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Wednesday
Mar222017

Parliament member seen aiding victim of London terror attack

Davis McCardle/iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- A member of British parliament is being hailed as a hero after he was seen aiding a victim of a terror attack near London's Westminster Bridge.

MP Tobias Ellwood, a foreign office junior minister, was pictured with a bloody face after he attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on an injured police officer on the bridge, the BBC reported.

Photos show Ellwood, 50, crouched over the victim as first responders surrounded them.

Four people are dead, including the possible assailant, and at least another 20 are injured from the attack, which authorities have called an act of terrorism.

The attack began when a car struck pedestrians and three police officers on the Westminster Bridge, a popular tourist destination in London near the River Thames and the Houses of Parliament.

The car then crashed nearby, and at least one man armed with a knife attacked an officer who was guarding Parliament, police said.

The suspect, who is believed to have acted alone, was shot and killed by police.

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Wednesday
Mar222017

Eyewitnesses describe a chaotic scene after London terror attack

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Witnesses to a terrorist attack in which an assailant apparently plowed a car into pedestrians and an officer was stabbed near the Houses of Parliament in London described a chaotic scene Wednesday afternoon, with injured people lying sprawled in all directions.

At least one victim was killed in the attack, according to the BBC.

More details about what transpired are not yet known, but Richard Price, an eyewitness, told ABC News that he saw police steering people away from the area where the attack took place.

Another eyewitness told the BBC that someone driving a car on Westminster Bridge appeared to hit bystanders and that paramedics were treating people on the ground.

British lawmaker Grant Shapps said on Twitter that he was walking through the cloisters of the House of Commons and heard "four gunshots."

Radoslaw Sikorski, a former foreign minister of Poland, posted a video on Twitter that seems to show people lying injured in the road on Westminster Bridge.

Sikorski, now a senior fellow at Harvard's Center for European Studies, wrote, "A car on Westminster Bridge has just mowed down at least 5 people."

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Wednesday
Mar222017

Brussels honors victims of 'inconceivable' terror attacks year later

iStock/Thinkstock(BRUSSELS) -- A year after three Islamic State suicide bombers attacked the Brussels airport and a metro station, the city on Wednesday observed a moment of silence to remember the victims, in addition to unveiling powerful tributes.

One such tribute, a sculpture titled "Wounded but Still Standing in Front of the Inconceivable," was built from two 66-foot-long horizontal platforms that bend into the air.

Another statue, “Flight in Mind,” a sculpture by Olivier Strebelle, was once housed in the departure hall at Brussels Airport, and was damaged during the attacks, according to The Brussels Times.

That statue was restored and received a grand unveiling Wednesday on the first anniversary of the violence.

The March 22 attacks were the deadliest terror attacks in the country's history.

Thirty-two people died and over 300 were injured in three bombings that took place on that Tuesday morning.

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Wednesday
Mar222017

Little girl from Atlanta snatches pope's skullcap

Mountain Butorac/Twitter(ROME) -- Three-year-old Estella Westrick almost snagged an impressive souvenir on her first visit to Italy: Pope Francis' skullcap.

She snatched his skullcap, also known as a zucchetto, when he leaned in to give her a kiss on the cheek after his Wednesday audience in Vatican City.

Mountain Butorac, who posted a video of the encounter on Twitter, told ABC News that Estella is his goddaughter and that she and her family were visiting from Atlanta.

Butorac lives in Rome and runs a Catholic tour company, the Catholic Traveler.

Francis took the incident in stride and can be seen laughing in the video.

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Wednesday
Mar222017

North Korea conducts failed missile launch

iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL, South Korea) — North Korea fired a test missile Wednesday morning, but the launch failed, U.S. and South Korean officials have confirmed.

"U.S. Pacific Command detected what we assess was a failed North Korean missile launch attempt the morning of March 22 in Korea (12:49 PM Hawaii-time,) in the vicinity of Kalma," said Commander David Benham, a spokesman for U.S. Pacific Command. "A missile appears to have exploded within seconds of launch. We are working with our Interagency partners on a more detailed assessment. We continue to monitor North Korea's actions closely."

South Korea's Ministry of Defense also confirmed the failed launch. A ministry spokesman initially said four missiles were fired, but he later corrected that figure, saying it was one missile.

The North Korea missile was launched near Kalma in eastern Wonsan Province, where North Korea has previously attempted to launch its mobile-launched Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile.

U.S. officials said that in recent days, activity had been apparent in Wonsan Province indicating that another possible Musudan missile launch was likely.

Believed to have a minimum range of 1,500 miles, the missile is of concern to U.S. officials because mobile-launched missiles are hard to track and can be fired on short notice.

But North Korea has not had much success in testing the missile: seven of eight Musudan launches last year were spectacular failures.

U.S. officials have still not made an assessment of what type of missile was fired in the latest launch.

In February, North Korea launched a new solid-fueled rocket missile that traveled 310 miles into the Sea of Japan. That launch occurred during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit with President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

The launch drew a sharp rebuke from both leaders, but attention-grabbing photos soon appeared showing aides prepping both leaders about the missile launch while they were at dinner.

In March, four North Korean medium-range SCUD type missiles traveled their maximum range of more than 600 miles into the Sea of Japan. Three of the missiles landed in waters belonging to Japan’s Economic Exclusion Zone that extends 200 miles from its shoreline. Japanese territorial waters extend 12 miles from shore.

During a visit to South Korea last week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signaled a more aggressive approach to North Korea's missile and nuclear program, including the possibility of pre-emptive military action.

"All options are on the table," particularly if North Korea continues making advances in its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons technologies, Tillerson said last week at a news conference in Seoul.

"If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table," the top U.S. diplomat said in a comment widely interpreted to refer to the possibility of pre-emptive military force.

North Korea has stated that its goal is to develop a nuclear device small enough to be placed on a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States.

But Tillerson later indicated that the first step would be additional unilateral U.S. sanctions for North Korea or the full implementation of sanctions imposed by existing United Nations Security Council resolutions.

And on Tuesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer described the North Korean threat as "grave and escalating," and a National Security Council official told a nuclear conference that the administration is conducting a high-priority review of North Korea policy.


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Wednesday
Mar222017

Chinese park uses facial recognition to dispense toilet paper

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(BEIJING) — There was a time when you weren’t allowed to squeeze the Charmin, now you’re lucky if you get any.

Park authorities in Beijing have installed toilet paper dispensers with facial recognition technology at the Temple of Heaven Park to prevent theft and waste.

According to the BBC, machines at the park scan visitors' faces before dispensing a fixed length strip of paper. Signs indicate visitors must remove their glasses and hats before being scanned.

The machines then dispense strips of toilet paper measuring about 24 to 27.5 inches. Additional paper will not be dispensed to the same person until nine minutes have passed.

What inspired the Chinese to do this? Media outlets in China reported that visitors to the bathrooms at the Temple of Heaven were taking excessive amounts of toilet paper, with some even taking rolls home in their bags, a problem the park has had since it began dispensing free toilet paper in 2007.

The daily use of toilet paper in the park has dropped by 20 percent, which is part of the plan. Mercifully, officials are not heartless. A park spokesman told the Beijing Evening News, "If we encounter guests who have diarrhea or any other situation in which they urgently require toilet paper, then our staff on the ground will directly provide the toilet paper.”

Six machines have been installed for a half-month trial. Staff remains on standby to explain the technology to visitors.

Additionally, the park upgraded the toilet paper from one-ply to two-ply.

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Tuesday
Mar212017

US hosting 68 countries for major anti-ISIS summit

US State Department(WASHINGTON) -- More than two years into the fight against ISIS, the U.S. is set to convene the largest gathering of the coalition it amassed to take on the terror group.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will play host Wednesday as foreign ministers from all 68 countries in the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS descend on Washington -- the first time representatives from every country have met since December 2014.

The meeting will focus on reviewing the progress that has been made against the terror group and “accelerating” efforts to defeat and destroy the group in Iraq and Syria, including disrupting their financing and the flow of foreign fighters.

The coalition will also discuss ways to put pressure on the terror groups that claim affiliation with ISIS, in countries like Libya and Egypt, and to deal with those foreign fighters who may return to their home countries as the terror group’s hold on territory falls apart.

Attendees include America’s western allies like the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, as well as regional partners like Iraq, Turkey, and Jordan, and other key allies like Japan, Australia, and Afghanistan. Joining the meetings in the afternoon will be Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has overseen a review of the U.S. strategy against ISIS for the White House, and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi will address the group, as well.

The State Department would not say if any other senior Trump officials would attend, including from the White House, but two months into its term, ministers will be looking to the new administration for its plans.

Coalition forces are making steady progress in Mosul, Iraq, right now as they fight to push ISIS out of its last major stronghold in the country. Across the border in Syria, U.S. Special Forces are assisting Syrian rebels, Kurdish groups, and Turkish armed forces as they prepare for an assault on Raqqa, the terror group’s de facto capital.

The State Department heralded the progress and said the ministers’ summit will look for ways to sustain those battlefield victories and permanently expel ISIS from Iraq and Syria.

“Everyone recognizes there’s been significant progress in the past year, especially. We’ve seen gains made against ISIS across the board, whether it’s in Syria, but certainly in Iraq, liberations of large areas that they previously held,” said State Department acting spokesperson Mark Toner, adding that the summit is “a way to accelerate and focus more on how we can accelerate our efforts.”

What “acceleration” looks like is still unclear, but Sec. Tillerson “will come with new ideas and new approaches and a new way of looking at how to defeat ISIS,” promised Toner.

The Trump administration has previously floated sending more troops to Syria, enforcing safe zones in the country for civilians displaced by the fighting, and coordinating with Russia to target terrorists.

Russia is not part of the Global Coalition and will not be present at the summit.

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Tuesday
Mar212017

Prince Harry follows in Princess Diana's footsteps, visits HIV charity

ABC News.(NEW YORK) -- Prince Harry followed in the footsteps of his mother, Princess Diana, today, visiting an HIV charity in Leicester, England, that Diana visited in 1991.

Harry, 32, spent time at the Leicester AIDS Support service (LASS) which provides vital support to those living with AIDS or affected by AIDS. The charity is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Harry paused to look at several photos of his late mother at the center. The fifth-in-line to the British throne is often called the "People's Prince" for his passionate devotion to children and his efforts to reduce the stigma around HIV and AIDS, just as his mother did.

Harry spoke movingly at LASS about HIV/AIDS and warned people about the consequences of silence.

"It cannot be acceptable that the first time young people know what HIV is when they catch it,” he said.

Harry took an AIDS test last December alongside music star Rihanna to encourage young people to get tested and show them how easy the simple pin prick test is to complete. In July, Harry attended the 2016 International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, with Sir Elton John and implored his generation to act.

“When my mother held the hand of a man dying of AIDS, no one imagined a quarter century later, HIV positive people would live full healthy loving lives," Harry told the audience in South Africa.

Harry also visited a school in Leicester that runs the Yes You Can project to help students reach their potential. Harry encouraged kids and mentors struggling to not give up during the challenging periods of adolescence and discussed the additional challenges kids often face from the pressures of social media and the internet.

“Never give up teamwork because you can never do anything by yourself,” he told the students. “Learn from your mistakes. It is OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and learn from others. There is so much you can do.”

Harry joined in a game of "football-volleyball" while visiting Pink Lizard, an organization that uses sports to build confidence in kids.

Harry’s engagements have not prevented him from spending time with new love, actress Meghan Markle. Harry and Markle, 35, have barely been apart for more than two weeks at a time since the start of the year.

Harry arranged a private date night with Markle on Sunday to London's Natural History Museum after the museum closed.

The museum is one of the most beautiful buildings in London and a favorite of the royal family. Harry's sister-in-law, Princess Kate, is royal patron of the museum and a frequent visitor with Prince William and their young son, Prince George.

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Tuesday
Mar212017

Ex-Trump campaign manager faces new allegations from Ukraine

iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- A Ukrainian lawmaker Tuesday said he has fresh proof that President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, received illegal, off-the-books payments from the country’s toppled pro-Russian president.

Coming a day after the FBI confirmed it is investigating potential links between Trump’s presidential campaign and alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, it revives a saga that has drawn intense scrutiny of Manafort's possible connections with Moscow through Ukraine that appeared to force him to resign as Trump's adviser in the summer.

Serhiy Leshchenko, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, presented in a news conference in Kiev Tuesday morning what he alleged was a contract showing Manafort had received $750,000 in a fake deal from a company connected to the party of former president Viktor Yanukovych.

Leshchenko said the allegedly phony deal, which he says channeled money through offshore accounts, was meant to conceal what was in reality an illegal payment for Manafort’s work as a political consultant for Yanukovych.

Leshchenko said the contract, which he says bears Manafort’s signature and company stamp, provides potential proof of allegations first raised by investigators in August that Manafort may have received illegal cash from Yanukovych, who is accused by Ukrainian prosecutors of large-scale corruption.

Manafort denied the allegations at the time, and a spokesman told ABC News Tuesday, referring to the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine, “The allegations against Paul Manafort are baseless, as reflected by the numerous statements from NABU officials who have questioned the validity of the so-called ledger evidence against Mr. Manafort. Any new allegations by Serhiy Leshchenko should be seen in that light and summarily dismissed.”

Leshchenko on Tuesday published scans of the alleged contract, but ABC News was unable to immediately verify the documents' authenticity.

His allegations return the spotlight to a corruption inquiry that appeared to cost Manafort his job last year. The case threw attention then onto the time that Manafort spent advising Yanukovych, whom Moscow for years backed as its preferred leader for Ukraine, highlighting the ex-Trump adviser’s long, tangled history with the region’s elites.

Manafort’s name turned up last August in what Ukrainian anti-corruption investigators have called the “black ledger,” a handwritten accounting book they say details the illegal secret payments of Yanukovych’s political party, the Party of Regions, discovered in the party's ransacked offices after the country’s 2014 revolution.

After The New York Times broke that story, Leshchenko published pages he said were from the ledger that included the entries where Manafort’s name appeared alongside alleged payments. Amid intense media scrutiny, Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign. But he has denied that he ever received any of the payments mentioned in the ledger and argues the records are fake.

Leshchenko, however, now says the new contract potentially offers proof Manafort received the illegal cash. The five-page contract printed on a letter-head for Manafort's political consultancy firm, Davis Manafort, promises to deliver 501 computers to the firm Neocom Systems Limited that is registered in Belize, in return for $750,000. The document is signed with a signature that resembled copies of Manafort's available in open sources.

The contract's date and amount to be paid match one of the payments recorded next to Manafort’s name in the ledger: for the same amount $750,000, dated Oct. 9, 2014.

Leshchenko says the contract itself is highly suspicious, asking why Manafort, a political consultant, would be involved in supplying computers. The payment setup is also suspect, he says: Payment for the computers comes from a bank, AsiaUniversalBank, located in the central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan and that was seized in 2012 by regulators over widespread money laundering allegations. The bank has been linked to numerous money-laundering schemes involving offshore companies involving Ukraine and Russia.

Leshchenko alleges the computers were never delivered and that the supposed contract was cover to allow Yanukovych to pay Manafort from his party's illegal slush fund. The suspicious setup of the alleged payment means it should be investigated by Ukrainian and U.S. law enforcement, Leshchenko said.

He called on the FBI specifically to investigate Manafort because the contract contains a U.S. bank account number where Manafort purportedly received the payment, registered to an address in Alexandria, Virginia.

"Ukrainian law enforcement bodies "are not able to get this information about banking secrets," Leshchenko said in the news conference. "And we know that the FBI can get this information. This is the jurisdiction of the FBI and I believe that this investigation will be done by American law enforcement bodies and we will support this."

Manafort worked for years as a political consultant to Yanukovych and his party, credited by party representatives with engineering Yanukovych’s comeback after he was pushed from the presidency for a first time by pro-Western protests during Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004. After Yanukovych was toppled in Ukraine’s second revolution in 2014 and fled to Russia, Manafort has said he no longer works with the Party of Regions or its post-revolutionary successor.

Manafort has also done business with one of Russia's richest men, Oleg Deripaska, an influential metals magnet. The two eventually fell out.

Manafort’s unusual connections with major powerbrokers in Ukraine and Russia have prompted Trump’s opponents to seize on him as one of the most likely potential points of contact with the Russian government.

FBI director James Comey Monday confirmed at a House Intelligence Committee hearing that the agency is probing possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign. The New York Times has reported that Manafort is one of four Trump associates under investigation by the FBI, citing anonymous officials.

Manafort has called the allegations against him baseless and politically motivated, and said he has not been informed by U.S. authorities of any investigation.

“I had no role or involvement in the cyberattack on the DNC [Democratic National Committee] or the subsequent release of information gained from the attack, and I have never spoken with any Russian government officials or anyone who claimed to have been involved in the attack,” Manafort told ABC News Monday in response to Comey’s testimony. “The suggestion that I ever worked in concert with anyone to release hacked emails or sought to undermine the interests of the United States is false.”

Doubts have arisen around the case involving the Ukrainian “black ledger,” which has become the subject of a murky political battle within Ukraine itself. There have been suggestions that Ukrainian politicians, worried by Trump’s friendly statements toward Russia, had released it last summer with the goal of harming his campaign.

Ukraine’s anticorruption bureau, however, has not suggested it doubts the ledger is real and one case has already been submitted to court based on the ledger’s evidence.

Leschenko said the new documents had been found by tenants in Manafort’s former office in Kiev and passed to him in January.

Whether Manafort is actually subject to an investigation in Ukraine is still unclear. The anti-corruption bureau has said it is investigating the ledger as a whole, and that it is, therefore, looking at how Manafort’s name appeared there. But it has refused to say whether there is an investigation targeting him specifically.

CNN reported last week that Ukrainian law enforcement officials have for months submitted requests to the FBI for assistance in questioning Manafort but that those requests have so far gone unanswered. U.S. authorities confirmed to CNN that the requests were made but declined to comment further. FBI director Comey declined to comment on the case when asked about it at Monday’s congressional hearing.

Leshchenko on Tuesday said he could not comment on whether U.S. authorities had reached out to him about the new documents.

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Tuesday
Mar212017

UK follows US' lead, bans large electronics from certain flights

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- The United Kingdom is now banning many electronic devices from being carried on certain flights.

The move comes hours after the U.S. enacted an emergency directive banning passengers from carrying electronic items bigger than a cellphone onboard flights from eight Middle Eastern and African countries.

"The Prime Minister has chaired a number of meetings on aviation security over the last few weeks, including this morning, where it was agreed that new aviation security measures on all inbound direct flights to the UK from the following countries will be introduced: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia," a statement Tuesday from the British prime minister's office reads.

Downing Street said it has "been in close touch with the Americans to fully understand their position." In fact, the rules for flights into the U.K. from the aforementioned countries are similar to those implented by the U.S.

"Under the new arrangements, passengers boarding flights to the UK from the countries affected will not be allowed to take any phones, laptops or tablets larger than a normal sized mobile or smart phone (larger than Length: 16.0cm, Width: 9.3cm, Depth: 1.5cm) into the cabin of the plane," Downing Street said. "Any such devices will need to be placed into hold luggage and checked-in before going through central security."

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