Frozen Melodies: At Norway Festival, Ice Music Celebrates Winter

ABC News(GEILO, Norway) -- They are instruments that make the sound of winter; the melodies of a frozen orchestra. Under a full winter moon, Norwegian musicians celebrated the season with instruments made of ice.

Everything about the annual Ice Music Festival in the mountain town of Geilo, Norway is up to Mother Nature.

"For most people in winter, [the snow and ice] has no value, it's just something you want to get rid of," festival creator Terje Isungset said at this year's festival in early February. "But I find a sound, when I find a sound, I try to work with it and create music with it."

Learning to make music from ice has been a journey of discovery for Isungset. It began when he was commissioned to perform at a festival in Norway in 2000 at a frozen waterfall.

"I didn't know what to do, but I had one idea, I wanted to make an ice harp," he said. "I discovered many things that I never imagined, sounds that I never imagined."

The ice is harvested from a frozen lake 25 miles north of Geilo. Ice cutters search for the clearest, cleanest ice. Using chain saws, they cut huge 600-pound blocks. Ice cutter Evan Rugg said they've seen some of the clearest ice ever this year. They've learned that the best sound comes from ice with no bubbles or cracks.

For this year's festival, ice sculptor Bill Covitz -- a Connecticut business owner whose company Ice Matters creates sculptures for weddings and events in the United States -- fashioned two ice horns, an ice guitar and a five-string harp. But the most beautiful sounds, he says, come from the icicle-like chimes and what he calls the "iceophone" -- the frozen cousin of a xylophone.

"Sometimes ice is completely dead, and sometimes, it is fantastic, so it's really up to the winter," Covitz said.

"It is really hard to make music on ice and to work with ice. And what we do is nearly impossible."

And what exactly does ice sound like? "It is impossible to compare to anything," Isungset said.

Using ice's low frequencies, he creates music that is rooted in traditional Norwegian folk, but with international influences.

Performing with nature's vital resource is "a great honor," Isungset said. "These instruments are not mine, I just borrow them from the earth. I give them back after each use."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Defense Secretary: Yemen Government Collapse 'A Real Problem'

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressed worry regarding Yemen in an interview on This Week, after the middle eastern country’s long-time President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, said he was willing to step down. Widespread protests in Yemen have sapped Saleh’s political support in recent days.

“I think it is a real concern because the most active and, at this point, perhaps the most aggressive branch of al Qaeda -- al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula -- operates out of Yemen," Gates told ABC News when asked how dangerous a threat post-Saleh Yemen would be to the United States. "We have had a lot of counterterrorism cooperation from President Saleh and Yemeni Security Services,” he said.

“So if that government collapses or is replaced by one that is dramatically more weak, then I think we'll face some additional challenges out of Yemen. There's no question about it.  It's a real problem,” Gates said.

In response to violence in Yemen last week, President Obama released a statement saying, in part, “I strongly condemn the violence that has taken place in Yemen today and call on President Saleh to adhere to his public pledge to allow demonstrations to take place peacefully. Those responsible for today’s violence must be held accountable.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Libyan Rebels Continue Westward Push, Take Three More Towns

ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images(BREGA, Libya) -- Libyan rebels continued to move westwards across the country on Sunday, reportedly taking control of three more towns in their push.

On Sunday rebels took control of the key oil town of Brega as they continued their push towards the capital Tripoli. The rebels also reportedly took control of the towns of Ras Lanuf and Uqayla, according to a report by BBC News.

Sunday’s conquests follow the recapture of the city of Ajdabiya by rebels on Saturday.

Both the Obama Administration and Libyan rebels have said that the success of air raids by coalition forces has helped in the takeovers. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces have been forced to retreat from the towns because of the air strikes, enabling rebels to gain the upper hand.

On Saturday night French warplanes that are part of the coalition forces, reportedly destroyed five Libyan planes and two helicopters at a base in Misrata.

The United Nations has authorized the imposition of the no-fly zone in Libya, and international coalition forces have been working to enforce the no-fly zone.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Thousands Protest Spending Cuts in London

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of London Saturday to protest against planned government spending cuts.

