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Thursday
Jun232011

Michelle Obama and Desmond Tutu Show Kids How to Stay Healthy

Michelly Rall/WireImage(CAPE TOWN, South Africa) -- First lady Michelle Obama did some push-ups and kicked around soccer balls alongside Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu as she closed out her visit to South Africa and prepared to leave for neighboring Botswana.

Tutu, who turns 80 this October, joined Obama at the new Cape Town Stadium, where the World Cup soccer tournament was held last year.

When Tutu introduced the first lady, he announced that she was a VIP, but then he also told each of the children in attendance that they were all VSPs, which the kids rightly guessed meant "very special persons."

The first lady said her co-host, a famed leader in the fight for racial equality in South Africa, was a special man.

"Well, Archbishop Tutu, I think you're a VSP, too," she said, laughing. "You guys are going to show us some soccer moves....Are you ready to? We might show you our moves."

Before the drills, the first lady urged the dozens of children to make safe, healthy choices.

"In order to be a VSP, you've got to be what? A VHP -- a 'very healthy person.' Right?" she asked. "Which means you've got to have the knowledge and the internal wisdom to make sure you're taking care of yourself."

"It's hard to have an impact if you're not in the best condition possible," she said.

Obama also spoke to a group of children at the University of Cape Town, where she told the youngsters that they, too, could go to college and make an impact.

"I wanted you to see that the students here are really not that different from all of you," she said. "I wanted you to realize that you can fit in here, too."

One child asked what the first lady's favorite food was.

"If I picked one favorite, favorite food, it's French fries, OK? It's French fries. I can't stop eating them," she said, admitting they are not the healthiest choice. "But eat your vegetables. And exercise."

Obama spent part of the day touring the District Six Museum in Cape Town -- a memorial recalling the forced segregation that once took place in the coastal city -- with her daughters Sasha and Malia, her mother, and her niece and nephew.

The museum trip replaced a planned visit to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. A ferry trip to the Atlantic Ocean island was cancelled because of dangerously high winds.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun232011

Biden: 'We're Keeping Our Promises' On Afghanistan

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday drove home the president’s message on Afghanistan, saying in a video blog that “we’re keeping our promises” to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and bring the war to a close.

In a short post on the White House website, Biden boasts of the administration’s accomplishments in Iraq and Afghanistan and reiterates that it’s time to refocus resources to the homefront.

“By winding down these wars and bringing home our troops we will free up significant resources,” he says. “After a decade of war, amid rising debt and hard economic times, this is an investment well worth making because our economic prosperity has always been the key to our progress not only at home, but for our security around the world.”

With a $14 trillion budget deficit, the administration faces not only a war-weary public, but also lawmakers demanding that they refocus America’s resources at home -- something Biden, the chief negotiator in the debt talks with Congress, is keenly aware of.

After months of review, the president on Wednesday night outlined the withdrawal of the 33,000 “surge” troops that he deployed in December 2009, and committed to begin withdrawing in July. Obama announced that he is bringing 10,000 U.S. troops home from Afghanistan by the end of this year and another 23,000 by the end of next summer, several months earlier than originally anticipated.

In what comes off as shortened version of the president’s speech, Biden says “the president is making good on his commitment to bring our young men and women home, right on schedule.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun232011

Syrian Army Visible from Turkey; Extra Buses Sent for Fleeing Syrians

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(GUVECCI, Turkey) -- Along the Turkey-Syria border last week there were reports that the Syrian army was just a few kilometers away. Border towns were emptied, thousands fled in fear. On Thursday, those Syrian forces finally came into view in the hills across from Guvecci, Turkey, reportedly storming the Syrian border town of Khirbet al-Jouz.

A Syrian flag was raised over a watchtower where a Turkish flag had been flown by the refugees -- soldiers and armored personnel carriers were visible. Snipers were reportedly on rooftops.

So what does this mean for the thousands still camped out inside Syria?

AFP reports several hundred broke through a fence to get into Turkey.

A spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees tells ABC News that the Red Crescent believes at least 600 came across into camps Thursday. A Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman says they have sent more buses over than usual to pick up displaced Syrians but won't know the final count until Friday.

There were 10,224 refugees in Turkish camps Thursday morning -- a number that's been slowly decreasing in the last few days as Syrians try to head home.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun232011

Afghan President Reacts to News of US Troop Withdrawal

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- In the first official Afghan response to President Obama's decision to speed up the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai congratulated his country on a "historic moment" that will begin the transition to Afghans controlling their own security.

"This is a historic moment for the people of Afghanistan, for the mujahideen, who have suffered and sacrificed so much," Karzai said in Pashto and Dari, his tone serious and slightly proud. "We welcome the decision, and we congratulate the people of Afghanistan, who will take control of their own country by 2014...This is a moment where we can all take responsibility for the future of Afghanistan."

Karzai's speech will likely please U.S. officials, who have been desperate for him to tone down his criticism of U.S. actions and rally his people behind Afghan and American forces.

Karzai did not once criticize U.S. actions, and said now was the time for the "young people of Afghanistan" to take control of their own futures.

"The transition of the security and the withdrawal of the foreign troops from Afghanistan means the Afghan forces must be strengthened, and we are hearing from all over Afghanistan that people now have more faith and confidence in their forces," he said.

The fact that the Afghan president spoke in Dari and Pashto and not in English speaks of his desire to send a message to his own people, rather than the international community.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio



Thursday
Jun232011

As Saudi Women Take the Wheel, US Takes a Backseat

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Women in Saudi Arabia are continuing their fight to drive, hitting the streets of Riyadh this week and asking family-friendly Subaru to boycott the Saudi market until the ban is lifted.

But in the months since this wave of the movement started, one of the world's leading advocates for women's rights, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had been notably silent.  Clinton, who famously declared that women's rights are human rights back in 1995, has made promoting women and children the hallmark of her tenure as America's top diplomat.  And that is why her silence was all the more noticeable.

When asked Tuesday by a reporter why she had not spoken out, Clinton finally explained that it was important for the U.S. not to be seen as the promoters of the movement.

"This is not about the United States.  It is about the women of Saudi Arabia.  And what these women are doing is brave and what they are seeking is right.  But the effort belongs to them. I am moved by it and I support them, but I want to underscore the fact that this is not coming from outside of their country. This is the women themselves seeking to be recognized," she said.

Clinton's spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, told reporters earlier this week that Clinton had been following the issue closely but preferred to engage in "quiet diplomacy."  Last Friday, she phoned her Saudi counterpart, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, to discuss the matter, as well as regional issues.

Yet, Clinton didn't avoid the question entirely when pressed about her views on the matter.  She expressed her support for the movement, praising the "brave" women who dared take the wheel.

So what changed?

A group of Saudi women activists wrote Secretary Clinton a letter this week, urging her to defend their cause in public.  A senior State Department official says that Clinton read the letter and it encouraged her to say something in their defense when asked.

"There was a direct request in the letter for the Secretary to speak out," Nuland confirmed later on Tuesday. "She felt that it was timely and appropriate to speak out publicly even as we speak privately."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun232011

Osama Bin Laden's Youngest Wife Going Back to Yemen

AFP/Getty Images(DUBAI, United Arab Emirates) -- One of Osama bin Laden's wives who was wounded in the U.S. Special Forces raid that killed the al Qaeda leader is due to soon return to her native Yemen.

According to a report in the Dubai-based newspaper Gulf News, Amal Ahmad al Sadah and her children will leave Pakistan for Yemen with her children when all the proper paperwork has been completed.

Sadah was inside the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 1 when Navy SEALs stormed the building, looking for bin Laden.  She was shot in the leg during the assault but has since recovered.

The youngest of bin Laden's wives, the 29-year-old married the late al Qaeda chief when she was a teenager.

Since the raid almost two months ago, Sadah has been staying with the other wives who were in the compound.  Reportedly, Sadah was interrogated by CIA officials after she was taken into custody by Pakistani authorities.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun222011

Two Arrested in $74 Million Fraud for Fake Anti-Virus Software

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Two Latvian citizens have been arrested overseas for their operation of malicious computer programs which cost computer users over $74 million in losses by selling fake anti-virus software for computers. An estimated 960,000 people were victims in the scam, which is known as “Scareware.”
 
Scareware is a fake security alert on a users computer which says, for example, “Warning!  There is a virus on your computer…Remove now,” and asks to initiate a system scan and clean-up to counter the potential virus or malware. In reality, once users click “Remove now” they unknowingly have exposed themselves to malware and keylogger programs which are then used to harvest private and financial data from computer users. Some of these programs ask computer users to purchase the software for clean-up or anti-virus software which further exposes their credit card data when they believe they are buying the bogus software.
 
The two operators of this scareware scheme have been charged with two counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of computer fraud.  The defendants, Peteris Sahurovs, 22, and Marina Maslobojeva, 23, were arrested Tuesday in Rezekne, Latvia. It is unclear how long the extradition process may take.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun222011

State Department Warns Americans Not to Participate in Gaza Flotilla

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Another "Free Gaza" flotilla is scheduled to depart soon and could arrive as soon as this weekend, with the aim once again of breaking Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza.
 
In a travel warning Wednesday the State Department said, “U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea.  Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest and deportation of U.S. citizens.  U.S. citizens participating in any effort to reach Gaza by sea should understand that they may face arrest, prosecution and deportation by the Government of Israel.”
 
A flotilla that took place last year turned deadly when Israeli commandos stormed the ships, resulting in the deaths of nine activists, including one American, on May 31.
 
The U.S. and other countries have been engaged in intense diplomacy to try and prevent the flotilla from departing. Those efforts have been at least partially effective, as the Turkish government has recently warned activists not to participate.
 
Still, ships are expected to leave from there and others from Greece. There are reports that 36 Americans plan to take part this year. One boat is called “The Audacity of Hope,” named after President Obama’s memoir. Unlike last year’s flotilla which bore tons of aid for Gaza, this year's organizers are reportedly planning to deliver thousands of letters of support for the Palestinians.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun222011

China Releases Activist Ai Weiwei On Bail

PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images(BEIJING) -- Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has been freed on bail after more than two months in custody.

Chinese state media, citing the Beijing Police Department, report that he was released because of "his good attitude in confessing his crimes" and because he suffers from a "chronic disease."

"Ai Weiwei must now be granted his full liberty, and not be held in illegal house arrest as has been the pattern with so many others recently released from arbitrary detention," said Catherine Baber of Amnesty International.

"His release can be seen as a tokenistic move by the government to deflect mounting criticism," said Baber.

The Chinese government alleges that Ai Weiwei evaded taxes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun222011

Al Qaeda Militants Escape in Brazen Yemen Jailbreak

Yemeni anti-government protesters chant (June 21, 2011) AFP/ Getty Images(SANAA, Yemen) -- Dozens of militants, many of whom are suspected of belonging to al Qaeda, escaped from a Yemen prison Wednesday in what appeared to be a coordinated breakout.

Reports estimate between 40 and 57 militants fled the Mukalla jail through an underground tunnel, while militants attacked the prison from the outside in what seems like an organized effort to divert the guards' attention away from the escape.

The attack on the guards left one soldier dead and at least one other involved in the confrontation dead.

The escapees then disappeared into Yemen's lawless streets. The past months have been filed with tumult in Yemen, as demonstrators continue to demand President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down.

The militants' jailbreak, in addition to the chaotic political climate in Yemen, is said to pose a direct threat to the United States.

Last week ABC News obtained information that showed the late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had repeatedly urged senior al Qaeda operatives in Yemen to carry out terror attacks in the United States.

"Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is strictly, or has been strictly focused on attacks in the US homeland," Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers told ABC News in an exclusive interview then. "This morning, when you're over your breakfast cereal there is somebody in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula planning another attack in the U.S."

In April, more than 500 Taliban fighters made a similar escape from an Afghan jail, slipping through two underground tunnels. According to the version of events for that escape posted on the Taliban's official website, the main tunnel took five months to build and passed under a highway and police checkpoints.

Additionally, this is not the first major breakout by al-Qaida militants in Yemen. In 2006, 23 escaped from a detention center in Sanaa, including Qassim al-Raimi. Qassim al-Raimi is now a senior leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and has been linked to several attacks against the United States.

Copyright 2011 ABC News







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