illinois from disastrous flooding.

Overnight, with a thunderous boom and a brilliant flash against a black sky, the corps set off the charges and turned 130,000 acres of farmland into a muddy lake and lowered the Mississippi River by three to four feet.

"[The Cairo levee] continues to be under enormous and unprecedented pressure," said Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh during a news conference Monday.

The Corps' explosives experts exploded the two-mile hole in the levee sometime between 9 p.m. and midnight.

"We have executed the first phase of our operation, the first point in the flood plain project," said Col. Vernie Reichling, the commander of the Memphis District Army Corps of Engineers.

The flooded farmland includes about 90 homes.

The deliberate breach is intended to take pressure off other levees protecting Cairo, at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, where river levels this week surged past a record set in 1937.

Cairo, which used to boast a population that exceeded 15,000 in Mark Twain's day, now has approximately 2,800 residents.

The corps is expected to detonate more explosives at the southern end of the floodway to drain the water from the farmlands. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May032011

Osama Bin Laden Is Dead, But Costly War on Terror Goes On

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gary A. Witte, 300th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment(WASHINGTON) -- Osama bin Laden's death puts an end to a chapter that has cost the United States thousands of lives, billions of dollars and countless resources.  But it's unlikely to end the U.S. war against terrorism or reduce the resources spent on such missions, though how they are allocated will likely change.

U.S. Navy SEALs killed -- in the words of former President Bill Clinton -- "public enemy number one" in a top-secret, risky operation in Abbotabad, Pakistan Sunday night.

The mission itself was unlikely to have cost the U.S. military a substantial amount, experts say.  It was conducted by 40 SEALs in the dead of night with four helicopters and lasted about 40 minutes.  Any costs associated with the mission would come from the Department of Defense's overall operations and maintenance budget.

It's the hunt leading up to the raid that experts believe was more costly, and likely included aerial predators, unmanned surveillance aircraft, satellite imagery and other high-tech means to pin down bin Laden's location.

The costs of pursuing bin Laden over the years are virtually impossible to calculate.  His pursuit has cost the United States trillions of dollars, two wars and thousands of lives.

Domestically, the defense budget has ballooned at an average rate of nine percent per year since 2000.  Overseas, Congress has appropriated more than $1 trillion for military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere since the 9/11 attacks, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The United States spends about $100 billion per year for military aid in Afghanistan, and provides another $6 billion in economic assistance.

The United States has also upped its assistance to Pakistan despite increasingly tense relations with the country.  Since 2001, Congress has approved about $20 billion for Pakistan in direct aid and military reimbursements, an amount that lawmakers now say will require more accountability.  Bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan and the military there did not assist in the operation to kill him, U.S. officials say.

Bin Laden's death, though huge for the United States, is unlikely to ease the financial burden, observers say.

"The only way you're going to ease the burden -- you're going to make a real impact financially -- is if troops are brought back out of Afghanistan," said Kenneth Katzman, a specialist in Middle East affairs at the Congressional Research Service.  "That's where the money is....Everything else will be small potatoes."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May032011

Single-Day Tornado Record Established in US Last Week

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- It was a 24-hour period that no one in the Southeastern United States will ever forget.

From 8 a.m. last Wednesday until eight the next morning, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the region was struck by 226 tornadoes.  That makes it the largest outbreak of twisters ever recorded in history, far eclipsing the previous biggest single-day total of 148, set in 1974.

Additionally, NOAA said there were more than 600 tornadoes in the U.S. in April, breaking the previous monthly record in May 2003 that saw 542 twisters in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the death toll continues to climb, with at least 350 lives claimed from the storms that ravaged six states, in particular Alabama, where hundreds of people are still missing.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May032011

Osama Bin Laden Dead: Where's the Proof?

CNN via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As elated crowds celebrated the death of Osama bin Laden after Navy SEALs killed the al Qaeda chief in a weekend raid in Pakistan, some are asking, "Where's the proof?"

Photos depicting a bloodied and bruised face appearing to be that of bin Laden began appearing on Twitter and Facebook Sunday night soon after news of his death spread across the Internet.  But that image was later proved to be fake.  Now, people are asking to see the evidence proving bin Laden is dead.

"We have released a tremendous amount of information to date," Obama's top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said.  "At the same time we don't want to do anything that is going to compromise our ability to be as successful the next time one of these guys needs to be taken off the battlefield."

As for releasing photographs of a dead bin Laden, Brennan said that is "something to be determined."  But he added they're going to do everything they can to prevent denials of bin Laden's death.

In the president's speech Sunday night, he avoided any mention of DNA or photographic evidence.  But on Monday, officials in the Obama administration told ABC News "There's no doubt it's him."

Officials said Monday they are "99.9 percent" certain that bin Laden was shot dead in Pakistan.  They also cited CIA photo analysis matching physical features, such as bin Laden's well above-average height.

