banner banner banner banner banner banner
Infinite Menus, Copyright 2006, OpenCube Inc. All Rights Reserved.
World
Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration is launching a new task force to focus on Iran, highlighting the threat from the country as a top foreign policy priority.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced his team would spearhead the Iran Action Group to coordinate all "Iran-related activity" across his department and the federal government. The group, led by the new Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, "will drive daily progress" toward the administration's goal of changing Iran's behavior, from support for groups like Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels to pursuit of ballistic missiles and nuclear capabilities, Pompeo said.

But critics charge the change does little to boost the administration's Iran policy, which has isolated it from European allies and done little to alter Iran's activity in the Middle East.

In May, President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers that restricted its nuclear pursuit in exchange for sanctions relief. The Trump administration said the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, was insufficient because it did not deal with Iran's other "malign activities," or ultimately stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

In its place, Pompeo said the U.S. is pursuing a "campaign of pressure, deterrence, and solidarity with the long-suffering Iranian people" to force the Iranian government to meet 12 points that Pompeo laid out in a speech in May. That includes sanctions that snapped back into place 10 days ago on precious metals, Iran's currency and the automobile sector, and more sanctions that will snap back on November 5, on Iran's oil exports and central bank and financial transactions.

In particular, Hook will also be tasked with building international support for the administration's new campaign -- a tall task as European allies have consistently criticized the decision to withdraw and taken steps to protect European companies from U.S. sanctions. Other countries, like Russia and China, have said they will continue their business with Iran, including the purchases of Iranian oil that are crucial to Iran's economy.

Hook told reporters Thursday the U.S. has "a lot more diplomatic freedom" outside of the deal, but so far it remains alone in withdrawing and lonely in its pursuit of economic pressure.

In the face of that opposition, State Department teams have visited 24 countries to explain U.S. sanctions and demand that countries reduce their Iranian oil imports to zero by November 5 or face U.S. sanctions, Hook said, adding, "That work will continue in the coming months."

Before Trump withdrew from the JCPOA, Hook had been the lead negotiator with European allies, trying to come up with a side agreement that would keep the U.S. in the deal. After months of talks that made real progress, the U.S. walked away and Trump pulled the U.S. out because the administration wanted to make changes that the Europeans saw as violating the deal's terms.

"We didn't get there," a senior State Department official said at the time.

Critics say that Hook lost his credibility with those countries -- France, Germany, and the United Kingdom -- because of that: "Hook alienated allies in negotiations in the run up to America's withdrawal from the Iran Deal... They will not view him as a credible counterpart," said Brett Bruen, a former diplomat who served as White House Director of Global Engagement and now president of the Global Situation Room.

But Hook said that he had meetings in London with senior officials from the three countries Wednesday and that allies around the world share U.S. concerns about "the range of Iranian threats, especially around missiles and cyber, maritime aggression and terrorism."

A European diplomat in Washington told ABC News that the past negotiations were not a problem for future talks: "We have very good relations with Brian Hook, and I don't think it'll impact how we work with him," they said.

Still, there is concern that the Trump administration is seeking to undermine or even overthrow the Iranian regime, despite consistent denials from the administration that regime change is what they're pursuing. The announcement of the Iran Action Group even came at the same time as the 1953 American- and British-backed coup that overthrew Iran's first democratically elected government -- something Hook called a "coincidence."

The administration says it is still open to direct talks with Iran to reach a "new agreement," but Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini rejected that earlier this week, saying the country will never negotiate with the Trump administration. Khomeini and his regime have faced a wave of consistent protests since December over the economic troubles that have gripped Iran.

Either way, the Iran Action Group will seek to strengthen that mission by more closely coordinating the administration's policy.

Critics say it will make little difference. Bruen called it "a typical Washington move to create the appearance of action by putting [it] in the title," while Robert Malley, the senior White House advisor for the JCPOA negotiations, said in a statement, "Better inter-agency coordination to implement a policy that is rooted in wishful thinking about the imminent collapse or surrender of the Iranian regime and a non-existent international consensus won't make the United states any safer."

Hook has been the department's Director of Policy Planning, the in-house think tank that debates and develops policies on the world's challenges. Under former Secretary Rex Tillerson, Hook and his team took on an outsized role and often sidelined the department's rank and file. While Pompeo kept Hook on initially, he will now transition out of that role and focus solely on the Iran Action Group, a senior State Department official said.

In his place, Pompeo is expected to bring on board Kiron Skinner, a foreign policy academic who advised Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney's presidential campaigns. A Fox News contributor, she also served on Trump's transition team and briefly at the State Department at the start of his term.

It's unclear when that transition will take place.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(BRUSSELS) -- For a few days every two years, the Grand-Place in Brussels rolls out the red carpet -- of flowers, that is.

This year's masterpiece contains more than 2,000 square yards of begonias, dahlias, grass and bark. The impressive display was created in less than four hours by 120 hard-working volunteers and is composed of nearly 1 million begonias, according to organizers.

The first flower carpet in Brussels was created in 1971 by landscape architect Etienne Stautema, and this year's floral designer is Mexico's Ana Rosa Aguilar Aguado. Aguado's carpet is dedicated to the Mexican region of Guanajuato, which, much like Brussels, is "known for its rich floral culture and tradition," organizers said.

The Grand-Place is also marking two decades as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The entrance fee is about $7 and the carpet will be on display until Sunday.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(GENOA, Italy) --  As rescue efforts continue for people still missing after the deadly Morandi Bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy, the questions of who bears responsibility for the accident remain unanswered.

Families of victims are preparing for funerals in the coming days, while a political dispute escalates over who is to blame.

Senior figures in Italy's populist government have placed blame on both the EU's austerity cuts and Autostrade, the private company given government contracts to run Italy’s toll highways.

The parent company for Autostrade Atlantia saw its shares plummet as the government issued threats to withdraw its license to operate, which runs until 2042. Italian media quoted Atlantia executives saying the company would be entitled to tens of billions of euros in compensation if the government breaks the contract early.

That prompted interior minister Matteo Salvini to accuse the firm of talking money while bodies were still to be identified and families were mourning loved ones.

Meanwhile, the EU Budget commissioner in Brussels addressed Italian accusations that EU rules prevented Italy from properly funding infrastructure projects.

 The EU has a large fund for infrastructure of more than $300 billion, which it divides among member states and spends on renewing and upgrading roads and transport.

The budget minister Gunther Oettinger tweeted Thursday, “it is very human to look for someone to blame when terrible accident happens at Genova. Still, good to look at facts: in past 7 years, @EU_Regional paid €2.5 million for roads and trains in Italy and €12 billion from #EUinvest, and EU gave green light to national funding for €8.5 billion.”

The fees that national governments pay towards the EU budget go, in part, back to member states. Brussels also advises states on how to allocate spending. Eurosceptics say Brussels' interference with national government spending infringes upon sovereignty.

Salvini, who is also Italy’s deputy prime minister, is part of the far-right League party, which is in coalition with the populist 5-Star Movement. The government has pledged to lobby against EU Budget restraints that were put into place to allay overspending that led to the Euro crisis in 2010.

 Meanwhile, as pressure heats up on Autostrade and its parent company Atlantia, Italians who blame the private firm are calling for boycotts of clothes company Benetton. The fashion brand was founded by the influential Benetton family who hold the major proportion of shares in Atlantia.

Atlantia, responding to criticism from the government, argued that it has consistently provided maintenance on the Morandi bridge and carried out checks on it every quarter as legally obliged.

However, warnings from engineers two years ago who criticized the sustainability and possible longevity of the bridge due to its design have re-emerged.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- For a few days every two years, the Grand-Place in Brussels rolls out the red carpet -- of flowers, that is.

This year's masterpiece contains more than 2,000 square yards of begonias, dahlias, grass and bark. The impressive display was created in less than four hours by 120 hard-working volunteers and is composed of nearly 1 million begonias, according to organizers.

The first flower carpet in Brussels was created in 1971 by landscape architect Etienne Stautema, and this year's floral designer is Mexico's Ana Rosa Aguilar Aguado. Aguado's carpet is dedicated to the Mexican region of Guanajuato, which, much like Brussels, is "known for its rich floral culture and tradition," organizers said.

The Grand-Place is also marking two decades as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The entrance fee is about $7 and the carpet will be on display until Sunday.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- Israel’s recent detention of a high-profile American journalist – and his decision to speak out about it – has prompted scrutiny of other instances where Israeli officials have stopped Americans at its border, and charges that it targeted them for their political views.

In recent months, Israel’s agency in charge of internal security, the Israel Security Agency, has questioned a number of prominent U.S. figures upon their arrival to or departure from Israel regarding their political views and affiliation with organizations which the country may consider hostile.

Peter Beinart, a liberal American journalist, said he was detained and interrogated for an hour at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv after arriving in Israel last Sunday.

In an op-ed published in the Jewish newspaper Forward, Beinart, who is also a political commentator for CNN and a professor at the City University of New York, described his questioning as political: "Was I involved in any organization that could provoke violence in Israel? I said no. Was I involved in any organization that threatens Israel democracy? I said no, that I support Israeli organizations that employ non-violence to defend Israeli democracy."

During the questioning, the security official mentioned his participation in a protest held in Hebron, a city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, against the lack of basic rights of Palestinians, Beinart said. He was released after being asked if he planned to attend similar protests and simply answered that he did not plan to participate in any protest.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a press release that once it was informed of Beinart’s questioning, the prime minister "immediately spoke with Israel’s security forces to inquire how this happened." The release described Beinart's detention as an "administrative mistake."

But Beinart was not ready to unconditionally accept Netanyahu’s hinted apology. "Benjamin Netanyahu has half-apologized for my detention yesterday at Ben Gurion airport," he tweeted. "I'll accept when he apologizes to all the Palestinians and Palestinian-Americans who every day endure far worse."

Beinart sharing his experience inspired another American to share his own on Twitter.

Reza Aslan, a scholar, author and TV host, said that two weeks ago he made his fourth trip to Israel in the last 10 years. He said he was detained and questioned as he attempted to enter Israel from Jordan, traveling together with his family.

He was separated from his family and questioned for a number of hours, he said, adding that he denied the fact that he was against the existence of the State of Israel, but admitted he was opposed to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Aslan said he did his best to cooperate but one threat kept being repeated: "if you don’t cooperate it will be a long time before you see your kids again."

Before his release he was warned to stay away from Palestinian or Israeli "trouble makers" and avoid visiting the West Bank, he tweeted.

The Israel Security Agency issued a statement to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in which it said Aslan was detained and questioned because his "behavior raised suspicions." Aslan was released after a short questioning "as suspicions were dispelled," the statement read.

The agency also said that all claims of political questioning and threats issued during questioning were checked and "found to be completely baseless."

In May 2018, Katherine Franke, a Columbia University professor, co-heading a delegation of American civil rights activists, was detained at the Ben Gurion airport upon her arrival and denied entry.

Vincent Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights based in New York, is another American who was denied entry to Israel last May.

And earlier this month, Simone Zimmerman, an American activist opposed to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories and a former adviser to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign, was similarly questioned for hours before being allowed to cross into Israel from Egypt, Haaretz reported.

In March 2017, the Israeli Knesset passed a bill which allowed authorities to prevent entry of foreign nationals who are supporters of the boycott against Israel and against Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The Israeli attorney general, Dr. Avichay Mandelblit, will initiate a probe into the Israel Security Agency guidelines, which resulted in the detention and questioning of Beinart and other human rights activists, Israeli media reported.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- A series of high-profile Taliban attacks throughout Afghanistan this week that killed at least 200 Afghan security forces have raised questions about whether those forces can contain what appears to be a resurgent Taliban.

The attacks come at a time when U.S. officials had indicated that the Trump administration's South Asia Strategy had created progress toward peace talks to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

The string of violence began last Friday with a highly coordinated Taliban attempt to overtake the city of Ghazni, located 75 miles south of Kabul.

Afghan security forces initially repelled the Taliban attack, but at a high cost, with estimates that as many as 100 security personnel and 20 civilians were killed in heavy fighting.

Additional days of heavy combat, the arrival of American military advisers and airstrikes have been needed to clear groups of Taliban fighters who'd hidden in the city's residential neighborhoods.

The violence finally appeared to have ebbed on Wednesday.

"Ghazni is quiet," said Lt. Colonel Martin O'Donnell a spokesman for Resolute Support, the NATO advise and assist mission in Afghanistan. "As clearing operations continue, we have seen a dramatic decrease in Taliban activity, with nothing of significance to report militarily."

Showing a high level of coordination, the Taliban was able to launch another high-profile attack in Ghazni Province. A large-scale attack in the western district of Ajristan killed an additional 50 security forces.

Meanwhile, Taliban fighters have waged a series of large attacks in the northern province of Baghlan that have killed dozens of Afghan security forces. Attacks launched Wednesday on Afghan Army and police checkpoints killed at least 30 security personnel.

Elsewhere in northern Afghanistan, Taliban fighters on Friday launched a deadly attack on an Afghan Army base in Faryab Province that reportedly killed more than 100.

Kabul, the capital, has not been immune from the violence, though acts of violence are not always carried out by the Taliban.

On Wednesday, a suicide-bomb attack in a Shiite neighborhood killed at least 25 and wounded 35. While no group claimed responsibility, it fits a pattern of attacks conducted by the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan against the country's Shiite minority.

American military officials insist the high-profile attack in Ghazni was par for the course for the Taliban.

"They attack for the purposes of gaining attention and recognition as being stronger than they are at the expense of the Afghan people," O'Donnell said. "However, they retreat once directly and decisively engaged by Afghan National Defense and Security Forces as they are unable to seize terrain and unable to match us [Afghan, NATO and U.S. forces] militarily."

Defense Secretary James Mattis said as much while traveling to South America this week.

Asked if the Taliban offensive in Ghazni showed anything new about the Taliban's intentions and capabilities, Mattis said, "To me, It simply means a continuation of their willingness to put innocent people in harm's way. There's nothing new. It's the usual endangering of civilians, part and parcel of what they’ve done for the last 20 years."

O'Donnell said Taliban attacks that kill civilians and destroy homes discredit the organizations claims to the contrary.

The other Taliban attacks elsewhere in Afghanistan exposed weaknesses in the tactics and security defenses used by Afghan security forces, including strikes at Afghan Army and police checkpoints such as the one Wednesday. Checkpoints checkpoints are visible reminders to local populations of an Afghan security presence.

But their locations also make them vulnerable to attack, a major reason that U.S. and coalition military officers repeatedly stress to Afghan security forces that they should reduce the number of checkpoints. While some progress has been made in reducing the number, senior officials want to see further reductions.

Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, stressed as much in a recent interview with ABC News and the Wall Street Journal after a trip to Afghanistan where he assessed the Trump administration's South Asia Strategy as sound, though tactical adjustments needed to be made.

"We need to make tactical adjustments with our advisers and work with the ANDSF to minimize tactics, like static checkpoints, that increase their vulnerability," he said. "We will do this through our leadership on the ground and with ANDSF leadership."

Overall, during his recent trip to Afghanistan, Votel expressed "cautious optimism" that the South Asia Strategy was working and was creating the conditions for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

That strategy eliminated timelines for the removal of American troops and made their presence conditions-based. It also called for regional pressure to steer the Afghan government and the Taliban toward peace talks.

Prior to the recent spate of large-scale attacks, Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told reporters that the strategy had led to more progress in the last year for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan that had not been "seen in the previous 17 years, and that is significant."

That progress was enhanced by the three-day ceasefire in June called by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that surprisingly took hold throughout Afghanistan. That ceasefire and the indelible images of Taliban fighters and Afghan soldiers hugging has led to indications that Ghani will call for a second ceasefire later this month.

However, it remains unclear if the Taliban actually will engage in peace talks with the Afghan government.

For now, the Taliban has expressed more of a willingness to engage the United States.

In recent weeks, Taliban officials have confirmed that Taliban representatives met with U.S. diplomats in Qatar to discuss the possibility of further peace talks.

While this week's attacks indicate the Taliban is capable of attacks that can inflict heavy casualties, the overall violence level in Afghanistan is lower than in recent years.

According to O'Donnell, the violence trends in Afghanistan right now remain 5 to 10 percent below historical averages, even accounting for the increase since the ceasefire and this week's attacks.

Even if there is momentum toward peace talks, it's possible that some segments of the Taliban won't be interested.

"We've seen that in the past few days, the devastating effect that bad actors can have on the peace process," said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert. She blamed this week's uptick in large-scale attacks on "some factions, some elements of the Taliban that are clearly not on board with peace." She added, "I think we are seeing them act out at this time."

"We're committed to finding a political solution to end the conflict in Afghanistan," Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said during Wednesday's briefing. "We're exploring all avenues for dialogue in close coordination with the Afghan government."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- When two full salaries, including her own as a lead nurse at a major hospital, weren't enough to get through one week in Venezuela, Karen Hurtado decided the time had come to leave her country for an uncertain -- but perhaps better -- future abroad.

The thought of leaving first came when eating meat became an increasingly rare luxury, and her full salary wasn't enough to cover her son's transportation to school.

"Our hands were tied," Hurtado told ABC News. "We were cashing in our paychecks, my husband and I, and we realized that that wasn't enough to survive even a week. Not even a week -- three days. It's hard."

Around her, a growing sense of misery. Days-long blackouts, hardships in finding water and food, and an increasing number of diseases for which medicines were impossible to find had become daily predicaments in Venezuela.

It's a crisis U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley blames on embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

"These are his people -- these are the people he should be feeding," Haley said during a recent visit to the Colombian border. "These are the people he should be giving medicine to. These are the people he should be giving jobs to and making sure that they have a good quality of life. But, instead, he is protecting himself."

 Hurtado knew the local currency, the bolivar, was worthless both at home and abroad, so she embarked on a months-long quest to get as many dollars as she could, saving just over $200 in small notes that she hoped would be enough to take her to Peru -- making several stops -- where a nurse friend already lived.

In April, she left her husband and son behind and took a 14-hour bus ride to the border, joining the thousands of Venezuelans crossing into the Colombian city of Cucuta, hoping to stay in the neighboring country or keep traveling -- by bus, car or on foot -- farther south.

The travelers carried tales of precarious survival back home and the weariness of a long journey, many fleeing starvation, misery, persecution and violence -- a crush of humanity overwhelming border towns and highways across the subcontinent.

"It is the need, the extreme need. You have your kids dying of hunger," said Francesco Bortignon, who for decades has worked with migrants as part of the Scalabrinian International Migration Network in Cucuta. "They don't find food. There is no money. You don't find medicaments. So you simply die."

Hurtado is one of more than half a million Venezuelans who have made their way to Ecuador through Colombia this year alone -- and one of many who plans to continue onward to Peru or Argentina, according to a recent report from the United Nations.

This year, an average of between 2,700 and 3,000 men, women and children were crossing into the country each day. Just in the first week of August, some 30,000 Venezuelans entered Ecuador. That's more than 4,000 a day. About 20 percent of them stay there and the rest venture south.

There's been a 900 percent increase in Venezuelan migrants in South America, up from 89,000 in 2015 to 900,000 in 2017, according to the U.N. This means 10 times more Venezuelans have entered Ecuador this year than North Africans have crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

"The exodus of Venezuelans from the country is one of Latin America's largest mass-population movements in history," United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' spokesman William Spindler said. "Many run out of resources to continue their journey, and left destitute are forced to live rough in public parks and resort to begging and other negative coping mechanism[s] in order to meet their daily needs."

Worldwide, the number has risen from 700,000 to more than 1.6 million in the same period, the report says, with the number of Venezuelans seeking asylum in the U.S. having increased by 88 percent from 2016, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

So far this year, the number of Venezuelans who have applied for asylum in the U.S. is almost three times as great as any other nationality, according to USCIS data.

"We have all this hope in [Venezuela] and we don't want to go," Hurtado said. "And you're always thinking something is going to happen, something good is going to happen, but, so far, we have not gotten anything that can make us say that we want to stay. The last thing I want is to stay. ... It's just too difficult."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(GENOA, Italy) -- As the death toll continues to climb from a highway bridge collapse in northwest Italy, survivors spoke to reporters about how they managed to escape the catastrophe unscathed.

Afifi Idriss, a Moroccan lorry driver, said he was driving on the Morandi Bridge in the port city of Genoa when a vast section of it buckled Tuesday. Idriss, 39, told Agence France-Presse he managed to bring his vehicle to a halt just in time, as dozens of cars and three trucks ahead of him plunged 150 feet to the ground.

"I saw the green lorry in front of me stop and then reverse so I stopped too, locked the truck and ran," Idriss said.

Davide Capello, a former goalkeeper for Italian football club Cagliari Calcio, said his vehicle went down with the bridge and he felt "incredibly lucky" to be alive.

"I remember that the road was collapsing, I was passing through and I heard a deafening sound and I saw the road going down and I was going down with it and I thought the worse," Capello, 33, told Repubblica TV.

Capello, who is now a firefighter, said he immediately called his fellow firefighters for help, as well as his family members to let them know he was OK.

"Its one of the most busy roads and it is unthinkable that something like that could happen in Italy," he said.

It was unclear from the interview with Repubblica TV exactly how Capello got out unharmed.

The Morandi Bridge, which connects highway traffic between Italy and France, collapsed on the eve of Ferragosto, a major summer holiday in Italy when Roman Catholics celebrate the Assumption of Mary. At least 39 people, including three children, were killed and another 15 were injured, authorities said.

Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the incident.

The Italian cabinet on Wednesday declared a 12-month state of emergency for Genoa, with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte calling the bridge's collapse "unacceptable in modern society."

Meanwhile, hundreds of rescue workers remain at the scene in a desperate search for more survivors. Buildings beneath the bridge were damaged in the collapse and authorities are concerned that what's left of the structure could crumble.

"It continues to be a rescue operation until they have searched all the rubble," Italian fire official Emanuelle Gissi told ABC News on Wednesday. "They finished one side of the river bank and moved to the other side."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Jack Taylor/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The morning after a 29-year-old man allegedly crashed his silver Ford Fiesta outside the Houses of Parliament, authorities are discussing the possibility of making the area a car-free zone.

Speaking on Wednesday to Sky News, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said "there may well be a case" for making parts of Westminster pedestrian-only.

"We've got to do that carefully. We shouldn't just take an on-the-hoof response to what was a very disturbing incident," Grayling told Sky News.

On Tuesday, a man allegedly drove into a group of cyclists and crashed into the barriers outside the Houses of Parliament. Two people, a man and a woman, were taken to the hospital, while a third person was treated at the scene for minor injuries, authorities said. None of the injuries were life-threatening.

Police said that the driver, a U.K. national originally from Sudan whom they have not named, was arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation, and instigation of acts of terrorism as well as attempted murder. He remains in custody at a south London police station, authorities said.

Speaking to LBC Radio in London, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said she expects to discuss the issue of making the area around the Houses of Parliament car-free with security services.

"You will notice that the security around parliament -- both in terms of armed officers and police officers and physical barriers -- has been further enhanced over the last several months and there is more to come on that in further months," Dick told LBC Radio.

Dick added that the matter would be discussed "parliamentary authorities, us, the intelligence agencies and indeed the local authorities and the mayor."

For his part, London Mayor Sadiq Khan told ITV Wednesday that he supported plans to ban cars in the area.

"I've been an advocate for a while now of part-pedestrianizing Parliament Square, but making sure we don't lose the wonderful thing about our democracy, which is people having access to parliamentarians, people being able to lobby Parliament, visitors being able to come and visit Parliament," Khan told the channel.

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone backed a $22 million plan to partially restrict traffic around Parliament Square in 2007 in time for the 2012 Olympics, but his successor, Boris Johnson, tossed out the plans, claiming it would cause congestion.

In an interview with Talk Radio Tuesday, Conservative MP Nigel Evans also called for the area to be pedestrianized to "protect politicians," adding that Tuesday's attack "would certainly ignite the debate" over such plans again.

Cressida Dick, the Scotland Yard boss, said it is about taking "reasonable measures" to protect popular sites in the city.

"The terrorists want us to completely change our way of life, they want us to be afraid and they want us to stop doing what we want to do to lead a normal life in the U.K. We're not going to give in. We're not going to just change our lifestyle," Dick told LBC Radio.

"But it is important that we take reasonable measures -- as I think we have been doing over the last several months -- to try to make sure that the most iconic sites, including those in Central London, are well protected and if something does happen there, then the police are able to respond very quickly with armed officers, which is what we saw yesterday," Dick added.


Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Awakening/Getty Images(GENOA, Italy) -- The Italian port city of Genoa began two official days of mourning Wednesday amid an urgent search for survivors of a catastrophic bridge collapse that has claimed at least 39 lives, including three children, authorities said.

“It continues to be a rescue operation until they have searched all the rubble,” Italian fire official Emmanuelle Gissi told ABC News. “They finished one side of the river bank and moved to the other side.”

About 400 rescue workers remain at the scene, working in a dangerous environment in an attempt to find more survivors, Gissi said. Buildings under the bridge were damaged in the collapse and there is concern that the rest of the bridge could fall, he said.

Dozens of cars and three trucks fell about 150 feet to the ground Tuesday when Gebona’s Morandi Bridge collapsed one day before Italy’s major summer holiday.

Fifteen people were injured, authorities said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- While still nominally allies, the U.S. and Turkey's relationship is continuing to fall apart amid new economic penalties in the continued fight over an American pastor detained in Turkey.

Andrew Brunson has been at the heart of the ongoing fight after the U.S. sanctioned two top Turkish officials for his continued detention, and Turkey's vow to retaliate, even as its currency plummets.

Even though a meeting between National Security Adviser John Bolton and Turkey's U.S. ambassador on Monday yielded no public progress, the White House is now leading the talks with Turkey over Brunson's release and a host of other issues that have dragged down the alliance.

A senior State Department official referred questions to the White House and declined to say whether Brunson's case had to be resolved before there could be progress on other issues.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Turkey's latest salvo Tuesday, saying his country will boycott U.S.-made electronic goods and turn to other manufacturers including South Korea's Samsung or Turkey's Vestel. Doubling down on his standoff with President Donald Trump, Erdogan also called on Turkish companies to produce more of their own goods.

It's unclear how such a boycott would work, and the State Department said it couldn't confirm "that that is actually going to happen," according to spokesperson Heather Nauert.

Erdogan again urged Turks to convert their U.S. dollars into the Turkish currency -- the lira -- to give it a boost as it continues to drop in value. While the decline accelerated last Friday after the Trump administration announced new tariffs on Turkey, the U.S. denied responsibility for Turkey's economic state.

"What is happening in Turkey goes far beyond the United States and the United States' recent policies and impositions of various policies and mechanisms," Nauert said.

There was a clear, sharp drop in the lira's value on Friday after Trump tweeted he was doubling tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum, citing a national security threat, and a smaller decline when the U.S. sanctioned Turkey's Interior and Justice Ministers on Aug. 1.

"Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!" Trump added last Friday.

That was a rare Trump understatement, as the two countries face sharp differences on the case of Brunson and other detained Americans, Erdogan's consolidation of power, U.S. support for Kurds in Syria, growing Turkish relations with Russia, Turkey's evasion of U.S. sanctions and more.

The senior State Department official told ABC News that the two countries continue to work on a broad range of issues.

But senior Trump administration officials, in addition to the president, have spent weeks now focusing their demands on the immediate release of Brunson, an American missionary who has served in Turkey for more than two decades.

Brunson was arrested during Erdogan's broad crackdown on political opposition after an attempted coup in July 2016. Charged with espionage and aiding Kurdish militants and a U.S.-based Turkish cleric accused of fomenting that coup attempt, Brunson was imprisoned for nearly two years and moved to house arrest last month.

He and his lawyers have denied those allegations, and the U.S. has said the charges aren't credible. He faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted, with his next trial date set for October.

The top U.S. diplomat in Turkey, Charge d'Affaires Jeffrey Hovenier, visited Brunson and his wife, Norine, Tuesday, calling on Turkey to resolve his case "without delay and in a fair and transparent manner." The more diplomatic line than Trump's, calling for his "immediate release," was not meant to signal a change in policy, Nauert said Tuesday.

Hovenier also noted that the U.S. is demanding the resolution of several other U.S. citizens' cases, including NASA astronaut Serkan Golge, convicted of being a member of a terrorist organization in February "without credible evidence," according to the State Department, and of three Turkish citizens who work for the U.S. mission and have been detained for months.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Italian National Police(GENOA, Italy) --  A section of a towering highway bridge collapsed in Italy Tuesday, sending vehicles plunging nearly 300 feet to the ground and killing at least 35 people, officials said.

The collapse of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa occurred around midday during strong storms moving through the area of northwest Italy, according to authorities.

At least 30 vehicles were on the bridge in a port section of the city when the span gave way, Amalia Tedeschi, a firefighter, told the Italian news agency ANSA. Several people were pulled from the rubble alive and taken to a hospital by helicopter, Tedeschi added.

Construction involving a crane was occurring on the bridge at the time of the collapse, but it was too early to pinpoint what caused the span to fail, Italian authorities said.

At least 35 people were killed, including a child, according to the city of Genoa's civil protection office. Another 16 people were injured -- 12 of them critically -- in the catastrophe, the Interior Ministry said early Wednesday. Five of those who were killed have yet to be identified.

All the casualties appeared to have been in vehicles that plummeted from the bridge, Angelo Borelli, head of Italy's civil protection agency, said during a news conference. He added that the bridge fell on two warehouses but no one is believed to have been inside them because they were closed for the summer holiday.

Borelli said 30 to 35 vehicles, including three heavy trucks, were on the bridge at the time of the collapse.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte described the collapse as "an immense tragedy" after he toured the disaster site.

"It is shocking to see the twisted metal and the bridge collapsed with victims who were extracted," Conte told RAI state TV after flying over the collapsed bridge and visiting survivors at a hospital.

He said rescue workers managed to save several people who were in cars that fell nearly 150 feet "and are now alive and in the hospital."

Shortly after Conte spoke publicly about the disaster, Genoa's civil protection office raised the death toll, reporting that two more bodies had been extracted from the bridge rubble late Tuesday and that another victim died during surgery.

Several witnesses posted videos of the collapse on social media. In one video, someone can be heard screaming, "Oh, God" and a flash could be seen as the concrete structure crumbled.

Witness Alessandro Megna told RAI state radio that he had been stuck in a traffic jam under the bridge when the collapse occurred.

"Suddenly the bridge came down with everything it was carrying. It was really an apocalyptic scene. I couldn't believe my eyes," Megna said.

Another witness, Davide Ricci, told reporters at the scene that he was lucky to be alive.

"The debris from the collapse came to within 20 meters [about 20 yards] of my car," said Ricci, who saw the bridge go down while he was driving. "First the central pylon crumbled, then the whole thing came down."

The driver of a box truck slammed on his brakes as the bridge fell apart, stopping just before plummeting off the edge of the broken span, the general manager of the Basko supermarket chain for which he works told reporters.

Hours after the collapse, video showed the truck still perched just feet from where the bridge gave way.

The collapse happened on part of the viaduct on the A10 highway that crosses the Polcevera River, the country's national police, Polizia di Stato, said.

Witnesses said the bridge toppled after it was struck by lightning.

The A10 highway, the main route between northern Italy and France, was closed in both directions as search-and-rescue teams looked for survivors.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said about 200 firefighters were on scene searching for survivors.

The Morandi Bridge, which opened in 1967, is about a half-mile long.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- After a five day search that covered approximately 13,000 square nautical miles, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are ending a search and rescue operation for a missing Marine, the Marine Corps said on Tuesday.

The Marine was reported overboard by the USS Essex on the morning of August 9, as the ship was conducting routine operations in the Sulu Sea west of the Philippines.

The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines, U.S. Coast Guard District 14, and Singapore Information Fusion Centre provided additional support to the search and rescue efforts that spanned approximately 13,000 square nautical miles of the Sulu Sea, Mindanao Sea and the Surigao Straight.

A press release from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit on Tuesday said the circumstances surrounding the Marines' disappearance are currently being investigated.

"Only after exhausting every possibility through persistent and thorough search efforts, we have concluded the at-sea search and rescue effort for our Marine," U.S. Navy Capt. Gerald Olin, who led the on-scene search and rescue operation, said in the release. "We appreciate the continued support provided to us from the U.S. Embassy and Philippine Government."

The missing Marine has not yet been identified.

The 844-foot long USS Essex can transport and support a team of more than 2,000 Marines during an assault by air or land. The ship is based out of San Diego, California.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

ABC News(LONDON) --London Metropolitan Police officials arrested a man who allegedly drove into a group of cyclists and crashed into the barriers outside the British Parliament in Westminster on Tuesday. The incident is being treated as a terrorist incident, authorities said.

"Given that this appears to be a deliberate act, the method and this being an iconic site, we are treating it as a terrorist incident and the investigation is being led by officers from the Counter Terrorism Command," Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu said during a news conference.

Authorities are working to identify the driver and establish his motive, Basu said, adding, "He is not currently cooperating.”

Two people, a man and a woman, were taken to the hospital, while a third person was treated at the scene for minor injuries, authorities said. None of the injuries were life-threatening.

"I was getting off the bike and put my foot down, then there was a sound like tires screeching," Geoffrey Woodman, a strategy consultant who witnessed the incident, told the Press Association. "This car turned round to the left and swerved into the wrong lane of traffic and into the bank where all the cyclists wait."

Most of the cyclists managed to jump off their bikes, but a woman was clipped by the hood of the car as it passed, he said.

Video showed the driver being dragged out of his car by a number of police officers. The man, in his late 20s, was driving a silver Ford Fiesta when he crashed into the barriers at 7:37 a.m. local time, police said.

No weapons have been found in the car and no other suspects have been identified, authorities said.

Streets around Parliament Square were blocked off as police vehicles swarmed the area, video posted on social media showed. More than a dozen emergency vehicles were on the scene. Wider cordons have since been removed, while cordons around the immediate crime scene will remain for some time, police said.

The Westminster subway station re-opened after it had been closed earlier, the official Transport for London feed said in a tweet.

President Donald Trump weighed in, tweeting, "Another terrorist attack in London...These animals are crazy and must be dealt with through toughness and strength!"

The threat to the U.K. remains severe, British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement.

"I would urge the public to remain vigilant -- but also to come together and carry on as normal, just as they did after the sickening attacks in Manchester and London last year," she said. "The twisted aim of the extremists is to use violence and terror to divide us. They will never succeed."

This appears to be the second attack on Westminster in the past 18 months. In March 2017, 52-year-old Khalid Masood, a Muslim convert with a criminal past, crashed his rented car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and later stabbed a police officer outside of the parliament building. Four people died in the attack, including the officer. Masood was shot and killed by police.

Since then, 12 terror plots have been thwarted in the U.K., Andrew Parker, director general of the MI5, the U.K.'s domestic counterintelligence and security agency, said in a speech in Berlin in May.

Parliament was not in session on Tuesday. The House of Commons and House of Lords are out of session from July 24 to Sept. 4.



Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

U.S. Army(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. Army soldier has died from wounds sustained when a roadside bomb detonated near him while he was on patrol in southern Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced Monday. Staff Sgt. Reymund Rarogal Transfiguracion is the fifth American military service member to be killed in Afghanistan this year.

Transfiguracion, 36, of Waikoloa, Hawaii, sustained his injuries on August 7 while on a combat patrol in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. The Pentagon said in a statement that the incident is under investigation.

He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, where he served as an engineer sergeant.

The Green Beret joined the Army in 2008 and had previously deployed to Iraq and the Philippines.

There are about 14,000 American service members serving in Afghanistan in support of a NATO training mission known as Resolute Support. They advise and assist the Afghan military in its fight against the Taliban. Most of these personnel carry out their missions at bases in eastern and southern Afghanistan.

A smaller portion of the U.S. force serves in a counter-terrorism mission known as Operation Freedom's Sentinel targeting ISIS-Khorasan and al Qaeda.

Born in Sarrat Ilocos Norte, Philippines, Transfiguracion enlisted in July 2001 with the Hawaii National Guard July 2001 serving as a motor transport operator. He deployed to Iraq with the Hawaii National Guard from 2005-2006.

He joined the active duty Army in February 2008 and again deployed to Iraq.

He then deployed to the Philippines for six months in support of Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines from 2010-2011.

He was selected for Army Special Forces and was assigned to Joint Base Lewis - McChord and B Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) as an engineer sergeant. He deployed to Afghanistan in March 2018.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Award Winning Creative Services

Rich Joyce

 

 

LinkedUpRadio Envisionwise Web Services