BIN LADEN’S DECADE ON THE RUN
-BIG PICTURE…Osama bin Laden spent more than nine years on the run in Pakistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, and in that time he moved among five safe houses across that country and fathered four children, at least two of whom were born in a government hospital, his youngest wife has told Pakistani investigators. There were also times when U.S. forces were very close to the Al Qaeda leader – though they may not have known it.
-A WIFE’S TESTIMONY…ABC News has obtained the testimony of Amal Ahmad Abdul Fateh, Bin Laden’s 30-year-old wife, which is the source for this most detailed account yet of life on the run for Bin Laden and his family – between the 9/11 attacks and the American raid that killed him last May. Her account is contained in a police report dated Jan. 19. Fateh told police Bin Laden took his family deep into the rural mountain areas of northwest Pakistan after the 9-11 attacks instead of into the tribal belt where much Western attention was focused. The family didn’t move to Abbottabad until 2005, the same year American military forces came tantalizingly close to Bin Laden.
-WHAT DID PAKISTAN KNOW?…There is noticeably little detail in the document about the Pakistanis who helped Bin Laden evade his American pursuers. But it certainly raises new questions about how the world’s most wanted man managed to move his family between cities that span the breadth of Pakistan, apparently undetected and unmolested by the otherwise formidable security services. Bin Laden’s three widows are of great interest because they hold the answers to some of the questions that frustrated Western intelligence in the years after 2001. They are currently under house arrest in Islamabad, and their lawyer says he expects them and two adult children — Bin Laden’s daughters Maryam, 21, and Sumaya, 20 — to be charged Monday with breaking Pakistani immigration law, which carries a possible five-year jail sentence.
NORTH KOREA LAUNCH
-JAPAN ORDERS SHOOTDOWN…From Akiko FUJITA in Tokyo: After calling for the deployment of missile interceptors earlier in the week, Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka gave official orders today to shoot down a North Korean rocket if it threatens Japanese territory. The government has dispatched destroyer missile defense systems to the Pacific and East China Sea, and deployed mobile Patriot missile launchers to islands in Okinawa. They will also deploy a missile interceptor in Tokyo, though the capital is far from the expected flight path. Despite heightened tensions, chief government spokesman Osamu Fujimura called for calm, saying “please carry out your daily lives and business as usual.” The plans unveiled by Tokyo are all similar to what the government did back in 2009, the last time North Korea tested a long-range missile.
-NORTH KOREA TEST-FIRES SHORT-RANGE MISSILES…Meanwhile, South Korean officials say North Korea test-fired two short-range missiles this week from its west coast. Two Defense Ministry officials said Friday that the testing took place Wednesday. The launches came one day after South Korea hosted a nuclear security summit of nearly 60 world leaders in Seoul.
APPLE: THE FOXCONN FILE
Responding to a critical investigation of its factories, the manufacturing giant Foxconn has pledged to sharply curtail working hours and significantly increase wages inside Chinese plants making electronic products for Apple and others. As Bill WEIR reported, the move could improve working conditions across China – and it follows a wide-ranging inspection by the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a monitoring group. The FLA found widespread problems — including at least 43 violations of Chinese laws and regulations, and numerous instances where Foxconn defied industry codes of conduct by having employees work more than 60 hours a week, and sometimes more than 11 days in a row. The monitoring group, which surveyed more than 35,000 Foxconn employees and inspected three large facilities where Apple products are manufactured, also found that 43 percent of workers had experienced or witnessed accidents, and almost two-thirds said their compensation “does not meet their basic needs.” Many said the unions available to them do “not provide true worker representation.”
FRANCE: ANTI-TERROR RAIDS
Police have detained 19 people in a crackdown on suspected Islamist extremists in cities across France - and officials say more such raids are planned. French president Nicolas Sarkozy gave no details about the justification for the arrests, telling Europe-1 radio, “It’s in connection with a form of Islamist radicalism”. The raids come after a spate of killings in southern France claimed by Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman who espoused radical Islamist views and said he had links to al Qaida. Merah was killed in a gunfight with police last week and buried near Toulouse on Thursday. Sarkozy, who is running a tough battle for re-election, added: “It’s our duty to guarantee the security of the French people. We have no choice. It’s absolutely indispensable.”
PALESTINIANS PROTEST “LAND DAY”
From Alex MARQUARDT in Jerusalem: Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are marking Land Day, an annual protest against what they say are discriminatory Israeli land policies. Israeli forces have sealed off swaths of territory as a precaution, including closing off the West Bank to all but humanitarian emergencies. Alex reports that marches will start following midday prayers, and that the big question is whether the regime in Damascus will allow and actively encourage Syrians to attack the border as they did last year.
DOZENS OF TALIBAN KILLED
Reuters reports dozens of Taliban fighters were killed in U.S. air strikes and a gun battle in western Afghanistan after an insurgent attack on an Afghan army patrol, NATO and Afghan officials said today. ISAF said the patrol came under attack Wednesday, prompting a call for air support; 30 Taliban were killed and another 15 wounded.
PUTIN’S HUNT FOR “BEST WORKERS”
The BBC reports on a Soviet-style competition that Putin launched this week to search for Russia’s best workers. There will be cash prizes for the winning welder, stone mason, electrician, miner, and truck driver. The winner of each category will win about $10,000.
MYANMAR – THE VOTE
Myanmar’s special election Sunday is for a small portion of parliament seats, but has taken on immense symbolic importance because it will likely see pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi win her first term in office. Though the seats up for grabs are relatively few, the stakes are high for both the military-backed government, which wants to emerge from international isolation, and for Suu Kyi’s camp, which wants real democracy.
HUGE MEXICO CYCLONE CAUGHT ON TAPE
Storyful has dramatic video of a huge tornado caught on camera crossing a highway between Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo on Thursday.
EINSTEIN WAS RIGHT
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Albert Einstein was right in his view of how the universe is expanding, according to a scientific study released today. The new test of Einstein’s view of the universe has proved him right with “incredible accuracy” and is helping scientists to understand the mysterious acceleration of the universe.
ONE MAN’S, ER, INTOXICATING RENDITION OF “BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY”
Is this the real life? Oh, yes. The camera inside a cop car caught a drunk Canadian man arguing with the cop about being arrested for public intoxication. He drunkenly rambles at the cop before launching into a passionate rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Thanks to Jay Shaylor & our friends at GMA, this has been cleared for use for all platforms.
Canada’s conservative government released its 2012 budget today, and the penny is among the $5.2 billion in cuts, according to news reports from the north. After 150 years, the last Canadian penny will be minted in April, The Globe and Mail says. The royal mint will stop distributing pennies to financial institutions in the fall and start working to withdraw them from circulation. The penny has cost Canada a pretty penny. It now costs 1.6 cents to produce every copper-nickel cent, and the government estimates it loses $11 million a year producing and distributing pennies, CBC News says. And a study by a Canadian bank estimated it cost the private sector $150 million in 2006 to count, store and transport the little coin. The mint commissioned a 2007 marketing survey about the penny’s future. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Finance Ministry called the penny a “nuisance,” and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told lawmakers they “take up too much space on our dressers at home” and “far too much time for small businesses trying to grow and create jobs.”
WOULD YOU CROSS THIS BRIDGE?
The appropriately named Aizhai Extra Large Suspension Bridge is suspended 1200 feet above Hunan’s Dehang Canyon and spans 40 miles through 18 tunnels in total, which cover about half of its length. Construction of the bridge started in October 2007, with its main sections being completed at the end of 2011. The bridge was temporarily opened to pedestrians during the 2012 Spring Festival holiday season in February. Now it is open to cars – and it’s designed to help ease traffic in the mountainous region, where tailbacks are a common occurrence due to its narrow, steep and winding roads. It has been dotted with 1,888 lights to increase visibility at night.
From Akiko FUJITA in Tokyo: Japan’s oldest Koala, Lam, died Thursday morning at the Higashiyama zoo. Lam was 12 years old, which is apparently the equivalent of 120 human years. The loss of Lam is a huge blow to zoos in Japan, which have been facing somewhat of a “koala crisis” in recent years. The population of the cuddly animals in Japan have been nearly cut in half, in the last decade, partly because of age.
From Simon MCGREGOR-WOOD: French and British researchers believe the increasing use of neonicotinoid insecticides on crops (widely used in the US) is damaging bees’ central nervous systems and leading to a collapse in the world’s bee population.
The Wall Street Journal reports researchers are hunting for a better cocoa supply - amid concerns that farmed cocoa now comes from plants that are too old, fragile and low-yielding to satisfy the world’s growing taste for chocolate. Experts say new and better cocoa plants are vital to future supplies – and to keeping chocolate an affordable luxury. But time is running out to find the perfect genetic mix for the right cocoa tree; it takes at least four years for the tree to start bearing cocoa beans fit for processing – and they haven’t discovered one yet. Some experts are saying the price of chocolate will increase while a new breed is pursued.