Subscribe To This Feed

Pyeongyang Press Corps/Getty Images(PYONGYANG, North Korea) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un greeted South Korean President Moon Jae-in with a lavish welcome ceremony Tuesday at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, as the two leaders kicked off their third summit this year.

Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, hugged the first couple from the South at the red-carpeted airfield as a crowd of thousands lined up to cheer for them -- some holding national flags, some holding unified-peninsula flags and some holding colorful plastic bouquets.

North Korea's ceremonial guards honored the South's delegation. Kim's influential sister, Kim Yo Jong, first vice department director of the central committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, also was on hand to escort the visitors.

Moon flew to Pyongyang Tuesday for the third inter-Korean summit with Kim.

The South Korean delegation, which was about 200 people from all walks of life, including businessmen and musicians, landed around 10 a.m. local time.

Moon and Kim rode in a lavish parade, standing together and waving to the crowd from an open-top black Mercedes limousine. Tens of thousands of citizens dressed in colorful national costumes and waving flags and paper-flower bouquets lined up in the streets chanting “Unification!”

The two leaders arrived at the Baekhwawon guesthouse, had separate luncheons, and then began the first of a three-day summit talk.

“You traveled to best places around the world but our accommodation is plain compared to developed countries,” Kim told Moon just before going into closed-door meetings. “Though our standards may be low, I hope you understand our efforts with full heart that we did our best to prepare the best accommodation and schedule [for this trip].”

A priority on the agenda is to ease military tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Im Jong-seok, the South Korean presidential office's chief of staff, said at a press conference Monday. The two leaders will spend considerable time reviewing in detail the progress of their joint agreement made in April and then draw up a "concrete and practical" agreement.

Moon also will focus on bridging the gap between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump regarding denuclearization. So far, the U.S. wants concrete steps by the North to prove denuclearization, for example, a "list" of nuclear facilities. On the other hand, North Korea wants a regime-security guarantee that includes declaring the Korean War over and signing a non-aggression peace treaty.

It's "difficult to have an optimistic outlook" on the progress of denuclearization, although it will depend on the honest conversations between Moon and Kim to reach such an agreement, Im said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(HONG KONG) -- Although they are used to weathering several typhoons every year, Hong Kongers woke up shell-shocked on Monday after Super Typhoon Mangkhut, the strongest storm on the planet recorded this year, tore through the city on Sunday, injuring over 300 people but killing none. Even after such a devastating storm, most people went back to work on Monday, and the stock markets opened for trading.

Despite weakening after first hitting the Philippines and killing at least 65 people, the Hong Kong Observatory confirmed Mangkhut was the most powerful storm to hit the southern Chinese territory since records have been kept beginning in 1946.

Hong Kong avoided a direct hit and escaped without any fatalities, but Mangkhut’s ferocious winds and storm surge uprooted more than 1500 trees and broke hundreds of windows across the city.

Record-setting storm surges of more than 11 feet were measured in some parts of Hong Kong, while huge waves crashed into waterfront apartments. Low elevation and coastal neighborhoods like the beach town of Shek O and waterfront housing estate Heng Fa Chuen experienced flooding.

Windows across Hong Kong were blown out by wind gusts that were recorded at speeds of up to 120 mph. Most dramatically, dozens of windows of the One Harbourfront complex that juts out into Hong Kong’s famed Victoria Harbor were destroyed. Online video taken during the storm showed reams of paper being blown out from the building.

Hong Kong’s normally secure and bendable bamboo-scaffolding used in construction could not withstand the force of the winds, and many scaffolds were ripped off of buildings, crashing into the streets below.

The Hong Kong Government made the call to lower the storm signal early Monday morning to allow the stock market to open for trading, meaning that Hong Kongers were also expected to go to work.

Public transportation was not running at full capacity as numerous bus routes and light rail services were suspended due to debris, causing major crowding at transportation hubs across the city.

In a press conference Monday, trade union leader Lee Cheuk-yan criticized Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam for not giving workers a day off to recover from the typhoon.

Terence Chong, an Economics professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong told the South China Morning Post that if the entire city had not worked on Monday, the economic loss could amount to about $7.3 billion Hong Kong dollars, the equivalent of $930 million U.S. dollars.

What was left of Mangkhut went on to wreak havoc on neighboring Macau on Sunday, which suspended normal casino operations for the first time ever. The storm later made landfall in China’s Guangdong province, where it has killed at least four people.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Maritime history was made this month with the passage of the first commercial container ship through the Northern Sea Route of the Arctic Ocean, a route made possible by the melting of Arctic ice.

The Venta Maersk, a new ship loaded with Russian fish and South Korean electronics, left Vladivostok, Russia, at the beginning of September and is expected to arrive in Bremerhaven, Germany, next week, after successfully navigating ice-plagued seas from the Bering Straits north.

