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Saturday
Nov132010

World Leaders' Small Talk: iPads, Travel Plans & Virtual Ponds

President Obama looks at a digital fish pond as he arrives at the APEC leaders retreat in Yokohama. Photo Courtesy - TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(YOKOHAMA, Japan) -- So what do world leaders chat about in those rare unscheduled minutes when they are gathered together before the start of a global summit session? At the APEC summit in Yokohama, Japan, the answer is iPads, travel plans and virtual Koi ponds.

A pool reporter was in earshot of President Obama as he chatted with Thai prime minister Abhisit  Vejjajiva and other world leaders at the start of an APEC session on Saturday.  The meeting took place in a constructed bamboo forest featuring stone paths and a virtual “Koi pond” – a high-tech pond with HD panels showing virtual fish swimming around.

“A bamboo well appeared to tip water into the fake pond, startling the fake fish, which scattered in fake terror,” the pool report said.

It was reportedly President Obama who initiated the tech conversation – he turned to the Thai prime minister and asked him if he liked his iPad. The Thai leader nodded and inquired as to whether Obama had one.

Earlier Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard leaned over the video pool and at the encouragement of her Japanese host, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, she loudly clapped her hands to get a reaction out of the fish. It was unclear if the fake fish obliged.

A day before their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the APEC summit, Obama greeted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with a hug and small talk.

Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet told Mr. Obama he hoped he would visit his country.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Nov132010

Little Has Changed Since Haiti Quake, Aid Workers Blame Corruption

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti) -- Port au Prince is a city frozen in Jan 12, 2010. Haitians refer to the earthquake as "the 12th." No other description is necessary. How could something so evident everywhere you look be forgotten? Incredibly, life goes on: children go to school, markets are packed, there's even evidence of a few repaired homes. But if there's a pervading architectural theme, it remains: destruction.

Life goes on, but the city looks the same. These days the destruction seems invisible to Haitians, but screams out to visitors. Bacteria, wind and time have carted off the stench of rotting bodies, but no one has taken away all the debris. The presidential palace remains a sandwich of roof and ground floor -- everything in between now mashed inside.

There has been little progress. The UN has built fewer than 18,000 temporary shelters and about 150 permanent structures since the quake.

Some of the 1.3 million living in tent cities partly administered by the UN live better now than before. They now have access to clean water, latrines and often some sort of medical care. Those who live in the fetid slum called Cite Soleil, have little or no clean water, little food, almost no access to medical care, and essentially live in sewage every time the canal overflows. Many eat a single meal every day or two.

Why so little progress? International aid workers blame Haiti's red tape and the scattering of those with experience and corruption. Many government bureaucrats were killed in the quake, many of the survivors who could afford to do so left the country, and others who stayed took much more lucrative jobs with the non-government organizations.

And all of that now has a direct impact on the cholera epidemic. The government estimates there are now about 10,000 cases in Haiti, and about 650 deaths. The Haiti Epidemic Advisory System estimates there are likely 50,000 Haitians with cholera now, and thousands of deaths. Some are unable to get to clinics. The survival rate for those who receive treatment is 99 percent. The survival rate for those who don't is only 40 percent.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Nov132010

Afghanistan: Motorcycle Bomb Kills Anti-Taliban Militia Commander

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- A bomb planted in a motorcycle in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz killed a local anti-Taliban militia commander and three of his fighters Saturday. The blast also killed 5 civilians and injured another 15, according to the district governor.

Kunduz has been the epicenter of the deterioration of northern Afghanistan over the last year or so, when the U.S. began shifting some of its Pakistan supply line through Tajikistan. Much of the province is dangerous to travel -- even for locals -- and the need for local communities to create anti-Taliban militias remains high.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov122010

Obama in Japan: Asian Markets Critical to Economic Growth, Job Creation 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(YOKAHAMA, Japan) -- On his last stop of his 10-day Asian tour, President Obama said that that America’s security and prosperity is “inextricably linked” to that of Asia and increasing U.S. exports will create American jobs.

“In today’s interconnected world, what happens in Japan or China or Indonesia also has a direct effect on the lives and fortunes of the American people,” he said at the APEC CEO summit in Yokahama, Japan.

The president said his goal of doubling U.S. exports in the next five years is directly related to job creation in America.

“With every $1 billion we sell in exports, five thousand jobs are supported at home,” he said. “And jobs supported by exports pay up to 18 percent higher than the national average.”

Yet the president failed to find support.  The president failed to convince the South Koreans to open their markets to American beef and cars - at stake $10 billion in exports and 70,000 American jobs. He failed to push Chinese President Hu Jintao to change policies that make it cheaper to manufacture in China by artificially building up the dollar and holding down Chinese currency.  And with a $227 billion dollar trade deficit with China, Mr Obama was unable to convince the other G20 leaders to agree to use stronger language on currency manipulation in the joint declaration or firm actions on trade imbalances.

Mr. Obama once again warned that nations with large trade surpluses cannot depend on exports to U.S. consumers, noting that the recent economic crisis taught a harsh lesson on the limits of that strategy.

