SEARCH

Wednesday
Mar222017

Chinese park uses facial recognition to dispense toilet paper

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(BEIJING) — There was a time when you weren’t allowed to squeeze the Charmin, now you’re lucky if you get any.

Park authorities in Beijing have installed toilet paper dispensers with facial recognition technology at the Temple of Heaven Park to prevent theft and waste.

According to the BBC, machines at the park scan visitors' faces before dispensing a fixed length strip of paper. Signs indicate visitors must remove their glasses and hats before being scanned.

The machines then dispense strips of toilet paper measuring about 24 to 27.5 inches. Additional paper will not be dispensed to the same person until nine minutes have passed.

What inspired the Chinese to do this? Media outlets in China reported that visitors to the bathrooms at the Temple of Heaven were taking excessive amounts of toilet paper, with some even taking rolls home in their bags, a problem the park has had since it began dispensing free toilet paper in 2007.

The daily use of toilet paper in the park has dropped by 20 percent, which is part of the plan. Mercifully, officials are not heartless. A park spokesman told the Beijing Evening News, "If we encounter guests who have diarrhea or any other situation in which they urgently require toilet paper, then our staff on the ground will directly provide the toilet paper.”

Six machines have been installed for a half-month trial. Staff remains on standby to explain the technology to visitors.

Additionally, the park upgraded the toilet paper from one-ply to two-ply.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar212017

US hosting 68 countries for major anti-ISIS summit

US State Department(WASHINGTON) -- More than two years into the fight against ISIS, the U.S. is set to convene the largest gathering of the coalition it amassed to take on the terror group.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will play host Wednesday as foreign ministers from all 68 countries in the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS descend on Washington -- the first time representatives from every country have met since December 2014.

The meeting will focus on reviewing the progress that has been made against the terror group and “accelerating” efforts to defeat and destroy the group in Iraq and Syria, including disrupting their financing and the flow of foreign fighters.

The coalition will also discuss ways to put pressure on the terror groups that claim affiliation with ISIS, in countries like Libya and Egypt, and to deal with those foreign fighters who may return to their home countries as the terror group’s hold on territory falls apart.

Attendees include America’s western allies like the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, as well as regional partners like Iraq, Turkey, and Jordan, and other key allies like Japan, Australia, and Afghanistan. Joining the meetings in the afternoon will be Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has overseen a review of the U.S. strategy against ISIS for the White House, and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi will address the group, as well.

The State Department would not say if any other senior Trump officials would attend, including from the White House, but two months into its term, ministers will be looking to the new administration for its plans.

Coalition forces are making steady progress in Mosul, Iraq, right now as they fight to push ISIS out of its last major stronghold in the country. Across the border in Syria, U.S. Special Forces are assisting Syrian rebels, Kurdish groups, and Turkish armed forces as they prepare for an assault on Raqqa, the terror group’s de facto capital.

The State Department heralded the progress and said the ministers’ summit will look for ways to sustain those battlefield victories and permanently expel ISIS from Iraq and Syria.

“Everyone recognizes there’s been significant progress in the past year, especially. We’ve seen gains made against ISIS across the board, whether it’s in Syria, but certainly in Iraq, liberations of large areas that they previously held,” said State Department acting spokesperson Mark Toner, adding that the summit is “a way to accelerate and focus more on how we can accelerate our efforts.”

What “acceleration” looks like is still unclear, but Sec. Tillerson “will come with new ideas and new approaches and a new way of looking at how to defeat ISIS,” promised Toner.

The Trump administration has previously floated sending more troops to Syria, enforcing safe zones in the country for civilians displaced by the fighting, and coordinating with Russia to target terrorists.

Russia is not part of the Global Coalition and will not be present at the summit.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar212017

Prince Harry follows in Princess Diana's footsteps, visits HIV charity

ABC News.(NEW YORK) -- Prince Harry followed in the footsteps of his mother, Princess Diana, today, visiting an HIV charity in Leicester, England, that Diana visited in 1991.

Harry, 32, spent time at the Leicester AIDS Support service (LASS) which provides vital support to those living with AIDS or affected by AIDS. The charity is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Harry paused to look at several photos of his late mother at the center. The fifth-in-line to the British throne is often called the "People's Prince" for his passionate devotion to children and his efforts to reduce the stigma around HIV and AIDS, just as his mother did.

Harry spoke movingly at LASS about HIV/AIDS and warned people about the consequences of silence.

"It cannot be acceptable that the first time young people know what HIV is when they catch it,” he said.

Harry took an AIDS test last December alongside music star Rihanna to encourage young people to get tested and show them how easy the simple pin prick test is to complete. In July, Harry attended the 2016 International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, with Sir Elton John and implored his generation to act.

“When my mother held the hand of a man dying of AIDS, no one imagined a quarter century later, HIV positive people would live full healthy loving lives," Harry told the audience in South Africa.

Harry also visited a school in Leicester that runs the Yes You Can project to help students reach their potential. Harry encouraged kids and mentors struggling to not give up during the challenging periods of adolescence and discussed the additional challenges kids often face from the pressures of social media and the internet.

“Never give up teamwork because you can never do anything by yourself,” he told the students. “Learn from your mistakes. It is OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and learn from others. There is so much you can do.”

Harry joined in a game of "football-volleyball" while visiting Pink Lizard, an organization that uses sports to build confidence in kids.

Harry’s engagements have not prevented him from spending time with new love, actress Meghan Markle. Harry and Markle, 35, have barely been apart for more than two weeks at a time since the start of the year.

Harry arranged a private date night with Markle on Sunday to London's Natural History Museum after the museum closed.

The museum is one of the most beautiful buildings in London and a favorite of the royal family. Harry's sister-in-law, Princess Kate, is royal patron of the museum and a frequent visitor with Prince William and their young son, Prince George.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

 

Tuesday
Mar212017

Ex-Trump campaign manager faces new allegations from Ukraine

iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- A Ukrainian lawmaker Tuesday said he has fresh proof that President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, received illegal, off-the-books payments from the country’s toppled pro-Russian president.

Coming a day after the FBI confirmed it is investigating potential links between Trump’s presidential campaign and alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, it revives a saga that has drawn intense scrutiny of Manafort's possible connections with Moscow through Ukraine that appeared to force him to resign as Trump's adviser in the summer.

Serhiy Leshchenko, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, presented in a news conference in Kiev Tuesday morning what he alleged was a contract showing Manafort had received $750,000 in a fake deal from a company connected to the party of former president Viktor Yanukovych.

Leshchenko said the allegedly phony deal, which he says channeled money through offshore accounts, was meant to conceal what was in reality an illegal payment for Manafort’s work as a political consultant for Yanukovych.

Leshchenko said the contract, which he says bears Manafort’s signature and company stamp, provides potential proof of allegations first raised by investigators in August that Manafort may have received illegal cash from Yanukovych, who is accused by Ukrainian prosecutors of large-scale corruption.

Manafort denied the allegations at the time, and a spokesman told ABC News Tuesday, referring to the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine, “The allegations against Paul Manafort are baseless, as reflected by the numerous statements from NABU officials who have questioned the validity of the so-called ledger evidence against Mr. Manafort. Any new allegations by Serhiy Leshchenko should be seen in that light and summarily dismissed.”

Leshchenko on Tuesday published scans of the alleged contract, but ABC News was unable to immediately verify the documents' authenticity.

His allegations return the spotlight to a corruption inquiry that appeared to cost Manafort his job last year. The case threw attention then onto the time that Manafort spent advising Yanukovych, whom Moscow for years backed as its preferred leader for Ukraine, highlighting the ex-Trump adviser’s long, tangled history with the region’s elites.

Manafort’s name turned up last August in what Ukrainian anti-corruption investigators have called the “black ledger,” a handwritten accounting book they say details the illegal secret payments of Yanukovych’s political party, the Party of Regions, discovered in the party's ransacked offices after the country’s 2014 revolution.

After The New York Times broke that story, Leshchenko published pages he said were from the ledger that included the entries where Manafort’s name appeared alongside alleged payments. Amid intense media scrutiny, Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign. But he has denied that he ever received any of the payments mentioned in the ledger and argues the records are fake.

Leshchenko, however, now says the new contract potentially offers proof Manafort received the illegal cash. The five-page contract printed on a letter-head for Manafort's political consultancy firm, Davis Manafort, promises to deliver 501 computers to the firm Neocom Systems Limited that is registered in Belize, in return for $750,000. The document is signed with a signature that resembled copies of Manafort's available in open sources.

The contract's date and amount to be paid match one of the payments recorded next to Manafort’s name in the ledger: for the same amount $750,000, dated Oct. 9, 2014.

Leshchenko says the contract itself is highly suspicious, asking why Manafort, a political consultant, would be involved in supplying computers. The payment setup is also suspect, he says: Payment for the computers comes from a bank, AsiaUniversalBank, located in the central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan and that was seized in 2012 by regulators over widespread money laundering allegations. The bank has been linked to numerous money-laundering schemes involving offshore companies involving Ukraine and Russia.

Leshchenko alleges the computers were never delivered and that the supposed contract was cover to allow Yanukovych to pay Manafort from his party's illegal slush fund. The suspicious setup of the alleged payment means it should be investigated by Ukrainian and U.S. law enforcement, Leshchenko said.

He called on the FBI specifically to investigate Manafort because the contract contains a U.S. bank account number where Manafort purportedly received the payment, registered to an address in Alexandria, Virginia.

"Ukrainian law enforcement bodies "are not able to get this information about banking secrets," Leshchenko said in the news conference. "And we know that the FBI can get this information. This is the jurisdiction of the FBI and I believe that this investigation will be done by American law enforcement bodies and we will support this."

Manafort worked for years as a political consultant to Yanukovych and his party, credited by party representatives with engineering Yanukovych’s comeback after he was pushed from the presidency for a first time by pro-Western protests during Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004. After Yanukovych was toppled in Ukraine’s second revolution in 2014 and fled to Russia, Manafort has said he no longer works with the Party of Regions or its post-revolutionary successor.

Manafort has also done business with one of Russia's richest men, Oleg Deripaska, an influential metals magnet. The two eventually fell out.

Manafort’s unusual connections with major powerbrokers in Ukraine and Russia have prompted Trump’s opponents to seize on him as one of the most likely potential points of contact with the Russian government.

FBI director James Comey Monday confirmed at a House Intelligence Committee hearing that the agency is probing possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign. The New York Times has reported that Manafort is one of four Trump associates under investigation by the FBI, citing anonymous officials.

Manafort has called the allegations against him baseless and politically motivated, and said he has not been informed by U.S. authorities of any investigation.

“I had no role or involvement in the cyberattack on the DNC [Democratic National Committee] or the subsequent release of information gained from the attack, and I have never spoken with any Russian government officials or anyone who claimed to have been involved in the attack,” Manafort told ABC News Monday in response to Comey’s testimony. “The suggestion that I ever worked in concert with anyone to release hacked emails or sought to undermine the interests of the United States is false.”

Doubts have arisen around the case involving the Ukrainian “black ledger,” which has become the subject of a murky political battle within Ukraine itself. There have been suggestions that Ukrainian politicians, worried by Trump’s friendly statements toward Russia, had released it last summer with the goal of harming his campaign.

Ukraine’s anticorruption bureau, however, has not suggested it doubts the ledger is real and one case has already been submitted to court based on the ledger’s evidence.

Leschenko said the new documents had been found by tenants in Manafort’s former office in Kiev and passed to him in January.

Whether Manafort is actually subject to an investigation in Ukraine is still unclear. The anti-corruption bureau has said it is investigating the ledger as a whole, and that it is, therefore, looking at how Manafort’s name appeared there. But it has refused to say whether there is an investigation targeting him specifically.

CNN reported last week that Ukrainian law enforcement officials have for months submitted requests to the FBI for assistance in questioning Manafort but that those requests have so far gone unanswered. U.S. authorities confirmed to CNN that the requests were made but declined to comment further. FBI director Comey declined to comment on the case when asked about it at Monday’s congressional hearing.

Leshchenko on Tuesday said he could not comment on whether U.S. authorities had reached out to him about the new documents.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar212017

UK follows US' lead, bans large electronics from certain flights

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- The United Kingdom is now banning many electronic devices from being carried on certain flights.

The move comes hours after the U.S. enacted an emergency directive banning passengers from carrying electronic items bigger than a cellphone onboard flights from eight Middle Eastern and African countries.

"The Prime Minister has chaired a number of meetings on aviation security over the last few weeks, including this morning, where it was agreed that new aviation security measures on all inbound direct flights to the UK from the following countries will be introduced: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia," a statement Tuesday from the British prime minister's office reads.

Downing Street said it has "been in close touch with the Americans to fully understand their position." In fact, the rules for flights into the U.K. from the aforementioned countries are similar to those implented by the U.S.

"Under the new arrangements, passengers boarding flights to the UK from the countries affected will not be allowed to take any phones, laptops or tablets larger than a normal sized mobile or smart phone (larger than Length: 16.0cm, Width: 9.3cm, Depth: 1.5cm) into the cabin of the plane," Downing Street said. "Any such devices will need to be placed into hold luggage and checked-in before going through central security."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar212017

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to skip NATO summit, travel to Russia in April

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will skip a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in April and later in the month travel to Russia for meetings and to a G7 summit in Italy, the U.S. State Dept. has confirmed.

A State Dept. spokesperson said in a statement that acting deputy secretary Tom Shannon will attend the NATO meeting in Tillerson's place. The State Dept. also said that Tillerson is scheduled to meet several NATO ministers at a gathering of the Global Counter ISIS Coalition this Wednesday.

"After these consultations and meetings, in April [Tillerson] will travel to a meeting of the G7 in Italy and then on to meetings in Russia," the statement adds.

The announcement comes on the heels of fresh criticism of NATO from the Trump administration with the president making the dubious claim that Germany "owes vast sums of money to NATO."

Trump rattled American allies in Europe by calling NATO "obsolete" and questioning during his 2016 presidential campaign whether or not the U.S. would come to the aid of NATO members in the event of an attack by Russia.

NATO's mutual defense clause — the cornerstone of the 60-year-old alliance — calls for a response by all members of the pact in the event of an attack on one member country.

Trump said during the campaign that he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations "have fulfilled their obligations to us."

Democrats were quick to jump on Monday's news.

“If reporting is accurate, Donald Trump's Administration is making a grave error that will shake the confidence of America's most important alliance and feed the concern that this administration simply too cozy with Vladimir Putin," Rep. Elliott Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.

"I cannot fathom why the Administration would pursue this course except to signal a change in American foreign policy that draws our country away from western democracy's most important institutions and aligns the United States more closely with the autocratic regime in the Kremlin."

Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House intelligence committee, said on The Rachel Maddow Show: "I have to hope that that story is not true. We've already sent a terrible message to NATO. The only message frankly that has gotten through from this administration to NATO is not that we support you, not that we value you or thank our NATO allies for coming to our assistance in Afghanistan and Iraq where NATO soldiers have stood by, fought by and died with our own troops, but rather pay up. That's the only message we've delivered."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar212017

Electronics restricted on flights from certain Middle Eastern airports

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Passengers travelling on certain airlines from countries in the Middle East and Africa to the United States will no longer be allowed to carry-on some electronic devices with them, according to a new Homeland Security directive.

The emergency rule specifically targets nine airlines operating flights to the U.S. from 10 airports in eight countries, among them Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Fliers will be banned from bringing electronic devices larger than a cellular phone aboard the plane with them, and must instead include objects like laptops, tablets and cameras in checked luggage.

"Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items," notes the Department of Homeland Security in a release explaining the order.

The department did not cite a specific threat in its explanation of the decision, but did indicate that "new intelligence" led to the rule's implementation.

On Monday, in a tweet and Facebook post that were later deleted, Royal Jordanian Airlines informed passengers that, starting Tuesday, they would no longer be allowed to carry-on electronic devices, except cell phones and medical devices, due to a directive from the U.S. government.

Royal Jordanian did not respond to inquiries from ABC News, but senior administration officials confirmed that the airline is included in the list for which the restrictions apply. The other airlines include: Egypt Air, Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Saudia Arabia Airlines and Turkish Airlines.

Medical devices will be the only electronics larger than cell phones permitted on those airlines' flights originating from: Cairo International Airport in Egypt, Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan, Kuwait International Airports in Kuwait, Mohammed V International Airport in Morocco, Hamad International Airport in Qatar, King Abdulaziz and King Khalid International Airports in Saudi Arabia, Istanbul Atatürk Airport in Turkey, and Abu Dhabi and Dubai International Airports in the United Arab Emirates.

The Department of Homeland Security says that the airlines have 96 hours from notification of the changes Tuesday morning to implement the directive. The 10 airports cited by DHS comprise fewer than 5 percent of the more than 250 airports with flights to the U.S.

Homeland security did not provide an end date for the restrictions, saying only that they will "remain in place until the threat changes."

In 2016, a suicide bomber carried a bomb, believed to be concealed in a laptop, onto a flight out of Somalia.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar212017

Renovation of Tomb of Jesus complete

iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- A Greek-led team of researchers say they have wrapped up a historic renovation of the Tomb of Jesus.

The renovation took a year, cost $4 million and led researchers to open the tomb and peer inside for just 60 hours --likely the only human eyes to do so for hundreds of years to come.

They found what many believe is the original limestone cave where Jesus was buried. A window has been carved there so pilgrims can see this for the first time.

The ornate three-story chamber above the tomb -- the Edicule -- was reinforced and cleaned, and the iron cage was removed.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar212017

The World Happiness Report is out and Norway is #1

DigitalVision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The World Happiness Report is out and subjective well-being in America is not good.

Norway leads the way in happiness and Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and Finland follow; then comes the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.

The U.S. didn’t even make the top 10: we came in at 14 out of 155 countries. The Central African Republic came in last.

According to the report, six variables are used to measure happiness: income, life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom and trust. Trust is measured by the absence of corruption in business and government. Declining social support and increased corruption are significant contributing factors to our misery.

Why is there a happiness report? Some experts say that it is an excellent way to measure a nation's progress and that social well-being drives better public policy.

People in the U.S. may not feel like going outside today.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Mar202017

What US options are 'on the table' with North Korea?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has signaled that the U.S. will take a more aggressive approach to North Korea's missile and nuclear program, including possibly through pre-emptive military action.

"All options are on the table," particularly if North Korea continues making advances in its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons technologies, Tillerson said last week at a news conference in Seoul.

"If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table," the top U.S. diplomat said in a comment widely interpreted to refer to the possibility of pre-emptive military force.

North Korea has stated that its goal is to develop a nuclear device small enough to be placed on a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States.

ABC News takes a look at what options are available to the U.S. if North Korea continues making progress in its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs.

Sanctions top the list

At the news conference in Seoul, Tillerson said the U.S. was "exploring a new range of diplomatic, security, and economic measures."

The secretary of state said in a later interview with the Independent Journal Review that there were "a lot of steps and a lot of distance between now and a time that we would have to make a decision" on pre-emptive military force.

He described "a staged approach" for North Korea to stand down its nuclear program.

The first step would be full implementation of sanctions targeting North Korea that have already been imposed by existing United Nations Security Council resolutions. The U.S. could also consider unilateral sanctions or seek additional steps through the United Nations and also working with other countries in the region like China.

"It is not our objective to force them into some brash action," Tillerson said of North Korea's leaders.

"It’s our objective for them to understand things only continue to get more difficult if they don’t change their path. We want to give [them] time to change your path," he said.

But Tillerson also called the threat posed by North Korea's weapons programs "imminent" and said the matter has "reached a very alarming state to us."

Military options

Tillerson noted that no one wants to see military action on the Korean peninsula, even as he said "all options are on the table."

So what pre-emptive military steps could the United States carry out to in North Korea?

"They have got to be able to wipe out any missile before it's launched, which is not trivial," said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

That could mean striking at North Korea's facilities for launching or producing ballistic missiles or its nuclear facilities.

North Korea's nuclear facility at Yongbyon is well known, but striking it could cause an environmental disaster. Easier targets would be North Korea's missile facilities.

North Korea has two main long-range missile facilities, the Sohae Satellite Launching Station on the country's northwest coast and the Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground in the northeast.

The Sohae facility has become a center of activity for the country's long-range missile program, particularly its development and testing of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) that could potentially reach American territory.

But the greater threat from North Korea is posed by its new medium- and intermediate-range mobile systems that are hard to track by overhead satellites and can be launched on short notice.

If the U.S. were to take military action, potential targets could be North Korea's airfields in Hwangju, Kusong, and Wonsan provinces that have been used over the past year to test new Musudan and KN-11 missiles.

However, it might be difficult to track down those mobile systems.

"The more North Korea develops solid fueled missiles that are road-mobile, the more difficult that task becomes," said Albright.

Military action could lead to all-out war

Albright cautioned that a pre-emptive strike carries the risk of "a conventional war involving North and South Korea with large numbers of casualties."

"People tend to walk away from this [notion] because we just don’t want another North Korean War," he said. "You are talking about hundreds of thousands of casualties, if not millions."

North Korea could potentially respond to military action by firing missiles at South Korea and Japan, Albright said. Another concern is that the vast majority of North Korea's million-man army is just north of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates it from South Korea.

North Korean artillery is also capable of reaching Seoul 30 miles south of the DMZ, which means civilians could be the victims of indiscriminate artillery fire.

To contain North Korea’s response, any initial pre-emptive military action against it would have to be massive, which Albright does not think is a likely option.

"All these things always lead people to think that a negotiated, well-verified solution is by far the preferred option," said Albright.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







ABC News Radio