Royal Wedding Invitation to Syrian Ambassador Withdrawn

Comstock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Following an uproar over the royal wedding invitation of Syria's ambassador to the U.K., the controversial guest will no longer be attending Friday's event.

His invitation has been withdrawn by the foreign secretary in consultation with Buckingham Palace.  The foreign secretary said it would have been inappropriate for the ambassador to witness the royal wedding while his Syrian security forces were killing anti-government demonstrators.

The crown prince of Bahrain has already declined his invitation because of a controversy involving his country's violent response to protests.

The palace says it followed protocol by including every country that has normal diplomatic relations with Britain on the royal wedding's guest list.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Who Will Be Watching Royal Wedding Coverage?

Niall Carson - WPA Pool / Getty Images(SHELTON, Conn.) -- There’s certainly no denying the media interest in Friday’s royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, but a new survey reveals that even though a majority of people are aware of the event, most are not making specific plans to watch it.

Survey Sampling International recently surveyed 4,000 adults in more than eight countries and discovered that while 89 percent are aware of the royal wedding, only 10 percent will “definitely watch” the London event.

Not surprisingly, interest in watching is highest in the U.K., with 18 percent planning to tune in.  In China, 15 percent of respondents said they would definitely watch the nuptials.  In the United States, just nine percent say they definitely plan to watch.

At the opposite end of the opinion spectrum, 30 percent of Americans say they will definitely not be watching Prince William and Kate Middleton tie the knot.  The French are the least interested, with 36 percent saying they definitely won’t be watching the ceremony.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Kate Middleton: What Will She Wear for the Royal Wedding?

Niall Carson - WPA Pool / Getty Images(LONDON) -- Ahead of Prince William and Kate Middleton's big day, one major question remains: what will she wear?

Millions of people will watch Middleton walk down the aisle of Westminster Abbey Friday morning. Still, what she'll be clad in remains a mystery, a subject of speculation that has had the fashion world scratching its collective head for months.

All will be revealed at 6 a.m. ET when the designer's name, along with photographs and sketches of Middleton's gown, will be posted on the official royal wedding website.

About the only certainty right now is that the dress will be made by a British designer.

Many media outlets have speculated that the dress will be a creation of Sarah Burton's, the designer for the late Alexander McQueen. She was considered McQueen's right-hand prior to his 2010 death and was head of design for the label's women's wear since 2000.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Middleton chose Burton "for the discretion afforded by her relatively low profile, as well as for her alternative take on elegance." Burton's work is said to have "caught Middleton's eye" when she designed an off-the-shoulder wedding dress for Sara Buys, a fashion journalist who in 2005 married Tom Parker Bowles, Camilla's son. Buys is reportedly friendly with Middleton.

Considered one of Britain's edgiest labels, a McQueen dress would be in line with Middleton's interest in fashion. On the other hand, that interest in fashion lends credence to the Daily Mail's report that Middleton designed the dress herself.

Middleton has long been interested in fashion and design. She worked for the British apparel chain Jigsaw as an accessories buyer after graduating from St. Andrews University, where she studied art history. It was at St. Andrews where she modeled in a student fashion show and reportedly caught Prince William's eye in a see-through dress.

In addition to the dress, there has been widespread speculation about the shoes that Middleton will wear. The Huffington Post reported that the bride-to-be commissioned four pairs of shoes for her wedding day, each with different heel heights. The lowest will be used to walk down the aisle at Westminster Abbey and are expected to be covered with multiple layers of silk and embroidery.

Middleton will reportedly change out of those shoes and into more festive heels for Friday afternoon and evening events, where she will perhaps, to the delight of the fashion-loving masses, debut a party-ready dress or two, too.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Is Vertical Farming the Solution to Growing Global Food Insecurity?

Design Pics/The Irish Image Collection/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Columbia University professor Dickson Despommier says that his Vertical Farm Project could save the world as the swelling global population begins to overwhelm the food supply.

In his book Vertical Farm, Despommier explains that a series of greenhouses stacked on top of each other and placed in urban environments could provide a sustainable source of food as more people migrate into cities.

Despommier predicts that within 20 years, 80 percent of the world's population will live in cities.

