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Thursday
May182017

North Korea Launching Ferry Service to Russia

GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/Getty Images(VLADIVOSTOK, Russia) -- North Korea is set to launch a ferry service that will transport passengers back and forth to Russia, BBC News reports.

A passenger vessel, called Mangyongbong, docked for the first time in the Russian port of Vladivostok, where it will continue to travel on a weekly basis, carrying cargo and up to 200 passengers at a time.

Despite UN sanctions ristricting North Korea due to it's nuclear program, it's expected that Chinese tourists will likely use the ferry service -- which boasts a restaurant, bars and a karaoke room -- to travel between North Korea and Russia, according to BBC News. One Chinese tour operator has already sent some of its staff on Mangyongbong's inaugural journey.

On the other end, Russian freight shipping company InvestStroiTrest will operate the ferry from North Korean port city of Rajin.

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Thursday
May182017

Russia tops list of 100 countries that could launch cyberattacks on US

Mike Levine/ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- More than 100 countries around the world are now capable of launching state-sponsored cyberattacks, and Russia tops the list of foreign governments keeping U.S. intelligence officials up at night, according to Richard Ledgett, who only a few weeks ago stepped down as deputy director of the National Security Agency.

"Russia is the most capable, they’re also the most aggressive," Ledgett said Thursday at a cyber-security summit in Washington.

In fact, Russia's successful campaign to interfere with the U.S. presidential election last year will likely "embolden" the "well over 100" nations with cyber-capabilities "to become more aggressive," Ledgett said, warning that foreign government are increasingly launching cyber-operations.

"It is on the rise both in terms of the number of people practicing it, and there are more and more countries that are doing it," Ledgett told those gathered at Georgetown Law School’s annual Cybersecurity Law Institute.

President Donald Trump and others in the administration have openly questioned whether Russia was truly behind last year's hack of the Democratic National Committee and subsequent attempts to influence the outcome of the presidential election. But Ledgett wholly rejected such skepticism, insisting there is "no question it was the Russians."

"NSA had a huge role in making that determination," he said, "and there is no question that that’s what it was. I can’t lay out for you all of the reasons for that, because there's a lot of really sensitive sources that led to that, but it was definitely the Russians."

In January, the U.S. intelligence community issued a report calling Russia's alleged meddling in last year's presidential campaign "a significant escalation" of efforts "to undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order."

"We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election," the report said. "We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help [Donald] Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary [Hillary] Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him."

Ledgett said Thursday that reaching such a conclusion is based on "a variety of different good sources of information."

"It's more than just looking at the code. It's more than just looking at the targets. It's more than looking at the tactics and the techniques and procedures," and U.S. agencies "have a really good ability to do attribution" thanks to the "intelligence capabilities" of both the U.S. government and allies around the world.

"In fact, it's much better than people tend to think it is," Ledgett added.

The Kremlin, however, is not the only government whose cyber-efforts worry U.S. officials.

China, North Korea and Iran -- "about in that order" -- are also "the ones that we’re most concerned with," Ledgett said.

China is "half a notch below" Russia with “immense capacity;" "North Korea is relatively small, but they’re capable and becoming more capable;" and, "Iran is a regional player," he noted.

Iran is focused on being "important in the Middle East,” but -- unlike the other countries -- when Iranian officials use their cyber-capabilities they do so "in a very proportional way," such as launching a relatively simple denial-of-service attack on the U.S. financial sector to retaliate for U.S. sanctions against Iran over its nuclear weapons program.

"You might view them as more of a rational actor in this space than the North Koreans," Ledgett said.

His remarks prompted this quip from NSA’s former general counsel, Rajesh De, who was moderating the discussion: "Wait a minute -- Iran is a rational actor?"

Ledgett and the crowd laughed.

Ledgett retired from the U.S. government last year, after nearly four decades of public service, beginning in the late 1970s when he enlisted in the U.S. Army.

According to the NSA's website, he received numerous honors over the course of his career, including the Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished and Meritorious Service, the National Intelligence Superior Service Medal, and the Exceptional Civilian Service and Meritorious Civilian Service awards.

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Thursday
May182017

Everything to know about Pippa Middleton's upcoming wedding

Ricky Vigil/GC Images(LONDON) -- Pippa Middleton first became a household name when she stunned in a white bridesmaid dress at the 2011 wedding of her sister, Princess Kate, to Prince William.

Middleton, 33, will again don white, this time as the bride, when she ties the knot with financier James Matthews, 41, on May 20. The longtime friends announced their engagement last July.

With the wedding just days away, details have begun to emerge about Middleton and Matthews’ big day.

Here is everything you need to know about the couple and their wedding plans.

Prince George and Princess Charlotte will play a role


Kensington Palace confirmed that Middleton's niece and nephew, the children of William and Kate, will play visible roles in the wedding.

"Prince George (who is 3) will be a page boy, and Princess Charlotte (2 on May 2) will be a bridesmaid," the palace said in a statement in April.

Kate reportedly told an attendee this week at the first of three annual garden parties at Buckingham Palace that she was excited for the wedding but nervous about her children's roles.

"She said that they were all really looking forward to her sister's wedding at the weekend but she was a bit worried about how her children might behave,” attendee Andrew Bates, from Coventry, told reporters. “She said she was hopeful that they would be good but you never know at that age.”

Famous siblings will attend


Prince William and Princess Kate will attend the wedding, though it is unclear if Kate, 35, will play a role in her sister's wedding. Kate attended a girls' ski weekend in March in Meribel, France, with Middleton and a number of Middleton's friends.

Kensington Palace also announced Prince Harry will join the wedding festivities. Harry, 32, and Middleton have become close since taking on best man and maid of honor duties at William and Kate's wedding in 2011.

Matthews' brother, reality TV star Spencer Matthews, is also expected to attend and could be the best man. The Matthews brothers are the sons of David and Jane Matthews.

Spencer Matthews famously starred in the British reality shows I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here and Made in Chelsea.

Hometown wedding


Matthews and Middleton will tie the knot at St. Mark’s Church in Englefield, Berkshire, located just six miles from Bucklebury, where Middleton was raised.

The couple's church service could include uninvited guests according to recently-published guidelines from the Church of England. The guidelines define a marriage as a "public ceremony," meaning local parishioners of that church, whether or not they received an invitation from the bride and groom, are allowed to attend.

There is an exception to the Church of England guidelines if security is an issue. Since the second, third, fourth and fifth-in-line to the British throne are attending the Matthews and Middleton's church service, it is considered likely the wedding service will be exempt from the rule to allow in uninvited guests.

Middletons to host reception


The newlyweds are expected to celebrate their marriage with a reception at the Bucklebury home of Middleton's parents, Carole and Michael Middleton.

The manor home is where William, Kate, George and Charlotte spent Christmas last year and where Kate spent time both during and after her pregnancies with George and Charlotte. The $8 million mansion, dubbed "Bucklebury Manor," boasts seven bedrooms and sits on 18 acres of property with stunning gardens, fish ponds, a tennis court and pool.

A large glass tent structure, estimated to cost more than $100,000, was erected on the property for the reception.

William, Kate and their children and Prince Harry are expected to stay at Bucklebury, along with their security detail. Matthews' parents will reportedly stay elsewhere.

The Middletons run an online party supply company, Party Pieces.

Pippa Middleton wrote a book in 2012 on party planning titled Celebrate: A Year of Festivities for Families and Friends. She also released a cookbook last year titled Heartfelt.

Meghan Markle could be a guest


Markle, the American girlfriend of Prince Harry, will reportedly not attend the church service, but rumors have circulated that she could be Harry's date at the cocktail reception following the vows and the wedding reception at the Middletons' home.

Markle, 35, and Harry, 32, began dating last summer and Harry brought Markle to Jamaica in March, as his guest at the wedding of one of his closest childhood friends.
Middleton and Matthews are longtime friends

Matthews is an investor and hedge fund millionaire who owns Eden Rock Capital Management, which he named after the famous, five-star St. Barts resort Eden Rock owned by his family.

Matthews and Middleton dated briefly in 2012. They rekindled their relationship in 2015 and competed in various charity athletic and endurance races around the globe, where they fell in love. Their joint athletic pursuits include a 33-mile cross-country ski race in Norway and a bicycle ride across America.

Middleton last year successfully reached the summit of the Matterhorn, a 14,692-foot peak in Switzerland, in honor of Matthews' brother, Michael, who died in 1999 while descending the mountain.

Middleton moved into Matthews' $25-million dollar London townhouse in January 2016. The two were seen around town on a series of dates, including dinners with Middleton's mother, and invited the entire Middleton family on holidays at Matthews' family's Eden Rock resort. The couple publicly confirmed their relationship with an appearance at Wimbledon in July 2016.

The engagement and ring


Matthews proposed to Middleton at England's Lake District in July 2016. Middleton's multi-carat engagement ring is an Asscher-cut, hexagonal-shaped diamond set in platinum surrounded by multiple smaller diamonds.

The wedding dress


Giles Deacon is the favorite to design Middleton's wedding gown. He was seen bringing a number of garment bags earlier this year into Middleton's townhouse, but could have just been sharing wedding party ideas.

Stylists and fitters were spotted Tuesday bringing in a number of garment bags to Middleton's townhouse, prompting speculation that one may contain Middleton's wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses.

Kate's wedding dress designer, Sarah Burton, was a secret kept from the public until the day of her wedding in 2011.

Kate's hairdresser, Amanda Cook Tucker, was also seen this week entering the home. While Middleton and her mother have frequently gone to celebrity hairdressers Richard Ward and James Pryce, some say Tucker could have a role styling Middleton or the bridal party.

Society milliner Stephen Jones, who has also been spotted entering the townhouse, is speculated to be making hats and Middleton's veil.

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Wednesday
May172017

Trump will not announce Israel embassy move on overseas trip

silverjohn/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump will not use his overseas trip to make an announcement that the United States Embassy in Israel is moving from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a senior administration official told ABC News.

“Right now there are no plans to do anything in that regard,” the official said. “The president said during the campaign that he believes the capital of Israel is where the embassy should be, but because we’re having great conversations with everyone right now we don’t think it would be a time to do that so we don’t plan to do that on this trip.”

Behind Trump's Plan to Move the US Embassy From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem
Moving the embassy had been a campaign promise of Trump's stretching back to the Republican primary. As early as a March 2016 speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Trump vowed, "We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem."

Most foreign nations' embassies, including the U.S. since 1966, are located in Tel Aviv. Any potential move by the U.S. would likely be viewed as provocative to Palestinians, who claim the city as the capital of a future state, and the leaders of the region's Arab nations.

The official added the president also does not expect to convene a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this trip, but that he hopes to after another round of solo meetings with each leader.

“We’re not here to force people to do things one way or the other with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the official said.

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Wednesday
May172017

Trump administration keeps Iran deal alive, but with new sanctions

silverjohn/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. will continue to abide by the agreements in the Iran nuclear deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, despite President Trump's stated disapproval of it.

The Trump administration signed a waiver on Wednesday that suspends sanctions against Iran.

“We are communicating to the U.S. Congress that the United States continues to waive sanctions as required to continue implementing U.S. sanctions-lifting commitments in the Joint Comprehensive
Plan of Action,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones in a statement.

“This ongoing review does not diminish the United States’ resolve to continue countering Iran’s destabilizing activity in the region … And above all, the United States will never allow the regime
in Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” he added.

That tough talk is being met with action. Along with the department’s letter to Congress announcing those waivers, the administration is announcing new sanctions on Iranian defense officials, an
Iranian company and a Chinese-based network that allegedly supplied Iran with “missile-applicable” items. The State Department also released its semi-annual report on human rights violations in
Iran, as required by law.

“As we continue to closely scrutinize Iran’s commitment to the JCPOA and develop a comprehensive Iran policy, we will continue to hold Iran accountable for its human rights abuses with new
actions,” said Jones.

These new sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program follow sanctions the Trump administration slapped on Iran in April and in February, when then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn
said the White House was putting Iran “on notice.”

The timing is meant to show a hard stance on Iran – even as the administration continues to comply with the Iran nuclear deal. In April, the administration certified in a letter to Congress that
Iran was complying with the deal – but had Secretary Tillerson hold a press conference to blast Iran for sponsoring terrorism, ballistic missile tests, and more.

The waiver for these sanctions must be resigned every 120 days. The Obama administration reportedly signed them just before leaving office 119 days ago.

The next round of waivers will expire in mid-July. That’s also when the Trump administration’s review of its Iran policy will be complete, according to a timeline laid out by Secretary Tillerson in
April.

Iran’s presidential election is Friday, pitting a conservative hardliner against incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate whose government negotiated the nuclear agreement with the Obama
administration and others.

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Wednesday
May172017

Putin jokes he would release record of Trump's Russian meeting with Congress

Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin poked fun at reports that President Trump had shared classified intelligence with Russian officials during a White House meeting last week, saying if they were true, the information had not been passed on to him.

Putin, trying to hide a smile, told reporters he had already discussed the accusations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who attended the Oval Office meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

“It was necessary to issue him a reprimand, a rebuke,” Putin said of Lavrov, “because he didn’t share these secrets. Not with me, not with the Russia’s intelligence services. That -- that’s very bad from his side.”

Lavrov, who was in attendance at the press conference in Sochi, Russia, laughed in response.

Putin, apparently joking, also said that Russia would be willing to provide a record of the meeting to Congress. He used a Russian word that could be translated as “recording” or “transcript.” The Russian embassy in Washington told ABC News that it had taken detailed notes of the conversation and constructed a sort of “transcript” from them, which it would be willing to provide.

The Russian president said the reporting on U.S.-Russian ties was being propagated by people in the United States who were either “stupid” or “dangerous and crooked.” He and other Russian officials have portrayed such stories as an internal U.S. political issue.

“We see that, in the United States, a political schizophrenia is developing,” Putin said. “I can’t explain any other way the accusations against the current president, that he gave Lavrov some kind of secrets.”

Putin, who was speaking alongside Italy’s prime minister, said he would not evaluate Trump’s actions, adding that he would leave final judgment to the American people.

“Clearly that can only be done when they will let him work properly,” Putin said of Trump.

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Wednesday
May172017

Trump, Netanyahu spoke via phone amid talk of intelligence leak

Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- President Trump spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, a senior source in the prime minister's office told ABC News. The call, first reported by the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, lasted about 20 minutes and focused only on the president's visit to Israel next week.

The call was not listed on the prime minister's schedule or on the White House schedule, but Haaretz reported it was Trump who called Netanyahu after the U.S. president spoke with Jordan's King Abdullah. The call with Abdullah was listed on the official White House schedule.

According to the senior source in the prime minister's office, Tuesday's call focused solely on the upcoming visit, which is particularly surprising given the timing. On Monday night, ABC News reported the life of a spy placed by Israel inside ISIS was at risk, according to current and former U.S. officials, after Trump reportedly disclosed classified information in a meeting with Russian officials last week.

Israeli officials have not confirmed the origin of the information, but according to the senior source in Netanyahu's office, intelligence was not discussed.

According to current and former U.S. officials, the spy provided intelligence involving an active ISIS plot to bring down a passenger jet en route to the United States, with a bomb hidden in a laptop that U.S. officials believe can get through airport screening machines undetected. The information was reliable enough that the U.S. is now considering a ban on laptops on all flights from Europe to the United States.

In the wake of the reports, Israeli officials have expressed confidence in the intelligence-sharing relationship.

Tweeting Wednesday morning, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman wrote, "The security relationship between Israel and our greatest ally the United States, is deep, significant and unprecedented in volume."

"This relationship with the US is unprecedented in its contribution to our strength. This is how it has been and how it will continue to be," Liberman added.

Israeli Minister of Intelligence Israel Katz also weighed in on Wednesday.

"I have complete confidence in the American intelligence community. Intelligence cooperation between Israel and the United States regarding the threats posed by Iran and its proxies and ISIS and its affiliates will continue and deepen," Katz said.

On Tuesday, as the first reports of the origins of the intelligence surfaced, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer released a statement saying, "Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump."

Next week, Trump will have the opportunity to speak directly with Netanyahu when he arrives in Israel as part of his first foreign trip. Earlier this week, the prime minister welcomed the new U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.

"We had a very good meeting," Netanyahu said on Tuesday. "We discussed the friendship between the two countries and I told him that the U.S. Embassy –- like all embassies –- should be moved to Jerusalem."

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Wednesday
May172017

Four people missing after small plane disappears over Bermuda Triangle

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for two adults and two young children after their small plane mysteriously disappeared from radar while flying over the infamous Bermuda Triangle on Monday.

The Coast Guard said it recovered debris and parts of an MU-2B aircraft -- the plane type the group was traveling in -- 15 miles east of Eleuthera, Bahamas, during the search.

On board the flight was 40-year-old Jennifer Blumin from New York and her two sons, ages 3 and 4, as well as 52-year-old Nathan Ulrich from New Hampshire. Blumin is the CEO of a prominent New York City event planning firm, Skylight Group.

The plane was scheduled to fly from Puerto Rico to central Florida, but never arrived at its destination, according to the Coast Guard.

Miami Air Traffic Control reported that it lost radar and radio contact with the airplane just three hours into the flight, the Coast Guard added in a statement.

The Royal Bahamas Defense Force and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol are assisting with the search efforts, according to authorities.

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Wednesday
May172017

Nine injured, two arrested in fight at Turkish ambassador's home

Monkey Business/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Nine people were injured and two were arrested on Tuesday after violent protests broke out at the Turkish ambassador's home in Washington, D.C., where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited earlier, authorities said.

DC Fire and EMS spokesman Doug Buchanan told ABC News that two people were transported to a local hospital with serious injuries, while seven others were “walking wounded” and headed to the hospital via the mass casualty medical bus. He did not elaborate on the circumstances of the fight.

The altercation occurred Tuesday afternoon as supporters and opponents of the visiting president clashed at the residence, which is located about half a mile away from the Turkish Embassy in the U.S. capital, authorities said.

Graphic video captured by Turkish media network VOA showed pro-Erdogan forces rushing a police line and beating human rights protesters in front of the ambassador's residence.

Other footage captured by ABC affiliate WJLA shows Erdogan being pulled away from the chaotic scene. Erdogan visited the residence shortly after he met with President Donald Trump at the White House.

Witnesses said at least two opposing demonstrations were taking place at the home; one included Erdogan supporters from Turkey; the other consisted of Kurds and Armenians who oppose his human rights record.

Authorities were keeping the demonstrators apart until people began to cross the police-enforced buffer zone, according to WJLA.

"All of the sudden they just ran towards us," Yazidi Kurd demonstrator Lucy Usoyan told WJLA on Tuesday.

Usoyan was taken to George Washington University Hospital, where she was being treated for a head injury.

"Someone was beating me in the head nonstop," she told WJLA. "And I thought, 'OK I’m on the ground already, what is the purpose to beat me?'"

Pro-Erdogan demonstrators, meanwhile, blamed supporters of the Kurdish militia group YPG for Tuesday’s violence.

"One of the YPG supporters ran across, picked up a megaphone, and hit a Turkish citizen with it," pro-Erdogan demonstrator Busra Eren told WJLA.

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Tuesday
May162017

Trump's disclosure endangered spy placed inside ISIS by Israel, officials say

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The life of a spy placed by Israel inside ISIS is at risk, according to current and former U.S. officials, after President Donald Trump reportedly disclosed classified information in a meeting with Russian officials last week.

The spy provided intelligence involving an active ISIS plot to bring down a passenger jet en route to the United States, with a bomb hidden in a laptop that U.S. officials believe can get through airport screening machines undetected. The information was reliable enough that the U.S. is considering a ban on laptops on all flights from Europe to the United States.

The sensitive intelligence was shared with the United States, officials say, on the condition that the source remain confidential.

“The real risk is not just this source,” said Matt Olsen, the former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and an ABC News contributor, “but future sources of information about plots against us.”

ISIS has already taken credit for blowing up a Russian airliner two years ago, killing more than 200 people, claiming the bomb was hidden in a soft drink can. The White House National Security Adviser says that justifies President Trump’s disclosures to the Russians.

“And so this was the context of the conversation in which it was wholly appropriate to share what the threat was as a basis for common action and coordination,” said General H.R. McMasters on Tuesday.

When pressed by ABC News' Jonathan Karl, McMaster would not say if Trump disclosed classified information. Trump said in a pair of tweets Tuesday he had the "absolute right" to share "facts" with the Russians.

But many in the counter-terrorism community say what the President did was a mistake.

“Russia is not part of the ISIS coalition,” Olsen said. “They are not our partner.”

Dan Shapiro, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, now a senior visiting fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, agreed. In an interview with ABC News, he called the president and his team “careless,” saying that the reported disclosures demonstrate a “poor understanding of how to guard sensitive information."

Shapiro was most concerned, however, that the president’s move could make Israel think twice about sharing intelligence with the United States, warning that it will “inevitably cause elements of Israel's intelligence service to demonstrate more caution.”

The reaction in Congress appeared to diverge along partisan lines. Asked if he had concerns about the president’s handling of classified information, the Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell let out a small laugh and before replying simply, "No."

But Democrats disagree. Shortly after McConnell's comments, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer reiterated his call for the White House to release full, unedited transcripts of Trump's meeting with the Russian officials.

"This is not normal behavior. This is not how a White House should operate," Schumer said. "Firing an FBI director who is investigating the president’s campaign, disclosing classified information to a country that wishes us harm and just finished undermining the integrity of our elections. We need our Republican colleagues to join us in standing up, to put country over party."

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