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Wednesday
Mar162011

Drones Are The New Weapon in Mexican Drug War

AFPI/US AIR FORCE(WASHINGTON) -- There are reports of a significant new weapon in the drug wars along the U.S.-Mexican border.

President Obama did not mention it publicly when Mexico's president was at the White House two weeks ago, but the U.S. is reportedly flying unmanned drone surveillance aircraft deep into Mexican territory.

The New York Times says intelligence information about drug activity is then given to Mexican police. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar162011

Bahrain Violence Escalates After Military Crackdown

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(MANAMA, Bahrain) -- The Sunni King of Bahrain ordered a military crackdown on Shi'ite protestors who recently retook the main square in the capital of Manama. The violent raid comes a day after the King declared a 3 month state of emergency that gave the military more authority to put down the month-long demonstrations.   

Soldiers and riot police launched an early morning assault on protestors camped out in Pearl Square. Witnesses say they covered the area in a blanket of tear gas and fired live ammunition on the crowd and into the air, driving everyone out.  Makeshift tents were reportedly lit on fire and at least six protestors were killed. The last one, medical officials say, died of gunshot wounds to his back. Two policeman also died and there are reports that at least 300 hundred have been wounded, the injured protestors streaming into the main hospital in Bahrain's capital.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar162011

CIA Contractor Freed in Pakistan After Deal Made with Victims' Families

Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images(LAHORE, Pakistan) -- The case of an American CIA contractor who was imprisoned in Pakistan for shooting two men in January has come to a stunning end.

ABC News confirmed Wednesday that Raymond Davis was released after the families of the two victims signed a statement of forgiveness in court.  The families will each receive an estimated $1.2 million for a total of $2.4 million, according to Davis' attorney.

Davis, a former Green Beret, was consulting on security work in Lahore on Jan. 27 when he claims two men tried to rob him. He told Pakistani authorities that he shot the men in self-defense.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar162011

Radiation Leak Halts Work at Damaged Japanese Reactors

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(TOKYO) -- Work to stabilize the damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was halted early Wednesday because radiation leaking from the units made the situation unsafe, Japanese officials said.

Radiation levels started to rise sharply after steam was seen escaping from unit 3 at the plant, which was damaged first by the powerful earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan Friday, and then by an explosion in the reactor.

There have been explosions in two other reactors at the plant, and two fires at a fourth unit, which was being used as a storage facility for radioactive material.

A Japanese government official also indicated for the first time that the containment vessels of all three of the reactors at the plant that exploded may be leaking, raising worries of dangerous radiation leaks.

Both the release of steam and the work stoppage came after firefighters extinguished a fire at the plant's unit 4.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Tuesday that radiation dose rates of up to 400 millisievert (mSv) per hour had been reported at the Fukushima plant site immediately following one of the explosions. A typical chest X-ray exposes an individual to about 0.02 mSv.

However, after the steam was observed escaping from unit 3, radiation levels rose sharply, a government spokesman said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said there was a reading of 1,000 millisieverts before the level began falling again to 600-800 millisieverts per hour, which is still considered unsafe.

"So the workers cannot carry out even minimal work at the plant now," Edano said. "Because of the radiation risk, we are on standby."

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan urged those living from 12 to 19 miles around the plant to stay indoors. The 140,000 people living within 12 miles of the plant have been evacuated. So far, 150 people from that area have tested positive for radiation exposure.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Mar162011

Prosecutors Say Italian Prime Minister Paid for Sex with Girl 13 Times

Governo [dot] it(MILAN) -- More embarrassing sex allegations regarding Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are surfacing in Italy.

Prosecutors allege Berlusconi paid for sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan girl 13 times at his villa near Milan.  The claim comes in documents submitted to the court seeking indictments against three of the Italian prime minister's aides for allegedly soliciting prostitutes for their boss.

Berlusconi denies all charges, and his lawyers say it's a set up.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar162011

Ambassador: More Aid Arriving in Japan; US Agrees with Plant Response

Japan [dot] USEmbassy [dot] gov(TOKYO) -- The U.S. ambassador to Japan, John V. Roos, held a press conference Wednesday at the U.S. embassy in Tokyo to address the current nuclear situation there and what the U.S. is doing to help.

In addition to the American engineers, specialists, and experts already at the unstable Fukushima nuclear power plant, Roos said the U.S. added an additional seven experts from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who arrived in Japan Wednesday.

Roos added that the U.S. also supplied Japan with aerial and ground radiation monitoring equipment, including detectors, data acquisition systems, and health physics kits.  The equipment arrived Tuesday night, along with 34 personnel with "expertise in health physics and airborne and ground-based radiation field monitoring."

On the aid front, Roos noted the U.S. military has delivered over 7,000 pounds of food and water to the areas hit by the 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami and that more goods are on their way.

"Nine ships are assisting in the relief operations, and helicopters and other aircraft have now flown over 50 missions to conduct survivor recoveries, transport passengers, and distribute food and water supplies in the most needy areas," said Roos.

Moreover, Roos said that "more than $5.8 million of United States aid has come to Japan so far and more is on the way."

Addressing the radiation levels at the Fukushima plant, Roos said that U.S. experts are in agreement with the assessments made by the Japanese government.

"After a careful analysis of data, radiation levels, and damage assessments of all units at Fukushima, our experts are in agreement with the response and measures taken by Japanese technicians, including their recommended 20 km radius for evacuation and additional shelter-in-place recommendations out to 30 km," he said in a separate statement issued the same day as the conference.

In that statement, Roos also noted that U.S. and Japanese sensitive instrumentation reported very low levels of radiation outside the evacuation area and that it is being carefully monitored.  Should the levels pose a threat to public health, he added that "we will share that information and provide relevant guidance immediately."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar162011

London's Olympic Countdown Clock Stops Ticking

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images(LONDON) -- For weeks, there's been a lot of anticipation about a giant clock in London's Trafalgar Square to mark the 500-day countdown to the 2012 Summer Olympics, which London will host.

Amid fireworks and speeches Monday by former British Olympic stars, the digital clock made by Olympic sponsor Omega finally began ticking down the seconds to the London Games, scheduled to being July 27, 2012.

Then on Tuesday, the clock stopped at 500 days, seven hours, six minutes and 56 seconds.  Mechanics were called in and began working to repair the clock, which became operational several hours laters.

Omega issued a statement saying they would fly over a chief engineer all the way from Switzerland "to make a full diagnostic investigation into what created the problem."

In the meantime, a new snafu has arisen.  People who try to buy tickets for the Olympics have discovered that they're being blocked from doing so if their Visa card has an expiration date anytime before the end of August 2011.  Visa's the only card that organizers will accept to purchase tickets.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar162011

For Some Japanese, Nuclear Crisis Scarier than Quake or Tsunami

Sankei via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- For some Japanese who have been battered by a monster earthquake and powerful tsunami, the prospect of a nuclear crisis is the scariest threat yet.

"Nuclear power is the most frightening thing, even more than a tsunami," said Isao Araki, a 63-year-old from the coastal village of Minami-soma, which was swept away by Friday's tsunami.  "The government, the ruling party, the administrators...nobody tells us, the citizens, what is really happening."

While many who were in the path of the tsunami are still shell-shocked, others are struggling to cope with a life that is completely altered and now has a looming nuclear threat as well.  And the feeling is rippling out like a wave and reaching as far as Tokyo.

More than 70,000 people have been evacuated from a 12-mile area around the four damaged nuclear plants that engineers are struggling to keep from melting down.  Another 140,000 who live within 19 miles of the plants have been told to stay indoors and make their homes airtight, to guard against radiation leaks.

A Namiemachi resident who lived miles from the reactor and wishes to remain anonymous was evacuated before the tsunami hit.  She came to an evacuation center this week with her young son, both wearing masks, to get tested for radiation.

"We can't go back.  The radiation levels are too high.  And we probably can't go back for years.  We don't have a home to go back to, it's frightening," she said.  "We have no idea what's really going on."

In Tokyo, slightly elevated radiation levels were detected, but officials there said there is no immediate danger to public.

Natsumi Oka, a 21-year-old living in Tokyo, told ABC News that she's worried about the growing threat of radiation, and like many other Japanese, doesn't know what information to believe.

"Right now, though it's only 1:30 p.m. my grandma has been preparing dinner because the rolling blackout is going to start at 3:20 and last until seven.  We won't have electricity, heat or running water during that time," she said.

