Amanda Knox in Italian Court to Appeal 26-Year Sentence

Photo Courtesy - TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images(PERUGIA, Italy) -- A judge has agreed to review forensic evidence in the case against Amanda Knox, the young American woman convicted of killing her British roommate in 2007.

Knox was back in Italian court Saturday for the most important hearing since her conviction. The Seattle student is appealing her 26-year prison sentence, handed down for her involvement in the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. The prosecution is also appealing the ruling; it wants Knox to spend her life behind bars.

Knox’s lawyers have argued that the alleged murder weapon, a kitchen knife, did not have enough traces of her DNA.

“We know absolutely, unequivocally, simply, there was no evidence whatsoever of Amanda Knox in the room where Meredith Kercher was killed,” Knox’s lawyer, Theodore Simon, said.

"I saw [Amanda] yesterday,” said Knox’s mother, Edda Mellas. “She's okay. It is a very scary time for her. She's afraid the truth won't come out, but she's hanging in there.’’

A court in Perugia last year found Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, guilty of killing Kercher, whose semi-naked body was found in a pool of blood, her throat slashed.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Ahmadinejad: Iran Subsidies Cut at Midnight

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran's subsidy cuts will take effect at midnight, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Saturday, immediately raising the price of fuel, electricity, and water and putting price pressure on a broad range of goods.

These cuts were slated to take effect months ago, but kept getting pushed forward to a previously unknown date.

Analysts and others have predicted protests and possible riots following the economic squeeze of the policy.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


ISAF Troops Killed in Afghanistan

Photo Courtesy - ABC News Radio(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- One member of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF died in Afghanistan on Saturday, one day after three other ISAF members were killed there.  NATO blamed the latest death on an insurgent attack.

Of the three killed Friday, one died in an insurgent attack and one was killed by a roadside bomb.  Officials say the third died of an injury not related to battle.  The latest deaths put the number of ISAF members lost there at 698 so far in 2010. 

These latest losses follow Thursday's release of the Obama administration review of U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  In that review, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said the U.S. is on the right track toward al Qaeda and reversing the momentum of the Taliban, in hopes of preventing Afghanistan from becoming a "safe haven" for violent extremists.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


N. Korea Claims US Providing 'Human Shields' for South's Exercises

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- North Korea on Saturday accused the United States of provoking South Korea into holding more military drills and threatened a violent response if it does.  Pyongyang also claimed the U.S. is using its soldiers and reporters as a human shield to prevent the North's threatened response, and warned that the shield wont work.

Last month, North Korean attacks killed two South Korean Marines and two civilians on Yeongpyang Island after the North claimed the South's military exercises off the island violated North Korean territory.  North Korea disputes the boundaries drawn after the Korean war and claims those waters as its own.

South Korea has more exercises planned and Pyongyang said Saturday, "If the South Koreans dare to carry out the live-fire drill and cross the line, the situation in the Korean peninsula will explode and a disastrous outcome cannot be avoided." 

North Korea claims the latest exercises were suggested during a visit to South Korea by an official with the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and blames the U.S. for provoking the South to hold the drill.  "We will punish mercilessly and without hesitation provokers who invade our sovereignty and territory," read a statement from North Korea. "Our military does not speak empty words."

About 20 U.S. troops are on hand to provide backup to the South Korean military during the drill.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Cover Blown: CIA Station Chief in Pakistan Removed From Country

Photo Courtesy - CIAdotorg(PAKISTAN) -- The CIA's station chief in Pakistan has been called back to the United States after being publicly outed in Pakistan earlier this month by a man who claims his relatives were killed in a recent CIA drone strike.

But as is often the case with spycraft, there might be intrigue involved that could implicate Pakistan's intelligence agency as the force behind the Pakistani accuser. The station chief's departure was prompted by a press conference two weeks ago and legal documents filed on Monday by Karim Khan, who said his brother and son were killed in a December 2009 drone strike in North Waziristan.  Since then, the CIA officer's name has been published in Pakistani news outlets and other international media. Demonstrators in the streets of Islamabad have waved his name on signs demanding he leave Pakistan.

A U.S. intelligence official says the decision to return the station chief to the United States was made after determining that "terrorist threats against [the agent] in Pakistan were of such a serious nature that it would be imprudent not to act."

The Pakistani tribal region is considered by the United States to be a safe haven for al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, and has been targeted more than 100 times this year alone by the CIA's armed Predator and Reaper drones flying overhead.

A senior U.S. official tells ABC News that the CIA station chief in Islamabad was "probably" outed by Pakistan's premiere spy agency, the I.S.I., in retaliation for a recent lawsuit filed in the United States that implicated the agency in the deadly Mumbai terror attacks in 2008. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Brooklyn last month by the families of American victims of the Mumbai attacks, which were conducted by Pakistani extremists. The current and former I.S.I. chiefs have been summoned to testify.
A senior Pakistani official said Khan's press conference and case were a response to that lawsuit, though the official stopped short of suggesting the I.S.I. created or pushed Khan's lawsuit. The official said the departure of the CIA station chief yesterday from Islamabad was the "inadvertent consequence" of Khan's lawsuit and was "not planned by authorities."

The U.S. official says the CIA officer, who remains a covert officer, "had already served beyond a regular tour" in Pakistan. The Pakistani official says he was scheduled to leave at the end of the month anyway. But despite the decision to bring the station chief back to the United States, the U.S. official said, "the CIA's mission in Pakistan, including the agency's relentless fight against militants, continues unabated."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Freed and Defiant, Assange Says Sex Charges 'Tabloid Crap'

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(LONDON) -- Freed from a London prison, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange now says he was set up in the Swedish sexual assault case and claims that the publication of over a quarter-million classified U.S. diplomatic cables was "a step forward."

"[I am] clearly the victim of a smear campaign," Assange told ABC News on Friday. "There are intercepted SMS messages between the women and each other and their friends that I am told represent a set-up."

Assange said his attorney has seen the messages, but has been ordered by the Swedish government not to discuss them. Assange is accused of sexually assaulting two women in Sweden, but claimed he has not been presented with "one word" of evidence.

In another interview with ABC News, Assange called the allegations "tabloid crap."

Speaking from the English mansion where he is staying with a friend now that he has been released on bail, Assange is already mounting a defense against possible U.S. charges under the Espionage Act. He claims not to know Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence private who is allegedly behind the leak of the trove of classified diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks.

The timing of the arrest earlier this week led a WikiLeaks spokesperson, Assange's lawyer, 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.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Baseball World Series to Go International?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TOKYO) -- The San Francisco Giants could soon be playing the Chiba Lotte Marines if Major League Baseball has its way.

The league's Vice President for Asia, Jim Small, says he wants  a "real world series" -- a matchup between the top team in Japan and the winner of the U.S. World Series.

Small says the MLB and Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball League will begin their fourth round of talks next month to make the matchup a reality.

Small admits there are a lot of hurdles standing in the way. The series would have to be scheduled after the baseball season wraps up in the U.S., meaning colder weather. And keeping the MLB championship team could be a challenge, as players have the option to sign with other clubs during an earlier free agency period.

The biggest hurdle will be getting air time. The "real world series" would have to compete against the NBA, NFL,  NHL, and college sports.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


US Military Changes Ground Rules for Afghan Night Raids

Photo Courtesy - ISAF/U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, Task Force Bastogne Public Affairs(WASHINGTON) -- The United States military has changed a handful of rules governing Special Operations Forces raids in Afghanistan that are designed to kill or capture high-level leaders, in an attempt to address Afghani concerns over a tactic of the war there that has increased by a factor of five in the last year.

The operations, widely known as night raids because the overwhelming majority take place in darkness, have exasperated Afghan President Hamid Karzai's administration.  Karzai himself recently said they "have to go away" and represent a "continuing disagreement" with the United States.

Barging into an Afghani's house anytime without permission is considered rude; doing so at night is considered offensive and incites extreme anger, even among those who support the U.S.  But U.S. commanders have lauded the night raids, saying they have led to the capture or death of hundreds of mid-level commanders and have given the military a much better understanding of insurgent networks.

The changes appear to be an attempt by the U.S. miltary to address Afghan concerns without significantly altering how it uses the night raids, which were mentioned positively in the annual Afghanistan-Pakistan review released by President Obama Thursday.

According to a senior NATO official, the changes include:

--  Providing, in writing, a point of contact to the family of anyone taken in a raid.

-- Handing receipts to family members if U.S. or Afghan special operations forces take any items from their compound.

-- Videotaping "as much as possible" on the raid.  This is to defend against future accustaions and also move slowly toward an arrangement with the Afghan criminal justice system to provide evidence for prosecution.

-- Improving communication directly with the Presidential Palace in Kabul.  Teams will now provide real-time video and/or intelligence directly into a joint International Security Assistance Force/Karzai office so as to avoid the situation when the president or his direct advisors do not know about the raids.

Some of these changes were first reported in Friday’s Wall Street Journal.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Man Arrested After Attacking Students with Knife in Japan

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TOKYO) -- An early-morning knife attack outside a train station northeast of Tokyo left more than a dozen people injured, and a 27-year-old man behind bars.

Police say the suspect boarded a crowded school bus parked outside Toride station in Ibaraki Prefecture and stabbed students on board before proceeding to attack passengers on another city bus at 7:40 a.m. Japan standard time.

At least 11 students were injured, many of them sustaining minor cuts to their wrists and face, according to police.

"The man came in from the back of the bus," said the bus driver, who declined to give his name in an interview with Japanese broadcaster NHK. "I first thought students were fighting. But when I started to hear them screaming, I knew something wasn't right."

The attack occurred during peak rush hour, just as 50 students from a nearby middle and high school were getting ready to head to class.

Witnesses outside the train station bus terminal reported seeing some students bleeding from their faces, covering their wounds.

Police spokesman Mitsuyuki Ooura said two passengers on board the second bus caught up with the suspect, Yuta Saito.

He was arrested on charges of attempted murder. Ooura said he admitted to the stabbing and told detectives "he wanted to end his life."

For many Japanese, Thursday's incident brought back unwelcome memories of a similar stabbing spree in the heart of Tokyo a few years ago.  In 2008, seven people were killed and 10 others injured when a man drove his truck into a busy street and began stabbing those nearby.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


US to Keep Close Tab on South Korean Artillery Test

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(YEONPYEONG, South Korea) -- America is closely monitoring an upcoming South Korean military exercise on two disputed islands which could potentially provoke North Korea, a senior Pentagon official said Thursday.

One of the islands on which the live-fire exercise will take place is Yeonpyeong, the same Yellow Sea island that North Korea attacked last month.

Gen. James Cartwright said the exercise is routine and the South Koreans have done everything to ensure North Korea would not perceive the test as a provocation, but warned there was a possibility of a “chain reaction.”

“So what we're watching, one, is to make sure that all of the artillery, the shore batteries, et cetera, are in fact set up so we have trainers and monitors that are with the South Koreans to make sure everything from a standpoint of training goes right. The impact area is out in the water.  Not pointed towards the land. All of that is understood,” he said.

However, Cartwright acknowledged that the North Koreans could potentially use the exercise as a pretext to begin firing.

“What we worry about obviously is that if that is misunderstood or if it is taken advantage of as an opportunity, if North Korea were to react to that in a negative way and fire back at those firing positions on the islands, that would start  potentially a chain reaction of firing and counter-firing.  What you don't want to have happen now to that is for the escalation for us to lose control of the escalation. That's the concern,” he said.

“The area that they're going to conduct these live fire drills is an established and well-used range. So it is not a new activity and it is not one that the North Koreans haven't seen on a routine basis,” Cartwright said.

Cartwright said there would be 15 U.S. troops observing from one island and another six on the other. He also said the international media and the U.N. would observe the exercise.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 

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