Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Cleared to Sail, Coast Guard Says

Posted on: February 13th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

ANDER GILLENEA/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The Royal Caribbean cruise ship that was rocked by terrifying, hurricane-force winds off the coast of the Carolinas six days ago was cleared to sail by the Coast Guard Saturday.

Anthem of the Seas is setting sail on its originally scheduled cruise itinerary, traveling from New Jersey to Florida and the Bahamas.

Anthem of the Seas originally left Cape Liberty, New Jersey, last Saturday for a seven-night cruise to the Bahamas. But Sunday, when the ship encountered a storm off the coast of the Carolinas, passengers and crew members endured wind gusts topping 76 miles per hour and waves nearly 40 feet high.

The weather toppled chairs, broke ceilings and shattered glasses. Passenger Jessica Sheridan, who was on the ship with her husband and 20-month-old son, told ABC News that she was afraid for her life as the boat tipped from side to side.

The 10-month-old ship has 2,090 staterooms and can hold over 4,000 guests.

No one was seriously injured, but the rough seas prompted the captain to turn the ship around and head back to New Jersey, where it’s been since Wednesday.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Pope Francis’s Busy Day in Mexico

Posted on: February 13th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty Images(HAVANA) — Pope Francis has a very busy day ahead of him in Mexico City.

He is planning to speak with the country’s elite, political, and church leaders and try to urge them to deal with the problems that plague Mexico, including corruption, drug violence, poverty, and inequality.

The pope will then join the people for a mass at Mexico’s most sacred shrine, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Pope Francis told reporters on his way to Mexico from Rome that the ultimate goal for him on this trip is to pray at that shrine, which is beloved by so many around the world.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Al-Shabab Claims Responsibility for Somalia Plane Explosion

Posted on: February 13th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(MOGADISHU, Somalia) — The Islamist militant group in Somalia, al-Shabab, is taking the blame for the explosion on a plane that left a hole in the side of the plane’s body earlier this month.

Al-Shabab said in an emailed statement that the attack was revenge for Western intelligence groups carrying out operations in Somalia.

According to the BBC, the explosion occurred 15 minutes into flight, so the cabin was not yet pressurized.

The BBC reports that most of the passengers were supposed to be on a Turkish Airlines flight, but that flight was cancelled because of inclement weather.

The Somali government said more than 20 people have been arrested in connection to the attack.

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Pope Francis Arrives for Historic Meeting 1,000 Years in the Making

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

neneos/iStock Editorial/ThinkStock(HAVANA) — Pope Francis met Friday with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Havana, bringing the heads of the Russian and Catholic churches together for the first time since Christianity split.

Patriarch Kirill was the first of the two leaders to arrive in Cuba.

Lengthy Lead Up to the Meeting

The meeting is about 1,000 years in the making, as the two faiths split in the 11th century.

Popular convention dates the split of the Catholic and Orthodox churches to the so-called Great Schism in 1054, when the western pope excommunicated the head of the eastern church in Constantinople — now Istanbul — over differences in worship practices. The split solidified into centuries of deep hostility, with the two sides differing over a number of doctrinal issues, most importantly the pope’s status as Christianity’s supreme authority on earth.

Hatreds have cooled in the past century, and both sides now tend to avoid publicly calling each other heretics.

“There were both surface issues and deeper issues,” Monsignor Paul McPartlan, a theology professor at Washington, D.C.’s Catholic University, told ABC News. He noted that the types of bread used for the Eucharist and the question of celibacy for priests were among the surface issues while the deeper issues related to the power structure and geographical spread of the church.

Friday’s meeting will not actually be the first between an Orthodox Church leader and a pope: In 1964, Pope Paul VI met with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, formally recognized as Orthodoxy’s spiritual leader, but whose authority is contested by the Russian church.

“That really was the breakthrough for Catholic-Orthodox relations,” McPartlan said.

On board the plane from the Vatican, Pope Francis spoke briefly to the group of reporters traveling with him and said this trip is one that he and his “brother” Kirill are eagerly anticipating.

Location, Location, Location

The choice of Cuba as the meeting spot also falls under the question of territory, as it is seen as somewhat neutral land because Cuba has long had ties to the Russians but it also has a large Catholic population and it hosted Pope Francis in September.

Pope Francis will be in Cuba for only about three hours before heading to Mexico.

“The meeting has a political, a humanitarian significance,” said Yevgeny Nikiforov, a prominent Russian historian of the Church who helps run an Orthodox radio station. “But it has no divine significance.”

Different Approaches to Religious Leadership

They are two very different figures: Pope Francis is known for being humble and regularly is driven in a Fiat, while Patriarch Kirill was once spotted wearing a $30,000 watch and is driven by chauffeur in a black Mercedes.

Under Kirill, the Russian Orthodox Church has grown close to the Kremlin, to the point where it often acts like a branch of the government. He is extremely close to Putin and often blesses or paves the way for some of Putin’s most controversial moves like the anti-gay law and clandestine military action in Crimea.

How Will This Change Relations?

John Julius Norwich, a best-selling historian of the Byzantine Empire, as well as of the papacy, said he believed the meeting was likely part of a broader effort by Francis to try and strengthen a Catholic church under assault by changing lifestyles in South America and mass violence in the Middle East.

“It is a step towards reconciliation, there is no question about it,” Norwich said. “But I think it’s going to be very much on the surface.”

“It’s angels dancing on the head of a pin,” he added. “But they’ve been involved in it for 1,700 years. It’s going to take an awful long time to get over that. I can see it maybe getting to where they are much, much nicer to each other than they have ever been, but deep, deep down still hating each other’s guts.”

Monsignor McPartlan was slightly more optimistic.

“I think it’s a big step forward in ecumenical relations and it’s a sign of hope for the world at large,” he told ABC News Friday. “Not all of the issues are yet resolved, however, this meeting shows the firm desire for reconciliation and sends a powerful message to the world at large about the need for peace and reconciliation.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Group Hopes to Reunite Lost Cat With Refugee Family

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Courtesy Edward St. George/Reunite Dias(LESVOS, Greece) — He may be named for the Greek god Zeus, but Dias the cat and his team of volunteers are faced with a Herculean task: trying to reunite him with his family.

Dias arrived by boat on the shores of Lesvos, Greece, in November 2015 with his owners, who were fleeing ISIS-controlled Mosul, Iraq. When they landed, Dias broke free and ran off.

“The family told the volunteers at the time what had happened and many helped the family search for a fluffy white cat with yellow eyes for hours,” Michelle Nhin, a volunteer with the “Reunite Dias” group, told ABC News.

However, the family was soon forced to move on without their cat. Two of the volunteers, Ashley Anderson and Amy Shrodes, knew the family felt “horrible” that they had to leave.

“It’s not cheap for a spot on the dinghy so the family must have loved Dias very much to take him with them,” Nhin said.

When Dias showed up in a nearby village three days later, the volunteers decided to do something to help. They launched a social media campaign to share Dias’ story, put out Arabic-translated flyers and created a GoFundMe page to help with veterinary costs.

“Amid all the chaos, suffering and sadness,” the group is “hopeful in reuniting [Dias] with his family,” Nhin said.

Although they have not yet located his family, they have found Dias a foster home in Berlin. The group believes they have the best chance of reuniting Dias with his owners in Germany due to the large number of refugees settling there. They plan to continue their search until January 2017, at which point Dias’ foster family will adopt him.

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Orangutan Mesmerized By Breastfeeding Mom at Melbourne Zoo

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Courtesy Elizabeth Hunt Burrett(MELBOURNE, Australia) — An Australian mother had an unlikely audience while breastfeeding her infant son at the Melbourne Zoo.

An orangutan closely watched from inside one of the zoo’s exhibits as Elizabeth Hunt Burrett breastfed her now-14-week-old son, Eli.

“I was there for about 20 minutes and the orangutan watched the whole feed,” Burrett told ABC News in an email.

Burrett, of Melbourne, was visiting the zoo to celebrate her older daughter’s third birthday on Feb. 7, when she went off to the side to nurse Eli.

Soon enough, Burrett had garnered the orangutan’s attention, as well as other zoo-goers, who noticed how closely the orangutan was watching.

Burrett posted a photo of the moment on Facebook.

“Now everyone in Melbourne (well not everyone) has a picture of me feeding, as once one person saw what was going on, the word spread fast and they flocked to see what was happening,” Burrett wrote alongside the caption. “I felt like I was on exhibit lol.”

“It was the most beautiful thing,” she wrote of her unlikely orangutan encounter.

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Iran Sees Chance to Bring Down ‘Wall of Mistrust’ With US

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Iran’s foreign minister says the nuclear deal with world powers offers a chance to demolish a “wall of mistrust” between Iran and the United States, but it’s not a task for Tehran alone

Spain: Civil Servant Fined After Skipping Work for Years

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

A Spanish court has ruled a civil servant who failed to show up to work for years in the southern city of Cadiz must pay back nearly 27,000 euros ($30,500) in wages

Saudi Foreign Minister Defends Policy at Munich Meeting

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister is defending his country’s foreign policy and its actions in Yemen and Syria, insisting that the kingdom has no ambitions beyond its borders

Militants Shoot Down Libyan Fighter Jet

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Libya’s air force chief of staff says a fighter jet was shot down while carrying out airstrikes against Islamic militants, the third jet to be downed in nearly 40 days

US Africa Command Says Senior LRA Rebel Commander Defects

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

U.S. Africa Command says a senior commander with rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army has defected in Central African Republic

Space Station Resupply Mission Delayed After Mold Found in Bags

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

NASA(NEW YORK) — A cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station has been pushed back after mold was discovered in some of the bags used for packing supplies, NASA said.

The initial launch of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft was scheduled for Thursday, March 10, but now has been pushed back to “no earlier than March 20,” according to a NASA launch schedule. Officials are investigating the cause of the mold.

NASA spokesman Dan Huot told ABC News in an email there is “no suspected source at this time” for what caused the traces of mold in the fabric bags, which are used to pack clothes, food and other supplies for astronauts living at the International Space Station (ISS). The traces of mold were found during routine inspections and tests as officials packed the spacecraft.

Had the bags reached the International Space Station, they likely wouldn’t have had an impact on astronauts.

“On board ISS, the environment is relatively dry and not easily hospitable to microbial growth,” Huot said. “If necessary, the crew could also use disinfectant wipes to wipe affected surfaces.”
 
Huot added NASA is now reviewing its launch schedule to determine if the Orbital ATK delay would push back the next resupply mission.

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French Official: Up to 1,000 Must Leave Calais Migrant Camp

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Up to 1,000 people living in a sprawling migrant camp by Calais must leave their makeshift dwellings, the top official in France’s northern Pas-de-Calais region announced on Friday

Italy Mourns, Premier Demands Truth From Egypt in Slaying

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Italy’s premier on Friday insisted his country’s friendship with Egypt can only exist “if the truth emerges” about the death of an Italian doctoral student doing research in Cairo

Serbia Passes Holocaust Restitution Law

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Serbian lawmakers have voted on a bill allowing the restitution of heirless and unclaimed Jewish property expropriated during the Holocaust

What You Need to Know About Syrian Cease-Fire Deal

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Syria Support Group agrees on first step toward peace after five-year war.

Migrants Attacked Around Calais, Tinderbox of Tensions

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Mysterious armed groups are on the prowl, targeting migrants in night attacks in Calais and elsewhere in northern France, sowing fear among the displaced travelers living in squalid slums and deepening concerns the city is becoming a tinderbox

Pope Bound for Historic Meeting 1,000 Years in the Making

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

The heads of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches are meeting today.

Bashar al-Assad Promises to Retake All of Syria

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made an announcement bashing all hopes for a lasting cease-fire.

In an interview with AFP news agency—his first in two months—President Assad vowed to retake “the whole country” from rebel forces even if it takes a long time.

According to the BBC, Assad expressed his support of peace talks and negotiations, but that will not stop his fight against terrorism.

“We have fully believed in negotiations in political action since the beginning of the crisis,” Assad said in an interview Thursday in Damascus. “However, if we negotiate, it does not mean that we stop fighting terrorism. The two tracks are inevitable in Syria: first through negotiations, and second, through fighting terrorism. And the two tracks are separate from each other.”

Tentative peace talks began to occur in Geneva in January, but they were “paused” until the end of February.

World powers have agreed to push for an end to hostilities in about a week, and the UN says it hopes to bring aid to poor areas in Syria within the next few days.

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Candidates Promise Unity in Central African Republic Vote

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Voters in Central African Republic are choosing Sunday between two former prime ministers, both of whom are pledging to unite a country torn apart by sectarian fighting between Christian and Muslim communities

Pope Francis to Meet with Russian Orthodox Counterpart in Cuba

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

neneos/iStock Editorial/ThinkStock(HAVANA) — A sombrero-wearing Pope Francis appeared to be excited about his trip to Mexico Friday as he boarded the plane transporting him, but the most historic part of his trip comes before he lands south of the border.

The head of the Catholic Church will meet Friday with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Havana before heading to Mexico for a six-day trip. The meeting will bring the heads of the Russian and Catholic churches together for the first time since Christianity split.

Patriarch Kirill has already landed in Cuba.

Lengthy Lead Up to the Meeting

The meeting is about 1,000 years in the making as the two split back in the 11th century.

The Vatican has been pushing for such a meeting since the collapse of the Soviet Union but Moscow had always resisted. For years, the Russian Church has accused the Catholic Church of aggressively proselytizing in Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus, all of which are areas the Orthodox Church believed fell under its territory.

Popular convention dates the split between the Catholic and Orthodox churches to the so-called Great Schism in 1054, when the western pope excommunicated the head of the eastern church in Constantinople — now Istanbul — over differences in worship practices.

The split solidified into centuries of deep hostility, with the two sides differing over a number of doctrinal issues, most importantly the pope’s status as Christianity’s supreme authority on earth. The Russian Orthodox Church long taught that the pope was the antichrist.

Hatreds have cooled in the past century, and both sides now tend to avoid publicly calling each other heretics.

Friday’s meeting will not actually be the first between an Orthodox Church leader and a pope; in 1964, Pope Paul VI met with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, formally recognized as Orthodoxy’s spiritual leader but whose authority is contested by the Russian church.

Location, Location, Location

The choice of Cuba as the meeting spot also falls under the question of territory, as it is seen as somewhat neutral land because Cuba has long had ties to the Russians but has a large Catholic population and hosted Pope Francis in September.

Pope Francis will be in Cuba for about three hours, making the stop a relatively short one, before heading to Mexico.

“The meeting has a political, a humanitarian significance,” said Yevgeny Nikiforov, a prominent Russian historian of the Church who helps run an Orthodox radio station. “But it has no divine significance.”

Different Approaches to Religious Leadership

They are two very different figures: Pope Francis is known for being humble and regularly is driven in a Fiat, while Patriarch Kirill was once spotted wearing a $30,000 watch and is driven by chauffeur in a black Mercedes.

Under Kirill, the Russian Orthodox Church has grown close to the Kremlin, to the point where it often acts like a branch of the government. He is extremely close to Putin and often literally blesses or paves the way for some of Putin’s most controversial moves like the anti-gay law and clandestine military action in Crimea.

How Will this Change Relations?

John Julius Norwich, a bestselling historian of the Byzantine Empire, as well as of the papacy, said he believed the meeting was likely part of a broader effort by Francis to try and strengthen a Catholic church under assault by changing lifestyles in South America and mass violence in the Middle East.

“It is a step towards reconciliation, there is no question about it,” Norwich said. “But I think it’s going to be very much on the surface.”

“It’s angels dancing on the head of a pin. But they’ve been involved in it for 1,700 years. It’s going to take an awful long time to get over that. I can see it maybe getting to where they are much, much nicer to each other than they have ever been, but deep, deep down still hating each other’s guts,” he said.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Nigerian Army Frees 267 Detainees, No Links to Boko Haram

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Nigeria’s army is freeing 267 detainees found to have no links to the Boko Haram Islamic extremists including 72 minors, some looking no more than 3 years old

Pope Having Historic Meeting 1,000 Years in the Making

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

The heads of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches are meeting today.

Moscow Court Rejects Opposition Leader’s Suit Against Putin

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

A prominent Russian opposition figure has filed a suit which accuses President Vladimir Putin of breaking the nation’s anti-corruption law, but a Moscow court rejected it Friday

Mauritania Arrests Interior Ministry Official for Corruption

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

An official in Mauritania says the secretary-general of the Interior Ministry has been arrested on suspicion of corruption connected to a UK company

NASA Posters Tease What Future of Space Travel Could Look Like

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

NASA(NEW YORK) — NASA released a series of whimsical posters for destinations in our solar system, giving a glimpse of what space exploration could look like sometime in the distant future.

The series of posters were released by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and provide a dreamy perspective of what our solar system has to offer.

One of the posters shows a luxurious looking Venus: “See you at the Cloud 9 Observatory” the poster says. Another shows hot air balloons and advertises “the might auroras” of Jupiter. A trip to the exoplanet Kepler 16-B, which orbits two suns, is advertised as the place “where your shadow always has company.”

“At NASA/JPL we strive to be bold in advancing the edge of possibility so that someday, with the help of new generations of innovators and explorers, these visions of the future can become a reality,” the team behind the posters wrote. “As you look through these images of imaginative travel destinations, remember that you can be an architect of the future.”

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EU Gives Greece Border Control Deadline

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

PaulGrecaud/iStock/ThinkStock(NEW YORK) — Greece has been given three months by the European Union (EU) to fix its border controls, reports BBC News.

The move aims to allow other Schengen zone states to control internal borders.

Other states in the EU have been critical of Greece’s actions in stemming the flow of migrants. In the first two months of 2016 alone, 80,000 migrants have crossed Turkey and in 2015, almost 900,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Greece, says BBC News.

According to the Schengen Borders Code, countries can initiate temporary border controls for a short period of up to two years.

On Thursday, NATO said that ships would be deployed in the Aegean Sea to catch people-smugglers.

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North Korea Halts Probe Into Fate of Kidnapped Japanese

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

North Korea has expressed anger over new sanctions announced by Japan over its recent rocket launch and says in response it has halted an investigation into the fate of Japanese citizens it kidnapped decades ago

Russian Opposition Figure Files Suit Against Putin

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

A Moscow court has confirmed that it received a lawsuit from an opposition figure who accuses Russian President Vladimir Putin of breaking the nation’s anti-corruption law

Italy Mourns, as Premier Demands Truth From Egypt in Slaying

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Italy’s premier on Friday insisted his country’s friendship with Egypt can only exist “if the truth emerges” in the death of an Italian doctoral student who was doing research in Cairo