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Tuesday
Jan042011

Japan: Aging Population Getting Lonelier

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TOKYO) -- The Japanese could be in for a lonely future. New numbers from an upcoming census paint a grim picture for the aging country.

Researchers predict the upcoming census will show the number of single homes surpassed those with families for the first time. Nearly a quarter of Japanese are already over the age of 65. The country saw a record number of deaths last year, while the population decrease reached historic figures.

Experts say the issue will only get worse. They call it the "2030 problem," a spike in the number of single homes over the next 20 years. Many Japanese are opting to stay single, but others have been forced to live alone because of divorce or death. In a few decades, nearly 40 percent of people in their 50s and 60s are expected to fit that mold.

The Japanese government has come up with programs to encourage marriage; they've even handed out child allowances to ease the financial burden of raising children. But that has not necessarily led to a spike in birthrates or marriages. Last year, roughly 700,000 couples got married -- the lowest in more than half a century.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan042011

Nuclear Scientist Detained and Tortured in Iran?

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Shahram Amiri, the Iranian nuclear scientist who returned to Tehran in July after what he called a "kidnapping" by the CIA, has been held in detention by Iranian authorities for two months and tortured so badly he was hospitalized, according to a dissident Iranian Web site.

An article on Iranbriefing.net claims that an unnamed family source says Amiri was held in a safe house after his much-publicized return to the country.  He was allowed to have supervised visits with family members before being moved to a prison in Tehran in October for interrogation.

Amiri, a professor at Tehran's Malek Ashtar University, defected to the U.S. in 2009 after funneling Iranian nuclear secrets for the CIA for several years while still inside the Iranian nuclear program, American officials told ABC News.

Amiri was a key source for the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that concluded the Iranian nuclear weaponization program had been halted after 2003, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official.  The CIA began pushing Amiri to flee after publication of the NIE, said the official, because the agency feared the Iranian government would discover Amiri's role in providing the information.  Amiri disappeared while on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in June 2009, and then resurfaced in the U.S., first at an apartment in Tucson, Arizona and then at an apartment in Springfield, Virginia.

After more than a year in the U.S., Amiri claimed he had never really defected.  In a series of videos released on the Internet in early 2010, he insisted he had been kidnapped, drugged and tortured by the CIA.  He claimed he was trying to elude U.S. agents so he could be reunited with his wife and son in Iran. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan032011

White House Contradicts Russian Duma Official on Linkage Between Missile Defense and START

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- An official of the lower house of the Duma says that as it ratifies the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, the Russian parliament will reaffirm that the treaty limits U.S. plans for missile defense, contrary to the stated position of U.S. officials.

Asked for comment, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor tells ABC News, "The President sent a letter to the Senate on Dec. 18 that said: ‘The New Start Treaty places no limitations on the development or deployment of our missile defense programs.' That remains the case."

The preamble to the treaty recognizes "the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms, that this interrelationship will become more important as strategic nuclear arms are reduced, and that current strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties..."

Throughout the START debate in the Senate, Republican lawmakers voiced concern that recognizing the "interrelationship" between offensive and defensive weapons could be seen as a way to limit U.S. plans for a missile defense system in Europe.

And apparently Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Duma Committee on International Affairs, agrees.

Earlier Monday, the Voice of Russia quoted Kosachev saying that "during the ratification of START in the U.S. Congress the American lawmakers noted that the link between strategic offensive armed forces and antimissile defense systems is not juridically binding for the parties. They referred to the fact that this link was fixed only in the preamble of the document. Such an approach can be regarded as the U.S.' attempt to find an option to build up its strategic potential and the Russian lawmakers cannot agree with this."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan032011

Record Deaths in Japan Spurs New Businesses, Like Hotels for the Dead

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TOKYO) -- The Liss Center stands three stories high, sandwiched between large warehouses on the outskirts of Tokyo. A flickering sign greets visitors in the parking lot, and the hotel's "guests" are welcomed through large metal doors. The antiseptic white walls and smell of disinfectants don't exactly scream business hotel, but owner Nyokai Matsushima affectionately calls this "a business hotel for the dead."

The Liss Center in the Shinkiba neighborhood acts as a temporary morgue. On this day there are 37 "guests," or bodies. Each corpse is tagged with a bar code to avoid mix-ups. The bodies are carefully placed in one large refrigerator, and the ceilings come with antibacterial lights attached to avoid any decay.

"Guests" stay for 7,350 yen a night -- roughly $88, while bereaved families can opt to seek out advice on funeral services from hotel staff. The center is the first business venture for the longtime Buddhist monk and is intended to give Japanese families a place to hold bodies while dealing with the grief and pressure of a funeral. "I was inspired to build this hotel about 14 years ago," Matsushima says. "I wanted to create a space where the deceased could come to rest, without any pressure from funeral companies."

