South Sudan’s rival leaders form coalition government

Posted on: February 22nd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

South Sudan has opened a new chapter in its fragile emergence from civil war with rival leaders forming a coalition government

South Sudan’s rival leaders form coalition government

Posted on: February 22nd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

South Sudan has opened a new chapter in its fragile emergence from civil war with rival leaders forming a coalition government

Finland says to take in max 175 Mediterranean asylum-seekers

Posted on: February 22nd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

The Finnish government says it has agreed to take in up to 175 asylum-seekers from camps in Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Malta "to alleviate the humanitarian situation" experienced by refugees in the Mediterranean members of the European Union

Finland says to take in max 175 Mediterranean asylum-seekers

Posted on: February 22nd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

The Finnish government says it has agreed to take in up to 175 asylum-seekers from camps in Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Malta "to alleviate the humanitarian situation" experienced by refugees in the Mediterranean members of the European Union

Togo vote could see Gnassingbes extend decades-long rule

Posted on: February 22nd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

The West African nation of Togo is voting Saturday in a presidential election that is likely to see the incumbent re-elected for a fourth term despite years of calls by the opposition for new leadership

Togo vote could see Gnassingbes extend decades-long rule

Posted on: February 22nd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

The West African nation of Togo is voting Saturday in a presidential election that is likely to see the incumbent re-elected for a fourth term despite years of calls by the opposition for new leadership

Italian towns on lockdown after 2 virus deaths, clusters

Posted on: February 22nd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

A dozen northern Italian towns are on effective lockdown after the new virus linked to China claimed two lives in Italy and sickened an increasing number of people

Italian towns on lockdown after 2 virus deaths, clusters

Posted on: February 22nd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

A dozen northern Italian towns are on effective lockdown after the new virus linked to China claimed two lives in Italy and sickened an increasing number of people

Egypt extends detention of activist who criticized president

Posted on: February 22nd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Egyptian prosecutors extended the detention of an an Egyptian activist and vocal critic of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi

Egypt extends detention of activist who criticized president

Posted on: February 22nd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Egyptian prosecutors extended the detention of an an Egyptian activist and vocal critic of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi

UN: 100,000 civilians casualties in Afghanistan in 10 years

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

A U.N. report says Afghanistan passed a grim milestone with more than 100,000 civilians killed or hurt in the last 10 years since the international body began documenting casualties in a war that has raged for 18 years

UN: 100,000 civilians casualties in Afghanistan in 10 years

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

A U.N. report says Afghanistan passed a grim milestone with more than 100,000 civilians killed or hurt in the last 10 years since the international body began documenting casualties in a war that has raged for 18 years

Canadian PM Trudeau says rail blockades have to end

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says indigenous barricades that are blocking rail service across the country and hurting the economy have to come down now

Canadian PM Trudeau says rail blockades have to end

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says indigenous barricades that are blocking rail service across the country and hurting the economy have to come down now

Outbreak, economic ills dim luster of Japan’s Olympic year

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should be basking in the limelight this year in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Outbreak, economic ills dim luster of Japan’s Olympic year

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should be basking in the limelight this year in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Thai court orders popular opposition party dissolved

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Thailand’s Constitutional Court has ordered the popular opposition Future Forward Party dissolved, declaring that it violated election law by accepting a loan from its leader

Thai court orders popular opposition party dissolved

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Thailand’s Constitutional Court has ordered the popular opposition Future Forward Party dissolved, declaring that it violated election law by accepting a loan from its leader

Mexicans march to protest major infrastructure projects

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

More than 1,000 people have marched through the center of Mexico City in opposition to the government’s largest infrastructure projects

Mexicans march to protest major infrastructure projects

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

More than 1,000 people have marched through the center of Mexico City in opposition to the government’s largest infrastructure projects

Vancouver man attempts to steal float plane, damages two other planes in incident

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

kali9/iStock(VANCOUVER, Canada) — A man in Vancouver, Canada attempted to steal a float plane early Friday morning, Canadian authorities confirmed.

At around 3:30 a.m., authorities responded to reports that a man tried to steal a Seair charter aircraft, according to Vancouver police.

The aircraft did not make it airborne, instead crashing into a nearby plane, which “suffered extensive damage, completely losing a wing,” Vancouver Police Spokesperson Tania Visintin told ABC News.

A third aircraft was also damaged in the incident, according to police.

“During this incident, the aircraft did not leave the water, however, did make contact with and damage to two Harbour Air aircraft on the adjacent Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre (VHFC) dock,” Harbour Air said in a statement.

Immediately following the incident, some flights were re-routed to Harbour Air’s Richmond (YVR) terminal, according to the airline’s statement.

“We are currently working with the police to provide any support required during this investigation as the safety and security of passengers is our priority,” Harbor Air said. “Until the investigation is complete, we will not be speculating on details.”

A suspect is not yet in custody, and police are actively investigating the incident.

All flights have now returned to normal operation and no injuries were reported.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Vancouver man attempts to steal float plane, damages two other planes in incident

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

kali9/iStock(VANCOUVER, Canada) — A man in Vancouver, Canada attempted to steal a float plane early Friday morning, Canadian authorities confirmed.

At around 3:30 a.m., authorities responded to reports that a man tried to steal a Seair charter aircraft, according to Vancouver police.

The aircraft did not make it airborne, instead crashing into a nearby plane, which “suffered extensive damage, completely losing a wing,” Vancouver Police Spokesperson Tania Visintin told ABC News.

A third aircraft was also damaged in the incident, according to police.

“During this incident, the aircraft did not leave the water, however, did make contact with and damage to two Harbour Air aircraft on the adjacent Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre (VHFC) dock,” Harbour Air said in a statement.

Immediately following the incident, some flights were re-routed to Harbour Air’s Richmond (YVR) terminal, according to the airline’s statement.

“We are currently working with the police to provide any support required during this investigation as the safety and security of passengers is our priority,” Harbor Air said. “Until the investigation is complete, we will not be speculating on details.”

A suspect is not yet in custody, and police are actively investigating the incident.

All flights have now returned to normal operation and no injuries were reported.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Prince Harry and Meghan will not use Sussex Royal name, spokesperson confirms

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) — Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, will not use their Sussex Royal brand in their new roles as non-working members of Britain’s royal family.

“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex do not intend to use ‘SussexRoyal’ in any territory post Spring 2020,” a spokesperson for the Sussexes told ABC News on Friday, ending weeks of speculation about whether Queen Elizabeth would permit the couple to continue using the word “royal.”

Harry and Meghan’s last day as working members of Britain’s royal family will be March 31. The couple’s office at Buckingham Palace, their headquarters for the past year, will be closed the next day, April 1.

Going forward, the Sussexes will be represented through their charity, which won’t be named the Sussex Royal Foundation, as they had planned.

“While The Duke and Duchess are focused on plans to establish a new non-profit organisation, given the specific UK government rules surrounding use of the word ‘Royal,’ it has been therefore agreed that their non-profit organization, when it is announced this Spring, will not be named Sussex Royal Foundation,” the spokesperson said, adding that the trademark applications Harry and Meghan previously filed for Sussex Royal have “been removed.”

The Sussex Royal label had been seen as potentially extremely lucrative for Harry and Meghan.

The couple hit 1 million followers on Instagram less than six hours after launching their Sussex Royal Instagram account last year. When they announced in January their intention to “step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family,” Harry and Meghan simultaneously launched their own SussexRoyal.com website.

“For Harry and Meghan, this new chapter involved them using the Sussex Royal brand,” ABC News royal contributor Omid Scobie told “Good Morning America” earlier this week. “Of course now they’re back to the drawing board in having to re-brand a project they’re very close to launching.”

“Although this may seem personal against Harry and Meghan, it simply boils down to royal protocol,” he explained. “As non-working members of the royal family, it means that they can’t use the word royal in any of their work moving forward.”

The couple’s new roles, announced by Buckingham Palace in January, mean they will no longer use their HRH titles, will no longer represent Her Majesty and will no longer receive public funds for royal duties, although they continue to receive funds from Harry’s father, Prince Charles.

Harry and Meghan, who are currently living in Canada with their infant son, Archie, will also spend the majority of their time in North America, according to Buckingham Palace.

In recent weeks the Duke and Duchess of Sussex traveled to Miami to attend an event hosted by JPMorgan, the U.S.-headquartered global financial services firm, where they rubbed shoulders with billionaires and celebrities.

The couple, who are planning to close their Buckingham Palace office, also traveled to San Francisco and visited Stanford University last week for a brainstorm session and meetings with professors and academics as they lay the groundwork for their new charitable foundation, a source close to the Sussexes confirmed to ABC News.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Prince Harry and Meghan will not use Sussex Royal name, spokesperson confirms

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) — Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, will not use their Sussex Royal brand in their new roles as non-working members of Britain’s royal family.

“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex do not intend to use ‘SussexRoyal’ in any territory post Spring 2020,” a spokesperson for the Sussexes told ABC News on Friday, ending weeks of speculation about whether Queen Elizabeth would permit the couple to continue using the word “royal.”

Harry and Meghan’s last day as working members of Britain’s royal family will be March 31. The couple’s office at Buckingham Palace, their headquarters for the past year, will be closed the next day, April 1.

Going forward, the Sussexes will be represented through their charity, which won’t be named the Sussex Royal Foundation, as they had planned.

“While The Duke and Duchess are focused on plans to establish a new non-profit organisation, given the specific UK government rules surrounding use of the word ‘Royal,’ it has been therefore agreed that their non-profit organization, when it is announced this Spring, will not be named Sussex Royal Foundation,” the spokesperson said, adding that the trademark applications Harry and Meghan previously filed for Sussex Royal have “been removed.”

The Sussex Royal label had been seen as potentially extremely lucrative for Harry and Meghan.

The couple hit 1 million followers on Instagram less than six hours after launching their Sussex Royal Instagram account last year. When they announced in January their intention to “step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family,” Harry and Meghan simultaneously launched their own SussexRoyal.com website.

“For Harry and Meghan, this new chapter involved them using the Sussex Royal brand,” ABC News royal contributor Omid Scobie told “Good Morning America” earlier this week. “Of course now they’re back to the drawing board in having to re-brand a project they’re very close to launching.”

“Although this may seem personal against Harry and Meghan, it simply boils down to royal protocol,” he explained. “As non-working members of the royal family, it means that they can’t use the word royal in any of their work moving forward.”

The couple’s new roles, announced by Buckingham Palace in January, mean they will no longer use their HRH titles, will no longer represent Her Majesty and will no longer receive public funds for royal duties, although they continue to receive funds from Harry’s father, Prince Charles.

Harry and Meghan, who are currently living in Canada with their infant son, Archie, will also spend the majority of their time in North America, according to Buckingham Palace.

In recent weeks the Duke and Duchess of Sussex traveled to Miami to attend an event hosted by JPMorgan, the U.S.-headquartered global financial services firm, where they rubbed shoulders with billionaires and celebrities.

The couple, who are planning to close their Buckingham Palace office, also traveled to San Francisco and visited Stanford University last week for a brainstorm session and meetings with professors and academics as they lay the groundwork for their new charitable foundation, a source close to the Sussexes confirmed to ABC News.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

To stop the novel coronavirus from spreading, ‘We need to act quickly,’ WHO says

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

iStock(NEW YORK) — In a rapid development, Iranian authorities reported 18 cases of novel coronavirus and four deaths over the course of two days, the World Health Organization detailed at a Friday news conference. Lebanon also reported its first coronavirus case Friday, in a traveler from Iran, WHO officials said.

While the number of cases of novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19 is small, we’re “concerned about the number of cases with no clear link or travel to China,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO. Four deaths in such a short period raises concerns that there’s a wider number of infections in Iran.

“Our window of opportunity is narrowing,” Tedros said, though he stopped short of calling the Iranian cases a tipping point in the outbreak. “We need to act quickly before it closes completely.”

There have been at least 1,073 confirmed COVID-19 cases in 26 other countries, including the United States, and eight deaths reported outside of China, which brings the worldwide death toll to 2,247, according to the WHO, which has declared the outbreak a global health emergency.

In the United States, health officials announced a change to the way they count COVID-19 cases among Americans. Moving forward, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will separate cases among people repatriated on State Department charter flights from other cases.

So far, 21 Americans repatriated from either Wuhan, China, or from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, have tested positive for novel coronavirus. That group is considered at high risk for infection and health officials anticipate additional COVID-19 cases along those passengers.

Cases among repatriated Americans don’t reflect general transmission and risk in the U.S., Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases explained at a Friday news conference.

Thirteen other Americans have tested positive, including one new case confirmed by the CDC this week.

In total, at least 34 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with novel coronavirus, according to the CDC.

“This new virus represents a tremendous public health threat,” Messonnier said.

While there is no indication of community-wide transmission of novel coronavirus in the United States, there is “still the possibility in the future that this is going to spread,” she added.

In China, hundreds of inmates have been infected with the novel coronavirus as the outbreak spreads to prisons across the country.

He Ping, an official at China’s Ministry of Justice, told reporters at a daily briefing Friday that officials have been fired after more than 500 cases of the newly discovered virus were diagnosed in five prisons across three Chinese provinces, including Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak. No deaths have been reported, he said.

The first cases of the new coronavirus emerged in December in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province. Chinese authorities have since placed the city under lockdown, but containment of the illness remains a struggle.

As of Friday, China’s National Health Commission said it had received 75,465 reports of confirmed cases and 2,236 deaths on the Chinese mainland. An additional 102 confirmed infections have been reported in the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao as well as Taiwan, with two deaths in Hong Kong and one in Taiwan.

China saw a significant spike in cases last week as the Health Commission of Hubei Province began counting cases without waiting for laboratory tests. But on Thursday, it went back to recording only lab-confirmed positive cases and subtracted some cases where the lab results returned negative.

“We’re glad that China has come back to that kind of counting,” said Tedos, noting that the problem with clinically confirmed diagnoses is that it’s not always clear whether clinically diagnosed patients have tested positive for the virus. Given the high number of cases in Wuhan, it’s likely that they made the change temporarily because there weren’t enough tests to meet the demand, he explained.

COVID-19 causes symptoms similar to pneumonia, ranging from the mild, such as a slight cough, to the more severe, including fever and difficulty breathing, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no vaccine yet for the virus.

A cruise ship quarantined in Japanese waters is the largest center of infection outside China.

The Diamond Princess docked at the Japanese port of Yokohama on Feb. 3 and was placed under quarantine two days later, as passengers and crew tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, more than 600 people on board have been infected with the disease and two have died, according to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

All those aboard the vessel who were infected have been brought ashore for treatment, while the rest were confined to their rooms until the quarantine period ends. Passengers who have tested negative for COVID-19 have been disembarking the ship since Wednesday.

Princess Cruises, which operates the cruise ship, has canceled all Diamond Princess voyages through April 20 due to the “prolonged quarantine period.” The cruise line is offering a full refund to all 2,666 guests, more than 400 of whom were from the United States.

The U.S. government evacuated more than 300 American passengers on two charter flights Monday, including 14 who had tested positive for the new coronavirus before takeoff. Roughly 60 Americans, some who were hospitalized and others who opted to stay on the ship, remain in Japan.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

To stop the novel coronavirus from spreading, ‘We need to act quickly,’ WHO says

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

iStock(NEW YORK) — In a rapid development, Iranian authorities reported 18 cases of novel coronavirus and four deaths over the course of two days, the World Health Organization detailed at a Friday news conference. Lebanon also reported its first coronavirus case Friday, in a traveler from Iran, WHO officials said.

While the number of cases of novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19 is small, we’re “concerned about the number of cases with no clear link or travel to China,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO. Four deaths in such a short period raises concerns that there’s a wider number of infections in Iran.

“Our window of opportunity is narrowing,” Tedros said, though he stopped short of calling the Iranian cases a tipping point in the outbreak. “We need to act quickly before it closes completely.”

There have been at least 1,073 confirmed COVID-19 cases in 26 other countries, including the United States, and eight deaths reported outside of China, which brings the worldwide death toll to 2,247, according to the WHO, which has declared the outbreak a global health emergency.

In the United States, health officials announced a change to the way they count COVID-19 cases among Americans. Moving forward, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will separate cases among people repatriated on State Department charter flights from other cases.

So far, 21 Americans repatriated from either Wuhan, China, or from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, have tested positive for novel coronavirus. That group is considered at high risk for infection and health officials anticipate additional COVID-19 cases along those passengers.

Cases among repatriated Americans don’t reflect general transmission and risk in the U.S., Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases explained at a Friday news conference.

Thirteen other Americans have tested positive, including one new case confirmed by the CDC this week.

In total, at least 34 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with novel coronavirus, according to the CDC.

“This new virus represents a tremendous public health threat,” Messonnier said.

While there is no indication of community-wide transmission of novel coronavirus in the United States, there is “still the possibility in the future that this is going to spread,” she added.

In China, hundreds of inmates have been infected with the novel coronavirus as the outbreak spreads to prisons across the country.

He Ping, an official at China’s Ministry of Justice, told reporters at a daily briefing Friday that officials have been fired after more than 500 cases of the newly discovered virus were diagnosed in five prisons across three Chinese provinces, including Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak. No deaths have been reported, he said.

The first cases of the new coronavirus emerged in December in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province. Chinese authorities have since placed the city under lockdown, but containment of the illness remains a struggle.

As of Friday, China’s National Health Commission said it had received 75,465 reports of confirmed cases and 2,236 deaths on the Chinese mainland. An additional 102 confirmed infections have been reported in the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao as well as Taiwan, with two deaths in Hong Kong and one in Taiwan.

China saw a significant spike in cases last week as the Health Commission of Hubei Province began counting cases without waiting for laboratory tests. But on Thursday, it went back to recording only lab-confirmed positive cases and subtracted some cases where the lab results returned negative.

“We’re glad that China has come back to that kind of counting,” said Tedos, noting that the problem with clinically confirmed diagnoses is that it’s not always clear whether clinically diagnosed patients have tested positive for the virus. Given the high number of cases in Wuhan, it’s likely that they made the change temporarily because there weren’t enough tests to meet the demand, he explained.

COVID-19 causes symptoms similar to pneumonia, ranging from the mild, such as a slight cough, to the more severe, including fever and difficulty breathing, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no vaccine yet for the virus.

A cruise ship quarantined in Japanese waters is the largest center of infection outside China.

The Diamond Princess docked at the Japanese port of Yokohama on Feb. 3 and was placed under quarantine two days later, as passengers and crew tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, more than 600 people on board have been infected with the disease and two have died, according to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

All those aboard the vessel who were infected have been brought ashore for treatment, while the rest were confined to their rooms until the quarantine period ends. Passengers who have tested negative for COVID-19 have been disembarking the ship since Wednesday.

Princess Cruises, which operates the cruise ship, has canceled all Diamond Princess voyages through April 20 due to the “prolonged quarantine period.” The cruise line is offering a full refund to all 2,666 guests, more than 400 of whom were from the United States.

The U.S. government evacuated more than 300 American passengers on two charter flights Monday, including 14 who had tested positive for the new coronavirus before takeoff. Roughly 60 Americans, some who were hospitalized and others who opted to stay on the ship, remain in Japan.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Agreement to reduce violence in Afghanistan set to begin, leading way for US-Taliban deal

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

KeithBinns/iStock(WASHINGTON) — An agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban to reduce violence in Afghanistan will begin Friday at midnight local time, according to U.S., Afghan and Taliban officials.

If the seven-day truce is deemed successful, the two sides plan to sign a historic agreement on Feb. 29, where U.S. troops would begin a phased withdrawal and the Taliban would sit down with other Afghans for national peace talks and would commit to keeping Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists.

That safe haven provided to the al Qaeda operatives responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks is what brought U.S. forces to Afghanistan more than 18 years ago. But while the deal could mean an end to that war and the large U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, critics say the U.S. is agreeing to withdraw in exchange for Taliban promises the militant group has no interest or ability to keep.

The seven-day deal applies nationwide and includes security forces of the Afghan government, which is supported by the U.S., but rejected by the Taliban. It is “very specific,” according to a senior administration official, including prohibiting roadside bombs, suicide bombs and rocket attacks.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had been calling for a nationwide ceasefire before any final deal, but he appeared to be on board with this “reduction in violence” instead, expressing support after a call with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week.

“Challenges remain, but the progress made in Doha provides hope and represents a real opportunity. The United States calls on all Afghans to seize this moment,” Pompeo said in a statement Friday.

Doha, Qatar, has played host to several intense rounds of negotiations between the U.S. and Taliban, beginning in summer 2018. Chief U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad is expected to sign a final agreement with a Taliban counterpart, according to a senior State Department official.

The agreement to reduce violence is not a full ceasefire, and a senior administration official warned last Friday they expect there to be “spoilers… who benefit from the status quo” and will conduct attacks. But the U.S. military will monitor the levels of violence and use a hotline directly to the militant group, as well as the Afghan government, to raise any violations or other issues.

While Ghani’s government called for a complete ceasefire, the Taliban had refused because they say their greatest leverage is in their fighting force, and anything to halt that, perhaps losing some fighters, would weaken them at the negotiating table.

The U.S. seemed to cave to that. President Donald Trump initially called off talks in September after a U.S. soldier was killed in a Taliban attack, although it also came after he invited the militant group to Camp David and then rescinded the invitation. But he later gave Khalilzad permission to negotiate again and required a reduction in violence before a final deal could be signed.

Many of the specifics of that final U.S.-Taliban deal, to be signed on Feb. 29, are still not publicly known, including how many U.S. troops will leave, when, under what conditions, and whether any can be left behind, including counter-terrorism forces.

Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said Friday there would be no foreign forces left in the country — long a Taliban goal. The senior administration official who briefed reporters last Friday left the door open to the agreement ultimately ending with no U.S. troops in Afghanistan at all, but wouldn’t say what happens in the short-term: “Having a military presence in Afghanistan is not an end in itself for the United States. … What’s important is whether there are conditions in Afghanistan that necessitate a presence … and that depends on whether the Talibs deliver” on their commitments.

Those commitments are to joining Afghan national peace talks and to barring terrorists from any safe haven in the country — “no hosting, no presence, no training, no recruitment, no fundraising,” the official said, which has been the top U.S. priority over 18 years after al Qaeda operatives used the country to launch the Sept. 11 attacks.

Critics remain skeptical that the militant group can fulfill that promise, but the official said the U.S. would have “monitoring and verification” to ensure they do.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Agreement to reduce violence in Afghanistan set to begin, leading way for US-Taliban deal

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

KeithBinns/iStock(WASHINGTON) — An agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban to reduce violence in Afghanistan will begin Friday at midnight local time, according to U.S., Afghan and Taliban officials.

If the seven-day truce is deemed successful, the two sides plan to sign a historic agreement on Feb. 29, where U.S. troops would begin a phased withdrawal and the Taliban would sit down with other Afghans for national peace talks and would commit to keeping Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists.

That safe haven provided to the al Qaeda operatives responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks is what brought U.S. forces to Afghanistan more than 18 years ago. But while the deal could mean an end to that war and the large U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, critics say the U.S. is agreeing to withdraw in exchange for Taliban promises the militant group has no interest or ability to keep.

The seven-day deal applies nationwide and includes security forces of the Afghan government, which is supported by the U.S., but rejected by the Taliban. It is “very specific,” according to a senior administration official, including prohibiting roadside bombs, suicide bombs and rocket attacks.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had been calling for a nationwide ceasefire before any final deal, but he appeared to be on board with this “reduction in violence” instead, expressing support after a call with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week.

“Challenges remain, but the progress made in Doha provides hope and represents a real opportunity. The United States calls on all Afghans to seize this moment,” Pompeo said in a statement Friday.

Doha, Qatar, has played host to several intense rounds of negotiations between the U.S. and Taliban, beginning in summer 2018. Chief U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad is expected to sign a final agreement with a Taliban counterpart, according to a senior State Department official.

The agreement to reduce violence is not a full ceasefire, and a senior administration official warned last Friday they expect there to be “spoilers… who benefit from the status quo” and will conduct attacks. But the U.S. military will monitor the levels of violence and use a hotline directly to the militant group, as well as the Afghan government, to raise any violations or other issues.

While Ghani’s government called for a complete ceasefire, the Taliban had refused because they say their greatest leverage is in their fighting force, and anything to halt that, perhaps losing some fighters, would weaken them at the negotiating table.

The U.S. seemed to cave to that. President Donald Trump initially called off talks in September after a U.S. soldier was killed in a Taliban attack, although it also came after he invited the militant group to Camp David and then rescinded the invitation. But he later gave Khalilzad permission to negotiate again and required a reduction in violence before a final deal could be signed.

Many of the specifics of that final U.S.-Taliban deal, to be signed on Feb. 29, are still not publicly known, including how many U.S. troops will leave, when, under what conditions, and whether any can be left behind, including counter-terrorism forces.

Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said Friday there would be no foreign forces left in the country — long a Taliban goal. The senior administration official who briefed reporters last Friday left the door open to the agreement ultimately ending with no U.S. troops in Afghanistan at all, but wouldn’t say what happens in the short-term: “Having a military presence in Afghanistan is not an end in itself for the United States. … What’s important is whether there are conditions in Afghanistan that necessitate a presence … and that depends on whether the Talibs deliver” on their commitments.

Those commitments are to joining Afghan national peace talks and to barring terrorists from any safe haven in the country — “no hosting, no presence, no training, no recruitment, no fundraising,” the official said, which has been the top U.S. priority over 18 years after al Qaeda operatives used the country to launch the Sept. 11 attacks.

Critics remain skeptical that the militant group can fulfill that promise, but the official said the U.S. would have “monitoring and verification” to ensure they do.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Hysteria over coronavirus sparks violent protests in Ukraine

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

narvikk/iStock(NEW YORK) — Hysteria over the novel coronavirus epidemic has sparked violent protests in Ukraine, fueled by panic and disinformation around the outbreak — even though the country has no confirmed cases of the virus.

Protests and violent clashes with police broke out in several places Thursday, as Ukraine’s authorities blamed the disorder on the spread of misinformation on social media and suggested it may have been part of a deliberate campaign targeting the country.

The trouble began as a plane carrying evacuees from China landed in Ukraine on Thursday. In a village in central Ukraine, where the evacuees were due to be taken to a health spa to be quarantined, local people began attacking police and tried to blockade the convoy carrying the evacuees.

Residents at the village of Novi Sanzhary set alight tires and barricaded the road to the spa, before attacking the convoy with the evacuees onboard. Windows on some of the buses were smashed.

Hundreds of helmeted riot officers battled with the protesters and used armored vehicles to clear tractors from the road. The fighting carried on late into the night, with 24 people arrested, police said. Nine police offices and one civilian were injured.

In other towns, people blockaded entries to local hospitals, fearing the evacuees might be diverted to them.
The disorder occurred as a wave of speculation online spread suggesting that the first cases of the virus may have arrived in Ukraine, including what appeared to be a deliberate disinformation campaign.

Namely, an email claiming to be from the Ukraine health ministry asserted that Ukraine now had five confirmed cases of the virus.

In reality, the email, which was sent to the ministry’s entire contact list, was fake, Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, said in a statement. The email had come from outside the country, the agency said, and the agency was investigating who was behind it.

There are no confirmed cases of the virus in Ukraine. The only two Ukrainians to be infected were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise liner in Japan and have already now recovered.

Authorities were forced to counter the misinformation. Ukraine’s Center of Public Health published a message warning that the reports of infections were fake and asked the media not to spread it.

“Attention! The reports about five confirmed cases of COVID-19 coronavirus in Ukraine are UNTRUE,” the Center for Public Health said in a statement, referring to the virus by its scientific name. “We urge the media not to disseminate this information and to inform the press service of the Health Ministry of Ukraine of the sender of this information upon receipt of the letter.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy issued a statement urging calm and that there was no public health risk. The country’s health minister, Zoryana Skaletska, promised on Thursday to spend the two-week quarantine period with the evacuees to prove there was no danger.

The evacuees — 45 Ukrainians, 27 Argentinians and citizens from several other South American countries, as well as 22 crew members and doctors — were flown to Ukraine from China’s Hubei Province. All of them have already tested negative for the virus, authorities said, but are to be held in quarantine to ensure they aren’t carrying it.

It was unclear where the fake email originated from or how significant its role was in fueling the disorder, but on Friday, Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk said he believed the disorder was the result of a deliberate campaign. In a country that is frequently the victim of Russian disinformation campaigns and major cyber attacks, that has meant some in Ukraine quickly turned their suspicions towards Moscow.

“Those events which happened yesterday, in my opinion, are the consequences also of the information war that is continuing against our country both inside and from without,” Honcharuk, who was dispatched to Novi Sanzhary to deal with the rioting, told Ukraine’s parliament on Friday. In Ukraine, “information war” most often refers to efforts by Russia to destabilize the country, alongside its military actions in eastern Ukraine.

Zelenskiy, however, on Friday appeared to lay the blame on those giving in to panic.

“Frankly speaking, we constantly say that Ukraine is Europe. Yesterday in several episodes, it seemed more like we are Europe of the Middle Ages,” Zelenskiy said.

“Let’s not forget that we are, all the same, people and not…,” he said, saying he didn’t want to use a bad word.

Ukraine’s security service in its statement said it had already established the email had been sent from a foreign provider and that the sender’s address had been altered.

Misinformation around the novel coronavirus has boomed around the world since outbreak began. In Ukraine, where trust in the health system and authorities is weak, false reports about the virus quickly spread online.

Besides the clashes in Novi Sanzhary, people also sought to block access to a hospital in the western Lviv region, burning cars and tires to create a roadblock. In Ternopil, another western city, a crowd gathered with a priest outside a health spa to pray that Ukrainians returning from China would not be brought there.

There are around 1,300 confirmed cases of the virus outside China, which has registered around 75,600 within its borders. The total death toll for the virus is 2,247. Chinese health authorities on Thursday reported a drop in the number of new infections, though there was a jump in cases in South Korea, where they rose by a hundred in a single day to reach 204.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Hysteria over coronavirus sparks violent protests in Ukraine

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

narvikk/iStock(NEW YORK) — Hysteria over the novel coronavirus epidemic has sparked violent protests in Ukraine, fueled by panic and disinformation around the outbreak — even though the country has no confirmed cases of the virus.

Protests and violent clashes with police broke out in several places Thursday, as Ukraine’s authorities blamed the disorder on the spread of misinformation on social media and suggested it may have been part of a deliberate campaign targeting the country.

The trouble began as a plane carrying evacuees from China landed in Ukraine on Thursday. In a village in central Ukraine, where the evacuees were due to be taken to a health spa to be quarantined, local people began attacking police and tried to blockade the convoy carrying the evacuees.

Residents at the village of Novi Sanzhary set alight tires and barricaded the road to the spa, before attacking the convoy with the evacuees onboard. Windows on some of the buses were smashed.

Hundreds of helmeted riot officers battled with the protesters and used armored vehicles to clear tractors from the road. The fighting carried on late into the night, with 24 people arrested, police said. Nine police offices and one civilian were injured.

In other towns, people blockaded entries to local hospitals, fearing the evacuees might be diverted to them.
The disorder occurred as a wave of speculation online spread suggesting that the first cases of the virus may have arrived in Ukraine, including what appeared to be a deliberate disinformation campaign.

Namely, an email claiming to be from the Ukraine health ministry asserted that Ukraine now had five confirmed cases of the virus.

In reality, the email, which was sent to the ministry’s entire contact list, was fake, Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, said in a statement. The email had come from outside the country, the agency said, and the agency was investigating who was behind it.

There are no confirmed cases of the virus in Ukraine. The only two Ukrainians to be infected were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise liner in Japan and have already now recovered.

Authorities were forced to counter the misinformation. Ukraine’s Center of Public Health published a message warning that the reports of infections were fake and asked the media not to spread it.

“Attention! The reports about five confirmed cases of COVID-19 coronavirus in Ukraine are UNTRUE,” the Center for Public Health said in a statement, referring to the virus by its scientific name. “We urge the media not to disseminate this information and to inform the press service of the Health Ministry of Ukraine of the sender of this information upon receipt of the letter.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy issued a statement urging calm and that there was no public health risk. The country’s health minister, Zoryana Skaletska, promised on Thursday to spend the two-week quarantine period with the evacuees to prove there was no danger.

The evacuees — 45 Ukrainians, 27 Argentinians and citizens from several other South American countries, as well as 22 crew members and doctors — were flown to Ukraine from China’s Hubei Province. All of them have already tested negative for the virus, authorities said, but are to be held in quarantine to ensure they aren’t carrying it.

It was unclear where the fake email originated from or how significant its role was in fueling the disorder, but on Friday, Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk said he believed the disorder was the result of a deliberate campaign. In a country that is frequently the victim of Russian disinformation campaigns and major cyber attacks, that has meant some in Ukraine quickly turned their suspicions towards Moscow.

“Those events which happened yesterday, in my opinion, are the consequences also of the information war that is continuing against our country both inside and from without,” Honcharuk, who was dispatched to Novi Sanzhary to deal with the rioting, told Ukraine’s parliament on Friday. In Ukraine, “information war” most often refers to efforts by Russia to destabilize the country, alongside its military actions in eastern Ukraine.

Zelenskiy, however, on Friday appeared to lay the blame on those giving in to panic.

“Frankly speaking, we constantly say that Ukraine is Europe. Yesterday in several episodes, it seemed more like we are Europe of the Middle Ages,” Zelenskiy said.

“Let’s not forget that we are, all the same, people and not…,” he said, saying he didn’t want to use a bad word.

Ukraine’s security service in its statement said it had already established the email had been sent from a foreign provider and that the sender’s address had been altered.

Misinformation around the novel coronavirus has boomed around the world since outbreak began. In Ukraine, where trust in the health system and authorities is weak, false reports about the virus quickly spread online.

Besides the clashes in Novi Sanzhary, people also sought to block access to a hospital in the western Lviv region, burning cars and tires to create a roadblock. In Ternopil, another western city, a crowd gathered with a priest outside a health spa to pray that Ukrainians returning from China would not be brought there.

There are around 1,300 confirmed cases of the virus outside China, which has registered around 75,600 within its borders. The total death toll for the virus is 2,247. Chinese health authorities on Thursday reported a drop in the number of new infections, though there was a jump in cases in South Korea, where they rose by a hundred in a single day to reach 204.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.