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Monday
Jan102011

Australia Floods Leave 72 Missing and Eight Dead

Sattellite Photo Courtesy - NASA(dot)gov(QUEENSLAND, Australia) -- Officials in the Australian state of Queensland say at least 72 people are missing and eight dead in flash floods that hit overnight. State Premier Anna Bligh called the flash floods Queensland's "darkest hour" since the flood crisis began.

A massive deluge overwhelmed Toowoomba, a city west of the state capital Brisbane, without warning. Since then, sandbags have been given to residents of Brisbane, where floods are expected to peak sometime on Wednesday.

Rescue efforts are underway as helicopters are being used to reach those trapped in car and roofs of buildings. However officials say emergency crews are struggling to cope with calls for assistance and that they expect the death toll to rise over the coming days.

Copyright 2011 ABC Radio News

Monday
Jan102011

Sudan Independence Vote Draws Large Turnout, More Violence

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(JUBA, SUDAN) – As residents of Southern Sudan eagerly go to the polls to cast their votes for independence, violence continues to complicate what most hoped would be a peaceful process.

Residents all across the country are currently able to vote in a referendum for southern independence, which would separate the Islamic northern region of the country from the oil-rich and largely Christian south. This vote follows a nearly 20-year civil war that has claimed over two million lives. Voting has been frequent in the south, but ballots have been cast few and far between in the north, where residents are not as enthusiastic about a possible split.

Fighting continued Monday in the oil-rich province of Abyei, near the north-south border, where South Sudanese officials say 20 policemen were killed and 30 others injured by Arab militiamen. Military officials say the policemen were killed with anti-tank weaponry, indicating they are backed by the military in the north. However, Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, denies any state involvement.

In the south, pro-separation and anti-Khartoum signs are everywhere. “Bye Bye Bashir” read one banner, a sign of the long-standing animosity between the two regions which references current Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

The voting is scheduled to last through Saturday, but the results are not expected to be announced until early next month.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan102011

Royal Wedding: Who Will Be Invited to the Reception?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LONDON) -- Some 600 guests will be invited to the royal wedding, but only 300 will be invited to the crème de la crème evening event, Katie Nicholl, author of the book William and Harry, tells ABC News.

"The ticket that everyone really wants -- and it is the golden ticket -- is the invitation to the evening reception which is being hosted at Buckingham Palace by the Prince of Wales," says Nicholl.

"William and Kate have been told they can invite 100 each."

The size of the wedding is apparently not related to the capacity of Westminster Abbey, the official Church of the British royal family, which has enough seating for 2,000 people.

The royal couple is reportedly under pressure to finalize the guest list, which is set to be released in a couple of weeks.

This past weekend marked Kate's 29th birthday, her last as a commoner. She had a low-key weekend, celebrating with William, her friends and family. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan102011

Suicide Bombing Claims 3 in Afghanistan

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan) -- A suicide attacker in Afghanistan drove a car packed with explosives into a border police vehicle Monday, killing two officers and a civilian.

The attack took place in the southeastern Afghan town of Spin Boldak, which shares a border with Pakistan.

The bomber was driving a Toyota Corolla, but no further information was immediately available.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan102011

Japanese, South Korean Defense Ministers Discuss Military Pact

Photo Courtesy - Chung Sung-Jun/ Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Japanese and South Korean defense ministers met in Seoul, South Korea Monday to discuss a bilateral military pact.

In a rare show of unity, Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said Japan and Korea must deepen military exchanges, while his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-Jin, declared the bilateral relationship stronger than ever.

Japan and South Korea haven't had a military pact in place since the end of World War II, when Japan ended its colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.  While the two countries have economic and diplomatic ties, a military exchange remains sensitive because many Koreans believe Japan hasn't apologized properly for its past.

North Korea's attack on Yeonpyeong Island last November may force these countries to look beyond those differences to insure safety.  Kitazawa and Kwan-Jin condemned the attacks and said both sides hoped to share intelligence, and provide support for military services.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan102011

George Clooney in Sudan to Bring Attention to Independence Referendum

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(SUDAN, Africa) -- George Clooney is in Sudan, ahead of a week-long referendum that began Sunday and will likely lead to the southern part of the country declaring its independence.

