World

North Korea calls Biden a 'rabid dog' after campaign ad implies Kim's a 'tyrant'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- After a campaign ad for Former Vice President Joe Biden implied Kim Jong Un was a "tyrant," North Korean state media responded on Thursday by blasting the 2020 Democratic candidate.

The commentary called Biden a "rabid dog" and advocated that rabid dogs "can hurt lots of people" and "must be beaten to death with a stick."

"Anyone who dare slanders the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK can never spare the DPRK's merciless punishment," said the commentary, which was translated by North Korea's news agency. Biden "will be made to see even in a grave what horrible consequences will be brought about by his thoughtless utterances. Rabid dogs like Biden can hurt lots of people if they are allowed to run about. They must be beaten to death with a stick before it is too late."

The ad for Biden said, in part: "We live in the most dangerous moment in a generation. Our world, set on edge by an erratic, unstable president. Dictators and tyrants are praised -- our allies, pushed aside." Kim's photo appears at the mention of the word "tyrants."

The Biden campaign hit back, calling Kim a "repugnant dictator," arguing that sharp words from North Korea highlight the strength of their candidate.

Biden's team also took a thinly veiled shot at President Donald Trump, who's suggested that he and Kim "fell in love" after exchanging written letters.

"It's becoming more and more obvious that repugnant dictators, as well as those who admire and 'love' them, find Joe Biden threatening. That's because he'd restore American leadership in the world on day one by putting our security, interests, and values at the heart of our foreign policy," Andrew Bates, a Biden spokesperson, told ABC News in a statement.

On the trail, Biden often discusses the North Korean leader while criticizing Trump for doing harm to perceptions of the U.S. on the world stage.

"We don't have a foreign policy. We are embracing thugs like Putin and Kim Jong Un. This president's talking about love letters with a butcher," Biden said on Monday, adding, in a clear reference to Kim, "This guy had his uncle's brains blown out sitting across the table, his brother assassinated in an airport. This is a guy who has virtually no social redeeming value."

The former vice president in recent weeks has intensified his messaging of experience on the trail, arguing his four-plus decades of foreign policy credentials set him apart from a growing, rather than shrinking, 2020 Democratic primary field.

"There's going to be no opportunity for on-the-job training," Biden told a crowd in California on Thursday.

Biden's team is pushing the former vice president's foreign policy message against Trump -- especially as the president faces an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives.

An aide to the Biden campaign told ABC News that effort will include rolling out 133 endorsements for Biden from former national security officials who served across seven administrations.

This is not the first war of words between Biden and North Korea's state media, which has previously called him a "low IQ idiot" and warned that his "candidacy should not carry high expectations." Those remarks came after Biden criticized Kim at a rally in Philadelphia in May.

"No wonder, even the Americans call him '1% Biden' with low I.Q., 'mad Biden,' and 'Biden not awakened from a sleep,'" the news agency said Thursday.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


$20M set aside for Venice flooding, state of emergency declared

mammuth/iStock(ROME) -- Italy's government declared a state of emergency on Thursday after floodwaters ravaged Venice, causing inestimable damage to the centuries-old city.

Twenty million euros (approximately $22 million, U.S.) is being set aside in response, reported Italian press agency ANSA.

Venice saw its worst flood in 50 years on Tuesday, close to midnight, after floodwaters reached over 73 inches.

As tourists posted selfies on social media with the flooded streets as backdrop, locals were left to deal with incalculable water damage to their businesses, homes and their city’s world-famous monuments.

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte arrived in Venice on Wednesday evening to assess the flooding damage.

Those affected by the flood can apply for 5,000 euros (about $5,500 U.S. dollars) in initial compensation, while business can get up to 20,000 euros (approximately $22,000 in U.S. dollars), the prime minster announced via a Facebook post on Thursday.

Yet angry Venetian residents are demanding to know why such severe flooding even happened.

In 2018, damage to the nearly 1,000-year-old St. Mark’s Basilica, was estimated to cost 2.2 million euros (about $2.4 million, U.S.) to repair.

“The government is sympathetic and [at] present, no one will be alone,” the prime minister said on Twitter.

"Venice is on its knees. The Basilica of Saint Mark has suffered grave damage as has the whole city and the islands," he tweeted.

Flooding in Venice is far from unusual, with parts of the city regularly underwater, especially between fall and spring when bad weather exacerbates the threat already posed by high tides.

The frequency, however, has increased in recent years. In Venice, flooding has increased from about 10 cases in the first half of the 20th century, to over 40 cases in the second half and up to almost 60 cases in the last five years, according to the Mose website, Venice’s flood defense program under the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport.

“Extreme events are no longer remote probabilities, but mathematical certainties,” Mose wrote on its website. The cause: a combination of Venice sinking due to soil erosion and depletion of ground water as well as a rise in sea level.

