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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly stepped off a plane in Mexico Wednesday evening, tensions were brewing there over new guidance from the administration about deportations, border patrol and President Trump's long-promised wall on the southern border.

While Kelly's department issued the guidelines, they now threaten to undermine such a high-level trip. Some fear that an immigration crackdown will result, despite the administration's attempts to ensure that mass deportations are not in the works.

The announcement caught the Mexican government by surprise and put officials there on a defensive footing just a day before the visit. But even as the Mexican foreign minister issued a blistering statement, the White House denied that anything was wrong.

“The relationship with Mexico is phenomenal right now,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer Wednesday.

The foreign trip is the first for Kelly and the second for Tillerson -- although it is his first one-on-one visit to a foreign country.

That’s a sign of how important this relationship is, according to the State Department, and despite the renewed tensions, they are hopeful the visit will be successful in mending the relationship.

So what is on the agenda, and how will Tillerson and Kelly be received?


At the top of the list and the source of much of the tension is the wall.

Trump maintains that Mexico will pay for a wall across the southern U.S. border, a notion which the Mexican government rejects. It’s a fight so bitter that Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a visit to the U.S. last month, leaving the White House scrambling to organize a call between the two leaders the next day.

After some tensions were eased with the call, Tillerson and Kelly were charged with rebuilding the relationship with this trip -- but these new immigration enforcement guidelines brought the same disputes back to the forefront.

 One of the new implementation memos, signed by Kelly, calls on Customs and Border Protection to “immediately begin planning, design, construction and maintenance of a wall” and tasks the under secretary for management in the Department of Homeland Security with identifying all available resources to pay for it.

But it also asks the under secretary to make a list of all direct and indirect U.S. aid to Mexico from the last five fiscal years. The move raised concerns that the White House would threaten to withhold aid down the line.

A senior administration official would only say that, “The Department of Homeland Security will undergo a review and provide that information back to the President as directed.”

Another senior administration official sought to downplay any tension over border security and said the trip was devised to address these issues.

“The wall is just one part of a broader relationship that we have,” they said. “We have clear differences on the payment issue, but agree that we need to work these differences out as part of a comprehensive discussion on all aspects of the bilateral relationship.”


Another important component of the immigration guidelines involves deportations -- continuing to prioritize immigrants here illegally who have committed crimes, but opening the door for law enforcement to detain and deport nearly anyone without proper documentation.

In addition, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has now been instructed to deport migrants who traveled through Mexico from elsewhere in Central or South America back to “the foreign contiguous territory from which they arrived.” In other words, if they cross the southern border, the migrants will be sent back to Mexico, regardless of where they came from.

 It’s a plan that Mexico opposes, with the Mexican foreign minister issuing a strong statement Wednesday.

“I want to make clear in the most emphatic way that the Mexican government and the people of Mexico do not have to accept provisions that unilaterally one government wants to impose on another, that we will not accept,” said Luis Videgaray, Tillerson’s counterpart.

“The Mexican government is going to act by all means legally possible to defend the human rights of Mexicans abroad, particularly in the United States,” he added.

Tillerson and Videgaray are scheduled to have dinner Wednesday night, along with Kelly, the Mexican Secretary of Defense, and the Mexican Secretary of Navy.


The U.S. relationship with Mexico has steadily improved over the last couple of decades. A relationship once marked by distrust has thawed into a partnership based on trade, law enforcement, and counternarcotics, and that is what is really at stake here, with heated rhetoric threatening to upend that.

Throughout the campaign, Trump used Mexico as a punching bag, saying while he loved the Mexican people, even appreciated their leaders’ intelligence, he blamed the country for taking American jobs and for a flow of crime and drugs across the border.

 Since he was sworn in, things have unraveled further -- the canceled presidential visit, arguments over the wall and deportations and that tense phone call. The administration, however, sees things as on track.

“We have some differences on specific issues,” acknowledged a senior administration official, but “we continue to look for ways to address the concerns of both countries, produce results for both peoples, and we’re confident that through this process we’ll continue the long and good relationship that we’ve had between the two governments.”

On the other side of the border, though, Mexico may see deeper damage, and it could use these high-profile meetings to make that clear. Perhaps previewing such a move, the Mexican foreign minister even threatened Wednesday to involve international organizations to defend the Mexican people.

