Nicaragua’s president cancels social security overhaul

Posted on: April 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Nicaragua’s president has withdrawn changes to the social security system that had triggered deadly protests and looting

Natalie Portman snubs $1 million award, blames Benjamin Netanyahu

Posted on: April 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) — Natalie Portman has drawn ire from her native Israel after declaring to boycott receiving a $1 million award known as the “Jewish Nobel.”

But the activist actress explained the rationale behind not attending the fete, for which she was going to be the prize laureate: It was a direct rebuke against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a post on the Oscar winner’s Instagram account, she wrote, “I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony.”

She added that she is not part of a Palestinian-inspired movement known as Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions — or BDS. Instead, she said she was determined to hold Israel’s leadership accountable for what she stated were a mix of malfeasance.

“The mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values. Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality and abuse of power,” she wrote. “Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation.”

Portman stressed that she intends to support “a number of charities in Israel,” which she said she will name soon.

But the organization that was set to recognize Portman — the Genesis Foundation, which launched in 2003 to laud Jewish achievement to the humanities — announced that it was “very saddened” by her decision.

The foundation still maintains Portman’s picture and accolade on its website and has a banner that reads, “Congratulations Natalie Portman, 2018 Genesis Prize Laureate.”

It announced it was canceling the prize ceremony, however, which was scheduled for June 28.

“We fear that Ms. Portman’s decision will cause our philanthropic initiative to be politicized, something we have worked hard for the past five years to avoid,” according to a statement.

Portman was criticized by some in the Israeli government. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz stated that to boycott Israel “has elements of anti-Semitism.”

And the country’s internal security minister, Gilad Erdan, penned a letter to Portman alluding to Star Wars metaphors to drive home his point.

“Anakin Skywalker, a character you know well from Star Wars, underwent a similar process. He began to believe that the Jedi Knights were evil, and that the forces of the Dark Side were the protectors of democracy. I call upon you not to let the Dark Side win.”

Netanyahu had not responded to Portman’s award snub as of Sunday afternoon.

Portman did not specify what Netanyahu had specifically done to cause her to boycott the award ceremony.

But the prime minister has drawn criticism for his handling of Palestinian affairs, among other foreign matters. He has also been suspected of corruption at home.

In February, Netanyahu was questioned for more than four hours by Israeli police at his residence in Jerusalem as part of an investigation of a corruption case. He still remains a suspect in the case.

Israeli police announced at the time that there was “sufficient evidence” against the prime minister in both cases “for the offense of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust.” Israeli police accuse Netanyahu, known by the nickname “Bibi,” of accepting at least 1 million shekels, around $283,000, in gifts and bribes.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

North Korea says it is suspending nuclear tests ahead of much-anticipated talks

Posted on: April 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

North Korea says it will put tests on hold prior to talks between Trump and Kim.

‘Obviously, Kim Jong Un has learned about public relations’ with suspension of nuclear tests: Senator

Posted on: April 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said North Korea’s announcement that it is suspending nuclear testing shows that Kim Jong Un has “learned about public relations.”

 Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday that he is “glad” President Donald Trump is planning to meet with the North Korean leader, but added that “all of us look at this with great caution and skepticism.”

“Obviously, Kim Jong Un has learned about public relations and is setting it up well” for himself for the talks by announcing the suspension of nuclear and missile tests, Corker said. “But I think everyone that’s been around this looks at [the talks] as just the beginning. It may lead to something. It may not.” The Tennessee senator noted that Kim Jong Un has suspended nuclear testing before and that such a move is easily reversible.

“Is it realistic to think that Kim Jong Un is actually going to give up his nuclear weapons?” Stephanopoulos asked.

Corker responded, “[Kim Jong Un] views having deliverable nuclear weapons as his ticket to dying as an old man in his bed. He saw what happened with [Moammar] Ghadafi,” the longtime Libyan leader who was killed by rebel forces in his country in 2011.

“Ghadafi’s a dead man now because he gave up his nuclear weapons,” Corker said. “And so to think that somebody’s going to go in and charm [Kim] out of that is not realistic.”

The Republican senator said of the planned talks between Kim and Trump, “Is there some progress that can be made? I hope so. But, you know, it’s, that’s a big hurdle.”

North Korean state media announced this weekend that Kim had decided to suspend the country’s nuclear and missile tests and to close one of its nuclear-testing sites.

According to state TV, Kim said the country had “verified the completion of nuclear weapons” and that now “the Party and our nation will focus all its efforts towards socialist economic development.”

The announcement comes ahead of a planned summit between North and South Korea, scheduled to take place on Friday, and a meeting between Trump and Kim possibly in May or June. Trump tweeted Friday that the North Korea announcement indicated “big progress,” and that he was looking forward to his and Kim’s summit.

However, on Sunday morning, the president tweeted that “only time will tell” if the U.S. will succeed with North Korea.

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World’s oldest person dies in Japan at age of 117

Posted on: April 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Another Japanese woman, Chiyo Yoshida, is now the world’s oldest person.

North Korea says it is suspending nuclear tests ahead of much-anticipated talks

Posted on: April 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL, South Korea) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared the country will be suspending its nuclear tests ahead of much-anticipated talks between the two Koreas next week, and the U.S. and North Korea sometime next month.

Kim announced his country would “no longer need any nuclear tests, mid and long and ICBM rocket tests,” and therefore is suspending nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles starting Saturday.

The communist country also says it is also shutting down the Poongye-ri nuclear test site where six underground tests have taken place.

The surprise announcements were delivered through North Korean state news outlet, Korean Central News Agency, and later on state TV.

North Korea has “verified the completion of nuclear weapons” and now “the Party and our nation will focus all its efforts towards socialist economic development,” Kim was quoted saying at a meeting of the central committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea convened Friday. The state TV stressed the meeting discussed policy issues related to a “new stage” in an “historic period.”

The two Koreas are set to hold a summit meeting next Friday at the truce border village of Panmunjom, while U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim plan to meet sometime in May or early June at a yet-to-be-announced location.

Trump hailed the news of Korea suspending its nuclear tests as “very good news for North Korea and the World.”

The news came earlier this week that Mike Pompeo, Trump’s as-yet-unconfirmed pick for secretary of state, met with Kim in early April. No details of the talks were released, though Trump said this week the meeting went “very smoothly” and the two got along “really well.”

Denuclearization of North Korea has been a key issue going into the talks between the U.S. and North Korea. The North is suspending, not freezing, its nuclear tests for now, but both Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have expressed high hopes that the North is ready to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for economic assistance.

Policy measures announced by the North’s state TV suggest that Kim aims to improve quality of living. The country’s leaders is quoted as saying that North Korea’s long-term economic plan is to “provide proficient and culturally [advanced] lifestyle to all people.”

“North Korea’s announcement signals a stepping stone for phased denuclearization,” said An Chan Il, president of Seoul-based World Institute for North Korean Studies. “They are showing proof to the world that they have begun their efforts to eventually denuclearize, starting with shutting down the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. Punggye-ri test site is known to be the one and only nuclear weapon facility in North Korea at the moment. A significant slowdown in this facility was monitored in March, adding evidence that North’s announcement was not a spontaneous one.”

Experts have cautioned that the wording of Kim’s announcement specifically mentions a “suspension” and not a “freeze.”

“For North Korea to announce a nuclear freeze, they must have mentioned shutdown of the nuclear facility in Yongbyon,” said Kim Yong-hyun, professor of North Korean Studies at Dongguk University in Seoul. “But this announcement said to suspend only the Punggye-ri facility and missile launches according to KCNA’s report. Still, there is a possibility open for discussion regarding Yongbyon facility which produces plutonium.”

“Some say this beginning phase should be called a ‘freeze,'” said Kim Kwang-jin, a former congressman at the National Assembly’s Defense Committee. “But others see a complete abolishment of already-made plutonium, uranium and missiles as a ‘freeze.’

That is why key terms should be clarified before the final negotiation.”

South Korea’s presidential office welcomed North Korea’s announcement as well.

Presidential secretary Yoon Young-chan said in a written statement released Saturday, “[The] North’s announcement will brighten prospects for successful talks between Seoul, Pyongyang and Washington.”

The statement referred to the North’s suspending of nuclear tests and missile tests as meaningful progress toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

“It is not a declaration of nuclear dismantlement because it has not yet reached the consensus of some practical compensations for the abandonment of nuclear weapons,” said Cheong Seong-Chang, director of unification strategic studies program at the Seoul-based Sejong Institute.

“Since the economy has been in a state of containment after several nuclear tests and missile launches, the compromise with the international community was an inevitable choice for Kim Jong Un,” Cheong added.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who visited Trump in Florida this week, was more cautious in his acknowledgment of Kim’s announcement of suspending nuclear tests.

“What is crucial here … is how this development is going to lead to the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of nuclear arms, weapons of mass destruction and missiles,” he said. “And I will keep a close eye on that.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Road to North Korean denuclearization is littered with failure

Posted on: April 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

A look at previous nuclear negotiations with North Korea.

Journalist among over 2 dozen killed in Nicaragua unrest

Posted on: April 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Journalist Angel Gahona is among more than people killed in unrest in Nicaragua over social security reforms planned by President Daniel Ortega’s government

Nicaragua’s Ortega agrees to talk as deadly protests rage on

Posted on: April 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Nicaragua’s president has agreed to talks with business leaders over controversial social security reforms that sparked four days of protests and clashes

Queen Elizabeth’s 92nd birthday: Royal family pulls out all the stops

Posted on: April 21st, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Andrew Parsons – WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) — The Royal Family paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth at a star-studded birthday party at Royal Albert Hall tonight — where the likes of Sting, Sir Tom Jones, Shaggy, Kylie Minogue and Shawn Mendes joined a cast of commonwealth Nation artists to pay tribute to the 92-year-old Queen.

The monarch took her seat at the concert hall flanked by her two heirs, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge. Prince William attended solo for the “Queens Birthday Party” as the event was named without Kate, who remained home with Prince George and Princess Charlotte and is due to give birth any day.

The second in line could be seen periodically peering down at his phone, no doubt checking in his very pregnant wife.

Prince Philip, who would normally be seated at Queen Elizabeth’s side, was home recovering from hip replacement surgery.

Roads were shut down, concrete and steel barriers installed along with magnetometers, and heavily armed police showed a massive presence in one of the most high profile security operations ever seen in London, with 40 members of the Royal Family all congregating in one place.

The security did not dampen the spirit of the crowd. Queen Elizabeth was beaming at her birthday party.

Welshman Sir Tom Jones kicked off the night with a rendition of his classic hit “It’s Not Unusual,” followed by a rousing duet by Sting and Shaggy.

Prince William appeared to lean down to explain to his grandmother who Shaggy was.

The concert included acts from across the generations. Queen Elizabeth at one point was seen bopping and clapping to a George Formby medley while her family looked on, thrilled that she was enjoying herself so much.

Prince Harry made a poignant tribute to his grandmother in his first speech in his new role as President of the Queens Commonwealth Trust. He vowed to carry on her work and legacy.

“Tonight we are celebrating the Queen’s Birthday but Your Majesty, if you do not mind me saying, you are not someone who is easy to buy gifts for. But I think we have the perfect present,” he said, referring to the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust charity of which he was appointed president last week.

The fifth in line, who was accompanied by his fianceé, Meghan Markle, was also appointed by Queen Elizabeth this week as the Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, a role that will see Harry and Meghan using their magic as humanitarians and role models to the 2.4 billion Commonwealth citizens, 60 percent of whom are under the age of 30.

“As we celebrate your 92nd birthday this evening and in recognition of your incredible life of service, I am delighted to say that the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust has now been launched to support young leaders around the Commonwealth. This organization, in your name, will provide a platform for those working to make a difference in their communities across 53 countries. Happy Birthday, Your Majesty,” Harry added.

Prince Charles closed the show on stage with his mother, asking the audience to give a “hip hip hooray” to “Your Majesty, Mummy” before the iconic venue dropped balloons and shot off firecrackers inside the hall.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Earth Day 2018: Everything you need to know

Posted on: April 21st, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

People around the world will come together this weekend to celebrate the planet we live on and to take action to protect it.

New South African church celebrates drinking alcohol

Posted on: April 21st, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Lively new South African church celebrates alcohol; ‘We drink for deliverance’

Rohingya refugees rescued after drifting at sea for 9 days

Posted on: April 21st, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

A Rohingya Muslim man among the group of 76 rescued off Indonesia in a wooden boat says they were at sea for nearly nine days after leaving Myanmar, where the minority group faces intense persecution, and were hoping to reach Malaysia

North Korea suspends nuclear program ahead of much-anticipated talks

Posted on: April 21st, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

North Korea will put its program on hold prior to talks between Trump and Kim.

N. Korea, setting stage for talks, halts nuclear, ICBM tests

Posted on: April 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

North Korea suspends nuclear and long-range missile tests ahead of summits, Trump responds with tweet of "big progress"

2 more killed in Nicaragua social security protests: reports

Posted on: April 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Two university student protesters have been killed in Nicaragua in clashes over a social security reform pushed by President Daniel Ortega’s government, according to independent media reports

North Korea says it will suspend all nuclear and missile tests

Posted on: April 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL, South Korea) — North Korea has announced a freeze of all nuclear and missile tests, according to South Korean media reports.

“The North will shut down a nuclear test site in the country’s northern side to guarantee transparency in suspending nuclear tests,” media reports quoted North Korean state media.

Kim Jong-un was cited by Korea Central News Agency saying the country had already proven it has nuclear weapons and “therefore we no longer need any nuclear tests, mid and long and ICBM rocket tests.”

News of the announcement comes just weeks before a potential meeting between the North Korean leader and President Donald Trump. Kim is set to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in next week.

Trump responded on Twitter to the reports: “North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the World – big progress! Look forward to our Summit.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump administration’s first human rights report sparks fierce criticism

Posted on: April 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. State Department has released its first human rights report fully compiled under the Trump administration, and it’s generating controversy for several changes and omissions – including eliminating references to “reproductive rights” and dropping use of the term “occupied territories.”

The report – which is mandated by Congress – is published every year and details human rights in virtually every country and territory around the world. It’s compiled by diplomats at posts on the ground over the course of the previous year.

Last year, there was controversy because then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not publicly appear to roll out the report, which critics say signaled his disinterest in promoting human rights early in his tenure.

This year, acting Secretary John Sullivan spoke briefly at the launch, explaining the importance of the report and taking a moment to call out certain countries – Syria, Myanmar, Venezuela, Turkey, China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia – the last four of which were labeled “forces of instability” because of their human rights abuses.

Here are some of the headlines from this year’s report and from a briefing with Amb. Michael Kozak, the senior official in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

ELIMINATING REFERENCE TO ‘REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS’

Generating the most attention is the replacement of sections on “reproductive rights” with ones on “coercion in population control” – a sign of the Trump administration’s anti-abortion push that spreads beyond the U.S., like reinstating the so-called Mexico City policy and reportedly trying to remove references to contraception, abortion, and sex education at the United Nations.

In 2012, under Hillary Clinton, the department first included “reproductive rights,” but the term has been misconstrued to mean abortion rights, according to Amb. Kozak, so the Trump administration wanted to dispel that notion: “It’s not a diminishment of women’s rights or a desire to get away from it. It was to stop using a term that has several different meanings that are not all the ones we intend.”

The U.S. has never taken a position on whether there is a right to an abortion because there’s no internationally recognized standard, Kozak added – but there is one that no one should be forced to have an abortion or be sterilized, and that’s what the reports are meant to target.

Still, the omission has been decried by some rights groups. “Reproductive rights are human rights, and omitting the issue signals the Trump administration’s latest retreat from global leadership on human rights,” Amnesty International said in a statement. Human Rights Watch pointed out that the report is silent on the obstacles many women face in countries from Bolivia to Poland to Nepal on reproductive issues.

DROPPING USE OF THE TERM ‘OCCUPIED TERRITORIES’

This year’s report uses the section title, “Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank, and Gaza,” as opposed to last year’s “Israel and the Occupied Territories” – a first, according to Amnesty International.

Within the 2017 section, the Golan Heights is still referred to as ‘Israeli-occupied,’ but not the West Bank, as in years past.

When a journalist tried multiple times to ask a question about the Palestinian territories, he was shut down by spokesperson Heather Nauert, who called on others and then whisked Amb. Kozak away at the end.

DEPARTMENT’S REPORTS VS. TRUMP’S WORDS AND ACTIONS?

The report is tough on many countries, but its impact has been called into question given President Donald Trump’s own behavior – both his embrace of some of the world leaders called out and his use of some of the bad behaviors called out – in particular, denigrating the press, his travel and refugee bans, and transgender military ban.

Should the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte, for example, take notice of the report’s condemnation of his brutal war on drugs – or of Trump’s “great relationship” with him, as Trump said in November?

Amb. Kozak said Trump’s engagement with world leaders is “complementary” to the reports because “usually part of your policy is engaging with the people whose behavior you’re trying to change at some level.”

“The fact is, these other governments and their populations do read the report, and I don’t think they discount it because the President speaks with their leader or otherwise,” he added, noting that Trump raises these issues in his conversations.

In particular, Amb. Kozak was pushed on freedom of the press and Trump’s attacks on ‘fake news’ media, but Kozak distinguished between tough talk and physical threats to media outlets overseas: “We make quite a distinction between political leaders being able to speak out and say that that story was not accurate or using even stronger words sometimes, and using state power to prevent the journalists from continuing to do their work.”

GOING SOFT ON U.S. ALLIES?

The U.S. is always accused of going easier on its allies than its adversaries, but this report, in particular, is getting heat for that.

One example: Last year’s report cited several “human rights problems” in Japan, most notably “lack of due process for detention of suspects and poor prison and detention center conditions.” But this year the report said: “There were no reports of egregious human rights abuses.”

But more notably, in Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with whom the Trump administration is particularly close, is making advances on women’s rights but flouting the rule of law with his detention and extortion of other princes.

While that’s detailed in the report, Amb. Kozak was softer on the detentions than similar crackdowns elsewhere, saying they were “connected, ostensibly anyway, to more concern about corruption, which is another one of our issues… We’re trying to encourage that kind of movement on the part of the Saudis.”

The report also went lighter on Saudi’s airstrikes in Yemen, according to human rights groups. It notes that their airstrikes “caused disproportionate collateral damage” – but makes no mention that they’re also “indiscriminate and appeared not to sufficiently minimize collateral impact on civilians,” as last year’s report pointed out.

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North Korea says it will suspend nuclear and missile testing

Posted on: April 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

North Korea says it has suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests and plans to close its nuclear test site

US believes Austin Tice still alive as FBI offers new $1 million reward

Posted on: April 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Intelligence gathered over the past 18 months suggests that American journalist Austin Tice is still alive almost six years after he went missing in Syria, ABC News has learned.

The assessment comes as the FBI has, for the first time, announced a new reward for information leading to Tice’s safe location, recovery, and return — for $1 million.

Two senior officials recently confirmed to ABC News that Tice, a journalist, and photographer kidnapped in August 2012, is believed to have survived his captivity despite past U.S. intelligence assessments that he might have died in Syria. A former Marine, Tice had been freelancing for several news outlets, including CBS and the Washington Post, and covering the start of the Syrian civil war.

For a long time, the FBI only had one special agent assigned to the case – a person who had been serving in the bureau for less time than Tice had been missing. Some officials privately criticized the FBI for chasing old leads in the case and not devoting more resources to recovering him from what was assessed to be an element of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad’s regime or his family.

By contrast, American hostages of terrorist groups such as Kayla Mueller killed in ISIS captivity, and Caitlan Coleman, who was freed last fall after five years as a Taliban hostage, had teams of FBI agents working their cases. One senior official told ABC News that there were intelligence officers augmenting the FBI’s work and that criticism of their efforts was unfair.

Tice, who would be 36-years old now, disappeared just after his 31st birthday while covering the Free Syrian Army, a group of Syrian military officials who had joined the opposition against Assad. A month later, a video was released, showing him blindfolded, removed from a car, and led by armed men up a hill, saying “Oh, Jesus.” He has not been heard from since.

But the FBI reward has given Tice’s family renewed hope: “We are heartened by the recent U.S. Government posting of a reward for information,” Tice’s parents Debra and Mark Tice said in a family statement to ABC News. “We deeply appreciate every increased effort to hasten the day that we see our son safely home.”

Debra and her husband Marc Tice have been outspoken in their pursuit to bring Austin home and steadfast in their belief that he remains alive, although they cautioned that as far as they know, the timing of the FBI reward “is unrelated to any specific event,” but rather to “the length of Austin’s detention and the Syrian government’s lack of information concerning Austin’s disappearance.”

The FBI’s announcement also garnered praise from others: “The U.S. government must stay focused on efforts to bring Austin Tice home. Offering a reward is an important way to demonstrate that commitment and could help bring forward new information,” Joel Simon, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, told ABC News in a statement.

In December 2016, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said on the Senate floor that then-U.S. hostage envoy James O’Brien had informed him that Tice was alive.

“Mr. O’Brien and his team informed me that they have high confidence that Austin is alive in Syria along with other Americans who are being held captive,” Cornyn said at the time.

The next month, Tice’s parents said the Obama administration also told them, “Austin, our son, is alive, that he’s still being held captive in Syria.”

A current U.S. official confirmed recently that the assessment that he is alive has not changed.

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Endangered African penguins threatened by avian flu

Posted on: April 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(CAPE TOWN, South Africa) — Endangered African penguins living in a colony on Boulders Beach in Cape Town, South Africa, have been further threatened by an outbreak of avian flu.

According to Nature, veterinarians detected the virus in February among penguins there as well as Cape cormorants, swift terns and peregrine falcons. By March, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs called for a halt to research activities for fear of further spreading the infection to other colonies.

Over 16 “abnormal deaths” have been recorded since February and residents and tourists have been advised not to handle any sick or dead birds.

The African penguin population has been in a steady decline and is listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. In the 1930s there were about 1.5 million adult penguins living along the southern African coast but due to human activity, their numbers have decreased by 90 percent in less than a century. The Boulders population is currently about 1,700 birds.

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700-year-old Banyan tree in southern India put on a ‘drip’ to save it

Posted on: April 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Forest Department/Telangana(NEW YORK) — A 700-year-old Banyan tree whose branches spread across about three acres is believed to be one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the world.

But when one of the branches of the tree in Telangana in southern India broke off in December, forest officials found the tree to be infested with termites, and the area, a major tourist destination, was immediately closed to the public. The tree has now been put on a “drip” of diluted pesticides.

The Banyan is the national tree of India and is considered sacred by Hindus.

‘We drilled holes in the affected branches and injected the pesticide, chlorpyrifos, every two meters,” Chukka Ganga Reddy, the District Forest Officer told ABC News. Two meters is about 6.5 feet.

“We are maintaining the flow of the chemical through drips,” Reddy said. “We are also washing the roots with the same pesticide and treating the adjoining areas to prevent the termites spreading.”

Concrete pillars are also being built to support the sprawling branches of the tree. Banyan trees are known to spread laterally as roots dropped by their branches mature into thick trunks which support the tree.

“The results are encouraging, and we hope the tree will recover in two to three months. We will then decide when to open the area for tourists,” Reddy said.

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Ex-deputy prime minister who resigned over affair welcomes baby with former staffer

Posted on: April 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Barnaby Joyce quit after details emerged of an affair with his former staffer.

Australian ex-deputy prime minister welcomes baby with former staffer

Posted on: April 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Michael Masters/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The former deputy prime minister of Australia and his partner, Vikki Campion, have welcomed a baby boy.

Joyce quit his government post and position as leader of the National Party of Australia after it emerged he was having an affair with Campion, his former media adviser, and that she was expecting a baby.

After the affair, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull banned ministers from having sexual relationships with their staff.

Joyce has four daughters with his wife, Natalie.

After the baby, who has been named Sebastian, was born at Armidale Hospital, Joyce told Australian outlets “We are very happy and just taking it quietly.”

The affair was not Joyce’s only recent political crisis. In 2017, he was disqualified from running in a by-election when he was forced from his seat after it was revealed he held dual Australian-New Zealand citizenship.

After renouncing his secondary citizenship he was ruled eligible and won back his seat with more than 60 percent of the vote, according to Australian media outlets.

The dual citizenship crisis affected several members of Parliament, and resulted in nine seats lost, including Joyce’s.

On the news of his partner’s pregnancy, Joyce told Australian media the paternity of Campion’s then-unborn child was a “gray area” given his travel schedule and the estimated date of conception.

He added however that he was planning to bring up the child as his own regardless of who the father was.

Joyce later said that the child’s paternity was “nobody else’s business”, and in comments to Fairfax Media on Friday said the arrival of the baby had “comprehensively removed any doubts about paternity on the basis of date”.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Jaywalkers risk getting sprayed and publicly shamed

Posted on: April 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

People crossing streets in China often seem to pay little heed to lights.

Myanmar policeman testifies arrested reporters were set up

Posted on: April 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

A Myanmar police officer has testified that he and several colleagues were ordered to entrap two reporters for the Reuters news agency, dealing a major blow to the government’s case against the journalists under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act.

Memoir of secretly baptized Jewish boy under new scrutiny

Posted on: April 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

The case of a secretly baptized Jewish boy taken from his parents and brought to Rome to be raised in the 1850s is rearing its head again

China province tries spraying and publicly shaming jaywalkers to deter them

Posted on: April 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(BEIJING) — Crossing the street in China is often a chaotic business.

 It seemingly has nothing to do with whether a light is red or green. Instead, people just crowd onto the curb until they reach critical mass, and then off they go.

The government is trying various approaches to address the problem, including one province’s experiment with spraying mist at jaywalkers, according to a report in the official Beijing News.

This method, undertaken by the government in Hubei province in central China, uses knee-high yellow poles installed on the curb at each end of a crosswalk.

When someone tries to cross against a red light, the poles spray mist at the scofflaws. At the same time, a recorded message says, “The light’s red. Please do not cross the street. It’s dangerous,” the Beijing News reported.

The system, which reportedly cost the Hubei government the equivalent of $207,000, also uses facial recognition technology. It takes pictures of the jaywalkers and displays the photos, along with the people’s names, on huge LED displays on the street in an effort to shame them, the Beijing News reported.

The yellow poles are about 2.6 feet high. Staff change the water every day and keep it at a constant temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Koreas set up hotline between leaders ahead of summit

Posted on: April 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

North and South Korea have installed a telephone hotline between their leaders as they prepare for a rare summit next week aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff with Pyongyang

US has ‘credible evidence’ Russia, Syria sanitizing chemical attack site: State Dept

Posted on: April 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

The U.S. made the accusation almost a week after last Friday’s bombing.