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Sunday
May272018

Former CIA chief unsure Trump 'has done the homework needed' on North Korea

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said he is unsure President Trump has “done the homework needed” for negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program.

“Kim Jong Un knows his program inside and out,” Hayden told ABC News Global Correspondent and This Week Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz on Sunday. “I think he knows what he can concede and what it means and what he cannot concede.”

“I don't know that the president has done the kind of homework that would allow him to do this” in negotiations, said Hayden, who headed the CIA under presidents George W. Bush and Obama, and who also served as director of the National Security Agency under both Bush and President Clinton.

Hayden said he hopes any summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "stays at the level of principles" rather than delving into specifics. “They talk about denuclearization, allow each side to kind of cower within the ambiguity of denuclearization, and then seriously begin a process that makes the peninsula less dangerous than it is today.”

The former intelligence official also discussed his concern that demanding that North Korea entirely give up its nuclear program could end "in a very bad place."

Hayden said he agrees with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's comment during his earlier appearance on This Week Sunday that Kim Jong Un is not going to denuclearize.

"I totally agree with Sen. Rubio," Hayden said. "These folks are not going to get rid of all their nuclear weapons. And if President Trump's 'brand' -- and that's the right word here -- going into this meeting demands something like that, this is going to end up in a very bad place."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
May272018

Republican senator says Kim Jong Un 'will not denuclearize'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he is convinced that North Korea will not give up its nuclear program and that its release of U.S. prisoners and other gestures are "a show."

Rubio told ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent and This Week Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz on Sunday that the U.S. will have to make a decision about whether it can live with North Korea's having nuclear weapons that could put America at risk.

Rubio said he remains "convinced" that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "will not denuclearize, but he wants to give off this perception that he's this open leader, that he's peaceful, that he's reasonable."

“It’s all a show," Rubio said, adding that Kim "released three Americans that were innocently there, blew up a facility that was probably already damaged."

Raddatz asked the Florida senator about a recent tweet about the North Korean leader in which he said the U.S.'s “options to deal with him are narrowing.”

Rubio responded, “If you don't think you're ever going to be able to reach a deal where he gives up his missiles and gives up his nukes, then you're going to have to make a decision, which is where we've been the whole time, and that is, 'Are you prepared to live in a world where someone like him possesses not just nuclear weapons, but the ability to hit the mainland of the United States?' And, if you're not, then you're going to have to do something to go after them at some point."

On President Trump’s strategy for summit talks, Rubio gave the president credit for keeping North Korea “off-balance.”

“I give the president credit for that, but ultimately, there’s got to be a deal,” Rubio said. “That is a very difficult thing to accomplish with a country in North Korea that has no history of diplomacy, no history of negotiations, and no one around that’s ever done this before.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
May262018

South Korean president says he delivered Trump's message to Kim Jong Un

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- South Korean President Moon Jae In says he delivered President Trump's firm willingness to end hostile relations with North Korea and to offer economic assistance to the country if leader Kim Jong Un implements complete denuclearization.

Kim reached out to Moon on Friday afternoon, just after Trump announced a personal letter to Kim cancelling a planned summit next month, to say that he "wanted to meet without formalities."

The two met secretly at the North's side of the border at the truce village of Panmunjom on Saturday afternoon, then later made the meeting public.

Trump, speaking after welcoming an American who had just returned to the U.S. after being freed from jail in Venezuela, said that meetings are ongoing regarding a possible summit with North Korea and that they have "gone very very well." He also said that a date of June 12 in Singapore is still being considered for the meeting.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
May262018

White House to send team to Singapore to prepare in case Trump-Kim Jong Un summit takes place

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House is still planning to send a team to Singapore in case a summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un happens after all.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that a "pre-advance team for Singapore will leave as scheduled in order to prepare should the summit take place."

The statement comes after news of a surprise meeting Saturday morning between Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss a potential summit between the North Korean leader and Trump.

Trump announced earlier this week that he was canceling the planned June 12 summit with Kim. But on Friday evening the president tweeted that such a meeting could still happen on that date.

