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Sunday
Jul232017

Congress strikes deal on bill to slap new sanctions on Russia

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The House and Senate have struck a deal that could send to President Trump's desk this summer a bill that slaps new sanctions on Russia.

In addition to the new sanctions on Russia for its interference in the U.S. 2016 election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, the bill also gives Congress the power to review any effort by the Trump administration to ease or end sanctions against Moscow.

The bill also includes stiff economic penalties against Iran and North Korea.

"The legislation ensures that both the majority and minority [parties] are able to exercise our oversight role over the administration's implementation of sanctions," said Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat.

The deal on the legislation comes amid concerns expressed by both Democrats and some Republicans that the Trump administration may be considering returning to Russian control two compounds in Maryland and New York that were seized by the Obama administration in December as punishment for the election meddling.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced Saturday morning that a vote on the bill -- the Russia, Iran and North Korea Sanctions Act -- will take place Tuesday.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Jul222017

William and Harry share most intimate memories of life with Princess Diana

Tim Graham/Getty Images(LONDON) -- For the first time, Prince William and Harry have opened up about the last days of their mother's life, and also talked about their regrets at not having more time with her, and how they continue to keep her memory alive.

In a new documentary for ITV, the brothers reveal details of their happiest memories with the late Princess of Wales, their parents' divorce, and how they've coped with their loss. William and Harry also discuss their last conversation with Princess Diana before her death in August 1997.

"It was -- and it was her speaking from -- from Paris. And, you know, she ... I can't really necessarily remember what I said, but all I do remember is -- is probably, you know, regretting for the rest of my life how short the phone call was," Prince Harry reflected on that last conversation with Princess Diana.

"And if I'd known that that was the last time I was going to speak to my mother the things that I would -- the things I would have said to her. I have -- I have to sort of deal with that for the rest of my life. Not knowing that that ... was the last time I was going to speak to my mum, and how differently that conversation would have -- would have panned out if I'd had even the slightest inkling that that was, that, that, you know, that her life was going to be taken that night," he said.

"There's not many days that go by that I don't think of her, you know -- sometimes sad, sometimes very positively," Prince William said. "You know, I have a smile every now and again when someone says something and I think that's exactly what she would have said, or she would have enjoyed that comment. So they always live with you people, you know, you lose like that. And my mother lives with me every day."

As heartbreaking it is to hear the princes share their grief about their mother's tragic death, they also reflect on their happiest moments with their mother and her wicked sense of humor.

"It was that love that, that even if she was on the other side of a room, that you as a son could feel it," Harry said.

Harry still fondly remembers the distinct sound of her laugh when he thinks about the joyful times with his mother.

"All I can hear is her laugh in my head and that sort of crazy laugh of where there was just pure happiness shown on her face. One of her mottoes to me was you know, 'You can be as naughty as you want, just don't get caught,'" he said.

Harry, who is famous for his hugs and is often referred to as the 'People's Prince' after Princess Diana, spoke about the affection he remembers from his mother.

"She would just engulf you and squeeze you as tight as possible. And being as short as I was then, there was no escape, you were there and you were there for as long as she wanted to hold you," he said. "Even talking about it now I can feel the hugs that she used to give us and, you know, I miss that, I miss that feeling, I miss that part of a family, I miss having that mother ... to be able to give you those hugs and give you that compassion that I think everybody needs," he said.

Diana was aware that her sons lived in a rarified world and it was important that they experienced the challenges people in the real world were also facing.

"She was very jolly and she really always enjoyed her times making a lot of mischief. But she always understood that there was a real life outside of the palace walls," Prince William said.

Both young princes have vowed to keep their mother's love alive and have thrown themselves into various charitable projects that reflect her interests and passions. They have rarely, however, let the public get a glimpse into their most intimate memories of their mother, until now.

"She was our mum. She still is our mum. And of course, as a son I would say this, she was the best mum in the world. She smothered us with love, that's for sure," Harry said.

William, like his brother was grateful for the short time they both had with their mother. He was just 15 when his mother died on August 31, 1997. Harry was just 12.

"I give thanks that I was lucky enough to be her son and know her for the 15 years that I did. She set us up really well. She gave us the right tools and has prepared us well for life not obviously knowing what was going to happen," William said.

The princes said their mother wanted to them both to have as normal a life as possible.

"My mother cherished those moments of privacy and being able to be that mother rather than the Princess of Wales," William said.

They have channeled their grief into carrying on their mother's work. William is now Patron of Child Bereavement UK, a charity founded by one of his mother's closest friends, which helps families and children cope with the death of a family member. In the new ITV film, William reveals for the first time the despair he and Harry felt when Princess Diana died.

"You know, losing someone so close to you is utterly devastating, especially at that age. I think it sort of really spins you out, you don't quite know where you are, what you're doing and what's going on," he said. "My heart goes out to all the people who have lost all their loved ones in the world. You know it does connect you. It's a very sad club you don't want to be a member of. But you do all have a shared sort of pain that you immediately understand and see in any one when you meet them."

William and Princess Kate formed their charity, Heads Together, with Prince Harry to help break down the stigma around mental illness.

In the last several months, Harry opened up about the sheer "chaos" he felt after his mother's death and that he struggled for nearly 20 years coming to terms with his grief. He finally turned to his brother, who encouraged him to seek help. It is that courage that the two young princes have displayed and to share their own vulnerabilities dealing with their mother's death, that has allowed thousands of other people to seek help themselves

"The first time I cried was on the island," Harry said. "And probably like -- and only since then maybe, maybe once. So there's, you know, there's a lot of, there's a lot of grief that still needs to be let out."

"You know, losing someone so close to you is, is utterly devastating, especially at that age," William said.

Twenty years later, William and Harry still harbor resentment towards the paparazzi, who they feel are responsible for their mother's death.

"If you are the Princess of Wales you're a mother, I don't believe being chased by 30 guys on motorbikes who block your path, who spit at you, who shout at you, and who react really badly to get a reaction from you, and make a women cry in public to get the photographs, I don't believe that is appropriate," William said, still obviously troubled by the treatment of the paparazzi. "I sadly remember most of the time she cried about anything was to do with the press intrusion "

Like Diana, their every move is documented by the camera lens. William and Harry guard their privacy fiercely and have recently aggressively defended those rights when they fear the press has gone a step too far.

With the 20th anniversary of the Princess of Wales' death, the princes decided it was the appropriate time to remind people of her legacy.

"There's not many days that go by that I don't think of her," William said. "Her 20th anniversary year feels like a good time to remember, you know, all the good things about her and hopefully provide maybe a different side to her that others haven't seen before."

They have participated in a series of projects to commemorate their mother's life. A special garden has been created in Kensington Palace and and an exhibition at Buckingham Palace and another at Kensington Palace give the public an opportunity a glimpse of Diana's life

One of their biggest challenges now is keeping Diana's memory alive for Prince George and Princess Charlotte. On July 3, on what would have been Diana's 56th birthday, William and Harry held a service of re-dedication at Diana's grave on the island in Round Lake at Althorp, the Spencer family home. Prince George and Charlotte attended the service with Prince William, Princess Kate, and Prince Harry.

"I think constantly talking about Granny Diana. So we've got more photos up 'round the house now of her and we talk about her a bit and stuff," William said. "And it's hard because obviously Catherine didn't know her, so she cannot really provide that -- that level of detail. So I do regularly, putting George or Charlotte to bed, talk about her and just try and remind them that there are two grandmothers, there were two grandmothers in in their lives, and so it's important that they know who she was and that she existed."

Even today William and Harry still struggle with their mother's death.

"It's been hard and it will continue to be hard," Harry said. "There's not a day that William and I don't wish that she was -- we don't wish that she was still around, and we wonder what kind of a mother she would be now, and what kind of a public role she would have, and what a difference she would be making."

"Diana, Our Mother: Life and Legacy" will air on ITV on Monday, July 24.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Jul222017

Spanish wax museum recreates Melania Trump's RNC moment

Robyn Beck/Getty Images(MADRID) -- First lady Melania Trump's wax doppelganger was unveiled Thursday at Spain's Museo de Cera de Madrid.

The wax museum recreated Trump's look from last year's Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where she took to the stage and spoke to party delegates in a rousing speech. The wax figure's debut was timed to the one-year anniversary of the convention.


Trump's wax figure, which stands next to an existing wax figure of her husband, President Donald Trump, wears the same Roksanda dress with puffed sleeves she wore at the RNC. The wax figure also dons a pair of nude heels, similar to the Louboutins she wore at the convention.

The museum first promoted the first lady's upcoming wax figure on the Fourth of July, tweeting a photo of an artist working on it, writing, "July 4, the national holiday of the USA. Soon at the museum, a figure of first lady Melania Trump."

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Friday
Jul212017

New photo of Prince George released for his 4th birthday

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Kensington Palace has released a new photo of Prince George to mark the third-in-line's fourth birthday.

The photograph was taken at Kensington Palace at the end of June by Chris Jackson, Getty Images' royal photographer.

Kensington Palace shared in a statement: "The Duke and Duchess are very pleased to share this lovely picture as they celebrate Prince George's fourth birthday, and would like to thank everyone for all of the kind messages they have received."

George’s parents, Prince William and Princess Kate, both 35, revealed George's excitement about his upcoming birthday with well-wishers in Germany. William told a group of students in Hamburg, "George has got a big tummy. He'll probably end up eating all his cake himself."

The royal couple joked that George would also be on "sugar overload" in Heidelberg after trying their hands at candy-making and sharing they planned to bring the sweets back to their children.

George will celebrate his birthday on Saturday in the U.K. after returning home from a five-day royal tour of Germany and Poland with his family.

George received an early birthday gift from his German hosts as the family boarded their plane home. He was also surprised with a special treat, climbing into the cockpit of two Airbus helicopters. The little prince got behind the controls and donned a helmet shortly before the family's departure for the U.K.

The public caught glimpses of a growing George as he held his parents’ hands as the family arrived in and departed from Poland and Germany. George, who loves planes, was seen at one point pulling the hand of his father to be able to board the plane faster.

In other photos, George and Charlotte were seen looking outside the plane’s windows.

George’s trip to Poland and Germany marked his third royal tour. He traveled with his parents and Charlotte to Canada last fall and accompanied his parents to Australia and New Zealand in 2014 as a toddler.

This year will be one of change for George, who will begin school in September at Thomas's Battersea School, a private school in Battersea, South London.

George attended preschool at a Montessori school near the family’s country home, Anmer Hall, in Norfolk. The family will now be based in London and George be a full-time student at Thomas's Battersea, a coeducational school not far from the family's Kensington Palace base.

Kensington Palace said in a statement coinciding with the announcement that William and Kate were looking forward to George's next milestone: "Their Royal Highnesses are delighted to have found a school where they are confident George will have a happy and successful start to his education."

Thomas's Battersea enrolls around 500 students from a variety of backgrounds whom George will one day lead when he is king.

The photo from Kensington Palace is the latest of several images released on George and Charlotte’s birthdays, many of which were taken by the Duchess of Cambridge. Take a look back at the official photos released for George’s three previous birthdays.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jul212017

Prince George climbs in helicopter cockpit as Prince William and Princess Kate depart Germany

PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- After five days of city hopping through Poland and Germany with his family, Prince George stole the spotlight on Friday from Prince William, Princess Kate and Princess Charlotte.

George, who will celebrate his fourth birthday on Saturday, had been a bit sleepy and shy as his parents shuttled him from city to city on the five-day royal tour but he could not conceal his excitement on Friday as he stepped into the cockpits of two helicopters.

George saw the helicopters as the royals toured the Airbus facility in Hamburg on their final day in Germany.

George, who never misses a chance to watch his father and his uncle, Prince Harry, both helicopter pilots, depart Kensington Palace on the royal helicopter, was in his element.

Charlotte, 2, who has charmed the crowds with her natural diplomacy -- including ducking into a curtsy earlier this week -- took a tumble and needed some reassurance from her parents on Friday.

She rubbed her eyes and quickly recovered, and both children were dancing about as they received gifts from their German hosts. The Cambridges were given a royal send-off by officials, including Airbus Helicopter CEO Wolfgang Shoder.

Earlier in the day, William and Kate, both 35, paid a visit to Hamburg's new Elbharmonie Symphony Hall, where they met with 250 children enrolled in a music immersion education program in Germany's second largest city.

When asked about her exposure to music, Kate, wearing a lavender bespoke Emilia Wickstead dress, revealed she played flute, "throughout my school years until the age of 18."

Kate, obviously able to read music, had a hand with the conductor's baton, directing the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra in a rendition of Beethoven's famous Fifth Symphony.

It wouldn't be a royal tour without a walkabout and William and Kate did not disappoint as they held an unscheduled meet-and-greet with around 3,000 of Hamburg's residents who came out to try and catch a glimpse of the royal couple. A group of well-wishers even asked about George's upcoming birthday.

William joked in reply, "George has got a big tummy. He'll probably end up eating all his cake himself."

In an impromptu addition to their planned visit to Hamburg's Maritime Museum, William and Kate tried a recently installed cargo ship simulator. William took the helm joking that perhaps he might hit one of the other yachts in the harbor.

The museum exhibition administrator in charge of the simulator reminded William, as Kate sounded the fog horn, that William will be the future King of England but his wife is still sometimes the boss.

"He is just the helmsman," the administrator, Hans Trey, told Kate as William steered the ship simulator. "You are the captain."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jul212017

Inside a formerly ISIS-occupied building in the western suburbs of Raqqa, Syria

ABC News(RAQQA, Syria) -- A formerly ISIS-occupied building in Raqqa, Syria, sheds light on the pressures its militants face as the U.S.-led coalition attempts to retake the war-ravaged city.

ABC News ventured into the building in the western suburbs of Raqqa that had been in the hands of ISIS just days before, where there was evidence of drug abuse on the grounds.

The ground of an outdoor area of the home was littered with syringes, vials and packages for Oxycodone. One of the vials had a label for Diazepam, which is typically used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, seizures and muscle spasms.

The drugs possibly indicate that ISIS fighters faced such intense pressure that they felt the need to self-medicate, whether to calm themselves or, perhaps, relieve pain.

ISIS fighters in Raqqa and throughout the region are in a struggle to the death against U.S.-led coalition forces and local allies who have provided the boots on the ground to fight street by street against the militants. ISIS is estimated to have lost tens of thousands of fighters and thousands of square miles of land they once controlled in Iraq and Syria, but it will continue to present a significant threat to America, Europe, the Middle East and beyond.

This particular building, which is in relatively fair condition given the war-torn circumstances, seems to have been used by ISIS as a mosque, although apparently not before the terrorist group occupied it.

It bore hallmarks of ISIS occupation, including dark stains on the ground that appear to be blood, windows that had been shot through and a sniper hole.

Graffiti on the walls featured multiple ISIS flags, writing referring to various ISIS brigades, talk of supporting Palestinians and an excerpt of poetry.

Shreds of clothing and a burned propaganda pamphlet were found in another room.

Blocks away from the building, the battle with ISIS continues as the coalition -- made of both U.S.-led and Syrian Democratic Forces fighters -- moves in on Raqqa from all sides and pushes toward the city's center.

Raqqa is the de facto capital of ISIS and holds a particular degree of significance to the terror group because it is the first city ISIS seized in 2014 during its rapid accumulation of ground in 2014.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jul212017

Powerful earthquake strikes near Greece, Turkey

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A strong earthquake in the Aegean Sea overnight leveled buildings and injured hundreds of people in Greece and Turkey.

The 6.7 magnitude quake's epicenter was just 6.4 miles from Turkey's coastal city of Bodrum and 10.1 miles from the Greek island of Kos. The powerful seismic event occurred at a relatively shallow depth of about 6.2 miles below the water's surface on Thursday night around 10:31 p.m. UTC, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Dramatic images from Greece and Turkey show the devastating aftermath of the earthquake:

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Friday
Jul212017

Princess Diana memorabilia to go on display at Buckingham Palace

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017(LONDON) -- Every summer, Queen Elizabeth opens up her home for the summer opening of the state rooms at Buckingham Palace so the public can get a glimpse of life behind palace walls.

This year, guests will have a special treat as Princes William and Harry have made a poignant tribute to their mother for the exhibition to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's death.

Diana's beloved "boys," as she used to call William, 35, and Harry, 32, have shared some of their mother's most personal possessions and recreated Diana's study at Kensington Palace in the music room at Buckingham Palace.

The centerpiece of the exhibit, which also showcases a variety of special gifts to Queen Elizabeth during her 65-year reign, is the desk where Diana organized much of her charitable work and conducted her correspondence.

On it are many never-before-seen photos of William and Harry with their mother that Diana displayed on her desk.

William and Harry instructed Royal Collection curators on how to display the items, which reflect how Diana worked right up until the last days of her life.

The setting depicts Diana's love of music with a box of her favorite cassette tapes from the 1980s and '90s, including music by pop stars Elton John, Diana Ross and George Michael and opera greats Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras.

Diana's personal stationery is prominently featured in the display, as are her old ballet shoes.

Diana died at age 36 in a Paris car crash on Aug. 31, 1997. William and Harry were just 15 and 12, respectively, at the time of their mother's death.

Kensington Palace has announced a number of events to commemorate Diana's life this year, including a fashion exhibit that opened in February. William and Harry also commissioned a special display of blooms in the palace's sunken garden and a statue to be erected on the grounds of the palace.

"Our mother touched so many lives," William and Harry said in a statement earlier this year announcing the statue. "We hope the statue will help all those who visit Kensington Palace to reflect on her life and her legacy."

Harry told ABC News' Robin Roberts before last year's Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida that he and William intend to keep their mother's legacy alive.

"We will do everything we can to make sure that she's never forgotten and carry on all the special gifts, as such, that she had and that she portrayed while she was alive," Harry said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jul212017

US to bar Americans from traveling to North Korea

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Americans will soon be barred from traveling to North Korea, according to two tour groups who have operated in the country and one U.S. administration official.

Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours -- the group that organized Otto Warmbier’s trip -- both said that they were contacted and told the U.S. government will invalidate the passport of any U.S. citizen traveling starting 30 days after July 27.

Koryo Tours general manager Simon Cockerell told ABC News that the Swedish embassy in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the U.S.’s diplomatic liaison in the country, informed his company of the decision.

A Trump administration official later confirmed the change.

It’s unclear what this will mean for the handful of U.S. citizens living in North Korea, including the 40 or so Americans teaching at North Korea’s only private university, Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. Two Americans still held by North Korea were teaching there.

In past years, somewhere between 800 and 1,250 Americans visit North Korea each year, although that number has declined sharply this year following the recent death of Warmbier.

Warmbier was a 21-year-old University of Virginia student who was arrested in North Korea in January 2016 while visiting the country as part of a tour group, held captive by the regime for a year and a half and at some point fell into a coma. He was evacuated and died on June 19 of this year, days after returning home.

The circumstances of how he fell into a coma are shrouded in darkness, but his case has provoked outrage and concern about other Americans’ safety.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jul202017

President Trump says ISIS 'falling fast' ahead of meeting at Pentagon

icholakov/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that "ISIS is falling fast."

As he and Vice President Mike Pence arrived at the Pentagon for an update on the fight against ISIS, Trump was asked whether more troops would be sent to Afghanistan.

"We're going to see, and we're doing very well against ISIS," the president said. "ISIS is falling fast, very fast."

Following the meeting, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Dana White gathered the press for a readout of the meeting. President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary of Defense James Mattis were in attendance, as were other members of the Trump cabinet including Rex Tillerson, Steven Mnuchin, Gen. Joseph Dunford, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon and Gen. Paul Selva.

White said that the meeting "was never meant to be a decision meeting," that rather it was called to discuss "where we are, where we're going."

When pressed on any changes in the South Asia Strategy -- formerly known as the Afghanistan strategy -- White said that no decisions are expected this week.

As for the content of the meeting, White said that "they kind of covered the planet, what are the opportunities, what are the challenges...there was a lot of talk about economic, ways to influence trade."

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