Clooney has been actively involved for years in ending the civil conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, so the elections are important to him.  He tells ABC News, "I get an awful lot of undue attention at times in my life, and I thought I could parlay that, and if I was going to get that kind of attention, I should do it somewhere where people really need the attention."

Clooney says it's important that the referendum not result in more violence.  To that end, his organization Not On Our Watch helped launch a website late last month, SatSentinel.org, that is monitoring troops in the country.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan092011

Israelis Worry Anti-Semitism to Blame for Giffords' Shooting

Photo Courtesy - Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords(JERUSALEM) -- Many in Israel are wishing Rep. Gabrielle Giffords a full and speedy recovery.  A strong and vocal supporter of the state of Israel, Giffords promised to stand by the nation's security needs and called on Arab leaders to recognize Israel's right to exist.

She first traveled to Israel in 2001 and later wrote about what a profound effect the trip had on her own sense of Jewish identity.  Giffords is also known in Israel for legislation she introduced to help holocaust survivors in Arizona when she was a state senator. That law eliminated the statute of limitations for collecting insurance claims by victims of the holocaust and their heirs.

Giffords identifies as Jewish and talked about it in her congressional campaign back in 2006.  Her father's family were Jews from Lithuania; her great-grandfather was a rabbi.  It was her grandfather, Akiba Hornstein, who changed the family name to Giffords to avoid anti-Semitism in the 1940s.  With reports that Giffords' shooter named Adolf Hitler's hateful manifesto against the Jews, "Mein Kampf," as one of his favorite books, there is some concern in Israel that anti-Semitism may have played a role in Saturday's attack.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan092011

Passenger Plane Crashes in Iran, 50 Said to Survive

FIle photo. Photo Courtesy - THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images(TEHRAN, Iran) -- A passenger plane carrying about 100 people crashed Sunday in Iran.  There are conflicting reports about the number of people on the jet.  The semi-official Iranian news agency, Fars, reported 50 people had survived the crash.

The IranAir flight originated in Tehran and was headed for Omuriyeh in northwest Iran.  The BBC quotes a West Azerbaijani official and an Iranian TV website which reported that the plane took off an hour later than scheduled and came down because of bad weather conditions.

Iran's civil fleet of aircraft is in poor shape, mostly because the planes are old and said to be badly maintained.  There have been multiple crashes involving Iranian aircraft recently.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan092011

Secretary of State Clinton to Persian Gulf

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Secretary of State left late Saturday for a seven day trip to the Middle East and is expected to press Arab states to openly support tougher sanctions for Iran because of its nuclear efforts.

Secretary Hillary Clinton is expected to visit the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar ahead of the next round of nuclear talks with Iran next week in Istanbul.  Clinton will likely lay out expectations and offer Arab nations information on following the United Nations sanctions on Iran.

State Department officials also say the secretary will encourage more Arab countries to open embassies in Iraq.

A senior U.S official told the Wall Street Journal the main focus of the trip is actually pushing Arab nations toward a more "civil society."  The Obama administration has felt some heat from activists who feel it is not working hard enough for political reform in parts of the Middle East.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan092011

Mexican Drug Violence Reaches Unimaginable Proportion

Photo Courtesy - STR/AFP/Getty Images(MEXICO CITY) -- The bodies of some two dozen people were found, most of them decapitated and many bearing notes, in the Mexican resort city of Acapulco on Saturday.  Some of the notes identified the dead as extortionists and claimed responsibilities for the killings on behalf of the Sinaloa drug cartel.

The Los Angeles Times reports most of the bodies were found away from the city's central market area, which rival gangs are fighting to control.

The Sinaloa cartel may be trying to move in on the territory of its rival, the Beltran Leyva gang, which appears weakened by the recent deaths and captures of some of its leaders.  The Times says the Leyva operation has been the top drug operation in Acapulco but may now be struggling, making the area ripe for takeover.  Nationwide, the Times says the Sinaloa cartel is the strongest in Mexico.

Officials say all of the victims were men under the age of 30.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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