“Going forward, countries with large surpluses must shift away from an unhealthy dependence on exports and take steps to boost domestic demand,” he said. “No nation should assume that their path to prosperity is simply paved with exports to America.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov122010

Rare Find Nets Family $69 Million

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(LONDON) -- A once-forgotten porcelain vase has amassed $69 million at auction, the highest price for any Chinese artwork ever sold.

The discovery was made in London by a brother and sister who were cleaning out their parents' house. The pair found the 16-inch porcelain ornament and brought it to a local shop.

It turns out the piece was commissioned by the Chinese imperial family in the 1700s and made its way to England in the 1930s.

The sister was so shocked that she almost passed out during the auction.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov122010

G20 Summit Wraps Up; Leaders Pledge to End Imbalances

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(SEOUL, South Korea) -- The G20 summit has ended with a long statement by leaders, amounting to a promise for trade cooperation.

The leaders' declaration charts a future in which all the countries agree on the need for more growth and less imbalance.  While some countries make profits selling lots of exports, others struggle, unable to export as many goods. To combat this problem, finance ministers proposed coming up with an early warning system to spot these imbalances.

The declaration  states, "We hold ourselves accountable.  What we promise, we will deliver."  But there may be no way to enforce the pledge.

President Obama seconded the pledge, seeming to take aim at China, saying, "No nation should assume that their path to prosperity is paved simply with exports to the United States."

Obama's tone towards China at the G20 summit softened comparably until a few weeks ago, when he complained loudly that China's trade behavior is "a real problem" and is "unfair."  "They can sell stuff cheaper [in the U.S.]," the president fumed, "and our stuff, when we try to sell there, is more expensive."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov112010

Discussions Over Peace Treaty Between Israel, Palestine 'Friendly and Productive'

Photo Courtesy of US State Dept. (NEW YORK) -- In a joint statement Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said they will continue direct negotiations to reach a final peace deal between Israel and Palestine.

The two sides called their marathon discussions on Thursday "friendly and productive," although it is not clear how much was accomplished in the way of stalled Middle East peace negotiations.

"The United States believes that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state," Clinton said in a statement.

The statement said that both teams plan to work closely in the coming days to move forward with a plan for peace that will satisfy both Israel and Palestine.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov112010

Caught on Tape: Did Afghan Warlord Sway Elections?

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images(AFGHANISTAN) -- In an audiotape that first aired on Afghan TV, an Afghan warlord is heard telling an election officer which candidates to declare as winners.

During October’s parliamentary election, Ismal Khan of Heart, the most notorious warlord in western Afghanistan, can be heard telling an Independent Election Commission worker who should win and who should lose.

The election worker, who sounded nervous, said he has already doctored votes but is not sure that he can deliver who Khan has chosen. ABC News can confidently report that some of Khan's favorite candidates did not win.

But the recording, if accurate, seems to call into question an election body that Western officials have lauded as more independent and vastly improved over last year.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov112010

Cholera Cases in Haiti May be Grossly Underestimated

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images(HAITI) -- As medical units in north Haiti become inundated with cholera patients, some are concerned the number infected may be well beyond current figures.

Official statistics show the number infected just below 10,000, with the number of cholera-related deaths near 650. The Haiti Epidemic Advisory System, however, believes those numbers are grossly underestimated, likely by a factor of five.

They believe that there are around 50,000 active cases in Haiti, which means that there are about 150,000-200,000 carriers.

Reports on the ground depict a shortage of supplies to treat an overwhelming number of patients. Meanwhile, the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research in Bangladesh will send a team to Haiti to assist with cholera treatment and control.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov112010

Google Nearly Starts a War

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MOUNTAINVIEW, Calif.) -- Errors by Google Maps have in the past week reignited a territorial dispute in North Africa and nearly caused a war in Central America.

In the latter instance, Nicaraguan forces crossed a disputed border last week and raised their flag in territory that was long considered part of Costa Rica after the military commander on the scene looked up the area on Google Maps to determine how far he could deploy his troops.

Costa Rica has responded with heavily armed police (the country abolished its army decades ago), and its president has called the move an invasion. Nicaragua so far has refused to withdraw its soldiers.

The Organization of American States has been called in to mediate, and the regional body will consider a proposed solution whereby Nicaragua removes its forces and the two sides sit down to map out the border. Both sides have so far rejected the plan.

In a separate incident this week, Google Maps mistakenly attributed to Morocco a tiny island (more of a large rock) a few hundred yards off its coast and then changed it, again erroneously, to Spain. The problem is the uninhabited island (save for a few goats), which Spain calls Isla de Perejil (“Parsley Island”) and Morocco calls Leila (“Night”), has been a disputed territory for years and the two countries nearly fought over it in 2002.

Google has acknowledged its errors and promised to fix them, pledging to remain neutral in the Morocco/Spain dispute and fix the border line in the Nicaragua/Costa Rica one.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio