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Iran’s Influence: Far Beyond Its Borders

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 by

Posted in World News

iStock/Thinkstock(TEHRAN, Iran) — Whether it’s the Iranian-backed Houthis now in direct conflict with a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, or taking the lead of the Shia militias fighting the militant group ISIS in Iraq, the complexity of the relationship between the United States and Iran stretches far beyond the negotiating table in Switzerland.

As headlines continue to surface detailing Iranian intervention in conflicts throughout the Middle East, its relationship with the U.S. grows further complicated.

To learn more about Iran’s heightened activity in the region, watch the ABC News Global Affairs digital original video below:

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Pet of the Week

Stage Set for Historic Meeting Between Obama and Raul Castro

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 by

Posted in World News

FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images/ Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) — The United States and Cuba are set to mark a historic milestone next week with President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro poised to share the stage at the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Panama.

It will be the first scheduled meeting between leaders of the two countries in nearly 60 years.

In advance of the historic meeting, ABC News sat down with Josefina Vidal, the head diplomat representing Cuba in negotiations with the United States in the months following Obama’s announcement in December that the U.S. would normalize relations with the Communist island.

In what she described as a “new era” of relations between the two neighboring countries, Vidal said one of the biggest challenges is to move beyond the distrust that was built over 54 years of severed ties.

“We still have to overcome it, so it’s a process,” Vidal said, “because we haven’t had that confidence for many years…But the idea is to get there.”

While Obama has publicly stated that one of the United States’ primary goals in engaging anew with Cuba and more directly affect change in the Communist country, which according to the U.S. government is riddled with human rights abuses, Vidal said she does not view the stated American goal as a threat.

“We know that this is the way the United States government presents its policy toward Cuba, but what we believe is that we can respect each other’s differences and at the same time work together on issues of common interest as neighbors,” Vidal said.

“The best way to achieve this kind of new relationship is that we both open up,” Vidal added.

It’s a perspective shared by former Cuban President Fidel Castro, Vidal said, while qualifying with a laugh that he has “many reasons to have suspicions” of the U.S. government.

“He has said very clearly that the president of Cuba [Raul Castro] has the prerogative to do what he has been doing on matters concerning U.S.-Cuban relations,” Vidal said of the retired president. “He believes…that confidence has to be built between Cuba and the United States, because this is what has been lacking.”

Obama called on Congress to lift the trade embargo with Cuba in his State of the Union Address in January. And though the Congress has resisted the president’s call, Vidal said Cuba is preparing to attract investment within its existing Communist framework once its embargo is lifted.

“We need investment in Cuba,” Vidal said. “We have been studying what a small country like Singapore has been doing…but in summary, it’s going to be a Cuban Model.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

WATCH: Sheepdog Drone Keeps Sheep in Line

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 by

Posted in World News

Hemera/Thinkstock(CARLOW, Ireland) — Drones are making headlines in the U.S. for possibly being able to deliver your Amazon products to your door but in Ireland, the 21st century technology is being used to solve an age-old task: sheep herding.

A video with over 290,000 views on YouTube shows what is billed as the “world’s first drone sheepdog” herding a flock of sheep in Carlow, Ireland.

The video shows the sheep following the drone, named “Shep,” in every direction as it flies just above their heads.

The nearly one-minute video was posted by Paul Brennan.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Crusin In Cruces

Massive Blackout Plunges Turkey into Darkness

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 by

Posted in World News

Ali Atmaca/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(ISTANBUL) — A massive nationwide power-outage has struck Turkey, causing travel chaos in major cities and leaving roughly three-quarters of the country with limited electricity.

The blackout — the worst in Turkey for over a decade — has affected around 40 provinces. In Istanbul traffic lights and much of the city’s subway went dark after power stopped around 10:30 a.m. Local airports were forced to close and flights are disrupted.

Engen Bas, an Istanbul-based journalist working for ABC News, said that most major public facilities were running on backup generators and that internet coverage was also down in some places.

The reason for the blackout is so far unexplained. With officials only able to speculate, rumors of cyber-attacks and terror threats quickly appeared. Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said that the most likely cause was problems with transmission lines but said he could not rule out terrorism.

“This is not an incident we see frequently,” said energy minister, Yaner Yildiz, currently on an official visit to Slovakia.

“Whether or not terrorism is a high possibility or a low I can’t say at this stage. I can’t say either whether it’s a cyber-attack,” he told Turkish TV.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Turkish Airlines Flight Diverted Over Threat

Monday, March 30th, 2015 by

Posted in World News

Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images(ISTANBUL) — A Turkish Airlines flight was diverted on Monday over a false bomb threat.

The flight, TK15 from Istanbul to Sao Paulo, was diverted to Casablanca, Morocco, after the threat was made, according to a spokesperson for the airline.

While at the airport, passengers were taken off the plane while an explosives search was carried out.

The plane was later cleared by authorities and allowed to continue on to Brazil.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Double Your Dollars

Iran Nuclear Talks: As Deadline Nears, Sticking Points Fester

Monday, March 30th, 2015 by

Posted in World News

iStock/Thinkstock(LAUSANNE, Switzerland) — With just over 24 hours until the deadline for negotiating parties to come to a political understanding about ending Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the most contentious issues within the talks have yet to be resolved.

Negotiators still have not reached an agreement on how many centrifuges might remain online at Iran’s deep-buried Fordo nuclear reactor, whether or not Iran will be allowed to continue nuclear research and development for scientific purposes, and what to do with the stockpile of enriched uranium it already owns, officials said Monday.

In what many observers see as a downgrade from the optimistic outlook at the end of last week, State Department spokesman Marie Harf said there’s a “50/50″ chance a tentative deal could be reached. Speaking to reporters Monday in a teleconference from Lausanne, Switzerland, Harf said the mood is “serious” but that “there is still a path” to a deal.

“It’s like moving puzzle pieces around,” Harf said. “We have to find the right combination.”

Though the next deadline expires Tuesday, there is nothing that says the talks would have to stop if that deadline passes, according to the State Department. The November Joint Plan of Action technically extends through June 30.

“On April 1st, it’s not like something happens,” Harf said.

It’s unclear, however, that talks would continue if a tentative deal is not reached by March 31.

Secretary of State John Kerry is in Switzerland leading the negotiations. State Department officials said he had hoped to be back in Boston on Monday for a dedication ceremony at the new Edward Kennedy Institute, honoring the late senator from Massachusetts, who was a close colleague and friend of Kerry’s.

President Obama explained Kerry’s absence at the ceremony, then quoted John F. Kennedy in summing up the nuclear negotiations with Iran.

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate,” Obama said.

Meanwhile, at the White House, spokesman Eric Schultz addressed some of the sticking points in the negotiations, pushing back on reports that Iran has reneged on its pledge to export much of its stockpile.

“The idea that there had been an agreement that Iran backed away from is not true,” Schultz said. “Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Pack of Stray Dogs Stand Guard at Animal Lover’s Funeral

Monday, March 30th, 2015 by

Posted in World News

Patricia Urrutia(NEW YORK) — A woman who spent her life caring for stray dogs received an unexpected — and surprising — tribute from the animals when she died.

At the funeral for Margarita Suárez in Cuernavaca Morelos, Mexico, there was a pack of stray dogs who came inside the funeral home to stand guard.

Suárez’s daughter, Patricia Urrutia, told ABC News that they were shocked but delighted by the appearance of the canine celebrants.

Adding to the other-worldliness of the situation was the fact that these stray dogs were not even the same ones that her 71-year-old mother had helped during her lifetime. Suárez lived in Merida Yucatan, but her funeral service was in a town more than 830 miles away, her daughter said.

“They stayed with my mother all day, and then at night they all stayed — but in the morning when we planned to move my mother for cremation all that remained was one, but then when we arrived at the location to cremate my mother they all came again,” Urrutia told ABC News.

She said that the dogs do not normally hang around the funeral home, and that workers there had never seen anything like it before.

“My mom has always been good with all animals and people,” Urrutia said. “Always fed the dogs on her block and the 20 stray cats that lived there.”

Urrutia posted photos of the scene on her Facebook profile on March 15 and the moving images have been shared across the Internet. As of Monday morning, the post has been shared more than 50,000 times on Facebook and has received more than 192,100 likes.

Urrutia said that the dogs’ presence helped her through the difficult day, and it was an unexpected message that she will always remember.

“When I was in a moment of so much pain these dogs that came, they showed me that everything was going to be okay,” Urrutia told ABC.

“Because of them we were happy,” Urrutia added. “They made a sad situation an incredible one.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Hometown Headlines w/ Brad Barrett

Turkey Detains Five Dutch Citizens Trying to Join ISIS

Monday, March 30th, 2015 by

Posted in World News

iStock/Thinkstock(ISTANBUL) — Turkish military officials say they have detained five Dutch citizens who were attempting to cross the border into Syria to join ISIS.

Nearly 100 Syrian nationals were also caught trying to enter Turkey in recent days, according to the officials.

Thousands of foreigners, including a handful of Americans, have crossed the porous border to Syria to join extremist and rebel groups.

Turkey has come under international criticism for not doing enough to stem the flow of would-be fighters to Syria. However, Turkish officials contend they have stopped tens of thousands of foreigners from entering their country.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Germanwings Co-Pilot Previously Had Suicidal Thoughts, Prosecutor Says

Monday, March 30th, 2015 by

Posted in World News

ABC News / Flight Aware(DUSSELDORF, Germany) — Prosecutors in Germany said Monday that the co-pilot of the downed Germanwings plane had been treated by a psychotherapist because of previous suicidal tendencies.

Dusseldorf prosecutor Christoph Kumpa’s update came six days after authorities say Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately flew the jetliner into a mountain. Kumpa said that they still do not know the motive of the crash and they have not found a suicide note.

“We have found medical documentation that showed no organic medical illness,” Kumpa said.

Few details have been revealed about the psychotherapy in question except that it reportedly occurred before Lubitz received his pilots license, which happened in 2013.

The data and documents that investigators have found, Kumpa said, “don’t show any hint of being suicidical [sic] or being aggressive towards other people.”

Investigators are focusing on the psychological state of Lubitz, 27, and a 100-person special commission — dubbed “Alps” — to investigate his life and collect evidence to identify more than 70 German victims. All told, the plane was carrying 150 people including Lubitz, all of whom died.

Germanwings CEO Olivier Wagner, speaking at a press conference in Marseille, called the crash “The saddest day of my life. The families are always asking me, ‘Why had this happened?’ I cannot give them an answer,” Wagner said.

Authorities have said Lubitz hid evidence of an illness from his employers, including a sick note that was found torn up inside his apartment in Dusseldorf dated from the day of the crash.

Frank Woiton, a Germanwings pilot, told German TV station WDR that he saw nothing unusual about Lubitz when he flew with him less than a month ago.

“The impression that I got was that he was a normal guy,” Woiton said. “He had plans for the future. He wanted to fly long distance flights for Lufthansa.”

A Lufthansa spokesman said the FBI has questioned Lufthansa flight trainers in the U.S. who worked with Lubitz at the Airline Training Center in Arizona. The spokesman would not comment on whether the questioning revolved around trying to reconstruct Lubitz’s mental state during his time there.

Philip Bramley, the father of one of the victims in the plane crash, said airlines should take better care of their pilots’ welfare.

“I believe the airlines should be more transparent and our finest pilots looked after properly,” Bramley said. “We put our lives and our children’s lives in their hands.”

His 28-year-old son, Paul Bramley, was one of the 150 people killed. Bramley called Lubitz’s motive irrelevant while speaking near the site of the crash.

“What is relevant, is that it should never happen again; my son and everyone on that plane should not be forgotten, ever,” he said.

In addition to the findings suggesting Lubitz was hiding an illness, a search of his apartment in Dusseldorf yielded no suicide note and the city’s prosecutor announced that there was no evidence that political or religious factors were involved in the crash.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Loyal Listeners Club

Amanda Knox’s Ex Speaks Out After Overturned Conviction

Monday, March 30th, 2015 by

Posted in World News

Franco Origlia/Getty Images(ROME) — Amanda Knox’s ex-boyfriend said on Monday he will no longer tolerate being called a murderer after Italy’s high court ruled to exonerate him and Knox of murder last week.

Speaking in Italian, Raffaele Sollecito said at a press conference in Rome that he feels like a kidnap victim who after seven years and five months has been freed.

On Friday, Italy’s supreme court overturned his and Knox’s guilty verdict for the murder of Meredith Kercher.

Sollecito said he doesn’t think anyone can imagine what it means to have their life and that of their family’s torn to bits. He added that he will never heal from this profound wound.

Sollecito repeated that he never had anything to do with Kercher’s murder and that from this moment on, he will never tolerate being called a murderer. If he is, he said he will take the appropriate and necessary actions to stop it.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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