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Courtesy SD Biju(NEW YORK) -- Scientists from India have discovered seven new species of frogs, according to a news release Tuesday from PeerJ, a peer-reviewed biological and medical sciences journal.

All of the newly discovered frogs all belong to the genus Nyctibatrachus, scientists said. Frogs of this genus are commonly known as night frogs because of their dark colors and habitats.

The amphibians were found over the course of five years by University of Delhi scientists who went on extensive expeditions through India's Western Ghats region, an amphibian and global biodiversity hot spot.

Four of the seven new frog species are considered miniature frogs, and they are among the smallest known frogs in the world.

The tiny frogs are as small as 12 mm (less than half an inch), and they grow no bigger than 16 mm, according to researchers. They can sit comfortably on a coin or a fingernail.

Scientists said they were surprised that the miniature species of frogs were locally abundant and fairly common, according to Sonali Garg, a University of Delhi student who participated in the expeditions as part of her Ph.D. research.

The tiny frogs species were likely overlooked by researchers "because of their extremely small size, secretive habitats and insect-like calls," Garg said.

Unfortunately, the futures of many of the newly discovered frog species may be bleak, according to scientists.

Many of the frogs live outside protected areas and on human-altered properties, researchers said. Those frogs face threats such as habitat disturbance, modification and fragmentation.

"Over 32 percent -- that is one-third of the Western Ghats frogs -- are already threatened with extinction," said SD Biju, a University of Delhi professor who led the study.

Biju has formally described more than 80 new species of amphibians from India over the course of his career.

"Out of the seven new species, five are facing considerable anthropogenic threats and require immediate conservation prioritization", Biju said.

More details about the frogs can be found in the study published Tuesday in PeerJ.

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iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- A military court Tuesday sentenced Elor Azaria, the Israeli combat medic found guilty of manslaughter, to 18 months in prison, half the time requested by prosecutors.

The three-judge panel in Tel Aviv had last month found Azaria, 21, guilty of killing Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, an incapacitated Palestinian assailant in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank. The verdict included a description of the killing as "needless."

The military prosecution had asked for three to five years, but Azaria was sentenced Tuesday to the 18 months, starting March 5, which allows the defense enough time to submit an appeal. Initially, prosecutors had called for Azaria to be charged with murder, but it was downgraded to manslaughter, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in Israel.

Azaria shot and killed Al-Sharif, 21, execution-style in Hebron March 24, 2016, after Al-Sharif allegedly attempted a stabbing attack.

Al-Sharif's family had hoped for a longer sentence. His father told reporters at the family's home Tuesday, "A year and a half is a farce. What does a year and a half mean? Was he an animal to be killed like this, in this barbaric way?”

Video captured by Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem shows Azaria cocking his weapon that day in March, taking aim and fatally shooting al-Sharif in the head after the Palestinian had already been critically wounded and laid motionless on the ground for 11 minutes without medical attention.

In the video, there's little reaction from Azaria's fellow soldiers, who are seen smoking and chatting before and after the shot rang out. Before the killing, the soldiers look unconcerned by the young man on the ground, having reportedly already disarmed al-Sharif of a knife.

When reading the verdict in January, presiding Judge Maya Heller dismissed every argument the defense brought, point by point, all but eliminating the possibility of an appeal, legal experts said.

"We found there was no room to accept his arguments," she said of Azaria.

Rejecting the argument that Azaria acted in self-defense, Heller was blunt: "The terrorist did not pose a threat."

Heller on Tuesday said the judges found that Azaria’s actions had harmed Israeli society, violating the “purity of arms” of the Israeli military’s ethical code.

The trial has gripped Israelis, pitting the country's military brass against right-wing politicians and, for many, Azaria became somewhat of a national hero. Azaria's supporters gathered outside the court Tuesday, calling for him to walk free.

Heller, who received death threats after the verdict, noted the court took mitigating factors into consideration, saying the incident took place "in hostile territory" and "we took note of the harm suffered by his family," and adding that he had been an outstanding soldier.

She noted that he had not expressed remorse for his actions and that most judges on the tribunal wanted a more lenient sentence than the 30 to 60 months she preferred.

After Tuesday's sentencing, chief prosecutor Lt. Col. Nadav Weisman said, “We know this was a hard day for the accused, but justice needed to be done and justice was done." He added, “this sends a message to commanders."

After the judges left the room, the Azaria family sang a chorus of Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem.

Right-wing politicians were quick to react. Education Minister Naftali Bennett, and leader of the far-right Jewish Home Party, immediately called for a pardon.

"Israel's security demands he be pardoned,” Bennett said. “Elor was sent to protest Israelis at the height of a wave of Palestinian terror attacks. He cannot go to jail or we will all pay the price.”

Culture Minister Miri Regev called it a "sad" day, saying ,"Elor should not sit a single day in prison beyond the time he has already served."

Azaria has been confined to a military base for the past 10 months, but only the nine days he spent in jail immediately after the killing will be deducted from his term, the judges ruled.

He was also given two suspended sentences -- one for 12 months and the other for six -- and received a demotion in rank to private from sergeant.

Human Rights Watch cautiously praised Tuesday’s decision, but warned against pardoning Azaria.

“Sending Elor Azaria to prison for his crime sends an important message about reining in excessive use of force,” it said. “But senior Israeli officials should also repudiate the shoot-to-kill rhetoric that too many of them have promoted, even when there is no imminent threat of death. Pardoning Azaria or reducing his punishment would only encourage impunity for unlawfully taking the life of another person.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In his first overseas trip as vice president, Mike Pence is re-assuring European allies that America will honor its security commitments and has "strong support" for NATO.

As recently as January, in an interview with The Times of London, then-President-elect Donald Trump repeated his view that NATO is "obsolete," raising doubts about whether the United States, under his leadership, would jump to the defense of its NATO allies in Europe if Russia attacked them.

“I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. Number one it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago. Number two the countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay," Trump said. "I took such heat, when I said NATO was obsolete. It’s obsolete because it wasn’t taking care of terror. I took a lot of heat for two days. And then they started saying Trump is right."

In July, when specifically asked in an interview with The New York Times about his views of Russia, Trump said that if it attacked some of the small Baltic states, which are the most recent members of NATO, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations "have fulfilled their obligations to us."

Now, the vice president is assuaging European fears with a new message, saying Monday in Brussels, "It is my privilege here at NATO headquarters to express the strong support of President Trump and the United States of America to NATO and our transatlantic alliance."

"This alliance plays a crucial role in promoting peace and prosperity in the north Atlantic and frankly in the entire world," he added.

Pence's reassuring words come after Defense Secretary James Mattis also affirmed "the full U.S. commitment to NATO" during his meetings in Brussels last week.

One European official isn't letting the new administration forget President Trump's criticisms of NATO.

European Union Council President Donald Turk said Monday that "too many new and sometimes surprising opinions have been voiced over this time about our relations -- and our common security -- for us to pretend that everything is as it used to be."

"We are counting as always in the past on the United States' wholehearted and unequivocal -- let me repeat, unequivocal -- support for the idea of a united Europe," Tusk said. "The world would be a decidedly worse place if Europe were not united."

"The idea of NATO is not obsolete, just like the values which lie at its foundation are not obsolete," he added.

So, what exactly is NATO? ABC News breaks down the organization’s history, importance and criticisms below:

What is NATO?

NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a security alliance established in 1949 during the early days of the Cold War to counter Soviet aggression in Europe.

Now numbering 28 countries in Europe and North America, the alliance’s goal is to “safeguard the freedom and security of its members through political and military means,” NATO’s website reads.

The organization promotes “democratic values” and encourages member nations to work together on issues of defense and security to prevent long-term conflict.

When security disputes occur, NATO advocates peaceful resolutions. But there are guidelines for how military force can be used, outlined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, the founding treaty of NATO.

NATO adheres to a policy of collective defense, meaning an attack on one member is considered "an attack against all." The policy is outlined in Article 5 and has only been invoked once, after the Twin Towers in New York City were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, and NATO members sent troops to Afghanistan.

After the Taliban fell, a United Nations Security Council resolution established the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), under NATO’s control, to stabilize the country. There were 1,044 non-U.S. NATO service members killed fighting in Afghanistan.

How does NATO work?

Headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, each member nation is represented by an ambassador that sits on the North Atlantic Council (NAC), the alliance’s political decision-making body. The NAC meets at least once a week and is chaired by Secretary General Stoltenberg, the former prime minister of Norway.

When political decisions require the military, NATO’s Military Committee is involved in the planning and resourcing of military elements needed for an operation. While NATO has few permanent military forces, member nations can voluntarily contribute forces when the need arises.

The Military Committee is made up of the Chiefs of Defense of NATO-member countries; the International Military Staff, the Military Committee’s executive body; and the military command structure, composed of Allied Command Operations and Allied Command Transformation.

Where is NATO operating right now?

Currently, NATO’s website lists five active operations and missions: Afghanistan, Kosovo, counter-piracy off of East Africa, monitoring the Mediterranean, and supporting the African Union.

Who pays for NATO?

NATO recommends that member countries spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defense.

Currently, only five members meet that goal: the United States, Great Britain, Greece, Estonia and Poland.

In January's interview with The Times, Trump mentioned the five, saying, "There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to. Five. It’s not much.”

Latvia and Lithuania are two Baltic states that don't meet the target, but those countries are likely to raise their defense spending in the face of growing Russian aggression.

On Monday, Vice President Pence repeated Trump's desire for all NATO members to pay their fair share, telling nations who don't have a plan to increase their defense spending to "get one."

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO's Secretary General, emphasized in his remarks on Monday that, in 2016, defense spending increased in Europe and Canada by 3.8 percent in real terms, or 10 billion U.S. dollars.

"We still have a long way to go," Stoltenberg admitted.

What is the history behind its origin?

The North Atlantic Treaty was signed April 4, 1949, in the aftermath of World War II and rising geopolitical tension with the Soviet Union.

NATO’s website lists three purposes for its creation: “deterring Soviet expansionism, forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent, and encouraging European political integration.”

As the Cold War settled in, NATO stood in opposition to the Soviet bloc, communist nations that allied with the Soviet Union.

In 1991, after the Soviet Union dissolved, NATO developed partnerships with former adversaries.

NATO responded to its first major crisis response operation in 1995 in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the Bosnian civil war.

More recently, NATO responded to the Libyan crisis in 2011 by carrying out airstrikes to protect civilians under attack by the Gaddafi regime.

Is Trump alone in his criticism of NATO?

No. Trump isn’t the first to criticize other NATO members for contributing less than the United States.

In 2011, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the future of NATO “dim” if other nations didn’t increase their participation in allied activities.

“The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress -- and in the American body politic writ large -- to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense,” he said.

It should be noted that Gates made these comments prior to Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and escalating regional tension there.

NATO’s history is fraught with waves of criticism, often in moments of relative peace. After the fall of the Soviet Union, critics alleged that a European alliance was no longer necessary to counter communist governments. But militant nationalism was still occurring and soon NATO was put to the test with the Balkan Wars. Indeed, changing security threats have consistently pushed NATO to evolve over the past 60 years.

But NATO’s website perhaps provides the best defense of itself:

“Since its founding in 1949, the transatlantic Alliance’s flexibility, embedded in its original Treaty, has allowed it to suit the different requirements of different times. In the 1950s, the Alliance was a purely defensive organization. In the 1960s, NATO became a political instrument for détente. In the 1990s, the Alliance was a tool for the stabilization of Eastern Europe and Central Asia through the incorporation of new Partners and Allies. Now NATO has a new mission: extending peace through the strategic projection of security."

“This is not a mission of choice, but of necessity. The Allies neither invented nor desired it. Events themselves have forced this mission upon them. Nation-state failure and violent extremism may well be the defining threats of the first half of the 21st century. Only a vigorously coordinated international response can address them. This is our common challenge. As the foundation stone of transatlantic peace, NATO must be ready to meet it.”

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ABC News(NEW YORK) — Just a few days after President Trump's remarks on Saturday about what he said happened "last night in Sweden," unrest erupted in a Stockholm suburb, home to a large immigrant population. Rioters set cars on fire and threw rocks at police in Stockholm's Rinkeby district Monday night after one person was arrested, local police said. Police fired guns, but without hitting anyone.

When Trump made his comments on Sweden at a rally in Florida he also referenced Paris, Nice and Brussels — three European cities that have seen terror attacks in recent years. So, it caused some bewilderment when he added, “you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”

Sweden hasn't had any terrorist attacks since it took in a recent wave of asylum seekers. The most recent terror attack happened in 2010 when two bombs exploded in Stockholm, killing only the bomber, Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, an Iraqi-born Swede.

After Swedes reacted with humor and confusion to President Trump’s remarks, the president tried the following day to clarify what he meant. In a tweet on Sunday he said that he was referencing a Fox News report about “immigrants & Sweden.”

My statement as to what's happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2017

In the Fox News report, host Tucker Carlson interviewed Ami Horowitz, who made a film about an alleged increase of crime associated with asylum seekers in Sweden. Horowitz has described himself as "right of center."

“So, they have these — what they really become are no-go zones. These are areas that cops won’t even enter because they’re too dangerous for them,” Horowitz told Carlson.

Give the public a break - The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2017

Are those claims justified?

“It’s very judgmental,” Nicklas Lund, press officer at the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, told ABC News of the claims. The council is an agency within Sweden's Ministry of Justice that conducts research on the judicial system.

Sweden has 15 suburbs with high crime rates, Lund said, but the recent influx of refugees doesn’t explain the problem. Rinkeby where violence broke out Monday night is one of these 15 areas.

“In 2015, a big number of refugees came to Sweden and these were problem areas before that,” he told ABC News.

In fact, the overall number of reported crimes in those 15 areas decreased in 2015. That year, 19,092 crimes were reported in total in all 15 areas — a decline from 19,576 in 2014. Back in 2012, the total number of reported crimes in these areas was over 20,200, according to data from the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention. Numbers for 2016 are not yet available.

The council looks at factors such as income and education level in its research on why people commit crimes — not at whether they are refugees or not, Lund said.

Sweden, a country with a population of about 9.6 million, received nearly 163,000 asylum applications in 2015 — the highest number ever reported and more than double the number the year before, according to the Swedish Migration Agency. In 2016, 28,939 applied for asylum in Sweden, according to the agency.

The decrease in the number of asylum seekers is partially explained by changes in Swedish law, which made it more difficult to achieve family reunification and to obtain permanent residency. The refugee agreement between Turkey and the European Union also made it more difficult for asylum seekers to cross borders in Europe.

Sweden announced temporary border controls in 2015 and the country has extended the measures several times. Earlier this month, border controls in some places in Skåne and in Västra Götaland County were extended by three more months until May 10, the Swedish government said.

Carl Bildt, Sweden's former prime minister and foreign minister, noted in a tweet on Monday that appeared to mock Trump's tweeting style that the number of murders committed in Sweden nationwide last year was lower than the number of murders reported in Orlando/Orange County, Florida, near where Trump spoke Saturday.

Last year there were app 50% more murders only in Orlando/Orange in Florida, where Trump spoke the other day, than in all of Sweden. Bad.

— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) February 20, 2017

Sweden has a low crime rate compared to the U.S., according to the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, but on a national level, the country has seen some increase in violent crimes in recent years.

Last year, 112,645 violent crimes were reported in Sweden — an increase from 108,739 in 2015, 108,071 in 2014, and 104,738 in 2013, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention. These numbers include attempted murder, muggings and rape — but not other types of sexual assault and murder, the council said.

In 2015, the number of murders went up to 112 from 87 the previous year. The data for 2016 has not yet been completed, according to the council. But what these numbers don’t show is how many of the crimes were committed by asylum seekers. The statistics are based on police reports and these reports don’t mention the ethnicity of the perpetrator or whether the perpetrator is a Swedish citizen or a refugee, according to the council.

“The police reports don’t have a box you tick about whether it’s a Swedish citizen or an immigrant,” Lund told ABC News, noting that the council does a lot of research on why people commit crimes. The council looks at a number of social factors, including income and education — but not immigration status or ethnicity.

When asked to respond to President Trump’s remarks on Sweden during a press conference Monday in Stockholm, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said that he was "surprised" by the comments and that Sweden faces "huge opportunities as well as challenges.“

"I think also we must all take responsibility for using facts correctly, and for verifying any information that we spread," he said.

When asked by another reporter how Sweden would react to Trump’s continued criticism of Sweden’s immigration policy, Löfven responded: “It’s up to the president to decide what he wants to say.”

He listed several international economic and innovation indices on which Sweden ranks highly, before adding, “So, we have some very strong facts that show that Sweden is also handling the situation.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(MELBOURNE, Australia) — Four Americans were among five killed when a plane crashed into a shopping center shortly after takeoff near Melbourne, Australia, authorities said.

The plane had taken off from Essendon Airport around 9 a.m. local time and suffered a "catastrophic engine failure" in the air, according to Victoria Police’s Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane.

The pilot attempted to return to the airport and crashed into the DFO shopping center, Leane said. There were no fatalities on the ground, Leane said.

A State Department official confirmed that four U.S. citizens were aboard the flight. “We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all those who died in today’s tragic crash," the official said.

Victoria's premier, Daniel Andrews, called the incident the “worst civil aviation accident in our state” in 30 years.

The identities of those who died and the nationality of the fifth victim were not immediately known.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who died in today’s tragic crash," a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Canberra said.

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BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images(PARIS) -- A Paris art thief known as "Spider-Man" has been sentenced to eight years in prison after stealing five paintings worth about $110 million.

Vjeran Tomic, a 49-year-old with acrobatic skills, admitted to taking the five masterpieces from the Musee d'Art Moderne in 2010, according to BBC. The works of art-- which include an Henri Mattisse, a Pablo Picasso and an Amedeo Modigliani-- are still missing

Tomic said he originally broke into the museum to steal a work of art by Ferdinand Leger, but he decided to steal four additional paintings when an alarm did not go off, according to BBC.

Antique dealer Jean-Michel Corvez and Yonathan Birn, both accomplices, were also handed prison sentences. All three men were ordered to pay the city $110 million in compensation, plus additional fines, BBC reports.

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iStock/Thinkstock(QUEBEC CITY) -- A family of seven with small children; a woman who was taken to a hospital after falling on ice; a Nigerian man who had to have fingers amputated due to frostbite. These are among a growing number of asylum-seekers and other migrants trekking on snow and ice to cross over the United States border into Canada, according to an attorney and Canadian network CTV.

They come from a range of countries, like Iraq, Syria, Sudan, as well as nations in Latin America -- many of them places without harsh winters like Canada’s.

"Unfortunately, some individuals who are illegally entering Canada are not aware of the extreme weather conditions and geography they may encounter which can have dire effects to their well-being,” a Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesperson said in an email to ABC News.

They include families trudging along with young children in strollers, said Eric Taillefer, an immigration lawyer and vice president of the Quebec Immigration Lawyers Association.

"Clearly they are desperate to do it," Taillefer told ABC News.

Border-crossing from the U.S. into Canada isn’t new and those who make the trip don’t usually pose a security problem, Taillefer said.

What’s new now is the numbers, he said.

"It's very, very surprising," he said. "It doesn't appear to be slowing down. I don't think its going to be slowing down in the near future, at least not this year."

The spike


The number of asylum-seekers crossing into Canada rose from 2015 to 2016 and it has continued to spike this year, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

North of the eastern U.S. in Quebec -- where Canadian authorities say there's been the biggest rise in illegal crossings -- the number of asylum claims by people who crossed over legally and illegally more than tripled in January 2017 compared to a year earlier, authorities said.

In January of this year, there were 452 asylum claims at the Quebec's land border, compared to 137 in the same month in 2016 and 46 claims in January 2015.

Crossings from the U.S. to Canada are also rising further west in British Columbia, just over the border from Washington state, and in Manitoba, which lies just north of North Dakota, authorities told reporters Monday.

Canadian police described the daily crossing numbers as fluctuating, but said in the last six months it's seen crossings in some areas increase from about one to two people per day up to 19 a day.

The surge of people fleeing the U.S. has been particularly pronounced since the U.S. presidential election in November, said Taillefer, the lawyer, and Marcella Reyes, a community services coordinator for the Scalabrini Centre for Migrants and Refugees in Montreal, Quebec.

Who’s crossing?

It's not just lone people crossing the border -- it's families.

"It would be easier," Taillefer said, "for someone who is alone to cross, then maybe bring in his family in another way, but now we're really seeing whole families crossing at the same time."

“There are families, men and single women,” Reyes told ABC News. “They just come with little tiny sweaters, no snow boots."

Taillefer said those crossing into Quebec include people from Iraq, Syria and Sudan -- three of the seven countries from which travel into the U.S. was temporarily blocked under President Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order. The executive action has since been put on hold by federal courts and the administration is promising a new executive order to replace it.

Some crossing into Canada come from Eritrea in Africa, Taillefer said. And many are from Latin America, according to Reyes.

The border-crossers fall mainly into two groups: Some had set their sights on Canada from the start and just travel through the U.S. to get there.

“They leave their home countries and basically just use a U.S. visa to be able to come to Canada more easily," Taillefer said.

Others lived for months or even years in the U.S. before deciding to try Canada.

"Some of them were illegal, some of them had actually made refugee claims in the United States, but they decided to drop all that and come to Canada to claim instead," Taillefer said. "The other thing that we've noticed since November more particularly is they're afraid of the new U.S. administration ... Even if they're legally there as refugee claimants, they're afraid that because of the current climate they might not be well perceived by the population."

Reyes said that among the border-crossers served by her agency are many unauthorized immigrants from Latin America who cross the New York state border into Canada.

Some had been in the U.S. for years, she said.

“Their plan was to stay in the states but after Trump they decided to keep going,” Reyes said.

Taking its toll

One hotspot for illegal crossings is near Emerson, Manitoba, where on Saturday night alone, Canadian police intercepted 22 people illegally crossing over from the U.S., according to police.

Greg Janzen, an official in the town, told Canadian networks CTV and CBC that the big increase in border-crossers makes him worry about safety of his community’s residents and whether the town has enough resources to serve all the migrants and asylum-seekers coming in.

Reyes told ABC News the Scalabrini Centre in Montreal, which primarily helps migrants find assistance, including legal services, French language instruction and food, usually serves 20 people a year who have come across the U.S. border. Now in just the first six weeks of 2017 that number has jumped to 50, she said.

Taillefer similarly told ABC News that over the past few weeks the number of refugee claims he's handling has risen sharply, which is starting to "take its toll" on his work. He said while he usually has one or two new refugee claimants per week, for the past two or three weeks, he has had over 10 a week, and this past week had about 15.

"We're talking about hearings for refugee claims that are almost every day, and we're talking about very tight delays," he said.

At the law enforcement level, though, police said the flow of people is still manageable.

The Royal Canadian police told reporters Monday that while they are busier now and require more “manpower,” they are not in "emergency mode" and the border crossings are still managed at the local level.

"At the ports of entry, the RCMP works closely with its domestic and U.S. partners to address cross-border criminality," the police said in an emailed statement. "Cooperative efforts have demonstrated that we can respond to the evolving threat environment encountered at the border."

From an illegal crossing to a quest for legal residency

"Crossing the Canadian border without reporting at a port of entry is illegal,” making the person crossing subject to arrest and possible penalties, Canadian police said in an emailed statement to ABC News.

Whenever surveillance cameras pick up images of people crossing, patrols are dispatched to greet those coming in, authorities said.

If the person who has crossed illegally applies for asylum, which is a claim for refugee status, they are taken to the country’s border services agency where they can fill out paperwork and may be eligible for a hearing within 45 days. When a review board finds that asylum applicants are eligible to stay -- such as on the basis that they are at risk of persecution in their home country -- it grants them “protected person” status, which allows them to stay in Canada and apply for permanent residency. When people’s asylum claims are rejected, they have to leave Canada.

In the Montreal area, if people have valid identification documents, once they are processed they can stay at a YMCA for up a few weeks and then can move into an area apartment, according to Taillefer. But now housing is stretched thin; Taillefer said the YMCAs are running out of space and some people are being sent to homeless shelters while they wait for a permanent address.

Pushback

The surge in illegal crossings is raising some concerns, including among some conservative officials in Canada.

Ted Falk, a member of the Canadian Parliament whose district includes Emerson, Manitoba, told the CBC that, "We have a port of entry for a reason because that's where we expect people that want to enter into our county to come."

Falk told CBC he hasn't heard that any of those who have crossed the border recently may pose a threat but he suggested that is a concern.

"Quite often [the asylum seekers] come in the middle of the night, they pound on the door, ring the doorbell, tap on the glass. Some [residents] are quite anxious about that situation," Falk said.

Another conservative, Michelle Rempel, told CBC that people should be reminded that illegal crossings aren’t permitted.

"We shouldn't be romanticizing this to anyone who is considering this as an option," Rempel said. "Do we have the resources in place to enforce these laws? I think we have to stay on top of that."

But Taillefer said when he sees images of families crossing with strollers, "It's a bit hard to be tough on them. It kind of melts the heart."

"I think that the attitude is basically we're better off welcoming them in than being repressive because that's just going to complicate things," he said.

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Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Vitaly Churkin, the longtime Russian ambassador to the United Nations, died Monday in New York, according to Russian officials.

The Russian Mission to the U.N. declined to reveal the circumstances of his death.

In a short statement calling Churkin an “outstanding” diplomat, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Churkin died Monday, the day before his 65th birthday, in New York.

Churkin had served as the Russian ambassador since 2006.

He had a reputation as a master of U.N. procedure, and frequently jousted with his American counterparts over Georgia, Crimea, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Ukraine.

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iStock/Thinkstock(BANGKOK) — Scuffles broke out at the Dhammakaya Temple north of Bangkok in Thailand as police search for former abbot Phra Dhammachayo, who is wanted on multiple charges.

Authorities ordered monks to leave the temple, but followers instead flocked there to defy police as they try to arrest the 72-year-old Dhammachayo. Thailand's military government ordered emergency powers to be used in the search.

The temple penned an open letter to Thailand's National Human Rights Commission saying the police's actions were in violation of international law.

Thousands of devotees showed up to defend the former abbot. In 2016, a similar standoff took place. BBC News reports there were no major injuries at the latest clash, but some monks were treated for minor injuries.

The charges against Dhammachayo are conspiracy to launder money and receive stolen goods, as well as taking over land unlawfully. Supporters of Dhammachayo say the seige by police is politically motivated.

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JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- A Japanese television network has released CCTV video it says it obtained from Kuala Lumpur International Airport of the moments leading up to and following Kim Jong Nam’s assassination.

The video is grainy, and parts of it are difficult to discern, but it appears to show one of two women grabbing a man appearing to be Kim Jong Nam from behind and putting him into what looks like a choke hold.

The apparent assassination, which allegedly took place through the application of a fast-acting poison to his face, lasts only a few seconds in the footage.

Kim Jong Nam can later be seen seeking assistance from staff at the airport.

Kim Jong Nam, who was likely 45 or 46 years old, was the eldest son of Kim Jong Il, the second-generation leader of North Korea.

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U.S. State Department(LONDON) — Peers in the House of Lords are set to debate a proposed law that would allow Prime Minister Theresa May to inform the European Union (EU) that the UK is exiting, according to BBC News.

British Members of Parliament (MP) have backed the bill, but a majority in the House of Lords has not.

Five days of debate have been set aside as 190 peers are due to speak. Prime Minister May has said she wants to invoke Article 50 of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty by the end of March. The move would trigger a formal two year mechanism to force the UK to leave the EU.

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iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) — Russia has denied that "Russian state bodies" were invovled in an attempted coup in Montenegro according to a BBC News report. The plotters were allegedly targeting the Balkan state's Prime Minister, Milo Djukanovic.

Serb paramilitaries and Russian nationalists were blamed in a series of more than 20 arrests in October 2016 before Montenegro's elections. Prosecutor Mlilvoje Katnic is urging Russian authorities to investigate what happened.

Katnic claims a Russian military figure is behind the alleged plot, aiming to prevent Montenegro from joining NATO.

Montenegro could join NATO this year, but an opposition alliance is calling for a referendum on the decision.

Russia has called the claims unsubstantiated.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  Iraq launched on Sunday an offensive to retake western Mosul from ISIS, prime minister Haider al-Abadi said in a televised address.

"We announce the start of a new chapter of Mosul operations to liberate the right side of Nineveh [Mosul] as we did with the other part," Al-Abadi said. "I declare to our brave forces to proceed with courage to liberate the other side of Mosul and to liberate its peoples from Daesh [ISIS] oppression forever."

Al-Abadi called on security forces to deal with civilians properly and respect human rights.

رئيس مجلس الوزراء القائد العام للقوات المسلحة الدكتور حيدر العبادي يعلن انطلاق عملية تحرير الجانب الايمن من الموصل. pic.twitter.com/jmDDsdWLjP

— PM Media Office (@IraqiPMO) February 19, 2017

#Iraq: UN aid agencies preparing for 'all scenarios' as western #Mosul military operations set to begin - https://t.co/4DtLmtRfJd#MosulAid

— UNAMI (@UNIraq) February 19, 2017


The United Nations expressed concern for civilians in the affected areas. According to UN estimates, between 750,000 and 800,000 civilians live in the western section of Mosul.

"With military operations to retake western Mosul starting, United Nations humanitarian agencies in Iraq are rushing to prepare for the humanitarian impact of the fighting amid grave concerns that tens of thousands of families are at extreme risks," the UN said. "Food and fuel supplies are dwindling, markets and shops have closed, running water is scarce and electricity in many neighborhoods is either intermittent or cut off."

Lise Grande, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, said in a statement, "The situation is distressing. People, right now, are in trouble. We are hearing reports of parents struggling to feed their children and to heat their homes."

About 178,000 civilians have been forced to flee to refugee camps because of the ongoing conflict in Mosul.

 Iraqi forces retook control of eastern Mosul from ISIS in January after a three-month battle.

The Iraqi announcement comes one day after the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Syria Democratic Forces said that the predominantly-Kurdish SDF retook the northern Syrian village of Jawees from ISIS.

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Kara-Murza Family(NEW YORK) --  A well-known Russian opposition activist who was left in a critical condition this month after an apparent poisoning has now left Russia for treatment abroad, his lawyer said.

The case of Vladimir Kara-Murza attracted international attention and condemnation on Capitol Hill earlier this month when he was rushed to the hospital – poisoned, his doctors said, with an unknown substance.

It was the second time in two years that Kara-Murza – a veteran critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin – has been poisoned, and his colleagues have suggested it must be linked to his activism.

This time Kara-Murza spent a week in critical condition, on life support and kept in an artificial coma as doctors sought to clean his bloodstream of whatever could be poisoning him. Last week, he regained consciousness and on Sunday, Kara-Murza’s lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov, said that the activist was now being transferred abroad for rehabilitation.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Prokhorov did not say where Kara-Murza was being transferred to, only saying it was “abroad."

As during the first time, Kara-Murza’s doctors have been unable to say what he had been poisoned with or even to find any trace of it. The diagnosis currently is simply “acute intoxication by an unknown substance”, his wife, Evgenia Kara-Murza, said.

Samples of his skin, nails and hair have been sent for testing by toxicology laboratories abroad, she said. Previous tests two years ago were unable to identify the poison, though a French lab found traces of heavy metals in his bloodstream.

The motive for the poisoning is also murky. Evgenia Kara-Murza believes it must be linked to her husband’s activism, but does not know what it could be specifically.

But in Sunday’s statement, Kara-Murza’s lawyer said he had pledged that he would not stop his opposition work despite the poisoning: “He definitely will continue to do what he has done all these last years: activity directed towards the restoration of democracy in Russia.”

 The case had attracted particular attention in the U.S. because it happened to coincide with a Fox News Super Bowl interview with president Donald Trump in which he indicated he was unphased by the idea that Putin was “a killer”.

Asked by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly why he respected Putin since the Russian president was “a killer”, Trump replied: “We have a lot of killers too. What you think our country is so innocent.”

Those comments prompted angry criticisms from some Democrats and Republicans who said Trump was equating the U.S. with the authoritarian tactics used under Putin.

Sen. John McCain took to the house floor on Feb. 7 to condemn Vladimir Kara-Murza's poisoning and implicitly President Trump's comments.

"Vladimir knew there was no moral equivalence between the United States and Putin’s Russia," McCain said of Vladimir Kara-Murza. "And anyone who would make such a suggestion maligns the character of our great nation and does a disservice to all those whose blood is on Putin’s hands.”

Some have suggested that Kara-Murza’s poisoning could be linked to his involvement in a campaign to promote American sanctions legislation. He played a significant role in lobbying Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act, a blacklist that targets Russian officials involved in the murder and its cover-up of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who was killed by Russian police after he uncovered a huge tax fraud scheme linked to the top levels of the Russian state.

Kara-Murza had appeared repeatedly before Congress urging it to pass the legislation that was later broadened to include all human rights abusers in Russia.

On Sunday, Kara-Murza’s lawyer said that his work around the Magnitsky Act was considered one of potential cause of the poisoning. In his statement, the lawyer said Kara-Murza would continue to work on the Magnitsky Act.

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iStock(MOSCOW) -- Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed an order recognizing passports issued by separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, prompting alarm from the United States and Ukrainian officials amid fears it could represent a step by Moscow towards declaring the rebel regions independent states.

The executive order recognizes passports and other documents issued by the self-declared People's Republics of Lugansk and Donetsk, the two rebel republics that have established themselves with Russian support in an ongoing war against Ukraine's government. The republics are currently unrecognized -- including by Russia -- but Moscow has secretly supplied them with arms and money, and has covertly deployed its own military to carve out their territory.

The order published by the Kremlin said residents of Lugansk and Donetsk would now be able to enter Russia "just upon presenting IDs issued by relevant bodies de facto operating in the given areas," referring to the separatist authorities. It also recognized birth and marriage certificates, drivers licenses and educational qualifications among other documents issued by the rebels.

The order shakes the stagnant conflict and in making it, the Kremlin appeared to be laying down another test of the Trump administration as it weighs its policy on Ukraine and Russia, with the order published even as Vice President Mike Pence appeared before European security leaders in Germany to reassure them the U.S. is committed to their defense before a newly aggressive Moscow.

The U.S. embassy in Kiev swiftly issued an expression of dismay over the Russian order. On Twitter the embassy wrote that the step "is alarming and contradicts the agreed-upon goals of the Minsk Agreement," referring to the two-year-old peace agreements meant to end the fighting and which calls for the rebel areas to be reintegrated into Ukraine.

Senior Ukrainian officials warned that Putin's order could be seen as ending that agreement. Oleksander Turchynov, secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, said in a statement: "This step by Kremlin completely destroys the Minsk process and is equal to Russia's statement about an exit from that."

The Kremlin and other Russian officials downplayed the order, saying it was temporary and only removed a burdensome bureaucratic hurdle for residents in the rebel areas. Russia has denied supporting the rebels with money or militarily, despite evidence to the contrary.

The rebel regions in Ukraine's east have been in limbo as the conflict has settled into a poorly observed truce, with the front lines effectively fixed but fire still exchanged on a daily basis. Following Russia's invasion and swift incorporation of Crimea in 2014, the rebels in the east had hoped they would be next. But recently, they have complained of feeling increasingly forgotten by Moscow, which has shown little interest in formally absorbing them.

Now, though, analysts in Russia and in Western capitals said they believed Putin's order today could indicate Moscow was slowly moving towards recognition.
That is how the separatists publicly interpreted it. The leader of the Lugansk People's Republic, Igor Plotniskii, hailed it as "another step towards international recognition of our sovereignty," Russian news agencies reported.

The move recalls a playbook used by the Kremlin in other separatist conflicts within its neighbors' borders. In Russia, analysts quickly referred to Russian actions in its short war with the former Soviet republic of Georgia in 2008. In that conflict, Moscow backed two breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which have since become effectively incorporated into Russia.

Shortly after its troops bulldozed Georgian forces out of the regions, Russia recognized identity documents from their separatist governments, who at the time celebrated that as a sign Moscow would soon recognize them as independent states. Not long after that, Russia did, becoming one of only four countries (including the tiny island of Nauru) to do so.

Russian officials said today that was not the plan in Ukraine. Russian diplomatic sources, speaking anonymously to the business paper, RBK, said recognition was not on the cards.

But Putin's move on Sunday is the latest development in Ukraine’s conflict since Donald Trump became president, with some seeing it as an effort to probe the new administration's attitude. In early February, the worst fighting in two years broke out, leaving at least 30 dead. Last week, Putin accused Kiev of having decided on a military solution to the conflict.

Trump's policy on Ukraine has yet to take shape. Comments during his campaign had encouraged hopes among some Russian officials Trump might consider recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea and removing U.S. sanctions on Moscow.

Those hopes though have dimmed recently, as Trump's administration has appeared to fall back on previous U.S. policy towards Ukraine. The White House has said sanctions will not be lifted until Crimea is returned to Ukraine, and last week Trump suggested he would have stopped Moscow from taking the peninsula in the first place.

That has relieved some of America's European allies, but they remain deeply worried by Trump's regular praise of Putin and in particular his apparent disdain for the European Union. Pence over the weekend delivered an address at a security conference in Munich with what he said was a direct message from the president that the White House's commitment to defending Europe was total, including standing up to Moscow.

"Know this: The United States will continue to hold Russia accountable, even as we search for new common ground, which as you know President Trump believes can be found," Pence said.

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