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Monday
Jul242017

Cabinet votes to remove metal detectors from holy site in Jerusalem

iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- Israel will remove metal detectors at the entrance of a holy site in Jerusalem.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet made the decision, saying they would instead use less obtrusive surveillance at the Temple Mount, according to the BBC.

The metal detectors were installed after two Israeli policemen were killed on July 14 at the holy site. Authorities said they were needed because the attackers smuggled the weapons, BBC reports.

The decision angered Muslims, who refer to the holy site as Haram al-Sharif, and provoked protests.

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Monday
Jul242017

Charlie Gard's family ends legal fight to take the sick boy to the US

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The British parents of 11-month-old Charlie Gard, whose illness has damaged his brain and rendered him unable to breathe on his own, have decided against pursuing their controversial efforts to take him to the United States for treatment after an assessment from a U.S. doctor.

A formal decision by a U.K. judge on the fate of Charlie was expected to be made early this week, but this choice made by his parents will preemptively end the court proceedings, and end any possibility of the family transporting Charlie to the U.S.

 A judge extended an invitation to Dr. Michio Hirano, co-director of the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) Muscular Dystrophy Association clinic and a professor of neurology at Columbia University in New York City, as well as a doctor from the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, to evaluate Charlie's potential readiness for an experimental treatment for his medical condition, which is known as mitochondrial depletion syndrome.

The disease is rare and causes muscles to progressively weaken, leading to organ failure. Though he is less than 1 years old, the baby has been on life support for several months.

Charlie's parents, based upon the assessment of the doctors, have opted not to pursue nucleoside therapy, an oral medicine that aims to improve the function of his mitochondrial DNA.

Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London, where Charlie has been receiving treatment, had recommended against the child receiving the experimental treatment.

Both President Trump and Pope Francis backed the fight by the Gards to pursue an experimental treatment for Charlie.

In addition to this support, protesters have flocked to both the hospital and to the steps of court to voice their support for the Gard family.

But some of that enthusiasm has turned abusive, according to the hospital.

Great Ormond Street Hospital released a statement this weekend, saying that members of the hospital have received menacing messages, including death threats in the wake of the case becoming an international story.

"In recent weeks the GOSH community has been subjected to a shocking and disgraceful tide of hostility and disturbance. Staff have received abuse both in the street and online," Mary MacLeod, the hospital's chairwoman, said in a statement. "Thousands of abusive messages have been sent to doctors and nurses whose life's work is to care for sick children. Many of these messages are menacing, including death threats."

According to McLeod's statement, families have been "harassed and discomforted" while visiting their children, and that some of the harassment has occurred within the walls of the hospital itself.

"Whatever the strong emotions raised by this case, there can be no excuse for patients and families to have their privacy and peace disturbed as they deal with their own often very stressful situations or for dedicated doctors and nurses to suffer this kind of abuse," McLeod wrote, adding that the hospital has been in touch with police regarding the threats.


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Monday
Jul242017

Dozens of American faculty members at North Korea university face diplomatic limbo

iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL) -- As the last foreign faculty members remaining at North Korea’s only private university leave the country this week, it remained unclear whether they will be able to return this fall -- thanks to the Trump administration’s plans to bar Americans from traveling to the reclusive country.

The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, whose faculty includes 60 to 80 foreigners throughout the academic year -- half of whom are Americans -- would likely have to suspend operations if it did not receive an exemption from the forthcoming restriction, according to Colin McCulloch, the institution’s director of external relations.

"If we didn't get an exception, we would basically have to stop our work,” McCulloch, who has taught business, economics and English at the school since it first opened to North Korean students in 2010, told ABC News. "That’s how serious it would be. Because we would not be able to provide enough personnel.”

The U.S. State Department said Friday it would soon bar Americans from using their passports to travel to, through or in North Korea, and would issue waivers for citizens only for “certain limited humanitarian or other purposes.” The move comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Pyongyang and following the death last month of an American college student days after North Korea released him from detention.

North Korea is known to be holding at least three Americans, two of whom had worked with PUST and were detained this spring.

Tony Kim, who also goes by his Korean name, Kim Sang-duk, taught accounting at the university before he was detained at an airport in April and charged with unspecified hostile criminal acts, and Kim Hak-song was held in May after spending several weeks doing “agricultural development work with PUST’s experimental farm,” the university said at the time. He was also charged with unspecified “hostile acts.”

The university has said it understood the arrests to not be linked to the school’s work.

