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Thursday
Feb232017

Homeland Security chief John Kelly: There will be 'no mass deportations'

CARLOS BARRIA/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) --  Just hours after President Donald Trump described his new deportation policies as “a military operation,” Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly criticized the media for using that term and insisted there will be no "mass deportations."

Kelly, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, is in Mexico City for a brief trip, meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto and his Cabinet amid heightened tensions over the U.S.’s new immigration policies, heated rhetoric and insistence that Mexico will pay for a border wall.

“No, repeat, no, use of military force in immigration operations. None,” said Kelly in a brief press statement alongside his Mexican counterpart. “At least half of you try to get that right because it continually comes up in the reporting.”

Earlier in the day, President Trump told reporters his administration was getting “gang members,” “drug lords,” and “really bad dudes out of this country” at a roundtable with manufacturing CEOs.

“We're getting really bad dudes out of this country, and at a rate that nobody's ever seen before. And they're the bad ones. And it's a military operation because what has been allowed to come into our country, when you see gang violence that you've read about like never before, and all of the things -- much of that is people that are here illegally,” he said.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer later clarified that Trump was using the description "as an adjective" and that the process is "happening with precision" and in a "streamlined manner."

Kelly also announced that there will be “no, repeat, no mass deportations” despite concerns that new DHS memos opened the door for law enforcement to deport anyone without legal documentation that they encounter.

“Everything we do in DHS will be done legally and according to human rights and the legal justice system of the United States,” he said.

“All of this will be done, as it always is, in close coordination with the government of Mexico,” he added.

Before Kelly spoke, Tillerson made a rare public statement, saying he and Kelly had productive meetings with their Mexican counterparts and addressed those differences between the two neighbors.

“During the course of our meetings, we discussed the breadth of challenges and opportunities in the U.S.-Mexico relationship,” he said, standing alongside Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray. “In our meetings, we jointly acknowledged that in a relationship filled with vibrant colors, two strong sovereign countries from time to time will have differences."

He added: "We listened closely and carefully to each other as we respectfully and patiently raised our respective concerns.”

The amicable tone was shared by Videgaray, but he also made a point to highlight those differences.

“In a moment where we have notorious differences, the best way to solve them is through dialogue,” he said.

Tillerson has been notably quiet since he was sworn in last month. The former ExxonMobil CEO has not done an interview or held a press conference, and the department has not resumed its daily briefing for reporters -- a fixture at Foggy Bottom that goes back to the Eisenhower administration -- since he took office.

The silence has generated headlines that Tillerson and the State Department have been sidelined by a White House that has centralized power, especially on foreign policy decisions. Tillerson did not participate in White House meetings with foreign leaders last week. And top posts at the State Department have still not been filled over a month after inauguration, including the secretary's deputy.

The trip abroad is the first for Kelly and the second for Tillerson, although it is his first one-on-one visit to a foreign country -- a sign of how important the relationship is, according to the State Department.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Feb232017

Princess Diana's fashion style on display at Kensington Palace

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) — A new exhibition at Kensington Palace chronicles Princess Diana's evolving style during her life before her tragic death in 1997.

The exhibition, titled "Diana: Her Fashion Story," offers a unique look at Diana's style and features some of her most stunning outfits.

The dress Diana dubbed her "Elvis dress" will be on display. Diana accessorized the white, sleeveless gown, featuring thousands of tiny pearls and sequins, with a matching pearl-encrusted, high-collar jacket. She first wore the Catherine Walker dress to Hong Kong in 1989 and later wore the dress with her favorite tiara, the pearl and diamond Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara.

One of Diana's dazzling green velvet gowns on display shows a moment in history 20 years after her death. The tiny handprints of a then-3-year-old Prince William and 1-year-old Prince Harry are embedded in the fabric of the Victor Edelstein dress. The handprints appear to show the young princes clutching their mother for a hug.

"Diana: Her Fashion Story" showcases 25 dresses and gowns from Diana's most iconic moments, including the dress she wore to dance with John Travolta at the White House in 1985 and the dress Diana wore when she first appeared in public after her mid-1990s separation from Prince Charles.

The outfits represent Diana's life from her early 20s to the time of her death at age 36.

The exhibition, which is tied to the 20th anniversary of Diana's death, includes several dresses from Catherine Walker, one of Diana's favorite and most prolific designers. Among the dresses by Walker is a floral scoop neck dress Diana wore to a Christie's auction in 1997; the black halter necklace sequined gown Diana donned at Versailles in 1994; and the blush pink suit Diana wore to a children's charity event at the Savoy hotel in 1997.

"Diana: Her Fashion Story" opens at Kensington Palace on Feb. 24. It is organized by Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that oversees exhibitions at Kensington Palace.

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Thursday
Feb232017

Obama devotees in France hoping for an 'OBAMA17' presidential campaign

iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) — A group of Barack Obama devotees in France aren't happy with the homegrown contenders vying for the country's presidency, so they're hoping that the former U.S. president will step in and run for office this spring.

"OBAMA17" posters have been spotted plastered across Paris, urging citizens to visit the group's website and sign a petition to convince Obama to enter the race. The goal is to get 1 million people to sign the petition.

Why Obama? "Because he has the best resume in the world for the job," reads the website, which is in no way connected to Obama.

While this all sounds good, there is one problem. The French president needs to be, well, French. And Obama is not.

The website also says that Obama could be an antidote to the popularity of right-wing parties in the country.

"At a time when France is about to vote massively for the extreme right, we can still give a lesson of democracy to the planet by electing a French President, a foreigner," reads the website in French.

A spokesperson for the group told ABC News Thursday morning, "We started dreaming about this idea two months before the end of Obama's presidency. We dreamed about this possibility to vote for someone we really admire, someone who could lead us to project ourselves in a bright future. Then, we thought, whether it's possible or not, whether or not he is French, we have to do this for real, to give French people hope ... Vive la République, Vive Obama, Vive la France and the U.S.A."

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Thursday
Feb232017

McCain makes secret trip to Syria to meet US military, Kurds

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, made a secret trip to northern Syria last week to meet with U.S. troops and Kurdish fighters amid their longstanding battle to defeat ISIS, his office said Wednesday.

“Senator McCain traveled to northern Syria last week to visit U.S. forces deployed there and to discuss the counter-ISIL [another acronym for ISIS] campaign and ongoing operations to retake Raqqa,” a McCain spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Wednesday, referring to ISIS' Syrian capital. “Senator McCain’s visit was a valuable opportunity to assess dynamic conditions on the ground in Syria and Iraq.“

The trip comes as the Trump administration continues to re-evaluate the U.S. approach and plan to defeat ISIS. On the campaign trail, President Trump frequently criticized the Obama administration's policy to defeat the group that controls territory in both Syria and neighboring Iraq, but which has lost significant territory in the last two years.

McCain's office did not confirm the exact dates he was in Syria.

On Wednesday, the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition pushed further into Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, in a bid to wrest control of it from ISIS, which captured the city in 2014. Meanwhile, the U.S. military and its allies have for months been preparing a campaign to retake Raqqa in Syria, where ISIS has its de facto capital.

Members of Congress rarely travel to Syria as it does not have diplomatic ties to the U.S.

McCain, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also traveled to the country in 2013 to meet with Syrian rebel leaders fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The senator has been a consistent proponent of increased military action in Syria, both against Assad's forces as well as ISIS. He was very critical of the Obama administration's decision not to launch airstrikes against Assad's forces after it came to light that the Syrian president had used chemical weapons against Syrian rebels.

But McCain has also emerged as a critic of aspects of Trump’s foreign policy. During a speech at the Munich Security Conference in Germany on Friday, McCain said the new administration was in a state of "disarray."

Still, McCain agreed with Trump’s order to review the country’s military “strategy and plans to defeat ISIL,” according to the statement provided Wednesday by his office. “Senator McCain looks forward to working with the administration and military leaders to optimize our approach for accomplishing ISIL’s lasting defeat."

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Wednesday
Feb222017

Tillerson and Kelly visit Mexico amid tension over deportation guidelines

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly stepped off a plane in Mexico Wednesday evening, tensions were brewing there over new guidance from the administration about deportations, border patrol and President Trump's long-promised wall on the southern border.

While Kelly's department issued the guidelines, they now threaten to undermine such a high-level trip. Some fear that an immigration crackdown will result, despite the administration's attempts to ensure that mass deportations are not in the works.

The announcement caught the Mexican government by surprise and put officials there on a defensive footing just a day before the visit. But even as the Mexican foreign minister issued a blistering statement, the White House denied that anything was wrong.

“The relationship with Mexico is phenomenal right now,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer Wednesday.

The foreign trip is the first for Kelly and the second for Tillerson -- although it is his first one-on-one visit to a foreign country.

That’s a sign of how important this relationship is, according to the State Department, and despite the renewed tensions, they are hopeful the visit will be successful in mending the relationship.

So what is on the agenda, and how will Tillerson and Kelly be received?

THE WALL

At the top of the list and the source of much of the tension is the wall.

Trump maintains that Mexico will pay for a wall across the southern U.S. border, a notion which the Mexican government rejects. It’s a fight so bitter that Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a visit to the U.S. last month, leaving the White House scrambling to organize a call between the two leaders the next day.

After some tensions were eased with the call, Tillerson and Kelly were charged with rebuilding the relationship with this trip -- but these new immigration enforcement guidelines brought the same disputes back to the forefront.

 One of the new implementation memos, signed by Kelly, calls on Customs and Border Protection to “immediately begin planning, design, construction and maintenance of a wall” and tasks the under secretary for management in the Department of Homeland Security with identifying all available resources to pay for it.

But it also asks the under secretary to make a list of all direct and indirect U.S. aid to Mexico from the last five fiscal years. The move raised concerns that the White House would threaten to withhold aid down the line.

A senior administration official would only say that, “The Department of Homeland Security will undergo a review and provide that information back to the President as directed.”

Another senior administration official sought to downplay any tension over border security and said the trip was devised to address these issues.

“The wall is just one part of a broader relationship that we have,” they said. “We have clear differences on the payment issue, but agree that we need to work these differences out as part of a comprehensive discussion on all aspects of the bilateral relationship.”

DEPORTATIONS

Another important component of the immigration guidelines involves deportations -- continuing to prioritize immigrants here illegally who have committed crimes, but opening the door for law enforcement to detain and deport nearly anyone without proper documentation.

In addition, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has now been instructed to deport migrants who traveled through Mexico from elsewhere in Central or South America back to “the foreign contiguous territory from which they arrived.” In other words, if they cross the southern border, the migrants will be sent back to Mexico, regardless of where they came from.

 It’s a plan that Mexico opposes, with the Mexican foreign minister issuing a strong statement Wednesday.

“I want to make clear in the most emphatic way that the Mexican government and the people of Mexico do not have to accept provisions that unilaterally one government wants to impose on another, that we will not accept,” said Luis Videgaray, Tillerson’s counterpart.

“The Mexican government is going to act by all means legally possible to defend the human rights of Mexicans abroad, particularly in the United States,” he added.

Tillerson and Videgaray are scheduled to have dinner Wednesday night, along with Kelly, the Mexican Secretary of Defense, and the Mexican Secretary of Navy.

FUTURE OF U.S.-MEXICAN RELATIONS

The U.S. relationship with Mexico has steadily improved over the last couple of decades. A relationship once marked by distrust has thawed into a partnership based on trade, law enforcement, and counternarcotics, and that is what is really at stake here, with heated rhetoric threatening to upend that.

Throughout the campaign, Trump used Mexico as a punching bag, saying while he loved the Mexican people, even appreciated their leaders’ intelligence, he blamed the country for taking American jobs and for a flow of crime and drugs across the border.

 Since he was sworn in, things have unraveled further -- the canceled presidential visit, arguments over the wall and deportations and that tense phone call. The administration, however, sees things as on track.

“We have some differences on specific issues,” acknowledged a senior administration official, but “we continue to look for ways to address the concerns of both countries, produce results for both peoples, and we’re confident that through this process we’ll continue the long and good relationship that we’ve had between the two governments.”

On the other side of the border, though, Mexico may see deeper damage, and it could use these high-profile meetings to make that clear. Perhaps previewing such a move, the Mexican foreign minister even threatened Wednesday to involve international organizations to defend the Mexican people.

“The Mexican government will not hesitate to go to multilateral organizations starting with the United Nations to defend, in accordance with international law, human rights, liberties and due process in favor of Mexicans” abroad, Videgaray said Wednesday.

Thursday’s meetings will determine if such a bold move is necessary.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Feb222017

The tough fight ahead to retake Western Mosul 

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  This past weekend, Iraqi military forces began the assault to retake the western half of Mosul from ISIS in what is expected to be a tough fight.

It took Iraqi military forces 100 days of street-to-street fighting to finally retake the eastern half of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, but U.S. military officials anticipate that the fight to retake the western side of the city could be even more difficult.

The western side of Mosul, on the left bank of the Tigris River, is more densely populated than the eastern side and it is believed that ISIS fighters will take advantage of the narrow streets to slow down the Iraqi military offensive.

Here's a look at how the second phase of the battle for Mosul could shape up.

A Tough Fight in Western Mosul

"We do expect it to be an extraordinarily difficult fight" Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told Pentagon reporters Wednesday. "The enemy has not given up."

According to Dorrian, the U.S. military believes that between 1,000 and 3,000 ISIS fighters are currently in western Mosul hiding among an estimated 750,000 civilians remaining in the city.

"We do expect it to be a very tough fight because the very narrow areas, the very narrow streets in some parts of the city, the ancient parts of the city, are going to make for a very tough going," said Dorrian.

The narrow streets will limit the Iraqi military's ability to use vehicles in their assault on the city.

But they will also likely prevent ISIS from launching the deadly suicide car bomb attacks it used to slow down the Iraqi military in eastern Mosul. The car bomb attacks resulted in significant casualties among the Iraqi military's elite Counter Terrorism Service that was doing most of the intense fighting in eastern Mosul.

 Iraqi military forces are expected to face even tougher ISIS resistance in western Mosul. Dorrian noted that there were roughly 100,000 buildings in eastern Mosul that had to be cleared by the Iraqi military and that there are a similar number of buildings on the western side of the city in an even more compressed area.

Dorrian said Iraqi forces will face a tough fight because each of "these buildings have to be cleared from rooftop level through every room, every closet, all the way down to ground level, including the tunnels that get dug between buildings."

"It's very, very dangerous and tedious, and the Iraqi security forces have done a really good job of protecting civilians as they've conducted those clearing operations and that's something we expect them to continue." said Dorrian.

What Will the Offensive Look Like?

The offensive for western Mosul has begun with Iraqi forces pressing northward to the southern stretches of the city. In the three days since the start of the offensive, they have already taken back 48 square miles and are now overlooking the city's airport.

It is expected that the Iraqi military will face tougher ISIS resistance in the fight for the airport.

The offensive is being led by the Iraqi Army's Ninth Division and the Iraqi Federal Police who are leading the offensive into western Mosul. It was the emergence of the Iraqi Federal Police in late December that helped turn the tide in eastern Mosul. It is expected that forces from the Counter Terrorism Service will once again play a key role in the push into western Mosul.

For months, Shiite militias have pushed northwest of the city to cut off the main road from Mosul to Tal Afar, another ISIS-controlled city. They are there to block the escape of ISIS fighters to that city.

With the Tigris River to the east blocking possible escape routes as well, ISIS fighters will be effectively encircled in the city's western half.

The battle for Mosul has also led American troops to come closer to combat situations even though they are still required to be at Iraqi unit headquarters beyond enemy lines.

Those restrictions have been less applicable to American special operations forces accompanying their Iraqi counterparts, since those Iraqi commanders are always close to the front lines.

But Dorrian explained Wednesday that other American advisers working with commanders of regular Iraqi Army units are "close enough to direct the battle,” he said, adding: " I don't want to give you the impression they're far removed from the front.”

Americans were close enough at times, Dorrian said, that they took enemy fire and found themselves in a combat situation where they had to fight back. He would not disclose whether any American forces had been wounded by enemy fire in such situations.

American advisers assisting in calling in airstrikes targeting ISIS are also closer to the battlefield. "They're not removed from the front, they're very close to the front, close enough to observe what's going on and provide good advice and assistance,” said Dorrian.

It remains unclear if the fight to retake western Mosul will be helped by additional U.S. support that the Trump administration will soon begin to consider.

On Jan. 28, President Trump tasked the Pentagon to lead a review of the strategy against ISIS and to look for new ways to speed up the fight against the terror group. A Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday that the options could be presented to the White House early next week.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Feb222017

Dutchess Kate follows in Queen Elizabeth's footsteps at royal engagement

Anwar Hussein/WireImage via Getty Images(LONDON) -- Dutchess Kate had her first official engagement with Action for Children in Wales since taking over from Queen Elizabeth II in December as the organization's royal patron.

Kate, 35, visited two projects offering support to vulnerable children and families. She listened to experts at MIST, a childhood mental health project that supports young kids in foster care and aims to provide needed support for complex mental health problems before they become more serious.

Kate was "incredibly proud" to be taking on the new role with Action for Children, according to a Kensington Palace spokesman.

Kate is an avid sportswoman who routinely gives her husband, Prince William a run for his money at events, but today she tried her hand at pool in Wales and was not a success. Craig Davies, a 15-year-old who was Kate's teammate in a friendly round of pool, later joked of Kate's pool skills saying, "She was dreadful."

After receiving a hug from a little girl attending the center, Kate was greeted by two young students who gave her a bouquet of flowers and asked about Kate and William's young children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

Kate told her young admirers, "George and Charlotte would have loved to have met you."

Kate's second stop of the day was to the Caerphilly Family Intervention Team which works with young people struggling with emotional and behavioral issues.

"The Duchess firmly believes that every child who needs it should be given the best support at the earliest opportunity," a Kensington Palace spokesman told ABC News. "The Duchess is pleased to support Action for Children's important work. She is looking forward to getting to know the people that make Action for Children such a success and meeting the young people they work with."

Kate, William and Prince Harry launched their "Heads Together" campaign last year to change the conversation on mental health issues. The royal trio has said they see 2017 as a "tipping point" and hope they can get more people to speak about mental health without fear of judgment.

William, Kate and Harry have chosen to tackle the often-taboo subject of mental health and encourage young people and families to speak up and speak out.

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Wednesday
Feb222017

Astronomers discover 7 potentially habitable exoplanets orbiting nearby dwarf star

NASA/JPL-Caltech(NEW YORK) -- An international team of astronomers has discovered seven potentially habitable exoplanets -- or planets outside our solar system -- that could have liquid water on their surfaces, according to a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

It is unclear whether any of the newly discovered planets can harbor life. However, scientists pointed out that the new planetary system orbits TRAPPIST-1, a dwarf star that is much younger than our sun and that will continue to burn for another 10 trillion years -- more than 700 times longer than the universe has existed so far.

Astronomers said that is "arguably enough time for life to evolve," the article reported.

TRAPPIST-1 is about 39 light-years away, in the constellation Aquarius.

The seven newly discovered planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1 have been nicknamed "Earth's seven sisters" and have masses similar to that of Earth's, in addition to having rocky compositions like our planet, scientists said.

Astronomers noted, though, that they are awaiting the scheduled launch of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope in 2018 to confirm what conditions -- such as atmospheric composition and climate -- are like on the exoplanets. The James Webb Space Telescope is expected to be significantly more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope.

 The discovery of the new planetary system has also indicated that Earth-sized planets are much more abundant and common in the Milky Way galaxy than previously thought, researchers said.

The international team of astronomers that discovered the new exoplanets said they will be ramping up their efforts to locate and identify other planets around small stars in the vicinity of our sun through project Search for Habitable Planets Eclipsing Ultra-Cool Stars (SPECULOOS).

Additionally, NASA said it plans to launch the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a space telescope that will spend two years finding planets orbiting over 200,000 of the brightest stars in the sky.

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Wednesday
Feb222017

Benjamin Netanyahu kicks off four-day visit to Australia, a first for an Israeli PM

iStock/Thinkstock(SYDNEY) — Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Australia Wednesday, kicking off a four-day visit, marking the first time a serving Israeli prime minster has visited the country.

Netanyahu, joined by his wife Sara, landed in Sydney aboard an El Al aircraft from Singapore, where the Israeli leader met with Singaporean prime minister Lee Hsien Loong.

 

 

 

 

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wrote an op-ed Wednesday in The Australian newspaper, in which he expressed the country's support of Israel and a two-state solution, as well as his disapproval of the United Nations' "one-sided" resolutions.

"Australia was the first country to vote in favour of the 1947 UN partition resolution adopted by the General Assembly, which led to the establishment of Israel in 1948," Turnbull writes. "The key role Australia played in ensuring the security and prosperity of the Jewish people should be a source of pride for us all."

He continues, "Israel is a miraculous nation. It has flourished despite invasion, conflict and an almost complete lack of natural resources, other than the determination and genius of its people."

Turnbull also cited "the brilliance and the enterprise of our almost 120,000-strong Jewish-Australian community."

 

 

In a nod to the recent United Nations Security Council resolution, Turnbull writes, "My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticising Israel of the kind recently adopted by the UN Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimise the Jewish state."

He adds, "At the same time, we recognise that Israel and the Palestinians need to come to a settlement and we support a directly negotiated two-state solution so that Palestinians will have their own state and the people of Israel can be secure within agreed borders."

Netanyahu — who aside from Turnbull, met with Australian Governor-General Peter Cosgrove — welcomed the comments made by Turnbull in his op-ed, telling reporters in Sydney, "I wasn't surprised by the friendship expressed in the article but I had no advance warning so when I landed I was given the paper, I was delighted to read it ... Australia has been courageously willing to puncture UN hypocrisy more than once."

 

 

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Wednesday
Feb222017

Grounded passenger jet in India converted into luxury restaurant

Hawai Adda(LUDHIANA, India) -- Airplanes aren't just for globetrotting anymore. In Ludhiana, India, a grounded Airbus A320 is now a restaurant where customers can enjoy a fine dining experience.

According to The Daily Mail, Hawai Adda is a vegetarian restaurant, placed creatively within an aircraft formerly owned by Air India.

The plane can comfortably seat more than 100 diners in its luxurious dining room, cafe and halls.

The interior of the plane took more than a year to convert, according to the Daily Mail.

The renovation team redesigned the entire fuselage of the retired plane, but wanted to keep the original structure and a large portion of the wiring, the Daily Mail reported.

On Hawai Adda's Facebook page, the restaurant has advertised a variety of dishes from saffron-infused Indian rice pudding and hot fudge sundae cupcakes to vegan club sandwiches.

Around the world, there are several decommissioned planes that have now become restaurants.

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