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Monday
Mar282011

Crackdown on Civilians Could Backfire on Syrian Government

AFP/Getty Images(LATAKIA, Syria) -- The government crackdown on protesters in Syria continued over the weekend, with the army sending troops to the port city of Latakia on the Mediterranean to quell an uprising over ten civilian deaths.

Demonstrators accused the Syrian security forces of shooting at them, while the government claimed the civilians died at the hands of random snipers.

Officials from the Syrian president's office maintain that "armed groups" are causing the violence in Latakia, one of the latest cities in the country and where people are demanding democratic reform.

Undeterred by reprisals from the army and security, the calls for change have actually picked up throughout Syria, especially in Deraa along the Jordanian border, which activists consider the epicenter of the protests.

Showing their outrage once more, hundreds of men pulled down a statute of Syria's former leader, Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current president, Bashar Assad.

While the government remains firmly in control, Assad has exhibited some willingness to institute reforms.  As a showing of good faith, the government freed 260 political prisoners Saturday.

Assad and his Baathist regime have never before experienced such a challenge to their rule.  The protests were spurred by similar protests throughout the Arab world since the beginning of the year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar282011

Gadhafi Accused of Putting Bodies at Sites of Coalition Attacks

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration is alleging that Col. Moammar Gadhafi is trying to make it appear that allied attacks are responsible for civilian deaths in Libya by placing the bodies of people his forces have killed at sites where coalition missiles have struck.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates made that charge Sunday during an appearance on CBS' Face the Nation.

According to Gates, U.S. military officials "have a lot of intelligence reporting about Gadhafi taking the bodies of the people he's killed and putting them at the sites where we've attacked."

The U.S. and its Western allies have bombarded Gadhafi's air defenses and other military sites to create a no-fly zone over Libya that ideally makes it more difficult for his loyalists to retake cities now held by rebel forces.

Hoping to turn worldwide public opinion against the coalition, Gadhafi claims numerous civilians have been killed by the rocket strikes.  However, Gates said, "The truth of the matter is we have trouble coming up with proof of any civilian casualties that we have been responsible for."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar282011

Taliban Claims to Have Captured 50 Afghan Policemen

Majid Saeedi/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- The Taliban claims to have abducted 50 Afghan policemen in the northeastern part of the country.

It was reported by local officials that a convoy of dozens of unarmed police officers were taken prisoner in Chapa Dara in Kunar province on Saturday.  The men had been returning from another province after collecting their paychecks when they were taken captive by Taliban militants.

It's believed there their lives are in grave danger since their fates will be decided by the Taliban's military council in the area.

However, the last time an incident like this happened, the Taliban released police officers unharmed after the hostages promised not to work for the Afghan government.  This time, there are reports of the group offering to exchange their captives for Taliban prisoners.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar282011

Secretary Clinton Promises No Libya-Style Action in Syria

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Syria won't turn into another Libya for the U.S., according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

While the Syrian government is cracking down on pro-democracy protesters, Clinton says it's a different situation from Libya, where Col. Moammar Gadhafi was "calling out aircraft and indiscriminately strafing and bombing" his own cities.

Clinton added that it took action by the entire international community involving a United Nations resolution, and condemnation of Gadhafi by the Arab League, to finally get approval for military action to establish a no-fly zone over Libya.

Doing the same to deal with Syria would be nearly impossible, she suggested.

While the Obama administration finds Syria's police action against demonstrators troubling, Clinton says that there's a need to differentiate between what's going on there and in Libya.

Meanwhile, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman said that if Syria threatens a mass-scale massacre similar to Libya, the international community would be within its rights to conduct another Libya-style operation to protect Syrians.  He added that such action would have the support of the Arab world.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar272011

Japanese Power Company Makes Error in Radiation Reading

DigitalGlobe via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- A Japanese power company on Sunday found itself apologizing for the second time in two days, with the latest apology coming as a result of a mistake in a report about radiation levels at a nuclear plant.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) says it made a mistake when it reported that radiation levels at the plant were 10 million times higher than normal, causing an evacuation of the site. Extremely high radiation levels were reported Sunday, but just a few hours later the same day, TEPCO officials said the radiation level number was not credible and that the company was very sorry for their mistake.

The overstated levels were from a reading done at reactor 2 at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant. According to published reports, the worker who performed the reading evacuated the plant before a second reading could be taken.

On Saturday TEPCO issued an apology for not giving its employees proper warning about the degree of radiation risk they faced at the plant, after two workers suffered radiation burns from water that was 10,000 times more radioactive than normal.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar272011

NATO Takes Over Military Operations in Libya

ABC News(BRUSSELS) -- NATO announced on Sunday that its allies plan to take over military operations in Libya under the United Nations Security Council Resolution.

According to a statement by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Allies have decided to take on whole military operation with a goal of protecting civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack from the Gadhafi regime.

“NATO will implement all aspects of the UN Resolution,” said Rasmussen. “Nothing more, nothing less.”

Rasmussen said NATO has put a package of operations together that supports the United Nations Resolution both by sea and air. The release says NATO is already enforcing the arms embargo and no-fly zone in Libya, and Sunday’s decision will see the organization taking further action.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar272011

US Official: NATO's Takover Fulfils President Obama's Promise

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Commenting on NATO’s decision to take over military operations in Libya, a senior U.S. official on Sunday said the move fulfills President Obama’s promise of taking the leading edge with the nation’s unique capabilities and then quickly turning over authority.

On Sunday NATO said that in addition to enforcing the arms embargo and no-fly zone in Libya, its allies would also take over military operations under the United Nations Security Council Resolution.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call, the U.S. official said not every NATO member will have to participate in every aspect of the operation. Some members may contribute by enforcing the embargo and no-fly zone, while some may partake in bombing operations aimed at protecting civilians.

The official said no one NATO member can block any action, as military commanders who are implementing the mission will be the decision-makers. The official also says now that NATO is in charge, he expects more members to commit assets.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar272011

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

Sunday
Mar272011

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

Sunday
Mar272011

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







ABC News Radio