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Tuesday
Dec072010

State Dept. Sanctions Al Qaeda Operative Tied to USS Cole Bombing

Photo Courtesy -- FBI.gov(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. State Department on Tuesday sanctioned a known Al Qaeda operative and placed him on a list of designated global terrorists.
 
The State Department hopes to cut off funding to Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, an Arabian Peninsula operative who served jail time in Yemen for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 U.S. citizens.

“The designation of Fahd al-Quso highlights U.S. action against the threat posed to the United States by al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula,” said U.S. Ambassador for Counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin.  “Today’s joint designation by the United States and the United Nations alerts the public that Fahd al-Quso is actively engaged in terrorism.  These actions expose and isolate individuals like al-Quso and results in denial of access to the global financial system.”
 
In a video released by the AQAP in 2010, al-Quso threatened to attack the United States as well as U.S. embassies and naval ships. In 2009, he was designated by the FBI as one of their most wanted terrorist.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec072010

Damaged Cruise Ship Limps to Shore

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(USHUAIA, Argentina) – A cruise ship is slowly making its way back to shore after a wave damaged one of its engines Tuesday, according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operations.

The CLELIA II was on its return journey to Ushuaia, Argentina when a wave broke over the bridge of the vessel, causing an electrical outage that reduced power to the port engine.

None of the ship's 101 passengers, who are all from the United States, were injured. One of the 65 crew members, however, suffered minor injuries. 

The vessel has begun to make its way to shore at speeds around 3.2 knots, or about 5 mph.

CLELIA II encountered rough waters in the Drake Passage between the southern tip of South America and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. The ship’s captain said in his 159 travels along that route, he had never seen such weather.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec072010

China Debuts at Top of International Education Rankings

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- China shocked educators Tuesday by taking the top spot globally in its debut in international standardized testing. Despite modest gains in math and science, the U.S. continues to lag behind other developed countries.

A report out Tuesday, "Highlights From PISA 2009: Performance of U.S. 15-Year-Old Students in Reading, Mathematics, and Science Literacy in an International Context," shows the U.S. now ranks 25th in math, 17th in science, and 14th in reading out of the 34 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

While OECD countries such as Finland, South Korea, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and New Zealand continue to outpace the U.S. in reading, science and math, all eyes are on China. In its first year to be included in the study as a non-OECD country, Shanghai-China ranked first in all three categories. Hong Kong-China came in second in reading and science and third in math.

"The 2009 PISA data demonstrate the rise in the quality of education in Asia -- among the top performers were Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and Korea," said Tony Jackson, Vice President of Education at the Asia Society. "Aligning education goals to economic development, Asian nations have scoured the world for models of effective education systems, and implemented them consistently through deliberate policies and long-term investments. Any definition of a world-class education must include knowledge of Asia and the language and cultural skills to deal with Asia. It's a two-way street: America must now learn from -- and with -- Asia and the world."

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the findings, "to be brutally honest, show that a host of developed nations are out-educating us."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec072010

Iran Agrees to Second Round of Talks, Won't Give Up Nuclear Enrichment

Iran's chief negotiator Saeed Jalili. Photo Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images(GENEVA) -- World powers have wrapped up their first meetings with Iran in over a year and, in a small victory, announced that Tehran had agreed to hold another round of talks in late January. Iran’s negotiator, however, told reporters that his country had no intention of halting its uranium enrichment program.

European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, who represents the group, said in a statement the talks in Geneva Monday and Tuesday were “detailed” and “substantive.” Ashton insisted Iran comply with its “international obligations” to halt its nuclear program. Iran, however, remained defiant.

Expectations for this week’s talks had been low, and Iran’s agreeing to another round of discussions is more than the group of world powers was able to achieve last time they met with Iran. This week’s meetings were preceded by Iran’s announcement that it had developed an indigenous capacity to produce yellowcake uranium.