The massive group of protestors took part in a march and rally that saw one of the biggest turnouts since anti-war protests held in 2003. According to published reports, more than 250,000 people were estimated to have been at the demonstration which saw protestors make their way from Victoria Embankment to Hyde Park. Protestors chanted, blew whistles, and held up signs, as they made their way through city streets.

The demonstration was mainly a peaceful one, however, there were reports that some protestors damaged some shops, and authorities say a number of people were arrested while several others were injured.

Protests erupted as government plans to cut public spending by about $130 billion in an attempt to reduce a budget deficit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Japan: Power Company Apologizes for Radiation Burns to Workers

STR/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) on Saturday issued an apology for not giving its employees proper warning about the degree of radiation risk they faced.

The apology follows a report that water which caused radiation burns to the legs and feet of three workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was 10,000 times more radioactive than normal. TEPCO apologized for knowing about the radiation risk its employees faced, yet not telling them about it.

In a statement, TEPCO officials said “If we had given (the employees) the heads up thoroughly, we would have been able to avoid their exposure to the radiation at this time. We regret our lack of communication.”

Nuclear experts say the water at the Fukushima Daiichi plant could only reach those levels if it had come into contact with uranium, meaning a breach of the core was almost certain. There are also reports that a high level of radiation has been found in sea water near the plant.

The government is attempting to stay on top of the situation by encouraging TEPCO to provide them with as much information as possible.

Government officials claim the situation at Reactor 1 is stable and does not appear to be getting worse, however, they anticipate that it would be a “long time” before the crisis is over. Government officials also say they will.

On Friday, Prime Minister Naoto Kan Friday called the situation "grave and serious."

"We are not in a position to be optimistic," Kan said. "We must remain vigilant. We must treat every development with the utmost care."

The death toll in Japan stands at an estimated 10,175 people, while over 17,000 people are reportedly still missing following the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan on March 11.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Libya Rebels Take Control of Ajdabiya

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images(AJDABIYA, Libya) -- Rebels in Libya reportedly took control of the city of Ajdabiya on Saturday.

Bombed out tanks, rebels firing celebratory shots into the air and horns honking were some of the sights and sounds on the streets of Ajdabiya Saturday after rebels wrestled control of the town from Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.

The takeover comes as coalition forces continue to launch air raids across Libya, providing aid to rebels in their battle with Gadhafi’s forces.

Speaking at a press conference Saturday, Libya’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim accused coalition forces of trying to ignite a civil war in the country. Kaim said coalition forces were trying to drive the country’s armed forces out of Libyan cities, and that the coalition was acting outside of the United Nations mandate.

Earlier in the month, the UN authorized the imposition of the no-fly zone in Libya, which extends west from Benghazi.

Meanwhile, some journalists have claimed they are being assaulted by Libyan government minders. Journalists claim they have been kicked and have had their cameras destroyed by miners as they tried to carry out their duties.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Newt Gingrich Acknowledges ‘Contradictions’ On His Libya Views

ABC News(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- Potential 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich defended his shifting positions on whether the U.S. military should have intervened in Libya on Saturday, saying that he was responding to President Obama’s changing views.

“The fact is that on each day I was on television I was responding to where the president was that day,” Gingrich told a gathering of conservative Iowans. “And so obviously there were contradictions.”

“It’s true,” he added, “I was trying to follow Obama.”

The former Republican House Speaker originally expressed support for the enforcement of a no-fly zone using American military force, but earlier this week he appeared to flip-flop, calling President Obama’s decision to get involved an act of “amateur opportunism.”

His explanation: “If you had asked, ‘should we jump in the lake?’ I would have said ‘no.’ Once we jumped in the lake I said, ‘swim as fast as you can.’”

On Saturday, speaking before a gathering of conservative Iowans, Gingrich said the NATO coalition must “defeat Gadhafi as rapidly as possible.”

“I would do it by using Egyptian, Moroccan, Jordanian and Iraqi ground forces as advisers and as air controllers with the rebels using all of Western air power as decisively as possible,” he said, adding: “Once you get involved, I believe you get involved decisively, you win quickly, you minimize casualties, you get it over with.”

Gingrich, who was speaking at the Conservative Principles Conference in Des Moines along with a handful of other possible 2012 presidential hopefuls, spent much his 17-minute speech criticizing the Obama administration.

“If Reaganomics was the path to prosperity,” he said, “Obamanomics is the path to oppression.”

On energy policy, Gingrich took issue with President Obama’s recent comment to South American businessmen that “we want to be one of your best customers” by buying Brazilian oil.

“That’s exactly backwards,” he said. “I want us to create American energy in America and I want Brazilians to be our customer.”

“In 2012, we could win a historic election and we could end the 80-year dominance of the left,” he said.
Earlier this month, Gingrich announced the exploratory phase of his presidential campaign and said he would make an official announcement in May.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Key Witness in Amanda Knox Trial Stumbles in Testimony 

TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images(PERUGIA, Italy) -- A key witness in the Italy court trial of American student Amanda Knox gave conflicting statements in court on Saturday when asked to recount what he saw on the night of November 1, 2007.

Knox, 23, and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, who turned 27 on Saturday, are appealing their 2009 conviction, of 26 and 25 years in prison respectively, for sexual assault and murder in the death of Knox's British roommate, Meredith Kercher.

Saturday's main witness, Antonio Curatolo, testified in Knox's first trial in 2009 that he had seen Knox and Sollecito in Piazza Grimana – the square above the house Knox shared with Kercher – on the night of the murder. Curatolo was the only eyewitness brought by the prosecution in the first trial that the judges deemed reliable.

In an effort to dismantle Curatolo's testimony, the defense team for Knox and Sollecito called a number of witnesses on March 12. Disco owners and bus drivers testified that most discos were closed on the night of November 1, 2007 because they had their big Halloween events the night before.

Curatolo, who in 2007 lived outdoors in the Piazza Grimana square, told the court on Saturday that he had seen Knox and Sollecito in the square on November 1 talking animatedly. When asked what night it was, he said he thought it was Halloween.

He then contradicted himself, by telling the prosecutor that he was sure that it was the very next day, at around 1 or 2 p.m., that he saw police cars driving by the square. He said he saw police "and people in white suits" inside and outside the cottage where Knox lived with Kercher. Kercher's body was discovered mid-day on Nov. 2.

The court in Perugia set the next hearing in the case for May 21, when court-assigned independent DNA experts will present their report regarding key DNA evidence presented in the first trial.

A third person, Rudy Guede, was convicted to 16 years in prison for his role in the crime. He was tried separately from Knox and Sollecito and has exhausted his appeals.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Deal May Be in the Works for Yemen President to Step Down

GAMAL NOMAN/AFP/Getty Images(SANA'A, Yemen) -- As protests in Yemen continue, it remains uncertain as to whether President Ali Abdullah Saleh will step down from his position.

On Saturday it was reported that a deal was being worked out that could see Saleh stepping down in the near future. According to published reports, government officials have confirmed that such a deal was being negotiated for Saleh’s departure. Saleh has said that he is ready to transfer power to the persons/persons that he sees fit to take the reins.

Protestors are hoping that Saleh steps down sooner than later, as they continue to call for his immediate departure. Demonstrators have been calling for his departure for almost two months, with dozens of people being killed during clashes between protestors and pro-government forces.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Syria: More Protestors Killed, Buildings Torched

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Social unrest continued in Syria Saturday as demonstrators reportedly burned offices belonging to the ruling Baath political party.

The destruction of the buildings took place in Southern Syria, with a police station reported to be among those set on fire. Saturday marked a deadly day for protestors, as security forces reportedly opened fire on demonstrators killing two people. Saturday also saw authorities release 200 political prisoners in the country’s capital, Damascus.

The past week has been a deadly one with dozens killed during anti-government protests.

Since the beginning of the year, pro-democracy movements have led to regime changes in Egypt and Tunisia but Syrian President Bashar Assad has vowed the same will not happen in his country.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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