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Tuesday
Dec142010

Russian Armed Forces on High Alert Over North Korea

Photo Courtesy - Yonhap News Agency(MOSCOW) -- Russia announced Tuesday that its armed forces in the east are on high alert.  This comes in light of what it calls an "inadequate situation" on the Korean peninsula as tensions have increased in recent weeks between the North and South.

The head of Russia's military said they continue to follow what is happening and have taken measures to raise the forces' combat readiness.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed his North Korean counterpart to Moscow.  In the meeting, Lavrov expressed concern with North Korea's ongoing uranium enrichment activities.  He also condemned North Korea's attack on the South's Yeonpyeong Island, which has been the source of the recent increased tension.

South Korea's top nuclear official is on his way to Moscow to discuss the disclosure of North Korea's newest uranium enrichment facility and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.

Russia joined the U.S. and others in condemning the November attack, which killed four people and brought about the highest tension on the peninsula in years.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec142010

Tossed Cruise Ship Docks in Malta; Passengers Revolt over Refund

Photo Courtesy - Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images(VALLETTA, Malta) -- A Royal Caribbean cruise ship docked safely in Malta Tuesday morning after severely listing in rough seas over the weekend, tossing passengers and loose objects like rag dolls.

The Brilliance of the Seas was carrying 2,100 passengers, including 1,600 American vacationers, when it encountered rough waters over the weekend in what the cruise line described as a "serious incident."  The 90,000-ton ship swayed as far as 15 degrees in either direction several times.

Several passengers reported minor injuries such as bumps and bruises and at least two people suffered broken bones.

The problems began when the ship left Greece.  Vicious storms lashed the Mediterranean Sea just before 3 a.m. Sunday morning, slamming the ship with 30-foot waves and 80-mile-an-hour winds as it approached Egypt.

The ship never made it to Egypt as conditions were too rough.  Some passengers became angry when a cruise ship representative said they would offer everyone a $200 credit following the ordeal.  After those protests, Royal Caribbean reversed its decision and decided to offer passengers a refund for the full value of the cruise.

The ship is expected to stay in port for a couple of days.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec142010

Progress Report on Afghanistan War to Be Released

Photo Courtesy - U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gary A. Witte, 300th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment(WASHINGTON) -- The much-awaited report from the White House on the progress of the war in Afghanistan will be made public on Thursday.

President Obama ordered an annual evaluation of the war last December when he announced his plan to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to battle a resurgent Taliban.

On Tuesday, the president will hold a final strategy session with his military and diplomatic teams on how the war is progressing before the assessment is released nationwide.

After the findings are published Thursday, Obama will follow up the report with his own comments.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are also expected to offer their opinions of the study.

While the administration wouldn’t tip its hand on what the review contains, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday that the president “feels confident we’re on the right track.”

Earlier in the day, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he anticipated no increase in the number of American forces deployed in Afghanistan next year.  The current level is about 100,000.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec132010

Clinton: Iran Nuke Meetings 'A Good Start'; No Insight into Mottaki Dismissal

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(QUEBEC, Canada) -- Speaking in Canada on Monday, where she met her Canadian and Mexican counterparts, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked about the dismissal of her Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki. Asked if it’s because he snubbed her after she tried to greet him at an event in Bahrain, Clinton laughed loudly and said, “I have no idea.”
 
“Our relationship toward Iran is not toward any individual, it is toward the country, the government which is complex and challenging to deal with because it is not just one channel, there are several different channels because of the way their [government] is established. So I don’t really have any insight or comment on the report that I also learned of today,” she said.
 
She took the opportunity to comment on last week’s nuclear talks between the group of world powers known as the P5+1 and Iran, calling it “a good start.”
 
“The recent meeting in Geneva of the P-5 plus one was a good start. It was just that; it wasn't more than that. But it was a good start to a return to a serious negotiation between Iran and the international community, and they agreed on a second meeting in January. We remain committed to pursuing every diplomatic avenue available to us and our international partners to persuade Iran to forego a nuclear-weapons program, and we remain convinced that that is not only in the interests of peace and stability in the Gulf -- and indeed in the wider region and world -- but it's also in the best interests of Iran. So whether one person or another is foreign minister is not as important as to what the policy of the Iranian government is in dealing with the international community on this very important matter,” she said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 

Monday
Dec132010

FBI Heads to Stockholm to Aid in Suicide Bombing Investigation

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(STOCKHOLM) -- The FBI has dispatched to Stockholm, Sweden a small team of bomb technicians from the FBI laboratory at Quantico and counterterrorism agents from the New York Field office at the request of the Swedish government to help in the investigation of the suicide bombing that took place in Stockholm on Saturday.

“A request from Swedish authorities was made through the U.S. Embassy for FBI assistance in the investigation into the bombings.  The FBI has sent a small team of experts to assist the Swedish police with their investigation,” said an FBI spokesman in Washington.
 
The team is working mostly on forensic issues related to the post-bomb analysis, but is also helping to review possible leads on the background of the suspect, Taimour Abdulwahab, according to FBI officials.

Officers from Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorism Command are continuing to search Abdulwahab's home in Luton.

Sweden’s foreign minister Carl Bildt has told the BBC that Abdulwahab “was heading into probably the most crowded place in Stockholm at the most crowded time of the year. He was heading into a place where, if he had exploded all the ordnance he had with him -- and that was quite substantial -- it would have been mass casualties of a sort we haven't seen in Europe for quite some time."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec132010

Secretary of State Clinton: There Is 'Growing Frustration' with Haitian Govt. at Pace of Recovery  

Photo Courtesy - U.S. State Department(QUEBEC, Canada) -- Speaking Monday in Canada, where she and her counterparts from Mexico and Canada discussed Haiti among other topics, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the Haitian government to do more for the people there.
 
“We understand that the government itself was badly damaged, individuals were traumatized.  But there has to be a greater effort and there has to be a more focused approach toward problem solving,” she said.
 
Clinton was responding to a question about a threat from Senator Leahy to cut off U.S. aid to the Haitian government.
 
“I think Senator Leahy, who is a strong supporter of American foreign aid and humanitarian relief assistance, is expressing a growing frustration that you will find not only in Congress, but in our government and the American people, that as we’re approaching the one-year anniversary of the Haitian earthquake there hasn’t been the kind of coordinated, coherent response from the Government of Haiti that is called for,” she said, adding that Leahy’s frustration is “a very strong signal that we expect more and we’re looking for more.”

She said the Obama administration wants to push the Haitian government, but not to punish the Haitian people.
 
“We are trying to push forward in a difficult environment, and we want to see progress on the ground.  And we have supported the international approach toward sending technical experts.  We think that’s more important than political leaders.  We need to find technical experts who can delve into what happened in the election and try to create a transparent understanding that cannot only win the support of the international community, but most importantly the Haitian people,” she said, urging other countries to make good on their pledges to help Haiti.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec132010

Iranian President Ahmadinejad Fires Foreign Minister

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Monday he has fired his foreign minister and replaced him with the country's nuclear chief, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

In a brief statement on President Ahmadinejad's website, he thanked Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki for his five years of service but offered no explanation for his decision.

Over the past year, Iranian lawmakers have been pushing for Mottaki's dismissal behind the scenes, with some saying he just wasn't a strong enough player on the international stage. 

Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi will step in to fill in for Mottaki.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec132010

Mona Lisa Mystery: Experts Say Painting Contains Tiny Numbers, Letters

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LONDON) -- Lovers of the famous Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece Mona Lisa have been wondering about the secret behind those sly eyes for hundreds of years, but few, if any, ever thought they could contain an actual code. But that's the latest theory put forth by experts who claimed they have uncovered tiny letters and numbers hidden in the nameless model's pupils.

"To the naked eye, the symbols are not visible but with a magnifying glass, they can clearly be seen," Silvano Vinceti of Italy's National Committee for Cultural Heritage, told Britain's Guardian newspaper.

In the left eye is a tiny L and V which Vinceti said could simply be a secret initial signature by Leonardo da Vinci. It's the right eye, however, that leave experts and conspiracy theorists scratching their heads.

"It is very difficult to make them out clearly, but they appear to be the letters CE, or it could be the letter B," Vinceti said. Vinceti also said the number 72, or possibly and L and the number 2, are also visible in arch of the bridge that is seen in the background of the painting.

Among the theories as to what the message could be in the symbols, Vinceti said it's possible they could reveal the painting's model, one of the art world's greatest mysteries.

Vinceti is among a team of historians determined to discover the truth about the Mona Lisa, even if it means exhuming da Vinci's body. One popular theory holds that the model for the painting is actually da Vinci himself. Skull measurements could help experts determine exactly how similar the model and da Vinci may have looked.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Dec122010

Six Americans Killed in Attack in Afghanistan

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Six NATO soldiers were killed in an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan, Sunday, when, according to a local Afghan official, a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives near a checkpoint in the Zherai district of Kandahar. All six troops were American, a U.S. Military official confirmed to ABC News.

The number of injuries was not immediately known.

More than 670 international troops have been killed this year in Afghanistan -- far more than the aggregate casualties of 2009.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Dec122010

Cruise Ship Tilts in Storm, Dozens Injured

File photo. Photo Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images(ALEXANDRIA, Egypt) -- The Royal Caribbean cruise ship Brilliance of the Seas tilted several times in its approach to Alexandria, Egypt, Sunday. The ship entered a storm and listed several times around 2:15 a.m. local time, inflicting minor injuries to about 30 passengers and damaging some of the public areas.

Alexandria closed off its port due to the intensity of the swells, and the ship diverted to Valletta, Malta. The Brilliance of the Seas departed from Barcelona, Spain, for a 12-night journey stopping in Italy, Greece, Egypt, and Malta.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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