(NEW YORK) -- An agreement may be close between the U.S. and Afghanistan that would allow U.S. troops to remain there after next year.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Saturday that his successor, who will be chosen in an election next year, should be the one to have the final say on the proposal. Regardless, The Guardian reports that U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel -- who was in Afghanistan on Saturday -- was reassured by the Afghan defense minister that the agreement would be signed "in a timely manner."
Despite the importance of an agreement, Hagel was not expected to meet with Karzai during his time in Afghanistan.
Without an agreement, all U.S. and foreign forces would leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
(NEW YORK) -- Merrill Newman, the 85-year-old Korean War veteran who was held for over a month in North Korea arrived home in California on Saturday.
Newman was pulled from a plane on Oct. 26 when he was preparing to leave North Korea after a 10-day tour. His family had been concerned about his health due to a heart condition. Newman was deported from North Korea in a decision supported by the U.S. State Department.
After Newman's release, Vice President Joe Biden -- who was in South Korea -- offered him a ride home on Air Force Two, which Newman turned down. Instead, he took a flight home to San Francisco International Airport. Upon arriving, Newman received cheers and made a brief statement to gathered reporters.
Biden said that the State Department was pleased that Newman had been released, though he says he did not play any direct role in his release.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Through a spokesman, the family of former South African President Nelson Mandela on Saturday released their first statement since his death.
The family says that they are "humbled by the messages of condolences and support " received from governments and people all over the world. The statement was delivered by Spokesman Lt. Gen. Themba Matanzima, a member of the Thembu clan to which the Mandelas belong.
Matanzima referred to the former South African president by his clan name, Madiba, saying that he "was not just a citizen of South Africa and the broader African continent, but a global citizen."
Following Mandela's death countless political and cultural figures, ranging from Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to Prince Charles of the U.K. and actor Idris Elba, who plays Mandela in the soon-to-be-released film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom made statements expressing their condolences over the loss of a beloved world figure.
"The pillar of the royal Mandela household is no more with us physically," the Mandela family statement said, "but his spirit is still with us."
Mandela died Thursday at 95 at his home in Johannesburg, surrounded by his family, after fighting a long battle against a lung infection.
A flood of world leaders will be heading to South Africa in the coming days to pay respects to Mandela. South African President Jacob Zuma announced a national mourning period of 10 days. The main event will be an official memorial service to be held Dec. 10.
The South African government announced on Saturday that heads of state and other VIPs will attend a memorial event on Tuesday at Soccer City -- technically the FNB Stadium -- which was the venue for the 2010 World Cup final.
The stadium, on the edge of Soweto, holds 94,000 people and was the site of Mandela's first speech in Johannesburg after his release from prison.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel landed in Afghanistan on Saturday morning to meet with American commanders following a trip to Bahrain.
According to the New York Times, Hagel was expected to speak with commanders regarding the status of the war. He is also expected to address troops to offer holiday greetings and with Afghan officials to push for a breakthrough in the ongoing security agreement talks.
Hagel will not meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, as the president is departing Afghanistan for Iran on Saturday.
A statement from Hagel's office stated that the U.S. "has made its position on the BSA [binding security agreement] clear."
Karzai reportedly stated his position on the BSA once again this past week, saying that he was not yet prepared to sign the BSA. Karzai did not provide a timeline or plan to endorse an agreement.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
(PYONGYANG, North Korea) -- Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran, has been deported from North Korea after being held more than a month, the U.S. State Department confirmed.
Newman, of Palo Alto, Calif., was pulled from a plane Oct. 26 while preparing to leave the communist nation after a 10-day tour. Newman, a former finance executive, has a heart condition and his family had been worried about his health since he was detained while trying to leave the country on a tourist visa.
"We are pleased that Mr. Merrill Newman has been allowed to depart the DPRK and re-join his family. We welcome the DPRK's decision to release him," the State Department said in a statement late Friday.
"This positive decision by the DPRK throws into sharper relief the continuing detention of Mr. Kenneth Bae, who has been in DPRK custody for over a year. We call on the DPRK once again to pardon and grant Mr. Bae special amnesty and immediately release him as a humanitarian gesture so that he too can return home to his family. The U.S. Government will continue to work actively on his case," the State Department said in the statement. " We thank the Government of Sweden for the tireless efforts of the Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang, which acts as our Protecting Power in the DPRK."
A senior administration official from the U.S. vice president's office confirmed that Newman is in Beijing.
