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Wednesday
Mar302011

Japan Nuclear Crisis: Highest Radiation Levels Detected in Seawater

ABC News(TOKYO) -- Radiation levels in the seawater outside the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan reached their highest levels yet Wednesday morning.

Nuclear safety officials said the seawater near the plant contains 3,335 times the normal amount of radioactive iodine.

Now, government officials are considering draping special tarps over three of the reactors to contain the radiation.  It's a plan that's never been tried before and is not without risk because officials don't want more pressure to build up.

To assist in containment efforts, the U.S. government is sending radiation-hardened robots to reach areas too dangerous for workers.

Earlier this week, officials acknowledged highly dangerous plutonium was found in soil near the reactors.

Increased levels of radiation have also been detected in tap water and vegetables.

Meanwhile, Masataka Shimizu, president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the company that operates the plant, has been hospitalized with hypertension, according to TEPCO spokesman Naoki Tsunoda.

It is the latest in a series of setbacks and criticism the company has faced after the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami knocked out the reactor's cooling system on March 11.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar302011

Are Pro- and Anti-Gadhafi Forces Battling to a Stalemate in Libya?

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- Despite the pounding his forces have taken from an international coalition intent on assisting his enemies, Libyan Col. Moammar Gadhafi does not plan to go away quietly.

Pro-government fighters launched a counteroffensive Tuesday to offset gains made by rebels emboldened by a no-fly zone over Libya and attacks made by U.S. and NATO warplanes and ships to weaken Gadhafi's ground forces.

Over the past several days, the rebels have marched almost unimpeded from their stronghold of Benghazi, Libya's second most populous city, retaking territories they had lost to Gadhafi's loyalists before the United Nations approved a resolution to create the no-fly zone that neutralized the government's air power.

It appeared that by early last Monday that the rebels had gained control of Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, which is critical if they are to continue westward to Tripoli.  However, that turned out not to be the case, as Gadhafi's military unleashed a barrage of missile and rocket fire that pushed the rebels back eastward.

On Tuesday, government forces were again striking the oil city of Ras Lanuf, which has changed hands three times already, while NATO-led forces held off on more air strikes, which officially are intended to protect civilians.

While the situation in Libya remains fluid and uncertain, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at a conference in London about continuing military action in Libya, now led by NATO, as well as ramping up the "political and diplomatic pressure that makes clear to Gadhafi that he must go."

Clinton said that no decision has been made about agreeing to the rebels' request for arms, although such action would not violate the U.N. resolution allowing the creation of the no-fly zone over Libya.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar302011

President of Power Company that Runs Japan's Nuclear Plant Hospitalized

DigitalGlobe via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- The president of the power company operating Japan's troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been hospitalized as fears of a nuclear meltdown at the plant continue to rise.

Masataka Shimizu, 66, was admitted to a hospital after suffering from high blood pressure and dizziness, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Company announced at a news conference Wednesday.

TEPCO also said that its chairman, Tsunehisa Katsumata, will step in and take charge of the company while the president is being treated.

Shimizu hasn't been seen in public in over two weeks.  His last public appearance was at a news conference on March 13, two days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar302011

Dozens Killed, Wounded During Hostage Standoff in Iraq

Antenna Audio, Inc./Getty Images(TIKRIT, Iraq) -- At least 56 people were killed and more than 95 wounded Tuesday during a hostage situation that turned into a five-hour standoff inside a government building in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit.

Authorities said that the carnage was the result of eight or nine armed militants dressed in police uniforms taking control of the building where the provincial council and other government offices are located.

It's believed that the militants began killing their hostages when Iraqi security forces launched an assault to retake the building.  At least two of the insurgents were wearing explosive vests that they reportedly detonated.

Police later said that the dead included three Salaheddin provincial council members, the chief of Salaheddin police and a local journalist.

One senior police member speculated that the hostage situation was a plot hatched by al Qaeda and that their militants were intending to assassinate all the provincial council members.  Some American soldiers who helped in the rescue operation received minor wounds.

Sunni-dominated Tikrit is the birthplace of late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar302011

NATO Doesn't Rule Out Ground Troops in Libya

US State Department(WASHINGTON) -- Should rebels in Libya be successful in driving Col. Moammar Gadhafi from power, they may need a foreign presence on the ground to keep the country stable, according to U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday, Stavridis, the top NATO military commander, told lawmakers that NATO could wind up deploying ground troops, given its history in past conflicts such as Bosnia and Kosovo.

This would run contrary to what President Obama said about not sending soldiers into Libya as pro-democracy rebels and forces loyal to Gadhafi continue battling for control of the country.

Lawmakers pressed Stavridis about the apparent inconsistency in the coalition's goals in Libya, which urges Gadhafi's ouster but does not call for military action to achieve that objective.  Stavridis responded that these two approaches may coincide eventually but for now, it's up to the Libyan people to enact regime change if that's what they want.

He added that NATO has wide latitude in interpreting the United Nations resolution allowing the establishment of a no-fly zone, saying it allows the alliance to attack Gadhafi's forces whenever the civilian population is threatened.

The admiral also said there's little evidence of al Qaeda having much influence over rebel forces in Libya.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar292011

John McCain's Twitter Archive Reveals 2009 Gadhafi Meeting 

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- It was August 2009 and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was in Libya with a group of fellow lawmakers. Late one night they met with the country’s strongman, Moammar Gadhafi.

Afterwards, McCain said on Twitter, “Late evening with Col. Qadhafi at his "ranch" in Libya -- interesting meeting with an interesting man.”

According to a spokesperson for the senator, Gadhafi pushed back the meeting from 4 p.m. until 11 p.m. When the meeting finally did take place, the spokesperson said, it was brief and took place in a tent on the grounds.

How times have changed. Today McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, is vociferously calling for President Obama to remove Gadhafi from power and drive him out of the country, something that the administration does not want to do.

In Obama’s speech on Libya Monday night, the president said, “There is no question that Libya -- and the world – would be better off with Gadhafi out of power. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.”

“To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq… [Regime] change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.”

McCain quickly countered that the president must see to it that “Gadhafi has to go.”

“What he did incorrectly was send a message to Gadhafi that we're not going to overthrow him by force,” McCain said of Obama’s speech. “And if his policy goal is that Gadhafi has to step down, he has to go, then we have to use every means to make sure that happens.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Tuesday
Mar292011

Libyan State TV Claims Khamis Gadhafi Alive, Despite Death Rumors

KTRK(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- A man who appears to closely resemble one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons appeared on what Libyan state television said was a live broadcast Monday night, following rumors the son had been killed last week after a kamikaze attack by a Libyan pilot.

The footage purports to show 27-year-old Khamis Gadhafi, head of Libya's elite military squad, the Khamis Brigade, on Monday in a truck surrounded by guards as he greeted jubilant Libyans at his father's compound in Tripoli.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately reply to requests for comment on the video, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told ABC News last week the U.S. government had heard of the death of one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons "from many different sources," but said the evidence was lacking.

"I can't confirm it, but I've heard it," Clinton said. "We hear it from many different sources. That's why I can't confirm it. I can't give any confirmation because the evidence is not sufficient." Khamis' death from severe burns suffered in the kamikaze plane attack on Libya's central military command compound was widely reported in opposition media.

In several leaked U.S. State Department cables posted on the website WikiLeaks, U.S. officials say Khamis Gadhafi and his elite military unit, which is "widely known as the most well-trained and well-equipped force in the Libyan military," served as effectively "a regime protection unit." Khamis received military training in Russia, including earning a Ph.D. in military science in 2007, according to one leaked document.

One cable from December 2009 notes that the continuation of the regime's power in the event of Moammar Gadhafi's death or resignation rested in part with Khamis. "It seems only natural that anyone intent on assuming power would try to align himself with Khamis," the cable says.

