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Monday
Mar212011

Workers Evacuated After Smoke Reported Over Japan's Plant

ABC News(TOKYO) -- Workers at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were evacuated from the site Monday as smoke was once again reported over one of the plant's reactors.

A gray cloud of smoke was seen hovering over the plant's number 3 reactor during the late afternoon, prompting the evacuation of workers while authorities began investigations to determine the cause of the smoke.  No explosions have been confirmed.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Japan's Chief Cabinet Officer Yukio Edano said he's uncertain if the smoke is tied to spent fuel rods at the site.

"We do not know if there is a link or not," Edano said through an NHK TV translator.  "We're not saying if there is or not.  We are continuing to observe the situation.  And so far radiation readings, figures show that the situation is not turning for the worse."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar212011

Pakistan Rocked by 5.8 Magnitude Earthquake

George Doyle/Thinkstock(PESHAWAR, Pakistan) -- A 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook parts of Pakistan on Monday.

The quake's tremors were also felt in Afghanistan -- which shares a northeast border with Pakistan -- with reports of shaking in the capital city of Kabul.

There were no immediate reports of damage or loss of life.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar212011

Japan Halts Contaminated Food Shipments from Area Near Plant

DigitalGlobe via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- As the death toll mounts from Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Japanese health officials are now faced with evidence of radiation from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant seeping into milk and spinach.

The officials made the decision Monday to ban shipments and consumption of the foods from Fukushima Prefecture and Ibaraki Prefecture.  The tainted milk was found within a 20-mile radius of the plant while the spinach turned up more than 65 miles away, about half the distance to Tokyo.

Substances detected in food were iodine 131 and cesium 137, both byproducts of reactors.  High levels of iodine 131 can cause thyroid cancer, while cesium 137 can lead to damaged cells and cancer.

According to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, consuming the contaminated food for a year would expose someone to about the same radiation one would receive in a single CT scan.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that exposure measures about seven millisieverts, or double the annual exposure per person in an industrialized country.

Meanwhile, radioactive iodine that has turned up in Tokyo's tap water is supposedly at such low levels that the Japanese government contends it's nothing to be worried about.

All these new concerns came as the government Monday updated the official death toll from the earthquake and tsunami to 8,600.  It’s expected that the number of fatalities will eventually exceed 20,000.  In fact, some police estimates put the death toll now at 18,000.  Many thousands are still missing.

In other developments, over the weekend, officials with the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, said there was some progress in restoring power to the two least damaged reactors, numbers 5 and 6.

Reactor 3 is proving to be the most problematic, prompting discussions about venting more radioactive gases to avoid a potentially catastrophic pressure build-up.  However, by late Sunday, TEPCO officials said that the pressure had gone down and there was no need to release more contaminated gases into the atmosphere.

Even as electrical power was being routed to all the reactors crippled by the earthquake and tsunami in order to power the idled cooling systems, there was no clear indication whether those cooling systems will actually work.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar212011

Syrian Forces Take Tough Stand Against Dissenters

George Doyle/Thinkstock(DARAA, Syria) -- Is Syria the latest Arab country to experience the expanding unrest in the Arab world?

It appeared that way Sunday as thousands called for revolution in the southern city of Daraa while attending a funeral for two protesters slain by Syrian security forces the day before.

The Syrian government responded quickly to the public outcry for change.  Riot police fired tear gas into the crowd, estimated at more than 10,000.  Authorities then went a step further to insure that the mounting insurrection didn't go beyond Deraa by blocking entrances to the city, although they did allow protesters to leave.

Meanwhile, there were allegations of other deaths of anti-government activists in Syria that have gone unreported.

Since the beginning of the year, pro-democracy movements have led to regime changes in Egypt and Tunisia but Syrian President Bashar Assad has vowed the same will not happen in his country.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar212011

Gadhafi's Compound Hit; US Says Not Our Missile

IMED LAMLOUM/AFP/Getty Images(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's compound was hit by a missile strike late Sunday as a barrage of airstrikes by U.S. and European militaries destroyed Libyan defenses, rocked the capitol of Tripoli and buoyed the spirits of the opposition.

The strike, however, was not carried out by U.S. forces, an official said. Vice Admiral William Gortney said earlier in the day that the United States was "not targeting Gadhafi."

According to various reports, Gadhafi's compound was badly damaged, but it was not immediately known how many people were injured or killed.

A United Nations-backed no-fly zone enforced by the U.S. British and French aircraft is being enforced from Tripoli to Benghazi and the top third of the country. Spain, Belgium, Denmark, and Qatar have also joined the coalition.

"It's had a pretty significant effect very early on," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said Sunday of Operation Odyssey Dawn on ABC News' This Week.

"The no-fly zone has essentially started to have its effects. We are flying over Benghazi right now. He hasn't had any planes in the air the last two days," Mullen said of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

A spokesman for Gadhafi's government said all Libyan armed forces units have been told to follow a ceasefire. The ceasefire was being ordered after taking into account the civilian deaths, and the destruction of civilian and military buildings, the Libyan government spokesman told reporters.

But U.S. officials are skeptical of the government's claims.

"We will watch his actions, not his words," a senior White House official said.

The opening salvo of the international operation, which military officials have described as a "multi-phase" operation to protect Libyan civilians, drew cheers from rebels across eastern Libya and a defiant warning from Gadhafi, who said he is prepared for a "long war."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar212011

Egyptians Vote on Proposed Constitutional Amendments

ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Given Egypt's political climate over the past several decades, Saturday was a day of joy as millions showed up at more than 50,000 polling stations to vote for constitutional amendments.

It was the first free elections in Egypt in more than 50 years, spurred by pro-democracy demonstrations less than two months ago that toppled the regime of Hosni Mubarak.

Still, it's unclear whether voters will approve the amendments to pave the way for parliamentary elections, essentially a government set up by the people rather than by whomever is running the country at the moment.

When Mubarak stepped down, the military stepped in to assume governing but has agreed to abide by the will of the electorate.

If approved, the new Egyptian president will be limited to two, four-year terms.  The amendments will also restrict some of the president's powers, including the ability to call for a state of emergency, which is the equivalent of martial law.

Those opposed to the amendments include some of the reformers who demanded Mubarak's ouster.  They are mostly Egypt's secular and liberal political figures, who complained the amendments won't give them sufficient time to form organized parties ahead of parliamentary election.

However, the once-outlawed -- and better organized --  Muslim Brotherhood, which the West fears will advance a radical Islamic agenda, supports the amendments.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar202011

Yemeni President Fires Cabinet

GAMAL NOMAN/AFP/Getty Images(SANA'A, Yemen) -- Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh reportedly fired his entire cabinet on Sunday amid social unrest throughout the country.

Protests have been taking place in Yemen for about two months with demonstrators calling for Saleh to step down from his presidential post. On Friday, Saleh declared a state of emergency as protesters and pro-government forces continued to engage in violent clashes. The days leading up to Sunday’s announcement have been deadly, with snipers opening fire and killing dozens of protesters during demonstrations in Taghyeer Square on Friday.

President Obama has condemned the violence in Yemen and called on Saleh, “to adhere to his public pledge to allow demonstrations to take place peacefully.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar202011

Obama to Brazil: Let Us Stand Together as Equal Partners

ABC News(RIO DE JANEIRO) -- President Obama spoke to the nation of Brazil on Sunday, telling the hemisphere’s second largest economy that he wants to be a partner with the South American country as its skyrocketing growth continues.

“Let us stand together – not as senior and junior partners, but as equal partners, joined in a spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect, committed to the progress we can make together.  Together, we can advance our common prosperity.  As two of the world’s largest economies, we worked side by side during the financial crisis to restore growth and confidence,” he told the crowd at the Teatro Municipal, a large theater.

The president has gone out of his way to praise Brazil during his two days in the country. The message is seen as critical for the White House, one of the reasons the trip was not canceled as the president prepared military strikes against Libya.

President Obama talked about universal rights as he referred to the trouble in the Middle East and acknowledged how Brazil has moved from dictatorship to democracy.

“ We yearn to live without fear or discrimination; to choose how we are governed and to shape our own destiny.  These are not American or Brazilian ideas.  They are not Western ideas.  They are universal rights, and we must support them everywhere,” he said.

The overriding message from the President came in one line of his 25 minute speech: “I am here to tell you that the American people don’t just recognize Brazil’s success – we root for it. “

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar202011

Japan: 80-Year-Old Woman, Grandson Pulled from Rubble

ABC News(ISHINOMAKI, Japan) -- Rescuers in Japan freed an 80-year-old woman and her 16-year-old grandson from a house in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, Sunday, more than a week after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake spawned a devastating tsunami that demolished their house and left thousands in the country dead.

The woman was apparently pinned under her fridge. The two survived nine days – eating yogurt from the fridge – until the grandson flagged down rescuers by standing on the rooftop.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar202011

Haiti Holds Presidential Elections

ABC News(PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti) -- The polls were open in Haiti on Sunday, as the country held elections to select its next president.

Haitian voters have two candidates to choose from: music star Michel Martelly and former first lady Mirlande Manigat. Sunday’s election is the second round of voting, with polls set to be open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. The first round of voting was held on Nov. 28, with only 23 percent of the 4.7 million eligible voters casting their votes.

Election results are expected to be announced on March 31. Whoever is chosen to run the country for the next five years will be faced with the task of dealing with the numerous problems that has plagued the country following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake which rocked the island on Jan. 12, 2010, killing thousands and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

The days leading up to the election have provided no shortage of news headlines, with former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide returning to the country from exile on Friday and Martelly supporter-singer Wyclef Jean being shot in the hand on Saturday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio