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Saturday
Dec112010

Jailed American Amanda Knox Makes Tearful Plea in Italian Court

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PERUGIA, Italy) -- Amanda Knox made an impassioned and emotional plea for her freedom Saturday in the Italian court where she is appealing her conviction to 26 years in prison for the murder of her college roommate, breaking into tears as she spoke of the victim, Meredith Kercher.

"I am innocent," said Knox in Italian to the new jury that is judging her along with her co-defendant and ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito.

"I never would have expected to find myself here," said Knox to the jury, "condemned for a crime that I did not commit ... I will never get used to this broken life."

Knox stood to speak at the beginning of the second hearing of her appeal which is taking place in the same courtroom in Perugia, Italy, where she was convicted almost exactly one year ago together with Sollecito, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

A third person, Ivorian immigrant Rudy Guede, was also convicted for participating in Kercher's murder in a separate trial. His 30-year conviction was reduced to 16 on appeal, and he is appealing again to Italy's highest Cassation court next week.

Knox's defense team wants the DNA evidence in the case thrown out. They say it was inconclusive and it may have been contaminated during analysis.

Justice is a double-edged sword in Italy. If this appeal fails, the original 26-year-sentence could be lengthened.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Dec112010

Deadly Explosions Rock Stockholm

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(STOCKHOLM, Sweden) -- Explosions rocked Stockholm Saturday, leaving at least one man dead in the Swedish capital.  Two people were hurt.

The first sign of trouble came in a series of explosions, which police say was caused by what appeared to be a car bomb in the busy shopping street, Drottninggatan.  There appeared to have been gas cylinders in the car.  Another explosion came about five minutes later, a few blocks up the same street in central Stockholm, and left one man lying dead in the street.  Witnesses say the street was filled with holiday shoppers. 

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the explosions.  Police say they do not want to speculate on what is behind the explosions or whether they were even related.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Dec112010

Secretary of State Clinton Reaffirms US Efforts at Middle East Peace

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reemphasized American support for peace between Israel and the Palestinians at an event Friday in Washington, D.C.  The secretary delivered her remarks at the Sabon Forum before approximately 150 people.

Clinton said Israel should not have to choose between security and peace but she also emphasized the U.S. support for Palestinian aspirations for an independent state.  Clinton told the gathering the U.S. will continue to encourage talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  Clinton said there are several things that must be in place before peace can be achieved.  Perhaps chief among those things is a clear border firmly agreed on by both sides.

The other three issues she says need to be agreed upon unequivocally are the refugee situation, settlement disputes and the division of Jerusalem. 

Clinton also told the forum that the U.S. is determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. 

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak followed Clinton at the speaker's podium.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Dec112010

Roadside Bomb in Helmand Kills 15 Civilians, Bombing in Kandahar

Image Courtesy - Defense Department/Getty Images(HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan) -- Fifteen Afghan civilians were reportedly killed in a roadside bombing Friday as they traveled together to a bazaar.  Local officials told the BBC they were all riding in a pickup truck when it rolled over a bomb, possibly intended for U.S. troops fighting against the Taliban in the area.

Four people were hurt in the blast in the remote village of Khan Neshin.  Daoud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial governor in the notoriously violent Helmand Province, told the BBC the Taliban insurgents were to blame for the deadly bombing.

Saturday in Kandahar, a bombing at the police station injured at least six people and blew out the windows of buildings up to a mile away.   There are reports that in the northern province of Kunduz, five Afghan soldiers and nine civilians were hurt in a Taliban attack on an army checkpoint. 

There is a dispute over the deaths of seven Afghans Saturday in eastern Paktika Province, which borders Pakistan.  Local officials say troops from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) killed construction workers while ISAF says the seven killed were insurgents who targeted ISAF troops who were investigating a suspicious compound.

A protest outside the Paktika governor's office over the incident turned violent and police were called in.  Six people were hurt, including two police officers.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec102010

'Devastated' American Kayakers Survive Congo Croc Attack

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ABUJA, Nigeria) -- A pair of American kayakers who escaped a crocodile attack that killed their famed guide are "devastated" by the death of the guide, Hendrik Coetzee.

Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic could only watch in horror as a crocodile snatched Coetzee, 35, from his kayak on Tuesday as the three men paddled on the Lukuga River in Congo.

"They beached their boats about 500 meters from the incident in a very remote area," Ciaran Donnelly of the International Rescue Committee told ABC News. "They found villagers who lent them a cell phone to call the IRC."

The IRC and another humanitarian organization working in the area Solidarites International dispatched teams to evacuate them. Both men are still in Congo meeting with local authorities, but are expected to return the United States soon.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec102010

US, Allies: More Sanctions for Iran if Tehran Does Not Engage in Negotiations

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama’s top nuclear advisor warned Iran Friday that if it doesn’t engage seriously in nuclear negotiations, the U.S. and its allies are prepared to ratchet up sanctions.

Iran met with the P5+1 on Monday and Tuesday in Geneva and the two sides are set to meet again at the end of January.

Gary Samore told the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Washington Forum Friday that “In the wake of the Geneva talks, we and our allies are determined to maintain and even increase pressure. We need to send the message to Iran that sanctions will only increase if Iran avoids serious negotiations and will not be lifted until our concerns are fully addressed.”

He also warned Iran against joining talks in order to stall tougher measures.

His comments come after Iran’s nuclear negotiator told reporters after this week’s meetings that Iran will not suspend, or even discuss suspending, its nuclear enrichment programs.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 

Friday
Dec102010

U.S., China 'Restart' Military to Military Talks

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- High level Chinese military officials were at the Pentagon Friday for what are known as the Defense Consultative Talks in the first high-level U.S.-Chinese military to military contact since the relationship froze after the U.S. announced an arms deal to Taiwan.   That situation’s now getting better, given Friday's talks and the upcoming visit by Secretary Gates to China next month.

There was an opportunity to talk about current global issues like: North Korea, Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran.  But the issues discussed Friday mainly focused on strategic policies, specifically the Nuclear Posture Review, the Ballistic Missile Defense Review and the Space review -- they did not touch on cyberspace.

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy described the meeting as very frank and candid and there wasn’t always agreement, for example, about maritime international law issues -- there have been incidents where U.S. and Chinese ships have had close encounters on the high seas.

She said that the U.S. presented the Chinese with the same briefing on missile defense that they’ve provided to America’s closest allies and that in turn, the Chinese presented a briefing about the role they believe their military plays in the world.   She said conversations like these helped to “move the ball forward” in the U.S.-Chinese relationship.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 

Friday
Dec102010

Washington Shows Support for Jailed Nobel Peace Prize Winner

The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony centered around the empty chair meant for this year's recipient, Liu Xiaobo, currently imprisoned in China. Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. support for Nobel Peace Prize winner and jailed human rights activist Liu Xiaobo has flowed from the highest branches of office. President Obama said in a paper statement Friday, “Mr. Liu Xiaobo is far more deserving of this award than I was.”

The president added that the U.S. respects China’s ‘extraordinary’ accomplishment of lifting millions from poverty, and that human rights includes the dignity that comes with freedom from want.

“But,” Obama continued, “Mr. Liu reminds us that human dignity also depends upon the advance of democracy, open society, and the rule of law. The values he espouses are universal, his struggle is peaceful, and he should be released as soon as possible.”

Secretary of State Clinton’s statement echoed the call for Liu’s release, and urged China to again revisit its human rights policy.

“We urge China to uphold its international human rights obligations and to respect the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all Chinese citizens,” said Clinton.

With Liu Xiaobo imprisoned and his wife Liu Xia under house arrest, no one travelled to Norway to accept the prize. Instead, an empty chair represented Liu’s absence in Oslo. The last time a representative of the winner was absent from the ceremony was in 1935, when Hitler prevented that year’s winner, Count Carl von Ossietzky, or anyone from Germany, from attending.

Representative Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did attend Friday’s ceremony, in one of her last acts as speaker of the House. Pelosi has been a long-time advocate for human rights in China; in 1991 she unfurled a bilingual pro-democracy sign in Tiananmen Square, Beijing to mark the army’s killing of protestors two years earlier. In May 2009 -- more than a year and a half before he would be awarded the peace price -- she pushed for the release of Liu Xiaobo, in a letter presented to Chinese President Hu Jintao.

With Pelosi at the helm, the House of Representatives passed a resolution on Wednesday, congratulating Liu Xiaobo on the award of the Nobel Prize and calling for his immediate and unconditional release.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec102010

Tennis Star Hospitalized after Attempting Kilimanjaro Climb

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TANZANIA, Africa) -- Grand slam tennis champion Martina Navratilova is in good condition after being hospitalized with high-altitude pulmonary edema -- a form of mountain sickness -- after attempting to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak.

Navratilova's condition is common among high-altitude climbers as fluid accumulates in the lungs. She was diagnosed by Dr. David Silverstein, a consultant in cardiology and internal medicine at Nairobi Hospital.

Porters helped Navratilova down the 19,340-foot mountain and drove her to the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre. She was later flown to Nairobi Hospital for further tests and treatment after abandoning the climb.

The group had faced heavy snow and mist since they began their ascent last Monday.

"I'm disappointed not to be able to complete this amazing journey," Navratilova said in a statement. "It was something that I have wanted to do for so long but it was not to be."

The tennis pro had never climbed more than 12,000 feet and when she reached 14,800 feet, she began to feel sick. In high-altitude pulmonary edema, fluid develops in the lungs, either in the lung tissue itself or in the space normally used for gas exchange. The body is deprived of oxygen and cannot normally function.

The first signs are difficulty walking or inability to keep up, a tight feeling in the chest, congestion and a cough. The climber can also feel extreme fatigue and weakness and exhibit poor judgment.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec102010

Putin Slams West for WikiLeaks Founder's Arrest

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Photo Courtesy - ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- The arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for sexual misconduct illustrates the hypocrisy of the West about democracy, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says. In the strongest comments to come out of Russia in the latest WikiLeaks saga, Putin also took aim at the U.S. for the cables, some of which had derided Russia a "mafia state." Assange's arrest in London earlier this week indicated the West isn't as democratic as it thinks it is, Putin suggested.

"If there is democracy, it must be a full one. Why did they jail Mr. Assange? Is that democracy?," Putin said at a news conference Thursday. "You know what our villagers say: while someone's cow is mooing, yours better be silent." The Russian expression is loosely equivalent to the pot calling the kettle black.

"So I would like to shoot the puck back at our American colleagues," said Putin.

The prime minister also took a shot at the accuracy of the diplomatic observations in the classified cables. One of the released cables from the U.S. embassy in Paris quoted Secretary of Defense Robert Gates saying "Russian democracy has disappeared and the government is an oligarchy run by the security services."

Russia has said the release of the cables -- which called Putin an "alpha dog" -- would not affect relations with the U.S. But Putin and others have criticized them, with President Dmitry Medvedev last week saying they illustrate the "cynicism" of American diplomacy.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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