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

ABC News(CUCUTA, Columbia) -- The second wave of humanitarian aid provided by the U.S. government for Venezuela arrived Saturday in the town of Cucuta along the Colombia-Venezuela border, only a week after the first wave of U.S. supplies arrived on the border in response to Venezuelan interim President Juan Guaido's request for humanitarian assistance.

“This wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last. More is on the way,” Mark Green, top administrator for the U.S. Agency International for International Development (USAID) said after arriving in the border town of Cucuta on one of the three U.S. military planes carrying the aid.

Yet like a previous delivery of U.S. aid a week ago, the vitally-needed supplies -- food, medical supplies, hygiene kits, nutritional products and more -- remain in limbo on the Colombia-Venezuela border, blocked from entry into the country by embattled President Nicolas Maduro, who is struggling to maintain power against growing opposition inside and outside of the South American nation.

Green said that the U.S. aid is being provided as a response to a request from Guaido, who was declared interim president by the country’s National Assembly on January 23rd.

During the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence urged European nations to join the United States in recognizing Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president.

“Today we call on the European Union to step forward for freedom and recognize Juan Guaido as the only legitimate president of Venezuela,” Pence said.

During a nationwide protest on Tuesday, Guaido announced that, on February 23rd, Venezuela’s opposition will conduct the first attempt to bring the aid from Cucuta into Venezuela to be delivered to those who need it the most, calling for volunteers to help in the delivery efforts.

So far, over half a million Venezuelans have signed up to volunteer deliver the aid from Colombia into Venezuela, according to Guaido.

During the delivery of aid on Saturday, Lester Toledo, Guaido’s appointed coordinator for the international aid efforts, announced that three additional aid centers will soon open in Brazil, Curaçao and Miami, Florida, pleading once again with Venezuela’s military to let the aid enter the country.

The new round of aid includes hygiene kits for about 25,000 people and emergency meal supplements aimed to feed approximately 3,500 children suffering from malnutrition for two months.

But Maduro has called the aid a show and an excuse for U.S. intervention in Venezuela, saying that Venezuelans aren’t beggars.

On Friday, Maduro announced a special plan for permanent deployment of Venezuela’s military to keep the body “mobilized, developing defense plans against conspiracies and provocations, wherever they come from.”

But the new delivery of aid is just one of multiple problems Maduro is facing this week.

On Friday, the U.S. imposed new sanctions on five officials in Maduro’s circle, including his intelligence chief and first commissioner, the head of the military’s counter-intelligence agency, the head of the national police’s special for es and the head of Venezuela’s state-owner oil company PDVSA.

A day later, Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that things will only get worse for Maduro, saying that “I know for a fact that several in his inner circle are looking for an exit strategy. Just a matter of time.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Sean Gallup/Getty Images(MUNICH) -- As tension in Venezuela continues to escalate, Vice President Mike Pence took the stage at the Munich Security Conference in Germany Saturday to call on European nations to stand by the United States in recognizing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s president.

“The struggle in Venezuela is between dictatorship and democracy. Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power, and Nicolas Maduro must go,” Pence said, referring to Venezuela's president.

Pence, who has been heavily involved in the Trump administration’s efforts to resolve the ongoing tension in Venezuela, called for European allies to do more.

“Now, it’s time for the rest of the world to step forward,” he stated.

Over the past few weeks, the Trump administration has challenged Maduro's claim to the presidency and instead recognized Guaido as the country's leader, amid sustained and at times violent protests.

Pence told reporters that USAID is working closely with Guaido to make sure humanitarian aid gets to those suffering in the country.

“I know that USAID officials have been working very closely with Juan Guaido to ensure that the humanitarian aid that has already been delivered, additional aid that is in route from the United States and other countries is positioned in a place where we will be able to move it into Venezuela to assist the families that are struggling there,” Pence said.

Pence, who held a roundtable discussion earlier this month with exiles from Venezuela in Florida, has vowed to continue to apply pressure “until the suffering is over and freedom is restored.”

On Friday, the U.S. Treasury announced it is sanctioning five top Venezuelan officials as it seeks to tighten the hold on Maduro and his government and force the socialist leader to resign.

Maduro, meanwhile, told the Associated Press this week that his government has had secret talks with the United States. He also told the wire service he expects to survive the increasing calls for him step down.

The president also said his foreign minister Elliott Abrams, the Washington-based special envoy for Venezuela, to visit the country.

“If he wants to meet, just tell me when, where and how and I’ll be there,” Maduro said without providing more details, according to the AP.

The Munich Security Conference brings together more than 450 senior leaders from all over the world including presidents, ministers and heads of states.

As Pence spoke, there were familiar faces in the audience. The largest U.S. congressional delegation traveled to Munich to attend the conference, including some prominent skeptics of Trump’s national emergency declaration.

Among those attending were South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, whom Pence recognized at the top of his remarks.

President Donald Trump met with Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez on Thursday to discuss what they called “the democratic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.”

The United States and Colombia vowed to work together with Guaido to provide aid to Venezuelans in need and to “restore, freedom, democracy, and prosperity,” according to White House statement.

When asked if the White House is considering military action in the country, Trump replied he is looking at “a number of different options.”

The president is expected to travel to Florida on Monday to continue to express support for Venezuela.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

ABC News(LONDON) --  Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29, but with less than two months to go, the country’s future is more uncertain than ever. Lawmakers have been unable to agree on the terms of Brexit, and there are growing fears that the U.K. could leave the E.U. without a deal, which many experts and business leaders say could have disastrous economic consequences. In such a confusing and chaotic political landscape, a growing number of people in the U.K. are taking matters into their own hands by becoming Brexit “preppers” — stockpiling foods and medicines in their own homes in case of the hardship of a “no-deal Brexit.”

Graham Hughes, a travel writer based in northeast England, began stockpiling last summer as it became increasingly clear that politicians seemed no closer to finding a solution to the Brexit problems.

“I started stockpiling last summer, because it was getting to the point where the government still didn’t seem to know what it was playing at and how things were going to unfold,” he told ABC News. “And we are an island nation, we are completely reliant on food coming in.”

Graham is a Guinness World Record holder for visiting every country in the world without using a plane. He has a degree in politics and is not a naturally cautious person, he said. But Graham has now amassed at least a few months supply of canned foods, hygienic products and ordinary medicines.

As news reports regularly come out warning of the impact of a no-deal Brexit, he felt it was necessary to begin stockpiling extra food with his partner and her two children.

The BBC reported last month that pharmacists are struggling to obtain many common medicines. Farming leaders told the government a “no-deal” would be “catastrophic” for U.K. food supplies, according to The Guardian. The Times also reported that officials are considering plans to declare a state of emergency and introduce martial law in the event of “no-deal" last month.

“It’s painful. And for a government to do this it’s cruel,” Hughes said. “To say to every company in the United Kingdom, every individual, 'Do you know what, in two months’ time we don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re hoping for the best.' That’s just not good enough.”

Graham is not alone in having these concerns. Others gather online in a small but growing Facebook group named 48% Peppers. Its membership has doubled in size over the past 30 days to 10,000 people, as the Brexit deadline looms ever closer. The "48%" refers to the percentage of the British population that voted to remain in the European Union in 2016.

While Graham said that he has “never wanted to be so wrong” in his life, he is above all acting out of concern for his family.

“Never before in my lifetime have we been in a situation where we’ve had to do this kind of thing,” he said. “Where we’ve had to take steps to make sure my family has enough food. My dad has enough medicine. It’s a very strange feeling.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Kassem Family(CAIRO) -- A U.S. citizen detained in Egypt for five-and-a-half years who is on a hunger strike is dying, according to his lawyer and family.

Five months after Moustafa Kassem wrote letters to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence pleading for their help, the New York City taxi driver and father of two has not been freed by the government of strongman President Abdel Fattah el Sisi.

"My brother can't wait weeks or months. He is dying now," his sister Iman Kassem said in a statement this week.

Kassem started his hunger strike in September when he was sentenced to 15 years in jail in a mass trial with more than 700 co-defendants: "I am losing my will and don't know how else to get your attention," he wrote in those letters to Trump and Pence, adding that while he knows "full well that I may not survive," he had no choice.

Kassem is fed a liquid-only diet, but his health has greatly deteriorated, especially given his diabetes.

"Given his fragile health, we are very concerned," said Praveen Madhiraju, Kassem's lawyer and executive director of Pretrial Rights International, who added that Kassem has lost significant weight, been losing his hair and several times lost consciousness.

They are urging the Trump administration to do more to pressure Sisi, who the president is close with, and secure Kassem's release.

A dual U.S. and Egyptian citizen, Kassem was visiting his wife and two children, then 3 and 6 years old, in August 2013. It was a particularly volatile moment in Egypt's recent history — one month after the military seized power following days of protests against the recently elected government of Mohamed Morsi.

In Morsi's place, then-General Sisi took control, implementing a crackdown on political opposition and civil society that has since expanded. About 20 Americans currently are in Egyptian jails, but there are as many as 60,000 political prisoners across Egypt, according to a Human Rights Watch report in 2017.

Sisi denied there were any political prisoners in a recent interview with CBS News.

On Aug. 14, 2013, the night before Kassem was set to return to the U.S., he went out in Cairo to exchange some money and shop, when security officials detained him and accused him of participating in protests against the military takeover in a nearby square, according to Madhiraju. The military was cracking down on the demonstrations in what human rights groups say was the single deadliest incident in Sisi's sweep to power, with as many as 800 killed.

Accused of being an American spy because of his U.S. passport and beaten by security forces, Kassem has been imprisoned ever since. His lawyers have called all the charges against him bogus.

"His imprisonment is only one example of Egypt's out-of-control security state, which has imprisoned tens of thousands for expressing political opinions or even for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Project Project on Middle East Democracy, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for democracy in the region.

Just this week, the Egyptian parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of a constitutional amendment that would allow Sisi to remain in power until 2034. After winning reelection in April 2018 in a vote with no real opposition and where his biggest opponent was jailed, Sisi's second term is currently set to expire in 2022, when he would be forced to step down.

In recent months, Kassem and his lawyers have given up appealing his case and filed paperwork to renounce his Egyptian citizenship, so that he could be deported. But at least three times now, according to Madhiraju, Egyptian authorities have denied that he has submitted paperwork, prolonging his detention.

The Egyptian embassy in Washington did not respond to request for comment on Friday.

Kassem's case was raised publicly and directly with Sisi by Pence when he visited Cairo in January 2018: "President Al Sisi assured me that he would give that very serious attention. ... I told him we'd like to see those American citizens restored to their families and restored to our country," he said at the time.

Kassem's sister Iman pleaded with Pence directly, "For him, his wife and his children, I'm asking Vice President Pence to please bring him home."

But there are concerns that Secretary of State Pompeo did not raise his case when he met Sisi more recently in January. Madhiraju told ABC News that he was told Pompeo did not, a claim that ABC cannot independently verify.

When asked, State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a statement, "We are deeply concerned by the conviction and sentencing of U.S. citizen Moustafa Kassem and have raised his case repeatedly with the Egyptian government both here and in Egypt."

Palladino said the U.S. is "concerned about the toll" on Kassem's health and remains "in communication with Mr. Kassem, his family and his attorney about the case and will continue providing appropriate consular service."

Consular officials from the U.S. embassy have been able to visit Kassem on multiple occasions over the last few years, Madhiraju said.

But on whether Pompeo specifically raised the case, a State Department official would only add, "While we don't discuss private diplomatic conversations, Mr. Kassem's case has been raised at the highest levels."

During his time in Cairo, Pompeo was asked about raising detained Americans' cases and told reporters, "We talk about the full panoply of human rights issues each time we engage."

"His case shows the willingness of President Sisi's regime to ignore legitimate concerns expressed by the Trump White House for an American citizen wrongly imprisoned in awful conditions and in dangerously poor health," said McInerney, adding that the fact that Pompeo may not have raised Kassem's case "gives the appearance that this administration has lost interest in the fate of an American citizen in critical condition."

Critics have said the Trump administration has been quieter on human rights and cozier with strongmen, from Vladimir Putin of Russia to Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to Sisi in Egypt.

After withholding $195 million in aid to Egypt over human rights concerns in 2017, the State Department announced in July it was releasing that money "in the spirit of our efforts to further strengthen this partnership," an official told ABC News at the time. The same week Kassem was sentenced, the administration announced it had approved the possible sale of $99 million worth of tank rounds to Egypt, calling it a "friendly country" and "important strategic partner."

Annually, the U.S. typically provides Egypt with more than a billion dollars in aid and military assistance — the second highest amount behind Israel.

But Trump's tight bond and warm words with Sisi have yielded some results, too.

In April 2017, Egypt freed Aya Hijazi, a U.S. citizen and humanitarian aid worker, her husband Mohamed Hassanein and four others after Trump and his top aides urged Sisi to do so as a goodwill gesture.

For Kassem, there still hasn't been an Oval Office celebration.

He hasn't celebrated a birthday in years, either. On Monday, he turned 54 years old, and when his family tried to visit him to mark the occasion — his fifth birthday behind bars — they were forced to wait nine hours and then ultimately blocked by Egyptian officials, Madhiraju said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

@richardbranson/Twitter(CUCUTA, Columbia) -- Billionaire Virgin founder Richard Branson is taking on delivering relief to the people of Venezuela into his own hands.

Branson announced on Friday he will be throwing a massive fundraising concert in neighboring Colombia on Feb. 22.

Venezuela is in a tug of war for leadership between current President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido, who the U.S. has recognized as the rightful leader of the country. Guaido declared himself the country’s legitimate president on Jan. 23 following Maduro's re-election in a race that many countries, including the U.S., have called fraudulent.

Hunger, poverty and violence have wracked the country in recent years. The country’s paper currency has become worthless as some economists project inflation could reach 10 million percent this year.

"The world can no longer close its eyes to this unacceptable situation," Branson wrote in a release. "While diplomatic efforts to bring in humanitarian goods must kick into high gear, we all need to mobilise much-needed financial support, and we need to do it quickly.

"I know a thing or two about the music business, and I’m old enough to remember how George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh and Bob Geldof's LiveAid moved the world to action," he added. "And so I’ve offered to help organise an international benefit concert, Venezuela Aid Live, which myself and Bruno Ocampo are happy to announce will take place on February 22nd in Cucuta, Colombia, right on the Venezuelan border."

The Concert for Bangladesh, held on Aug. 1, 1971, featured Harrison, the former Beatles guitarist, and Indian sitar legend Ravi Shankar. The Madison Square Garden concert and live recording also included appearances from fellow Beatle Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and Billy Preston. It raised millions of dollars for UNICEF, which was providing relief for Bangladeshis fleeing their country following war.

Geldof's LiveAid in July 1985 was a massive success, with concerts in London and Philadelphia raising money for the Ethiopian famine. Queen's performance became iconic, while other megastars performing included U2, David Bowie, Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones, The Who and Paul McCartney.

Branson has not yet announced any performers for the concert on Friday, saying only that "this massive concert will count with the participation of a list of major musicians of the Latin and English industry. As hours go by, more international artists are joining in."

The 68-year-old entrepreneur has said he hopes to raise $100 million over the next 60 days, according to the event's website.

Maduro is currently not allowing aid into the country. Maduro has called the effort to bring truckloads of supplies into Venezuela a pretext for a military invasion of the country and so far the armed forces have followed his orders to block the supplies at the border.

"We must break this impasse or many Venezuelans will be on the verge of starvation and death," Branson said in a post on Twitter.

Branson launched Virgin Records in 1972, Virgin Atlantic Airways in 1984 and expanded into telecommunications in the 1990s and 2000s.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Anson_iStock/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Shannon You, a Chinese-born scientist, has been accused by the Department of Justice of stealing almost $120 million worth of trade secrets last year from The Coca-Cola Company.

A grand jury in the Eastern District of Tennessee on Tuesday charged Yoo with stealing bisphenoal-A-free (BPA) cans and chemical secrets from the beverage maker.

The company is listed as "Employer #1" in the indictment but ABC News confirmed through a spokesman that Coca-Cola was You's employer.

"We are aware of Ms. You’s arrest, and we can confirm that she previously worked at The Coca-Cola Company. Because this is a pending legal matter, it would not be appropriate for us to comment further," the spokesman said in a statement.

Coca-Cola began "searching for alternatives" to BPA due to its harmful effects, according to the indictment.

You likely would have access to the proprietary research and development given her status as "principal engineer" at the company, the indictment said.

You and her alleged co-conspirator, Liu Xiangchen, reportedly agreed to be sponsored by an unnamed Chinese company and apply for a program called Thousand Talents, the indictment said.

The program "was designed to induce individuals with advanced technical education, training, and experience residing in Western countries to return or move to China and use their expertise to promote China's economic and technological development," according to the indictment.

You allegedly lied to Coca-Cola about whether she had any access to trade secrets, the indictment said.

"In exchange for payment from Employer #1 of approximately $33,912, You signed a written agreement in which she falsely represented to Employer #1 that she had not retained, and no longer had access to, any top secret information or confidential information," the indictment said.

She also took photos of the trade secrets on her computer in an effort to skirt security measures at Coca-Cola and transferred them to her hard drive, the indictment said.

You then got a job at a second unnamed company in the U.S. with the intention to steal additional trade secrets, the Justice Department alleged.

Efforts to reach You’s and Liu’s lawyers were unsuccessful.

Last month the Department of Justice indicted a former Apple engineer for stealing trade secrets related to Apple's self-driving car program. U.S. and China are locked in an ongoing trade war.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Treasury is sanctioning five top Venezuelan officials as it seeks to tighten the hold on President Nicolas Maduro and his government and force the socialist leader to resign.

The latest financial penalty comes more than three weeks after the U.S. recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president and declared Maduro's rule was no longer legitimate.

The State Department declined to comment, saying only that its officials "exchange opinions with a wide variety of foreign interlocutors, especially while we continue to take all steps to ensure the safety and security of our Embassy personnel on the ground in Caracas."

"Do not test the United States on our resolve to protect our own people," a department spokesperson added.

The U.S. sanctioned Maduro's intelligence chief and first commissioner, the head of the military's counter-intelligence agency, and the head of the national police's special forces. U.S.-based assets will be frozen, and American individuals or businesses are barred from working with them.

The head of Venezuela's state-owned oil company -- Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. or PdVSA -- has also been sanctioned, according to the Treasury.

"Treasury continues to target officials who have helped the illegitimate Maduro regime repress the Venezuelan people," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement, saying they have "systematically violated human rights and suppressed democracy, including through torture and other brutal use of force... [and] facilitat[ed] Maduro's corruption and predation."

Venezuela has been in the throes of political chaos for weeks now, with mass protests against Maduro for what opponents say are his crackdown on political opposition, his consolidation of power and his mismanagement of the economy that's led to hyperinflation and food and medical shortages.

Guaido, the president of the democratically elected National Assembly, was sworn in as interim president by supporters on Jan. 23, using the country's constitution to declare Maduro illegitimate. The move was immediately recognized by the U.S. and now more than 50 countries.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

liorpt/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Vice President Mike Pence urged European nations Thursday to follow the U.S. in withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, and said that America could impose tougher sanctions on the Iranian regime.

“The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) did not prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. It merely delayed the day when that vile regime would gain access to the world’s most deadly weapon,” Pence said while addressing world leaders at the U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace and security conference in Warsaw, Poland.

Pence said U.S. sanctions on Iran could get tougher if the regime did not change its dangerous behavior, and denounced the country for spewing hatred against Israel, which Pence called America’s “most cherished ally.”

Calling the Iran nuclear deal “disastrous,” Pence said several countries agreed that Iran had become more aggressive since JCPOA was signed, not less.

In 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the landmark 2015 nuclear accord -- despite concerns from other world leaders -- and imposed economic sanctions on the country.

The Trump administration is now calling on other European leaders to do the same.

“Sadly, some of our leading European partners have not been nearly as cooperative -- in fact, they have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions,” Pence said.

The vice president specifically referenced Germany, France and the U.K.: “They call this scheme a ‘Special Purpose Vehicle.’ We call it an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime. We call it an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU and create still more distance between Europe and America,” Pence said.

France and Germany attended the conference in Poland, but did not send their top diplomats.

With the administration’s continued emphasis on its “America first but not American alone” policy, the vice president made a plea for other countries to join the U.S.

“For the sake of peace, security, stability and human rights in the Middle East, the time has come for our European partners to stand with us, stand with the Iranian people, stand with our allies and friends in the region -- and we reject the Iran nuclear deal,” he said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who attended the event, said that standing up to Iran is necessary.

“You can't achieve peace and stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran. It’s just not possible,” he said.

Foreign ministers and representatives of 62 nations attended the conference. However, official representatives from Iran were not in attendance.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the summit “dead on arrival.”

A White House official told ABC News the administration is not ruling out a possible new Iranian nuclear deal, but it would need to include tougher sanctions.

Pence is expected to visit Germany next for the Munich Security Conference, where he is likely to address the ongoing tensions in Venezuela.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

CIL868/iStock(NEW YORK) -- More than a year before she allegedly defected, U.S. Air Force counterintelligence officer Monica Witt attended a film conference in Iran – an event that U.S. officials and former intelligence officers said was likely a recruiting ground for Iranian spy masters.

“It’s an intelligence targeting platform for the Iranian security apparatus,” former longtime CIA case officer Darrell M. Blocker said of such conferences. “It’s not sold as an intel thing, but of course the [U.S.] intelligence community is aware of them.”

An indictment unsealed against Witt Wednesday alleges that in February 2012 she traveled to Iran for a conference called “Hollywoodism” put on by an organization known as New Horizon. On its website, the organization bills itself as a Tehran-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that hosts conferences that cover topics including “Iranophobia,” “Zionist Lobby” and “US State hostility towards Afro-Americans.”

But the U.S. Treasury, which announced sanctions against New Horizon Wednesday, alleges that the conferences it puts on also “serve as a platform for IRGC-QF to recruit and collect intelligence from attendees.” The IRGC-QF refers to an Iranian paramilitary and intelligence organization -- the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps -- sometimes known as the Quds Force-- that the U.S. says carries out terrorism.

Former senior CIA official John Sipher said it would be “unprofessional” for Iranian spies not to target for recruitment any Westerners who show up – especially Americans.

“That’s why they set those things up, to see who would be useful idiots or who’s willing to tie themselves to the Iranian government,” he said. “Any American that would go to something like that? They’d be on that like dogs on a bone.”

New Horizon did not immediately return an emailed request for comment from ABC News.

While at the conference, prosecutors say Witt, who served in the Air Force from 1997 to 2008 and then worked as a contractor for the Air Force until 2010, “appeared in one or more videos in which she was identified as a U.S. veteran and made statements that were critical of the U.S. government, knowing these videos would be broadcast by Iranian media outlets.” She also appeared in a video in which she converted to Islam.

Weeks after she returned to the U.S., the FBI approached Witt and warned her that she “was a target for recruitment by Iranian intelligence services,” the indictment says. Witt allegedly told the FBI that she would refuse to provide any information about her Air Force work should she return to Iran.

The FBI was apparently correct in its warning. The indictment says that by July Witt was in contact with a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, referred to in court documents as Individual A, who “engaged in acts consistent with serving as a spotter and assessor on behalf of the Iranian intelligence services.”

By August 2012, Iranian media published an article quoting someone identified as Monica Witt, a “former consultant for the U.S. Department of Defense,” as being highly critical of the U.S. armed forces and purported rampant sexual misconduct there.

The next February, Witt attended another “Hollywoodism” conference, the indictment says.

At the time, Iran's semi-official Quds News Agency quotes Witt as saying that she wanted to learn about Islam because her job in the military was to "fight against terrorism."

"But, during my researches, I noticed the contradictions between American's propaganda about Islam and what this religion really is," she reportedly said. "So, I converted to Islam. And when I realized our war was wrong, I left the army."

The whole time prosecutors say she was in “regular” communication with Individual A. In a message to Individual A that June, Witt allegedly suggested she was ready to expose secrets.

“If all else fails, I just may go public with a program and do like Snowden :),” she wrote, referring to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden who had leaked a huge amount of information on the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs to the news media just days before.

Then, in August 2013, she defected, writing to Individual A, “Coming home.”

Blocker, an ABC News consultant, said the recruitment path as alleged by prosecutors makes sense.

At the conferences, foreigners of interest are “put up in hotels, touted as being righteous and good people,” he said.

“They’re courted and slowly but surely, [the Iranians] are looking for someone willing to cross the line,” Blocker said.

Witt is accused of providing the Iranian government with “highly classified” information and then helping Iran target other Air Force officers for cyber attacks.

She is believed to be in Iran, which does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S. Marc Raimondi, a spokesperson for the Justice Department, told ABC News, “we have a long arm and a lot of patience.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Stuart C. Wilson - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The Duke of Cambridge visited projects close to his heart in London on Thursday, showing his support for charities focused on men’s mental health and well-being.

First, Prince William visited patrons of the Pall Mall Barbers, who belong to a group called the "Lions Barber Collective," which raises awareness for suicide prevention. They provide training for barbers so they can recognize signs of mental illness in their clients and encourage them to seek help.

Richard Marshall, the managing director of Pall Mall Barbers, described Prince William as a "total gentleman" after meeting him Thursday morning.

"We need a big push to raise more awareness for men's mental health; men don't speak about their feelings or what is going on inside their head, and so raising awareness and encouraging guys to speak to each other is really important," he told ABC News. "[Prince William] is a total gentlemen and was a lot of fun. He really got into the spirit of the moment."

Then, Prince William visited the charity Future Men, an organization that provides lifestyle advice for vulnerable men. The Duke of Cambridge took part in one of the sessions of the charity’s "Future Dads" programs, which offers practical advice for dads-to-be.

He took the opportunity to joke about changing diapers. "It’s never straightforward," he remarked at one of Future Dad’s practical sessions.

 

Onto the all important nappy change.
“It’s never straightforward,” says The Duke of Cambridge. @WorkingWithMen1 new dads are given practical session to help get them ready for fatherhood. #futuremen pic.twitter.com/8C9HDsegSi

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) February 14, 2019

 

Christopher Muwanguzi-Mugalu, who attended the Future Dad course with Prince William, described him as a "great guy" who "genuinely cares about men in this country" on Twitter.

"We had a laugh, we talked about parenthood, our partners & more importantly how every dad particularly those that need it most can be reached through our #Futuredad course," he wrote. "What a great guy, and what a great father & man that genuinely cares about men in this country."

Mental health has been a big focus for the younger royals in recent years according to ABC News' royal expert Victoria Murphy.

"For William, men's mental health is a big concern," she said. "He has previously spoken out about the high rates of male suicide, highlighting how big a problem this is, and I think men’s mental health is something we will see him talk about more this year and make more visits to highlight."

The prince’s endorsement of these charities will come as a huge boost to their respective causes, Murphy believes, as the young royals are increasingly looking to remove the stigma around mental health.

"Whenever a high profile royal visits any organization, they bring the spotlight with them so his visit will naturally be a huge boost for awareness of the issue," Murphy told ABC News. "So public visits, where they speak about and endorse the work of the charities in this area as well as meeting and speaking to people they have helped, are an important part of helping to achieve this."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Laura Lean - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- When three teenagers missing from East London were found to have left to join ISIS in Syria in February 2015, security camera images from London's Gatwick Airport were a stark emblem of ISIS' potential to influence young people abroad.

That three girls living in London would overlook the high-profile atrocities committed by ISIS to travel to Syria at the height of a civil war to join a terrorist organization captured many's attention.

Four years later, The Times' veteran war correspondent Anthony Loyd tracked down one of those young women, Shamima Begum, now 19 and nine months pregnant with her third child, at a refugee camp in northern Syria.

In a Times article published Wednesday, Loyd reported Begum abandoned the last ISIS stronghold in eastern Syria as coalition forces step up a final effort to wipe out the group.

Loyd described the teenager as "calm" in a BBC interview, adding that he found her adamant on her reasons for joining ISIS in 2015 -- she had no regrets.

But now, she is appealing to the British government to get her safely home, especially to care for her baby when she gives birth. "In the end, I just could not endure anymore. I just couldn’t take it. Now all I want to do is come home to Britain," she told Loyd.

Speaking on Sky News on Thursday, U.K. Security Minister Ben Wallace said, "Actions have consequences." He added that when the girls left to join ISIS, there was "no shortage" of media coverage about what the terrorist group was doing.

Wallace declined to say what would happen in Begum's case, but said, "We are obliged to ensure that our citizens have rights no matter who they are, and if they come back here they should expect to be investigated and interviewed for joining ISIS, and if possible we will try to prosecute them."

While there have been several prosecutions of foreign fighters in the U.K. in recent years, civilian members of ISIS such as Begum are treated differently under the law, and Begum could face charges around supporting the terrorist network -- but courts may find it hard to prosecute her.

Shiraz Maher, director of King's College London's International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, outlined issues courts could face in a series of tweets.

"There are real problems with admissibility of battlefield evidence in British (and other Western) courts. That could make it difficult to secure prosecutions. The restrictions on evidence in those cases are in place for good reason, so the government won’t waive it," he wrote.

However, the British government has been working on legislation to convict foreign fighters and supporters returning home, including a new law that would help charge people who traveled to proscribed areas, such as ISIS strongholds in Syria and Iraq. It may be possible to prosecute returning "jihadi brides" on these offenses.

Begum told The Times when she arrived in ISIS territory in 2015, she applied to marry an English speaker between the age of 20 to 25 and was assigned to a Dutch jihadist.

She described life in Raqqa as "normal" and "the one I wanted." She also told Loyd about the first time she saw a decapitated head in a bin in the city, saying it "didn’t faze me at all."

Begum was living with her husband in Raqqa, the de-facto capital of ISIS in Syria, but the group was pushed out by coalition forces led by the US-backed Kurdish majority Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). ISIS now has a final presence in areas around the Euphrates River close to the Iraq border and the town of Baghuz.

Begum told The Times she fled the area a fortnight ago, leaving her husband, whose fate she does not know.

She also said one of her school friends, Amira Abase, who traveled to Syria with her, remained with the terrorists making their last stand. Kadiza Sultana, the 16-year-old of the trio, is reported to have been killed in an airstrike two years ago.

In 2015, the three girls joined another teenager, Sharmeena Begum, also from Bethnal Green in East London, who had traveled to Syria earlier and helped organize their journey.

"I heard from other women only two weeks ago that the two were still alive in Baghuz. But with all the bombing, I am not sure whether they survived," she told Loyd.

Begum and her husband had two children who died of illness and malnutrition. She is now expected to deliver her third child soon and wants to raise the child in the U.K., under its health care system.

However, she is aware that she may return to a hostile nation should she be allowed to come back to the U.K.

"I know what everyone at home thinks of me as I have read all that was written about me online. But I just want to come home to have my child. I’ll do anything required just to be able to come home and live quietly with my child," she said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

omersukrugoksu/iStock(LONDON) -- Five people, including at least two Americans, were killed when their small plane crashed in Kenya's Great Rift Valley region on Wednesday, officials said.

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority on Wednesday morning received a distress signal from the light aircraft, which was headed from the Masai Mara National Reserve to the northwest town of Lodwar. The plane went down in a field in Londiani, a town in Kericho County, some 125 miles from where it took off, according to Capt. Gilbert Kibe, director general of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, who confirmed that all five people on board died.

An official with the U.S. Department of State confirmed that two U.S. citizens were among those killed.

"We are aware of the plane crash earlier today in Londiani, Kericho County, Kenya, and can confirm the death of two U.S. citizens," the official told ABC News in a statement Wednesday night.

The nationalities of the other people on board were not immediately known.

The U.S. government is in touch with Kenyan authorities regarding the crash, according to the State Department official, who referred ABC News to Kenyan authorities for further information.

"We offer our sincerest condolences to their family and friends and stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance," the official added.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Duchess Kate hit the town Wednesday night for the 100 Women in Finance's gala dinner.

The mom of three wore a blush-pink Gucci dress accessorized with a maroon velvet clutch and belt, as well as dangly earrings.

Wednesday night's gala dinner, held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, was in support of the Heads Together charity program that aims to support mental health programs in schools.

Heads Together is the charitable campaign founded by Prince William, Duchess Kate and Prince Harry which aims to change perceptions about mental health and encourage overall mental well-being.

Mental health has been one of the key focal points of the William, Harry and Kate's charity work as royals.

At the 100 Women in Finance's gala, Kate spoke about Heads Together's program, "Mentally Healthy Schools," which aims to bring better mental health care initiatives to U.K. school children and support parents and educators.

"The first few years of a child’s life are more pivotal for social, physical and emotional development, and for future health and happiness than any single moment in our lifetime,” she said at the event.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

GM Stock Films/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A photographer has captured high-quality images of a rare black leopard at a wilderness camp in Africa.

Wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas wrote in a blog post published Wednesday that he has been "fascinated" by stories of black panthers and their elusive nature since childhood. He began conceptualizing his dream of capturing an image of the large, hidden cats after noticing photos of them emerging out of the Kabini Forest in Karnataka, India, a couple of years ago, he said.

Burrard-Lucas' first encounter with the black leopard occurred in the Kabini Forest in September after he was asked to speak at the Nature in Focus Festival in Bangalore, where he captured a faraway image of the large cat.

After the experience, Burrard-Lucas learned through friends about a black leopard living at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya, and he immediately set out to find it. Once the owners of the camp confirmed they'd seen "several black leopards over the years," Burrard-Lucas decided to visit, and learned as much as he could about the leopard's habits and territory, he wrote.

After deploying a series of camera traps, a high-quality DSLR camera and two or three flashes over several nights, the last trap he checked contained images of "a pair of eyes surrounded by inky darkness," he said.

"I couldn’t believe it and it took a few days before it sank in that I had achieved my dream," Burrard-Lucas wrote.

As he "gained a deeper understanding of the leopard's movements," the photographer moved the camera traps around and captured even more images.

"I love the way this cat melts out of the darkness!" he wrote.

Soon after Burrard-Lucas achieved his dream, the black leopard disappeared, and he began capturing images of a large spotty male leopard who apparently "had chased the younger black leopard" away.

"I have never been annoyed at capturing a spotty leopard on camera trap before!" Burrard-Lucas said of the irony.

After more nights of shooting images of the spotty leopard and some hyenas, the black leopard reappeared on the night of a full moon, he said.

What struck Burrard-Lucas the most about the rare animal were its eyes, he wrote, adding that he had to adjust his lighting to darken as much of the background as possible to create a stunning contrast.

The images, taken with a Camtraptions Camera Trap with a wireless motion sensor, were confirmed to be of a black leopard in the African Journal of Ecology, published on Jan. 29.

The photos are the first scientific documentation of a black leopard in nearly a century, according to the journal.

The last documented sighting was in 1909 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the National Geographic reported. The photos from the 1909 encounter are stored at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., according to the National Geographic.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Edilzon Gamez/Getty Images(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- Venezuela’s growing parallel opposition government extended its reach to the all-important oil sector on Wednesday when the country’s National Assembly moved to appoint new boards of directors to the state oil company and its refiner CITGO.

The appointments include high-profile opposition names like David Smolansky, a former Caracas area mayor who fled the country in 2017 under threat of arrest for his role in anti-government protests.

The move promises to further escalate the already-tense political standoff between President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has claimed the presidency as his own.

On Tuesday, Guaido set a date – Feb. 23 -- for accepting dozens of tons of humanitarian aid currently held up on the country’s border, in defiance of Maduro.

“I hope the humanitarian aid gets in, and if it has to happen through a military intervention, just let it be quick,” Eglar Torre, 63, told ABC News in Caracas on Wednesday. “If this crazy man continues in power, this will all end in a civil war.”

The political crisis has been fueled by an ongoing economic and humanitarian crisis that has resulted in spikes in child malnutrition and shortages of basic foods and medicine.

“This has affected us so badly,” said Torre, who works as a travel agent. “Our business has fallen apart.”

But not all Venezuelans support the idea of a military intervention, which has been mentioned frequently by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Speaking to the growing Venezuelan diaspora in South Florida recently, Vice President Mike Pence said “all options were on the table” to resolve the conflict.

“I just hope that eventually these two sides come together and this can all be resolved,” Maricela Barrios, 42, who works as a secretary, said on Wednesday in Caracas. “The last thing we want here is war.”

Guaido’s declaration that he would allow humanitarian aid to enter the country by Feb. 23 puts an ultimatum on the country’s armed forces. While at least one general and some diplomatic staff around the world have defected in support of Guaido, the military has continued following Maduro’s orders.

Short of using military force, it’s unclear how the 35-year-old lawmaker would successfully get the supplies across the border and distribute them among the population. While Guaido has collected signatures of Venezuelans willing to help in the effort, transporting the aid throughout the country would be nearly impossible without the military’s acquiescence, as they frequently set up checkpoints on major highways.

“Guaido can make this happen if he applies the law, which gives him the authority to authorize it to happen,” said a man named Wilfredo who works in the country’s foreign trade ministry. “This is something that we need and however he can do it, he’s in charge.”

He added he wasn’t afraid to speak out on the issue even though Maduro’s government has cracked down on dissent.

“If they fire me, that’s better for me,” he said. “We don’t make any money anyway.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



SnoCountry

Weather

 


On Facebook