(MOSCOW) -- One of the jailed members of the Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot has gone on a hunger strike.
Maria Alyokhina announced her hunger strike after being denied the right to attend her own parole hearing on Wednesday, RIA Novosti reported. She was reportedly able to monitor the proceedings via video conference but refused to participate or allow her lawyers to represent her. She had to file her own motions via fax.
Alyokhina is one of three members of the Russian female punk group that were convicted last August of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after staging what they called a “punk prayer,” a profanity-laced musical protest against President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral in February 2012.
The trio were sentenced to two years in prison. One of the women, however, had her sentence suspended in October. Alyokhina and the third woman, who herself was denied parole in April, remain in jail.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 23:53:11 PM
(NEW YORK) -- Two octogenarian climbers are facing off once again to earn the title of the oldest man to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
Yuichiro Miura, of Japan, is ascending the mountain in hopes of taking home the Guinness World Record that slipped away from him in May 2008, when he was just 75 years and 227 days.
Miura was beaten to the peak by Nepalese climber Min Bahadur Sherchan, who successfully made the climb one day before him, at the age of 76 and 340 days, according to the Guinness World Records website.
Five years later, both men meet again at Everest to test what is perceived to be possible when it comes to one of the greatest physical challenges a climber can endure.
Miura's daughter, Emili Miura, told ABC News in an email that her father is "scheduled to make [the] final attempt toward summit today."
"Anybody functioning in their 70s and 80s is going to be an elite athlete if they're there," RMI Expeditions mountain guide Alex Van Steen told ABC News. "I think the myth to bust might be the fact that if an 80-year-old can do it, Everest must be easy. It's not that way."
"There's a significant health risk [in climbing Everest]," Van Steen said. "It doesn't matter if you're 40 or if you're 80."
Van Steen, who has attempted Everest's North Ridge twice but never reached the summit, said that once a climber reaches a certain altitude, it becomes difficult to perform at a high physical level in the oxygen-limited area.
"I always paint a picture, it's as if you had just come off a nasty cold and have a hundred-pound bag of concrete on your back and you have to run a marathon," Van Steen said. "It feels oppressive. Maybe not to everyone, but it makes it difficult to function."
According to his Facebook page, Miura, 80, had reached the 8,500-meter mark on Wednesday, close to the 8,850-meter summit. He posted a photo of himself and a fellow climber enjoying tea.
Meanwhile, 81-year-old Sherchan's journey to the mountain's apex has just begun. He posted a photo of himself at Everest base camp on Tuesday to his Facebook.
If Miura reaches the summit, his record will only hold if Sherchan is not successful in his expedition.
While Miura is the only man to summit Everest twice after turning 70 years old, according to his website, he set a goal for himself to revisit the climb at the age of 80.
"It is to challenge [my] own ultimate limit. It is to honor the great Mother Nature," he stated on his expedition's website. "If the limit of age 80 is at the summit of Mt. Everest, the highest place on earth, one can never be happier."
But Miura's journey has not been without limitations.
He fractured his pelvis in 2009, just one year after his second Everest Summit, his expedition's website stated. He was told a full recovery would be unlikely at the age of 76, but just six months after the injury, he was back in training to attain his goal.
He also suffered from arrhythmia and metabolic issues.
Despite the health and safety risks that await climbers regardless of age, these men would not be attempting the summit if they were not extreme athletes.
"Climbing Everest requires an enormous amount of training, fitness, and willpower," said Van Steen. "That probably offsets however many issues they have."
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 20:14:35 PM
(LONDON) -- Two attackers savagely killed a man believed to be a British soldier just outside army barracks in southeast London, telling eyewitnesses the killing was "an eye for an eye...because Muslims are dying by British soldiers every day."
British Prime Minister David Cameron said there were "strong indications this is a terrorist incident" and senior British officials convened an emergency meeting in Britain's equivalent to the White House Situation Room.
The two attackers hacked the victim to death with large knives and afterward approached eyewitnesses, asking them to start filming with their camera phones. One of the attackers, who spoke with a southern London accent, carried a meat cleaver and his hands were deeply stained with blood as he spoke directly to the camera.
"We swear by almighty Allah, we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone, your people will never be safe," the man said calmly, according to ITV News, which obtained the video.
Just a few minutes later, armed police arrived. The two men rushed the police, according to eyewitnesses, and police opened fire, wounding both of them.
The attackers "went for the police with the machetes, knife and handgun," one eyewitness told the BBC. "I don't think they cared."
The attack echoed a plot from 2008, when a British man pleaded guilty to plotting to kidnap and behead a British soldier. Police believe it was an isolated incident, but the emergency cabinet meeting ordered security to be tightened around Woolwich, where the attack took place, and other military barracks in London, according to the BBC.
Cameron cut short a visit to France and called the attack "absolutely sickening" and a "most appalling crime."
"People across Britain, people in every community, I believe, will condemn this attack," he said at a news conference in Paris. "We have had these sorts of attacks before in our country and we never buckle in the face of them."
Numerous eyewitnesses emphasized the brutality of the attack.
"These two guys were crazed. They were not there. They were just animals," a man who identified himself as James told a local radio station. "They then dragged him from the pavement and dumped his body in the middle of the road.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 15:40:00 PM
(LONDON) -- The countdown is on for Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton’s July delivery, and with every public appearance the duchess looks more like a mom-to-be.
On Wednesday the duchess’ seven-months-pregnant baby bump was on full display as she attended Queen Elizabeth II’s annual summer garden party at Buckingham Palace.
As more than 8,000 partygoers dressed in festive hats circled the palace’s grounds, Duchess Kate stood out in a lemon-yellow coat dress and cream-colored fascinator topped by a bow. The duchess also carried a nude-colored handbag that, when she held it clasped below her waist, clearly showed off her growing belly.
Duchess Kate, 31, appeared at the annual fete with her in-laws, Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and smiled through the festive affair, gamely greeting other party guests clearly excited to meet her.
This year’s garden party featured Olympians, Paralympians and officials from the 2012 Olympics in London, an event the duchess and her husband, Prince William, attended both as royal figures and as spectators enjoying the fun.
The Queen’s garden party, a royal tradition since the 1860s, features its own special blend of tea, more than 27,000 cups of which the attendees were expected to enjoy Wednesday. Garden party guests also eat 20,000 sandwiches and 20,000 slices of cake at each affair, according to the Royal website.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 15:25:01 PM
(BEIJING) -- The opening moments of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s new video (available on the artist’s website) set the tone for the next five minutes and 13 seconds. Against pounding guitar chords reminiscent of a Metallica classic, Ai is seen handcuffed and wearing a black hood in a dimly lit cell.
He described it as an “inch accurate” replica of the one in which he spent 81 days in detention after his arrest in 2011. Two guards stand over him when, suddenly, his hood is ripped off and the artist stares straight into the camera as the cadence builds to a crescendo. In the corners of his mouth and glint of his eyes is the familiar hint of rebellion seen before in his previous video work. It’s just the starting point.
The music video tells the story of Ai’s time behind bars after he was arrested in the spring of 2011 in a crackdown on dissidents and outspoken, creative thinkers. Eventually, the Chinese government charged him with tax evasion. He was only released after an international outcry put the spotlight on the Chinese government’s practice of detaining dissidents to silence them.
The government, he says, continues to hold his passport, making it impossible for him to travel outside China. Setting aside the music for a moment, the video is at times poignant and at others somewhat over the top. Ai has a notably recognizable, expressive face, although it is the very lack of expression in his art that has effectively conveyed his disdain for the Chinese leadership.
There are scenes that capture the extent to which he was monitored at all times: in the shower, while using the restroom, as he tried to sleep and when he ate.
“I think it is about how the power of the state tried to manage and maintain this kind of control,” he told the New York Times.
At the narrative unfolds, Ai, 55, is portrayed as part-gangster, part-playboy. He has said the second half of the video is about the fantasies of his guards who openly questioned him about the “real” world outside the facility. Scenes of scantily clad women dancing on a small stage dissolve into a scenario in which a child around the same age as Ai’s own young son begins to shave his head. A bald Ai is next seen in drag wearing bright red lipstick and strutting back and forth in a black dress.
Ai, the son of renowned Chinese poet Ai Qing, has described the music as “heavy metal” although it is really more avant-garde. The lyrics embrace profanity, and few can be printed here. He describes China as a country that “puts out like a hooker” and the stanzas get more extreme from there. But he has said the entire experience was akin to therapy for an experience that still gives the artist and his family nightmares.
He worked on the project with the acclaimed Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle, who has worked with directors as diverse as Americans Gus Van Sant and M. Night Shyamalan and the Chinese director Zhang Yimou. A full-length album, The Divine Comedy, is set for release June 22. It will mark the two-year anniversary of his release from detention.
While the music might not have even devout fans rushing to download the album, Ai says the video has a broader message. “I wanted to show people we can all sing,” he told the New York Times. “It’s our voice.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 12:10:43 PM
(CHICAGO) -- A pizza mission to U.S. military service members in Afghanistan has made the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest pizza delivery.
The non-profit, Pizza 4 Patriots, a 501(c)3 registered non-profit based in Illinois, has been sending pizzas to military service members abroad for the last five years.
Last summer, Pizza 4 Patriots and shipping company DHL organized their biggest delivery yet: 30,000 pizzas to service members in Kandahar, Bagram and Camp Bastion in Afghanistan in celebration of Independence Day. The delivery began June 21, 2012. DHL donated its services and loaded the pizza shipments at a service center in Chicago.
Ian Clough, CEO of DHL Express U.S., said he was grateful to Pizza 4 Patriots and proud of DHL’s “dedicated employees.”
“Feedback from U.S. troops who received the care packages has been heartwarming as they truly appreciate the recognition for their valuable service,” Clough said in a statement.
Mark Evans, the retired Air Force master sergeant who started Pizza 4 Patriots, said he has been working with Guinness since last summer for the record. After the necessary affidavits from witnesses were on record, Guinness officially recognized the delivery in April and notified Evans this month.
Evans said he is “completely pleased and overwhelmed.”
“The world record is secondary to taking care of our soldiers and sending them a slice of home,” Evans continued.
The 12-inch pizzas were made by Great Kitchens, Inc. in Illinois with some donated ingredients or funded by various donors.
Earlier this year, Pizza 4 Patriots sent 21,000 pizzas to military members serving abroad during the Super Bowl. Next up, Evans is raising enough money to send 25,000 pizzas to troops across the world for this Independence Day.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 12:09:00 PM
(PARIS) -- The Notre Dame cathedral in Paris was evacuated and closed for four hours on Tuesday after a man shot himself dead near the altar.
Dominique Venner, a 78-year-old French historian, entered the cathedral Tuesday and placed a sealed letter on the altar before shooting himself in front of hundreds of tourists, according to the U.K.'s Independent. Venner apparently killed himself in protest against France's recent decision to allow same-sex civil unions.
According to the newspaper, authorities immediately cleared the building, one of France's most popular tourist locations now in its 850th anniversary year, and closed it to the public for about four hours.
Though efforts were made by cathedral security to revive Venner, a former member of the nationalist terrorist movement OAS, he later died of the self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The Independent reports Venner posted an essay online earlier Tuesday laying out his views on gay marriage. He called for "new, spectacular and symbolic actions to shake us out of our sleep, to jolt anesthetised minds and to reawaken memory of our origins."
In addition to ranting against gay marriage, Venner wrote in the essay that the "population of France" and Europe was going to be "replaced" and brought under "Islamist control," The Independent reports.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 05:08:59 AM
(BAGHDAD) -- Deadly attacks driven by sectarian tensions slowed somewhat in Iraq on Tuesday, although officials there say that bombings still took the lives of 20 people while injuring at least 100 others.
The death toll during six days of renewed sectarian violence is now close to 270 with nearly 100 fatalities reported on Monday, half of them in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhoods.
Most of Tuesday's attacks occurred north of the capital as militants used car bombs and explosive-laden vests to strike at Iraqi civilians and security forces.
Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has blamed Sunni lawmakers and tribesmen for stirring up the latest tensions, while Sunnis maintain that it's al-Maliki's fault for marginalizing them.
In another sign of the deteriorating situation, the Iraqi parliament postponed an emergency session on Tuesday to address the violence when the prime minister's supporters refused to attend the meeting.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 03:35:16 AM
(CAIRO) -- The United Nations-Arab League mediator in charge of trying to find a solution to the two-year conflict in Syria expressed optimism on Tuesday that officials from President Bashar al-Assad's government and representatives of the opposition will attend a peace summit being brokered by Washington and Moscow.
Speaking in Cairo, Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters, "The Syrian people are building great hopes on the conference, as the opposition prepares itself to take part and likewise the Syrian regime prepares to take part in this conference."
Brahimi's hopes hinge on whether Damascus actually sends officials to the summit scheduled for early June. Recently, al-Assad expressed little enthusiasm for the talks, saying there are too many groups fighting in Syria to gain a consensus as well as a ceasefire.
However, at least one member of the opposition said on Tuesday he'd be open to discussions with al-Assad's government.
Moaz al-Khtaib, the former president of the Syrian National Coalition, maintained that rebel fighters would opt for a political situation to the crisis if Damascus' intentions are genuine.
He added, "All the opposition forces want is a solution for the Syrian people. Rebels have nothing to lose. They are determined to stay to the end. But we are facing unprecedented suffering."
The death toll from the two-year conflict ranges from 80,000 to 120,000 fatalities.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 03:32:59 AM
(NEW YORK) -- Human Rights Watch on Tuesday decried the latest surge of "moral crimes" in Afghanistan, in which women and girls are actually punished for offenses perpetrated against them by men.
The watchdog group pointed to the latest figures by Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry that found 600 females imprisoned for "moral crimes" as of May 2013 -- a jump of 200 incarcerations since October 2011.
Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that 12 years after the Taliban was driven from power, "women are still imprisoned for being victims of forced marriage, domestic violence and rape. The Afghan government needs to get tough on abusers of women, and stop blaming women who are crime victims."
In virtually all cases of girls and half involving women, the "moral crimes" constituted running away from home in order to flee from forced marriages or abusive relationships.
Sex outside of marriage is also grounds for imprisonment of females, punishable by up to 15 years in jail. Even a woman who is raped or forced into prostitution can be found guilty by Afghan courts on the charge of sex outside of marriage.
Women and girls accused of "moral crimes" can also be subject to "virginity tests" to determine if they engaged in recent sexual intercourse.
Among other things, Human Rights Watch is calling on President Hamid Karzai to declare that running away is not a crime, which would overturn the judgment of the Afghan Supreme Court that has deemed it should be prosecuted as such.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 03:27:46 AM
(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s pick to succeed him won't be doing that.
Iran's Guardian Council decided on Tuesday that Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a close presidential aide whose daughter happens to be married to Ahmadinejad's son, is not eligible to run in the June 14 presidential election.
The electoral watchdog also decided that former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani could not get on the ballot of eight candidates that includes Saeed Jalili, the country's chief nuclear negotiator.
The decision to exclude Mashaei, although a slap in the face to Ahmadinejad, was anticipated since he has long been at odds with Iran's ruling theocracy.
Conservatives who support the ayatollah claim that Mashaei is unacceptable because he puts Iran ahead of Islam.
In the past, Mashaei angered the clergy by suggesting that Iran could forge close ties with Israel, as well as for applauding women who danced in a ceremony in Turkey. Women in Iran aren't permitted to dance in public.
All of those on the ballot are establishment candidates, more in tune with the thinking of the hard-line clerics, who oppose any association with the West.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 03:23:13 AM
(WASHINGTON) -- The United States has new evidence that Iran and Hezbollah have direct involvement with the Syrian regime, a senior State Department official told reporters traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry in Oman.
The official said that, according to the Free Syrian Army, Hezbollah and Iranian fighters have been helping the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad in Qusayr, near the opposition stronghold city of Homs.
“It is the most visible effort we have seen of Hezbollah to engage directly in the fighting in Syria as a foreign force. We understand there are also Iranians up there,” the official said. “This is an important thing to note — the direct implication of foreigners fighting on Syrian soil now for the regime.”
The official said there are concerns that if the Syrian forces capture Qusayr they will slaughter the civilian population there, which numbers in the thousands. The opposition warns it could be a repeat of the massacres seen in Banias earlier this month, which is roughly 30 minutes away.
However, the official could not verify exactly what the Iranians and Hezbollah are doing — whether they are fighting alongside the regime or just advising the soldiers.
"I don’t think they’re arming because I’ve not heard that, but I think they could be doing a little of both advising and fighting,” the official said. “We know that Iran and Hezbollah cooperate in a number of countries, not just in Syria. And so it is not a surprise that Iran would be there with Hezbollah on the ground. We do have consistent reports of Hezbollah fighters on the ground.”
