ABC - World News
Subscribe To This Feed

ANNECORDON/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer said before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday that the U.S. is ready to place more tariffs on China if it can't agree to a new trade deal.

“The economic trade relationship with China has been unbalanced and grossly unfair to American workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses for decades,” Lighthizer told the committee. “We put tariffs on certain Chinese products, and are preparing to do more if certain issues cannot be resolved satisfactorily.”

It’s the first time Lighthizer — the chief U.S. negotiator on China — spoke with lawmakers after trade talks between the U.S. and China broke down late last month.

Talks between the two nations are expected to resume when Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet at the G-20 Summit in Japan next week.

For months now, the world’s two largest economies have engaged in trade disputes that have put financial markets on edge.

“Had a very good telephone conversation with President Xi of China,” Trump announced on Twitter. “We will be having an extended meeting next week at the G-20 in Japan. Our respective teams will begin talks prior to our meeting.”

Markets immediately surged at that news. Earlier this year, President Trump announced tariffs on $250 billion dollars of Chinese goods. The Chinese retaliated with a counter tariff on $110 billion worth of U.S. goods.

“We have an untenable situation with China one that should have been addressed, frankly, a couple of decades ago,” Lighthizer told senators. “It's a long history of them violating the norms of intellectual property moving forward and making promises and not keeping their promises.

Lighthizer pressed senators to take action on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USCMA) that's meant to replace NAFTA. Congress has yet to ratify the new trade agreement.

But committee Democrats presented a united front arguing that the USMCA needs to have a more clear enforcement mechanism between all the signing countries.

“Commitment from other countries aren’t any good if there’s no way of holding countries to them,” said ranking member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). “The new NAFTA retains a weak enforcement system from the old NAFTA, which too often gave a free ride to the trade chief.”

The Trump administration is also hoping for Congress’ signoff on the USMCA in order to shore up its trade relations with Mexico. President Trump threatened a 5% tariff on Mexican goods — which he backed down from — if the nation did not control the influx of migrants illegally crossing into the U.S. from Mexico.

“I think if you get to the point where you think it's a national crisis — a national security problem — you do what you have to do, absolutely," said Lighthizer. “And I would suggest any member would do that.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Sean Gallup/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was laid to rest in a low-key burial in the early hours of Tuesday, as questions were being raised about his apparently sudden death after suffering a heart attack in a courtroom.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called for an independent investigation into the causes of Morsi's Monday death, according to a statement from spokesman Rupert Colville.

"Concerns have been raised regarding the conditions of Mr. Morsi's detention, including access to adequate medical care, as well as sufficient access to his lawyers and family, during his nearly six years in custody. He also appears to have been held in prolonged solitary confinement," Colville said.

Morsi's family and rights groups often complained the diabetic man was not getting proper medical treatment, which Egyptian authorities deny.

"We believe it is clear there must be a thorough independent inquiry into the circumstances of Mr. Morsi's death, including the conditions of his detention," Colville said.

Morsi's quiet burial Tuesday morning stands in stark contrast to how other Egyptian leaders were mourned.

When former President Gamal Abdel-Nasser died, Egypt's streets were packed with mourners and cranked up by loud cries and wails, while former President Anwar El-Sadat's funeral was attended by over 80 world leaders. Their funerals were broadcast over and over again to mark their death anniversaries every year.

Both military strongmen, they were largely hailed as patriotic leaders who served the country at times of war and peace.

But Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, would not get a similar treatment.

He was secretly buried in a cemetery accommodating other senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Cairo's Nasr City district, with only his family allowed to accompany the corpse to its resting place. A witness told ABC News there was a heavy security presence in a major thoroughfare leading to the cemetery.

Local media hinted that the burial was quiet for security reasons, with one famous pro-state television presenter warning it could lead to clashes between opponents and supporters of Morsi should it be held in public.

"We washed his body in the hospital of Tora Prison and prayed for him at the hospital's mosque," his son, Ahmed, said on his Facebook page.

"He was buried in the graves of the Muslim Brotherhood supreme guides in Nasr City as security authorities rejected [the request] to bury him in Sharqiya," he added, referring to Morsi's hometown in the Nile Delta.

State and privately-owned newspapers briefly mentioned the 67-year-old's death in their morning reports, without making any reference to him as a former president.

Morsi became Egypt's first civilian president when he won a tight election in 2012, a little more than a year after a popular uprising ended the 30-year rule of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

However, his tenure lasted for just a year until the military ousted him following massive protests against his divisive rule, which alienated even his former revolutionary allies.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Courtesy of Britain's Department of Transport(LONDON) -- New signs are coming to protect drivers, hedgehogs and other small animals in the United Kingdom, the Department for Transport announced Monday, as hedgehog populations in rural areas have halved since 2000.

"The new small mammal warning sign should help to reduce the number of people killed and injured," Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said in a statement, "as well as helping our precious small wild mammal population to flourish."

In 2017, four people were killed and more than 600 were injured in accidents involving an animal in the road, excluding horses, according to the Department for Transport.

There are currently wildlife signs for larger animals, toads and birds, but this new sign will cover the smaller animals.

"We welcome this focus on road safety and protection for all small mammals," Jim Nelson, CEO at People's Trust for Endangered Species, said in the statement.

Grayling is calling on local authorities to place the signs in areas where accidents have been the most common.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

WCS Mozambique (LONDON) -- One of Africa's largest protected wilderness areas has marked an entire year without finding a single elephant killed by poachers.

The last time an elephant was recorded killed by a poacher in Mozambique's Niassa Reserve was May 17, 2018, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, a New York-based nonprofit that helps the Mozambican government manage the national reserve.

“The success in Niassa shows that given the political will and proper funding, we can stop the poaching of elephants," James Bampton, the Wildlife Conservation Society's country director in Mozambique, told ABC News in a statement Tuesday.

The Niassa Reserve spans over 16,000 square miles -- which is larger than Switzerland -- in a remote part of northern Mozambique. The park suffered "nearly catastrophic elephant poaching" in recent years, the Wildlife Conservation Society said, which cut the population from around 12,000 to 3,675 in 2016, according to an aerial survey.

Efforts to stop rampant organized poaching from 2015 to 2017 reduced the number of illegal killings to about 100 elephants a year, but the conservation group said the rate was still "far too high."

Early last year, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Mozambican government and other partners on the ground in the Niassa Reserve launched a coordinated anti-poaching strategy, which includes deploying a new rapid intervention police force, an increased aviation program providing surveillance and the year-round deployment of a helicopter and Cessna aircraft, and tough new sentencing of poachers.

The new strategy cleared -- and kept clear -- illegal mining and finishing in the Niassa Reserve. Meanwhile, the park saw an 87 percent decrease in the number of illegally killed elephants in 2018 compared to the previous year, according to the conservation group.

"These actions are acting as a deterrent to many would-be poachers," Bampton told ABC News, noting that political will in Mozambique as well as outside investment and partners were all key to the success.

"Without such partnerships, this would not have been possible," he added.

The Niassa Reserve is home to some of Mozambique's most robust populations of wildlife, including elephant, lion, leopard, wild dog, sables, kudu, wildebeest and zeebra.

"Niassa is an important elephant stronghold," Bampton said, "and we need to sustain protection so that their numbers can bounce back.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

U.S. Navy photo by Bill Mesta/Released(MIAMI) -- The U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort is beginning a five-month humanitarian mission to the Caribbean, Central and South America to support medical systems, strained in part, by an increase in Venezuela refugees. It's the ship's second deployment of this kind in the last year.

Vice President Mike Pence will send off the ship from Port Miami in Florida on Tuesday, alongside Carlos Vecchio, the Venezuelan ambassador to the United States, and Navy Adm. Craig Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command.

The Comfort left its home port of Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia earlier this month and will make scheduled stops in Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Panama, Saint Lucia, and St. Kitts and Nevis.

Earlier this month, the United Nations announced that the number of Venezuelan refugees had grown to four million, making Venezuelans "one of the single largest population groups displaced from their country," the U.N. said. Colombia had the highest number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants with about 1.3 million, followed by over 750,000 in Peru.

"The ship's embarked medical teams will provide care on board and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems strained partly by an increase in displaced Venezuelans," SOUTHCOM said in a statement. "The region is currently experiencing an ever-worsening humanitarian crisis due to the ongoing political and economic instability in Venezuela."

In a bitter feud with the U.S., Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has long-refused all American aid. Much of the international community, including the U.S., now recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's interim president and has called for Maduro to step down in order for democratic elections to take place.

In late April, Venezuelans took to the streets in protest of the Maduro regime, but the embattled leader has held onto power, backed by Russia, Cuba and China.

The deployment of a Navy hospital ship has been the Pentagon's sole visible response to the growing crisis -- with the U.S. hoping economic sanctions and diplomatic efforts will pave the way for regime change. But the Trump administration has emphasized that all options -- including military ones -- are on the table.

Meanwhile, talks held in Norway last month between the Venezuelan government and the opposition have stalled.

"This deployment responds directly to the man-made crisis Maduro's regime has created," Adm. Faller told the Defense Department's news service this week. "Comfort medical teams will be working alongside host nation medical professionals who are absorbing thousands of Venezuelan migrants and refugees. The Venezuelan people are desperately fleeing their homeland for hope of a better way of life. We are committed to finding ways to support the Venezuelan people and our regional partners who share the goal of seeing a legitimate, democratic government reinstated in Venezuela."

The Comfort returned from its last humanitarian mission to South America in December, after seeing tens of thousands of patients and completing hundreds of surgeries.

This new mission will be the hospital ship's seventh deployment to the region since 2007.

There will be about 1,000 people on board the Comfort, including about 200 credentialed medical professionals. There's also the possibility for as many as 100 medical providers from non-profit organizations, as well as other host nations, that may join the ship during its stops, the commanding officer of the Comfort's Medical Treatment Facility told the Department of Defense's news service.

The Comfort's surgical and medical services include X-rays, CAT scans, dental services, an optometry and lens laboratory, a physical therapy center and a pharmacy. The ship also maintains up to 5,000 units of blood for medical services.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

omersukrugoksu/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Standing in the line at a currency exchange shop on a warm afternoon near Ferdowsi Square in Tehran, Nafas Anvari, 26, waited for her turn to change all her savings into U.S. dollars before the value of the Iranian rial dropped even more.

“It was the first thing I knew I had to do this morning, because every single day my money loses value,” Anvari, an English teacher, told ABC News.

Ms. Anvari was in a hurry to change her money because she plans to leave the country and pursue a Master’s degree in Florence, Italy. She has no plans to come back after her studies, saying her hopes for an improved situation in Iran have “evaporated” as the U.S. and Iran have failed to improve their relationship.

Tensions between the Iran and the U.S. escalated in May 2018, after President Donald Trump announced he would withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran nuclear deal, and reimpose sanctions on the country.

In June, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Tehran and met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reportedly with a message from Trump asking Khamenei to enter into new negotiations with the U.S.

The White House has declined to say whether Trump gave Abe the message, but the president publicly thanked Abe for "going to Iran to meet with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei."

“I personally do not consider Trump worthy of exchanging any messages with, and do not have and will not have any response for him,” Khamenei told Abe, according to the Iranian leader’s official website on June 13.

With shattered hopes for a new round of talks that could potentially lead to an international deal for Iran, the country’s currency market plummeted, with the value of the rial falling from 130,000 per dollar on June 12, to 137,000 per dollar on June 13.

“[The] currency market is the first place you see the consequences of political changes,” Siamak Ghassemi, an expert on the Iranian economy and the CEO of Bamdad Economic Research Institute, told ABC News. “When there is hope for solving political problems, rates gets balanced, and any negative news leads to another spike and devaluating rial."

On June 15 , Simin, 56, who declined to give her last name for safety reasons, was going from one currency exchange shop to another in Tehran to find the best rate for buying euros to save some cash for her son’s university expenses. He plans to leave Tehran to study material science and engineering in a European country by the end of summer.

“With no negotiation, I am sure my country won’t be the place my son can seed plans for his future,” said Simin.

Iranian state TV and official media outlets often cite America’s untrustworthiness as the reason for Tehran’s refusal to join a new round of negotiations with Washington.

“International Atomic Energy Agency has approved Iran’s complete adherence to the JCPOA in 15 reports…In the framework of the JCPOA, Iran asks the remaining members of the deal to fulfill their commitments and let Iran enjoy economic benefits of the deal,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said at the 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on June 14.

Iranian officials and state media that once denied that there would be consequences from international sanctions, and went so far as to call them “opportunities” for domestic developments, now publicly complain about the damages sanctions have done to the country.

In late May, Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, called U.S. sanctions “economic terrorism” against Iranian people in an interview with ABC News.

The strain between Washington and Tehran has increased even more in recent weeks after several attacks on commercial oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo directly accused Iran for the attack on June 13, but Iranian officials declined any involvement in the incidents, with officials saying the attacks were “suspicious” and a “complementary” measure to economic sanctions.

“Every day we wake up to some bad news. This time it was the tankers. And like always, each side of the fight accuses the other. We are not just bewilderedly watching, [we] live a bewildered life,” said Nafas Anvari.

While Ghassemi does not believe the U.S. and Iran have intentions to engage in a serious war, he does not foresee any stability in Iran’s currency market in the near future, due to the turbulent political atmosphere between the two countries.

“Unfortunately, the market will remain inflammatory, making it frustratingly difficult for the people to make long-term, mid-term or even short-term decisions,” he said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Department of Defense(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon has released new color photos as proof that Iran was behind last week's attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

The release is part of an ongoing effort by the Trump administration to declassify U.S. intelligence gathered on Thursday when two tankers suffered damage by what the U.S. has said were magnetic mines placed on the side of the Kokuka Courageous.

Last Friday, U.S. Central Command released a grainy video that showed, what it claimed, was a crew aboard an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps boat removing an unexploded mine that was left on the ship's hull.

While that video convinced the British government that Iran was responsible, Germany's foreign minister said that the video was not enough to prove the case against Iran.

"The German foreign minister has seen a great deal more than just that video," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday. "He will continue to see more."

The new color images released by U.S. Central Command show an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Ghashti-class patrol boat alongside the Kokuka Courageous during and after the removal of the unexploded mine that had been left on the ship's hull.

The photos were taken by an MH-60R helicopter that had arrived at the Kokuka Courageous' location along with the destroyer USS Bainbridge, said a defense official.

According to the official, the color and higher-resolution photos taken by the helicopter show that the individuals aboard the Ghashti were wearing IRGC uniforms and have weapons aboard the craft. The photos were taken at or near the same time as the grainy video that was released earlier by U.S. Central command.

There are also close-up photos that show the ring around where magnets had attached the mine to the ship, as well as composite residue from the mine still on the ship’s hull. Additional photos from the Pentagon show the holes caused to the two tankers by the mines.

The damage on the Front Altair was more extensive as the explosions caused a fire aboard the oil tanker.

Navy explosive ordnance disposal officials, not involved in the investigation of the tanker attacks, provided their analysis to reporters at the Pentagon on Monday.

One of the officials said the damage to the ships did not appear to have been caused by a torpedo because those typically strike below the water line, unlike the mines placed above the water line in Thursday's attack.

The placement of the mines above that water line would have prevented water from rushing in, an indication to them that the attackers' intent was not to sink the ships.

The officials described the attempt to remove the unexploded mine in the way shown in the images as "very high risk" and not a way that the U.S. Navy would have ever undertaken. According to those officials they would have removed the mine remotely with as few personnel around the ship as possible.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Staff Sgt. Arielle Vasquez/U.S. Air Force(WASHINGTON) -- The United States is sending 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East, amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The decision follows last week's attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman that the U.S. blamed on Tehran, with the Pentagon releasing new images on Monday that officials said show Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) members removing an unexploded mine from one of the ship's hulls.

"In response to a request from the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) for additional forces, and with the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in consultation with the White House, I have authorized approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East," acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a statement on Monday.

The additional personnel are mostly part of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and force protection units, a U.S. official told ABC News.

The U.S. has already accelerated the deployment to the Middle East of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and sent B-52 bombers after what it said were credible threats by Iran against U.S. forces and interests in the region. Since then, the U.S. has sent an additional 1,500 troops and increased defensive capabilities to continue to help deter Iran.

"The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region," Shanahan said.

"The United States does not seek conflict with Iran," the statement continued. "The action today is being taken to ensure the safety and welfare of our military personnel working throughout the region and to protect our national interests. We will continue to monitor the situation diligently and make adjustments to force levels as necessary given intelligence reporting and credible threats."

Iran attempted to shoot down a U.S. drone that was surveilling the attack on one of two tankers hit in the Gulf of Oman last week, CENTCOM said. The attempt missed the MQ-9 Reaper by "approximately one kilometer."

The U.S. has also blamed Iran for an attack on four commercial vessels off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in May.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

CIL868/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Hours after Iran threatened to increase its enrichment levels, the Trump administration called on Tehran not to break its commitments under the Iran nuclear deal, despite the U.S. withdrawal from the accord.

Iran's threat comes after mounting economic pressure from the U.S. and heightened tensions between the two countries.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Florida on Monday to meet with leaders from U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command on Tuesday. The U.S. is considering "all options," including military force, to respond to Iran's reported attack on two oil vessels, Pompeo said on Sunday, raising concerns of a U.S. strike.

"Unfortunately, we are heading towards a confrontation," Iran's ambassador to the United Kingdom Hamid Baeidinejad said in an interview.

Iran's nuclear agency said Monday that in 10 days, the country will surpass the limits on its uranium stockpile outlined in the nuclear deal unless European countries can provide the economic relief Iran was promised under the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

The U.S. withdrew from the deal in May 2018, criticizing it as giving Iran a pathway to a nuclear bomb even though it forbids Iran from developing one. Despite that withdrawal, the U.S. blasted Iran's threat to also violate the deal as "nuclear extortion."

"We continue to call on the Iranian regime not to obtain a nuclear weapon, to abide by their commitments to the international community," said State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus on Monday. She declined to answer questions on whether the limits spelled out in the JCPOA are good, instead citing the announcement as an example of "why the president has often said that the JCPOA needs to be replaced with a new and better deal."

A new and better deal seems further away then ever. Instead of driving Iran to the negotiating table, the Trump administration's maximum pressure campaign has seen the country lash out repeatedly. Last Thursday, two oil vessels in the Gulf of Oman were attacked in what the U.S. said was an operation by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps -- which Iran has denied.

Hours earlier, the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei rejected an offer by President Donald Trump to talk, with the president later responding that both sides were "not ready" to meet.

Khamenei said Thursday that Iran did not want nuclear weapons, but asserted Iran's right to pursue them if it wanted to, adding, "America could not prevent us."

Monday's threat to increase enrichment was a sign Iran "seems to be keen on expanding their nuclear program," warned Ortagus, saying the U.S. was "not surprised" by the announcement.

European leaders have not responded to Iran's ultimatum, but they have been working to create a special economic mechanism to allow companies to work inside Iran and evade U.S. sanctions. That mechanism is said to be online soon, but it's unclear how many companies will risk U.S. economic penalties, with dozens of European firms already leaving Iran.

Instead of allowing any economic relief, the U.S. vowed to increase the pressure on Monday.

"There should be no relieving of sanctions for their malign and unacceptable behavior," Ortagus said.

Pompeo will meet with CENTCOM and Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida on Tuesday to "discuss regional security concerns and ongoing operations," according to Ortagus, after calling several world leaders over the weekend to discuss America's evidence that Iran was behind last week's attacks.

On Saturday, Pompeo spoke to China's highest-ranking diplomat, Politburo member Yang Jiechi, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. On Sunday, Pompeo called the foreign ministers of Singapore, Kuwait, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and South Korea. He called Qatar's foreign minister on Monday morning.

Important on that list are countries reliant on shipping or the oil that passes through the waters off Iran's coast, especially China, Singapore and South Korea. But among those that Pompeo hasn't called are allies that have publicly expressed skepticism about the U.S. claim that Iran is responsible for the attacks, including Germany and Japan.

Despite those public doubts, Ortagus said the U.S. is not disappointed in allies' response.

"We have seen the international community and our allies step up to condemn this behavior," Ortagus said. "We have worked incredibly hard with our allies on this assessment."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Sean Gallup/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi died on Monday after collapsing during a court hearing, Egyptian state television reported.

Morsi was an Islamist who became Egypt’s first democratically-elected president in 2012. The country’s military ousted him in 2013.

Morsi, 67, was being tried on espionage charges in Egypt.

He addressed the court Monday before falling into a coma after the session concluded, state television said. He was then pronounced dead.

A senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi came to power after winning Egypt's first democratic elections in 2012. His tenure lasted for just a year after the military ousted him following massive protests against his rule.

The Brotherhood was then outlawed and Morsi and most of its senior leaders were imprisoned. The former president received multiple prison sentences on various charges, including killing protesters.

"Dad, with God we meet," Ahmed Mohamed Morsi, his son, wrote on his Facebook page.

Former defense minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who led the military ouster of Morsi, was elected president in 2014. He launched a crackdown on the Brotherhood, which the state often accuses of carrying out attacks on security forces.

The Brotherhood denies resorting to violence, saying it's committed to peaceful activism.

Rights groups have repeatedly criticized the conditions of Morsi's detention as he was largely held incommunicado. His family allegedly was denied access to him.

In June 2017, his family told Human Rights Watch he had "fainted twice and experienced a diabetic coma." Egyptian authorities insisted he was given proper medical treatment.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

FILE photo - STR/AFP/Getty Images(NEW DELHI) — An Indian magician is feared dead after an attempt at a magic stunt in a river went awry, according to authorities in the city of Kolkata.

Chanchal Lahiri, also known by his stage name Mandrake, went missing on Sunday, according to police.

Lahiri was performing an underwater escape act in Kolkata’s Hoogly River, and a search began for him when he failed to emerge from the water, Samir Bhowmik of Kolkata Police’s Disaster Management Group (DMG) told ABC News.

Harry Houdini popularized escape stunts almost a century ago, and magicians have attempted variations on the act ever since.

To do the trick, a ferry took Lahiri to the middle of the river just under the Howrah Bridge, according to Jayanta Shaw, a photographer for a local newspaper who was covering the event.

Lahiri, bound in chains, was then lowered into the water by a crane, according to Shaw.

“I was there with several others. After being lowered into the water, he seemed to come up to the surface and swim, and that’s when I left. But then a couple of hours later I found out that he had gone missing. It’s very tragic indeed,” Shaw told ABC News.

“I asked him why he wanted to take such risks. He told me he wanted to inspire people to do magic.”

Authorities still don’t have a clear idea of what happened. Divers searching for Lahiri on Sunday failed to find his body, according to officials who conducted a rescue operation.

“He only had permission to perform magic stunts on a steamer,” Sanjoy Chanda of the Kolkata Police told ABC News. “We didn’t know that he would be going into the water.”

This wasn’t Lahiri’s first attempt at an escape feat.

Shaw said he witnessed Lahiri being lowered into the same river in a glass box around 20 years ago. In 2013 a mob attacked Lahiri and accused him of cheating after he escaped from a locked cage that was lowered into the river, according to the Times of India.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Seoul Metropolitan Government(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Three times a week, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., women in navy blue vests with hidden camera detectors in their hands inspect public restrooms around Seoul. They are South Korea’s first spy cam inspection team.

The city’s program started in August 2016 with 50 women. Now, the team consists of 39 trained women and men who regularly inspect places vulnerable to illegal filming, such as public restrooms, subway stations and changing rooms.

“Victims are often left with no power to exercise control over the videos once they circulate online without their consent,” Kim Yeo-jin, director of Korea Cyber Sexual Violence Response Center, an organization that provides support service for victims of cyber sexual violence, told ABC News. “Overseas porn websites often refuse to cooperate with the South Korean law enforcement. Plus, the anonymity in cyberspace makes the punishment extremely difficult.”

In 2017, a male victim reported to the center that he found a sex tape of himself with his girlfriend on a porn website. It turned out that the footage was taken from a hidden camera installed in a motel room unbeknownst to them.

More than 6,000 crimes related to illegal filming were reported in 2017, a five-fold increase since 2010, according to the Korean National Police Agency.

This phenomenon, dubbed the “spy cam epidemic,” sparked public outrage once again in March when police arrested suspects accused of installing hidden cameras in motels.

Even female celebrities have fallen victim to illegal filming. In September 2018 a television crew member was caught installing a hidden camera in the shape of a portable smartphone battery charger inside their private rooms, according to Seoul Gangnam police.

Son Hae-young, a spy cam detection expert, told ABC News that a number of hidden cameras are disguised as everyday objects -- remote controls, computer mice, wristwatches, coat hooks -- to not arouse suspicion.

Women as well as companies and government agencies have been combating the hidden camera phenomenon through a number of measures.

When using public restrooms in subway stations, bus terminals and shopping malls, women "have sealed up any tiny, suspicious-looking holes on the walls of their stalls and in door hinges with tissue papers and stickers in fear of mini spy cams that may be installed there,” Lee Won-up, director of Spy-Zone Korea, which specializes in spy cam detection, told ABC News.

Sales of spy cam detectors also skyrocketed following a series of digital sex crimes involving hidden cameras. South Korean e-commerce website G-Market saw a 333 percent increase in sales of those devices this March compared to the previous year.

As a more convenient way of detecting hidden cameras, some companies started selling portable detection cards with a layer of red cellophane paper that can be used with a smartphone. Users simply need to attach the card to the smartphone camera lens, turn on the camera flash and take a picture of the suspicious-looking spot. The resulting photo will have a bright flashing dot indicating the location of the spy cam lens.

Lee said his agency has been in demand by universities, corporations and homeowners especially after September 2017 when the South Korean government announced its plans to strengthen preventive measures and penalties to tackle digital sex crimes.

Other than the spy cam inspection team, Seoul Metropolitan Government announced this week that it will expand its hidden cam inspection areas to motels, bathhouses and beauty salons. It will also appoint 500 business owners and citizens as honorary spy inspection team members.

“The city will implement a regular inspection system to eradicate illegal filming, hoping that more people become aware that these areas will remain as the 'hidden cam-free zone,'" said Yoon Hee-cheon, director of Women’s Policy Division of the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have released a new photo of their son Archie on Father's Day.

The sepia-tinted photo is the first picture of the baby with his eyes open. The last time the public saw him was when Harry and Meghan introduced him to the world two days after his birth in early May.

The picture, published on the couple's Instagram account, shows Archie looking up from his father's arms, with his right hand clasping Harry's middle finger. The caption reads: "Happy Father's Day! And wishing a very special first Father's Day to the Duke of Sussex."

Last month, Harry and Meghan celebrated American Mother's Day by sharing a photo of Archie's feet in a backdrop of blue forget-me-not flowers -- a favorite of the late Princess Diana.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Cambridge posted a picture on the Cambridges' Instagram account, of him playing with Prince Louis on a rope swing in a garden, with the caption, "Happy Father's Day!"

The post was followed by another photo of him and his father, the Duke of Cornwall, Prince Charles.

Prince Charles meanwhile released a photo of himself with his sons William and Harry in the Buckingham Palace Gardens, all in their full uniforms of the Royal Air Force during an event marking the Prince of Wales' 70th birthday last year, with the words, "To Dads everywhere, have a wonderful #FathersDay."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images(HONG KONG) -- Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam acquiesced, at least in part, to massive protests in the city this week as she announced Saturday the controversial extradition bill will be suspended indefinitely.

"The original urgency to pass the bill in this legislative year is perhaps no longer there,” Lam said at a press conference. "After repeated internal deliberations over the last two days, I now announce that the government has decided to suspend the legislative amendment exercise."

It was unclear how the announcement would affect protests, already scheduled over the weekend. A march was planned for Sunday, and there were also calls for another protest to take place Monday when lawmakers returned to work.

The streets of Hong Kong were calm and quiet Friday after days of protests over the government's controversial proposal to change an extradition law that would allow individuals to be sent to mainland China for trial.

A largely peaceful march, which organizers said drew over a million people in sweltering heat, took place in central Hong Kong last Sunday. The situation turned violent three days later when the extradition law amendment was scheduled to be introduced for debate in the city's legislature.

Thousands of mostly-young protesters shut down Hong Kong's Legislative Council complex and paralyzed parts of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory on Wednesday. Riot police fired multiple rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the throngs of demonstrators, who hurled bottles, umbrellas and other objects at them.

At least 72 people were injured, including 22 police officers. Eleven people were arrested for disorderly conduct, unlawful assembly, assaulting officers and riot-related activities stemming from Wednesday's protests, authorities said.

Heavy rain prevented most organizers from carrying out fresh demonstrations the following day. Still, the president of the Legislative Council cancelled all planned sessions again Thursday and Friday, pushing debate on the bill to next week.

Under the extradition law amendment, any country -- including China -- could request the extradition of an individual to their home country from Hong Kong for trial. Many who oppose the proposed legislation fear that China could use it to arrest political dissidents.

The bill was scheduled to be voted on June 20. Lam had said she planned to sign it.

However, some of Lam's supporters signaling a possible delay in the legislation prior to Saturday's announced suspension. Her top aide, Bernard Chan, seemed to test the waters during an interview Friday morning with the public broadcasting service, Radio Television Hong Kong, in which he admitted to underestimating the business community's opposition to the new law. He also said he didn't want a single bill to hold up the entire legislative agenda.

“I think it is impossible to discuss [it] under such confrontation. It would be very difficult,” Chan told RTHK. “At the very least we should not escalate the antagonism.”

Michael Tien, a pro-Beijing legislator who's usually an ally of Lam, also called for a delay in a Facebook post on Friday, saying it should be seen as the politically responsible thing to do, not as a concession.

Meanwhile, 27 former Hong Kong government officials and lawmakers issued a joint statement on Friday, urging Lam to "yield to public opinion" and withdraw the bill, calling on her ministers to resign in protest if she doesn't. They criticized Lam for appearing "unmoved" by Wednesday's "bloody conflict" between police and protesters.

"This is our future generation to be cherished, how can anyone with a heart not be pained to see the treatment they received?" they said in a statement. "A deeply divided society, serious concerns of the international community -- are these the sacrifices to be made to satisfy the will of the Chief Executive? What great public interest is supposed to be served by the hurried passage of this bill? Where will this escalation of police force to suppress protest lead Hong Kong?"

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran attempted to shoot down a U.S. drone that was surveilling the attack on one of two tankers hit in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday morning, U.S. Central Command said. The attempt missed the MQ-9 Reaper by "approximately 1 kilometer."

The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, along with another tanker, the Front Altair, were damaged by mines that the U.S. said Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had placed on the ship's hulls.

"According to our assessment, a modified Iranian SA-7 surface-to-air missile attempted to shoot down a U.S. MQ-9, at 6:45 a.m. local time, June 13, over the Gulf of Oman, to disrupt surveillance of the IRGC attack on the M/T Kokuka Courageous," CENTCOM spokesperson Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement to ABC News on Saturday.

CENTCOM said that, prior to the attempt by Iran to shoot down the MQ-9, the drone had observed the Front Altair on fire.

"The SA-7 was ineffective and its closest point of approach to the MQ-9 was approximately 1 kilometer," Brown said. "Subsequent analysis indicates that this was a likely attempt to shoot down or otherwise disrupt the MQ-9 surveillance of the IRGC attack on the M/T Kokuka Courageous."

In the day following the attacks, Iranian small boats prevented salvage tugs from towing the Front Altair, as they had been contracted to do, a U.S. official told ABC News.

The 23 mariners on board the Front Altair were rescued shortly after Thursday's attack by the Hyundai Dubai, but Iranians aboard small boats quickly demanded the crew be turned over to their custody. The master of the Hyundai Dubai contacted the headquarters of his shipping company in Seoul and was instructed not to turn the crew over to the Iranians. However, the ship's master felt he had no choice but to comply with the Iranian demands.

The Kokuka Courageous is now in territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates, a second official said.

CENTCOM also confirmed on Saturday that another U.S. MQ-9 was shot down by a Houthi SA-6 surface-to-air missile over Yemen on June 6.

"The altitude of the engagement indicated an improvement over previous Houthi capability, which we assess was enabled by Iranian assistance," Brown said. 

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Listener Poll
Add a Comment
(Fields are Optional)

Your email address is never published.

Find Us On Facebook