The last time two weeks ago that a White House delegation traveled in advance of the planned summit they were stood up by their North Korean counterparts.

The surprise meeting between the North and South Korean leaders on Saturday, held in a village on the north side of their shared border, was to exchange opinions about holding a successful summit between Kim and President Trump and on how to implement steps that Kim and Moon agreed to in their last meeting on April 27, the South Korean president's office said.

It is unknown whether North Korea requested the meeting first, but sources told ABC News it was arranged in the morning. Moon is to announce details of the meeting at a press conference on Sunday, according to his office.

At the meeting, Kim was with his sister Kim Yo-jong and his top aide Kim Yong chol in charge of inter-Korean affairs. Moon was accompanied by South Korea's national intelligence service chief, Suh Hoon.

The White House has not yet responded to a request for comment on the Saturday meeting.

ABC News' Kate Lee and Nataly Pak contributed to this report.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
May262018

Puerto Rico braces for hurricane season, eight months after Maria

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Eight months after being struck by Hurricane Maria, the island of Puerto Rico is bracing as another hurricane season while still cleaning up and restoring power.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday that this year’s Atlantic hurricane season will see five to nine hurricanes with one to four major ones.

Officials on the island are making every effort to be prepared ahead of any storm by holding table-top drills, mock exercises and rounds of meetings.

THE RACE TO 100%

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority is racing to get the island’s customers back on the electrical grid before the start of hurricane season. Approximately 13,000 customers are still without power more than 240 days since Hurricane Maria hit the island.

The US Army Corps of Engineers, which was working on grid restoration, said their restoration mission assignment ended May 18. “USACE staff are currently supporting the transfer of logistics operations back to FEMA and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and are overseeing the demobilization of contractors that supported the transmission and distribution lines mission” an Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News.

Col. Jason Kirk, the commander of the Task Force Power Restoration, told ABC News in March that the work being done was mainly a temporary one.

"The power restoration that we're doing right now, for the most part, is replacement ... if we were in the mission to bury them [electrical poles], we would have hundreds of thousands of people without power because it takes so long," Kirk said.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello has said that the electrical grid that is being put up now will be weaker than the grid that existed prior to Maria. He added that it will take close to five years to a rebuild a stronger electrical grid.

THE DEATH TOLL

The number of lives claimed following Hurricane Maria remains a mystery on the island. A team from George Washington University is currently leading an independent effort to count the dead. Dr. Lynn Goldman, dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health, told ABC News the task of counting the deaths is an exhausting one, which involves interviewing people involved in the care of those who passed away.

In a statement on Monday, the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety has announced that the George Washington University team “requested additional time to complete the commissioned study on the deaths after the passage of Hurricane Maria through the Island.” The statement continued by saying “according to Professor Carlos Santos Burgoa, director of the study, the final report may be completed during this summer to complete the analysis of the available databases.”

There was a spike in the mortality rate in the months after Hurricane Maria. According to a professor of applied demography at Pennsylvania State University who has studied the daily mortality data from the Puerto Rico government, says there were approximately 1,000 more deaths on the island in the month after Maria.

At the press conference announcing GWU as the lead team in February, however, Rossello said: “It is our interest that experts can identify as accurately as possible the deaths directly and indirectly associated with the hurricane to improve protocols for future natural disasters.”

THE NEXT GENERATION

What happens to the population’s youngest is key to the long term development and reconstruction on the island. The number of Puerto Ricans that have left the island has been swirling since the hurricane hit with the number believed to be in the hundreds of thousands.

The Puerto Rico Department of Education told ABC News in recent weeks that 283 schools are slated to close because of declining student enrollment following Hurricane Maria.

A spokesperson for the department says there are 319,000 students on the island compared to 346,000 enrolled students as of May 2017. The department projects that there will be 311,000 enrolled students this August. Half of schools on the island are at 60 percent of capacity.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
May262018

Largely Roman Catholic Ireland votes 2-to-1 to repeal abortion ban

Charles McQuillan/Getty Images(DUBLIN) -- Voters in deeply Roman Catholic Ireland support by a 2-to-1 margin repeal of a 1983 constitutional ban on abortions, the official vote tally shows.

Official results of Friday's referendum showed that of about 2.1 million votes cast, 1.4 million were in favor of repealing the Eighth Amendment to Ireland’s Constitution that says a mother and unborn child have an “equal right to life.” About 723,000 voters wanted to retain the ban.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, a medical doctor who campaigned for ending the decades-old ban, hailed the result as a "quiet revolution."

"The people have spoken," Varadkar said. "The people have said that we want a modern constitution for a modern country, that we trust women and we respect them to make the right decision and the right choices about their health care."

"A quiet revolution has taken place," he tweeted, "A great act of democracy."

One person involved in the campaign to overturn the ban called the results "momentous."

"The polls suggest all generations voted with us," Catherine Conlon, a Trinity College professor told ABC News, after exit polls showed overwhelming support for repeal of the amendment. "I'm so heartened to know so many of my fellow citizens reflected on this debate and came to trust women."

Seeking or providing an abortion in Ireland is currently a criminal offense that carries up to 14 years behind bars. As a result, thousands of Irish women make the trip abroad, often to England, to have an abortion.

Repealing the amendment means that abortion could be regulated as it is in both the United States and the United Kingdom, clearing the way for Ireland's government to implement more liberal abortion laws. Lawmakers are now expected to debate proposed legislation allowing abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and after that in cases of fetal abnormalities or serious risks to the mother’s health.

The vote pitted conservative backers of strict abortion laws against those supporting a woman's right to choose. After the vote Friday and exit polls showing overwhelming support for overturning the abortion ban, anti-abortion advocates showed their concern on social media.

Although the "yes" campaign was supported by the country's prime minister, neither of the major political parties took a side in the debate, allowing individual politicians to make up their own minds. The "no" campaign was largely backed by so-called pro-life groups -- the most prominent being the Iona Institute, a socially conservative Roman Catholic advocacy group.

As the date of Friday's referendum approached, the debate between the two sides had grown deeply contentious, with both being accused of illegally removing each other's street posters. The hot-button issue also motivated a number of Irish ex-patriots to fly home from around the globe to cast their ballots, with many posting their positions on social media beside the hashtag #HomeToVote.

The heated, emotional campaign saw limits placed on social media advertisements nationwide, with Facebook and Google banning campaign ads after concerns from experts that some campaign ads were funded by U.S.-based anti-abortion groups.

Following a 2015 vote, Ireland legalized same-sex marriage.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
May262018

American jailed in Venezuela for two years to return home to US

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Joshua Holt, an American who has been jailed in Venezuela without a trial for two years, has been released, officials said on Saturday.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who has advocated for Holt's release, said he's "honored" to be able to finally reunite the Utah native with his family.

"Over the past two years, I've worked with two presidential administrations, countless diplomatic contacts, ambassadors from all over the world, a network of contacts in Venezuela and President Maduro himself, and I could not be more honored to be able to reunite Josh with his sweet, long-suffering family in Riverton," Hatch said in a statement Saturday morning.

President Donald Trump said via Twitter that Holt will arrive Saturday night in Washington, D.C., where he will be reunited with his family at the White House.

"The great people of Utah will be very happy!" the president tweeted.

Holt will be returning to the United States with his wife, Thamara Caleño.

The Mormon missionary traveled to Venezuela in June 2016 to marry Caleño, whom he met on an online Mormon dating site. Holt planned to return to the United States with his new wife and two stepchildren, but they never made it back.

The newlyweds were awaiting visas when Venezuelan police raided their apartment and arrested them on charges of terrorism, espionage and illegal possession of weapons. They were imprisoned in Caracas awaiting trial ever since. Holt and his family maintain they were wrongly accused.

Holt's parents have said their son was kept in appalling conditions -- with meager food and limited access to health services -- at El Helicoide, the infamous political prison in central Caracas. He had lost a considerable amount of weight and was suffering from kidney stones and painful tooth decay, they said.

They called the release of their son and his wife a "miracle."