Meanwhile in Washington, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the bipartisan Syria Transition Support Act, which approves lethal aid and training to vetted Syrian rebels, sanctions weapons and oil sales to the Assad regime, and provides further humanitarian assistance for planning for a post-Assad Syria. All but three senators on the committee are voting for the bill, which will now go to the full Senate for a vote.
The legislation allows for the U.S. to provide rebels with arms and military training only after they have gone through a vetting process by the U.S. government and are found to meet human rights, terrorism and non-proliferation criteria. The bill also creates a $250 million transition fund for the next two years to help Syria’s political opposition transition to governing the country, including supporting new institutions and supporting government institutions that currently exist.
While most of the committee members strongly supported the bill sponsored by chairman Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and ranking member Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., of the three senators who opposed, Rand Paul, R-Ky., was the most vocal, calling the Syria conflict “murky” and warning that America was getting involved in a situation “where it’s impossible to know who are friends are.”
Paul cited the current problem with insider attacks in Afghanistan as an example of how, when not careful, the United States leaves itself vulnerable to attack by the very people it is trying to help.
“Syria is 100 times messier than Afghanistan,” Paul said, and warned that the measure could be “a slippery slope to war.”
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., also expressed skepticism of the act, saying that he doesn’t think the United States knows whom they are really arming.
But Senators Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Corker, and Menendez passionately argued that if the United States doesn’t do anything now, the only people with weapons will be the Assad regime and the extremist elements of the opposition.
“Extremists groups with links to al Qaeda are exploiting the conflict and gaining ground in a state with large chemical weapon stockpiles,” Menendez said. ” The time to act and turn the tide against Assad is now.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 20:36:43 PM
(MOSCOW) -- A delegation of American lawmakers will travel to Russia next week in part to investigate last month’s Boston Marathon bombings, ABC News has learned.
The group, led by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., wants to find out why a 2011 Russian request that the United States investigate Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspected Boston bombers, did not raise more red flags.
The Russians offered a vague warning that Tsarnaev planned to link up with extremist groups abroad, but an FBI investigation yielded no evidence to support those claims at the time. The lawmakers also want to know why subsequent U.S. requests for additional information about Tsarnaev went unanswered by the Russians.
“If there was a distrust, or lack of cooperation because of that distrust, between the Russian intelligence and the FBI, then that needs to be fixed and we will be talking about that,” Rohrabacher, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, told ABC News by telephone.
“Our goal is to use Boston as an example, if indeed there was something more, that should’ve been done that wasn’t because of a bad attitude,” Rohrabacher added.
Rohrabacher said he hoped to use the trip to repair lingering mistrust between the former Cold War rivals. With that in mind, the lawmakers will also visit the Russian space center at Star City, outside Moscow, to discuss increasing cooperation between the Russian and U.S. space programs.
“There’s no reason for us to be in the Cold War attitude anymore,” Rohrabacher, a former speechwriter for President Reagan, said.
The lawmakers plan to meet political and security officials, including counterterrorism officials, during their week-long visit to Russia. They are also considering a trip to Dagestan, the restive region in Russia’s North Caucasus, where Tsarnaev spent six months last year and where investigators are digging into contacts he may have had with extremists and militants.
The other members of the congressional delegation include Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn; Steve King, R-Iowa; Paul Cook, R-Calif.; Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.; and William Keating, D-Mass., who is the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats.
Several weeks ago Keating sent a member of his staff to Russia to investigate whether Tsarnaev had met with any extremists or militants in Dagestan. The staff member could confirm, from nongovernmental sources, reports from ABC News and elsewhere that Tsarnaev had been in touch with at least two such individuals, Mahmoud Mansour Nidal and William Plotnikov, during his time there.
According to the staff member, it was Plotnikov who first mentioned Tsarnaev’s name to Russian investigators during an interrogation. That may have been the reason Tsarnaev first came under scrutiny. Both Nidal and Plotnikov were killed in police raids last year.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 14:43:51 PM
(TEL AVIV) -- The Syrian military said on Tuesday that it fired on an Israeli army jeep in the contested Golan Heights in the early hours of the morning, destroying it.
Israel said the jeep was slightly damaged and there were no casualties, but the incident raised fears that the long-time enemies could soon once again find themselves embroiled in renewed conflict.
Just after 1 a.m., the Israeli vehicle on patrol was fired upon by Syrian forces, both sides reported. Syria said the jeep had crossed the ceasefire line in the mountainous Golan Heights that divides the two countries and was heading to the village of Beer Ajam, on the ceasefire line. Israel said the jeep hadn’t crossed, but was near Tal Fares, in the Golan Heights area that Israel captured in the 1967 six-day war.
Israel responded quickly to the Syrian fire with precision Tammuz rockets and “reported a direct hit,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. “Our policy is clear: we do not intervene in what goes on in Syria, or in its civil war,” said Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon on Israel army radio. “We do not and will not allow any Syrian fire to enter our territory. Last night a Syrian army target was destroyed as a result of such fire.”
Israel and Syria are technically in a state of war, but the border has remained relatively quiet during the four decades of rule by President Bashar al-Assad and his father, Hafez, before him.
Tuesday’s incident was the latest in a string of cross-border fire coming from Syria that Israel has largely dismissed as an unintentional spillover from the war raging next door between Syrian forces and the rebels. But for the first time in Syria’s two-year civil war, Syria claimed responsibility for the attack on Israel.
“Whoever thinks that he is able to test our strength, alert and readiness to maintain our dignity and sovereignty is mistaken,” the Syrian army’s statement read. The incident comes just days after what Israel said were two mortars from Syria that landed on Mount Hermon in the northernmost part of the occupied Golan Heights. It was then partially closed to the Israeli public and a group calling itself the “Free Palestine Movement” claimed responsibility for the attack.
Fears that that the war in Syria will spill over and drag in neighboring countries are at their highest point in the 26 months since the uprising in Syria started. Tension between Syria and Israel is particularly high following three Israeli air strikes on Syrian targets in January and May. Israel has sought to tamp down the tension by not confirming or denying the strikes, believed to have been on a research center near Damascus and on shipments of Iranian missiles bound for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
In response, both Assad and Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, warned that a new “resistance front” would be opened in the Golan Heights. “We announce that we stand with the Syrian popular resistance and offer material and spiritual support as well as coordination in order to liberate the Syrian Golan,” said Nasrallah.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 14:27:00 PM
(DUBAI) -- A hotel that bills itself as the world’s most luxurious is giving guests the ultimate in over-the-top amenities: a 24-carat gold iPad at check in.
Dubai’s Burj Al Arab hotel claims to be the first in the world to offer the iPads to guests. No, the iPad is not yours to keep.
Burj Al Arab teamed up with London-based Gold & Co. to offer the iPads.
“The Gold & Co. London 24-carat gold iPad is the ultimate in luxury accessories, hence we wanted it to be paired with Burj Al Arab, the world’s most luxurious hotel. The symmetry is obvious, as both the gold iPad and the hotel are unique in terms of extraordinary quality and design,” said Amjad Ali, CEO of Gold & Co. London.
Retail value of the iPad: about $10,000, according to The Telegraph.
The hotel, which charges at least $1,400 per night -- the lowest nightly rate available over a June weekend on the hotel’s web site -- said guests will be able to use the iPad as a “virtual concierge” and access information about the hotel such as restaurant descriptions, spa services, butler and housekeeping services and more.
Travel enthusiasts might know the Burj Al Arab as the sail-shaped building that’s the only seven star hotel in the world. However, that rating is disputed in travel circles, as there is no organization that gives out seven-star awards. In fact, the hotel makes no such claim on its web site’s homepage, though it does call itself the “world’s most luxurious.” It offers private butler service; four pools; a private beach; Rolls Royce, BMW and helicopter airport transfer service; and free access to a water park.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 13:43:06 PM
(BAGHDAD) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is accusing some lawmakers of fueling the latest sectarian unrest that's responsible for close to 250 deaths in his country over a five-day period.
The Shiite leader also blamed large Sunni demonstrations for counteracting his attempts at achieving national unity almost a year-and-a-half after U.S. forces pulled out of Iraq.
Sunnis and Kurds contend its al-Maliki who's stoking sectarian tensions by marginalizing minorities.
Either way, violence has picked up during the past two months, with reports Monday of at least 95 deaths in predominantly Shiite areas of the country. Two days earlier, insurgents struck largely Sunni regions, killing dozens.
Monday's attacks included explosions reported in 10 separate sections of Baghdad where Shiites congregate in marketplaces and other busy spots. As many as 50 people were killed in the Baghdad attacks, which also left at least 150 others wounded.
Al Qaeda-linked groups in Iraq are believed to be the main culprits, but Sunni and Shiite militants are also suspected of instilling violence.
