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Fears for Palmyra: The ISIS Assault on History

Thursday, May 21st, 2015 by

Posted in World News

RPMGsas/iStock/Thinkstock(PALMYRA, Syria) — Just five days after ISIS achieved one of its most significant victories in Iraq in the past year, militants reportedly have taken control of the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria.

The city’s ruins hold some of the world’s most prized antiquities dating back to the 1st and 2nd centuries, and ISIS’ past assaults on historic sites have caused alarm among the international community that the group might employ the same tactics once again.

“Any destruction to Palmyra is not just a world crime, it will mean an enormous loss for humanity,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in a video posted by the group Thursday. “We are speaking about the birth of human civilization.”

Palmyra is home to some of the world’s best-preserved ancient ruins, including the Temple of Bel, built in the first century. The regime’s withdrawal from the strategically important Palmyra presents another drastic loss for its forces.

Over the past 2,000 years, Palmyra has been consistently reshaped by the influences of ancient Romans, and served as a trade hub for caravans along the Silk Road from India, China and Persia. It led to an amassing of treasures from a diverse array of civilizations.

“What Palmyra tells us today is that all cultures are influencing each other, all cultures enrich each other,” Bokova said.

However, over the past two years following the start of the Syrian Civil War, Palmyra saw military facilities propped up by forces loyal to Syria’s Assad. Reports of looting and significant damage to some of the city’s ancient architecture followed.

Its new inhabitants, however, believe preserving ancient ruins constitutes a form of idolatry and have made several propaganda videos flaunting their record in some of Syria and Iraq’s most historic destinations.

One of the first notable examples of ISIS’ targeting of historical sites was the video posted online of the destruction of the Nebi Yunus, or the Tomb of the Prophet Jonah, inside Mosul, Iraq.

Just one week ago, in a U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on “Ancient Communities Under Attack,” Penn Cultural Heritage Center fellow Katharyn Hanson remarked that ISIS “removed all evidence of the shrine by clearing the rubble and grading the site flat.”

“In doing so,” Hanson said. “ISIS erased the physical presence of Nebi Yunus for the entire local religious community.”

In January 2015, reports surfaced that ISIS militants detonated bombs along the wall of the ancient Iraqi city of Nineveh located on the Tigris River. The city is known for being the oldest in the Assyrian Empire and most notable archaeological monuments in the country.

The next month, ISIS militants armed themselves with sledgehammers, pickaxes and rifles as they raided the Mosul Museum. Cameramen were at the ready as the group tore apart artifacts, including some reported replicas inside, later posting a montage of the rampage online.

Just a month later, ISIS ramped up its campaign of destruction as it reportedly bulldozed the ancient cities of Nimrud and Hatra, also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In the House hearing, Hanson also remarked on the apparent looting by ISIS of the Dura-Europos, an archaeological site in Syria that holds not only the world’s best preserved ancient Jewish synagogue but one of the oldest known depictions of Jesus Christ.

“I think we need a total mobilization of the international community,” Bokova said on Palmyra. “We need everybody to launch the same appeal. We need very much the religious leaders to launch an appeal on the prevention of this destruction.”

Sister Diana Momeka of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena has witnessed the destruction first hand, and testified to the House Foreign Affairs committee just what effect the destruction of the religious and historical sites have on the community.

“What do we lose? I would say we lost everything,” Momeka said. “It just was a sign for us, and that’s your history is gone. You are nothing anymore. That’s how we see ourselves now. Homeless.”

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Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Double Your Dollars

Haunting World War II Photos of Paris, Then and Now

Thursday, May 21st, 2015 by

Posted in World News

Julien Knez/ — One Paris-based artist decided to dive into the romantic city’s history, painstakingly recreating some of the most haunting photos from World War II.

“I’m interested in Paris history and in the story of these few days in August 1944,” Julien Knez wrote to ABC News of the when the Liberation of Paris was fought, which eventually freed Paris from Nazi control.

Knez spent one month searching for old photos of famous Paris landmarks taken during the city’s uprising, then spent another month retracing those photos’ footsteps, recreating each image to capture how much the city has changed in the past 71 years.

“It was a pretty moving experience, a sort of awareness of this historic event,” he wrote on his website describing the passion project. “Imagine the courage of these men and women of all ages, everyone earned by this infinite thirst for freedom finally at hand.”

The 50 photos serve as a time capsule of Parisian history, beautifully capturing how far the city has come.

“My favorite photo is the one on Hotel de Ville with 2 comrades who are found after street fights,” Knez explained. “A beautiful picture, the faces of deliverance.”

Take a look at Knez’s tribute to his beloved city.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Dog Rescued From Raging Flood Waters, Given Mouth-to-Mouth Resuscitation by Colombia Police

Thursday, May 21st, 2015 by

Posted in World News

Policia Nacional de los Colombianos(BOGOTÁ, Colombia) — A dog was pulled from raging flood waters by the National Police of Colombia, and it all was captured on video.

The dog fell into water filled with mud, stones and other debris, according to the National Police of Colombia. The National Police spotted the dog, which they refer to as Prince, and were able to pull it from the water after the third attempt.

Once Prince was pulled from the water, members of the National Police revived the dog, at one point giving it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and brought it to a safe place, events that also were captured on video.

The National Police said that if Prince’s owner can’t be found, the dog will be welcomed by the leaders of the National Police.

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Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Hometown Headlines w/ Brad Barrett

Prince William Gets Charlotte Soccer Jersey from England’s Women’s Soccer Team

Thursday, May 21st, 2015 by

Posted in World News

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images(STAFFORDSHIRE, England) — It looks like Prince William and Duchess Kate might have a football player on their hands, not Prince George but their newborn daughter, Princess Charlotte.

Charlotte is just 19-days-old but she already has her own soccer — football in the U.K. — jersey thanks to her home country’s women’s soccer team.

The players on England’s women’s squad, the Lionesses, presented Charlotte’s dad, Prince William, with a custom team jersey Wednesday when he met the team at St. George’s Park in Staffordshire.

The jersey had Charlotte’s name on the back along with the number one.

“All the girls were asking how Princess Charlotte is and Prince George and whether they keep him up all night,” said team captain Steph Houghton, according to the U.K.’s The Telegraph.

“He was saying he’s obviously really enjoying being a father and Princess Charlotte is actually keeping him up and probably why his eyes are looking a little bit tired,” Houghton said.

William, 32, reportedly also revealed that although Charlotte has a jersey, it is currently Prince George who is displaying soccer skills through his quick feet.

“He was saying he never stops moving and is always on the move and keeping them busy,” Houghton said.

Tweets from Kensington Palace show that William, 32, took a team photo with the Lionesses, signed the wall at St. George’s Park and watched the players train.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Dawn Probe Gets Closest Look Yet at Ceres’ Bright Spots

Thursday, May 21st, 2015 by

Posted in World News

NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA(NEW YORK) — NASA’s Dawn probe has gotten its closest look yet at the alien lights reflecting from the dwarf planet Ceres.

Taken from a distance of 4,500 miles, the image shows two bright spots on the dwarf planet in new detail, appearing to reflect from inside a crater on Ceres’ surface.

Discovered earlier this year as Dawn approached Ceres, the bright spots have been a mystery to scientists who have speculated they could be icy volcanoes or salt.

Christopher Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission, said with the closer look that “scientists can now conclude that the intense brightness of these spots is due to the reflection of sunlight by highly reflective material on the surface, possibly ice.”

Nearly 600 miles in diameter, about 25 percent of Ceres’ mass is believed to be ice. NASA’s Dawn mission has been orbiting Ceres since March and will continue studying the dwarf planet through June 2016.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Loyal Listeners Club

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev Wears an Apple Watch

Thursday, May 21st, 2015 by

Posted in World News

Pete Souza / The White House(MOSCOW) — Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is a big fan of Apple.

After meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Medvedev’s new wrist candy was spotted by reporters.

Russian reporter Dmitry Smirnov tweeted a photo of the prime minister talking to a reporter, his watch visible to the cameras.

While watches are a status symbol, Medvedev didn’t opt for the $17,000 Apple Watch Edition, instead choosing a space grey version of the Apple Watch Sport, which starts at $349.

Medvedev’s love for Apple was first noticed in 2010 when he was photographed with Steve Jobs, who showed him the iPhone 4. Medvedev is also known for using an iPad and joined Twitter in 2010.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Eight Suspects in London Jewel Heist to Appear in Court

Thursday, May 21st, 2015 by

Posted in World News

NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) — Eight men are expected to appear in Westminster Magistrates Court in London Thursday morning to face charges in the Hatton Garden jewelry heist.

The thieves stole from up to 70 safe deposit boxes from the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Limited building over Easter weekend.

Police did not disclose exactly what was stolen, but it is believed that diamonds and gold were part of the haul. Hatton Garden is a district of London famous for being the largest jewelry quarter in the U.K. specializing in the diamond trade.

A “significant” amount of the “high-value property was recovered and will be returned to their owners, British authorities said Tuesday.

A ninth man who was also arrested has been released on bail, pending further inquiries, police have said.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Song of The Day

Fall of Ramadi: 30 Car Bombs, 10 as Big as Oklahoma City Blast, US Official Says

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 by

Posted in World News

MacXever/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The State Department is sharing new details about the deadly fighting in Ramadi, Iraq, last Sunday, saying the city fell into ISIS hands after the militant group set off 30 suicide car bombs in the city center, 10 of which each were comparable in power to the Oklahoma City truck bomb of 1995.

The explosions took out “entire city blocks,” said a senior State Department official who spoke to reporters at the State Department Wednesday on condition that he not be named.

The vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, or VBIEDs, were able to gain access to the city center after an armored bulldozer plowed through T-wall barricades lining the city’s critical government buildings, the official said, adding that the same bulldozer was later used as a power VBIED, itself.

Soon after the bombs went off, the Iraqis deployed a reinforcing column into the city center, but they were forced to retreat after coming under heavy enemy fire, the official said. That retreat led to a larger exodus of Iraqi security forces and the civilian populations, leaving the streets looking “barren,” according to this official.

The State Department and the Pentagon insist the fall of Ramadi does not closely resemble that of Mosul in 2014, when, after only a week of fighting, Islamic State forces were able to take over the entire city as ISF forces abandoned the posts, equipment and even their uniforms.

The State Department official argued that Ramadi has been fiercely contested for 18 months, as both sides controlled equal parts of the city. It wasn’t until the critical government center fell this weekend that ISIS was able to lay claim to the entire provincial capital.

But the official admitted that, in this case, the Iraqi forces did leave some U.S.-made weapons behind. The official suggested that if the enemy attempts to commandeer any of the bigger weapons, they would be killed in airstrikes.

“I’m told that when we see Daesh [another word for ISIS or ISIL] trying to get ahold of that equipment, we’ll take care of that problem,” the State Department official said.

The official also argued that, unlike what happened in Mosul, the Iraqi forces have not collapsed. Rather, they have “regrouped” and “consolidated” and remain mostly intact while they make plans for a counter-offensive, the official said.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

How Elian Gonzalez Feels Now About His Return to Cuba 15 Years Ago

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 by

Posted in World News

ABC News(HAVANA) — Elian Gonzalez was just a child when a judge ordered that he be returned to his father in Cuba 15 years ago. At the time, Miami residents argued that his life in the United States would be better.

Today, now an adult, Gonzalez spoke candidly to ABC News in an exclusive interview on the decision, and said he has no regrets about returning to Cuba.

“I feel good with what I have and I want nothing more,” he said.

While the 21-year-old doesn’t own a car or a house, and only had 10 pesos in his pocket, those aren’t the important things for him, he said.

“I think I’m rich; but I say I’m rich because all the things given to me by life, all the opportunities. It’s not material wealth but rather the chance to be with my father, with my family,” he said.

He added that he not only returned to Cuba, but to his hometown.

“This is the greatest possible wealth that I have,” Gonzalez added. “I feel good, and I have the love of those people that I need to love me.”

His father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, also spoke to ABC News and reflected on the decision to bring his son back to Cuba instead of allowing him to stay in the United States. At the time, he said, the decision was never doubted.

“Not ever have I thought I took the wrong decision,” Juan Miguel Gonzalez said. “At all moments, I was clear on what my principles were and what I wanted, which was to get my life back where I grew up and got raised.

“I could have gotten anywhere else in the world,” he added. “Besides, I don’t think that anywhere else in the world my kid would have become the kid he is today.”

One of the reasons Elian Gonzalez had not done any interviews recently, his father said, was because he wanted to protect his son and allow him to have a normal life.

“I want nobody to be harassing the child with questions of any kind of questioning,” Juan Miguel Gonzalez said. “At that time, I decided to give the interviews myself so I could not affect the child, so he could lead a normal life, as normal as possible. But now the child is a grown up, he has been living his life, he has the chance to say what he wants.”

Elian Gonzalez agreed, and still feels that returning to Cuba was the best thing for him.

“I feel safe in Cuba, and I believe that after the years my dad always said that I was free to do what I wanted, but when I had the age to do so,” he said. “At the time, I was 5 years old and, at the time, the right thing was to be with my father.”

He added that he also enjoyed the privacy his life in Cuba afforded him.

“I’ve been living to the fullest and have something, perhaps, I wouldn’t have had in the United States — is the respect of the press to live my life in a normal way,” he said. “To grow like a normal young man, I developed myself, I have friends, I go to parties and I practice sports. And I thank my dad because of that, above all.”

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Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Nugget of Knowldege

Russia Finalizing Law to Ban ‘Undesirable’ Foreign Organizations

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 by

Posted in World News

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images(MOSCOW) — Russia’s government has introduced a new law empowering it to ban foreign organizations as “undesirable.”

Rights organizations say the move is aimed at clamping down on dissent to Vladimir Putin’s rule, and will push Russia further from the West.

Authorities will be able to label any organization “undesirable” whose activities it deems damaging to Russia’s “constitutional order, defense capabilities or state security.” The law was quickly approved by Russia’s Federation Council on Wednesday, after being voted through Russia’s parliament with only three votes against it. President Putin is expected to sign it into law in the near future.

The law fits into a broader narrative projected by Putin that Russia is under threat from Western non-governmental organizations, who he frequently implies are instruments of American intelligence, an idea echoed by the representative who sponsored the law.

“The purpose of the law is to highlight that there are foreign organizations that are unfriendly to Russia,” Alexander Tarnavsky told the Russian news agency TASS. “They do this for different reasons — some at the request of intelligence services, some for other considerations.”

Although the law is ostensibly targeted at foreign organizations, in reality it appears intended more as another instrument for constraining domestic rights groups and opposition activists, potentially exposing them to legal trouble.

“It’s not about us,” said Tanya Lokshina, program director for Human Rights Watch’s Russia unit. “The government doesn’t need another repressive law to shut us down. The law is meant to stop Russian nationals maintaining contact with their foreign partners.”

Some provisions in the law stipulate criminal penalties for Russian citizens continuing involvement with foreign organizations declared “undesirable,” including fines. Those fined twice can face prison sentences. The law is vaguely worded so that it is not clear what precisely would constitute “involvement,” meaning that theoretically even attending a seminar or conducting an interview with an “undesirable” organization could be punishable.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned the law. Lokshina said it was meant to stifle non-official activism, “shoving it into limbo where activists will simply suffocate.”

The law is the latest in a series of measures that have seemed intended to push groups critical of official abuses and opponents of the Kremlin into an ever more precarious space. In 2012, the government introduced the so-called “foreign agents” law that forced Russian NGOs receiving foreign funding to register under that title, which for many Russians is synonymous with spy. Although dozens of NGOs have since been prosecuted over it, many have still resisted registering.

That law “was meant to pull Russian NGOs away from foreign organizations,” said Alexander Cherkasov, who works for the Russian rights group Memorial. “It didn’t work. But this new law goes far further.”

In theory, the law applies to all foreign organizations, not just NGOs, meaning foreign companies could also fall under it. Cherkasov said McDonalds or ABC could be declared “undesirable” if the authorities so wished, in which case he could potentially be fined for buying a hamburger or doing an interview.

“It’s an Iron Curtain law,” said Cherkasov. “I don’t know exactly how it will affect us yet, but I expect nothing good.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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