Despite his role as protector of the regime, when the popular uprising exploded in Libya in mid-February, Khamis was not there. Instead, he was waltzing down Wall Street, just one stop on a whirlwind, cross-country tour of the U.S. organized by an American company with U.S. State Department approval.

The trip was part of an internship program with Los Angeles-based engineering giant AECOM, set to span just over a month, and take Khamis to tours and meetings with high-profile universities and companies from Houston to L.A., San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and Boston, according to travel documents obtained by ABC News.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar292011

Sis Throws Kate Middleton's Bachelorette Party

David Cheskin - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- If you were looking for an invitation to Kate Middleton's bachelorette party, too late -- you've already missed it.

According to new reports in the British media, the queen-in-waiting celebrated her bachelorette party with some of her closest girlfriends at a private location last week.

The low-key affair reportedly took place before Prince William's own stag party last Saturday. It's believed Kate's party took place while Prince William was touring Australia and New Zealand.

News stories reported that Middleton's sister, Pippa, threw the ultra private party. Prince Harry's girlfriend, Chelsey Davey, did not attend, according to news accounts.

While William's and Kate's parties may have stayed low-key, the preparations for their wedding are not. With the wedding just a month away, excitement is reaching fever pitch.

"Everybody's beginning to get quite excited by what will be the wedding of the decade," said Duncan Larcombe, ABC News contributor and royal editor of the Britain's Sun on Good Morning America Tuesday.

The wedding route from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace is starting to spring to life. Balconies near the abbey are renting for as much as 100,000 pounds, or more than $160,000.

Inside the palace walls, GMA got a sneak peak at kitchen preparations. That kitchen averages 550 meals a day, spread out between the Windsors, staff and guests. "We are used to doing large events, and obviously, there is a lot of excitement about things coming up," Mark Flanagan, a royal chef in the pastry kitchen, told GMA.

Flanagan showed GMA some delicate hors d'oeuvres, similar to the ones the royal wedding guests will be eating.

"It's about double-checking, triple checking and making sure we got everything in the right place," said Flanagan, "and nothing has been left to chance."

Buckingham Palace entertains 50,000 people a year.

"We start planning as much as six months in advance, so there is an awful lot of details to go into," said Edward Griffiths, deputy master of the royal household -- details such as the invitation, the drinks and how people will move about the reception.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar292011

Plutonium Found in Soil Outside Japanese Nuke Plant

STR/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Radiation from Japan's crippled nuclear reactors has now contaminated the ground and the sea surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi complex, as officials fear that some of the reactors may already be in partial meltdown.

Inside the plant, the problems are serious. Video captured smoke billowing from reactors two and three, a visible sign of the catastrophe happening inside.

Radioactive water has been found in all four of the reactors at the plant.

The news comes a day after officials apologized for an inaccurate reading of a major increase in radioactivity which caused a panic that led workers to flee the plant. The inaccurate reading was confirmed as a mistake Sunday night by operators at the plant.

"The number is not credible," said Tokyo Electric Power Company spokesman Takashi Kurita. "We are very sorry."

The mistake prompted harsh criticism from the government.

"Such a mistake is not something that should be forgiven or acceptable," said government spokesman Yukio Edano.

ABC News went to the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Company to ask Kurita about the latest in a number of conflicting reports coming from the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

"We are so sorry to inconvenience everybody," he told ABC News. "We are trying to stabilize the situation. We are trying to give out the most accurate information." Asked why more help has not been brought in, his response was surprising.

"I agree with you actually, but we are doing our best but at the same time the government and also many companies are economists and defense force and fire department, all sorts of people have been supporting us to calm down the situation," said Kurita.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, told reporters that radioactive water may be leaking into the ocean.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar292011

Syria's Cabinet Resigns

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Amid the country's worst unrest in decades, the Syrian cabinet has resigned.    

The announcement came on state television and President Bashar Assad is said to have accepted the resignation. It's the latest concession by the government aimed at appeasing more than a week of growing mass protests. Assad is expected address the nation in the next 24 hours to announce he's lifting the emergency law and moving to annul other harsh restrictions on civil liberties and political freedoms.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio