Astronomers detect mysterious repeated radio signal from faraway galaxy

ArisSu/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Fast radio bursts are short, millisecond-long radio waves that come from billions of light years outside of the Milky Way galaxy, and for the second time ever, scientists have detected one that has been repeated, suggesting that it's coming from the same location.

The repeating fast radio burst (FRB) was one of 13 FRBs to be detected by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment's (CHIME), a radio telescope in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, during its pre-commissioning run in the summer of 2018.

Although the total number of FRBs scientists have detected is over 60 so far, this is only the second time an FRB has been repeated -- the first time being in Puerto Rico in 2015, when the Arecibo radio telescope picked up the burst.

“Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB. Knowing that there is another suggests that there could be more out there,” said Ingrid Stairs, an astrophysicist at the University of British Columbia and member of the team, in a statement. “And with more repeaters and more sources available for study, we may be able to understand these cosmic puzzles -- where they’re from and what causes them.”

Though their source might be an advanced extraterrestrial civilization, most astronomers right now believe FRBs are produced by something related to magnetic fields and neutron stars, Ziggy Pleunis, a Ph.D. student at McGill University who worked on the CHIME/FRB team, told ABC News.

"Extraordinary claims beg for extraordinary evidence, so for now, a simpler explanation based on known physical processes is preferred by most scientists," Pleunis said.

What they do know is that the "frequency of the radio waves helps us to figure out what produces the bursts and how the environment of the bursts look like," Pleunis said, adding that the frequency relates to the intensity of the light that's being emitted from the source and the size of its magnetic field.

Another clue is that of the 13 FRBs detected by CHIME, the majority of them showed signs of scattering, which is caused by the "different rays of light from the fast radio burst taking a slightly different path because of some material in-between the fast radio burst and the telescope," Pleunis said.

That could mean they're coming from "some sort of dense clump like a supernova remnant, or near the central black hole in a galaxy," said Cherry Ng, an astronomer at the University of Toronto who also worked on the project, in a press release.

Before CHIME, the majority of FRBs detected had been found at frequencies close to 1,400 megahertz. However, the new telescope allows scientists to pick up lower frequencies at a range of 400 to 800 megahertz, potentially increasing their chances of finding more repeated FRBs in the future.

Stairs said that their next steps will be to gain a better understanding of the FRBs' environments and what causes them.

“The findings are just the beginning of CHIME’s discoveries,” Stairs said in an article published by the University of British Columbia. “In the next phase, we plan to capture the full high-resolution data stream from the brightest bursts, which will let us better understand their positions, characteristics and magnetic environments. The next few years will be very exciting.”

The CHIME/FRB project is a combined effort between scientists from the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, the National Research Council of Canada, the University of British Columbia, McGill University and the University of Toronto.

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Norovirus outbreak on Royal Caribbean cruise ship sickens more than 270 passengers

Aitormmfoto/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas cruise ship is cutting its journey short after 277 passengers and crew members have been infected with a norovirus, Royal Caribbean Cruises announced Thursday.

“We think the right thing to do is to get everyone home early rather than have guests worry about their health” the cruise line said in a statement, adding that returning early “also gives us more time to completely clean and sanitize the ship before her next sailing.”

Guest and crew members began getting sick when the ship departed the Port Canaveral in Florida on Jan. 6. The ship, originally scheduled for a 7-night cruise, made its first stop in Haiti Tuesday where the ship hosted a lunch buffet on land, said Abby Perrin, a passenger on the ship told ABC News. That night, Perrin said she and her mother began experiencing symptoms associated with food poisoning, like vomiting.

The next day, the ship arrived to Jamaica, but passengers said they weren’t allowed to leave the vessel.

Thursday morning, the ship headed for its next scheduled destination in Cozumel, Mexico, but officials canceled the cruise enroute. Now it is on its way back to Florida.

“It was pretty upsetting that we weren’t able to get into Jamaica at all,” Perrin said. “Then we were supposed to be in Mexico tomorrow, which we were really excited about, and it turns out we’re going back to Florida instead.”

About 3 percent of people aboard the ship are affected by the norovirus, according to the cruise company.

Alan Thomas is currently aboard the ship with his spouse and two friends.

“People are still getting sick,” he told ABC News. “At a cafe next to Guest Services last night, there was a kid vomiting in the trash can.”

Thomas shared a video on Twitter of crew members cleaning the ship. He told ABC News that crew members are not allowing guests to serve themselves food or drinks.

Norovirus is a contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. A person can become infected through having direct contact with another infected person, consuming contaminated food or water, or touching their nose and mouth after touching contaminated surfaces, according to the CDC.

Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the U.S., according to CDC.

It is not yet known what caused the outbreak, but most instances of norovirus occur in food service settings like restaurants, according to the CDC.

The Royal Caribbean advertises the Oasis of the Seas as one of the world’s largest ships.

In 2017, about 220 passengers aboard a five-night Royal Caribbean cruise suffered from a gastro-intestinal illness.

All of the current Oasis of the Seas passengers will receive a full refund, Royal Caribbean Cruises said in the statement.

“Our guests sail with us to have great vacations, and we are sorry this cruise fell short,” the statement reads.

The cruise company said the ship is scheduled to return to Florida on Saturday.

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Missing wife of Norwegian millionaire appears to have been kidnapped; police reveal $10M ransom demand 

Roland Magnusson/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The wife of one of the richest men in Norway is believed to have been kidnapped after police revealed her husband received a note asking for over $10 million in the cryptocurrency Monero as ransom.

Anne-Elisabeth Flakevic Hagen, wife of Norwegian real estate investor and electric company owner Tom Hagen, went missing on Oct. 31 of last year. Hagen found a note left on the couple's home asking for the ransom, but police did not disclose when specifically the note was found.

Information regarding Flakevic's disappearance was not made public before because Hagen received a note from the suspected kidnappers threatening to kill his wife if he got the police involved, Norwegian newspaper VG reported.

However, police are now making the information public as their investigation has yielded no results, and hope the video surveillance footage they released on Thursday will help them get new leads on the case.

The video is of an area outside of Hagen’s office building.

“We have access to surveillance video showing persons moving on the outside of the building on the day in question,” Chief Police Investigator Tommy Broske said in a press conference Wednesday.

In the video, two people are seen walking outside the building within 30 minutes of each other on the day Flakevic Hagen went missing. A third person, a cyclist, passes by one of the people standing outside the building. Broske said that police are searching for all of them.

“Finally, I want to reiterate that we do not know where Anne-Elisabeth Hagen is kept hidden. Neither do we know if she has been kept at just one location since 31 October. The hiding place could be within as well as outside Norway’s borders,” Broske said.

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Pompeo defends US withdrawal from Syria, rebukes Obama's Middle East strategy, during foreign policy address in Egypt

Jordan Pix/Getty Images(CAIRO, Egypt) -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the U.S. withdrawal from Syria and issued a strong rebuke of the Obama administration's Middle East strategy, during a major foreign policy address in Egypt on Thursday.

While the secretary challenged Middle Eastern countries to take on new responsibilities in the fight against extremism, he failed to call out human rights abuses in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia and did not mention the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

During his speech at the American University in Cairo, Pompeo declared that "American will not retreat until the terror fight is over," but acknowledged that President Donald Trump "has made the decision to bring our troops home from Syria."

"We always do and now is the time. But this isn’t a change of mission," he said. "We remain committed to the complete dismantling of the ISIS threat and the ongoing fight against radical Islamism in all of its forms."

Pompeo's address came one day after his surprise visit to Iraq and in the midst of a whirlwind tour of the Middle East in which he is reassuring partners of America's presence in the region following Trump's decision three weeks ago to withdrawal 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.

What was originally a 30-day timeline for withdrawal gradually grew to several months, but now Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton are stating that any withdrawal is "conditions-based," including the enduring defeat of ISIS, protection for America's Kurdish partners, and the assurance that Iran will not increase its influence in the region.

Speaking to reporters before his speech on Thursday, Pompeo said that any contradiction in the administration’s Syria policy has been “made up” by the media.

The secretary began his address in Cairo by blasting the Obama administration for "falsely seeing ourselves as a force for what ails the Middle East."

"So today what did we learn from all of this? We learned that when America retreats, chaos follows. When we neglect our friends, resentment builds. And when we partner with our enemies, they advance," he said. "The good news is this: The age of self-inflicted American shame is over, and so are the policies that produced so much needless suffering. Now comes the real 'new beginning.'"

In a statement, the National Security Action Group – an advocacy organization made up of former Obama administration officials – responded to Pompeo's criticism, writing: “That this administration feels the need, nearly a decade later, to take potshots at an effort to identify common ground between the Arab world and the West speaks not only to the Trump administration’s pettiness but also to its lack of a strategic vision for America’s role in the region and its abdication of America’s values."

Pompeo also praised the Trump administration's decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal, saying "we will not ease our campaign to stop Iran's malevolent influence and actions against this region and the world."

That includes Syria, where Iran has had a growing role in supporting the Syrian regime.

Pompeo downplayed the idea that the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would give Iran the upper hand there, saying that, "In Syria, the United States will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot, and work through the [United Nations]-led process to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people."

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded on Twitter, saying, "Whenever/wherever US interferes, chaos, repression and resentment follow. The day Iran mimics US clients and Secretary Pompeo's 'human rights models' — be it the Shah or current butchers — to become a 'normal' country is the day hell freezes over. Best for the US to just get over loss of Iran."

Pompeo declined to call out human rights abuses happening Egypt, including the reported detention and torture of American-Egyptian Khaled Hassan who has been missing since last January -- allegations Cairo denies.

During his address, the secretary applauded Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's efforts to promote religious freedom and encouraged him "to unleash the creative energies of Egypt’s people, unfetter the economy, and promote a free and open exchange of ideas."

The State Department did say that the issue of human rights was brought up in Pompeo's private meeting with Sisi earlier in the day.

Also noticeably absent from Thursday's address was the mention of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, brutally murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

The killing led the U.S. Senate to vote to suspend U.S. support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, as well as condemn Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the act. While the Trump administration has sanctioned Saudi officials for their alleged role in the murder, Trump has continued to defend Saudi leadership.

With stops already in Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt, Pompeo will continue his tour of the Middle East on Friday with planned visits to Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait.

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Houthi rebels carry out drone attack on Yemeni military commanders

NABIL HASAN/AFP/Getty Images(BEIRUT, Lebanon) -- In a bold and devastating strike against senior Yemeni leadership, Houthi rebels carried out a drone attack targeting a military parade near the southern port city of Aden Thursday morning, killing and wounding troops from the Saudi-led coalition.

Houthi rebel spokesman, Brigadier Yahya Sariyah, said in a statement the aircraft was a newer version of a drone called the Qasaf 2k that is designed to explode from a height of around 50 feet in the air and rain shrapnel down on its target.

That description matches video taken from the scene, which appears to show the drone flying directly overhead of the military parade at Al-Anad Air Base before it exploded.

"This is an unprecedented and pretty aggressive move for them to be hitting this base," Adam Baron, visiting fellow with the European Council on Human Relations, told ABC News. "The Houthis have not succeeded in carrying out an attack of this magnitude against a Yemeni military installation in quite some time."

Saudi broadcaster Al-Arabiya reported as many as six people were killed in the drone strike and at least 20 were injured, including some members of the media. The report also said ambulances were seen carrying the wounded to Aden hospitals.

Among the wounded were Mohammad Saleh Tamah, head of Yemen's intelligence service, senior military commander Mohammad Jawas and Lahj Governor Ahmed al-Turki, according to Al Arabiya.

Yemen's minister of information Muammar el-Eyrani condemned the attack in a statement published on Twitter, saying it was directed at "leaders, officers and members of the national army outside areas of military confrontation and away from areas of contact."

The Al-Anad Air Base is located in Lahij province, the same region ABC News reported extensively from last March. It was once the headquarters for U.S. forces fighting al-Qaida in southern Yemen.

Pro-rebel news website al-Masirah said the drone targeted "the display platform at Al-Anad base" and said "a senior Emirati commander attending a graduation ceremony" was also injured. There was no information available from the United Arab Emirates government on the attack.

Yemen plunged into civil war in 2014 after rebels captured Sanaa, the capital, The Saudi-led coalition intervened a year later alongside Yemeni national troops and has since been trying to restore Yemen's internationally recognized government to power.

The drone attack comes as a blow to Yemen peace efforts after a cease-fire was signed for the key port city of Hodeida last month, just one day after U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths told the Security Council the agreement had brought a considerable de-escalation to the conflict.

The next round of peace talks was scheduled to begin in Stockholm, Sweden, before the end of January, although Baron said the attack will make further negotiations much less likely.

"It certainly violates the spirit of the Stockholm cease-fire talks and it presents a threat to the tentative and rather fragile peace agreement," Baron told ABC News.

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Kim Jong Un has Xi Jinping's support for second Trump summit

Pyeongyang Press Corps/Pool/Getty Images(BEIJING) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has the support of Chinese President Xi Jinping for an expected second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

According to the official readout by China's Xinhua News Agency of Kim and Xi's meeting this week in Beijing, Xi "supported [North Korea] and the United States holding summits and achieving results."

While the exact details of the discussion were not revealed, Xi is quoted by Xinhua as saying, "China hopes that the DPRK and the United States will meet each other halfway" and that "China stands ready to work with the DPRK and relevant parties to play a positive and constructive role in maintaining peace and stability and realizing denuclearization on the peninsula and lasting peace and stability in the region."

Many observers, including China's nationalistic newspaper Global Times, felt the timing of Kim's trip, on Xi's invitation, was intentional. As Kim's armored train pulled into Beijing Railway Station on Tuesday, a few blocks away a U.S. trade delegation was hammering out differences with their Chinese counterparts in an effort to end the trade war between the two countries. The two sides have a truce that expires March 1.

Kim "came to Beijing at a critical juncture, when the ongoing Sino-US trade negotiations were poised to produce a breakthrough and the second summit between him and U.S. President Donald Trump is slated to take place soon," observed an op-ed in the Global Times.

Kim previously met with Xi before and after the Singapore Summit with Trump. However, after the June summit, progress between North Korea and the U.S. stalled over fundamental disagreements on their respective definitions of "denuclearization" and a timeline for said denuclearization.

The Global Times wrote, "The second summit is so important that Kim feels it is necessary to break protocol and consult Chinese leaders before shaking hands with Trump once again."

Despite sanctions, China remains North Korea's main trading partner and benefactor, accounting for 90 percent of the reclusive nation's imports.

Before Kim's first visit to China last March, the relationship between Kim and Xi was anything but warm -- they kept each other at arm's length despite years of propaganda claiming the two countries were as close as "lips and teeth."

But since North Korea's rapprochement with South Korea and the U.S., Kim and Xi have thawed their frosty relationship, as each wants to negotiate with Trump on a key topic: Kim on denuclearization and Xi on trade.

Prior to departing Beijing, North Korean state media reported that Kim once again extended an invitation to Xi to visit Pyongyang, which Xi reportedly accepted. Xi also reportedly accepted a previous invitation to visit the North Korean capital last year but has yet to go.

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South Korean president optimistic on progress toward denuclearization

Jung Yeon-je-Pool/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in painted a rosy picture of the ongoing denuclearization process on his nation's peninsula Thursday and said a second summit between leaders from the U.S. and North Korea could happen "soon."

After that summit, Kim Jong Un may visit Seoul, added Moon, who, during his annual New Year's press conference at the presidential office, or Bluehouse, also urged China to continue to play a "positive role."

Kim's recent visit to Beijing to meet with Xi Jinping stands out as a "good sign," the South Korean president said.

Moon also noted that Pyongyang has offered concessions during the process of denuclearization and that he expects Washington to carry out similar corresponding measures "in order to gradually build trust."

"This time, North Korea suggested a much more detailed process of denuclearization," said Moon, adding that North Korea would halt missile firings, dismantle nuclear and test sites, and scrap its Yongbyon research center.

Moon spent most of the 20-minute speech talking about South Korea' economy, but the topic dominating the following question-and-answer session with 200 journalists was North Korea.

Washington and Pyongyang, Moon said, have now narrowed differences over the past seven months since the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, and it's time to take "bold steps."

"The reason why the deal with North Korea is being delayed is because the two sides have spent a long period of time distrusting each other," Moon added.

Regarding his relationship with Kim Jong Un, Moon said the letter he received from him at the end of last year was "very special, and, first and foremost, very sincere," expressing regret and explaining why Kim could not deliver the promise of a reciprocal visit in December.

"By exchanging these letters, I expect more frequent meetings with Kim regarding inter-Korean relations and denuclearization issues," Moon said. "I hope to achieve accelerated progress in the future."

Kim returned to Pyongyang Thursday from his four-day-long trip to China.

North Korea is making an effort to achieve similar results from Kim's second potential summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, reported Xinhua, China's state news agency, quoting Kim.

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Meghan Markle's first patronages as member of royal family announced

Clodagh Kilcoyne - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, marked another first in her eight months as a member of Britain's royal family.

Meghan, who wed Prince Harry in May, will now assume her role as the royal patron of several charitable organizations. Kensington Palace announced Meghan's official patronages Thursday morning in a statement.

The Duchess of Sussex will now become Patron of four organizations that "reflect the causes and issues with which she has long been associated including the arts, access to education, support for women and animal welfare," Kensington Palace announced in the statement.

Meghan, 37, will start the new roles immediately. She plans to visit one of the charities later Thursday, according to Kensington Palace.

Meghan will now be patron of The National Theatre, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, women's charity Smart Works and animal charity Mayhew. Her Majesty The Queen was previously patron of two of these organizations -- The National Theatre and The Association of Commonwealth Universities. She has now passed on the responsibility to the Duchess of Sussex.

"The Duchess is delighted to become Patron of both national and grassroots organisations that are part of the fabric of the UK, and is very much looking forward to working with them to bring wider public attention to their causes," the statement added. "Her Royal Highness feels she can use her position to focus attention on, and make a particular difference to these organisations and, more widely, the sectors they each represent."

"Over the last year, Her Royal Highness has held meetings and conducted private visits with each of these organisations," the Palace said. "The Duchess will today visit Smart Works and over the next few weeks will undertake public visits to the other three organisations."

The organizations were delighted to have Meghan's endorsement.

The Director of the National Theatre, Rufus Norris, said it was a "privilege to welcome The Duchess of Sussex as our new Patron," adding that Meghan "shares our deeply-held conviction that theatre has the power to bring together people from all communities and walks of life."

Joanna Newman, chief executive and secretary general of the ACU, said she was "thrilled" Meghan had become their new patron.

"The Duchess shares our passion for the transformational power of higher education, and Her Royal Highness' support will help champion higher education as a force for good in the Commonwealth and beyond," she said. "We would like to thank Her Majesty The Queen for her support, and we look forward to working closely with The Duchess as our Patron."

Juliet Hughes-Hallett, chair and founder of Smart Works, said she was "thrilled" to have the Duchess on board.

"An acknowledged champion of women and their rights worldwide, The Duchess will motivate ever more women to come to our centres and get the job that will transform their lives," she said. "The Duchess' patronage will inspire the women we serve and help them reach for the stars."

Caroline Yates, CEO of Mayhew, said, "We are so excited that HRH The Duchess of Sussex has chosen to be our Patron. Mayhew works to improve the lives of dogs, cats and the people in our community."

Royal patronages are not necessarily for life and the younger royals usually have fewer patronages than older royals, as they steadily acquire more. Queen Elizabeth II is a patron of more than 600 charities and Prince Philip of more than 700.

Meghan began her public charitable work in the U.K. soon after she wed Prince Harry in May. She became the fourth member of the Royal Foundation, started by William, Kate and Harry, at the time of her wedding.

In her first high-profile, solo charity project, Meghan collaborated with women at the Hubb Community Kitchen in West London on a charity cookbook that quickly became a bestseller. Her mom, Doria Ragland, flew from her home in Los Angeles to the U.K. to be with her daughter for the launch of the cookbook.

She also marked the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage in New Zealand and touted the importance of equal access to education for women during her 16-day royal tour of New Zealand, Australia, Tonga and Fiji with Prince Harry.

Official patronages are a hugely important aspect of what it means to be a royal, according to royal expert Victoria Murphy.

"Members of the royal family can use their patronages to shape their legacy as members of the royal family," Murphy told ABC News. "By showing a consistent interests in certain issues they can create a significant impact in that area."

The announcement of Meghan's official patronages comes as she prepares for a busy 2019.

She is expecting her first child with Harry in the spring. The couple also plan to move from Kensington Palace to Frogmore Cottage on the grounds of Windsor Estate, about 30 miles from London.

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Former Guantanamo Bay commander indicted for obstructing justice in 2015 death

zudin/iStock(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) -- The former commander of the Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay has been indicted on federal charges of obstruction of justice related to the January 2015 death of a base employee who had confronted the officer with allegations that he was having an affair with his wife.

Christopher Tur was found drowned in the waters of Guantanamo Bay two days after confronting Capt. John Nettleton about the alleged affair.

Nettleton was arraigned Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Jacksonville, Florida exactly four years to the day that Tur disappeared following the confrontation and subsequent fight between the two men.

At the time, Nettleton was the commander of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Nettleton’s command did not include the detention facility at the base that is overseen by a one-star flag or general officer. Tur was a civilian employee of the commissary on the base.

According to the indictment, on the night of Jan. 9, 2015 Tur confronted and yelled at Nettleton at a party at the Officers’ Club with allegations that the Naval officer had had an affair with his wife, Lara.

A short time later Tur went to Nettleton’s nearby residence and the two men engaged in a physical altercation that left Tur injured.

Investigators found texts from Nettleton's daughter, the only other person in the residence at the time, describing a loud commotion in the house. When she went to investigate she saw an unknown man hovering above her father, who was lying on the floor, attempting to use a cellphone.

The person that Tur phoned told investigators that Tur had told him he was "at the Skipper's house" and "just knocked out the Skipper."

Nettleton's daughter's texts described loud arguing and fighting that lasted for another half hour.

The next day Navy personnel went looking for Tur after he had not returned home.

Tur's body was found on Jan. 11 floating in Guantanamo Bay after an intensive search at the base.

An autopsy determined he had drowned but had suffered fractured ribs and a laceration on his head.

From the moment the search for Tur began and throughout the subsequent investigation Nettleton did not mention to base personnel, investigators or his superior officer that Tur had last been seen at his home. He falsely claimed that he had last seen Tur at the Officers Club.

He also did not disclose that Tur had accused him of engaging in an affair with his wife, engaged in a physical fight at his home and that Tur had been injured.

Investigators later determined through DNA testing that blood stains found at Nettleton's home belonged to Tur. They also determined that Nettleton and Lara Tur had engaged in an affair in 2014.

Three weeks after Tur's disappearance Nettleton was relieved of command and placed in an administrative job in Jacksonville pending the results of a joint Naval Criminal Investigative Division and Justice Department investigation.

ABC News cited a U.S. official who said information had come to light during the investigation into Tur’s death that led the Navy to relieve Nettleton of command. The official said the investigation found that Nettleton had allegedly been having an affair with Tur’s wife Lara, the director of the Fleet and Family Services Center at the base.

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Citizen motorcycle group patrols London’s streets to stop the theft of scooters and other possessions

Huseyin Bostanci/iStock(LONDON) -- A motorcycle group has taken the radical step of patrolling the streets of London to prevent scooter crime -- including both crimes committed while on scooters or mopeds and the theft of scooters and other two-wheeled vehicles.

Footage obtained by ABC News shows the group, Biker Biker, out on night-time patrols in the streets of London. Despite a police crackdown on scooter crime, the crime rate remains extremely high in the capital.

Biker Biker, which was set up in 2010, recently stepped up its activities and now has nearly 15,000 followers on its Facebook page. The founder, who wishes to remain anonymous, told ABC News he set up the group after three of his motorcycles were stolen to prevent further crimes happening to others.

“I wanted to reach out to other victims and try to prevent such things happening rather than play policeman and try to cure the problem,” he said. “I wanted to hit at the very base level of motorcycle theft. We as a small group started to patrol and look for stolen bikes without being noticed, but then we decided to go public after a number of years, and since then, we have had a lot of support from companies and the public.”

Between January 2018 and December 2018, there were 13,721 offenses committed on scooters (or mopeds) in London. That amounts to 38 per day -– more than one an hour. Astonishingly, this is a reduction of 41.6 percent from 2017 which saw 23,477 offenses committed on scooters, the Metropolitan Police told ABC News.

They credit stronger police work, including a new controversial "ramming" tactic, which has resulted in two potential lawsuits due to injury, as reported by ABC in December.

“We patrol the streets in a large group to deter would-be thieves from operating in that area,” the founder said. “We plan our areas using social media intelligence including fake accounts to infiltrate the theft rings. We also offer a free recovery service thanks to Knights Recovery and Transport, who will deliver a found bike free of charge.”

Biker Biker patrols can lead participants into direct confrontation with would-be motorbike criminals, as the dramatic footage shows.

However, Biker Biker told ABC News they always act within the law and regularly communicate with the Metropolitan and Surrey Police forces.

The group now has hopes of expanding the organization across the Atlantic.

“We have successfully set up satellite groups all around the UK, from Dundee in Scotland to Sheffield [in England] and have plans to branch out to Australia and the United States this year,” the founder said.

The Metropolitan Police force said they do not support the group’s activities, but stopped short of saying what they were doing was illegal, telling ABC News that “individuals or groups who target potentially violent criminals could be putting themselves at risk.”

“The Met does not support activities by individuals or groups who target suspected criminals. Those who seek to take the law into their own hands put themselves at risk and will be liable to prosecution,” the force said.

“This type of action could jeopardize or interfere with ongoing investigations, and our advice to anyone who has information about a suspect or witnesses a crime is to contact police as soon as possible so it can be investigated and, where possible, bring people to justice.”

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