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Sunday
Sep222019

North Korean mother and son defectors die of suspected starvation in Seoul

Hakyung Kate Lee/ABC News(SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA) -- A mother and son who defected from North Korea are believed to have died of starvation after their bodies were uncovered two months after they were last seen.

"We are sorry" wailed women in black at a funeral for Han Sung Ok and her 6-year-old son. The women who were mourning were North Korean defectors who had never met the deceased before but they claimed the same death could have occurred to one of them and that it was their fault that the victims died so isolated.

It was near the end of July when Han and her son were found dead in their small, rented apartment. A water meter inspector smelled the stench of their decomposing bodies and notified the janitor.

The bodies were so badly decomposed that the National Forensics Service could not conclusively identify the cause of death after the bodies went undiscovered for over two months, according to police. It is assumed that Han died of starvation.

"A defector mother and son died of starvation in the flourishing democratic Korea. This is nonsensical and heartbreaking," Heo Kwang-il, who leads the North Korean defectors’ emergency committee, read in his eulogy for the mother and son. "Such tragedy took place in the midst of the authorities’ indifference."

Hundreds mourned at the funeral which took place in central Seoul. North Korean defectors, who voluntarily formed an emergency response committee after Han’s death, hosted the ceremony.

Defectors spoke of their guilty conscience for not knowing about a fellow North Korean defector’s hardships in life.

Mourning music and a poetry recital followed the eulogy as mourners offered their apologies to Han and her son. The funeral procession then headed for the presidential office but a barricade that had already been installed prevented them from approaching any further.

"Life has become even more difficult for North Korean defectors, this mother and son dying from starvation in the economically developed country of Korea," Kim Heung Kwang said during a speech in front of the presidential office.

Han entered Seoul 10 years ago as a defector and she gave birth to a son with her Chinese husband who she met before coming to South Korea. The funeral for Han and her son was delayed as the defectors’ emergency committee failed to reach an agreement with authorities on the procedure and size, according to Heo.

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Sunday
Sep222019

Louisiana man drowns after underwater marriage proposal, girlfriend says

Facebook/Kenesha Antoine(KONDE, Tanzania) -- A Louisiana man reportedly drowned after he asked his girlfriend to marry him in an underwater proposal, she said in a social media post.

"You never emerged from those depths, so you never got to hear my answer, 'Yes! Yes! A million times, yes, I will marry you!!'" his girlfriend, Kenesha Antoine, wrote in an emotional Facebook post on Friday announcing the death.

Steven Weber Jr., of Baton Rouge, died after he appeared to swim up to meet Antoine, she said.

Antoine recorded the proposal and could be heard excitedly giggling as Weber put a note on a glass window that read, "I can’t hold my breath long enough to tell you everything I love about you but ... everything I love about you, I love more every day," according to Antoine's Facebook post.

The back of the note read, "Will you please be my wife. Marry me???"

He can then be seen pulling a ring out of his pocket and, seconds after, seemingly attempts to heads back up for air, according to the girlfriend's post.

"We never got to embrace and celebrate the beginning of the rest of our lives together, as the best day of our lives turned into the worst, in the cruelest twist of fate imaginable," Antoine said.

The couple was vacationing at The Manta Resort on Pemba Island in Tanzania. The resort confirmed to ABC News that a "male guest tragically drowned while free diving alone outside the underwater room."

The circumstances of his death, which the resort said was accidental, were not immediately clear. Both Antoine and Weber’s family did not respond to ABC News for comment.

"Our sincerest condolences, thoughts and prayers are with his girlfriend, families and friends impacted by this tragic accident," the resort said in a statement.

The U.S. State Department confirmed to ABC News they were "aware of reports of the death of a U.S. citizen in Tanzania."

"We offer our sincerest condolences to the family on their loss," the department said, without commenting further.

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Saturday
Sep212019

Greek authorities arrest suspect in connection to 1985 hijacking of TWA flight

Bychykhin_Olexandr/iStock(NEW YORK) --  A 65-year-old man linked to the 1985 hijacking of a Trans World Airlines flight, an attack during which a U.S. Navy diver was killed, has been arrested in Greece.

Hamadei Saleh Mohammed Ali, a Lebanese citizen, was apprehended on Thursday during a routine passport check in Mykonos, the last stop in Greece before traveling to Turkey on a cruise ship, an official with the Greek Ministry of the Interior told ABC News.

After the arrest, which came in response to a warrant issued by Germany, the suspect was transferred to Syros and taken to Korydallos high-security prison in Athens, the official said.

The suspect, whose fingerprints have been sent to Germany for further examination, denied that he was involved in the hijacking of TWA Flight 847, which was overtaken shortly after leaving Athens on June 14, 1985.

The Navy diver, Robert Stethem, 23, was beaten unconscious and later shot to death by the hijackers, who eventually released the other 146 passengers and crew members.

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Saturday
Sep212019

Paris police use tear gas on Yellow Vest protesters as climate march turns violent

iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- Paris police used tear gas against Yellow Vest protesters for the second time Saturday to prevent further riots during what was a peaceful climate march.

The march, which was protesting government and corporation greenhouse gas emissions, quickly turned violent when dozens of people dressed in black "mixed into the crowd," set a barricade on fire and broke a bank window, according to The Associated Press.

Police, according to the AP, have arrested at least 106 people Saturday. French officials deployed more than 7,000 officers.

The yellow vests movement began in November 2018 to protest a proposed gas from French President Emmanuel Macron. It later turned into a wider protest on French income inequality.

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Friday
Sep202019

Trump orders additional air defense troops to Saudi Arabia

Sgt. Zachary Mott/U.S. Army(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump has approved a "modest deployment" of American troops and air and missile defense systems to Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of last weekend's attack on Saudi oil facilities that the U.S. has blamed on Iran, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced at a hastily called Pentagon press conference on Friday night.

Trump's decision to deploy troops to Saudi Arabia followed a high-level national security meeting at the White House on Friday afternoon.

Esper said Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had requested international support to help protect critical infrastructure. In addition to the troops and weapons systems headed to Saudi Arabia, the U.S. also will expedite weapons purchases.

"In response to the Kingdoms' request," Esper said, "the president has approved the deployment of U.S.forces, which will be defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defense."

The exact number of weapons systems and troops remains to be determined and may not be finalized until early next week, said Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who added that the size of the force would not be in the "thousands."

Esper called last weekend's attack a "dramatic escalation of Iranian aggression" and said all indications are that Iran was responsible.

"The United States does not seek conflict with Iran," said Esper, who added that the U.S. has military options should they become necessary.

Esper called the deployment of U.S. troops and air defense equipment a "first step" and called on other members of the international community to "stand up" and consider also providing additional defensive support. Dunford said the deployment would enhance Saudi Arabia's air missile defense systems.

 The U.S. currently has a Patriot missile defense battalion with about 600 troops at Prince Sultan air base outside of Riyadh that was deployed in late May after a series of commercial tankers were attacked by Iran in the Persian Gulf.

With a 100-mile range, that air defense system was not capable of defending the attack on the facilities approximately 200 miles away that briefly disrupted 5% of the world's oil supply. Saudi Patriot air defense systems are deployed to the southern part of the country to defend against ballistic missile attacks by the Houthi rebels in Yemen, not oriented toward Iranian provocations from the north.

Earlier on Friday, Trump announced sanctions on Iran's national bank he described as "the highest sanctions ever imposed on a country."

"This will mean no more funds going to the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] to fund terror. This is on top of our oil sanctions and our financial institution sanctions," said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. "This is very big. We've now cut off all source of funds to Iran."

On Friday afternoon, the president convened a meeting of his senior advisers to consider options to retaliate against Iran for the strike. Those options reportedly included everything from the deployment of more U.S. forces to help defend the Saudis, no additional forces, a limited proportional airstrike, no military action or striking a broader range of targets.

In earlier national security meetings, officials had decided to let the Saudis take the lead.

The U.S. is "always prepared" to use a military option against Iran, the president said in the Oval Office on Friday ahead of the meeting.

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Friday
Sep202019

How Justin Trudeau's blackface scandal may hurt his re-election -- or not

alexsl/iStock(TORONTO) -- For some politicians, being photographed dressing in black or brown face multiple times would be automatically devastating to a political campaign.

Some Canadian experts say that might not be the case for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, however.

As Trudeau continues to wage his re-election bid amid a scandal surrounding three known incidents where he made himself appear as a different race, experts are evaluating how much of an impact they will have on his campaign. For the most part, many expect it to be damaging but not disastrous.

"This blackface brown face scandal goes to issues of credibility with him and issues of perceptions in the Canadian population also about his priorities," Drew Fagan, a professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, told ABC News, pointing to some alleged criticisms among some Canadians that Trudeau has prioritized global issues rather than domestic ones during his tenure.

Fagan said those concerns are not the ones that would be revived as a result of the photo and video scandal, however.

"Where this issue is a chink in the armor for him is a sense that some of the population has that he’s hypocritical," he said, noting how Trudeau has been quick to admonish his peers and fellow politicians about missteps and pointing out how his party has allegedly been digging up old videos of opponents as well.

Comparisons between Trudeau and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who was at the center of his own blackface photo scandal earlier this year, have been plentiful, but Fagan said the two cases are "a little bit different because of the different historical context."

Dr. Charmaine Nelson is an art history professor at McGill University in Montreal. She said that "as a black woman who teaches Canadian slavery and histories of black representation in western art and popular culture, I am profoundly aware of blackface minstrelsy as a Canadian practice and also aware of how frequently white Canadians deny such histories by shifting them onto the U.S.A."

Nelson told ABC News via email that she believes that many Canadians "know little about" their country’s history of slavery under the French and British until 1833, "and instead we routinely celebrate the Underground Railroad (1833-1861) and embrace curriculum and narratives that position us simply as a multicultural and color-blind society."

"But the lived reality for black, Indigenous and people of color Canadians is different from the rhetoric of racial inclusivity," Nelson wrote.

Shama Rangwala, a faculty lecturer at the University of Alberta, told ABC News’ "Start Here" podcast that the scandal is quite significant because "Canadians like to be pretty smug about being nice and everyone gets along."

"I think a lot of people who experience racism in Canada are maybe not surprised, but I think that Canadian liberals who have this mythologized, idealized version of Canada are really feeling their world shaken by this," Rangwala said.

However, she said she was "not sure how much it will affect the election itself."

Fagan seemed to agree, saying, "I don’t think it will be a deciding factor."

"I think the liberals still have an advantage, but it’s a fairly slight one. It’s more of a battle than many people thought there should have been. It certainly has knocked his campaign off stride," Fagan said.

Nelson said that there are different reasons why "Trudeau’s clearly racist behavior" will not change people’s minds about him.

"For many white Canadians, they simply do not see his acts as racist at all or as racist enough for them to change their vote. While for many black Canadians, we understand that we can't afford to vote for a party like the Conservatives who have never acknowledged the reality of Canada as a nation with a problem of deep-seated systemic and institutional racism and bias, at a moment when too many of the world's western governments are moving to the far right," Nelson said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep202019

Amnesty International accuses Hong Kong police of beating, torturing protesters 

LewisTsePuiLung/iStock(HONG KONG) -- Amnesty International has documented "reckless and indiscriminate tactics" used by the Hong Kong police in responding to 15 weeks of anti-government protests.

The London-based human rights group claims detained protesters have been tortured, too.

“The Hong Kong police’s heavy-handed crowd-control response on the streets has been live-streamed for the world to see. Much less visible is the plethora of police abuses against protesters that take place out of sight,” Amnesty's East Asia Director Nicholas Bequelin said in a report.

“The evidence leaves little room for doubt – in an apparent thirst for retaliation, Hong Kong’s security forces have engaged in a disturbing pattern of reckless and unlawful tactics against people during the protests," the report read. "This has included arbitrary arrests and retaliatory violence against arrested persons in custody, some of which has amounted to torture.”

Amnesty International is calling for an independent investigation after interviewing nearly two dozen people who were arrested, along with lawyers, health workers and others.

Most of the detainees who spoke came forward requested anonymity because they "fear reprisals from the authorities amid a climate of impunity," the group said.

In a statement to the Reuters news agency, responding to the report, police said they have respected the “privacy, dignity and rights” of those in custody and allowed those detained to be in contact with lawyers and their families.

“The force to be used by police shall be the minimum force necessary for achieving a lawful purpose,” police said, according to Reuters.

The protests began June 9, when hundreds of thousands of mostly young people marched against a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed individuals to be sent from semi-autonomous Hong Kong to mainland China for trial. Hong Kong executive leader Carrie Lam has since pulled the bill from consideration, but the movement has continued and protesters' demands have expanded to include a call for an investigation into police brutality and universal suffrage.

Amnesty said that more than 1,300 people have been arrested since the protests began.

The group said it had documented cases of people being beaten in custody. One man who was detained at a police station following a protest in August told Amnesty he was severely beaten and told that if he tried to protect himself, police would break his hands, according to the report.

"I felt my legs hit with something really hard," Amnesty quoted him as saying. "Then one [officer] flipped me over and put his knees on my chest. I felt the pain in my bones and couldn’t breathe. I tried to shout but I couldn’t breathe and couldn’t talk."

The group said he was then hospitalized for several days with a bone fracture and internal bleeding.

Amnesty also highlighted the case of another protester who said she was being clubbed with a police baton as she ran from officers. She accused police of continuing to beat her even after she was put in restraints, according to the group.

 “Time and again, police officers meted out violence prior to and during arrests, even when the individual had been restrained or detained. The use of force was therefore clearly excessive, violating international human rights law,” Bequelin said.

“Given the pervasiveness of the abuses we found, it is clear that the Hong Kong Police Force is no longer in a position to investigate itself and remedy the widespread unlawful suppression of protesters. Amnesty International is urgently calling for an independent, impartial investigation aimed at delivering prosecutions, justice and reparation, as there is little trust in existing internal mechanisms such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC),” he added.

On Tuesday, three pro-democracy activists from Hong Kong will address the U.S. Congress, as it weighs two pieces of legislation to boost the protest movement.

Both bills have bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

The PROTECT Hong Kong Act would prohibit U.S. exports of police equipment there, including tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and more. The second bill, called the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, requires the administration to produce reports on the status of human rights and rule of law and of export controls in Hong Kong, requests that the State Department not deny visas to Hong Kongers for being arrested for protesting, and requires sanctions on those "responsible for the erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy and serious abuses of human rights."

Joshua Wong, one of the 2014 Umbrella Movement leaders who was recently arrested for his role in the current protests, will testify before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, along with pro-democracy activist Denise Ho and student group spokesperson Sunny Cheung. Wong will urge lawmakers to pass the legislation, arguing it has "broad support" in Hong Kong, according to prepared remarks obtained by ABC News.

The legislation would be the most significant show of external support the demonstrators have received, but one that China has blasted and warned the U.S. not to take.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep202019

British military rugby team apologizes after visiting controversial shrine for war criminals in Japan 

Ismailciydem/iStock(TOKYO) -- A British military rugby team on tour in Japan has apologized for visiting a controversial military shrine honoring Japanese soldiers, among them war criminals.

The U.K. Armed Forces Rugby team is in Japan for the 3rd International Defence Force Rugby Cup, which overlaps with the Rugby World Cup.

The team has been keeping their fans updated on their progress in the tournament with photos and videos on social media but it was a photo of one of their down-time activities posted on their Twitter account that caused the backlash.

The posts in question have now been taken down, but not before the British Ambassador to Japan intervened, according to the Times, which first reported the story.

 “It was very, very naive,” Commander Arty Shaw, who organized the visit, told the Times. “The ambassador had a word or two, so we’ve been told not to visit any more shrines, just in case.”

The team went on a “cultural visit” to Tokyo Tower and the Yasukuni shrine, on Sept. 13 according to a Twitter post from a member of the team which has since been taken offline. The photos show the team posing in front of the complex’s main Yasukuni Shrine.

Some Twitter users were positive, and one even thanked the rugby team for their trip, but others were less positive. “Are you aware of the Yasukuni shrine controversy?” asked one. “Did anyone inform you that Class A war criminals from WW2 have been enshrined there and it's now the symbol of far-right historical revisionists denying war crimes such as Nanjing Massacre?”

“Are you aware of the Yasukuni shrine controversy? Did anyone inform you that Class A war criminals from WW2 have been enshrined there and it's now the symbol of far-right historical revisionists denying war crimes such as Nanjing Massacre?”

The current shrine was established towards the end of the 19th century to “commemorate and honor the achievements of those who dedicated their precious lives to their country,” according to the shrine’s website. The souls of 2,466,000 people are honored in the complex, where they are treated as “divinities.”

But among these are 14 Japanese soldiers convicted of war crimes by the International Tribunal for the Far East following World War II. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe skipped a visit to the shrine this year on the anniversary of the Japanese surrender. Visits by previous prime ministers have provoked angry reactions from South Korea and China.

“What the museum can offer on a personal level is a fascinating journey from their military history to where they are now,” Commander Shaw told the Times. “But we didn’t realize the sensitivity [for] specific nations in particular. We know now.”

The British team beat France on Sept. 19 to make it into the finals of the world cup. They will play the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Rugby Team on Monday, Sept. 23.

The U.K.’s Ministry of Defence describes the competition between various countries’ military teams as a way to “facilitate mutual understanding and exchange among armed forces.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep202019

Beijing's new 'starfish' airport set to open

ansonmiao/iStock(BEIJING) -- Beijing’s new massive international airport nicknamed “The Starfish” is set to officially open its doors on Sept. 30. But the first commercial test flights were already scheduled for Friday.

Officially called Beijing Daxing International Airport with the airport code PKX, the airport has been five years in the making. It's opening just in time for Oct. 1, the 70th anniversary of Communist Party rule.

The new airport is expected to relieve some of operational pressures at the existing Beijing Capital International Airport and could help Beijing become the largest aviation hub in the world. China is expected to overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest air travel market by 2022.

Crew members participate in a drill at Beijing Daxing International Airport on Aug. 30, 2019, in Beijing, China.

ABC News joined a media tour last winter to visit the airport while it was still under construction. The project, which started in December 2014, was completed at the end of June, costing an estimated $12 billion.

The airport's unique shape resembling a starfish also sits on the world's largest airport site. It will open with four runways handling 300 takeoffs and landings an hour with plans to expand to seven runways.

The starfish shape, consisting of five concourses attached to the main hall, is aimed at reducing the walking distance between security and the gates. The airport construction team promised no more than 8 minutes of walking to get to your gate.

Despite its distance from the center of Beijing, the airport will be connected by an express train and China’s high-speed railway system in time for the 2022 Winter Games.

So far only four Chinese airlines have been given the go-ahead by Chinese civil aviation authorities to operate flights out of the new airport.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep202019

Trump: 'Nothing wrong' with Ukraine call sources say is focus of intel complaint

MicroStockHub/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's phone call with a foreign leader that has become the focus of a complaint to the director of national intelligence's inspector general involved Ukraine, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

Trump reacted Friday, tweeting, "there was nothing said wrong, it was pitch perfect!"

According to a readout released from the White House, Trump spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25 "to congratulate him on his recent election."

A more extensive readout from the Ukrainian president's office, however, noted that the two also spoke about "investigations into corruption cases that have hampered interaction between Ukraine and the U.S.A."

The president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has publicly and privately urged in recent months for Ukrainian officials to investigate ties between former Vice President Joe Biden's diplomatic efforts in the country and any connections between his son's business ventures.

In his tweets Friday morning, Trump began by attacking the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, who's demanding details of the complaint.

"The Radical Left Democrats and their Fake News Media partners, headed up again by Little Adam Schiff, and batting Zero for 21 against me, are at it again! They think I may have had a “dicey” conversation with a certain foreign leader based on a “highly partisan” whistleblowers ... statement," he said.

"Strange that with so many other people hearing or knowing of the perfectly fine and respectful conversation, that they would not have also come forward. Do you know the reason why they did not? Because there was nothing said wrong, it was pitch perfect!" Trump said.

The Washington Post was first to report the news.

It remains unclear the exact details of the call.

DNI Inspector General Michael Atkinson in a Sep. 9 letter to the House Intelligence Committee said that the complaint rose to a level of "urgent concern" and "appeared credible" enough to warrant the notification of Congress.

The DNI's general counsel and the Department of Justice, however, has disputed that characterization of the complaint, resulting in a constitutional showdown between members of Congress and the Trump administration regarding matters of potentially privileged material.

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