World

As Trump heads to G7 summit, potential for dysfunctional 'family reunion'

iStock(BIARRITZ, France) -- President Donald Trump flies across the Atlantic Ocean on Friday night to the ritzy coastal city of Biarritz, France, for the G7 summit, an annual gathering that could be likened to a dysfunctional family reunion.

As world leaders from the Group of Seven countries, consisting of Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States descend on the peaceful resort town to discuss the global economy and other pressing issues, they, too, arrive with their own domestic political baggage.

The global is economy is weak, in part due to ongoing trade wars sparked by the United States. Germany is on the brink of a recession. Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte resigned just days ago amid political chaos (he will still attend). The new prime minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, who will make his debut at the G7, has vowed to divorce his country from the European Union by Halloween. And then there are pressing global issues including climate change, Libya, Iran, North Korea, terrorism, migration, and as protests continue in Hong Kong, the fragile state of democracies around the world.

And of course, amid these challenges are the uncertainties of the ever-unpredictable president of the United States.

Over the course of the three-day summit, Trump will attend meetings on foreign security, the global economy – a session added at the last minute by the United States, African economies, gender equality, and the climate. Senior administration officials who gave reporters an outline of the president’s agenda while in Biarritz said he plans to promote job growth, the economic empowerment of women and the growth of emerging African economies.

“You will really hear the president hit home the message of the pro-jobs, pro-growth economic agenda, and what he's done by way of the historic tax reforms, deregulation, investment policies, a focus on energy and free, fair and reciprocal trade,” a senior administration official told reporters ahead of the trip.

But officials also admitted, the president will go his own way, no matter what.

Ahead of the G7, the president signaled he won't hesitate to shake things up when he abruptly cancelling his trip to Denmark over interest in buying Greenland, and throwing his first grenade at the group by saying he wants Russia to rejoin and once more make it the G8.

“I think it’s much more appropriate to have Russia in,” Trump said Tuesday at the White House. “A lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia, I could certainly see it being the G8 again, if someone would make that motion, I would be disposed to think about it favorably.”

But despite the president’s urging to have closer to ties to Moscow, allies have signaled they have no support for inviting Russia back to the party citing aggression in Europe and lack of progress in Ukraine. Instead, finding ways to support Ukraine's new president in the face of ongoing Russian interference will be a priority, according to a diplomatic source.

Last year in Canada, Trump's behavior at the G7 prompted some to call the G7 the “G6 1” or the “G7-1.” The president defied the G7 by taking off without signing the official communique, an agreement reached at the end of each summit. This year, in recognition of just how all over the map the G7 countries are on different issues, the host of this year’s meeting, French President Macron, said there won’t even be a communique. He called it “pointless.”

Macron outlined this year’s priority as “the fight against inequalities,” taking specific aim at five goals: tackling gender inequality, reducing “environmental inequality,” promoting fair trade, fighting terrorism, and tapping into opportunities from digital technology and AI. In addition to the seven countries that make up the G7, Macron has also invited four major democracies, Australia, Chile, India, and South Africa, and he is specifically emphasizing African economies by inviting, for the first time, the African Union, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Senegal and Rwanda.

With so many world leaders in one spot, French interior minister Christope Castaner said they are invoking “maximum vigilance,” with 13,200 police, French and Spanish police forces, 400 firefighters, and 13 emergency teams.

While in Biarritz, the president plans to meet one-on-one with new U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and India’s Prime Minister Narenda Modi.

The president has shown the most excitement about meeting his British counterpart for the first time. Trump and Johnson spoke on the phone ahead of the summit, and National Security Advisor John Bolton traveled to London to offer support for Johnson’s Brexit efforts and discuss the potential of a trade deal between the United States and U.K.

“Great discussion with Prime Minister @BorisJohnson today. We talked about Brexit and how we can move rapidly on a US-UK free trade deal. I look forward to meeting with Boris this weekend, at the @G7, in France!” Trump tweeted.

But even though the president is hoping to find a buddy in Biarritz with Johnson, the new prime minister has shown he leans more European on some of the biggest issues facing the summit like climate change, trade, and his agreement with the EU that the president’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal was a bad idea.

“It feels to me like this is the summit where the leaders expect they have figured out how to deal with this president, they have begun thinking in the long term how to deal with a different U.S. role on the world stage,” Jon Alterman, a global security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan Washington-based think tank. “How well it works out, whether they end up being surprised, or whether they end up having calibrated it fairly well is going to be what either makes or breaks this summit.”
 
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China announces tariffs on $75 billion of US goods as Trump heads to G7 summit in France

Igor Ilnitckii/iStock(BEIJING) -- Just as President Donald Trump was preparing to meet world leaders to discuss the global economy and his trade wars, China on Friday announced it would impose tariffs on $75 billion worth of U.S. imports in retaliation for duty hikes the United States pledged to slap on Chinese imports starting next month.

The announcement also came just before the chairman of the Federal Reserve was set to give a speech investors and analysts planned to scrutinize for signs of how the central bank would address worries of a slowing economy -- and as President Trump sent mixed messages on tax cuts.

China said that it would impose its new penalties on two batches of goods, on Sep. 1 and Dec. 15, according to official Chinese news agency Xinhua. It said 5,078 American products would see duty hikes of 5 or 10 percent, and that on Dec. 15, it would hit "American-made vehicles and auto parts" with tariffs of 5 or 25 percent, according to Xinhua.

 Those dates match with 10 percent tariff the Trump administration said would go into effect on $300 billion worth of imports from China.

Trump planned to depart for France later Friday to attend a meeting of the Group of Seven, or G7, major industrialized nations, where the state of the world's economy will take center stage.

Those nations' leaders are scheduled to attend a meeting on the global economy on Sunday morning -- a session added at the last minute at the United States' request, according to a senior U.S. administration official.

This week, as the economy flashed warning signs of a possible downturn, the president suggested a variety of remedies -- even as he argued they were unnecessary.

He and his senior advisers have tried to stave off consumer concerns about a possible recession -- arguing the economy is strong, even as they discuss potential fiscal boosts.

After Trump first said earlier this week he was considering a payroll tax cut, he reversed himself and nixed that idea the next day. He has also floated indexing and a capital gains tax cut.

Then, on Thursday, his top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, told reporters that the White House was not considering any short term actions to jolt the economy but is developing a long-term "tax cuts 2.0 plan," possibly to be unveiled during the 2020 campaign.

Trump on Friday morning argued in a tweet that the economy was "strong and good, whereas the rest of the world is not doing so well."

He has made the economy a central message of his campaign, and he accused the news media and Democrats of wanting a recession in order to tank his reelection chances.

The Economy is strong and good, whereas the rest of the world is not doing so well. Despite this the Fake News Media, together with their Partner, the Democrat Party, are working overtime to convince people that we are in, or will soon be going into, a Recession. They are.....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019

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American imprisoned in Russia says guards injured him as his detention is extended

DanHenson1/iStock(MOSCOW) -- After nearly nine months in a notorious Moscow prison, the detention of U.S. citizen Paul Whelan was extended again on Friday by a Russian court despite concerns about his health and continued questions about the charges against him.

Whelan, 49,, is a former Marine arrested while on vacation in Russia and charged with being a spy -- something he and his family deny and the State Department has cast doubt on.

In court Friday, Whelan said he had been dragged by prison guards, exacerbating a medical condition. An injury to his left shoulder has been "deteriorating, not improving, and could lead to emergency surgery," his family said last week.

During the hearing, Whelan read a statement to the press as court officials tried to shout him down and remove the press from the room: "I'm innocent of any charges, all of this is political kidnapping. No crime ever occurred. There is no evidence of a crime. This is a set-up. Isolation continues in order to force a false confession. Medical care for injuries inflicted by the FSB in prison has been refused. My human rights complaints have been resulting in retaliation .... Full consular access is being denied. As a political prisoner, I'm asking the government to --."

Journalists and cameras were removed from the room before he could finish.

The judge ruled Friday to prolong his detention for at least two more months until October 29. Whelan accused her and the prosecutor of being biased and working with authorities from the FSB, Russia's domestic security agency, to keep him in detention.

Whelan's lawyer said he had not been able to visit Whelan for more than a month. It's unclear when his last consular visit was from embassy officials from the U.S., or Canada, the United Kingdom, or Ireland, where Whelan also holds citizenship.

The State Department had not yet responded to requests for comment Friday.

The judge denied Whelan's motion to disqualify the prosecutor, calling it "unwarranted," and requested an ambulance to evaluate his medical condition.

An ambulance arrived at the court, but parademics said Whelan does not require hospitalization. He will be returned to the notorious Lefortovo prison in Moscow.

In June, the U.S. embassy in Moscow protested to the Russian Foreign Ministry about Whelan's "mistreatment" and asked for an investigation, according to spokesperson Andrea Kalan.

It's unclear if anyone from the embassy was in the court Friday.

But some critics say the Trump administration has done little to pressure Moscow to present evidence against Whelan or release him.

President Trump himself repeatedly tweeted about rapper A$AP Rocky's case after he was arrested in Sweden, even calling the Swedish Prime Minister and sending Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O'Brien to attend his trial. Earlier this month, Rocky was found guilty of assault during a Stockholm fight and given a two-year suspended sentence.

The families of other American citizens detained abroad, including the wife of Xiyue Wang, a Princeton PhD student held by Iran, have urged Trump to intervene as strongly in their cases.

The Trump administration has secured the release of several high-profile American cases, including Pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkey, aid worker Aya Hijazi from Egypt, and three U.S. citizens held by North Korea, Tony Kim, Kim Dong Chul, and Kim Hak Song.

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Migrant rescue ship captain Pia Klemp rejects award from Paris

Naeblys/iStock(PARIS) -- The captain of a ship that saved migrants in the Mediterranean Sea has refused to accept Paris' highest honor, instead accusing the city's mayor of hypocrisy.

In July, Pia Klemp of Germany was awarded the Médaille de la Ville de Paris Grand Vermeil, but she wrote in a Facebook post on Aug. 20 that she would not accept it.

She wrote that Mayor Anna Hidalgo and the city of Paris "want to award me a medal for my solidarian [sic] action in the Mediterranean Sea, because our crews 'work to rescue migrants from difficult conditions on a daily basis'.

"At the same time your police is stealing blankets from people that you force to live on the streets, while you raid protests and criminalize people that are standing up for rights of migrants and asylum seekers," she continued. "I am sure you won't be surprised that I decline the medaille Grand Vermeil."

The Paris City Council's press office told ABC News, "This is a misunderstanding." The Paris City Council said that it welcomes migrants "in the most humane conditions that are possible for us to offer."

