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Hong Kong protester shot by police while pro-China man is set on fire

pawel.gaul/iStock(HONG KONG) -- 21-year old protester was shot by police with a live round and a pro-China man was set on fire as Hong Kong woke up Monday to chaos on its streets. Over 260 people have been arrested, Hong Kong police said on the agency's Twitter account.

Hong Police also issued several warnings on Twitter. "Police warn the rioters to stop brutalizing others. Police will take enforcement action."

"Police will carry on with the enforcement action in response to the illegal acts of the rioters," the Hong Police stated in another tweet.

Protesters, answering an online call, attempted to disrupt the Monday morning commute all across the city with what they dubbed as "Operation Dawn." Groups of protesters fanned out across the city setting up blockades and vandalizing subways stations and intersections.

The death of a university student last week from a fall has reignited rage in the protest movement. The protesters believe that the police bear responsibility for the student's injury because he fell off a parking garage in the vicinity of a police clearance operation.

After a relatively subdued weekend, the protesters chose to escalate their actions by disrupting Monday rush hour to force a general strike.

Just before 8 a.m. in the residential district of San Wai Ho, a squad of traffic police officers were captured on an online livestream attempting to clear the small blockade put up by protesters when one of the officers was approached by black-clad students.

The cop pulls out his service revolver and tackles one of the protesters while another unarmed protester approaches and attempts to reach for the revolver.

A shot then rings out. The officer shoots the protester in the abdomen before firing off another two rounds that police later confirmed did not hit anyone else.

At a police press conference later that day, Hong Kong Police spokesperson Tse Chun-chung said, “at that time, the officer believed it was very likely that the revolver would be snatched and the consequences would be disastrous.”

The protester who was shot, a 21 year old student at the Institute of Vocational Educational, was then seen on the livestream in a puddle of blood, body limp with blood draining from his face, his eyes wide open. This excerpt has been circulating this morning across multiple social media platforms.

As the livestream continued, the protester can be seen waking up and attempting to escape before being subdued again by police. He was then taken to the Hong Kong's Pamela Youde Nerthersole Eastern Hospital where he is currently in the stable condition after coming out of surgery.

The police shooting, the third known since these protests began in early June, caused clashes to erupt in numerous districts across the city including in the heart of Hong Kong’s central business district at the height of lunch time.

Riot police fired tear gas into a crowd that included protesters and office workers which then sent them running for cover into high-end shopping centers.

Stand offs also sprung up at numerous universities across the city including Hong Kong University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Protesters ignited barricades at both PolyU and CUHK during their confrontation with police.

Violence has escalated as tempers have flared on both sides as the Hong Kong protests enter their sixth month. There has been a steady escalation of tactics by protesters and police. What began as a protest against a now-shelved extradition bill has morphed into a pro-democracy movement marred by anti-government and police sentiments with those involved more willing to engage in targeted violence. Meanwhile the police have seemingly lowered the threshold to engage with the protesters.

A couple of other videos also emerged on Monday morning of a police motorcycle appearing to deliberately drive into a group of protesters. Police later confirmed that the officer has been suspended from active duty and the incident is under investigation.

Protesters have also resorted to violence to settle disputes. In multiple graphic videos, a protester douses a man with an unknown fluid and set him alight. The man was in the midst of an argument with the protestors and had earlier tousled with them as they were vandalizing the Ma On Shan MTR rail station. Police said that man is now in critical condition.

At a press conference, protesters called on Hong Kong people to stage “a massive strike, to be carried out indefinitely” in response to today’s shooting and to continue to pressure the government to meet their demands which including an independent probe into police actions as well as restarting political reforms towards true democracy.

Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam condemned the violence Monday evening.

“If there is any wishful thinking that by escalating violence that Hong Kong SAR government will yield to pressure to satisfy the so-called political demands, I am making this statement clear and loud here … that will not happen," Lam said speaking to the media. "Violence is not going to give us any solution to the problems that Hong Kong is facing. Our joint priority now is to end the violence and to return Hong Kong to normal as soon as possible.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Kremlin remarks on Russian scholar charged with murder, after woman's body parts found

TomasSereda/iStock(MOSCOW) — A prominent Russian Napoleon scholar has confessed to murdering and dismembering his young lover and former student after he was found in a canal in St. Petersburg with a rucksack containing her severed arms.

Oleg Sokolov, a 63-year-old professor at St. Petersburg State University’s history department, was arrested after he was pulled from the freezing waters of the city’s Moika canal on Saturday. Rescuers discovered the arms along with a pistol in his bag, Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement.

Police then visited Sokolov’s apartment where they found the dismembered body of Anastasia Yeshchenko, a 24-year-old former student at the university who had also co-authored several works on Napoleonic history with Sokolov and who was in a romantic relationship with him. Police believe Sokolov shot Yeshchenko and then sought to cover up the crime by disposing her body. A local news site, News47, reported he had been drunk while trying to throw away Yeshchenko's arms and had slipped into the water and almost drowned.

Sokolov appeared in a St. Petersburg's court on Monday for a pre-trial hearing, where he acknowledged shooting Yeshchenko and using a saw and kitchen knife to cut up her body to conceal the killing. Sokolov said he and Yeshchenko had been in a relationship since 2015 and that he had considered her his bride and had intended to propose to her soon, Russian news media reported.

The judge asked Sokolov why he had killed Yeshchenko. He replied that he had not wanted to, saying it happened during a quarrel over his children from a former marriage and appeared to claim he had acted in self-defense.

"I said that on Saturday-Sunday she should spend time with the kids. She went crazy. After that this monstrous misfortune happened ... I have never seen such flood of aggression ... an attack with a knife ... The girl, who I believed to be ideal, suddenly turned into..." he said, according to the local news site, Fontanka.

Sokolov's lawyer interrupted, saying it was premature to discuss the details of the case. A break in the hearing was called after the historian broke down crying in the courtroom.

The judge ordered Sokolov held two months in detention ahead of his trial. His defense had requested he be placed under house arrest but Sokolov himself demanded to go to jail. He had been briefly hospitalized with hypothermia from the canal waters but by Monday had been signed off as healthy, his lawyer said.

Police have charged Sokolov with murder on a charge that carries six to 15 years in prison if he is convicted. His lawyer Alexander Pochuev told state media that his client had admitted to killing Yeshchenko and was fully cooperating with the investigation.

“He is completely remorseful," Pochuev told the TASS news agency, but added there were elements of the case with which the defense didn't agree.

Sokolov is one of Russia’s most prominent Napoleon experts and has lectured at Paris’ Sorbonne university. The author of several books on the French leader, in 2003 he was made a member of France’s Legion d’Honneur, one of the country’s highest state honors.

Sokolov was also known for taking part in historical costumed re-enactments and was seen as one of the founders of the practice in Russia. Photos have been published widely showing him dressed up as Napoleon, holding a sword and at costume balls with Yeshchenko, who also took part in the re-enactments.

He had also at one time been a member of Russia’s Military-Historical Society, which is headed by Russia’s conservative culture minister, Vadim Medinsky. The society quickly removed Sokolov’s name from its website after his arrest and claimed he had never been a full member.

Accounts from his students posted on social media over the weekend portray Sokolov as a talented lecturer and a master of his subject, but also eccentric, domineering and sometimes aggressive. “Everyone viewed him as a freak, completely immersed in his subject,” Fyodor Danilov, one of Sokolov’s students told the St. Petersburg site Fontanka. “But no one thought he was capable of such a murder.”

Others criticized the university, saying it had ignored multiple examples of aggressive and inappropriate behavior by Sokolov, who they said had been addicted to alcohol. Evgeny Ponasenko, another Napoleon specialist who had a long-time feud with Sokolov, wrote on his Facebook wall that he had repeatedly warned the university and demanded that Sokolov be fired over allegations he had beaten up another female student.

"If they had listened to me, a person, most likely would still be alive. I appealed to the rector, to the director of the history institute! I WARNED that Sokolov was dangerous," Ponasenko wrote.

Sokolov was censored by a university ethics committee in 2018 after an incident where a student supportive of Ponasenko was violently removed from one of Sokolov’s lectures.

The murder has gripped Russia. On Monday, the Kremlin commented on it, with president Vladimir Putin's spokesman describing it as "a monstrous act of insanity".

Sokolov had also been a member at the French Institute of Social Science, Economics and Politics (ISSEP). The Lyon-based institute was founded by Marechal Le Pen, the niece of Marine Le Pen, the French far right leader who has sought closer ties with Russia. On Saturday, it announced it had removed Sokolov from its membership and issued a statement saying it was horrified by his crime.

Sokolov's arrest was also discussed by enthusiasts on Napoleonic re-enactment forums on Monday. One user, under the name "Royal Scot's Guard" wrote he had known Sokolov for 20 years and often spent time with him during re-enactments in Europe. But he said in recent years organizers outside of Russia had been wary of inviting Sokolov because of his heavy drinking.

"I knew Oleg well having shared many bivouacs with him over these last 20 years. He knew the life of the Grande Armée to perfection, all the songs of the soldiers. But his inordinate consumption of alcohol often spoilt the ends of parties! In Spain he was banned from the re-enactment for having killed a horse that we lent him and which he had been unable to master. That was Oleg! An eminent historian of the 1st Empire but tarnished by the reputation of a thug! I had suspected he would finish one day in misery or decimated by alcohol, but this has beaten all my predictions."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Teen survivor recalls details of ambush in Mexico that killed nine

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A 13-year-old boy hailed as a hero in the wake of last week's deadly ambush in Mexico is speaking out for the first time about the horrors he witnessed that day.

Devin Langford said the last thing his mother said to him before she was fatally shot was "get down right now."

"She was trying to pray to the lord, and she was trying to start the car up to get out of there," Devin said in an interview Monday on ABC News' Good Morning America.

His mother, Dawna Langford, and his younger brothers, Trevor, 11, and Rogan, 2, were among the nine women and children killed in the gruesome Nov. 4 attack.

"They just started hitting [the] car first, like with a bunch, a bunch of bullets. Just start shooting rapidly at us," he said. "The car didn't work. So she was just trying right there, starting the car as much as she could, but I'm pretty sure they shot something so the car wouldn't even start."

"Afterward, they got us out of the car, and they just got us on the floor and then they drove off," he added.

Devin, who was unharmed in the attack, walked about 14 miles seeking help after hiding his injured siblings in the bushes and covering them with branches. He said the shooters had long guns and he feared for his life the entire time.

As he made the trek for help, he said he wondered "if there was anybody else out there trying to shoot me or following me" and he thought about "my mom and my two brothers that died."

The family was ambushed by a heavily armed group while traveling from the town of Bavispe in Sonora state to Galeana in Chihuahua state between 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. local time, according to Mexican authorities. The family members were U.S. citizens but lived in a Mormon community, called La Mora, in the Mexican border state of Sonora.

The area where the attack took place -- less than 100 miles from the Arizona border -- is of territorial dispute by several cartels, and it's possible the family's convoy of cars was mistaken for one of them, authorities said.

Speaking in an interview beside his father, David Langford, Devin said he prayed over and over for his family to pull through.

He said the other children tried to flee as well, but most of them -- including his sister, Kylie, who was shot in the foot and his baby brother, Brixon, who was hit in the chest -- were too injured to travel.

"We walked a little while until we couldn't carry them no more. And so we put them in the bushes so they wouldn't get hit or nothing. So I started walking," Devin said. "Every one of them were bleeding really bad. So I was trying to get in a rush to get there."

Devin said he doesn't feel like a hero, but his father said there's no doubt in his mind that his son saved lives.

"Every one of my children that survived that are living miracles," Langford said. "How many bullet holes were fired into that vehicle … at that horrific scene and how many children were involved. It's amazing. It's amazing. It's beyond amazing that they survived."

"To be honest with you, my boy's a hero simply because he gave his life for his brothers and sisters," he added.

Langford said more evidence is showing the killers were cartel hit men -- a belief that has shaken Mexico's Mormon community.

That's why Langford, and much of his extended family, said they're leaving northwest Mexico. They're part of a fundamentalist Mormon group that has lived in this area for decades before the drug cartels took over and the violence became inescapable.

"It's not worth living in fear," he said. "The toughest part for me was saying goodbye … saying goodbye to two innocent lives that were cut short and a vibrant wife that lived a life to its fullest that had many friends and was loved by everybody."

As for Devin, he said he's focusing on helping his siblings heal and keeping his mother's memory alive.

"She was a nice person and a brave woman that tried to save her kids," he said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Myanmar being sued by 57 countries over reported genocide of Rohingya

yorkfoto/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Fifty-seven nations are suing Myanmar at the International Court of Justice, alleging in a historic lawsuit that the government has conducted genocide against its Rohingya minority.

The suit comes just weeks after the United Nations warned that the violent campaign against the Rohingya is continuing in northwest Myanmar, and its special envoy called for the U.N. Security Council to refer Myanmar's senior officials to the International Criminal Court, a separate international body.

Over 700,000 Rohingya, a Muslim-majority ethnic minority, have fled Myanmar since a campaign by the country's military to push them out and raze their villages began in August 2017. Myanmar, previously called Burma, has denied any wrongdoing, saying that the campaign was against an Islamist extremist group.

The Gambia, a small West African country, filed the lawsuit Monday on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a coalition of countries with significant Muslim populations. It asks the ICJ to investigate whether Myanmar's government has violated the Geneva Convention, which prohibits genocide.

In particular, it charges that Myanmar is responsible for "killing, causing serious bodily and mental harm, inflicting conditions that are calculated to bring about physical destruction, imposing measures to prevent births, and forcible transfers, [which] are genocidal in character because they are intended to destroy the Rohingya group in whole or in part."

According to a statement from the law firm Foley Hoag, which is assisting with the case, the suit bases that charge on the U.N.'s fact-finding mission released in August 2018 that found Myanmar's military had genocidal intent in its violent campaign to expel the Rohingya. Myanmar has also been accused of violent oppression against the Shan, Kachin and other ethnic minorities.

The Trump administration has stopped short of that designation, instead labeling the violence ethnic cleansing in November 2017, even after its own investigative report was "consistent" with the U.N.'s, according to then-U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley.

While this new ICJ lawsuit would hold Myanmar as a state responsible for the alleged genocide of Rohingya, a separate ICC investigation already is underway. In July, the ICC chief prosecutor requested that the global body authorize an investigation into possible war crimes by Myanmar senior military and civilian officials, after the prosecutor's office's preliminary investigation said it had determined their actions met the legal conditions necessary.

More recently, Yanghee Lee, a South Korean diplomat who serves as the U.N. special envoy for Myanmar, said on Oct. 23 that Myanmar should face prosecution at the ICC and that conditions on the ground remain too dangerous for the nearly one million Rohingya refugees in neighboring Bangladesh.

As advocates seek a path forward for justice, however, the Myanmar military continues its crimes under international law, according to the U.N. and Amnesty International.

Marzuki Darusman, the head of the U.N.'s fact-finding mission for Myanmar, said in late October that crimes under international law continue to be committed against Rohingya.

"It is an ongoing genocide that is taking place at the moment," Darusman said during a U.N. Security Council meeting. "Myanmar presents precisely the kind of peace and security that the U.N. and particularly this Council was created to address."

Similarly, Amnesty International released a report in late October that included "fresh evidence that the Myanmar military is continuing to commit atrocities against ethnic minorities," including arbitrary arrest, detention and torture.

The top U.S. diplomat for Asia traveled to Myanmar in late October for the highest-level U.S. visit since former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. David Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, met with senior civilian leaders, including Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist turned head of state Aung San Suu Kyi, who has since come under global criticism for defending her government's actions.

Ahead of the trip, a State Department spokesperson told ABC News the U.S. is "deeply concerned by reports of ongoing human rights abuses by the Burmese military across Burma and the devastating impact of violence. ... We are focused on accountability for those responsible, seeking justice for victims, advocating for unhindered humanitarian assistance and promoting reforms that will prevent the recurrence of atrocities and other human rights abuses."

But the spokesperson declined to say whether the administration supported a referral to the ICC, which the administration has sanctioned for opening an investigation into possible war crimes in Afghanistan, including by U.S. forces. The spokesperson also declined to offer a readout after Stilwell's meetings, although the department did tweet "U.S. support for Myanmar's democratic transition and economic transformation."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

World War II submarine found off coast of Japan, ending 75-year mystery

Courtesy Lost52 Project(NEW YORK) -- A team of ocean explorers discovered the likely resting place of 80 U.S. sailors presumed dead when one of the most successful American submarines of World War II sank after leaving Pearl Harbor more than 75 years ago.

Private explorers found the USS Grayback about 1,400 feet below the ocean surface, off the coast of Japan, ending a decades-old mystery and bringing closure to relatives of those who went down with the ship.

Gloria Hurney, who lost her uncle Raymond Parks, an electrician's mate, first class, and Kathy Taylor, who lost her uncle and Godfather John Patrick King, an electrician's mate, third class, were among the first to find out about the discovery.

"I committed from the very beginning, from a little girl, that I was gonna find him or follow him or keep his memory alive, whatever I could do," Taylor told ABC News in an interview. "I thought it was probably blown to pieces. That's what I thought. And obviously it's not."

The Grayback, credited with sinking 14 enemy ships, was discovered south of Okinawa with much of its body still in tact. Its plaque was still affixed to the front, but there was evidence that the sub likely was bombed.

Undersea explorers Tim Taylor and his wife Christine Dennison discovered the warship back in June and spent months searching for relatives of its crew who perished. Together, they've set out to find the wrecks of every American submarine lost in the war, an effort they dubbed the Lost 52 Project. So far, they've found five of 52 subs.

"We do not tell people that we're looking for these because we don't want to disappoint people, and we don't want to blast it across the internet until it's done properly through the Navy," Taylor told ABC News. "With the technology that we're using, and the ability to cover large swaths of ground, we're looking at the potential to find several more."

Researchers recently discovered a flaw in the translation of Japanese war records that misrepresented the spot where the Grayback may have sank.

"The numbers that came out were wrong, and that's how we found it," Taylor said. "It was mistranslated after post-WWII, and they changed one number -- an 8 to a 6 -- and our Japanese translator re-translated it, found it, put us 100 miles to a different area."

Dennison said the most important part of their work is about bringing closure to the families of those who died.

"It's very vital that we remember them, and that they feel that they haven't been forgotten, that their sacrifice wasn't in vain," Dennison said. "We are grateful for their sacrifices, and we will never forget our veterans. The most important thing is, they're here, now they can be celebrated again, they can be honored again, and we know where they are."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

American father speaks out for the 1st time since deadly Mexican ambush

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- An American father who lost his wife and two young sons in an ambush in Mexico last week spoke out for the first time in an exclusive interview with ABC News over the weekend, sharing his heartbreak and the difficult decision he's just made to pull his family out of that country.

"So now it's my whole life has turned upside down. Not only have I lost a wife and two children, but I'm having to move the rest of my family with really no place to go at this point," David Langford said in a tearful interview airing on "World News Tonight" Sunday. "I believe in forgiveness, but I also believe in justice and forgiveness doesn't rob justice. You don't get justice too much in Mexico."

Langford's 13-year-old son, Devin, was hailed as a hero in the wake of the horrific Nov. 4 attack in northern Mexico that claimed the lives of nine women and children, including his 43-year-old wife Dawna Langford, and his two boys, Trevor Langford, 11, and Rogan Langford, 2.

The family was ambushed by an armed group while traveling from the town of Bavispe in Sonora state to Galeana in Chihuahua state between 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. local time, according to Mexican authorities. The family members were U.S. citizens but lived in a Mormon community, called La Mora, in the Mexican border state of Sonora.

The area where the attack took place -- less than 100 miles from the Arizona border -- is of territorial dispute by several cartels, and it's possible the family's convoy of cars was mistaken for one of them, authorities said.

EXCLUSIVE: David Langford, who lost his wife and two sons in the Mexico ambush, tells @TomLlamasABC in an @ABC News exclusive about his 13-year-old son, Devin, who survived and walked miles to find help. “He’s really a hero.” More tonight. https://t.co/7qlZBMQHbg pic.twitter.com/Wkcduy2TNt

— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) November 10, 2019

Devin, who was unharmed in the ambush, walked about 14 miles to La Mora to seek help after hiding his injured siblings in the bushes and covering them with branches. Devin said the suspects had long guns and wore vests. He offered details about the harrowing experience in an exclusive interview airing on "Good Morning America" Monday morning.

"Every one of my children that survived that are living miracles," Langford said. "How many bullet holes were fired into that vehicle … at that horrific scene and how many children were involved. It's amazing. It's amazing. It's beyond amazing that they survived."

Langford said there's no doubt in his mind that Devin is a hero.

"To be honest with you, my boy’s a hero simply because he gave his life for his brothers and sisters," he said.

One of the family's vehicles, a Chevrolet Tahoe, was found burned with the charred bodies of Rhonita Maria Miller, 30, Howard Jacob Miller Jr, 12, Krystal Bellaine Miller, 10, Titus Alvin Miller, 10, and 8-month-old twins Titus Alvin Miller and Tiana Gricel Miller, authorities said. They were all shot in addition to being burned.

Another vehicle, a white Suburban, was discovered about a mile away from the border between Sonora and Chihuahua states, with a woman's body found a few feet away from the SUV, according to authorities. Christina Marie Langford Johnson, 29, was found shot dead.

Langford's wife and sons were found nearby in a white Chevrolet Suburban with fatal gunshot wounds. Langford says more and more evidence is showing the killers were cartel hit men -- a belief that has shaken Mexico's Mormon community.

That's why Langford, and much of his extended family, are leaving northwest Mexico. They're part of a fundamentalist Mormon group that has lived in this area for decades before the drug cartels took over and the violence became inescapable.

"It's not worth living in fear," he said. "The toughest part for me was saying goodbye … saying goodbye to two innocent lives that were cut short and a vibrant wife that lived a life to its fullest that had many friends and and was loved by all by everybody."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

William, Harry, Kate and Meghan join the Queen for Remembrance Sunday ceremonies

kylieellway/iStock(LONDON) -- Prince William and Prince Harry along with Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, reunited in central London for "Remembrance Sunday" -- a memorial day observed in the British Commonwealth to honor fallen military members of service.

Queen Elizabeth II led events at the Cenotaph war memorial in Whitehall, London, for the annual laying of the wreaths. Two minutes' silence was observed throughout the U.K. at 11 a.m. -- the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Prince Charles placed a wreath of crimson poppies on the memorial, a tradition usually performed by the Queen, who has been handing off more of her ceremonial duties to son Charles.

William, Harry, Kate and Meghan were at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday night, marking the first time they have all appeared together in public since Harry and Meghan commented about their struggles with constantly being in the public spotlight.

When asked by an ITV correspondent if he had grown distant from William, Harry said, "Part of this role and part of this job, and this family being under the pressure it’s under, inevitably stuff happens. But look, we’re brothers, we’ll always be brothers. We’re certainly on different paths at the moment. But I will always be there for him, as I know he’ll always be there for me."

The royal couples were attending a remembrance concert organized by the Royal British Legion, a charity for war veterans. There were musical performances by various divisions of the Armed Forces including the Royal Marines, and veterans shared memories of the war. British actors read war poetry and a series of video shorts were played during the event.

Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, Sophie, the Countess of Wessex and other nobility were also in attendance.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds were also in the royal box.

This year's ceremonies were particularly poignant as they marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. D-Day is often considered the most pivotal battle of World War II, leading up to the defeat to the Nazis and the end of the war.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserve

'For me, it goes too far': France grapples with #MeToo era

iStock/SerrNovik(PARIS) -- Reactions in France over the recent news of McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook being shown the door for being in a consensual relationship with an employee have been those of shock and dismay.

Some are calling it the latest case of American puritanism, "far from French ways," and reminding the French public that, at least in France, employees and bosses are free to date and protected by their right to privacy.

France is generally a very tolerant country when it comes to intimate relationships. The Paris Court of Appeal even recently acknowledged that an accident during sexual intercourse in the context of a business trip could be considered a workplace accident.

In the U.S., McDonald's decision to act was interpreted as the sign of a concern for workplace issues that have come to light in the #MeToo era. But in France, the company's rule not to date "employees who have a direct or indirect reporting relationship to each other" is seen as anti-freedom, including sexual freedom.

"For me, it goes too far," said Anne Rudisuhli, a psychotherapist who signed a letter with 99 other women defending men's "freedom to importune, indispensable to sexual freedom."

In the 1960s and '70s, the women's rights battles in France, such as the fight for contraception or the right to have an abortion, gave women full control of their bodies and determination over their sexual lives for the first time.

The sexual revolution became a way for French women to take part in a culture that had defined French society and, as such, allowed women to be operators rather than merely objects.

"The sexual question is magnified among some feminists," admitted Françoise Vergès, a political scientist and writer of "A Decolonial Feminism." "It is part of a certain tradition that magnifies the issue of sexual freedom as the place par excellence of freedom. ... It's the '70s really, the idea that in sex and sexuality they will find the heart of subversion."

Therefore, to exclude sex from the workplace as a means of protecting women is perceived as an exclusion from the sexual realm that they fought so hard to have access to, thereby reducing them again to the status of objects who need protection from men.

"We are putting walls in places where it is not necessary," Rudisuhli said. "The sexuality of people does not concern the company. Women are big enough to know what they want. All women do not dream of marrying their boss. There is contempt for women as if we were venal and we need to protect them. It's contemptuous."

Rudisuhli voiced the concern that women in France risk being victimized in the wake of the #MeToo movement and reduced to an inferior position of needing protection, in the sexual realm as well as in the workplace. It is through this lens that many consider McDonald's rules to be patriarchal.

"I come back from the United States," said Rudisuhli, "and when I hear an old friend introduce me to her boyfriend, she tells me she found him via apps. Because today they can not meet any other way. In the workplace, it became too complicated."

For Margaux Collet, a consultant on gender issues in the workplace, this is a fantasy. She sees a tendency to caricature American behaviors regarding these issues in order to point to the United States as an extreme in order to preserve "French seduction, the rapports of coquetry, French gallantry."

"There really is an urban legend that in the U.S. we cannot take the elevator alone with a woman," Collet added.

For Vergès, this idea of courtly love in France is "a total construct," but "it's also part of a self-image that must be kept."

The French archetype of female freedom was recently promoted by a lingerie brand's campaign called "The French Liberté." On posters plastered on buses all over Paris, the free Frenchwoman is seen as white, thin and sexy in a bikini. She owns "French sexiness," as quoted in the advertising campaign.

These images, in effect, portray women as sexual beings, albeit as subjects instead of objects. As such, she is not expected to ask for her boss' demotion if he flirts with her, nor hide her newly freed body under a veil. This may also be one of the reasons for France's concern with hijab regulations. The woman in a hijab completely fails to satisfy the criteria of the free Frenchwoman.

If France's backlash over a #MeToo culture from across the pond can be seen as traditional and the ideal subject for cultural relativism, it can also show an ugly side, particularly in court.

While Time Magazine voted her "Person of the year" for starting her own #MeToo movement called #BalanceTonPorc and speaking out against a French TV executive she accused of sexual harassment, New York-based French journalist Sandra Muller was fined €20,000 ($22,000) for defamation in France in September. Thousands of women had used her hashtag to expose the people who sexually harassed or assaulted them.

On Nov. 6, French actress Adèle Haenel revealed in a French investigative newspaper that she had decided not to report a complaint for sexual harassment on account that "the judicial system ignores us."

She accused the director of the movie that she was in when she was between 12 and 15 years old of forcibly kissing her on the neck and touching her thighs and breasts. She spoke plainly of the "power relationship" and of "the hold" he had on her.

The testimony of the actress sent a shockwave through French cinema and led the Paris prosecutor to open an investigation on counts of "sexual assaults" and "sexual harassment." The award-winning actress confessed to French media Mediapart that only after watching the U.S. documentary "Leaving Neverland" did she decide to talk to a journalist.

"The issue of sexual harassment has been taken into account in the U.S. for much longer than in France. If McDonald's decision is so polemic in France on the issue, then it shows we still have a long way to go," Collet added.

Still, she doesn't believe that sanctioning relationships at work is a good idea: "It maintains the idea that there is a gray area between harassment and consent, when we are not on the same level. But it's an easy solution for companies to simply ban."

Instead, in France, she works at putting in place standards within companies for better reporting of harassment.

"There isn't a need for McDonald's regulations in France," Muller agreed. "Not because it is less puritan, but because of the existence of strong bodies within companies that are here to represent employee interests, contrary to the U.S., where courts are the first recourse, which companies seek to avoid."

She created WeWorkSafe, an NGO that encourages companies to enact training sessions and stronger alert procedures.

For Vergès, "we can only be in favor" of "resolutions that ensure that these power relations are not suffered," But she agrees that a ban is not enough to change cultural attitudes.

In the French militant movements, she sees suspicions about the systematic response to being sanctioned. Will the law finally solve everything? Is it going to change social relationships? Incarceration -- or in this case, a layoff -- may be a prop, not a long-term solution.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, right-wing extremism is on the rise as the East lags behind

ABC News(BERLIN) -- In the evening hours of Nov. 9, 1989 the world watched as East Berliners climbed over the wall for the first time, celebrating a newfound hope and freedom.

The wall came down peacefully -- and in Germany, the date is celebrated as the Peaceful Revolution. British historian Timothy Garton Ash called 1989 "The best year in European history" in a podcast released with the German Marshall Fund last week. It was, as he said, "the almost entirely peaceful dissolution of a nuclear armed post totalitarian empire; empires don’t normally collapse peacefully."

Yet, 30 years on, that dream of democracy may slowly be turning to disillusionment.

Although the wall is down, in many ways the boundaries between East and West Germany still exist. Economically speaking, the former East Germany still lags behind the western half of the country. Many former East German states were hard hit by economic downturn after reunification and wages and pensions are still lower.

Enter the anti-immigrant far-right party Alternative for Deutschland, which has been most successful in the Eastern part of the country. Running on an anti-Islam, Euro-skeptic platform, the party has benefited from fears of foreigners, picking up protest votes by those who feel left behind by the centrist parties that have long dominated German politics, including Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

While the environmentally focused Green Party has also been making gains, the growing phenomenon of right-wing extremism and the success of the AfD in the eastern half of the country can no longer be ignored by policymakers.

October’s regional elections in the eastern state of Thuringia sent shock waves throughout the country when Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union was outvoted by the socialist left-wing party, Die Linke, followed by the AfD, which gained 23% of votes. The majority of voters under age 30 chose the AfD, according to official polling statistics, suggesting a new, younger generation that hasn’t lived through the division of its country is in agreement with the far-right party.

The fact that Thuringia’s AfD party leader, Bjoern Hoecke is currently under investigation by federal intelligence agencies for extremist speech, which has included questioning Germany’s culpability in World War II, has not seemed to detract from his success. He has denied the existence of Nazi speech when questioned about using words associated with the Third-Reich, including "Lebensraum" or "degenerate," as in a recent interview with German broadcaster ZDF.

Dresden’s "Nazi emergency"

Last week, the city of Dresden declared a "Nazi emergency" to highlight the city’s increasing problem with right-wing extremism. Passed by the Dresden City Council, the motion aimed to highlight the gravity of the growing problem of right-wing sentiments and violence and to ask the federal government for more resources to fight it. "We have a Nazi problem in Dresden and have to do something about it," Max Aschenbach, a councilor for Die Partei, a satirical political party, who initiated the measure, told the council in his speech.

Dresden is the birthplace of xenophobic citizen's organization Pegida, which stands for "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West" and has at times drawn thousands of supporters to weekly marches in the five years since it began.

Radical currents have long existed in eastern Germany, said Anetta Kahane, who runs the Amadeu Antonio Foundation which works to combat racism, right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism throughout Germany. "Everything isn’t sunshine 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall" she said, speaking to a group of journalists at the launch of the Yougov and Open Society Foundation study last Monday. Parties like the AfD, she said, build on attitudes previously held in East Germany.

A right-wing extremist protest culture began to grow in the 1980s in the former communist East, drawing members from the football hooligan scene. After the wall came down in 1989, right-wing radicalism boomed in former East Germany. Riots in 1991 and 1992 in cities of Rostock and Hoyerswerda saw racist participants attacking refugee shelters and hostels of foreign guest workers. Right wing-extremist activities continue today with the 2018 xenophobic riots in Chemnitz or the anti-Semitic attack on a synagogue in Halle which left two people dead in October serve as prescient examples.

According to Germany's domestic intelligence service's annual report released in June, the arrival of nearly 2 million asylum seekers since 2015 has emboldened far-right extremists motivated by racism, anti-Semitism and anti-democratic values. Violent anti-Semitic crimes in 2018 were up 71% from the previous year, stated the report. In June, pro-immigration politician Walter Luebcke was killed by a right-wing extremist outside his home.

One reason for this trend towards extremism in the former East is simply a historical lack of civil society infrastructure, says Kahane. "In the West there are large churches, and labor unions: powerful institutions that ensure a certain kind of social stability. In the East after reunification, we didn’t have that," Kahane said. "Civil society infrastructure has to be built from the ground up and be made stable so that they can withstand right-wing extremism."

Her organization sets up counseling centers for victims of racism, puts on awareness campaigns and works with local institutions to strengthen democratic processes -- in the former communist East as well as the West.

"I’m happy the wall is gone -- and I felt like that then" Kahane, an East Berliner, told ABC. "But how things have developed is a bit like something out of a nightmare. However, she stresses that society cannot afford to be pessimistic. "One has to work on finding concrete solutions and do one’s best."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

How Berlin is celebrating the 30 anniversary of the fall of the wall: From AR apps to club nights

Sarah Hucal(BERLIN) -- Although the Berlin Wall came down 30 years ago, suddenly it was standing again -- on the cellphone of developer Peter Kolski. The AR app recreates all 100 miles of the wall around what was West Berlin and allows viewers to see where it once stood throughout the city.

"You’re at a spot where something was and which was crucial to the history of Berlin, but that’s not there anymore although it’s still relevant," Kolski told ABC. "When you have the AR experience for a while, you can feel the existence of this wall." Indeed, standing on a street and suddenly realizing that a familiar view had long been obscured by a 12-foot slab of concrete is indeed uncanny when one is used to Berlin post-1989.

The app was launched by Kolski’s company, BetaRoom, during Berlin’s citywide festival for the anniversary of the fall of the wall and Peaceful Revolution. It features 200 events, from theater performances to light installations, all celebrating the iconic moments in history leading up to reunification in 1990 and can be used anywhere.

Using the MauARR app (Mauer is the word for wall in German), viewers can walk from one side of the wall to the other, and view stories about the history of the wall as told by characters from East and West Berlin -- a divided city that was wholly located within East Germany. AR technology puts digital objects in recreations of the real world, unlike VR technology which builds an entire universe from scratch and requires a pair of goggles for a fully immersive experience.

Kolski, who grew up in West Berlin, got the idea when he learned Apple phones would be equipped with AR technology around 2 1/2 years ago: "When I saw that, I thought this is the future, basically," he said. Yet while AR technology has been popular in the gaming industry with apps like Pokemon Go, Kolski said he has seen few examples of how it can be used to illustrate history. "Financially they (games) are super successful but it’s still just a game. We are really talking about something that was there; it’s helpful and useful" he added.

Aside from the app, which can be used all over the city and will be available long after the festival has ended, there are events at seven key locations around Berlin, including the iconic Brandenburg Gate, where citizens stood on the wall for the first time on Nov. 9, 1989.

Other locations include the headquarters of the East German secret police, the Stasi, Gethsemane Church which explores how GDR opposition formed, and Alexanderplatz, the location of the largest protest in the history of East Berlin, attended by tens of thousands of demonstrators.

At each of the sites, placards shared information about these important moments in history, as well as the experiences of East Berliners. "They wanted to do everything right in the GDR but in the end, it was just a surveillance state…control and fear are the end of democracy" read a statement on one of the signs by a man named Guenter Nossol who fled to West Berlin in 1973.

Events also took place at the East Side Gallery, a remaining strip of the Berlin wall painted by 118 artists from 21 countries in 1990. Their works that share a common motif: overcoming repression of the Berlin wall. A nearby stage set up for the festival showcases events, from discussions with artists responsible for the works, to theater pieces that draw on themes of division and reunification.

"This positive feeling of togetherness needs to arise once again today, that’s what I wish for generations to come" wrote Lena, a 21-year-old from Berlin. Her message is one of 30,000 that makes up the hanging installation "visions in Motion" by American artist Patrick Shearn. Floating over the main thoroughfare leading up to the Brandenburg gate, the messages, wishes and hopes written by German citizens were inspired by the Peaceful Revolution of 1989.

On Nov. 9, a free concert will be held at the Brandenburg Gate given by conductor Daniel Barenboim and the musicians of the Staatskapelle.

Later that evening, DJs around the city will spin vinyl into the wee hours -- after all, reunification gave birth to Berlin’s thriving club scene. To celebrate, the city’s club commission, is hosting a European club night on the 9th in which twenty-seven European clubs invited to Berlin will collaborate with local venues.

"The historical date makes us aware that walls and barriers are no solution. If some in the world rely on isolation and nationalism, then we must hold together all the more strongly, especially in Europe," Minister of State at the German Foreign Office Michelle Müntefering said in a statement about the event. "The European Club Night brings together young people from all parts of the continent who want to get to know each other, dance together and stand up for shared values." Such events send "a signal against populism and discrimination in Europe."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Greta Thunberg leads climate change protests in North Carolina: 'This is our future'

shaunl(CHARLOTTE) -- Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, brought her message to North Carolina Friday -- just a few days after the U.S. announced its plans to formally withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.

From the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center in Charlotte, Thunberg implored the youth of America to continue to fight against the “immature” adults, politicians and corporations that have yet to take climate change seriously.

She said the Climate Strike marches have been ongoing for a year now and will not stop until adults start believing in the science of climate change.

“But the people in power have not yet done that,” Thunberg said Friday during a rally in Charlotte. “They continue to ignore us and to ignore the current best available science, so we have no choice but to go on for as long as it takes.

“It can be hard in times like this to find hope,” she continued. “And I can tell you I have not found much hope in politicians and corporations. It is the people who now are our biggest source of hope.”

She said while teens can’t vote and are not the ones who make the decisions that can help the planet, young people can pressure those in power, can hold adults accountable, and can spread their message to other people in the hopes of growing the movement.

The children, Thunberg said, have to be the grown ups if adults refuse to act.

“There is not enough time to wait for us to grow up and become the ones in charge because we need to tackle the climate and environmental emergency right now,” Thunberg said. “And if the adults and the people in power are too immature to realize that, then we need to let them know and we need to do it now.

"Because this is our future," she added, "and we will not let it be taken away from us.”

The Trump administration announced earlier this week that the U.S. would officially leave the Paris Climate accord on Nov. 4, 2020, which is the day after the 2020 election. President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would pull out of the agreement two years ago.

The reach of Thunberg's message has been wide and offices around the world are humorously using images of the teenager to shame their employees from using plastics.

"Shame on you" one reads in front of coffee cup supplies.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

UK police release the identities of the 39 people found dead in a tractor-trailer near London

BrianAJackson/iStock(LONDON) — Authorities have confirmed the identities of the 39 people who were found dead in a tractor-trailer near London last month.

During the early morning hours of Oct. 23, emergency services were called to an industrial park in the town of Grays in Essex, southeast England, when the vehicle was discovered to have people inside. Thirty-nine people were pronounced dead at the scene, which was about 20 miles east of London, according to Essex police.

Essex police confirmed on Friday that the victims ranged in age from 15 to 44 and were all Vietnamese, after initially saying they were believed to be Chinese. Investigators in the United Kingdom liaised with their counterparts in Vietnam to confirm the identities.

"This was an incredibly important process and our team has been working hard to bring answers to worried families who fear their loved one may be among those whose tragic journey ended on our shores," Essex Police Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith said in a statement Friday. "Our priority has been to identify the victims, to preserve the dignity of those who have died and to support the victims’ friends and families."

Essex police released the following list with the names of the 39 victims:

-- Pham Thi Tra My, a 26-year-old woman from Ha Tinh, Vietnam

-- Nguyen Dinh Lurong, a 20-year-old man from Ha Tinh, Vietnam

-- Nguyen Huy Phong, a 35-year-old man from Ha Tinh, Vietnam

-- Vo Nhan Du, a 19-year-old man from Ha Tinh, Vietnam

-- Tran Manh Hung, a 37-year-old man from Ha Tinh, Vietnam

-- Tran Khanh Tho, an 18-year-old man from Ha Tinh, Vietnam

-- Vo Van Linh, a 25-year-old man from Ha Tinh, Vietnam

-- Nguyen Van Nhan, a 33-year-old man from Ha Tinh, Vietnam

-- Bui Phan Thang, a 37-year-old man from Ha Tinh, Vietnam

-- Nguyen Huy Hung, a 15-year-old boy from Ha Tinh, Vietnam

-- Tran Thi Tho, a 21-year-old woman from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Bui Thi Nhung, a 19-year-old woman from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Vo Ngoc Nam, a 28-year-old man from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Nguyen Dinh Tu, a 26-year-old man from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Le Van Ha, a 30-year-old man from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Tran Thi Ngoc, a 19-year-old woman from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Nguyen Van Hung, a 33-year-old man from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Hoang Van Tiep, an 18-year-old man from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Cao Tien Dung, a 37-year-old man from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Cao Huy Thanh, a 33-year-old man from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Tran Thi Mai Nhung, an 18-year-old woman from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Nguyen Minh Quang, a 20-year-old man from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Le Trong Thanh, a 44-year-old man from Dien Chau, Vietnam

-- Pham Thi Ngoc Oanh, a 28-year-old woman from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Hoang Van Hoi, a 24-year-old man from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Nguyen Tho Tuan, a 25-year-old man from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Dang Huu Tuyen, a 22-year-old man from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Nguyen Trong Thai, a 26-year-old man from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Nguyen Van Hiep, a 24-year-old man from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Nguyen Thi Van, a 35-year-old woman from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Tran Hai Loc, a 35-year-old man from Nghe An, Vietnam

-- Duong Minh Tuan, a 27-year-old man from Quang Binh, Vietnam

-- Nguyen Ngoc Ha, a 32-year-old man from Quang Binh, Vietnam

-- Nguyen Tien Dung, a 33-year-old man from Quang Binh, Vietnam

-- Phan Thi Thanh, a 41-year-old woman from Hai Phong, Vietnam

-- Nguyen Ba Vu Hung, a 34-year-old man from Thua Tien Hue, Vietnam

-- Dinh Dinh Thai Quyen, an 18-year-old man from Hai Phong, Vietnam

-- Tran Ngoc Hieu, a 17-year-old boy from Hai Duong, Vietnam

-- Dinh Dinh Binh, a 15-year-old boy from Hai Phong, Vietnam

Essex police said it was "the largest mass fatality victim identification process" in the history of the force.

"It remained of paramount importance to us to ensure that an individual’s next of kin were informed, and that they were given some time to absorb this tragic news before we publicly confirmed their loved one’s identity," Smith said. "We have worked closely with the National Crime Agency, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Vietnamese Authorities to identify and locate their families."

The driver of the vehicle, 25-year-old Maurice Robinson of Northern Ireland, was arrested and has been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering. His next court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 25, according to Essex police.

Another man from Northern Ireland, 22-year-old Eamonn Harrison, has been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, as well as human trafficking and immigration offenses. He appeared in court in Dublin on Friday and was remanded in custody, according to Essex police. The Crown Prosecution Service, the principal prosecuting authority for England and Wales, has started extradition proceedings to bring Harrison to England.

Three other suspects -- a 46-year-old man, a 38-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman -- were also arrested last week and questioned on suspicion of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people, but they have not been charged. Two were released on bail until Nov. 11 and the third has been bailed until Nov. 13, according to Essex police.

Meanwhile, detectives have urged two brothers from Northern Ireland to come forward and hand themselves in to police. Ronan Hughes, 40, and his 34-year-old brother Christopher Hughes are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking in connection with the case in Essex. The pair are believed to be in Northern Ireland but are also thought to have links to the Irish Republic, according to Essex police.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Hong Kong protesters blame police for death of university student

spawns/iStock(BEIJING) -- A Hong Kong university student who is believed to have fallen off a parking garage near a protest over the weekend died of his injuries Friday morning, inflaming passions for renewed protests this weekend.

Undergraduate student Chow Tsz-lok, 22, who attended the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), was found in the early hours of Monday morning in a pool of blood with a head and pelvic injury on a platform of a parking structure in the vicinity of where riot police clashed with protesters. Police believed he fell from the third floor of the parking structure to the second floor.

Though the reason why the student fell remains unclear, protesters have already blamed the police for his injuries and, now, his death.

While there have been numerous suicides linked to the protests since June, if his injuries can be linked to police operations, Chow would be considered the first death as a direct result of clashes in five months of protests in Hong Kong.

The protesters, however, are already considering it as such.

News of his death was delivered to Chow's fellow students during a HKUST graduation ceremony by university president Wei Shyy, who was visibly emotional.

Almost immediately, the news triggered various lunchtime flash mob protests across the city with protesters shouting "Hong Kongers, Avenge!" and calling visible police officers "murderers."

After a moment of silence for Chow at his school, fellow HKUST students vented their anger by vandalizing Shyy's official residence and three cafeterias as well as a campus Starbucks, operated by Maxim's Caterers, a group protesters view as being pro-Beijing. The students demanded their university president issue an official condemnation of police violence.

Protesters have suggested online that Chow may have fallen while escaping tear gas fired by police, with some even accusing the police of pushing him off the ledge.

The owner of the parking structure released security camera footage earlier in the week that did not show the moment Chow fell but showed that there was no significant tear gas inside the parking structure and that there was no significant police presence inside the parking garage during the critical minutes when Chow reportedly fell. Squads of riot police were not seen entering until first responders were already on the scene treating Chow.

At a press conference Friday afternoon, police revealed they had obtained new security camera footage showing Chow wandering the parking garage alone for up to half an hour before he walked up to the third floor, where he is believed to have fallen from.

Nevertheless, Chow's death has triggered tempers across the city as Hong Kong enters its 23rd straight weekend of protests.

The protests, which began in early June over a now-withdrawn extradition bill, have morphed into a broader pro-democracy movement tinged with anti-police and anti-government overtones.

Among the protesters and their supporters, there has been a complete breakdown in trust with the Hong Kong Police Force over the force's conduct towards the protest movement.

One of the protesters' main demands is to establish an independent commission to investigate police conduct during these months of protests.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

What to know about the Mormon community in Mexico following ambush attack

KeithBinns/iStock(NEW YORK) -- When nine Americans were brutally murdered in Northern Mexico, the incident shined a light on the extremely dangerous conditions in the region as well as the presence of the Mormon community there.

The victims, who were en route to a wedding when they were attacked, were followers of the Mormon faith, though their religious community had distanced itself from the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in recent decades. The nine people who were killed -- all women and children -- were members of the LeBaron family, which splintered from the LDS church decades ago. They lived in La Mora, a Mormon community in the Sonora state, family said.

The area of Mexico where the family had been traveling is located between the Sonora and Chihuahua states, a region that is the subject of territorial dispute by several drug cartels. The exact cause of the attack has yet to be determined, but authorities are zeroing in on the criminal group “La Linea,” which has been warring with elements from “Los Salazar,” which is aligned with the Sinaloa cartel.

The area is also known for several Mormon communities that were founded by missionaries in the late 19th century. The first arrived to Sonora in 1876, according to the LDS church, and quickly set up camp in the region.

It took more than 100 years for the Mexican government to formally recognize the church, but nearly 150 years later, the LDS’ Mexican membership is almost 1.5 million, the church says. There are 13 temples in the country, with another one currently under construction, making it second only to the United States in terms of temples and membership.

But some of the missionaries who left America weren’t just intent on finding new members -- they were also fleeing what they felt was religious persecution for their polygamist beliefs.

“Beginning in the 1860s, and really ramping up in the 1870s and 1880s, the Federal Government [was] mounting a very, very intense campaign to try to stamp out polygamy,” said Matthew Bowman, the Howard Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California.

The LDS church then sent a few colonists to Canada and Mexico. In Mexico, church members founded two settlements that are still there today: Colonia Dublán and Colonia Juárez.

In 1890, the LDS church officially renounced polygamy, though it took a few decades for the ruling to be accepted by some. By the 1920s, the church leadership began excommunicating people who continued to practice polygamy, according to Bowman, who is also an associate professor of history and religion at the university.

“And it's at that point then that some of these Mormon believers who really want to preserve the practice start to identify themselves as something other than LDS,” said Bowman.

“They would claim ‘We're really preserving this tradition. This church that has abandoned polygamy is not. So we are… more fundamental and closer to the roots,’” Bowman explained, referencing the offshoots of Mormonism that had started to emerge.

These church members fled south and eventually settled in Northern Arizona. Others, like Alma LeBaron’s family, continued past the border and into Mexico. There, LeBaron's sons established their own congregation called “The Church of the First Born of the Fullness of Time,” according to Bowman.

Even among the fundamentalist groups, the LeBaron clan was known for being secretive and standoffish. Following Alma’s death, his sons spent years feuding over how to run the family church, Bowman said.

One of Alma LeBaron’s sons, Ervil, died in prison in 1981 after being imprisoned nine years earlier for his role in his brother Joel’s death, according to the New York Times. Ervil split from the Church of the First Born to form a second sect, the Church of the Lamb of God.

Julian LeBaron, a family member of the victims in the ambush, said that they were descended from the original LeBaron family and are “people of faith.”

“A lot of us come from polygamist background. and because of that there's this massive family and this massive network of people that really just come together at a time like this,” said another relative, Kendra Lee Miller. “For my brother's funeral in January we had a thousand attendees.”

All Mexican Mormon communities trace their heritage back to Utah, which is why many residents of the Mexican Mormon communities continue to travel back and forth between the United States and Mexico. Many of these residents also hold dual-citizenship, like the family of nine that was murdered.

And although the LDS does not recognize this Mormon community, they extended their condolences to the victims and their families.

"We are heartbroken to hear of the tragedy that has touched these families in Mexico,” the church said in a statement to ABC News. “Though it is our understanding that they are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our love, prayers and sympathies are with them as they mourn and remember their loved ones."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

UN urges tolerance in Malawi after schoolgirls prevented from wearing hijabs

iStock(NEW YORK) -- The United Nations has called for religious tolerance in Malawi after two girls were reportedly prevented from attending school for wearing hijabs this week, sparking days of violence between the community's Muslims and Christians.

The alleged incident happened at M'manga primary school in the southern town of Balaka. The Anglican church, which built the government-run school, has reportedly banned students from wearing head coverings in class, saying it violates the agreed-upon school uniform.

On Monday, men from the church reportedly snatched the hijabs off the heads of two pupils on their way to school, according to local newspaper The Daily Times.

ABC News has reached out to Malawi's Ministry of Education, Science and Technology for comment on the alleged incident.

Maria Jose Torres, the U.N. resident coordinator in Malawi, expressed concern over the intolerance in a statement released Tuesday.

"Such actions discourage girls from attending school, denying them the right to learn and actively participate in society," Torres said, "at a time when Malawi is focusing on ending child marriage and keeping girls in school."

The alleged incident reportedly led to disagreements between the town's Muslim and Christian residents, which escalated into violence. At least two people were seriously injured in the clashes, according to The Daily Times.

The school's windows were smashed, shops were vandalized and a house belonging to the priest of M'manga parish was also damaged, the newspaper reported.

Malawi's population of over 18 million is predominately Christian, with less than a quarter of people practicing Islam. The country's constitution enshrines the freedom of expression and religion.

Torres has urged all Malawians to "respect each other's religious believe and engage in peaceful dialogue to resolve differences." She also called on the authorities in the southern African nation to ensure everyone is "able to exercise their beliefs and cultural practices free from persecution and discrimination."

"The rights to freedom of expression and religion are fundamental rights that ensure human dignity and a functional democracy," Torres said. "Preventing access to services such as education because students choose to wear an expression of their religion goes against these important human rights and international standards on freedom of education."

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