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Friday
Aug102018

Shooting in Canadian city leaves several dead, police say

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Four people were killed in a shooting in Canada's eastern city of Fredericton on Friday morning, police said. The suspect was wounded during the incident and is in custody.

Police officers were responding to reports of gunshots at an apartment building in Fredericton, the capital of New Brunswick province, when they encountered and fired at the suspect.

The Fredericton Police Force urged residents via Twitter to avoid the area and "stay in their homes with doors locked." The police force also asked the public not to report on the locations or activities of authorities and first responders.

Around 9:30 a.m. local time, officers forced entry into an apartment unit and arrested a 48-year-old man. The Fredericton Police Force subsequently declared via Twitter that there was "no further threat to the public."

The suspect was transported to a local hospital for "serious injuries" related to the incident, police said.

Two officers from the Fredericton Police Force were among those killed Friday: Lawrence Robert Costello and Sara Mae Helen Burns. Costello, 45, was a 20-year veteran of the police force and he leaves behind his partner and four children. Burns, 43, had been with the force for two years and leaves behind her husband and three children.

"It's been a very difficult day," Fredericton Police Chief Leanne Fitch told reporters Friday afternoon. "Those that were killed this morning were taken very good care of."

Two civilians, an adult male and an adult female, were also killed. Authorities are waiting for family members to be notified before releasing their names.

The circumstances of the shooting were unclear and authorities declined to provide further details at a press conference Friday afternoon. The investigation is ongoing.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on the shooting, praising first responders and mourning the slain officers in Fredericton.

"There is no greater gesture than to put oneself in harm’s way to protect the life of another," Trudeau said. "This morning, first responders rushed to the scene of danger. They did not think twice about what they had to do to keep their fellow Canadians safe. They were unflinching in their duty. We will not forget the two fallen police officers whose sacrifice no doubt saved lives and prevented even greater tragedy."

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Friday
Aug102018

Taliban storms strategic Afghan city, reportedly leaving several dead

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Taliban fighters stormed a provincial capital in Afghanistan before dawn on Friday, exchanging fire with security forces and reportedly leaving several dead.

The insurgents entered the southeastern city of Ghazni overnight, reportedly hiding inside homes, before launching the brazen attack in the early morning hours. The city is strategically located along the main route between southern Afghanistan and the country's capital, Kabul.

U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, which oversees American troops in the country, confirmed the attack via Twitter, calling it a "failed attempt" to capture territory. U.S. forces "responded with close-air support" in Ghazni, while Afghan security forces "held their ground" and maintained control of all government buildings.

"Another failed attempt by Taliban to seize terrain, while creating strategically inconsequential headlines," U.S. Forces-Afghanistan tweeted.

Friday morning's assault on Ghazni was the latest in a string of attempts by the Taliban to overrun urban centers since the Afghan government called off a unilateral ceasefire with the militant group that was in place for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Islam's holy month of Ramadan.

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Friday
Aug102018

Australian teacher finds prehistoric shark teeth 

Museums Victoria(NEW YORK) -- A teacher and fossil enthusiast found a giant set of prehistoric shark teeth estimated to be about 25 million years old at a beach in Australia.

Philip Mullaly found the set of shark teeth in Jan Juc, a renowned fossil site along Victoria's Surf Coast.

"I was walking along the beach looking for fossils, turned and saw this shining glint in a boulder and saw a quarter of the tooth exposed," the citizen scientist said in a press release by the Museums Victoria where the teeth are now on display. "I was immediately excited, it was just perfect and I knew it was an important find that needed to be shared with people," Mullaly said.

The nearly three-inch-long teeth belonged to a now-extinct ferocious shark, aptly named the great jagged narrow-toothed shark, which is a smaller cousin of the famous megalodon shark, the subject of the new movie Meg.

"I couldn't believe it. These things are really rare," Mullaly told Good Morning America.

Mullaly called to tell the paleontologists at Museums Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, about his discovery and the museum assembled a team to handle the excavation.

In total, Mulally said the team took "40 teeth out of that boulder, which is just extraordinary."

According to the museum, these teeth provide evidence that a shark which would have grown to more than 30-feet in length, nearly double the size of a great white, "once stalked Australia's ancient oceans" approximately 25 million years ago.

The teeth fossils are now on exhibit at Museums Victoria.

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Friday
Aug102018

1,600 people evacuated due to flash floods in the south of France

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Heavy rains in the southeast of France caused flash flooding and led to the evacuation of 1,600 people in the Ardèche, Gard and Drôme regions for precautionary measures Thursday.

In the Gard region, where strong rains poured down all day on Thursday, rivers quickly overflowed their banks and 119 children were rescued from their campsite at Saint-Julien-de-Peyrolas, the French interior minister said in a statement.

About 750 people, mostly from campsites, were evacuated in the Gard region alone, local authorities announced last night.

An elderly German citizen serving as a monitor at a campsite was missing, local authorities said. Search operations were suspended last night and restarted this morning.

About 400 firefighters and policemen, backed by four helicopters, helped in the evacuations and performed rescue operations, the French interior minister said.

Ten people were hospitalized with hypothermia and minor injuries, the Gard Gendarmerie said on its Facebook page.

The weather in the southeast of France has improved this morning but authorities are urging people to stay vigilant as the flooding are receding.

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Thursday
Aug092018

Saudi-led coalition airstrike kills dozens of children on bus in Yemen

ABC News(SAADA, Yemen) -- An airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen on Thursday morning killed at least 50 people including dozens of children traveling on a bus in the country’s Saada Province, local health officials said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said its medical teams received the bodies of 29 children, all under the age of 15. They also received 48 injured people, including 30 children, the ICRC said.

Yemen’s rebel-run Al Masirah TV aired footage of injured children weeping as blood streamed down their faces. Some of the children carried blue UNICEF backpacks, spotted with blood.

Col. Turki al-Malki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, which has the backing of the U.S. government, said the coalition had launched an operation in Saada in response to Houthi fighters firing a missile on the Saudi city of Jizan on Wednesday evening.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam said the Saudi-led coalition had showed no regard for civilian lives by targeting a school bus in a crowded public space.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Thursday called on the Saudi-led coalition to "conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident," and for all parties to protect civilians in accordance with international law.

Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in a statement that U.S. Central Command was not involved in the airstrike in Saada.

"U.S. military support to our partners mitigates noncombatant casualties, by improving coalition processes and procedures, especially regarding compliance with the law of armed conflict and best practices for reducing the risk of civilian casualties," she said.

Save the Children’s staff on the ground in Saada said the children were on their way back to school from a picnic when the attack happened.

Sylvia Ghaly, director of advocacy in Yemen for Save the Children, said the children were between the ages of 6 and 15.

“From where we sit as humanitarian actors, we don’t see the military targets, we see civilians being targeted and children being killed, and at the same time we don’t see anyone being held accountable for the attacks,” she told ABC News. “It’s not good enough to say that this was a mistake or that it was collateral damage. At the end of the day, that child has a name and that child is the son or daughter of someone who will grief for a long time.”

She added that Save the Children is calling for an immediate, independent investigation into the attack. Ghaly said that when she entered the province of Saada, a Houthi stronghold, many buildings had basically been reduced to rubble.

“The future of the children of Yemen is dark,” she told ABC News. “Right now, I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel -- no peace, no agreement, no cessation of hostilities. An entire generation of children will be lost and how will this country be reconstructed in the future?”

Yemen is one of the world’s poorest countries and the war has made conditions much worse: More than 22 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and half of the country’s health facilities are out of service.

The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Houthis in the country since March 2015 after the Houthis took over the capital of Sanaa and forced interim president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and his government to flee the country. An Arab Sunni coalition led by Saudi Arabia then launched a war to restore Hadi’s government to power -- a military campaign that is supported by the U.S. The coalition has been blamed by the United Nations for most of the civilian deaths in Yemen.

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Thursday
Aug092018

Ship carrying 87 rescued migrants finally docks in Spanish port

Paco Freire/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images(ALGECIRAS, Spain) -- The migrant rescue ship Open Arms arrived in the Spanish port of Algericas Thursday morning carrying 87 people who had been rescued off the coast of Libya a week ago, a spokesperson for the Spanish NGO told ABC.

All 87 people -- 75 men and 12 minors, nearly all from Sudan -- disembarked this morning and were taken to a migrant center, Open Arms spokesperson Laura Lanuza said. The migrants had been rescued Aug. 2 after spending 50 hours at sea on board an inflatable boat without drinking water. Many of the people on board had suffered skin burns caused by a mixture of fuel and salt water, aid workers said.

After their rescue, the migrants were forced to wait at sea on board the ship until Aug. 6 before knowing which port they would be heading for.

In a tweet that day, Open Arms announced that it had finally been assigned the port of Algeciras in southern Spain.

"Destination port: Algeciras. Located 590 nautical miles from where we are, a fact that translates into 3 more days of crossing from today if there is sufficient food for all. The 87 rescued people will have waited more than 1 week to reach a safe harbor," the organization tweeted in Spanish.

Open Arms and other aid groups that have made it their mission to rescue migrants off the coast of Libya continue to request that ships be allowed to dock at closer ports in EU member countries.

But since Italy closed its ports to foreign NGO rescue ships this summer, aid ships now have to wait at sea, often for days, to find out where they will allowed to dock.

Previously, nearly all aid ships carrying migrants rescued off the coast of Libya would dock in Italy for a few days after the rescue operations were complete.

Open Arms is the third NGO ship carrying rescued migrants that Spain has agreed to accept this summer.

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Thursday
Aug092018

Dog DNA used to track down owners who don't clean up after their pets

iStock/Thinkstock(MALNATE, Italy) -- Officials in the small Italian town of Malnate have a novel approach to finding out which dog owners don't clean up after their pets: use the dog's DNA.

Earlier this year Malnate's environmental department asked all dog-loving residents to register their pups in the city's database. The city’s 2,156 registered dogs had to submit a saliva sample and owners who did not voluntarily bring their dogs within the allotted time were fined $58 for non-compliance with the new ordinance.

The problem of dog excrement has been a headache for city officials in Italy and all across Europe. Heavy fines have been put in place but it can be difficult to enforce the law unless the offending dog and owner are caught in the act.

In Malnate owners who forget or refuse to clean up now know they can be tracked down.

"The deterrent effect is considerable. Knowing that the local dogs are now recognizable has led many of their masters to behave civilly and the sidewalks are cleaner," Giuseppe Riggi, Malnate's environmental commissioner, recently told reporters. "At the same time, pet owners thank us because now the other citizens look at them with less distrust."

City officials estimate that the dog population in Malnate increases by 150 dogs each year. The plan is to work with local veterinarians to collect DNA samples from the new arrivals in order to keep the saliva swab collection up to date.

So far the town has collected 12 samples that were left on local sidewalks and a laboratory was able to extract DNA from nine of those. Then by cross referencing the DNA with the town's records, seven matches were made and fines were sent to the owners.

Malnate has received requests from 83 other municipalities across Italy about the program.

“They are only waiting to see if the fines will pay for the costs,” said Riggi.

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Thursday
Aug092018

Kremlin calls new Trump sanctions 'unacceptable'

Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- The Kremlin has condemned as “unacceptable” new sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on Russia over Moscow's alleged involvement in the poisoning of a former Russian double agent.

The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, however, told reporters Thursday that it was too early to talk about countersanctions and that Russia still hoped for "constructive relations" with the United States.

The State Department on Wednesday announced that the Trump administration was imposing mandatory new sanctions on Russia for violating a U.S. law prohibiting chemical and biological weapons. In March former Russian spy Sergey Skripal and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, were poisoned with a Soviet-designed nerve agent known as Novichok. The poison was smeared onto the front door of Skripal's home in Salisbury, England, and U.K. authorities have blamed the assassination attempt on the Kremlin.

The new U.S. sanctions ban the export of any national security-sensitive goods or technology to Russia and will affect such products as gas turbine engines, electronic devices and equipment, circuits and calibration equipment. A senior State Department official estimated the sanctions could affect hundreds of millions of dollars in trade with Russia.

More worrying for Russia, however, is that the law cited by the administration includes a second provision that will impose a second round of far more punishing sanctions on Moscow if it now fails to comply with the legislation within 90 days.

The Chemical and Biological Weapons and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 requires that in order to avoid the next round of sanctions, Russia must prove it is not using chemical or biological weapons and allow impartial observers to verify compliance.

If Moscow violates the sanctions then it could see restrictions on flights from the Russian Aeroflot airline to the U.S., sanctions on U.S. bank loans, increased export and import restrictions, including on gas and petroleum, and potentially even a downgrade of diplomatic relations.

Peskov on Thursday gave no indication that Russia would accept the U.S. criteria or permit any inspections.

“We consider the tying of new restrictions -- which as previously we consider illegal -- with the affair in Salisbury to be categorically unacceptable,” Peskov told reporters during his daily telephone briefing.

Russia has repeatedly denied any connection to the poisonings and has rejected British and European demands that it provide access to its chemical weapons arsenals, which Moscow insists it has destroyed.

Peskov said the U.S. had yet to inform Russia of the sanctions and so it would be incorrect to talk about countermeasures, though Russia’s embassy in Washington wrote in a statement the State Department had contacted officials.

Russia is already under a raft of sanctions from the U.S. and the European Union, imposed over its invasion of Ukraine and its interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Trump administration has also already responded to the nerve agent poisonings. In March 60 Russian diplomats were expelled and Russia's consulate in Seattle was closed. The administration said then it believed Russia was responsible for the chemical attack.

The timing of the decision to now find Moscow in violation of the sanctions-inflicting law, five months later, has therefore been seen as significant by some, coming at a moment when President Trump is under pressure to appear tough on Russia over election meddling.

The sanctions announcement coincided with reports that the White House is drafting its own executive order that would sanction foreigners involved in election interference. The Washington Post reported that the 10-page order would give the president the authority to impose sanctions on “10 of the 30 largest business entities” in a country whose government has interfered in an election. It would also impose mandatory sanctions on individuals found to have taken part in the interference.

Some former officials told The Post, however, that the order seemed more like a “a cover-your-behind exercise” for the administration than intended to seriously deter foreign powers. The Post concluded it is likely an attempt to stave off far more punitive sanctions legislation currently being considered in Congress.

Last week, a group of Democrat and Republican senators introduced a bill that would impose some of the toughest sanctions ever placed on modern Russia. Among other measures, it would put sanctions on any transactions related to Russian energy projects and new Russian sovereign debt, as well ban American individuals and businesses from working with Russian oil projects.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters he wanted it to be a “sanctions bill from hell.” Russian stocks slumped following its unveiling and the dollar hit a two-year high against the rouble.

It remains unclear if lawmakers will succeed in passing the bill, with Congressional leaders having seemed unconvinced.

Trump's administration's new sanctions though throw off his recent attempts at outreach to the Kremlin that was on display at his meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last month. Just this week, Republican Sen. Rand Paul -- who has been one of Trump’s few defenders over the Helsinki summit delivered a letter to Putin from Trump that he said emphasized a desire for greater cooperation in counterterrorism and cultural exchanges.

Peskov on Thursday appeared to extend an olive branch again to Trump, saying that Russia still hopes for “constructive relations” with the U.S.

“Without question,” Peskov said. “President Putin spoke about this at the press conference in Helsinki. He maintains the hope for working out constructive relations with Washington.”

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Wednesday
Aug082018

Rand Paul says he delivered a letter from Trump to Putin

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Rand Paul announced on Wednesday that he "was honored to deliver a letter from President Trump to Vladimir Putin's administration" that he said addressed topics ranging from counterterrorism to "resuming cultural exchanges."

The delivery of the letter comes just three weeks after the Helsinki summit between Trump and Putin that was pilloried by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The White House later released its own statement underscoring that the letter was "introductory" and written at the request of Paul.

“At Sen. Paul’s request, President Trump provided a letter of introduction," deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement. "In the letter, the president mentioned topics of interest that Senator Paul wanted to discuss with President Putin.”

But the White House didn't offer an explanation on why such a high-level communication between the two leaders was revealed through a senator's office and not the West Wing's press office, which is typically standard protocol.

Paul, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met earlier in the week in Moscow with members of Russia's upper house of parliament and invited them to Washington.

"My goal in coming to Russia is to say that we want to have open lines of communication," Paul said at a press conference after the meeting.

Paul has been one of the president's most vocal defenders in recent weeks, defending Trump for appearing to accept Putin's denials of U.S. election interference.

The White House and Trump have separately sought to beat back criticism that the president failed to confront Putin directly on Russia's election meddling when given the chance.

"They wanted me to go up and have a boxing match," Trump said in a Pennsylvania rally last week. "I said, whatever happened to diplomacy?"

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Wednesday
Aug082018

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley visits Venezuela border, announces $9 million in humanitarian aid

ABC News(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- The United States on Wednesday announced nearly $9 million in aid to help those fleeing the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, days after Venezuela's president said the United States was home to financiers of what he has called an attempt on his life.

The United States' ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, made the announcement during a visit to Colombia's border with Venezuela, which Venezuelans have for months crossed in search of food, work and health care.

The funding will help Colombia address the influx of Venezuelans pouring across the border, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development. The U.S. has pledged more than $46 million in humanitarian aid in response to the crisis, USAID said.

Colombia said last month that over 870,000 Venezuelans were living in Colombia, and many of the several hundred thousand more who have Colombian origins are believed to be moving there, according to the Associated Press.

Haley on Wednesday visited Cúcuta, Colombia, a major crossing point for fleeing Venezuelans. On Tuesday, she attended the inauguration of Colombian President Ivan Duque.

The announcement came days after what Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has called an attempted assassination while he was speaking in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. Maduro has said that opposition leaders were connected to Saturday's alleged attack, which involved exploding drones, and he has said some suspects reside in the Untied States and Colombia.

"I want to explain to the government of the United States and the government of Colombia in detail all the evidence that leads us to accomplices and direct responsible living in the state of Florida," Maduro said, according to the Associated Press. "I trust in the good faith of Donald Trump."

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton on Sunday denied that the U.S. was involved in the incident.

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