What's Next? Lebanon's Government Falls 

Photo Courtesy - US State Dept.(BEIRUT, Lebanon) – With the collapse of the Lebanese unity government after Hezbollah's withdrawal, the country is headed for a period of continued political stalemate, say analysts in Beirut.

The collapse is not official, however, as the president is still technically obligated to accept resignations. Should that occur, the president along with parliament will begin consultations to nominate a new prime minister. It is likely that Prime Minister Saad Hariri would be re-nominated.

Meanwhile, President Obama met with Hariri in Washington. In a paper statement, the White House said efforts by the Hezbollah-led coalition to bring down the Lebanese government “only demonstrate their own fear and determination to block the government’s ability to conduct its business and advance the aspirations of all of the Lebanese people.”

During the meeting, Obama commended Prime Minister Hariri for his “steadfast leadership and efforts to reach peace, stability, and consensus in Lebanon under difficult circumstances.”

At the root of the collapse was Hariri’s refusal to end Lebanon’s participation in the United Nations investigation over his father’s assassination which is expected to indict Hezbollah members.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Statesman: Assange Levels Threat on Mainstream Press

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LONDON) – In an exclusive interview with the New Statesman, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called China the site's biggest “technological enemy” and leveled a threat against the mainstream news media.

In the interview, Assange claims that if he is indicted by the United States, he will release so-called “insurance” cables.
"There are 504 U.S. embassy cables on one broadcasting organization and there are cables on Murdoch and News Corp.," Assange said. He added that should he be indicted, the press should be worried that the protection provided to them by the First Amendment is fading.

Despite his current problems with the U.S., Assange said that China is the sites biggest technological enemy due to the country’s censorship. He did say, however, that WikiLeaks has made significant strides in getting their content through to readers there.

Assange also weighed in on Bradley Manning, saying he “never heard” of the U.S. soldier who has been accused of leaking diplomatic cables to the site. Assange said the first time he heard of Manning was when his name was published in the press because WikiLeaks was designed to allow complete anonymity for those who submit documents to the site.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Group Claims to have Located Whaling Supply Ship, Stopped All Killing

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(FRIDAY HARBOR, Wash.) – Anti-whaling conservation group Sea Shepherd claims to have located a supply ship for a Japanese whaling fleet and prevented any whales from being “killed this season.”
The organization claims that their scout vessel, Gojira, located an “elusive” Japanese refueling and supply ship, the Sun Laurel, in the Southern Ocean. The group said they immediately made moves to intercept the vessel which had not yet delivered supplies to the whaling fleet.

“We have found the Achilles heel of the whaling fleet and we intend to stay on it like a bloodhound to keep this ship from delivering fuel and supplies to the whaling fleet," said Captain Paul Watson. “This tanker’s support of Japan’s illegal activities makes the captain and crew of the Sun Laurel as culpable as the person firing the harpoon into a whale’s flesh.”

The group said the Japanese fleet has spent the entire season fleeing from their ships and there is “no evidence that any whales have been killed this season” as a result.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Anna Chapman Explains The 'Secrets of the World'

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MOSCOW) -- Sultry spy Anna Chapman, shipped back to Russia as part of a massive spy swap last summer, has turned her notoriety into a lucrative and varied career in her native land. In her newest venture, the flame-haired 28-year old, who has already appeared in various men's magazines and accepted a high position in the country's ruling political party, will host a regular weekly show on Russian television.

Secrets of the World With Anna Chapman will debut on REN-TV, a private channel, on Jan. 21, and air weekly, according to a spokeswoman for the channel. Wearing a little black dress, Chapman is prominently featured in a promotional shot on the station's website, which also says "I reveal all mysteries, if you have the courage." According to the website, the show will be the Friday installment of a series called Reality, which will explore hoaxes, mysteries, and "puzzling phenomena," and be hosted by "the most mysterious woman of our time."

Chapman, born Anya Kushchenko, and nine other members of a Russian spy ring were arrested in the U.S. this summer. She and her fellow spies all pleaded guilty to espionage in a Manhattan courthouse in July. They were immediately flown to Vienna to be exchanged for accused Western agents held by Russia in the largest U.S.-Russia spy swap since the Cold War.

Chapman has continued to attract attention since her repatriation. She was hired as an advisor to a Russian bank in October. At a ceremony in Moscow in December, Chapman was appointed a leader of the youth branch of Vladimir Putin's political party. Candid nude photos that an ex-boyfriend snapped of Chapman appeared in the January issue of Playboy. Other nude and semi-nude photos of Chapman appeared in the British and U.S. press last summer, and Chapman posed in leather and lingerie for other magazines.

Also on Wednesday, Russian media reported that another member of the spy ring had been hired by the government-run pipeline company Transneft as an advisor. A spokesman for Transneft, however, denied that anyone named Natalia Pereverzera was working for the firm. Perverzera lived in the U.S. under the name Patricia Mills before her capture. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Six ISAF Troops Killed in Afghanistan; Deadliest Day in a Month

Photo Courtesy - U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gary A. Witte, 300th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment(KABUL, Afghanistan) --  Six International Security Assistance Force service members were killed in Aghanistan Wednesday, making it the deadliest day for ISAF troops in exactly a month.

Four ISAF troops died from attacks involving improvised explosive devices, or IEDs -- three in eastern Afghanistan and another in southern Afghanistan.  Two other service members died in the eastern part of the country -- one after an insurgent attack and another following a non-battle related injury.

The identities of the troops have not been released.

Wednesday's fatalities mark the deadliest day for the ISAF since Dec. 12 when six U.S. soldiers were killed in Kandahar.

So far in January, 15 ISAF service members have died, nine of whom were confirmed to be Americans.  Fourteen out of the 15 deaths resulted from IED attacks.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


One Year After Haiti's Quake: Rubble Clogs Capital, Cholera Babies

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti) --  One year after a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti, its capital, Port-au-Prince, is hard at work trying to rebuild itself.

Projects create dust on every street corner, but many are privately funded and done piecemeal, often using the same rusted rebar that failed Haitians the first time.

It is estimated about 700 million-cubic-feet of rubble have yet to be cleared, enough to fill six Superdomes.  Only 10 percent of the rubble has been removed.  It is Haiti's biggest challenge, Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerieve told ABC News Wednesday.

The prime minister said the bulk of the rubble cleared -- enough to open most of the city's shattered  streets -- was paid for by the government, although most of the removal ABC News has witnessed in four trips over the past year resulted from private initiatives -- most often Haitians using shovels, picks and buckets.

Aside from rubble, the country is still facing many other challenges.

Bellerieve told ABC News the government has revised its previous estimate of the death toll from 230,000 to 316,000, meaning about three percent of Haiti's entire population died.

Haiti has yet to elect a new president, and it's voters continue to wait for the results of the disputed Nov. 29 elections.  The runoff for the three putative front runners -- the wife of a former president, with scant political experience, a former hip hop star, and a government anointed successor with a checkered past -- has been postponed to March, all under the threat of violence.

Following the quake, Haiti was hit by Hurricane Tomas, rekindling a cholera outbreak that claimed the lives of over 3,600 people.  Pregnant women and their newborns are still fighting and dying from the infection, and only one full service maternity hospital, run by the emergency relief group Doctors Without Borders, exists in the country.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


The Americans Are Coming! 'Kate Middleton Country' in Demand 

Photo Courtesy - Indigo/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The Americans are coming, the Americans are coming!

And please forgive the small English village of Bucklebury for its apprehension as Kate Middleton's hometown adjusts to the loss of anonymity, courtesy of the princess-to-be.

Starting Sunday, a U.K. company will be sending bus tours to Bucklebury, or "Kate Middleton Country," 55 miles west of London.

Tour operator Adrian Morton said he hopes visitors will flock to see the home of a likely future queen of England. What is more, he added, Americans will make up the bulk of his groups.

"I've been contacted by an American tour operator about possible tours," he told the Associated Press. "You can see the places where she went to school and where she was christened. And locals are interested, too."

The bus tours will begin on a small scale but will grow as the April 29 wedding nears. "There seems to be more interest in the States than in our own country," he said.

Prince William's future bride grew up in Bucklebury, in West Berkshire, where her family still live.