"The biggest difficulty we're facing is a misdistribution of resources right now," Despommier told ABC News. "In the near future, we'll have shortages, period."

Vertical farming uses many of the same techniques found in modern greenhouses, but stacks them one on top of the other in order to create vertical farmland that uses much less space than traditional fields. One indoor acre is equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more, depending upon the crop.

"An indoor farmer doesn't pray for rain," Despommier said.

Some of the techniques are based in aeroponics, which is a technology that grows plants using air or mist and not soil, and hydroponics, which grows plants in nutrient and mineral-rich solutions in water, also without using soil.

"You can ask anybody [who lives near greenhouse agriculture] what it's like to taste a nice, delicious tomato in the middle of January if they live in a region with a long winter," Despommier said.

Another potential advantage of vertical farming is a virtual inoculation against weather-related crop failures due to droughts and floods. This has become increasingly more important as climate change affects weather patterns and farmland.

The latest report on global food insecurity by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations found that every food-producing country in the world had experienced some kind of environmental problem in the last year that has affected food production.

Until just a few months ago, vertical farming was still just an idea. Since then, a Dutch group has created a vertical farm in the city of 's-Hertogenbosch, and a group of investors is planning another one in Milwaukee.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


US Ambassador to Libya on Casualty Numbers and Recognition for TNC

MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz says it is hard for the U.S. to determine right now how many civilian casualties there have been in Libya since Moammar Gadhafi launched a military campaign against rebel forces.

He said officials at the State Department have seen “figures ranging from 10[,000] to 30,000.”  But, he added, “I don't think that we're probably not going to get an accurate number until we really get, you know, more hands-on experience on the ground. It's just very difficult,” he stressed. “We keep getting reports, even from contacts in Tripoli and in the West, of bodies that have been uncovered, you know, on the beach. We just have no sense of the scale of this thing until it's over."

He said that Gadhafi forces continue their indiscriminate shelling attacks in Misrata and the western mountain areas where they’ve surrounded towns in an apparent attempting to starve civilian populations into submission.

Cretz opened up a can of worms by saying in his opening remarks that Chris Stevens, the U.S. envoy to the Transitional National Council (TNC) in Benghazi, had assessed that the TNC “as we had previously reported, is a political body which is worthy of our support.”  That led to a flurry of questions that if that was the case, why wasn’t the U.S. recognizing them as the official government like the French, Qataris and the Italians have done.

Cretz said the relationship with the TNC was complex, but that recognition was being studied as a legal matter. He also said that the president has not ruled anything out, though he proceeded to detail a series of other things that could be done besides formally recognizing the TNC as a government, such as freezing assets or suspending oil sales.  At one point he said recognition wouldn’t really have that great of an impact, but he said “as time goes on, we are gaining at least a bit more confidence in the TNC.”

Cretz said efforts continue to try to get Gadhafi to leave power by using as many tools as possible “to get him to realize that the game is up and he’s got to go.”  He said those efforts are moving in the right direction. That  includes efforts to break up Gadhafi’s inner circle, which he described as not “the tightest inner group.”

He said contacts with some of these officials indicate they might be willing to leave the regime, but aren’t doing it for fear of the safety of their families in Tripoli.  He said the effort to remove Gadhafi is a deliberative process that he hopes won’t become a slow process. He indicated that attacks on command and control sites should be a signal to Gadhafi’s inner circle that they’re on the wrong side.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Nine Americans Methodically Killed By Afghan Pilot at Kabul Airport

ABC News(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- An Afghan Air Corps pilot, angered by an argument with nine American trainers at a Kabul airport, pulled a gun on the Americans, disarmed them and methodically killed them, officials said Wednesday.

The shooter then apparently shot and killed himself.

The Afghan military said the gunman was a 20-year veteran of the Afghan Air Corps who had gotten in an argument with the American trainers during a meeting in a conference room at the Afghan Air Force headquarters.

A U.S. official told ABC News they believe the pilot left the meeting after the argument, then returned and forced the Americans to remove their weapons before shooting them with a U.S.-provided M9 semi-automatic weapon.

A quick reaction force arrived at the scene shortly after the shootings and found the shooter dead. Officials believe the gunman killed himself.

The dead included eight U.S military personnel and one American contractor. Five Afghan soldiers were also injured in the shooting, said Afghan Air Corps spokesman Col. Bahader.

It was the deadliest incident so far of an Afghan ally turning against his coalition partners, officials said. This is the seventh time this year that coalition soldiers or Afghan security forces have been killed by either members of the Afghan security force or insurgents impersonating them.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the violence and ordered his defense and security officials to investigate the cause of the recent incidents.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Australia: Restaurant Customer Has Seizure; Waiter Gives Him the Check

Thinkstock Images(MELBOURNE, Australia) -- A Chinese restaurant in Australia is being criticized for the actions of a waiter who reportedly handed a customer a bill as the man was being loaded into an ambulance after suffering a seizure while eating. 

The Herald Sun reports paramedics rushed to the Shifu Dumpling Express in suburban Melbourne Tuesday, and were loading the man into the back of an ambulance, accompanied by his female companion, when the waiter walked up and handed them a bill.

The woman says she was shocked by the waiter’s behavior, and has vowed never to visit the restaurant again.

Manager Kevin Tian does not regret the incident, telling the newspaper, “My opinion is that they ate in our restaurant, they have to pay.”

The customer was hospitalized in stable condition.  No word on whether the tab was paid.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Muslim Group Cancels Protest Outside Royal Wedding

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- A radical Muslim group that had threatened to turn the royal wedding into a "nightmare" with a protest outside Westminster Abbey on April 29 now says it has canceled the demonstration because the threat of an "imminent" terror attack on the ceremony is too great.

In a press conference at Westminster Abbey Wednesday and in a statement on its website, Muslims Against Crusades said it does not support an attack on the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, but believes there is a high risk of violence because of Britain's military role in Iraq and Afghanistan, and advises Muslims in the U.K. to boycott the celebrations and avoid all public transport on the day of the wedding.

"Careful plans were laid out," said the group in its online statement, "in order to inflict maximum damage both to the reputation of the Crusader and Nazi Prince William as well as Queen Elizabeth II and the British government in general. Unfortunately, it is has recently come to our attention ... that the threat of an imminent attack against those attending the royal wedding on 29th April 2011, is too strong to substantiate the presence of any Muslims within the locality."

"In line with the very real possibility of a large scale attack on British soil," continued the statement, "we are left with no other alternative but to cancel the planned demonstration on 29th April 2011." The statement laid the blame for the terror threat on U.K. foreign policy, and said "Muslims cannot be held responsible for any carnage caused in reaction to such unwarranted oppression."

Anjem Choudary, a radical Muslim activist and leader of the now-banned group Islam4UK, has been linked to Muslims Against Crusades and has coordinated anti-American demonstrations with them in the past, according to both groups' websites. In an interview broadcast Friday on "Brian Ross Investigates," he said the royal wedding would "certainly be a target for those who want to cause havoc in Britain," including al Qaeda.

Top al Qaeda operatives Ayman al-Zawahiri and Anwar al-Awlaki, said Choudary, are "actively encouraging people to carry out [do-it-yourself] operations]" similar to the attempted attack by alleged 'Underwear Bomber' Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on a Christmas Day flight from Amsterdam to Detroit in 2009.

"There's nothing really which is outside of the realm of a possible attack, from biological to nuclear to very high profile events like 9/11," said Choudary. "So I think it's a case of all-out war."

While the Royal Wedding "is certainly a target for those people who want to cause havoc in Britain," Choudary said as a Muslim residing in Britain he lives "under a covenant of security" and as such is "not allowed to carry out such an operation." However, while he stopped short of supporting a violent attack by those living outside Britain, he did say, "I do believe that a Muslim, whenever he is being attacked, or whenever his land is being occupied, or whenever his honor is being violated, he has a divine duty to defend himself."

On Friday, Scotland Yard had rejected Muslims Against Crusades application to demonstrate for "obvious" security reasons, but the group said it was planning to protest anyway.

"Whether Scotland Yard gives us permission or not is irrelevant," a spokesman for the group told ABC News at the time. "We plan to make the Royal Wedding a day that the world will never forget and although we are non-violent, we are confident that our presence will be enough to make a nightmare out of the situation, God willing."

A spokesman for the London police force told ABC News that "of course" security concerns were a consideration when the application to demonstrate outside Westminster Abbey was rejected, but also, "There's a wedding going on... It's not appropriate."

Scotland Yard would not comment on whether it considered Muslims Against Crusades a direct threat to the royal couple and spectators' safety, but security officials previously told ABC News they are more concerned the group's vague threats could spur violence by other, "self-radicalized" Muslims.

Muslims Against Crusades continues to post on its website a countdown clock to the April 29 wedding under the title "Muslims to Disrupt Royal Wedding." The site features pictures of the "Crusader" royal family members -- including one that labels Prince Harry a Nazi.

In a statement on the website explaining the rationale for the now-cancelled demonstration, the group cited "continued interference in Muslim lands" and called on Prince William to "withdraw from the crusader British military," promising a "nightmare" on his wedding day should he refuse. Prince William pilots a search-and-rescue helicopter in the Royal Air Force.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Several Dead, Wounded After Clash Between Pakistani, Afghan Troops

USGS [dot] gov(ISLAMABAD) -- An attack between Afghan and Pakistani soldiers at an army post in Pakistan Wednesday morning left multiple soldiers dead and wounded on both sides, according to officials.

According to a Pakistani military official, the Afghan National Army began firing artillery rounds on a Pakistan Army post in Angoor Ada, a village in South Waziristan, around 10:30 a.m.  The Pakistan Army then retaliated, firing back at Afghan Army positions.

Three ANA soldiers were killed in the attack and four Pakistani soldiers were wounded.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Real IRA Warns Queen Elizabeth Against Visiting Ireland

John Stillwell - Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- A splinter IRA group has issued a warning in advance of Queen Elizabeth's upcoming visit to Ireland, calling the queen a "war criminal" and saying it will take steps to make sure that she gets the message that she is "not wanted on Irish soil."

A man wearing a ski mask, a beret and a green military outfit delivered the message during an Easter Sunday rally at a cemetery in Derry, Northern Ireland, less than a week before the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William, Elizabeth's grandson. He claimed to be a member of Oglaigh na hEireann, a name used most recently by a faction of the Real IRA, one of several splinter groups that reject the Irish peace process and have claimed credit for a recent uptick in political violence.

"Oglaigh na hEireann urge all self-respecting Irishmen and women to resist the upcoming insult that is the visit of a British monarch to Irish soil," the man told the crowd in a seven-minute speech. "The queen of England is wanted for war crimes in Ireland and not wanted on Irish soil. We will do our best to ensure she and the gombeen class that act as her cheerleaders get that message." "Gombeen" is an Irish term that means profiteer or moneylender. Elizabeth is scheduled to visit the Republic of Ireland for three days in May. The masked man condemned the Irish peace process and threatened the further killing of police officers. A 25-year-old police officer, Constable Ronan Kerr, was killed earlier this month by a car bomb in Omagh, Northern Ireland. "Those who think they are serving their community are in fact serving the occupation," said the man, "and will be treated as such."

He closed by vowing that that "the IRA, in cooperation with others, will continue to resist the occupation to the best of our ability. ... Victory to the IRA!"

The traditional, or Provisional, IRA, has declared an end to armed struggle, but several dissident Irish Republican groups like the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA have mounted a new campaign of political violence in recent years, with more than 40 significant attacks in 2010. Experts say the resurgent Irish Republican groups also want an attack inside England to demonstrate their strength.

Senior British security officials told ABC News there is "concrete intelligence" that the groups have been trying to move operations beyond Northern Ireland to London. MI5, the security agency in charge of countering domestic terrorism in Britain, has recently increased surveillance of suspected Irish terror leaders, shifted resources from Al Qaeda to the Irish groups and raised the threat of Irish-related terrorism from moderate to substantial.

Concern has also been heightened with the upcoming Royal Wedding, which has captured the world's attention and could be an attractive target for terror attacks, say experts.

"I think there's no doubt the dissidents have the intent, and they are increasingly showing they have the capability," said Martyn Frampton, a professor at Queen Mary University of London and author of "Legion of the Rearguard: Dissident Irish Republicanism." "If you put those two things together, you do have a very serious threat."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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