Addressing reporters in Seoul, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said, "The DPRK today released someone they never should have had in the first place, Mr. Newman. "
"I'm told -- we tried to get in contact with him -- he's on his way or in China now. I offered him a ride home on Air Force Two, but as he pointed out, there's a direct flight to San Francisco, so I don't blame him, I'd be on that flight too," Biden continued.
"It's a positive thing they've done, but they still have Mr. Bae, who has no reason being held in the North, should be released immediately. We're going to demand his release as well. At least there's one bright piece of sunshine that he will be released and return to his family."
Biden said he played no direct role in Newman's release.
Weeks after he was taken, North Korea state media reported Newman apologized for alleged crimes he commited during the Korean War and for "hostile acts" committed during a recent visit to the country.
In a released video, Newman read an apology saying he tried to meet with any surviving soldiers he had trained to fight North Korea during the Korean War.
"I asked my guide to help me to look for their families and relatives living in DPRK," he said in the video, "And I gave the document written with their addresses and email addresses to the guide in the Yanggakdo Hotel."
It is believed Newman may have been forced to make the statement.
Newman's wife, Lee, told ABC News last month that doesn't understand why her husband was being detained, but hoped the situation can be resolved soon so the family can spend the holidays together.
"We just hope whatever that misunderstanding is will be resolved very quickly and that he can return and be at our table for the holidays," Lee Newman told ABC News.
Merrill Newman was traveling with a group out of Beijing on a tour bus through North Korea. On Oct. 26, what was to be Newman's last day in North Korea, he was taken off of a plane set to leave the country and detained by authorities.
"They had checked out of the hotel, gone to the airport, boarded the plane," Jeffrey Newman said. "We understand [they] were five minutes from taking off when the Korean official came aboard, asked to see his passport then asked the stewardess to ask him to leave the plane and he left the plane with apparently no incident or drama and he's been there ever since."
Lee Newman says her husband had in place all necessary and valid travel documents to take the tour.
"We have no idea that how with the guides and the visas and the paper and the itinerary that there could be anything that could've gone off track," Lee Newman told ABC News.
The Swedish Embassy was negotiating on a daily basis on behalf of Newman because the U.S. has no diplomatic ties to North Korea, the State Department said last week.
Jeffrey Newman said it was his father's dream to return to the country where he spent three years as an infantry officer during the Korean War.
"He'd been to the peninsula before about three years ago. He was in South Korea but he'd never been to North Korea and he'd always wanted to go back," he said. "He had a great respect for the Korean people and a keen interest in the Korean culture."
North Korea has detained at least six Americans since 2009, including two journalists accused of trespassing and several missionaries accused of spreading Christianity. Bae, a Korean-American missionary and tour operator, has been detained for more than a year.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Beginning Sunday in South Africa, a week will be dedicated to the memory of the country's former president, Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95 after a long illness.
"We will spend the week mourning his passing. ...We will also spend it celebrating a life well lived," South African President Jacob Zuma announced Friday in an address to the nation.
A national day of prayer and reflection will be held on Dec. 8, followed by an official memorial service on Dec. 10 at FNB Stadium, the Johannesburg soccer stadium that hosted the 2010 World Cup.
From Dec. 11 to Dec. 13, Mandela's body will lie in state in Pretoria so that South Africans can pay their final respects.
"The remains of our beloved Madiba will lie in state at the seat of government, the union buildings in Pretoria, where he served as the first president," Zuma said.
Then, on Dec. 15, Mandela will be taken to his ancestral village of Qunu where he'll be buried alongside three of his children who are deceased.
"We should all wept together to organize the most befitting funeral for this outstanding son of our country and the father of our nation," Zuma said.
In a statement Friday, White House press secretary Jay Carney announced that the Obamas will be going to South Africa next week "to participate in memorial events."
"President Obama and the First Lady will go to South Africa next week to pay their respects to the memory of Nelson Mandela and to participate in memorial events. We’ll have further updates on timing and logistics as they become available," the statement read.
Mandela's body was moved early Friday morning from Johannesburg to Pretoria's One Military Hospital. His coffin was draped in South Africa's flag.
Outside his home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, somber scenes were replaced on Friday with throngs of people singing old songs of struggle from the apartheid era and the country's national anthem.
"You know, it's tragic, it's sad. But at the same time, I think we should celebrate," Mandela supporter Hamsa Moosa told ABC News. "Celebrate what he has achieved and what he's given us. I wouldn't be here, I wouldn't be free if it wasn't for him."
Mandela had been receiving medical care at his home since September, where he had been in "serious but stable condition" because of a chronic lung infection.
