Air Force Blocks News Websites With WikiLeaks Materials

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- At their posts around the world, airmen are no longer able to glean what’s on the front page of one of America’s most widely read newspapers, all because it has published details of classified State Department cables provided to it by WikiLeaks.

“The Air Force routinely blocks network access to websites posting inappropriate materials or malware. This includes any website hosting the classified materials released by WikiLeaks,” Maj. Toni Tones of the U.S. Air Force Space Command, which controls the AFNet computer system, told ABC News.

Even access to general news articles on these websites has been blocked, Maj. Tones said, describing the action as “consistent with guidance received in August of 2010.”

Officials at the Army and Navy tell ABC News they are not enacting similar measures at this point, and were not aware of any plans to follow the Air Force’s lead.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


New Label for Julian Assange: Sex Symbol? 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The WikiLeaks scandal that has unfolded over recent weeks is serious business, a classic Revenge of the Nerds scenario. The information the organization has dumped on the world is explosive stuff: hot, dangerous, darkly compelling.

Increasingly, the Internet has given over to buzzing about whether Assange, the man behind the leaks, is himself explosive stuff. As the brooding, lanky Australian appeared at a bail hearing in London on Tuesday, an unlikely consensus seemed to have formed on the Internet that this pasty-faced journalist is also hot, dangerous and darkly compelling.

What Assange may lack in classic movie star looks, he apparently makes up for in charisma, brains and a steely sense of personal integrity. He is a geeky James Bond, a nerdy Jason Bourne.

"Apart from the hair, and the quiet charisma, he is a contemporary polymath -- activist, tech guru, journalist, historian, punk and a political philosopher in the classic tradition," writes "Jane Doe," the anonymous Australian behind the “Julian Assange Fanciers Guild,” in an e-mail to ABC News.  "He epitomizes his era."


Richard Holbrooke's Death Leaves a Diplomatic Void in Troubled Region 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Richard Holbrooke, a titan of American diplomacy, wasn't always a popular figure in the two countries where he was tasked to work, but the late diplomat's sudden death has left a void at a time that the U.S. struggles with an increasingly violent war in Afghanistan and a tense relationship with Pakistan's military.

Holbrooke, perpetually in motion and never one to hold his tongue, was not the most popular diplomat among Afghan and Pakistani officials.

The Pakistani army chief once refused to meet with Holbrooke because of public criticism of the ISI, the country's shadowy intelligence agency. Even over the last few days, he was derisively referred to in stories planted in the press as a "native Jew from New York."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Holbrooke once had the diplomatic equivalent of a blowout over the 2009 presidential elections. Their relationship never recovered -- Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were called to negotiate with Karzai when required.

But among Pakistani President Zardari's aides and U.S. officials in both countries -- who had their own personal issues with Holbrooke -- there is a sense that they have lost a tireless advocate for their work and for the people of the region.

Holbrooke was the first U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, in charge of not only leading the civilian strategy in the region but also serving as a broker between the two countries which often harbor deep resentment against each other.

Holbrooke was, in the words of one U.S. official, a "force for progress" in Afghanistan and Pakistan who prodded and pushed and received permission to vastly increase resources. Embassies in both countries have grown extensively since Holbrooke became the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and are currently undergoing $1.6 billion worth of physical renovations.

That civilian surge was accompanied by something equally as important: an attempt to bring the often-bickering U.S. agencies and departments working on the Af-Pak region under one roof. That was so unusual, it was deemed "innovative," by one U.S. official. It didn't always work, but Holbrooke was the first to try, and there is evidence he made positive strides on disrupting the financing of terrorism, in particular.

Despite his brashness, Holbrooke believed in helping the governments rather than working around them. He rode roughshod over USAID contracts given to expensive Western firms, forcefully trying to deliver them to local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and government bodies instead.

"He helped lay the solid foundation for a broad-based relationship based on mutual respect, trust and interest," said Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi in a statement on Tuesday. "His sudden passing away has left a huge vacuum."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


WikiLeaks Founder Assange to Be Freed on $315K Bail

Photo Courtesy - LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Embattled Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is expected to be freed from a London jail Tuesday on $315,000 bail, but he won't be allowed to leave the country.

