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Monday
Jun182018

Underwear hung around British politician's offices after he blocks 'upskirting' ban

Arcaid/UIG via Getty Images(LONDON) -- After a British legislator blocked a proposed bill to ban taking photos up women's skirts without their knowledge, some protesters expressed their anger by hanging women's underwear around his offices.

The proposed ban on "upskirting," which is supported by Britain's Conservative government, was blocked on Friday when Conservative Member of Parliament Christopher Chope objected as the bill was put forward in the House of Commons. The proposed law would have meant that someone taking a photo up a woman's skirt without her consent could face up to two years in prison.

Lorna Rees, one of Chope’s constituents, tweeted a photo on Saturday of three pairs of underwear hanging on a red ribbon outside of the politician's office in Dorset, England. "No one should be able to photo my pants unless I want them to" she handwrote on the underwear.

"Friday was desperately frustrating," Rees wrote in a tweet. "I hope my anti-Chope constituency pant protest shows solidarity."

On Monday, she tweeted another photo of three new pairs of underwear hung outside the MP’s constituency office.

"As the last ones were removed, I put a new set of bunting today," Rees wrote.

A similar protest took place in the British parliament, where Chope’s office also was decorated with underwear.

After the bill was blocked on Friday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said that she was "disappointed."

"Upskirting is an invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed," she wrote on Twitter. "I am disappointed the Bill didn't make progress in the Commons today, and I want to see these measures pass through Parliament -- with government support -- soon."

Chope has said that he backs the bill, but objected as a matter of principle because he believed it had to be properly debated.

"If a detailed bill is put before the house and it hasn’t had any debate then as a matter of principle, I block it without looking into the details of the bill because as a matter of principle, I don’t believe we should pass legislation which hasn’t been scrutinized," he told LBC Radio, a London-based national talk radio station.

The bill was introduced by Wera Hobhouse, a Liberal Democrat, and was backed by the British government after months of campaigning by Gina Martin, an upskirting victim.

"By making upskirting a specific offense, we are sending a clear message that this behavior will not be tolerated, and that perpetrators will be properly punished," Lucy Frazer, the British justice minister, said in a statement. "Our action builds on the tireless efforts of Wera Hobhouse, Gina Martin and other campaigners, and we will ensure this Bill becomes law."

On Monday, the British Justice Ministry said that the government would draft and introduce a new upskirting bill as soon as possible.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Jun182018

Over 30 killed after multiple bombs hit end-of-Ramadan celebration in Nigeria

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A terror attack in northeast Nigeria has left more than 30 dead and scores injured despite ongoing military efforts to restore peace in the region.

Multiple bombs went off during a celebration for the end of Ramadan over the weekend, and were reportedly followed by artillery strikes by the nation's military.

The government has blamed six suicide bombers from the terror group Boko Haram for the attack Saturday in Damboa, in the state of Borno.

In addition to the dozens reported to have died, the injured included 11 severely wounded people who were evacuated from the area by the International Committee for the Red Cross, the humanitarian organization told ABC News.

Some witnesses told multiple local media outlets that the military airstrikes may have hit as many or more people than the bombs.

A local person who did not want to be named told Sahara Reporters that "many civilians were hit" when the military fired in retaliation.

Borno state is one of the worst-affected areas in conflict-ridden Nigeria. The United Nations says Damboa alone in Borno state currently hosts over 90,000 internally displaced people, many of whom live in refugee camps.

"The humanitarian crisis in Nigeria’s northeast that has spilled over into the Lake Chad region is one of the most severe in the world today, with 7.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in 2018 in the worst-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, and 6.1 million targeted for humanitarian assistance," the United Nations said in a statement to ABC News.

The U.N. says Damboa alone in Borno state currently hosts over 90,000 internally displaced people, many of whom live in refugee camps.

A military operation was launched May 1 to try and expel militants from Borno state. Then, hours after an army spokesman urged people to return to the area, saying it was "safe," this latest bombing happened.

Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, has been a target of terror attacks for many years. Boko Haram is one of the largest Islamist militant groups in Africa, with links to several other Islamist groups, including ISIS.