Mandela's oldest grandson, Mandla Mandela (also known by his full name Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela) said he is "deeply saddened," but is "strengthened by the knowledge that he is now finally resting."
"All that I can do is thank God that I had a grandfather who loved and guided all of us in the family. The best lesson that he taught all of us was the need for us to be prepared to be of service to our people," Mandla said in a statement, the first public comment from the anti-apartheid leader's family since his death.
Mandla said his grandfather "demonstrated his fighting spirit" during his most recent health battles.
"He is an embodiment of strength, struggle and survival, principles that are cherished by humanity. As a grandfather, we have all known him as a kind hearted, generous and wise person who was always prepared to offer us advice on how to be good members of our communities," Mandla said.
"Celebrating his long life is the best accolade we can give him. Celebrating his contribution to society will make him smile in his resting place. We look forward to continue our interaction with him as one of our beloved ancestor," the statement concluded.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
(BIRMINGHAM, England) -- Toward the end of a nearly seven-hour flight from Dubai to Birmingham, England, passengers got a terrifying scare Thursday when heavy winds almost forced the plane into a sideways landing.
The pilot of the Boeing 777, operated by Dubai-based Emirates Airlines, made two attempts to land at Birmingham Airport in the midst of heavy storms that battered the area Thursday, according to The Birmingham Mail.
In video of the attempted landings, the plane approaches the runway sideways and at a right angle before twice going back up in the air instead.
After the two aborted landings, the pilot flew the 777 an additional 100 miles to London’s Gatwick Airport, where it landed safely, according to the Mail.
One passenger reportedly tweeted, “Never flying again,” after the flight.
A spokesperson for Birmingham Airport told the paper that, despite the heavy storms, no flights were cancelled.
A Brussells Airlines plane landing in Birmingham was also reportedly blown from side to side Thursday while descending onto the runway, but the pilot managed to land the plane safely.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
(BEIJING) -- A shocking surveillance video emerged this week out of the Chinese megacity of Chongqing, showing a 10-year-old girl grabbing an infant boy in a high-rise elevator and then proceeding to slam him onto the floor and kick him repeatedly.
The baby was then found downstairs on the sidewalk alive, covered in blood but clinging to life. Authorities are now trying to determine whether the 10-year-old girl threw the infant off the 25th floor.
According to the Chongqing TV News, the incident unfolded on the afternoon of Nov. 25, when a woman identified as Mrs. Wu took her grandson Yuanyuan, who is just over 1-year-old, out to play.
The surveillance video shows Mrs. Wu exiting the elevator with an empty infant push bike just as the 10-year-old girl, still in her school uniform, slips into the elevator. The girl then immediately bends down to pick up the boy as the elevator doors close on the grandmother.
Mrs. Wu later claimed to Chongqing TV News that she momentarily left the elevator to remove the push bike. Instead of handing Yuanyuan back to his grandmother, the schoolgirl held onto him as the elevator doors closed in the grandmother’s face.
The girl then throws the baby on the ground and starts kicking him. The video shows Yuanyuan struggling on the floor.
When the elevator doors finally opened on the 25th floor of the apartment building, the girl picks up the baby and throws him to the floor outside the elevator. She exits as Yuanyuan is shown with his arm flailing on the floor outside.
The elevator doors then close, ending the surveillance of the girl and the infant.
Chongqing TV News reported that Mrs. Wu followed the girl up to the 25th floor and ran into her in the hall without Yuanyuan. The girl then apparently tried to comfort the distraught grandmother and told her that someone else took the baby and proceeded to search the apartment with her, the report said.
Five minutes later, a security guard found the baby on the ground, with broken branches and twigs around puddles of blood.
According to Chongqing TV News, the Wu family had just moved to the apartment compound about a month earlier. They did not know the girl and have no idea what would have motivated her to attack Yuanyuan.
Yuanyuan’s family confirmed to The Beijing News that he awoke from a coma on Dec. 3. The family said that Yuanyuan remains in critical condition with a broken skull and internal bleeding. A doctor told the newspaper that Yuanyuan will need a “high-risk operation” very soon.
The Chongqing police have not released any information on the attacker and her current status due to the fact that she is a minor.
Yuanyuan’s family, however, told The Beijing News that the attacker’s family has given them 58,000RMB ($9,515) in compensation after the accident.
The newspaper reports that both Yuanyuan’s parents are construction workers and the money will not be enough to cover Yuanyuan’s medical expenses.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
(ROME) -- A former Ku Klux Klan leader is having a hard time finding a country that will take him outside the U.S.
David Duke has been definitely kicked out of Italy over fears he was planning to exterminate people of black and Jewish races.
An Italian court actually told the white supremacist and former U.S. presidency candidate to leave his home in Northern Italy last year, but Duke appealed the decision and lost this week.
Duke tried to move to Italy after being expelled from Germany and before that from the Czech Republic for denying the Holocaust.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama brought up the subject of Iran at the second of two Hanukkah receptions Thursday.
The president said the U.S. had Israel's security in mind when it and five other world powers reached a preliminary deal last month with Tehran to freeze key parts of Iran's nuclear program in return for temporary relief of economic sanctions imposed by the international community.
The president told those in attendance, “Key parts of the program will be rolled back even though the toughest of our sanctions remain in place, and that's good for the world, and that's good for Israel.”
The president said that over the coming months the U.S. will continue “our diplomacy with the goal of achieving a comprehensive solution that deals with the threat of Iran's nuclear weapons once and for all.”
The agreement with Iran allows its scientists to keep enriching uranium, a key step in developing nuclear weapons, albeit at a lower level.
Earlier this month, The Sunday Times reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was pulling out all the stops in his effort to prove that Iran is violating the terms of a six-month agreement.
Netanyahu, who believes that Iran can't be trusted, is using the Mossad, Israel's top spy agency, and military intelligence to uncover evidence amounting to a "smoking gun" that Tehran is continuing the nuclear activities it agreed to freeze in order to have some international sanctions lifted, the Times reported.
If Israel can show Iran is not acting in good faith, it would certainly make it difficult to work out a long-term deal.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Former South African President Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison and whose defiance led to the dismantling of the country's apartheid system, has died after a long illness. He was 95 years old.
Mandela had a number of issues with his health in recent years including repeated hospitalizations with a chronic lung infection.
Mandela had been listed in "serious but stable condition" since he entered the hospital June 8.
In April, Mandela spent 18 days in the hospital due to a lung infection and was treated for gall stones in December 2012.
Watch the ABC News Special Report:
Mandela's public appearances had become increasingly rare as he dealt with his declining health.
His last public appearance was in July of 2010, when he attended the final match and closing ceremonies of the soccer World Cup held in South Africa.
In 2011, Mandela met privately with Michelle Obama when the first lady and her daughters traveled to South Africa.
WATCH: President Obama's Remarks on Mandela's Passing
One of the giants of the 20th century, Mandela's career was marked not only by his heroic resistance to racism, but also by his poised and soft spoken demeanor.
After enduring nearly three decades of prison, much of it at hard labor in a lime quarry, Mandela emerged as a gentle leader who became South Africa's first black president. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership in ending apartheid without violence, and later became a global statesman who inspired millions people around the world.
WATCH: Nelson Mandela in 60 Seconds
Mandela was born in 1918, the son of a tribal leader, in a remote village in South Africa.
His tribal name, Rolihlahla, meant "troublemaker," a moniker Mandela would more than live up to in his lifetime.
In 1952, he emerged onto the national stage when he helped organize the first country-wide protests called the Defiance Campaign. That same year he opened the country's first black law firm.
Ruth Mopati, his secretary at the firm, wrote about the way he was then in the book "Mandela," saying, "He was able to relate to people with respect and therefore he was respected in return."
While Mandela's party, the African National Congress, had always been dedicated to non-violence, in 1960 the ANC was banned to prevent further protests after police shot dead 69 black protestors in what became known as the Sharpeville massacre.
The events radicalized the organization and led to the creation of the ANC military wing, for which Mandela became its first commander in 1961.
In 1962, Mandela was sent to prison on a charge of inciting a strike.
"At 1:30 in the morning, on March 30, I was awakened by sharp, unfriendly knocks at my door, the unmistakable signature of the police. 'The time has come,' I said to myself as I opened the door to find half a dozen armed security policemen," Mandela said.
Two years later, Mandela was sentenced to life in prison for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the white government. Much of the next 27 years in prison were spent in the infamous Robben Island prison where he did hard labor in a lime quarry.
During his nearly three decades behind bars, Mandela would become a myth. The government even banned any use of Mandela's image or words, leaving a whole generation to grow up knowing little about the world's most famous political prisoner.
Mandela spoke about his time in his autobiography: "A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones -- and South Africa treated its imprisoned African citizens like animals."