When PUST is fully staffed during the academic year, around 50 American faculty members and their family members live on the Pyongyang campus, out of over 100 foreigners total, McCulloch, the spokesman, said. They make up a significant percentage of the Americans who reside in North Korea.

McCulloch said he hopes members of the school’s leadership, many of whom are Americans, will be able to obtain an exemption for the U.S. faculty ahead of the fall semester, due to begin at the start of September. He said they had dealt similarly with sanctions in the past.

The State Department said the restriction would apply 30 days after it officially filed notice of it sometime this week. A senior official said anyone could apply for a waiver, but the department has not responded to questions about whether PUST faculty members would be eligible for them.

It is unclear if Americans with dual citizenship will be permitted to use their other passports to travel to North Korea, although McCulloch said only a few American faculty members were dual nationals.

Wesley Brewer, an American who has taught computer science at PUST since 2010 and now serves as the institution’s vice president of research, said that the arrests shook the university community and affected him deeply. He told ABC News now looked like a good time for him to take a long-planned sabbatical.

“Being an American there, you feel like you’re standing right in between the two countries and maybe preventing some kind of moving forward, in terms of diplomatically,” Brewer said.

Brewer splits his time between Seoul and Pyongyang and spoke from Jackson, Mississippi, where he was visiting a church that supports his work. “I just felt like with the heightened tensions, it seemed it would be wiser to step back and let things settle down before re-engaging,” he said.

Most of PUST’s faculty members, who do not receive salaries, are devout Christians who see the school as a way to engage in charity work and build bridges between North Korea and the outside world, according to several faculty members. Most come from the United States, Canada and Europe, and a majority of the Americans who have taught there are Christians who are ethnically Korean and have been supported by churches in the United States, they said.

Directly preaching to or attempting to proselytize North Koreans is prohibited, although the foreigners are allowed to observe their faith in private, they said.

Donations from churches and individuals in South Korea and the Korean diaspora fund the school’s approximately $2 million annual operating budget, according to McCulloch.

In addition to English classes, PUST offers its students -- 650 during the last semester -- courses in business, engineering, medicine, dentistry, life sciences and agriculture, among other subjects. Foreigners provide almost all instruction, which must gain prior approval from North Korean authorities, McCulloch said.

Richard Roberts, a Nobel laureate who visited the university and two others in North Korea in spring 2016, said the PUST instructors he met sounded as if they had traveled extensively within the country. He said he was surprised by how much the students knew of their fields despite their lack of direct access to the internet.

“The students, I thought, were actually quite good,” Roberts told ABC News. “They were fairly well educated. They knew much more about modern science and what was going on in the rest of the world than I had first anticipated.”

McCulloch said he was not aware of the arrests affecting faculty recruitment but that general “geopolitical noise” had already made an impact.

That tension had not reached the campus yet this spring, though, at least not in faculty-student discussions, according to a Dominik Naeher, a German Ph.D. candidate who taught econometrics at PUST for several months this year. “With the students, there was no effect whatsoever,” Naeher, who lives in Frankfurt, told ABC News. “We didn’t talk about it.”

“But of course,” Naeher added, “among us foreigners, we were talking about it -- about the news -- and hoping that war wouldn't break out.”

Naeher lived in Pyongyang with his wife and 1-year-old son. Despite the worries, he said he would return as soon as possible.

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Monday
Jul242017

Chinese fighter jets intercept US Navy reconnaissance plane over East China Sea

Power Sport Images/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane operating in international airspace during a routine mission over the East China Sea was intercepted by two Chinese J-10 fighter jets on Sunday, the Pentagon confirmed.

One of the J-10s flew underneath the U.S. EP-3 aircraft at a high rate of speed, slowed, and then pulled up, forcing the U.S. plane to "take evasive action to prevent the possibility of collision," Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said.

A U.S. official said the Chinese jet's actions were described as "unsafe."

Davis said Sunday's interaction, which happened late morning local time, was "uncharacteristic" of typical Chinese military behavior.

"There are intercepts that occur in international airspace regularly, and the vast majority of them are conducted in a safe manner," he said. "This was the exception, not the norm."

Davis said the J-10s and EP-3 were flying "wing to wing" as well, but didn't know if they did so before or after the intercept.

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Monday
Jul242017

Taliban claims responsibility for Kabul suicide bombing that killed 24, injured 42

@tolonews/Twitter(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- At least 24 people were killed and 42 others injured in a suicide bombing on Monday in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, officials said.

The bombing was carried out by a suicide attacker who rammed a Toyota Corolla into a commuter bus carrying government staff during the Monday morning rush hour, according to officials.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it targeted intelligence service officials.



The blast happened in a neighborhood where many prominent political leaders live, including Afghan Deputy CEO Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq.

The neighborhood, located on the city’s west side, has been targeted in several past suicide attacks.

Local news media outlets posted video of the aftermath on Twitter as security officials cordoned off the area.

Eyewitnesses said the attack left behind large plumes of smoke and shattered glass all over the neighborhood's streets.


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Sunday
Jul232017

American student detained in China has been released, according to US senator

iStock/Thinkstock(BEIJING) -- An American college student who was arrested in China one week ago after allegedly injuring a taxi driver who was roughing up his mother in a dispute over a fare has been released, according to a U.S. senator.

Steve Daines, the U.S. Senator from Montana, released a statement Sunday announcing the release of Guthrie McLean, 25, at 2 a.m. local time in China.

"I am thrilled to report that we just received an email from Guthrie McLean's mother that 'prayers answered, Guthrie is home,'" Daines said in a statement. "After days of working the phones with top Chinese and American officials to secure Guthrie's freedom from a Chinese detention facility, he has been safely reunited with his mother."

Daines' office said in a statement that he had been working with Chinese and U.S. embassies as well as Jennifer McLean in an effort to coordinate the student's return to the U.S.

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Sunday
Jul232017

William and Harry open up about their last phone call with Princess Diana

Tim Graham/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince William and Prince Harry spoke out about the regret they felt at the last phone call they had with their mother, and how they are still haunted by it today.

In the most candid and intimate interview Prince William and Prince Harry have ever given, the brothers shared their happiest memories of life with Princess Diana, but also shared their overwhelming grief and how they coped with her death.

Harry admitted it was "a little bit too raw until this point. It's still raw."

"If I'd known what would happen, I wouldn't have been so blasé about it. But that phone call sticks in my mind quite heavily," William said. When asked about his last words with his mother, he said he remembers the conversation, saying "I do, I do," but he did not elaborate.

The morning after the conversation, the boys were awoken by their father to learn their mother had died at the age of 36, just a year older than William is today.

Harry, who has admitted dealing with the grief over his mother's death for the last 20 years, said that he will have regrets "for the rest of my life, how short the phone call was. And if I'd known that was the last time I'd speak to my mother, the things I would have said to her. ... Looking back on it now it is incredibly hard."

The documentary, "Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy" airs on Monday on ITV. It also includes interviews with family friends who have never before spoken, and Sir Elton John also speaks about the late Princess of Wales and her work.

Harry and William also reflected on their happiest memories with their mother, with Harry sharing that he is still comforted by his mother's laugh, which stands out in his mind to this day, and how she would smuggle candy to them during soccer matches, presumably while they were boarding students at Eton College.

William also recalled his mother's sense of mischief. He said she would send both boys "the rudest cards." William recalled one night supermodels Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell were at their Kensington Palace home, as his mother knew Prince William harbored a massive teenage crush.

"I was probably a 12 or 13-year-old boy who had posters of them on his wall. I went bright red, and didn't know quite what to say," he said. "I think I pretty much fell down the stairs on the way up. I was completely and utterly awestruck."

Today, 20 years later, the brothers are still coming to terms with their mother's death. William, Kate and Harry are all trying to preserve Diana's memory for the two newest members of the family, Prince George, 4, who celebrated his birthday Saturday, and Princess Charlotte, 2.

William said that his mother would be a "nightmare grandmother, absolute nightmare. She'd love the children to bits but she'd be an absolute nightmare ... she'd come in probably at bath time, cause an amazing amount of scene, bubbles everywhere, bath water all over the place and -- and then leave."

As a result of his mother's death, William has vowed to spend as much time as possible with his children, saying, "I want to make as much time and effort with Charlotte and George as I can because I realize that these early years are particularly crucial for children, and having seen, you know, what she did for us."

The brothers recently took George and Charlotte for a re-dedication of Princess Diana's grave at Althorp. As the world starts commemorations for the 20th anniversary of her death, William and Harry still reflect on what more their mother might have accomplished had she lived.

"There's not a day that William and I don't wish that she was ... we don't wish that she was still around, and we wonder what kind of a mother she would be now, and what kind of a public role she would have, and what a difference she would be making," Harry said.

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Sunday
Jul232017

Congress strikes deal on bill to slap new sanctions on Russia

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The House and Senate have struck a deal that could send to President Trump's desk this summer a bill that slaps new sanctions on Russia.

In addition to the new sanctions on Russia for its interference in the U.S. 2016 election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, the bill also gives Congress the power to review any effort by the Trump administration to ease or end sanctions against Moscow.

The bill also includes stiff economic penalties against Iran and North Korea.

"The legislation ensures that both the majority and minority [parties] are able to exercise our oversight role over the administration's implementation of sanctions," said Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat.

The deal on the legislation comes amid concerns expressed by both Democrats and some Republicans that the Trump administration may be considering returning to Russian control two compounds in Maryland and New York that were seized by the Obama administration in December as punishment for the election meddling.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced Saturday morning that a vote on the bill -- the Russia, Iran and North Korea Sanctions Act -- will take place Tuesday.

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Saturday
Jul222017

William and Harry share most intimate memories of life with Princess Diana

Tim Graham/Getty Images(LONDON) -- For the first time, Prince William and Harry have opened up about the last days of their mother's life, and also talked about their regrets at not having more time with her, and how they continue to keep her memory alive.

In a new documentary for ITV, the brothers reveal details of their happiest memories with the late Princess of Wales, their parents' divorce, and how they've coped with their loss. William and Harry also discuss their last conversation with Princess Diana before her death in August 1997.

"It was -- and it was her speaking from -- from Paris. And, you know, she ... I can't really necessarily remember what I said, but all I do remember is -- is probably, you know, regretting for the rest of my life how short the phone call was," Prince Harry reflected on that last conversation with Princess Diana.

"And if I'd known that that was the last time I was going to speak to my mother the things that I would -- the things I would have said to her. I have -- I have to sort of deal with that for the rest of my life. Not knowing that that ... was the last time I was going to speak to my mum, and how differently that conversation would have -- would have panned out if I'd had even the slightest inkling that that was, that, that, you know, that her life was going to be taken that night," he said.

"There's not many days that go by that I don't think of her, you know -- sometimes sad, sometimes very positively," Prince William said. "You know, I have a smile every now and again when someone says something and I think that's exactly what she would have said, or she would have enjoyed that comment. So they always live with you people, you know, you lose like that. And my mother lives with me every day."

As heartbreaking it is to hear the princes share their grief about their mother's tragic death, they also reflect on their happiest moments with their mother and her wicked sense of humor.

"It was that love that, that even if she was on the other side of a room, that you as a son could feel it," Harry said.

Harry still fondly remembers the distinct sound of her laugh when he thinks about the joyful times with his mother.

"All I can hear is her laugh in my head and that sort of crazy laugh of where there was just pure happiness shown on her face. One of her mottoes to me was you know, 'You can be as naughty as you want, just don't get caught,'" he said.

Harry, who is famous for his hugs and is often referred to as the 'People's Prince' after Princess Diana, spoke about the affection he remembers from his mother.

"She would just engulf you and squeeze you as tight as possible. And being as short as I was then, there was no escape, you were there and you were there for as long as she wanted to hold you," he said. "Even talking about it now I can feel the hugs that she used to give us and, you know, I miss that, I miss that feeling, I miss that part of a family, I miss having that mother ... to be able to give you those hugs and give you that compassion that I think everybody needs," he said.

Diana was aware that her sons lived in a rarified world and it was important that they experienced the challenges people in the real world were also facing.

"She was very jolly and she really always enjoyed her times making a lot of mischief. But she always understood that there was a real life outside of the palace walls," Prince William said.

Both young princes have vowed to keep their mother's love alive and have thrown themselves into various charitable projects that reflect her interests and passions. They have rarely, however, let the public get a glimpse into their most intimate memories of their mother, until now.

"She was our mum. She still is our mum. And of course, as a son I would say this, she was the best mum in the world. She smothered us with love, that's for sure," Harry said.

William, like his brother was grateful for the short time they both had with their mother. He was just 15 when his mother died on August 31, 1997. Harry was just 12.

"I give thanks that I was lucky enough to be her son and know her for the 15 years that I did. She set us up really well. She gave us the right tools and has prepared us well for life not obviously knowing what was going to happen," William said.

The princes said their mother wanted to them both to have as normal a life as possible.

"My mother cherished those moments of privacy and being able to be that mother rather than the Princess of Wales," William said.

They have channeled their grief into carrying on their mother's work. William is now Patron of Child Bereavement UK, a charity founded by one of his mother's closest friends, which helps families and children cope with the death of a family member. In the new ITV film, William reveals for the first time the despair he and Harry felt when Princess Diana died.

"You know, losing someone so close to you is utterly devastating, especially at that age. I think it sort of really spins you out, you don't quite know where you are, what you're doing and what's going on," he said. "My heart goes out to all the people who have lost all their loved ones in the world. You know it does connect you. It's a very sad club you don't want to be a member of. But you do all have a shared sort of pain that you immediately understand and see in any one when you meet them."

William and Princess Kate formed their charity, Heads Together, with Prince Harry to help break down the stigma around mental illness.

In the last several months, Harry opened up about the sheer "chaos" he felt after his mother's death and that he struggled for nearly 20 years coming to terms with his grief. He finally turned to his brother, who encouraged him to seek help. It is that courage that the two young princes have displayed and to share their own vulnerabilities dealing with their mother's death, that has allowed thousands of other people to seek help themselves

"The first time I cried was on the island," Harry said. "And probably like -- and only since then maybe, maybe once. So there's, you know, there's a lot of, there's a lot of grief that still needs to be let out."

"You know, losing someone so close to you is, is utterly devastating, especially at that age," William said.

Twenty years later, William and Harry still harbor resentment towards the paparazzi, who they feel are responsible for their mother's death.

"If you are the Princess of Wales you're a mother, I don't believe being chased by 30 guys on motorbikes who block your path, who spit at you, who shout at you, and who react really badly to get a reaction from you, and make a women cry in public to get the photographs, I don't believe that is appropriate," William said, still obviously troubled by the treatment of the paparazzi. "I sadly remember most of the time she cried about anything was to do with the press intrusion "

Like Diana, their every move is documented by the camera lens. William and Harry guard their privacy fiercely and have recently aggressively defended those rights when they fear the press has gone a step too far.

With the 20th anniversary of the Princess of Wales' death, the princes decided it was the appropriate time to remind people of her legacy.

"There's not many days that go by that I don't think of her," William said. "Her 20th anniversary year feels like a good time to remember, you know, all the good things about her and hopefully provide maybe a different side to her that others haven't seen before."

They have participated in a series of projects to commemorate their mother's life. A special garden has been created in Kensington Palace and and an exhibition at Buckingham Palace and another at Kensington Palace give the public an opportunity a glimpse of Diana's life

One of their biggest challenges now is keeping Diana's memory alive for Prince George and Princess Charlotte. On July 3, on what would have been Diana's 56th birthday, William and Harry held a service of re-dedication at Diana's grave on the island in Round Lake at Althorp, the Spencer family home. Prince George and Charlotte attended the service with Prince William, Princess Kate, and Prince Harry.

"I think constantly talking about Granny Diana. So we've got more photos up 'round the house now of her and we talk about her a bit and stuff," William said. "And it's hard because obviously Catherine didn't know her, so she cannot really provide that -- that level of detail. So I do regularly, putting George or Charlotte to bed, talk about her and just try and remind them that there are two grandmothers, there were two grandmothers in in their lives, and so it's important that they know who she was and that she existed."

Even today William and Harry still struggle with their mother's death.

"It's been hard and it will continue to be hard," Harry said. "There's not a day that William and I don't wish that she was -- we don't wish that she was still around, and we wonder what kind of a mother she would be now, and what kind of a public role she would have, and what a difference she would be making."

"Diana, Our Mother: Life and Legacy" will air on ITV on Monday, July 24.

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Saturday
Jul222017

Spanish wax museum recreates Melania Trump's RNC moment

Robyn Beck/Getty Images(MADRID) -- First lady Melania Trump's wax doppelganger was unveiled Thursday at Spain's Museo de Cera de Madrid.

The wax museum recreated Trump's look from last year's Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where she took to the stage and spoke to party delegates in a rousing speech. The wax figure's debut was timed to the one-year anniversary of the convention.


Trump's wax figure, which stands next to an existing wax figure of her husband, President Donald Trump, wears the same Roksanda dress with puffed sleeves she wore at the RNC. The wax figure also dons a pair of nude heels, similar to the Louboutins she wore at the convention.

The museum first promoted the first lady's upcoming wax figure on the Fourth of July, tweeting a photo of an artist working on it, writing, "July 4, the national holiday of the USA. Soon at the museum, a figure of first lady Melania Trump."

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