The waters at the top of the world have warmed rapidly over the last four decades, at nearly twice the rate of warming in the rest of the world, according to the Arctic Council, an international group that studies the region. The United Nations' panel on climate change says the dramatic warming is unprecedented in human history.

Only a decade ago shipping experts all but ruled out traveling across the Arctic Ocean.

The Venta Maersk, which has protections built in for moving through ice, is owned by the largest container shipping agency in the world, Danish company A.P. Moller Maersk. With its successful Arctic passage, commercial shipping agencies are likely to consider what kind of market might be developed using the Northern Sea Route.

Traveling across the Arctic Ocean can reduce ships' travel time 40 percent by allowing them to go north instead of around southern Asia and through the Suez Canal or past the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. That could mean lower fuel costs, fewer canal transit fees, reduced danger from pirates, and less wear and tear on the vessel.

But commercial customers also demand reliability on delivery dates, and the Northern Sea Route could close quickly if weather suddenly changed, potentially causing a container ship to get stuck in ice until rescued by bigger ice-breakers remains a possibility. Such unpredictability has until now led commercial shipping companies to stay away.

Chinese and Japanese shippers are among those exploring the possible benefits of Arctic Ocean crossings, Frederic Lasserre, a professor at the Universite Laval in Quebec and expert on Arctic shipping, told the EUObserver newspaper.

China has already announced an ambitious plan to create a “polar Silk Road” by developing shipping lanes opened up by global warming. The Arctic Shipping Forum says 300 ships have used the Northern Sea Route, but the Venta Maersk is the first container vessel for commercial shipping to cross.

"In the last two, three years the ice melt in summer has been so extensive that developments are getting very hard to predict. I will not rule out that some shipping agencies may reach the necessary level of flexibility so that they can offer regular container service in the North East Passage during summer within the next 10 years," said Lasserre.


The Venta Maersk is one of seven new vessels that the Maersk company is building for possible use on this route. Each new ship is 650 feet long, 115 feet wide and capable of carrying 3,600 shipping containers through waters frozen with 3 feet of ice.

But the company is so far downplaying the historic trip as a one-off.

"The trial passage will enable us to explore the operational feasibility of container shipping through the Northern Sea Route and to collect data. Currently, we do not see the Northern Sea Route as a commercial alternative to our existing network which is defined by our customers' demand, trading patterns and population centers," a statement from A.P. Moller Maersk says.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(BRISBANE, Australia) -- Australian authorities have ordered a review into the handling of strawberries after they say fruit containing sewing needles turned up in supermarkets across the country.

Annastacia Palaszczuk, premier of Queensland state, also offered a reward of roughly $72,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone responsible.

“Whoever is behind this is not just putting families at risk across Queensland and the rest of Australia – they are putting an entire industry at risk,” she said in a statement.

No suspects have been identified.

The first reported case of strawberry contamination sparked national fears last week. Hoani van Dorp went to the hospital with "severe abdominal pain" after swallowing half a sewing needle lodged in a strawberry, according to friend Joshua Gane.

Gane made the allegation in a Facebook post that has been shared thousands of times.

Authorities have not confirmed any injuries or the number of strawberries that have been affected.

The Queensland Strawberry Growers Association described the incident as “extremely disheartening and troubling.”

“Strawberries were interfered with between the time they were packed and the time they were purchased,” it said, also advising purchasers to cut their fruit in half before eating for “peace of mind."

Contaminated strawberries have now been found in supermarkets Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp., which reported that strawberry growers are using metal detectors to scan their fruit.

Coles and Aldi supermarkets have reportedly pulled all strawberries from their shelves while two of New Zealand’s biggest food companies -- Countdown and Foodstuffs -- have reportedly stopped importing Australian strawberries.

The Queensland Health Department has advised anyone who has bought Berry Obsession and Berry Licious strawberries to destroy or return them after they were pulled from shelves. At least six major brands have been affected, according to the Guardian newspaper.

Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced on Twitter that regulatory body Food Standards Australia New Zealand will investigate.

He tweeted, “I urge all Australians be vigilant for potential contaminants.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Jes Aznar/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The strongest storm on Earth in 2018 barreled through the northern Philippines before dawn on Saturday, bringing with it ferocious winds and torrential rain.

Typhoon Mangkhut, known locally as Ompong, made landfall in Cagayan province on northeast Luzon island at 1:40 a.m. local time, according to the country's weather agency, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration. It's estimated that the tropical cyclone put at least five million people at risk.

Mangkhut, considered the strongest storm on the planet so far this year, was the 15th to hit the Philippines. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center U.S. Navy-U.S. Air Force command, located in Hawaii, had downgraded Mangkhut from a "super typhoon" prior to landfall, when it had peak wind speeds of 180 mph.

Mangkhut weakened slightly as it reached Luzon's mountainous coastline early Saturday morning; however, it was still packing winds equivalent to a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale.

Its tropical storm-force winds extended 550 miles across, according to the country's weather agency, making it nearly double the size of Florence, the hurricane-turned-tropical storm that made landfall over the southeastern United States on Friday.

Mangkhut's high winds churned rough seas as it moved across Luzon, producing waves nearly 30 feet high, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. The heavy rain triggered landslides that reportedly claimed the lives of several people in the area.

Images from hard-hit areas in Cagayan province show countless downed trees and toppled power lines, blown out buildings and debris strewn across roadways.

Global nonprofit Oxfam said it deployed teams of responders to the area to assess the damage and provide disaster relief.

"The situation is very bad," Oxfam's April Abello-Bulanadi said in a statement from Tuguegarao City. "The winds are howling and we can feel the destructive force of Ompong. The roof of the hotel where the response team convened has been blown away. We are on the third floor. The walls and ceiling are shaking. It has been raining nonstop."

Mangkhut has been tracked northwestward at about 16 mph over the past six hours, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

The cyclone is forecast to make another landfall over southeastern China, just west of Hong Kong on Sunday, and will ultimately dissipate over the rugged terrain.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL) -- South Korea's president, Moon Jae-in, is expected to fly to Pyongyang for the first time next week in hopes of accelerating international efforts to denuclearize North Korea.

"At this stage, I believe it is most important to put a complete end to military tensions between North and South, or possibility of military conflict, or war threat," Moon told reporters Thursday.

It will be the third summit this year between Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The first two meetings -- in April and May -- took place at Panmunjom, which separates the two Koreas.

Moon and the South Korean delegation will fly directly to Pyongyang using the Western air route, Moon's office said, adding that an advance team will take the land route to Pyongyang on Sunday for preparations. Next week's summit is set to take place from Tuesday to Thursday. Key parts of the three-day trip will also be broadcast live.

At the top of the agenda is defusing military tensions, Moon said during a meeting Thursday with his special advisers.

Moon is also eager to mediate differences between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in order to bring the denuclearization process back on track. The third inter-Korean summit has been planned as denuclearization discussion between the United States and North Korea have faltered.

"I believe finding an intersecting point to restart the dialogue and let denuclearization to take place promptly, is the role [South Korea] must serve in the middle," Moon said.

Moon Chung-in, an adviser in the South Korean presidential office, also explained during a briefing with foreign journalists that the president will want his North Korean counterpart to seek "bold and imaginative approaches" that go beyond just freezing of the North's nuclear program and involve a declaration, inspection and verification process.

"President Moon will be placing the utmost impetus on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Therefore, he will try to play role of a facilitator or a mediator between Pyongyang and Washington," the top adviser told reporters.

Next week’s summit will mark the fifth inter-Korean meeting. The late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il invited South Korean President Kim Dae-jung to Pyongyang in 2000 and Roh Moo-hyun in 2007.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Retired Adm. William "Bill" McRaven, who led the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, resigned from his post on the Pentagon's Defense Innovation Board last month, just days after he publicly criticized President Donald Trump, the Pentagon confirmed Thursday.

"I can confirm that Admiral (Ret.) William H. McRaven resigned from the Defense Innovation Board, effective Aug. 20, 2018,” Heather Babb, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, told ABC News on Thursday. "The department appreciates his service and contribution on the board."

The Defense Innovation Board is an independent advisory committee to the Pentagon specializing in issues related to technology and innovation.

His resignation was first reported by Defense News on Thursday.

The resignation came four days after he criticized the president for revoking the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, whom McRaven called "one of the finest public servants" he’d "ever known."

"Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him," McRaven, the former head of Special Operations Command, wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post last month. "Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency."

"Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation," McRaven added in the op-ed.

The retired admiral, who led the Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014, noted that he had criticized Trump in the past and hoped to see Trump "rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs."

"A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow," McRaven wrote. "A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself. Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities."

McRaven oversaw the 2011 mission that killed the former head of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Satellite image (c)2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company(TSUGOL, Russia) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday watched a huge simulated battle put on by Russian and Chinese troops, as he attended the largest so-called war games in his country’s history.

Putin attended the climax of the Vostok or “East” 2018 exercises that have been held across Russia’s far eastern regions this week.

After the mock battle, Putin oversaw a vast combined military parade of Russian and Chinese troops, who joined the exercise for the first time.

The military spectacle was a remarkable instance of Russian and Chinese cooperation and one that seemed intended as a coordinated attempt to promote both countries’ ambitions to be dominant global powers.

The elaborate display took place at Tsugol training range close to the Russian city of Chita, roughly 3,600 miles from Moscow. There, just north of Mongolia, a neat, square battle camp had been constructed, divided into Russian and Chinese sections.

Russia’s military has said the Vostok drills are of unprecedented scale, involving 300,000 troops and over 36,000 tanks.

Many experts have said those numbers are heavily exaggerated, however. But Thursday’s exercise was clearly intended to impress with size. Dozens of helicopters and hundreds of tanks took part in the mock battle.

The scenario called for mixed Russian and Chinese forces to fight over a river crossing. Watched by Putin from an observation tower, waves of helicopters launched the battle.

Chinese fighting vehicles drove into the field, as Russian Ka-52 and Mi-24 gunships strafed. Forty-two warplanes later joined the bombardment, along with artillery and multiple-rocket launchers. Ash and acrid smoke from the blast floated back onto the spectators.

The display seemed larger than that at the Zapad war games last year that alarmed parts of Europe.

More symbolically striking than the battle was the parade recalling those that Putin watches in Red Square but here was held on an empty plain.

Hundreds of tanks and trucks stood in massed ranks, as dozens more paraded past. A band played mostly Russian (or rather Soviet) marches.

Standing on a grandstand, Putin— who had flown to the exercises after hosting China’s president Xi Jing Ping in Vladivostok— hailed the troops for ensuring a common “Eurasian security”.

“Russia is a peace-loving country,” Putin said, adding it could never have aggressive plans. But it would continue to develop its military, he said, to be able to defend itself and its allies.

A Chinese commander, Lt. Gen. Sho Yuanmin, speaking to journalists afterward, said military cooperation was now constant between Russia and China, and enthused over the opportunity to learn from Russia’s more experienced troops.

But experts are skeptical of how deep the warm feeling goes, noting both sides, in reality, are wary after decades of rivalry that saw the countries almost fight a war in 1969.

The military power displayed was also thinner than it was presented, some experts said.

Considerable effort had gone into the spectacle. Tanks and trucks had been parked artfully in lines across the hills behind the main parade to give the impression that the army stretched on and on.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

RT(SALISBURY, England) -- Two men accused of poisoning ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury have denied carrying out the attack and said they were just visiting the town to see the cathedral in an interview with Kremlin-funded news channel RT.

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov confirmed they are the men accused of carrying out the attack in the interview with RT. Boshirov also called on the U.K. to apologize for the allegations, claiming that their lives had been "turned upside down."

"We’re afraid of going out. We fear for ourselves, our lives and lives of our loved ones," Boshirov told RT.

Petrov and Boshirov claim to have been visiting the "wonderful town" of Salisbury, England, to see its famous cathedral. But British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement to the House of Commons last week that the Russian nationals were wanted for the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and attending police officer Nick Bailey on March 4.

The British government believes the men sprayed the front door of the Skripals' front door with the highly toxic Novichok nerve agent before returning to London and flying to Moscow that same evening. The Skripals were found collapsed on a park bench at 4:15 p.m. Both survived after long stays in the hospital.

Speaking at an economic forum in Eastern Russia on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russian authorities were aware of who the suspects were, but dismissed British claims they were linked to the GRU, Russia's foreign military intelligence agency. They were "civilians," Putin said, before encouraging them to come forward and speak to the media.

British police said in a statement that on March 3 -- the day before the Skripals fell ill -- the two men were on a "reconnaissance trip."

In the interview with RT, Boshirov denied those claims, saying they had traveled that day to see Stonehenge, but "couldn’t do it" because "the town was covered by this slush. We got wet, took the nearest train and came back to London."

Boshirov added that maybe they did approach Skripal's house, "but we don’t know where is it located."

When asked about the Nina Ricci perfume bottle allegedly used to spray the Novichok nerve agent on the Skripals front door, Boshirov said the pair didn't have it.

"Isn't it silly for decent lads to have women’s perfume? The customs are checking everything; they would have questions as to why men have women’s perfume in their luggage. We didn’t have it," Boshirov told RT.

The pair were interviewed by Margarita Simonyan, RT's editor-in-chief. Simonyan tweeted in Russian earlier that Petrov and Boshirov had "refused to give interviews to anyone else, not even our journalists, as they said, they know me on the air and read my social networks and therefore, again they said they trust me."

After a six-month investigation, Scotland Yard released a detailed account of the pair's alleged movements from March 2 to March 4.

CCTV footage shows Petrov and Boshirov, who traveled on Russian passports and were previously believed to have used aliases, arriving in the U.K. on Friday evening on an Aeroflot flight into London's Gatwick airport. On Sunday, images show the pair in Salisbury town center, near the Skripals' house.

In the House of Commons last week, May said the attack was "almost certainly" approved "at a senior level of the Russian state." An Interpol red notice and a European arrest warrant were issued, but extradition is impossible as it is forbidden by the Russian state.

A spokesperson for the U.K. Home Office said the men are the "prime suspects."

"The Police and Crown Prosecution Service have identified these men as the prime suspects in relation to the attack in Salisbury," the spokesperson said. "The government is clear these men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service -- the GRU -- who used a devastatingly toxic, illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country. We have repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March. Today -- just as we have seen throughout -- they have responded with obfuscation and lies."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress late Tuesday that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are taking "demonstrable actions" to minimize civilian casualties in their war against Houthi rebels in Yemen -- in a certification required by law.

But to critics, his words are, to a certain extent, refuted by the State Department's own report, an unclassified version that was obtained by ABC News.

The certification from Pompeo means that the U.S. will continue to assist the Saudi-led coalition with mid-air refueling for its war planes. But it comes amid mounting pressure from Congress and the public to withdraw the U.S. support that includes not just refueling jets, but also sharing intelligence and selling advanced weaponry.

Saudi Arabia and UAE have been fighting in Yemen since 2015, when the Houthis -- an Iranian-backed Shia group -- took control of the government in the capital, Sanaa, and ousted the government. A brutal civil war, the conflict has raged for three years now with allegations of human rights abuses and war crimes on both sides -- but, in particular, the Saudis, Emiratis and their Yemeni government allies are responsible for "most direct civilian casualties," according to a United Nations report last month that accused them of targeting residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities.

The backlash in the U.S. to the American military's support for both countries led to a provision in this year's defense spending bill that required the administration to brief Congress within 30 days on the war, and certify that the Saudis and Emiratis were taking steps to minimize civilian casualties and implement a peace process.

But while the State Department report said the two countries are in fact "taking appropriate steps to avoid disproportionate harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure," it's unclear to which recent steps it's referring.

Outrage has grown over the coalition's bombing campaign after it hit a school bus and killed more than 40 children and several adults on Aug. 9, and then dozens of children and women in another bombardment a week later.

In particular, the report said the Saudis "incorporated a no-strike list into its target development procedures." But the Saudis have lauded their no-strike list since at least May 2017, when a Saudi embassy press release listed it as one of "several steps" taken to "create a more thorough vetting process for target selection." The list included 33,000 targets at the time, the embassy said.

The State Department report also references a U.S. government course to the Royal Saudi Air Force "that included training on the law of armed conflict and air-to-ground targeting processes," but that course was delivered in May 2017, according to the report.

Instead, the report itself admits "recent civilian casualty incidents indicate insufficient implementation of reforms and targeting practices."

A State Department official would not comment on the contents of the certification report but did point to the coalition's investigation of the Aug. 9 bombing.

"That investigation led to the coalition admitting it made errors," the official told ABC News, and the coalition is now "reviewing its rules of engagement, will hold those at fault accountable and compensate victims of the Aug. 9 air strikes in Sa'ada that tragically killed children on a school bus."

But the department's report also showed that, so far, "investigations have not yielded accountability measures."

Critics have said the administration is loath to criticize the Saudis, even in a spat between Canada and the kingdom over human rights.

"They've got a bad set of facts, but they don't care about that. They are singularly focused on having the Saudis be a buffer to Iran, and that has been this administration's policy since the president took office," Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., told ABC News. "The casualty of that is Yemeni civilians."

The Saudis, however, said they have taken steps, including finding fault during their investigation of the school bus bombing. They have also maintained that the Houthis are a legitimate threat to Saudis, pointing to rocket attacks, including a handful that have come close to Riyadh's airport.

"What Pompeo said is actually accurate, despite all the naysayers. A huge effort is being made to improve targeting and work to avoid such accidents, and the U.S. is very aware of that," Ali Shihabi, founder of the Arabia Foundation in Washington, which has close ties to the kingdom, said in an email.

By Wednesday, the Trump administration was obligated to provide a briefing to Congress on the conflict, including the successes of the Saudi and Emirati military campaign, the Houthi rebels' human rights abuses and sources of support, and the impact on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) -- widely seen as the most dangerous branch of the terror group.

While the deadline for that classified briefing was Wednesday, it's actually scheduled for Sept. 20, according to two Congressional aides and a State Department official.

But several lawmakers are already up in arms over the certification.

"We need to hold our allies to a higher standard and, unfortunately, this certification fails in that regard," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who co-authored the section of the defense bill that created the reporting requirements. "It is evident that the administration is deliberately sidestepping congressional oversight."

Her Republican co-sponsor, Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, expressed urgency this week in a joint op-ed with Shaheen. His office did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who opposed U.S. arms for the Saudi campaign virtually from the start of the conflict -- and who, at one time, held up arms sales to the country -- also declined to comment.

Democrats had sharp words for the administration.

"How can the Trump administration deny what everyone can see with our own two eyes?" Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said in a statement. "These certifications are a farce, and we should all be ashamed that our government is turning a blind eye to likely war crimes."

There is also movement to do something about it. In her statement, Shaheen pointed to certification deadlines in 180 and 360 days, when the administration must again certify that Saudi Arabia and UAE are taking steps to reduce civilian casualties and end the war.

But other lawmakers don't want to wait.

Last year, Khanna was the sole sponsor of a war powers resolution to withdraw U.S. forces from any role in the Yemeni conflict. Now, he is set to introduce the same bill with the ranking members of the House Armed Services Committee and Rules Committee as co-sponsors, among eight others.

Last March, a similar vote died in the Senate, but it did garner 44 votes, including from five Republicans.

With the Democrats hoping to take back the House in November's midterm elections, the legislation could be top of list for the Armed Services Committee, which oversees the Pentagon's budget.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Taylor Hill/WireImage(MOSCOW) -- A member of the Russian protest group Pussy Riot was listed in critical condition on Wednesday after possibly being poisoned, according to the band.

Pyotr Verzilov was rushed to a Moscow hospital late Tuesday after he reportedly lost his eyesight and speaking ability.

"His life is in danger. We think that he was poisoned," the band, known for its colorful masks and controversial protests of the Russian government, tweeted Wednesday.

Verzilov fell ill after a court hearing on Tuesday and later was taken to the toxicology ward of the Bakhrushin City Clinical Hospital in Moscow, according to his girlfriend.

"When the paramedics arrived, he answered all their questions, saying, 'No, I didn't eat anything. No, I didn't take anything,'" Verzilov's girlfriend, Veronika Nikulshina, told the Russian media outlet Meduza on Wednesday. "He was getting worse even faster, and then he started convulsing."

"On the way, in the ambulance, he was already babbling," Nikulshina said, adding, "He fell into such a half-asleep, half-unconscious state that he stopped responding to me and didn't even recognize me anymore."

Verzilov's current condition is unknown, according to the Meduza report.

Verzilov and fellow Pussy Riot members Nikulshina, Olga Kurachyova and Olga Pakhtusova were detained for 15 days after staging a pitch invasion of the World Cup final in July.

The group said the demonstration was intended to protest the roles of the police and courts in the political persecution of opponents of the Kremlin.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(TELEMBA, Russia) -- The huge war games that Russia is holding this week are taking place across the vast wilderness of the country’s Far East, close to the borders of Mongolia and China.

The drills —- called Vostok 2018 –- are being touted by Russia's military as the largest in its history, involving a staggering 300,000 troops, almost 1,000 aircraft and over 36,000 tanks and armored vehicles.

Located across nine training ranges and three seas off Russia's eastern coast, the war games began to swing into higher gear on Tuesday, with troops maneuvering in the taiga, or snow forest, and Russian warships practicing missile launches.

Russian air defense units fought a simulated battle against warplanes over a forested plateau in Buryatia, a Buddhist region located roughly 3,600 miles from Moscow and a few hundred miles north of Mongolia.

The drills are meant to stretch the Russian military’s ability to operate over the country’s huge, inhospitable distances. Buryatia provides plentiful opportunity for that.

The anti-air exercise site was a four-hour drive down a jolting mud road, through the blackwater swamps and flaming yellow trees that have grown up out of the taiga, where autumn is already turning to winter.

Misty grey clouds hung in front of the observation post looking over the forest where Russian anti-air batteries sat. Some of Russia’s most advanced anti-air weapons were concealed in the forest undergrowth, among them the S400 anti-air missile system at the center of a diplomatic spat with the U.S. over Russia's plans to sell it to Turkey.

A bus-sized radar dish daubed in thick, green paint rotated rapidly on the hill, among several others.

After a few minutes, ground-to-air missiles began lifting off as brilliant white flares in the distance, billowing mist beneath them, then sliding easily upward into the gloom. Overhead, warplanes and cruise missiles could be heard rumbling.

Afterwards, the Russian commanders informed journalists that the drill had been entirely successful, blocking all 30 targets.

There was no way to verify that claim and the uncertainty echoed a larger one hanging over the exercises as a whole. Few experts believe that 300,000 troops are actually taking part, saying Russia lacks the capacity to move such numbers. Others have suggested obsolete tanks have been pressed into service to inflate the numbers.

There is no doubt, however, that the drills are large, taking in a striking range of forces over huge distances. What is clear is the Kremlin’s desire to use the exercises to promote itself as a military super power.

China's first-time participation in the drills, which were established under the Soviet Union, has been hailed in Russia as a sign of its restored importance in international security, as well as a symbol of the two countries' closeness.

The Kremlin has downplayed the war games as routine -- even as its media has trumpeted them -- and has insisted they are not intended to combat any real-world opponent.

Experts are confident, though, about the intended opponent in the mock drills. Pavel Felgengauer, a well-known defense commentator, said that, as with the Cold War exercises, Vostok is meant to test Russia’s military’s capacity to fight a major war with the United States.

Russia’s defense ministry has been making explicit comparisons with "Zapad 81," vast war games held by the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries on Russia’s Western border in 1981. Russia’s military says this year’s Vostok surpasses those games in scale.

The reasons for past war games varied, experts said. Besides the obvious military benefits, several suggested their real purpose was political.

The main maneuvers of the war games are expected to take place on Thursday, when president Vladimir Putin is due to observe at the Tsugol range, where China’s 3,200-strong troop contingent are mostly based. Putin will arrive on the heels of hosting China’s leader XI Jing Ping at the Vladivostok Economic Forum.

The timing of the two events appears intended to promote growing ties between the two countries.

But many experts are skeptical about how significant the joint exercises are in this respect.

Instead, some noted that the huge war games underline the limitations of Russia's foreign policy tools for exerting influence currently.

"Russia’s claim to retaining the mantle of 'great power' is today backed up almost solely by its military force," Pavel Baev, an analyst, wrote in a recent Jamestown Foundation article.

Noting that Russia’s economy and technology development are battered by poor investment and inefficiencies, and that the country is locked in increasing confrontations with the West, he said the Kremlin was often finding itself constrained in foreign policy to a threatening one-note diplomacy.

Those limitations probably hold with China too, he said, despite the rhetoric.

"In real terms," he wrote. "This much-trumpeted relationship is rather ambiguous."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Metropolitan Police(LONDON) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said the two men whom British authorities charged in the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy and his daughter have been identified as “civilians” who do not work for the military, according to Russian media.

"We have found them just to figure out who they are. There is nothing special and criminal about them, believe me," Putin said according to Russian state media.

After Putin’s comments, Russian state television reported that one of the suspects, Alexander Petrov, may break his silence sometime next week.

British authorities announced last week that Russian nationals Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov allegedly carried out the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, England, earlier this year using a deadly nerve agent.

The men traveled on Russian passports and probably used fake names, the authorities said.

The British government has not responded to Putin’s most recent comments.

British Prime Minister Theresa May last week said the attack was “almost certainly” approved “at a senior level of the Russian state."

The British government also released detailed surveillance footage tracking the pair’s apparent movements and an image of the perfume bottle purportedly used to administer the nerve agent on the Skripals’ front door.

Putin asked the men to go public. "I would like to call on them so that they can hear us today,” he said Wednesday. "They should go to some media outlet. I hope they will come forward and tell about themselves."

Rossyiya-24, a state-owned news channel, reported that it has spoken to Petrov, according to Reuters. Petrov is a pharmaceutical company worker in Tomsk, Siberia, who, when asked for comment, reportedly told Rossyiya-24, “No comment for the moment. Maybe later. Next week, I think.”

If he does so, it would not be the first time an accused Russian assassin has answered international allegations through the Russian media. Andrei Lugovoi, the Russian man accused by the U.K. government of killing ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, used a news conference in 2007 to deny the charge and accuse U.K. special services of conducting the assassination, according to BBC News.

An Interpol Red Notice and European arrest warrant have been issued, though the Russian Constitution forbids them from being extradited.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Metropolitan Police(LONDON) -- The widow of the American man who died saving her in the Westminster terror attack gave evidence at an inquest in London Tuesday.

Melissa and Kurt Cochran were in London March 22, 2017, as part of a trip to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

"We were just being touristy and we had just planned on spending pretty much the entire day walking and seeing everything that we could see," Melissa Cochran told the court about the day of the attack. "We had one day in London so we were going to cram everything in that we could. We were only, I guess, about two and a half hours in London before this all happened."

Melissa Cochran told the court that she had been talking to her husband on the south side of Westminster Bridge when she "heard a car revving." The next thing said she remembered was seeing the front of a car and then being "on the ground with someone's hand on my head."

Kurt Cochran, 54, pushed his wife to safety just seconds before he was allegedly run over and killed by Khalid Masood, 52, who police say intentionally hit pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before fatally stabbing a police officer outside the Houses of Parliament.

The leader of the inquest, Chief Coroner Mark Lucraft, praised Kurt Cochran's "instinctive bravery" in acting so quickly to save his wife, adding "the lives of many were torn apart by 82 seconds of high and terrible drama."

In England, inquests allow a court to hear evidence so that a jury or coroner can come to a determination about a death, and do not decide civil or criminal liability. The inquest into the Westminster attack is expected to last about six weeks.

On Tuesday, Melissa Cochran told the court Tuesday she had no recollection of being pushed out of the way of the oncoming vehicle by her husband, but when asked if this act was typical of Kurt, she replied, "very much so."

Aysha Frayde, Leslie Rhodes, Andreea Cristea and police officer Keith Palmer were also killed in the attack, which ended when Masood was shot and killed by armed police.

Eyewitnesses also gave testimony during the second day of the inquest.

Kylie Smith, a bystander who saw the attack unfold from start to finish, broke down in tears on multiple occasions while giving evidence.

Smith described the attack, which took place over less than two minutes, as "chaos."

"There was people trying to get out of the way but nobody really had a chance," Smith told the court.

Smith said that the way Masood drove into pedestrians was "very clearly a deliberate act."

Smith said she specifically remembers seeing the Cochrans walking hand in hand on the bridge.

Moments later, she said she saw Kurt try to pull Melissa "behind him to try to save her from the impact."

The impact threw Kurt Cochran over the parapet of the bridge onto the concrete, and he died shortly after paramedics arrived on the scene.

Melissa Cochran's evidence came after family members paid tribute to Kurt Cochran on the first day of the hearing.

On Monday, Melissa's sister, Angela Stoll, read out a heartfelt statement on the widow's behalf.

"I am forever grateful for our time together, allowing me to be a mother to his children and especially for his heroic actions that fateful day that saved my life," Melissa Cochran said in the statement.

Kurt Cochran's older sister, Sandy Cochran Murphy, also told the court that the father of two had been "taken from our family in this horrific, senseless act."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Russia on Tuesday announced the start of the largest war games in its history, mobilizing tens of thousands of troops for the drills that will also see Chinese troops take part, and that has prompted complaints from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that it's "a rehearsal for a major conflict."

Russia's Ministry of Defense said that 300,000 troops will participate in the exercise called Vostok ("East") 2018, that is taking place in the country's far east, close to Mongolia and China. Thirty-six thousand tanks, 80 ships, and almost 1,000 aircraft are also taking part, according to the ministry.

The weeklong exercises reprise massive Soviet war games that took place at the height of the Cold War. They have been held every four years since Russian President Vladimir Putin revived them in the mid-2000s, but, this year, Russia's military said they are on an unprecedented scale, passing the previous largest that was held by the Soviet Union in 1981.

Besides their size, the drills have attracted attention because of the participation of Chinese troops, the first time they have been invited by Russia to take part in an exercise of this scale. China's military said it has sent 3,200 soldiers, as well as 900 tanks and armor vehicles.

China's presence is being seen as a signal from both countries emphasizing their cooperation at a moment when Moscow and Beijing find themselves in a confrontation with the United States.

The drills began as Putin hosted China's leader Xi Jinping at an economic forum in Vladivostok. Putin is expected to visit the war games later this week. Speaking of the forum, Jinping said the two countries "friendship is getting stronger all the time."

Experts said in reality neither China or Russia believe the two are close to a full-fledged military alliance, but the joint drills nonetheless reflected how much more cooperative the two countries' relationship has become, after decades of suspicion during the Soviet period.

"This is a milestone for Sino-Russian military ties," Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote on Twitter.

The Vostock exercise itself was originally established by the Soviet Union to prepare for a major war with China. The exercise is being held in areas that evened skirmishes in 1969 when the border disputes between the two countries threatened to scale into a full-scale conflict.

Now, though, experts say the target audience of the drills is unambiguously not China, but the U.S. and Europe instead. As with the large-scale exercises Russia held last year on its western border, Vostock is viewed as intended to simulate a major conflict with NATO forces.

Russia has substantially increased the size and frequency of its military exercises in recent years, particularly following its invasion of Crimea in 2014.

That has alarmed NATO, which has responded by increasing its own presence in Eastern Europe.

"It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time -- a more assertive Russia significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence," Dylan White, a NATO spokesman, told reporters in late August.

The Kremlin has insisted the exercises are routine and purely defensive.

"These are very important drills and they are part of routine annual work to develop the armed forces," Dimitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, told reporters Tuesday.

Whereas during the drills on its western borders last year, known as Zapad 2017, Russia was accused of downplaying the number of troops involved, this year's war games are the opposite, with Moscow apparently eager to flaunt their scale.

"Imagine 36,000 military vehicles moving all at the same time; tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles -- and all of these in conditions as close to a combat situation as possible," Sergey Shoigu, Russia's defense minister, said this month.

Most experts say the figure of 300,000 is likely an exaggeration with not all of those actually taking part in the field exercises. Vostock includes many smaller scale exercises that happen every year and obsolete equipment has also been put into use, apparently to inflate the war games size, Jack Watling, an expert at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), wrote in an article this month.

"It is important not to exaggerate the significance of the Vostock 2018 drills," Watling wrote. "There is also an element of theatre in this exercise."

The drills, however, allow Russia to practice mobilizing and effectively transporting a large number of forces.

While simulating a great power conflict, experts say the drills do not mean Russia is preparing to fight with NATO rather, some say, Moscow is using the war games as a form of aggressive diplomacy, meant to impress and intimidate western countries and to persuade them to be more accommodating of Russia's interest.

Watling, an expert at RUSI, said the drills also help Russia and China develop their capacity to make small-scale interventions in hotspots overseas, as Russia already appears to be doing in the Central African Republic, as a means to have more heft on the world's stage.

"The key question is not whether Russia will launch a war against NATO," Watling wrote, "but where Russia -- and China for that matter -- aim to use their burgeoning capacity for expeditionary logistics and combined operations to project power."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


God Bless America & Our Home Louisiana

970 KSYL On Air Now
Talk Back
Talk Back
8:00am - 9:00am

Kim Komando

Click For Kim Komando's Daily Tip!!

RM Worlds Travel

Saturday's @ Noon!

The Best Of The 60's & 70's

Now On Air At 100.3 HD2

Or Click The Logo Above

To Listen.


North Rapides Business & Industry Alliance



All Weekend Long

It's a

Political Free Zone!

Fresh Central

LinkedUpRadio Envisionwise Web Services