In March 2015, ISIS accepted a pledge of allegiance by Boko Haram and in August 2016, the group split into two factions: The Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) and JASDJ or Boko Haram.

Following Boko Haram's pledge of allegiance to ISIS, the United States announced it would boost its military assistance to Nigeria.

“In addition to being the largest African oil producer, Nigeria's economy is very dependent on its oil revenue, its stability is vital to regional security and U.S. economic interests,” according to a statement by the Council on Foreign Relations.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, whose won in part due to his vow to crush Boko Haram, will likely face scrutiny in the next elections in February 2019 over his ability to address security threats in the country.

The United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate condemned the attack in Damboa by “suspected Boko Haram insurgents targeting Eid al-Fitr celebrations,” and sent “condolences to the affected families, government and people of Nigeria.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Jun182018

Meghan Markle's father breaks silence on wedding: 'I really wanted to walk her down the aisle'

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Thomas Markle, father of newly married Duchess Meghan Markle, apologized for staging photos before his daughter's wedding to Prince Harry and expressed regret at not being able to walk her down the aisle in his first interview since the wedding.

"She was beautiful. I cried a little watching her," Thomas Markle said on "Good Morning Britain." "I was very proud and I couldn't see a better moment in my life. The whole world was watching my daughter."

"The unfortunate thing now is that I'm a footnote in one of the greatest moments in history instead of a dad walking his daughter down the aisle," he said. "It was a very emotional moment. I regretted it because I really wanted to walk her down the aisle. But I'm thankful for how it all went."

Meghan's father admitted to being a bit jealous that he was not at the wedding, but expressed thanks to Prince Charles, Harry's father, for stepping in.

"I can't think of a better replacement than Prince Charles," said Markle. "He looked very handsome. I was jealous, I wish it was me, but thank God he was there and I thank him for that."

The father of the bride, who described his daughter as a "princess," said that he imagines Prince Charles was thrilled to walk his daughter down the aisle.

"It might have been a treat for him as well because he didn't have a daughter."

The Prince of Wales has expressed many times how he had always hoped to have a daughter. He has become particularly close to his new daughter-in-law, Meghan.

Thomas Markle decided to withdraw from the wedding after the U.K.'s Mail on Sunday claimed that he had been participating in staged photo shoots to help his image.

Within 24 hours it appeared that he had changed his mind after speaking with his daughter and Prince Harry. But again he backed out several days later after saying he had suffered a heart attack and would be unable to travel.

"Good Morning Britain" host Piers Morgan disclosed on-air that Markle, who lives in Mexico, was paid for his interview Monday with the TV show.

Markle said his daughter was only concerned about his health in a tearful phone call with Prince Harry when he shared that he would be unable to attend her wedding.

"They were disappointed," he said. "Meghan cried, I'm sure, and they both said, 'Take care of yourself, we are really worried about you.'"

Meghan's father said he apologized to Meghan and Harry for his error in judgment with regard to taking the photos.

"I realized it was a serious mistake," he said. "It's hard to take it back."

Kensington Palace issued a statement on Meghan’s behalf shortly before the wedding and after her father announced he would be undergoing heart surgery.

"Sadly, my father will not be attending our wedding," Markle, 36, said in the statement from Kensington Palace. "I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health.

"I would like to thank everyone who has offered generous messages of support," the statement continued. "Please know how much Harry and I look forward to sharing our special day with you on Saturday."

First conversation with Meghan about her new boyfriend

The first phone calls were, "Daddy, I have a new boyfriend.' And I said, 'That's really nice,' and the next phone call was like, 'He's British,' and I said, 'That's really nice,' and eventually the third time around was like: 'He's a prince.'"

He continued: "And at that point, she said, 'It's Harry,' and I said, 'Oh, Harry, OK!' She said, 'Of course we’ll have to call him 'H' so no one knows we're talking about Harry.'"

"We talked a little about how they met and how happy they were with each other," Markle reflected.

"He's quite easy to talk to; he's quite a comfortable person to talk to," Markle added. "I wasn't nervous. Ten thousand miles apart, it's hard to be nervous talking to someone on the phone."

Asking for Meghan's hand in marriage

Thomas Markle recounted the moment when Prince Harry asked him for his daughter's hand in marriage over the phone.

"You are a gentleman, promise me you will never raise your hand against my daughter and of course I will grant you my permission,'" he recalled saying.

Markle said his daughter has "been a princess since the day she was born," adding, "He made a good pick, didn't he?"

When asked about Harry's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, Markle replied, "I’ve had respect for that women since I was a child. I think she’s one of the most incredible women in the world and I would love to meet her."

On Meghan wanting children

Thomas Markle also revealed that Meghan and Harry are ready to start a family.

"She's wanted children for a long time," the former Hollywood producer told "Good Morning Britain." "When she met Harry and spoke about how much she loved him, there’s got to be a child in the making somewhat soon."

On when he knew the relationship was serious
The wide-ranging interview with "Good Morning Britain" saw hosts Piers Morgan and Susannah Reid ask about when he realized that Meghan and Harry's relationship was serious.

"I can't give you a date, no, [but] it was certainly a few months before the announcement of the engagement," he said.

"My daughter is very intelligent. She knows how to choose who she wants to be with. She's a smart girl and she made a good pick. The royals are very complicated, but she can always rise to that occasion.

"My daughter is capable of anything and she will be a complement to the royal family."

On the staged photos and paparazzi deal

For the first time Meghan's father discussed the leaked photographs and his agreement to participate in order to change his image.

"For the last year photographs of me were always derogatory," he explained. "They would take pictures of my hand grabbing the beer, they’d take pictures of me getting in my car, taking the garbage out, they’d take pictures of me buying a toilet and making a big deal out of it. They took all kinds of pictures making me look negative."

He said he apologized to his daughter and son-in-law over the phone.

"I thought this would be a nice way of me improving my look. Well obviously that all went to hell. And I feel bad about it," he said. "I apologized for it and that’s all I can do. I can't do much beyond that. That was a mistake.

Markle added, "I didn’t do this for money; I did this to change my image. For one whole year I was presented as a hermit hiding out in Mexico. I was looking to change my image and obviously that was a mistake that went wrong."

On Markle’s nickname for his daughter

Markle also spoke warmly about his nickname for his daughter and how it came about.

"When she was a child she loved "Jack and the Beanstalk." ... Because she’s so small I called her Bean or beanie," Thomas said.

When asked jokingly if he called her Duchess Bean, Markle answered, "Well I don’t think I’ll call her duchess. I don’t have to, she’s my daughter."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Jun172018

Greece and Macedonia hope to end decades-long dispute over name

iStock/Thinkstock(ATHENS) -- Since its independence in 1991, the Republic of Macedonia has been fighting with neighboring Greece over the country’s name.

On Sunday, Macedonia and Greece signed a historic deal aimed at settling the name dispute that has lasted longer than the 14 years it took Alexander the Great to conquer the world.

If the agreement wins approval in both nations, the former Yugoslav republic will be known as the Republic of North Macedonia.

"This is a brave, historic and necessary step for our peoples,” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said as he and his Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, watched their foreign ministers sign the agreement on Lake Prespa, where Greece borders Macedonia.

The argument may be one of the strangest disputes in international politics.

When Yugoslavia broke into pieces, one region declared itself the Republic of Macedonia.

Greece, its southern neighbor, has a northern province called Macedonia that was the cradle of its society during the Alexander the Great era.

Greece considers Macedonia a non-negotiable part of its history and because of its objection to the new Balkan country's name, it refused to let the Republic of Macedonia join either the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or the European Union until the name was changed.

The Republic of Macedonia got a United Nations seat by agreeing to be called The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for all official purposes, but this was not meant to be a permanent solution.

The new country argued that it also has a claim to the disputed name. The agreement on the new name, North Macedonia, suggests that neither state has a monopoly on the historic legacy of the region.

For the new name to take effect, the Republic of Macedonia's parliament needs to approve the deal with Greece, followed by a referendum laster his year in which voters will have a say. Also, constitutional changes in the Republic of Macedonia, a key Greek demand, need a two-thirds majority in parliament, which Mr. Zaev does not currently have.

After the referendum and constitutional changes in the Republic of Macedonia, Greek parliament needs to ratify the deal -- though nationalist and opposition parties have vowed to resist it.

In Greece, Tsipras survived a no-confidence vote on June 16 over the deal, with accusations that he made too many concessions.

As a sign of goodwill, the Republic of Macedonia also agreed to rename huge statues erected in recent years in its capital honoring the ancient warrior kings -- Alexander the Great and his father, Filip of Macedon, as well as Alexander's mother, Olympia. The statues are now to be marked in honor of Greek-North Macedonian friendship, an official of North Macedonia told ABC News.

Protests against the name change turned violent in Skopje, the capital of the nation of Macedonia, as demonstrators clashed with police, according to local reports.

Video posted on social media showed protesters standing on top of police vehicles and pushing against barricades erected near Macedonia’s National Assembly building.

Some demonstrators chanted "Macedonia: We won't give up the name," while others sang patriotic songs, and shouted chants in support of Macedonia’s president, Gjorge Ivanov, according to video from the scene.

Officers appeared to use flash grenades and tear gas to disperse the crowds amid reports of protesters attacking officers with rocks and bottles, local news outlet Radio Free Europe reported late Sunday. There were no injuries immediately reported.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Jun162018

Peace, economy top concerns as Colombians head to polls in presidential runoff

iStock/Thinkstock(BOGOTA, Columbia) -- Colombians are heading to the polls for the second time in less than a month — this time in a runoff to elect the country’s next president.

This year’s is the first presidential contest since the 2016 peace accord was signed between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the Marxist guerrilla known as FARC that had been at war with the government for more than half a century -- a conflict left 220,000 dead and 7 million displaced.

Sunday's runoff was triggered after the country’s May election proved inconclusive — none of the six candidates running then managed to get the 50 percent plus one vote required to win outright.

The two candidates on Sunday’s ballot are conservative Ivan Duque and left-wing candidate Gustavo Petro, who have campaigned on radically disparate platforms and propose very different approaches to the controversial peace deal signed with FARC.

Back in May, Duque, an investor-friendly former senator who campaigned against the peace accord, took first place with 39 percent of the vote. Petro, a former guerrilla leader and recent mayor of the capital city Bogota, came in second with 25 percent of the vote.

Petro and Duque represent the two extremes in a deeply polarized Colombia.

On one side, there are those who back Duque because they want heavier policing, economic stability and secure private property. Duque opposes the FARC peace deal, saying it is too lenient on the former guerrilla members and campaigning to modify the clause that gives those members amnesty.

On the other, there are the Petro-leaning voters who blame right-wing politicians for heavy-handed tactics and abuses of power, and who want more action to reduce economic and social inequality.

This is the first time a leftist candidate gets to the second round in a presidential election in Colombia — historically, many Colombians have been wary of left-leaning politicians who they've seen as friendly to the guerrilla groups with whom they spent 50 years at war.

Topping that, the chaotic descent of neighboring country Venezuela under the socialist regimes of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro — which has triggered a refugee crisis spilling into Colombia — adds to the fears of a left-wing government, with Duque supporters accusing Petro of wanting to turn Colombia into Venezuela.

More than 1 million Venezuelans have entered Colombia since the country fell deeper into economic crisis in 2017.

Pedro denounced the Maduro government after the first round of the election, but his approach to the Venezuelan government is expected to be more lenient than Duque's.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Jun162018

Pakistani terrorist who ordered Malala shooting reportedly killed in drone strike

Ben Stansall/WPA Pool/Getty Images(ISLAMABAD) -- The Pakistani terrorist leader who ordered the assassination of Malala Yousafzai was killed in a drone strike, according to Afghan officials.

Mullah Fazlullah was allegedly killed in a strike on June 13 in the Dangam district of Kunar province in Afghanistan. Fazlullah had been the leader of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), designated by the U.S. as a foreign terrorist group in 2010, since taking over in 2013.

Initial reports in the area suggest that Fazalullah -- along with four accomplices -- were killed in the strike just after fast-breaking time. Taliban sources have not yet confirmed the killing, but local sources confirm that Fazalullah and his followers were based in this area.

While U.S. and Pakistani officials have been quiet on whether Fazlullah was killed, two Afghan officials confirmed the terrorist's death. Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish told ABC News the drone attack targeted Fazlullah in Kunar, close to Pakistan border.

"By eliminating Mullah Fazlullah, Afghanistan proved once again as it did with taking out many other TTP leaders in the past that it does not distinguish between terrorists that target Afghanistan or Pakistan," Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Dr. Omar Zakhilwal tweeted Friday. "I hope we can now expect the same -- not only in words but in proofs."

Fazlullah has been reported dead multiple times in the past.

The U.S. confirmed the June 13 strike targeting Fazlullah, but not that he had been killed.

"U.S. forces conducted a counterterrorism strike, June 13, in Kunar province, close to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which targeted a senior leader of a designated terrorist organization," U.S. Forces Afghanistan spokesman Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell said in a statement.

The U.S. specified in its statement that the drone strike did not go against the ceasefire in the region.

Fazlullah carried a bounty of $5 million by the U.S. government. He was the mastermind behind the Peshawar school massacre, in which 132 schoolchildren were killed in December 2014, and he also ordered the assassination of the then-15-year-old Yousafzai in October 2012 due to her advocacy for women's education. Yousafzai survived and became the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2014.

Yousafzai just made her first return to Pakistan since the assassination attempt in late March.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Pakistani terrorist who ordered Malala shooting reportedly killed in drone strike
Friday
Jun152018

State Department 'deeply concerned' over arrest of US citizen during a protest in Vietnam

Courtesy Nguyen Family(HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam) -- The American who was arrested while protesting in Vietnam has been visited by at least one U.S. diplomat since he was taken into custody, the State Department said Friday.

Will Nguyen, a 32-year-old masters degree student at Singapore University, was on vacation in Vietnam when he joined a protest against a land concession proposed by Chinese investors and was seized by several men in civilian clothes and hauled off into a police vehicle, bleeding from a head wound. Nguyen's Airbnb host informed his family that police had searched the apartment where he was staying and had confiscated his U.S. passport, his laptop and credit cards.

The State Department said that it is "deeply concerned" by reports that Nguyen was injured during the June 10 arrest in Ho Chi Minh City.

Consular officers engaged with the Vietnamese government over Nguyen's arrest, and visited with him in a Ho Chi Minh city lockup in Friday.

“His safety and the safety of all U.S. citizens is of the utmost concern to the United States,” the State Department said in its statement. “The Vietnamese government permitted consular access to Mr. Nguyen on June 15. We will continue to push for continued and regular access by consular officers to Mr. Nguyen, in the interest of ensuring due process and fair treatment.”

The Nguyen family was one of the thousands families that left Vietnam to escape the Vietnam war in the 1970s.

While Nguyen and and his sister Victoria were raised in the United States, Vietnam remained in his consciousness.

“He’s very involved with politics of Southeast Asia because it’s the field that he studies,” Victoria Nguyen told ABC News. “That’s what he studied in college. That’s what he went back to school for and earn his masters, so he is very much involved and knowledgeable about the Southeast Asia."

Victoria Nguyen said she did not know of her brother's arrest until she woke up Sunday to numerous miscalls, text messages from friends who were already aware of the arrest.

“It’s not illegal to protest in Vietnam, everybody can protest, but it’s the retribution that everybody is fearful of. I think that how that government works,” she said.

A video clip shared on social media shows the tumultuous protest and Nguyen being dragged down the street with blood on his head and his face surrounded by angry crowds.

According to Victoria, Will just finished up his masters degree program in public policy at the University of Singapore following his bachelors degree in Southeast Asia studies at Yale University.

“It’s our culture; it’s our background and, you know we embrace it; we’re really proud of it,” she said.

The Vietnamese Embassy in the U.S did not respond to several calls and emails seeking comment on the arrest.

Victoria Nguyen has been in contact with the State Department and several members of Congress to seek help to ensure the release of her brother.

“At this point we want him home. There is not reason for them to hold him,” she said. “I’m optimistic that they will do the right thing, and they will see that he meant no harm. He had good intention, when he went over there."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jun152018

For some North Korean defectors, Trump-Kim summit offers hope; others don't buy it

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Back in January, Ji Seong-ho was President Trump's special guest at his State of the Union address, where the president told the story of Ji’s harrowing escape from North Korea.

Having lost an arm and a leg after being hit by a train years before, Ji managed to travel hundreds of miles to China – on crutches.

“Seong-ho's story is a testament to the yearning of every human soul to live in freedom,” Trump said.

Ji is one of about 32,000 North Koreans in the past decade who have risked it all to get out from under the Kim regime – and for them the Trump-Kim summit was not just a political meeting, but a personal reckoning as well.

While Ji and other defectors ABC News spoke with agree that life in North Korea can be brutal, they have perhaps surprisingly different opinions on whether the summit was a success, and whether the North Korean people will benefit.

Ji Seong-ho, president, Now Action & Unity for Human Rights


For some defectors like Ji, who defected from North Korea in 2006, the summit was an optimistic occasion.

“The way I see it, it’s just the beginning of this relationship," Ji told ABC. "If it ended with this summit, I would be very disappointed, but the meeting needs to continue. ”

Many have criticized President Trump after the summit for not condemning Kim Jong Un’s brutal treatment of his people, including torture and imprisonment in labor camps, according to the United Nations.

But Ji sees the summit as merely a first step that will lead to more conversation.

“I’m hopeful that North Korean human rights issues will be brought to the table once the summit progresses,” Ji told ABC News. “That doesn’t mean I’m certain that the summit itself will be smooth sailing. The North Korean government has long deceived its people, lied to the international community, and covered up human rights issues. We can’t trust them.”

After the summit, Trump called Kim “very talented” and said he “loves his country,” drawing more criticism for complimenting the ruthless dictator.

But Ji said the flattery is “a diplomatic gesture.” “I don’t think it necessarily means a whole lot to me,” Ji said.

He says living in North Korea with a disability was unbearable and meant certain poverty, so he crossed into China to find food. There, he was introduced to Christianity, and says he prayed in secret for years, keeping his outlawed religious beliefs from his own father and brother.

When Ji’s family attempted to defect, his father was captured and tortured to death. After Ji managed to make it to freedom in China, he kept his crutches as a reminder of how far he has come.

Now, Ji lives in Seoul and is the president of Now Action & Unity for Human Rights, which advocates for North Koreans. He recently visited Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers and receive an award for his work.

“I think the fact that not only the executive branch, but also the Congress and even the American public are very interested in human rights issues in North Korea really gives us a big strength to our cause,” Ji said.

As for his former leader, Ji says it's "really pitiful" that Kim Jung Un's objective in all of this is to protect his status.

"Right now, he doesn't look anything more than a dictator desperately trying to keep his place. But the whole world is embracing democracy and human rights as important values, and I think it's inevitable those values will reach where we are going." Ji hopes that North Korea will eventually dissolve concentration camps and open borders for free business and investment, as well as immigration.

But not every defector is as hopeful about the summit as Ji.

Kang Cheol-Hwan, North Korea Strategy Center, Chairman


“Kim Jong Un is in love with his own power, not his country. He is someone who killed his own brother and uncle to gain political power. You think he loves the country? No way. Kim viciously killed a whole lot of people in order to maintain his power,” said Kang who describes President Trump’s comment about Kim Jong Un as truly caring for the country and his people, ‘obnoxious.’

Trump is being tricked by Kim who wants to keep all attention on denuclearization so that there won’t be any time or opportunity to raise the issue of human rights, Kang tells ABC News.

Kang was sent to a prison camp with his family at the age of 8. He was released ten years later then fled to Seoul in 1992. He is the author of “The Aquariums of Pyongyang (2000),” the first survivors account of North Korea’s concentration camps.

An Chan-il, World Institute for North Korean Studies, Director


An Chan-il diagnosed North Korea as a place where human rights were completely out of question. Although the international community is constantly shouting out loud, how the communist regime is treating its people outside the opulent capital city Pyongyang, inside, there isn’t anyone fighting for their rights. He said no one would fight to achieve their basic rights in North Korea, because they have become numb to the agony around them.

“Witnessing public execution and neighbors starving to death, they just cannot realize they are deprived of basic rights,” An told ABC News.

The defector expressed disappointment in President Trump’s press briefing after the US-North Korea summit.

“I expected Trump to raise his voice on human rights issue, but it seemed like he could only have mentioned a sentence or so,” he said. “Human rights situation in North Korea is not getting any better.”

According to his acquaintances still living in North Korea, there are children who die of food poisoning, after eating grass scraped off from the roads. Dozens of soldiers died from electrocution while trying to keep the construction site running as fast as possible in the town of Wonsan.

An escaped the communist country in late 1970’s, crossing the demilitarized zone. He became the first North Korean defector with a doctorate and now serves as chair-professor at Open Cyber University of Korea.

Song Ji-young, Jiwon Print and Publishing, PR manager

The Trump-Kim summit for Song Ji-young gave a glimpse of hope that someday in the near future she may be able to go back to her hometown in Hamkyungbukdo Province, North Korea. “I miss my home very much,” she says reminiscing her childhood. “We may have lived brainwashed in a controlled state but it was less stressful than here where everything is so competitive.”

“I was quite impressed by Kim Jong Un. He seemed much more prepared than Trump who looked like buttering up to a much younger Kim. I realized Kim is actually a smart man.”

Song says many of her fellow defectors see Kim in a favorable light. “He is different from his father Kim Jong Il who was a womanizer and indulged himself in luxury goods. Kim Jong Il never really talked in public but Kim Jong-un has a real wife, just one wife, and close to the people.”

Song was born after her parents were downgraded to a rural post. Her father, originally from a ‘pure’ enough background to reside in Pyongyang, had been punished for a car accident while driving. She worked at a propaganda arm of her hometown in Hamkyungbukdo as an announcer. Song fled to Seoul in 2004.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jun152018

'Gifted' clarinetist whose dreams were sabotaged by ex-girlfriend awarded $266K: Court

iStock/Thinkstock(QUEBEC) -- When some musicians go through a harrowing break up, they write sad love songs.

One Canadian clarinetist got a court-awarded $266,000 payout instead.

A Canadian court determined this week that the alleged deceptions of Eric Abramovitz's ex-girlfriend were worth a hefty sum.

Eric Abramovitz was a student at McGill University in Quebec, Canada, when he applied to attend the Coburn Conservancy of Music in Los Angeles. At the time, Abramovitz was living with his girlfriend, Jennifer Lee, a fellow musician at McGill, according to the courts.

Abramovitz, who wanted to go to the Coburn Conservancy of Music to study under an internationally recognized clarinet teacher, believed he aced his in-person audition in February 2014.

And Abramovitz's dream email acceptance to the Coburn program arrived on March 27, 2014 -- but he never received it.

Lee allegedly intercepted the email and made it look to him as if he was rejected -- at the same time told the school that he would not be attending.

"[Ms.] Lee accessed [Mr.] Abramovitz’s email. She intercepted the acceptance email. She responded to it, in [Mr.] Abramovitz’s name, declining the offer because he would 'be elsewhere.' [Ms.] Lee then deleted the acceptance email," the decision states.

From there, she allegedly used a fake email account that resembled the name of the prestigious clarinet teacher to write an email to Abramovitz that he had not been accepted.

Beyond that, she also told Abramovitz, under the guise of the teacher, that he had been awarded a spot under his tutelage at the University of Southern California, according to the court's decision. The fake email added that he'd only be awarded a $5,000 scholarship, even though tuition at that program would be about $51,000, an amount Abramovitz couldn't afford, the decision said.

"Ms Lee knew about Mr Abramovitz’s financial circumstances and that he would not be able to accept the fake offer she had created for a position at USC," the court decision states.

"This was despicable conduct by [Ms.] Lee," the decision later states.

Ambramovitz, whom the court called a "gifted musician, an accomplished clarinetist" who had won national music awards, lost out on years or earning power and financial opportunity, according to the court.

He finished his music degree at McGill and went on to attend a certificate program at USC, with the famed professor, but "two years later than he had hoped, and not on full scholarship," the decision states.

In the court filing, the judge seems to sympathize with the impact that the deception had on Abramovitz's career.

"Imagining how his life would have been different if he had studied for two years under [Mr.] Gilad, and earned his teacher’s respect and support, requires more speculation than the law permits," the judge wrote in the court decision. "One hears, particularly in the arts, of the 'big breaks' that can launch a promising artist to a stratospheric career. I cannot speculate as too high and how quickly [Mr.] Abramovitz’s career might have soared, but for the interference by [Ms.] Lee. But the law does recognize that the loss of a chance is a very real and compensable loss."

All told, Abramovitz was awarded $350,000 Canadian dollars in damages, which converts to $266,483 in U.S. currency.

Meanwhile, Lee did not respond to contact requests by the court, according to the decision. ABC News could not reach Lee for comment, either.

The court decision states that a defendant “who has been noted in default is deemed to admit the truth of all allegations of fact made in the statement of claim,” meaning that she did not fight or deny the allegations in court.

"Mr Abramovitz was completely taken in by this deception," the decision states.

Abramovitz has been performing as part of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, but told Buzzfeed that he recently accepted a position with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and will be returning to Canada.

"It's very hard to know what my path would have been had this not happened," he told Buzzfeed. "But I am happy and proud of myself because I landed on my feet. I have no regrets. I have always aspired to make a living doing what I love, and I have, so I am very fortunate."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jun152018

Stephen Hawking's ashes buried at Westminster Abbey

Ben Stansall - WPA Pool /Getty Images(LONDON) -- Stephen Hawking, a giant of science and celebrated British physicist who died in March, was honored Friday before more than 1,000 people at London’s Westminster Abbey, where his ashes were buried.

Hawking, who died at 76 after a lifelong battle against terminal motor neuron disease, was a groundbreaking physicist and mathematician.

Studying at Oxford and Cambridge University, he was diagnosed with the debilitating illness at age 21.

At the time, doctors expected him to be dead in another two years.

More than 3,000 people have been buried or commemorated at London’s Westminster Abbey, one of the capital’s most historic and recognized landmarks.

In a section of the Abbey lies Poets’ Corner, where a number of distinguished poets and playwrights are buried, and nearby is Scientists’ Corner where some of Britain’s greatest scientists and thinkers are buried.

Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Charles Darwin are buried in Scientists’ Corner, and it is between their graves that Hawking’s ashes were buried beneath a stone seal engraved with his most famous equation describing the entropy of a black hole with the words, “Here lies what was mortal of Stephen Hawking, 1942-2018.”

More than 100 nationalities were represented among the congregation for the service, and more than 25,000 applied for the lottery of 1,000 tickets to attend.

The ceremony featured readings from British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Hawking in a 2004 biopic, and the British astronaut Maj. Tim Peake.

As part of the ceremony, a recording of Hawking’s words was set to music by Vangelis, the Greek composer who created the theme music for the 1981 film “Chariots of Fire.”

The broadcast is to be beamed into the nearest black hole, 1A 0620-00, by the European Space Agency via a satellite in Spain.

His daughter Lucy said his words were “a message of peace and hope, about unity and the need for us to live together in harmony on this planet.”

Among his work, Hawking was best known for his research on black holes, and his theory that they emitted radiation that came to be known as “Hawking’s radiation.”

His landmark book, “A Brief History of Time,” has sold more than 10 million copies.

Hawking wrote the book in order to help explain the structure and origin of the universe to everyday readers with little background knowledge of physics or cosmology.

Among the guests who attended Friday were volunteers from the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and a number of disability activists, who paid tribute to Hawking’s fortitude, perseverance and unerring dedication to science as the disease slowly claimed all use of his limbs and muscles, eventually leading him to rely on a synthesizer to communicate.

One guest was Rose Brown, a student from the National Star College in England, which is for young people with disabilities.

She, like Hawking, spoke through a synthesizer and paid tribute to the late professor:

“I’m going to be an actress; everybody who puts their mind to something gets to be it. Stephen Hawking proved that more than anyone.”

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