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Monday
Nov152010

Russian Journalist Making Good Recovery After Beating

Photo Courtesy - Svetlana Privalova/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- A Russian journalist savagely beaten in Moscow last weekend is making a good recovery, doctors say.  State-run media report that Oleg Kashin was taken off an artificial respirator, but is still in intensive care.

The website LifeNews said that when Kashin came out of his coma last week, he requested a pen and paper, writing his doctors a note asking them to take him off the respirator.

Kashin has not yet been questioned by investigators, who have not announced any leads in the case.  Kashin reportedly described his attacks as looking like soccer fans.

Kashin was attacked the night of Nov. 5 just after midnight.  He was returning home when he was jumped by two men.  One had concealed a metal rod in a bouquet of flowers.  As one man held Kashin down, the other hit him over and over for almost a minute and a half.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has strongly condemned the attack, saying those responsible will be found and punished.

A rally in central Moscow on Sunday drew hundreds of demonstrators protesting Kashin's assault.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov152010

Seven Killed After Blast Rips Through Mexican Resort

Photo Courtesy - Jose Dominguez/AFP/Getty Images(PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico) -- An explosion ripped through a Mexican resort hotel on Sunday, killing seven people and leaving several others injured.  Among the seven dead were five Canadian tourists and two hotel employees.

Authorities believe the blast at the Grand Riviera Princess hotel in Playa del Carmen, Mexico may have been caused by natural gas from a nearby swamp.  They believe swamp gas somehow accumulated under the floor of the hotel and triggered the explosion.

William Breakey of Ontario, a recent guest at the hotel, says he could smell the natural gas when he stayed at the resort.

"There was always kind of a pungent smell," Breakey says.  "It smelled a little bit like sulphur, rotten eggs, whatever, in the air in and around the kitchen."

Guests first feared the blast was terrorist-related.  Pete Travers, a program director at a Toronto area radio station who is staying at the hotel, says, "Everyone shared the same fear.  The fear is 'was this deliberate?'  So when we started hearing that it was an accident, everyone was quickly latching onto that as a means of comfort."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Nov142010

Somali Pirates Hand Over British Couple After More Than a Year

Paul and Rachel Chandler sit with Speaker of the Somali Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden. Photo Courtesy - Somali Presidency / A. Wehliya (LONDON) -- A retired British couple is free for the first time since Somali pirates took them hostage more than a year ago.

Retiring early, Paul and Rachel Chandler had planned the vacation of a lifetime – six months at sea. Instead, they were captured by armed pirates in the Indian Ocean and brought to Somalia, where they were held, often at gunpoint.

"We're feeling happy to be alive, happy to be free,” Rachel Chandler said. “Happy to be here, desperate to see our family and our friends.”
 
The waters near Somalia are infested with pirates.  There are reports they have captured more than 20 ships and are currently holding more than 500 hostages.

Ransoms are often in the millions of dollars for large ships.  Friends and relatives of the Chandlers reportedly raised more than $400,000 for their release.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Nov142010

Britain's Prince William Visits Afghanistan

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan) -- Britain's Prince William visited Camp Bastion in Afghanistan's Helmand Province on Sunday, which Britons refer to as "Remembrance Sunday."  It is much like Veterans Day in the U.S., a time to honor those who have served in the nation's wars.  It is typically held on the closest Sunday to Nov. 11, to mark the anniversary of the end of World War I. 

The Prince and Britain's Defense Secretary, Liam Fox, visited the camp, which is Britain's main operating base in Afghanistan, where it is part of the coalition led by the U.S. in fighting the insurgency that supports al Qaeda. 

William's brother, Prince Harry, served with his military unit in Afghanistan about three years ago, until his whereabouts were revealed in the media.  He was then sent home because officials feared knowledge of his whereabouts could endanger his fellow troops.  He is expected to return to fight in Afghanistan next year. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Nov142010

Sen. Lindsey Graham Concerned About State of Iraqi Government

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., just back from a trip to Iraq, says he was concerned the United States would "fumble the ball in Iraq."

Appearing on ABC’s This Week with Christiane Amanpour, Graham voiced worry that Iraqi politician Ayad Allawi "has said that this new government is a joke. If he feels that, that's disappointing," the senator said.

"It's very important we get a government formed in Iraq that's inclusive, that represents the results of the Iraqi election, and that is a reliable partner with the United States and the region. So I've got concerns about this new government. But we need to stay effectively involved," he said.

