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Saturday
Mar122011

Yemen Uprising: Security Forces and Protesters Clash in Sana'a

GAMAL NOMAN/AFP/Getty Images(SANA’A, Yemen) -- Social unrest in Yemen continued on Saturday, as demonstrators descended on Sana’a – the nation’s capital – calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

Thousands of protesters came out to Taghyeer Square Saturday, resulting in a clash with Yemeni security forces. Security personnel reportedly fired gas bombs at demonstrators, causing some to suffer severe seizures. A number of people could be seen lying on the ground in need of medical treatment, and reports say approximately one thousand demonstrators were injured in the clash.

President Saleh has been in office for 32 years and on Thursday, amid calls for him to leave office, he said he was willing to re-write the country’s constitution – a move that would give parliament a more powerful role. Opposition party officials rejected Saleh’s offer, demanding that he step down.

According to reports, about 30 people have been killed in the protests which began in January.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar122011

Japan: Reporters Travel to Earthquake Ravaged Sendai

Photo by NASA via Getty Images(SENDAI, Japan) -- The city of Sendai, Japan, was hit hardest by Friday’s devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami; it sits on the northeast coast, just 80 miles from the epicenter of the quake.

Among the journalists on their way to Sendai is ABC News correspondent Clarissa Ward, who was making her way east toward the earthquake-ravaged city.

REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK
By CLARISSA WARD, ABC News


It has been an epic journey, even trying to get here. We have been traveling for more than 26 hours and were diverted through three different cities. We have now reached a point just less than 100 miles to the city of Sendai.

What is most striking is that when you look around here, the roads look fine, the buildings look fine, there’s electricity – but just another 50 miles down the road, that is all expected to change when we get to a town called Yamagata, which is being described as sort of the last frontier of the area where people are coming in and regrouping before going on to those affected areas. We have seen a lot of cars coming and going, but it’s impossible to say whether they are fleeing the area.

The people we’ve talked to are certainly very, very frightened. Our driver, for example, told us he that he had never felt anything like Friday’s earthquake. He said the ground was moving for five minutes and now he’s confronted with these sort of apocalyptic images on his television set.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar122011

Japan Searches for Survivors After Monster Earthquake, Tsunami

STR/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Japanese authorities are racing to rescue those trapped in the rubble after an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and a tsunami left hundreds dead and a nuclear reactor on the verge of a possible of meltdown.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he dispatched 50,000 troops for recovery efforts as powerful aftershocks continue to rattle the region.

Tsunami survivors were plucked by helicopters and from rooftops, but hundreds more along the 1,300-mile stretch of coastline are waiting to be rescued. 200,000 are living in temporary shelters and more than one million households are without water. Survivors are bracing for more as an emergency tsunami warning is also being issued.

Death tolls from Friday's earthquake and tsunami range from 574 to 1,300 people. Thousands remained unaccounted for.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar122011

US Investigating Claims that Bahrain Used Force Against Protesters

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. has launched an investigation into reports that Bahrain used force against protesters during the country’s recent uprising.

A letter from the State Department to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) says the U.S. is “investigating the actions of the Bahraini police and Ministry of Interior forces and assessing their conduct in connection with the protests.” Based on the findings of the investigation, it will be determined whether U.S. aid could be stopped for units found to have targeted peaceful protesters.

The Bahraini government is reportedly looking into the actions of security forces during the events of Feb. 14-18, a step the U.S. views as a positive one towards finding out if anyone is to be held accountable for the use of excessive force. The letter, written by acting Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Miguel Rodriguez, says there are conflicting reports about the military’s role in response to protests and officials are hoping the facts can soon be established.

The State Department’s letter was in response to an inquiry by Leahy about whether any Bahraini security forces who were trained by the U.S. had attacked protesters or used weapons provided by the U.S. against protesters. Leahy is concerned about possible violations of the Leahy Amendment, which prohibits the U.S. from providing training and aid to military forces who have committed human rights abuse.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar122011

Japan Nuclear Safety Agency: Emergency at Second Reactor

Photo by DigitalGlobe via Getty Images(OKUMA, Japan) -- With fears unabated about the effects of an explosion at one of Japan's nuclear plants after Friday's powerful earthquake, the nation's nuclear safety agency on Saturday reported an emergency at a second reactor in the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Meanwhile, Japanese authorities are racing to rescue those trapped in the rubble after an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and a tsunami left hundreds dead and a nuclear reactor on the verge of a possible of meltdown.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he dispatched 50,000 troops for recovery efforts as powerful aftershocks continue to rattle the region. Tsunami survivors were plucked by helicopters and from rooftops, but hundreds more along the 1,300-mile stretch of coastline are waiting to be rescued. There are 200,000 people living in temporary shelters after being evacuated to higher ground and more than 1 million households are without water. Five million households lack electricity.

The official death toll from Friday's earthquake and tsunami stands at 686, while local media reports put fatality totals closer to 1,300 people. With thousands unaccounted for in the hardest hit areas, that number is expected to rise.

The earthquake, the fifth largest in recorded history and the largest ever to hit Japan, struck Friday at about 2:46 p.m. local time, triggering a tsunami that unleashed a menacing stew of debris over the countryside and into towns, crushing buildings and everything in its path.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar122011

Explosion At Japanese Nuclear Plant Prompts Fears of Meltdown

In this satellite view, Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power plant is damaged by an earthquake which caused a tsunami in Okuma, Japan. DigitalGlobe via Getty Images(OKUMA, Japan) -- The container protecting a nuclear reactor at a plant facing a possible meltdown was not damaged in an explosion that injured four workers and destroyed the exterior walls of the plant, a Japanese government spokesman said Saturday.

Government spokesman Yukio Edano said the blast did not damage the nuclear reactor itself at the Fukushima Daiichi, which would cause radioactive material to leak out.

Contrary to initial reports of radiation levels rising around the Fukushima Daiichi plant after the blast, Edano said that radiation is decreasing and that the pressure inside the reactor is also dropping.

A top U.S. scientist said Japan must come to terms with the severity of the nuclear accident it is facing, and work to immediately protect its most vulnerable residents from the damage of radiation exposure - particularly protecting children against exposure to radioactive iodine.

"Any attempt to make it seem that this is not the worst case imaginable is foolhardy," said Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant, located about 200 miles northeast of Tokyo, was one of two run by the Tokyo Electric Power Co. whose cooling systems were damaged in the 8.9 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan Friday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar112011

Obama: International Community "Tightening Noose On Gadhafi"

Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama announced Friday that he has “determined that it's appropriate for us to assign a representative whose specific job is to interact with the opposition” in Libya to “determine ways that we can further help them.”

The move, in light of the U.S. rejection of Moammar Gadhafi’s representatives as legitimate, can be interpreted as a de facto recognition of the Libyan opposition as the legitimate representatives of that country. Earlier this week, France announced it was formally making such a move.

The president noted that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would soon be meeting with representatives of the opposition “and so we're going to be in close consultation with them.”

The president said that the moves the international community has taken means “we are slowly tightening the noose on Gadhafi. He is more and more isolated internationally, both through sanctions as well as an arms embargo.”

Speaking at a Friday afternoon press conference, the president noted that NATO will meet on Tuesday in Brussels to consider imposing a no-fly zone over the country.

The president said he was not rushing to military action in the region because of the risks both to U.S. military personnel, possible consequences, and politically the need to “maintain the strong international coalition that we have right now.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar112011

Obama Offers Condolences to Japanese in Wake of Earthquake

FUKUSHIMA MINPO/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama offered his condolences to the Japanese people on Friday, and said the United States is monitoring the situation in Asia and its own shores closely.

"Today's events remind us of just how fragile life can be," the president said. "Our hearts go out to our friends in Japan and across the region, and we're going to stand with them as they recover and rebuild from this tragedy."

The president said the United States has mobilized efforts, including U.S. Navy sea and air power, to assist the Japanese. The United States has one aircraft carrier in Japan and another is on the way, and another ship is also en route to Marianas Islands for assistance, Obama said.