After 27 years, President F.W. de Klerk announced in 1990, "Mr. Nelson Mandela will be released from Victor Vestor prison…" On Feb. 11, 1990 Mandela emerged from prison into a world he had not seen in almost three decades.
Mandela described leaving the prison and greeting the crowds by saying, "I raised my right fist and there was a roar. I had not been able to do that for 27 years and it gave me a surge of strength and joy."
The country's black townships erupted into celebration for a returning hero. Mandela announced: "Today all South Africans -- black and white -- know that apartheid has no future."
Mandela and de Klerk forged an uneasy partnership in the coming years, despite sharing the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
Peace, however, would not come quickly. More than 4,000 people died in political violence in the year leading up the country's free elections in 1994.
On April 27, 1994, millions of blacks in an extraordinary show of determination lined up for hours to cast their first ballots. The ANC won in a landslide and Mandela became South Africa's first black president.
Mandela announced: "I am the product of Africa and her long cherished dream of a rebirth that can now be realized so that all of her children may play in the sun."
He remained in office for five years. In 1999 in his final act of leadership, he oversaw the peaceful transfer of power to a handpicked successor.
His post-prison years were marred, however, by the scandal that surrounded his wife Winnie Mandela. They were married for only four months when Mandela was sent away to prison, and she spent the next 27 years campaigning for his release and amassing her own power base.
By the time Mandela was freed from jail, Winnie had become an unpopular and feared figure in South Africa. She was eventually convicted of kidnapping in the case of four teenage boys, including one who died. She was sentenced to six years in prison, but the charges were later reduced to theft and fraud and she was forced to pay a fine instead.
Mandela, who had stood by his wife at first, divorced her in 1995 after revealing to a South African court that his wife was carrying on an adulterous affair that left him as "the loneliest man."
But a late-in-life romance blossomed for the gentle statesman with Graca Machel, an influential campaigner for children's rights and the widow of Mozambique's former president Samora Machel. The two were married in 1998 on Mandela's 80th birthday. She was 52.
In 2001 Mandela was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but doctors said that wasn't unusual for man of Mandela's age and treated it with radiation therapy.
After he left office, Mandela became a global statesman, mediating conflicts in some of the world's worst troubled spots.
He also devoted much of his time to his charity for children. In an interview with PBS' Frontline, Rick Stengel who co-authored A Long Walk to Freedom with Mandela, said , "One of the things that separates Mandela from other people ... is that he's an optimist. He's a cockeyed optimist."
In 2008, tens of thousands of people turned out in London to honor him for his 90th birthday. Nelson Mandela told them the fight against injustice is not yet won. But after a lifetime of working for peace, he told the crowd, "It is in your hands now."
The following year, actor and director Clint Eastwood delivered his Academy Award-nominated film, Invictus, telling the story of Mandela's efforts to unite the people of South Africa through a national rugby team in 1995. The title of the film came from a short Victorian poem by the same name that Mandela was known for reciting.
In the end, the boy who was named "troublemaker" became one of the greatest peacemakers of the past century.
He will be greatly remembered as a symbol of the fight for human rights, and as a leader who healed a greatly divided nation in the face of overwhelming odds.
Mandela ends his autobiography, Conversations With Myself, saying, "I have walked the long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret -- that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance that I have come. But I can rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended."
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
(NEW YORK) -- In the 27 years that Nelson Mandela spent imprisoned in South Africa, he wrote letters to his loved ones.
Razia Saleh of the Nelson Mandela Foundation is part of a team that has spent considerable time cataloging these historical snapshots from Mandela's life before he became the first president of South Africa to be chosen in a fully representative democratic election.
In the early years, Mandela -- sentenced in 1964 to life imprisonment -- was only allowed to write one letter every six months. He was forced to choose his words carefully so they could get past his jailers and be read by those he longed to speak with.
He repeatedly asked for permission to write more letters than he was allowed. After learning that his wife Winnie was having heart trouble, he asked the guards in their Afrikaans language, hoping it would persuade them to change their minds.
Life of Nelson Mandela: See the Photos
In his notebooks, he would write a first draft of every letter, cataloging his thoughts from his days imprisoned on Robben Island and later in Pollsmoor Prison.
When he was released on Feb. 11, 1990, he carried with him his treasured correspondence.
"He walked out with it when he left prison, so he took it with him," Saleh told ABC News' David Muir.
The handwritten letters in his notebook to his children were reassuring.
"I do not know, my darlings, when I will return," Mandela wrote. "I told you that the white judge had said I should stay in jail for the rest of my life. It may be long before I come back. It may be soon. Nobody knows when it will be, not even the judge who said I should be kept here."
Mandela also wrote to a cherished friend he had not heard from in some time.
"Do you forget your friend so easily? Why are you not writing?" he asked. "Why have you not written?"
On his 71st birthday, a note documented a visit from Winnie, his children and grandchildren. The real gift to the future president would come a year later, when he was released from prison as the whole world watched.
Mandela never seemed to waver in his optimism for the future, recalled in a promise he made to his children two decades before he was freed.
"I am certain that one day I will look back," he wrote. "I will be back at home to live in happiness until the end of my days."
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. cargo vessel equipped with special gear could be neutralizing some of Syria’s most dangerous chemical weapons at sea come January.
Once started, the process of neutralizing 500 tons of the chemical components used to make mustard gas and sarin gas could be completed within 45 to 90 days, Pentagon officials said Thursday.
No final decisions have been made yet by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), but it appears increasingly likely that the agency will accept an offer from the United States to destroy the dangerous chemicals at sea.
The reserve merchant vessel MV Cape Ray, currently in Norfolk, Va., is in the process of being equipped with two Field Deployable Hydrolysis Systems, Pentagon officials said in a press briefing. These systems add water and bleach to dangerous chemicals, converting them into an inert liquid byproduct.
Though this process has never been carried out at sea, the officials said hydrolysis is “a proven technology” that will result in “a very low risk operation.”
About 100 personnel will be aboard the ship, 60 of them Defense Department civilians working with the hydrolysis systems, officials said. The rest will include security contractors and OPCW inspectors to verify that the chemicals are being neutralized.
The Cape Ray will undergo sea trials in a few weeks so the hydrolysis systems can undergo operational testing, officials said, with the expectation that it will be ready to sail in January. However, there are still gaps in the OPCW’s plans for where the neutralization of the Syrian chemicals will actually take place.
The OPCW’s timeline calls for the 500 metric tons of “priority one” chemicals to be removed from Syria by Dec. 31. An additional 800 metric tons of less dangerous chemical precursors will be destroyed by one of 35 companies that have bid for the contract, officials said.
The “priority one” chemicals will be taken to the Syrian port of Latakia for loading onto about 150 shipping containers to be placed onto a ship from an as-yet undetermined country, officials said.
It remains unclear where the Cape Ray would pick up the containers as the OPCW has yet to find a host country willing to allow one of its ports to be used for the transfer of the chemicals.
Once a port is chosen, a transfer of the chemicals onto the Cape Ray could be completed within 48 hours, officials estimated. The vessel would then depart for an undetermined off-shore location, where the hydrolysis could begin.
The “effluent” by-product will not be dumped into the ocean, but would be stored aboard the ship until a commercial company is selected to dispose of the by-product either through incineration or some other means, officials said.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin is telling President Obama he should stop insisting Afghan President Hamid Karzai sign a security agreement by the end of the year.
The White House has threatened to pull all U.S. forces out of Afghanistan by the end of next year if Karzai doesn’t sign the agreement by end of this year. Separately, Secretary of State John Kerry has suggested the U.S. could bypass Karzai and have his defense secretary sign the agreement instead. Levin says threats are a mistake.
“Public demands that President Karzai sign the agreement by the end of the year, or the recent suggestion that we could settle for less than an Afghan president approving the agreement, contribute to President Karzai’s mistaken belief that the United States needs Afghanistan more than Afghanistan needs the United States,” Levin wrote in a letter to President Obama.
Karzai has insisted the agreement should be signed the next Afghan president -- whoever wins the presidential election scheduled for next April. Karzai is not running for reelection. The White House has strongly criticized Karzai for taking that stance, but Levin says it may be better to have the next Afghan president sign the letter.
“The next Afghan president, whoever he is, is also likely to be more reliable than President Karzai, and there would be greater confidence in his sticking with an agreement he has signed,” Levin writes.
The White House has said that waiting until April is not possible because the military will need time to plan for either withdrawing or keeping a force in Afghanistan after next year. But Levin disagrees, saying planning can happen regardless of whether the agreement is signed before the end of the year.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
(BENGHAZI, Libya) -- An American teacher was shot and killed Thursday in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, a year after U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed during an attack at the U.S. consulate there.
Ronnie Smith was gunned down while jogging, Peter Hodge, the headmaster at the International Benghazi School, where Smith taught chemistry, told ABC News. Smith was 33, he said.
"Why they would pick on him, there's no reason for it," Hodge said. "The students themselves -- obviously shocked, upset, crying, helping each other, supporting each other."
Smith, who had worked at the school for about a year and a half, was a "really nice, sociable friendly teacher," adored by colleagues and students, Hodge said.
"Whenever we needed help, he would help us with whatever we need –- advice, studies, anything," Abu Baker, 16, whom Smith tutored, told ABC News. "He was an amazing guy. He was really funny. He had the most amazing sense of humor."
The White House said President Obama was briefed Thursday morning on the killing, and the State Department said it had been in touch with Smith's family. The FBI said it is investigating the incident, although it is unclear whether Smith was targeted because he was American.
"We are following events closely, and at this point no individual or group has claimed responsibility," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. "We look to the Libyan government to thoroughly investigate this killing."
Smith was shot after a black SUV apparently pulled up behind him, Hodge said. Libyan television on Thursday broadcast images of Smith's body.
Smith's students and others shared their memories and spoke of their despair using the Twitter hashtags #ThankYouSmith and #MrSmithMemories.
Smith's wife, Anita, and young son Housea lived full-time in Benghazi but had returned for the winter holiday a few days ago, Hodge said. Smith, a fluent Arabic speaker, was expected to join them at the end of this week, he said.
Smith left school Thursday for a couple of hours to go for a jog, Hodge said. Fitness was important to Ronnie, and he shared that with his Libyan students, often leading exercises with them after school, he said.
But Thursday he was alone on his run through the neighborhood near the school when he was killed, according to Hodge.
"I think it was an opportunist, someone who just happened to see him there," he said. "There's no way they could have known he would be there at that time."
Three other Americans were teaching at the International Benghazi School, which has 650 students from kindergarten through high school--the majority Libyan, Hodge said.
The expats have generally felt safe in Benghazi, Hodge said.
Smith, Hodge said, was in the country because he believed in the possibility of change there and in the lives of the children he taught.
"He was dedicated. He always put the students first," Hodge said. "He wanted to make a difference. And he did."
Since Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was toppled in 2011, the security situation in Libya has deteriorated, with armed militias controlling large swathes of the country.
"It's a very good situation as far as education is concerned," Hodge said. "It's a very sad situation as far as security situation is concerned."
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
|3rd Annual Special Kids Race|
Sat. (March 22, 2014) 7AM 3rd Annual Special Kids Race starting at Murfreesboro Medical Clinic (1272 Garrison Drive) and continuing through the area along with the historic Stones River National Battlefield. You decide whether you wish to be in the 15K, 5K or 1-mile event. Sign-up quickly, because this has been a sell-out for the past two-years. Register by December 15th and your name will be entered to win a $100 gift card to Fleet Feet Sports in Murfreesboro. See website for fees (they are different for each race). To register: https://runsignup.com/Race/TN/Murfreesboro/SpecialKidsRace. READ MORE »
|Art Show in Murfreesboro City Hall Rotunda|
Mon-Fri (Nov. 19, 2013-Jan. 3, 2014) 8AM-4:30PM The photography art of Rachel Johnson on display in the rotunda of the Murfreesboro City Hall (111 W. Vine St.). Admission is free, and it's open to the public on non-holiday business days. There is a reception where you can meet the artist on Thursday (Nov. 21, 2013) from 5:30-7:00PM. READ MORE »
|Bloomfield Links 6-Hole Golf Course for Kids|
BLOOMFIELD LINKS GOLF COURSE (next to Old Fort Park). Children and adults can enjoy the course FREE through December 31, 2013. (Park in the rear of the lot at the Old Fort Park Golf Course). This is a six-hole course for area youth. City officials hope that at-risk youth will learn life skills, teamwork and fellowship through the game of golf. HOURS: Bloomfield Links is open every day (weather permitting). Weekdays from noon to 6:00PM, weekends from 8AM to 6PM. If you have questions or suggestions, call Murfreesboro's Golf Director and Pro Tracy Wilkins at 615-896-2448. READ MORE »
|Christmas Toy Drive|
(Dec. 2-13, 2013) 18th Annual CHRISTMAS TOY DRIVE at Peltier Family Chiropractic (272 Heritage Park Drive) . This is a collaboration with the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program. If you donate 5 (or more) UNWRAPPED NEW TOYS you will receive your first chiropractic visit at NO CHARGE! This includes a consultation, examination, x-rays (if needed) all at NO CHARGE! For more information, call (615) 893-1604. READ MORE »
|Classes for 2014 Master Gardeners of Rutherford County|
Tuesdays (Jan. 14 - April 22, 2014) 9AM-Noon Classes by the Master Gardeners of Rutherford County at the Lane Agri-Park (315 John R. Rice Blvd.). Classes will be taught in the Farmers Market Building. There is a $135 fee. A limited number of scholarships are also available. For more information, phone 615-898-7710. READ MORE »
|Help "Child Abuse Victims", Become A Secret Santa|
(Now-prior to Christmas) Become a SECRET SANTA for a sexually abused child. The Child Advocacy Center is again coordinating this part of Christmas for an often forgotten group. They often has challenges that make it a challenge for their guardians to be able to afford what other youngsters take for granted. Instead, this families' money is often used for moving expenses to get away from the abuser. For information on how you can get involved and be a Secret Santa to an abused child, contact the Child Advocacy Center of Rutherford County at (615) 867-9000 or the Cannon County Child Advocacy Center at (616) 563-9915. READ MORE »
|Historical Society Opens Ransom School On Saturday Mornings: Volunteers Needed|
Saturdays, 9AM-Noon: The Rutherford County Historical Society has opened the Ransom School (717 N. Academy St.) to the public on Saturdays from 9:00AM to Noon. Volunteer teams are needed to cover these hours. Preferably a man and women team. If you are interested in participating in this historical project, please contact Gwen Boyd firstname.lastname@example.orgREAD MORE »
|Lion's Club Pecan Sales|
(Now through Dec. 24, 2013) Murfreesboro Lion's Club Pecan Sale: Tis the season to create all sorts of treats, and they are made more delicious with pecans. The Murfreesboro Lions Club is selling pecans, with all of the proceeds going to help the sign impairted to see. The local club supplies exams and then glasses to the less fortunate. 16 ounce bags of pecans are $10; They also offer small bags of chocolate covered, cinamon glazed, caramel glazed and other nut goodies for $8. Purchase Lion's pecans at any Wilson Bank location or at the Palace Barper Shop on the Murfreesboro square. E-mail Jonelle Prince for details: email@example.com READ MORE »
The third PARENTING CLASS held at the Rutherford County Juvenile Court System (1710 S. Church St.) will begin in January, 2014. The six-week program is FREE, and it meets one evening per week. For more information, phone Kacye Watson at 615-898-7850. READ MORE »
|PINK EYE RESEARCH (free care and medication)|
Dr. Craig McCabe, the eye doctor you hear on the radio, is participating in PINK EYE RESEARCH. If you have PINK EYE, you are eligible for FREE care and medication if you are a part of a study group. For more information, contact Gigi Hampton at 615-904-9024 or e-mail her at Gigi@McCabeVisionCenter.com. The best time to contact is Monday through Friday from 10:00AM to 6:00PM. McCabe Vision Center is at 122 Heritage Park Dr. (37129).READ MORE »
|Scout Christmas Tree Sales|
The Boy Scout Troop 197 is again selling Christmas trees at two (2) locations: The main lot is at Fellowship United Methodist Church (2511 New Salem Highway); as well as at Haynes True Value Hardware (1807 Memorial Blvd., behind Reeves-Sain Drugstore). Select from beautiful Carolina Fraser Firs ranging in size from 5 ft. to 9 ft. Its fragrance, shape, strong limbs, and ability to retain its soft needles for a long time when cut (which do not prick easily when hanging ornaments) make it one of the best trees for this purpose. Prices are in the $40-70 range. Hours: Mon-Fri 5pm-9pm/Sat.9am-9pm/Sun 1pm-9pm Cash/Checks/Visa/MasterCard Accepted 100% profit goes to the Troop and directly benefits Scouts! For more info please visit our website: http://www.bsatroop197.com/trees READ MORE »
|Smyrna "Citizens Police Academy"|
Sign-up now for Smyrna's CITIZENS POLICE ACADEMY which will be held 6-9PM Thursday evenings from January 30-April 17, 2014. There is a $25 fee, and this will be collected at the first class. The Smyrna Police will do a criminal background check on each potential student, and then it must be approved by Smyrna Police Chief Kevin Arnold. Here is the application: http://www.townofsmyrna.org/Departments/PublicSafety/Police.aspx READ MORE »
|Volunteer Van Drivers Needed To Carry Vets To Doctor|
Volunteers are needed to drive vans that take veterans to medical appointments. Volunteers will need to go through a training and orientation program so that your volunteering experience will be more enjoyable. For more information, contact Darlene Haynes on the Murfreesboro campus: 615-225-6517. READ MORE »