Assange was being held in solitary confinement -- for his own protection, the jail said -- on sexual assault charges, including rape originating out of Sweden since his arrest last week. Assange, the man who published a massive trove of classified U.S. diplomatic cables through his website, could also be the target of coming espionage charges from the U.S., one of his lawyers told ABC News last week.

If he is able to post the bond, Assange must surrender his passport and stay in the United Kingdom where he plans to stay with a friend, the London judge ruled Tuesday. He will have an electronic tag to verify that he is at that address overnight and must daily report to police.

The timing of the arrest earlier this week led a Wikileaks spokesperson, Assange's lawyer Mark Stephens and hundreds of Assange's supporters to claim the sex charges were part of a political effort to marginalize the Wikileaks founder in the face of the document drop, which has proved an embarrassment and potential security risk for the U.S. government.

But a lawyer for the two Swedish women accusing Assange said the charges are in no way politically motivated and the woman are angry at that suggestion.

Assange has denied the sex crimes charges and after his arrest, Stephens told ABC News Assange is ready "to vindicate himself and clear his good name."

Prosecutors may still appeal the bond ruling.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Russian Armed Forces on High Alert Over North Korea

Photo Courtesy - Yonhap News Agency(MOSCOW) -- Russia announced Tuesday that its armed forces in the east are on high alert.  This comes in light of what it calls an "inadequate situation" on the Korean peninsula as tensions have increased in recent weeks between the North and South.

The head of Russia's military said they continue to follow what is happening and have taken measures to raise the forces' combat readiness.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed his North Korean counterpart to Moscow.  In the meeting, Lavrov expressed concern with North Korea's ongoing uranium enrichment activities.  He also condemned North Korea's attack on the South's Yeonpyeong Island, which has been the source of the recent increased tension.

South Korea's top nuclear official is on his way to Moscow to discuss the disclosure of North Korea's newest uranium enrichment facility and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.

Russia joined the U.S. and others in condemning the November attack, which killed four people and brought about the highest tension on the peninsula in years.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Tossed Cruise Ship Docks in Malta; Passengers Revolt over Refund

Photo Courtesy - Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images(VALLETTA, Malta) -- A Royal Caribbean cruise ship docked safely in Malta Tuesday morning after severely listing in rough seas over the weekend, tossing passengers and loose objects like rag dolls.

The Brilliance of the Seas was carrying 2,100 passengers, including 1,600 American vacationers, when it encountered rough waters over the weekend in what the cruise line described as a "serious incident."  The 90,000-ton ship swayed as far as 15 degrees in either direction several times.

Several passengers reported minor injuries such as bumps and bruises and at least two people suffered broken bones.

The problems began when the ship left Greece.  Vicious storms lashed the Mediterranean Sea just before 3 a.m. Sunday morning, slamming the ship with 30-foot waves and 80-mile-an-hour winds as it approached Egypt.

The ship never made it to Egypt as conditions were too rough.  Some passengers became angry when a cruise ship representative said they would offer everyone a $200 credit following the ordeal.  After those protests, Royal Caribbean reversed its decision and decided to offer passengers a refund for the full value of the cruise.

The ship is expected to stay in port for a couple of days.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Progress Report on Afghanistan War to Be Released

Photo Courtesy - U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gary A. Witte, 300th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment(WASHINGTON) -- The much-awaited report from the White House on the progress of the war in Afghanistan will be made public on Thursday.

President Obama ordered an annual evaluation of the war last December when he announced his plan to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to battle a resurgent Taliban.

On Tuesday, the president will hold a final strategy session with his military and diplomatic teams on how the war is progressing before the assessment is released nationwide.

After the findings are published Thursday, Obama will follow up the report with his own comments.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are also expected to offer their opinions of the study.

While the administration wouldn’t tip its hand on what the review contains, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday that the president “feels confident we’re on the right track.”