In 1966, following Venice’s worst flood in history, the Italian government asked engineers to draw up flood defense plans. The project began in 2003 and was due to be finished by 2011, but costs and corruption delayed the project.

According to a Facebook post by Italian politican Andrea Zanoni, flooding occured minutes after several officials rejected "amendments to counter climate change."

Meanwhile, the schools in Venice have been closed, and locals have begun cleanup.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Hillary Clinton meets Duchess Meghan, Archie in Windsor

NataliaCatalina/iStock(LONDON) -- Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, had a chance to thank Hillary Clinton for the supportive comments she's made about her recently.

The duchess and the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate had a private meeting Tuesday at Frogmore Cottage, Meghan and Prince Harry's home in Windsor, according to a Buckingham Palace spokesperson.

Although Prince Harry was not at the meeting, Clinton, a grandmother of three, did get to meet Archie, Harry and Meghan's 6-month-old son.

Sara Latham, the Sussexes' press secretary, who previously worked for Clinton, was also at what was described by Buckingham Palace as a "friendly, informal meeting."

Meghan's meeting with the former secretary of state was the first time the two had met. Clinton is currently on a book tour for The Book of Gutsy Women, a book she wrote with her daughter, Chelsea.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, Clinton appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live and spoke to host Emma Barnett about Meghan's self-described struggle to live in the spotlight and deal with what she has described as "unfair" treatment by some parts of the British press.

"I feel as a mother I just want to put my arms around her. Oh my God, I want to hug her," said the former first lady and U.S. senator. "I want to tell her to hang in there. Don't let those bad guys get you down. Keep going. Do what you think is right."

"I have a great feeling toward and about her because it's one thing to be told what it will be like when you step onto the biggest stage with the brightest spotlight ... and yet it still is really hard to imagine," Clinton said. "It takes some getting used to, to have your every move scrutinized and analyzed and frankly things made up about."

"And I really wish her and her husband the very best because they are struggling to have a life of meaning and integrity on their own terms," she continued. "And that's hard enough if you're just walking around in today's world, but if you're on that big a platform, it's really difficult."

Clinton said she doesn't think "there's any doubt" Meghan's race and gender have played a role in how she has been treated by the media and the public. She also described the union of Harry and Meghan, who wed last year, as a "true love story."

"You know, people don't choose who they fall in love with, they fall in love. She is an amazing young woman. She has an incredible life story. She has stood up for herself. She has made her own way in the world," Clinton said. "And then she falls in love and he falls in love with her and everybody should be celebrating that because it is a true love story. You can just look at them and see that."

Meghan, who has also met privately with former first lady Michelle Obama, publicly spoke about her difficulties with parts of the British press in the recent documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey.

"The biggest thing that I know is that I never thought that this would be easy but I thought it would be fair," she said. "And that’s the part that’s really hard to reconcile but, I don’t know, just take each day as it comes."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Plans for Notre Dame spire reconstruction cause a fight among officials

Erika Parfenova/iStock(PARIS) -- The debate over the reconstruction of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris continues.

Since the April fire that burnt down the roof of Paris' most beloved cathedral, causing the collapse of the 800 year-old spire, debates on its reconstruction have opposed France's conservatives and modernists.

Emotions ran high Wednesday when Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, who was chosen by President Emmanuel Macron to lead the restoration, asked the chief architect of the project, Philippe Villeneuve, to "shut his trap" during a session of the National Assembly Committee.

Villeneuve is in favor of building a spire identical to the one that was lost, which would also help keep to a tight deadline, he said, but Georgelin advocates for a consultation on the spire's fate.

Two days after the fire at Notre Dame, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced the organization of an international architectural contest for the spire's reconstruction. Several projects for modern spires have already been conceived and published by artists and architects from all over the world.

But for some, reconstructing Notre Dame is not up to competition but ought to be an enterprise faithful to the spire's original look. Villeneuve, who has been the chief architect of the cathedral's restoration since 2013, expressed this wish in the local newspaper Le Figaro.

Georgelin, who was in front of French lawmakers to discuss progress of the operations, asked the architect that he "let us advance in wisdom so that we can calmly make the best choice for Notre Dame, for Paris, for the world." The final decision should be made by "mid-2021," Georgelin announced.

The general expressed worries for the winter season, a "critical moment" for the scaffolding over Notre Dame's roof, which is still in danger of collapsing under a strong wind. A team of steeplejacks has been working on taking down the scaffolding piece by piece, which should be achieved by early summer 2020.

He also confirms to lawmakers the goal of five years set by Macron for the reconstruction, saying that "if there is no rigorous demonstration that it can be achieved in five years, there is however nothing to say that we cannot achieve it."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Australia’s Melbourne Zoo welcomes first baby koala in eight years

nattanan726/iStock(MELBOURNE, Australia) -- The first koala to be born at Australia’s Melbourne Zoo in more than eight years has just started to peek out from its mother's pouch -- and the footage captured by zookeepers is every bit as adorable as you’d expect.

In video released by the wildlife park, the as-yet-unnamed 5-month-old joey is seen tucked inside its mom’s pouch, occasionally peeping out to approach the camera.

Maddy Jamieson, Melbourne Zoo's Australian Bush Keeper, said that first-time koala mother Karri and her offspring are doing well at this "very exciting" time.

"It's our first joey in about eight years with mom Karri being the last joey that we had here," she said. "We've started to the baby pop its head out of the pouch, which is really, really cool. And we've started to see it get its little arms out and also have a little bit if a sniff of the gum."

The baby, whose gender is not yet known, has recently started taking an interest in the world outside of its mom’s pouch, where joeys often stay safely inside for the majority of their first year of life.

The marsupials have been listed as a vulnerable species in parts of Australia, and conservationists fear that hundreds have recently perished in wildfires that have razed prime habitat on the country’s east coast.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Cirque du Soleil founder detained for growing cannabis on private island

Yarygin/iStock(LONDON) — Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberte, co-founder of global circus company Cirque du Soleil, is being investigated for growing cannabis on his private island in French Polynesia.

Laliberte, 60, turned himself in to police and was subsequently detained for questioning in the territory's capital of Papeete, located on the island of Tahiti.

Laliberte, who surrendered on Tuesday, was being held in custody as part of a drug trafficking investigation, a spokesperson for the French Polynesian national police force told ABC News.

Investigators recently detained a man on suspicion of drug possession and found photos on his cellphone purportedly showing Laliberte's marijuana plantation, according to the police spokesperson.

Laliberte's company, Lune Rouge, confirmed in a statement Wednesday that he is being investigated "for alleged complicity in cultivation, possession and use of cannabis."

The company described Laliberte as a "medical cannabis user" who grows the plant "for his personal use only" at his estate on the remote, tiny atoll of Nuketepipi in the South Pacific Ocean, which forms part of the Tuamotu archipelago in French Polynesia.

The Center of Specialized Consultations in Alcoholics and Drug Addiction, a specialized addiction service in French Polynesia that's under the supervision of the health ministry, says on its website that growing cannabis, "even for personal consumption," is illegal.

The entrepreneur, who is best known for co-founding Cirque du Soleil in Quebec in 1984, appeared in court in Papeete on Wednesday and left the courthouse that afternoon "without any conditions," according to Lune Rouge. He has not been charged with drug trafficking.

"Mr. Guy Laliberte categorically denies and dissociates himself completely from any rumors implicating him in the sale or the traffic of controlled substances," his company said in a statement.

In a statement released through his company later Wednesday night, Laliberte said he "will continue to cooperate with the judicial authorities of French Polynesia." He added that the police officers have treated him "in a professional and respectful manner which is a bright spot in this misadventure."

"The disproportionate importance given to this matter, which is generally trivialized for someone in possession of several plants of cannabis for strictly personal use, greatly surprises me," Laliberte added.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Could court case unlock the mystery of Dubai’s missing princesses Latifa and Shamsa?

MBPROJEKT_Maciej_Bledowski/iStock(LONDON) — To the outside world, Princess Latifa of Dubai appeared to live a life of unbridled luxury. Whether it was skydiving over one of the world’s most scenic deserts or filming the exotic pets that ran free in her mother’s palace, she always appeared smiling, happy and carefree, at least on social media.

Yet in February 2018, her friend Tina Jauhiainen says she launched a daring escape from what activists call her “gilded cage” in Dubai with her help. Jauhiainen says they drove to Oman, met with Hervé Jaubert, a former French naval officer, and boarded a boat that set sail in the Indian Ocean.

The ship, however, was captured, Latifa was taken back to Dubai, and barring one photo-op, she has not appeared in public since her apparently failed escape attempt.

Activists campaigning for her release now fear for her life. They also say Latifa’s sister, Shamsa al Maktoum, attempted a similar escape in 2000, and has not been seen since.

But the women's whereabouts may become a mystery no longer: A controversial child custody battle involving one of the world’s richest and most secretive royal dynasties taking place this week, the activists say, could unlock the mystery behind Dubai’s missing princesses.

The court case

According to press accounts, Princess Haya -- Latifa's stepmother and the sixth wife of the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed -- has applied for a protective order to prevent one of her children from being forced into marriage, after fleeing the sheikhdom to London earlier this year.   Haya also reportedly applied for a non-molestation order for her two children who are with her in the U.K., and who cannot be named for legal reasons, at a court hearing in July. Under U.K. family law, a non-molestation order is designed to prevent individuals or their children from being abused. The circumstances surrounding this application are not yet reportable.

Sheikh Mohammed, who did not attend that court hearing, is reportedly seeking the return of his two children, who are minors and with Haya, to Dubai.

The sheikh and Princess Haya have hired two of the U.K.'s foremost divorce lawyers as their representatives in the case, which formally began earlier this week.

Sheikh Mohammed is being represented by Helen Ward, who represented Guy Ritchie in his divorce from Madonna, while Princess Haya's legal team is being led by Fiona Shackleton, who represented Prince Charles in his divorce from Princess Diana.

Yet human rights lawyers who say they are acting on behalf of Princess Latifa say they are hoping Princess Haya’s lawyers call Latifa and Shamsa as witnesses in the case, which, even if they did not appear, could shed new light on the whereabouts and well-being of the missing royals, the advocates say.

Life inside the palace

Marcus Essabri, Latifa and Shamsa’s cousin, knows first-hand what is was like to grow up inside one of the palaces of Dubai. Born female in Morocco and named Fatima, he spent much of his childhood in Paris. He now lives as a man in the United Kingdom.

Essabri travelled to the royal court at the age of 12 to live with his aunt, who married the Sheikh, in the mid-1980s.

He lived there for 2 1/2 years.

“Dubai was not as strict as it is now,” he told ABC News. “I was still allowed to go to a French school. Because I was young I had a little bit more freedom. I was able to go to the tennis club, to the hotels, but I always had to have somebody with me.”

He says he grew close to Shamsa and her older sister Maitha, who “spent a lot of time together as a family.”

“It was fun in some ways because we had everything that we wanted. But I wasn't happy because there was a lot of things I was not allowed to do also,” he said.

He says he was not allowed to bring friends to the palace for instance, and as he grew older he found life far more restrictive, and left for the U.K. He continued to visit, however, and although life was “very privileged,” visits from palace to palace meant life was “very much indoors.”

“There was hardly any freedom,” he said.

On Sept. 16, 1999, when Shamsa was 18, Essabri, who was still Fatima at the time, says he received a letter from Shamsa expressing her yearning to escape, but says he did not realize the situation was that dire.

Twenty years later, activists told Essabri what they believe happened to her, although the circumstances are under investigation.

On a visit to one of the Sheikh’s countryside estates in the U.K. in the year 2000 a person claiming to be Shamsa told British police that she fled the family and was allegedly recaptured by agents working for the Sheikh, according to The Guardian. The person reportedly claimed she had been forcefully returned to Dubai, and hasn’t been seen in public since.

And David Haigh and Essabri, who are part of the Free Latifa campaign, are hoping that his account could play a part in securing the release of his younger cousin, Latifa, who they believe has suffered a similar fate.

Princess Latifa

Tiina Jauhiainen, a Finnish national, says she grew close to Latifa after she was asked to give the princess capoeira classes in 2010.

“It was only after several months that I got to know her,” Jauhiainen told ABC News. “She's an extremely private person. She came across very reserved, shy. But it was only after we started skydiving together at the end of 2013 that I really became close friends with her. And then she opened up to me about her and her life.”

Latifa told Jauhiainen that she had tried to escape in 2000, but was recaptured and imprisoned, and tortured by the Dubai authorities during a 3 1/2 year period in prison, her friend told ABC News.

"It sounded like complete inhumane treatment. Now, when she told me about it, I started crying," she said.

Latifa herself addressed those claims in a video publicly released after her recapture in March 2018, saying she had been imprisoned for three years and tortured after the previous escape attempt.

When she was brought back home after the first attempt, Latifa had grown distrusting, quiet and insulated, and spent most of her time with animals, Jauhiainen said.

But in 2017, emboldened by their friendship, Jauhiainen says, Latifa approached her friend with a plan to escape. The initial plan, which was subsequently deemed too dangerous, involved Latifa scuba diving to reach an escape boat. Footage said to be of her practicing in an indoor swimming pool the Dubai palace was shared with ABC News.

But instead the pair enlisted the help of the former French military officer Jaubert and his boat, the Nostromo, and drove off through the Oman desert in late February 2018, Jauhiainen said. The selfie they took while driving away, the pair both smiling, stands as the last known picture of the princess not released by the Dubai government.

While sailing on the Indian Ocean, they were boarded by military wearing Indian uniforms, said Jauhiainen, who was along for the journey. David Haigh, the founder of the Free Latifa campaign, who had been in touch with the women throughout the escape attempt, says he received WhatsApp messages on March 4, 2018.

“Please help,” he says the last message read. “Please please there’s men outside I don’t know what’s happening.”

The pair hid together in the bathroom, before being dragged outside, Jauhiainen said.

“[Latifa] kept saying she was seeking political asylum,” she said. “There was machine guns pointing at us [from all] sides. And at that point, we were separated. I was placed on the floor. I found myself next to a pool of blood. So I was terrified.”

The women, along with Jaubert and three crew members, were taken back to the UAE and placed in jail. But after a few days, to her surprise, both Jauhiainen and Jaubert were released, Jauhiainen said.

A recording released on YouTube in the event of Latifa’s capture, in which she described the conditions she lived in and her reasons for escaping, brought international attention to the case, which Jauhiainen and Haigh say is why they believe she was released. The video has now been viewed over 4 million times.

The Dubai government has attempted to discredit these claims, suggesting that Haigh, who was imprisoned in Dubai on charges of alleged fraud and embezzlement while managing director of Leeds United soccer club was being funded by their regional rivals, Qatar. Haigh denies those allegations.  

Campaigning

Jauhiainen began campaigning for the princess’s release upon her return to Europe with Haigh, the founder of another organization: Detained International.

After her escape attempt, Latifa was not seen again until December 2018, when she appeared in the UAE in a photo op alongside Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland. Robinson was reportedly invited to see Latifa at that time by Princess Haya.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also released statements demanding answers from the Dubai government about Latifa’s whereabouts. The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is investigating the allegations that the princess was forcibly recaptured.   Dubai’s royal court issued a statement that month saying that they had received reports that a ransom had been demanded for Latifa when she left the country in February, and that she was then "safe in Dubai.”

The Sheikh’s lawyers declined to comment on the record on the allegations raised in this article.

"If an English judge is deciding whether it's safe to send two young children that are currently in England to the Middle East, to their father, then his past behavior to his other children is clearly going to be very important," Haigh told ABC News.

"For the first time in the last 18 months, [Latifa's] case is going to be looked at by a proper court in a proper jurisdiction in an open hearing.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


American teacher found dead in apartment after apparent robbery in Dominican Republic: Police

naruedom/iStock(CABARETE, Dominican Republic) -- An American teacher was found dead inside her apartment in the Dominican Republic following what appeared to be a robbery, local police said.

Patricia Ann Anton, 63, had her hands and feet tied when police found her in Cabarete, a town on the northern coast of the island nation, the National Police said in a statement on Tuesday.

An examination of her body determined that she died of strangulation, according to the statement.

Items including her phone, computer and television appeared to be stolen, police said.

Anton, whom police said was born in Italy but was an American citizen, was a teacher at 3 Mariposas Montessori, the school confirmed to ABC News.

"The children, parents, teachers and the community in general, are completely heart-broken over this loss. Patty was not only a colleague of mine, but she was also my mentor and one of my best friends," Sarah Ludwig-Ross, the founder and head of the school, told ABC News in a statement. "She was one of the most caring people I have ever met, always putting everyone else first."

Ludwig-Ross said Anton worked at 3 Mariposas Montessori for six years.

"She shared our belief that peace in the world can only come from getting close to and understanding people who are different from ourselves. ... Patty loved each and every one of our children just as if they were her own," Ludwig-Ross continued.

Anton also worked as the school's Montessori consultant.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told ABC News in a statement, "We can confirm the death of a U.S. citizen in November 2019 in the Dominican Republic."

"We offer our sincerest condolences to the family for their loss," the spokesperson said. "Out of respect for the family during this difficult time, we do not have additional information to provide."

When reached on Wednesday, local police declined to provide to ABC News any additional details on the case.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Rare tornado leaves 2 dead, trail of destruction in South African Midlands

clintspencer/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A rare tornado struck the KwaZulu Natal Midlands in South Africa on Tuesday, killing two people, injuring 20 more and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

The KwaZulu Natal Province, on the east coast of South Africa, has been battered by severe weather conditions and the South African Weather Service is warning that more torrential downpours are in store for the rest of the week.

The tornado touched down near the city of New Hanover, according to authorities.

"Two adults were unfortunately declared dead on the scene," paramedic Ross Campbell, from the medical response company ER24, told ABC News. "ER24 treated and transported nine patients for minor to moderate injuries to various hospitals in the area. Provincial medics treated and transported 11 others, bringing the total number of injuries on the scene to 20."

"An adult woman who had suffered serious injuries as a result of losing control of her vehicle during the storm was treated with Advanced Life Support interventions before being taken to Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg for further care," he added.

Campbell said many animals were reported to have been injured or killed in the area and power lines are also down.

"There is an extreme danger to life due to fast flowing rivers," the weather service said in a statement. "There is also a possibility of landslides and soil erosion along highly elevated areas which might lead to further disruption to traffic flow. Accumulated rainfall amounts for Thursday and Friday could exceed 100-150 mm [about 4 to 6 inches] in places over KwaZulu-Natal."

Tornadoes are not a regular occurrence in South Africa and the weather service said the strength of Tuesday night's twister has yet to be determined.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Prince Harry, Meghan to skip Christmas with Prince William, Kate and royal family

NataliaCatalina/iStock(LONDON) -- Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, will spend this Christmas, their first as parents to son Archie, apart from the rest of the royal family.

The duke and duchess will instead spend the Christmas holiday with Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland, a spokesperson for the Sussexes confirmed Wednesday.

It is not yet known where the U.K.-based Sussexes will spend Christmas with Ragland, who lives in Los Angeles.

Harry and Meghan's decision to skip spending the holiday at Queen Elizabeth’s 20,000-acre Sandringham home in Norfolk, England, has the queen's support, according to the spokesperson.

The duke and duchess have spent the last two Christmases at Sandringham, where Britain's royal family gathers for Christmas traditions that date back centuries.

Meghan was in 2017 the first fiancé in royal history to be invited by Queen Elizabeth to celebrate the Christmas holiday with the royal family at Sandringham. She and Harry stayed with Prince William and Kate at their Anmer Hall home in nearby Norfolk for the three-day-long celebration that is the royals' Christmas tradition.

Last year Meghan was pregnant with Archie when she spent her first Christmas as a member of the royal family at Sandringham.

William and Kate, the parents of Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, have sometimes in the past opted out of the royals' Christmas dinner so they can enjoy Christmas evening with Kate's family. In-laws are not typically invited to the royals' Christmas celebrations.

Harry and Meghan's decision to spend the holiday with Ragland is understandable -- she and Meghan are close and it will be Ragland's first Christmas as a grandmother -- but it is also likely to further flame the rumors of a divide between Harry and Meghan and other members of the royal family.

The duke and duchess were candid in a recent documentary about the struggles they face living their lives in the public eye.

Harry also specifically addressed in the documentary rumors of a rift between him and William, his older brother and only sibling.

"Part of this role and part of this job and this family being under the pressure that it's under, inevitably stuff happens," Harry said in Harry and Meghan: An African Journey. "But look we’re brothers. We’ll always be brothers."

"We’re certainly on different paths at the moment but I will always be there for him and as I know he’ll always be there for me," Harry added. "We don’t see each other as much as we used to because we’re so busy but I love him dearly."

"The majority of the stuff is created out of nothing but as brothers it’s just as I said, you have good days, you have bad days," he said.

Since Harry and Meghan's wedding last year, the two brothers have split their royal households, divided their charitable foundations and lost their status as neighbors when Harry and Meghan moved from Kensington Palace to Frogmore Cottage.

Harry and William and Meghan and Kate, once known as the "royal fab four," made their first appearances together in recent weeks last weekend for Remembrance Sunday, a memorial day observed in the British Commonwealth to honor fallen military members of service.

Harry and Meghan are planning later this month to take some time off from royal duties and enjoy some family time, which will include visiting friends and family in the U.S.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Anguilla files for international arrest warrant for American charged in hotel employee's death

Oleksii Liskonih/iStock(LONDON) -- Authorities in Anguilla have declared an American man a "fugitive" after he failed to return to the British Caribbean territory for a court hearing in a manslaughter case.

U.S. citizen Scott Hapgood, who is charged in the death of an Anguillan hotel employee, was due to appear in court on Monday for the latest pretrial hearing, as required by his bail conditions, but he didn't show up. Hapgood's legal team sent an email to the magistrate presiding over his case the night before, saying that they had advised their client not to return to Anguilla due to concerns for his safety and the fairness of the judicial process on the island, according to a press release from the Anguilla Attorney General's Chambers, which called the concerns "totally groundless."

"In consequence of this willful defiance of the High Court order, a bench warrant will be sought from the High Court judge for his arrest," the attorney general said in a statement Tuesday. "When this is shortly obtained this will be circulated through Interpol to police forces around the world."

After Hapgood failed to appear on Monday, the magistrate adjourned for a further hearing, at which "he will make a final determination of the matter at hand," according to the attorney general. His bail bond has been forfeited.

Hapgood, who works as a banker in New York City but lives with his family in Darien, Conn., had been released back in April on $74,000 bond and has appeared at previous hearings for the case.

"Other formal processes will now commence regarding Hapgood who is now a fugitive," the attorney general said. "Hapgood’s decision to abscond will not allow him to evade justice."

ABC News has reached out to a Hapgood family spokesperson for comment.

Hapgood, 44, was allegedly with his two daughters in a room at the Malliouhana Resort in Anguilla on April 13 during a family vacation when a man dressed in a hotel uniform knocked on the door "minutes" after the girls "walked back to the hotel room on their own," according to a statement released by the Hapgood family back in May.

The man, identified by Anguilla police as hotel maintenance worker Kenny Mitchel, allegedly stated that he was there to fix a broken sink before he came inside and demanded money from Hapgood, according to the family. A scuffle erupted between the two men, in which Hapgood was "fighting for his life," the family said. Mitchell was eventually restrained by a security guard, and Hapgood was taken to a local hospital for his injuries, according to the family.

Hapgood later learned of Mitchell's death as he was giving his witness statement at the police station, the family said. He has been charged with manslaughter.