The State Department is working to account for and assist all American citizens in the country, he said.

Obama called Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Friday morning to discuss the situation, and was later briefed by his national security team.

The United States quickly mobilized efforts and redirected its assets in the region to aid the Japanese shortly after the devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami shook the country, even though a formal request didn't come until much later.

A Defense Department official said the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan is being moved to Japan in case it is needed for helicopter support. The carrier had just arrived in the region to participate in an annual exercise with South Korea.

A USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team is assembling to go to Japan, with their team leader already en route, USAID spokesman Lars Anderson told ABC News.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar112011

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami: Social Media Spreads News, Raises Relief Funds

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- The record-setting 8.9 magnitude earthquake that rocked Japan Friday sent millions around the globe to social media websites to spread news, share videos and donate to help victims of the quake and the tsunami in the Pacific.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, Japan's mobile phones were largely silenced because of a spike in demand. For many, including American travelers and expats, Facebook and Twitter became the best link to worried family members.

Dan Schallau, an American who has lived in Japan for nearly a decade, was driving in his car when the quake struck. While he and his wife are fine, he said that he was "overwhelmed" by e-mails from concerned friends and family in the U.S.  A blast message on Facebook allowed him to spread the news quickly.

Google even set up a "Person Finder" web app to link victims with family. More than 7,000 records were entered on the site as of Friday afternoon.

Before the earth even stopped shaking in Japan, plenty of people had the presence of mind to pull out video cameras and share the scenes around them with the world.

As of Friday afternoon, more than 9,000 earthquake-related videos and 7,000 tsunami-related videos had been uploaded to YouTube in the hours since the disaster began, the video sharing site told ABC News. Many of the YouTube clips showed gripping first-person accounts of homes shaking, grocery store shelves rocking, and scared crowds standing in the streets.

On Twitter, hashtags such as #prayforjapan, Fukushima and Sundai rose to the top of the site's "trending topics" index as people spread news and images of the quake.

Even Tokyo Disneyland jumped to the top of the list, fueled in part by a photo posted on TwitPic showing crowds of Japanese tourists seated on the ground during the quake in the middle of the Disney theme park.

Aid organizations also rushed to leverage social media to collect funds for disaster victims.

"Text REDCROSS" surged as a trending topic on Twitter as the organization began to collect $10 donations to assist victims in Japan and tsunami victims around the Pacific Rim. The Red Cross said this afternoon that it's still too early to tell how much money has been received through the text system, which was used to great success to raise money after last year's earthquake in Haiti.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar112011

Nine Libyans Subject to US Sanctions 

Salah Malkawi/ Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of the Treasury Friday designated nine additional Libyans -- including Moammar Gadhafi’s wife and four of his seven sons -- who are now subject to U.S. sanctions and the freezing of their assets.

The move is partly motivated by a desire to encourage those around Gadhafi to defect.

The family members targeted are:

    * Gadhafi’s wife Safia Farkashl
    * His son Hannibal Gadhafi, head of the General Maritime Transport Company of Libya;
    * His son Saadi Gadhafi, Commander of Special Forces and Head of the Libyan Football Federation;
    * His son Muhammad Gadhafi, Chairman of the Libyan Olympic Committee and Chairman of the General Post and Telecommunications Company; and
    * His son Saif Al-Arab Gadhafi.

The senior officials designated Friday include:

    * Abu Bakr Yunis Jabir, the Libyan Minister of Defense;
    * Matuq Mohammad Matuq, Secretary General of the People’s Committee for Public Works;
    * Abu Zayd Umar Dorda, the Director of Libya’s External Security Organization; and
    * Abdullah Al-Senussi, the Director of Military Intelligence, whom the U.S. government accuses of organizing mass killings in Benghazi and recruiting foreign mercenaries. He is allegedly responsible for the deaths of 1,200 Islamists in Abu Selim prison.

“Today’s designation should send a strong signal to those responsible for the violence inflicted by Qadhafi and his government that the United States will continue steps to increase pressure and to hold them accountable,” said David Cohen, the acting undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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