Earlier in the day, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he anticipated no increase in the number of American forces deployed in Afghanistan next year.  The current level is about 100,000.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Clinton: Iran Nuke Meetings 'A Good Start'; No Insight into Mottaki Dismissal

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(QUEBEC, Canada) -- Speaking in Canada on Monday, where she met her Canadian and Mexican counterparts, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked about the dismissal of her Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki. Asked if it’s because he snubbed her after she tried to greet him at an event in Bahrain, Clinton laughed loudly and said, “I have no idea.”
“Our relationship toward Iran is not toward any individual, it is toward the country, the government which is complex and challenging to deal with because it is not just one channel, there are several different channels because of the way their [government] is established. So I don’t really have any insight or comment on the report that I also learned of today,” she said.
She took the opportunity to comment on last week’s nuclear talks between the group of world powers known as the P5+1 and Iran, calling it “a good start.”
“The recent meeting in Geneva of the P-5 plus one was a good start. It was just that; it wasn't more than that. But it was a good start to a return to a serious negotiation between Iran and the international community, and they agreed on a second meeting in January. We remain committed to pursuing every diplomatic avenue available to us and our international partners to persuade Iran to forego a nuclear-weapons program, and we remain convinced that that is not only in the interests of peace and stability in the Gulf -- and indeed in the wider region and world -- but it's also in the best interests of Iran. So whether one person or another is foreign minister is not as important as to what the policy of the Iranian government is in dealing with the international community on this very important matter,” she said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


FBI Heads to Stockholm to Aid in Suicide Bombing Investigation

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(STOCKHOLM) -- The FBI has dispatched to Stockholm, Sweden a small team of bomb technicians from the FBI laboratory at Quantico and counterterrorism agents from the New York Field office at the request of the Swedish government to help in the investigation of the suicide bombing that took place in Stockholm on Saturday.

“A request from Swedish authorities was made through the U.S. Embassy for FBI assistance in the investigation into the bombings.  The FBI has sent a small team of experts to assist the Swedish police with their investigation,” said an FBI spokesman in Washington.
The team is working mostly on forensic issues related to the post-bomb analysis, but is also helping to review possible leads on the background of the suspect, Taimour Abdulwahab, according to FBI officials.

Officers from Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorism Command are continuing to search Abdulwahab's home in Luton.

Sweden’s foreign minister Carl Bildt has told the BBC that Abdulwahab “was heading into probably the most crowded place in Stockholm at the most crowded time of the year. He was heading into a place where, if he had exploded all the ordnance he had with him -- and that was quite substantial -- it would have been mass casualties of a sort we haven't seen in Europe for quite some time."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Secretary of State Clinton: There Is 'Growing Frustration' with Haitian Govt. at Pace of Recovery  

Photo Courtesy - U.S. State Department(QUEBEC, Canada) -- Speaking Monday in Canada, where she and her counterparts from Mexico and Canada discussed Haiti among other topics, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the Haitian government to do more for the people there.
“We understand that the government itself was badly damaged, individuals were traumatized.  But there has to be a greater effort and there has to be a more focused approach toward problem solving,” she said.
Clinton was responding to a question about a threat from Senator Leahy to cut off U.S. aid to the Haitian government.
“I think Senator Leahy, who is a strong supporter of American foreign aid and humanitarian relief assistance, is expressing a growing frustration that you will find not only in Congress, but in our government and the American people, that as we’re approaching the one-year anniversary of the Haitian earthquake there hasn’t been the kind of coordinated, coherent response from the Government of Haiti that is called for,” she said, adding that Leahy’s frustration is “a very strong signal that we expect more and we’re looking for more.”

She said the Obama administration wants to push the Haitian government, but not to punish the Haitian people.
“We are trying to push forward in a difficult environment, and we want to see progress on the ground.  And we have supported the international approach toward sending technical experts.  We think that’s more important than political leaders.  We need to find technical experts who can delve into what happened in the election and try to create a transparent understanding that cannot only win the support of the international community, but most importantly the Haitian people,” she said, urging other countries to make good on their pledges to help Haiti.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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