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Tuesday
Nov092010

Judge Allows Lawsuit Against US Army Translator Provider to Continue

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(RICHMOND, Va.) -- A federal judge in Virginia will allow a whistleblower to move ahead with a lawsuit that accuses the largest U.S. Army supplier of foreign language interpreters of deploying unqualified translators to Afghanistan.

Judge Leonie M. Brinkema ruled Friday in favor of Paul Funk, a former employee who once oversaw the screening of linguists for the company, Mission Essential Personnel (MEP).  Funk alleged in his lawsuit that the company allowed unqualified translators to be sent to the battlefield to work alongside American troops.  He alleged that some translators cheated on oral exams, while others fell short of proficiency requirements but were sent to Afghanistan anyway.

In holding that the case could move forward, the judge said it raised issues that are "so critical, when you think about how our soldiers rely upon the interpreters in Afghanistan."

"Let the light be shone upon the situation, and at the end of the day…it will be resolved," she said.

MEP spokesman Sean Rushton said the company is "confident in the judicial system and looks forward to presenting our position more fully, which we believe will lead to a ruling in our favor."

"Our view is that the plaintiff's lawsuit lacks key information, which deprives it of a legal basis to proceed further," he said.

In a court hearing last week, lawyers for MEP argued the case should be dismissed.  They said that Funk's allegations were unsubstantiated and false.  "Mr. Funk would like you to skip across the wave tops and look at the broad sea," attorney Anthony H. Anikeeff told the judge, according to an official transcript of Friday's court proceedings.

"The point is that, while he alleges this grand scheme," said Anikeeff, "I call it like a cotton candy fraud case, where there's lots of ethereal wrapping around a core, but what's missing is just dig down a little bit…there isn't a single allegation of any kind of fraud."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov092010

Israel's Plan to Build Housing Units Stirs Reactions in US, Palestine

Palestinian Authority's Nabil Shaath. Photo Courtesy - Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- The U.S. says it's deeply disappointed by Israel's newly-announced plans to build over 1,300 new housing units in east Jerusalem, a move that's officially being called "counter-productive" to U.S. efforts to renew the peace process.  It's already causing tension between U.S. officials and visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is set to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in just a couple of days.

Back in Israel, it's stirring reactions, too.  Palestinian leaders claim east Jerusalem as their future capital and they are fuming over Israel's plans to build 1,300 new housing units in the eastern part of the city.

Palestinian Authoriy spokesman Nabil Shaath says, "This is just one more sign the Israelis do not want a peace process.  This Israeli government is dedicated to destroying the peace process.  Israel interior ministry is playing down the significance of the building plans, saying the project has been in the works since 2008 and that it may take years before it's finalized and building begins.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov092010

Fire on Cruise Ship Leaves It Stranded, Powerless

Photo Courtesy - Carnival [dot] com(ENSENADA, Mexico) -- A fire aboard the engine room of a cruise ship Tuesday has left the vessel adrift, without power.

Carnival Splendor was on its way to Mexico, after departing Monday from Long Beach, California, when a fire broke out around 6:00 a.m. PST in the aft engine room.  The fire was extinguished and no one was injured onboard.

The cruise ship has been running on auxiliary generators, but engineers have not been able to restore additional power, leaving 3,299 guests and 1,167 crew members onboard without telephones, flushing toilets, air conditioning and hot food service.  As a result, Carnival Cruise Lines has decided to terminate the voyage.

Tugboats are making their way to the vessel, which is off Mexico's coast, approximately 150 miles south of  San Diego.  Once hooked, the cruise ship will be towed to Ensenada, Mexico.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov092010

NATO to Discuss 2014 Security Transition to Afghan Forces

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MELBOURNE, Australia) -- Afghanistan will be able to take on its own security by 2014, according to top Pentagon officials.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen told reporters in Australia Monday that when NATO leaders meet in Portugal next week, they will likely agree on a 2014 target date for NATO security responsibilities in Afghanistan to transfer over to Afghan security forces.

