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iStock(MOSCOW) -- Ever since Vladimir Putin announced a dramatic overhaul of Russia's constitution and the removal of his longtime prime minister and cabinet, Russians have been asking themselves a single question: What is Putin up to?

Since the Jan. 15 announcement, Putin hasn't slowed down.

He put forward a bill on Monday containing constitutional amendments and by Thursday the Russian Parliament had approved its first reading, 432-0.

A constitutional council specially formed to advise on the potential changes had not even convened before the amendments were submitted, fully written.

At the same time, the nation's new prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin, who replaced Putin's longtime lieutenant Dmitry Medvedev, has spent the week forming his own government, the biggest political shakeup in a decade.

Some of Russia's most powerful officials have been shuffled into new positions, including Putin's powerful prosecutor general, Yuri Chaika, who's been in office since 2006.

The moves have shocked both experts and ordinary Russians.

From the outset, many observers immediately interpreted the situation as Putin laying the ground to remain in power past 2024, when his presidential term expires.

But how these recent moves accomplish that isn't exactly clear. Russia's independent media outlets have been filled with articles from experts trying to puzzle out Putin's plan: Why now? Why so quickly? How do these changes add up to staying in power?

The Kremlin has said once Parliament approves the constitutional amendments they'll be put to a "public vote," but no one really knows what that means -- or when it will take place. It could be in April.

Putin's political opponents, however, especially in the beleaguered democratic opposition, have objected strenuously.

On Wednesday, around two dozen prominent activists published a petition accusing him of carrying out "a special operation for illegally rewriting the constitution," calling Putin's recent moves a "coup" intended to remain in power for life. The petition so far has gathered more than 14,000 signatures.

Russia's constitution limits a president to two consecutive terms. Now 67, Putin is in his fourth term, taking advantage of a legal loophole in 2008 when he moved Medvedev into the presidency for a term and remaining as prime minister, not giving up any real power.

Putin could repeat that trick in 2024, but he's suggested he doesn't intend to, and among the proposed constitutional changes is one that limits future presidents to two terms, consecutive or not.

Some experts have said they believe the proposed changes show Putin intends to leave the presidency but hold on to power outside of it.

The leading theory as to how that would work includes revamping an obscure governmental body, the State Council, which Putin has said should now have a new role. The council, currently a forum for gathering regional governors, could be transformed into a preeminent body where Putin could assume a new "paramount leader" position, similar to China's Deng Xiaoping.

The other changes, including transferring more power to the parliament and to the courts, appears intended to weaken the office of the presidency, experts said.

In essence, Putin has carried out a preemptive coup against himself to maintain power, as Sergey Guriev, an economist who teaches at Paris' L'Institut d'études politiques, put it in an article for the Russian newspaper Vedomosti. The practice, known to political scientists as a "self-coup" or "autogolpe," was frequently used by dictatorial strongmen in South America.

But as more details about the constitutional changes have emerged, other prominent experts have questioned whether they in fact suggest something more surprising: that Putin wants out.

The proposed changes, they noted, do not in fact leave the presidency weaker than other bodies. Contrary to what Putin had suggested, the actual text of the amendments shows the president will retain the power to appoint the prime minister over parliament. Crucially, they also make clear the State Council would be subordinate to the president -- whomever Putin chooses as his successor.

"Putin is not looking to dominate the system (although he will remain a key player), but rather to find a way to exert influence without risking any dangerous consequences for the state," Tatyana Stanovaya, a well-known analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center who also runs the political consultancy R.Politik, wrote in an article on Monday.

The changes submitted to parliament look more like an "insurance policy" for managing a successor, she wrote. They "are designed not so much to strengthen his own position after he steps down as president, but to create mechanisms for resolving differences with the future president, should they arise," Stanovaya wrote in another article.

According to this theory, Putin genuinely would step back while remaining protected in power, delegating domestic policy -- Stanovaya and others believe he's bored with it -- to his preferred successor. Putin would focus on international affairs and intervene only if he perceived a major unwanted change in direction.

For that, Putin most likely would head up a reformed State Council, but whether that will happen and how powerful it would be "directly proportionate" to how much control he felt he had over his successor, Stanovaya wrote, adding that it's likely Putin has chosen a successor -- although that person may not be revealed for quite some time.

Supporting that theory was Putin himself this week, dismissing the suggestion he could remain as a supreme leader-like figure overseeing a successor. On Wednesday, he rejected the idea that he'd stay on as a "mentor," similar to Singapore's long-time dictator Lee Kuan Yew in the 1990s.

"If we have some kind of institution appear above the presidency, it can only mean dual power," Putin told a televised audience in Sochi. "That is an absolutely fatal situation for a country like Russia."

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iStock/kotoffei(BEIJING) -- Dragons, red envelopes, dumplings, firecrackers, lanterns and rats are all symbolic of festivities tied to Lunar New Year.

As millions ring in the Lunar New Year in Southeast Asia, people will be celebrating by spending time together, sharing food and wishing each other good fortune.

What is Lunar New Year?


Also known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival in mainland China, the Lunar New Year is a global holiday that celebrates the resetting of the zodiac cycle on the Chinese lunisolar calendar, Jan. 25 through Feb. 8.

2020 is the Year of the Rat, which is the first animal in the zodiac and symbolizes hard work, wealth and fertility.

Where is Lunar New Year celebrated?


Many countries across Asia, including China, Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia and Tibet, hold large celebrations. Large cities around the world, including New York City and San Francisco, hold parades and festivals to commemorate the holiday.

How do people celebrate?


In China and other East Asian societies, it's an ancient tradition to gift a red envelope -- or hóngbāo -- usually filled with some amount of money. The red color symbolizes good luck and prosperity, according to Google Arts and Culture.

Firecrackers, red lanterns and elaborate firework displays are also a large part of the Lunar New Year spectacle around the world.

Togetherness is a key component of the holiday, and many families come together to start the new year off by preparing and enjoying a meal that will bring them luck, good health and prosperity.

What do people eat for Lunar New Year?


Lunar New Year is filled with a variety of foods, from dumplings to longevity noodles, and although both are prepared differently across different cultures, the dishes hold significant symbolism that represents longevity and prosperity, according to Google trends data.

"Korean families gather together to make mandu, like 200 or 500," Korean chef Inui Cho told ABC News, recalling her fondest memories of celebrating the holiday. "It's like traditional culture of the family."

Cho grew up in Suwon, Korea, and built her culinary career with a deep appreciation for cultural culinary traditions. After attending Le Cordon Bleu in Korea, Cho worked in an array of renowned kitchens for Chef Daniel Boulud before becoming the corporate chef for CJ Cheiljedang at their headquarters in Seoul.

Chef Cho's famous Bibigo Mandu, a traditional Korean-style dumpling filled with beef and vegetables, has become the brand's most popular recipe that's used by home cooks and chefs globally and is a staple on Lunar New Year.

"Korean dumpling is a little different than Chinese dumpling," she said. "They use just pork or chicken, but the Korean dumpling is a wholesome one that adds vegetables and the protein, and everything is filled inside a thin wrapper."

Happy Lunar New Year!

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Gwengoat/iStock(PYONGYANG, North Korea) -- North Korea confirmed its named a former army colonel as its top diplomat in what analysts say is the latest sign of a shift away from talks with the U.S. over its nuclear weapons program.

Ri Son Gwon has been heavily involved in negotiations between North and South Korea about improving relations, but he is most known for what critics say are rude remarks, especially amid stalled efforts to increase economic ties between the two countries.

North Korea confirmed the change in a state media report on Friday, saying Ri had attended a reception for foreign diplomats in Pyongyang.

"Ri Son Gwon said that the Korean people have turned out in the general offensive to break through head-on the barriers to the advance of socialist construction by dint of self-reliance," the Korean Central News Agency reported.

After months without talks, the two sides passed Kim Jong Un's year-end ultimatum to President Donald Trump to change his negotiating position or North Korea would abandon talks. In a New Year's Eve speech, Kim called for a "new path" from talks and "positive and offensive measures" to boost North Korea's security, while stressing a "self-reliant" economy amid international sanctions.

Ri's "appointment is just an affirmation that is indeed the direction that North Korea intends to go. So, we're in for some rough waters ahead," Evans Revere, the former deputy assistant secretary of state, told VOA.

As head of North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, Ri was front and center for talks with South Korea about economic, military and diplomatic projects to improve relations between the two countries still technically at war. But his tenure was also notable for his brusque manner and at times insulting comments, according to South Korean press.

The former military officer has little diplomatic experience beyond that and certainly not with the U.S. or with nuclear issues. But his predecessor Ri Yong Ho had little influence in North Korean policy, with Kim Jong Un always calling the shots.

"The question is not will the North shut down dialogue under the new foreign minister," said Robert Carlin, a fellow at the Stimson Center and leading U.S. negotiator in previous North Korean talks. "It’s already done that, and Kim Jong Un’s plenum speech made clear he’s in no mood to get back to the table for a while."

A senior State Department official told reporters on Wednesday they "don’t have a lot of data on who [Ri] is or what he represents," but they maintained hope "that they’ll understand the importance of having a conversation."

They added, "We’re going to stick with this plan. It’s working."

The announcement comes as nuclear talks have all but died. U.S. and North Korean negotiators last met in October, but the North Korean delegation left the two days of meetings complaining that the American side had not offered any new ideas on how to move forward.

U.S. officials said that was not true, but neither side is willing to budge from its starting position.

The Trump administration maintains that there will be no sanctions relief until North Korea takes verifiable steps towards dismantling its nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang said that the U.S. has not fulfilled its half of the first step in the agreement signed by Kim and Trump in Singapore to improve relations, instead keeping tight sanctions in place.

Trump, however, has continued to tout his personal relationship with Kim and North Korea's halt on intercontinental ballistic missile or nuclear testing -- but that could change soon.

North Korea's mission to the United Nations in Geneva said Tuesday that it would no longer abide by Kim's personal commitment not to test ICBMs or nuclear devices -- blaming U.S. military exercises with South Korea and "the most brutal and inhumane sanctions."

"If the United States tries to enforce unilateral demands and persists in imposing sanctions, North Korea may be compelled to seek a new path," Ju Yong Chol, an official at North Korea’s mission, told the U.N. Conference on Disarmament.

In the ten months since Kim and Trump's last summit in Vietnam ended without a deal, Kim has tested about two dozen ballistic missiles in a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Trump has dismissed them because of their short range.

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iStock/pavalena(BERLIN) -- Six people are dead and two injured after a shooting in the German town of Rot am See on Friday, local police told ABC News.

The gunman opened fire on several members of his family, police said. Three men, aged 36, 65 and 69 were killed, as well as three women, aged 36, 56 and 62.

The suspected gunman's mother and father were among the victims.

Two more people were injured in the shooting, one of whom was described as in a critical condition at a press conference Friday afternoon.

Police were called to the scene of the shooting, in a building near the town's main railway station, shortly after midday Friday. Some victims were shot inside the train station, while others were shot in a nearby house, local police told ABC News.

The alleged gunman, a 26-year-old man who police said had a gun license, was arrested shortly after the shooting.

It is not yet clear whether the alleged gunman's siblings were killed in the shooting, although all six victims were family members.

There's no indication more suspects were involved.

The town of Rot am See lies in southwestern Germany, between the major cities of Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Nuremberg.

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Nirian/iStock(LONDON) -- More than 3,000 years ago in ancient Egypt, there lived a priest named Nesyamun who chanted and sang the daily liturgy at the famous temple of Karnak in Thebes.

When Nesyamun died in 1069 B.C., his voice went silent, but inscriptions covering the coffin of his mummified body showed that his dying wish was to be able to speak in the afterlife, so that the gods of judgement would grant him entry into eternity.

British scientists have now, in a sense, fulfilled Nesyamun's wish by recreating the sound of his voice through a 3D version of his vocal tract. Their study and findings were published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports.

"It has been such an interesting project that has opened a novel window onto the past," the study's co-author David Howard, head of the department of electronic engineering at Royal Holloway, University of London, said in a statement. "We're very excited to be able to share the sound with people for the first time in 3,000 years."

In 2016, a team of researchers transported the mummy from England's Leeds City Museum to the Leeds General Infirmary to undergo a CT scan, which confirmed that a significant part of the structure of Nesyamun's larynx, commonly called the voice box, and throat remained intact.

From the CT images, researchers were able to measure the mummy's vocal tract shape, create a digital reconstruction of the airway based on those measurements and then reproduce it through 3D printing.

The team then connected their model to an electronic larynx and loudspeaker so Nesyamun's voice could be synthesized. The result was a single vowel-like sound, similar to the vowels heard in the English words "bed" and "bad."

The study notes that "this acoustic output is for the single sound for the extant vocal tract shape; it does not provide a basis for synthesizing running speech," and "to do so would require knowledge of the relevant vocal tract articulations, phonetics and timing patterns of his language."

Still, it's believed to be the first time such a technique has been successfully used to recreate the voice of a dead person.

"Ultimately, this innovative interdisciplinary collaboration has given us the unique opportunity to hear the sound of someone long dead by virtue of their soft tissue preservation combined with new developments in technology," the study's co-author Joann Fletcher, archaeology professor at the University of York, said in a statement. "And while this has wide implications for both healthcare and museum display, its relevance conforms exactly to the ancient Egyptians' fundamental belief that ‘to speak the name of the dead is to make them live again."

Nesyamun lived in Thebes, now modern-day Luxor, during the politically volatile reign of Pharaoh Ramses XI, and researchers say his voice would have been crucial to his work as both a priest and scribe.

"So given Nesyamun's stated desire to have his voice heard in the afterlife in order to live forever," Fletcher said, "the fulfillment of his beliefs through the recreation of his voice allows us to make direct contact with ancient Egypt by listening to a voice that has not been heard for over 3,000 years, preserved through mummification and now restored through this pioneering new technique."

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Nur Anira Asyikin(NEW YORK) -- A 3-year-old boy has officially become the youngest member of the Mensa high IQ society, and even his own mother is blown away.

Muhammad Haryz Nadzim, a nursery school student, scored 142 on the Stanford-Binet IQ test. He was also evaluated by a psychologist, Haryz's mother, Nur Anira Asyikin told Good Morning America.

British Mensa confirmed to GMA that Haryz was then invited to join the high IQ society, in which any person with an IQ in the top 2% of the world's population can join.

"I'm impressed with his achievement and knowing he is happy with what he is doing," Asyikin of the United Kingdom told GMA of her son. "He has been tested in fluid reasoning, knowledge, quantitative reasoning, visual-spatial processing and working memory which included in the Stanford-Binet IQ test."

Although he is advanced in reading, mathematics and memorization, he is still a typical 3-year-old who enjoys 3-year-old things.

"He loves painting, singing, telling stories," Asyikin said.

In a video recorded by Asyikin and released to GMA, Haryz can be heard reading The Gruffalo by author Julia Donaldson. The book, which has a recommended reading level of kindergarten through third grade, includes words like "terrible" and "roasted."

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narvikk/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. State Department is warning Americans not to enter China's Hubei province due to the coronavirus, as Chinese authorities announced Thursday that the death toll from the virus has gone up.

The U.S. is also pulling out most of its diplomats and their families from the consulate general in Wuhan, the Hubei city of 11 million where cases of the new virus were first discovered.

The State Department issued a new travel advisory late Thursday, declaring the Hubei region Level 4, Do Not Travel, the strongest of the four travel warning levels issued by the U.S. government. That puts it on par with hot spots and war zones like North Korea, Syria and Iran.

China's National Health Commission announced Thursday that the death toll from the virus has increased to 25 from the previously-reported total of 17.

The health agency said that in addition to the eight new deaths, 259 new confirmed cases had been reported in 27 provinces across China, with six new cases cured and discharged.

In response to the virus, officials at Shanghai Disneyland said that the giant theme park would close until further notice “in order to ensure the health and safety of our guests.” The move comes during one of the park's busiest weeks of the year.

The park, located in Pudong, Shanghai, is about a two-hour flight from Wuhan.

The U.S. State Department says China itself remains on travel advisory Level 2, Exercise Increased Caution, because of arbitrary detentions and law enforcement concerns, including the so-called exit bans where U.S. citizens are prevented from leaving the country, often for the government to gain leverage over relatives that it is after.

A senior State Department official said the U.S. had seen “positive signs” in China’s response to stem the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, but added that China has lacked transparency in the past and has shown it can be more preoccupied with saving face publicly than admitting and treating the problem.

“We’re concerned, but cautiously optimistic,” the official said.

U.S. health officials reported the first U.S. case of the coronavirus on Tuesday, when it was diagnosed in a Washington state man in his 30s who had recently traveled to Wuhan.

A total of 830 cases of the coronavirus have been reported to date in China. In addition, China's National Health Commission reports that three cases have been reported in Thailand, two have been reported in Vietnam, and one case apiece has been reported in Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of ABC News.

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gynane/iStock(LONDON) -- Facial recognition technology is set to be rolled out across London by the Metropolitan Police Service beginning Friday, despite concerns over the technology’s effectiveness and objections from privacy advocates.

The use of Live Facial Recognition (LFR) technology will be “intelligence-led and deployed to specific locations” and will be used to help tackle “serious crime,” police said in a statement. The technology would not be used to take over from traditional policing, and would only be used as a “prompt,” with the decision to engage a suspect still left to officers on the ground, they added.

In announcing the use of the technology, Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said that the adoption of LFR technology across London was an “important development” and “vital in assisting us in bearing down on violence.”

“We all want to live and work in a city which is safe; the public rightly expect us to use widely available technology to stop criminals,” he said in a statement. “Equally I have to be sure that we have the right safeguards and transparency in place to ensure that we protect people’s privacy and human rights. I believe our careful and considered deployment of live facial recognition strikes that balance.”

There was significant public support for the use of the technology, which has already been used widely in the private sector in the U.K., he added.

However, serious concerns have been raised over the effectiveness and desirability of LFR technology.

An independent study commissioned last year by Scotland Yard and researchers from the University of Essex found that 81% of suspects flagged in trials using LFR were innocent. That was the first independent report into the use of the technology, with the authors, Peter Fussey and Daragh Murray, concluding that there were “significant operational shortcomings in the trials which could affect the viability of any future use of LFR technology."

In response to the report, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Duncan Ball said he was "extremely disappointed with the negative and unbalanced tone" of the study.
 
Murray, one of the report's authors, told ABC News that he was surprised by that response and "not convinced these concerns are addressed."

"The key issue is the scope of discretion granted to the police. There is no regulatory guidance, which means that they are effectively granted arbitrary powers, something entirely inconsistent with human rights law," Murray said. "The necessity of this deployment is also unclear ... If the entire population of London is to be subject to biometric identification checks, this should be justified."

The adoption of the technology has also alarmed privacy advocates who say that it represents a serious threat to civil liberties across the U.K.

“This decision represents an enormous expansion of the surveillance state,” Silkie Carlo, the director of Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties and privacy campaigning organization, told ABC News. “This is a breathtaking assault on our rights and we will challenge it, including by urgently considering next steps in our ongoing legal claim against the Met and the Home Secretary.”

“This move instantly stains the new government's human rights record and we urge an immediate reconsideration,” she added.

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DanHenson1/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- A Libyan man was sentenced to more than 19 years in prison on Thursday for his role in the 2012 terrorist attack on two U.S. government facilities in Benghazi that killed four Americans.

Mustafa al-Imam, 47, was captured in Libya in October 2017 and subsequently brought to the United States to face trial in federal court in Washington, D.C. Following a six-week trial last year, al-Imam was convicted by a jury in June of one count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to terrorists and one count of maliciously destroying and injuring dwellings and property, and placing lives in jeopardy within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

However, the jury was deadlocked on more than a dozen other charges, including murder in relation to the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. government personnel.

"We have not rested in our efforts to bring to justice those involved in the terrorist attacks on our facilities in Benghazi, which led to the death of four courageous Americans -- Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Ambassador Christopher Stevens -- and we never will," John C. Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement Thursday. "Those responsible for these crimes must be held accountable."

U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper, who presided over the case, sentenced al-Imam to 19 years and six months in prison, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice. Federal prosecutors, who argued that al-Imam acted as the “eyes and ears” of the mastermind behind the attacks, had sought the maximum sentence of 35 years.

"Mustafa al-Imam played a significant role in the 2012 Benghazi attack, one that ultimately claimed American lives," William F. Sweeney, Jr., assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York field office, said in a statement Thursday. "While nothing will ever change the outcome of this horrific event, today’s sentencing is a reminder that the safety of Americans -- whether at home or abroad, civilian or otherwise -- will always be our top priority. If you commit an act of terrorism, we will find you and bring you to justice."

An attorney for Al-Imam did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment Friday morning.

On the night of Sept. 11, 2012, a group of militants stormed the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi and set buildings on fire, according to prosecutors, who showed surveillance video from the area at that time. The ambassador, Stevens, and Smith were both killed. Another U.S. government personnel was injured while trying to rescue them, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors allege that al-Imam arrived at the scene shortly after the siege began, accompanying Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the militia leader who orchestrated the attack who was sentenced to 22 years in prison in 2018. Al-Imam allegedly maintained contact with Khatallah in a series of cellphone calls throughout the attack, according to prosecutors, who cited phone records.

Prosecutors allege that al-Imam, Khatallah and other militants later entered the mission's office and took sensitive information, including maps and other documents related to the location of the nearby CIA Annex.

Following the siege on the mission, the militants attacked the CIA Annex in Benghazi, first with gunfire and then with a precision mortar round, leading to the deaths of two more Americans. Two other U.S. personnel were seriously wounded while defending the annex but survived, prosecutors said.
 
"The tragic loss of four American lives in the Benghazi attacks will never be forgotten and today’s sentencing of Mustafa al-Imam is an important reminder of that," Jay Tabb, executive assistant director of the FBI’s National Security Branch, said in a statement Thursday. "The FBI is committed to investigate and bring to justice all individuals involved in acts of terrorism against U.S. facilities or citizens and will use the full range of our resources to pursue such cases."

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Marilyn Nieves/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. has denied an extradition request for Anne Sacoolas, the wife of an American diplomat who police say fatally struck a British teenager with her car as he was walking on the side of the road last August.

Sacoolas was formally charged with murder in December for allegedly hitting 19-year-old Harry Dunn in Northamptonshire, in central England. Sacoolas was charged by the Crown Protection Service with causing death by dangerous driving.

But it appears unlikely Sacoolas will face trial in the U.K. in the near future after a spokesman for the family confirmed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had denied an extradition request.

Radd Sieger tweeted, "[MP Andrea Leadsom] @andrealeadsom tells me 2night that @SecPompeo has declined the extradition request for #annesacoolas. The first declination in the history of the treaty. #HarryDunn's parents expected nothing less of this immoral lawless admin.They don't know what they have let themselves in 4!"

Sacoolas initially cooperated with investigators, but then fled to the United States claiming diplomatic immunity, which sparked a diplomatic rift between the U.S. and the U.K.

A State Department spokesperson confirmed to ABC News in a statement that they denied the U.K. extradition request -- again saying if they approved it and waived the immunity they maintain she had during the accident and while she remained in the U.K., it "would set an extraordinarily troubling precedent."

"The United States government has declined the United Kingdom’s request for extradition of a U.S. citizen involved in a tragic vehicle accident that occurred in the United Kingdom," the U.S. said in the statement. "At the time the accident occurred, and for the duration of her stay in the UK, the U.S. citizen driver in this case had immunity from criminal jurisdiction."

After word of the U.S. decision, the British government condemned the decision.

"We are disappointed in this decision which appears to be a denial of justice," the British government said in a statement. "We are urgently considering our options."

The U.S. secretary of state has the final word on whether to honor a request from another country, in the U.K.'s case through the Home Office.

Sieger followed up with another tweet saying the extradition fight was not over.

"Don't you worry #HarryDunn supporters. Taking this in our stride. #annesacoolas is coming back," he wrote. "You wont stand for it. We won't. British Govt won't. Next steps to be discussed and agreed, and they will be ferocious."

The U.S. government issued a statement in the wake of the extradition request earlier this month making it clear the State Department was unlikely to honor the request.

"The United States has a strong law enforcement relationship with the UK and, in particular, a strong track record of close cooperation on extradition matters," according to a spokesperson from the State Department. "However, under the circumstances of this case, we strongly believe that an extradition request would be highly inappropriate."

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Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his top political challenger Benny Gantz will visit Washington next week to discuss peace in the Middle East, the White House announced Thursday.

Vice President Mike Pence said he extended the invitation to Netanyahu and Gantz -- the leader of Israel's Blue and White party -- during his trip to Jerusalem, on behalf of President Donald Trump.

The timing of the visit could provide a distraction from the ongoing impeachment trial in the Senate.

The Trump administration has repeatedly delayed the release of a plan it's devised for peace between Israel and its neighbors, as political turmoil in Israel brought criminal charges against Netanyahu and two parliamentary elections in under seven months.

Notably absent from the administration's announcements was any mention of the Palestinians.

The White House declined to comment on whether it had also extended an invite to Palestinian officials, who cut off relations with the Trump administration in 2017 after the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital. They have also openly criticized Trump's actions as heavily biased in favor of Israel.

Bringing Netanyahu to the White House just over a month before the latest round of Israeli elections, scheduled for March 2, fits a pattern in which Trump has aimed to provide a domestic boost for his ally. The visit would allow the two leaders to put their close relationship before cameras.

While Gantz was also invited, Pence made clear the former military leader was an afterthought invited only after Netanyahu suggested he come, too.

Last year, just weeks before the elections in April, Trump announced in a tweet that the U.S. would recognize Israel's sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, an area that overlooks the Jordan Valley; the move widely viewed as an attempt to help Netanyahu.

Days before another vote in September, Trump teased a conversation with Netanyahu about a possible mutual defense treaty.

Both leaders accepted the invitation to come to Washington, according to White House officials, and Netanyahu said he would "gladly" come. Pence told reporters in Jerusalem that the meeting would include a discussion of "regional issues, as well as the prospect of peace here in the Holy Land."

Amid hundreds of tweets about his impeachment trial, Trump wrote on Twitter Thursday that the U.S. looked forward to hosting Gantz and Netanyahu.

"Reports about details and timing of our closely-held peace plan are purely speculative," he added.

Netanyahu, who has adopted Trump's language and messaging tactics in a bid to align himself with the American president -- widely popular in Israel -- was charged in November with fraud, bribery and breach of trust.

He is currently seeking immunity from prosecution even as he campaigns to hold his office.

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The world just got 20 seconds closer to catastrophe.

Gauging the duel threats of nuclear warfare and climate change, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced on Thursday that the minute hand on the metaphorical "Doomsday Clock" has been moved forward to 100 seconds before midnight, the closest it has come to signaling a global meltdown.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, comprised of world leaders and Nobel Laureates, announced its decision in a live-stream webcast.

The world is now closer to an apocalyptic meltdown with the recalibration of the "Doomsday Clock."

"The bulletin is thus joining with tomorrow's leaders and today's most authoritative political ones to assert that the current environment is profoundly unstable and urgent action and immediate engagement is required by all," Rachel Bronson, president of the organization, said at a news conference.

She went on, "Both the nuclear and climate conditions are worsening, and we note that over the last two years we have seen influential leaders denigrate and discard the most effective methods for addressing complex threats -- international agreements with strong verification regimes -- in favor of their own narrow interests and domestic political gain. By undermining cooperative science and law-based approaches to managing the most urgent threats to humanity, leaders have help to create a situation that will if unaddressed lead to catastrophe sooner rather than later."

In January 2019, the atomic scientific group decided not to move the minute hand, a year after it adjusted the clock ahead 30 seconds.

“We are living in a period of great uncertainty caused by both technology and failures of leadership. It is urgent that we collectively work to reduce the instability that causes,” Robert Latiff, a member of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and an adjunct professor at the University of Notre Dame’s Reilly Center for Science, Technology and Values, said in a statement.

Latiff was scheduled to speak at Thursday's event along with former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, and former California Gov. Jerry Brown, who is the executive chairman of the Bulletin of Scientists.

The "Doomsday Clock" was established in 1947, less than two years after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, during World War II. The clock was initially set at seven minutes before midnight.

Over the past seven decades, the clock has been adjusted forward and backward. The farthest the minute hand was pushed back from the cataclysmic midnight hour was 17 minutes in 1991 after the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty was revived and then-President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev both announced reductions in the nuclear arsenals of their respective countries.

In 2019, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists decided not to adjust the minute hand citing what they described as “the new abnormal,” a moment in history "in which fact is becoming indistinguishable from fiction, undermining our very abilities to develop and apply solutions to the big problems of our time."

Bronson said on Thursday that conditions have grown worse and that the world has entered into "a period when danger is high and the margin for error is low.

"To move the clock closer to midnight moves us into a period that requires newfound vigilance and focus from leaders and citizens alike as if every second matters," Bronson said. "The moment demands attention and new creative responses."

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Sjo/iStock(SYDNEY) -- Three Americans were killed battling the Australian wildfires Thursday when their water tanker plane crashed in New South Wales.

The Lockheed C-130 Hercules aerial water tanker went down in the Snowy Mountains' Monaro region, about 400 miles east of Melbourne, said officials with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS).

The three crew members were believed to be the only ones aboard the plane, according to officials. There were no survivors in the crash.

Authorities said they weren't yet releasing the names of the crew members.

The plane was performing normal water bombing activities, dumping water on one of an estimated 80 fires currently burning in that area, officials said. Conditions were reported to be hot, dry and windy in the region.

The RFS grounded all other firefighting aircraft immediately following the crash.

"Today is a stark and horrible reminder of the dangerous conditions that our volunteers and our emergency services personnel across a number of agencies undertake on a daily basis," said New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian at a press conference following the accident. "It demonstrates the dangerous work currently being undertaken and it also demonstrates the conditions that our firefighters are working under."

The aircraft was owned by Canadian-based aviation company Coulson Aviation, and was being operated under contract to the RFS.

"The aircraft had departed Richmond, NSW with a load of retardant and was on a firebombing mission. The accident is reported to be extensive and we are deeply saddened to confirm there were 3 fatalities," Coulson Aviation officials said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the three crew members onboard."

Australia's devastating wildfires have claimed more than 15 million acres of land and resulted in at least 25 deaths, according to authorities.

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yorkfoto/iStock(LONDON) -- The United Nations' International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Myanmar must “take all measures within its power” to prevent the genocide of its embattled Rohingya minority Thursday, in a move hailed by human rights groups.

The Gambia, a small West African country, filed the lawsuit against Myanmar in November on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a coalition of countries with significant Muslim populations, asking the ICJ to investigate whether Myanmar's government has violated the Geneva Convention.

The Court also ruled that Myanmar must take measures to present the destruction of evidence and ensure that its military and any militia units do not commit any acts that serve as “direct and public incitement to genocide.” The Rohingya, a Muslim-majority ethnic minority, “remain extremely vulnerable” and were at “serious risk of genocide,” the ruling judges added.

The Gambian Ministry of Justice said in a statement that the ruling was a “major step towards holding Myanmar accountable for alleged acts of genocide.”

Myanmar must now submit a report showing they have complied with the order within four months, and will have to present further reports every six months after that.

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

The ruling follows a 2017 report by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Myanmar found the treatment of the Rohingya appears to “bear the hallmarks of genocide.” A further U.N. fact-finding mission in 2018 said the human rights violations were “principally committed by the Myanmar security forces,” and recommended that they “should be investigated and prosecuted in an international criminal tribunal for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar who was once hailed as a global icon when she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and spent 15 years under house arrest, had appeared at the ICJ in The Hague to defend her regime against the accusations of genocide last month.

Writing in the Financial Times before the ruling Thursday morning, Suu Kyi said that war crimes “may have been committed” by members of the Myanmar Defence Services, but said that Rohingya refugees had provided “exaggerated information,” stopping short of saying that genocide had been committed.

Amnesty International said that the ruling sent a message to Myanmar that the “world will not tolerate their atrocities.”

The case represented a “victory” for the Rohingya, although it was limited in its scope, Laura Haigh, Amnesty International’s Myanmar researcher told ABC News. The ruling on “provisional measures” was a dispute between two states, and did not concern whether or not Myanmar breached its obligations as a state party to the U.N.’s genocide convention, she said.

“I think it absolutely is a victory for the Rohingya, and more broadly for justice and accountability in Myanmar,” Haigh said. “Importantly it’s going to put a lot of political pressure on Myanmar now. I think it’s going to be very hard for Myanmar to not engage in this process further.”

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AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images(PARIS) -- French President Emmanuel Macron got into a testy exchange with Israeli security guards at the Church of Saint Anne in Jerusalem on Wednesday, accusing the guards of violating rules preventing them from entering what is considered French territory.

The Ottoman Empire gifted the church, built by French crusaders in the 12th century, to France in 1856.

"I don’t like what you did in front of me," Macron shouted at police outside the church.

The special status dates back to France's involvement in the Crimean War, which opposed the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire. At the end of the war, Abdülmecid I offered the Church of Saint Anne to Napoleon III to thank him for France's engagement alongside the Ottomans.

"You do a good job in the city and I appreciate it, but please respect the rules established for centuries," the president said. "They will not change with me, I can tell you."

Late French President Jacques Chirac had a similar confrontation at the church during his visit in 1996, refusing to see armed men enter French territory and declining to enter Saint Anne until Israeli police left.

The trip is Macron’s first to Israel and the Palestinian territories as president of the French Republic, and is set to culminate in the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp on Thursday at the memorial of Yad Vashem.

Macron has planned several symbolic visits to reassure the Jewish community, while France experiences a resurgence of anti-Semitic acts. Police said anti-Semitic attacks rose by 74% in France in 2018, according to a Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights report.

Just over one-third of French people of Jewish faith or culture say they feel threatened every day because of their religious affiliation, according to an IfopOpinion study for FondaPol and AJC Paris. According to Ifop, 60% of Israelis are worried for the security of French Jews.

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