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Thursday
Nov112010

Hillary Clinton to Meet with Israeli Prime Minister

Photo Courtesy - U.S. State Department(NEW YORK) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benajmin Netanyahu in New York Thursday.

The meeting comes just days after Israel announced it would build over 1,300 new housing units in east Jerusalem.  On Wednesday, Clinton voiced criticism over the plan, calling it counterproductive.

Netanyahu's office has said in an official statement that he'll discuss with Clinton the need to formulate a broad U.S.-Israeli consensus on Israel's long term security needs under any peace agreement.

Political sources in Jerusalem say behind that general description, Netanyahu is specifically negotiating a 10-year security agreement with the U.S. in exchange for a new building freeze.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov112010

Russian Double Agent Helped US Break Up Russian Spy Ring

Anna Chapman, one of the Russian spies who was caught. Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MOSCOW) -- A colonel in Russia's foreign intelligence service helped the U.S. track down the Russian spy ring that was broken up in June.  A report by the newspaper Kommersant identifies Col. Shcherbakov as a double agent that worked with the U.S. in identifying the sleeper agents.

Shcherbakov was head of the American section in charge of placing moles in the U.S.

Shcherbakov fled to the U.S. in June, just days before Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was set to visit President Obama.  Questions are being asked about how this wasn't uncovered sooner, considering that Shcherbakov's daughter lived in the U.S. and his son fled there just before the story broke.

A senior Kremlin official told the newspaper that they know where Shcherbakov is and that an agent has been dispatched to take care of him.  "The fate of such a person is unenviable," the official said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in July that he knew who traitors were and that they always end up in the gutter, taking to drink or drugs.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov112010

US Fails to Convince South Korea to Open Markets to US

Photo Courtesy - Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- President Obama and his trade negotiators failed to convince their South Korean counterparts to expand market access for American automobiles and beef Thursday, sinking hopes that President Obama would leave Seoul with the free trade agreement his administration has pursued so vigorously.

President Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak acknowledged the bottleneck at a joint press conference.  Both leaders tried to spin the impasse.

President Lee said that he and President Obama have agreed to give South Korean trade minister Kim Jong-hoon and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk “more time so that they can finalize the technical issues.  And President Obama and I will continue to work together so that we can have a mutually acceptable agreement at the earliest possible date.”

After meeting with President Lee in June, President Obama seemed to hope the agreement would be close to done by now, which, sources said, it is not.  “I want to make sure that everything is lined up properly by the time that I visit Korea in November,” President Obama said then.  “And then in the few months that follow that, I intend to present it to Congress.”

The failure to reach an agreement was not unexpected -- negotiators didn’t even focus on beef exports, because the disagreements on that point are seemingly irreconcilable at this time.  Still, the news is a disappointment for President Obama and his team, who say an agreement would increase the export of American goods to South Korea by approximately $10 billion, with billions more in services, in turn supporting more than 70,000 jobs in the U.S.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov112010

Study Finds Men Can Park Better Than Women

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BOCHUM, Germany) -- Who can park a car better: men or women?  According to a new study, on average, men can parallel park much quicker than women and with better precision.

The team of scientists at Ruhr University in Germany observed 65 drivers on their specially-designed test course.  They found that female drivers took up to a minute-and-a-half to park a car into a parallel parking space, while male drivers were able to pull into the same space 42 seconds faster with three percent better precision.

The researchers say biological factors, such as hand-eye coordination, play a part in giving the males an edge, but so do societal gender factors.  They say where men view difficult parking as a challenge, women tend to see it as a task they'd prefer to avoid.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov102010

Secretary Clinton: No Role for Turkey, Brazil in Nuke Talks with Iran

Sec. Clinton & EU High Rep. Catherine Ashton: Photo Courtesy - U.S. State Department(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary Clinton on Wednesday ruled out any other country’s involvement in talks between Iran and the P5+1 -- comprised of the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Russia and China -- even as Iran proposes to hold the next round of negotiations in Turkey, a country that, along with Brazil, tried to strike a nuke deal with Tehran earlier this year.
 
“It is a P-5 plus one meeting with the Iranians,” Clinton told reporters. “At this moment, the offer of discussions with the Iranians is in that forum, and that is the appropriate venue for any discussion on any issue to occur.”
 
The proposal to hold talks in Turkey can be seen as a shrewd diplomatic dismissal by Tehran, as Ankara and Brasilia have been more sympathetic towards Tehran’s efforts. The P5+1 rejected their proposed deal with Iran next year, which was similar to a P5+1 offer at their last meeting in October 2009, because Iran had continued to produce more uranium in the interim.
 
The group is expected to offer an updated deal that would provide fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor in exchange for Iran shipping uranium abroad for enrichment. The deal is similar to last year’s offer but raises the amount of uranium Iran would have to send over and would demand they halt enriching uranium up to 20 percent.
 
Clinton said she spoke on Tuesday with EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, who deals with Iran on the group’s behalf, and that the P5+1 spoke at lower levels Wednesday. Clinton said a decision would be reached soon on where and when to hold the meeting. Iran has proposed it take place in late November or early December.
 
“The location has been discussed, and I believe that High Representative Ashton will be responding to the Iranians about where that should be and on what date,” Clinton said Wednesday, adding that Ashton will determine the specifics.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov102010

Carnival Splendor Passengers Begin Calling Out from Ailing Ship

The Carnival Splendor adrift at sea. Photo Courtesy - U.S. Navy(SAN DIEGO) -- Passengers aboard the ailing Carnival Splendor began getting a strong enough cellular signal to make phone calls out to worried friends and families Wednesday, telling those on land that they pass their time playing cards and waiting for Coast Guard food drops.

Passenger Gordon Gilbreath told ABC's San Diego affiliate KGTV that after initial fear and uncertainty, they were in better spirits knowing the Coast Guard was nearby.

"A lot of people that are in the inside cabins, it's been pitch black for several days and most of those folks have been up on the decks and a lot of them have been sleeping on the decks with their blankets and so on," Gilbreath said.

"You know it gets cold, like during the night it's been pretty cold so the rooms get cold, so we've got a lot of extra blankets," he said. "It's been quite an ordeal, I have to tell you."

Monday morning, when an engine room fire knocked out power to the hulking cruise ship, passengers were scared, knowing they were all alone in the middle of the ocean, he said.

"The first day or two like when we were in a complete blackout and there was no power at all, you know, we were just kind of floating out in the ocean with absolutely nothing," Gilbreath said. "Now people are doing a lot better."

With the slow trip back to port in San Diego now underway, passengers are left to contend with the monotony of passing time on the mostly powerless ship. After several days adrift and only some of the ships toilets now properly functioning, there were reports that the ship smells badly. And there are complaints that the bars are closed.

Carnival announced Wednesday that in addition to the intermittent cell signals, the ship's phones are also working on a limited basis and guests were allowed to make complimentary calls home.

The ship, currently being towed by a tugboat named "Chihuahua," is expected to reach San Diego on Thursday, and hundreds of families will breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Carnival has offered the Splendor passengers a full refund, plus transportation costs and a free subsequent cruise.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov102010

Afghanistan 2.0: A Look Ahead at Transition

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PARWAN, Afghanistan) -- President Obama will attend the NATO leaders summit next week in Lisbon, Portugal that will likely set 2014 as the target date for NATO to hand over security responsibilities to the Afghan government. However, summit attendees are also likely to approve a timetable that will start that process next spring by turning over the most secure districts and provinces to Afghan control.  ABC News has heard about some of the most likely candidates: Herat Province to the west, Subori District north of Kabul and the central provinces of Bamyan and Panjshir. At the bottom of the list: Kandahar and Helmand.

On Wednesday, insights into the extremely stable security situation in Bamyan, Panjshir and Parwan Provinces in central Afghanistan were revealed. It seems that the security transition has already occurred in all but name in Bamyan and Panjshir provinces. The security situation is so stable there that the U.S. Army task force responsible for security there has no combat forces working in the two provinces. In fact, the only U.S. military presence there is the 50 personnel at the physical readiness trainings and dozens of embedded trainers. The only reason there is a combat battalion in Parwan Province is because the task force is responsible for security at Bagram Air Base, which is located in the province. The three provinces are so secure that there are no Afghan Army troops there and the Afghan National Police that has the lead for security.  The reality on the ground in these provinces right now is the goal for the rest of the country by 2014.

