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Tuesday
Oct162018

Dutch museum invites world to watch Rembrandt restoration 

Rijksmuseum(AMSTERDAM) -- The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam announced plans Tuesday to give the public the chance to see the restoration of a Rembrandt painting next year in a process that will be livestreamed to people around the world.

“The Night Watch,” commissioned in 1642 by members of Amsterdam’s civic guard, is Rembrandt’s only painting of a militia group. It will undergo research and restoration process that could take years beginning in July 2019, and people will be able to watch both online and in the museum.

“This research and restoration will be carried out with the world watching. So everyone in the world, no matter where you are, can watch,” said Taco Dibbits, the director of the Rijksmuseum, in a video announcing the project. “Because ‘The Night Watch’ belongs to all of us.”

The project is part of “The Year of Rembrandt,” a campaign by the museum to mark the 350th anniversary of the artist’s death in 2019.

“The Night Watch” was last restored in 1975 after a Dutch teacher slashed the painting with a knife at the Rijksmuseum.

“We’ve got techniques now we couldn’t have dreamed of the last time it was restored over forty years ago,” Dibbits told ABC News. “It will tell us how Rembrandt painted it. It will give us an insight into his creative process and how we can preserve it best for the future.”

Using advanced technology including imaging techniques, high-resolution photography and highly advanced computer analysis, the museum will analyze the painting for the best way to restore the damages it has incurred with time.

The painting will be protected by a state-of-the-art glass case throughout the restoration period.

On the decision to make the restoration accessible to the masses, Dibbits said over 2 million people go to visit the painting every year, and “the public has the right to know what’s happening to the painting.”

Dibbits added that the intricate process will have a “meditative quality” for those streaming online, and that the painting itself has a quality that “still very much appeals today.”

“It’s a painting about the complete rebellion of Rembrandt. The genius of him doing something completely new was very important for the history of art. Historically it’s very important because these men of the Golden Age made the country,” said Dibbits. “The end result will be spectacular.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct162018

Russian church breaks away from wider Orthodox community in seismic rift over Ukraine

NIKOLAY PETROV/AFP/Getty Images(MINSK, Belarus) -- Officials from the Russian Orthodox Church have announced that the church is severing relations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, in what is being seen as one of the biggest schisms in Orthodox Christianity in almost a thousand years.

At a synod in Belarus on Monday, Russian Orthodox Church leaders said the church was cutting ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the seat of the global spiritual leader for 300 million Orthodox worshippers.

The rupture is a response by the Russian Church over the Constantinople Patriarchate’s decision last week to recognize the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as an independent church -- no longer under the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate, according to church officials.

Bartholomew I of Constantinople, considered the ‘first among equals’ of eastern Orthodoxy’s church leaders, granted what is known as ‘autocephaly’ (self-governance) to the Ukrainian Church, over the fierce objections of Moscow.

Metropolitan Ilarion, the Moscow Patriarchate’s head of external relations, on Tuesday said that in doing so the Constantinople Patriarchate had destroyed its authority and that the Orthodox Church no longer had a single center.

“We now stand before a new church reality: we no longer have a single coordinating center in the Orthodox Church and we must very clearly recognize that,” Ilarion said in a televised interview on Russia’s main state broadcaster, Channel 1.

“The Constantinople Patriarchate liquidated itself as such a center,” he said.

The split marks a historic turning point for the global Orthodox community, but it is the result of the collapse in relations between Russia and Ukraine of the past four years that followed Moscow's seizure of Crimea in 2014 and the subsequent separatist war in eastern Ukraine, which is ongoing.

Ukraine’s government has lobbied for an independent church on the grounds that the Russian Orthodox Church is an instrument of the Kremlin, accusing it of stoking separatist sentiment in eastern Ukraine and of acting on behalf of Russia's intelligence services.

Bartholomew’s decision recognized a Ukrainian church that had sought to break from the Moscow Patriarchate since 1991, when Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union. Ukraine’s government hailed the recognition as major step in bringing Ukraine further out of Russian dominion.

“This is a matter of our independence," Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko said in a speech celebrating the recognition on October 11. "A matter of our national security. A matter of our statehood. A matter of the entire global geopolitics.”

“This is the fall of the ‘Third Rome’ as the most ancient conceptual claim of Moscow for global domination,” Poroshenko said, referring to a claim made by Russian nationalists for centuries that the country is the heir to the Roman and Byzantine Christian empires.

The Moscow Patriarchate, however, has denounced the Ukrainian church’s recognition as provoking a split comparable to the so-called ‘Great Schism’ of 1054, when Christianity separated into western and eastern churches.

The Russian church is by far the largest of the world’s Orthodox communities and for most of its centuries-long history has been closely tied to the Russian state. President Vladimir Putin has promoted the church as a key part of modern Russian identity and its leader, Patriarch Kirill, is a close ally of the Russian leader.

The Russian church's breakaway is therefore a major upheaval for global Orthodoxy. The practical implications were still being worked out by ecclesiastical experts on Tuesday, but Russian church officials suggested the most immediate effect would be that its faithful should no longer attend services at churches under the authority of Constantinople. That would include one of the holiest sites in Orthodoxy, the Greek island monastery, Mount Athos.

Archpriest Igor Yakimchuk, the Moscow Patriarchate’s deputy head of external relations, told the Interfax news agency that Russian worshippers visiting those churches, many of which are popular tourist sites in Greece and Turkey, would have to make penance with confession afterwards, but church officials seemed to suggest there is no total ban. Russian Orthodox priests are now forbidden from taking part in services there and would be punished, Yakimchuk said.

The Moscow Patriarchate and Constantinople have had strained relations for some time as Moscow has sought to expand its authority within Orthodoxy. In 2016, Patriarch Kirill met Pope Francis in Cuba, the first time a Russian Orthodox patriarch and a Roman Catholic Pope have done so in 1,000 years -- in what was seen by some experts as a power play by the Russian church.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct162018

Elephants, drones and cologne employed in hunt for Bengal tiger blamed in 13 deaths

Maharashtra Forest Department(PANDHARKAWADA, India) -- The crackle of wireless phone static merged with the buzzing of jungle flies as a group of seven men in olive green uniforms combed through the forests around the Indian village of Pandharkawada.

The men, most armed with batons and one with a gun, could have been mistaken for an army platoon. But these men weren’t military, they were working for India’s forest department and their operation was to find "T1," a 6-year-old female tiger officials believe is responsible for the deaths of 13 people.

"A sequence of human killings was noticed from June 2016 onward. In the beginning, our staff did not think that this is a very serious thing," AK Misra, principal chief conservator of forests, told ABC News. "We took the first few cases as routine, the cases that sometime occur as a result of human-animal conflict."

However, the animal-inflicted deaths turned out to be anything but routine. They were the first in a chain of human killings in the region called Yavatmal, usually known for its cotton plantations and abundant sunshine.

The hunt for T1 commenced in earnest about a year ago. Officials said they underestimated the scale of the task at first.

"She is a very clever tigress. She is killing the baits, but if the slightest disturbance is there, she doesn’t come there at all," Sunia Limaye, the additional principal chief conservator of forests, who has been working closely on the operation, told ABC News.

The tiger has strayed away from the areas that are usually exclusive forest areas to an area that has a "honeycomb" layout in Pandharkawada, officials believe. In this area, it is hard to tell where forest land ends and farmland begin.

The killings have struck fear in the hearts of people in the more than 25 villages in the area, many of whom are cattle herders and cotton farmers.

Ram Krishna Lonkar, a farmer from one of the neighboring villages, showed ABC News the site of the last killing.

"I was returning home from the fields and saw a crowd had gathered here, right at this spot," he said. "The tigress had attacked a farmer and killed him."

Other farmers described how the tigress dragged the man’s body from one side of the road to another.

"In the beginning, it may have accidentally killed some people," Misra said. "But in the last three to four cases, we have noticed that, in one case, it dragged the human body for quite a long time. Then in another case, it ate up almost 60 to 70 percent of the body. That’s when we thought 'This is not the normal behavior of the tiger.'"

What’s made the operation even more complicated is the presence of two cubs. Camera trap images have revealed that the tigress gave birth to the two cubs over the past year. Officials estimate they are 9 to 10 months old and she has become more elusive in that time.

Over the past few weeks, the operation has come under a lot of pressure as officials have tried many tactics to trap the tiger and failed. The forest department has deployed 104 camera traps, specialized sniffer dogs, a paraglider to try and see the tigress from the air, elephants and thermal imaging drones. Some reports said they even tried designer cologne.

"We are also using PIPs, or pug impression pads," Misra said. "An area of land is cleared and if any animal moves across that area, its foot impression is recorded."

A special hunter from the Indian city of Hyderabad was also called in to help manage the situation.

Animal right advocates have named the tiger Avni and have been protesting the operation to capture or kill her, creating campaigns on social media under the name "Let Avni Live." Actors, politicians and locals in cities like Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai have weighed in and posted videos on Facebook urging authorities not to shoot the animal.

India’s Supreme Court, the country's highest court, ruled that it would not interfere if authorities were forced to shoot the tigress while trying to capture her.

"My order says tranquilizing efforts should be made," Misra said. "If all the tranquilizing efforts fail, then shooting. So it is a very guarded order."

Many of his colleagues at the makeshift base camp being used as a command center for the operation expressed support for the plan. As the sun set over the large forest, guards said they were hopeful all of this would be over soon.

"The season is on our side," one guard said.

As the rainy season passes giving way to a drier harvest season, the Lantana plants in the area will slowly become less dense and other vegetation will likely recede giving authorities better visibility in these areas. Authorities believe it will be easier to find the tiger when the area is clearer.

Until then, the central India district remains on high alert for the most-wanted animal.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct162018

A robot presented evidence about artificial intelligence to a British Parliament committee

Alexander Koerner/Getty Images(LONDON) -- A robot named Pepper made history in the U.K. Tuesday as it presented evidence to the Houses of Parliament.

Pepper, who is the resident robot at Middlesex University in London, spoke to the Members of Parliament, or MPs, about the future of artificial intelligence in caregiving for the elderly.

"Good morning, chair, thank you for inviting me to give evidence today," Pepper said during a parliamentary hearing on the "Fourth Industrial Revolution." "Assistive intelligent robots for older people could relieve pressure in hospitals, in care homes, as well as improve the care delivery at home and promote the independent living for the elderly people."

In order to make robots to be more "acceptable" as caregivers, Pepper added that "it is essential that they can be programmed to adapt to diverse backgrounds."

The robot is part of an international research project funded by Japan and the EU to develop the world’s first "culturally aware" robots, according to Middlesex University.

Professor Martin Loomes, the university’s executive dean of science and technology who gave evidence to the education committee alongside Pepper, believes this is an important view of tasks robots can do, beyond commonly accepted roles.

"A traditional view of robots is that they will automate simple, repetitive tasks on a production line," he said in a statement from Middlesex University. “The development of robots like Pepper shows that robots may well be integrated into more social settings."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct152018

Timeline on the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Chris McGrath/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Since self-exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul this month and vanished, his case has sparked international intrigue and outrage and put leaders of his homeland on the defensive.

Here is a timeline of events before and after he disappeared:

May 2018: Khashoggi meets Hatice Cengiz, a 36-year-old Turkish Ph.D. student, at a conference in Istanbul and she soon becomes his fiancée.

Sept. 28: Khashoggi visits the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul for the first time to pick up a permission document to marry Cengiz. He's told come back later.

Oct. 1: He returns to Istanbul from a trip to London.

Oct. 2: He goes back to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Cengiz waits for him outside for four hours, but he never comes out and is told by consulate staff that he left out a back door. Cengiz contacts the Turkish police.

Oct. 7: Saudi government officials deny involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance after reports that he was killed.

Oct. 8: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., warns the Saudis of consequences if the government is found complicit in Khashoggi's disappearance.

Oct. 9: Cengiz writes an op-ed in Washington Post, saying her husband-to-be had applied for U.S. citizenship and that his reason for visiting Turkey was to take care of all necessary paperwork for them to marry before he returned to Washington. She urges President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump to "help shed light on Jamal's disappearance." State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said of Khashoggi's disappearance, "We're not going to make any judgments about what happened to him. We don't know what has happened to him. We don't have any information on that.

Oct. 10: Trump makes his first comments on Khashoggi's disappearance, saying he contacted the Saudis and invited Cengiz to the White House. "We're demanding everything," he said. "We want to see what's going on here. That's a bad situation. And frankly the fact that it's a reporter you could say in many respects it ... brings it to a level. It's a very serious situation for us and this White House. We do not like seeing what's going on."

Oct. 11: The Washington Post, which Khashoggi writes for, reports the Turkish government told U.S. officials that it had audio and video recordings proving Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Oct. 13: Cengiz writes another op-ed, this one in the New York Times, on what would have been Khashoggi's 60th birthday, this time referring to him in the past tense as if penning his obituary. "Jamal and I had many dreams, but the most important one was to build a home together."

Oct. 14: In an interview aired on CBS's "60 Minutes," Trump addresses Khashoggi's disappearance. "There's something really terrible and disgusting about that if that were the case," he said, referring to allegations by Turkish authorities that Saudi Arabia was involved. "So, we're going to have to see. We're going to get to the bottom of it, and there will be severe punishment." In an apparent response to Trump's comments, a Saudi official said if any moves were taken against the kingdom "it will respond with greater action."

Oct. 15: Trump says he spoke with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for 20 minutes and that the king "denies any knowledge" of what happened to Khashoggi. Trump suggests Khashoggi was targeted by "rogue killers" and says he is sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to speak to the king. Meanwhile, Turkish police are allowed to search the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for the first time.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct152018

At least thirteen people killed as flash floods hit southwest of France

ABCNews.com(PARIS) -- At least 10 people have died, one person is missing and five are seriously hurt after heavy rains led to torrential flooding in the southwest of France last night, a spokesperson for the French Interior Ministry told ABC News. On Monday, the spokesperson said the death toll was 13 but the number has since been revised to 10. The spokesperson did not specify why the death toll has decreased since Monday morning.

Three months' worth of rain fell in just a few hours overnight in a region called the Aude department, according to the ministry.

The floods are the worst the region has seen in more than one hundred years, weather monitoring service Vigicrues said.

Pictures taken this morning show a massive amount of destruction, including flooded roads, collapsed homes and overturned cars.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe described the emergency crews on scene via Twitter.

"350 firefighters are on the scene. 350 more firefighters are on their way. 7 helicopters have been mobilized. I am keeping myself informed of the situation hour by hour."

Philippe said he will travel to the area this afternoon.

Local authorities said in a statement that more than 1,000 people in a village called Pezens were evacuated this morning because of risks posed by a dam located a few miles away.

In addition, schools in the area remain closed and local authorities are urging people to stay home.

As of Monday morning, 8,000 homes in the region remained without electricity, according to supplier Enerdis.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct152018

North, South Korea to restore railway, road connections severed during Korean War

Korea Pool/Getty Images(PANMUNJOM, North Korea) -- North and South Korea have agreed to rebuild connections between railways and roads that were severed during the Korean War more than 60 years ago.

Delegations from the two Koreas set out a plan for the transportation connections at a meeting Monday aimed at carrying out a broad agreement last month between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“South and North had a sincere discussion and agreed on action plans to carry out the September Pyongyang joint declaration and to develop inter-Korean relations to a higher level,” South Korea’s unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon and North Korean counterpart Ri Son-gwon announced together after the meeting at the Peace House in the border village of Panmunjom.

Representatives from the two sides said joint inspections of railways will start this month and a groundbreaking ceremony for the transportation project will be held between the end of November and the beginning of December.

Officials from the two countries also made appointments to discuss other planned projects, including online reunions for families separated on either side of the North-South border, joint sport events, performances by the North’s art troupes, and support for North Korea's forestry.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct152018

Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry are expecting

Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, formally the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are having a baby.

An official tweet from Kensington Palace just confirmed that, "Their Royal Highnesses...are very pleased to announce that the Duchess of Sussex is expecting a baby in the Spring of 2019."

The baby bombshell was followed with another message: "Their Royal Highnesses have appreciated all of the support they have received from people around the world since their wedding in May and are delighted to be able to share this happy news with the public."

The news comes after increasing speculation that the American former Suits actress was pregnant, thanks to recent clothing choices that could handily hide a baby bump.

The Duke and Duchess are currently in Australia, on their first official tour as a married couple.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Sunday
Oct142018

Groom's body found after being swept away by floodwaters on Costa Rica honeymoon

WCVB(SAN JOSE, Costa Rica) -- The body of a newlywed was discovered in Costa Rica on Saturday, bringing to an end a short search for the groom after he was swept away by floodwaters on his honeymoon in Costa Rica earlier this week.

Josh Byrne, a native of Hudson, Massachusetts, was married just last weekend to wife Bianca on a farm in New Hampshire, according to Boston ABC affiliate WCVB.

The family announced the sad news Saturday evening.

"It is with heavy hearts that we have concluded our search for Josh," the family said in a statement. "After working around the clock, our search and rescue mission ended today with the recovery of Josh’s remains."

They thanked state Reps. Niki Tsongas and Kate Hogan, Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, the Red Cross, the State Department and U.S. Embassy for their efforts in the search.

"They just got married, and this was their honeymoon that they spent all this money on and now a few days into it and this happens," cousin Nick Gibson told WCVB.

The couple had flown to the west coast of Costa Rica following their wedding and were in Playa Dominicalito when they attempted to drive across a bridge, but were swept away by floodwaters. Byrne, 30, could not swim and was not able to make it to shore.

"There was sort of like a flash flood, they were trying to go across a bridge; their car got swept into the river," family friend Tony Tufo told WCVB. "They both got out, they were both trying to make their way to the shore, but Josh, he got swept away while Bianca made it across."

Josh's brother and father had flown to Costa Rica to assist in the search on Friday.

"Josh holds a special place in all of our hearts and will always be remembered for his helpful and caring demeanor, his ability to make friends in any setting, and his love for his wife, Bianca," the family statement said.

"Please keep Bianca, the Byrne family, and his many friends in your prayers."

Costa Rica's National Meteorological Institute reported the western coast of the country received about 6 inches of rain on Thursday from a tropical wave and forecast another 2 to 3 inches of rain in the area on Friday.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Oct132018

Martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero, Pope Paul VI among 7 people to be canonized in Vatican ceremony

Keystone/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- The embroidered banner-portraits of the seven people Pope Francis will proclaim saints already hang on the façade of Saint Peter’s Basilica ahead of the solemn ceremony Sunday.

The new tombstone and mosaic portrait of one of them, Pope Paul VI, the somber, timid pope of the turbulent 60s, is already in place in the crypt of St. Peter’s with his title changed from “Beatus” (blessed) to “Sanctus” (saint) above his name.

Among those who will be canonized Sunday with Pope Paul are four religious figures: Mother Catherine Kasper, the German founder of a religious congregation; Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa, the Spanish founder of another order; and two Italian priests, Father Francesco Spinelli and Father Vincenzo Romano.

Added to the list in July, after the ceremony had already been announced, is a teenager, Blessed Nunzio Sulprizio, who died in Naples in 1836 at the age of 19 after a life of pain and suffering. This high church ceremony is taking place during the month-long synod of bishops in the Vatican, which has gathered over 200 bishops, including about 50 cardinals, and nearly 40 young people to discuss youth, faith and vocations.

Sulprizio was beatified — the first step to sainthood — by Pope Paul VI in 1963, and they will both become saints in the same ceremony.

PHOTO: The tomb of Pope Paul VI inside St Peters Basilica at the Vatican is pictured on Oct. 12, 2018.Fabbrica di San Pietro in Vaticano/Handout/AFP/Getty Images
The tomb of Pope Paul VI inside St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican is pictured on Oct. 12, 2018.

But the focus of many attending the ceremony will be on Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who was murdered in March 1980 while celebrating mass in his church. Nobody was ever convicted for the crime but strong evidence indicates he was assassinated by an extreme right-wing death squad.

Romero is already revered as a saint and hero by Catholics across the Americas and around the world.

A large crowd of about 7,000 Salvadorans have come to the Vatican for the vigil ceremony Saturday night and canonization ceremony Sunday. Celebrations are also planned in El Salvador and in other cities around the world especially in Los Angeles, which has the largest community of Salvadorans outside the country.

Romero is considered to be a hero of the church of the poor as he spoke out against social injustice and violence during a time of deep upheaval and divisions in his country. A crowd of more than 100,000 people were attending Romero’s funeral when the military fired on the crowd, killing dozens of mourners.

Romero’s sainthood cause, which was started in 1997, had been blocked for years during the papacies of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI by the Roman curia and South American cardinals for political and theological reasons.

Francis, the first Pope from the Americas, formally decreed in 2015 that Romero had been assassinated as a martyr and Romero was beatified in San Salvador in May of that year. Recognizing Romero as a martyr-saint will probably lead to the canonization of other murdered Latin American bishops including Enrique Angelelli, assassinated in 1976 during Argentina’s military dictatorship.

Both Pope Paul and Romero are very significant figures for the present Pontiff and Pope Paul VI was the pope during Romero’s life. He was also Pope during Francis’ youth and that of many of the older bishops and cardinals gathered in the Vatican for the synod.

Pope Paul VI is mainly remembered as the Pope who closed the Second Vatican Council in 1965, followed through with the reforms of the Catholic church and for his encyclical Humanae Vitae, published in 1968, which spelled out the Catholic position on birth control. He was also known for his attention to the church in Latin America and for his focus on helping the poor.

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