Protests Spreading Through Middle East

Photo Courtesy - MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images(MANAMA, Bahrain) -- Thousands of protestors in Bahrain have taken over the main square in the capital. They're demanding the Sunni-led regime include more Shi'ites and provide better jobs and housing.  Some say the prime minister and the whole regime must go. 

In Iran, hardline politicians are calling for the execution of the two main opposition leaders as arrests continue in a crackdown following Monday's protests. 

Jordan's King is facing threats of an uprising from a powerful group of Bedouin tribes who in a public letter accuse his wife, Queen Rania, of corruption and stealing public land for her family.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Libyans Continue Protests Day After Clashes Leave 14 Injured

Muammar Gaddafi. Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- Protesters in Libya are continuing to take to the streets of Tropoli and Benghazi Wednesday, demanding the ouster of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi and his government.

On Tuesday, demonstrators in Benghazi clashed with authorities, throwing stones at police, who responded with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets, according to the BBC.  Libya's Quryna newspaper reported 14 people were injured in the clashes, including 10 police officers and three protesters.

Libyans are now taking to social networking sites calling for more protests on Thursday.  On Twitter, the Libyan-American community, many of whom are political refugees of Gaddafi's regime, are encouraging protesters and trying to launch a following around the hashtag #Feb16.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Immigration Agent Killed, Other Wounded in Mexico Shooting

Photo Courtesy - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement(MEXICO CITY) -- A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent was killed and another wounded after they were shot while driving in Mexico Tuesday.

According to U.S. officials, Special Agent Jaime Zapata and another agent, who has not been identified, were driving between Mexico City and Monterrey when unknown assailants opened fire on them.  Zapata was critically injured in the shooting and died from his gunshot wounds, while the other agent was shot in the arm and leg and remains in stable condition.

Both agents were assigned to the ICE Attaché Office in Mexico City.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a statement on the attacks, saying, "Let me be clear: any act of violence against our ICE personnel -- or any DHS personnel -- is an attack against all those who serve our nation and put their lives at risk for our safety.  The full resources of our Department are at the disposal of our Mexican partners in this investigation.  We remain committed in our broader support for Mexico’s efforts to combat violence within its borders.

Napolitano added that "U.S. law enforcement agencies are working closely with Mexican authorities who are investigating the shooting to ensure the perpetrators of this unconscionable crime are captured as quickly as possible."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sen. John Kerry Meets with Former Pakistani Foreign Minister

Photo Courtesy - Brendan Smialowski/ Getty Images(LAHORE, Pakistan) -- Sen. John Kerry met with former Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Lahore Wednesday.

The meeting came at a time when the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan is strained due to the detention of Raymond Davis, a U.S. government official who's accused of killing two Pakistani men during an alleged robbery attempt late last month in Lahore.

Kerry called Qureshi his friend and had expressed the desire to meet him even if was no longer the country's foreign minister.

Qureshi lost his position after developing differences with the government over immunity issues related to Davis.  He had said that Davis does not enjoy immunity.

Pakistan's foreign office has sent a report to the Law Ministry about the status of Davis' immunity.  The general consensus of the report, according to those who have read it, is that it mentions that Davis is eligible for immunity.  It will be presented in court Thursday and a decision on the basis of the report will be made.

Qureshi is expected to hold a press conference later Wednesday to give details of his meeting with Kerry.

Meanwhile, Kerry is expected to later meet with Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League, whose party is in opposition to the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party but is in power in Punjab province, where Davis is being held in prison.  Nawaz's brother, Shahbaz Sharif, who is heading the Punjab government, will also be at the meeting.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mother Recounts How She Fled to Japan with American Son

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TOKYO) -- A bold-faced lie and a fake name for her child was all it took for a Japanese mother to abduct her American son to her native country.

"It was very easy to me," she said.

The 37-year-old mother, who detailed the 2008 abduction of her child away from his American father under the condition that her name not be used, told ABC News that she knowingly lied to obtain new passports to get out of the country and that, to her knowledge, no one at the Japanese consulate made any effort to make sure she was telling the truth.

"They just, how do you say, didn't notice," she said, even laughing as she talked about outsmarting the system.  "Maybe it was just kind of lucky."

The story provides a rare, inside look at a frustrating diplomatic tangle been two political allies who have spent years in discussions which have produced little action.

The woman's son, Wayne Sawyer, an energetic 4-year-old boy who now speaks virtually no English, is one of hundreds of American children taken to Japan by a parent who seeks refuge in the government's refusal to recognize U.S. child custody laws.

"You wonder, 'What's he going to think?'" Wayne's father, 47-year-old Scott Sawyer said.  "He can't fight back.  I'm a grown adult.  I can fight back.  I can go to Congress.  I can do all these things, and fight for him.  I'm not the victim here.  He is.  Every child who's been kidnapped is a victim here."

Among the circles of left-behind parents in the U.S., many of them fathers, Japan is known as a safe haven for parental abductions.  Once in Japan, the parent who abducted the child is protected by their government's unwillingness to sign the Hague Convention, a treaty that provides for the return of abducted children to the other parent.

The State Department has tried for years to negotiate Japan's signature on the Hague Convention and to try and resolve some of the 321 cases that have been filed with the department during the last 17 years.  But not one child has ever been returned to the U.S. from Japan through diplomatic measures.

"It should not be a diplomatic issue.  We have laws that need to be enforced," Sawyer said.  "My child should not be in Japan, and is in Japan as a result of criminal activity.  And that's what has to be straightened out here.  It's not for a diplomat to go and decide that."

In the case of Sawyer's ex-wife, she admitted to ABC News that she told the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco that she lost her Japanese passport, when in reality, she had surrendered it in accordance with a U.S. court order.

Though the mother initially declined to tell ABC News how she got the passport for her son -- saying she would release the information when he was an adult -- she eventually admitted to using the fake name.  Documents obtained by ABC News show she requested Wayne's passport using the first name Issa, a name that Sawyer says has never been associated with the boy.  She used her maiden name as his last name.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Dalai Lama's Nephew Killed by Car During Walkathon

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla.) -- Those participating in a Walk for Tibet event with Jigme Norbu, the nephew of the Dalai Lama, the day he was struck and killed by a car said he was so dedicated to the cause that he insisted on pressing on after dark with the walk.

Monday night, Norbu, 45, was hit and killed by a car while walking along Highway A1A just 25 miles south of St. Augustine, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Norbu had begun his walk in part to commemorate and carry on the works of the Dalai Lama and his late father, said Donna Kim-Brand, who planned the logistics of the Valentine's Day walk. She was driving ahead of Norbu for most of yesterday.

"After a while, about 20 miles, my back was starting to hurt...he [Norbu] said he was going to keep going another five to six miles," said fellow walker Wangchuk Dorjee. Dorjee got into the van being driven by Kim-Brand.

"He [Norbu] sent us ahead to stake out a dinner place and he said he would join us after he walked two more miles for the cause," Kim-Brand said.

While Norbu was wearing sneakers with reflectors, he did not have any reflective tape on his clothing, Kim-Brand said. He was walking with traffic wearing a white sign that said, "Walk for Tibet, for world peace, human rights and Tibetan independence."

Kim-Brand and Dorjee went ahead of Norbu despite their reservations about him walking in the dark. They usually never walk in the dark, they said.

The two waited at a restaurant for Norbu. They called his cell phone repeatedly with no answer.

"We got the call from the trooper who informed us that he'd been struck from behind," Kim-Brand said through tears.

"I walked with him many, many miles and of course, you know the blisters, but he never complained. He always said, it's blisters are nothing compared to what happens in brothers and sisters suffering," Dorjee said. Norbu was "always laughing" and "dedicated" to the work of his uncle, he added.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Social Media Fuels Protests in Iran, Bahrain and Yemen

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MANAMA, Bahrain) -- More than 10,000 protesters swarmed the Main Square in the capital of Bahrain Tuesday, one of the largest political demonstrations ever seen in this nation's recent history. And a protester was killed by police when a funeral procession for another protester killed Monday escalated into new clashes.

In Iran, after the biggest mass protest since the 2009 elections, members of Parliament gathered for a deadly chant, shouting that key opposition leaders "must be executed."

And in Yemen there was a fifth straight day of uprisings, with demonstrators calling for the ouster of the authoritarian president.

Behind all this was the power of the Internet, with protesters galvanized by a social media revolution.

Despite the attempts of governments to block it, a Facebook page calling for "solidarity demonstrations" is creating a cyber wildfire. Hundreds of hits on the website, turning into thousands, turning into upwards of 12 million -- 90 percent coming from Iran.

The call is specific: "We encourage you to join the thousands on the street right now," the page says.

The call spread through cell phones, smart phones and through people like Internet activist Omid Memarian outside Iran.

"I think this time the [Iranian] government really underestimated the power of social media," Memarian said. "They thought because of the severe crackdown that we witnessed after the election that people would not dare to go to the streets."

In Bahrain, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, protesters photographed the funeral of a demonstrator, and had it on YouTube instantly, inspiring even more to join the call for democracy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Where Will Prince William and Kate Middleton Call Home?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LONDON) -- Call off the realtors! Once Prince William and Kate Middleton become husband and wife, it looks like they'll want to call Kensington Palace home. Although Queen Elizabeth has offered Buckingham Palace to the couple, it's been reported that Prince William prefers to live at the same palace where he grew up.

And within Kensington, it's speculated Kate Middleton has a favorite among her options for a new home. She has looked at Princess Diana's apartment, the residence her fiancé called home after Diana and Charles split, but Kate is apparently all about Princess Margaret's former apartment, No. 1A in Kensington Palace, according to the Daily Mail.

A source told the Daily Mail, "Kate loves the fact the palace is close to all her favorite shops but is still private."

But renovations are underway at Kensington Palace including the restoration of Princess Margaret's apartment, which is supposed to be open to the public upon it is completion. Could this hinder Kate's plans to have the home she is most keen on?

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Attacks Iran's Gov't, Defends Administration's Voice On Egypt

Photo Courtesy - Pete Souza/The White House (file)(WASHINGTON) -- In his first news conference of the year, President Obama assailed the Iranian government's response to the recent protests that have erupted since the uprising in Egypt overthrew its 30-year-long president, Hosni Mubarak. He said it's "ironic" that the Iranian regime has hailed the Egyptian revolt while suppressing its own protests.

"What's different is the Iranian government response, which is to shoot people and beat people and arrest people," the president said. "My hope and expectation is that we're going to continue to see the people of Iran have the courage to be able to express their yearning for greater freedoms and a more representative government, understanding that American cannot ultimately dictate what happens inside Iran."

The White House drew some criticism for its measured response in the initial days of the uprising in Egypt, and for not denouncing Mubarak, who refused to step down despite protesters' demands. Mubarak was a longtime ally of the United States who has played a key role in Israel-Palestine negotiations.

The president also defended the U.S. message on Egypt, saying it was consistent.

"We were mindful that it was important for this to remain an Egyptian event, that the United States did not become the issue, but that we sent out a very clear message that we believed in an orderly transition, a meaningful transition, and a transition that needed to happen not later, but sooner, and we were consistent on that message throughout," he said.

While the president hailed the reforms the military is planning to make in Egypt, he expressed concern about stability in the greater Arab world, where the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings have sparked a number of protests, from Jordan to Yemen to Algeria.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Teens Party in Austrian Incest Dungeon

Photo Handout by APA via Getty Images(AMSTETTEN, Austria) -- The underground dungeon where Josef Fritzl kept his daughter an imprisoned sex slave for decades will be permanently sealed by Austrian officials after teenagers began using the lair for illicit parties.

Broken liquor bottles and drug paraphernalia left by the partying teens are scattered among the soiled mattresses and old computers Fritzl, the convicted murderer and rapist, left behind in the maze of rooms underneath his home in the Austrian town of Amstetten, outside Vienna.

For 24 years, the subterranean dungeon housed Fritzl's daughter, Elisabeth, and the six children she had by him. Elisabeth gave birth to a seventh child who did not survive. Fritzl was charged with the baby's death after authorities discovered the cellar in 2008.

All the while, Elisabeth's mother, Rosemarie, lived upstairs in the home she shared with Fritzl, unaware that her daughter was imprisoned in the basement.

After Fritzl's arrest, trespassing partygoers accessed the basement through an unlocked garage door, according to the Daily Mail.

Fritzl, 75, pleaded guilty to charges of rape, enslavement and negligent homicide. He is currently serving a life sentence. Elisabeth Fritzl, freed from the labyrinth in 2008, lives quietly with her children in a well-guarded home in a village 40 miles from Amstetten.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio