Gloria Steinem, Female Peace Activists Cross Korea Border

Posted on: May 24th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

The group had wanted to walk through the DMZ.

Ireland Votes to Approve Marriage Equality

Posted on: May 23rd, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Supporters react outside Dublin Castle following the announcement of the result of the same-sex marriage referendum in Dublin on May 23, 2015. Credit: IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images(DUBLIN) — Citizens of Ireland voted on Saturday to amend the country’s constitution to legalize same-sex marriage.

The nation’s constitution requires a referendum to amend. The BBC News reported an “unusually high” turnout Saturday.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny tweeted saying that he had voted yes for marriage equality, and in a second tweet, said he was “amazed” by the positive turnout.

Former White House Senior Adviser under President Obama David Plouffe posted a message to Twitter calling the vote a “smashing victory for marriage equality.”

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Navy Videos Show Chinese Military Installations in Spratly Islands

Posted on: May 23rd, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Photo DigitalGlobe via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Navy released a pair of videos taken from aboard a P-8A Poseidon surveillance plane recently as it flew a daily mission over the Spratly Islands where China has allegedly been dredging islands to increase their size and build facilities there.

The videos show both the aircraft’s video consoles — which show the construction in close-up detail — and footage from the exterior of the plane. The Navy says that during the flight, the plane’s crew documented warnings from China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy to leave the area.

Similar flights happen regularly, and Chinese warnings are frequently documented.

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Watch SpaceX Crew Dragon’s First Flight From Point of View Video

Posted on: May 22nd, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

SpaceX/YouTube(NEW YORK) — SpaceX released new point of view video on Friday showing what it was like to be on board its Crew Dragon vessel, which took its first test flight earlier this month.

The test was conducted without any crew and was designed to help SpaceX engineers test the capsule’s pad abort system, a vital emergency escape system that would allow astronauts to quickly get to safety if something goes wrong shortly after launch.

SpaceX said after the test that it was a success, and had humans been on board the Crew Dragon, they would have survived the pad abort test.

A dummy stood in for a human crew, allowing SpaceX to collect data on how the emergency abort procedure could potentially affect the human body.

The Crew Dragon lifted off with the power of SuperDraco engines as it moved 5,000 feet above the launch pad, accelerating from zero to 100 mph in 1.2 seconds.

Dragon detached from its rocket, deployed its parachutes and continued a controlled descent into the Atlantic Ocean, landing a mile from shore, where it bobbed in the water and waited for a recovery vessel.

NASA last year awarded multi-billion dollar deals to Boeing and SpaceX for development of spacecraft to shuttle astronauts to and from space.

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For Now, No US Embassy Opening in Havana

Posted on: May 22nd, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Meetings, however, have been “very productive.”

For Now, No US Embassy Opening in Havana, Officials Say

Posted on: May 22nd, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Byron Motley/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — While no embassy opening was announced after a fourth round of talks between the United States and Cuba, a top U.S. diplomat called the talks “very productive” and doesn’t foresee the need for a fifth round.

Instead, Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Roberta Jacobson, said the details could be ironed out by the respective diplomatic missions.

Both U.S. and Cuban sources told ABC News they are optimistic an agreement will be reached on the fine details and an announcement made from respective capitals soon.

The talks come five months after President Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro announced their intention to improve relations.

Prior to these talks, the major sticking point for Americans was the freedom for staff to move throughout the country; for the Cubans, it was courses provided to Cuban journalists by the U.S. government at the interests section in Havana, which they say fall outside normal diplomatic activities.

But both countries refused to get into the details of what remains to be worked out this time. Saying only they continue to work forward on how an embassy will function in each country.

“Fact is we are making progress on these areas,” Roberta Jacobson said at a news conference. “But I’m not going to be specific on where we have to close.”

“Still talking about the various aspects of the functioning of an embassy,” she added. “It isn’t a lack of measurement progress. Each time we have met we’ve made progress and made progress this time… Made great progress and I remain optimistic.”

Cuban diplomat Josefina Vidal agreed, but would not comment other than to say the talks were respectful and productive.

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US Won’t ‘Begin to Consider’ Returning to Tripoli Until 2016

Posted on: May 22nd, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

State Department Office of Inspector General(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. State Department hasn’t set a date for returning to its embassy in Tripoli, Libya and likely won’t “begin[] to consider such a return” until 2016, according to a recent State Department report, citing the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

The State Department Inspector General report, published online Wednesday, looked into what the department should do with 26 armored vehicles — estimated to cost $200,000 each — that were left in Tunisia after American officials in Tripoli had to make a hasty, overland escape from the Libyan capital last summer amid a quickly deteriorating security situation.

Beginning at dawn, it took five hours for the convoy’s black SUVs and other vehicles to slip out of Tripoli and drive 250 miles through the desert to an American airbase in Tunisia, a spokesperson for the Pentagon said on July 26, 2014. The whole time, F-16s, troop-carrying tilt-rotor aircraft and other American aerial surveillance assets were keeping an eye on the precarious expedition.

Officials said the operation came off without a hitch, but apparently in the intervening months no one at the State Department put a lot of thought into what to do with the more than $5 million-worth of vehicles that were eventually brought to Tunis and then left to collect dust. The IG report notes that armored vehicles can “deteriorate rapidly, particularly when they are stored outdoors or exposed to harsh weather conditions, such as those that can occur in Tunis.”

Embassy personnel in Tunis said they would take measures to help protect the vehicles from the elements so that they’d be good to go when the U.S. wanted to take them back to Libya, but that’s when the U.S. ambassador reportedly gave the IG the bad news: The U.S. isn’t going back anytime soon.

“However, according to the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, there is no established date for returning to Tripoli, and the earliest date for beginning to consider such a return would be 2016,” the report says.

A State Department official further told ABC News, “We take the security of our diplomatic institutions and personnel seriously.”

“We are constantly assessing the security situation in every country around the world, as we continue to do in Libya,” the official said. “We cannot predict when conditions will allow for the re-opening of our Embassy in Libya.”

Libya has devolved into widespread unrest since the ousting and death of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. In 2012, the then-U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was killed along with three other Americans in an attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

After the Benghazi attack, the U.S. maintained its embassy in Tripoli until last July, when rival militia groups “began vying for control” of Tripoli’s international airport — not far from the U.S. embassy. That was enough for the U.S. to pull the plug and get its people out.

Since then, the terror group ISIS has established an affiliate in Libya, which in recent days reportedly took control of Gadhafi’s old home town of Sirte.

A stark travel warning from the State Department in January painted a dire picture of the country where control of the capital has fallen to militant groups, “military-grade” weapons are in the hands of militias and regular people, and there are repeated calls for attacks on American citizens and interests.

“U.S. citizens currently in Libya should exercise extreme caution and depart immediately,” the warning says.

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A Look at Ireland’s Historic Gay Marriage Vote

Posted on: May 22nd, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Could become the first country to legalize it through a referendum.

Historic Vote in Ireland on Gay Marriage

Posted on: May 22nd, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(DUBLIN) — Ireland could become the first country to legalize same-sex marriage through a referendum Friday.

Here are 10 things to know about the vote:

What is the vote for?

Since 2010, same-sex couples in Ireland can form a civil partnership. On Friday, however, voters will be asked whether the Constitution should be changed to extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples. Referendums are needed when changes to the constitution are proposed. The amendment to Article 41 would be: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

Who can vote and when?

Irish citizens, over the age of 18, who are living in Ireland and registered can vote. Citizens of Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., cannot vote. Polls open at 2 p.m. ET and close at 5 p.m. ET. Results will be known on Saturday.

If members of the LGBT community already have civil partnerships, why legalize marriage?

Civil partners are recognized by law but they do not have constitutional protection. Legal protection can be amended or even revoked by a government. In addition, married couples are given rights specific to family, for issues such as taxation and social welfare.

Why is this vote a historic event?

Ireland isn’t the first country to submit this same-sex marriage to a referendum: Slovenia and Croatia both had referendums. The results in both countries, however, was “no.” It would be a historic event if Ireland voted “yes”, becoming the first country to do so. In addition, many in Ireland see this vote as an opportunity to show a different side to its Catholic conservative image.

Why now and who is behind this vote?

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Ireland in 1993, after gay rights activist and politician Dan Norris brought the case to the European Court of Human Rights. In recent months, a coalition of organizations called Yes Equality have been canvassing the country and launching campaigns, lobbying for a “yes” vote. The campaign was led by the people, and it’s been so inspiring to see how proactive everyone has been, Joe Carlin, a gay man from Northern Ireland who has been watching the campaign closely, told ABC News.

What are Irish citizens saying?

“It’s the topic on everyone’s lips,” Carlin said. “It’s a crazy emotional day,” he continued, adding that for members of the LGBT community it felt like “finally getting a voice.” Celebrities such as U2 frontman Bono and Colin Farrell are among many of those who have voiced their opinions.

Is it a religious issue?

Many Catholic groups and priests have been vocal about their opposition to same-sex marriage. One of them is Archbishop Diarmuid Martin who, in a column in the Irish Times, said he did not want to impose his views on others but believed marriage should be between a man and a woman.

“Marriage is about love, marriage is about commitment and marriage is about family. You cannot talk of family without talking about children,” Martin said.

The Marriage Bill 2015, which could be enacted, provides that priests will not be obliged to perform same-sex marriages. Justice Kevin Cross, chair of the Referendum Commission, told the Irish Times that this referendum was solely about marriage, not about religion: “This referendum is about marriage — who may marry, who may not marry. If it passed it would have the effect that I have described.” Cross refuted the arguments that same-sex marriage would have an effect on surrogacy and adoption, which are, he said, regulated and protected by law.

Is it a generational issue?

An Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI same-sex marriage referendum poll states that 71 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 24 who are registered intend to vote “yes” compared to only 34 percent of those who are 65 or older. Not everyone thinks there’s a generational divide however, and many believe there is more of a rural and urban divide in Ireland.

What are the polls predicting?

The IrishTimes/Ipsos MRBI poll shows that, excluding those who are undecided, 70 percent are in favor of a change, with 30 percent against. The Millward Brown poll for the Sunday Independent puts the yes at 69 percent, and the Red C poll for the Sunday Business Post puts the yes at 73 percent.

Could the polls get it wrong?

Voting results are often unpredictable, especially when it comes to referendums on social issues. Some voters may feel their views are not publicly acceptable and therefore not necessarily come forward during polling. Turnout will be influential in the result, as certain demographic groups are more likely to vote. The level of undecided is relatively low, at 13 percent.

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NASA Spacecraft Finds Galaxy as Bright as 300 Trillion Suns

Posted on: May 22nd, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

NASA/JPL-Caltech(NEW YORK) — A galaxy so bright it shines with the luminosity of 300 trillion suns has been discovered by a NASA spacecraft.

A black hole is believed to be at the center of the galaxy, which NASA has named WISE J224607.57-052635.0. WISE is an acronym for the spacecraft, which is officially known as the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer.

“We are looking at a very intense phase of galaxy evolution,” Chao-Wei Tsai, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. “This dazzling light may be from the main growth spurt of the galaxy’s black hole.”

While black holes are common at the center of galaxies, researchers said finding one this distant is incredibly rare. It’s believed the light from the brilliant galaxy has traveled 12.5 billion years — almost as old as the age of the universe itself.

WISE has found several galaxies that are extremely luminous in the infrared spectrum, known as ELIRGs. By determining the masses of their black holes, scientists hope they will stumble upon new insights about the history of the cosmos.

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Czech TV Show Takes Family Back in Time to Live Under Nazi Control

Posted on: May 22nd, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Czech TV show takes family back in time to live under Nazi control. (Czech TV)(NEW YORK) — A controversial new Czech TV series is asking a modern family to go back in time to live as they might have had to under Nazi rule, to show the brutality ordinary people had to endure during German occupation.

“Holiday in the Protectorate” asks one three-generation family to live as if it were 1939 to 1945. The family was selected from among 200 candidates after a “rigorous audition,” show officials said.

Their struggles will range from normal tasks, such as harvesting crops and milking cows, to specifically wartime demands — sewing blackout curtains, fortifying a basement air-raid shelter, and dealing with food rationing and frequent hunger. The family will also live through “simulated air-raids, intimidation by Nazi informants and interrogations by the Gestapo,” shows officials said.

Eight one hour-long episodes of “Holiday in the Protectorate” will air from May 23 to June 13.

While the horrors the family will face are only re-enactments of what confronted Czech citizens during World War II, their reward will be real: 1 million Czech Krunas, worth a bit more than $40,000, if they survive the two-month ordeal.

The show, produced by Czech Television, will surround the 20th century household with a realistic setting of old-fashioned furniture and period-accurate costumes, matched to those of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia — an ethnic Czech puppet state set up by Nazi Germany after it occupied and absorbed Czechoslovakia in March of 1939. Professional actors play German soldiers and Gestapo informers. There will be no running water, no refrigerator and even the rare old currency of the Nazi mini-state will be used.

The show was shot under the supervision of a “war cabinet” composed of two historians, two psychologists and an architect who saw that everything about the show seems authentic to historical reality.

“I was inspired by the horrific wartime stories of my maternal grandparents, who lived in a small town in the highlands of Bohemia. I wanted people to see what hardships ordinary people had to go through to survive Nazi occupation,” Zora Cejnkova, the show’s director, told ABC News from Prague. “It was interesting to see how people make decisions under such psychological pressure, in front of TV cameras.”

But Czech Television, the show’s producer, has drawn criticism, for trivializing the real tragedies of WWII. Critics wonder what audiences would be entertained by watching people being intimidated by Nazi soldiers and their informers.

“What are they going to do next? Big Brother Auschwitz?” wrote one critic.

“I tried to show that period with seriousness and with utter respect for its tragic character,” Cejnkova told ABC News.

“Of course we cannot completely recreate the real danger, but the aim is to show life as it was, and,” she said, “if people re-live those times, perhaps future conflicts can be prevented.”

“The point about the World War II period is that there was always a possibility of violent death for everyone, something that is impossible to replicate artificially,” said Jan Kral, a car designer. “Holiday in the Protectorate recreated some inconveniences of the Nazi occupation, but the real fear was death. The show replicates wartime living the way a Formula One computer game replicates being Michael Shumacher — you get everything except the risk.”

And that, Kral said, “is essential.”

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TV Show Takes Family Back in Time to Live Under Nazi Control

Posted on: May 22nd, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Even the rare old currency of the Nazi puppet state will be used.

Misunderstanding May Have Led Iraqi Troops to Leave Ramadi

Posted on: May 21st, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Phototreat/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Iraqi troop pull-out of Ramadi last weekend that allowed the city to fall into ISIS hands may have been the result of a misunderstanding by the senior Iraqi commander in the city, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

U.S. officials now believe the senior Iraqi military commander ordered his troops to withdraw because he mistakenly believed that a sandstorm would prevent coalition aircraft from launching airstrikes to support his troops.

That information is one of the reasons why on Wednesday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Iraqi troops “drove out” of Ramadi and were not “driven out” out of the city by ISIS.

Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters on Thursday that last weekend’s sandstorm had not affected the coalition’s ability to launch airstrikes in Ramadi, though “weather was a factor on the ground early on.”

It appears Iraqi forces believed that because of the deteriorating weather conditions “they would not be able to receive air power support,” Warren said.

“We are now of the opinion that this was one of the factors that contributed to their decision to reposition out of Ramadi,” he said.

“This appears to have been a unilateral decision by the commander on the ground in Ramadi based on his assessment of the situation that it was time to withdraw,” said Warren.

He said it was unclear if that decision was communicated to the joint operations center in Baghdad where U.S. military teams are embedded with Iraqi commanders. Iraqi military commanders can forward requests for airstrikes to the joint operations center where the U.S. military sends the request to the coalition’s air command center.

ISIS had been fighting for control of Ramadi since January 2014, seizing half of the city since then.

In recent weeks, they had seized additional territory inside the city and late last week launched a new offensive that targeted the city’s government center by using more than 30 car bombs over a four day span.

A senior State Department official briefed reporters on Wednesday that 10 of those bombs leveled various city blocks in Ramadi and were as powerful as the one used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

To counter ISIS’s growing use of car bombs, the U.S. has expedited the delivery of 1,000 AT-4 anti-tank rockets that will be shipped to Iraq beginning next week, Warren said.

He described the weapon as ideal for targeting potential suicide car bombers because unlike the precise small arms fire needed to disable a rushing vehicle, the shoulder-fired weapon is easy to use and can destroy an approaching vehicle from a distance.

The Iraqi military forces that had been in Ramadi have now repositioned to Habbaniyah, where the Iraqi government has also sent 3,000 Shiite militia fighters to assist with the fight against ISIS in Anbar Province.

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Elian Gonzalez’s Uncle, Fisherman Who Rescued Him, Reflect on Tense 2000 Standoff

Posted on: May 21st, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(HAVANA) — When Elian Gonzalez was found floating on an inner tube 60 miles off the coast of Miami 15 years ago, the fisherman who helped rescue him said finding the 6-year-old boy in the water was a “one in a billion” chance.

“You know, that day my cousin told me, ‘we are not going fishing,’” Donato Dalrymple told ABC News. “The marine advisory said it would be a horrible day for small boats to be out there. We were on a 25-foot fishing vessel, not like we were out in the middle of the ocean with a big fishing boat. And there was nobody out there, completely nobody.”

Dalrymple said a school of dolphins swimming close by drew their attention to the small boy.

“I tell you, I believe it was my destiny,” he said. “My journey that day, as a missionary, a person of faith, just persisting with my cousin that we ran right into that inner tube. We went directly to it.”

Elian was dehydrated and unconscious when he was pulled from the water, and was taken to Miami. Now 21 years old, Elian said he is thankful to the fishermen who saved him.

“Those are moments that no matter how hard I try to put them aside, they will always leave a mark on me,” Elian told ABC News in an exclusive interview.

As would the next several months of his young life.

When he was just 6 years old, Elian said his mother and her boyfriend had given him sleeping pills before they got onto a small 16-foot fishing boat in the middle of the night to head for the United States. He remembers the boat capsizing during the crossing, and falling into the water, but there were inner tubes tied to the back of the boat and Elian said his mother loaded him onto one. He survived, but his mother was lost at sea. Her body has never been found.

After his rescue in 2000, Elian was placed in the care of his Miami relatives, who fought to keep him in the U.S. against the will of his father Juan Miguel back in Cuba.

“There were so many emotions and all at the same time when I was with my uncles,” Elian recalled. “Everyone staring at me, thinking about me, the media, everyone staring at me. They didn’t allow me that time to cry for my mother. To sit down and realize what had happened. I was simply a kid, and to me everything was a game.”

The media circled the family’s Old Havana, Florida, home where Elian stayed, as his relatives proudly displayed him as a victory over Communism.

“In the beginning it was difficult because I tried to get the support of someone,” Elian said. “I had lost my mother, I didn’t understand what was going on.”

At the time, Elian said he turned to his cousin Marisleysis. “I saw her as a mother,” he said. “And I tried to consider her like that.”

“[My relatives] did try to give me a better life but they made a mistake, I believe,” Elian continued. “Because they were against their own nephew. And I had to be with my father.”

ABC News reached out to Marisleysis about Elian’s offer at reconciliation and she said she was not interested in speaking on camera or even in hearing any recorded message ABC News had taped from Elian.

But his uncle, Delfin, did agree to speak to ABC News. We played a message from Elian for him, in which Elian comments on his Miami family and asked for an apology before he agrees to see them again. After watching the message, Delfin said Elian had been manipulated.

“It is not the boy’s fault,” he said. “That is where you see the manipulation of that ******* system. They destroy everything. They have destroyed that boy, they have him like a robot. Doing what he doesn’t feel but everything he is saying is a lie. That is the reward we get for doing good. Taking care of him when he was defenseless and he didn’t have anyone to take care of him and his own damn father said to take care of him until he could come get him. That is the reward that a poor family gets, that gave him love. I don’t see why we should say sorry.”

But in fact, after Elian arrived in Miami, his relatives kept the boy for weeks after his father went to the U.S. to get him, which led to the raid inside their home.

The Cuban government was not at the interview with Elian and did not attempt to censor ABC News’ reports.

While the family may not be willing to move forward, the fisherman who rescued Elian all those years ago would. Dalrymple is the man holding young Elian in that iconic raid photo where he and the little boy are faced with a federal agent’s rifle.

“Juan Miguel is a good man, he loves his son,” Dalrymple said. “I couldn’t imagine him, regardless of where he lives on this planet, being without his son.”

“I do apologize,” he continued. “Because I would love to see [Elian] again and just hug his neck and his father because this was a beautiful thing. What happened down there. It was never meant for me to try to aid and abet and hold him against his father regardless but it seemed like that’s what it was at that time.”

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How Elian Gonzalez’s Uncle Feels About Tense 2000 Standoff

Posted on: May 21st, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

After his rescue in 2000, Elian was placed in the care of his Miami relatives, who fought to keep him in the U.S. against the will of his father Juan Miguel back in Cuba.

The ISIS Assault on History: Fears for Palmyra

Posted on: May 21st, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

ISIS has officially taken over the city of Palmyra, stoking fears that militants will destroy the priceless artifacts left in the ancient city.

See Dog Pulled From Raging Flood Waters, Given Mouth-to-Mouth

Posted on: May 21st, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Dog fell into water filled with mud, stones and other debris.

Fears for Palmyra: The ISIS Assault on History

Posted on: May 21st, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

RPMGsas/iStock/Thinkstock(PALMYRA, Syria) — Just five days after ISIS achieved one of its most significant victories in Iraq in the past year, militants reportedly have taken control of the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria.

The city’s ruins hold some of the world’s most prized antiquities dating back to the 1st and 2nd centuries, and ISIS’ past assaults on historic sites have caused alarm among the international community that the group might employ the same tactics once again.

“Any destruction to Palmyra is not just a world crime, it will mean an enormous loss for humanity,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in a video posted by the group Thursday. “We are speaking about the birth of human civilization.”

Palmyra is home to some of the world’s best-preserved ancient ruins, including the Temple of Bel, built in the first century. The regime’s withdrawal from the strategically important Palmyra presents another drastic loss for its forces.

Over the past 2,000 years, Palmyra has been consistently reshaped by the influences of ancient Romans, and served as a trade hub for caravans along the Silk Road from India, China and Persia. It led to an amassing of treasures from a diverse array of civilizations.

“What Palmyra tells us today is that all cultures are influencing each other, all cultures enrich each other,” Bokova said.

However, over the past two years following the start of the Syrian Civil War, Palmyra saw military facilities propped up by forces loyal to Syria’s Assad. Reports of looting and significant damage to some of the city’s ancient architecture followed.

Its new inhabitants, however, believe preserving ancient ruins constitutes a form of idolatry and have made several propaganda videos flaunting their record in some of Syria and Iraq’s most historic destinations.

One of the first notable examples of ISIS’ targeting of historical sites was the video posted online of the destruction of the Nebi Yunus, or the Tomb of the Prophet Jonah, inside Mosul, Iraq.

Just one week ago, in a U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on “Ancient Communities Under Attack,” Penn Cultural Heritage Center fellow Katharyn Hanson remarked that ISIS “removed all evidence of the shrine by clearing the rubble and grading the site flat.”

“In doing so,” Hanson said. “ISIS erased the physical presence of Nebi Yunus for the entire local religious community.”

In January 2015, reports surfaced that ISIS militants detonated bombs along the wall of the ancient Iraqi city of Nineveh located on the Tigris River. The city is known for being the oldest in the Assyrian Empire and most notable archaeological monuments in the country.

The next month, ISIS militants armed themselves with sledgehammers, pickaxes and rifles as they raided the Mosul Museum. Cameramen were at the ready as the group tore apart artifacts, including some reported replicas inside, later posting a montage of the rampage online.

Just a month later, ISIS ramped up its campaign of destruction as it reportedly bulldozed the ancient cities of Nimrud and Hatra, also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In the House hearing, Hanson also remarked on the apparent looting by ISIS of the Dura-Europos, an archaeological site in Syria that holds not only the world’s best preserved ancient Jewish synagogue but one of the oldest known depictions of Jesus Christ.

“I think we need a total mobilization of the international community,” Bokova said on Palmyra. “We need everybody to launch the same appeal. We need very much the religious leaders to launch an appeal on the prevention of this destruction.”

Sister Diana Momeka of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena has witnessed the destruction first hand, and testified to the House Foreign Affairs committee just what effect the destruction of the religious and historical sites have on the community.

“What do we lose? I would say we lost everything,” Momeka said. “It just was a sign for us, and that’s your history is gone. You are nothing anymore. That’s how we see ourselves now. Homeless.”

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Prince William Gets Charlotte Soccer Jersey from England’s Women’s Soccer Team

Posted on: May 21st, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images(STAFFORDSHIRE, England) — It looks like Prince William and Duchess Kate might have a football player on their hands, not Prince George but their newborn daughter, Princess Charlotte.

Charlotte is just 19-days-old but she already has her own soccer — football in the U.K. — jersey thanks to her home country’s women’s soccer team.

The players on England’s women’s squad, the Lionesses, presented Charlotte’s dad, Prince William, with a custom team jersey Wednesday when he met the team at St. George’s Park in Staffordshire.

The jersey had Charlotte’s name on the back along with the number one.

“All the girls were asking how Princess Charlotte is and Prince George and whether they keep him up all night,” said team captain Steph Houghton, according to the U.K.’s The Telegraph.

“He was saying he’s obviously really enjoying being a father and Princess Charlotte is actually keeping him up and probably why his eyes are looking a little bit tired,” Houghton said.

William, 32, reportedly also revealed that although Charlotte has a jersey, it is currently Prince George who is displaying soccer skills through his quick feet.

“He was saying he never stops moving and is always on the move and keeping them busy,” Houghton said.

Tweets from Kensington Palace show that William, 32, took a team photo with the Lionesses, signed the wall at St. George’s Park and watched the players train.

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Dawn Probe Gets Closest Look Yet at Ceres’ Bright Spots

Posted on: May 21st, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA(NEW YORK) — NASA’s Dawn probe has gotten its closest look yet at the alien lights reflecting from the dwarf planet Ceres.

Taken from a distance of 4,500 miles, the image shows two bright spots on the dwarf planet in new detail, appearing to reflect from inside a crater on Ceres’ surface.

Discovered earlier this year as Dawn approached Ceres, the bright spots have been a mystery to scientists who have speculated they could be icy volcanoes or salt.

Christopher Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission, said with the closer look that “scientists can now conclude that the intense brightness of these spots is due to the reflection of sunlight by highly reflective material on the surface, possibly ice.”

Nearly 600 miles in diameter, about 25 percent of Ceres’ mass is believed to be ice. NASA’s Dawn mission has been orbiting Ceres since March and will continue studying the dwarf planet through June 2016.

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Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev Wears an Apple Watch

Posted on: May 21st, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Pete Souza / The White House(MOSCOW) — Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is a big fan of Apple.

After meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Medvedev’s new wrist candy was spotted by reporters.

Russian reporter Dmitry Smirnov tweeted a photo of the prime minister talking to a reporter, his watch visible to the cameras.

While watches are a status symbol, Medvedev didn’t opt for the $17,000 Apple Watch Edition, instead choosing a space grey version of the Apple Watch Sport, which starts at $349.

Medvedev’s love for Apple was first noticed in 2010 when he was photographed with Steve Jobs, who showed him the iPhone 4. Medvedev is also known for using an iPad and joined Twitter in 2010.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Eight Suspects in London Jewel Heist to Appear in Court

Posted on: May 21st, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) — Eight men are expected to appear in Westminster Magistrates Court in London Thursday morning to face charges in the Hatton Garden jewelry heist.

The thieves stole from up to 70 safe deposit boxes from the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Limited building over Easter weekend.

Police did not disclose exactly what was stolen, but it is believed that diamonds and gold were part of the haul. Hatton Garden is a district of London famous for being the largest jewelry quarter in the U.K. specializing in the diamond trade.

A “significant” amount of the “high-value property was recovered and will be returned to their owners, British authorities said Tuesday.

A ninth man who was also arrested has been released on bail, pending further enquiries, police have said.

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Fall of Ramadi: 30 Car Bombs, 10 as Big as Oklahoma City Blast, US Official Says

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

MacXever/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The State Department is sharing new details about the deadly fighting in Ramadi, Iraq, last Sunday, saying the city fell into ISIS hands after the militant group set off 30 suicide car bombs in the city center, 10 of which each were comparable in power to the Oklahoma City truck bomb of 1995.

The explosions took out “entire city blocks,” said a senior State Department official who spoke to reporters at the State Department Wednesday on condition that he not be named.

The vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, or VBIEDs, were able to gain access to the city center after an armored bulldozer plowed through T-wall barricades lining the city’s critical government buildings, the official said, adding that the same bulldozer was later used as a power VBIED, itself.

Soon after the bombs went off, the Iraqis deployed a reinforcing column into the city center, but they were forced to retreat after coming under heavy enemy fire, the official said. That retreat led to a larger exodus of Iraqi security forces and the civilian populations, leaving the streets looking “barren,” according to this official.

The State Department and the Pentagon insist the fall of Ramadi does not closely resemble that of Mosul in 2014, when, after only a week of fighting, Islamic State forces were able to take over the entire city as ISF forces abandoned the posts, equipment and even their uniforms.

The State Department official argued that Ramadi has been fiercely contested for 18 months, as both sides controlled equal parts of the city. It wasn’t until the critical government center fell this weekend that ISIS was able to lay claim to the entire provincial capital.

But the official admitted that, in this case, the Iraqi forces did leave some U.S.-made weapons behind. The official suggested that if the enemy attempts to commandeer any of the bigger weapons, they would be killed in airstrikes.

“I’m told that when we see Daesh [another word for ISIS or ISIL] trying to get ahold of that equipment, we’ll take care of that problem,” the State Department official said.

The official also argued that, unlike what happened in Mosul, the Iraqi forces have not collapsed. Rather, they have “regrouped” and “consolidated” and remain mostly intact while they make plans for a counter-offensive, the official said.

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Elian Gonzalez on His Relationship With Fidel Castro

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

In an ABC News exclusive interview, Elian said his relationship with the former Cuban president is one of friendship.

How Elian Gonzalez Feels Now About His Return to Cuba 15 Years Ago

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(HAVANA) — Elian Gonzalez was just a child when a judge ordered that he be returned to his father in Cuba 15 years ago. At the time, Miami residents argued that his life in the United States would be better.

Today, now an adult, Gonzalez spoke candidly to ABC News in an exclusive interview on the decision, and said he has no regrets about returning to Cuba.

“I feel good with what I have and I want nothing more,” he said.

While the 21-year-old doesn’t own a car or a house, and only had 10 pesos in his pocket, those aren’t the important things for him, he said.

“I think I’m rich; but I say I’m rich because all the things given to me by life, all the opportunities. It’s not material wealth but rather the chance to be with my father, with my family,” he said.

He added that he not only returned to Cuba, but to his hometown.

“This is the greatest possible wealth that I have,” Gonzalez added. “I feel good, and I have the love of those people that I need to love me.”

His father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, also spoke to ABC News and reflected on the decision to bring his son back to Cuba instead of allowing him to stay in the United States. At the time, he said, the decision was never doubted.

“Not ever have I thought I took the wrong decision,” Juan Miguel Gonzalez said. “At all moments, I was clear on what my principles were and what I wanted, which was to get my life back where I grew up and got raised.

“I could have gotten anywhere else in the world,” he added. “Besides, I don’t think that anywhere else in the world my kid would have become the kid he is today.”

One of the reasons Elian Gonzalez had not done any interviews recently, his father said, was because he wanted to protect his son and allow him to have a normal life.

“I want nobody to be harassing the child with questions of any kind of questioning,” Juan Miguel Gonzalez said. “At that time, I decided to give the interviews myself so I could not affect the child, so he could lead a normal life, as normal as possible. But now the child is a grown up, he has been living his life, he has the chance to say what he wants.”

Elian Gonzalez agreed, and still feels that returning to Cuba was the best thing for him.

“I feel safe in Cuba, and I believe that after the years my dad always said that I was free to do what I wanted, but when I had the age to do so,” he said. “At the time, I was 5 years old and, at the time, the right thing was to be with my father.”

He added that he also enjoyed the privacy his life in Cuba afforded him.

“I’ve been living to the fullest and have something, perhaps, I wouldn’t have had in the United States — is the respect of the press to live my life in a normal way,” he said. “To grow like a normal young man, I developed myself, I have friends, I go to parties and I practice sports. And I thank my dad because of that, above all.”

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Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

What Elian Gonzalez Says About His Relationship With Fidel Castro

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

In an ABC News exclusive interview, Elian said his relationship with the former Cuban president is one of friendship.

Russia Finalizing Law to Ban ‘Undesirable’ Foreign Organizations

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images(MOSCOW) — Russia’s government has introduced a new law empowering it to ban foreign organizations as “undesirable.”

Rights organizations say the move is aimed at clamping down on dissent to Vladimir Putin’s rule, and will push Russia further from the West.

Authorities will be able to label any organization “undesirable” whose activities it deems damaging to Russia’s “constitutional order, defense capabilities or state security.” The law was quickly approved by Russia’s Federation Council on Wednesday, after being voted through Russia’s parliament with only three votes against it. President Putin is expected to sign it into law in the near future.

The law fits into a broader narrative projected by Putin that Russia is under threat from Western non-governmental organizations, who he frequently implies are instruments of American intelligence, an idea echoed by the representative who sponsored the law.

“The purpose of the law is to highlight that there are foreign organizations that are unfriendly to Russia,” Alexander Tarnavsky told the Russian news agency TASS. “They do this for different reasons — some at the request of intelligence services, some for other considerations.”

Although the law is ostensibly targeted at foreign organizations, in reality it appears intended more as another instrument for constraining domestic rights groups and opposition activists, potentially exposing them to legal trouble.

“It’s not about us,” said Tanya Lokshina, program director for Human Rights Watch’s Russia unit. “The government doesn’t need another repressive law to shut us down. The law is meant to stop Russian nationals maintaining contact with their foreign partners.”

Some provisions in the law stipulate criminal penalties for Russian citizens continuing involvement with foreign organizations declared “undesirable,” including fines. Those fined twice can face prison sentences. The law is vaguely worded so that it is not clear what precisely would constitute “involvement,” meaning that theoretically even attending a seminar or conducting an interview with an “undesirable” organization could be punishable.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned the law. Lokshina said it was meant to stifle non-official activism, “shoving it into limbo where activists will simply suffocate.”

The law is the latest in a series of measures that have seemed intended to push groups critical of official abuses and opponents of the Kremlin into an ever more precarious space. In 2012, the government introduced the so-called “foreign agents” law that forced Russian NGOs receiving foreign funding to register under that title, which for many Russians is synonymous with spy. Although dozens of NGOs have since been prosecuted over it, many have still resisted registering.

That law “was meant to pull Russian NGOs away from foreign organizations,” said Alexander Cherkasov, who works for the Russian rights group Memorial. “It didn’t work. But this new law goes far further.”

In theory, the law applies to all foreign organizations, not just NGOs, meaning foreign companies could also fall under it. Cherkasov said McDonalds or ABC could be declared “undesirable” if the authorities so wished, in which case he could potentially be fined for buying a hamburger or doing an interview.

“It’s an Iron Curtain law,” said Cherkasov. “I don’t know exactly how it will affect us yet, but I expect nothing good.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Russia to Ban ‘Undesirable’ Foreign Organizations

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Rights organizations say the move is aimed at clamping down on dissent to Vladimir Putin’s rule and could push Russia further from the West.

Al Qaeda???s Job Application: Want to Be a Suicide Bomber?

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Bin Laden bookshelf: Terror org asks that would-be jihadists write “legibly.”

Al Qaeda???s Job Application Form: Do You Want to Be a Suicide Bomber?

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Bin Laden bookshelf: Terror org asks that would-be jihadists write “legibly.”