The news of their release comes just days after Venezuela's presidential election. Nicolas Maduro was re-elected last Sunday for a second six-year term in a vote the United States denounced and said it won't recognize.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
May262018

White House to send team to Singapore in case Trump-Kim summit takes place

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House is still planning to send a team to Singapore in case a summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un happens after all.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that a "pre-advance team for Singapore will leave as scheduled in order to prepare should the summit take place."

The statement comes after news of a surprise meeting Saturday morning between Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss a potential summit between the North Korean leader and Trump.

Trump announced earlier this week that he was canceling the planned June 12 summit with Kim. But, on Friday evening, the president tweeted that such a meeting could still happen on that date.

The last time -- two weeks ago -- that a White House delegation traveled in advance of the planned summit, they were stood up by their North Korean counterparts.

The surprise meeting between the North and South Korean leaders on Saturday, held in a village on the north side of their shared border, was to exchange opinions about holding a successful summit between Kim and President Trump, and on how to implement steps that Kim and Moon agreed to in their last meeting on April 27, the South Korean president's office said.

It is unknown whether North Korea requested the meeting first, but sources told ABC News that it was arranged in the morning. Moon is expected to announce details of the meeting at a press conference on Sunday, according to his office.

At the meeting, Kim was with his sister, Kim Yo-jong, and his top aide, Kim Yong-chol, in charge of inter-Korean affairs. Moon was accompanied by South Korea's national intelligence service chief, Suh Hoon.

The White House has not yet responded to a request for comment on Saturday's meeting.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
May262018

New problems, old fears ahead of Colombia's presidential election

iStock/Thinkstock(BOGOTA, Colombia) -- Colombians are heading to the polls to elect a new president on Sunday, and entrenched polarization on how to handle the country's fragile peace process and growing refugee crisis is front and center.

Six candidates are jockeying to become the newest resident in the presidential palace, as current President Juan Manuel Santos is term-limited from running for office. A former defense minister who's been president since 2010, Santos shepherded a peace process that gave the Revolutionary Forces of Colombia -- better known as FARC for its initials in Spanish -- a shot at a place in mainstream politics, in theory ending a five-decade-long war between the guerrilla group and the Colombian people.

But the disparate campaigns and opposite takes on issues speak to a growing division within Colombian society on how big of a role they want the FARC to have in government, and how they want the government to deal with the growing economic and social problems, including an influx of Venezuelan refugees fleeing poverty and hunger across the border.

Sunday's vote will define the country's politics for years to come -- like in the United States, the presidential term in Colombia is four years, with the possibility of serving two terms. And changes could be dramatic; polarization between right- and left-wing politicians has only increased after the peace agreement was signed.

If none of the candidates get 50 percent plus one vote or more, the top two vote-getters will move on to a runoff election on June 17.

The stakes

The Colombian peace agreement, signed in Havana in the fall of 2016, remains very controversial, with many condemning the power it gives former FARC guerrilla members, and some others saying it is needed if the South American country is to heal after half-century of war.

Among the most controversial points of the agreement: the return of FARC combatants to civil life without fear of imprisonment, and the inclusion of the FARC in national politics.

The deal also calls for demilitarization and the restitution of land used by guerrillas for the production of cocaine.

With several candidates campaigning on dismantling or renegotiating the deal, and others attacking the FARC and its leaders, some fear the hope for peace that the agreement seems to bring will not last.

“If this peace process ends, it will be the start of huge problems," said Malia Lobete in Medellin, the second-largest city in the country. She added, "The FARC doesn’t need to be begged to go back to violence."

Lobete knows what she's talking about -- the conflict between the Colombian government, the FARC, other guerrilla and paramilitary groups, and drug cartels left more than 220,000 people dead, and displaced another 5 million. More than 25,000 people vanished during the conflict, according to Colombia's National Center for Historical Memory.

On top of the old fears, there are new problems because an increasingly dramatic border crisis threatens to upend Colombian prosperity. More than 30,000 Venezuelans are estimated to cross the porous Colombo-Venezuelan border every day to buy groceries, go to school, catch buses to other Latin American countries or find work in border towns.

Many live in overcrowded shacks, working for pennies. Mauricio Franco Trujillo, the head of security for the border city of Cucuta, told ABC News recently that his city -- and the border -- were at the point of total collapse.

The candidates

IVÁN DUQUE -- Considered the front-runner, former Sen. Duque is the leader of the right-wing Democratic Center Party and has the support of former President Alvaro Uribe. Duque has said he wants to renegotiate terms of the peace agreement, which he opposed in 2016. Duque has campaigned on banning the FARC from political engagement and has advocated for prison time for former FARC commanders.

GUSTAVO PETRO -- A one-time guerrilla leader and mayor of the capital city of Bogota, Petro is the main left-wing candidate running this Sunday. In a country wary of left-wing leaders, who are often supported by unpopular guerrilla groups, Petro has managed to rally those disappointed by decades of right-wing rule, becoming popular among young voters. Still, his dissenters compare him with the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, stoking fears that Colombia could go down the same economic spiral affecting Venezuela.

SERGIO FAJARDO -- The former mayor of Medellin and governor of the state of Antioquia, Fajardo, seen as a centrist candidate, is a proponent of the peace accord and has a long history of favoring the integration and rehabilitation of former guerrilla combatants into society.

HUMBERTO DE LA CALLE -- A former vice president of Colombia and the chief negotiator of the FARC peace accord, Calle is the candidate for the Liberal Party, one of Colombia's oldest, strongest and more traditional political parties. Along with the Conservative Party, the liberals defined Colombian politics in the 20th century.

GERMAN VARGAS LLERAS -- Lleras served as vice president in Santos' government. While a far-right candidate, he has said he will respect the peace agreement with the FARC.

JOSE ANTONIO TRUJILLO -- The evangelical pastor, who pollsters give a very low chance of winning, has said, should he be elected, he'd be harsher in dealing with the FARC.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May252018

Ireland overwhelmingly votes to repeal abortion ban, exit polls project

iStock/Thinkstock(DUBLIN) -- Two major exit polls project that Irish voters have voted to repeal the country's Eighth Amendment, passed by voters in 1983, which effectively bans abortions in the island nation.

One poll, by The Irish Times, projected 68 percent in favor of repealing. Another, by RTE, showed a similar projection of 69.4 percent in favor.

The results followed a contentious and emotional campaign in a deeply Catholic nation, home to one of the world's strictest abortion bans.

Seeking or providing an abortion in Ireland was a criminal offense that carries up to 14 years behind bars. As a result, thousands of Irish women make the trip abroad, often to England, to have an abortion.

More than 170,000 women traveled from the Republic of Ireland to access abortion services in another country between 1980 and 2016, according to the Irish Family Planning Association.

As the vote date approached, the debate between the two sides had grown deeply contentious, which, in part, motivated a lot of Irish ex-patriots to fly home from around the globe to cast their ballots -- many posting their positions on social media beside the hashtag #HomeToVote.

Repealing the amendment means that abortion could be regulated as it is in both the United States and the United Kingdom, clearing the way for Ireland's government to implement more liberal abortion laws. Lawmakers are now expected to debate proposed legislation allowing abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and after that in cases of fetal abnormalities or serious risks to the mother’s health.

The vote pitted conservative backers of strict abortion restrictions against those supporting a woman's right to choose.

The Yes campaign was supported by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, though neither of the largest political parties took a side in the debate, allowing individual politicians to make up their own minds. The No side was largely backed by so-called pro-life groups -- the most prominent being The Iona Institute, a socially conservative Roman Catholic advocacy group.

As the vote date approached, the battle between the two sides grew increasingly vicious, with both Yes and No campaigns being accused of illegal removing each other’s street posters.

The heated, emotional campaign saw limits placed on social media advertisements nationwide, with Facebook and Google banning campaign ads after concerns from experts that some campaign ads were funded by U.S. based anti-abortion groups.

Following a 2015 vote, Ireland legalized same-sex marriage.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







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