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Tuesday
Apr262011

Syrian Uprising: Images, Sounds Provide Glimpse of Deadly Violence 

KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty ImagesReporter's Notebook by Martha Raddatz

(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Although Americans have been told to leave and Western reporters have been banned, there is a way inside Syria via pictures, transmitted across borders, that people are making sure the world will see.

They are images you cannot turn away from. Sounds that are impossible to forget.

A young girl is rushed through a Syrian street by men desperate to find her medical care. She has been shot in the eye, an image too gruesome to show on TV. Her father cries in the background: "D--- you! D--- you!...She's a little girl."

This struck me as well: A father records his family huddled with him at home -- the sound of a baby and toddlers nearby as -- "bang! bang!" -- a terrifying scene plays out below them.

Ear-splitting gunfire is everywhere. It is punishment to the thousands of protesters who have dared to confront the government.

The quiet can be equally terrifying. You wonder what will happen next as Syrian troops gather around.

And then there are the tanks. They are intimidating.

I have long had a spent tank shell in my office. It is a reminder of a war a long time ago. With its size, it can take down walls and buildings and wreak unimaginable destruction on human beings.

Syrians watch, angry and horrified. They tweet information. "Tanks are gathering."

ABC News' Faisal Sidiq, an Arabic speaker, has helped me communicate on Facebook with a young eyewitness who tells us she is seeing bodies in the streets and security forces firing on people at funerals. But she describes it as a mix of pain and hope.

It is clear neither tanks nor bullets nor the sacrifice of some so young stops these crowds. They may not have the power of weapons, but they have the power of images. Images that they hope will somehow, someday, put a stop to this.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Tuesday
Apr262011

Gates: No Decision Yet on Afghan Troop Reduction Numbers

Charles Dharapak - Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The plan is for the U.S. to begin pulling out U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan in July, but there has still been no recommendation made by Gen. David Petraeus about how many troops should come home.
 
That’s according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said at his media availability Tuesday with British Defense Minister Liam Fox, “I have not yet received General Petraeus' recommendations.  I expect that they will be coming in the not-too-distant future.”

Defense officials say there has been no presentation of numbers from Afghanistan to the Pentagon as to how many should come home.  They say any such discussion has been a tight hold.

Typically the military likes personnel decisions to be made with enough time to prepare or stand down troops for deployment, but in this case it could come very late in the process.  This is mainly because Petraeus wants to keep his current force level of 100,000 U.S. troops for as long as he can to fight off the Taliban when the fighting season is in full gear in a few weeks. 

It’s the middle of the poppy harvest right now, a time when young men work in the fields, and afterwards it’s typical for them to hire themselves out to the Taliban for the fighting season.  That could mean the full brunt of the fighting season won’t be seen until the same timeframe as when the administration will decide how many troops will come home in July.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr262011

Dingoes Attack Child, 3, on Australia's Fraser Island

Hermera Technologies/Thinkstock(QUEENSLAND, Australia) -- Australian rangers found and killed two dingoes believed to have mauled a three-year-old girl as her family was preparing to board a ferry following a camping trip on Australia's Fraser Island.

The dingoes, wild dogs native to Australia, attacked the girl and dragged her by the legs Monday after she wandered away from her family and into the sand dunes on the island in northeastern Queensland.

Witnesses watched as the dogs attacked the little girl, yelling for the child's parents and for the dogs to scatter, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"I was running and yelling and screaming and pointing at these people behind the dune," witness David Law told the network. "I finally got their attention and pointed behind, and one of the men ran over the dune, and scared the dog off the little girl."

The family has not been identified. The two dogs were reported found and destroyed.

The young girl was hospitalized with bite wounds on both legs, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Some 200 dingoes are believed to live on Fraser Island, a national park and popular camping destination near the Australian city of Brisbane. The island is home to one of the last groups of purebred dingoes, which are a protected species under Australian law.

The Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management warned visitors to Fraser earlier this month to be wary of mating dingoes, particularly this week during the Easter school holiday.

Dingo mating season lasts from April to June.

A nine-year-old boy was killed by dingoes on Fraser Island in 2001. As a result, more than a dozen dogs were killed in a government cull, and a campaign was launched to warn visitors of the danger posed by the animals.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr262011

Kate Middleton to Wear Queen Elizabeth's Wedding Tiara?

Hulton Archive/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Queen Elizabeth has often loaned or given royal brides a tiara on their wedding day, and royal wedding watchers are abuzz over which of the queen's many crowns Kate Middleton might get to wear. In fact, the future princess' royal wedding day headgear is of such interest that bookmakers across the United Kingdom and around the world have set odds on it. And one curious wager is leading many to believe that decision has already been made.

ABC News contributor Duncan Larcombe reported in The Sun that a "well-spoken, middle aged woman" bet £6,000 that Kate Middleton would wear the "Fringe" tiara. Queen Elizabeth wore this tiara to her own wedding in 1947. It was her "something borrowed." If the bet pays off, at 12-1 odds, this gambler stands to win £72,000 (over $115,000).

Alex Donohue, spokesman for the betting house, told Larcombe, "If the punt comes home, we'll lose a fortune. This woman either has more money than sense, or she is very well informed."

The origin of the Fringe tiara is often debated among royal authorities. Some historians believe it was made in 1830 from diamonds that belonged to King George III. The Royal Collection states that it was made in 1919 for Queen Mary from a necklace she received as a wedding present from Queen Victoria. The tiara has been handed down through generations of British royals. In 1936, it was given to the Queen Mum, who in turn lent it to her daughter, Queen Elizabeth, and her granddaughter, Princess Anne, on their wedding days.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr262011

Number-Two Targeted Insurgent in Afghanistan Killed in Air Strike

U.S. State Department(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- In a major coup for the U.S. and its coalition allies in Afghanistan, the International Security Assistance Force on Tuesday confirmed the death of the number-two targeted insurgent.

The ISAF said that al Qaeda senior leader Abu Hafs al-Najdi, also known as Abdul Ghani, died during an air strike on April 13 in Dangam district, Kunar province.

Abdul Ghani was a highly valued target because of his coordination of numerous high-profile attacks in Afghanistan.

He regularly traveled between Afghanistan and Pakistan and directed various operations in Kunar province, including recruiting and training militants, obtaining weapons and plotting attacks against the national army and coalition troops.

The ISAF has been after Abdul Ghani since 2007.  The air strike that killed him also claimed the life of another al Qaeda leader called Wagas. 

During the past month, at least 25 al Qaeda leaders and fighters have died as the result of coalition efforts in Afghanistan.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr262011

New Leaks Detected at Japan's Nuclear Power Plant

STR/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- In yet another setback to gaining control of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency announced Tuesday that radioactive water was detected leaking from the containment vessel of reactor number one.

NISA said American robots will be sent into the reactor to assess the situation.

The leak wasn’t detected by robots when they initially went into reactor number one on April 17 to check for radiation levels there, but NISA said they detected the problem while examining data from the nitrogen injections, which were done to prevent hydrogen explosions.

The new leakage is expected to slow down efforts to flood the reactor’s containment vessel with water to cool it down.  Once the water is cool, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company hopes to achieve a "cold shutdown" at the nuclear plant -- within the next nine months.

On another note, TEPCO announced Monday it would be cutting pay to stay afloat financially.  The company plans to cut executive salaries by half, managers' salaries by 25 percent and salaries for lower-level employees by 20 percent.  TEPCO also announced it would freeze hiring next year.

The pay cuts come as the company begins paying initial compensation to victims affected by radiation leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr262011

Chernobyl Nuclear Accident: 25 Years Later

SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As Japan continues work to prevent a meltdown at its badly damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the world on Tuesday marks a grim anniversary of the nuclear age.