Gates said, “One of the agenda items for the Lisbon summit is to embrace President  Karzai's goal of completing the transfer of security responsibility to Afghanistan by 2014.  So I think that's the kind of time frame we're looking at."  Afghan President Hamid Karzai pledged at last July’s Donors Conference in Kabul to set 2014 as a goal for Afghan forces to assume security responsibilities in his country.

Both Gates and Mullen said that the 2014 transition date is realistic, "as a target at this point that makes sense, so I am comfortable with it," Mullen said.

2014 might be the target date for turning over security responsibility, but it likely won’t be the date for pulling out all U.S. troops from Afghanistan.  According to Gates, "We're going to remain a partner of Afghanistan even after our troops are gone.  We walked away from Afghanistan in 1988, and we saw the consequences of that in 2001."

It also won’t necessarily mean that coalition  troops will be fully gone from the areas, but instead what will occur is a “thinning out” of coalition forces who will still be available to provide support for Afghan troops that come in.  According to Gates, "you will see a thinning of the foreign forces in a district or province so there is a bit of a safety net under the Afghans as they take charge…I think this makes a lot sense."

Gates said he wouldn’t be surprised “if there are some recommendations as early as next spring, in terms of districts or provinces, that might be candidates for transition to Afghan security at that time."  Gates said commanders will make their recommendations on which areas are good candidates, and then coalition and Afghan government officials will assess whether a security transition is doable.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov082010

Gunmen Take American Hostages Near Nigerian Coast

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LAGOS, Nigeria) -- Gunmen reportedly attacked an oil platform off the Nigerian coast Monday, taking several people hostage.

Officials say the hostages include two American citizens, one of whom was shot and treated for injuries.  One other person was shot.  However, no one was killed during the attack.

The platform was apparently owned by Transocean, an American company, although it may have been operated by a London-based company, according to officials.

Although the Niger Delta is full of militants who regularly attack oil installations, sources were uncertain about the identities of the gunmen.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov082010

US to Provide Additional $90 Million to Aid Pakistani Flood Victims

Photo Courtesy - United States Army(ROME) -- The U.S. government on Monday announced that it will give an additional $90 million to the World Food Programme (WFP) in Pakistan to help the millions of flood-affected people living there.  The government plans to make the contribution through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“The United States has been able to use both in-kind food assistance and local procurement in this response demonstrating how our new flexibility allow us to ensure aid is delivered in a way that supports a faster recovery,” explained USAID Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg at the WFP Executive Board Meeting in Rome.

To date, more than $227 million in emergency food assistance has been contributed by the United States to Pakistanis affected by floods.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov082010

US Military Drones Over Yemen

Photo Courtesy - NASA(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. officials told ABC News that the U.S. military has been flying Predators over Yemen since early this year.  The drones are only intended to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) targets. Air strikes in Yemen that began late last year have been from U.S. cruise missiles targeted with help from the drones flying overhead. The U.S. can only conduct the strikes with approval from the Yemeni government, but there haven’t been any U.S. missile strikes since May, when Yemen ceased approving them in response to an airstrike that month that killed a Provincial Deputy Governor.

The drones fly from the U.S. base in Djibouti across the Red Sea and fly either above Yemeni territory or along the coastline. 

In a rare admission, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubakr Qirbi told CNN this weekend that U.S. drones were used in "surveillance operations" and there was "intelligence information that is exchanged about the location of the terrorists by the Americans." But he said the Yemeni Air Force conducts the airstrike missions, which really wasn’t the case in the strikes prior to May

A U.S. official says that over the past year, the CIA has stepped up its focus on Yemen and there has been discussion of the agency doing even more. 

There have been several media reports recently about what that might entail with the most recent one being in the Los Angeles Times that the Obama administration is considering having the CIA take over the mission with its armed Predator drones taking out terror targets much as it does in Pakistan.

