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Monday
Aug202018

Woman who fell off cruise ship: 'I am very lucky to be alive'

iStock/Thinkstock(ROME) --  A British woman was pulled out of the Adriatic Sea on Sunday after falling off a cruise ship and treading water for 10 hours.

The woman was on the Norwegian Star near Croatia when she fell overboard, according to the cruise line.

"In the morning of August 19th, a guest went overboard as Norwegian Star made her way to Venice. The Coast Guard was notified and a search and rescue operation ensued," a spokesperson for Norwegian said in a statement. "We are pleased to advise that the guest was found alive, is currently in stable condition, and has been taken ashore in Croatia for further treatment. We are very happy that the individual, who is a UK resident, is now safe and will soon be reunited with friends and family."

David Radas, a spokesperson for the Croatian Ministry of Maritime Affairs, said CCTV footage shows her falling off the boat at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, and she was rescued at 9:45 a.m. Sunday.

The 46-year-old woman, whose name ABC News confirmed as Kay Longstaff, told Croatian TV station HRT in a brief interview after the coast guard returned her to shore, that she was on the back deck when she fell off. Longstaff works as a flight attendant and had some emergency training, a Croatian coast guard official told ABC News.

"I fell off of the back of Norwegian Star and I was in the water for 10 hours," she told HRT. "So these wonderful guys rescued me. ... I am very lucky to be alive."

Longstaff is still in the hospital, but is expected to be released Monday once family arrives.

"We were lucky," Capt. Lovro Oreskovic, lead rescuer, told ABC News. "When she saw us, she immediately raised her hands and waved."

Oreskovic said Longstaff was in good shape. She told the rescuers it was because she is into yoga. She was floating in the sea all the time and singing not to fall asleep and to preserve her body temperature from falling, Oreskovic said.

The area where she fell off could be seen blocked by a crew member and caution tape in photos taken by a fellow cruise passenger.

It's not clear how or why she fell off the back of the ship or the height of the fall.

The Norwegian Star arrived in its port in Venice, Italy, Sunday afternoon -- without Longstaff -- and departed for its next stop 2 1/2 hours later.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Aug192018

Bolton: Election meddling by China, North Korea, Iran a concern

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- National Security Adviser John Bolton said Russia is only one of four countries that could potentially try to interfere in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.

In an exclusive interview Sunday morning, Bolton told ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent and This Week Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz that the U.S. is also concerned about possible election meddling by China, North Korea and Iran.

“I can say definitively that it's a sufficient national security concern about Chinese meddling, Iranian meddling and North Korean meddling that we're taking steps to try to prevent it, so it's all four of those countries, really,” Bolton said.

Raddatz pressed, “But have you seen anything in the past specifically to China?”

Bolton said he wasn't going to discuss "what I've seen or haven't seen." He added, "But I'm telling you, looking at the 2018 election, those are the four countries that we're most concerned about.”

On Saturday, President Trump suggested in a tweet that investigators should expand the scope of election meddling beyond Russia, writing, “All of the fools that are so focused on looking only at Russia should start also looking in another direction, China.”

Raddatz spoke with Bolton in Jerusalem at the King David Hotel on the first leg of his foreign trip. He is also set to meet with his Russian counterpart next week in Geneva, a follow-up to the July 16 summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

President Trump came under harsh and widespread criticism for a comment at a news conference with Putin in Helsinki when he appeared to accept the Russian leader's denial of meddling in U.S. elections despite American intelligence agencies' having concluded the opposite.

"I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia," Trump said. "I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be."

He added, “So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

Trump has also said previously that "it could be other people also" besides Russia behind the U.S. election meddling in 2016.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Aug182018

Ahead of cross-border family reunion, South Koreans express anticipation

iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL) -- Kim Kwang Ho left his hometown in North Hamgyong Province, now North Korean territory, when he was in middle school, leaving his mother and younger brother behind. He left without a single photo, believing he would be back within 10 days, when the danger of war dissipated. Those 10 days turned into 68 years.

Kim, who is now 80, still has clear memories of his hometown, recalling the apricot trees that grew in his backyard. But he said he cannot recall the faces of his mother or little brother. Nevertheless, his longing for his family always stayed with him: “When I hear the word ‘mother,’ I just cannot help but cry.”

On Monday, Kim and others chosen by lottery will finally rejoin family members from the North they haven't seen in decades. The winners of that lottery -- held between the North and South as part of cooling tensions between both sides -- passed a screening to become the final 89 South Koreans to meet their families in the North for three consecutive days. And conversely, starting Friday, 83 North Koreans will get three days to meet with their separated families who are living in South Korea.

Lee Su Nam was astounded when the Red Cross delivered the message that he will be meeting his older brother. He is now 77 years old and had only faint hope that his brother -- 10 years older than Lee -- would still be alive in the North. Lee’s family lived in South Korea for generations. One morning, his older brother was taken away by the North Korean military, and Lee has never forgotten that day.

“For me, it was just my older brother that I lost, but for him it was the whole family, hometown, friends, school. ... I can’t imagine how hard his life must have been,” Lee told ABC News, as he clutched old photos of his big brother, which Lee had kept all these years.

So far, 132,603 people have registered with the Red Cross for cross-border family reunions. Fifty-seven percent of them are now dead. And among the 56,862 seniors who are still waiting for a reunion, 63 percent of them are over 80.

“There are still over 50,000 people who haven’t seen their loved ones yet,” 92-year-old Yoon Heung Kyu said. He left his home in North Korea several years before the Korean War broke out. Although his roots were in the North, he had to fight along with South’s army.

“This meetup is a good thing, and we should do it,” he said. “But instead of going to Mount Kumkang, they could build a fort at Panmunjom and let people see their loved ones much more freely.”

Jeong Hak Soon, 81, is meeting her older brother’s wife and son on Monday at the reunion area. To her dismay, her much-missed brother was no longer alive to give her a pat on her head once again. She choked back tears talking about how her warm-hearted older brother was taken by the North Korean military. Her family evacuated their home in the North, not knowing they would never have their real home back.

"He would have returned to an empty house,” Jeong said of her brother. “I wonder how he managed to live on his own in that big empty house. My heart breaks every time I think of it.”

Jeong holds hope that inter-Korean relations will improve amid the currently thawing atmosphere.

“I sincerely hope for unification,” Jeong said. “I really wish I could meet them, visit their place, bring them here and feed them some good food.”

The official reunions between families in the two Koreas began in 2000. So far, 4,120 families were given the chance to meet their family members still in the North through 20 reunion events that took place at Mount Kumgang in North Korea. The last reunion of separated families took place in 2015.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Aug172018

Spanish police nab South Florida supermarket mogul wanted in 2011 alleged slaying of wife's lover

Google Maps(MADRID) -- A former co-owner of a grocery chain in South Florida who police say is the alleged mastermind behind the slaying of his wife's secret lover has been arrested in Spain this week after seven years on the run, authorities said.

The Miami-Dade Police Department, which is investigating the case, received a call from Spanish authorities on Tuesday that they had detained Manuel Marin, 64, after making contact with him and realizing that he was wanted in the United States for second-degree murder, among other charges. Marin is awaiting extradition to the United States, Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta told ABC News.

The Miami Dade State Attorney's Office confirmed in a statement to ABC News on Friday that Marin "is in custody" and that "extradition is proceeding."

Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that Marin was arrested at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid after police officers there observed him acting nervously. Spanish police did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

The U.S. Department of State said it does not comment on pending extradition requests.

Marin is one of four suspects in the grisly murder of 43-year-old Camilo Salazar, who was having an affair with Marin's wife, police said. Salazar was found dead on a dirt road in northwest Miami-Dade in June 2011, a day after he went missing, according to police. He had been beaten, his hands were bound, his throat was slit and his groin was burned, police said.

Investigators determined that Marin, a part-owner of Presidente Supermarkets at the time, found out about their relationship and confronted the two. Then, he allegedly enlisted the help of two mixed-martial arts fighters and a boxing promoter to kidnap and murder Salazar, according to police.

Just days after the killing, Marin packed his bags, took his passport and fled the country for Spain, according to police. He left his business behind in the hands of his son, who still runs several Presidente Supermarkets in South Florida, police said. On its website, the Hispanic grocery chain claims it is one of the fastest-growing in the United States.

The company did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment Friday.

Marin’s wife has not spoken publicly about the affair.

Over the years, police were able to locate the other three suspects: former mixed martial artists Alexis Vila Perdomo and Ariel Gandulla, as well as fight trainer and promoter Roberto Isaac. Vila Perdomo and Isaac were arrested in April and have pleaded not guilty, while Gandulla remains at large and is living openly in Vancouver, according to police.

Perdomo, 47, and Isaac, 62, have trial dates scheduled for Oct. 22. They are being held without bond in the meantime, according to court records.

Miami-Dade police have filed an arrest warrant for Gandulla, 50, and are working with Canadian authorities, Zabaleta said.

"We know exactly where he is," Zabaleta said of the ex-MMA fighter. "We also knew that Marin was in Spain."

All four suspects face charges of second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit second-degree murder and kidnapping in connection with Salazar's death.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Aug172018

Video captures moment when officer is struck by police van driven by his own partner

Manchester Police(MANCHESTER, England) -- A United Kingdom officer who was chasing down a suspect was struck by a police van driven by his own partner -- and the dramatic episode was all captured on video.

A witness took video of the moment when the officer was chasing down the suspect on Leicester Road in Higher Broughton, Salford, Thursday afternoon.

That's when the police van accidentally struck the officer.

A spokesperson at the North West Ambulance Service told ABC News that they “received a call yesterday at 15:03 about a man with leg injuries." They took the man to North Manchester Hospital.

Greater Manchester Police confirmed in a statement that “one of the officers gave chase but was unfortunately then involved in a collision with a police van.”

Amanda Delamore, deputy inspector for GMP's Salford Borough, added: “Officers put themselves in difficult situations to keep our streets safe on a daily basis, and sadly on this occasion, it has ended with one of our officers in hospital.”

The officer, who suffered a leg injury but survived the accident, has already been discharged from the hospital.

Greater Manchester Police confirmed to ABC News that “he is recovering from his injuries at home, which are not considered to be serious.”

"My thoughts are with the officer," Delamore said. "We wish him a speedy recovery and hope to have him back protecting us all as soon as possible.”

The 29-year-old suspect, whom police did not identify, was arrested on prison recall, authorities said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Aug172018

US says number of Muslim minorities in Chinese internment camps may be 'in the millions'

iStock/Thinkstock(BEIJING) -- The U.S. is expressing alarm that China may be detaining "millions" of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in a "worsening crackdown" in the country's inaccessible western region Xinjiang.

The new number comes one week after a United Nations panel reported that an estimated 1 million Uighurs are being held in "counterextremism centers" with millions more detained in "re-education camps for political and cultural indoctrination."

The Uighurs are a majority-Muslim, Turkic-speaking ethnic group in western China. While the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region has some independence in name, it has increasingly come under strict police-state rule by the Chinese government. The crackdown on Uighur independence goes back to the founding of communist China under Mao Zedong, but analysts say the new surveillance state, which uses tools such as facial recognition technology, is unprecedented.

The U.S. has voiced its concerns about the situation for weeks now. Ahead of the State Department's first-ever summit on religious freedom last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote an op-ed about the crackdown on religious freedom in China, as well as other countries such as Iran and North Korea.

"Chinese authorities are likely detaining, at least, hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in internment camps in Xinjiang," he wrote.

But now, the U.S. has raised those estimates.

"The number of individuals held in detention may possibly number in the millions," a State Department official told ABC News, noting that the U.S. was "deeply troubled by the Chinese government’s worsening crackdown on Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region."

Although the Trump administration has increasingly raised its concerns and said promoting religious freedom is a priority, it's unclear what action it may take.

Last Friday, a United Nations human rights panel reported that "upwards of a million people are being held in so-called counterextremism centers, and another 2 million have been forced into so-called re-education camps for political and cultural indoctrination," according to Gay McDougall, a member of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, or CERD.

McDougall laid out the extent of the crackdown -- sweeping arrests without charges for even the simplest expression of ethnoreligious identity; mass surveillance with mandatory collection of biometric data such as DNA samples and iris scans; and the confiscation of travel documents, requiring people to apply for permission to leave the province.

Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region "resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy" and a "sort of a no-rights zone" where "members of that Uighur minority group along with others that are identified as Muslims are being treated as inmates of the state based solely on their ethno-religious identity," McDougall said.

China dismissed the reports, saying it is part of a legitimate counterterrorism campaign.

"Certain anti-China forces have made unwarranted charges against China for political purposes, and a few overseas media smeared China's measures to fight terrorism and crimes in Xinjiang through their distorted reports of the CERD review, which is out of ulterior motives," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said Tuesday.

But the State Department told ABC News the measures would actually increase the terrorist threat in China.

"China has the right to protect its security and to counter violent extremism," the State Department official said. But "indiscriminate and disproportionate controls on ethnic minorities' expressions of their cultural and religious identities have the potential to incite radicalization and recruitment to violence."

The U.N. said China's national security laws have become "imprecise and over-broad," and now "enable abusive, arbitrary, and discriminatory prosecutions and convictions."

Human rights groups have called on the Trump administration to do more than issue strong statements and instead take action.

One tool being considered is imposing sanctions through the Global Magnitsky Act, which gives the administration the ability to go after foreign officials for corruption or human rights abuses. Among other cases, it has been used by the Trump administration to sanction a Myanmar general responsible for the Rohingya crisis and, most recently, two senior Turkish officials for the ongoing detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson.

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Laura Stone said in April that Global Magnitsky sanctions were among the many options the U.S. was considering. A State Department spokesperson later added, "No region is immune from human rights abuse or corruption," but declined to comment on any investigation or plans.

A vocal advocate -- U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback -- is among those pushing for such sanctions on China for the Uighur crackdown, as well as China's suppression of Buddhists and Christians, according to The Washington Post.

For now, the State Department official would only say that the administration "will continue to raise our deep concerns with the Chinese government."

Brownback, who also helped Pompeo host that religious freedom summit in July, told reporters then that, out of the summit, the U.S. was developing an "international consortium to press China about religious freedom."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Aug172018

Investigation opened into Italy bridge collapse that killed 38 amid desperate search for missing 

Laura Lezza/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The Italian government announced it has opened a probe into the collapse of a bridge in Genoa that killed at least 38 people, and is putting pressure on the country's largest toll-road operator to prove that it met its contractual obligations in maintaining the viaduct.

The Italian transport ministry has also demanded that the private contractor, Autostrade, whose parent group Atlantia is controlled by the influential Benetton family, complete the bridge’s replacement and bear the brunt of the cost.

Large sections of the nearly 50-year-old Morandi bridge collapsed Tuesday, sending vehicles plunging to the ground.

The Genovan public prosecutor’s office, which is also investigating the accident, said it is looking into whether or not there may be a case for negligible homicide.

Since the deadly collapse, the government has threatened to strip Autostrade of its lucrative contract managing highways in the country. The firm has warned that breaking the deal ahead of term would make the government liable for a hefty fee.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Autostrade is expected to hold “an extraordinary board meeting” on Tuesday to discuss the disaster, according to a source speaking to the news agency, who added that no management changes were expected at the firm.

A number of families in Genoa are holding private funerals for their loved ones, some shunning public funerals organized by the state, according to Italian daily newspaper La Stampa.

Some funerals are planned for the weekend.

Antonio Brencich, an expert who criticized the bridge’s structure before the accident happened, has suggested to reporters that the collapse may have been due to the breaking of a cable rod.

“There is talk that the collapse was sparked by the breaking of a cable rod … There are eyewitness accounts and videos that go in this direction,” Brencich said to reporters.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug162018

Pompeo launches Iran task force as US tries to shore up support for its pressure campaign

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration is launching a new task force to focus on Iran, highlighting the threat from the country as a top foreign policy priority.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced his team would spearhead the Iran Action Group to coordinate all "Iran-related activity" across his department and the federal government. The group, led by the new Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, "will drive daily progress" toward the administration's goal of changing Iran's behavior, from support for groups like Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels to pursuit of ballistic missiles and nuclear capabilities, Pompeo said.

But critics charge the change does little to boost the administration's Iran policy, which has isolated it from European allies and done little to alter Iran's activity in the Middle East.

In May, President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers that restricted its nuclear pursuit in exchange for sanctions relief. The Trump administration said the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, was insufficient because it did not deal with Iran's other "malign activities," or ultimately stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

In its place, Pompeo said the U.S. is pursuing a "campaign of pressure, deterrence, and solidarity with the long-suffering Iranian people" to force the Iranian government to meet 12 points that Pompeo laid out in a speech in May. That includes sanctions that snapped back into place 10 days ago on precious metals, Iran's currency and the automobile sector, and more sanctions that will snap back on November 5, on Iran's oil exports and central bank and financial transactions.

In particular, Hook will also be tasked with building international support for the administration's new campaign -- a tall task as European allies have consistently criticized the decision to withdraw and taken steps to protect European companies from U.S. sanctions. Other countries, like Russia and China, have said they will continue their business with Iran, including the purchases of Iranian oil that are crucial to Iran's economy.

Hook told reporters Thursday the U.S. has "a lot more diplomatic freedom" outside of the deal, but so far it remains alone in withdrawing and lonely in its pursuit of economic pressure.

In the face of that opposition, State Department teams have visited 24 countries to explain U.S. sanctions and demand that countries reduce their Iranian oil imports to zero by November 5 or face U.S. sanctions, Hook said, adding, "That work will continue in the coming months."

Before Trump withdrew from the JCPOA, Hook had been the lead negotiator with European allies, trying to come up with a side agreement that would keep the U.S. in the deal. After months of talks that made real progress, the U.S. walked away and Trump pulled the U.S. out because the administration wanted to make changes that the Europeans saw as violating the deal's terms.

"We didn't get there," a senior State Department official said at the time.

Critics say that Hook lost his credibility with those countries -- France, Germany, and the United Kingdom -- because of that: "Hook alienated allies in negotiations in the run up to America's withdrawal from the Iran Deal... They will not view him as a credible counterpart," said Brett Bruen, a former diplomat who served as White House Director of Global Engagement and now president of the Global Situation Room.

But Hook said that he had meetings in London with senior officials from the three countries Wednesday and that allies around the world share U.S. concerns about "the range of Iranian threats, especially around missiles and cyber, maritime aggression and terrorism."

A European diplomat in Washington told ABC News that the past negotiations were not a problem for future talks: "We have very good relations with Brian Hook, and I don't think it'll impact how we work with him," they said.

Still, there is concern that the Trump administration is seeking to undermine or even overthrow the Iranian regime, despite consistent denials from the administration that regime change is what they're pursuing. The announcement of the Iran Action Group even came at the same time as the 1953 American- and British-backed coup that overthrew Iran's first democratically elected government -- something Hook called a "coincidence."

The administration says it is still open to direct talks with Iran to reach a "new agreement," but Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini rejected that earlier this week, saying the country will never negotiate with the Trump administration. Khomeini and his regime have faced a wave of consistent protests since December over the economic troubles that have gripped Iran.

Either way, the Iran Action Group will seek to strengthen that mission by more closely coordinating the administration's policy.

Critics say it will make little difference. Bruen called it "a typical Washington move to create the appearance of action by putting [it] in the title," while Robert Malley, the senior White House advisor for the JCPOA negotiations, said in a statement, "Better inter-agency coordination to implement a policy that is rooted in wishful thinking about the imminent collapse or surrender of the Iranian regime and a non-existent international consensus won't make the United states any safer."

Hook has been the department's Director of Policy Planning, the in-house think tank that debates and develops policies on the world's challenges. Under former Secretary Rex Tillerson, Hook and his team took on an outsized role and often sidelined the department's rank and file. While Pompeo kept Hook on initially, he will now transition out of that role and focus solely on the Iran Action Group, a senior State Department official said.

In his place, Pompeo is expected to bring on board Kiron Skinner, a foreign policy academic who advised Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney's presidential campaigns. A Fox News contributor, she also served on Trump's transition team and briefly at the State Department at the start of his term.

It's unclear when that transition will take place.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug162018

Brussels rolls out stunning flower carpet

Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(BRUSSELS) -- For a few days every two years, the Grand-Place in Brussels rolls out the red carpet -- of flowers, that is.

This year's masterpiece contains more than 2,000 square yards of begonias, dahlias, grass and bark. The impressive display was created in less than four hours by 120 hard-working volunteers and is composed of nearly 1 million begonias, according to organizers.

The first flower carpet in Brussels was created in 1971 by landscape architect Etienne Stautema, and this year's floral designer is Mexico's Ana Rosa Aguilar Aguado. Aguado's carpet is dedicated to the Mexican region of Guanajuato, which, much like Brussels, is "known for its rich floral culture and tradition," organizers said.

The Grand-Place is also marking two decades as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The entrance fee is about $7 and the carpet will be on display until Sunday.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug162018

Deadly bridge collapse in Italy prompts finger-pointing over design flaws, funding

iStock/Thinkstock(GENOA, Italy) --  As rescue efforts continue for people still missing after the deadly Morandi Bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy, the questions of who bears responsibility for the accident remain unanswered.

Families of victims are preparing for funerals in the coming days, while a political dispute escalates over who is to blame.

Senior figures in Italy's populist government have placed blame on both the EU's austerity cuts and Autostrade, the private company given government contracts to run Italy’s toll highways.

The parent company for Autostrade Atlantia saw its shares plummet as the government issued threats to withdraw its license to operate, which runs until 2042. Italian media quoted Atlantia executives saying the company would be entitled to tens of billions of euros in compensation if the government breaks the contract early.

That prompted interior minister Matteo Salvini to accuse the firm of talking money while bodies were still to be identified and families were mourning loved ones.

Meanwhile, the EU Budget commissioner in Brussels addressed Italian accusations that EU rules prevented Italy from properly funding infrastructure projects.

 The EU has a large fund for infrastructure of more than $300 billion, which it divides among member states and spends on renewing and upgrading roads and transport.

The budget minister Gunther Oettinger tweeted Thursday, “it is very human to look for someone to blame when terrible accident happens at Genova. Still, good to look at facts: in past 7 years, @EU_Regional paid €2.5 million for roads and trains in Italy and €12 billion from #EUinvest, and EU gave green light to national funding for €8.5 billion.”

The fees that national governments pay towards the EU budget go, in part, back to member states. Brussels also advises states on how to allocate spending. Eurosceptics say Brussels' interference with national government spending infringes upon sovereignty.

Salvini, who is also Italy’s deputy prime minister, is part of the far-right League party, which is in coalition with the populist 5-Star Movement. The government has pledged to lobby against EU Budget restraints that were put into place to allay overspending that led to the Euro crisis in 2010.

 Meanwhile, as pressure heats up on Autostrade and its parent company Atlantia, Italians who blame the private firm are calling for boycotts of clothes company Benetton. The fashion brand was founded by the influential Benetton family who hold the major proportion of shares in Atlantia.

Atlantia, responding to criticism from the government, argued that it has consistently provided maintenance on the Morandi bridge and carried out checks on it every quarter as legally obliged.

However, warnings from engineers two years ago who criticized the sustainability and possible longevity of the bridge due to its design have re-emerged.

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