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Tuesday
Oct162018

Trump: Saudi crown prince 'totally denied any knowledge' of what happened to Jamal Khashoggi

Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Saudi Arabia's young crown prince is again denying any involvement in the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, according to President Donald Trump, who tweeted that he spoke with him and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Tuesday after dispatching the top U.S. diplomat to the region amid international outrage over Khashoggi's possible death.

"Answers will be forthcoming shortly," Trump added.

In photo-ops with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Pompeo greeted them warmly, even as the Saudis weigh whether to accept culpability for Khashoggi's death, a source with knowledge of their discussions told ABC News.

It was unclear what explanation they would give or when that statement would come, but Turkey has said they believe Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The Saudis have fiercely denied that charge, with the Trump administration urging caution until an investigation can take place. But while the Saudis said Khashoggi left the consulate and disappeared later, there's no evidence that he ever exited the compound after entering 14 days ago.

Pompeo "made clear" to the Saudis that Trump takes the case very seriously, according to State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, who called his meetings "both direct and candid."

But Trump seemed to have an answer he approved, tweeting that with Pompeo joining him on the phone, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate... He has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter."

On Monday, he said "rogue killers" could be responsible, even though there has been no confirmation yet that Khashoggi is dead.

Pompeo will head to Turkey's capital Ankara on Wednesday to discuss Khashoggi's case with Turkish officials, including Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu.

In his first meeting Tuesday with King Salman, Pompeo had words of thanks, Nauert said, for Saudi's "strong partnership" and "his commitment to supporting a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation." The importance of that investigation was something Pompeo and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also agreed on, Nauert said.

But it's the crown prince or "MBS," as he is sometimes known, that members of Congress and other U.S. officials worry ordered the plot against Khashoggi.

Painted as a bright, young reformer who has opened up Saudi Arabia to movie theaters, sporting events, and women driving, the crown prince has also overseen a crackdown on political opposition, including by arresting several wealthy Saudi princes, and activists, including women's rights advocates.

Media reporting of his alleged involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance and possible death has strengthened that darker image of a ruthless young leader.

"I'm not going back to Saudi Arabia as long as this guy's in charge," said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a staunch supporter of U.S.-Saudi relations and close ally of Trump's. "This guy is a wrecking ball. He had this guy murdered in a consulate in Turkey, and to expect me to ignore it – I feel used and abused."

"I'm going to sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia. You know, we deal with bad people all the time, but this is in our face. I feel personally offended. They have nothing but contempt for us," Graham told Fox News Tuesday, adding the crown prince "has got to go."

That kind of language was once unheard of from a high-level Republican official, especially one as senior in foreign policy circles.

The tone from Pompeo's trip was noticeably different. He smiled and shook hands with King Salman and the crown prince, with whom he joked about jetlag.

"We are really strong and old allies, so we face our challenges together -- the past, the day of, tomorrow," MBS told Pompeo, who nodded along and responded, "Absolutely."

Pompeo's meetings during the day all lasted around 30 minutes, but in the evening he'll have dinner with the crown prince, which is expected to be a longer affair.

Ahead of Pompeo's visit to Ankara, the U.S. had welcomed Turkey and Saudi Arabia announcing a "joint inspection" of the consulate, and the first Turkish police officials were able to enter the compound Monday.

So far the investigation has not yielded any publicly released results, but an official told ABC News on Monday that the Saudis are considering whether to claim involvement.

The U.S. has declined to comment on that possibility.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct162018

US service member killed in fighter crash in Ukraine

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. military service member was killed in the crash of a Ukrainian Air Force fighter jet in Ukraine on Tuesday. A Ukrainian Air Force pilot was also killed during what the Ukrainian Defense Ministry called "a training and combat flight."

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry confirmed in a statement that an SU-27 fighter jet had crashed Tuesday afternoon "in the area of Ulanov, between the settlements of Berdychiv and Khmilnyk."

According to an English translation of the statement "the airplane Su-27UB of the Air Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has crashed during the training and combat flight."

"We regret to report that according to the information of the search and rescue team, the bodies of two pilots have been found," said the statement.

U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) confirmed that an American military service member was aboard the Ukrainian Air Force SU-27 that crashed.

“We have seen reports claiming a U.S. casualty and can confirm a U.S. service member was involved in this incident," said a USAFE spokesperson. "It is currently under investigation and we will continue to provide more information as it becomes available.”

U.S. Air Force pilots are currently in Ukraine participating in a large-scale multi-national aviation exercise known as "Clear Sky" involving close to 1,000 personnel from NATO countries.

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Tuesday
Oct162018

US military says 60 militants killed in Somalia airstrike

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. military airstrike in central Somalia this weekend killed 60 Al Shabab fighters, the largest airstrike targeting the al-Qaeda affiliated terror group in more than a year, officials said Tuesday.

U.S. Africa Command said in a statement that the strike occurred on October 12 near Harardere, a town 250 miles north of Mogadishu.

“We currently assess this airstrike killed approximately sixty (60) terrorists,” said the statement. “This precision airstrike was the largest airstrike against al-Shabaab since November 21, 2017, when U.S. forces conducted an airstrike against an al-Shabaab camp killing approximately 100 terrorists.”

“We also currently assess this airstrike did not injure or kill any civilians,” it added.

Airstrikes in Somalia are usually carried out by unmanned Reaper drones and are small in scope.

U.S. Africa Command is authorized to conduct self-defense strikes in situations when African Union or Somali government troops accompanied by U.S. advisers came under attack.

They are also authorized to conduct offensive airstrikes in the southern part of the country targeting al Shabab safe havens.

Africom had disclosed the airstrike on October 12, but had provided no details other than to say “we are currently assessing the results of this airstrike.”

The Nov. 21, 2017, airstrike targeted an al Shabab training camp in southern Somalia and occurred during a time when there was an uptick in the number of airstrikes against the militant group.

There are about 500 U.S. military personnel in Somalia participating in an advise and assist mission with the Somali military.

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Tuesday
Oct162018

Dutch museum invites world to watch Rembrandt restoration 

Rijksmuseum(AMSTERDAM) -- The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam announced plans Tuesday to give the public the chance to see the restoration of a Rembrandt painting next year in a process that will be livestreamed to people around the world.

“The Night Watch,” commissioned in 1642 by members of Amsterdam’s civic guard, is Rembrandt’s only painting of a militia group. It will undergo research and restoration process that could take years beginning in July 2019, and people will be able to watch both online and in the museum.

“This research and restoration will be carried out with the world watching. So everyone in the world, no matter where you are, can watch,” said Taco Dibbits, the director of the Rijksmuseum, in a video announcing the project. “Because ‘The Night Watch’ belongs to all of us.”

The project is part of “The Year of Rembrandt,” a campaign by the museum to mark the 350th anniversary of the artist’s death in 2019.

“The Night Watch” was last restored in 1975 after a Dutch teacher slashed the painting with a knife at the Rijksmuseum.

“We’ve got techniques now we couldn’t have dreamed of the last time it was restored over forty years ago,” Dibbits told ABC News. “It will tell us how Rembrandt painted it. It will give us an insight into his creative process and how we can preserve it best for the future.”

Using advanced technology including imaging techniques, high-resolution photography and highly advanced computer analysis, the museum will analyze the painting for the best way to restore the damages it has incurred with time.

The painting will be protected by a state-of-the-art glass case throughout the restoration period.

On the decision to make the restoration accessible to the masses, Dibbits said over 2 million people go to visit the painting every year, and “the public has the right to know what’s happening to the painting.”

Dibbits added that the intricate process will have a “meditative quality” for those streaming online, and that the painting itself has a quality that “still very much appeals today.”

“It’s a painting about the complete rebellion of Rembrandt. The genius of him doing something completely new was very important for the history of art. Historically it’s very important because these men of the Golden Age made the country,” said Dibbits. “The end result will be spectacular.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct162018

Russian church breaks away from wider Orthodox community in seismic rift over Ukraine

NIKOLAY PETROV/AFP/Getty Images(MINSK, Belarus) -- Officials from the Russian Orthodox Church have announced that the church is severing relations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, in what is being seen as one of the biggest schisms in Orthodox Christianity in almost a thousand years.

At a synod in Belarus on Monday, Russian Orthodox Church leaders said the church was cutting ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the seat of the global spiritual leader for 300 million Orthodox worshippers.

The rupture is a response by the Russian Church over the Constantinople Patriarchate’s decision last week to recognize the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as an independent church -- no longer under the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate, according to church officials.

Bartholomew I of Constantinople, considered the ‘first among equals’ of eastern Orthodoxy’s church leaders, granted what is known as ‘autocephaly’ (self-governance) to the Ukrainian Church, over the fierce objections of Moscow.

Metropolitan Ilarion, the Moscow Patriarchate’s head of external relations, on Tuesday said that in doing so the Constantinople Patriarchate had destroyed its authority and that the Orthodox Church no longer had a single center.

“We now stand before a new church reality: we no longer have a single coordinating center in the Orthodox Church and we must very clearly recognize that,” Ilarion said in a televised interview on Russia’s main state broadcaster, Channel 1.

“The Constantinople Patriarchate liquidated itself as such a center,” he said.

The split marks a historic turning point for the global Orthodox community, but it is the result of the collapse in relations between Russia and Ukraine of the past four years that followed Moscow's seizure of Crimea in 2014 and the subsequent separatist war in eastern Ukraine, which is ongoing.

Ukraine’s government has lobbied for an independent church on the grounds that the Russian Orthodox Church is an instrument of the Kremlin, accusing it of stoking separatist sentiment in eastern Ukraine and of acting on behalf of Russia's intelligence services.

Bartholomew’s decision recognized a Ukrainian church that had sought to break from the Moscow Patriarchate since 1991, when Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union. Ukraine’s government hailed the recognition as major step in bringing Ukraine further out of Russian dominion.

“This is a matter of our independence," Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko said in a speech celebrating the recognition on October 11. "A matter of our national security. A matter of our statehood. A matter of the entire global geopolitics.”

“This is the fall of the ‘Third Rome’ as the most ancient conceptual claim of Moscow for global domination,” Poroshenko said, referring to a claim made by Russian nationalists for centuries that the country is the heir to the Roman and Byzantine Christian empires.

The Moscow Patriarchate, however, has denounced the Ukrainian church’s recognition as provoking a split comparable to the so-called ‘Great Schism’ of 1054, when Christianity separated into western and eastern churches.

The Russian church is by far the largest of the world’s Orthodox communities and for most of its centuries-long history has been closely tied to the Russian state. President Vladimir Putin has promoted the church as a key part of modern Russian identity and its leader, Patriarch Kirill, is a close ally of the Russian leader.

The Russian church's breakaway is therefore a major upheaval for global Orthodoxy. The practical implications were still being worked out by ecclesiastical experts on Tuesday, but Russian church officials suggested the most immediate effect would be that its faithful should no longer attend services at churches under the authority of Constantinople. That would include one of the holiest sites in Orthodoxy, the Greek island monastery, Mount Athos.

Archpriest Igor Yakimchuk, the Moscow Patriarchate’s deputy head of external relations, told the Interfax news agency that Russian worshippers visiting those churches, many of which are popular tourist sites in Greece and Turkey, would have to make penance with confession afterwards, but church officials seemed to suggest there is no total ban. Russian Orthodox priests are now forbidden from taking part in services there and would be punished, Yakimchuk said.

The Moscow Patriarchate and Constantinople have had strained relations for some time as Moscow has sought to expand its authority within Orthodoxy. In 2016, Patriarch Kirill met Pope Francis in Cuba, the first time a Russian Orthodox patriarch and a Roman Catholic Pope have done so in 1,000 years -- in what was seen by some experts as a power play by the Russian church.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct162018

Elephants, drones and cologne employed in hunt for Bengal tiger blamed in 13 deaths

Maharashtra Forest Department(PANDHARKAWADA, India) -- The crackle of wireless phone static merged with the buzzing of jungle flies as a group of seven men in olive green uniforms combed through the forests around the Indian village of Pandharkawada.

The men, most armed with batons and one with a gun, could have been mistaken for an army platoon. But these men weren’t military, they were working for India’s forest department and their operation was to find "T1," a 6-year-old female tiger officials believe is responsible for the deaths of 13 people.

"A sequence of human killings was noticed from June 2016 onward. In the beginning, our staff did not think that this is a very serious thing," AK Misra, principal chief conservator of forests, told ABC News. "We took the first few cases as routine, the cases that sometime occur as a result of human-animal conflict."

However, the animal-inflicted deaths turned out to be anything but routine. They were the first in a chain of human killings in the region called Yavatmal, usually known for its cotton plantations and abundant sunshine.

The hunt for T1 commenced in earnest about a year ago. Officials said they underestimated the scale of the task at first.

"She is a very clever tigress. She is killing the baits, but if the slightest disturbance is there, she doesn’t come there at all," Sunia Limaye, the additional principal chief conservator of forests, who has been working closely on the operation, told ABC News.

The tiger has strayed away from the areas that are usually exclusive forest areas to an area that has a "honeycomb" layout in Pandharkawada, officials believe. In this area, it is hard to tell where forest land ends and farmland begin.

The killings have struck fear in the hearts of people in the more than 25 villages in the area, many of whom are cattle herders and cotton farmers.

Ram Krishna Lonkar, a farmer from one of the neighboring villages, showed ABC News the site of the last killing.

"I was returning home from the fields and saw a crowd had gathered here, right at this spot," he said. "The tigress had attacked a farmer and killed him."

Other farmers described how the tigress dragged the man’s body from one side of the road to another.

"In the beginning, it may have accidentally killed some people," Misra said. "But in the last three to four cases, we have noticed that, in one case, it dragged the human body for quite a long time. Then in another case, it ate up almost 60 to 70 percent of the body. That’s when we thought 'This is not the normal behavior of the tiger.'"

What’s made the operation even more complicated is the presence of two cubs. Camera trap images have revealed that the tigress gave birth to the two cubs over the past year. Officials estimate they are 9 to 10 months old and she has become more elusive in that time.

Over the past few weeks, the operation has come under a lot of pressure as officials have tried many tactics to trap the tiger and failed. The forest department has deployed 104 camera traps, specialized sniffer dogs, a paraglider to try and see the tigress from the air, elephants and thermal imaging drones. Some reports said they even tried designer cologne.

"We are also using PIPs, or pug impression pads," Misra said. "An area of land is cleared and if any animal moves across that area, its foot impression is recorded."

A special hunter from the Indian city of Hyderabad was also called in to help manage the situation.

Animal right advocates have named the tiger Avni and have been protesting the operation to capture or kill her, creating campaigns on social media under the name "Let Avni Live." Actors, politicians and locals in cities like Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai have weighed in and posted videos on Facebook urging authorities not to shoot the animal.

India’s Supreme Court, the country's highest court, ruled that it would not interfere if authorities were forced to shoot the tigress while trying to capture her.

"My order says tranquilizing efforts should be made," Misra said. "If all the tranquilizing efforts fail, then shooting. So it is a very guarded order."

Many of his colleagues at the makeshift base camp being used as a command center for the operation expressed support for the plan. As the sun set over the large forest, guards said they were hopeful all of this would be over soon.

"The season is on our side," one guard said.

As the rainy season passes giving way to a drier harvest season, the Lantana plants in the area will slowly become less dense and other vegetation will likely recede giving authorities better visibility in these areas. Authorities believe it will be easier to find the tiger when the area is clearer.

Until then, the central India district remains on high alert for the most-wanted animal.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct162018

A robot presented evidence about artificial intelligence to a British Parliament committee

Alexander Koerner/Getty Images(LONDON) -- A robot named Pepper made history in the U.K. Tuesday as it presented evidence to the Houses of Parliament.

Pepper, who is the resident robot at Middlesex University in London, spoke to the Members of Parliament, or MPs, about the future of artificial intelligence in caregiving for the elderly.

"Good morning, chair, thank you for inviting me to give evidence today," Pepper said during a parliamentary hearing on the "Fourth Industrial Revolution." "Assistive intelligent robots for older people could relieve pressure in hospitals, in care homes, as well as improve the care delivery at home and promote the independent living for the elderly people."

In order to make robots to be more "acceptable" as caregivers, Pepper added that "it is essential that they can be programmed to adapt to diverse backgrounds."

The robot is part of an international research project funded by Japan and the EU to develop the world’s first "culturally aware" robots, according to Middlesex University.

Professor Martin Loomes, the university’s executive dean of science and technology who gave evidence to the education committee alongside Pepper, believes this is an important view of tasks robots can do, beyond commonly accepted roles.

"A traditional view of robots is that they will automate simple, repetitive tasks on a production line," he said in a statement from Middlesex University. “The development of robots like Pepper shows that robots may well be integrated into more social settings."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct152018

Timeline on the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Chris McGrath/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Since self-exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul this month and vanished, his case has sparked international intrigue and outrage and put leaders of his homeland on the defensive.

Here is a timeline of events before and after he disappeared:

May 2018: Khashoggi meets Hatice Cengiz, a 36-year-old Turkish Ph.D. student, at a conference in Istanbul and she soon becomes his fiancée.

Sept. 28: Khashoggi visits the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul for the first time to pick up a permission document to marry Cengiz. He's told come back later.

Oct. 1: He returns to Istanbul from a trip to London.

Oct. 2: He goes back to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Cengiz waits for him outside for four hours, but he never comes out and is told by consulate staff that he left out a back door. Cengiz contacts the Turkish police.

Oct. 7: Saudi government officials deny involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance after reports that he was killed.

Oct. 8: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., warns the Saudis of consequences if the government is found complicit in Khashoggi's disappearance.

Oct. 9: Cengiz writes an op-ed in Washington Post, saying her husband-to-be had applied for U.S. citizenship and that his reason for visiting Turkey was to take care of all necessary paperwork for them to marry before he returned to Washington. She urges President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump to "help shed light on Jamal's disappearance." State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said of Khashoggi's disappearance, "We're not going to make any judgments about what happened to him. We don't know what has happened to him. We don't have any information on that.

Oct. 10: Trump makes his first comments on Khashoggi's disappearance, saying he contacted the Saudis and invited Cengiz to the White House. "We're demanding everything," he said. "We want to see what's going on here. That's a bad situation. And frankly the fact that it's a reporter you could say in many respects it ... brings it to a level. It's a very serious situation for us and this White House. We do not like seeing what's going on."

Oct. 11: The Washington Post, which Khashoggi writes for, reports the Turkish government told U.S. officials that it had audio and video recordings proving Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Oct. 13: Cengiz writes another op-ed, this one in the New York Times, on what would have been Khashoggi's 60th birthday, this time referring to him in the past tense as if penning his obituary. "Jamal and I had many dreams, but the most important one was to build a home together."

Oct. 14: In an interview aired on CBS's "60 Minutes," Trump addresses Khashoggi's disappearance. "There's something really terrible and disgusting about that if that were the case," he said, referring to allegations by Turkish authorities that Saudi Arabia was involved. "So, we're going to have to see. We're going to get to the bottom of it, and there will be severe punishment." In an apparent response to Trump's comments, a Saudi official said if any moves were taken against the kingdom "it will respond with greater action."

Oct. 15: Trump says he spoke with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for 20 minutes and that the king "denies any knowledge" of what happened to Khashoggi. Trump suggests Khashoggi was targeted by "rogue killers" and says he is sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to speak to the king. Meanwhile, Turkish police are allowed to search the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for the first time.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct152018

At least thirteen people killed as flash floods hit southwest of France

ABCNews.com(PARIS) -- At least 10 people have died, one person is missing and five are seriously hurt after heavy rains led to torrential flooding in the southwest of France last night, a spokesperson for the French Interior Ministry told ABC News. On Monday, the spokesperson said the death toll was 13 but the number has since been revised to 10. The spokesperson did not specify why the death toll has decreased since Monday morning.

Three months' worth of rain fell in just a few hours overnight in a region called the Aude department, according to the ministry.

The floods are the worst the region has seen in more than one hundred years, weather monitoring service Vigicrues said.

Pictures taken this morning show a massive amount of destruction, including flooded roads, collapsed homes and overturned cars.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe described the emergency crews on scene via Twitter.

"350 firefighters are on the scene. 350 more firefighters are on their way. 7 helicopters have been mobilized. I am keeping myself informed of the situation hour by hour."

Philippe said he will travel to the area this afternoon.

Local authorities said in a statement that more than 1,000 people in a village called Pezens were evacuated this morning because of risks posed by a dam located a few miles away.

In addition, schools in the area remain closed and local authorities are urging people to stay home.

As of Monday morning, 8,000 homes in the region remained without electricity, according to supplier Enerdis.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct152018

North, South Korea to restore railway, road connections severed during Korean War

Korea Pool/Getty Images(PANMUNJOM, North Korea) -- North and South Korea have agreed to rebuild connections between railways and roads that were severed during the Korean War more than 60 years ago.

Delegations from the two Koreas set out a plan for the transportation connections at a meeting Monday aimed at carrying out a broad agreement last month between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“South and North had a sincere discussion and agreed on action plans to carry out the September Pyongyang joint declaration and to develop inter-Korean relations to a higher level,” South Korea’s unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon and North Korean counterpart Ri Son-gwon announced together after the meeting at the Peace House in the border village of Panmunjom.

Representatives from the two sides said joint inspections of railways will start this month and a groundbreaking ceremony for the transportation project will be held between the end of November and the beginning of December.

Officials from the two countries also made appointments to discuss other planned projects, including online reunions for families separated on either side of the North-South border, joint sport events, performances by the North’s art troupes, and support for North Korea's forestry.

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