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Saturday
Nov182017

US warship collides with Japanese tug boat, latest mishap for the Navy's 7th Fleet

iStock/Thinkstock(TOKYO) -- A U.S. warship collided with a Japanese commercial tug boat in Japan's Sagami Bay on Saturday, marking the fifth time this year that a ship in the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet in the Pacific has been involved in a crash.

The Japanese tug boat lost propulsion and drifted into the USS Benfold during a towing exercise. The U.S. guided-missile destroyer sustained minimal damage, and there were no reported injuries on either vessel, according to a press release from the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet.

The USS Benfold, which is awaiting a full damage assessment, remains at sea under its own power. The incident will be investigated, the 7th Fleet said.

Here's a look at previous crashes involving U.S. Navy warships in 2017, including two deadly collisions that left 17 sailors dead:

Jan. 31: The USS Antietam runs aground off coast of Japan


The USS Antietam ran aground off the coast of Japan on January 31, damaging its propellers and spilling oil into the water.

The guided-missile destroyer grounded near the U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka, Japan, after anchoring out in high winds, the Navy Times reported.

The crew noticed the ship was dragging its anchor before getting it back underway, according to the Navy Times, adding that the crew then felt the ship shudder and lose pitch control of its propellers.

About 1,100 gallons of oil were dumped into the Tokyo Bay, the Navy Times reported. No one was injured.

A Navy investigation revealed that the former Capt. Joseph Carrian of the USS Antietam was "ultimately responsible" for the ship’s running aground, causing an estimated $4.2 million in damage, according to Stars and Stripes.

May 9: The USS Lake Champlain collides with South Korean fishing boat

The USS Lake Champlain, also a guided-missile cruiser, collided with a South Korean fishing boat in the Sea of Japan May 9.

No one was injured in the incident.

The warship tried to alert the fishing boat before the collision but it was too late.

June 17: The USS Fitzgerald collides with a Philippine container ship

Seven U.S. sailors were killed when the USS Fitzgerald collided with Philippine-flagged container ship in the middle of the night off the coast of Yokosuuka, Japan, June 17.

The destroyer was operating about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka when it collided with the ACX Crystal.

The Fitzgerald sustained damage on its starboard side and experienced flooding in some spaces as a result of the collision, according to the Navy.

 All seven sailors who died were initially missing after the collision and found in the flooded quarters after the destroyer returned to port, a Navy official told ABC News. Those quarters flooded within 90 seconds of the collision.

The area is often busy with sea traffic, with as many as 400 ships passing through it every day, according to Japan's coast guard.

The Navy last week relieved the USS Fitzgerald's commanding officer, executive officer and senior enlisted sailor for alleged mistakes that led to the deadly crash.

Aug. 21: The USS John S. McCain collides with a merchant ship

Ten U.S. sailors were killed when the USS John S. McCain, named after the father and grandfather of Vietnam war hero Sen. John S. McCain III, R-Ariz., collided with commercial vessel Alnic MC in waters east of Singapore on Aug. 21, according to the Navy.

The collision occurred east of the Strait of Malacca around 6:24 a.m. Japan Standard Time. The guided-missile destroyer was on its way for a routine port visit in Singapore, the Navy said in a statement.

"It was one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world," said Steve Ganyard, an ABC News contributor, retired Marine colonel and a former deputy assistant secretary of state.

"One-third of all maritime shipping goes through here," Ganyard said. "So there were probably extenuating circumstances but no doubt, as we saw in the Fitzgerald, there was probably human error involved, as well."

The warship suffered significant damage to the hull, causing flooding in nearby departments, including the crew berthing, machinery and communications rooms, the Navy said.

"This leaves a real gap in the Pacific fleet's capabilities at a time when tensions with North Korea are high," Ganyard said.

All 10 sailors who died were initially missing and their remains were later found inside sealed compartments of the warship's damaged hull. Another five sailors sustained non-life-threatening injuries, the Navy said.

The crew consisted of 23 officers, 24 petty officers and 291 sailors, according to the Navy's website. Its home port is in Yokosuka, Japan.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Nov172017

Argentine Navy loses communication with submarine carrying crew of 44

MR1805/iStock/Thinkstock(BUENOS AIRES) -- The Argentine Navy confirmed Friday that it has lost communication with one of its submarines.

According to the Navy, the submarine's last-known position in the area of operations was near the San Jorge Gulf, about 240 nautical miles from the country's southern shore. Communications were
reportedly knocked out Wednesday because of a fire, local media said.

No SOS warning was received at any time, the Navy said. A spokesperson hypothesized that it would be logical that a major electrical problem could have knocked out the submarine's communications.

The missing watercraft -- the ARA San Juan -- is a German-built TR 1700 class diesel-electric submarine, the Navy said. It was on a routine trip from a base in Ushia, on the southern tip of the
continent, to its home base of Mar del Plata.

The ARA San Juan debuted in 1983 and hadn't experienced any problems until two years ago, when it was sent to port to be repaired, the Navy said. The nature of those repairs is unclear.

The Navy said that four naval ships and three planes were searching for the missing submarine, as well as land-based communications stations, which are listening to all possible frequencies of
transmission in case the vessel is trying to send a message.

One of the planes being used is an American NASA plane, which is equipped with instruments that searchers hope will aid in the search. The Navy has also asked that local merchant and fishing ships
also keep a lookout for the submarine.

Only 15 percent of the logical search area had been surveyed by Friday afternoon, and the search area has now been widened, the Navy said.

After the search began during mild weather, visuals were later hampered due to worsening weather, according to officials.

The Submarine Force Command has been in touch with the relatives of the 44 on board to keep them informed of developments.

According to the Navy, a Turbo Tracker aircraft and a B-200 aircraft had made flights Thursday and this morning.

Both the naval destroyer ARA Sarandi with a helicopter on board and the corvette ARA Rosales had also been sent to the area. Additionally, the Navy said the ARA corvette Drummond was expected to
arrive and get in position today around 6 p.m. local time.

Steve Ganyard, an ABC News contributor and a former deputy assistant secretary of state, said the San Juan was almost 35 years old but had undergone a "midlife upgrade" in 2013. The submarine is
one of only three in the Argentine Navy.

The U.S. Southern Command said it was monitoring the situation closely.

"We are coordinating closely with the U.S. State Department and our chain of command to be ready to assist, if asked. As of this email, U.S. Southern Command does not have a role in the ongoing
search and rescue effort. We join the international community in hoping for an outcome involving no loss of life or injuries to personnel," U.S. Southern Command said.

The Argentine Foreign Ministry said that the governments of Chile, U.S. and U.K. had offered logistical support and information in the search for the missing submarine. The U.S. also deployed a
plane to the massive search site in a rescue operation.

"The fact is that, if you don't know where the submarine is, when it's in distress, you can have all the rescue gear in the world and it's not going to make a difference," Ganyard said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Nov172017

Yemen 'one of the most dangerous places on earth' for children: UN

Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Saudi-led coalition’s blockade of Yemen has “choked off” urgently needed humanitarian aid, threatening the lives of millions of vulnerable families and children, U.N. leaders
warned on Thursday.

Even though the Saudi-led coalition has lifted the blockade of some of Yemen’s ports, many of the country’s seaports and land ports remain closed, preventing food, fuel, and medicine from reaching
millions of people in need.

About 400,000 children are suffering from severe and acute malnutrition and depend on a continuous supply of medicine and nutrition for their survival. About 150,000 malnourished children could die
within the coming months if left untreated, the U.N. said in a statement.

“All in all, for children, it’s one of the most dangerous places on earth right now,” Sherin Varkey, UNICEF’s acting representative in Yemen, told ABC News.

In Yemen, one child dies from infectious diseases or malnutrition every 10 minutes, Varkey said.

On a recent visit to a hospital in the capital of Sanaa, Varkey said he spoke with staff members who had been showing up to work and doing their jobs diligently despite not having received their
salaries for more than a year.

At the hospital, Varkey said he met a young mother who was about 16 or 17 with a 9-month-old, severely malnourished baby. The mother had borrowed money so that she could afford the long journey
from her home in Ibb governorate to the hospital in Sanaa, hoping that her child could be saved, he said. Her husband works for a private company and has not been paid for more than a year,
according to Varkey.

“The mother was hopeful that her child will survive today but wasn’t very optimistic about peace returning to the country in the near future. She appeared very depressed with the overall
situation,” said Varkey. “She was saying that everyone in her village was going through the same problem and that people sometimes do not even have the money to go to the hospital for treatment.”

What is behind the Saudi-led blockade of Yemen and how has it affected people there? Here is what you should know.

How long has the Saudi-led military coalition imposed a blockade on Yemen?

The Saudi-led coalition, which supports the Yemeni government and is at war with Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels, has been blocking Yemen’s borders for two years.

But on Nov. 6, the coalition tightened the blockade after a Nov. 4 ballistic missile attack on Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh. The Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attack that day.

The Saudi-led coalition has partially lifted the recent blockade, and seaports and airports in areas under the control of the government have re-opened.

But other areas remain choked off. The re-opening of Aden airport has allowed some humanitarian flights to land, but services to other parts of the country are still blocked, said the U.N. Office
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in its latest update on the situation in Yemen.

How has the blockade affected Yemenis' access to food and fuel?

Yemen's stocks of wheat and sugar will run out in three months if cargo vessels are not allowed to discharge in Hodeidah, the country’s only deep-water seaport, in the next few days, the
International Rescue Committee and a number of other organizations said in a joint statement Friday.

"Even if they are allowed, food distribution systems have been severely disrupted and may collapse within weeks," the statement said. "Millions could die in a historic famine if the blockade
continues indefinitely."

In Sanaa, the price of petrol increased by more than 170 percent and the price of diesel by 62 percent on the black market, according to the U.N., and the price of trucked water has risen by 133
percent.

At a center for internally displaced people in Sanaa, run by UNHCR’s partner organization ADRA, between 600 and 800 people were arriving every day, compared with 400 to 600 before the border
closure, according to the UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency.

In Aden, displaced people reported that food prices had almost doubled, the UNHCR said in a press release.

Yemenis now have to line up for hours and hours to get fuel and cooking gas, the U.N. and residents said.

"Ongoing obstruction by the Saudi-led coalition to the delivery of critical supplies is a measure which may amount to collective punishment of millions of Yemeni people. It exacerbates the world’s
worst humanitarian crisis where almost three years of war have left over 20 million people in need of assistance, 7 million of them on the brink of famine," a number of humanitarian organizations,
including the U.N. and Save the Children, said in a joint statement.

Sporadic water supply to 6 million Yemenis is already at risk of complete stoppage because the supply depends on fuel, which is harder to procure because of the recent blockade, said Varkey.

How has the blockade affected Yemeni children?

In recent weeks, diphtheria, an infection that can be life-threatening for children, has been spreading fast in Yemen. There have been 120 diagnosed cases and 14 deaths, most of whom were children,
the U.N. said.

At least one million children are now at risk of contracting the disease, according to the U.N.If the blockade continues, the country is expected to run out of life-saving vaccines. The U.N. has
vaccines and medicine in transit to Yemen, but they are being blocked from entry.

“Our estimations show that if the blockade is not lifted, up to 1 million children could be deprived of lifesaving vaccinations,” said Varkey.

Yemen has seen the world’s largest cholera outbreak with more than 920,000 suspected cases and 2,200 cholera-related deaths -- a fourth of those cases are children, according to UNICEF. The number
of new cases has declined for the eighth week in a row, but if the blockade continues Yemen will see another upsurge, the U.N. warns.

The lives of 400,000 pregnant women and their newborns are also under threat due to the need for life-saving maternal medicine and health supplies, according to the U.N.

What was the situation like before the Nov. 6 blockade?

Catastrophic. Yemen was already experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world before the recent blockade. More than 20 million people, including over 11 million children, are in need of
urgent humanitarian assistance. Only 45 percent of health facilities are functional and at least 14.8 million are without basic healthcare. Some 17 million people don’t know where their next meal
will come from, according to the U.N. Severe acute malnutrition is threatening the lives of almost 400,000 children, the U.N. said.

“Fuel, medicine and food – all of which are now blocked from entry – are desperately needed to keep people alive,” a joint statement by WHO, UNICEF, and WFP said on Thursday. “Without fuel, the
vaccine cold chain, water supply systems and wastewater treatment plants will stop functioning. And without food and safe water, the threat of famine grows by the day.”

About 75 percent of public sector workers, mainly health staff, sanitation staff and school teachers, have not received their salaries for nearly a year, said Varkey.

How much aid has been prevented from entering Yemen since the Nov. 6 blockade began?

As of Nov. 15, the blockade has prevented 29 vessels with approximately half a million metric tonnes of food and fuel supplies from reaching the people of Yemen, according to the U.N. Office for
the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

A U.N. vessel transporting 1,313 metric tonnes of health and nutrition supplies, worth more than $10 million, is currently being prevented from docking in Al-Hodeidah port and another U.N. vessel
with 25,000 tons of wheat is waiting to berth off the coast of Al-Hodeidah port, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said its most recent update on Yemen, released on
Thursday.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Nov172017

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe appears in public 1st time since apparent military coup

iStock/Thinkstock(HARARE, Zimbabwe) -- Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe showed no signs of loosening his iron grip on power Friday as he appeared in public for the first time since the military apparently took control this week.

Clad in blue and yellow academic robes with a cap, the 93-year-old leader presided over and delivered a speech at a university graduation ceremony in the country's capital, Harare.

Zimbabwe's military told the state-owned Herald newspaper on Friday that it is "engaging with the commander-in-chief President Robert Mugabe on the way forward and will advise the nation of the
outcome as soon as possible."

The military added that "significant progress has been made in their operation to weed out criminals around President Mugabe." Those sought had been "committing crimes that were causing social and
economic suffering in Zimbabwe." Some have been arrested while others remained at large, the military told the newspaper.

Life seemed to carry on as usual in downtown Harare, with the exception of increased military presence. Residents there told ABC News that businesses were open and the streets were calm, though
soldiers were stationed in certain areas and tanks blocked some roads on the outskirts of the city center.

An American citizen, who lives in Harare and spoke to ABC News on condition of anonymity, said she still feels safe in her neighborhood. In fact, she discerns an overall sense of "subdued
excitement" from Zimbabweans and other residents about the potential military intervention, she said.

"If you mention this to anyone in passing, there's a smile that creeps on their face and a little giggling maybe too," she told ABC News in a telephone interview Thursday night. "People are hopeful
that finally, after all these years, Mugabe will be at the end of his reign."

The first signs of a military takeover emerged Tuesday as armored vehicles were deployed near the capital, one week after Mugabe fired his deputy and longtime ally, Vice President Emmerson
Mnangagwa, and accused him of scheming to take power, including through witchcraft.

An established Zimbabwean journalist, who spoke to ABC News on condition of anonymity Tuesday night, said members of the military marched inside the state broadcaster's headquarters and told
employees there to not be afraid, that "we are here to protect you" and to continue their work as usual.

The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe issued an advisory Tuesday night, urging all employees to stay home the following day and warning American citizens in the southern African nation to shelter in place
"as a result of the ongoing political uncertainty."

Zimbabwe's army addressed the country on state-run media Wednesday morning, vehemently denying speculation this was a coup d'etat and assuring citizens the president and his family are "safe and
sound."

"We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country, in order to bring them to justice. As soon as we have
accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy," Maj. Gen. S.B. Moyo, spokesman for the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, said in a statement on the state broadcaster.

"To both our people and the world beyond our borders, we wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover of government. What the Zimbabwe Defense Forces is doing is to pacify
a degenerating political, social and economic situation in our country, which if not addressed may result in a violent conflict," he added.

Moyo urged other security services to "cooperate" with the army "for the good of the country," and warned that "any provocation will be met with an appropriate response."

As the political turmoil continued to unfold, it remained unclear whether Mugabe was still in power.

The president of neighboring South Africa, Jacob Zuma, said he spoke with Mugabe on Wednesday morning, who told him he was "confined to his home but said that he was fine." Zuma is sending "special
envoys" to meet with Mugabe and the Zimbabwean army "in light of the unfolding situation," according to a press release from the South African presidency.

The whereabouts of Mugabe's wife were still unknown Friday; though journalists told ABC News she's believed to be with her husband under house arrest at the presidential palace in Harare.

It's uncharted territory for Zimbabweans. Mugabe has led the country since its independence in 1980, making him the world's oldest head of state. In December last year, Zimbabwe's ruling party
ZANU-PF confirmed Mugabe as its sole candidate for the 2018 election, despite concerns over his age and health.

Mugabe is still revered by some Zimbabweans as a liberation war hero; though many have come to view him as an avaricious autocrat who turned Zimbabwe from being the "breadbasket of Africa to the
basket case of Africa," said Alex Rossi, senior correspondent at Sky News

Zimbabweans have seen the economy expand and contract under Mugabe's rule. In recent years, the economy has suffered from rampant corruption, mounting debt, food shortages, a collapsed currency and
a deteriorating investment climate.

"Some people you speak to are quite optimistic, they’ll be quite glad to have a change," Rossi told ABC News in a telephone interview from Harare. "So people are kind of optimistic that this may
actually transition into something that delivers a better deal economically for them and their families."

While hosting discussions with African foreign ministers and their representatives in Washington, D.C., U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday described the potential transition "an
opportunity" for Zimbabweans.

"Zimbabwe has an opportunity to set itself on a new path –- one that must include democratic elections and respect for human rights," Tillerson said. "Ultimately, the people of Zimbabwe must choose
their government. In our conversations today, we have an opportunity to discuss concrete ways that we could help them through this transition."

With demonstrations set to take place in Harare over the weekend, the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe continued to urge American citizens there to "remain safely at home or in your accommodations as much
as possible."

Rossi told ABC News the coming hours and days will be "crucial" in how the political uncertainty in Zimbabwe will ultimately unfold.

"I think what is increasingly clear is that Robert Mugabe’s 37 years of controlling this country with an iron fist have come to an end. The question is, how will it end?" Rossi told ABC News. "Will
it end in a peaceful, bloodless coup or will it morph into something much worse, and we just don’t know that at the moment.

"The more that clock ticks round, the darker things look," he added.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Nov172017

Does hunting elephants help conserve the species?

Ingram/Thinkstock(HARARE, Zimbabwe) -- The Trump administration had planned to start accepting permits Friday for hunters to bring trophies from elephants hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia into the United States, saying that new information shows that the practice of trophy hunting actually helps the survival of the endangered species in the wild.

Late Friday, Trump tweeted that lifting the ban was on hold, but only as the administration further reviews the facts.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and hunting advocates say that hunting big animals like elephants and lions brings in money that countries use for conservation and anti-poaching programs and that wildlife authorities in Zimbabwe provided enough information to support reversing the 2014 ban.

"The Service will continue to monitor the status of the elephant population, the management program for elephants in the country to ensure that the program is promoting the conservation of the species, and whether the participation of U.S. hunters in the program provides a clear benefit to the species," U.S. Fish and Wildlife says in the official notice.

The announcement that U.S. Fish and Wildlife would start granting permits to import elephant trophies again was made by U.S. officials at a conservation conference in Tanzania hosted by Safari Club International, a hunting and conservation advocacy group.

“These positive findings for Zimbabwe and Zambia demonstrate that the Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes that hunting is beneficial to wildlife and that these range countries know how to manage their elephant populations,” said the organization's president, Paul Babaz in a Safari Club blog post.“We appreciate the efforts of the Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior to remove barriers to sustainable use conservation for African wildlife.”

The Safari Club filed a lawsuit with the National Rifle Association of America to block the ban on elephant trophy imports when it was announced in 2014, according to the blog post.

Hunting excursions in Zimbabwe can cost more than $37,000 and hunters also have to pay up to $14,500 for each elephant killed, according to safari hunting websites. A portion of the cost of a hunting trip led by guides includes goes to that country's government to be used for conservation. The ivory from an elephant's tusks is estimated to be worth $21,000.

Another argument in favor of trophy hunting is that allowing people to hunt animals makes them more valuable and gives local farmers or land owners a reason to care for them.

In 2015 Melville Saayman, a tourism and economics professor from North-West University in South Africa wrote that wildlife populations actually increased in countries that allow hunting like South Africa and Namibia and face more threats from poaching in areas where hunting is not allowed.

"From a conservation point of view wildlife is not doing well and one of the reasons for this is because hunting creates huge value. People protect what is valuable to them. And if hunting helps them get money and other goods from the animal, it is certainly in their best interests to look after the animals," Saayman wrote.

But conservation advocates say that elephants bring in much more revenue from tourists who want to see them alive. A report from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust estimates that an elephant brings in $23,000 a year, or $1.6 million over its lifetime.

Animal advocates also say that hunting endangered species is unethical and shouldn't be used to generate money for the government.

"It's impossible to sustainably harvest a species that's declining," Sebastian Troeng, executive vice president of Conservation International said. "The notion that killing elephants is helping elephants doesn't hold water,"

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of United States, says using conservation to support hunting doesn't make any sense because people travel to these countries to see live animals in the wild.

"You shouldn't be conducting unethical activities to create commerce," Pacelle said Thursday, adding that other countries like Kenya have banned sports hunting completely.

He also said that he thinks the argument that money from hunting is used for conservation doesn't hold up, giving the example that Zimbabwe's government has struggled with corruption for years and is in the middle of a volatile political situation.

"It's laughable to think that somehow they have strict controls in Zimbabwe," Pacelle said.

Savanna elephant populations declined by 30 percent across 18 countries in Africa from 2007 to 2014, according to the Great Elephant Census published last year, which put their remaining numbers at just over 350,000.

The elephant population declined 6 percent overall in Zimbabwe but dropped by 74 percent within one specific region. Elephants saw "substantial declines along the Zambezi River," in Zambia while other areas of that country were stable, according to the census.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Nov162017

Secretary of Defense Mattis: 'Opportunity for talks' if North Korea stops testing, developing and exporting nuclear weapons

US Department of Defense(WASHINGTON) -- There could be an "opportunity for talks" between the United States and North Korea, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Thursday, if North Korea halts its nuclear tests, development and exports.

Speaking to reporters during a trip to visit U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, Mattis said that "as long as they stop testing, stop developing, they don't export their weapons, there would be opportunity for talks."

But on Thursday, Chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White gave a briefing in which she could not speculate on an apparent sudden pause in North Korea's nuclear activities.

"Our policies remain to have the verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," White said. "So it's a diplomatic effort. We'll continue to support our diplomats and ensure that they can negotiate from a position of strength."

"I think it's perilous to predict anything about what North Korea does or doesn't do," she added. "But we're continuing to monitor the situation."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Nov162017

Australian police seize $186 million worth of cocaine on yacht

Ben185/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW SOUTH WALES, Australia) -- More than 1,500 pounds of cocaine, worth an estimated $186 million, were seized from a yacht in the state of New South Wales, Australian police said.

Three men were also arrested in Australia as part of a multi-agency investigation into drug trafficking, according to the Australian Federal Police.

Investigators tracked the yacht as it traveled from the South Pacific bound for New South Wales. When it reached Lake Macquarie, in New South Wales, authorities boarded the vessel and arrested a 68-year-old man, police said.

A 47-year-old man was taken into custody at a hotel in the nearby Warners Bay area of Lake Macquarie, and a third man, 63 years old, was arrested at a home in nearby Islington, according to police.

When police boarded the vessel, they found “a large commercial quantity of cocaine concealed within the hull” -- believed to amount to 1,543 lbs. of cocaine with an estimated potential street value of $186 million, police said.

Forensic officers are continuing to take apart the boat, as well as examine and test the cocaine, according to police



Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Nov162017

More French women are reporting incidents of sexual misconduct 

claudiodivizia/iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- The fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandal has been reverberating far beyond the United States’ borders, and in France, where male chauvinism is ingrained in the culture, the allegations of sexual misconduct have inspired women here to speak out.

Reports of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment in France rose 25 percent in October compared to the same month a year ago, a spokesman for the French interior ministry told ABC News.

In the wake of the #MeToo hashtag started by actress Alyssa Milano in the United States, French women invented a hashtag of their own to speak up about sexual harassment.

#Balancetonporc, which translates to “Expose your pig,” went viral as thousands of French women posted stories of inappropriate sexual behaviors and abuse. According to the French research institute Odoxa, 335,300 tweets with the hashtag #balancetonporc were posted in just five days. Seventeen thousand of them were testimonies of sexual aggression and harassment.

“In recent years in France, we have seen female journalists and politicians speaking up about sexual abuse,” Alice Debauche, an associate professor of sociology at Strasbourg University who specializes in violence against women, told ABC News. “But what we are seeing is unprecedented.”

The fact that famous actresses kicked off the Weinstein scandal has resonated in France, Debauche said.

“Women feel like they know these actresses by watching their movies and seeing them on the cover of magazines. There is sentiment of proximity,” she said. “Women identify themselves to actresses much more than to politicians, intellectuals or anonymous females.”

The recent increase in reports of sexual assault and harassment show that French women are trying to change cultural norms.

“Filing a complaint is always an obstacle for victims,” Debauche said. “It shows that they are feeling empowered to come forward after the campaigns on social media.”

According to Claire Ludwig, a member of the French feminist organization “Stop Street Harassment,” there is definitely a connection between the rise in reports and the numerous sexual misconduct stories of the past few weeks.

“This demonstrates that we are on the right path,” Ludwig said. “Fear is switching from the victim’s side to the aggressor’s.”

In a study published last year, the French Institute for Demographic Studies said an estimated 62,000 women in France are victims of at least one rape or attempted rape each year. Additionally, the study said that around 580,000 women are victims of sexual violence every year in France.

“Authorities need to extend this ongoing cultural debate through information, prevention and education campaigns," Debauche said. “Otherwise it might be short-lived.”

The massive wave of sexual harassment and assault stories in France is having political and legal repercussions, too.

French President Emmanuel Macron said during a television interview last month that he had begun the procedure to strip Harvey Weinstein of France’s highest award, the Legion of Honor. “His actions lack honor,” Macron said.

The ongoing debate in France amid the Weinstein scandal might also lead to changes in the law.

Marlène Schiappa, France’s minister for gender equality, wants to fine men for catcalling women in public.

A task force of legal professionals, policemen and politicians are working to define street harassment. The proposed law is expected to be presented next year.

“The creation of a legal framework to denounce street harassment is a victory for us,” Ludwig said. But she believes that the new law will be very hard to enforce. “Sexual harassers will have to be caught 'in the act' by police officers in order to be fined,” she said. “Is the government planning to put a police officer behind every woman on the streets of France?”

Schiappa admitted in a newspaper interview that “we know that policemen won’t be able to fine every acts of street harassment.”

“Street harassment is a cultural fight,” Schiappa said. “This law will open a public debate and change attitudes.”

The question of France's child sex laws is also on the table, after two recent separate controversial cases where men were acquitted of raping two 11-year-old girls because authorities could not prove coercion.

A minimum age of sexual consent does not currently exist in France, and the French government is now drafting a bill to say that sex with children under a certain age is by definition coercive.

France's justice minister received criticism after suggesting in a radio interview Monday that 13 could be the age of consent.

Establishing a legal age of consent is part of pending bill that will be presented next year to address sexual violence and harassment in France.



Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Nov162017

Prince William releases first-ever online code of conduct to combat cyberbullying

Tolga Akmen/WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince William announced recommendations Thursday for combating cyberbullying after convening a task force of leading tech companies to look at the issue.

The online code of conduct, called "Stop, Speak, Support," is the first in the world of its kind. Its aim is to create a safer space online for children and give them online resources if they feel threatened or lost.

William, 35, brought together the world’s leading tech firms -- including Google, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat -- as part of the Royal Foundation's task force on the prevention of cyberbullying. The task force, which first convened in May 2016, also included parents, children and representatives from children's charities.

The campaign will work with tech giants Facebook and Snapchat to initiate a trial program to support victims of cyberbullying and implement safety guidelines for online users.

The tech firms that are part of the task force have also agreed to make changes, William announced in his speech Thursday.

"The technology company members of the task force have agreed to adopt new guidelines to improve the process for reporting bullying online and to create clearer consequences for those who behave unacceptably," he said.

The online code of conduct includes a website where kids can go for support. The website teaches children to stop participating when they see negative comments, speak out to adults and/or report the bullying to the social media platform, and to support the person being bullied.

Kensington Palace on Wednesday released a moving video of William speaking with a mother who lost her son to suicide and a teen girl who attempted suicide after being the victim of cyberbullying.

"I started to self-harm as a way to cope, to make me feel better. And then I decided that I couldn't take this anymore and I tried to end my life," Chloe, who was cyberbullied at the age of 13, told William during their conversation at Kensington Palace.

In the video, William praised the women for their bravery and told them, "I only wish that neither of you had gone through what you've gone through."

"I think it is worth reminding everyone what the human tragedy of what we are talking about here," William said. "It isn't just about companies and about online stuff. It's actually real lives that get affected."

William said he became particularly interested in how social media can affect children after becoming a father to Prince George, 4, and Princess Charlotte, 2. William and Princess Kate are expecting their third child next April.

William also became interested in this cause through his work as an air ambulance pilot, where he witnessed and responded to many young men in despair and on the verge of suicide. After hearing a story of a little boy who killed himself due to online abuse, William vowed to get involved himself.

"Through my work on mental health, I have spent time getting to know parents and children for whom the impact of online bullying has been devastating," William said. "And as a parent myself, I understand the sense of loss and anger of those particular families who have lost children after they were the targets of campaigns of harassment."

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Thursday
Nov162017

Police: Grenfell Tower fire killed 71 people, including a stillborn baby

Carl Court/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The Grenfell Tower fire killed a total of 71 people, including a stillborn baby, London’s police said on Thursday after recovering and identifying all those believed to have died in the blaze.

In June, London’s Metropolitan Police estimated that about 80 people had died in the fire, which started on June 14 just before 1 a.m. local time.

Since then, police said they have searched every apartment on every floor and every communal area of the 24-story building and examined 15.5 metric tons of debris on each floor. The search operation is not expected to end until early December, but the police said it is very unlikely that anyone remains inside Grenfell Tower -- and all those reported missing have been found.

“I cannot imagine the agony and uncertainty that some families and loved ones have been through whilst we have carried out our meticulous search, recovery and identification process,” Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said in a statement.

Detectives used CCTV footage to identify the residents who escaped the tower. The videos show that 223 people escaped Grenfell Tower that night and survived. Police believe that 293 people were inside at the time of the fire, while a number of residents weren't home.

"The human cost and terrible reality of what took place at Grenfell Tower affects so many people,” said Cundy. "Our criminal investigation is continuing, and we are determined to do all we can to find the answers that so many people so desperately want."

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