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Friday
Nov092018

Japanese TV show abruptly cancels appearance by K-pop group BTS over singer's T-shirt

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A Japanese television show called off an upcoming appearance by BTS, a popular K-pop group, over one band member's T-shirt.

TV Asahi had invited BTS to perform on its live music show on Friday. But TV Asahi revoked the invite after it had received complaints about BTS member Jimin.

Viewers had complained over a T-shirt Jimin was spotted wearing in Los Angeles in March of 2017. The T-shirt showed an atomic bombing cloud with an image of Korean people celebrating liberation after World War II. The words “Korea” and “patriotism” were written on it.

According to TV Asahi, the network had discussed the issue with BTS’ management company. Later that day BTS’ management company informed its official fan page in Japan that BTS would not be on the show.

ABC News' request for comment to BTS' management team was not immediately returned.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Nov092018

Taliban, Afghan leaders meet for talks in Moscow

Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- A Taliban delegation and envoys backed by the Afghan government attended multinational peace talks in Moscow on Friday, the first time such a meeting has taken place publicly.

The Moscow talks also abruptly highlighted Russia’s increased role in Afghanistan, 30 years after Soviet troops left the country following a disastrous war there.

Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov opened the meeting in a gilded conference room at Moscow’s President-Hotel, where the two delegations sat around a circular table along with deputy foreign ministers from other regional countries, including China, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

The meeting was billed by Russia as an attempt to bring the Taliban and the U.S.-backed Afghan government closer to direct peace talks, though little was expected to come out of the event, which both sides have emphasized is not a formal negotiation.

Emerging following two hours of talks, Taliban spokesman Muhammad Sohail Shaheen reiterated the group’s position that no direct negotiations are possible until U.S. troops leave Afghanistan. Shaheen said the Taliban delegation had not spoken directly with the government-backed envoys from the Afghan High Peace Council.

"It’s not a negotiation," Shaheen told reporters. "They came here to express their views, and we came here to express our views. That’s it."

The United States and the Afghan government turned down invitations to formally participate in the meeting on grounds that they support only direct talks between the government and the Taliban. Instead, the Afghan government sent members of the High Peace Council, a body set up to try to get peace negotiations started. The U.S. embassy in Moscow sent its first political secretary, Jacob Choi, to observe the event.

Though it was expected to produce little, Friday's meeting nonetheless marked a significant diplomatic victory for Moscow, which has been seeking a more prominent role in Afghanistan.

Beyond the political outreach, U.S. military officials have recently accused Russia of supplying the Taliban with weapons. Russia denies that claim, but experts believe such deliveries could be about building a relationship with the group and helping them fight Islamic State militants who have been seeking a foothold in Afghanistan.

The Russian effort comes as the Trump administration is seeing its own renewed push for peace talks, even as the war in Afghanistan has intensified. This week, the White House’s special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, is touring the region, tasked with pressing the Taliban and the government to form negotiating teams. The U.S. backs a call by Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani for the government to hold talks with the Taliban without pre-conditions.

The Taliban have so far rejected Ghani’s offer, insisting on direct talks with the U.S.

A member of the High Peace Council delegation is the country's former minister for women’s rights, Habiba Sarabi.

Sarabi said they had come to Moscow “to talk with all members of the meeting” and that they wanted it to lead to direct negotiations.

But how far the two sides have to go was underscored on Friday. Even as the talks began, officials in Afghanistan said a Taliban attack had killed 10 soldiers. The attack on an army outpost in Takhar province happened as the U.S. envoy, Khalilzad arrived in Afghanistan to kick off his peace tour.

Russia’s re-emergence in Afghan affairs in part reflects a broader strategy to bolster its appearance as a power-broker on the world stage.

In addition to its intervention in Syria, the Kremlin has become more involved in Libya recently and has even proposed itself, so far unsuccessfully, as a possible new venue for Israel-Palestine talks.

But Russia is also concerned a U.S. failure in Afghanistan will see it become a renewed source of terrorism, and is already seeking to block the flow of narcotics from the country. Opening the talks, Lavrov warned the Islamic State wants to make Afghanistan a “bridgehead” to expand into Central Asia.

The Taliban spokesman, Shaheen, called Russia’s role "positive." He also denied it had supplied any weapons to the group.

The Moscow event brought up some difficult history. The Soviet Union’s nine-year war in Afghanistan devastated the country and killed at least 14,500 Soviet troops and 90,000 of the Mujahedeen fighters who fought them.

That history was on display in person in the Moscow hotel, where the High Peace Council delegation was led by Haji Deen Mohammad, a former Mujahedeen commander, now sitting in traditional dress amid the lobby’s heavy Soviet décor.

"He’s happy to be here. They are all happy to be here," said Afghanistan’s ambassador to Russia, Dr. Abdul Qayyum Kochai.

However, Kochai expressed reservations about how substantial Russia’s peace effort could be. He said Afghanistan would be grateful if Russia was “honestly” trying to bring peace, but acknowledged he wasn't sure

“That I don’t know. I wish. I wish,” Kochai said.

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Friday
Nov092018

Prince Harry describes the moment he asked Prince Charles to walk Meghan down the aisle 

Jonathan Brady - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- A new BBC documentary gives an unprecedented look at Prince Charles ahead of his 70th birthday next week, including an intimate look at the moment when Prince Harry asked his father to walk his then-fiance Meghan Markle down the aisle, after her own father bowed out of the wedding.

"I asked him to and I think he knew it was coming," Harry shared in the new documentary, Prince, Son and Heir: Charles at 70. "And he immediately said 'Yes, of course, I'll do whatever Meghan needs, and I'm here to support you.'"

On the big day, in a touching moment, Harry could be seen whispering, "Thank you, Pa," to his father at the altar.

"Just because he's my father, that doesn't mean I can just sort of go, 'Okay, that's all, I'll take it from here,'" Harry said in the documentary. "I was very grateful for him to be able to do that."

In a heartfelt, never-before-seen moment in the documentary, Prince Louis, the youngest child of Prince William and Duchess Kate, is seen playing with Charles, clutching his grandfather’s hand as Kate holds the fifth-in-line to the throne.

The photograph was taken in the back garden of Clarence House, Charles and Camilla’s official residence, and captures a personal side of Charles we rarely see.

Charles is also seen giggling and laughing with Camilla’s grandchildren, with whom he shares a warm relationship.

"He will get down on his knees and crawl about with them for hours, you know making funny noises and laughing," said Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. "He reads Harry Potter and he can do all the different voices and I think children really appreciate that."

Prince William added that he loves when his father spends time with his own children, Prince George, 5, Princess Charlotte, 3, and Prince Louis.

"I would like him to have more time with the children," William said. "So having more time with him at home would be lovely, and being able to play around with the grandchildren."

Charles says he won't be a meddling king

The documentary provides an intimate portrait of Prince Charles at work, with insight from Prince William and Prince Harry about what drives him.

The future king is described by his sons as a workaholic who rises at dawn and often falls asleep as his desk at midnight with paper stuck to his face.

Prince Harry says his devoted father, known for his work on the environment and climate change, has been an amazing role model, along with William and Harry's mother, the late Princess Diana.

“You know how frustrated he gets, but he's done an amazing job and without telling us what we should be doing or the direction that we should go in," Harry said. "He's just let us learn from the nature of the job, learning from him, learning from Mummy."

Charles, for the first time, responded to criticism about how he will one day reign as king.

When asked by the interviewer about how "some people have accused you of meddling," Charles quipped back, joking, "Really, you don't say?"

"I won't be able to do the same things I've done, you know, as heir," he said, reassuring viewers that he understands his role will change when he becomes king. "I'm not that stupid, I do realize that it is a separate exercise being sovereign."

For the first time, Prince William also responds to the filmmakers about how he intends to rule when he becomes king.

“There are so many things I admire about my father, his work ethic, his passions, all that sort of side of things are absolutely crucial to how he’s been such a successful Prince of Wales and an amazing father," William said. “But I want to be a, personally I want to be my own man and take my own style, my own, you know, passions and my own interests my way, and do things slightly differently."

"I think it’s important that each generation does things a little bit differently than the previous," William added.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Nov092018

Suspect in fatal Melbourne stabbing dies from gunshot wound: Police

iStock/Thinkstock(MELBOURNE, Australia) -- A man accused of stabbing three people, one fatally, has died in the hospital after police shot him at the scene in Melbourne, Australia.

As officers "got out of the car, they were confronted by a male brandishing a knife and threatening them," Victoria Police Superintendent David Clayton told reporters at a press conference.

The knife-wielding suspect was shot as he ran toward the officers, none of whom were harmed, police said.

The two victims who survived the stabbing were taken to the hospital, Clayton said. No details have been provided yet on their conditions.

The incident appears to have begun as authorities were responding to a vehicle fire.

The suspect jumped out of that vehicle, police said, after it caught fire. It contained multiple gas canisters and may have been part of a terror plot.

After police initially said there wasn't a terror link, counter terror authorities have been summoned to take over the investigation.

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Friday
Nov092018

Five arrested after movie-style heist of Qatari royal family's jewelry in Venice

iStock/Thinkstock(VENICE, Italy) -- Four Croatians and a Serbian national have been arrested for what was dubbed a “movie-worthy heist,” allegedly stealing millions of dollars of jewelry belonging to the Qatari royal family from the Ducal Palace in Venice, the Croatian interior ministry said Thursday.

In the theft, which took place in January, the thieves got away with a pair of earrings and a gold brooch on the final day of a four-month exhibition, easily disarming a sophisticated alarm system and then disappearing in a sea of tourists. The collection of Mughal-era jewelry belonged to Qatari royal Sheikh Hamad al-Thani and showcased hundreds of spectacular Indian gems from the last five centuries.

Although this heist did not bear the trademark smash-and-grab theatricality of the "Pink Panther" gang from the former Yugoslavia, one of the Croatians arrested is linked to several major jewelry heists by the "Pink Panther" gang in different European countries, Croatian officials said.

The suspect is also wanted in Switzerland for a $7,943,600 (8 million Swiss francs) diamond robbery at a jewelry event in Basel in March 2011.

The "Pink Panthers" have been plaguing Interpol forces with spectacularly athletic jewel thefts for more than a decade. Interpol believes the gang carried out at least 380 armed robberies of jewelry shops between 1999 and 2015.

The four Croatian suspects -- aged 43, 48, 48 and 60 -- were arrested on Wednesday close to the capital of Zagreb and in Istria, close to Italian border, a ministry statement said. A Serb, the fifth member of the gang, was detained at a crossing on the Serbia border on Thursday, it added.

Croatian authorities did not reveal if the jewels had been recovered.

The stolen items were diamonds, platinum and gold and were contemporary and therefore were of less historical value than other items in the exhibition. The Croatian ministry estimated the stolen earrings were worth $1 million and the brooch was valued at more than $2 million.

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Thursday
Nov082018

French president Macron flatters Trump, but fails to convince him: Experts

iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- President Donald Trump is set to arrive in Paris on Friday to take part in ceremonies commemorating the end of World War I alongside French President Emmanuel Macron.

But while Macron has developed a close personal relationship with Trump since taking office, he has failed to influence his American counterpart on major foreign policy decisions.

After winning the presidency in May 2017, Macron, 40, saw an opportunity to create a special bond with Trump, 72, according to Hubert Védrine, who served as the French foreign minister between 1997 and 2002.

"Very few world leaders have a normal relationship with Donald Trump," Védrine told ABC News. "In this context, Macron thought it was worth trying to create a warm friendship with the U.S president."

By inviting Trump to be his guest of honor at France's elaborate Bastille Day celebration in July 2017, Macron demonstrated his intention to create a special relationship between the two countries, said Annick Cizel, a professor at La Sorbonne University who specializes in American foreign policy.

For his part, Trump has said he loved the military parade on the Champs-Elysees Avenue on Bastille Day and said afterwards he wanted to stage a similar one in Washington.

The two leaders are also "disruptors" and share some characteristics that have helped them forge a personal bond, according to Alexandra De Hoop Scheffer, the Paris director of transatlantic think-tank the German Marshall Fund.

"It's a meeting between two disruptors in their respective countries," De Hoop Scheffer told ABC News. "They were both elected by breaking the established political system in France and in the United States."

Both leaders also share some personality traits.

"'The Art of the Deal' is an expression associated with Donald Trump. But it can also be applied to Emmanuel Macron," Cizel told ABC News.

"The U.S. president sees Macron as a negotiator, a pragmatic. Trump likes these attributes," De Hoop Scheffer said.

"On the fight against global terrorism, most notably in Africa and Syria, there have been strong, concrete results by the two allies," De Hoop Scheffer added.

But Macron has failed to persuade Trump to remain in major international agreements, including the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement.

Unable to influence Trump on these issues, the French president has chosen to adapt his strategy, according to Védrine.

"Macron has not given up on the personal friendship approach he put in place toward Donald Trump since the beginning," Védrine said. "But he has completed it by pointing out disagreements between the two leaders."

Those disagreements were on display at the UN General Assembly in September, where Trump and Macron's speeches revealed their two very different views of the international order. Trump’s unilateralist agenda sharply contrasted with Macron’s support for multilateralism and liberal values, De Hoop Scheffer said.

These two speeches marked a turning point, according to Cizel.

"It felt like President Macron was responding to President Trump point by point when he took the stage at the UN last September," Cizel said.

The challenge for the French president now is to reconcile the strong personal relationship he has created with Trump with his criticism over his approach to world affairs, Védrine said.

"Who knows: maybe one day Macron’s method will bear its fruits," the former French foreign minister said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Nov082018

Royal gives sneakers their fashion due by pairing them with dress in Rome

Hanne Juul/Aller Media/MEGA(NEW YORK) -- Sneakers are having a fashion moment.

The fashion item normally associated with athleisure and athletic wear got a royal makeover thanks to Crown Princess Mary of Denmark.

The royal swapped her traditional high heels for a pair of white sneakers while visiting sights in Rome this week with her husband, Crown Prince Frederik.

The sneakers worn by Princess Mary appeared to be Nike Air VaporMax shoes, which retail for more than $200. She paired the sneakers with a custom-made dress by Danish designer Mark Kenly Domino.

White sneakers had another brush with royalty this week actress Emma Thompson wore a white pair to Buckingham Palace to receive her damehood.

Prince William conducted the ceremony in which Thompson was named a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).

The "Love Actually" star paired her more casual footwear with a dark blue suit and a Fawcett Society "Equal Pay" pin on her lapel.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Nov082018

Dutchman launches legal battle to become 20 years younger

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- They say you're only as young as you feel, but a 69-year-old Dutchman is attempting to make it official after submitting a formal request to become 20 years a younger.

Emile Ratelband, who works as a life coach in the Netherlands, recently submitted a written request to a court in his hometown, Arnhem, to officially change the date on his birth certificate from March 11, 1949, to a newer March 11, 1969.

“Nowadays, we are all free people and we have a free will to change things,” Ratelband told ABC News. “So I want to change my age. I feel I am about 40 to 45.”

Ratelband said there are a number of reasons behind his wish to be younger, ranging from improvements in his love life to saving the government nearly $350,000 by renouncing his pension.

“I am a very handsome man. I can have any woman I want to, but younger age makes things better," Ratelband said.

"I look younger, but I don’t want to lie about it," he added, mentioning that his current age has made it more difficult to find matches on the Tinder dating app.

"When I'm on Tinder and it says I'm 69, I don't get an answer,” Ratelband said, according to the BBC. ” When I'm 49, with the face I have, I will be in a luxurious position."

Brimming with confidence, Ratelband said he was inspired by Tony Robbins, an American motivational guru, who believes that visualization is the first step to making your dreams come true.

The father of seven boasts a healthy lifestyle — having quit smoking, drugs and alcohol in 1986 — as medical evidence that he is, in fact, a man in his 40s.

“My body and my mind is of a 40-year-old person,” said Ratelband. “That’s how I identify myself. I am not a victim of Peter Pan syndrome. There are medical experts who have tests to prove that.”

Officials are reportedly skeptical that the courts will grant Ratelband the change in his birth certificate. Currently, there is no legal mechanism to change one’s birth date in Dutch courts, according to the BBC.

It is not the first time that Ratelband has come to the authorities with an eccentric request. In March 1977, he was denied permission by town officials to name his twins Rolls and Royce. They ended up being named France and Minou, although they are still known to family and friends as the name of the luxury car brand.

Ratelband remains hopeful that his request will be granted and will greatly improve his quality of life, saying, “If I’m 49, then I can buy a new house, drive a new, better car. I can get more work, and dating prospects are better."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Nov082018

JK Rowling sues former personal assistant for $31,000: Report

JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The author of the Harry Potter series J.K. Rowling is suing her former personal assistant for $31,000 (24,000 pounds) for allegedly spending thousands on unauthorized transactions on a business credit card.

According to reports, Amanda Donaldson, 35, who denies the claims, is being sued in civil court after allegedly spending the money in luxury shopping sprees and stealing Harry Potter merchandise during her three-year stint as Rowling’s personal assistant between February 2014 and April 2017.

Among the allegations in legal documents seen by The Scottish Sun, Donaldson is accused of spending $2,144 (1,636 pounds) on Starbucks coffee and about $1,900 (1,482 pounds) on luxury perfume in addition to taking Harry Potter merchandise “to gift to others” during her time as Rowling’s assistant. This includes a ‘Harry Potter Wizard Collection’ believed to be worth nearly $3,000.

The Scottish Sun reports that Rowling, whose claim has been filed in Airdrie Sheriff Court in Scotland, discovered the wrongdoing when her accountant reviewed a spreadsheet of Donaldson’s expenses.

The personal assistant was then fired for “gross misconduct involving a substantial alleged breach of trust,” a spokesperson for J.K. Rowling told ABC News. “We can confirm J.K. Rowling has taken legal action against her former personal assistant, Amanda Donaldson,” the spokesperson said. “As the case is not yet concluded, we are not able to comment further, and there won’t be any comment from J.K. Rowling.”

Donaldson could not be reached for comment. She denies any wrongdoing, and suggested in court that Rowling had "not suffered any loss and is not entitled to damages,” according to the BBC.

“I can confirm that the case is set down to call again on 6 Dec. 2018,” a spokesperson for Airdrie Sheriff Court told ABC News.

J.K. Rowling is one of the best-selling authors in the world. The much-loved Harry Potter series has sold more than 450 million books worldwide, and Rowling has accumulated a net worth of $650 million, according to Forbes.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Nov072018

Months after closure, restaurant in Skripal poisoning reopens

Matt Cardy/Getty Images(SALISBURY, England) -- The door swung open right as the clock struck noon. A friendly face full of anticipation and a big smile cheerfully shouted, "Good morning! We are open for business!"

If Joe Pegg was worried about the impact the poisoning that took place here months earlier would have on the business he manages, his face did not betray it.

A small crowd of reporters, locals and visitors had gathered for the grand reopening of Zizzi, the restaurant where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia had dined shortly before falling in after being exposed to Novichok agent in March.

"I'm very happy this happened,” Linda Scott, a local Salisbury resident who dined in the restaurant immediately after it reopened, told ABC News about the reopening of the business.

“We have been through a lot the last few months," she said. "We are only just getting back on our feet.”

Skripal was a former colonel in the Russian military intelligence (GRU) but had been spying for MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence service, while working with the GRU. In 2006, he was convicted in Russia for treason.

In 2010, however, Skripal took refuge in the United Kingdom after being part of a high-profile prisoner exchange program with the United States.

Skripal’s daughter, Yulia, was in Salisbury visiting him in March when the two became exposed to the nerve agent, which was also found in his home door and in other areas of Salisbury.

Similarities in the Skripals poisoning to that of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 raised suspicion that the Kremlin was behind the attack.

Back in September, British police named two Russian nationals they believed were behind the poisoning, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, saying the two were Russian intelligence agents operating under those aliases when they visited Salisbury from Moscow in March.

Later, the investigation group Bellingcat identified the two suspects as members of the GRU, colonel Anatoliy Chepiga and Dr. Alexander Mishkin.

Russia, however, has denied allegations of involvement in the poisoning.

Zizzi was forced to close in March after the Skripals were poisoned, when authorities found traces of the nerve agent inside the restaurant.

However, the place was given back to its owner after the national Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs did an extensive cleaning of the place to remove any traces of Novichok last September, according to The Independent newspaper.

For its grand reopening, a sign outside the door of Zizzi read: “today all food is on us.”

In exchange, guests were asked to pay what they felt and the restaurant would donate the money to two local charities that worked with the youth of Salisbury.

Margaret Kittle, who was spending a week in London on a visit from Canada, heard the news a day before the restaurant’s grand reopening. She booked a train ticket to Salisbury just to attend the opening.

“I had to come down,” Kittle told ABC News. “I was glad to support them.”

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