World News

Cuba, US Expect to Announce Embassy Openings Next Week

Ruskpp/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Cuba and the United States are expected to formally announce the re-opening of embassies in Havana and D.C. next week, ABC News has been told by two sources close to negotiations.The announcement is expected to come from their respective capitals, following Friday’s anticipated announcement of Cuba’s removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.Cuba is expected to be formally removed from the list 45 days after President Obama announced his intention to remove them, which came in mid-April, and just days after he returned from Panama and the first high-level meeting between the two countries since the diplomatic freeze.The listing, which included them on a list alongside nations such as Syria, Sudan and Iran, has been a sticking point in the negotiations.Last week, Cuban diplomats met in D.C. with U.S. diplomats in the latest round of talks since the U.S. and Cuba began negotiating normalization in December.Both sides expressed optimism and called the talks “very productive,” foreseeing an agreement soon, but sticking points remain.The major sticking point for Americans has been the freedom for staff to move throughout the country; for the Cubans, it was courses provided to Cuban journalists by the U.S. government at the interests section in Havana, which they say fall outside normal diplomatic activities.The two countries have only operated lower level Interest Sections since the late 1970s in buildings run by the Swiss.Diplomatic relations were cut off in 1961, with Fidel Castro calling the U.S. embassy a "nest of spies."Now, renovations are underway in Havana and D.C. as the two buildings are prepared for full embassies staffed with full level ambassadors.The date of the re-opening has not been confirmed, but that too may be announced next week.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

India's Deadly Heatwave Melting Roads

Photo by Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images(NEW DEHLI, India) --  A devastating heatwave has left more than 1,100 people dead over the past month in India, and photos also show the toll on the country's infrastructure.Temperatures in the cities of Allahabad and Varanasi surpassed 110 degrees on Wednesday, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Photos show asphalt road surfaces melting in New Delhi, disrupting road markings in the city.A drought in much of India, along with a busy typhoon season, could spell trouble for a billion people in Asia this summer, according to AccuWeather.El Niño, a warm phase of the fluctuation of sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, is likely leading to an above-average number of typhoons and super-typhoons, AccuWeather reports. But El Niño may displace the already-delayed monsoon, leading to below-normal rainfall in India.Weather officials blamed northwesterly dry and hot winds from the desert state of Rajasthan for the extreme heat.Follow @ABCNewsRadio!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Fire Engulfs Ship Off Coast of Germany

German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies (CCME)(LONDON) -- A freighter carrying fertilizer was abandoned by its crew off the coast of Germany after the vessel caught on fire, German officials told ABC News. But after more than two days of smoldering, and a failed attempt to extinguish the flames, the ship is no longer at risk of exploding, German officials said. Dozens of residents from Bremerhaven and nearby towns called Germany's Central Command for Maritime Emergencies on Monday asking about a large cloud of smoke emanating from a ship sailing off the coast, authorities said. The 630-foot long cargo named “Purple Beach” was headed for the German port of Brake and had been travelling from the United Kingdom, authorities said. The fire was initially put out, but it picked up again on Tuesday prompting the crew to evacuate, officials said. Residents were told to keep windows and doors shut as a risk of explosion was reported. On Wednesday, authorities managed to pour massive streams of water onto the smoking ship and firefighters were able to board the vessel, a spokesman from the Central Command said. “All of the 26 crew members who had been sent to hospital for monitoring have now been released,” the spokesman added. Rescue boats are still monitoring the situation, making sure that the temperature of the boat remains stable. In the next few hours, officials will decide whether and how to tow the ship and clear the area.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Queen Elizabeth Opens New Session of UK Parliament

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Queen Elizabeth II opened a new session of Britain's parliament on Wednesday with the traditional pomp and pageantry. As expected, she announced plans for a referendum on the United Kingdom's membership in the European Union during her speech."My government will renegotiate the United Kingdom's relationship with the European Union, and pursue reform of the European Union for the benefit of all member states," the queen said."Alongside this, early legislation will be introduced to provide for an in-out referendum on membership of the European Union before the end of 2017," she added.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Four Taliban Fighters Killed After Attack on Afghan Guesthouse

iStock/Thinkstock(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Four gunmen attacked an upscale neighborhood in Kabul, Afghanistan overnight, engaging in a fierce firefight with security forces, according to officials.There were no casualties other than the four gunmen, all of whom were killed. Police say the attackers were targeting a guesthouse in the area. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack. Earlier this month, the group attacked another guesthouse in Kabul, killing a dozen people, including an American.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Ride-Sharing App UberPOP Blocked in Italy

Uber(ROME) -- UberPOP has been blocked throughout Italy.The ride-sharing app, similar to the American UberX , allows users to order a ride from a driver without a commercial licence. Italian taxi drivers, on the other hand, are tightly regulated with severe limits on the number of licenses.A judge ruled Tuesday that UberPOP "was subject to only minor fees compared to the costs taxis have to pay in order to operate and thus was benefiting from unfair competition," the AFP reported.France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands have all banned the app, though appeals are pending in France and Germany. Uber Europe had promised expansion and tens of thousands of jobs in Europe. The company says it's disappointed with the decision and will appeal.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Rockets Launched at Israel by Militants in Gaza

Joel Carillet/iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- After weeks of quiet, sirens blared across parts of southern Israel on Tuesday.Militants in Gaza launched the first long-range rockets since the 50 day war last summer between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas.Residents in the south reported hearing several explosions, but Army officials have confirmed just one rocket fired from Gaza hit near the Israeli city of Ashdod. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.Palestinian sources in Gaza say Islamic jihad militants fired on Israel as a result of what they are calling “an internal dispute.”Israel however says it still holds Hamas responsible, and the Israeli Air Force is expected to retaliate.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Ancient Italian Artifacts Found in US

EcoPic/iStock/Thinkstock(ROME) -- Artwork stolen from the ancient city of Pompeii has been found in the United States.Sixty years ago, thieves stripped three exquisite frescoes from the walls of Pompeii, an ancient city famously destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.The first century artworks depict a young woman with a cupid on her shoulder, a woman carrying a wine pitcher and a man.After the raid in 1957, authorities lost track of the frescoes. It wasn’t until the Italian police, with the help of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, discovered the pieces were headed for an American art auction block.The pieces were about to be sold off. They were part of a private collection of an unnamed American tycoon who had died.The ancient pieces were among a group of 25 works of stolen art returned from the United States to Italy.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Ramadi Fell to ISIS Fighters Even Though They Were 'Vastly Outnumbered' by Iraqi

zabelin/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The city of Ramadi is controlled by “hundreds” of ISIS fighters who were able to seize the city after Iraqi military commanders ordered the withdrawal of several thousand Iraqi troops from the city. That’s according to a U.S. official who also confirmed that the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Ramadi may have been prompted by the unexplained pullout of the elite Iraqi counterterrorism force based in the city. The pullout of the Iraqi counterterrorism unit from Ramadi first appeared in the Kurdish news agency Rudaw. The departure of that elite unit led other Iraqi military commanders in the city to order the departure of their troops even though they held a significant numerical superiority, the U.S. official said. Over the weekend, Defense Secretary Ash Carter criticized the “will to fight” of Iraqi forces in Ramadi because they withdrew from the city even though “they vastly outnumbered the opposing force.” The motivations for the elite unit’s departure remain unknown, the U.S. official said, but it was another reason provided by American officials as to why thousands of Iraqi security forces left the city. Taken together, it appears the fall of Ramadi was due to a domino effect of circumstances. Officials said last week that ISIS fighters launched more than 30 car bombs inside Ramadi in an effort to take over the city where fighting has been raging for more than a year and a half. The attacks came at the same time as a sandstorm that affected ground operations. The storm also led the Iraqi commander on the ground to mistakenly believe that the sandstorm would prevent coalition airstrikes from supporting his troops, according to U.S. officials. American officials have said that the deteriorating weather conditions would not have affected the ability to conduct airstrikes. “The Iraqi security forces did not feel that they were supported as they could have been. They did not feel they had the resources, they did not feel they were in a position to win,” said Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, speaking broadly about the Iraqi troop pullout from Ramadi. Iraqi State Television announced on Tuesday the start of an operation to drive ISIS out of Anbar Province and retake the provincial capital of Ramadi, though no details were provided. “We welcome the news from Prime Minister al Abadi that they will begin a counteroffensive to retake Ramadi and we will continue to support them,” Warren said. American officials said the Iraqi offensive to retake Ramadi had not yet begun. One U.S. official said the expectation is that it will begin in a matter of days. The Iraqi offensive will include a mix of Iraqi military forces serving alongside 3,000 militia forces, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, that have gathered in Habbaniyah outside of Ramadi. Warren described “shaping operations” by the Iraqi military “to secure lines of communications, secure key road junctures and intersections and secure terrain prior to a full-on offensive.” While the offensive had not yet begun, he said there had been clashes outside the city between forward elements of ISIS and Iraqi military forces, who are “both moving forward to conduct reconnaissance and probe each other’s positions.”Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Australian Mother Reportedly Travels to Syria to Join Islamic State

thekoala/iStock/Thinkstock(SYDNEY) -- An Australian mother is reported to have left her young children with a babysitter to fly and join the Islamic State in Syria. Counter-terrorism police have started an investigation into the disappearance of 26-year-old Jasmina Milovanov, who calls herself Assma Abdullah. Milovanov, the mother of a five and seven year old left in the care of a babysitter, reportedly told the babysitter she was travelling to the Australian state of Queensland to buy a car. She hasn’t been seen since, and friends have confirmed police have been in touch after Milovanov’s ex-husband revealed he received a text message from her confirming her arrival in Syria. The text message was followed by a post on her Facebook wall. A woman from the Australian city of Melbourne who flew to Syria last year to marry her boyfriend in the Islamic State, confirmed Milovanov’s arrival in the region. However, one friend in Sydney stressed that she is no terrorist and was simply “lonely and looking for a husband,” a way that Islamic State recruiters convince women to join. Australian media reports the two children are being taken care of by their father, with the very real prospect that they might never see their mother again. Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Ireland Targets Same-Sex Weddings in New Tourism Campaign

Patryk Kosmider/iStock/Thinkstock(DUBLIN) -- One day after an overwhelming majority voted yes to gay marriage in a historic referendum in Ireland, a new campaign from Tourism Ireland is already targeting the LGBT community by endorsing the country as a prime place to tie the knot. The video, titled "Ireland Says I Do," promotes the most beautiful destinations for Irish weddings as well as LGBT events like The Outing, the world’s first ever same-sex matchmaking festival. “Ireland boasts some of the most dreamily romantic locations to tie the knot in the world," Tourism Ireland wrote in its press release. "And YES, your big day will make your heart sing." After Friday's referendum, the official tally announced Saturday showed that a resounding 62 percent voted to enshrine the right to same-sex marriage in its constitution -- a watershed moment for a country that was considered a bastion for the Catholic Church. Tourism Ireland, the government's official agency promoting travel to Ireland, suggested five wedding locations for couples who are looking to say "I do" in Ireland. 1. Kinnitty Castle, County Offaly 2. Sirius Arts Centre, County Cork 3. Smock Alley, Dublin city 4. Lough Eske, County Donegal 5. Rosedale House, County Dublin The campaign will run in markets including the United States, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Spain, Italy and the Nordic countries.ABC News Videos | ABC Entertainment NewsCopyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Moving Day at the International Space Station

NASA(NEW YORK) -- NASA flight controllers are preparing to relocate a storage module at the International Space Station on Wednesday, marking the biggest change to the space outpost's structure since the module was installed in 2011.The Permanent Multipurpose Module, which is used for storage, will be detached from the Unity module and carefully moved via a robotic arm to the forward port of the station's Tranquility module, NASA officials said. The move will allow NASA to clear an area for additional commercial spacecraft to dock at the station. Boeing and SpaceX both have contracts with NASA and could begin ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station as early as 2017. An animation posted online by NASA shows how the move will be carried out on Wednesday if all goes according to plan. The module being moved was previously used to take supplies back and forth from the station during shuttle assembly missions. After its final launch on board the now-defunct shuttle Discovery, the 22-feet long, 11-ton module was bolted to the International Space Station.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Koalas in Australia Facing Euthanization Following Health Assessment

iStock/Thinkstock(VICTORIA, Australia) -- They're cute and cuddly, but the state of Victoria may have to euthanize a whole colony of koalas because too many of them are living in a popular tourist destination. Despite a recent recovery in eucalypt or gum trees, the Victorian government said the overpopulation of koalas at Cape Otway are leaving many of them hungry. The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning will make a "health assessment" of the "overabundant koala population" carried out by vets and animal health officials, said department spokesperson Mandy Watson in a statement on YouTube."Any unhealthy koalas, which are deemed too sick to survive release, will be humanely euthanized to prevent further suffering," she said. The controversial move is angering critics who say the problem is the underabundance of trees and not the blossoming koala population. "I know they are not looking at planting trees, they are not looking at the long term,"said Australian Koala Foundation CEO Deborah Tabart to Australia's ABC TV.In 2013 and 2014, the Victorian government culled about 700 koalas, according to the BBC. Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Iraq Launches Offensive to Drive Back ISIS from Province

iStock/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) -- An operation to drive ISIS out of the Iraqi province of Anbar is underway, according to officials.In an announcement on state-run television Tuesday, the Iraqi government said the army would be supported by both Sunni and Shiite militias. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has expressed confidence that Iraqi forces will retake the province from the extremist group. His assertion came earlier this month, shortly after the fall of the provincial capital Ramadi, just 70 miles west of Baghdad.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Volcano in Galapagos Island Erupts

iStock/Thinkstock(QUITO, Ecuador) -- A volcano in one of the Galapagos Islands erupted Monday after being inactive for 33 years.On its Facebook page, Ecuador's Galapagos National Park administration said the Wolf volcano, located on the northern tip of Isabela Island, erupted at 1:30 a.m. Monday.The volcano is home to the world's only population of pink iguanas, which, at the moment, do not appear to be in danger. The administration also said the eruption so far has not impacted tourist operations.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Galapagos Island Volcano Erupts, Threatening Fragile Ecosystem

iStock/Thinkstock(QUITO, Ecuador) -- A volcano atop one of the Galapagos Islands has erupted for the first time in 33 years, spewing fire, smoke and lava into the night sky -- and threatening a fragile ecosystem that inspired Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.On its Facebook page, Ecuador's Galapagos National Park administration said the Wolf volcano, located on the northern tip of Isabela Island, erupted at 1:30 a.m. Monday.The volcano is home to the world's only population of pink iguanas, which, at the moment, do not appear to be in danger. The administration also said the eruption so far has not impacted tourist operations.Darwin visited the eastern Pacific island chain in 1835, and the trip influenced his findings presented in the book The Origin of Species.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.