On April 26, 1986, a series of explosions inside reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine resulted in the worst nuclear accident in history.  Following the blasts, large quantities of highly radioactive smoke were released into the atmosphere that spread over Western Russia and Europe.  It’s estimated that as much as 60 percent of the fallout landed in Belarus.

During the five years after the accident, over 350,000 people were evacuated from Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine and resettled.

Meanwhile, more than 500,000 workers were ultimately required to contain the nuclear contamination.  The high cost of the operation was a major factor in crippling the economy of the Soviet Union.

It’s believed that 31 people were killed as a direct result of the catastrophe at Chernobyl, including reactor staff and emergency workers, most of them dying within three months.  Estimates of those who died over time due to radioactive contamination vary wildly.  The World Health Organization puts the number at 4,000 while the Russian publication, Chernobyl, says the accident caused 985,000 deaths from 1986 to 2004.

The accident at Chernobyl was rated a seven, the highest level on the International Nuclear Event Scale, which was recently matched by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.  However, that accident is not considered as serious as what occurred at Chernobyl.

An investigation into what caused the explosion at Chernobyl's unit four pinned the blame on a flawed reactor design that was operated with inadequately trained personnel.

By October of 1986, Russian workers had encased unit four in concrete, which allowed the other reactors at the Chernobyl plant to continue operating until December 2000, when the last reactor there was shut down.  Over time, some of those who were forced from their homes in contaminated regions have returned, including to parts of Belarus.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr262011

Royal Wedding: Rain in the Forecast

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Despite predictions last week that the sun would shine on Prince William and Kate Middleton's royal wedding day, updated forecasts now show the weather taking a turn for the worse.

The Met Office, the United Kingdom's national weather service, predicts strong winds with a likely chance of heavy showers Friday.

While superstition states that wedding-day rain is good luck, William and Middleton will surely be disappointed if their big day gets rained out. More than 2 billion people are expected to watch the royal wedding, and 600,000 tourists are flocking to London this week to catch a glimpse of the spectacle. A sea of umbrellas covering the wedding guests, royal family, bridal party, and William and Kate will surely block the best views.

ABC News royal contributor Katie Nicholl said it wouldn't be a royal wedding if there weren't several contingency plans. If it rains, the entire royal procession will travel to Buckingham Palace in covered coaches, a St. James's Palace spokesman confirmed. Prince William and his bride will take the Glass Coach, the same carriage in which Princess in to her wedding at St. Paul's Cathedral.

As for the royal couple's first kiss on the balcony of Buckingham, the Daily Mail reports a royal aide's insisting that the kiss will take place "'virtually no matter what...with no plans to alter the timing."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr262011

State Department Issues Travel Warning Urging Americans to Leave Syria

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In a travel warning issued Monday night, the U.S. State Department urged U.S. citizens currently in Syria to leave while commercial flights are still available.  The State Department is also pulling out non-essential U.S. Embassy staff and has ordered the departure of families of embassy personnel. 

The embassy in Damascus will remain open for limited services.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Tuesday
Apr262011

Gadhafi Unharmed in Latest Assault on Compound

MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- Col. Moammar Gadhafi is alive and well, according to a government spokesman, following a NATO airstrike on his compound in Tripoli early Monday.

Photographs showed extensive damage to Gadhafi's main offices similar to damage from a bomb hitting the facility, which of course was the case.

Despite the bombardment, the spokesman said Gadhafi "is well.  He is healthy.  He is in high spirits."

Gadhafi's whereabouts during the NATO attack weren't known.  It's believed he never sleeps in the same place two nights in a row for fear of being assassinated.

His military and residential compound was struck in 1986 on orders by then-President Ronald Reagan.  Upon surviving that attack, Gadhafi had a giant fist crushing a U.S. jet built to show his hatred for America.  It isn't clear whether that sculpture survived the latest air strike.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio