World News

Prosecutors Seek Arrest Warrant for Ferry Captain


Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Divers entered the doomed Sewol ferry in waters off South Korea’s coast Friday, hoping to find additional survivors as prosecutors seek an arrest warrant for the ship’s captain and two crew members. West Maritime Police told ABC News that the captain -- identified as Lee Joon-seok, 68 -- left the bridge before the vessel sank on Wednesday, leaving the steering and command to the ship’s third mate, someone with just over a year’s worth of experience.Transcripts of a ship-to-shore exchange and crew member accounts show that the captain delayed the evacuation for half an hour after a South Korean transportation official told the ship it might have to evacuate.As the ferry tilted before its watery descent, the passengers were told to put on life jackets and stay where they were. Some of them huddled together. That’s how search crews found several bodies on Friday, some of the 28 confirmed dead. The death toll is expected to rise much higher.Coast Guard officials say 268 of the ferry’s 475 passengers remain missing. Most of the missing -- 239 -- were students on a class trip from Danwon High School.The school, located in Ansan, near Seoul, has become a place of grieving. Relatives waited inside the school’s gym as authorities arrived, sharing dreadful updates -- another body discovered, another young life cut short.A vice principal at the school was found dead on Friday, hanging from a pine tree near the gym, authorities told ABC News. He was a passenger on the ship, one of the survivors.Strong currents and rain hampered Friday’s rescue efforts. Rescue crews pumped compressed oxygen into the ship Friday, in the desperate hope that someone needs it.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Avalanche Strikes Mount Everest, Killing 12 Sherpa Guides


Vividus/Thinkstock(KATMANDU, Nepal) -- At least 12 Sherpa guides were killed after an avalanche struck Mount Everest Friday morning, the BBC reports. The incident is being billed as the deadliest day ever on the world's highest mountain.According to the BBC, the avalanche hit the Nepalese guides around 6:45 a.m. local time. Some climbers have been rescued but others remain missing.Search and rescue efforts are currently underway and three helicopters have been dispatched to the area, Mohan Krishna, a spokesman for Nepal's tourism ministry, told the BBC.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Earth Meet Earth II?


Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Earth, welcome to your sort of doppelganger.Kepler-186f is the latest discovery to excite astronomers since it seems to have the same characteristics of our world. And it's only 500 light years away with each light year being the equivalent of six trillion miles.Spotted by the Kepler space telescope, scientists are calling Kepler-186f a "Goldilocks" planet, that is, it's neither too hot nor too cold and thus might actually be able to sustain life.Lead researcher Elisa Quintana of NASA’s Ames Research Center said at a news conference Thursday that Kepler-186f "is special because we already know that a planet of this size and in the habitable zone is capable of supporting life as we know it."About 10 percent larger than Earth, Quintana says it's more like a cousin than twin because it revolves around a smaller star, meaning a year lasts only 130 days.Also, there's probably a lot more carbon dioxide than Earth so breathing without a helmet might pose a bit of a problem should we ever wind up there.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Anti-Semitic Leaflets in Ukraine Raise Suspicions


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The reports circulated like wildfire: fliers surfacing in the eastern Ukrainian town of Donetsk ordering Jews there to register with the local government or face deportation.U.S. officials quickly condemned the leaflets, with Secretary of State John Kerry mentioning it at the beginning of his remarks in Geneva, Switzerland, after emerging from an eight-hour meeting on the situation in Ukraine.There is a concerted disinformation campaign going on, with all sides of the conflict trying to paint the other as extreme. But it’s not clear where the leaflets came from and how many were distributed. Still, the reports raised an outcry.“This is not just intolerable, it’s grotesque. It’s beyond unacceptable. And any of the people who engaged in these kinds of activities, from whatever party or ideology or whatever place they crawled out of, there is no place for that,” Kerry said.The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, added on CNN, “It’s chilling. I was disgusted by these leaflets.”“Reports of Jews being forced to register by pro-Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine are chilling, outrageous and must be universally condemned,” Ben Rhodes, the president’s deputy national security adviser, tweeted.The Russian government has previously floated the specter of anti-Semitism in eastern Ukraine and Crimea as one of the reasons why its intervention in the region was necessary. And there have also been isolated incidents of various types of religious intolerance throughout Ukraine.“I don’t have more details on where the leaflets are coming from, but I know we’re looking into it,” State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said shortly after Kerry spoke, adding that the United States would take any instance of anti-Semitism in Ukraine seriously even if, as one reporter put it, “it turned out that it’s just some dude running around with a mimeograph machine throwing these leaflets around.”Representatives of three separate Jewish organizations in Donetsk told ABC News that they didn’t even know whether the flyers existed beyond images that appeared on news sites."Just let us live normally, we live normally, we have a normal life," an exasperated member of one of the Jewish groups said.Reporters from the Daily Beast visited the room in the government building where Jews were told by the pamphlet to go to register, and found it empty.Even still, rumors of the leaflets were enough to elicit responses from members of Congress, like Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.“I urge you to do everything possible to ensure that Jewish and other minority communities throughout the country are protected from any form of prejudice,” Lowey wrote in a letter to Kerry.And the word “Jews” quickly became a trending topic on Twitter.But even if the flyers do not represent the official policy of what pro-Russian activists now call the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” U.S. government officials and Jewish groups remained vocal in their condemnation of anti-Semitism in any form, organized or otherwise.“The ADL today condemned the appearance of anti-Semitic fliers in Donetsk, Ukraine, and called on all parties involved in the political conflicts in Ukraine to refrain from ‘cynical and politically manipulative’ exploitation of anti-Semitism,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director, in a statement to Mashable.“We are skeptical about the flier’s authenticity, but the instructions clearly recall the Nazi era and have the effect of intimidating the local Jewish community,” he said.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

NATO Commander Offers Evidence of Russian Troops in Ukraine


iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Professional gun handling, well-trained maneuvers, and military-spec arms are among the reasons NATO’s top commander says the uprisings in eastern Ukraine are clearly “being carried out at the direction of Russia.”In a blog post entitled “Who are the men behind the masks?” the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Gen. Philip Breedlove, offered the most detailed Western evidence to date that, despite Russia’s claims that the unrest there is an organic, local movement, it was instead the work of Russian troops posing as locals that orchestrated the apparently coordinated takeover of government buildings in eastern Ukraine that has plunged the fragile country into chaos.“The pro-Russian ‘activists’ in eastern Ukraine exhibit tell-tale military training and equipment and work together in a way that is consistent with troops who are part of a long-standing unit, not spontaneously stood up from a local militia,” Breedlove wrote.He specifically cited how the forces handled their weapons, used tear gas and stun grenades, and even how they man checkpoints as evidence that the troops are well-trained, not a civilian mob.“The way these forces target government buildings, hit them in coordinated strikes and quickly secure the surrounding area with roadblocks and barricades is similar to what we’ve seen in Crimea. Again, indicative of a professional military force, acting under direction and leadership, not a spontaneous militia,” Breedlove wrote.His comments confirmed what U.S. officials have privately told ABC News, that a well-oiled team of elite troops appeared to storm the building ahead of the local mob. That team did the heavy lifting, seizing the buildings before melting back into the population and leaving the buildings in control of the pro-Russian crowd.It’s a textbook example, the officials said, of the military art of deception that Russia calls “maskirovka,” or masking their appearance to blend in with local forces. The Russians have historically been very good at it and are proud of their capabilities. Last year, Russian state-run television news aired a story about the elite teams that train for exactly this kind of cloaked missions abroad.Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday again vigorously denied Western claims that Russian forces were operating in eastern Ukraine. But he also finally confirmed what had long been suspected and that he had repeatedly denied: that the well-armed forces with no insignia on their uniforms that took control of Crimea last month were in fact Russian troops.Breedlove suggested that was reason to doubt Putin’s denials about Russian military presence in eastern Ukraine.In recent days U.S. officials have also circulated unconfirmed photos of forces in Ukraine that appear to show them armed with Russian military-issue weapons. ABC News reporters in Ukraine also spotted similar equipment on the separatist fighters, including rocket-propelled grenade launchers that appeared to be brand new.Breedlove also cited this as evidence of Russian meddling.“The weapons and equipment they carry are primarily Russian army issue.  This is not the kind of equipment that civilians would be likely to be able to get their hands on in large numbers,” he wrote on his blog.Members of the militias have insisted to journalists for days that they are locals and are now instructed or bankrolled by the Kremlin. Many, they say, are former riot police or army veterans.Still, U.S. officials point to leaked calls, like one released this week by Ukraine’s security services, known as the SBU, that claims to show evidence of Russia guiding the separatists. The SBU also claimed to have captured several Russians it alleges are agents sent to foment unrest in Ukraine. Those claims have been impossible to verify.“Any one of the points above taken alone would not be enough to come to a conclusion on this issue, but taken in the aggregate, the story is clear,” Breedlove wrote on his blog.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

'Deeply Ashamed' Ferry Captain Among First to Abandon Ship


Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- The captain of a ferry that sank off the coast of South Korea Wednesday, leaving nearly 300 people missing, is under investigation as a possible criminal, and was one of the first people to escape the doomed vessel, Coast Guard officials said. Lee Joon-seok, 69, left the ferry on a lifeboat 32 minutes after reporting an accident, officials said. The captain appeared on Korean television Thursday, his face covered by a gray hoodie. “I am really sorry and deeply ashamed,” he said, as he was being questioned at the Mokpo Coast Guard Office. It's unclear which of his actions could be considered criminal. About 270 people remain missing, with 25 fatalities confirmed and the death toll expected to rise. Hundreds of Navy and Coast Guard divers are battling murky conditions Thursday, searching for survivors. But as the hours pass, relatives of the missing passengers are losing hope. Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Security Scare for Prince William and Duchess Kate


Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage(KATOOMBA, Australia) -- The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge‘s otherwise picture-perfect tour Down Under was marred Thursday by two men who were detained for allegedly acting aggressively as the royals paid a visit to the Blue Mountains in Australia.The two men, ages 21 and 37, were stopped and searched by police after they were allegedly harassing fellow royal-gawkers in the village of Winmalee as they awaited William and Kate’s arrival, according to Australian newspaper The Daily Telegraph.The men were later released and not charged but moved from the area where William and Kate’s motorcade was set to arrive, the Daily Telegraph reports.William, 31, and Kate, 32, arrived to the Blue Mountains range by helicopter Thursday, which is day two of their visit to Australia. The range, west of Sydney, is one of the country’s most scenic sites and was nearly destroyed by bushfires a few months ago.The royal couple met with first-responders and fire survivors, planted a tree and did their own bit of sightseeing, which included William’s giving his wife, and all those watching, a scare.The prince, a former Royal Air Force helicopter pilot, peered dangerously over the edge of a steep cliff as the couple stood atop the mountains’ Narrow Neck Lookout.“He took a bit of a lunge and a few people held their breath, gasped and readied their hands to grab him,” Damien Cooper, manager of the Blue Mountains Youth Service, told the Daily Telegraph. “He was fine, of course.  He knew what he was doing. I think his military background prepared him well for it.”Not on hand for his dad’s perilous glimpse over the cliff was the couple’s son, 8-month-old Prince George.The young prince, who has been a star of the family’s first official overseas trip together, may make an appearance this weekend at the Sydney Zoo.His mother, Kate, however, reportedly told one young girl Thursday that Prince George is very cute but very loud and likely to scare the animals at the zoo.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Putin 'Hopes' He Won't Have to Send Troops into Eastern Ukraine


ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday he hopes Russia will not have to use force in eastern Ukraine. Speaking during a marathon question and answer show on live television, Putin reminded viewers that Russia’s upper house of parliament had authorized the use of force in Ukraine. “I very much hope I will not have to use this right,” he said.Putin denied Western claims that Russian troops are already operating inside Ukraine and that the unrest there has been orchestrated by the Kremlin. He warned that if the situation continues, Russia will not recognize the results of next month’s Ukrainian presidential election. Putin slammed the new government in Kiev for sending troops to quell the unrest in the east. He blamed them for failing to engage the Russian-speaking population there to calm concerns that the new pro-Western government was not out to get them. “They are sending tanks, armored personnel carriers and cannons there. Who are they sending these tanks against? Are they out of their minds?” he said. After the show, journalists asked Putin what might cause Russia to send troops into Ukraine. He declined to say, explaining that it might affect the situation on the ground, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.For the first time, however, Putin acknowledged that the heavily armed troops with no insignia on their uniforms who suddenly appeared on the streets of Crimea ahead of last month’s referendum to join Russia were Russian troops. Those troops, he said, were necessary to prevent exactly the type of chaos that is taking place in eastern Ukraine now.Western and Ukrainian authorities say Russia fabricated reports of threats to Russian speakers in the region in Crimea to scare the population into voting to leave Ukraine. Putin, however, said Thursday that those threats were “real and palpable.” He insisted Russia’s annexation of Crimea was not planned in advance, but was rather a response to the overwhelming results of the referendum. “It was highly important for me to see the results of this expression of the people's will,” he said. He appeared to dismiss former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, who until he was ousted in February, was a Kremlin ally. But said Yanukovich told him that while he thought about ordering the use of force against the protesters who forced him from office, he could not bring himself to do it. The wide-ranging call-in show lasted nearly four hours as Putin fielded questions from a studio audience of prominent Russians, questions that had been submitted in advance, and questions from Russians appearing live from select cities. In a change from previous years, most of the questions were about Ukraine and Russia’s standing in the world, though some villagers across this vast country inquired about the rising costs of bread and compensation for natural disasters. A 6-year-old girl wrote in to ask Putin if he thought President Obama would save him if he were drowning. Putin replied that, while he did not have a close relationship with Obama, he considered him a good man and thought that Obama would save him. Asked if he had plans to annex Alaska next, Putin asked rhetorically “What would you need Alaska for?” Russia, he said, already has enough cold territory. Earlier in the show, Putin said the U.S.-Russian relationship lacks trust. He blamed the United States, claiming it employs a double standard by intervening in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan while criticizing Russia for, in his words, protecting its own interests. The head of Russia’s new state-owned media company Russia Today, a man dubbed the Kremlin’s new propaganda chief, told Putin he felt suffocated by NATO expansion into eastern Europe and asked where the red line will be drawn. Putin said there is no need to be afraid, but said that geopolitics could force Russia to act. He insisted NATO’s plans for a missile defense shield in eastern Europe, which the United States says is aimed at defending against Iran, was instead aimed at Russia. He warned the system’s deployment could spark an arms race. He seemed to confirm suspicions that his takeover of Crimea was due in part to fears that Ukraine could become part of NATO and would limit Russia’s influence in the Black Sea, where it has a substantial naval presence. “If NATO troops go there and deploy their assault weapons, then it will have a geopolitical significance for us and Russia will be practically forced out from the Black Sea region,” he said. The Russian leader brushed aside suggestions that Europe might soon wean itself off its dependence on Russian gas, suggesting it would harm their economies and devalue the U.S. dollar. He warned Ukraine that, unless it repays the billions of dollars it owes for past gas deliveries within a month, Russia will begin demanding payment up front and only ship what has been paid for in advance. That may be an enormous challenge for the fledgling government in Kiev, which is struggling to pay its bills and is begging the international community for a bailout. In a surprise move, NSA leaker Edward Snowden also submitted a question via video, asking Putin whether Russia employed mass surveillance systems similar to ones used by the U.S. National Security Agency. The ex-KGB agent (who earlier in the show said that job taught him to be “absolutely loyal”) began his response by telling Snowden he was speaking as one spy to another. Putin denied Russia had a mass surveillance program and said any electronic surveillance was used only for law enforcement purposes. Experts on Russian surveillance, however, said Putin was vastly understating the scope of Russia’s surveillance program. Snowden has been hiding at an undisclosed location in Russia after receiving asylum last year while on the run after leaking classified information about American spying. Asked when Russia might have a new first lady, the newly divorced Putin responded wryly that he’ll have to help his ex-wife get re-married first. The marathon call-in show has become a regular feature in the nearly decade and a half since Putin first became president. Asked if he planned to remain president for life, Putin briskly responded “No” and moved on.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Oscar Pistorius' Own Expert Witness Contradicts Him


THEMBA HADEBE/AFP/Getty Images(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Oscar Pistorius' murder trial was adjourned Thursday for two weeks after one of the Blade Runner's own expert witnesses contradicted his testimony.The expert defense witness, Roger Dixon, told the court under cross examination that after Pistorius shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp through a locked bathroom door, the model fell on to a magazine rack next to the toilet.Pistorius has claimed that evidence from the police was unreliable because investigators had moved things around, including the magazine rack.Dixon, who was hired to support the defense's version of events, said his reconstruction of the shooting concluded that the first bullet fired by Pistorius struck her in the hip as she was likely reaching for the door knob, forcing her to fall on the magazine rack.Prosecutor Gerrie Nel quickly noted that Pistorius has claimed the magazine was not in that position when he used a cricket bat to bash a hole in the locked door and get to the mortally wounded Steenkamp."Whatever the accused is saying, you say he’s wrong?" Nel asked Dixon. "My lady," Dixon replied, addressing his answer to the female judge. "I'm giving testimony on what I observe and interpret. I'm not saying anyone is right or wrong."When pressed, Dixon added, "My lady, when the deceased fell, the magazine rack was there. I do not know what happened to it afterwards. It wasn’t there when Mr. Pistorius went in. That is his version of the events."Pistorius, 27, is charged with the premeditated murder of his model girlfriend before dawn on Valentine's Day 2013. Pistorius, a legless sprinter, insists he heard a noise in the bathroom and mistook Steenkamp for an intruder. He could face at least 25 years in prison if convicted.During his three days on the stand, Dixon testified that Pistorius' bedroom was so dark during the night with the balcony curtain drawn that he could not see across the room, allowing that Pistorius may not have seen Steenkamp go into the bathroom. He told the court that Steenkamp was leaning forward on her right side as if reaching for the doorknob when she was shot, instead of the prosecution's version that she was standing and facing the door and likely arguing with Pistorius when she was shot.Nel hammered Dixon so relentlessly on the methods he used and his qualifications to be an expert witness that Dixon took to Facebook on Thursday to complain."Third day in court today. Let's see how much of my credibility, integrity and professional reputation is destroyed. It is difficult to get belief in those who will not listen because it is not what they want to hear," Dixon wrote.Pistorius sat with his head down and hands against his ears barely listening to Thursday's testimony.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Edward Snowden Asks Vladimir Putin About Russian Intelligence


The Guardian via Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Intelligence leaker Edward Snowden surprised the audience of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual question and answer call-in show Thursday by submitting a question via video.Snowden, who revealed American surveillance secrets by leaking sensitive documents from the National Security Agency, asked Putin if Russia also had a mass surveillance program.Putin, a former Soviet KGB agent, began his response saying he would speak professionally from one spy to another. He denied that Russia has a mass surveillance program, saying it was against Russian law. He said Russian law enforcement only uses electronic surveillance in specific cases to catch criminals.Andrei Soldotov, a Russian investigative journalist who has documented Russia’s electronic surveillance system, said there is much more to Russia’s surveillance program than Putin claimed.“There is no parliamentary oversight of secret services,” he said in response via Twitter. “The FSB is not required to show a warrant to anyone,” he added, referring to Russia’s KGB successor, the Federal Security Services.Soldotov’s investigations have dug deep into Russia’s sophisticated electronic surveillance program, called SORM. That system, he told ABC News earlier this year, rivals any set up by American intelligence services. The Russian security services are hardwired into the telecommunications infrastructure in Russia, allowing them to tap into raw data whenever they want.Last year, Snowden fled the United States before leaking the classified information in Hong Kong. He eventually flew to Moscow, where he was trapped in the airport for weeks after the United States canceled his passport and blocked his plans to travel to Latin America. Eventually, Russia granted Snowden temporary asylum and he has been living in an undisclosed location in Russia ever since.During Thursday's call-in show, Putin also discussed the unrest in neighboring Ukraine. He said he hopes Russia will not have to send troops into eastern Ukraine, saying he hopes the situation can be resolved diplomatically. Putin denied that Russian troops are already in Ukraine.And, for the first time, Putin confirmed that the soldiers with unmarked uniforms in Crimea were indeed Russian troops.When asked if Russia plans to annex Alaska next, he said that Russia already has enough cold territory.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Oil Slick Not Tied to Flight 370, Preliminary Analysis Shows


(PERTH, Australia) -- The oil slick that Australian vessel Ocean Shield detected Sunday evening during its search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is not connected to the missing jetliner.A preliminary analysis of the sample "has confirmed that it is not aircraft engine oil or hydraulic fluid," Australia's Joint Agency Coordination Center (JACC), which is leading the search for the Boeing 777, said in a statement Thursday.The search for Flight 370, which disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board, continued on Thursday, with up to a dozen aircraft and 11 ships joining in on the effort.The underwater search of the Indian Ocean also continued. The JACC said the U.S. Navy's Bluefin-21 completed a full mission overnight and the data the robotic submarine obtained is being analyzed. The sub is being prepped to go back in the water; so far it has searched approximately 90 square kilometers.The JACC on Thursday also cleared up some misconceptions about the Bluefin-21."Some media reports today state that it would take Bluefin-21 anywhere from six weeks to two months to scan the entire underwater search area. This is incorrect," the organization said in its statement.It continued, "Since the US Navy provided comment some days ago, the underwater search has been significantly narrowed through detailed acoustic analysis conducted on the four signal detections made by the Towed Pinger Locator on ADV Ocean Shield.""This analysis has allowed the definition of a reduced and more focused underwater search area," the JACC added.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Captain of Doomed Ferry Under Investigation as Relatives Grieve


Park Young-Chul-Donga Daily via Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- The captain of a ferry that sank off the coast of South Korea Wednesday, leaving nearly 300 people missing, is under investigation as a criminal and was one of the first people to escape the doomed vessel, Coast Guard officials said.Lee Joon-seok, 69, left the ferry on a lifeboat 32 minutes after reporting an accident, officials said.The captain appeared on Korean television Thursday, his face covered by a gray hoodie.“I am really sorry and deeply ashamed,” he said, as he was being questioned at the Mokpo Coast Guard Office.About 290 people remain missing following the accident, with nine fatalities confirmed and the death toll expected to rise.Hundreds of Navy and Coast Guard divers are battling murky conditions on Thursday, searching for survivors. But as the hours pass, relatives of the missing passengers are losing hope.So far, 179 people been rescued.Text messages sent by passengers to loved ones offer a glimpse into the desperate situation inside the crippled vessel.“Dad, don’t worry. I’ve got a life vest on and we’re huddled together,” one student, identified only by her last name, Shin, texted her father, according to MBC News, a Korean news station.The father replied: “I know the rescue is underway but make your way out if you can.”“Dad, I can’t walk out,” she replied. “The corridor is full of kids, and it’s too tilted.”The student was among the missing passengers, many of them high schoolers at Danwon High School in Ansan. The students were on a class trip.Thursday’s rescue efforts have been marked by rain, strong wind, currents and fog -- as well as a lack of organization. Coast guard crews tried to inject air into the boat, but that endeavor was unsuccessful due to the poor weather conditions.Additionally, the rescue operation center had difficulty communicating with search crews at the sinking site, which is about an hour’s boat ride from Jindo Island.Relatives of passengers yelled at authorities, demanding answers and seeking miracles at Jindo Island. Some family members visited the location where the passengers are believed to have been trapped. Other parents gathered at Danwon High School, holding a candlelight vigil.The only hope is that maybe, somehow the passengers are alive, saved by a pocket of air.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Search Continues for Sunken South Korea Ferry's Missing Passengers


Park Young-Chul-Donga Daily via Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- The search resumed Thursday for 287 people still missing after a ferry sank off the coast of South Korea the day before. Nine passengers are confirmed dead with 179 having been rescued.Many of those unaccounted for are teenagers who were on a school trip.Volunteers from all over the country, including scuba divers and ex-Marines, are joining in on the search. But rescue efforts are being hampered by poor weather conditions, strong underwater currents and a total lack of organization.Investigators still don't know what caused the ferry with 475 on board to suddenly tilt to one side Wednesday and go down although speculation is that the vessel might have hit a reef. Some experts say the captain may have tried a sudden turn, causing cargo to lean to one side.The ferry, identified as the Sewol, was sailing to the southern island of Jeju when it sent a distress call as it began leaning.Three cranes that will be used to lift the ship are expected to arrive on Friday.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Three Dead After Military Base Attack in Ukraine


berean/Thinkstock(KIEV, Ukraine) -- Three militants were killed, 13 wounded and over 60 arrested when they attacked a military base in Ukraine overnight, the country's interior minister said. The incident happened in the coastal town of Mariupol in the southeast part of the country.Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a statement Thursday that a crowd of around 300 men, armed with Molotov cocktails, attacked the base late Wednesday but were repelled by the National Guard and police forces.Soldiers fired warning shots as militants attacked, the minister said, then fired on the attackers. He again accused Russia of being behind the attack.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

What to Expect from Thursday's Russia/Ukraine Talks


State Department photo/ Public Domain(GENEVA) -- Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, have already spent at least 10 hours together in the past month, not to mention almost daily phone calls, trying to find a diplomatic solution to the Russian incursion in Ukraine.During that period, the region of Crimea has essentially been lost to Russia and pro-Russian militants have spread throughout the eastern part of the country, with little meaningful resistance from the Ukrainians.So what good can come from one more set of meetings Thursday in Geneva?First and foremost, officials say, it’s the first time Russians and Ukrainians will sit together along with the United States and European Union since anti-Russian protests began in Kiev in February.“The idea here is to try to provide a space where the U.S. and the E.U. can squat with Russia and Ukraine and look first and foremost for ways to de-escalate the security situation which has gotten significantly more perilous over the last ten days,” a senior State Department official told reporters during Kerry’s flight to Geneva.The Ukrainians have some concrete ideas for de-escalation, the official said, including amnesty to anyone who lays down their weapons and the setup of formal negotiating forums. And the United States will offer additional proposals Thursday, the official said, without elaborating.But experts inside and outside the government are keeping expectations for the talks low, given that Russia has shown no signs of backing off its claim that it’s getting involved in Ukraine simply to defend a pro-Russian minority.“We’re going to have these conversations, but I wouldn’t look at this as the end-all, be-all necessarily,” State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said on Wednesday.It’s more about the optics of Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andreii Deschytsia’s meeting together along with Kerry and E.U. High Representative Catherine Ashton, said former State Department official Heather Conley, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Europe Program.“It’s very difficult to move a process forward, even a nascent process that these talks represent, without there being some commonality of what’s going on on the ground,” Conley said.Even if they can’t agree on facts on the ground, the talks at least present an opportunity for all sides to discuss some of the other upcoming milestones in the region, namely the drafting of a new Ukrainian constitution as well as presidential elections on May 25.Some of Russia’s demands will be on the table, the senior State Department official said, including the idea of shifting power from the central Ukrainian government to individual regions, as well as protections for Russian speakers and other minorities.But Deschytsia, the Ukrainian foreign minister, will make the point that these issues are best resolved through the constitutional process, not Russian-style aggression.Russia should also be prepared for a discussion on European energy independence, the official added -- one of the most significant long-term ways for the west to cut its financial ties with Russia, on whom it now largely depends for oil.Conley underscored that even the most optimistic forecast for Thursday’s meeting doesn’t go beyond the parties agreeing on what exactly is happening in eastern Ukraine.But that could -- and should -- lead to additional changes, including tougher U.S. and E.U. sanctions on Russia and, in the long term, a wholesale shift in how Russia is treated on the world stage.“For 25 years, Europe and the U.S. have worked towards trying to integrate Russia into the international system and the west,” Conley said. “That policy has now come to a dramatic end.”Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Captains Who Abandon Ships: Are They Breaking the Law?


The Republic of Korea Coast Guard via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The captain of the South Korean ferry that sank with hundreds of high school students aboard is under criminal investigation for his actions, but it’s not clear whether he broke any laws by being one of the first people off the crippled boat.While the “captain goes down with his ship” is considered a law of the sea, it’s really more just a guideline, experts say.Lee Joon-seok, 69, climbed onto one of the first lifeboats to launch from the ship just a half an hour after reporting an accident.“I am really sorry and deeply ashamed,” Joon-seok said Thursday as he was being questioned at the Mokpo Coast Guard Office.It is not the first time that authorities have focused on a captain’s abandonment during an investigation. In 2012, when the Costa Concordia cruise ship sunk off the coast of Italy, Captain Francesco Schettino was brought up on criminal charges for abandoning the ship ahead of his passengers.But is it against the law for captains to leave the boat while it goes under?There is no international maritime law that requires a captain to stay on a sinking ship, but many countries either have their own laws or subscribe to international treaties that mandate certain behavior.South Korea, for instance, is a member of the International Maritime Organization which has its own rules for captains outlined in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. The convention doesn’t mandate that the captain stay on board, but its rules suggest a captain is always responsible for the people on board.“There is nothing in any IMO Convention to specifically require a captain to stay on board the vessel in the event of an incident such as this, however he/she does retain full responsibility for the safety of the vessel and those on board,” IMO spokesman Lee Adamson told ABC News in an email.There are also guidelines presented in the Merchant Marine Officer’s Handbook which say the captain should be the last person to leave the vessel, but the guidelines are just that, guidelines, not law.If South Korea does not have its own laws that dictate a captain must stay on the ship, Joon-seok may not be charged criminally for leaving the vessel while his passengers were struggling to escape.In all, the tradition of a captain going down with the ship may be more about personal choice and lore of the sea than legal responsibility.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Students Trapped in Sinking Ferry Send Heartbreaking Text Messages


Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Heartbreaking text message exchanges between students trapped in the sinking ferry off the coast of South Korea and their anxious parents are offering a glimpse into the desperate situation in the crippled vessel."Dad, don't worry. I've got a life vest on and we're huddled together," one 18-year-old student, identified only by her last name, Shin, texted her father, according to MBC News, a Korean news station.The father replied: "I know the rescue is underway but make your way out if you can.""Dad, I can't walk out," she replied. "The corridor is full of kids, and it's too tilted."The student was among the 290 still reported missing.In another exchange, a male student texted his mother, who was unaware at the time that the ferry was in distress."Mom, I might not be able to tell you in person. I love you," the student texted, according to MBC."Me too, son. I love you," the mother texted back, followed with three heart symbols.Fortunately, that student was among the 179 people who have been rescued, MBC reported.And one family said they had received a text message saying “I am alive” from one of the missing people while still on board, Korean news agency NEWSIS reported. It was unclear if that person had been rescued.Survivors told harrowing tales of confusion and desperation as people slid along the floor of the sharply listing ship, colliding with one another, or found themselves trapped in cabins by a wall of water.Rescued passengers said that immediately after they heard a booming noise, the ship began to lean and they heard an announcement over the ship’s PA system telling the passengers to stay in place.“The baggage was falling out, and we were saying ‘What’s going on?’ But the announcement told us to stay where we were, so we did,” one rescued student told MBC."The ship began tilting all of a sudden, and then people started skidding down from above," rescued passenger Young-Ja Shin told SBS News. "There was a railing, so I held onto it, but I then got hit by one of the falling people and we got pushed down to the bottom.""It took about 10 seconds to tilt over, and then I began sliding from end to end," rescued passenger Eun-Bok Jang, 50, told SBS News. "I got hit on my side and then I couldn't breathe."The vessel tipped over completely on its side, and there was mass confusion inside the ferry as refrigerators and other things fell over, Jang said.When the water started rushing in, many passengers put on life vests and escaped outside. But by the time that announcements told passengers to make their way out, the ship had already submerged significantly, so there were few exits that could be used for escape, rescued passengers said.Many passengers were gathered in the entertainment center, restaurants and shops on the third floor of the 5-deck ship, but when the ferry capsized, that third floor was fully submerged, authorities told the Yonhap news agency. There was most likely a power outage immediately after the ship capsized, so confused and frantic passengers probably had a hard time finding their way out in the dark and narrow passageways."When we were making our way out, the wall was almost all water, and it was completely submerged up to the third floor," survivor In-Hwan Kang, 58, told MBC.So-Hyun Kim, a teacher accompanying the more than 300 students from Danwon High School in Ansan, said she initially stayed in her cabin because of the announcements, but had to attempt an escape when water came rushing in."I couldn't go anywhere. I didn't have the strength to climb further up," she told SBS News. "There was an open emergency exit, so another teacher and I decided to just fall and swim our way toward it. I fell and hit a railing, and that's when I was rescued."Of the 475 passengers on board the ferry, 179 were rescued. Another 290 were listed as missing.Rescuers were seen boarding the vessel, which had tipped to its side, and combing through the top of the ship for survivors. One man boarded the boat and quickly found what appeared to be a crew member still on it.Bodies could be seen scattered through the water in another video shot from a helicopter. A yellow raft was tossed out of the chopper and survivors in the water swam toward it before they were pulled to safety.Others were winched in slings to the safety of hovering helicopters.As darkness fell, the ferry took on more water and only the rudder of the vessel remained visible before the ship sank about 100 feet below the water. Rescuers stopped searching for those still reported missing at about 7 p.m. due to strong currents and poor visibility, but they resumed their mission around 12:30 a.m. local time, taking advantage of a lull in the strong currents.One rescued passenger said he believed that many people had been trapped inside the ferry when it sank.The ferry, identified as the Sewol, was sailing to the southern island of Jeju when it sent a distress call as it began leaning to one side. The passengers include more than 300 students from Danwon High School in Ansan, near Seoul, who were on a school trip. Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Ferry Survivors Describe Sliding Bodies, Wall of Water


Park Young-Chul-Donga Daily via Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Survivors of the ferry that sank off the coast of South Korea told harrowing tales of confusion and desperation as people slid along the floor of the sharply listing ship, colliding with one another, or found themselves trapped in cabins by a wall of water.Rescued passengers said that immediately after they heard a booming noise, the ship began listing and they heard an announcement over the ship’s PA system telling the passengers to stay in place.“The baggage was falling out, and we were saying ‘What’s going on?’ But the announcement told us to stay where we were, so we did,” one rescued student told MBC News, a Korean news agency."The ship began tilting all of a sudden, and then people started skidding down from above," rescued passenger Young-Ja Shin told SBS News. "There was a railing, so I held onto it, but I then got hit by one of the falling people and we got pushed down to the bottom." "It took about 10 seconds to tilt over, and then I began sliding from end to end," rescued passenger Eun-Bok Jang, 50, told SBS News. "I got hit on my side and then I couldn't breathe." The vessel tipped over completely on its side, and there was mass confusion inside the ferry as refrigerators and other things fell over, Jang said. When the water started rushing in, many passengers put on life vests and escaped outside. But by the time that announcements told passengers to make their way out, the ship had already submerged significantly, so there were few exits that could be used for escape, rescued passengers said. Many passengers were gathered in the entertainment center, restaurants and shops on the third floor of the 5-deck ship, but when the ferry capsized, that third floor was fully submerged, authorities told the Yonhap news agency. There was most likely a power outage immediately after the ship capsized, so confused and frantic passengers probably had a hard time finding their way out in the dark and narrow passage ways. "When we were making our way out, the wall was almost all water, and it was completely submerged up to the third floor," survivor In-Hwan Kang, 58, told MBC. So-Hyun Kim, a teacher accompanying the more than 300 students from Danwon High School in Ansan, said she initially stayed in her cabin because of the announcements, but had to attempt an escape when water came rushing in. "I couldn't go anywhere. I didn't have the strength to climb further up," she told SBS News. "There was an open emergency exit, so another teacher and I decided to just fall and swim our way toward it. I fell and hit a railing, and that's when I was rescued." Of the 475 passengers on board the ferry, 164 were rescued. Another 295 were listed as missing. Rescuers were seen boarding the vessel, which had tipped to its side, and combing through the top of the ship for survivors. One man boarded the boat and quickly found what appeared to be a crew member still on it. Bodies could be seen scattered through the water in another video shot from a helicopter. A yellow raft was tossed out of the chopper and survivors in the water swam toward it before they were pulled to safety. Others were winched in slings to the safety of hovering helicopters. As darkness fell, the ferry took on more water and only the rudder of the vessel remained visible before the ship sank about 100 feet below the water. Rescuers stopped searching for the 294 people who are still reported missing at about 7 p.m. due to strong currents and poor visibility, but they resumed their mission around 12:30 a.m. local time, taking advantage of a lull in the strong currents. One rescued passenger said he believed that many people had been trapped inside the ferry when it sank. The ferry, identified as the Sewol, was sailing to the southern island of Jeju when it sent a distress call as it began leaning to one side. The passengers include more than 300 students from Danwon High School in Ansan, near Seoul, who were on a school trip. Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

School Kids Get Ride in Popemobile


Franco Origlia/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- Two schoolboys in the general audience at St. Peter’s Square got the thrill of a lifetime Wednesday when Pope Francis gave them a ride in the popemobile.The pope stepped out to receive a t-shirt from the group of fifth-grade students from Perugia, Italy, when he asked them who wanted to go for a ride.From the chorus of, “Me! Me! Me!” replies, Francis picked two boys, 11-year-old's Livio Bastianelli and Davide Maria Bianchi.Pope Francis has made a point of connecting with people in St. Peter’s Square since being elected as the leader of the Catholic Church last year.Last Sunday, on Palm Sunday, Francis got out of his popemobile after his homily so he could take selfies with tourists from Rio de Janeiro, who had carried a large cross into the square.In February, Pope Francis was photographed kissing his “Mini-Me” in front of a Vatican crowd. The little boy was dressed in tiny papal robes and a skull cap. The toddler’s grandmother made the outfit for Carnival, when children dress up in costumes in the weeks before Lent.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Police Respond to Emergency Call from Dog


iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Police in England who responded to an emergency call at a house in the village of Edlesborough soon realized the "heavy breather" at the end of the line was a dog. Leighton, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois, has a long history with local police in the area -- having set off burglar alarms connected with the police station numerous times and barked continuously until the neighbors called authorities, his owner, Mary Amos-Cole, said. "The police have been out loads of times to him,” Amos-Cole told ABC News. "I think he’s into uniforms. Most times it’s a lady copper that comes out. I think he wants to join the police force." Amos-Cole and her husband Jeff Amos-Cole were in the garden on a calm, sunny day last week when Leighton decided to run off with the couple's cordless phone. “We both got up and chased him, but he loves being chased and wiggling around the garden,” Mary Amos-Cole said. “He was tormenting us, so eventually we got it off him and sat down. Then we heard the postman at the gate saying ‘he won’t hurt you’.” The couple had no idea with whom the postman was speaking with until a policewoman knocked at the front door and informed them they had received an emergency call filled with "heavy breathing" coming from the other end. “We both said ‘oh no it must be Leighton’ and we all looked at him and he just came up and nudged us,” Amos-Cole said. “Luckily the policewoman was fine with it. She came in the house and started chatting and [Leighton] was going up to her and giving her his toys.” A Thames Valley Police spokesman told ABC News that they had received a “silent” call on April 10 at 12:08 p.m. “It was confirmed by the occupant at the address that their dog had accidentally called 999,” police said in a statement. "He’s a bit of a pain actually, but we love him to bits," Amos-Cole said.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Oscar Pistorius Witness' Credentials Challenged in Latest Blow


GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Oscar Pistorius' defense appeared to have suffered a blow Wednesday when a forensic witness who contradicted the prosecution's version of the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp was challenged on his credentials as an expert in forensics and other elements of his testimony.The witness, Roger Dixon, was forced to admit under questioning by prosecutor Gerrie Nel that he was not an expert in forensics, pathology, ballistics, blood spatter, or sound and optics.Dixon told the court Tuesday that Steenkamp was close to the door and angling toward the door on her right side as if she was reaching for the doorknob. He also concluded that Pistorius fired four shots through the bathroom door in quick succession.Dixon's testimony contradicts the prosecution's forensic experts who determined that Steenkamp was facing the door when the first bullet struck her in the hip and knocked her down. Nel had also told the court that she was afraid of Pistorius and was talking to him through the locked door when he shot her.The prosecution had also argued that Pistorius fired one shot and Steenkamp screamed before Pistorius fired three more rounds.Pistorius, 27, is charged with murder for shooting Steenkamp, 29, before dawn on Valentine's Day 2013. He could be sentenced to at least 25 years if convicted. Pistorius, a legless paralypian sprinter known as Blade Runner, claims he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder.Dixon's testimony included a bullet-by-bullet account of Steenkamp's wounds, prompting another bout of retching by Pistorius in court.In addition to giving a different version of how Steenkamp was shot, Dixon told the court that he helped record sounds of a cricket bat hitting against a door to show to the court that the sounds neighbors testified were the sound of gunshots could have been Pistorius breaking down the door to get to his mortally wounded girlfriend.Nel questioned Dixon's expertise and professional affiliations."Are you a sound expert?" Nel asked."I would hope I'm a sound expert," he replied.Nel repeated the question, referring to sound and acoustics specifically, to which Dixon said the test he did of the sound made by a cricket bat hitting a door and a gun firing was to determine whether the two could be confused."[The] expertise used was attempting to reconstruct the situation...I was not listening to myself making that sound," he said.Nel asked Dixon how he conducted tests on how dark it would have been in Pistorius' bedroom when he claims he didn't know Steenkamp had gone into the bathroom."The instruments that I used were my eyes," Dixon said.Dixon's qualifications as a forensics expert were also questioned by Nel, with the prosecutor getting so aggressive that the judge admonished him, "Mr. Nel, please restrain yourself.”Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio