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Monday
Feb132017

Canadian prime minister makes first visit to Trump's White House

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived at the White House Monday, becoming the third world leader to meet with President Donald Trump face to face.

The two leaders couldn't be more different.

Trudeau, 45, is the son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. He began his career as a school teacher and advocate for youth and environmental issues before entering politics. Trump made his fortune as a real estate and media mogul.

As Trump received harsh criticism from U.S. allies for his heated and often divisive campaign rhetoric, Trudeau was coined the "anti-Trump" in several publications and on social media. While on the campaign trial, Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. Days later, Trudeau personally greeted dozens of Syrian immigrants in the Toronto International Airport.

"I don't think it comes as a surprise to anyone that I stand firmly against the politics of division, the politics of fear, the politics of intolerance or hateful rhetoric," Trudeau said in a town hall in December 2015 when asked about Trump's campaign rhetoric. "We need to remain focused on keeping our communities safe, keeping our communities united instead of trying to build walls and scapegoat communities."

The two leaders' differences set the stage for what could be a tense discussion over how to handle the Syrian refugee crisis and defense cooperation in the Middle East.

While president, Trump is battling a court ruling that stops his executive order banning most immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries. After issuing the order, Trudeau, without mentioning Trump's action directly, tweeted a pointed rebuke.

"To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada," the tweet read.

President Trump has said he wants to bring in to the U.S. a total of 50,000 refugees worldwide in 2017, down from 85,000 in Obama's final year in office. The Canadian government reports that Canada has taken in over 40,000 Syrian refugees since Nov. 4, 2015 alone.

If Trump's executive order on immigration is reinstated, the number of refugees the U.S. admits will decline, and admission of refugees from the seven majority-Muslim countries (including Syria) will be suspended for 120 days while security processes are reviewed.

While Trudeau may privately find Trump's order in opposition of the values of inclusiveness and openness he campaigned upon, the Canadian leader will have little choice but to seek close cooperation with the new administration on other issues, especially trade.

Throughout his campaign, candidate-Trump blasted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), calling it a "terrible deal, a total disaster for the United States from its inception."

As president, he has followed up on his promise to "renegotiate" or "withdraw" from the deal.

"We're redoing NAFTA, we're doing a lot of our trade deals, and we're negotiating properly with countries, even countries that are allies," Trump said on Feb. 2. "A lot of people taking advantage of us, a lot of countries taking advantage of us, really terribly taking advantage of us."

NAFTA, the trilateral trade agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., was negotiated by President George H. W. Bush, but passed through Congress and was signed into law under President Bill Clinton in 1994. It has gradually eliminated most tariffs on goods traded between the three countries and created one of the largest free trade zones in the world.

But ever since its implementation, the deal has been studied and debated as to how it has affected the American economy.

Studies have shown economists largely agree that NAFTA has produced benefits, which Trump say cost of American jobs.

In a 2012 survey of economic experts by the University of Chicago’s Initiative on Global Markets, all of them said they either "strongly agree," "agree," or are "uncertain" that U.S. citizens have been better off with NAFTA than they would have been if the trade rules for the U.S., Canada and Mexico prior to NAFTA had remained in place. None of the experts said they "disagreed" or "strongly disagreed."

A 2012 report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce commended the "remarkable results of NAFTA" for the rise in U.S. commerce with Canada and Mexico.

“U.S. trade in goods and services with Canada and Mexico rose from $337 billion in 1993 to $1.182 trillion in 2011. Each day, the United States conducts over $3.2 billion in trade with its North American neighbors,” stated in the report.

But while overall trade has greatly increased between the three nations, the U.S. has a significant trade deficit in goods with both of its neighbors.

In 2016, the deficit with Mexico was $63.2 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It was $11.2 billion with Canada (though the margin of that deficit is falling).

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a left-leaning think tank, said that the trade deficit is costing American jobs.

"By 2010, the U.S. had a trade deficit with Mexico that displaced 682,900 jobs," EPI said in a study.

Trump has cited the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico as a reason for wanting to scrap NAFTA.

"You say, who negotiates these deals?" Trump asked crowds at a rally in Philadelphia days after his inauguration. "Not to mention, millions of jobs and thousands and thousands of factories and plants closing down all over our country."

Trudeau, who has defended free trade, has said he is open to discussing a renegotiation of NAFTA with the U.S.

But any renegotiation of the deal will take months if not years. So far the Trump administration has not laid out specific plans for how the deal may be changed. How it is altered will determine if Congress has to get involved.

Trump has already met with top House and Senate members who deal with financial issues including trade and tax reform. A spokesman for Trudeau confirmed in January that meetings between Canadian officials and Trump's advisers about renegotiating NAFTA have already occurred.

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Monday
Feb132017

Duchess Kate coloring book goes on sale at Kensington Palace

Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images(LONDON) -- A new coloring book featuring Duchess Kate has hit the bookshelves at the Kensington Palace gift shop. The $7.50 book, which includes 31 photos of Kate, capitalizes on the coloring craze sweeping not only kids but adults.

The front cover of Colour in Kate describes the book as, "Pretty pictures of the divine Duchess to colour and complete."

Among the images in the coloring book are highlights from Prince William and Kate's travels and various royal engagements. One illustration features Kate, 35, walking with family dog Lupo, and another shows William and Kate on their 2012 trip to Tuvalu in the Solomon Islands.

William shared last December that Kate herself often colors to unwind. William revealed the secret pastime of his wife to illustrator and author Johanna Basford at an investiture at Buckingham Palace, explaining that Kate likes to color in Secret Garden, Basford's first coloring book that has sold more than one million copies.

Kate is an outspoken supporter of the arts and has made arts education and art therapy for struggling children one of the cornerstones of her charitable work. She received her degree in art history with honors from St. Andrews University, where she and William met and fell in love.

The new book is illustrated by Georgie Fearns. It features Kate's fashion looks in addition to her royal engagements and encourages users to, "complete these stunning scenes and add colour to Kate’s wonderful wardrobe."

The book also has a companion sticker book called, Dress Up Kate, that contains 50 stickers featuring the Duchess of Cambridge.

Colour in Kate is published by Buster Books. Proceeds from the sales of the book at the Kensington Palace gift shop will help raise funds for Historic Royal Palaces, the charity responsible for Kensington Palace.

Historic Royal Palaces also operates tours of the public part of Kensington Palace and the grounds. Later this month, the charity is launching "Diana: Her Fashion Story," a dress exhibition featuring some of Princess Diana's most iconic styles.

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Sunday
Feb122017

North Korea Launches Ballistic Missile Test

iStock/Thinkstock(PYONGYANG, North Korea) -- North Korea fired off a ballistic missile into the East Sea from Banghyeon North Pyongan Province early Sunday, according to South Korean officials.

South Korea's military is analyzing exactly what type of missile it was but there's a strong possibility that it was a midrange Musudan type, according to officials.

North Korea has test fired a total of eight Musudans, but only one was successful last June.

South Korea's joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile flew about 310 miles. Estimates vary over how far this mobile intermediate-range ballistic missile could travel, but at its best the Musudan would be able to reach U.S. military bases in Guam.

Analysts in Seoul have been expecting some sort of military provocation ahead of late Kim Jong-il's birthday on February 16 and the largest ever joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea scheduled to begin in two weeks.

South Korea's presidential Blue House says the presidential security director Kim Kwan Jin has spoken with President Donald Trump's national security adviser Michael Flynn over the phone following North Korea's missile test launch.

According to the statement, the two officials strongly condemned the launch and agreed that the countries will explore every possible way to suppress North Korean provocations.

The launch today comes only two days after President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe strongly urged North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and not to take any further provocative actions.

 In a brief joint statement with Trump at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, Saturday night, Abe called the missile launch "absolutely intolerable."

"North Korea must fully comply with the relevant U.N. security council resolutions," he said.

Abe, who has spent the weekend with Trump in South Florida and had private meetings today, said that he and the president were dedicated to working together and strengthening their alliance.

Trump echoed the Japanese prime minister, saying, "The United States of America stands behind Japan a great ally 100 percent, thank you." Trump gave no further remarks, and neither leaders answered questions from the press corps.

U.S. Strategic Command spokesman Lt. Colonel Martin O’Donnell said the North Korean missile was a medium or intermediate range ballistic missile. It was not an ICBM as North Korea had warned in early January it was close to testing.

O’Donnell told ABC News that they are still assessing what type of missile was launched. A Musudan is an intermediate-range ballistic missile, but it could have also been a medium-range ballistic missile, he said.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary said the missile did not land in Japanese territorial seas. Yoshihide Suga said that Abe was notified and ordered that intelligence be gathered about what had occurred, and to check on the safety of navigation of flights and ships.

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Sunday
Feb122017

Thousands of Protesters March in Mexico Against President Trump

Manuel Velasquez/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(MEXICO CITY) -- Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in more than a dozen cities in Mexico on Sunday to protest against U.S. President Donald Trump.

Demonstrators said it was a moment to show the country was united against the president's immigration policies and border wall plans, according to BBC, amid a recent crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

"It should not be forgotten that American society was made by migrants and continues to be made by migrants," Maria Amparo Cassar, one of the protesters, said to BBC.

The marches were also an opportunity to protest against Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, the protesters said, for not reducing violence in the country, BBC reports.

President Trump's pledge to build a border wall that Mexico would foot the bill for has been a source of controversy since he was on the campaign trail. Nieto has refused to pay for the wall, saying, "Mexico does not believe in walls."

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Saturday
Feb112017

Hundreds More Whales Stranded On Remote New Zealand Beach

MARTY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty Images(WELLINGTON, New Zealand) -- As rescuers worked to help hundreds of beached whales back to sea in New Zealand, over 200 more arrived on Saturday.

On Thursday, a group of 416 whales came ashore on Farewell Spit at the top of South Island, and more than 300 of those pilot whales have died, according to BBC.

Volunteers were able to refloat about 100 of the whales on Saturday, but hundreds more made landfall the same day, BBC reports. The rescue workers are trying to keep the whales alive by cooling them with water and keeping them upright.

Rochelle Constantine, a marine biologist at the University of Auckland, told Television New Zealand (TVNZ) it is the third largest mass stranding ever recorded in the country's history.

It is not yet clear what caused the mass stranding, but one theory suggests sharks are driving the whales to land, according to BBC.

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Saturday
Feb112017

Rockets Hit Baghdad's Green Zone After Deadly Protests

Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(BAGHDAD) -- Several rockets hit Iraq's capital on Saturday just hours after at least five people were killed and multiple others injured in violent protests at Baghdad's Green Zone.

There were no reports of casualties after the rocket attack, according to BBC, and it was not immediately clear who fired the missiles.

Earlier Saturday, protesters were demanding changes to the country's electoral commission, which demonstrators said is not independent of political parties, according to BBC. They attempted to storm the highly fortified Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign embassies, but clashed with police who fired tear gas and used rubber bullets.

Many of the people at the protest are supporters of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who believes the commission is corrupt, BBC reports.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered an investigation into the circumstances of the protest.

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Saturday
Feb112017

President Trump Phones Iraqi PM About Travel Ban

ABC News(WASHINGTON) --  President Trump phoned Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi on Thursday night amid an increasingly strained bilateral relationship following Trump’s executive order travel ban last month.

Iraq was on the list of seven Muslim-majority countries whose citizens were temporarily banned from entering the United States as a result of the controversial order. But according to an official readout of Thursday's call from the Iraqi prime minister’s office, the two world leaders may be finding some common ground.

 "The prime minister stressed the importance of a review of the decision on the right of Iraqis to travel to the United States and lift Iraq from the list of countries mentioned in the executive order,” read the statement from Al-Abadi’s office. “And Mr. Trump stressed the importance of coordination to find a solution to this issue as soon as possible and that he will direct the U.S. State Department in this regard."

The prime minister’s office says that Trump once again asked that Al-Abadi visit him in the U.S., although it was not made clear if the invitation was accepted.

The readout from the Iraqi side said that Trump and Al-Abadi also discussed strengthening the relationship between the U.S. and Iraq following the executive order.

According to the prime minister’s office, President Trump congratulated Al-Abadi on “leading the war on terror."

It was not made clear if the two leaders spoke prior to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimous decision on Thursday that denied the U.S. Department of Justice’s bid for an emergency stay of a lower court's decision that has temporarily halted Trump's executive order.

The White House did not provide a readout of the phone call.

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Friday
Feb102017

Top Democrats Call For Flynn's Suspension over Allegations He Talked Sanctions with Russian Envoy

iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- At least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are calling for President Donald Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, to be suspended in the wake of allegations that he discussed the U.S. sanctions against Russia in a conversation with Moscow's ambassador to the U.S. ahead of Trump’s inauguration.

The allegations raise "serious questions of legality and fitness for office," the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, said in a statement Friday. If the allegations are proven true, Flynn "should no longer serve in this administration or any other."

Another top Democrat, Rep. Eric Swalwell, also of California, said Flynn should step aside while the allegations are looked into.

"The White House should immediately SUSPEND National Security Advisor Flynn & REVOKE access to classified information until investigated," Swalwell said in a statement online.

ABC News has confirmed that in the weeks before the inauguration, Flynn discussed the sanctions issue with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, though current and former U.S. officials were not able to say whether those discussions included any promises to lift sanctions. The Washington Post first reported Thursday that Flynn discussed the sanctions with Kislyak during a series of phone calls in December.

The latest claims conflict with repeated denials by Flynn and other senior members of the Trump administration that Flynn had discussed the sanctions issue during the calls.

Some of the U.S. officials, who headed government agencies at the time of the calls, told the Post they were concerned there may have been an inappropriate and potentially illegal attempt by Flynn to reassure the Kremlin on sanctions as the Obama administration was imposing measures against Russia in retaliation for allegedly intervening in the U.S. presidential election.

Flynn has denied the claims, which ABC News has so far been unable to verify independently, saying initially the two had only exchanged Christmas greetings and discussed plans for a phone call between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sean Spicer, now the White House press secretary, told reporters last month, "They exchanged logistical information on how to initiate and schedule that call. That was it. Plain and simple." Spicer later told ABC News that Kislyak had called to invite the U.S. to talks on the Syrian conflict that were held in Kazakhstan recently.

Flynn this week denied again that sanctions came up, but on Friday the White House appeared to be moving back from the denial: A senior administration official told ABC News that Flynn doesn’t recall any discussion of sanctions ever coming up with Kislyak, but isn’t completely certain.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed that Flynn spoke by phone with Kislyak but said reports that they had discussed sanctions were "wrong."

The questions over Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak were first raised in early January. Spicer told reporters that Flynn and the Russian ambassador talked by phone on Dec. 28. Spicer later told ABC News he misspoke and the call was on Dec. 29, the same day that President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S. and closed a handful of Russian diplomatic facilities as punishment for the alleged Kremlin meddling.

Concerns were raised by some administration officials that Flynn may have sought to undermine those sanctions in his call with Kislyak. After the expulsions, the Kremlin unusually declined a tit-for-tat response, instead inviting American diplomats in Moscow to a children’s Christmas party.

The Trump administration has backed Flynn’s story.

In an interview last month, Vice President Mike Pence told CBS: “They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.” A senior administration official told ABC News that Pence's information on the case had come from speaking with Flynn directly.

The White House's story on what the two did discuss has developed since the communications were first reported, with Spicer most recently saying four topics were discussed: the crash of a Russian military plane carrying an army choir on Christmas day, holiday greetings, the invitation to the Syrian talks and a potential Trump-Putin phone-call.

According to the Post, the FBI is examining Flynn’s communications with Kislyak. U.S. officials have said Flynn’s calls with Kislayk were picked up as part of routine surveillance of the Russian diplomat. According to the Post, further communications between Flynn and Kislyak were also conducted in person and by text message, details of which contradict the administration's statements on them so far.

The Post and The New York Times have reported that another FBI investigation is also looking into possible contacts between three members of Trump's campaign team during the election. The White House has denied being aware that any such investigation is underway. A senior administration official told ABC News last month that the White House has “absolutely no knowledge of any investigation or even a basis for such an investigation.”

Some of the officials in the Post story stressed the Obama administration was divided over how to interpret the calls. Several of the officials “emphasized that while sanctions were discussed, they did not see evidence that Flynn had an intent to convey an explicit promise to take action after the inauguration," the Post said.

The Logan Act, the law which Flynn is accused of potentially violating, forbids U.S. citizens from interfering in foreign policy.

The administration’s contacts with Russia are under scrutiny after U.S. intelligence concluded that the Kremlin had intervened in the elections to help Trump and harm his Democrat opponent, Hillary Clinton. A declassified report from the Director of National Intelligence in December found Russia had used cyberattacks and propaganda to try to undermine American democracy and to tilt the balance in favor of Trump.

A broad Senate investigation is currently underway into the alleged interference; it is not clear whether the FBI’s investigation of Flynn is part of that.

Flynn’s attitude to Russia specifically has attracted criticism from some Democrats and Republicans, in particular a 2015 trip to Moscow to speak at an anniversary conference for the Russian propaganda network, Russia Today, where he dined at a table with Putin.

Publicly, including at the Moscow conference, Flynn has suggested he believes the U.S. should work with Russia to combat radical Islamic terrorism, which he has described as a “cancer.”

Congressional Democrats have written a letter to the Pentagon requesting more details on Flynn’s Moscow trip, seeking information on payments he received for speaking at the Russia Today conference.

“It is extremely concerning that General Flynn chose to accept payment for appearing at a gala hosted by the propaganda arm of the Russian government, which attacked the United States in an effort to undermine our election,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wrote in the Feb. 1 letter.

Flynn has acknowledged that he was paid for speaking in Moscow, telling the Washington Post the invitation came through his speakers bureau.


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Friday
Feb102017

Mexico Government Warns of 'New Reality' for Mexicans in US After Deportation of Undocumented Mother in Arizona 

iStock/Thinkstock(MEXICO CITY) -- The Mexican government has issued a warning that the Mexican community in the U.S. faces "a new reality" after the deportation of a mother of teenage children from Arizona.

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, who was an undocumented immigrant but the mother of two American-born children, was deported Thursday -- just one day after she presented herself for a previously scheduled check-in with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Phoenix.

The mother was separated from her teenage children, who vowed to keep fighting for her at an emotional news conference on Thursday evening.

"The case of Mrs. Garcia de Rayos illustrates the new reality that the Mexican community lives in the United States, faced with the most severe application of immigration control measures," Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement in Spanish Friday.

"For this reason, the entire Mexican community is encouraged to take precautions and to maintain contact with your closest consulate to obtain the necessary help to confront a situation of this type," the ministry added. "It is important that nationals familiarize themselves with the distinct scenarios that they can confront and know where to turn to receive updated information and to know all of their rights."

The ministry also noted that the Mexican government, its embassy in the U.S. and the consular network there would "continue to provide assistance and protection to all Mexicans who require it regardless of their immigration status."

According to the Arizona Republic, Garcia de Rayos was arrested in 2008 during a workplace raid and convicted in 2009 of felony criminal impersonation. She had been using a false social security number to remain in the U.S.

Her lawyers told ABC's Phoenix affiliate, KNXV, that the raid was subsequently ruled unconstitutional. Court documents obtained by KNVX also show that Garcia had previously been ordered to self-deport.

Rights organizations have pointed to language within Trump's executive order called "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States," as having led to Garcia's deportation and other like her.

"We cannot faithfully execute the immigration laws of the United States if we exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. The purpose of this order is to direct executive departments and agencies (agencies) to employ all lawful means to enforce the immigration laws of the United States," the order reads.

On Thursday, the White House deferred comment on the case calling it "an ICE matter."

ICE said that, "Ms. Garcia, who has a prior felony conviction in Arizona for criminal impersonation, was the subject of a court-issued removal order that became final in July 2013," in a statement on Thursday.

"Ms. Garcia’s immigration case underwent review at multiple levels of the immigration court system, including the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the judges held she did not have a legal basis to remain in the U.S.," the agency added. "ICE will continue to focus on identifying and removing individuals with felony convictions who have final orders of removal issued by the nation’s immigration courts."

Puente Arizona, an activist group that describes itself as a migrant justice organization, led a protest in front of the ICE office in Phoenix on Wednesday night, and a group spokesman confirmed to ABC News that they also had people demonstrating Thursday.

Phoenix Police Sgt. John Howard confirmed to ABC News on Thursday that seven people were arrested and charged with obstructing governmental operations and obstructing a public thoroughfare.

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Friday
Feb102017

Rescuers Race to Save Hundreds of Whales Stranded on New Zealand Beach

iStock/Thinkstock(WELLINGTON, New Zealand) -- More than 400 pilot whales have become beached along a remote New Zealand beach, and it’s now a race against time to save them.

A group of 416 whales came ashore on Farewell Spit at the tip of the South Island in one of the country’s worst strandings on record. About 75 percent of them had died by the time they were discovered Friday morning, according to Television New Zealand (TVNZ).

"This is the third largest mass stranding that we've recorded in our history and so, it's a very large one, logistically it's a massive undertaking,” Rochelle Constantine, a marine biologist at the University of Auckland, told the state-owned broadcaster.

In 1918 about 1,000 pilot whales were stranded on the Chatham Islands, according to Constantine. In 1985, some 450 whales beached themselves in Auckland.

Hundreds of volunteers and staff members of New Zealand’s Department of Conservation spent Friday forming a human chain to keep the stranded whales alive and help them refloat, a term that refers to helping the whales float in the water during high tide, according to TVNZ.

"It's amazing. I met people from all over the world," one volunteer told TVNZ.

People clad in wet-suits were seen covering the whales with cloths, pouring buckets of water on them and even singing to the aquatic mammals that could be heard softly whimpering.

Rescuers so far have been able to refloat about half of the survivors at Farewell Spit, which has been the site of previous mass strandings, according to TVNZ. But it’s a long wait between low and high tide for the dozens of remaining beached whales.

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