The Liss Center is just the beginning for Matsushima who is joining an expanding list of businesses looking to cash in on the booming funeral industry in Tokyo.

The number of deaths in Japan reached an all-time high last year, while the population dropped to record lows. Nearly a quarter of Japanese are 65 years or older, and that number is expected to climb to 40 percent by 2050 in the world's fastest aging country. Those figures alone have prompted everyone from large retailers to former wedding providers to vie for a share in an increasingly crowded industry.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan032011

Al Qaeda Leaders Killed in US Drone Attacks

Photo Courtesy - US Air Force(MIR ALI, Pakistan) -- Two key al Qaeda leaders were among those killed in U.S. drone strikes this weekend in Pakistan, an intelligence source tells ABC News.

The pair was identified as operational commanders Muhammad Omar, a Somali national, and Abu Mansur, a Saudi.

The attacks took place Saturday in Mir Ali, North Waziristan, near the Afghan border.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan032011

Two US Soldiers Killed in Iraq; First Deaths of 2011

Photo Courtesy - United States Forces - Iraq/Sgt. Phillip Valentine.(BAGHDAD, Iraq) -- Two American troops were killed in Iraq Sunday night, marking the first deaths of U.S. service members in the country since the new year began.

The two soldiers were killed in cental Iraq while in support of Operation New Dawn, according to the U.S. military.

Their identities and cause of death are being withheld until family members are notified of the news.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan022011

Napolitano to Israel to Survey Airport Security

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will travel to Israel Monday to meet with airport security experts.

Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport is considered one of the most secure in the world, but officials there don't rely on the latest digital X-ray machines and they do not make pat downs mandatory. They base their success on something which many consider controversial: human intelligence -- teams of trained security personnel who profile passengers.

From suspicious behavior to a person's nationality, profiling is a method endorsed by Israeli airport officials. Every passenger is questioned in-depth at check-in; some are pulled aside for further questioning and strip searches.

Human rights groups have called Israel's methods discriminatory because they affect non-Jewish and Arab travelers most.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan022011

Iran Claims to Have Shot Down Western Spy Planes

Photo Courtesy - USAF(TEHRAN) -- Iran claims that its military has shot down two Western spy planes.  A senior officer of the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said on Sunday his people shot down two planes over the Persian Gulf but he did not say when it happened.

The official also told state-run media that his forces have shot down several Western aircraft in the past, calling them advanced spy planes that can take pictures, flown by Iran's "enemies."  That could be a reference to the United States, which has, along with the United Nations and other countries, imposed sanctions on Iran for its nuclear activities.

Iran insists its nuclear program is used only for peaceful purposes. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan022011

Clooney Hopes Satellites Will Shed Light on Sudan

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(LOS ANGELES) -- Actor and activist George Clooney said he hopes that technology can bring public attention to the border region of Sudan and prevent potential violence and even genocide after a critical referendum there next week.

In an exclusive interview with ABC’s This Week, Clooney talked about the goals of the newly-launched Satellite Sentinel Project, a joint effort backed by the U.N., Google and human rights groups to have satellites monitor the border between Sudan’s northern and southern region.

Southern Sudan will vote next Sunday on whether to break away from the northern part of the country, which has been wracked with violence in the past decade. The Satellite Sentinel Project, backed by Clooney and John Prendergast of the Enough Project, will provide high-resolution images of the border region on the project’s website that the public can monitor, in hopes of drawing attention to the region in case of violence after the referendum.

“If you see actual evidence of those kind of attacks, that's something … that the U.N. can actually work with,” Clooney said. “But for the most part, our job is to say that these things have been happening in the dark for a long time … We're going to be able to … not show it afterwards, but show it beforehand, that there were plans, there are tanks lined up, that there are helicopters online, that are going to … that are about to commit atrocities.”

Clooney said the project, which will cost $750,000 to run, is a cost-effective way to prevent violence, instead of “putting Band-Aids on a wound after the wound has been inflicted.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan022011

Flooding Turns Deadly in Australia

Photo Courtesy - Torsten Blackwoodia/AFP/Getty Images(QUEENSLAND, Australia) -- At least one person is dead and two are missing in the violent flooding that has thousands of people evacuated from their homes in Australia.  The dead woman was trying to drive across a flooded river when her vehicle was swept away.  Others in her car were rescued but the 41-year-old driver did not make it.  Two other people are missing in the area and believed dead. 

The flooding in northern Queensland has swamped 22 towns, leaving thousands in evacuation shelters, wondering what their homes will be like when they return.  The Age newspaper reports 200,000 people are affected.  

Aside from the human and financial toll, scientists worry the flood waters will do severe damage to the Great Barrier Reef.  The runoff from the floods contains pesticides and other chemicals that kill coral and will remain in the reef for years. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio