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World

Women attend soccer match in Iran after decades of being kept out

Somaye Malekian/ABC News(TEHRAN, Iran) -- They waved flags. They painted their faces with stripes of green, white and red. They celebrated with blowhorns.

For the first time in four decades, women were allowed to pack into Tehran’s Azadi stadium on Thursday to cheer along with male fans as Iran's national soccer team played a World Cup qualifier against Cambodia.

“It is truly exciting! Enjoying one of my basic rights for the first time,” Zahra Ahooei, 30, told ABC News as she made her way to the stadium, in between cheerfully sending bursts of air into her horn painted the colors of the Iranian flag. She wore the white team jersey and a matching hat that her husband had given her as a gift.

FIFA, the international governing body, has long obliged the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, FFIRI, which excludes women from buying match tickets. But after a 30-year-old woman named Sahar Khodayari set herself on fire and died in protest last month following her arrest for trying to enter Azadi Stadium earlier this year, FIFA changed its position.

“Women need to be allowed to enter football matches freely,” FIFA said in a statement at the time, addressing FFIRI.

Inside the stadium, women didn’t miss the chance to shout their demands, besides jubilation.

Some women shouted “Seats are spared, no space for women!" and "The Blue Girl, you are missed!” But the demonstrations were quickly quieted by policewomen who patrolled the stadium.

“Sahar will be greatly missed today," Zahra said. "I am sure everyone will think about her here.”

Another woman, a 25-year-old teacher named Hedyeh, came to the stadium with her friend, Matina, who is also 25. (The women asked that their last names not be disclosed for their security.) Hedyeh said she was disappointed that so many women were stuck outside the stadium while so many seats were empty.

In the days leading up to the match, some officials in President Hassan Rouhani’s administration tried to claim credit for the historic moment.

“The entry of women into the stadium is the result of internal efforts, not external pressure,” Ali Rabiei, spokesman of the government tweeted on Monday, a claim that was followed up on Thursday with the spokesman saying he has mediated for letting some women who did not have tickets to enter the stadiums, as PANA reported on Thursday.

But Iranians quickly rebutted the claims.

“If women are in the stadium today, it is the result of the #BlueGirl’s death. It's not the government's pursuit of women's demands,” Mojgan Jamshidi, a journalist responded to Rabiei’s tweet on Tuesday.

Some women are worried about obstacles that might not let their attendance at the stadiums turn to a routine. For example, Kayhan, a conservative daily affiliated to hardliners, described women who attended the stadium in a front-page headline as “victims of freedom,” on Saturday. A literature which shows hardliners will keep fighting against giving more freedom to women in this regard. However, women hope this time FIFA along public demands can keep the window open.

After the match, which Iran won handily, FIFA issued another statement and called the day a "very positive step forward."

“There can be no stopping or turning back now,” the statement said.

“History teaches us that progress comes in stages and this is just the beginning of a journey,” the statement added.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


How tech has fueled a 'leaderless protest' in Hong Kong

iStock(HONG KONG) -- Residents of Hong Kong have convened on the streets in masses for months, demonstrating against Beijing's dominance in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory they call home -- what sets these uprisings apart from pro-democracy movements in the past, however, is that millions of citizens are armed with a stockpile of tech resources.

While pro-democracy protests have flared up in Hong Kong sporadically throughout its history, this most recent bout has carried on for months, and despite not having clear leadership, it has attracted crowds well into the millions. Some demonstrators say new technology, such as encrypted apps, has fueled this new kind of leaderless protest.

Online anonymity and end-to-end encryption is the key, protesters say, as some Hong Kong residents view the technology they use as a double-edged sword that offers a way for Big Brother on the mainland to get a glimpse at their digital lives.

Citizen X, an anonymous frontline protester who asked for his name to not be revealed, told ABC News that being anonymous online is crucial, because of the "terror that is being created" by Chinese authorities.

"We do not have any kind of trust in the police force in Hong Kong now," he added. "And we do not have much trust in the judicial system of Hong Kong right now either."

"The government is using the Public Order Ordinance, which is something that is left over from the colonial era," Citizen X said. "They are very strict; they are very harsh, and they put the protester at a very disadvantaged situation."

Hong Kong's Public Order Ordinance imposes sweeping restrictions on the right to assembly with the goal of maintaining "public order."

"That’s why if we want to continue our fights, if we want to continue to protect our city, we have to remain anonymous," Citizen X said.

Craig Choy, a lawyer from Hong Kong who focuses on privacy and data protection laws, wrote a manual on how to use encrypted apps for the pro-democracy group after the Umbrella Movement in 2014. An updated version of the manual has been distributed to 2019's demonstrators.

Choy told ABC News the way people organize and congregate for protests are through Telegram and Signal, which are messaging apps that offer end-to-end encryption. Telegram is a cloud-based messaging app that boasts on its website that "messages are heavily encrypted and can self-destruct."

In the past, pro-democracy demonstrators relied on now-outdated methods of "publications on Facebook" or "writing articles in the newspapers," Choy said.

"But nowadays a lot of people are using messenger channels," he said. "They are also using other kind of technologies to collaborate, to work together, to make it easier for them to communicate and consolidate and do their call to actions."

Choy said he spent some time protesting in August and received directions and information through Telegram.

Another piece of technology heavily used by protesters is "the LIHKG forum, which is something like Reddit in the U.S.," Choy said. "A lot of people are using it to discuss political ideas; there are lots of discussions there about where they will move, what they will do next."

"People are just throwing out their own ideas. The difference is that everyone is anonymous, people will not judge you whether you are a person with a high position in society or whether you are young or rich," he said. "I think because of that a lot of young people can voice their opinion without the baggage of, 'I'm not high-ranking enough in society.'"

"It's very open," Choy said. "For example the protest in the airport, it didn't really get a lot of support, they thought it was a nuisance to visitors to Hong Kong, that's where they formulated the idea to apologize."

Choy also said Apple's Airdrop technology, which allows users to send text, pictures or information through Bluetooth, is being used to spread news to people who may otherwise not receive it through mass airdrops in public places.

"It's a very efficient way to spread information about the protests," Choy said. "It's also because the older generation they just turn on their Bluetooth without knowing it."

Political activist Glacier Kwong, 23, who has also spent time protesting on the streets in Hong Kong, said technology had played a “vital role throughout the movement.”

The online platforms that are being used to organize mean that there are "many facilitators of the movement," and citizens can "organize themselves without revealing their identity."

In addition to the organizing component, technology is a significant help on the front lines of a protest, Kwong said, where people can be updated with "instant news" about "where is safe, where is not."

Citing the 2014 Umbrella Movement, Kwong said one of the biggest issues for protesters then was that “not everyone agrees with the ‘main organizers’ and there are a lot of debates and conflicts.”

“But this time, because technology enables us to get rid of leaders, everyone can do whatever they see fit,” she said. “And it is also harder for the government to deter people from participating.”

"Because no matter who they arrest, there are no leaders,” she added. “Hence, the others can still organize themselves.”
Online anonymity is crucial because 'retaliation on the protesters are very severe'

As Citizen X said, anonymity is vital for those who choose to protest because it can mean risking their livelihoods.

“Technology is being used against protestors for sure,” Kwong said. “It is highly suspected that Hong Kong-ers data are being collected and send to China as there are no regulations governing data transmission."

Choy added that the same tools they use could be later used to "expose the identities of some people," Choy said. "I think that it's very important because you can also see that retaliation on the protesters are very severe."

Some people "have been fired" from their jobs because their online activity was reported, Choy said. This is why many protesters are wearing masks, goggles and helmets.

Another way people protect their identity is by using code words such as meeting for a "picnic" when they congregate.

One common term is "dreamwalking," Choy said. "Whenever they go for a protest they will say, 'I am going for a dream.'"

"People are very cautious about what they are saying online now," he said. "They don't want direct evidence that can be collected by Hong Kong police online."

Kwong said she sees online anonymity as “necessary for the advancement of human rights" because it "allows individuals to exercise their freedom of speech and freedom of assembly online."
As tech is being used as a tool, companies like Apple are being dragged in the middle

Apple recently was accused by critics of bowing to pressure from China after it removed a police-tracking app, HKMap.live, from the App Store. Apple defended its decision in a statement saying it has learned that the app "has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong."

"The app displays police locations, and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement," the statement added. "This app violates our guidelines and local laws, and we have removed it from the App Store."

While the app lives on in a web server and on Android devices, Choy said he believes Apple's decision will have a "chilling effect" on other app developers and companies who support Hong Kong.

"A lot of these companies nowadays are facing pressure from China," Choy said. "The technology is neutral. By itself, it's not evil or good, it's how people use it that matters."

Moreover, Choy said Apple's move to delete the app is "actually putting the protesters in a very dangerous position."

"Lots of people nowadays, they use that app to know where the police officers are, especially in Hong Kong police brutality is very serious now, and none of them wear the badges and lots of protesters are going on the street and risking their lives," he said. "Even though they are facing police brutality, they have no way to complain."

"A not very brave protester like me would need this app so that I could locate a police officer, so I could get out of this dangerous scene," Choy said.

Apple taking a stand like this will cause other app developers to "think second thoughts" about what kind of apps they make, Choy said, and if they want to stand with Hong Kong.

Citizen X said Apple's decision shows that no one is immune to China's threats.

"As we see in recent years, the Chinese rise in power in economic perspective, power in a political perspective, it is constantly exerting influence over other countries, over international community and so on," he said. "That’s why we see Apple has to succumb to the threat of the Chinese government and the Chinese authority to impose some restriction on the application on the Apple store."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Thousands of US troops deploying to Saudi Arabia: Pentagon

MivPiv/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The United States is deploying thousands of additional U.S. forces to Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the Iran's attack on Saudi oil facilities in September, the Pentagon announced on Friday. The deployment includes fighter squadrons, early detection aircraft, and air defense systems.

"[Defense] Secretary Esper informed Saudi Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Muhammad bin Salman this morning of the additional troop deployment to assure and enhance the defense of Saudi Arabia," said Chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman in a statement on Friday. "Taken together with other deployments, this constitutes an additional 3,000 forces that have been extended or authorized within the last month."

The U.S. is sending two fighter squadrons, one air expeditionary wing, two Patriot Batteries, and one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) to Saudi Arabia. The air expeditionary wing can be comprised of tankers, fighters, surveillance and reconnaissance, and the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), a U.S. official tells ABC News.

The U.S. aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln has been in the Gulf region since May and is expected to depart later this year. The carrier will likely to not be replaced because the USS Harry S. Truman remains in Norfolk, Virginia for unscheduled repairs to its electrical systems.

The new aircraft deployment is not meant to make up for the potential lack of a U.S. carrier in the region but is intended to back fill the squadrons of aircraft the U.S. sent to the region earlier this summer after Iran carried out a series of attacks on commercial shipping and downed an American drone. The squadrons sent during that time were not originally scheduled to be replaced.

"Since May, the Department of Defense has increased the number of forces by approximately 14,000 to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility as an investment into regional security," Hoffman said. "As we have stated, the United States does not seek conflict with the Iranian regime, but we will retain a robust military capability in the region that is ready to respond to any crisis and will defend U.S. forces and interest in the region."

This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Manchester stabbings: police arrest suspect on suspicion of 'terrorism offenses'

BrianAJackson/iStock(LONDON) — A man has been arrested on suspicion of "terrorism offenses" after a man with a knife stabbed three people in a busy shopping center in Manchester, England.

The suspect, a man in his 40s, has been arrested in connection with the multiple stabbings at the Arndale Center on Friday morning. Video footage circulated on social media showed the purported suspect being arrested by police officers armed with stun guns. He was initially arrested at the scene on suspicion of "serious assault," although the incident is now suspected to be terror-related.

Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson told reporters that the man had been arrested on “suspicion of terrorism offenses” but they do not believe there is a wider threat at this time, describing the incident as an “awful attack.”

@MENnewsdesk guy being held by police with a tazer outside the arndale pic.twitter.com/O8y0786CEw

— John Greenhalgh (@JohnGre07881147) October 11, 2019

“Specialist officers are continuing to respond to an incident at the Arndale shopping centre in #Manchester city centre," Greater Manchester Police said in a statement. "In these early stages we are keeping an open mind about the motivation of this terrible incident and the circumstances as we know them. Given the location of the incident and its nature officers from Counter Terrorism Police North West are leading the investigation as we determine the circumstances. A man in his 40s – who was arrested at the scene on suspicion of serious assault – remains in custody for questioning.”

In total five people were injured in the attack, with two women and a man are being treated in hospital with stab wounds. The condition of the two women being treated with "stab injuries" is described as "stable," while the man is being treated with "stab wounds," police said. A fourth woman, who was not stabbed, was treated by paramedics on the scene, and was deemed to not require hospital treatment.

Police are now appealing for footage and images of the incident on social media.

The investigation is looking into "what the man said" during the incident to determine whether the stabbings were terror-related, according to the Manchester Evening News.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed his "shock" and praised the response of the emergency services in the aftermath of the attack.

"Shocked by the incident in Manchester and my thoughts are with the injured and all those affected," he said in a tweet. "Thank you to our excellent emergency services who responded and who are now investigating what happened."

Earlier this year a police officer was among three people stabbed on New Year's Eve in Manchester, England, in what authorities investigated as a "terrorist incident." The city was also the site of a suicide bombing at at an Ariana Grande concert in 2017, which left 22 killed and 59 injured.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Duchess Meghan shares throwback clip of herself as a pre-teen to mark International Day of the Girl

NataliaCatalina/iStock(LONDON) -- Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, has a message for young girls as the world celebrates International Day of the Girl.

"Every girl has potential. She has promise. She has the right to learn, the right to be heard, the right to play and to discover. The right to be exactly who she is," Meghan said in a video shared Friday on the @SussexRoyal Instagram account. "So to each one of you, keep asking questions. Keep pushing forward. Keep shining brightly. Know your worth and know that we are behind you every step of the way."

The video narrated by Meghan also includes a throwback clip of a pre-teen Meghan talking about how she took action at age 11 when she was offended by a commercial for a dishwashing liquid that said in its tagline, “Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.”

Meghan, who grew up in California, wrote a series of letters that she claims changed how women were portrayed in a commercial for dish soap.

"If you see something that you don't like or are offended by, on television or any other place, write letters and send them to the right people," the young Meghan says in the throwback clip. "And you can really make a difference for not just yourself but lots of other people."

The now Duchess of Sussex also shared in the Instagram post a quote she said in a speech in Cape Town during her recent 10-day tour of South Africa with Prince Harry: “Visualize your highest self, and show up as her.”

"To all of the young girls reading this today on International Day of the Girl, that quote is for you," the post reads.

It is no surprise that Meghan chose to speak out on a day devoted to women's empowerment. The duchess has made women a focus of her work as a royal, including supporting women-focused charities in the U.K., launching a fashion capsule collection to benefit women and spotlighting women at events both home in the U.K. and abroad.

When Meghan had the opportunity to guest-edit British Vogue's September issue this year, she used the platform to spotlight activist women like maternal rights advocate and model Christy Turlington, feminist and actress Yara Shahidi and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in an issue she named "Forces for Change."

Meghan, a self-described feminist, also advocated for women when she worked as an actress, before she wed Prince Harry.

"I am proud to be a woman and a feminist," Markle said in a 2015 speech in her role as a United Nations Women advocate for political participation and leadership.

"It isn’t enough to simply talk about equality. One must believe in it," she said in the speech. "And it isn’t enough to simply believe in it. One must work at it. Let us work at it, together, starting now."

While making a name for herself in Hollywood, Markle worked on women's rights issues with organizations including World Vision, the Myna Mahila Foundation and One Young World, in addition to the United Nations.

On International Women's Day in 2017, Markle wrote an essay on period shaming based on her experience visiting India as an ambassador for World Vision, a global Christian humanitarian organization.

"We need to push the conversation, mobilize policy making surrounding menstrual health initiatives, support organizations who foster girls' education from the ground up," she wrote in Time magazine. "And within our own homes, we need to rise above our puritanical bashfulness when it comes to talking about menstruation.”

While Meghan was dating Harry, she hinted that she had found her match in him as a feminist.

She responded to a well-wisher who told her, "It's great having a feminist in the royal family," by saying, "He's a feminist too," in an apparent reference to Harry.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed wins 2019 Nobel Peace Prize

rrodrickbeiler/iStock(LONDON) -- Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which is responsible for selecting the Nobel Peace Prizes, decided to award this year's prize to Ahmed "for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea."

"The prize is also meant to recognize all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast African regions," the committee said in a statement Friday.

Along with the notoriety, Ahmed will receive a cash award of 9 million Swedish krona, or about $915,000.

In Ethiopia, the prime minister wields the executive power; and the position of president, while it carries significant social influence, is largely a ceremonial post.

Abiy, 43, became the prime minister of Ethiopia in April 2018. He spent his first few months in office freeing thousands of the country's political prisoners, lifting media censorship and appointing women ministers to a record 50 percent of his cabinet. He also spearheaded a peace agreement to end 20 years of frozen conflict between his nation and Eritrea.

Following the 1998 war over their shared border, which claimed the lives of more than 80,000 people, Ethiopia and Eritrea became locked in a stalemate of neither peace nor war -- until last year. On July 9, 2018, Abiy flew to Eritrea's capital and embraced the country's president, Isaias Afwerki, to usher in a new era of peace and friendship. The two leaders then jointly declared an end to the hostilities as well as the resumption of trade and diplomatic ties.

"Peace does not arise from the actions of one party alone," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in its statement Friday. "When Prime Minister Abiy reached out his hand, President Afwerki grasped it, and helped to formalize the peace process between the two countries."

The committee acknowledged that "many challenges remain unsolved" in Ethiopia, Africa's second most populous country, where ongoing ethnic violence as well as conflict over land and resources have displaced millions of people. The committee said it hopes that the Nobel Peace Prize will strengthen Abiy "in his important work for peace and reconciliation."

"In Ethiopia, even if much work remains, Abiy Ahmed has initiated important reforms that give many citizens hope for a better life and a brighter future," the committee said. "No doubt some people will think this year’s prize is being awarded too early. The Norwegian Nobel Committee believes it is now that Abiy Ahmed’s efforts deserve recognition and need encouragement."

Last year's Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad "for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict."

Peace was the fifth and final prize category that Swedish inventor and scholar Alfred Nobel mentioned in his last will and testament. He left most of his fortune to be dedicated to the series of awards, the Nobel Prizes.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses," as described in Nobel's will.

All Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, except for the Nobel Peace Prize, which is presented in Oslo, Norway.

To date, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate is Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 years old when awarded the 2014 Peace Prize.

One person has declined the Peace Prize -- Le Duc Tho -- who was awarded the prize with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1973 for negotiating the Vietnam peace agreement.

Of the 106 individuals awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, 17 are women.

Ten years ago, former President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for what the Norwegian Nobel Committee called "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Egypt unveils 3,500-year-old industrial district on west bank of the Nile

iStock(NEW YORK) -- Egypt, as part of a larger effort to ramp up tourism, has unveiled a 3,500-year-old industrial area, a first-of-its-kind collection of artifacts, on the west bank of the Nile River in Luxor.

The discovery in the Western Valley, also known as the Valley of the Monkeys, dates to the New Kingdom's 18th Dynasty, approximately 1543–1292 B.C., the antiquities ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, who spearheaded a two-year excavation in the area, said the site includes 30 workshops where funeral furniture for royal tombs was made.

The team also discovered an oven used to produce clay products, a water storage tank, two silver rings and objects used to decorate royal coffins, Hawass said at a press conference in Luxor, according to the statement.

Hawass' team also uncovered a royal tomb that contained tools used in tomb construction.

A mission launched by Napoleon Bonaparte in the early 19th century discovered a few items at this site, which otherwise remained untapped until a new excavation in 2011. That mission was halted, and Hawass returned to the site in 2017.

Work is currently underway in the Western Valley to find the tombs of Queen Nefertiti and the wife of boy-king Tutankhamun, Hawass added.

In April, archaeologists unveiled an expansive tomb on Luxor's west bank that also dates to the 18th dynasty, believed to have belonged to a nobleman named Shedsu Djehuty.

The west bank of the Nile in Luxor also is home to the Valley of the Kings, a major site where pharaohs and nobles of the New Kingdom were buried.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Pope Francis holds Vatican gathering to study problems in the Amazon

mason01/iStock(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Francis and over 200 bishops, indigenous leaders and climate change experts convened in the Vatican on Monday to discuss issues related to the Amazon rainforest region.

The gathering, called a synod, opened Monday with a festive procession that started in St. Peter’s Basilica and moved through St. Peter’s Square.

On Monday in his opening address, Pope Francis urged the bishops to pray a lot, reflect, dialogue and listen with humility -- and be open to new thinking. He warned against a "homogenizing centralism" in the church driven by ideology and urged to "approach Amazon peoples on tiptoes, respecting their history, their culture and their style of good living."

He stressed that the church’s approach was "far removed" from colonial ones "that destroy the distinctiveness of people."

"May God preserve us from the greed of new forms of colonialism," he said at the synod. "The fire set by interests that destroy, like the fire that recently devastated Amazonia, is not the fire of the Gospel."

The fire that destroys, he said "blazes up when people want to promote only their own ideas, form their own groups, wipe out differences in the attempt to make everyone and everything uniform."

Francis has made preservation of the planet a focus issue throughout his papacy and passionately argued for defending the poor and their natural environment in his 2015 encyclical letter, "Laudato Si."

On trips around the world, Francis, the first pope from South America, has drawn attention to indigenous communities and asked that they are listened to as equals instead of as minorities. He has often denounced their exploitation by governments and businesses that plunder their lands and natural resources.

The purpose of the gathering is to discuss the Amazon region’s cultural, ecological and spiritual problems and identify new ways for the Catholic Church to minister to its people. The vast area which spans nine countries -- Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname -- has approximately 34 million inhabitants, including 3 million indigenous people from nearly 400 ethnic groups who speak over 200 languages.

The Catholic Church's challenge is immense, especially since the region has a lack of priests. Some rural indigenous communities, often only accessible by boat, may see a priest just once a year.

To address this regional shortage in the more remote areas, some have raised the possibility of making married men from the local communities’ priests and strengthening women’s ministerial roles, many of whom are already doing the largest share of ministering to these communities.

The synod has sparked a great deal of controversy before its start. A conservative Catholic minority, opponents of this pope, which include a few cardinals, are against debating the proposal to allow the region’s married elders to become priests and elevating women’s ministerial roles.

There also have been accusations of heresy and apostasy from some dissenting Catholics who view this gathering as the church ‘’maneuvering to re-establish institutional primacy’’ in a once-Catholic territory that now sees the fast advancement of evangelism and Pentecostal Protestantism.

Another criticism related to this synod has been over bishops granted permission to wear clerical suits instead of cassocks in the synod hall and female experts and auditors able to sit where they wish, not just in back rows, as was the rule in previous synods.

On social media others have criticized Francis for his welcoming and greeting indigenous people who had come to the Vatican for the synod. During his opening address, the pope reacted to a negative comment made about the feathered headdress worn by an indigenous man at the opening mass.

"I was very saddened to hear, right here, a sarcastic comment about that pious man who brought the offerings with feathers on his head. Tell me, what difference is there in having feathers on your head and the three-cornered hat worn by some officials of our dicasteries?" referring to the three-pointed red birettas worn by cardinals.

The synod ends Oct. 27.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Video of synagogue shooting in Germany viewed more than 2,000 times on Twitch

BrianAJackson/iStock(HALLE, Germany) -- The live-streaming site Twitch is defending its actions after a user shared a video of the Halle synagogue shooting on the platform where it was viewed several thousand times.

Two people were killed near a synagogue in Halle, Germany, on Wednesday — which was also Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. The attack occurred around noon local time, and the suspect was arrested by police at around 3:30 p.m. The names of the victims were not released.

“We are shocked and saddened by the tragedy that took place in Germany today, and our deepest condolences go out to all those affected," Twitch, a platform especially popular in the online gaming community, said in an initial statement on Wednesday.

"Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against hateful conduct, and any act of violence is taken extremely seriously," the statement added. "We worked with urgency to remove this content and will permanently suspend any accounts found to be posting or reposting content of this abhorrent act.”

Later in the day, in a series of tweets, Twitch shed light on its investigation into how a recording of this act of violence was spread online.

The account owner streamed the act live on Twitch for 35 minutes, and it was viewed by approximately five people during that time, the company said.

An automatically-generated recording of the stream, however, was up for 30 minutes and was viewed by approximately 2,200 people before it was removed by Twitch.

We are shocked and saddened by the tragedy that took place in Germany today, and our deepest condolences go out to all those affected.

— Twitch (@Twitch) October 9, 2019

Twitch said the account that posted the stream of the violence was created about two months ago and had only attempted to stream once before. They also say that the video was never featured in any recommendations or directories on the platform, saying, "our investigation suggests that people were coordinating and sharing the video via other online messaging services."

The company added that after the video was removed from their platform, they shared the user's profile with "an industry consortium to help prevent the proliferation of this content."

"We take this extremely seriously and are committed to working with industry peers, law enforcement, and any relevant parties to protect our community," the company added.

The incident is reminiscent of when an attacker live-streamed video of himself on Facebook as he went on a shooting rampage at a New Zealand mosque in March, sending the company and other social media platforms reeling as they tried to contain the spread of videos.

In the aftermath of the New Zealand incident that left 49 people dead, Facebook announced changes to prevent hate videos from spreading -- including a one-strike policy that restricts users from live-streaming after their first offense.

More recently, Facebook announced it had re-trained its automatic detections system using firearm training video footage from U.S. and U.K. law enforcement to better spot content featuring first-person footage of violent events.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ukrainian president says 'no blackmail' in infamous July phone call with Trump

Oleksii Liskonih/iStock(LONDON) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Thursday there was "no blackmail" in a July telephone call with President Donald Trump that provoked an impeachment inquiry.

"This has nothing to do with weapons and the Burisma situation," Zelenskiy said when asked about accusations that Trump had pressured him to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, and his role on the board of the energy company Burisma Holdings.

"There was no blackmail; it was not the subject of our conversation," he added. "The call could have no impact on our relations with America."

The recently elected Ukrainian leader made the comments during an all-day "press marathon" held in a food court in the capital, Kyiv, where he took questions from dozens of local and international journalists.

Questions have been raised about the Trump administration withholding aide to Ukraine around the time of the July 25 phone call between the two leaders and whether that was related to Trump's request to Zelenskiy to investigate Biden.

When asked by ABC News Chief National Affairs Correspondent Tom Llamas about whether he thought it was corrupt for a foreign government to be asked to probe a political rival, Zelenskiy said he has broken no laws and is not corrupt, and that he will not judge Trump or his actions.

"I'm against corruption," Zelenskiy told Llamas. "This is not corruption, it was just [a] call."

In response to another reporter's question about how this could impact Ukraine's relationship with the United States, Zelenskiy responded, "I do not anticipate any change."

"But if it happens, we will learn about that from Twitter," Zelenskiy added, jokingly.

During a telephone call on July 25, Trump repeatedly encouraged Zelenskiy to work with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter. Zelenskiy assured Trump that his new prosecutor general "will look into the situation," according to what the White House called a transcript of the call, which they released weeks after a whistleblower complaint was filed.

Zelenskiy also told Llamas Friday that he told Trump the country's new prosecutor general was "100% the honest man," making Ukraine "ready" for the United States to work with him on many issues.

"Please, invite your prosecutor general, let him join ours, but it should be according to the Ukrainian laws and international laws," Zelenskiy said he told Trump. "I don't mind. We don't want to hide any case. We are open."

Trump and Giuliani have accused Biden of calling for the dismissal of Ukraine's former prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, back in 2016 because Shokin's office was investigating Burisma, where Biden's son had a seat on the board of directors.

Amid growing controversy over the call between the two leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced last month that she was moving forward with a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

Several House and Senate committees have already demanded documents and witness testimony from current and former members of the administration as well as Giuliani, who has been working his own investigation into Biden and Ukraine for much of the last year.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


What you need to know about Turkey's push into Syria

omersukrugoksu/iStock(ANKARA, Turkey) -- Turkey's military airstrikes inside Syria are the first step in its offensive into northern Syria, targeting the Syrian Kurds that helped the U.S. defeat the Islamic State.

But where is this fighting taking place and what comes next? What are U.S. military troops inside Syria doing in response to the Turkish operation? ABC News looks at what could result from Turkey's military operation against the Syrian Kurds:

What has Turkey done so far?

Turkish military aircraft have carried out airstrikes inside a 130-mile stretch of the border region, according to Syrian Kurdish forces known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

"According to initial reports, there are casualties among civilian people," the SDF tweeted on Wednesday.

The U.S. is aware of Turkish airstrikes and artillery fire on the towns of Tal Aryab and Ras al Ayn -- the two towns that are 75 miles apart and mark the "security mechanism zone" that had been agreed to by the United States and Turkey over the summer. Depending on the geography, that zone is between 3 and 7 miles from the border with Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has publicly expressed a desire that the zone should be 18 miles deep inside Syria.

Erdogan has said Turkey wants a "safe zone" to protect against the Kurdish threat and to help resettle as many as two million Syrian refugees.

As part of that agreement, the SDF agreed to dismantle defensive fortifications along that stretch of the border. That action might now make it easier for Turkish forces to move deep into Syrian Kurdish areas.

A U.S. official told ABC News that there are close to 10,000 Turkish troops and pro-Turkish militia forces poised to enter the border area with Syria as part of what they are calling the "Peace Spring" operation.

As a result of the Turkish military operation, the SDF has ceased its counter-ISIS operations inside Syria, according to another U.S. official. But the American and coalition forces inside Syria have not stopped their anti-ISIS operations.

Where are U.S. troops and what will they do?

There are still 1,000 U.S. military troops inside northeastern Syria at various locations -- there have been no orders given to them to leave Syria.

The only U.S. military forces that have been repositioned were the dozens of troops who had been stationed at two observation posts at Tal Aryab and Ras al Ayn, as part of the security mechanism agreement.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recommended the relocation of those troops right after President Donald Trump's phone call on Sunday with Erdogan that indicated Turkey was moving forward with a military operation.

According to two U.S. officials, there is no military coordination taking place with Turkey. The U.S. will defend its ground troops, if attacked, but there is no intent to shoot down Turkish military aircraft because that would presume Turkey is attacking U.S. targets.

It's unclear how deep into Syria the Turks are planning to go, but a U.S. official said there are a variety of plans for a possible, full U.S. military withdrawal from northeast Syria, should that become necessary.

According to a third U.S. official, there is active planning between the U.S., the coalition and Iraqi partners for how to respond to the Turkish military operation inside Syria, should it impact Iraq's security.

They are actively monitoring refugee camps and ISIS prisons inside of Syria, should any become insecure. Iraqi border guard forces are also on alert, but Iraqi security forces are not readying for combat, said the official.

What comes next?

It is unclear how much the SDF's fighters will be able to hold back a Turkish incursion. The SDF consists of 60,000 Syrian Kurd and Arab fighters who were able to defeat ISIS with the help of coalition airstrikes and U.S. military equipment.

But they will now be facing a Turkish military that -- at 640,000 -- is NATO's second-largest conventional force, equipped with hundreds of pieces of modern artillery, tanks and aircraft.

Earlier this week, Gen. Mazloum Ebdi, the SDF's commanding general, told ABC News that he expected Turkey to launch a large-scale operation.

But he also expected that it would be a long, drawn-out battle because he expected all of his fighters to offer a stiff resistance to the Turkish incursion. And that would include the Kurdish guards working at the prisons that are holding the more than 12,000 ISIS fighters who were captured on the battlefield.

They "are going to head to the border area to defend their families" against a potential Turkish assault, Ebdi told ABC News.

"This lack in security, of course, is going to jeopardize the calm in the prisons," he said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Nobel Prizes in Literature awarded to Olga Tokarczuk, Peter Handke

Chinnapong/iStock(LONDON) -- Polish author Olga Tokarczuk and Austrian novelist Peter Handke were both awarded the world's most prestigious literature prize on Thursday.

Tokarczuk, 57, won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life,” according to a press release from the Swedish Academy, which is responsible for choosing the Nobel laureates in literature. Tokarczuk is the 15th woman ever to win the award. Her best-known works include the novels Flights and The Books of Jacob.

Handke, 76, won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience," according to the Swedish Academy. His best-known works include the novel The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick and a memoir about his late mother, A Sorrow Beyond Dreams.

Two winners were announced this year because the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature was postponed amid a sexual assault scandal that rocked the centuries-old organization.

Jean-Claude Arnault, who is married to a former member of the Swedish Academy board, was convicted last year of two rapes in Stockholm in 2011. He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.

The charges prompted his wife, poet Katarina Frostenson, to leave the prestigious body.

The Swedish Academy cited the "reduced public confidence" in the organization upon announcing the decision to shelve the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature.

"We find it necessary to commit time to recovering public confidence in the academy before the next laureate can be announced," Anders Olsson, the Swedish Academy's acting permanent secretary, said in a May 2018 statement.

In November 2017, Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter published allegations by 18 women, including Swedish Academy board members, their wives and daughters, who said they had been raped, sexually assaulted or harassed by Arnault, a 73-year-old French photographer and prominent cultural figure in Sweden and beyond.

The Swedish Academy, which was founded in 1786 and prides itself on its top-secret selection process, became entangled in further controversy when the newspaper reported Arnault had allegedly leaked the names of the Nobel Prize in Literature winners seven times, including 2016 laureate Bob Dylan.

Arnault has denied all allegations.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Two ISIS 'Beatles' transferred from Syrian prison to US military custody

welcomia/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. military has taken custody of two notorious British Islamic State fighters nicknamed "The Beatles," who were responsible for the executions of western hostages.

They were moved on Wednesday from a Kurdish-run prison in Syria to a safe location, officials said. The move of the two detainees occurred as Turkey's military forces pushed into Syria targeting the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that helped defeat ISIS in Syria.

Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh are British nationals who were part of a four-person ISIS cell behind the video executions of western hostages, including American journalist James Foley.

Mohammed Emwazi, a member of the group who earned notoriety as "Jihadi John" was killed in a 2015 U.S. drone strike. Aine Davis, another member of the terror cell is serving a prison sentence in Turkey.

A U.S. official told ABC News that the two detainees had been transferred from SDF control to an undisclosed "safe location."

Later, a U.S defense official confirmed that the U.S. military had taken control of two high value individuals from the SDF, but did not confirm their identities.

"They are being held in U.S. military custody pursuant to the law of war," said the official. "They have been moved out of Syria and are in a secure location."

The official said that the transfer occurred on Wednesday and that it had been negotiated by the United States.

The transfer of the two detainees was first reported by The Washington Post, which also reported that the pair had been taken to Iraq.

President Donald Trump had hinted at the transfer on Wednesday afternoon at a White House event.

"We are taking some of the most dangerous ISIS fighters out," said Trump. "We've taken them out and we're putting them in different locations where it's secure."

Both Kotey and Elsheikh had been held by Kurdish forces at prisons in northern Syria.

The move reflected concerns about what would happen to the 12,000 ISIS prisoners in SDF-run prisons if Kurdish guards left their posts to help fight the Turkish military.

On Wednesday, a U.S. official confirmed to ABC News that beginning Tuesday there had been some reductions in manning at some of the SDF-run prisons.

The U.S. and United Kingdom have been involved in ongoing discussions about the possible transfer of the pair to U.S. control so that they could be prosecuted in the United States for the executions of American citizens.

Potential transfers have been held up by a lawsuit filed in Britain by Elsheikh's mother.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Meet the first black woman to visit every country in the world

yenwen/iStock(NEW YORK) -- After 195 countries in two years, one traveler has become the first black woman to visit every country in the world.

Jessica Nabongo ended her journey in the Seychelles, off the coast of East Africa -- just as she said she would on ABC News' Good Morning America back in March.

"Welcome to the Seychelles!! Country 195 of 195!" she posted to her Instagram. "So much to say but for now I will just say thank you to this entire community for all of your support. This was our journey and thanks to all of you who came along for the ride!!"

Friends and family joined her in the Seychelles to celebrate the achievement.

When Nabongo spoke to GMA in March, she had visited 157 countries so far but travel has always been a part of her life, she told GMA.

Nabongo, who lives in Detroit, traveled to Canada when she was four and, by age 18, she had also been to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, the United Kingdom and Uganda -- which is where her parents are from. In addition to her U.S. passport, Nabongo carries a Ugandan passport, which she said helped her gain access to nations that aren't amenable to American tourists.

The idea to visit every country on earth came to her in February 2017. At that point, she had visited about 60 countries.

But Nabango didn't tell anyone her plan, at least not at first. Nabango did some research and discovered that she could become the first black woman to visit every country.

"I didn't want anyone to beat me to it," she said.

She went public with her quest in March 2018.

Nabongo had been writing a travel blog since 2009, before social media was so prevalent, as "a way to keep family and friends updated," she said. Today, she documents much of her travel on Instagram, where she has almost 90,000 followers.

She said she gets asked a lot about how she got started.

"People look at a photo of me in Bali and they say, 'That's cool, I want to go to Bali.' But everyone needs to ask themselves, 'What is your why? Why do you want to do what it is you want to do?' I hope people would be more reflective than reactive. Not just like, 'Oh Bali, that's a cute picture, I want to go,'" she said.

What makes it to her Instagram, she said, is "a fraction of my life. There's a lot of really s***** things that go on behind the scenes."

Nabongo recounted a visit to the Eastern European nation of Moldova -- one of the poorest countries in Europe -- and said she'll "never go back there in my life." It wasn't just that she got ripped off when exchanging her money for the local currency, or that her taxi driver charged her double. She just found that the reception wasn't that friendly.

She's had things like that happen before. It was the general unfriendliness of the people she encountered.

"I'm [a] seasoned traveler, used to being a foreigner and people taking advantage of me," she said. "I don’t speak the language, I get it, especially in poor countries. In poor countries, I don't really even mind."

More often than not, though, people tried to be helpful, especially when Nabongo would tell them what she was trying to accomplish, she said.

She ended her quest on Oct. 6. The date is significant: it's her late father's birthday, and Nabongo said the journey was in his honor.

"Had he not gotten a scholarship to Western Michigan," she said, "none of this would be happening."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Furious Norwegian Spirit passengers demand refund after bad weather forces itinerary change

iStock(NEW YORK) -- Norwegian Cruise Line is blaming "severe weather conditions" for forcing it to revise the itinerary of its Spirit ship, which has left guests irate and calling this cruise of a lifetime more like a holiday from hell.

The 14-day cruise on the Norwegian Spirit departed on Sept. 27 from Southampton, U.K., and is expected to return Friday, according to website Cruisemapper.

The ship's current position was listed as Dublin, Ireland, on Wednesday. It was not immediately known how many people were on board.

According to Norwegian, the cruise is advertised as an "Iceland, Ireland and Norway: Mystical Fjords" adventure and starts at $1799.

It was supposed to stop in ports in France, Amsterdam, Scotland, Iceland, and Ireland, according to Cruisemapper. However, high winds forced the ship to cancel the first two stops, passengers said.

"While nine ports of call were originally planned for the voyage, the revised itinerary allowed the ship to call on eight ports. ... We always do our best to provide our guests with a truly enjoyable and memorable vacation, but our very first priority is to ensure their safety and the safety of our crew," Norwegian said in a statement to ABC News on Wednesday.

The statement continued: "We understand that it is disheartening when we are unable to call on ports that our guests have been looking forward to visiting. However, we do ask for our guests' patience, cooperation and understanding that severe weather conditions are an act of God and cannot be controlled, influenced or remediated by the cruise line. Our goal is to showcase the beautiful destinations our ships visit and to provide guests with an onboard experience that is second to none."

It would not confirm which of the ports its Spirit cruise ship had bypassed.

After three days at sea, livid passengers began posting on social media about overflowing toilets and stale food.

In a 24-second YouTube video posted by an account called NCL Hell2019 on Wednesday, people identified as passengers aboard were taped holding signs that read “We want refund” and "Shame on you" and chanting "We want refund! We want refund!"

In other videos posted by the account, passengers were seen yelling at security and at a uniformed ship official.

In a statement to ABC News, Norwegian apologized "for any inconvenience and disappointment" its guests onboard Spirit had experienced.

In a letter to guests that was posted to Twitter by account NCLHELL, Norwegian Spirit said that "unsafe docking conditions including gusty winds" had forced the Oct. 7 call to Greenock, Scotland, to be canceled.

"While it is always our intention to maintain the ship's original itinerary whenever possible, the safety of our guests and crew takes precedence," the letter said.

Norwegian said that any Greenock excursions paid for by guests would be refunded as a credit to their onboard account, according to the posted letter. Guests would also receive a 25% future cruise credit, the cruise line said.

"This credit is based on the original cruise fare paid and will be valid for 24 months from today’s date," Norwegian said in the Oct. 7 letter.

The Spirit also tried heading to Norway but passengers were not allowed to disembark because the town was closed to tourists.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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