The U.S. military has a small number of military trainers in Yemen -- that number stood at 12 in July, the last time the number was publicly disclosed.  Officials won’t say how many there are today because the number fluctuates, but once the counterterrorism aid money is in the pipeline the number of trainers will increase. 

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal described discussion of placing U.S. military assets in Yemen under CIA control.  Pentagon officials strenuously denied such a plan was under serious consideration at the Pentagon. One U.S. official said there has been discussion of this in the past, but it never goes anywhere.

It all comes down to the legal protections military members have if they’re caught while conducting a mission. There’s a legal distinction between the covert missions the military conducts and clandestine operations carried out by the CIA. For example, military troops conducting covert operations still have legal protections because they’re in uniform, but personnel who conduct clandestine operations don’t have those protections as the government can deny their clandestine activity.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov082010

Radical Cleric Calls for the Killing of Americans

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(LONDON) -- In a new video posted on the Internet, U.S.-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki calls for the killing of Americans everywhere.  Speaking in Arabic, he essentially says, “It’s either us or them.” 

Al-Awlaki says Americans are “the party of devils,” and he says that means no special religious permission is required to kill them.  In the 23-minute video, the Yemeni cleric also takes a shot at Arab leaders.  He says they are corrupt and he believes it’s time for religious scholars to take charge.

Investigators have linked Al-Awlaki to the recent failed cargo bombing attempts, the killings at Fort Hood, Texas, the so-called underwear bomber and the unsuccessful Times Square bombing in New York. The U.S. considers al-Awlaki a "specially designated global terrorist."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov082010

Russian Reporter Beaten; Second in 48 Hours

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Forty-eight hours after the brutal beating of a prominent political reporter in Moscow, a reporter for a regional newspaper outside the capital was also assaulted.  Anatoly Adamchuck was attacked by two men just after 2 a.m. on Monday outside the Zhukovskiye Vesti offices, according to Russian news agencies.  He was hit in the back of the head and has a severe brain concussion, the paper’s editor-in-chief told Interfax, but is standing and talking.

A spokesman for the Moscow region tells ABC News no criminal case has been opened and it’s unclear whether the attack was related to Adamchuck’s work.  Adamchuck was drunk, appearing to have consumed the equivalent of half a bottle of liquor, according to tests.  Adamchuck says a memory stick he was carrying is missing but whether it was taken or fell out of his pocket is unclear.

Adamchuck recently reported on the arrests of children protesting the controversial highway project that would cut through the Khimki forest north of Moscow.  There is increasing speculation that Kommersant reporter Oleg Kashin’s coverage of the Khimki debate led to his attack.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov082010

Mumbai Attack Widow Responds to Hate With Compassion

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MUMBAI) -- Two years ago this month, the family of Virginia wife and mother Kia Scherr was unexpectedly and brutally taken from her.

Husband Alan and daughter Noami, 13, were in the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai, India, when they were caught in a three-day, multiple-target terrorist attack across the city that began Nov. 26, 2008, and left 166 people dead.

They had been on a spiritual retreat. Their bodies were left on the floor of the hotel's restaurant.

Nearly two years later -- two years of painfully missed birthdays, Christmases and anniversaries -- Scherr traveled to Mumbai to commemorate the attack and meet with President Obama this weekend about the best way to combat terrorism. Scherr's strategy: compassion.

"We wanted to respond with compassion, love and forgiveness," Scherr told ABC News before her meeting with Obama. "There's enough anger, hatred and revenge in the world and it doesn't help. It doesn't move us forward."

Afterward, Scherr said, she told the president that despite the daily heartache she lives with because of the attack, there is an "opportunity to create a positive outcome from this tragedy.

"We have the opportunity to honor the sacredness of life in ourselves and in each other," she said in a statement after the meeting. "Understanding that we are all one human family leads us to experience compassion and forgiveness."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio