SEARCH

Wednesday
Apr182018

Fidel Castro's revolution lives on in this Cuban mountain range

iStock/Thinkstock(HAVANA) -- In the rugged Sierra Maestra mountains near where Fidel Castro made his hideout as he led a guerrilla uprising in the late 1950s, Cubans say they are still grateful for the land reforms and modern amenities his leftist revolution brought to the area.

Fidel Castro's younger brother Raul Castro, 86, steps down as president this week. His successor is likely to be 57-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel, the first time that Communist-run Cuba has had a leader born after the 1959 revolution.

In Santo Domingo, the hamlet closest to the "Comandancia La Plata" where the rebels had their military headquarters, locals say they owe much to the Castros' revolution, despite an ailing economy that Raul Castro's tentative market reforms have failed to fix.

"I have a happy life: I have a place to farm; I have animals," said farmer Paulo Alvarez, 55, whose pigs, turkeys, and chickens roam freely around his wooden hut, grunting and squawking. "I thank the revolution for that. It was not like this before."

Fidel Castro, who ruled for decades before handing off to his brother and who died in retirement in 2016, nationalized many large agricultural properties after coming to power, part of a sharp leftward turn that prompted many Cubans to leave the island and that sent relations with the United States into a long freeze.

Title to the land was given free of charge to former tenant farmers, farm laborers and sharecroppers. Many farmers then joined together to work under the umbrella of state and cooperative farms.

The Cuban government also brought medical facilities, schools and paved roads to remote places like Santo Domingo, a village of several hundred inhabitants nestled in the wooded mountains by a river.

Resident Luis Enrique Perez was able to train as an English teacher, although he gave up teaching because of the low salary. Despite the revolution's achievements in social indicators like education, much of Cuba's population scrapes by on state wages, which at around $30 per month are a source of common grumbles.

Perez said he found better-paid work as a guide at the Comandancia La Plata, which nowadays attracts visitors exploring Cuba's political heritage.

"I can make better money and also practice my languages with tourists, which is my passion," said Perez, as he pointed to the large bed where Fidel Castro once slept next to a window overlooking the surrounding undergrowth.

Adding a touch of authenticity, a 1950s American fridge stands in the main room with a bullet hole where it is said to have been hit by enemy fire while being carried up the mountains to the "Commandante's" hut.

"Raul did many good things to Cuba in the last 10 years," he said. "He has changed the social life of the country, with cooperatives, private business, hotspots, internet, mobiles."

The younger Castro has opened up Cuba's state-run economy to private enterprise in an attempt to boost growth and trim the state payroll. A surge in tourism over the past few years has fostered that fledgling private sector.

In Santo Domingo, private restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts have sprung up alongside the main road, where cows and horses saunter across nonchalantly in search of better pastures.

"Cuba would be the best place to live in the world," said Perez, "if state salaries were good enough."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Apr182018

Chemical weapons inspectors' visit to Douma delayed after shots were fired at UN team

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A United Nations security team came under fire on Tuesday during a visit to the site of a suspected chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma, the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Wednesday.

The team was in Douma to survey conditions before chemical weapons experts were to inspect the site. Gunshots were fired at the U.N. security team and an explosive was detonated before the team returned to Damascus, OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said. International chemical weapons inspectors were expected to visit the site on Wednesday, but the visit has now been postponed and it is unknown when it will take place.

“At present, we do not know when the [Fact-Finding Mission] team can be deployed to Douma,” Uzumcu told the OPCW’s Executive Council, adding that he will only consider deploying the inspectors once the U.N. security team determines that it is safe and only if the inspectors get unhindered access to the site.

The OPCW inspectors are in Syria to investigate a suspected gas attack, which took place on April 7 in Douma. The alleged attack killed scores of civilians, according to activists, rescue workers and Western countries.

In response, the United States, the U.K. and France fired missiles at three Syrian targets on Saturday. The targets included a scientific research center in the greater Damascus area described by U.S. officials as a center for research, development, production and testing of chemical weapons.



Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Apr182018

Royal fanatics are camped outside hospital awaiting royal baby

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- More reliable than baby due dates in the Lindo maternity wing of St. Mary's Hospital in London, are the die hard royal baby watchers outside. They're few, they're dedicated, and they're here rain or shine.

"We come as soon as they put the parking restrictions on," Maria Scott, 46, from Newcastle told ABC News, with a British flag tied around her shoulders like a cape. The parking restrictions come when authorities set up the press pen, and clear the street for motorcade access, Scott explained.

Kate's due date is rumored to be next week and they've been camping out for nine days already, just to be on the safe side.

Scott and her friends were here outside the prestigious, private Lindo Wing for Prince William and Kate Middleton's first two kids, George and Charlotte - and they're not going to miss the third.

"I've done it so long, I know the routine, the helicopters and the motorcade" said Terry Hutt, 83, from Camden Town, whose dashing Union Jack suit has been a mainstay at royal events for decades. "And I explain it to people who haven't done it before."

"As soon as I get that feeling," Hutt said, obviously excited at the thought, "butterflies, is what women call it, butterflies, that's it - I'll get on my feet and be ready."

But why camp out? One might ask.

Hutt, Scott, her daughter Amy Thompson and John Loughrey, 63, also donning a Union Jack suit, were all seated on a bench in the sun outside the hospital, next to some camping chairs and a tent draped with the British flag.

Scott said it's all about the electric atmosphere. Loughrey added that it was also about the celebration and the champagne. And for 83 year-old Hutt, well, it's tradition and team work.

"You've got to be here to experience it, seeing it on TV doesn't do it justice," Scott said, her flag now slightly off kilter. "It's just a wonderful feeling you get. The excitement is magical!"

The whole experience on the day of the birth doesn't last long. The Duke and Duchess emerge with their newest addition on the steps of the Lindo Wing, wave, say a few words to the crowd, and then they're off. That's it.

Did Amy Thompson ever think her mom was a bit nuts, honestly?

"No, no," Thompson says. "I've been brought up knowing everything about the family - and she's always been this way. Everyone has their thing and this is ours." Like her mother, she too, has become an ardent royal fan.

"It's indescribable. It means the world," Thompson adds.

The tight-knit group has done multiple events together and they say Kate even sent them breakfast the morning she gave birth to Charlotte. So, when do they think this new baby, the fifth in line for the throne, will arrive?

"Well, I was wrong," Hutt said. "I thought it would be last night and I got all packed up and ready to go."

Scott has her eyes on this weekend. "I think it's going to be on the 21st, the Queen's birthday," she said. Her daughter, Thompson and the others nod in agreement. "That would be lovely for the Queen. A wonderful birthday present."

The group is split on whether they think it will be a boy or a girl. And as for names, Philip Michael, Victoria, Elizabeth and Alice are all offered as viable options.

Hutt adds that he might like like them to name the baby after him or his wife. In the end though, he's just hoping for a healthy baby for the happy couple.

"It's going to be a beautiful day," Hutt said, adjusting his matching Union Jack printed fedora.

Like Thompson said, everyone has their thing.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Apr182018

Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un over Easter weekend, officials say

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- CIA Director Mike Pompeo secretly met with Kim Jong Un to discuss setting up a meeting between the North Korean leader and President Donald Trump, two U.S. officials have confirmed to ABC News.

The trip to North Korea, first reported by the Washington Post, happened over Easter weekend.

The White House and the CIA have declined to comment.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump himself confirmed there have been "direct talks at very high levels with North Korea."

The president has said he hopes to meet with Kim as early as May or June. Trump said Tuesday that five locations have been discussed as possible venues.

The president, who confirmed the meeting in a tweet Wednesday morning, has said he hopes to meet with Kim as early as May or June. Trump said Tuesday that five locations have been discussed as possible venues.

A senior U.S. official said the president has ruled out China as a location, and that Kim likely wouldn't agree to meet in the U.S., just as Trump said he wouldn't meet in North Korea.

Venues in Europe, southern Asia and the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea are being considered.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Apr182018

Internal Trump administration documents appear to contradict decision to end Haitian humanitarian program

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Documents released Tuesday appear to show a contradiction between an internal agency report and the assessment by the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) about the end a humanitarian program, known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS), for Haiti.

USCIS Director Francis Cissna based his assessment and recommendation on the report, according to a letter.

The internal USCIS report said that "many of the conditions prompting the original January 2010 TPS designation persist, and the country remains vulnerable to external shocks and internal fragility.”

The memo went on to conclude that "due to the conditions outlined in this report, Haiti’s recovery from the 2010 earthquake could be characterized as falling into what one non-governmental organization recently described as 'the country’s tragic pattern of one step forward, two steps back.'"

Cissna wrote to then-acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke -- who was responsible for making the final decision on the program -- that while lingering effects of the 2010 earthquake remain, "Haiti has made significant progress in addressing issues specific to the earthquake."

"In summary, Haiti has made significant progress in recovering from the 2010 earthquake, and no longer continues to meet the conditions for designation," he wrote.

His final recommendation to Duke is redacted.

According to USCIS, the TPS memo addressed conditions related to the earthquake, including displaced people and a prior housing shortage.

The documents were released after the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, along with the NYU School of Law, filed a lawsuit seeking records pertaining to the termination of TPS for Haiti.

In November, Duke announced her decision to terminate the program for Haiti, with a delayed effective date "to allow for an orderly transition before the designation terminates on July 22, 2019."

In her announcement, she wrote that the "extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist."

Approximately 59,000 Haitians have been impacted by the decision, and will have to leave the United States or face living in the country illegally -- pending any legislative response or ongoing litigation.

Last Friday was Duke's last day at the department, and she could not be reached for comment.

"I think it raises questions about whether they were making policy decisions about how they were approaching TPS, instead of case-by-case review that they have historically done,” Sejal Zota, legal director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, said to ABC News.

"Their own internal report documents and confirms that many of the conditions persist and that the country remains vulnerable," said Zota.

The termination of TPS for Haiti comes amid the end to numerous similar programs, like those for Nicaragua, El Salvador and Sudan, which immigration advocates say "creates instability and problems not just for these families, but for their communities."

A decision on whether to extend TPS for Nepal is due next week.

This is the first batch of documents, but thousands more are expected over the coming months.

In response to the released documents, USCIS said that "the decision to terminate TPS for Haiti was made after an interagency review process that considered country conditions and the ability of the country to receive returning citizens, according to the agency."

"DHS undertook an extensive outreach campaign to U.S. state and federal government officials, Haitian officials, and third-party partners who offered their input as to the conditions on the ground in Haiti. Based on all available information, acting Secretary Elaine Duke determined that the extraordinary and temporary conditions that formed the basis of Haiti’s TPS designation as a result of the 2010 earthquake no longer exist, and thus, pursuant to statute, DHS concluded the current TPS designation for Haiti should not be extended," said Cissna in a statement.

The Lawyers Guild has also filed a separate lawsuit challenging the end to the program. The government is expected to provide a response to that lawsuit by May 24.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Apr182018

Korean Air chairman's daughter suspended after allegedly throwing drink during meeting

iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL) -- South Korean authorities have formally requested a travel ban on the youngest daughter of Korean Air Chairman Cho Yang-ho after she allegedly threw a drink at someone during an office meeting.

Cho Hyun-min, a senior vice president at the airline who is also known as Emily Cho, is accused of yelling at and throwing a cup of plum juice at an advertising firm manager last month. She told reporters at the airport on Sunday that she merely "pushed" a cup and didn't throw it at anyone's face.

Seoul’s Gangseo Police Station is investigating the criminal case and requested Cho's travel ban from the justice ministry on Tuesday.

Korean Air has suspended the 35-year-old graduate of the University of Southern California, who apologized to all Korean Air employees in an email and posted another apology via social media that read, in part, "It is my big fault for not controlling my own emotions."

Cho's older sister, Cho Hyun-ah, also known as Heather, served a jail sentence after a 2014 incident in which she threw a tantrum and demanded the plane she was on return to its gate at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport because of the way she was served a bag of nuts in first class.

The Korea Customs Service is also looking into accusations that Cho family members have ordered staff to bring in luxury goods without paying customs duties.

Korean Air did not immediately respond to a request for additional comments.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Apr182018

South Korean actress once kidnapped, forced to make North Korean movies dies at 92

Han Myung-Gu/WireImage(SEOUL) -- Choi Eun-hee, a South Korean film icon once kidnapped by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's regime in 1970s, has died at the age of 92.

She succumbed to chronic kidney disease on Tuesday, her eldest son, Shin Jeong-gyun, himself now a director in South Korea, told Yonhap News Agency.

Having begun her film career in 1947 at the age of 21, Choi became a star after the movie The Sun of Night debuted the following year. In 1954, she married a promising director named Shin Sang-ok. Choi starred in 130 films directed by Shin during the glory days of South Korea's film industry. The couple divorced in 1977.

In 1978, Choi disappeared without trace during a visit to Hong Kong. Shin searched for his ex-wife overseas and also went missing about a year later. Authorities later confirmed that both had been taken to North Korea, where the pair produced 17 movies, including the 1985 film "Salt," for which Choi won Best Actress at the Moscow Film Festival. Doing so, she became the first Korean to win an award at an international film festival.

Kim Jong Il kidnapped the pair after deciding that North Korean filmmakers could not depict stories as he intended, according to South Korea’s National Intelligence report in 1984, which was exposed by Monthly Chosun. At the time, Kim was leading espionage operations in South, gearing up to become his country's leader after his father, Kim Il Sung.

In 1986, Choi and Shin escaped from North Korea to the U.S., where they requested asylum, eventually returning home to South Korea in 1999.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Apr172018

President Trump: U.S., North Korea already talking 'at extremely high levels'

Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images(WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.) -- President Donald Trump said Tuesday that members of his administration are already talking to officials in North Korea "at extremely high levels" about his possible summit with Kim Jong Un.

"We have also started talking to North Korea directly, at extremely high levels," Trump said during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar—a—Lago resort in Florida.

Trump made the surprise announcement as he kicked off his two days of talks with Abe. Both leaders said the potential Trump-Kim summit is expected to dominate their agenda, along with discussions on trade.

Just after Abe's arrival, Trump reacted to news that South Korea and North Korea were nearing a potential agreement to announce the end of their decades-long military conflict ahead of a meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-In and Kim Jong-Un.

Trump said the two countries "have my blessing" to discuss ending the war, and said Asian leaders have given him significant credit for the recent series of positive developments pointing towards potential lasting peace in the Korean peninsula.

"They’ve been very generous that without us and without me in particular, I guess, they wouldn’t be discussing anything and the Olympics would have been a failure," Trump said.

Trump said that he and Abe are "very unified" on the issue of North Korea, and said there are five separate locations under consideration as he plans to meet with Kim Jong Un in early June or before that. But the president also added a potential caveat.

"Assuming things go well, it's possible things won't go well and we won't have the meeting," Trump said. "We will see what happens."

Speaking to reporters in advance of Abe's arrival, Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow and senior director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council Matthew Pottinger emphasized that Trump and Abe have a close friendship and that Trump has met with Abe more than any other foreign leader since taking office 14 months ago.

Trump said that he and Abe hope to play a round of golf together, if possible -- saying the pair would "sneak out" to hit the links tomorrow at one of Trump's nearby golf courses if they have the time.

Kudlow was also asked about his new role announced last week after a meeting the president held with lawmakers at the White House to consider the U.S. potentially negotiating to re-join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade accord the president routinely derided as a "terrible deal" while he was a candidate for the presidency.

"There’s nothing at all concrete," Kudlow said. "On the American side at the moment, it’s more of a thought than a policy."

Kudlow insisted the Japanese are open to discussions about potentially reentering, but said such a deal would only happen if the U.S. is able to achieve a more favorable deal.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Apr172018

Niger says detainee is not mastermind of deadly attack: Sources

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Three senior Nigerien officials tell ABC News that they have determined that a man they have in custody is not Doundou Cheffou the ISIS leader whom officials believe masterminded the deadly ambush last October that killed four American soldiers.

ABC News had confirmed through senior Nigerien officials and a western official that Niger was trying to confirm the identity of a man captured several weeks ago along the border region with Mali.

Officials said the man in custody bore a resemblance to Cheffou, the head of ISIS in the Greater Sahara.

Senior Nigerien security officials, however, determined that the man was not the ISIS leader after testing his DNA and comparing it with Cheffou's brother who is in prison.

The New York Times
was first to report on Monday that Nigerien officials were trying to determine if they had detained Cheffou.

Cheffou heads the small militant group known as ISIS in the Greater Sahara.

He is believed to have been responsible for the Oct. 4 ambush near the village of Tongo Tongo that killed four American soldiers.

The soldiers had been part of a joint U.S.-Nigerien patrol that had the night before been part of a mission to kill or capture Cheffou, who was known by his code name "Naylor Road".

U.S. Africa Command's investigation into the circumstances of that mission was completed in February.

After a review by General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the investigation was referred to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

After Mattis has completed his review, family members, and Congress will be briefed on the report's conclusions.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Apr172018

Trump holds off on imposing additional Russia sanctions over Syria chemical attack

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump has decided to put off a decision imposing additional sanctions on Russia in the wake of the Syrian chemical attack, administration officials tell ABC News.

The delay comes after UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said on Sunday that the administration was planning to unveil new sanctions on Monday to punish the Kremlin in the wake of the chemical attack on Syrian civilians, of which the administration has accused Russia of having been complicit.

"You will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down," Haley said during an interview on CBS News' "Face the Nation." "[Treasury] Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday, if he hasn't already. And they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons used."

While the White House says that such sanctions remain under consideration, officials say the president has decided to hold off for now in part to see how Russia reacts to the joint US-UK-French airstrikes launched on Syria over the weekend before deciding whether further punitive actions are necessary.

“We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer criticized the Trump administration for not following through on the sanctions that Haley teased to, calling it "utterly amazing" that the president is holding back.

"If I were Nikki Haley I would really be embarrassed because she came out very strongly yesterday and said 'we're going to do sanctions' and the president reverses her. There is just no one home in terms of making consistent strong policy when it comes to Russia," Schumer told reporters. "The staff seem to want to go in one direction, the president keeps pulling them back and that is very bad for the country."

Administration officials say that the president remains interested in improved relations with Russia and is still open to sitting down with President Vladimir Putin, potentially even at the White House.

"The president still would like to sit down with him," Sanders said. "Again, he feels like it's better for the world if they have a good relationship. But that's going to depend on the actions of Russia. We've been very clear, in our actions, what we expect. And we hope that they'll have a change in their behavior."

Asked about a report in the Washington Post that the president was frustrated by the scope and severity of the U.S. action to expel 60 Russian intelligence officers in response to the poisoning of an ex-Russia spy and his daughter on British soil, Sanders did not directly refute the report but noted that it was the president who ordered the action that led to the Russian expulsions in the first place.

"The President is the one that gave the directive," Sanders said. "The President has been clear that he's going to be tough on Russia. But at the same time, he'd still like to have a good relationship with them. But that's going to be determined by whether or not Russia decides if they want to be a better actor in this process or not."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







ABC News Radio