The council added, "Council member Dominique Versini, who is in charge of the solidarity department and the fight against exclusion, is trying to contact Pia Klemp very quickly to propose to meet her and discuss the action of the City on the reception of migrants."

Klemp's post included an image of a 2017 article from French newspaper L'Obs with the headline, "After barriers, the Paris city council installs anti-migrant rocks." In February 2017, L'Obs reported that the city had placed dozens of large rocks on the ground under a bridge where hundreds of people slept while waiting to be seen by a nearby humanitarian center.

At the time, the Paris City Council justified the rocks by citing imminent construction work on those sites, but migrant aid associations alleged it was harassment.

Klemp was captain of the rescue ship Iuventa, associated with Berlin-based nongovernmental organization Jugend Rettet (Youth Rescue), when the ship was seized at Lampedusa on Aug. 2, 2017, by Italian authorities.

Jugend Rettet are currently fighting a legal case to have the ship released. Klemp continued captaining rescue ships with German NGO Sea-Watch until summer 2018, when she and nine others, calling themselves the Iuventa 10, were informed by Italian authorities that they were under individual investigation for "aiding and abetting illegal immigration," a spokesperson for the Iuventa 10 told ABC News.

Between August 2016 and August 2017, the ship ran 16 rescue missions off the cost of Libya and saved at least14,000 lives, according to the Iuventa 10 website.

The 10 could face criminal prosecution in Italy depending on the results of the investigation. It is not clear yet whether the Sicilian prosecutor will choose to prosecute; the Iuventa 10 launched an appeal to drop the investigation in June, according to the spokesperson. Klemp is not a member of Jugend Rettet or of Sea Watch and her statement was made in an individual capacity.

Patrick Klugman, the mayor's deputy in in charge of international relations who made the announcement in July, proposed to show the support of the city of Paris by awarding the medal to Klemp and Carola Rackete, the captain of another rescue ship who was arrested this summer in Italy.

"We must denounce as strongly as possible the legal proceedings brought against Carola Rackete and Pia Klemp in Italy," he said when announcing the award July 12.

Fier d'avoir porté au Conseil de Paris la parole de l'exécutif pour décerner la médaille de la Ville @paris aux deux capitaines courages #PiaKlemp et Carola #Rackete poursuivies en Italie pour avoir sauver des vies humaines en Méditerranée #SeaWatch pic.twitter.com/iFeE7JnW9f

— Patrick Klugman (@PKlugman) July 12, 2019

Rackete, who is associated with another German non-profit, Sea-Watch, has not commented on whether she would accept the award. She was taken into custody by Italian authorities in June this year after her boat, Sea-Watch 3, docked in the Italian port of Lampedusa without authorization, with 40 migrants on board, according to Deutsche Welle.

Sea-Watch told ABC News the prize was awarded to Rackete personally, not to the organization. "Therefore, she will decide herself, as Pia did, if she accepts it or not," their spokesperson said.

Sea-Watch had greeted the news with enthusiasm when it was announced on July 12.

They tweeted in German, "We are delighted with the City of Paris' decision to honor our captains #CarolaRackete & #PiaKlemp with its highest award, the Grand Vermeil Medal. We hope this recognition will be reflected in French politics when #SeaWatch3 is back in action."

🏅 Wir sind erfreut über den Beschluss der Stadt #Paris unsere Captains #CarolaRackete & #PiaKlemp mit ihrer höchsten Auszeichnung, der Grand Vermeil Medaille, zu ehren.

Wir hoffen diese Anerkennung wird sich in der frz. Politik spiegeln, wenn #SeaWatch3 zurück im Einsatz ist. pic.twitter.com/rh0zqT4QbL

— Sea-Watch (@seawatchcrew) July 14, 2019

The Iuventus and Sea-Watch are just some of the non-profit rescue ships coming under pressure. Matteo Salvini, Italy's far-right interior minister, has passed harsh laws to prevent boats rescuing people in the Mediterranean from docking in Italy.

🔴 "They are petrified they will be taken back to Libya where they have been exposed to horrendous abuses and arbitrary detention. Some are survivors of shipwrecks or bombings. They all deserve safety."

Luca Pigozzi, MSF doctor on board #OceanViking#MSF #BackAtSea pic.twitter.com/OBpXd9qB1E

— MSF Sea (@MSF_Sea) August 22, 2019

The Médaille de la Ville is Paris' highest civilian honor, according to the newspaper L'Obs. It is awarded for those who have undertaken "something remarkable" that relates to the city of Paris and can be awarded in five categories. Past international awardees have included Patti Smith, Karl Lagerfeld and Rafael Nadal.

"We do not need medals," Klemp wrote on Facebook this week. "We do not need authorities deciding about who is a 'hero' and who is 'illegal'. In fact they are in no position to make this call, because we are all equal. What we need are freedom and rights. It is time we call out hypocrite honorings and fill the void with social justice."

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'I am willing to give my life': Hong Kong protesters aren't backing down

LewisTsePuiLung/iStock(HONG KONG) -- Protesters who've taken pro-democracy demonstrations to the streets of Hong Kong every weekend since early June are preparing for another tumultuous weekend in the city of 7.4 million people as they refuse to buckle to Beijing's demands to curb their rebellion.

Thousands of protesters are expected to take to the streets, possibly blocking major roadways, including those leading to Hong Kong International Airport.

On Thursday, thousands of high school and university students boycotted classes and joined the protest, filling a square in downtown Hong Kong and breaking into chants of "revolution of our times" and "liberate Hong Kong."

"I think it symbolizes fighting for freedom," one of the high school students, who asked not to be identified, told ABC News of what the protests meant to her.

She said she is participating in the demonstrations despite her parents discouraging her.

"If it's my parents, they don't actually support me. They think I'm here to ruin everything," the student said.

Last weekend saw one of the largest protests yet as tens of thousands packed Hong Kong's Victoria Park on Sunday. Organizers of the demonstration claimed 1.7 million people participated, but police, according to Hong Kong Free Press, put the number at only 128,000.

The protests began June 9, when hundreds of thousands of mostly young people marched against a proposed extradition bill that would allow individuals to be sent from semi-autonomous Hong Kong to mainland China for trial. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has since suspended the bill, but the movement has continued and protesters' demands have expanded to include a call for universal suffrage and an independent investigation into police brutality.

The demonstrators have also asked Lam to resign and allow a democratic election to elect her successor.

Many demonstrators said they're worried that their freedoms will continue to erode as China's Communist Party-ruled central government keeps flexing its muscle in Hong Kong, the former British colony given back to China in 1997 that's become a global financial hub.

Standard Chartered and HSBC, two of the largest financial institutions in the world that have offices in Hong Kong, broke their silence about the protests on Thursday by taking out full-page ads in Hong Kong newspapers, calling for a peaceful resolution.

Under the constitutional principle of "One Country, Two Systems," China had agreed to keep its hands off the freedoms Hong Kong residents have enjoyed as a semi-autonomous territory. But protesters said the Chinese government has exercised its power to curb democracy in Hong Kong in violation of the agreement.

Clashes between protesters and police grew more intense earlier this month when demonstrators organized a city-wide strike and stormed Hong Kong International Airport, forcing flight cancellations at one of the world's busiest airport for two days.

On Aug. 13, violent clashes erupted between protesters and paramilitary police at the airport. Baton-wielding officers were caught on video using force on demonstrators to take back control of the airport.

Chinese officials alleged that protesters "have begun to show signs of terrorism," and China appeared to be weighing a crackdown on the democratic movement.

Student protesters have told ABC News they've been subject to mysterious, anonymous intimidation efforts, including fliers posted in their neighborhoods listing their home addresses and accusing them of everything from "causing chaos” to incest. They say they’ve even received messages threatening that their families will be killed.

One protester, Keith Fong, 20, described to ABC News how he was arrested and allegedly physically assaulted by police for buying laser pointers.

Another protester, Kex Leung, 22, said he believes violence in Hong Kong may be inevitable, but he hopes it doesn’t come to that.

"I am willing to give my life," Leung told ABC News last week, "but not my family's."

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Elephants rescued from muddy mining pool in Malaysia, sticking together to climb out

iStock(MALAYSIA) -- Elephants trapped in a muddy hole were saved in Malaysia on Tuesday, and their rescue was captured on video by Malaysia’s Department of Wildlife.

Indigenous people spotted the five elephants in an abandoned illegal mining pool in Pahang’s forest reserve, which is about 125 miles east of Kuala Lumpur, and alerted local media about the situation, Malaysia’s Department of Wildlife reported.

The herd stuck closely together through the ordeal as an excavator dug a path for them to climb out, the video shows.


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Expansive fires in the Amazon rainforest are 'truly heart-wrenching,' NatGeo explorer says

Brasil2/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Professionals who have spent years working and studying in the Amazon rainforest called this year's expansive fire outbreaks "truly heart-wrenching."

Many are on edge due to the increasing scale of the forest fires, which are up 84 percent from the same time period last year, as smoke billows above 1.2 million square miles of land.

Geothermal scientist, NatGeo explorer and conservationist Andres Ruzo, who has worked in the Central Peruvian Amazon at the Boiling River for the last 10 years, detailed the current conditions.

"Fires do happen, but not on this scale and that's something that's truly heart-wrenching," Ruzo told ABC News. "You've got huge plumes of smoke, nasty deforestation because of these fires and when you're talking about an area that's truly one of the greatest celebrations of life on this planet -- that literally cleans our water, purifies our air -- we gotta get worried."

Following his return from leading a 41-person research team into the jungle, Ruzo said the Amazon could lose the size of up to "30 soccer fields every single minute of rainforest being destroyed."

Claire Bower, a journalist who lives in Rio de Janeiro, told ABC News that the smoke is a major concern and covers "what is basically half of Brazil and neighboring countries like Bolivia and Peru."

"The smoke is so bad that it even caused a daytime blackout some 1,700 miles away in Sao Paulo, which is Brazil's biggest city," she said.

Like Ruzo, she explained that wildfires are quite common this time of year during the dry season.

"What's different this time is that new government satellite data shows a massive unprecedented increase in the number of fires this year since January," Bower said. "We're talking about more than 72,000 fire outbreaks. But most shockingly, more than 9,500 fires just since last Thursday."

She added that it is still unclear if the fires were set deliberately for farming purposes or by accident.

What this means for the planet?

The Amazon is often referred to as "the lungs of the planet." It's home to 10 percent of the world's species and creates 20 percent of our oxygen.

"This is one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet," Ruzo said. "There's so many things that [we] take for granted. It could be medicines, it could be new molecules that could help improve the human condition, that are lying in waiting to be discovered in the Amazon."

Ruzo described the constantly changing ecosystem as "natural biological warfare" where plants, animals and insects try to "outdo each other to create new compounds which can greatly benefit" people.

How can you help?

Monitor what you eat and where it comes from.

"Beef is a big industry down there," Ruzo said, which is a large contributor to clear cutting and deforestation. Other natural resources from the Amazon include palm oil and wood.

Ruzo also suggested donating to organizations and above all else, visit.

"One of the best things we can do is actually go visit the Amazon," he said. "It's an amazing celebration of life, after you leave the jungle the rest of the world kind of seems sterile. Your tourist's dollars there show people directly -- that this place is worth protecting."

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First manned Titanic expedition in 14 years reveals 'shocking' deterioration

eddyfish/iStock (FILE photo)(LONDON) — For the first time in 14 years, a manned dive has visited the RMS Titanic at the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean.

The world's most famous sunken ship rests 12,500 feet down on the icy seafloor, some 370 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada. This month, a deep-sea exploration team of experts and scientists completed five dives to the shipwreck over eight days, using a human-occupied submersible. They found the British passenger liner, the largest ship of its time, deteriorating rapidly.

The Titanic, which was 882 feet long and weighed over 53,000 tons, sunk in 1912 after slamming into an iceberg during its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City. Of the 2,224 passengers and crew estimated to be on board at the time, more than 1,500 died. The underwater wreckage was discovered 73 years later.

The last manned dive to the Titanic was in 2005, and this latest expedition was led by Victor Vescovo, an American private equity investor and retired naval officer who is the founder of exploration company Caladan Oceanic, Titanic historian Parks Stephenson, Rob McCallum, founder of specialist tour operator EYOS Expeditions, and a technical team from Triton Submarines.

They surveyed the decades-old wreckage and used special cameras to capture it on 4k footage. The rusting hulk is crumbling from salt corrosion, metal-eating bacteria and deep ocean currents.

Stephenson said the "most shocking area of deterioration" was on the starboard side of the officers' quarters, where the captain had his rooms. There, he said, the hull has begun to collapse.

"Captain's bath tub is a favorite image among the Titanic enthusiasts, and that's now gone," Stephenson said in a statement Wednesday. "That whole deck hole on that side is collapsing taking with it the staterooms, and the deterioration is going to continue advancing."

The team also performed photogrammetry passes on the Titanic's remains, which will allow them to produce photo-real 3D models of the vessel so they can assess the current condition and project its future.

"The most fascinating aspect was seeing how the Titanic is being consumed by the ocean and returning to its elemental form while providing refuge for a remarkably diverse number of animals," Patrick Lahey, president and co-founder of Triton Submarines, said in a statement Wednesday.

Lori Johnson, one of the scientists of the expedition, said the rate of deterioration will speed up as natural types of bacteria work "symbiotically" to eat away the iron and sulphur.

"The future of the wreck is going to continue to deteriorate over time," Johnson said in a statement Wednesday. "It's a natural process."

The team will release the full results from the expedition alongside a documentary being made by Atlantic Productions, a London-based company that filmed the dives.

"It was extraordinary to see it all," Vescovo said in a statement Wednesday. "The most amazing moment came when I was going along the side of the Titanic and the bright lights of the submersible reflected off a portal and came right back, it was like the ship was winking at me."

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New Zealand parliament speaker cradles and feeds lawmaker's baby during debate

LazingBee/iStock(WELLINGTON, New Zealand) -- The speaker of New Zealand’s parliament, Trevor Mallard, cradled and fed a bottle to a Member of Parliament's baby boy during a general debate.

Tweeting a photo of himself feeding MP Tamati Coffey's son in the speaker's seat, Mallard said: “Normally the Speaker’s chair is only used by Presiding Officers but today a VIP took the chair with me.”

He then congratulated the boy’s parents, Member of Parliament Tamati Coffey and his partner Tim Smith, "on the newest member of [their] family."

Normally the Speaker’s chair is only used by Presiding Officers but today a VIP took the chair with me. Congratulations @tamaticoffey and Tim on the newest member of your family. pic.twitter.com/47ViKHsKkA

— Trevor Mallard (@SpeakerTrevor) August 21, 2019

Mallard told ABC News that inclusivity is something that he's been focused on since becoming speaker. “When I became speaker I made it clear that I wanted the parliament to be much more family-friendly than it had been," he said. "And a big part of that was to encourage a bigger range of MPs over time to join the parliament – in particular younger women. It’s my view that parliaments are better when they’re a reflection of society. And to do that they have to be family-friendly, otherwise you exclude groups.”

Coffey announced the birth of his son, Tutanekai, in July, saying in a tweet that he and his husband were "overwhelmed at the miracle of life."

🌈👶🏻 He’s here. and he came into this world surrounded by his village. #modernfamilies 👬Mum doing awesome. Dads overwhelmed at the miracle of life.

📺 @SundayTVNZ will tell our story this Sunday night at 730pm. Give it a watch. pic.twitter.com/nRm2YNoBug

— Tāmati Coffey (@tamaticoffey) July 9, 2019

As he attended a parliamentary debate with his baby for the first time after returning from paternity leave, the new father told New Zealand media outlet Newshub, "I've felt really supported by my colleagues from across the House. Babies have a way of calming down the intense environment of Parliament and I think we need more of them around to remind us of the real reason we are all here."

The parliament speaker said his approach to lawmakers' leave requests has reinforced the push to make the workplace more family-friendly. "I have an ability to grant compassionate leave and I’ve been very liberal with leave for fathers and mothers of newborns," Mallard told ABC News.

Colleagues in parliament shared photos of the delighted dad with his newborn in the House of Representatives, before the speaker took on the role of babysitter.

"Lovely to have a baby in the House, and what a beautiful one," MP Gareth Hughes tweeted, while MP Golriz Ghahraman said, "Who needs to see this today? Every single last one of us, that’s who," alongside a crying with joy and love heart emoji.

Lovely to have a baby in the House, and what a beautiful one @tamaticoffey pic.twitter.com/EP6iP9eQES

— Gareth Hughes (@GarethMP) August 21, 2019

Who needs to see this today? Every single last one of us, that’s who. Here’s a brand new papa holding his new born in our House of Representatives right now 😭❤️ pic.twitter.com/NU00SHfKFT

— Golriz Ghahraman (@golrizghahraman) August 21, 2019

This wasn't the first time that Mallard has stepped up to the plate into a temporary childcare role, having also previously cradled a baby during a 2017 parliamentary debate on paid parental leave.

Absolutely brilliant moment in the Paid Parental Leave debate. @TrevorMallard @WillowPrime Thanks to @five15design for the screengrab. pic.twitter.com/KShInNMbk3

— Deborah Russell MP (@BeeFaerie) November 8, 2017

In September last year New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made history by becoming the first world leader at the United Nations to bring a baby into a general assembly meeting, delivering a speech to the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit in New York while her daughter, Neve, sat with her partner Clarke Gayford.

In terms of the response to his on-the-job babysitting, Mallard said matter-of-factly that there had been "no backlash, almost none. In our society it’s quite hard to argue against valuing babies."

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As anti-government protests continue in Hong Kong, marchers embrace a new slogan made famous by Bruce Lee

LewisTsePuiLung/iStock(HONG KONG) -- When Hong Kong riot police descended on a rail station where protesters were holding a sit-in on Wednesday, a small group of demonstrators unspooled a fire hose to create a watery moat in their path and shined laser beams at the officers' faces. By the time riot police entered the station, around 1,000 protesters had disappeared into train cars and escaped into the city’s back streets and alleyways, evading arrest or any confrontation.

In what has been a hallmark of the 11-week protest movement, a team of protesters stayed behind at the station, located in the city's outskirts, to mop up the water, reattach the fire hose and collect the rubber ducks that had been playfully set on the water.

As Hong Kong's anti-government movement nears its third month, protesters have explained its staying power -- and the fact that there have been relatively few clashes with police -- by invoking the slogan “Be Like Water.” The line is borrowed from kung fu master Bruce Lee, who grew up in Hong Kong and made movies there: “Be formless, shapeless, like water,” he said.

Massive protests often disperse with astonishing speed -- preventing violent confrontations -- and have been largely confined to weekends, which has minimized disruptions in this major hub for Asian business. Protesters, who wear black and cover their faces to avoid identification, regularly clean up after themselves.

The sit-in on Wednesday was held in response to a violent attack on supporters of the protest movement. The sit-in was held at a suburban train station near a village where the attackers are believed to live.

Asked about the alleged attack, police offered no immediate comment.

The approach was on view on Sunday, when around a million people rallied in the city center holding signs that read "Free Hong Kong." It was one of the largest protests to date and it unfolded with almost no reports of clashes or unrest.

The protests began June 9, when hundreds of thousands of mostly young people marched against a proposed extradition bill that would allow individuals to be sent from semi-autonomous Hong Kong to mainland China for trial. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has since suspended the bill, but the movement has continued and protesters' demands have expanded to include a call for an investigation into police brutality and universal suffrage.

As protests have taken shape in nearly every weekend in Hong Kong, which was under British control until power was transferred to China in 1997, there have been some reports of confrontations.

Last week, a sit-in at Hong Kong's busy international airport grounded hundreds of flights and led to clashes with police. At one point, some protesters were seen beating a man who was later identified as a Chinese journalist. Police have accused protesters of hurling objects and pointing laser beams at them.

Protesters argue that they have faced unreasonable force from Hong Kong police and assaults from gangs, which protesters say are aligned with China.

Earlier this month, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said through a spokesman that there was “credible evidence” of law enforcement officials using some anti-riot measures which are “prohibited by international norms and standards,” including firing tear gas canisters into crowded, enclosed areas and directly at individual protesters.

Some protesters have been seen wearing eye patches to show support for a woman whose eye was injured in an encounter with police earlier this month.

Outside the city center, the so-called "Lennon Tunnel" at the Tai Po Market train station has become a shrine to the movement's symbols and slogans.

The tunnel, which pays homage to John Lennon, is covered floor to ceiling with artwork, mosaics fashioned out of Post-it notes and flyers advertising upcoming demonstrations.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Fires in Amazon rainforest up more than 80% this year, scientists warn

gustavofrazao/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The Amazon rainforest in Brazil is experiencing a record amount of fires this year, according to the country's space agency.

The number of fires in the Brazilian Amazon between Jan. 1 and Aug. 20 -- more than 74,000 as of Tuesday -- has risen 84% from the same period in 2018, according to data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which used satellites to collect its research.

The wildfires are so intense that smoke loomed over the city of Sao Paolo, more than a thousand miles away, according to Greenpeace.

The severity of the fires has prompted the state of Amazonas to declare a state of emergency. The hashtags #PrayforAmazonas and #AmazonRainforest were trending on Twitter on Wednesday.

Wildfires are common during Brazil's dry season but are also deliberately started for the illegal deforestation of land for cattle ranching, the BBC reported.

Scientists warn that if the Amazon fires reach a "point of no return," the forests could be replaced by fire-prone brush and savanna, causing the death of millions of species, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Migrants allowed to disembark Open Arms ship at Lampedusa as Italian government shakes

Naeblys/iStock FILE(NEW YORK) -- Dozens of people were allowed to disembark a rescue ship on the Italian island of Lampedusa, ending a 19-day standoff between the Spain-based rescue organization and the Italian government.

The Open Arms ship, managed by an NGO of the same name, had been waiting in the central Mediterranean with nearly 100 migrants, largely from Africa, to be allowed port on Lampedusa.

However, the Italian government, under Interior Minister Matteo Salvini -- the leader of the country's anti-immigrant party -- has not allowed private migrant rescue ships to dock in Italian ports. And the Open Arms refused to move elsewhere.

Minors and those needing medical treatment were eventually taken to the shore, but nearly 100 people remained on board. After more than two weeks on the ship, some migrants chose to jump overboard this week, attempting to swim to shore.

They were rescued by Italian coastguard operations.

"And finally, after 19 captive days on the deck of a ship, all of the people on board will walk on hard land," Open Arms tweeted in Spanish, along with a video of people apparently on the ship hugging and celebrating.

Y por fin, después de 19 días cautivos en la cubierta de un barco, todas las personas a bordo pisarán tierra firme.
¡¡Boza!! pic.twitter.com/W2CCYtKIIA

— Open Arms (@openarms_fund) August 20, 2019

The NGO added in another tweet that there were 83 people aboard and that they would be receiving immediate assistance on Lampedusa.

🔴🔴#ULTIMAHORA 🔴🔴
La fiscalía de Agrigento dictamina desembarco inmediato de todas las personas a bordo #OpenArms en el puerto de #Lampedusa y la incautación provisional del barco.
Por fin,se acaba la pesadilla y las 83 personas a bordo recibirán asistencia inmediata en tierra pic.twitter.com/z4rYtTmtP0

— Open Arms (@openarms_fund) August 20, 2019

Salvini, who took office last summer, did not appear cowed. He livestreamed a video of himself on Facebook discussing the Open Arms ship, with a caption referencing past investigations of his migrant policies.

"I am not afraid," he said in part in Italian, "[but] proud to defend the borders and security of my country."

The arrivals came as tensions between Salvini and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte reached a head, fueled in part by the Open Arms crisis. Among other disagreements, Conte had urged Salvini to "urgently adopt the necessary measures to ensure assistance and protection for minors present in the boat," according to CNN.

After an apparent power play by Salvini calling for a non-confidence vote in Conte and for new elections, Conte resigned Tuesday, criticizing Salvini along the way.

In the meantime, people are still attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has called on Italy to change its policies and allow rescue ships to dock.

At least 576 people have died so far this year trying to cross the sea on the Central Mediterranean route to Italy, according to the International Organization for Migration's latest report through Aug. 4. Last year, the UNHCR found that while fewer people are attempting to make the crossing, it had become deadlier.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Ahead of G-7 Summit, Trump again backs Russia being allowed back into alliance

republica/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Just days before heading to the G-7 Summit in France, President Donald Trump on Tuesday doubled down on his support for allowing Russia to rejoin the group of the world's advanced economies.

Trump has repeatedly called for closer ties with Moscow and it's a move he backed last year. But Western democracies have said no, citing Russian aggression in Europe and in particular Ukraine.

"I think it's much more appropriate to have Russia in," Trump said Tuesday at the White House. "A lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia, I could certainly see it being the G-8 again, if someone would make that motion, I would be disposed to think about it favorably."

In 2014, President Barack Obama and other the member nations booted Russia out of what was then the G-8 as a rebuke to Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea and its support for Russian-led separatists in eastern Ukraine.

But Trump suggested Tuesday that Obama wanted Putin out because he had been "outsmarted" by Putin.

"I guess President Obama because Putin outsmarted him. President Obama thought it wasn't a good thing to have Russia in, so he wanted Russia out," he said.

A diplomatic source briefed on the G-7 preparations said there was no interest in inviting Russia back to the group because there had been no progress in Ukraine. Instead, finding ways to support the country's new president in the face of ongoing Russian interference will be a priority for the meeting, the source said.

Despite that opposition, Trump suggested there would be support "if someone would make that motion."

The G-7 members are the U.S., France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada and the United Kingdom. France is hosting the annual summit of the group's heads of state this weekend in the resort city of Biarritz.

In June 2018, Trump also suggested that Russia should attend last year's G-7 hosted by Canada. A spokesperson for the Kremlin turned down the offer, saying the country was not interested at the time.

Trump has repeatedly called for closer ties with Moscow, even as his administration has increased sanctions on its defense and intelligence sectors and expelled dozens of Russian diplomats.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Man charged in Anguilla hotel worker's death describes life as 'a living nightmare'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The New York City banker who was charged in the death of an Anguillan hotel worker in April described his life as "a living nightmare" since he was charged with manslaughter.

Connecticut resident Scott Hapgood, 44, was allegedly with his two daughters in a room at the Malliouhana Resort on April 13 when a man dressed in a hotel uniform knocked on the door "minutes" after the girls "walked back to the hotel room on their own," according to a statement released by the family in May.

The man, identified by Anguilla police as hotel maintenance worker Kenny Mitchel, allegedly stated that he was there to fix a broken sink before he came inside and demanded money from Hapgood, the family said. A scuffle that ensued, which the family said Hapgood was "fighting for his life," was broken up when he was restrained by a security guard, according to the family.

Hapgood was then taken to the hospital, and he later learned that Mitchel had died when he was giving a witness statement at the police station, the family said.

On Tuesday, Hapgood and his international defense attorney, Juliya Arbisman, held a press conferences to express the injustice they felt was taking place as a result of Hapgood's bail conditions, which require him to attend procedural court hearings in Aguilla three times in one week.

Although they traveled to Anguilla on Monday, the pair will be required to travel back to the island on Thursday, even though the Anguillan attorney general will be requesting an adjournment to the case during that hearing, according to Arbisman.

A request for Hapgood to make his appearance by video was denied by the attorney general "without explanation," and he cannot stay on the island for the duration of the hearings because of security threats, Arbisman said.

"We were advised, in the context of a security warning by the police authorities, that the less time he spends in Anguilla the better," she said, describing the attorney general's decision as "cruel and unreasonable."

Hapgood promised to "fully comply with the requirements of the court."

Arbisman also accused prosecutors from withholding a toxicology report for more than two months that allegedly "showed Mr. Kenny Mitchel was not only drunk, with a blood alcohol level that is double the legal limit in the U.S., but also high on cocaine and other drugs when he attacked Scott."

ABC News could not get confirmation from officials in Anguilla about the claims from Arbisman regarding the results of Mitchel's toxicology report.

"During those months that the report has been withheld, the AG has allowed a portrait of Mr. Mitchell to persist in the media that is at odds with what we now know to be true," Arbisman said. "I worry about Scott's ability to get a fair trial when relevant information is withheld and a persistent narrative has been given to potential jurors, the people of Anguilla, which is based on falsehoods and admissions."

Hapgood and Arbisman declined to further discuss what occurred prior to Mitchell's death.

Hapgood, an account manager at UBS Global Asset Management, has been on administrative leave since the incident, he said, saying that he and his family "have been living a nightmare" and "hanging on by a thread" ever since their trip to Anguilla.

He also described the experience as "terrifying" for his daughters, who are 12 and 14 years old. He and his family were victims, Hapwood said, adding that "the truth will come out."

"We have a long road ahead of us, but I'm looking forward to someday getting back to the life we once had," he said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Russia refuses to share data after nuclear explosion, alarming monitors, US officials

MaxOzerov/iStock(MOSCOW) -- A senior Russian official said the country did not have to share with international monitors any data about a recent nuclear blast that spiked radiation levels in a northern region of the country.

The international monitor at the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization reported Monday that several radiation detection sites in Russia went silent after the accident at a military test facility on Aug. 8. The CTBTO monitors radiation around the world to ensure compliance with the treaty.

Four stations went down in the days after the explosion of a suspected nuclear-powered cruise missile. Two sites went dark on Aug. 10, with two more stopping transmission of data on Aug. 13.

"They have reported communication and network issues, and we're awaiting further reports on when the stations and/or the communication system will be restored to full functionality," a CTBTO spokesperson told ABC News on Monday. "We continue to be in touch with our collaborators in Russia to resume operations as soon as possible."

The organization's executive director Lassina Zerbo, a scientist from Burkina Faso, tweeted on Tuesday that two of the stations have resumed data-sharing and back-filling some information.

"Excellent cooperation & support from our Russian station operators," he added.

Russia has provided few details about the blast, beyond confirming that five employees were killed. A U.S. official told ABC News that it "likely" took place during a test on the new nuclear-powered missile, known by the names the SSX-C-9 "Skyfall" by NATO and the 9M370 Burevestnik, or "Storm Petrel," by Russia.

Immediately after the explosion, there was a spike in radiation in cities near Nenoksa missile test site on Russia's northern Arctic coast. Russian authorities initially denied any spike, until three days later the state weather service Roshydromet acknowledged radiation levels jumped up to 16 times above the norm. The environmental group Greenpeace had its own readings that showed a similar increase, but said it was brief.

But these readings came from cities miles from the test site. There is concern that radiation levels closed to the explosion are not known, including at the village next to the blast or from the missile's radioactive debris that could have traveled from the test site.

The CTBTO monitors could aid in determining those levels, making their transmission blackout concerning.

But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Tuesday that the accident is none of the organization's business.

"Handing over data from our national stations which are part of the international monitoring system is entirely voluntary for any country," he said, according to Russian news agency Interfax.

A CTBTO spokesperson told ABC News Ryabkov was right that data sharing is "not binding," in part because the treaty cannot be fully implemented until all countries with nuclear technology ratify it. The holdouts are China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the U.S.

Instead, Ryabkov said, "exhaustive explanations about what happened and what the consequences were have been given by the relevant structures," and there was no threat to the environment or local populations.

The State Department did not respond to request for comment. But analysts in the U.S. expressed concern about the lack of information.

"Russia is setting a terrible precedent. This isn't just about covering up a failure or a new weapon, this information is for the safety and security of the world," according to Melissa Hanham, deputy director of Open Nuclear Network and director of the Datayo Project at One Earth Future Foundation.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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