Weather reports forecast snow and wind for Fukushima, where the damaged nuclear plants are located, blowing southwest toward Tokyo and possibly carrying a nuclear cloud there before blowing east, out to sea. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar152011

Pentagon Authorizes Voluntary Departure of Military Dependents in Bahrain

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The deteriorating security situation in Bahrain has led the Pentagon to authorize the voluntary departure of military dependents and non-Department of Defense (DOD) civilians based at the U.S. Naval base in Bahrain. The base is the home of the Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which conducts operations in the Middle East.

Bahrain’s king imposed martial law Tuesday after deadly clashes between government forces and Shiite protesters seeking reforms from the Sunni monarchy.  Two protesters were killed in Tuesday’s violence and there are reports of as many as 200 needing medical treatment.

The departure of military dependents is voluntary, which means they will decide whether they want to leave Bahrain or not. If a military plane is headed back to the United States, it could conceivably be used to bring back the family members, but no specific military aircraft will be sent to Bahrain for their departures.  Instead, those wishing to leave Bahrain can get reimbursed for buying airline tickets back to the U.S.

Sixty-one hundred Americans work at the base in Bahrain -- 4,200 of them are military and non-DOD civilians.  The authorization would apply to the approximately 700 military dependents living in Bahrain and an undetermined number of non-DOD civilians.

A statement from the U.S. Fifth Fleet said the voluntary departure was in line with a similar announcement earlier in the day from the State Department authorizing the voluntary departure of non-essential U.S. Embassy staff and dependents.

According to the statement, “The welfare of our personnel and their families is of the utmost importance.  This Authorized Departure is being ordered to allow family members who have concerns about their safety to depart without incurring an undue burden.  We remain committed to our long-standing partnership with Bahrain.”

There was a mandatory departure of 900 military dependents in 2004 because of terrorism threats.  Military dependents were only allowed to return to live in Bahrain just a few years ago.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Tuesday
Mar152011

WikiLeaks: US Called Former Japan Nuclear Safety Official 'Disappointment'

MYKOLA LAZARENKO/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Two years before a powerful earthquake rocked Japan and threatened catastrophe for its nuclear facilities, U.S. officials slammed the senior Japanese safety director of the International Atomic Energy Agency as "a disappointment" in part due to Japan's nuclear safety practices, according to a leaked U.S. State Department document.

"[Tomihiro] Taniguchi has been a weak manager and advocate, particularly with respect to confronting Japan's own safety practices, and he is a particular disappointment to the United States for his unloved-step-child treatment of the Office of Nuclear Security," said the document, posted on the website for British newspaper The Guardian. "This position requires a good manager and leader who is technically qualified in both safety and security."

Taniguchi was the executive director of Japan's Nuclear Power Engineering Corporation, a company that specifically dealt with nuclear plant security in the aftermath of earthquakes, prior to becoming the Deputy Director General for the IAEA's Department of Nuclear Safety and Security in 2001. Taniguchi stepped down after another Japanese official, Yukiya Amano, assumed control of the IAEA as Director General in September 2009.

Before he left, however, Taniguchi told a meeting of nuclear officials in 2008 that the international community should focus more on nuclear power safety and security, according to a separate leaked cable posted on the website WikiLeaks.

"We should avoid another Chernobyl or nuclear 9/11," Taniguchi said according to the document, referring to the infamous 1986 nuclear disaster in the Ukraine.

After Japan suffered one of its largest earthquakes in history March 11, one of the country's nuclear plants was so badly damaged it prompted fears of a disaster and invited comparisons to the Chernobyl incident.

Amano, now the sole representative from Japan on the senior IAEA management team, is scheduled to speak in April about the safety improvements made since that incident at an international conference called "Chernobyl, 25 Years On: Safety for the Future."

Japan's 3-Step Plan for Nuclear Safety

In the same 2008 meeting in which Taniguchi pushed for more international safeguards when it comes to nuclear power, other IAEA officials "saw promise in the Japanese 3 Ss' (Safety, Security, Safeguards) proposal," the leaked State Department document said.

That proposal, as described in a 2010 document from the Japan Atomic Energy Agency obtained by ABC News, is a highly technical how-to on nuclear facility safety -- from the safe operation of nuclear facilities in crisis, to the protection of the actual nuclear materials and guards against proliferation.

Even with the 3 S's system, Japan appeared overwhelmed by the quake, according to Tony Pietrangelo, a spokesman for lobbying group Nuclear Energy Institute

"Clearly what happened in Japan is well beyond what [the nuclear plants] were designed for," he said.

Representatives at the IAEA did not respond to requests for comment on this report.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio