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Christian Offenberg/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is set to travel to Israel to lead the U.S. delegation attending the funeral services Friday for former Israeli President Shimon Peres, the White House announced Wednesday.

The president departs Thursday and will return to the United States after the services.

In a statement late Tuesday evening, President Obama called Peres his "friend," who worked tirelessly over decades to strengthen the alliance between the United States and Israel.

He also hailed Peres' work in pursuit of peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people, and said there would be "no greater tribute to his life than to renew our commitment to the peace that we know is possible."

Obama honored Peres with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  Two of the largest hospitals in the besieged part of eastern Aleppo have been attacked and are now out of service, as the number of wounded civilians continues to grow.

“The place is filled with dust,” Abu Rajab, a radiologist and managing director of one of the destroyed hospitals, told ABC News. “Warplanes targeted the hospital directly. This attack led to the hospital going out of service. Because of the siege we can’t fix the broken equipment. We are unable to service the people who need it. Today, we are sad. We are sad because we can’t provide the necessary treatment to the patients who need it. We are hoping to go back in service even if at a minimum level.”

Early this morning, 2 SAMS-supported hospitals in eastern #Aleppo were hit by targeted airstrikes and shelling. 2 casualties & 5 injured. pic.twitter.com/qB4a89PyRf

— SAMS (@sams_usa) September 28, 2016

The attack happened at around 4 a.m. local time, Abu Rajab said. Power generators, water reservoirs, respirators and other equipment were destroyed. The intensive care unit was also hit and damaged. Dust and rubble fell on the patients in their beds.

#Aleppo #Syria: It has come to the point where it's actually more dangerous to be in a hospital than outside in the streets. @RMardiniICRC

— Yves Daccord (@YDaccordICRC) September 28, 2016

The wounded were sent to the few functioning hospitals in east Aleppo.

“We are very busy because all the patients from the two hospitals were transferred to the remaining hospitals,” Hamza Khatib, a doctor at an east Aleppo hospital who uses a pseudonym for safety reasons, told ABC News.

The World Health Organization and the Red Cross have called for humanitarian routes to be established in the besieged part of Aleppo so that dozens of sick and injured people can be evacuated. Only some 30 doctors are believed to remain in the besieged eastern part of Aleppo. Airstrikes on Aleppo intensified after the Syrian military declared an offensive against eastern Aleppo on Sept. 22 – a few days after announcing that a U.S.-Russia-brokered ceasefire had ended.

"These attacks strike at the very heart of what's left of Aleppo's health care system," Donna McKay, executive director of Physicians for Human Rights, a non-profit group, said of today's hospital attacks. "And now, with heavier artillery and a sustained campaign against medical facilities since the end of the ceasefire, we're seeing the noose tighten around Aleppo. Intentional attacks on hospitals are war crimes, plain and simple, and the silence from the international community is deafening. The Syrian government and its Russian allies are engaged in an all-out assault on civilians and health care, and until these attacks end, the ongoing suffering and carnage will be a stain on all the world's conscience."

The hospital attacks happened as the number of killed and wounded in parts of Aleppo increases every day. Six civilians were killed in Aleppo’s al-Maadi neighbourhood today, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Airstrikes struck a number of other neighborhoods, leaving several civilians wounded.

Yesterday, at least 23 people, including 10 children, were killed after airstrikes hit east Aleppo’s neighborhoods of al-Shaar and al-Mashhad. One girl was rescued alive from under the rubble of a destroyed building. Activists said she lost 16 members of her family in the attack.

Since Friday, at least 96 children have been killed in eastern Aleppo and 223 have been injured, according to UNICEF.

“The children of Aleppo are trapped in a living nightmare,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth in a statement. “There are no words left to describe the suffering they are experiencing.”

Around 1,000 people have been killed in the past eight days alone after 1,700 airstrikes pounded the besieged part of Aleppo, according to the White Helmets, a group of unarmed, nonpartisan rescue workers in Syria.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Karwai Tang/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- Prince William and Princess Kate enjoyed a rare, kids-free date night Tuesday with a stay at the Coast High Country Inn in Whitehorse, Canada.

Earlier in the day, William and Kate, both 34, revisited their school days when they toured the University of British Columbia Okanagan and watched an exhibition game by the university’s women’s volleyball team.

Kate, who stood out in a $2,600 emerald Dolce & Gabbana dress, and William, dressed in slacks and a blazer, were gifted their own customized volleyball jerseys and teddy bears for their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

What a game! Thank you @UBC for an amazing welcome! And for TRH's special @UBC jerseys! #RoyalVisitCanada pic.twitter.com/EbaD47Uvj5

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) September 27, 2016

The royals also visited a winery in Kelowna, where they sampled the region’s finest wines and signature dishes.

The Duke and Duchess sample some signature dishes from British Columbian chefs at #TasteofBC #RoyalVisitCanada pic.twitter.com/fFU7e99zZJ

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) September 27, 2016

“It’s quite unusual,” Kate said while sampling one delicacy. “I’ve never seen it before.”

William and Kate's busy day Tuesday also included a stop at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Center in Yukon, where they took in a show.

Chief Bill and Chief Kane welcome TRH to the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre for tonight's showcase of Yukon's thriving performing arts. pic.twitter.com/EfsAZGTEuU

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) September 28, 2016

William later told the young performers, "That was one of the best shows I've ever seen. You should be very proud."

William and Kate have so far kept up with their demanding schedule of engagements in Canada on their own while Prince George, 3, and Princess Charlotte, 16 months, have stayed in Victoria with their nanny, Maria Teresa Borallo. George and Charlotte were seen when the family landed in Victoria on Saturday.

Thank you to the @RCAF_ARC who flew the family safely to Victoria. pic.twitter.com/2wEhjaqNCd

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) September 24, 2016

Wednesday morning, William and Kate will greet the residents of Whitehorse at a colorful street party. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will later make their way along the spectacular Klondike Highway to Carcross, a small town of less than 300 people, where they will be welcomed by the Carcross/Tagish First Nation community.

William and Kate will then travel a short distance to the beautiful Montana Mountain where they will observe a mountain biking demonstration by Single Track to Success, a project that builds world-class trails and provides life-changing experiences to local youth.

William, Kate, George and Charlotte will conclude their eight-day tour of Canada on Saturday.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images(NEW YORK) --  A long-awaited investigation by international prosecutors has found that Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over east Ukraine two years ago using a missile brought from Russia and fired by Russian-backed rebels. All 298 aboard the plane were killed.

During a presentation today in the Dutch city of Nieuwegein, an international Joint Investigation Team (JIT) led by Dutch prosecutors, said it had concluded “without any doubt” that the flight was struck by an anti-aircraft missile fired by pro-Russian rebels and that it had established the missile’s route from Russia to the launch the site.

"Based on the criminal investigation, we can conclude that flight MH17 was shot down on July 17, 2014, by a BUK missile brought from the territory of the Russian Federation and that after it was launched, the system returned to Russia,” Wilbert Paulissen, a Dutch investigator, told a news conference.

The JIT consists of representatives from Malaysia, Ukraine, Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands, which had the largest number of citizens aboard the flight.

The investigators did not accuse Russia of supplying the missile, saying that the next stage of its investigation would now focus on firmly establishing suspects and bringing criminal charges against them. However, the JIT said it had already identified 100 individuals connected with the shooting and was now working to establish levels of involvement.

The investigation provided the most comprehensive case yet that the missile was fired by rebels and appeared to rule out many other scenarios, mostly put forward by Russia, that Ukrainian government forces were to blame for disaster.

Ahead of its release, Russia has sought to discredit the Dutch investigation, and on Monday its military released what it claimed was radar images showing the missile could not have been fired by the rebels.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, reiterated the claim just an hour before the JIT delivered its findings, saying the facts were “undeniable."

The JIT investigators, however, refuted that claim, saying that the abundance of evidence it had gathered meant that the additional radar images did not change the overall conclusions of the investigation.

The investigation will now seek to build a criminal case against those responsible for firing the missile. The investigators issued a call for witnesses, saying the investigation was working to establish the chain of command that led to the missile's firing.

Prosecutors could not give a time frame for the investigation but the JIT is scheduled to continue its work through 2018.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Salah Malkawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(NEW YORK) --  Israel's longest serving statesman Shimon Peres died early Wednesday, leaving the country mourning the last of the state’s founding fathers and a man whose legacy as a would-be peacemaker is celebrated by supporters but eyed with skepticism by many Palestinians.

The Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv said Peres, 93, died two weeks after suffering a serious stroke that caused bleeding in his brain.

Peres was present at the birth of the State of Israel. He emigrated from Poland to Palestine, then under British rule, in 1934 with his family when he was 12 years old. He grew up with the young nation, attending a school advocating for the relocation of Jews and as a teenager joined the first generation of Zionists in politics, led by David Ben-Gurion.

"Shimon was the essence of Israel itself," President Obama said in a statement Wednesday. "The courage of Israel’s fight for independence ... and the perseverance that led him to serve his nation in virtually every position in government across the entire life of the State of Israel."

 Peres' career spanned 10 U.S. presidencies. He served in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, for over 47 years, and was elected prime minister three times. Peres was present at nearly every key moment in Israel's history.

"As a man of vision, his gaze was aimed to the future," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday. "As a man of security, he fortified Israel's strength in many ways, some of which even today are still unknown."

His reputation was never without controversy, but his popularity grew enormously in the last 15 years of his life.

"He became the darling of the nation," said Peres biographer Michael Bar Zohar. "He wanted to be loved by the public."

And he was, at times.

"Sometimes the world is divided between the dreamers and the doers," said Yehuda Ben-Meir, a former deputy minister of foreign affairs and a member of Knesset. "He was a dreamer, he was a visionary, but Shimon was also a builder. He managed to combine the two."

Peres built Israel's defense industry from scratch in the 1950s, negotiated Israel's biggest arms and technology deals and prioritized security above all else. He dealt secretly with European powers, and was the mastermind behind Israel's nuclear power plant Dimona, which houses a 24,000-kilowatt reactor in the Negev desert.

Two decades before the Oslo Accords and his subsequent Nobel Peace Prize, shared with then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat, Peres was a staunch supporter of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

As defense minister, he encouraged Jewish settlers to move to the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and to the Golan Heights. Some 10 years later, he set his sights on peace with the Palestinians, and to this day, that very peace remains elusive in large part due to the expanding Jewish settlements, according to the United Nations.

And Palestinians remember that.

For Israelis, even those that opposed the Oslo Accords, the Nobel Peace Prize cemented Peres' legacy as a "man of peace," but for Palestinians, despite the flicker of hope before Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination in 1995, the impact of settlement expansion and a powerhouse Israeli military leave a cruel legacy, said Diana Buttu, a lawyer who was involved in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

"He was the first to do a number of things," said Buttu. "Setting up Dimona nuclear facility without inspections -- that created a precedent that stands today. And the bombing of Qana, Lebanon, in 1996 where 800 people were seeking shelter in a UN building ... it then became acceptable to bomb UN facilities."

She continued, "For Peres, 'peace' meant bombing civilians, stealing land, ethnic cleansing and building settlements. He stripped the word 'peace' of any meaning."

For his part, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian National Authority, sent a message to the Peres family expressing his sadness and regret in losing "a partner in brave peacemaking." The message praised Peres for making "relentless efforts to achieve lasting peace since the Oslo agreement until the last moment of his life."

The struggle between security and peace dominated Peres' later political life but he never showed regret.

"Shimon was an optimist," said his biographer, Zohar. "He never looked back in anger. If he did regret, he did not show it."

Years later, when asked about his change in priorities, he told Newsweek: “It’s not that I changed my character. I found a different situation."

He worked tirelessly and his peers say nothing was ever enough.

"He was a fighter. He never gave up," said Ben-Meir. "He knew how to give them hell. And knew how to build."

Zohar describes it this way: "When [Peres] was 4 or 5 years old in Poland, he would go to his grandmother's house with a friend who was much stronger than him. They played a game that involved the stronger friend pushing little Peres down again, and again. Finally Peres' grandmother put an end to it and Peres protested. 'But perhaps next time I'll make it!' he said, and that was Shimon Peres from age 5 until his death."

An eternal optimist, he told Zohar once, "I never met a pessimist who found another star in the sky."

And when asked about his legacy, Zohar said, "I don't think he cared about it very much."

"People ask me how I would like to be remembered," Peres told the Sunday Times in a 2013 interview. "I say bubbemeises [nonsense] — no one remembers anything."

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Former Israeli president and prime minister Shimon Peres has died in Tel Aviv two weeks after suffering from a major stroke, his family has confirmed.

He was Israel's longest-serving politician, holding all top posts in government, including twice as prime minister. In 2007, he was elected as the ninth president.

Peres was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin for the Oslo Peace Accords signed in 1993 after the first negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Peres was 93.

In a statement Tuesday night, President Obama called Shimon the "essence of Israel itself."

"I will always be grateful that I was able to call Shimon my friend," the president said. "I first visited him in Jerusalem when I was a senator, and when I asked for his advice, he told me that while people often say that the future belongs to the young, it’s the present that really belongs to the young. 'Leave the future to me,' he said, 'I have time.'  And he was right.  Whether it was during our conversations in the Oval Office, walking together through Yad Vashem, or when I presented him with America’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, Shimon always looked to the future." 

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has taken another step forward in the normalizing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba by nominating the first U.S. ambassador to the island nation in over half a century.

The president announced the nomination of Jeffrey DeLaurentis on Tuesday and praised the top U.S. diplomat, who has worked in Havana since 2014, for his leadership.

"Jeff’s leadership has been vital throughout the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, and the appointment of an ambassador is a common sense step forward toward a more normal and productive relationship between our two countries," President Obama said in a statement.

DeLaurentis' nomination faces a fight with Congress, however, as Republican opponents of President Obama, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), have criticized renewing relations with Cuba.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), who supports the president's push for relations with Cuba, said Tuesday he was in favor of the nomination.

"Americans traveling & doing business in #Cuba will be well-served by the prompt confirmation of Jeff DeLaurentis to serve as US ambassador," he said in a tweet Tuesday.


Americans traveling & doing business in #Cuba will be well-served by the prompt confirmation of Jeff DeLaurentis to serve as US ambassador

— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) September 27, 2016


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KARAM AL-MASRI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. State Department announced Tuesday the U.S. would provide more aid to Syrian citizens affected by the country's bloody civil war.

The U.S. will give an additional $364 million in humanitarian assistance to Syria, bringing the total amount of aid provided since the conflict began in the past few years to $5.9 billion.

Anne Richard-- the assistant secretary of state for Population, Refugees, and Migration-- said Tuesday the aid was "lifesaving."

"Faced with the unprecedented scale of tragedy and human suffering that Syrians have endured for more than five years and continue to endure today, this announcement reflects the immense generosity of the American people," she said. "It will support desperately needed food, shelter, safe drinking water, medical care and other urgent help to millions of Syrians and refugee hosting communities.”

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MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Over 90 percent of the world's population lives in areas with levels of air pollution that exceed the World Health Organization's limits, the group said Tuesday in what the WHO described as its most detailed report on global outdoor air pollution ever published.

While the WHO’s standards for air quality are not legally binding, they are generally accepted by many in the international community.

About 3 million deaths are linked to outdoor air pollution exposure each year, according to the report, and of those deaths, nearly 90 percent occur in low- and middle-income countries.

The U.S. has a relatively low number of deaths attributable to ambient (outdoor) air pollution, with 7 deaths per 100,000 people every year, according to the report. But in China, that number is 70 deaths per 100,000, and Turkmenistan has the highest rate with 108 deaths per 100,000.

Exposure to outdoor air pollution has been linked to cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer, as well as an increase in the risk for acute respiratory infections, according to the WHO.

"Air pollution continues take a toll on the health of the most vulnerable populations -- women, children and the older adults," WHO Assistant Director General Dr. Flavia Bustreo said in a statement. "For people to be healthy, they must breathe clean air from their first breath to their last."

Inefficient modes of transport, household fuel and waste burning, coal-fired power plants and industrial activities are the major sources of air pollution, according to the WHO. Air pollution, however, can also be influenced by natural causes, such as dust storms, the WHO noted.

Dr. Patrick Kinney, a professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University, told ABC News Tuesday that fine air pollution particles affect chronic health conditions, "similar to the way cigarette smoking affects people."

Kinney added that there are a lot of adverse health conditions that air pollution is associated with in addition to those outlined in the WHO report.

"You can think of this as kind of an underestimate of the health outcomes of air pollution," Kinney said.

"Air pollution is kind of a risk-multiplier," Kinney said, "For example, if there is a high percentage of heart disease in a population, air pollution will make this worse."

While "everybody is at risk" for the health impacts of excess air pollution, Kinney said some groups, including the elderly, young children, people who work outside, and people living in a lower economic status, tend to be at a slightly greater risk.

People living in areas with particularly dangerous levels of air pollution can use air purifiers, which tend to be effective for cleaning indoor air, Kinney said.

However, the best way to combat dangerous air pollution levels is "just to control the sources and reduce the emissions that are causing this air pollution, which we have done very successfully in the U.S. over the last 40 years," Kinney said.

"The Clean Air Act has been quite successful. It sets goals based on air quality standards and then states have to meet those goals, and it has gradually been achieved over the past 40 years," Kinney said, explaining why the U.S. has a much lower level of air pollution in comparison to other countries.

Tony Wexler, director of the UC Davis Air Quality Research Group, added that a major factor in producing dirty air is "development."

"When the U.S. was developing and going from now what we would say a 'developing country' to a 'developed country' in the fifties, we had incredibly bad air pollution," Wexler said.

Wexler added that he hopes other parts of the globe that are just starting to develop will skip using energy that contributes to dirty air, such as fossil fuels, and "go straight to solar and wind" to power their industries.

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iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Nate Smith, executive director of the Texas Nationalist Movement, looked uncertain as a man identifying himself as an east Ukrainian resistance fighter pledged solidarity to Smith’s struggle for an independent Texas. Standing in a conference room in the Ritz Hotel in central Moscow on Sunday, Smith nodded noncommittally and handed over his business card.

It wasn’t the only incongruous encounter taking place at the Ritz at what has been dubbed Moscow’s international conference of separatists, an eclectic gathering of organizations and sometimes wacky individuals pressing for self-rule for often little-known territories.

Amidst the heavy glitz of the hotel, Catalonian separatists and dissident Irish republicans listened politely to presentations from east Ukrainian rebels, Azerbaijani minorities and the thoughts of the self-proclaimed "King of Hawaii," who called in via video link.

And among the few dozen activists comparing ideas for how to achieve self-determination, were two Americans campaigning for Texan and Californian secession from the United States.

The conference, now in its second year, is funded largely by the Kremlin and organized by the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia. The movement says it is unconnected to the Kremlin, but the hotel conference was almost entirely paid for by a charitable fund founded by President Vladimir Putin, which provided close to $546,000 for the project, according to public records. The attendees, including the Texan delegate, had been offered free flights and accommodation.

The conference’s organizers present it as a platform for marginalized groups, but its agenda overlaps with Kremlin efforts to promote Russia as an alternative guardian for global order, at the head of democratic movement opposed to alleged American imperialism.

“Our main goal is to create a multi-polar world,” the conference’s creator, Aleksander V. Ionov, told its participants. “Our president, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, is probably the main anti-globalist in the world.”

Ionov himself, a relatively little-known businessman, has repeatedly met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom Russia is backing militarily, saying the two discussed humanitarian aid and media activities two weeks ago.

Ionov’s conference plays into Moscow’s own long-time policy of backing separatists in its former Soviet neighbors. While jailing and harassing separatist groups at home, Moscow has leveraged them abroad a pretext for military intervention, most recently fomenting the violent secessionist conflict in eastern Ukraine. A sizable presence of pro-Russian rebel supporters was visible on Sunday, while not a single Russian separatist group took part.

All that and the anti-American flavor sometimes made uncomfortable listening for the groups less used to the atmosphere in the Kremlin’s orbit.

“It’s kind of awkward I guess,” Smith said after one 30-minute denunciation of American inequity.

Smith’s group, the Texas Nationalist Movement, is campaigning for a referendum on whether Texas should exit the United States. Founded over 10 years ago, the group attracted some attention recently when it came within two votes of forcing the Texas state GOP to bring a debate on a secession referendum to the floor of the Republican convention. Smith said he was grateful for the chance to promote his campaign and was eager to clarify his attendance did not mean he was aligning with the Kremlin.

“We’re here to have a dialogue. We’re not in agreement with all the groups that are here,” Smith said. “We’re here for very specific reasons. We came here to make a statement on behalf of the people of Texas.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Louis J. Marinelli from the YES California Independence Campaign, there to get his message out about his plan to make the Golden State a nation.

“We want to draw attention to our campaign,” Marinelli said. “We’re not signing an alliance with Russia or anything like that."

The two secessionists’ urge for independence stems largely from a distaste with American foreign policy and a sense the U.S. has become dysfunctional. A gentle-mannered IT consultant married to a Russian, Marinelli is aiming for a secession referendum by 2019.

“The U.S. government is so dysfunctional it can’t be repaired from within anymore, and if we were a separate nation running our own affairs, we could improve the quality of life for Californians,” Marinelli said.

Both men were hoping for a Donald Trump victory in the U.S. presidential elections, banking on a surge in people looking to detach themselves from an America. The U.K.'s recent "Brexit" vote to leave the European Union had also heartened many attendees.

But why exactly the Kremlin had decided to pay to gather them in Moscow, few among the foreign attendees could say. Nor did they appear particularly interested.

“I’m not here to make presumptions about potential reasons for this conference,” Smith said.

However, the conference -- and its location in one of Moscow’s expensive hotels, within shouting distance of the Kremlin walls -- slots into a recognizable recent Russian strategy. Russia has been backing far right political parties in the West, in particular, reportedly funding France’s anti-European Union party, the Front National, with a $10 million loan. The practice echoes that of the Soviet Union, which secretly supported radical fringe groups around the world, but now coupled with elaborate disinformation campaigns from state media outlets.

“It’s a school-book case,” said Peter Kreko, a Fulbright visiting professor at Indiana University who has studied Russia’s use of the far right. “The simple reason is that Russia is interested in dividing the Western world. The strategy is not to create new divisions but to take the most from divisions already there.”

Kreko said the idea was to back groups hindering European integration and to undermine faith in Western-style liberal democracy.

“The tool-kit is pretty much the same as in the Soviet Union. Any kind of movements that can cause chaos,” Kreko said, adding he thought the conference was also a prop for domestic propaganda that state media would use to paint Russia as a champion of democracy.

Few of the conference attendees were concerned they might become Kremlin pawns, seeing it simply as a way to get their message out.

“Everybody’s using everybody,” Marinelli said. “We’re using this conference for our own purposes. We want the attention so that we can get the word out, they want ..." he trailed off before finishing. “Everybody’s got their own agenda, right? So, that’s just the way it is.”

For most of the attendees, the main pull appeared to be the guaranteed presence of the media, attracted by the conference’s oddity.

“I’ve talked to seven media [organizations] today. I've got to get my story out,” said Diarmuid Mac Dubhglais, international secretary for Republican Sinn Féin, a tiny Irish republican splinter group that supports the violent removal of British control over Northern Ireland.

In any case, Mac Dubhglais said, he wouldn’t let “Vladimir himself” impose ideas on him.

“I’m not going to start passing out propaganda when I go home and start marching Soviet-style," he said.

Besides, he said, perhaps the Russian motive was altruistic. “Maybe in fairness, they might think the cause is just,” he said then paused, before adding: “I’m hoping that’s what they think."

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) — Airstrikes continued to hit eastern Aleppo Tuesday, although the attacks were not as intense as in previous days, according to activists and locals.

“A few minutes ago, two raids happened in the neighborhood. There are gases in the air from the attack,” Abu Rajab, a nurse in eastern Aleppo’s al-Sakhur neighborhood, told ABC News on a video call, while wearing a face mask. “I can see and smell the gases. You never know when it will happen, there’s no schedule. This is normal for us now. We see it every day.”

On Sunday, the hospital’s intensive care unit was so crowded that one surgeon had to conduct an operation on the floor, he said.

Hamza Khatib, a doctor at another hospital in the city, said a number of wounded were brought in for treatment after Tuesday's attacks, and three have died from the violence.

“Today and yesterday, the airstrikes were lighter than in the previous days,” Khatib told ABC News. “Yesterday, we received 36 dead.”

Airstrikes on Aleppo intensified after the Syrian military declared an offensive against eastern Aleppo on Sept. 22 – a few days after announcing that a U.S.-Russia-brokered ceasefire had ended. Locals described attacks over the weekend as “unprecedented” in strength and quantity. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that at least 27 were killed by airstrikes Sunday in east Aleppo. Today, the observatory reported that barrel bombs hit several neighborhoods in the besieged area, leaving a number of civilians wounded. In the countryside, one man died following bombardments from the air.

From April 22 through Sept. 26, at least 25,472 people have been killed in Syria, according to the observatory. Among the killed were 6,920 civilians, including at least 1,341 children and 1,136 women. April 22 marked the day when another U.S-Russia truce ended in Syria.

At an emergency meeting Sunday, Western UN diplomats condemned the recent escalating violence in Aleppo and blamed Russia and the Syrian government. Samantha Powers, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., accused Russia of committing barbarism under the guise of counter-terrorism.

“Instead of pursuing peace, Russia and [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad make war. Instead of helping get lifesaving aid to civilians, Russia and Assad are bombing humanitarian convoys, hospitals and first responders who are trying desperately to keep people alive,” Powers told members of the Security Council Sunday.

She continued, “It seems the only items that make it into eastern Aleppo these days are barrel bombs and incendiaries that witnesses report seen dropped by Assad's forces and Russian forces. Russia, of course, has long had the power to stop this suffering. Even now, we will continue to look for any way possible to restore the cessation of hostilities.”

Powers, along with the French and U.K. ambassadors to the UN, walked out of the emergency session in protest when Syria’s ambassador was called to speak.

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Chris Jackson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Princess Kate dazzled in red Monday night at a reception held at British Columbia’s Government House.

Kate, 34, wore a bright red dress by British designer Preen to the diplomatic reception. She paired the dress with a glam chignon, red heels, a red clutch and Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond maple leaf brooch.

Kate’s $1,300 red dress was the most formal outfit to date on the eight-day royal tour of Canada she is undertaking along with Prince William and their two children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

Kate has paid homage on the trip to the host country by wearing the red of Canada's flag, including the bespoke dress from the Alexander McQueen Resort 2017 collection she wore Sunday as she and William traveled to Vancouver.

Earlier in the day Monday, Kate was dressed in Zara jeans, a Holland & Holland coat and her trusty Penelope Chilvers boots as she and William toured Bella Bella, British Columbia. The couple overcame driving rain and wind to receive a traditional welcome by the Heiltsuk First Nations community but had to scrap a planned aerial float plane tour of the Great Bear rain forest because of torrential rain.

On Tuesday, William and Kate fly to Kelowna, a city in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, to meet with University of British Columbia students.

They will then take part in the "Taste of British Columbia" festival at Mission Hill Winery, sampling some of British Columbia's best wine, cheese and gourmet offerings.

The next stop for the royals will be Whitehorse, Yukon, where they will meet members of the Canadian Rangers, the military branch that provides a presence in the north of the country.

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Courtesy O’Neill(NEW YORK) — A teen surfer off of the coast of Western Australia was surprised when a dolphin jumped straight into the wave he was riding. The porpoise collided with his surfboard, apparently nose-first.

"I was in a bit of pain when the dolphin landed on me, I think I pulled my back out a bit. But I was mainly in shock because my leg wrap got caught around the dolphin," Jed Gradisen, 13, said in a video for Team O'Neill, the brand and surf team that sponsors the young wave rider.

Gradisen said the dolphin seemed to be "really shocked, almost as shocked as I was."

"Its nose went straight through the board," he added. "That must have hurt a bit."

Gradisen's surfboard still has a hole from where the dolphin dove straight into it, but Gradisen said he isn't upset.

"This experience hasn't changed the way I see dolphins," the teen said, "I like dolphins still as much."

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LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images(BOGOTA, Colombia) -- The Colombian government and the country's largest rebel movement signed an historic peace agreement Monday putting an end to a half-century of civil war.

Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia leader Timoleon Jimenez, also known as Timochenko, signed the 297-page agreement both dressed in white to symbolize peace.

"We will achieve any goal, overcome any hurdle and turn our nation into a country we've always dreamed of - a country in peace," Santos said according to BBC.

Timochenko added, according to BBC: "I would like to ask for forgiveness for all the pain that we have caused during this war."

The Colombian people are set to vote in a referendum on the deal scheduled for Oct. 2 before it can pass into a law.

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JONATHAN HAYWARD/AFP/Getty Images(BELLA BELLA, British Columbia) Driving rain and wind couldn't dampen William and Kate's enthusiasm while touring Bella Bella, British Columbia, Monday. The royal couple had to modify their plans and scrap an aerial float plane tour of the Great Bear rain forest because of torrential rains but received a traditional welcome by the Heiltsuk First Nations community.

Prince William was greeted by the elder chiefs, telling them "it wouldn't be the rain forest without the rain. It’s very authentic. We're very excited to be here."

William and Kate were named hereditary chiefs Monday at a ceremony by elders welcoming them by the Heiltsuk First Nations community.

William and Kate are on a mission. This is their second royal tour to Canada. Their first tour was shortly after their wedding in 2011. They hope to get to know Canadians who they will one day rule as their king and queen. More importantly, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge want to highlight issues important to them: conservation, which is a primary focus of Prince William's work; mental health; addiction and young people.

The world's largest temperate rain forest is home to the Kermode bear, whales, otters and dolphins.

William and Kate will also observe a youth performance before traveling to McLoughlin Bay to see a walking trail.

They were also shown one of the most precious items owned by the First Nations community, a royal staff with a silver crown head given to the present chief's great-grandfather by Queen Victoria.

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