Col. William Roy heads Task Force Wolverine which is nominally in charge of security for the three provinces.  In a videoconference Wednesday, he referred to the current situation in the three provinces as what the next phase of transition in Afghanistan will look like, where stable security allows for economic and political development.  It’s what he likes to call “Afghanistan 2.0."   Another reason Roy’s unit is a peek into the future: two of his battalions have been reassigned to other units in eastern Afghanistan and are engaged in heavy combat.  It’s the premise behind “thinning out” that’ll begin in July, 2011: as secure areas under U.S. control are transitioned, U.S. forces responsible for security will move to other areas where they’re still needed.

Because of the good security situation, Roy’s troops focus on economic development and governance.  He doesn’t think that a formal security transition will lead to a slideback in security.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov102010

Vatican Makes Plee for Iraq to Protect Christians

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- The Vatican has made an appeal to the Iraqi government following several attacks on Christians in Baghdad, according to ANSA reports.

At least six are dead and dozens more were left injured during bombings Wednesday that targeted the homes of Christians.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, has asked that the Iraqi government protect Christians in light of the recent attacks, as well as the suicide bombing of a church on Oct. 31 that left 52 people dead.

Bertone said the violence has lead to a growing exodus of Christians from countries in the Middle East.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov102010

Clinton Urges Palestinians Not to Try for UN Recognition, Announces $150 Million More for Palestinians

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seen shaking hands with Isreali Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Bilateral Meeting. Photo Courtesy - U.S. State Department(WASHINGTON) -- With Israel announcing plans to build new housing units in East Jerusalem in the past week, Palestinians have reiterated their threat to seek U.N. recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state on their own in the absence of process in the Mideast peace talks.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged them not to do it. “We do not support unilateral steps by either party that could prejudge the outcome of such negotiations,” she told reporters following a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit.

On Thursday, Clinton will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, just days after he and President Obama traded barbs over Israel’s decision to build in East Jerusalem. Obama said Israel should halt settlements and Netanyahu shot back that Jerusalem was not a settlement.

Earlier Wednesday, Clinton urged the two sides to restart the talks, saying they are the only way forward. “I believe strongly that negotiations are the only means by which the parties will be able to conclude an agreement that will lead to a Palestinian state and Israel living in security with its neighbors,” she said.

Her comments came as the United States announced Wednesday morning that it would increase its contributions to the Palestinian Authority by $150 million, to $225 million this year. That’s part of an overall support and investment of nearly $600 million this year.

Speaking by videoconference after Clinton, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said his government was on track to improve services and governance in the territory.

“Readiness for statehood is in fact the key objective of the program that we launched,” he said. “We are well on our way...we, as I said, remain hopeful that we are actually going to be state-ready come summer of 2011. It's a goal that we are doing our level best, in fact, to meet.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov102010

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi Accused by Teen of Hosting 'Bunga Bunga' Orgy 

Photo Courtesy - (Governo[dot])it(ROME) -- After years of accusations, the hard-to-embarass Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi may finally be embroiled in a sex scandal so provocative, he can't simply smile his way out of it.

After surviving one sex scandal last year, for which his wife called him "shameless" and filed for divorce, Berlusconi now stands accused by a 17-year-old prostitute of organizing a ritual Libyan orgy called a "bunga bunga" that included 20 naked women at his villa in Milan.

Karima el-Mahroug, also known as Karima Keyek, but best known as Ruby the Heartbreaker, recently told Milanese prosecutors that the prime minister had showered her with over $1,300 worth of cash and jewelry and invited her to two sex parties, including the bunga bunga.

Ruby, now 18, described bunga bunga as a kind of orgy that she claims Berlusconi learned about from Libyan dictator Muammar Kaddafi. At the orgy, she said, Berlusconi was naked and surrounded by some 20 nude women, according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

The Moroccan girl denies having sex with the prime minister.

The age of consent in Italy is 14, and it is unlikely that Berlusconi will face any legal charges, but already the premier's carefully constructed political alliance is beginning to crack.

Berlusconi, 74, is the third richest man in Italy and the country's longest serving prime minister in modern history. He has long gotten away with accusations of extramarital dalliances with little more than a shrug from his constituents and allies.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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