Hapgood's international defense attorney, Juliya Arbisman, has accused prosecutors from witholding a toxicology report for more than two months that allegedly "showed Mr. Kenny Mitchel was not only drunk, with a blood alcohol level that is double the legal limit in the U.S., but also high on cocaine and other drugs when he attacked Scott."

"I worry about Scott's ability to get a fair trial when relevant information is withheld and a persistent narrative has been given to potential jurors, the people of Anguilla, which is based on falsehoods and admissions," Arbisman said at a press conference on Aug. 20.

ABC News could not get confirmation from authorities in Anguilla about the claims from Arbisman regarding the results of Mitchel's toxicology report.

U.S. President Donald Trump weighed in on Twitter last month, saying he will look into Hapgood's case and that "something looks and sounds very wrong."

Hapgood and his lawyer appeared at a press conference on Oct. 28 with Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who called upon the British government to “exercise authority of its judicial system” to come to a “swift conclusion” on whether to allow the trial in Anguilla to continue.

Monday's hearing was expected to be the conclusion of the preliminary trial, in which the presiding magistrate would come to a decision on whether to commit the proceedings to a jury trial, according to Arbisman.

Hapgood's defense team is concerned about his safety, "given the threats that have been made in the past," and whether he would be permitted to return to the United States on bond should a jury trial ensue, Arbisman said.

Hapgood spoke briefly about the ordeal that he and his family have been going through ever since they returned from their trip to Anguilla, especially his daughters, who are 12 and 14.

"We’re still in shock that a simple vacation that we looked forward to for so long turned into a nightmare," Hapgood told reporters. "This nightmare is my new reality."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Hong Kong protesters wielding bows and arrows hunker down at universities

spawns/iStock(HONG KONG) -- Scores of masked protesters wielding makeshift weapons and armor barricaded themselves inside the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Wednesday after violent clashes with riot police overnight.

The mostly-young protesters were clad in all black, wearing helmets, gas masks and padded vests. They have amassed a stockpile of gasoline bombs along with various rudimentary weapons, including bows and arrows, homemade slingshots and gasoline-dipped javelins.

Some were even seen carrying riot shields.

Rather than fleeing from riot police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets, many protesters are now staying and fighting back -- a noted escalation in tactics in the five-moth-long, anti-government demonstrations that have gripped Hong Kong.

Protesters ignited barricades at both the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University during their confrontations with authorities Tuesday night. Some were seen launching flaming arrows toward police.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong and several other colleges in the city have cancelled classes for the rest of the academic semester as the protesters, who are thought to be high school and college students, have turned the campuses into battlefields.

Primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong have also suspended classes for Thursday.

Public transportation was disrupted across Hong Kong on Wednesday morning as protesters blocked streets, prevented train doors from closing and vandalized railway cars. Police have helped dozens of university students from mainland China evacuate Hong Kong.

Later Wednesday, hundreds of people came out of their offices in Hong Kong's central business district and shouted at riot police standing in the streets, telling them to leave the area. These people weren't the black-clad protesters but rather appeared to be ordinary citizens, with many wearing suits and ties.



Hong Kong lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung, who is a member of the Democratic Party, warned the movement won't stop until the government fulfills protesters' demands.

"This will not end," he told ABC News in a brief interview on the street Wednesday. "This will go on forever. That's my view."

The demonstrations began in early June when hundreds of thousands of mostly-young people marched against a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed suspected criminals in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Hong Kong's embattled leader, Carrie Lam, has since withdrawn the bill, but widespread unrest has continued as demonstrators broaden their demands to include a call for direct elections for the city's leaders, amnesty for protesters and an independent investigation into alleged police brutality.

There have been lulls in the violence and intensity of the protest movement. But the death of a university student from a fall last week has reignited rage.

The protesters blame police for the student's injury because he fell off a parking garage in the vicinity of a police clearance operation.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Venice is being flooded by the highest tide in more than 50 years

mammuth/iStock(ROME) -- High tides and lashing rain struck Venice Tuesday night bringing the water level in some areas close to a 50-year record high and causing inestimable damage to the centuries-old city.

Close to midnight Tuesday -- at its night-time peak -- the city recorded a high of 187 centimeters, just short of the famous 1966 flood when the tide reached 194 centimeters.

Barges, boats and gondolas were stripped from their moorings as historic squares were submerged with water and restaurants, shops and hotel lobbies flooded.

In a surreal scene, Italian TV showed a person swimming in St. Mark’s square Tuesday night as well as other bizarre images of water gushing out of toilets and electrical sockets in homes.

As the waters receded Wednesday morning -- with a peak of about 144 centimeters mid-morning -- Venetian emergency services dealt with hundreds of emergency calls while some phone lines remained down and schools closed.

Some tourists stood up to their knees in the water in St. Mark’s square taking selfies.

The mayor who has been monitoring the flooding throughout the night said the situation was dramatic.

“Venice is on its knees. The Basilica of Saint Mark has suffered grave damage as has the whole city and the islands,’’ he tweeted. “We need everyone’s help to get through this day which is seriously testing us.”

Italian news agency ANSA reported that a 78-year-old man was electrocuted by a short-circuit caused by the flooding of his home on the Venetian lagoon island of Pellestrina.

The damage to the city and its precious art works and buildings is hard to estimate at this point but sea-water damage is known to be catastrophic for their preservation.

An initial survey of the damage of St. Mark’s Basilica, which is in one of the lowest parts of the city, revealed the crypt with its famous mosaics totally submerged in water.

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro blamed climate change for the flooding and said his council was asking for the government to declare "a state of emergency’’ for Venice.

In a tweet he told local people and businesses to collect photographic and video evidence of the damage suffered for future claims for compensation.

Flooding is not new to the romantic city built centuries ago in the Venetian Lagoon. High waters in Venice, known as "acqua alta," periodically affect Venice and its surrounding islands during the fall to spring period when a combination of weather and tides raise the level of the sea water.

The city monitors water levels attentively and customarily prepares for the high tides. Temporary walkways on platforms are placed in the historic squares and along canals to be used during the flooding, and buildings and shops set up barricades against the water ahead of its rise.

A project to protect the city from acqua alta using floating gates was launched in 2003 but still remains incomplete following soaring costs and endless delays and scandals.

The president of the region, Luca Zaia, told Italian Mediaset TV "We are faced with total, apocalyptic devastation.’’

He went onto say "I’m not exaggerating; 80% of the city is under water, the damage is unimaginable."

He attended a press conference in Marghera Wednesday morning with the mayor of Venice and Angelo Borelli, the head of Civil Protection, to request more aid for Venice. The prime minister is expected to visit Venice later Wednesday.

Following the hottest October ever recorded in the world and the hot summer months, a wave of bad weather over the last week has brought much of Italy to a standstill with schools and subway stations closed in many cities.

The torrential rains are moving off the mainland Wednesday with many regions left surveying the damage. Weather experts however are forecasting further storms and more heavy rainfall in the coming weeks.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Silver-backed chevrotain, last seen in wild more than 25 years ago, rediscovered in Vietnam

BirdHunter591/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Scientists have rediscovered a deer-like species in southern Vietnam more than 25 years after it was last recorded.

A camera trap captured images of the silver-backed chevrotain, also known as the Vietnamese mouse-deer, after it was "lost to science" since 1990, the Global Wildlife Conservation announced on Tuesday.

The deer-like species is about the size of a rabbit, but is neither a mice nor deer, according to the conservation. Rather, it is the world's smallest ungulate, or hoofed mammal.

Although there are 10 known species of chevrotain in the world, primarily in Asia, the silver-back is distinguished by its silver sheen. They are typically shy and solitary, appear to walk on the tips of their hooves and have two tiny fangs, according to the conservation.

Researchers set up three camera traps after interviewing several local villagers and government forest rangers who reported seeing the animal, which resulted in 275 photos of the elusive species.

The team later set up another 29 cameras, which recorded 1,881 images in five months.

An Nguyen, associate conservation scientist and the expedition's team leader, said researchers were "surprised and overjoyed" when they checked the camera.

"For so long this species has seemingly only existed as part of our imagination," she said in a statement. "Discovering that it is, indeed, still out there, is the first step in ensuring we don’t lose it again, and we’re moving quickly now to figure out how best to protect it."

Researchers are now looking to determine how large and stable the population is.

The findings of the rediscovery was published this week in the scientific journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


US Army soldier killed in overturned armored vehicle accident in South Korea

Mississippi National Guard(NEW YORK) -- A U.S. soldier was killed in South Korea last week after his armored vehicle overturned.

Spc. Nicholas C. Panipinto, 20, of Bradenton, Florida, died from injuries sustained when the Bradley Fighting Vehicle overturned at Camp Humphreys on Nov. 6, the Army said in a statement. Two other soldiers were injured in the incident, according to Stars and Stripes.

The accident is under investigation.

Panipinto deployed as an infantryman with the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division to South Korea in July 2019. The brigade will hold a memorial for Panipinto on Friday as a way for the unit to, "say farewell to their brother in arms and honor his service to the nation," the Army said.
 
"Command Sgt. Maj. Ryan McLane and I send our heartfelt condolences to family, friends and loved ones of Spc. Nicholas Panipinto," said Col. Kevin Capra, commander, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. "Nicholas was a dedicated and essential member of the Ghost Battalion and Greywolf Brigade. We are all deeply saddened by the loss and will keep his family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."

Panipinto joined the Army from Tampa, Florida, in January 2018.

Just last month, three soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team were killed after their Bradley Fighting Vehicle rolled over into water during training at Fort Stewart in Georgia.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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