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Thursday
Jul302015

MH370 Probe: Tattered Suitcase Recovered Near Wreckage 

(NEW YORK) -- Just hours after a recovering what appeared to be part of a Boeing 777 -- debris investigators believe could be connected to the MH370 investigation -- a worker stumbled upon what looked to be a tattered piece of luggage on the same beach.

Johny Bègue, credited with spotting the airplane debris in the water, recovered the apparent suitcase on the coast of La Reunión Island, an French isle near Madagascar, around 11:30 a.m. local time Wednesday.

There is no indication, however, that the luggage is linked to the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which vanished on March 8, 2014 with 239 people on board.

Experts tell ABC News the recovery of floating debris is unlikely to lead investigators to the submerged wreckage.

“It has spent a year drifting thousands of miles from where the actual impact was,” said ABC aviation consultant Steve Ganyard. “It probably isn’t going to help us find where the airplane is on the bottom of the ocean.”

But according to Australian authorities leading the search for the missing plane, if the airplane debris recovered on La Reunión island is indeed linked with MH370, “it would be consistent with other analysis and modelling that the resting place of the aircraft is in the southern Indian Ocean.”

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Thursday
Jul302015

Google Internet Balloons Bring Universal Internet Access to Sri Lanka

A photo from Project Loon by Google. (Project Loon/Google+)(NEW YORK) — Sri Lanka is set to become the first country with universal Internet access after the island nation signed on to use Google's stratospheric internet beaming balloons to cover the country.

A memorandum of understanding has been signed between Google and Sri Lanka's government, but does not give a timetable for when the balloons will be covering the 25,000 square mile nation.

However, it's a crucial first step for the implementation of Google's Project Loon, officials said.

An estimated 1 in 4 people are online in Sri Lanka. While the balloons will one day cover the entire country, the universal Internet won't be a free for all.

Google's next step is to work in tandem with Internet service providers in Sri Lanka, allowing them to use the balloons as "floating cell towers," Harsha de Silva, a minister in Sri Lanka’s finance department, said in a Facebook post.

He said the plan "will certainly provide a huge boost to our game plan to create a knowledge based highly competitive social market economy that will help every household achieve their own dreams."

The Project Loon balloons can float through the stratosphere, the area on the edge of the atmosphere, for more than one hundred days. While they'll solve the problem of access, the balloons will deliver Internet at 3G speeds, making it fine for getting online but difficult for high bandwidth activities.

A control center will help guide each balloon to an area to ensure Google's fleet is providing the best coverage where Internet is needed, while an operations team will be dispatched to collect the balloons when they land.

The project first began tests in New Zealand in 2013.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jul302015

Hunting Club Suspends Dentist Who Admitted to Killing Cecil the Lion

Obtained by ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Walter Palmer, the American dentist who recently admitted to killing Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, has been suspended from a prominent international hunting club.

Safari Club International, an organization formed to protect hunters' rights and promote wildlife conservation, announced Wednesday that it "has imposed immediate emergency suspensions of both the involved hunter and his guide/professional hunter" pending the outcome of a "full and thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe."

SCI added that it "condemns unlawful and unethical hunting practices" and that it "believes that those who intentionally take wildlife illegally should be prosecuted and punished to the maximum extent allowed by the law."

Palmer said in his Tuesday statement that he had "not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the U.S. about this situation."

A professional hunter named Theo Bronkhorst, who acted as a guide during Palmer's hunt, and a landowner named Honest Trymore Ndlovu are facing criminal poaching charges in connection with Cecil's death and appeared in court on Wednesday, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management authority said in a joint statement along with the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe on Tuesday.

Protesters were at Palmer's dental practice in Bloomington, Minnesota, near Minneapolis, on Wednesday afternoon, where a growing memorial of stuffed animals could be found on the closed office's doorsteps.

Palmer sent out a letter to his patients Tuesday evening explaining his involvement in the killing of Cecil the lion. He said he was in Zimbabwe during early July on a bow hunting trip for big game and that he "hired several professional guides and they secured all proper permits."

He continued, "To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted. I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt. I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the U.S. about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have."

"Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion," he added. "That was never my intention."

But many were not satisfied with Palmer's apology and protesters descended upon on the Minnesota dentist by flooding his social media, creating online petitions and mocking him on parody accounts.

"Five Stars at being a miserable excuse of a human being," a user by the name of Thomas D. wrote on the Yelp page of Palmer's dental practice. "You are not a hunter but a coward!"

Palmer did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for additional comment, and his dental practice remained closed Thursday morning.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jul302015

Plagues of Locusts Darken Skies, Threaten Crops in Southern Russia

moodboard/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Plagues of locusts are swarming large areas of southern Russia, threatening thousands of acres of crops and in some places darkening the skies.

A video shot by a local man in Achikulak, a village in the Stavropol region, shows thousands of the bugs swarming towards a church. Other videos, screened by local TV channels, showed clouds of locusts flying overhead.

“It was very frightening,” Lubov Timusi, a local woman who lives in Achikulak, told ABC News. “Some were as big as your finger! They came like a clouds.”

The waves of locusts began around July 20, according to Stavropol’s regional agricultural ministry. Vasilii Yegorov, a deputy agricultural minister, told ABC News that locusts appear in the region every year but normally they are able to exterminate them before they hatch.

This year though, Yegorov said, locusts had migrated from neighboring Russian regions, meaning authorities were unable to halt them easily, threatening what is one of Russia’s major farming areas.

Swarms have been reported across many other southern regions, particularly in Chechnya. Because of the locusts, a state of emergency has been declared in three regions near Stavropol, according to local media. In Stavropol alone, efforts to kill the insects have stretched across more than 350 miles, according to officials.

Yegorov said Stavropol authorities currently had the infestation under control and were spraying pesticide every day.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jul302015

Malaysia Airlines 370 Searchers Treating Debris as Major Lead

YANNICK PITOU/AFP/Getty Images(CANBERRA, Australia) -- Investigators are treating a piece of airplane debris that washed ashore on a small French island near Madagascar as a major lead in the search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370, the Australian deputy prime minister said on Thursday.

Warren Truss called finding the flaperon on Reunion Island Wednesday morning the first real evidence that a piece of the plane had been discovered. MH370 vanished on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, all of whom are presumed dead.

"If it entered the Indian Ocean in the place where a current search operations are being undertaken, [it] could have reached the Reunion Islands in the 16 months since," he said. "It's the first real evidence that there is a possibility that a part of the aircraft may have been found."

Truss said marine researchers have been asked to examine the photographs of the debris to assess whether barnacles seen on the flaperon are consistent with something that was floating in the ocean for more than a year.

"Clearly, we are treating this as a major lead," he said.

While identifying the debris as part of the missing plane won't make it easier to find, Truss said it would help put some of the theories about the flight to bed.

"There are a lot of very wild theories that have been around, including it landed in Russia," he said. "It won't positively prove it is in any other location other than I guess the Indian Ocean."

Truss added that he hoped identifying the debris would bring some closure to the families of those on board the flight.

"If this wreckage [is] from MH370, it's an important breakthrough, particularly for families," he said. "The families who have been involved with this long, long, long, long wait, for them to have some degree of closure would be great comfort."

The debris appeared to be from the same plane as MH370, a Boeing 777, a source familiar with the investigation told ABC News.

Malaysian authorities said a team was headed to Reunion Island to determine whether the debris belonged to MH370. The Malaysians were also in touch with the French's air crash investigation agency.

Former National Transportation Safety Board aviation safety official and current ABC News consultant Tom Haueter said investigators would likely try to match serial numbers found on the flaperon with those from MH370.

"If it is a 777 part, it’s most likely from MH370," he said.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul292015

California Boy Training to Climb Mount Everest

Wassiliy/iStock/ThinkStock(LOS ANGELES) -- A Southern California boy who has already reached the peaks of some of the world's tallest mountains is training to become the youngest climber ever to reach the top of Mount Everest.

Tyler Armstrong is already a record climber. He reached the summit of Mount Whitney at the age of seven and scaled Argentina's tallest mountain at nine.

The 11-year-old is training for Everest while raising money to find a cure for Duchenne, a crippling muscle disease affecting 300,000 boys.

For Tyler's father, safety is first. They'll train in Russia this year.

If Tyler summits Everest next spring at age 12, he'll beat the current record held by a 13-year-old.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul292015

Russia Blocks UN Security Council Vote on MH17 Tribunal

igmarx/iStock Editorial/ThinkStock(MOSCOW) -- Russia has vetoed a United Nations resolution to create an international criminal tribunal that would prosecute those responsible for the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight 17.

Samantha Power, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations tweeted following the veto, "Russia just vetoed Malaysian-introduced UNSC resolution to create UN tribunal to hold accountable those responsible for the downing of #MH17".

The plane was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board.  

Russia stood alone in voting against the tribunal at the UN Security Council, saying it was premature.

Many believe Moscow really blocked it because a tribunal will prove that pro-Russian rebels it supports were to blame for the disaster.

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Wednesday
Jul292015

Taliban Leader Mullah Omar Has Died, Afghan Officials Say

Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Mullah Omar, whose Taliban regime in Afghanistan sheltered Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda for years before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, has died, Afghan officials said on Wednesday.

The Afghan president's and prime minister's offices offered no specifics as to how or when Omar died. The announcement was made as Kabul and the Taliban engage in a second round of peace talks this month.

U.S. officials could not immediately confirm Omar's death. The State Department is currently offering a $10 million reward for information leading to him.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul292015

Prince Charles Nearly Clipped by Eagle's Wings

Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images(NORFOLK, England) — The quick reflexes of Britain’s Prince Charles were caught on camera Wednesday when an eagle nearly clipped the royal heir with its wings.

Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, were guests of honor at the Sandringham Flower Show in Norfolk when the flap occurred.

As Prince Charles and Camilla met with the eagle, a bald eagle named Zephyr, according to the BBC, the eagle appeared to try to get away.

Caught in the crosshairs, literally, was Prince Charles, who -- dressed in a suit and holding an umbrella and pink flower -- quickly leaned his upper body back and away from the eagle's wings.

Another photo shows that Charles got close to Zephyr for a short time, but told onlookers he remembered from a previous encounter with Zephyr that the bird can be unpredictable.

“That’s why I’m not holding him,” he said, according to the BBC. “I’ve learnt from experience. I’m keeping well back.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul292015

MH370? Debris Found in Indian Ocean Sparks Speculation 

(NEW YORK) --  A source familiar with the investigation into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 tells ABC News the airplane part that washed ashore on La Reunión Island, a small French isle near Madagascar, appears to be from a Boeing 777.

MH370, the Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared over the Indian Ocean 508 days ago, was also a Boeing 777.

If the connected to the downed plane, the part –- which experts tell ABC News appears to be a wing flap about 2 meters long and 1 meter wide -– could be the first piece of MH370 debris recovered to date. A team working to clean the beach stumbled on the apparent wing flap around 9:30 local time Wednesday morning.

In a statement, the Australian government said that it was aware of the "wreckage" and was working to determine its origin.

"In the event that the wreckage is identified as being from MH 370 on La Reunion Island, it would be consistent with other analysis and modelling that the resting place of the aircraft is in the southern Indian Ocean," Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said in a statement.

Malaysia Airlines said it was "working with the relevant authorities" but "at the moment, it would be too premature to speculate on the origin of the flaperon."

Since the plane's disappearance in March 2014, Australia, Malaysia, the U.S. and other countries have spent tens of millions of dollars combing the sea for the missing jet.

"It’s unlikely today’s discovery will lead investigators to the submerged wreckage," former NTSB aviation safety official Tom Haueter tells ABC News. "It’s had over a year to drift around."

According to Haueter, a consultant for ABC News, investigators probably tried to match serial numbers on the part to those on MH370, a Boeing 777.

“If it is a 777 part, it’s most likely from MH370,” Haueter told ABC.


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