Alleged Russian Arms Dealer Extradited to the US

Photo Courtesy - Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images(BANGKOK) -- Thai police say the man many refer to as the "Merchant of Death" -- alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout -- has been extradited from Thailand to the U.S.

Police say Bout left Bangkok Tuesday in the custody of American agents and will face terrorism charges in the U.S., where he could serve life in prison.

The former Soviet Air Force officer is accused of trafficking weapons to Africa, the Middle East, and South America.  He is also reported to have smuggled arms to Afghanistan during Taliban rule.

Bout was arrested in Bangkok in 2008 after allegedly agreeing to sell weapons to U.S. agents who were posing as middlemen for Colombia's FARC rebels, but his extradition was held up by a series of court cases.

Russia has demanded his release, saying the extradition by the U.S. is politically motivated.  "From a legal perspective, what has taken place cannot have a rational explanation or justification," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.  "It is without doubt that the illegal extradition of Viktor Bout is a consequence of unprecedented political pressure exerted by the U.S. on the government and the judicial authorities of Thailand."

Bout says he is merely a businessman, and that he runs a legitimate air transport business.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


US Hints One-Year Deadline for Mideast Peace Could Slip

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Monday suggested for the first time that its ambitious goal of securing Mideast peace in only 12 months might not be achievable, given the recent deadlock.
“It does remain our view that an agreement can be reached within a reasonable period of time,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters. “When the process started, we said this could be accomplished within 12 months. Hard to say at this point, given the delay over the issue of settlements, where we stand on that clock.”
“If we get to August 2011 and we need a little more time to get this done, we'll take that time,” he added.
Earlier Monday, Secretary Clinton was asked about her seven-hour meeting with Netanyahu last Thursday. Reports over the weekend say that the U.S. proposed a 90-day settlement freeze -- excluding East Jerusalem -- in exchange for a large arms deal that could include fighter jets and other assistance.
Secretary Clinton wouldn’t reveal details, but said,  “We’re going to keep working every single day to bring about the swift resumption of negotiations on all the final status issues and we believe that it is only through negotiations that the final status issues can be resolved, that the conflict can be ended, that all claims can be addressed and ended, and the status quo is unacceptable.  So we’re going to continue to do everything we possibly can to get the parties to begin the kind of serious end-game negotiations that are necessary.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


Voter Registration Kicks Off in Southern Sudan Before Vote on Possible Secession

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Voter registration began Monday in Southern Sudan in preparation for the referendum on self-determination set for January 9, 2011, according to a statement released by the White House.

"Voter registration is a critical milestone in that process, and we hope that it will continue unabated.  We call on Northern and Southern leaders to finish the work started without the voter registrations process to ensure the referendum in peaceful and occurs on time, and that the will of the people of South Sudan are respected regardless of the outcome," said a statement from the White House Press Secretary's office.

The official White House statement also mentioned how pleased President Obama is with the start of the registration process, and urged both parties to work together in finding a "way forward for Abyei in the interest of lasting peace."

Following the voter registration, set to close Dec. 1, citizens of Southern Sudan will vote Jan. 9 on whether to secede from the rest of the country.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Study: Students Traveling to More Non-Traditional Countries for Study Abroad

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Survey results from the Institute of International Education say that American students are now choosing to study abroad in countries "where English is not a primary language" more than ever.

Despite a small decrease in the number of American students studying abroad, numbers have still increased in abroad programs outside of Western Europe.  For example, the number of students studying in Africa has increased by 16 percent, in the Middle East by nine percent and in South America by 13 percent.

Likewise, more international students are traveling to the U.S. to study as well. 

"The number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by three percent to 690,923 during the 2009-2010 academic year, representing a record high number of international students in the United States," said another report from the Institute of International Education.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Chinese Billionaire Jack Ma on the Power of American Ideas

Photo Courtesy - Alibaba dot com(HANGZHOU, China) -- In a country that still restricts the flow of information, one Chinese man has made a fortune by harnessing the power of that vast information source, the Internet.

Jack Ma, 46, is the founder of Alibaba, China's largest e-commerce website. It has made him a billionaire and changed the way that the Chinese do business.

ABC News spoke to Ma on Monday in Hangzhou, China about his work, China's remarkable growth, and the American ideals that he believes have made it possible.

"I think this is the American dreams that make America different," Ma told ABC News. "Today, Chinese people have the dreams....Many years ago, we would wait for the government, now we don't wait for the government."

Some analysts expect Alibaba to generate over $700 million in revenue this year from its websites, including the business-to-business trading and the online auction site Alibaba, which is 40 percent owned by Yahoo!, also operates the China Yahoo! Web portal.

By way of comparison, Facebook reportedly generated some $800 million in revenue in 2009.

Ma said he believes that American ingenuity is a model for the Chinese.

China has certainly been quick to seize on the idea of entrepreneurship. Already, China has more than 500 billionaires, more than any other country on Earth.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


Secretary Clinton Defends Raids, Reacts to Karzai's Criticism

File photo. Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday defended the use of special operations raids in Afghanistan after Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for a halt on such actions in an interview with The Washington Post published over the weekend.

“We believe that the use of intelligence driven precision targeted operations against high value insurgents and their networks is a key component of our comprehensive civilian military operations…there is no question that they are having a significant impact on the insurgent leadership and the networks that they operate,” Clinton said. She said the U.S. shared Karzai’s concerns and has discussed them with him.

“We believe that these operations are in the best interest of the Afghan people, the Afghan government and the ISAF troops who are working with their Afghan counterparts to secure the country,” she added.

In a separate interview with The Washington Post, General David Petraeus, the head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, suggested President Karzai’s remarks could undermine the U.S.-led effort there and said he was “astonished and disappointed” with Karzai’s call for reduced military operations and that some raids in the south be discontinued.

Skeptics of putting a timeline on the war, including Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, have argued that it is based on nothing more than politics.

Clinton was careful to note, however, that “the pace of transition of security responsibility obviously depends on the ability of the Afghan National Security Forces and the Afghan National Police forces to be able to take charge. That’s why this a conditions based, gradual transition process, not some one-time event.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


China: Apartment Fire Leaves Dozens Dead

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SHANGHAI, China) -- A massive fire at a Shanghai apartment building has killed at least 42 people. The number of those injured was not immediately known.

The blaze started amid renovations to the 28-story building, but no further explanation was given, China’s state-run media reported.

The building, built in the 1990s, houses 156 families.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Qantas Aborts Third Flight in Under Two Weeks Over Cockpit Smoke

Photo Courtesy - Pascal Parrot/Getty Images(SYDNEY) -- Another problem yet again for Qantas Airways.  A Qantas Boeing 747 was grounded one hour into a flight after smoke was spotted coming out of the cockpit, marking the third time in less than two weeks that Qantas has had to abort a flight.

The flight departed from Syndey International Airport Monday morning, en route to Argentina, when smoke started coming out of an instrument panel in the cockpit, forcing the plane to return to the tarmac after being up in the air for only an hour.

Olivia Wirth, a spokeswoman for Qantas, says, "The pilots have reported there was a minimal amount of smoke in the cockpit.  In line with procedures, the captain, Captain Lowden, did make priority clearance back to Sydney Airport.  However, before this happened, he dumped fuel, arriving back at Sydney Airport safely."

No one onboard sustained any injuries.

Qantas is looking into what caused the smoke.  Wirth says, "At this stage it is believed that there was a faulty part within a selection panel in the cockpit."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Russian Journalist Making Good Recovery After Beating

Photo Courtesy - Svetlana Privalova/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- A Russian journalist savagely beaten in Moscow last weekend is making a good recovery, doctors say.  State-run media report that Oleg Kashin was taken off an artificial respirator, but is still in intensive care.

The website LifeNews said that when Kashin came out of his coma last week, he requested a pen and paper, writing his doctors a note asking them to take him off the respirator.

Kashin has not yet been questioned by investigators, who have not announced any leads in the case.  Kashin reportedly described his attacks as looking like soccer fans.

Kashin was attacked the night of Nov. 5 just after midnight.  He was returning home when he was jumped by two men.  One had concealed a metal rod in a bouquet of flowers.  As one man held Kashin down, the other hit him over and over for almost a minute and a half.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has strongly condemned the attack, saying those responsible will be found and punished.

A rally in central Moscow on Sunday drew hundreds of demonstrators protesting Kashin's assault.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Seven Killed After Blast Rips Through Mexican Resort

Photo Courtesy - Jose Dominguez/AFP/Getty Images(PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico) -- An explosion ripped through a Mexican resort hotel on Sunday, killing seven people and leaving several others injured.  Among the seven dead were five Canadian tourists and two hotel employees.

Authorities believe the blast at the Grand Riviera Princess hotel in Playa del Carmen, Mexico may have been caused by natural gas from a nearby swamp.  They believe swamp gas somehow accumulated under the floor of the hotel and triggered the explosion.

William Breakey of Ontario, a recent guest at the hotel, says he could smell the natural gas when he stayed at the resort.

"There was always kind of a pungent smell," Breakey says.  "It smelled a little bit like sulphur, rotten eggs, whatever, in the air in and around the kitchen."

Guests first feared the blast was terrorist-related.  Pete Travers, a program director at a Toronto area radio station who is staying at the hotel, says, "Everyone shared the same fear.  The fear is 'was this deliberate?'  So when we started hearing that it was an accident, everyone was quickly latching onto that as a means of comfort."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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