"It's just wonderful what's happened," Martin Fidler, who owns Bucklebury's Bladebone Butchery, told ABC News.

The village is quiet and quaint with a scattering of houses, a village green, one pub, a butcher shop and an interior design shop. The civil parish has a population of 2,066.

"People haven't come out here to visit," Fidler said. "Life just carries on as normal."

But when news broke that a local girl was to marry the second in line to the throne, things weren't so calm in Bucklebury.

"For two days we couldn't move; it was just jam-packed all the way up the avenue," Fidler said, adding that he lost business because his customers couldn't make their way through camera crews to get to his shop. "Where they [Middleton's parents] live, it was just swamped, absolutely swamped."

Tour buses are likely to mean good business for local pubs and shops but at noticeable inconvenience for the village.

"I'm probably going to make sure I'm not around on the wedding day," Stephanie Kennedy, 20, who grew up in Bucklebury and works at the Bladebone Inn, said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Biden to Pakistan: Fight Extremism or Be 'Consumed' By It

Photo Courtesy - The White House/Pete Souza(ISLAMABAD) -- Vice President Joe Biden made an unannounced trip to Pakistan Wednesday to try and push government and military leaders to crack down on militants and shore up a shaky economy.

Biden delivered that message in private and in public, one week after a prominent politician was assassinated and crowds across the country celebrated his killer.

“Societies that tolerate such actions wind up being consumed by those actions,” Biden said to the media in prepared remarks.

Biden was in the country for only about six hours and did not meet any Pakistanis who do not work in the government or military.  He traveled by motorcade under extraordinary security from the airport to the U.S. embassy, then onto the presidential palace, the prime minister’s residence, and the military’s headquarters before departing for an unannounced destination.‬

He had arrived in Pakistan from Afghanistan, where he spent a day-and-a-half in three different provinces, meeting with President Hamid Karzai, U.S. troops, and U.S. diplomats in a trip that was far more extensive than the one he made to Pakistan.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Final Death Toll for Haiti Quake More than 300 Thousand

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti) – Haiti’s prime minister has told ABC News that the final death toll in last year’s earthquake in the country is higher than originally estimated.

According to Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, the final death toll is 316,000, up from approximately 230,000.

The figure represents three percent of Haiti’s population and is equivalent to the entire city of New Orleans being wiped out in less than 60 seconds. Per capita, about twice as many Haitians died in the quake as did Americans during WWII.

Wednesday will mark the one-year anniversary of the disaster.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


William and Kate: The Guest List, Protocol and Dress

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LONDON) -- Details of the April royal wedding have trickled out as Kate and William's big day draws nearer. But until the guest list is confirmed, speculation will abound about who has made the cut. One member of the royal family who has been coy about her chances of receiving a wedding invitation is William's aunt, Sarah Ferguson. In an interview with Canadian TV channel CBC News, the Duchess of York refused to confirm whether she will be attending.

Ferguson is the ex-wife of Prince Andrew and mother of the princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. Fergie, as she is known, is no stranger to controversy. She caused great embarrassment to the royal family in May after being caught on camera taking an $800,000 bribe in exchange for attempting to broker a meeting with Andrew, who's the younger brother of William's father, Prince Charles.

Ferguson's marriage into the royal family in July 1986 also took place in Westminster Abbey, the same venue chosen by William and Kate Middleton: "It's wonderful to just see great love," Ferguson told CBC. "I remember those days of Andrew and I, you know, and getting married at Westminster Abbey."

For the 600 guests who are invited to attend the ceremony, there will be strict protocol to follow.

"The bride's relatives will be on the left and the groom's on the right as you walk in," Judy Wade, royal correspondent for Hello magazine, said. "The more senior you are, the later you arrive. The Queen will arrive just before Kate."

Middleton is expected to travel by car rather than the traditional carriage, but speculation is still rife about what the bride will wear.

On recent occasions, she has chosen a mixture of items from the high end, as well as from mid-range designers such as Issa London, who made the blue dress she wore when the couple announced their engagement. The dress sold out in a day and has inspired several replicas. But stores, brands and designers be warned because a decree has gone out from the palace -- sell or market anything under the Kate Middleton name and you'll be facing a royal lawsuit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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