Any pictures of bin Laden would undoubtedly be gruesome, one of the reasons why the White House hasn't made them public.  But the photos might be released in modified form, just as they were in July 2003 when the U.S. government released photographs of Saddam Hussein's dead sons Uday and Qusay Hussein, but only after they had been touched up by a mortician.

A U.S. intelligence official also told ABC News that bin Laden's DNA was compared with DNA from several of his relatives.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May022011

President Obama: 'This Is a Good Day for America'

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- “This is a good day for America,” President Obama said from the East Room of the White House Monday, in reference to Sunday’s killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

“Our country has kept its commitment to see that justice is done. The world is safer; it is a better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden.”

The president made these remarks at a previously scheduled East Room ceremony where he honored two Medal of Honor recipients posthumously for their service in Korea. But this week’s news provided a parallel, marking the spirit of a nation that is still very strong, he said.

“Today, we are reminded that, as a nation, there’s nothing we can’t do – when we put our shoulders to the wheel, when we work together, when we remember the sense of unity that defines us as Americans.”

The president said that the patriotism and spirit was felt Sunday night at the random gatherings of Americans celebrating the news.

“Here outside the White House, at Ground Zero in New York, and across the country -- people holding candles, waving the flag, singing the national anthem -- people proud to live in the United States of America.”

The president personally acknowledged the work of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Mike Mullen and Hoss Cartwright, without which, he said, “today and yesterday would not have happened.”

“Their steadiness and leadership has been extraordinary.  I could not be prouder of them, and I am so grateful that they have been part of our team.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May022011

Michelle Obama Asks for Prayers for 9/11 Families

ABC/Donna Svennevik(WASHINGTON) -- While speaking to a group of 300 elementary students on the South Lawn of the White House Monday, first lady Michelle Obama briefly addressed the news of Osama bin Laden’s killing, in the broader context of keeping 9/11 families in their prayers.

“I want you all to listen, because given the recent things that have been going on, before we start I just wanted to say that looking out at all of you beautiful children, I can’t help but think of all the children and all the families affected by the September 11 tragedy nearly 10 years ago.  And they are all very much in our thoughts and our prayers, and we have to keep thinking about them, okay?”

Without mentioning the specific reason for her remarks, the first lady asked the children to promise to send prayers out. The children responded in unison with a hearty "yes."

The kids on Monday were taking part of a previously scheduled event with Live! with Regis and Kelly’s Run Across America with Dean Karnazes, in coordination with Mrs. Obama’s "Let’s Move!" campaign to combat childhood obesity.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May022011

Flood Fight: Army Corps to Blast Open Missouri Levee

Comstock/Thinkstock(BIRDS POINT, Mo.) -- The Army Corps of Engineers has been ordered to activate explosions at the Birds Point, Mo., levee, which could save Cairo, Ill., from disastrous flooding, but at the cost of some of America's richest farmland.

"Public safety remains the No. 1 issue for the corps of engineers," Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh said Monday during a news conference, announcing his decision to go forward with the project.

"[The Cairo levee] continues to be under enormous and unprecedented pressure," he said. "The Cairo gauge has gone up a foot and a half since yesterday. It's going to continue to rise."

The corps' explosives experts will blow a two-mile hole in the levee sometime between 9 p.m. and midnight.

Once the explosives are detonated, Mississippi River water will flood 130,000 acres of prime farmland that includes about 90 homes. Army Corps spokesman Jim Pogue said letting water escape from the swollen river should "lower the Mississippi by anywhere from 3 to 7 feet."

The idea is to take pressure off other levees protecting Cairo, at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, where river levels this week rose past a record set in 1937.

Cairo, whose population exceeded 15,000 in Mark Twain's day, is a ghost of what it was as a booming riverboat-era port town. The city currently has approximately 2,800 residents, most of whom have already evacuated, according to Mayor Judson Childs.

Missouri farmers in the water's path are outraged by the decision. Bill Feezor, who farms 2,500 acres of corn, wheat and soybeans near Birds Point, said he fears the flooding.

"It will ruin my farm," he said. "This is my whole life."

Farmers such as Feezor worry about a toxic stew of diesel fuel, propane, fertilizer and pesticides that, they believe, will cover their land once river water rushes in.

Twenty-four hours after the first explosion, the corps plans to detonate more explosives at the southern end of the floodway to drain the water from the farmlands.

Missouri officials fought the move in court, but U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh, Jr.-- siding with Illinois and Kentucky -- ruled that the corps had the right to breach the levee to protect Cairo. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an emergency appeal from Missouri's attorney general.

For Cairo's mayor, the decision was "a no-brainer."

"What's more important, land or lives?" Childs said. "You can replace land. You can't replace lives."

Walsh on Monday cautioned that this levee explosion would be just the beginning as the corps continues watching pressure levels.

"This doesn't end this historic flood," he said. "This is just the beginning."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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