The so-called P5+1, the permanent five UN Security Council members plus Germany, had been expected to present Iran with an offer to transfer its uranium stockpiles out of the country for enrichment abroad, in exchange for fuel that could be used in a nuclear power plant. The deal was similar to one that Iran initially accepted, then quickly rejected at a meeting in October 2009 but this time called for a larger amount of uranium to be transferred out in order to compensate for Iran’s continued production in the past year. As part of the deal Iran would also be required to halt its move to enrich uranium up to 20%, a process that could help it perfect the techniques needed to eventually produce bomb-grade fuel.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec072010

WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Arrested

Photo Courtesy - Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The founder of WikiLeaks, who has angered U.S. officials with the leaks of hundreds of thousands of classified documents, was arrested in Great Britain Tuesday morning.

Julian Assange, 39, was arrested by London's Metropolitan Police on behalf of Swedish authorities on suspicion of rape.  Assange is also accused of one count of unlawful coercion and two counts of sexual molestation, all of which he allegedly committed in Sweden in August of 2010.

Assange was staying at an undisclosed location in Britain.  His lawyer said arrangements were being made to meet with police by consent.

The WikiLeaks founder appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court Tuesday, where a judge denied him bail, citing that he has means and cause to fail to surrender.  Assange will now remain in custody until Dec. 14.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec072010

Afghanistan's Border Battle: Ground War In Pakistan

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(ISLAMABAD, Pakistan) -- Senior United States officials fear that despite billions of dollars and countless efforts trying to expand their relationship with Pakistan, a single successful terror attack launched from Pakistan could cause the relationship to fall apart -- and lead the United States to consider widening air strikes and even launching special operations raids inside Pakistan.

"If there's an attack traced back to Pakistan, all bets are off," says a senior Western official who insisted on anonymity.

United States, Afghan, and many Pakistani officials believe the key to fighting the war in Afghanistan is eliminating the sanctuaries the Taliban enjoy inside Pakistan.  But that is a complex, long-term effort, and U.S. officials are becoming increasingly impatient.  That, in turn, is straining an already tense relationship with Pakistan, officials in both countries acknowledge.

"There have been compulsions on the [U.S.] military brass in Kabul and consequently, pressure on the Pakistani military, and that hasn't suited us at all," a senior Pakistani military official told ABC News.  He accused the U.S. of "passing the buck" and making the Pakistani military "the scapegoat."

The tension is most strained over the semiautonomous tribal area of North Waziristan along the Afghanistan border.  Residents of North Waziristan interviewed for this article describe an increasingly lawless area where, as one of them put it, "every nationality under the sun" is represented in a sort of melting pot of militant groups.

United States officials believe the leaders of the Haqqani militant network, based out of North Waziristan and long a threat to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, is increasingly becoming international in nature, providing safe havens to militant groups, including al-Qaeda, that want to attack Western targets.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec072010

US, Five Other World Powers Renew Talks with Iran

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(GENEVA) -- Talks have resumed after a year-long hiatus between Iran and six world powers, including the U.S.  Representatives from the seven countries met in Geneva Monday to mainly discuss Tehran’s nuclear program, even as Iranian officials insisted beforehand that the subject was not on the agenda.

However, several diplomats said following the long meeting that Iran’s nuclear program dominated most of the talks, which were mostly kept confidential.

There was general agreement that the mood was both constructive and positive about a most contentious topic: Iran’s clandestine nuclear facilities, which the West has alleged are being used to build nuclear weapons, despite Tehran’s denials.

At the very least, the U.S. and its allies want full transparency about Iran’s nuclear program, and inspectors to view its facilities.  They’re also calling for the Iranians to suspend their enrichment of uranium until their claims of using nuclear power for peaceful purposes can be independently verified.

Iran has ignored four rounds of United Nations sanctions while continuing to go about its business and announced on the eve of the talks that it has developed yellowcake uranium, the raw material for enrichment.

Iranian officials will again meet Tuesday with their counterparts from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec072010

WikiLeaks Publishes List of 'Critical Infrastructure Locations' Overseas

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- WikiLeaks has struck again, and this disclosure of vital facilities around the world may be the most damaging yet to U.S. national security.

The whistleblower website made the secret files public Monday. They list “critical infrastructure” locations outside the U.S. that offer food, energy, health care and emergency services.  They include mines in Africa and Asia, vaccine production facilities inside Europe and locations of telecommunication cables that connect the U.S. to its allies.

Calling WiliLeaks latest document dump “irresponsible,” Assistant Secretary of State Phillip Crowley added, “there are strong and valid reasons information is classified, including critical infrastructure and key resources that are vital to the national and economic security of any country.”

With the list of vital facilities now common knowledge, they become susceptible to attack by terrorists and other enemies of the U.S., according to American and international officials.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec062010

US, Allies Seek Chinese Pressure on North Korea

Photo Courtesy - U.S. Department of State(WASHINGTON) -- The United States, Japan, and South Korea on Monday urged China and Russia to help them put pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear program and reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula. They also balked at a Chinese call for another round of Six Party Talks, saying North Korea must take certain steps before they agree to more negotiations.

"We all agree that North Korea's provocative and belligerent behavior jeopardizes peace and stability in Asia. We are deeply concerned by its unprovoked attack on the island of Yeonpyeong, resulting in the loss of South Korean lives," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters, alongside her Japanese and South Korean counterparts after a meeting in Washington on Monday. She said the shelling of Yeonpyeong was a violation of the 1953 armistice between North and South Korea. "We remain committed to seeking opportunities for dialogue, but we will not reward North Korea for shattering the peace or defying the international community," Clinton said.

"We first need an appropriate basis for the resumption of talks," she said, outlining what North Korea must take before the three countries would agree to talks. She said it must improve relations with South Korea, take steps to reduce tensions on the peninsula, and take steps to end its nuclear program.

On Sunday night, President Obama discussed North Korea with Chinese President Hu Jintao. The White House said in a statement that President Obama "urged China to work with us and others to send a clear message to North Korea that its provocations are unacceptable." The Chinese Xinhua news agency reported that President Hu believed the situation must be dealt with quickly or else it might "spin out of control."

Tensions have run high in recent months, beginning with the North Korean sinking of a South Korean naval vessel earlier this year. Last month, North Korea unveiled a secret uranium enrichment program, which the U.S. and others fear could be used to produce more nuclear weapons. Relations with South Korea deteriorated further two weeks ago when the North fired artillery shells at populated parts of Yeonpyeong last month, killing several civilians and South Korean marines.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec062010

Mullen Flies to South Korea as Tensions Mount

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen left Monday night on an unscheduled trip to South Korea and Japan to meet with his counterparts as North Korea’s recent provocative actions continue to dominate the region’s focus.

In announcing the trip, Mullen’s spokesman Captain John Kirby said the Obama national security team decided late last week that Mullen should head to South Korea. He says no one should read into the purpose behind the trip, which is intended to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the alliance with South Korea. 

Following a meeting at the State Department late Monday with the Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that Mullen would also be visiting Tokyo.

In her statement, Clinton said Mullen would lead a delegation to “enhance coordination on strategic deterrents.”  The unprovoked artillery barrage on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island and North Korea’s revelation that they have secretly built a new facility for enriching uranium has heightened tensions in Asia.

Like other officials in the Obama administration, Mullen recently urged China to “step up” and use the leverage it has on the North Korean regime to contain its “reckless behavior.” China has called for a resumption of the regional Six Party Talks, a proposal the U.S. and South Korea have rejected because it could be seen as rewarding North Korea’s bad behavior.

That theme continued Monday as Clinton said, “We first need an appropriate basis for the resumption of talks. Any effort, of course, must start with North Korea ceasing all provocative and belligerent behavior."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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