British Bodies Flown Back to UK After Tunisia Attack
LorenzoT81/iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Bodies of British victims from the deadly attack on foreigners in Tunisia are being flown back home.After a terror attack at a Tunisian resort that left 38 people killed, 30 of which were British citizens, nine of the British victims’ bodies were headed back to the U.K. on Thursday.ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack and authorities continue to hunt for suspects involved. So far, Tunisian police have arrested eight people suspected of involvement.Because of the attack, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has asked Parliament to push for more airstrikes in Syria against ISIS.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Top ISIS Leader Killed by US Drone Strike in Syria
zabelin/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. drone strike has killed a top ISIS leader in charge of the terror group’s foreign fighter operations and moving people and supplies into Syria and Iraq. The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that Tariq bin Tahar-Al-Awni-al-Harzi was killed in an airstrike in Syria on June 16, the day after his brother Ali was killed in another drone strike in Mosul, Iraq. Ali bin Tahar-Al Awni-al Harzi was not only a top ISIS leader himself, but also a person of interest in the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. “His death will impact ISIL's ability to integrate foreign terrorist fighters into the Syrian and Iraqi fight as well as to move people and equipment across the border between Syria and Iraq," said Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis in a statement. ISIL is another name used to describe ISIS. A U.S. official told ABC News that the Tunisian al-Harzi was killed by a U.S. military drone strike. “As an ISIL member, he worked to raise funds and recruit and facilitate the travel of fighters for the terrorist organization. Al-Harzi also worked to provide materiel to ISIL by procuring and shipping weapons from Libya to Syria for ISIL,” said Davis. “Additionally, al-Harzi also facilitated the use of suicide and vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attacks in Iraq. His prominence in ISIS was why in May the State Department's Rewards for Justice Program set a $3 million reward for information leading to his death or capture. Last week the Pentagon confirmed his brother Ali’s death in a U.S. airstrike on June 15. Though a “person of interest” in the deadly September, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi he was targeted because he was a ISIS battlefield commander, U.S. military officials said today. He was designated from early on as a person of interest in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Analysis of video taken the night of the deadly attack placed him at the consulate and made him a person of interest, U.S. authorities said. He was arrested in Turkey the following month when he and another man tried to enter that country with false passports. When he was deported to Tunisia, the United States pressed to interview him about his possible role in the consulate attack. In December 2012, FBI officials were able to interview al-Hazri but he was released by Tunisian authorities a month later. U.S. authorities believe he had tried to make his way to Syria.
New Horizons Sends Back Images of Mystery Dark Spots on Pluto
New color images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft show two very different faces of the mysterious dwarf planet, one with a series of intriguing spots along the equator that are evenly spaced. (NASA)(NEW YORK) -- Several mysterious dark spots on the surface of Pluto have caught the attention of NASA researchers as the New Horizons probe makes its final approach to the dwarf planet. Several spots are evenly spaced along Pluto's equator, with each having a diameter of about 300 miles, according to NASA. "It's a real puzzle -- we don't know what the spots are, and we can't wait to find out," Alan Stern, principal investigator for New Horizons, said in a statement. The spacecraft is scheduled to come as close as 6,200 miles from the surface of Pluto July 14, 2015, the closest any manmade object has come to the dwarf planet. As New Horizons has closed in on Pluto, it's provided a closer look at Pluto's surface and its moons. In February, the spacecraft took two long-exposure images showing two of Pluto's moons, Hydra and Nix, orbiting the dwarf planet. It was the first time the space probe had gotten close enough to view the moons. New Horizons blasted into space atop an Atlas V rocket in January 2006. Pluto at the time was still considered a planet, with scientists later that year voting to demote its status to that of a dwarf planet. After a sleepy nine years, the probe woke up in December 2014 from the last of its 18 hibernation periods as it prepared for its initial approach toward Pluto.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Investigation Launched After Robot Kills Worker at Volkswagen Plant
Miguel Villagran/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- An investigation has been launched into the death of a 22-year-old contractor this week at a Volkswagen plant in Germany after an industrial robot grabbed him and crushed him against a metal plate, officials said."Earlier this week a contractor was injured while installing some machinery in the Kassel factory. He died later in hospital from his injuries and our thoughts are with his family," a Volkswagen representative told ABC News Thursday in a statement. "We are of course carrying out a full investigation into the incident and cannot comment further at this time."Prosecutors are also investigating the case to determine if any charges should be filed, according to German media reports.The identity of the victim has not been released.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
New Embassies Open Door to Cuba's Health Care Triumphs
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As President Obama proclaimed diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba for the first time in 50 years, the World Health Organization (WHO) was simultaneously celebrating Cuba Wednesday as the first country ever to eliminate mother-to-child transmissions of HIV/AIDS and congenital syphilis.Dr. Roberto Morales, minister of public health and the first Cuban minister to come to the United States since 1952, visited Washington, D.C., to discuss the historic success. He cited medical development and research as spearheading the effective public health practices.While the monumental public health achievement was the intended focus of his news conference, Obama’s news was critical to the process.“We believe that re-establishment of relations with the United States will allow us to exchange experiences and knowledge,” Morales said.Even with U.S. sanctions against Cuba, the nation managed to develop one of the best health care systems in the region. Minister Morales cited a focus on primary care and inter-sector cooperation as the catalysts.“Cuban Health Care has its main strength in primary care,” Morales said.The country has one family doctor for every 1,095 inhabitants. The success Cuba achieved with HIV and congenital syphilis is a product of this strong primary care.For four years, congenital syphilis cases have been kept between 0 and 0.04 percent per 1,000 live births, while the rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV has remained at or below 2 percent for the past three years, according to Cuban officials.“Cuba has made great efforts to ensure access to free retroviral treatment to those requiring it,” Morales said, which is essential to Cuba’s successful eradication of the transmission of HIV from mother to child.HIV-positive women who take antiretroviral medication during pregnancy can reduce transmission risk of HIV to their babies to less than 1 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.With Wednesday’s momentous proclamations, Morales hopes normalized relations will help showcase his country’s global initiative and will emphasize common international health goals.“I believe this is a formula for the building of a better world to which we have all been called, for there is a need to preserve the human species,” he said of a global health partnership.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Eight Arrested in Tunisia in Connection to Beach Resort Attack
iStock/Thinkstock(TUNIS, Tunisia) -- Tunisian police have arrested eight people suspected of being involved in last week's deadly attack on foreign tourists in a beachside resort.Authorities say they're also on the hunt for two other suspects who trained in a Libyan jihadi camp alongside the 23-year-old gunman who carried out last Friday's massacre. A total of 38 people were killed in the attack, 30 of whom were British citizens on vacation. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, and Britain's government is now asking Parliament to approve airstrikes against ISIS targets inside Syria.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Dozens Dead After Ferry Capsizes in the Philippines
STR/AFP/Getty Images(MANILA, Philippines) -- At least 36 people are dead after a ferry carrying 189 people capsized in the Philippines Thursday.In all, there were 173 passengers and 16 crew members aboard the Kim Nirvana. So far, 127 people have been rescued and 26 remain unaccounted for. Rescue operations continue.It is unclear what caused the ferry to overturn off the coast of Leyte Island. An investigation is ongoing.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Brazilian Couple's Frightening Cliffhanging Photos Will Make Your Heart Stop
Leonardo Pereira (NEW YORK) — Leonardo Pereira said he admits to being afraid the first time he ever allowed himself to dangle from the almost 3,000-foot cliff of Pedra da Gavea in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil."The first time I was a bit scared," Pereira told ABC News. "I just sit down, but the next time I hang off and make Victoria get [do] the same thing."Pereira, 23, said he met his girlfriend Victoria Nader, 18, while rock climbing in Rio.In fact, Pereira said, one of the couple's very first dates was hiking to the top of Pedra da Gavea."She was a bit afraid to sit down there, but I said 'There's no problem,'" Pereira recalled. Leonardo PereiraThe pair said they consider themselves avid adventurers who have made some daredevil moves in the midst of their travels including: rappelling down a 230-foot building, hiking to the top of the 9,488-foot mountain Pico da Bandeira, and, of course, dangling off the edge of Pedra da Gavea — one of the highest mountains in the world that juts above an ocean.The couple's heart-stopping traveling photos have received a great deal of onlookers visiting their Instagram pages — @leonardopereira1 and @victorianader1. Leonardo PereiraWhile there has been skepticism on whether the snapshots were merely photoshopped, Pereira insisted that every image is 100 percent real."There's no rope, just my arm and [I] trust myself," he said. "We love living on the edge, it's make us alive and make us challenge ourselves." Leonardo Pereira"We love adrenaline and adventure things, there's no time or weather that stop us," Pereira added. "I think that everyday someone call us crazy, but I think crazy [isn't] someone that you won't like. There's a quote that inspires me a lot: "'If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it is lethal'"Pereira said his and Nader's next wild adventures will include an African safari and diving with great white sharks.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
An Overlooked Hero of Navy SEALs' Operation Red Wings
Navy SEAL Lt. Commander Erik Kristensen died trying to rescue his fellow SEALs in the Operation Red Wings disaster 10 years ago. (Kristensen Family)(NEW YORK) -- When Ed and Suzanne Kristensen first heard about a Chinook helicopter being shot down in eastern Afghanistan on June 28, 2005, at first they feared for their Navy SEAL son Erik, who was deployed there at the time, but were reassured by a Navy friend that he likely wouldn't have been aboard. "Someone said Erik wouldn't be on the helo,” recalled his mother, who goes by Sam. It was a matter of seniority. Lt. Commander Erik Kristensen was a senior commander in SEAL Team 10 in Afghanistan and didn’t go on as many ground combat operations as those in the platoons under him. "But he was on the helo," his mother told ABC News, as the family marked the tenth anniversary of Erik's death in Operation Red Wings last weekend. A decade after the incident, Erik Kristensen, by many accounts an unconventional SEAL, remains a largely unknown figure in the public telling of one of U.S. special operations' most tragic -- but also most celebrated, for valor -- incidents in its history, despite bestselling books, websites and last year's hit movie Lone Survivor.Kristensen was the one who organized a rescue mission after a SEAL reconnaissance team's leader, Lt. Michael Murphy, called for help well into a firefight in Kunar province's soaring mountains. As the task unit commander for SEAL Team 10, in which Murphy served, Kristensen decided to personally lead an assault force by helicopter to his last known location, where the younger officer had been tasked with finding a militia leader named Ahmad Shah. But militants were waiting in ambush and shot down an Army MH-47E Chinook chopper as Kristensen and his men were preparing to fast-rope to the ground, killing all 16 aboard. "There are some things you just don't delegate," Ed Kristensen said of his son’s fateful action, at times welling up with emotion. Even after a decade, his only child's loss "is still a very raw thing. You can't change it, you've got to live with it. But we think about it all the time." Ed Kristensen is a retired rear admiral who had led the Navy's 1996 recovery of TWA 800 which had crashed off New York with 230 souls lost. The news about the chopper crash came while the Kristensens were, coincidentally, attending the retirement of a Navy diver in Norfolk who had served under Ed during the recovery of the passenger jet in the ocean. When the commander of Naval Special Warfare called him to say they were searching for Erik and the others, his father assumed the worst. "With my experience with TWA 800, I knew what an aircraft crash does to people. We knew that we had lost him," the older Kristensen said. Soon they learned that their son Erik was among those killed in action. The fact that the task unit commander had personally led the mission with seven other highly experienced SEAL operators in broad daylight to rescue Murphy's team and kill Shah -- the leader of the "Mountain Tigers" local militia who Murphy had been sent to locate on the Pakistan border -- didn't surprise those who knew Kristensen. "Erik did what any SEAL would do: go help SEALs in trouble," Navy Capt. Kent Paro, who led SEAL Team 10 at the time and was Kristensen and Murphy's commander in Afghanistan, told ABC News last week. The only SEAL to make it out of the Red Wings incident alive, Navy Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell, went on to write the bestseller Lone Survivor, which became a major motion picture of the same title last year. Kristensen, 33, was portrayed in the film by Australian actor Eric Bana in a relatively small part. His unusual personality and fateful heroism has remained largely unknown in public compared to Luttrell and Murphy's legend, despite courageously leading the ill-fated rescue mission. For his actions, Kristensen, who was on his first major combat deployment in Afghanistan, earned the Bronze Star with "V" (Valor) device. Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, Long Island, also was killed in action and received a posthumous Medal of Honor from President George W. Bush. The Navy named a guided missile destroyer for him. A SEAL in BirkenstocksLone Survivor included a shot of Kristensen’s Birkenstock-clad feet trudging out of his quarters after Murphy's call for help is received in the tactical operations center in Jalalabad. Friends such as John Ismay, who wrote appreciatively about this detail in the New York Times last year, say that was a subtle tribute to Kristensen as a genuine "non-conformist," who didn't fit the Hollywood stereotype of coldly conservative SEAL warriors. "That was the one part of the movie that I enjoyed. That's who Erik really was," said Jason Redman, who served in SEAL Team 10 as an officer with Kristensen at the time of the Operation Red Wings disaster and had once been in Murphy's platoon. "Erik leaned to the left. He was liberal in his thinking. Guys gave him a lot of grief but he was witty about it," Redman, author of The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader, said in an interview. Kristensen attended Washington's Gonzaga College High School. He rowed crew, played lacrosse and majored in English and French at the Naval Academy and got a master's degree at progressive St. John's College in Annapolis. Standing 6' 4", he is remembered as gregarious and embraced a Jesuit ideal by being a "Man For Others," friends and family said. “He’s a person all those Jesuits wanted us to be,” said Ismay, a fellow Gonzaga graduate. "The complexity of who he is, to me, is bigger than his being a SEAL. He was wickedly smart, but more on the creative side. He could play the trumpet, he could sing, he could write," recalled his first cousin, Jennifer Casey. "Erik was funny as hell, always one of the boys," Marcus Luttrell wrote in his book Lone Survivor. Ariann Harrison was an old friend in Washington who said he was sweetly absent-minded, once showing up for a swing dance class in flip-flops and yet "he made it work." They only discussed his SEAL career once -- when he told her he was going to Afghanistan. "Before he left, I tried to convince him not to go," she said. "From a loyalty standpoint, he said he trained those guys and he was going." The WreckageIn July 2005, a few weeks after the crash of “Turbine 33,” the callsign of the MH-47E that Kristensen and 15 other SEALs and Task Force 160 “Nightstalker” special operations airmen perished aboard, a squad of paratroopers and Rangers descended the steep slope, charred black from burning jet fuel, with tree trunks sheared off from the exploding chopper. A glimmer of metal caught a Ranger’s eye and he picked up a stainless steel dogtag bearing not a name but the Army’s Warrior Ethos: “I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.” The determination to not leave their fallen comrades was true of all 16 in Turbine 33 -- and was a promise fulfilled by their Jesuit-taught commander, Kristensen. In unpublished photos taken by an Army photographer of the crash site, blackened tree stumps poke up from the flattened slope. Ammunition magazines for M4 rifles, springs and un-fired cartridges litter the sooted ground. Paratroopers held up a pair of Oakley mirrored sunglasses with one lens missing, a flight crew helmet torn open, a bent and flattened tactical flashlight and the lining of a SEAL's helmet they found on the ground. The Taliban had pilfered the site, as well as the remains of Murphy -- they even stole his wristwatch -- and fellow SEAL operators Matthew Axelson and Danny Dietz in another location down the mountain in the forest. Later, militants would display captured U.S. weapons and laptop computers in a video. Night-vision goggles, weapons and helmets from both sites were recovered over the next two years from Taliban fighters killed in firefights and found in arms caches in the Korengal Valley. The militia leader, Ahmad Shah, was killed a few years later. A photo of a Ranger’s gloved hand holding the dogtag imprinted with the Warrior Ethos sits framed in the Kristensen’s home, but until this month, his parents had never seen the rest of the crash site photos. Looking over the grim images for the first time, after an ABC News reporter provided them, Sam Kristensen said if conditions were ever safe enough and she had the opportunity to walk the ground where her son and his fellow warriors perished, "I'd be on the next plane -- a mother wants to know everything." "I would've hated it if anyone had been killed on that recovery mission," she said after viewing the grim scene the young paratroopers had to sift through in July 2005. But seeing the site, even so long after, was helpful. "It will always be 'yesterday.' Ten years doesn't make any difference." To cope with the catastrophic loss, she long ago befriended other moms who lost children inside the Pentagon on 9/11 and in Operation Red Wings, and a few years ago began volunteering to be an "Arlington Lady," a liaison to families of the fallen during Navy funerals at Arlington National Cemetery near their home on Capitol Hill. "It is very redeeming thing. You are giving solace to someone other than yourself, and yet you are helping