Graham preached bipartisanship on foreign policy. He said he is in the wing of the Republican Party "that wants to work with President Obama to end it well in Iraq, to get it right in Afghanistan, contain Iran through effective sanctions."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Nov142010

Karzai: Time to Reduce US Military Operations in Afghanistan

Photo Courtesy - SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- In an interview with The Washington Post, Afghan President Hamid Karzai criticizes the U.S. military strategy in his country, urging the U.S. to confine its troops more to their bases and end night raids that target senior commanders.

Karzai says Afghans have lost patience with U.S. troops, and that the U.S "should and could" draw down its forces in 2011.

"The time has come to reduce military operations," Karzai said. "The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan … to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life."

Karzai has raised his frustration with night raids in the past, and has urged the U.S. military to spend less time in Afghan villages and more time fighting the “source” of the Taliban in Pakistan.

"The raids are a problem always. They were a problem then, they are a problem now. They have to go away," Karzai says. "The Afghan people don't like these raids, if there is any raid it has to be done by the Afghan government within the Afghan laws. This is a continuing disagreement between us."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Nov142010

Obama the Tourist: President Visits Great Buddha Before Trip Home

Photo Courtesy - Pete Souza/The White House(KAMAKURA, Japan) -- Before firing up the engines of Air Force One for the long trip home, President Obama took some time to play tourist in Japan. The president visited the iconic Great Buddha, a 44-foot tall bronze statue in Kamakura, which he first toured as a young boy with his mother.

The president signed a guest book there. Per his spokesman he wrote "It is wonderful to return to this great treasure of Japanese culture. Its beauty has stayed with me for many years."

He may not be leaving Asia with new trade agreements, but President Obama did pick up some souvenirs. He stopped at the gift shop at the statue and bought bracelets for his daughters, Malia and Sasha.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Nov142010

US Offers Incentives for West Bank Resettlement Ban

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Israel's cabinet is reportedly considering a package of incentives offered by the United States in hopes of a construction freeze in West Bank settlements, but not in East Jerusalem.  The BBC reports the incentives include a pledge to fight international resolutions critical of Israel, several security promises and a pledge to not seek to extend the resettlement ban beyond 90 days. 

The resettlement issue could shut down the restarted peace talks with Palestinian officials that resumed in September after a 20 month interruption.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly discussed the matter with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton In the U.S. on Thursday.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Nov142010

New START Treaty 'Top Priority,' President Obama Says

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(YOKOHAMA, Japan) -- President Obama said Sunday he wants the lame duck congress to pass the START treaty, calling it a "top priority."  The president made his comments after a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

He and Medvedev signed the treaty in April in Prague.  The nuclear agreement requires both countries to reduce their arsenals from 2,200 deployed warheads each to 1,550, with the reductions to come over seven years -- a 30 percent reduction from the last treaty.  The U.S. and Russia also agreed to reduce their long-range missiles and launchers to 700 for each country.

The Obama Administration wants the Senate to ratify the treaty before the new Congress takes over in January.  The Democratic majority then shrinks by six votes and the White House worries new members of Congress would block the treaty because they consider it too friendly to Russia.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Nov142010

Afghan Strategy Not Working? Narrow Mission, Report Recommends

Photo Courtesy - U.S. Department of Defense(WASHINGTON) -- As the Obama administration begins to review its Afghan war strategy, an independent task force on U.S. policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan is recommending a "more significant drawdown to a narrower military mission" if the current strategy does not begin showing signs of progress. Although the task force, directed by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), offered a qualified endorsement of President Obama's approach to the region, it highlighted "a number of potential problems with the policy."

"If the December 2010 review of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan concludes that the present strategy is not working, the Task Force recommends that a shift to a more limited mission at a substantially reduced level of military force would be warranted," CFR president Richard Haass wrote in the report's foreword.

The report said that "the Obama administration will need to find a way to address the government's weakness, corruption, and political division." It also recommended that Washington take the lead in reconciliation between the Taliban and the Afghan government -- a recommendation also made by the New America Foundation's Afghanistan Study Group.

"Rather than leaving the reconciliation process to [Afghan] President Karzai and his narrow support base, Washington should participate fully in guiding a broad-based, inclusive process, bearing in mind that a rapid breakthrough at the negotiating table is unlikely. Afghan reform and reconciliation should then be supported by a regional diplomatic accord brokered by the United States," the report states.

The recommendations come amid a recent drumbeat of positive assessments of the nine-year-old war effort by top Pentagon officials.

"I would hope that it would be that people would recognize that we're making progress in Afghanistan -- that this is worth doing and that the sacrifices our young men and women are making is, in fact, producing success," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told ABC News earlier this week.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio