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Friday
May182018

Former spy Sergei Skripal released from UK hospital after March nerve agent attack

Pablo_K/iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Sergei Skripal, the former Russian spy who was the target of a nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom earlier this year, was released from the hospital on Friday.

Skripal was admitted to Salisbury District Hospital on March 4, along with his daughter Yulia and a police officer named Nick Bailey. All three have now been discharged.

Salisbury District Hospital CEO Cara Charles-Barks called Skripal's discharge "fantastic news" in a statement.

"That he, Yulia and DS Bailey have been able to leave us so soon after coming into contact with this nerve agent is thanks to the hard work, skill and professionalism of our clinicians, who provide outstanding care to all our patients, day in and day out."

The hospital's Director of Nursing, Lorna Wilkinson, said Skripal will continue his recovery away from the hospital.

The 66-year-old Skripal was found slumped on a park bench with his daughter on March 4. Yulia Skripal was released from the hospital on April 9.

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Friday
May182018

Jet with 104 passengers crashes just after takeoff in Cuba

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A passenger jet crashed shortly after takeoff in Cuba Friday. So far, three survivors have been found among the wreckage.

Photos from the scene showed first responders standing among the smoking debris. The plane, a Boeing 737 rented by Cubana airlines, had just left José Martí International Airport outside Havana, Cuban state TV reported. Cubana confirmed the flight had crashed.

The plane was carrying 104 passengers and additional crew members, and heading to the city of Holguin, on the eastern part of Cuba, according to Granma, the official newspaper of Cuba’s Communist Party.

The three survivors found thus far are in critical condition at the hospital, Granma reported. They have badly broken legs, hips, severe burns, among other injuries. A fourth survivor was found who died en route to the hospital, state TV reported.

Video obtained by ABC News shows a giant fireball rising moments after the plane hit the ground.

The weather at the time of takeoff was clear, with temperatures in the low to mid-80s.



This is a breaking story. Please check back for updates.

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 A passenger jet crashed shortly after takeoff in Cuba Friday. So far, three survivors have been found among the wreckage.
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Photos from the scene showed first responders standing among the smoking debris. The plane, a Boeing 737 rented by Cubana airlines, had just left José Martí International Airport outside Havana, Cuban state TV reported. Cubana confirmed the flight had crashed.

The plane was carrying 104 passengers and additional crew members, and heading to the city of Holguin, on the eastern part of Cuba, according to Granma, the official newspaper of Cuba’s Communist Party.

The three survivors found thus far are in critical condition at the hospital, Granma reported. They have badly broken legs, hips, severe burns, among other injuries. A fourth survivor was found who died en route to the hospital, state TV reported.

Video obtained by ABC News shows a giant fireball rising moments after the plane hit the ground.

PHOTO: A map shows Jose Marti International Airport outside Havana, where a jetliner crashed on May 18, 2018.AP
A map shows Jose Marti International Airport outside Havana, where a jetliner crashed on May 18, 2018.
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PHOTO: A firefighter works in the wreckage of a Boeing 737 plane that crashed in the agricultural area of Boyeros, around 20 km (12 miles) south of Havana, shortly after taking off from Havanas main airport in Cuba, May 18, 2018.Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters
A firefighter works in the wreckage of a Boeing 737 plane that crashed in the agricultural area of Boyeros, around 20 km (12 miles) south of Havana, shortly after taking off from Havana's main airport in Cuba, May 18, 2018.
more +

PHOTO: Rescue and search workers on the site where a Cuban airliner with more than 100 passengers on board plummeted into a yucca field just after takeoff from the international airport in Havana, Cuba, May 18, 2018.Ramon Espinosa/AP
Rescue and search workers on the site where a Cuban airliner with more than 100 passengers on board plummeted into a yucca field just after takeoff from the international airport in Havana, Cuba, May 18, 2018.
more +

PHOTO: The scene where a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havanas Jose Marti airport, May 18, 2018 in Cuba.Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images
The scene where a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport, May 18, 2018 in Cuba.

The weather at the time of takeoff was clear, with temperatures in the low to mid-80s.
Friday
May182018

Prince Harry, Prince William greet fans outside Windsor Castle as excitement builds for royal wedding

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Royal watchers got an up-close glimpse of Prince Harry one day before he weds Meghan Markle at St. George’s Chapel.

Harry, 33, and his brother, Prince William, 35, stepped out to greet some of the fans who have flocked to Windsor to celebrate Harry and Markle’s wedding.

William will serve as best man at Saturday’s wedding, just as Harry did for William at his 2011 wedding to Duchess Kate.

Harry and Meghan arrived in Windsor, about 22 miles outside of London, on Thursday to rehearse for their wedding and take care of final preparations.

William and his wife, Princess Kate, were also seen arriving for the start of the festivities.

Royal fans in Windsor have begun staking out spots on the Long Walk, the route from Windsor Castle through Windsor Town where Harry and Markle will ride in a carriage after their wedding service.

Harry and Markle have invited 2,640 people onto the grounds of Windsor Castle to see the wedding carriage procession as it departs.

The members of the public were selected from different regions of the U.K. with a special emphasis on those who have served their community.

The couple also invited 100 students from two local schools in Windsor and extended invitations to 200 individuals who take part in charities and organizations for which Harry serves as royal patron.

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Friday
May182018

How the tiny town of Windsor is beefing up security ahead of the royal wedding

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) – The small English town of Windsor is being transformed into a fortress ahead of the wedding of Prince Harry and actress Meaghan Markle.

The town, which according to the most recent census in 2016 has a population of just over 30,000 people, is preparing to host an expected 100,000 visitors this Saturday according to the BBC.

The couple are due to be married at 12:00 p.m. BST on Saturday at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.

In the last few weeks, officers from the Thames Valley Police -- the regional force -- have become increasingly visible on the streets of Windsor as they've carried out patrols.

Officials have been carrying out hundreds of checks of public areas and additional cameras have been fitted around the town in order for police to monitor as much of the crowds as possible, according to a TVP police briefing.

It will be among "the largest" operation in the force's history.

Following the ceremony at the chapel, Harry and Meghan will tour the town’s streets in an open carriage at 1 p.m. local time, giving well-wishers a chance to glimpse the newly married couple.

The tour is only possible thanks to a massive security operation that will ensure the bride and groom’s safety throughout the 25-minute carriage procession.

The Daily Mail reported that snipers will be perched on rooftops, while special forces troops will be embedded in the crowd and roadblocks will line the route.

Several hundred members of the British Army, Navy and the Royal Air Force will be a part of the procession, walking behind the couple’s horse-drawn carriage, the Mail reported.

Carriage rides are a traditional part of royal weddings, allowing for the public to photograph the couple and to be a part of the celebration.

In order to accommodate the massive crowds, the Mail also reported that the town’s chief administrator told residents in a letter that the roads involved in the procession will be closed to the public for a rehearsal on Thursday and again from Friday night through Saturday for the event.

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Friday
May182018

Prince Charles to walk Meghan Markle down the aisle

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- When Meghan Markle walks down the aisle Saturday to meet Prince Harry at the altar, she will be escorted by her soon-to-be father-in-law, Prince Charles.

"Ms. Meghan Markle has asked His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales to accompany her down the aisle of the Quire of St George's Chapel on her Wedding Day," Kensington Palace said Friday in a statement. "The Prince of Wales is pleased to be able to welcome Ms. Markle to The Royal Family in this way."

Prince Charles will walk Markle from the quire, the area of St. George’s Chapel where the clergy and choir sit, to Harry. The procession in the nave, the central part of the church, will include Markle, the Dean of Windsor and Markle’s bridesmaids and page boys, as was previously planned.

The confirmation that it will be Charles who does the honor on Markle's wedding day put an end to speculation about whether Markle would walk down the aisle alone or be escorted by her mom, Doria Ragland, in her father's absence.

Ragland will also play an important role on her daughter's wedding day, escorting her Saturday from the local hotel where they will both stay tonight to St. George’s Chapel.

Markle, 36, confirmed in a statement Thursday that her dad, Thomas Markle Sr., who lives in Mexico, will not attend her wedding due to health concerns. Markle originally asked her dad to walk her down the aisle in front of an expected 600 guests.

Markle has been told by her father -- who faced accusations this week that he staged paparazzi photos -- that he is unable to travel because of medical advice from his doctors, royal sources told ABC News.

Markle's choice of Charles to walk her down the aisle signifies the warm welcome Britain's royal family has extended to Markle, a California native.

Markle and Harry, 33, introduced Ragland to Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, for the first time over tea Wednesday at Clarence House, Charles and Camilla's London residence.

Ragland, a Los Angeles-based yoga instructor and social worker, also met Harry's older brother and best man, Prince William, and his wife, Princess Kate, and their two older children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, Thursday at Windsor Castle.

Queen Elizabeth, Harry's grandmother, will meet Ragland for the first time at Windsor Castle today. Harry and Markle will join them, according to a Buckingham Palace spokesperson.

In addition to introducing Ragland to Harry's relatives and their close friends in the United Kingdom, Harry and Markle have been busy with preparations and celebrations ahead of their wedding day.

They traveled to Windsor Thursday to oversee final preparations for the wedding.

Friday night, Markle and Harry will stay at separate hotels on the eve of their wedding.

Harry will be joined by his best man, William, at the Dorchester Collection's Coworth Park. Markle and her mother will stay at Cliveden House Hotel, on the National Trust's Cliveden Estate, according to Kensington Palace.

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Thursday
May172018

Spread of Ebola to large city in Democratic Republic of Congo a 'very concerning' turn, health officials say

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has spread from rural areas to a city of nearly 1.2 million people, the country's health ministry said Wednesday.

Situated along the Congo River, Mbandaka is a densely populated transit hub at the crossroads of Equateur province, the health ministry said, raising fears that the Ebola virus will be easily passed on. Ebola spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people.

Downstream from Mbandaka is the country's capital, Kinshasa, which is home to roughly 10 million people.

"The arrival of Ebola in an urban area is very concerning and WHO and partners are working together to rapidly scale up the search for all contacts of the confirmed case in the Mbandaka area," said Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization's regional director for Africa.

A new suspected case of Ebola was recorded this week in Wangata, one of the three health zones of Mbandaka, the capital of the northwestern Equateur province. Laboratory tests on two samples from Wangata confirmed one specimen as positive for Ebola, while the other was negative.

It's the first time in the region's ongoing outbreak that a case has been detected in an urban health zone, with all other cases reported in remote, rural areas of Equateur province. And until now, all the confirmed cases of Ebola were in Bikoro health zone, some 90 miles south of Mbandaka.

"We are entering a new phase of the Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban health zone," the Democratic Republic of Congo's Minister of Health Oly Ilunga Kalenga said in a statement in French late Wednesday. "Since the announcement of the alert in Mbandaka, our epidemiologists are working in the field with community relays to identify people who have been in contact with suspected cases."

As of Thursday, a total of 45 cases of hemorrhagic fever had been recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the outbreak was announced on May 8. That number includes 14 confirmed cases of Ebola, 21 probable cases and 10 suspected cases. Health care workers have been among those infected, according to the country's health ministry.

There have been 25 deaths among these cases, including one person who died from a confirmed case of Ebola.

There are several types of hemorrhagic fever in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the health ministry noted; thus, not all suspected cases are necessarily Ebola.

It's the Central African nation's ninth Ebola outbreak since 1976 when scientists first identified the deadly virus.

The health ministry said it had received 5,400 doses of Ebola vaccine Wednesday morning. Thousands more were expected to arrive in the coming days.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which is working with the Democratic Republic of Congo's health ministry and its partners, announced Thursday that it has deployed 30 experts to conduct surveillance in Mbandaka, following news of the confirmed case there.

Doctors Without Borders, or MSF as its often called by its French acronym, said it too is stepping up its response to stop the spread of the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"With the new case confirmed in Mbandaka, the scenario has changed, and it has become more serious and worrying, since the disease is now affecting an urban area," said Henry Gray, MSF emergency coordinator in Mbandaka. "It is paramount to trace the suspect case in order to have a clearer view on how it reached the city."

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which is also assisting the country amid the current outbreak, said communities across Equateur province must be alerted of the rising risk of Ebola to stop the virus from spreading further.

"Local volunteers and health workers are the community’s alarm system," said Ben Adinoyi, who heads the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ health unit for Africa. “They are our eyes and ears on the ground. They are critical to the early identification and containment of new cases."

"They need to be activated across the province and even beyond," he added. "If we don’t, then the virus may spread too far and too quickly."

The latest Ebola case in the Democratic Republic of Congo comes amid an outbreak of violence that has spread rapidly in the country's restive Kasai region. The violence was sparked by existing tensions between customary chiefs in Kasai-Central Province and the government in 2016, but the widening conflict has since pulled in militias, armed groups and security forces across an area the size of Germany.

The violence has forced families to flee their homes. About 3.8 million people in the Kasai region, including 2.3 million children, are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
May172018

National Geographic launches effort to reduce plastic waste

Randy Olson/National Geographic(NEW YORK) -- National Geographic launched a new campaign this week to reduce waste from plastic products like single-use bags and straws, which includes a major change: most National Geographic magazines will now be delivered in paper packaging instead of plastic.

The magazine reports that 18 billions pounds of plastic waste end up in oceans every year and that less than a fifth of plastic produced around the world is recycled.

The launch of the "Planet or Plastics?" initiative coincides with National Geographic's June issue, which has a photo of a plastic bag positioned like an iceberg on the cover.

National Geographic

Company officials said in a press release that from now on the U.S, U.K. and India editions of the magazine will be delivered in paper instead of plastic, which they said in a press release will eliminate 2.5 million single-use plastic bags every month.

Several other companies have said they will either change or recycle more of their packaging to reduce plastic pollution in oceans, including Nestle, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Walmart.

In addition to changing the packaging on its own magazine, the National Geographic initiative will include an awareness campaign about plastics pollution, investment in research programs and partnerships with companies like S'Well and The North Face, which will sell shirts made from recycled bottles collected from National Parks. The partnership between The North Face and the National Park Foundation also provides a dollar for every product sold to support projects in National Parks, according to the foundation's website.

Nick Mallos, the director of the Trash Free Seas program for the advocacy group Ocean Conservancy, said it's important to emphasize that there is no single solution to the issue of plastic pollution but that the commitment from National Geographic and other companies is a positive step.

"I think its fantastic specifically that they've covered this issue so holistically specifically to see all the great facts that they've explored in this piece. These initiatives can have a tremendous impact," Mallos said.

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Thursday
May172018

Trumps plan to send royal wedding gift 

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- While President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump won't be attending Saturday’s highly-anticipated royal wedding in the United Kingdom, the White House confirms they will be sending a wedding gift instead.

“President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will be making a contribution to one of the seven charities the royal couple has designated in lieu of gifts,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said in a statement.

The White House did not disclose the amount of the donation.

American actress Meghan Markle and Prince Harry requested wedding guests and well-wishers make donations to charities they care about including the Children’s HIV Association, Crisis – a charity for homeless people, Scotty’s Little Soldiers – a charity for bereaved Armed Forces children, Street Games, the Myna Mahila Foundation, which works to empower women in Mumbai’s urban slums, and the Wilderness Foundation UK, which introduces vulnerable youth to the outdoors.

The Trump’s donation will follow in the tradition of American presidents who have sent gifts to Royal couples – in 1947, President Harry Truman sent Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth a glass bowl and President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan also sent a glass bowl to Prince Charles and Diana for their wedding in 1981.

The Trumps won’t be alone in their exclusion from one of the most exclusive events in the world this Saturday – Prince Harry requested that no political officials be invited to the wedding.

“It has been decided that an official list of political leaders - both UK and international - is not required for Prince Harry’s and Ms. Markle’s wedding. Her Majesty's Government was consulted on this decision which was taken by the Royal Household,” said Kensington Palace in a statement.

Even the Obamas – who have had a friendly relationship with Prince Harry – will not be attending the wedding, although a spokesman noted: “The couples look forward to seeing each other soon.”

Trump told Piers Morgan he wasn’t aware of any invitation to the Royal Wedding but said of the couple in an interview, “I want them to be happy. I really want them to be happy.”

The White House has not said whether or not the president and first lady plan to watch the wedding ceremony, which will be broadcast live in the early morning hours Saturday.

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Thursday
May172018

British troops rehearse for royal wedding at Windsor Castle

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Members of the military, horses and marching bands filled the streets around Windsor Castle today to rehearse for the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Saturday.

Fans who’ve been staking out their spots -- some sleeping overnight to secure the best viewing locations -- and lucky visitors to Windsor got a preview of the pomp and circumstance.

Security personnel and members of the media also got a chance to practice their roles ahead of the event.

The Ascot Landau carriage the newlyweds will ride in made a practice run down the Long Walk heading toward Windsor Castle.

Flapping Union Jacks filled the air as excitement builds for the first royal wedding since Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.

Thousands are expected to travel for the event and millions more will tune in to watch the live broadcast from afar.

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Thursday
May172018

Late passenger attempts to break into plane

iStock/Thinkstock(MELBOURNE, Austrailia) -- Passengers on board a plane waiting to depart Australia's Melbourne Airport were rattled after a passenger who was "running late" for his flight allegedly attempted to break into the aircraft while it was still parked on the tarmac.

"We were sitting waiting to get on the flight and people went 'Oh my god, what is going on?'" one passenger told Australian outlet 9News.com.au.

Jetstar flight 508 had yet to leave its parking bay when authorities said a passenger who had missed boarding a flight to Adelaide was caught on camera bounding up the stairs and attempting to force the plane’s main door open, 9News reported.

The incident occurred around 9:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, according to Melbourne newspaper The Age, and after several attempts to force the plane’s door open, the passenger can be seen attempting to kick it open with his feet. The plane he was allegedly attempting to break into was bound for Sydney and wasn't even his flight, the paper reported.

The paper reported that two cabin crew members were injured in the incident but managed to restrain the passenger until police arrived.

The passenger, 57, allegedly became hostile and physically violent after he was told by Jetstar staff that he was late for his scheduled flight to Adelaide, The Age reported.

Australian Federal Police officers took the man into custody, 9News reported, and he has been charged with one count of unlawful assault on an airline employee.

The man is due to appear in front of a magistrate on June 12, 9News reported.

"We praise our crew for safely handling this incident and restraining the passenger until police arrived," Jetstar said in a statement.

"This behaviour is unacceptable and we have placed an immediate ban on this passenger travelling on all Jetstar and Qantas flights."

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