While al-Maliki has called for calm, some Sunni tribesman, particularly in Anbar province where many of the protests are taking place, are promising to keep fighting back against security forces sent by the Shiite-led government.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 12:21:54 PM
(ROME) -- Claims that Pope Francis performed an exorcism on a disabled teenager in St. Peter's Square after mass on Sunday have led to denials from the Vatican.
The Catholic TV2000 filmed the pope blessing children with disabilities, showing the pope covering one teen's head with his hands and pushing back.
The TV network interviewed exorcists who said it was an exorcism, or "liberation prayer" from evil.
The Vatican instead said it was simply a prayer for someone suffering.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 05:47:54 AM
(NEW YORK) -- The battle for the Western Syrian city of Qusayr is being described by both sides as the possible turning point of the two-year civil war.
What makes this conflict different from other cities where fighting continues to rage is that it also involves the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which is allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his bid to crush opposition groups seeking his ouster.
Even as the Syrian government has been hitting rebel strongholds hard with air strikes in Qusayr, Hezbollah is sustaining heavy losses.
One Syrian watchdog group reports that nearly 30 Hezbollah guerrillas have died so far in the battle for Qusayr, not far from Lebanon's eastern border.
There are conflicting reports about who is gaining ground in the city located in Homs province although there's wide acknowledgement Syrian government forces regained control of more than half of Qusayr since the fight began last Sunday.
Taking back Qusayr in its entirety is seen as crucial for al-Assad as it would give him better footing in western Syria although rebel forces still seem to be holding the upper hand in northern and eastern territories.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 04:29:53 AM
(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Oscar Pistorius's agent says the international athlete known as "Blade Runner," who is accused of murdering his girlfriend, will not compete again this year as he fights to clear his name.
The 26-year-old Olympic sprinter is currently awaiting trial after being charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February. Pistorius maintains he shot Steenkamp, 29, by accident, mistaking her for an intruder on Valentine's Day. He is due back in court on June 4 with a trial scheduled to take place before the end of this year.
In a statement Monday, Peet van Zyl, confirmed Pistorius will not be seen on an athletics track before then.
“There was never any pressure from me or his coach to return to competition. It is his decision and it is his decision not to compete,” van Zyl said.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/20/2013 23:33:48 PM
(MOSCOW) -- Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claims to have cornered a group of suspected militants in the town of Orekhovo-Zuyevo, east of Moscow, thwarting a possible terror attack, according to Russian news reports. The group opened fire, and two suspects were killed in the shootout. A third person was detained.
The reports don’t say when the operation took place.
The FSB claims the suspects were planning a terror attack in Moscow, but reports thus far don’t provide any details of their plans. The three are reportedly from Russia and received training in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/20/2013 21:19:27 PM
(BAGHLAN, Afghanistan) -- At least 14 people, including a senior political official, were killed Monday by a suicide attacker in the northern Afghanistan province of Baghlan.
The attacker entered the provincial council compound on foot wearing a police uniform before detonating a suicide vest at the gate of the council's headquarters, BBC News reports.
According to the spokesperson of the governor of Baghlan province, the attack claimed the lives of 14 people, including council head Haji Rasool Khan Mohseni, a key Taliban opponent in the province. Nine others were injured in the attack.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/20/2013 20:12:34 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will travel to Africa this summer.
The president will take his family to U.S. allies Senegal, Tanzania, and South Africa, where Nelson Mandela lives in retirement.
During the trip, scheduled for June 26 through July 3, the president, "will reinforce the importance that the United States places on our deep and growing ties with countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including through expanding economic growth, investment, and trade, strengthening democratic institutions, and investing in the next generation of African leaders," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement Monday.
As the first African American president, President Obama has wanted to make an extended tour of the African continent, but he cannot go to his father's homeland, Kenya, for the lack of political stability there.
Carney said the president, "will meet with a wide array of leaders from government, business, and civil society, including youth, to discuss our strategic partnerships on bilateral and global issues."
“The trip will underscore the President’s commitment to broadening and deepening cooperation between the United States and the people of sub-Saharan Africa to advance regional and global peace and prosperity,” he said.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/20/2013 19:27:10 PM
(SEOUL, South Korea) -- North Korea fired a short-range missile into the Sea of Japan on Monday, marking the third straight day the country has launched similar rockets in the area, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.
The latest missile comes after the North launched one on Sunday, Yonhap reports. Three others were fired on Saturday.
North Korea's committee in charge of inter-Korean relations says the recent firing of short-range rockets are part of a regular military drill.
Following Sunday's launch, South Korea called North Korea's action "deplorable" and "provocative." Seoul warned that it had placed "dozen of [Israeli-made] Spike missiles and their launchers" on its border islands, adding, "They can destroy [North Korea's] underground facilities and can pursue and strike moving targets."
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also remarked, "We are very concerned about North Korea's provocative actions." He called on Pyongyang to return to talks on suspending its nuclear program although the regime of leader Kim Jong-un has made no move in that direction.
In April, there were fears that North Korea was ready to conduct another mid-range launch but it's likely China intervened in the matter upon U.S. urging.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/20/2013 10:54:44 AM
(ISLAMABAD) -- Pervez Musharraf is one step closer to freedom, but he's not out of the woods yet.
A judge granted bail on Monday to the former Pakistani president and military strongman. Musharraf stands accused of being involved in the December 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Bail was granted when the man who made the accusation refused to testify.
Despite the bail, Musharraf remains under house arrest while two other cases against him make their way through Pakistan's complicated legal system.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/20/2013 09:26:25 AM
UPDATE: A series of car bombings in Iraq on Monday has left close to 60 people dead and more than 200 others injured.
(BAGHDAD) -- Is Iraq destined for another civil war?
The most recent spike in sectarian-related violence leading to more 140 deaths in just four days has many worried that Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is losing control even as security patrols were ordered increased around the country.
Last Friday, at least 70 people died in targeted Sunni neighborhoods, with dozens killed in a bombing near a mosque north of Baghdad.
The capital itself is turning into an armed camp with more SWAT teams, army patrols, police officers and mobile checkpoints than in recent memory.
What precipitated the new tension was a government attack on a Sunni protest encampment about a month ago that led to Sunni tribesmen taking up arms to fight back against what they believe is continued oppression by the Shiite regime.
Last month, 700 people died in Iraq, the highest casualty figure in nearly five years. During the first three weeks of May, there have been more than 300 killed by violence.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/20/2013 04:49:16 AM
(NEW YORK) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears resistant to any attempts by the international community to set up a peace summit that would work towards ending the two-year conflict in his country.
In an interview with the Argentinean newspaper Clarin, the embattled leader threw cold water on a joint U.S.-Russia effort to set up a conference in early June that would get officials from his administration and the main Syrian opposition to arrive at a ceasefire and compromise.
Once more, al-Assad blamed the West for supporting who he terms as "terrorists" trying to usurp his authority, saying, "We do not believe that many Western countries really want a solution in Syria."
According to the Syrian president, there are "hundreds" of different groups operating in Syria at the moment, making it virtually impossible to unify them. As a result, there's no chance of a ceasefire working even if his government went along with the idea.
Al-Assad also rejected the widely held belief that his forces are being assisted by fighters from Iran and the Hezbollah in Lebanon, claiming, "We do not have fighters from outside Syria."
As for what happens for him next, the president said defiantly, "I am not someone who flees from my responsibilities," saying he would run for office again when Syria holds elections in 2014.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/20/2013 04:41:19 AM
(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- The move to strengthen women's rights in Afghanistan took a major hit Saturday when conservative religious lawmakers blocked landmark legislation.
Khalil Ahmad Shaheedzada, a conservative member of parliament, said the measure was withdrawn when religious parties claimed it violated Islamic principles and encouraged disobedience.
Shaheedzada even went as far to say, "Whatever is against Islamic law, we don't even need to speak about it."
Had the legislation been considered and passed, it would have set a minimum age for girls to get married while ending prosecution of women who are raped.
Its advocates had hoped the bill would become law to prevent the next president of Afghanistan from rolling it back. Now, that's a moot point.
Women are fearful that once the U.S. and their coalition allies leave Afghanistan, the country will return to the culture of the previous Taliban regime, when women were forbidden to work or attend school.
Last March during a tour of Afghanistan, Secretary of State John Kerry met with various women's groups to try and ease their concerns about a return to a time when Afghan women were treated as second-class citizens.
However, the U.S. has little say about what laws can or can't be passed by the Afghan parliament.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/20/2013 04:38:42 AM