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Friday
Jul012011

Venezuelan President Reveals Removal of Cancerous Tumor

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- In a speech that aired on state television Thursday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez revealed that he underwent two surgeries, including one to remove a cancerous tumor, during his time in Cuba.

Chavez traveled to Cuba in early June to remove a pelvic abscess, at which time doctors detected the malignant cells, prompting a second operation.  The 56-year-old did not specify where the tumor was found nor what type of cancer was detected.

It is not yet known when Chavez will leave Cuba, where he remains receiving treatment.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar252011

NATO to Take Over No-Fly Zone in Libya

Gen. Carter Ham speaks exclusively with ABC's Martha Raddatz (ABC News)(SIGONELLA AIR BASE, Italy) -- NATO has agreed to relieve the United States of responsibility for enforcing the no-fly zone in Libya, a NATO official said Thursday.  The diplomatic movement came on the same day that Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi challenged the no-fly zone, only to see one of his few remaining planes destroyed by a French jet.

The official said that NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will soon go into a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, where a formal consensus will be reached for NATO to assume the no-fly zone responsibilities for Libya. After what is expected to be a brief meeting, Rasmussen will announce the arrangement.

They won't say it's a deal until every one of the 28 NATO members in the room agrees with NATO taking over the no-fly zone.

"We are very close," the NATO official said.

The no-fly zone order will go from the NATO Council to Adm. James Stavridis, NATO Supreme Allied Commander, all the way down the chain of command to the component commanders. On Wednesday, NATO announced it was taking responsibility for enforcing the naval arms embargo for Libya.

The United States will remain part of Operation Dawn, but it will have limited participation going forward, which would include contributing tankers and personnel recovery teams but not an Airborne Warning and Control System, Africa Command's Gen. Carter F. Ham told ABC News in an exclusive interview. The  “U.S. will contribute its unique capabilities to second phase of operation:  intel support we will continue to provide, communications, tankers for aircraft. We wouldn't see a large number of fighter aircraft," Ham said.

Some allies only want to enforce a no-fly zone but not protect civilians, which would entail firing on grounds forces, Ham told ABC News. Coalition forces are sorting out details, he said.

Earlier Thursday, the foreign minister of Turkey, a NATO member that had expressed strong concerns about the Libya intervention, said Turkey's demands had been met and that the operation will be handed over to NATO, according to wire reports.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar172011

Japan Nuclear Crisis: Helicopter Operation Suspended

STR/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Japanese officials have suspended helicopter flights spraying water over Japan's troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant due to high radiation levels, the latest foiled attempt to contain the nuclear crisis.

The two helicopters had dropped about 30 tons of water on the plant overnight Thursday. In addition, 11 water cannon trucks arrived at the Fukushima Daiichi plant though they were too far from the plant to be effective.

"It's like a squirt gun, using a squirt gun against a raging forest fire. They're overwhelmed, they're floundering, they don't know what to do" Dr. Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist, said.

The water trucks and helicopters were used in part because radiation levels are dangerously high for workers to be directly in the plant for extended periods.

"At a certain point, they're going to have to abandon ship, they're committing a suicide mission to go in there. The radiation levels are near lethal right now…you're committing suicide to spend large amount of time there," Kaku said.

Even the helicopter pilots were in danger by flying over the plant, Kaku said. During the Chernobyl crisis, Kaku said that helicopter pilots that helped sandbag the reactors had lead underneath their helicopters to help avoid radiation contamination.

U.S. government officials are still concerned over water levels that keep the nuclear fuel rods from overheating at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

America's top nuclear official told Congress Wednesday the pool cooling spent fuel rods at the crippled Japanese nuclear plant had lost most or all of its water, a potentially catastrophic situation.

"We believe at this point that unit 4 may have lost a significant inventory, if not lost all of its water," Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko told a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "What we know at unit three, and again our information is limited, what we believe is that there is a crack in the spent fuel pool for unit three as well, which could lead to a loss of water in that pool."

The Japanese quickly challenged that statement, but gave few details saying only that the situation at the holding pool was "stable."

"It is my great hope that the information that we have is not accurate. I would hope for the sake of everyone that the situation is not at the stake that we think it is," Jaczko said.

Experts say that the spent fuel ponds might be more dangerous than the core reactors. Fuel ponds hold old fuel rods and must be covered in water at all times. Of particular concern is the fuel pond in unit 4.

"Hollywood likes to focus in on the meltdown, the melted core exposed uranium. But old fuel is actually more dangerous than the meltdown because there's more radiation in an unguarded spent fuel pond than the reactors," Kaku said. "You could have a fire. It would go up like fireworks, like Roman Candles."

The spent fuel rods are kept in pools of water to prevent them from overheating and ultimately melting down. The outer shell of the rods could also ignite with enough force to propel the radioactive fuel inside over a wide area.

Overnight, President Obama spoke with the Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and expressed his sympathy and offered assistance.

"The president expressed his extraordinary admiration for the character and resolve of the Japanese people, and his confidence that Japan will make a full recovery from this disaster," according to a White House statement.

Shortly after, the U.S. State Department authorized the first evacuations of Americans out of Japan.

Chartered planes will begin assisting American citizens wishing to leave the country.

It also issued a warning to Americans to avoid traveling to the quake and tsunami-ravaged nation at this time.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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