yourself," she said. Ed Kristensen, quiet and soft-spoken, said he doesn't need to see that mountainside in Afghanistan to ease his grief, because he knows that Erik "was doing what he wanted to do. He could say that. That's how I remember him." But they have grown weary of the past decade's seemingly endless tributes and memorial services for those lost in Operation Red Wings and the brutally violent Lone Survivor movie, which they watched three times at special screenings for families of the fallen. They participate in a golf tournament in Erik's name that helps military kids attend Gonzaga but the annual event they truly enjoy is "E-Day," a simple bar-b-que in Maryland hosted by Jennifer Casey and her siblings that brings together Erik's friends, family, Naval Academy classmates and SEAL teammates. "Next year, I'm giving him up," Sam Kristensen said, half joking, of future tributes for her son. They only attended one memorial dinner in San Diego last week to mark the tenth anniversary of the Red Wings tragedy and turned down other invites to ceremonies. "It gets tiring. Physically, emotionally. We've hated to say no because people are very kind,” Sam said. Remembrance in the RainAs torrential rains in Maryland saturated a softball field and playground on Saturday, the friends of Erik retreated into an open air pavilion, where drenched children darted in the mud between adults laughing over "that one time" Erik had done this or joked about that, while the admiral donned an apron and flipped burgers on a grill. Kristensen’s cousins led the Pledge of Allegiance and a former SEAL who served with the mourned guest of honor strummed a guitar in sing-alongs. Jarret Roth, a Naval Academy buddy, said Kristensen was excited about joining his girlfriend in Paris in 2006 after his Afghanistan deployment for an Olmsted Foundation Scholarship to attend the Institute for Political Studies and was thinking beyond his time in the SEAL teams. Kristensen once told Roth, "I don't know about this whole SEAL thing. Running around in the woods is kind of cool once in awhile, camping is kind of cool once in awhile. I don't know if I want to do this the rest of my life." "Erik was probably the furthest from what you would have thought of a Navy SEAL. He was a bit of a chucklehead. A down to earth, happy-go-lucky guy," Roth said. "He was a very a selfless guy." Kristensen's mother said swapping stories over beers and burgers is probably how the man his friends call the "gentle giant" would've preferred his life be celebrated, since he thought funerals were ridiculous and didn't even fill out the forms for his burial preferences, which most troops do. His parents buried Kristensen -- wearing his beloved Birkenstocks -- at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, which his father had also graduated from three decades earlier. "We're so over this. I find it all really strange, all the hero talk. He was such a total goofball," remembered his friend Ismay, who graduated the academy a few years later and whose older brother served as a SEAL with Kristensen. Kristensen applied but wasn't selected for Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL school out of the academy. He served as a surface warfare officer at sea before finally making it through BUD/S at 26, considered an "old man" and just under the wire of the SEALs' age cut-off. "Because he entered the teams a little later than his peers, he was a strong and humble leader. He could relate to the most junior guy and to a general or admiral," Paro said. "He was just a wonderful person. He was well-read and intelligent, into music and literature. He was a non-conformist." "But he wasn't a non-conformist just to be a non-conformist," Ismay explained. "Erik was just his own man. He really didn't give a damn." Kristensen's example of leadership and valor has become legend among the midshipmen of the Naval Academy. However unusual a personality he had, those who knew him agree that he fell in battle personifying the words stamped into that dogtag picked up by the paratrooper in the grime of Turbine 33's wreckage ten years ago. "I will never leave a fallen comrade,” it read. Erik Kristensen and the fallen of Turbine 33 did not. His vibrant personality appeared to live on as a powerful presence as his friends convened for the ninth time since 2005 on Saturday, shouting to be heard over the din of the downpour and laughing louder than the rain. Smiling as he looked over the crowd and placing his hand on the shoulder of a first-time E-Day guest, his father Ed said, "He's amongst us all, right here."Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Officials: Facebook, Twitter Not Reporting ISIS Messages
Michal Ludwiczak/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites would be required to report suspected terror messages to law enforcement authorities under a bill approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee, something U.S. and British law enforcement officials told ABC News they do not routinely do now. The bill, which is headed for consideration before the whole Senate, is being applauded by U.S. counter-terrorism officials but opposed by civil liberties groups. While Facebook says it works “aggressively to ensure that we do not have terrorists or terror groups using the site,” it and other social media sites are not currently required to report suspect messages to law enforcement, as they are in cases involving child pornography. “What they do now is simply terminate the account of the person who is plotting the attack,” said Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism official and ABC News consultant. “It is very unlikely today that a social media company would turn around and call the police.” U.S. officials say ISIS and other terror groups regularly use social media sites to communicate with followers and urge them to attack. “ISIS is using social media for their battlefield communications,” said former British counter-terror official Michael Clarke, Director General of the Royal United Services Institute. “In the era of social media, a phenomenon like ISIL [ISIS], unlike Al Qaeda of the old days, there doesn't have to be and won't necessarily be a command-and-control relationship between somebody who instigates an incident and ISIL as an organization," U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters on Wednesday. "They are self-radicalized, self-organized people on social media. Are we concerned about that? Absolutely, we're concerned about it." Under the proposed Senate legislation, social media sites would have a “duty to report” any information it learns about terrorist activity. The issue first emerged two years ago in the wake of the brutal beheading of a British soldier, Lee Rigby, on the streets of London. Authorities say they later learned that the attackers had communicated about their intentions on a social media site reported to be Facebook. “Let’s kill a soldier,” was one of the messages, according to a British investigation. Officials say their accounts were closed but authorities were not notified before the attack. “If they are saying things, like, ’I want to go out and behead a soldier,’ then that ought to alert the system,” said Hazel Blears a former leading member of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament who was part of an investigation into the failure of social media to disclose what it knew. “There is certainly, in my view, a moral responsibility,” Blears told ABC News. Facebook did not respond directly to criticism from authorities, but in Rigby’s case said that the company was “horrified” by what happened. A spokesperson said, “Facebook’s policies are clear – we do not allow terrorists content on the site and take steps to prevent people from using our service for these purposes.” A U.S. Senate aide said the proposed Senate bill only requires social media sites to report information they are made aware of and does not require the specific monitoring of any particular user. Facebook previously said that it relies on its users to report misuse of its service. Still, some civil liberties groups say the legislation creates a dangerous precedent. “In this American democracy, we don’t want our social media providers to be acting as essentially secret police,” said Nate Cardozo, a Staff Attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “There is a first amendment right to talk about terrorism… Discussing controversial political, religious, social events of our time is absolutely protected speech. And requiring social media providers to rat out their customers for engaging in their first amendment right to debate important topics is not something that is constitutional.” Cardozo disagreed that in the Rigby case, law enforcement should have seen the Facebook messages because they didn’t represent a “true threat.” A spokesperson for Twitter did not respond to calls for comment on this report.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Some Greeks Turn to Electronic Currency Bitcoin During Euro Troubles
arinahabich/iStock/Thinkstock(ATHENS, Greece) -- The cash crunch in Greece may be driving some local interest in alternative currencies as one bitcoin company targets Europeans to "take control of their own wealth." This week, there was a 35 percent increase in activity in Greece compared to average weeks for the company Coinbase, which allows people to buy and store bitcoins, the electronic currency introduced in 2009. Based in San Francisco, Coinbase operates with banks in 24 countries with a 1 percent fee for exchanging bitcoins into the local currency and vice versa. The company announced Tuesday that it is lowering fees to zero when buying bitcoins with euros through July 5. Sending and receiving bitcoins is a free service. People in Greece aren't able to make bank transfers after the government began limiting cash withdrawals to 60 euros earlier this week. So, activity from within Greece is "marginal" this week, a Coinbase spokesman told ABC News. If Greeks don't already have bitcoins, it's essentially as hard to exchange for them as it is to get cash, said John Villasenor, Brookings fellow and UCLA professor of electrical engineering and public policy. "If you’re going to take money out of a Greek bank, you could put it in a lot of places, including other currencies or bitcoin," Villasenor said. Though there may be a stronger interest in bitcoin with the limited banking services available in Greece, Villasenor urged caution toward the digital currency. "Bitcoin is much more volatile than the dollar. That’s a big risk with bitcoin," Villasenor said. "The dollar exchange rate is unlikely to change enormously, but the exchange in bitcoin will bounce around a little bit." Coinbase has seen a roughly 300 percent increase in activity from European users in the last 48 hours, the company told ABC News. "I personally wouldn't put it in bitcoin. I would put it in a traditional bank outside of Greece," Villasenor said.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Princess Charlotte's Christening: Royal Mint Unveils Christening Coin
The Royal Mint(LONDON) -- The final countdown to Sunday’s christening of Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge kicked off Wednesday with the release of the newborn princess’ christening coin.The coin’s decoration of harp-playing cherubs surrounded by swags of lilies is a symbol of the link between 2-month-old Princess Charlotte and her nearly 2-year-old brother, Prince George, whose christening coin also featured two harp-playing cherubs and the lily font traditionally used for royal christenings.The christening coins for both Princess Charlotte and Prince George were designed by the same engraver, John Bergdahl, the U.K. Royal Mint said on Wednesday.At the center of Princess Charlotte’s coin is the inscription, “To celebrate the Christening of Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge 2015.”Princess Charlotte, who was born on May 2 in London, will be christened July 5 at St. Mary Magdalene Church on the queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk.The coin will retail for around $7. Its design was approved by Charlotte’s parents, Prince William and Princess Kate, and her grandmother, the queen, according to the Royal Mint.Royal followers will have the choice to purchase the new coin in either silver -- which follows the tradition of silver to confer good health and prosperity -- or gold, which marks the royal celebration.The christening coin is the second coin commissioned in Princess Charlotte's honor. The Royal Mint also released a commemorative coin to celebrate Charlotte’s birth.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
What Could Happen If Greece Leaves the European Union
iStock/Thinkstock(ATHENS, Greece) -- If Greece and its 11 million people left the European Union, it would be an unprecedented move within the monetary system that gave birth to the currency known as the euro.A referendum, which has already been criticized as confusing and illegal, scheduled on Sunday will help determine whether a "Grexit" -- Greek exit -- from the 19-nation currency bloc could become a reality.Here are some of the things that could happen if Greece ultimately leaves the European Union:1. Nationalize Greece's Banking SystemOne source with Greece's ruling Syriza party said leaders have discussed the possibility of nationalizing the country's banking system, according to The Telgraph."We will shut down the banks and nationalise them, and then issue IOUs if we have to, and we all know what this means. What we will not do is become a protectorate of the EU,” the source told The Telegraph.2. Introduce a New CurrencyA country has never left the EU, so it's difficult to predict what Greece would do once the euro loses its legal tender status there, experts said.A parallel currency could be used for a while, Hari Tsoukas, a professor of organization studies at Warwick Business School in the U.K., told ABC News.Greece became a member of the EU in 2001 and adopted euro banknotes and coins in January 2002 after a transitional period. The dual circulation period, "when both the Greek drachma and the euro had legal tender status," ended on Feb. 28, 2002, according to the EU's website.3. Return to the DrachmaTsoukas said it's likely that Greece would eventually revert to the drachma if the euro is no longer its main currency.If the Greeks reverted to the drachma, the value of the Greek currency would drop considerably, with depreciation in the level of 40 percent against the dollar due to a large sell off of the currency, Valentin Marinov, head of Group-of-10 currency research at Credit Agricole SA in London, told Bloomberg.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
As New Ebola Cases Emerge in Liberia, Officials Race to Halt Outbreak
Fuse/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Confirmation of new Ebola infections in Liberia this week have brought back fears that another outbreak could run rampant in the West African country, but experts caution that the government and aid organizations are far more prepared now to stop the spread of the deadly virus.Officials from Liberia's Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism confirmed Wednesday that two people had tested positive for Ebola, after a teenager died on Sunday of the disease. Both of the confirmed cases were in the same home as the 17-year-old boy when he died, officials said.However, experts say the cases simply show that increased surveillance is working to stop the disease before it can spread widely. While the World Health Organization declared Liberia Ebola free in May, it continued to practice heightened surveillance in the area.Dr. Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman for WHO's Ebola response, said during heightened surveillance officials continued to swab dead bodies for the virus and bury them according to safe burial practices."It’s very disappointing," Harris said of the virus' return to Liberia. "The positive aspect is they did find this," and they enacted a quarantine. The generally accepted incubation period for Ebola is 21 days.Harris said hundreds of WHO staff remain in Liberia to help with both training new medical workers, maintaining surveillance of the area, and helping to ensure that medical centers have supplies like personal protective equipment for health workers.Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the government appears to have implemented key precautions that will likely save lives, including safe burial practices and the quarantine of those exposed to the original patient. He explained it's possible that more cases will be found as epidemiologists trace the source of the infection for the teenage patient."He’s the source," Schaffner told ABC News. "We have to try to find out how he acquired his infection. Did it indeed come from Guinea or Sierra Leone? Or are there are sources in Liberia that have yet to be identified?"Ebola cases in Guinea and Sierra Leone have continued to show up periodically since last year's outbreak.Schaffner also said it's clear that the Liberian government has learned from the horrendous outbreak that began last year that lead to more than 10,000 infections in Liberia."The circumstance on the ground has matured a great deal," Schaffner said. "Here we find the Ministry of Health being very open. The response has been very prompt."Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Jupiter, Venus Pull Off Spectacle in Night Sky
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Venus and Jupiter pulled off a grand spectacle in the night sky.Both bright planets appeared to glide closer together over the month of June in a conjunction NASA called the "best backyard sky show of 2015."The planets have been slowly getting closer to each other over the past few weeks. Tuesday night marked the culmination with both planets appearing one-third of a degree apart, giving them the appearance of a double star, according to NASA.While conjunctions aren't rare, they are fun to check out in a clear night sky. Venus and Jupiter, the brightest planets in the night sky, were visible to the naked eye in clear weather.If you missed it this time around, another Venus and Jupiter conjunction this close is set to happen on Aug. 27, 2016, according to EarthSky.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Mexican Artist Creates Donald Trump PiÃ±ata Look-Alike
Mitchell Haaseth/NBC(NEW YORK) -- Some people in Mexico want to smash Donald Trump -- a piñata version of him at least.An artist in Reynosa, Mexico, created a piñata that resembles Donald Trump, complete with his signature hairstyle.The creation comes after Trump made comments that Mexicans were bringing “drugs, crime and rapists” to the United States in a June 16 speech kicking off his 2016 presidential campaign.The Piñateria Ramirez also has a version of the Trump piñata showing Trump wearing a crown and pageant sash emblazoned “Miss Stupid,” a nod toward Univision and NBC dropping coverage of the annual Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants after Trump’s comments on Mexicans.Trump filed a $500 million breach-of-contract lawsuit against Univision Tuesday after their decision.Ramirez did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Charles, Camilla Host Event to Raise Funds for Elephant Conservation Charity
Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, Princes Charles and Camilla, attended a special event at Lancaster House Tuesday night, hosting a poignant reception to support the charity Elephant Family where they serve as joint presidents.The Duchess of Cornwall’s late brother Mark Shand was the driving force and founder of the charity that seeks to raise awareness for the Asian elephant, which is endangered. Ninety percent of the population has been lost to poaching and modernization that has destroyed the Asian elephant’s habitat.Shand died in April 2014 in New York City when he slipped and fell outside a hotel near Gramercy Park.“As joint presidents of this marvelous charity Elephant Family, my wife and I could not be more proud to support their vital work” Prince Charles told supporters who came out to raise awareness. “After all, we are all here to ensure that dear Mark's hard-won legacy is maintained and enhanced.”They were accompanied by Princess Eugenie, who is the younger daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, who has also been an outspoken proponent for the endangered Asian elephant.“This evening's events are designed to highlight the quest to save Asia's endangered elephants from a frighteningly precipitous decline. There may be no more than fifty thousand left in total in the wild across the thirteen countries where they are literally clinging to survival,” Prince Charles told supporters before an auction of rickshaws was opened to raise funds for the Elephant Family charity.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.