“The Mexican government will not hesitate to go to multilateral organizations starting with the United Nations to defend, in accordance with international law, human rights, liberties and due process in favor of Mexicans” abroad, Videgaray said Wednesday.

Thursday’s meetings will determine if such a bold move is necessary.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  This past weekend, Iraqi military forces began the assault to retake the western half of Mosul from ISIS in what is expected to be a tough fight.

It took Iraqi military forces 100 days of street-to-street fighting to finally retake the eastern half of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, but U.S. military officials anticipate that the fight to retake the western side of the city could be even more difficult.

The western side of Mosul, on the left bank of the Tigris River, is more densely populated than the eastern side and it is believed that ISIS fighters will take advantage of the narrow streets to slow down the Iraqi military offensive.

Here's a look at how the second phase of the battle for Mosul could shape up.

A Tough Fight in Western Mosul

"We do expect it to be an extraordinarily difficult fight" Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told Pentagon reporters Wednesday. "The enemy has not given up."

According to Dorrian, the U.S. military believes that between 1,000 and 3,000 ISIS fighters are currently in western Mosul hiding among an estimated 750,000 civilians remaining in the city.

"We do expect it to be a very tough fight because the very narrow areas, the very narrow streets in some parts of the city, the ancient parts of the city, are going to make for a very tough going," said Dorrian.

The narrow streets will limit the Iraqi military's ability to use vehicles in their assault on the city.

But they will also likely prevent ISIS from launching the deadly suicide car bomb attacks it used to slow down the Iraqi military in eastern Mosul. The car bomb attacks resulted in significant casualties among the Iraqi military's elite Counter Terrorism Service that was doing most of the intense fighting in eastern Mosul.

 Iraqi military forces are expected to face even tougher ISIS resistance in western Mosul. Dorrian noted that there were roughly 100,000 buildings in eastern Mosul that had to be cleared by the Iraqi military and that there are a similar number of buildings on the western side of the city in an even more compressed area.

Dorrian said Iraqi forces will face a tough fight because each of "these buildings have to be cleared from rooftop level through every room, every closet, all the way down to ground level, including the tunnels that get dug between buildings."

"It's very, very dangerous and tedious, and the Iraqi security forces have done a really good job of protecting civilians as they've conducted those clearing operations and that's something we expect them to continue." said Dorrian.

What Will the Offensive Look Like?

The offensive for western Mosul has begun with Iraqi forces pressing northward to the southern stretches of the city. In the three days since the start of the offensive, they have already taken back 48 square miles and are now overlooking the city's airport.

It is expected that the Iraqi military will face tougher ISIS resistance in the fight for the airport.

The offensive is being led by the Iraqi Army's Ninth Division and the Iraqi Federal Police who are leading the offensive into western Mosul. It was the emergence of the Iraqi Federal Police in late December that helped turn the tide in eastern Mosul. It is expected that forces from the Counter Terrorism Service will once again play a key role in the push into western Mosul.

For months, Shiite militias have pushed northwest of the city to cut off the main road from Mosul to Tal Afar, another ISIS-controlled city. They are there to block the escape of ISIS fighters to that city.

With the Tigris River to the east blocking possible escape routes as well, ISIS fighters will be effectively encircled in the city's western half.

The battle for Mosul has also led American troops to come closer to combat situations even though they are still required to be at Iraqi unit headquarters beyond enemy lines.

Those restrictions have been less applicable to American special operations forces accompanying their Iraqi counterparts, since those Iraqi commanders are always close to the front lines.

But Dorrian explained Wednesday that other American advisers working with commanders of regular Iraqi Army units are "close enough to direct the battle,” he said, adding: " I don't want to give you the impression they're far removed from the front.”

Americans were close enough at times, Dorrian said, that they took enemy fire and found themselves in a combat situation where they had to fight back. He would not disclose whether any American forces had been wounded by enemy fire in such situations.

American advisers assisting in calling in airstrikes targeting ISIS are also closer to the battlefield. "They're not removed from the front, they're very close to the front, close enough to observe what's going on and provide good advice and assistance,” said Dorrian.

It remains unclear if the fight to retake western Mosul will be helped by additional U.S. support that the Trump administration will soon begin to consider.

On Jan. 28, President Trump tasked the Pentagon to lead a review of the strategy against ISIS and to look for new ways to speed up the fight against the terror group. A Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday that the options could be presented to the White House early next week.

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Anwar Hussein/WireImage via Getty Images(LONDON) -- Dutchess Kate had her first official engagement with Action for Children in Wales since taking over from Queen Elizabeth II in December as the organization's royal patron.

Kate, 35, visited two projects offering support to vulnerable children and families. She listened to experts at MIST, a childhood mental health project that supports young kids in foster care and aims to provide needed support for complex mental health problems before they become more serious.

Kate was "incredibly proud" to be taking on the new role with Action for Children, according to a Kensington Palace spokesman.

Kate is an avid sportswoman who routinely gives her husband, Prince William a run for his money at events, but today she tried her hand at pool in Wales and was not a success. Craig Davies, a 15-year-old who was Kate's teammate in a friendly round of pool, later joked of Kate's pool skills saying, "She was dreadful."

After receiving a hug from a little girl attending the center, Kate was greeted by two young students who gave her a bouquet of flowers and asked about Kate and William's young children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

Kate told her young admirers, "George and Charlotte would have loved to have met you."

Kate's second stop of the day was to the Caerphilly Family Intervention Team which works with young people struggling with emotional and behavioral issues.

"The Duchess firmly believes that every child who needs it should be given the best support at the earliest opportunity," a Kensington Palace spokesman told ABC News. "The Duchess is pleased to support Action for Children's important work. She is looking forward to getting to know the people that make Action for Children such a success and meeting the young people they work with."

Kate, William and Prince Harry launched their "Heads Together" campaign last year to change the conversation on mental health issues. The royal trio has said they see 2017 as a "tipping point" and hope they can get more people to speak about mental health without fear of judgment.

William, Kate and Harry have chosen to tackle the often-taboo subject of mental health and encourage young people and families to speak up and speak out.

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NASA/JPL-Caltech(NEW YORK) -- An international team of astronomers has discovered seven potentially habitable exoplanets -- or planets outside our solar system -- that could have liquid water on their surfaces, according to a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

It is unclear whether any of the newly discovered planets can harbor life. However, scientists pointed out that the new planetary system orbits TRAPPIST-1, a dwarf star that is much younger than our sun and that will continue to burn for another 10 trillion years -- more than 700 times longer than the universe has existed so far.

Astronomers said that is "arguably enough time for life to evolve," the article reported.

TRAPPIST-1 is about 39 light-years away, in the constellation Aquarius.

The seven newly discovered planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1 have been nicknamed "Earth's seven sisters" and have masses similar to that of Earth's, in addition to having rocky compositions like our planet, scientists said.

Astronomers noted, though, that they are awaiting the scheduled launch of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope in 2018 to confirm what conditions -- such as atmospheric composition and climate -- are like on the exoplanets. The James Webb Space Telescope is expected to be significantly more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope.

 The discovery of the new planetary system has also indicated that Earth-sized planets are much more abundant and common in the Milky Way galaxy than previously thought, researchers said.

The international team of astronomers that discovered the new exoplanets said they will be ramping up their efforts to locate and identify other planets around small stars in the vicinity of our sun through project Search for Habitable Planets Eclipsing Ultra-Cool Stars (SPECULOOS).

Additionally, NASA said it plans to launch the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a space telescope that will spend two years finding planets orbiting over 200,000 of the brightest stars in the sky.

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iStock/Thinkstock(SYDNEY) — Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Australia Wednesday, kicking off a four-day visit, marking the first time a serving Israeli prime minster has visited the country.

Netanyahu, joined by his wife Sara, landed in Sydney aboard an El Al aircraft from Singapore, where the Israeli leader met with Singaporean prime minister Lee Hsien Loong.


Landed in Sydney for 1st-ever visit of an Israeli PM to Australia. Thanks for the warm welcome. I'm far from Israel, but feel at home. 🇮🇱🇦🇺

— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) February 21, 2017



Prime Minister Netanyahu arrived in Sydney, Australia.
PM Netanyahu will meet today with PM @TurnbullMalcolm and Governor-General Cosgrove.

— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) February 21, 2017


Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wrote an op-ed Wednesday in The Australian newspaper, in which he expressed the country's support of Israel and a two-state solution, as well as his disapproval of the United Nations' "one-sided" resolutions.

"Australia was the first country to vote in favour of the 1947 UN partition resolution adopted by the General Assembly, which led to the establishment of Israel in 1948," Turnbull writes. "The key role Australia played in ensuring the security and prosperity of the Jewish people should be a source of pride for us all."

He continues, "Israel is a miraculous nation. It has flourished despite invasion, conflict and an almost complete lack of natural resources, other than the determination and genius of its people."

Turnbull also cited "the brilliance and the enterprise of our almost 120,000-strong Jewish-Australian community."


Welcome to Australia Bibi & Sara! @netanyahu

— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) February 22, 2017


In a nod to the recent United Nations Security Council resolution, Turnbull writes, "My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticising Israel of the kind recently adopted by the UN Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimise the Jewish state."

He adds, "At the same time, we recognise that Israel and the Palestinians need to come to a settlement and we support a directly negotiated two-state solution so that Palestinians will have their own state and the people of Israel can be secure within agreed borders."

Netanyahu — who aside from Turnbull, met with Australian Governor-General Peter Cosgrove — welcomed the comments made by Turnbull in his op-ed, telling reporters in Sydney, "I wasn't surprised by the friendship expressed in the article but I had no advance warning so when I landed I was given the paper, I was delighted to read it ... Australia has been courageously willing to puncture UN hypocrisy more than once."


With @IsraeliPM's visit to #Australia, the bilateral #trade stats indicate a strong partnership between our countries:#IsraelinOZ

— Israel Foreign Min. (@IsraelMFA) February 21, 2017


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Hawai Adda(LUDHIANA, India) -- Airplanes aren't just for globetrotting anymore. In Ludhiana, India, a grounded Airbus A320 is now a restaurant where customers can enjoy a fine dining experience.

According to The Daily Mail, Hawai Adda is a vegetarian restaurant, placed creatively within an aircraft formerly owned by Air India.

The plane can comfortably seat more than 100 diners in its luxurious dining room, cafe and halls.

The interior of the plane took more than a year to convert, according to the Daily Mail.

The renovation team redesigned the entire fuselage of the retired plane, but wanted to keep the original structure and a large portion of the wiring, the Daily Mail reported.

On Hawai Adda's Facebook page, the restaurant has advertised a variety of dishes from saffron-infused Indian rice pudding and hot fudge sundae cupcakes to vegan club sandwiches.

Around the world, there are several decommissioned planes that have now become restaurants.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Apparently, this qualifies as big news in Iceland.  The country's president, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, has stirred up controversy by coming down against pineapple as a pizza topping.

While speaking to a high school class in Iceland last week, a student asked Jóhannesson what he thought about the tropical fruit as a pizza topping, typically associated with Hawaiian pizza, which features pineapple and ham. Jóhannesson said that he was against it and if he had the power, he would ban pineapple as a pizza topping altogether.

Iceland Magazine
reports that Jóhannesson’s comment has gone viral, reaching the top 10 trending stories on Reddit and making its way to news outlets around the world.  It's also prompted him to issue a clarification about his comments.

In a Facebook post, Jóhannesson wrote, "I like pineapples, just not on pizza. I do not have the power to make laws which forbid people to put pineapples on their pizza. I am glad that I do not hold such power. Presidents should not have unlimited power. I would not want to hold this position if I could pass laws forbidding that which I don´t like. I would not want to live in such a country."

He then suggested people put seafood on their pizza instead.

Chances are slim anyone's genuinely upset with Jóhannesson, who enjoys a 97 percent approval rating in his country.

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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(ZAWIYA, Libya) -- Dozens of bodies have washed ashore on the coast of Libya.

At least 74 bodies were found in Zawiya, according to a spokesperson for the United Nations' International Organisation for Migration. They are believed to be migrants who were trying to reach Italy by crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

The UN spokesperson said a torn dinghy that was found nearby on the beach had departed from Sabratha on Saturday with 110 people on board.

Smugglers are using new boats in order to carry more migrants, but the large rubber dinghies are weak, according to BBC. Ayoub Gassim, spokesman for Libya's coast guard, said according to BBC that the new boats are "going to be even more disastrous to the migrants."

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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.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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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.


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.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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