Listen to Talk of the Town with Bruce Newbury weekday mornings from 9:00 till noon           Have a swingin' good time, Sundays from 10-11 on Sunday Swing Time with Bobb Angel           Frank Prosnitz. Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday on, The Open Forum           Listen to the Open Forum weekdays 12 to 1           Tap your foot with The Irish Hours. Sunday mornings at 8          
World News
Subscribe To This Feed

Yuri_Arcurs/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A visually impaired Michigan woman, who was on a quest to see the world before she went completely blind, vanished while vacationing in Peru, just a day after she climbed the highest peak of Machu Picchu, her worried family said.

Carla Valpeoz, 35, of Detroit hasn't been heard from since Wednesday, Dec. 12, her brother, Carlos Valpeoz, told ABC News on Tuesday.

"She's known her entire life that she will eventually go blind based on her condition," said Carlos Valpeoz of Brooklyn, New York.

"So it's my belief that she wanted to see and experience as much as she could before she couldn't see anymore. I think that is a driving force for her. She wanted to travel as much as she could whether with friends or independently."

 He said his father, Carlos Valpeoz Sr., traveled to Peru to help police search for her.

Carla Valpeoz, who walked with a white cane, went to Peru the first week of this month for a friend's wedding, her brother said. She decided to travel around the Central American country alone and celebrated her 35th birthday there on Dec. 8, he said.

He said his sister took an airplane to Cusco in the Peruvian Andes and set off on her own on Dec. 11 to visit the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.

But when she arrived at the ruins, employees there discouraged her from going on by herself due to her disability and the rugged terrain, her brother said.

He said a tour group overheard her speaking with the workers and invited her to join them.

 "They helped her and spent the entire day with her in Machu Picchu. And there are photos that show her at like the highest peak over there," Carlos Valpeoz told ABC News.

He said his sister and the members of the tour group, which included Spanish and Argentinian tourists, went back to Cusco together and celebrated at a club in the city.

"They were extremely excited about their adventure," said the brother, who has spoken on the phone with members of the tour group. "They conquered Machu Picchu and they wanted to go celebrate."

He said his sister shared a room with a woman at the Pariwana Hostel in Cusco.

He said the roommate awoke about 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, but Carla Valpeoz had already packed up and was gone.

He said his sister sent a WhatsApp message to an Argentinian man from the tour group at about 10 a.m. on Wednesday, saying she was going off to see some sights and asked if he was interested in going to a museum in Cusco later that day.

That was apparently the last anyone heard from her, he said.

A U.S. State Department official told ABC News that the department is aware of the reports of a U.S. citizen missing in Peru.

"When a U.S. citizen is missing, we work closely with local authorities as they carry out their search efforts."

"The U.S. Department of State and our embassies and consulates abroad have no greater responsibility than the protection of U.S. citizens overseas," the official said. "Due to privacy concerns, we have no further comment."

Police told the Valpeoz family that investigators have obtained security video of her getting into a taxi Wednesday morning and believe she went to a transportation hub in the city to catch a bus or shuttle to go sightseeing.

She was scheduled to meet a friend, Alicia Steel, who is also from Detroit, at the airport in Lima on Saturday and they were to fly back to Michigan together. When Valpeoz failed to show up, Steel reported her missing to police and canceled her own flight home to help in the search for Carla, according to Carlos Valpeoz.

"There's no way that she would worry anyone by not contacting them," he said. "She would have tried to establish some kind of contact with somebody by now."

He said his sister has frequently gone on trips alone, traveling Yemen, Egypt and throughout Central and South America. He said she once taught English in Papua New Guinea.

"She's missed a couple of flights here and there and had to reschedule," her brother explained. "She's gotten turned around a little bit. But the thing that's extremely out of character about this situation is the fact that she has made absolutely no contact with her friends."

Carla Valpeoz is an advocate for the visually-impaired and author of the travel book "Visionless Adventures." She also worked as a tour guide at the Arab American National Museum in the Detroit, Michigan suburb of Dearborn.

In a YouTube video she posted, she said she was diagnosed with optic nerve atrophy when she was 10-years-old and has been gradually going blind ever since.

"My adventurous spirit challenged me to step out of my comfort zone, giving me the opportunity to live among different cultures and communities," she said in the video. "I want to create a platform and I want to bridge communities of cultures and carry out workshops so that we can learn to work together."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

CAIR, Sacramento Valley (SAN FRANCISCO) --  A mother who had been blocked from seeing her terminally ill child due to Trump's travel ban has been granted a visa waiver, advocates said Tuesday.

Shaima Swileh's 2-year-old son, Abdullah, has a genetic brain condition that has continued to worsen, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Sacramento Valley chapter, which filed a writ of mandamus to try to help her get an expedited visa.

Abdullah and his father, Ali Hassan, are both U.S. citizens and came to the U.S. so he could receive treatment at the University of California San Francisco's Benioff Children's Hospital in Oakland a few months ago, according to CAIR. Swileh is currently in Egypt, according to Hassan, and has not seen her husband or son since they arrived in the U.S. After having submitted multiple requests for her visa waiver to be expedited, she is expected to arrive at San Francisco International Airport Wednesday, according to CAIR.

"This is the happiest day of my life," Ali Hassan said in a statement, thanking both CAIR and the hospital staff.

"This will allow us to mourn with dignity," he added.

Swileh had been barred from traveling to the U.S. to see her son because she is from Yemen, one of the countries the Trump administration has restricted travel from indefinitely.

On Thursday, CAIR's Sacramento Valley chapter tweeted that a visa waiver had been granted for Swileh and that the organization is working on "getting her here ASAP."

 On Monday, religious and civil rights leaders gathered with Hassan at CAIR's office in Sacramento to demand Swileh be allowed to see her son before he is taken off life support, ABC San Francisco affiliate KGO-TV reported.

"My wife is calling me every day wanting to kiss and hold our son for one last time," Hassan said during the press conference. "Time is running out, please help us get my family together again."

The hospital where Abdullah is being treated told KGO in a statement that it supports the family's efforts to reunite, and in the meantime the staff would continue to do everything they could to keep Abdullah comfortable and support the family.

Three California Democratic House members, Rep. Doris Matsui, Rep. Jerry McNerney and Rep. Barbara Lee, wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday, requesting that the State Department expedite its decision regarding Swileh's visa waiver.

CAIR Sacramento Valley's civil rights attorney, Saad Sweilem, denounced the delay in granting Swileh a visa in a statement Monday.

"The loss of a child is something no parent should experience, but not being able to be there in your child's last moments is unfathomably cruel," Sweilem said in the statement.

Sweilem, who is representing the family, also asked for privacy when Swileh arrives.

"She is a grieving mother who hasn't seen her child in months," Sweilem said in a statement.

The organization had also launched an online petition in support of Swileh that had garnered more than 10,000 signatures.

A spokesperson for CAIR did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment Tuesday.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Trump's travel ban, which restricts most travel to the U.S. from Yemen, Chad, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela. Civil rights groups have denounced the policy as a "Muslim ban," since many of the countries on the list are Muslim majority.

A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on Swileh’s case Tuesday, citing the confidentiality of visa records.

"Department of State makes every effort to facilitate legitimate travel by international visitors. We are also fully committed to administering U.S. immigration law and ensuring the integrity and security of our country’s borders,” the State Department spokesperson told ABC News. “Applicants who are ineligible to receive a visitor visa under U.S. immigration law may apply for humanitarian parole from the Department of Homeland Security."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

vmargineanu/iStock(LONDON) -- Two female tourists from Scandinavia have been found dead in Morocco, local police announced today.

The bodies of the women, from Norway and Denmark were found near the town of Imlil in the High Atlas mountains with knife wounds to their necks. A man has been arrested on suspicion of murder, the Moroccan Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation said on Facebook.

A man has been arrested in the major city of Marrakesh on suspicion of murder, but police are looking for possible accomplices, they added. The suspect is now in police custody.

The bodies were found on Monday. Both the Norwegian and Danish foreign ministries confirmed to ABC News that the women had been found dead and they were in touch with local authorities.

“The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been informed that a Norwegian and a Danish citizen have been found dead in the Atlas Mountains south of Marrakech,” Guri Solnerh, Communications Adviser at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told ABC News, using the French spelling of the city.

“The deaths and victims' identity has now been confirmed by local authorities.”

“We are in contact with relatives and are providing consular assistance in accordance with established practices and framework for assistance in connection with deaths of Norwegian citizens abroad. Our embassy is in contact with local authorities and representatives from the embassy are present in Marrakech,” they added.

A spokesperson for the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs also confirmed that the pair had been killed while “trekking in the Atlas Mountains.”

“The Danish Police has notified the relatives to the Danish woman,” the spokesperson told ABC News, who also used the French spelling of one of Morocco's largest cities.

“The relatives have been offered consular assistance by the Consular Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the Danish Embassy in Morocco. The Danish ambassador is currently in Marrakech to ensure the closest possible contact to the local Moroccan authorities.”

Officials are yet to confirm the identities of either women.

However, the University of Sørøst-Norge posted that two of their students had died in Morocco on Monday. The university set its flags to half mast in order to mourn the pair, they announced on twitter.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Blackpool Police(LONDON) -- Police in England are once again searching for a suspect with an uncanny resemblance to the Friends character Ross Geller.

Abdulah Husseini, who has been accused of stealing from a restaurant, did not show up for his court date Tuesday.

A district judge has now issued a warrant for his arrest.

The case went viral after police in Blackpool, England, appealed for help in the alleged theft of a coat, cellphone and wallet from a restaurant in Blackpool on Sept. 20. Social media users were quick to point out that the suspect looked like American actor David Schwimmer, who played Ross Geller on Friends.

The original Facebook post from Blackpool police showing an image of the suspect carrying what appears to be a crate of beer has received nearly 100,000 comments and has been shared over 50,000 times.

“Do you recognize this man? We want to speak to him in relation to a theft at a Blackpool restaurant,” police said in the post.

This prompted Schwimmer to officially rule himself out as a suspect by sharing a parody video on Twitter, where he is seen recreating the photo.

"Officers, I swear it wasn't me," he wrote. "As you can see, I was in New York. To the hardworking Blackpool Police, good luck with the investigation."

On Oct. 24, Blackpool police thanked the actor for clarifying the situation.

“Thanks for being there for us David Schwimmer,” police said in a Facebook post. “We appreciate your support!”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage(LONDON) -- Meghan Markle, who rose to fame as an actress, visited a nursing home in Twickenham, England, Tuesday that cares for people who have worked in the entertainment industry.

Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, met elderly residents and enjoyed carols around a Christmas tree at Brinsworth House, a nursing home for the Royal Variety Charity.

Meghan and Prince Harry attended the charity's gala event, the annual Royal Variety Performance, in November. Money raised by the Royal Variety Charity, including its gala event, helps to support hundreds of retired entertainers throughout the U.K., according to Kensington Palace.

Meghan visited Brinsworth House on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II, who is a patron of the Royal Variety Charity.

There are new reports that Meghan, 37, will receive her first royal patronages from Queen Elizabeth in the New Year.

"She's been having meetings behind the scenes to find out more about the charities and organizations that she's considering becoming patron of," ABC News royal contributor Victoria Murphy said of Meghan. "She is very interested we know in women's and girls' rights around the world."

She added, "We also know that she's interested in education and equality of education for all, and we know that, with her background as an actress, she is very interested in the arts."

Meghan, who is expecting her first child with Prince Harry, spent seven seasons playing an attorney on the TV series Suits. Meghan and Harry’s relationship developed as she was starring on Suits and living in Toronto, where the show is filmed.

Meghan, a California native, grew up in the acting industry. Her father, Thomas Markle, from whom she is now estranged, is a retired Hollywood lighting director who worked on TV shows, including General Hospital and Married With Children.

Markle spoke out Monday in a TV interview about his relationship with Meghan, his only child with his ex-wife, Doria Ragland. He said he has not heard from Meghan, adding, "All I can say is that I'm here. She knows it, and I've reached out to her and I need her to reach back to me."

Kensington Palace has not commented on the interview, according to Murphy.

"There's been no reaction of course from Meghan or from Kensington Palace to the Thomas Markle interview," she said. "They have never commented on any of the interviews that he's given before so it's not something that they're going to start doing."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- An Egyptian archeological mission in the south of Cairo unveiled a 4,400-year-old tomb maintained in an “exceptionally well-preserved condition,” according to a statement by the country's Ministry of Antiquities.

The tomb belonged to a Fifth Dynasty royal purification priest named Wahtye.

The discovery was made at the Saqqara archeological site, home to Egypt’s first pyramid, or the step pyramid.

The tomb, which is 33 feet high and 10 feet wide, contained well-preserved, large colored statues, some carved-in rocks and painted walls depicting the priest with his family, according to a statement by Khaled El-Enany, the minister of antiquities, on Saturday.

It also contained scenes depicting wine and pottery making, musical performance and sailing boats, according to Mostafa Waziri, the general secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and head of the mission.

El-Waziri explained that the Egyptian archeological mission was able to reach the tomb in November; however, excavation work was needed to enter through the sealed door of the tomb.

The tomb contains five burial shafts, which will require further excavation work to unveil what it is inside, El-Waziri added.

The discovery is the latest in a series of archeological findings announced all over Egypt, which have been heavily publicized by the government in an effort to boost the country’s slow-recovering tourism sector.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Ukraine has taken a major step towards creating its own independent Orthodox church, separating it from Russia’s and deepening what is one of the most important splits in Orthodox Christianity in centuries.

Nearly 200 bishops, priests and other delegates gathered in Kiev’s gold-domed St. Sophia Cathedral Saturday for a council to elect a head and approve a charter for a new unified Ukrainian church, which will be independent from the Moscow Patriarchate that oversees the Russian Orthodox Church.

The move followed a decision in September by the Patriarch of Constantinople, considered Eastern Orthodox Christianity’s primary leader, to recognize the Ukrainian church’s right to autonomy.

The leader selected by the Kiev council on Saturday, 36 year-old Metropolitan Epiphanius, will now travel to Istanbul in January to receive the order granting independence.

Following the vote Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko said it was a “sacred day," hailing it as “the day of our final independence from Russia.”

Speaking in front of hundreds of people gathered on the square outside the cathedral, Poroshenko quoted Ukraine’s national poet, Tara Shevchenko: “And Ukraine will no longer drink, Moscow’s poison from Moscow’s cup.”

The momentous step, which ends 332 years during which Ukraine’s church answered to Moscow, was prompted by the ongoing conflict set off by Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014 and subsequent war in eastern Ukraine. And it comes amid fresh tensions following Russia's seizure of three Ukrainian navy ships last month and Ukraine’s government’s decision to impose martial law in some regions, citing fear of invasion. In the past week, both sides have accused one another of preparing fresh military offensives.

The split between the Russian and Ukrainian churches has also caused a broader rupture within the Orthodox world. The Russian Orthodox Church in September said it would cut ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate, considered "first among equals" in Orthodoxy, after its leader, Patriarch Bartholomew accepted the Ukrainian request for independence.

The Ukrainian secession is a major blow to the Russian church, which now stands to lose an estimated 30-40 percent of its 150 million believers. Kiev is considered to be the birthplace of Russian Orthodoxy and Russia has described the split now as the largest schism since 1054, when the Western and Eastern Christian churches broke.

The Russian Orthodox Church has denounced the breakaway effort as imposed by politicians. Last week, the head of the Russian church, Patriarch Kirill wrote an open letter to the United Nations and European leaders complaining of “large-scale persecutions” of its clergy in Ukraine.

Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday castigated Poroshenko’s church announcement, calling it a “show” and accusing him of preparing new “provocations” close to Crimea.

The new Ukrainian church seeks to combine clergy from two previously separate breakaway churches and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which had previously answered to Moscow. The new church has called on those from the Moscow-backed church to join its community.

“We are ready to accept them with brotherly love, mutual respect, and to forget all of the grievances that have accumulated so far," said Metropolitan Epiphanius at his first liturgy since being elected head of the new church.

It remains unclear how many will now come over to it and disputes over property now loom as the new Ukrainian church seeks to take control of sites currently controlled by the Moscow Patriarchate.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(LONDON) -- After the most bruising week yet of Theresa May’s embattled premiership, she survived the closest attempt yet to oust her from power.

The United Kingdom prime minister now faces looming challenges in the coming months -- both from the British Parliament and the European Union.

May’s ruling Conservative Party doesn't have a majority in the House of Commons and relies on votes from a minor party to keep it in government. So the looming vote on her Brexit deal is looking incredibly perilous for her.

As May was working 'round the clock to put out as many political fires as she could, there were similar political crises erupting across the English Channel.

Much like May, Emmanuel Macron faces a critical few months leading into March. When Britain is scheduled to leave the E.U. -- with or without a deal, unless Parliament extends or does away with a March 29 deadline -- France's president also has a spring deadline to grapple with.

In the wake of five straight weekends of at times violent protests by the amorphous Yellow Vest -- or the Gilet Jaunes -- movement, France's spending and finances will come under scrutiny early next year. The challenge for Macron, who conceded to some of the movement's demands earlier this month, is to improve his constituents' quality of life without crippling the public purse.

These two vast political challenges are converging simultaneously for the leaders of two of the E.U.’s biggest economies. May and Macron also have to maneuver increasingly Eurosceptic constituents within its bloc; stresses on its economy as one of its biggest surplus contributors in the U.K. withdraws and Italy, Greece and others continue to ail; and the geopolitical relationships with Iran, Russia, China and, of course, President Trump and the United States.

For May, the U.K. is scheduled to leave the European Union in March, but Parliament must pass her deal before then. So the British leader is on a last-minute push with the E.U. for final concessions that will get the House of Commons on board.

But her problems don’t stop there: Even if Parliament passes the first stage of the Brexit vote, it will be followed soon after by a bill with many amendments that will need to be debated and agreed upon by a House that is no longer divided by party, but instead into several factions that cross traditional lines.

The Conservatives are engaged in bitter infighting between MPs, who want to retain many links with the E.U. on trade and policy, and a hardline group led by the European Research Group (ERG), which led the no-confidence vote last week.

The ERG wants a “hard Brexit” –- leaving the E.U. and most of its institutions.

The Labour Party has its own mix of so-called Brexiteers and Remainers, but leader Jeremy Corbyn, a longstanding Eurosceptic, is so far resisting calls from his party to push for another referendum on remaining in the E.U.

He, too, lost a vote of confidence with his MPs in 2016 by more than 100 votes, but refused to resign.

Meanwhile, the DUP, a Northern Irish party which May relies on for votes to stay in power, is bitterly opposed to her deal and are threatening to vote against her bill.

In France, it seems like a long time ago since Emmanuel Macron’s meteoric rise from political anonymity to becoming the youngest president in the country's history. Since then, public opinion in his leadership has plummeted.

He ran a campaign on reforming France’s public finances and soon after his election, he wasted little time in putting his overhauls into place.

But in November, the Yellow Vest movement went from chatter and frustration on social media to hundreds of thousands of protesters hitting the streets, including in Paris. The demonstrations at times became violent, caused injuries and stretched France's police forces -- not to mention created a political headache for Macron.

Protests are a part of France’s social DNA, but the nature of the gilet jaunes is different. These are decentralized crowds grown on social media groups who are leaderless, disparate and have confounded the political establishment.

They have succeeded in grinding central Paris to a halt and closing hundreds of businesses in the weekends leading up to Christmas. But there is no real leadership for the government to interact with, and the protesters have an array of varying demands.

The protests -- which began over a fuel tax and evolved into a wider call to help France's middle-class with day-to-day financial struggles -- forced Macron's hand. Earlier this month, he announced 10 billion euros of additional funding and measures to raise the national minimum wage in an attempt to stave off further protests and meet some of the protesters’ demands.

The concessions come as the E.U. this spring is scheduled to assess France’s spending and finances. And the commitment of funds to help the country's middle class could help push France’s deficit over E.U. limits above 3 percent.

Prime Minister Edouarde Philippe admitted in an interview Sunday that the deficit is likely to hit 3.2 percent next year.

Following Macron’s announcement, France -- along with Romania -- is now projected to have the largest deficit in all of Europe next year.

The move to increase public spending is also an embarrassing U-turn for a president who marketed himself as being the man who would finally reform France’s expensive and problematic social welfare and labor system.

Unions in France have a unique role in labor policy. Along with business lobbies, unions enjoy statutory powers at the heart of social policy in France.

Management in companies with more than 50 workers must consult with union delegates on all aspects of health and social security. On a national level, trade unions are influential in welfare and social policy through consultations with the Ministry of Labor.

It is this system of influence that Macron wants to overhaul. Shortly after the election, Macron announced he was taking on the Code du Travail, which sets the rules for working life in France. He also wants to curb the power of unions and fix the social welfare system.

These are all sacred cows in French political life, however, and previous presidents have failed to reform them. Many leaders have incurred steep political cost with their attempts.

The political risks and pitfalls -- happening in the context of fast-approaching deadlines -- sound familiar to what May is facing in England, and trying to survive.

The strength of the E.U. has never been thus tested, and will be increasingly judged on how well May and Macron overcome these hurdles.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

200mm/iStock(SEOUL, South Korea) -- As tens of thousands of North Koreans, including current leader Kim Jong Un, paid a visit on Sunday to Kim Jong Il's mausoleum in Pyongyang to commemorate the seventh anniversary of his death, North Korean state media also used the opportunity to take a jab at U.S. foreign policy.

Pyongyang criticized Washington in a lengthy commentary by Korean Central News Agency, but the state-run media arm didn't directly criticize President Donald Trump. The commentary mostly took issue with stalled nuclear negotiations.

The commentary "made sure to control the level of criticism so as to not agitate the U.S.," hinting North Korea still would consider a second summit between Kim and Trump, according to Shin Beom-chul, director of the Center for Security and Unification at the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

"They want direct talks at the top level," Shin added. "They don't want to involve high-level officials."

Park Hwee-rhak, a professer of politics at Kookmin University in Seoul, told ABC News that North Korea "is extremely afraid to pursue hardline provocations."

"In that sense," Park added, "the current U.S. strategy seems to be working on containing North Korea."

The commentary by KCNA was at least partially a response to the latest round of sanctions levied against North Korea by the U.S.

Last week, three officials, including Choe Ryong Hae, a close adviser to Kim who's seen as second-highest-ranking official in the regime, were condemned for alleged abuses of human rights.

"The U.S. should realize before it is too late that 'maximum pressure' would not work against us and take a sincere approach to implementing the Singapore DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement," the KCNA report said.

Kim Jong Il is believed to have died from a heart attack on Dec. 17, 2011.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Paul Grover- WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will spend Christmas Day together at Sandringham, Queen Elizabeth’s estate in Norfolk.

The couples’ Christmas plans show a united front amid speculation swirling about disputes between Prince William, 36, and Prince Harry, 34, and their wives.

This will be the second year the couples spend Christmas together with Queen Elizabeth and the royal family.

The news came just days after the royals’ Christmas card photos were shared with the public.

William and Kate’s photo shows the couple casually posing with their three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, on the grounds of Anmer Hall, their country home in Norfolk.

Meghan and Harry’s photo was a never-before-seen shot of the couple gazing at fireworks during their wedding reception hosted by Prince Charles. The wedding reception was held at Frogmore House at Windsor Castle, near Frogmore Cottage, where the couple plans to live full-time beginning next year.

The royal family gathers on Christmas Eve to exchange gifts, following the German tradition. On Christmas Day, they join the congregation for the morning service at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham followed by a Christmas lunch and, later, a buffet dinner prepared by Queen Elizabeth’s chef.

"I think if there have been any disagreements behind closed doors, then I think they will be very careful not to let that show," said ABC News' royal contributor Victoria Murphy. "I think we'll see a show of all of them together enjoying themselves and being united for the holidays."

The announcement of the royal family’s Christmas plans also came just as a division in Meghan’s personal life was made public again.

Meghan’s father, Thomas Markle, gave an interview to Good Morning Britain Monday in which he begged his daughter to contact him. Meghan and her father have been estranged since around the time of her wedding to Harry in May.

"I love you very much. You’re my daughter and I’d really like to hear from you," Thomas Markle said. "Whatever differences we probably have, we should be able to work them out. We’re family. Please reach out to me."

Thomas Markle, who did not attend Harry and Meghan's wedding, also spoke out about his future grandchild. Meghan and Harry are expecting their first child next year.

"There has to be a place for me," he said. "I’m her father and I will be her grandfather to her children."

Meghan, whose mother, Doria Ragland, attended her wedding, is preparing in London not only for the birth of her first child but also for the announcement of the focus of her charitable work.

There are new reports that Meghan, 37, will receive her first royal patronages from Queen Elizabeth in the New Year.

"She's been having meetings behind the scenes to find out more about the charities and organizations that she's considering becoming patron of," Murphy said of Meghan. "She is very interested we know in women's and girls' rights around the world."

She added, "We also know that she's interested in education and equality of education for all, and we know that, with her background as an actress, she is very interested in the arts."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- More than 40 people were injured Sunday when a massive explosion rocked a restaurant in northern Japan, according to local news reports.

A swath of Sapporo City, the capital city of Japan's main northern island of Hokkaido, was covered with smoke, shattered glass and collapsed debris in the aftermath of a suspected gas explosion, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported.

Most of the injuries were minor, but at least one person was in serious condition, according to the report.

Flames still were smoldering among the wreckage of the two-story wooden building around 1 a.m. Monday local time, nearly five hours after the explosion occurred, NHK and other local media outlets reported.

The building, a pub on one floor and a real estate office on the other, was destroyed.

Authorities suspect gas leaking from more than 100 deodorizer spray cans in the building, which may have been intended for disposal, caught fire, local media outlet Kyodo News reported.

Some witnesses said the blast felt like an earthquake.

"Dawn and a tremendous explosion sounded from two taverns nearby," a witness told NHK. "The explosion broke the window glass of the shop where I worked. It seems there are many injured people on site."

"I felt that it rocked as much as in the September earthquake," another witness said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A woman who says she was sexually assaulted by an employee at a Sandals resort in Jamaica is accusing the hotel chain of mishandling the reporting of her case to authorities.

Professional makeup artist Melissa Blayton, 45, was staying at the Sandals in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, in spring 2017 when she says one of the hotel's employees offered her a solo sailing lesson.

Blayton was lying by the pool when a man cleaning the pool and wearing the same color shirt as other employees began chit-chatting with her, she said. She did not filter her answers to his questions because she felt "completely safe" on the property and let a "dumb comment" slip, she said.

"Looking back, I remember him asking, 'Where is your husband? Where are your friends?'" she said. "And I remember saying, 'Oh, I don't have a husband.' Looking back, you can't take back what you say."

Blayton said after the man offered to teach her how to sail, she met him on the beach in the water sports area 30 minutes later. She knew something was wrong when she realized they were sailing much farther out than other sailboats from the resort that had gone out at the same time.

"I think he noticed that I was looking at why the sailboat is turning around, and he was like, 'Oh, it is much prettier out here,'" Blayton said.

At one point, the man made a turn on the sailboat and then "immediately" got on top of her and began kissing her, she said.

The man was pinning her down, but she was able to get enough leverage to push him off of her, she said. She then demanded that the man take her back to shore.

Blayton then went to her room and "pulled" herself "together," because she had to work a wedding reception for a vow renewal that night, she said. The next few days, she holed up in her room and cried, she said.

"I stayed in my room the entire time and it wasn't until my butler that I had who kept checking on me and he noticed I am crying constantly," she said. It was that butler who advised her to talk to the hotel manager, Blayton added.

The manager came up to her room and asked what happened and if she knew the man's name, Blayton said. When she showed the manager a photo of the employee, that she took while out on the sailboat, the manager allegedly said something along the lines of, "He has been with us for over 20 years and he has a family to support," according to Blayton.

After Blayton was done recapping what happened to her, the manager left and came back 30 minutes later with a piece of paper, Blayton said.

When Blayton asked the manager if she should call police after reporting the assault, the manager told her they would take care of it and quickly offered her the voucher for a $4,500 credit for a future trip, which came attached with a nondisclosure agreement, she said.

"I had the option of signing this and taking what they were offering or lose it," she said. "You don't get anything and it was basically this or nothing."

Blayton said the manager also told her that the employee had been fired that day.

Deputy Chairman of Sandals Resorts International Adam Stewart told ABC News that while such incidents are rare, he is aware that "a handful" -- somewhere "in the region around 10" -- have happened at their resorts.

However, Sandals resorts have strict safety and security protocols and that police are always called, Stewart said.

Blayton said she never heard from police, but according to Stewart, "in this particular case and in all cases, the police are notified." Authorities are "immediately" informed, per resort policy, he said.

The Detroit Free Press published a report last month that a variety of resorts in Jamaica were allegedly covering up sexual assaults and silencing victims "for years." The Sandals resort chain denied the allegations.

Tresa Baldas, the Free Press reporter who wrote the story, told ABC News that she began investigating the resort when two Detroit women who went to Jamaica and stayed at a Sandals were allegedly raped. After that, she began finding more and more alleged victims from a variety of resorts, she said.

"The recurring theme" is that the alleged cover-ups seem to almost be protocol, Baldas said.

"When a woman reports this, at least the ones that I spoke to and that is resort management or staff will quickly huddle around, they'll talk to the victim and they try to take care of things by themselves," Baldas said.

In addition, several of the women Baldas spoke to alleged an element of victim shaming when they reported their assaults, she said.

"When someone calls you from halfway around the world and says I was raped at a resort while I was on vacation and nobody believes me, as a reporter that gets to you," Baldas said. "It sticks to you and you are thinking to yourself, tell me your story."

Another couple, Jeff and Ashley Pascarella, described a similar incident to ABC News when Ashley was allegedly sexually assaulted by the room's butler the night before her wedding at Sandals in 2016.

Sandals offered the couple a $15,000 voucher if they agreed to sign a nondisclosure agreement, they said, but they refused and are now suing the resort for $30 million, they said.

Stewart could not comment specifically on the Pascarella's case due to the pending litigation, but said "refunds are a part of the tapestry" of the hotel industry when expectations are not met.

When asked if it was standard to offer a refund in exchange for signing a nondisclosure agreement, Stewart called it a "settlement agreement" instead, saying the hotel's safety protocols are "crystal clear."

"We follow them to the book to ensure that we take care of our clients and their safety," he said.

Stewart said that the company has "evolved over the years" and continues to work with local authorities in every country to ensure guests are safe.

In addition, the company conducts background checks and enforces "zero-tolerance" policies to ensure safety, he said, adding that he was "proud" that it was a Sandals team member who told Blayton to report her assault.

Blayton is disappointed in the way Sandals allegedly handled the situation and believes the company acted in its own interests, she said.

"Give somebody time. Don't force somebody into signing something so quickly when they are not in their right state of mind," she said. "They should always call the police, call the police when something like this happens. That should be standard across the board, but it makes me think that they are definitely not thinking about the best interest of the people spending money to come do business with them."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

ABC News(PARIS) -- Protesters from the "yellow vest" movement hit the streets in France for the fifth straight Saturday, but the number of demonstrators was significantly smaller than in previous weekends.

There were 33,500 protesters in France -- and 2,200 in Paris -- as of Saturday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Interior minister told ABC News. At the same time last Saturday, they were 77,000 total across the whole country and 10,000 in its capital.

Police fired small amounts of tear gas to disperse groups of protesters near the famous Champs Elysees Avenue but the demonstrations are mostly peaceful.

That pales in comparison to past weekends, when hundreds of angry protesters, many of them wearing gas masks or ski goggles, threw rocks and projectiles toward French police in Paris.

In turn, police dispersed crowds by firing tear gas and blasting water cannons.

Footage from last weekend's demonstrations showed protesters using plywood and other material to make barricades on various streets throughout central Paris.

Demonstrators also set multiple cars on fire, broke store windows before looting them.

The demonstration in France this Saturday comes after French president Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation in a recorded TV speech earlier this week and announced new economic measures in response to weeks of violent protests across the country.

The 40-year-old head of state confessed on Monday that the anger of protesters was "deep, and some of their claims legitimate."

Speaking again during a press conference in Brussels during a European Union summit on Friday, the French president said “our country needs calm."

"It needs order. It needs to function normally again,” he said.

These protests are part of the “yellow vest” movement, named after the neon yellow security vests demonstrators have been wearing -- vests all motorists are lawfully required to have in their vehicles.

These demonstrations started in small urban centers and rural areas of the country in response to a proposed fuel price hike, and demonstrators have been blocking roads over the past five weeks.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced last week that he was backing down from the proposed fuel price hike. However, the protests have continued and turned into a broader rebuke against the economic policies of Macron and the French ruling class, which many citizens view as elitist and indifferent to their struggles.

The movement has no clear leader and has attracted groups of people with a wide variety of demands.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

SUMY SADURNI/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The world's youngest nation on Saturday marked five years of vicious war in an ongoing conflict that is affecting millions of people, many of them children.

South Sudan is home to the largest refugee crisis in Africa and the third largest in the world, after Syria and Afghanistan, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Sixty-five percent of South Sudanese refugees are under the age of 18.

Not long after gaining independence and emerging from civil war, South Sudan slid back into conflict in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir sacked his then-deputy Riek Machar and accused him of plotting a coup. The personal rivalry sparked fighting between forces loyal to the president and rebels allied with Machar.

It also deepened a rift between two of South Sudan’s largest ethnic groups -- Kiir’s dominant Dinka and Machar’s Nuer people.

Facing sanctions and mounting pressure from the international community, the sparring sides signed a power-sharing agreement in August 2015 with the promise to bring peace to South Sudan. But the peace deal fell apart within months as fighting flared up between Kiir's government forces, Machar's rebel group and other insurgent factions.

After three years of ruinous war and more broken ceasefires, Machar and other rebel factions signed a new ceasefire and power-sharing agreement with Kiir's government that would maintain Kiir as president and reinstate Machar to his former role as the "first" of multiple vice presidents. The reconstituted transitional government won't take office until May 2019.

Despite the revitalized peace process, lasting peace and stability has yet to be seen. The United Nations flagged reports of fighting in several areas of South Sudan less than a week after the new agreement was signed.

About half of South Sudan's 12 million population is facing severe hunger and food security, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Thursday launched an appeal for $1.5 billion to provide life-saving assistance to 5.7 million people who are affected by the South Sudanese civil war and are the most in need.

"As we prepare to enter 2019, South Sudan remains in the grip of a serious humanitarian crisis. The cumulative effects of years of conflict and violence against civilians has destroyed people’s homes and livelihoods," Alain Noudehou, the humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, said in a statement.

The yearslong war has likely led to nearly 400,000 "excess deaths," with half of the lives lost believed to be through "violent injuries," according to a report by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which was funded by the U.S. Department of State.

More than 4 million people, the majority of whom are children, have been uprooted by the bloodletting, according to United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Fifteen thousand children remain separated from their families or missing, and they are more susceptible to violence, abuse and exploitation.

UNICEF and its partners have reunited close to 6,000 children from South Sudan with their parents and caregivers since the war began. The hope is that the recently signed peace agreement will provide an opportunity to step up humanitarian assistance.

"Every reunification is the result of months and often years of work to trace missing family members in a country the size of France, but without any basic infrastructure," Leila Pakkala, UNICEF’s regional director in eastern and southern Africa, said in a statement Thursday. "The suffering children have endured during the fighting has been unimaginable, but the joy of seeing a family made whole again is always a source of hope.

"There have been encouraging developments on the ground since the peace agreement was signed," Pakkala added. "Our hope is that previously inaccessible areas will begin opening up, allowing us to deliver life-saving assistance to more people in the year ahead."

Meanwhile, a human rights commission is investigating "widespread and systemic sexual violence" across the country and will report its findings to the United Nations Human Rights Council in March. More than 150 women and girls sought medical treatment after being raped or sexually assaulted in a 10-day period as they walked from their villages to the town of Bentiu in the Unity region, according to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

"Rape and other forms of sexual violence have been a consistent feature of the conflict in South Sudan, used both as a tactic of war and a driver of forced displacement,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the United Nations secretary-general, said in a statement on Dec. 3.

U.S. President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, on Thursday threatened to pull American aid to South Sudan, among other African nations.

"The United States is now reviewing its assistance to South Sudan to ensure that our aid does not prolong the conflict or facilitate predatory behavior," Bolton said in prepared remarks at the Heritage Foundation in the Washington, D.C. "We will not provide loans or more American resources to a South Sudanese government led by the same morally bankrupt leaders who perpetuate the horrific violence and immense human suffering in South Sudan."

The following day, the U.S. Department of Treasury imposed sanctions on three individuals for their alleged roles in the South Sudanese civil war. Six entities owned or controlled by two of the individuals were also designated.

"Treasury is targeting individuals who have provided soldiers, armored vehicles, and weapons used to fuel the conflict in South Sudan," Sigal Mandelker, undersecretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement Friday. "We are intent on holding accountable those who profit off the misery and suffering of the South Sudanese people and facilitate violence against civilians."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

John Moore/Getty Images(EL PASO, Texas) -- The family of the 7-year-old girl who died while in border patrol custody is calling for a "transparent and neutral investigation" into the circumstances that led to her death, attorneys representing her heartbroken family said in a statement Saturday.

The tragic death of Jakelin Caal Maquin, who was just five days past her birthday when she died after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border earlier this month, should be investigated within "nationally recognized standards for the arrest and custody of children," said Ruben Garcia, the director of Annunciation House, a non-profit organization that is working with her family.

"The family intends to assist in such an investigation into the cause and circumstances of Jakelin's death," Garcia read from a statement prepared by the family's attorneys, during a Saturday afternoon press conference in El Paso, Texas.

Garcia spoke on behalf of Jakelin's parents: her father, Nery Gilberto Caal Cruz, with whom she crossed the border; and her mom, Claudia Marivel Maquin Coc.

Jakelin "was a beautiful and loving child," Garcia said during the news conference.

"Jakelin and her father came to the United States seeking something that thousands have been seeking for years: An escape from the dangerous situation in their home country," Garcia read, referring to Guatemala. "This was their right under U.S. and international law."

Late Saturday evening, Guatemalan Consul Tekandi Paniagua told ABC News that Cruz -- Jakelin’s father -- was grateful to the border patrol and the doctors who tried to save his daughter's life.

"When I spoke to the father he actually said he was very grateful for the effort of both the Border Patrol agents that assisted his daugther at the station as well as the medical staff at the hospital," Paniagua said.

Jakelin's death became public Thursday, five days after she died from dehydration and cardiac arrest, and sparked out sparked outrage from Democrats and immigration advocates alike.

"There are no words to capture the horror of a seven-year-old girl dying of dehydration in U.S. custody," former presidential candidate and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted Friday. "What’s happening at our borders is a humanitarian crisis."

Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrol officials on Friday defended their handling of the incident. Among the challenges cited, DHS and CBP said it took 90 minutes to get Jakelin medical attention after Caal Cruz alerted agents that she was sick.

Four border patrol agents apprehended a group of 160 migrants -- among them Jakelin and her father -- and there was no medical staff nearby.

Finally, a CBP official with direct knowledge of the investigation told ABC News that a single bus equipped to transport children from a remote part of the New Mexico border had to make two trips to take everyone. Jakelin had to wait four hours for the bus to return for her and her father, the official said.

Jakelin later had a 105.9-degree fever and had to be airlifted to a children's hospital in El Paso. That's when she went into cardiac arrest, suffered brain swelling and liver failure, according to CBP and DHS officials.

She died less than 24 hours later, DHS said.

But Jakelin's family said through Garcia the little girl had been taken care of by her father, who made sure she had eaten and was hydrated.

"She had suffered from a lack of water or food prior to approaching the border," Garcia said Saturday.

Garcia added that Jakelin and her family who speak Q'eqchi, and Spanish as a second language. They don't speak English, Garcia added, yet Caal Cruz filled out an English form during processing.

"It is unacceptable for any government agency to have persons in custody sign documents in a language that they clearly do not understand," Garcia said.

They urged patience while the medical examiner in El Paso County, which conducted Jakelin's autopsy, makes a public statement regarding the cause of death.

Her body has left El Paso and is being transported to a funeral home in Laredo that works with Guatemalan consulate. From there, her body will be repatriated to Guatemala, Garcia said.

"The family of Jakelin ... is still coping with their profound loss," Garcia said. "The death of a child is the most painful experience that a parent or family can endure."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.





On Facebook