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Monday
Jul112011

UK Reduces Threat Level from Severe to Substantial

Comstock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Britain's Home Office announced that the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) reduced the international terror level from "severe" to "substantial" on Monday.

"The change in the threat level to substantial does not mean the overall threat has gone away -- there remains a real and serious threat against the United Kingdom and I would ask the public to remain vigilant," said Home Secretary Theresa May.

"Substantial" means there is a strong possibility of an attack. Since the threat system was first used in 2006, the highest level of "critical" -- meaning an attack is imminent -- was reached twice: in August 2006 and June 2007.

The JTAC, which was established in 2003, collaborates with law enforcement agencies to assess intelligence relating to international terrorism.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul112011

Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB Deal on Hold over Hacking Scandal 

Rupert Murdoch Chairman of News Corporation arrived back in London on July 10, 2011, to take personal charge of the phone-hacking scandal that felled his News of the World tabloid. MAX NASH/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The British government signaled Monday that it will delay -- and possibly halt -- Rupert Murdoch's $19 billion deal to purchase British Sky Broadcasting as a result of the outrage surrounding the growing scandal over his companies' journalistic practices. This is just the latest fallout from the phone hacking scandal at the media tycoon's recently-shuttered News of the World.

The announcement came from Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt after News Corp. said it would no longer spin off Sky News, a condition that the government put in place for the company to purchase the remaining 61 percent of BSkyB that it does not currently own.

The British Competition Commission must now investigate whether the purchase would violate the country's anti-monopoly laws. The review could take up to six months.

If the deal goes through, it would give Murdoch 100 percent control of BSkyB and 40 percent ownership of all of British commercial TV. He already owns 37 percent of all newspapers in Great Britain.

BSkyB shares have lost about $3.7 billion since the scandal surrounding News of the World broke. Just last week the company's shares were trading as high as 850 pence on the London Stock Exchange. They were trading at just 716 pence per share today.

The takeover has been under extreme scrutiny following revelations of phone hacking and bribery at the now-defunct publication.

The latest details to emerge about the News of the World scandal came from the BBC which reports that former royal editor Clive Goodman requested cash from the paper's editor, Andy Coulson, to purchase a directory of royal telephone numbers and those of household staff for £1,000, about $1,594. The BBC reported that "the relevant email implies that a police officer in royal protection had stolen the directory, which is known as the Green Book," and was trying to sell it.

The BBC said other emails suggest the paper "had police contacts in a number of royal palaces, and had bought information from several of them."

The widening scandal has already resulted in three arrests and could lead to a dozen more by the end of the week, including several police officers who allegedly took regular bribes from the paper in exchange for news scoops, and Murdoch's son James Murdoch, a chairman at News International.

The best-selling News of the World weekly newspaper shut down after 168 years, leaving its 270-person staff without jobs after it became embroiled in an epidemic of criminal activity in pursuit of stories -- including allegedly hacking the voicemails of murder victims, terrorist victims and their families, not to mention a number of celebrities.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul112011

German Spy Agency HQ Blueprints Stolen: Report

Creatas/Thinkstock(MUNICH) -- The German government has launched an investigation into the alleged theft of classified blueprints of the German spy agency's new state-of-the-art headquarters, a government spokesperson said Monday.

The announcement came after a German magazine, Focus, published a German-language report which claimed the blueprints -- comprised of building plans, alarm systems, and locking systems among other features -- had disappeared perhaps as long as a year ago but the disappearance had gone unnoticed until recently.

"It has not yet been possible to verify the authenticity of the reports, but an investigation was launched into the matter on Friday," government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said at a press conference Monday, according to media reports. "It's a serious issue and the government is interested in clearing up this case as quickly as possible."

The new headquarters for the German foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), is reportedly set to be one of the most technologically sophisticated buildings in the world when it is finished in Berlin in 2014. The BND declined to comment on the plans' disappearance, but one representative told Germany's Die Welt newspaper the documents were likely leaked by a construction contractor.

Representatives for the German government did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this report.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul112011

Cruise Boat Sinks in Russia, More than 100 Thought Dead

Relatives of the Bulgaria river cruiser passengers wait for the news about their loved ones (NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA /AFP/Getty Images) (MOSCOW) -- More than 100 people drowned when an overcrowded, 56-year-old boat sank in the Volga River Sunday, in what rescue officials are calling the worst river transport disaster in Russia's history.

Nearly 80 people were rescued in the hours following the boat's sinking. Another 40 people have been confirmed dead. According to officials, the boat's capacity was 120, but they say as many as 197 were aboard when it sank.

Divers Monday morning reported seeing dozens of dead bodies trapped in the wreckage.

Among those unaccounted for is the majority of the 59 children on the riverboat who were moved into an interior play area minutes before the boat sank. That's according to survivors, who also said the majority of parents were on the deck or in their rooms while the children were in the playroom with boat's babysitters.

The accident happened when the boat was 2 miles from shore in 65 feet of water, according to officials.

Russian authorities suggest the cause of the accident was mechanical troubles with one of the riverboat's two diesel engines.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul112011

India: Train Crash Leaves at Least 69 Dead

(STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images) (UTTAR PRADESH, India) -- As many as 69 people have been killed and an estimated 250 injured in a train crash in northern India Sunday near the town of Fatehpur in Uttar Pradesh.

The Kalka Mail passenger train was traveling from Horah to Delhi.

Rescue workers continue to search for survivors, however they describe the efforts as difficult because of the mangled condition of the train.

The crash took place when the train derailed while traveling faster than local standards, at 62 mph.

While investigations into the cause of the derailment continue, some suspect it occurred when the conductor used the emergency break to avoid hitting cattle.

The crash marks the second in a week, coming after a train crash last Thursday that killed 38 people. The incidents amplify criticism from experts who say the system suffers from an aging infrastructure and outdated safety equipment.

India's 150 year old transportation system operates nearly 10,000 trains each day.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul112011

New IMF Head 'Can't Imagine' US Would Default on Debt

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- As the White House continues negotiations with congressional leaders over a budget deal, newly elected head of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde says that she "can't imagine for a second" that the United States would default on its debt obligations, saying it would be "a real shock" to the global economy if no agreement is reached.

"I can't imagine for a second that the United States would default," Lagarde told ABC's This Week anchor Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview.  "But, clearly, this issue of the debt ceiling has to be resolved."

"It would be a real shock, and it would be bad news for the U.S. economy," Lagarde added on the threat of the U.S. not raising the debt ceiling. "So I would hope that there is enough bipartisan intelligence and understanding of the challenge that is ahead of the United States, but also of the rest of the world."

The IMF was created after World War II by the U.S. and its European allies to oversee the global economy and be a lender of last resort to countries in financial trouble, while also promoting global employment and growth.

Lagarde, who previously served as France's finance minister, said there could be "real nasty consequences," including rising interest rates, depressed stock markets, increased unemployment, and decreased investment if a deal is not reached by the Aug. 2 deadline facing the United States.

"It would certainly jeopardize the stability, but not just the stability of the U.S. economy, it would jeopardize the stability at large," Lagarde said. "And that's clearly against the purpose and the mission of the International Monetary Fund. So we are concerned and we are very much hoping that a compromise will be found before the deadline."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul112011

Tabloid Scandal: Will Rupert Murdoch's Company Go Down?

WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- As the famed U.K. tabloid News of the World landed on British newsstands for the last time, its owner, Rupert Murdoch, tried to stabilize his global media empire after a wide-ranging scandal that has been dubbed "Britain's Watergate."

While Murdoch scrambled to ensure that the taint on his $33 billion empire's reputation in the U.K. did not spread across the globe, the widening scandal has already resulted in three arrests and could lead to a dozen more by the end of the week, including several police officers who allegedly took regular bribes from the paper in exchange for news scoops, and Murdoch's son James Murdoch, a chairman at News International.

Rupert Murdoch's plan to take control of Britain's BSkyB satellite network could be threatened too, as the News of the World phone hacking scandal has highlighted what many in the U.K. see as a near monopoly by Murdoch companies on the nation's media.

The British government has signaled that the $19 billion deal to purchase BSkyB may be halted as a result of the growing outrage surrounding Murdoch's company practices.  If the deal goes through, it would give Murdoch 100 percent control of BSkyB in which he already holds a stake.

Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition Labor Party, told the BBC that such a deal should not be allowed to go through in the midst of an ongoing investigation into News International's business practices.

"The idea that this organization, which engaged in these terrible practices, should be allowed to take over BSkyB, to get that 100 percent stake, without the criminal investigation having been completed ... frankly that just won't wash with the public," Miliband said.

The best-selling News of the World weekly newspaper shut down after 168 years, leaving its 270-person staff without jobs after it became embroiled in an epidemic of criminal activity in pursuit of stories -- including allegedly hacking the voicemails of murder victims, terrorist victims and their families, not to mention a number of celebrities.

A power network that includes Murdoch, British politicians and police is now accused of suppressing a full investigation, while former News of the World editor Andy Coulson and former royal editor Clive Goodman were arrested last week on charges related to the paper's hacking scandal.

This past weekend, Murdoch rushed to the east London headquarters of his News International Corp., which provides a whopping 40 percent of the newspapers sold in the U.K.  As he arrived, he was reading the final edition of the News of the World -- the paper that began his overseas expansion 42 years ago and helped him entrench himself in the British media world.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jul102011

7.3 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Northeastern Japan

NASA/Getty Images(HONSHU, Japan) -- An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 hit the northeastern coast of Japan Sunday, briefly triggering a tsunami warning for the area still recovering from the devastating quake and killer wave four months ago.

The tremor, which hit at 9:57 a.m. local time, caused more concern than problems. No major injuries or damages have been reported. The residents of coastal areas were evacuated for about two hours after the earthquake, but the tsunami warning has since been lifted.

The earthquake's epicenter was off the coast of Japan's main island, Honshu, in the Pacific Ocean.

There is no tsunami danger for the United States' West Coast or Hawaii, according to officials, and the Japanese nuclear power plant in the region was not affected.

On March 11, the northeastern coast of Japan was hit by a 9.0 earthquake -- the strongest in Japanese history -- and a tsunami that devastated the region, triggered a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima power plant and left nearly 23,000 people dead or missing.

Since then, dozens of strong aftershocks have rattled the region, including a 5.6 quake in the Pacific off Honshu on Thursday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The area still has a long way to go toward recovery. Because seawalls were destroyed in the March 11 disaster and many of the buildings are still structurally weak, even smaller-scale earthquakes can do damage, but for now, the Japanese are in the clear.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jul102011

News of the World Prints Final Issue in Wake of Scandal

Indigo/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Issues of News of the World rolled hot off the presses for the last time this weekend, the paper shuttered as a result of a hacking scandal that extends to the British government.

The newspaper that prided itself on being the first to break a story, even if it was rooted in salacious rumor, is shutting down after 168 years, leaving its 270 person staff without jobs.

A statement on the paper's website blamed the demise on staff from previous years, apparently trying to distance current employees from the scandal.

"We praised high standards, we demanded high standards but, as we are now only too painfully aware, for a period of a few years up to 2006 some who worked for us, or in our name, fell shamefully short of those standards," the statement said. "Quite simply, we lost our way. Phones were hacked, and for that this newspaper is truly sorry."

While News of the World staff may be losing their jobs, one person isn't -- Rebekah Brooks, a chief executive for News Corporation, the parent company of News of the World who was a former editor during the time of the alleged phone hackings.

Calls for Brooks' dismissal abound, but she isn't focused on that and neither is News Corporation Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch. He released a statement today saying that he has total support for Brooks.

"We already apologized," he said. "We've been let down by people ... the paper let down its readers."

Though News of the World is just one of Murdoch's territories, it may be the one that could threaten his ever-growing empire.

Murdoch is the man whose endorsements were sought after by prime ministers and whose media arm stretched across the Atlantic. Now with the onslaught of evidence against his paper and top editors, his focus is more on the future than the past.

He is expected to fly into London Sunday as he scrambles to salvage his company's bid for the satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting. But the mounting evidence of widespread involvement in the scandal that brought down News of the World could be too much for even Murdoch to overcome.

Already, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson and former royal editor Clive Goodman were arrested on charges related to the paper's hacking scandal.

The arrests are just the tip of the iceberg in the growing allegations against News Corp., including reports that News of the World hacked into politicians' and celebrities' voicemail and allegedly hacked into families' voicemails of Britain's fallen soldiers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jul092011

More Than 1,600 Arrested in Malaysian Electoral Reform Protests

Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) -- Some 1,667 demonstrators were arrested in Malaysia Saturday after clashing with riot police in a march to the capital city Kuala Lumpur in demand of electoral reforms, authorities said.

The Royal Malaysia Police fired tear gas as several thousand people gathered near a sports stadium where the demonstrators organized to rally.

The protest, headed by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, was organized by a loose coalition of opposition groups known as Bersih 2.0, an organization declared illegal by the government.

Ibrahim was among hundreds of protesters who gathered at the Hilton hotel in Kuala Lumpur before heading toward the Sentral Station.

The protesters then breached police lines and marched through the rail station, before being met by riot police with tear gas on the other side.

Opposition groups have been seeking to put pressure on Prime Minister Najib Razak's government, which has been in power for decades, before next year’s elections.

Local media reported a strong police presence around the city and many roads closed.

A similar demonstration headed by the Bersih coalition in 2007 was broken up by police using water cannon and tear gas, local reports indicated.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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