World News

John Kerry Threatens Russia, Gives No New Sanctions


Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russia on Thursday of dragging its feet on de-escalating the situation in eastern Ukraine, one week after the two countries reached an agreement in Geneva, Switzerland, to reduce tensions.“For seven days, Russia has refused to take a single concrete step in the right direction. Not a single Russian official -- not one -- has publicly gone on television in Ukraine and called on the separatists to support the Geneva Agreement, to support the stand-down, to give up their weapons and get out of the Ukrainian buildings,” he said during an appearance in the State Department briefing room.Kerry warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that he would see additional sanctions on individuals and businesses in his country but did not make any mention of when they would be imposed.“If Russia continues in this direction, it will not just be a grave mistake, it will be an expensive mistake,” he said.Kerry also reiterated that the United States believes Russia is completely behind the masked protesters who have sprung up in an eastern Ukrainian town over the past months, noting that they speak with foreign accents and have matching uniforms.“Nobody should doubt Russia’s hand in this,” he said."Russia has chosen an illegitimate, coercive armed violence to achieve with the barrel of a gun and the force of a mob what couldn't be achieved any other way," Kerry added.He mentioned once again photos that have surfaced of fighters who reportedly also served the Russian side in conflicts in Georgia and Chechnya, the validity of which has been questioned.Kerry also lashed out at the Russian-funded international news network Russia Today, known in the U.S. as RT, which he called a “propaganda bullhorn.”“Russia Today Network has deployed to promote President Putin's fantasy about what is playing out on the ground. They almost spend full time devoted to this effort to propagandize and to distort what is happening or not happening in Ukraine,” he said.Kerry ridiculed Putin for making what he called “outrageous” claims, including that the Internet is a “CIA project.”Despite the tough talk, the last tranche of sanctions imposed by the United States on Russian individuals and others linked to the Ukrainian unrest was released on April 11. So far, 38 individuals have been sanctioned as well as one Russian bank and a Crimean-based gas company.Meanwhile, Russia has shown no signs of backing down since signing the agreement in Geneva. Russian defense minister Sergey Shoigu announced Thursday that his troops would begin military drills in southern and western districts of Russia in response to the situation in eastern Ukraine.On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the United States of fomenting the unrest."When you receive daily calls from John Kerry, who is saying what you should do, and when you realize how far the U.S. is from Ukraine and how much they are agitated, it appears that indeed they direct this process to a large extent,” Lavrov said in an interview with RT.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

American Journalist Detained in Ukraine Released


Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images(SLOVIANSK, Ukraine) -- The American journalist who was detained in eastern Ukraine earlier this week has been released.In a post on its website Thursday, VICE News said it "is delighted to confirm that our colleague and friend Simon Ostrovsky has been safely released and is in good health." "We would like to thank everyone for their support during this difficult time. Out of respect for Simon and his family's privacy, we have no further statement at this time," the statement continued.Ostrovsky, a VICE News reporter, later tweeted: "I'm out and safe. Thank you all for your support. Had no idea I had so many good friends."Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the self-proclaimed "People's Mayor" of Sloviansk, Ukraine, told ABC News on Wednesday that Ostrovsky was spreading false, one-sided information and needed to be taught otherwise.Responding to the news of the reporter's release, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Thursday, "We welcome the news, of course, and would be greatly relieved by such a development. We do note that others, including journalists, remain hostage and call on Russia to use its influence to ensure that all are freed immediately."Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

South Korean Ferry: Death Toll Rises Amid Harsh Search Conditions


NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Search teams continue to pull more bodies from the South Korean ferry that sank over a week ago.As of Thursday, at least 171 people have been confirmed dead with 131 others still missing. So far, 174 people have been rescued, including all 12 of the ferry's crew.The latest jump in the death toll comes as divers working to retrieve bodies are finding the job "extremely difficult." “Divers can’t see anything,” Park Kyung Hoon, a diving team captain for the Blue Dragon Training Corp., told ABC News.Park volunteered along with other divers when he heard about the April 16 tragedy. His team has been collaborating with the South Korean Coast Guard, but search efforts have been hindered by surging currents that stir up the silty bottom into a muddy soup.Divers initially brought out bodies that were in the ship's lounge but now must break through cabin walls to retrieve other victims.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Obama Meets Families of Japanese Citizens Abducted by North Korea


JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- President Obama met on Thursday with relatives of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea, the White House said. "The President was moved by their tragic experiences and reaffirmed our commitment to work with Japan to address North Korea's deplorable treatment of its own people and resolve the issue of abductees," the White House said in a statement.Earlier, Obama took a hard line against North Korea in his press conference with Japan's prime minister. "North Korea is engaged in provocative actions for the last several decades. It’s been an irresponsible actor on the international stage for the last several decades," the president said. "It's the most isolated country in the world.""If you’re serious about North Korea being a normal nation, then you have to start changing your behavior," Obama said of the Kim Jong Un regime. "Am I optimistic about major shift in attitudes any time soon? Probably not.""In the meantime, they’re dangerous. And we have to make sure we guard against any provocations getting out of hand," he said.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Vatican: Media 'Misunderstood' Phone Call Between Pope, Woman


Dan Kitwood/Getty Images(ROME) -- The Vatican says the media have "misunderstood" a phone call Pope Francis made to an Argentine woman who sought clarification about the Catholic rite of Communion. Jacqueline Lisboa made public the pope's call to her on Easter when she says he told her there was nothing wrong with receiving Holy Communion as a divorced and remarried woman. Catholic doctrine forbids divorced and remarried people from taking part in the rite.Lisboa's husband, Julio Sabetta, posted on his Facebook page that the pope said the matter was being discussed at the Vatican. After Lisbao's priest refused to give her Communion, the pope suggested she "Go to another church and confess, there is no problem."The Vatican at first refused to confirm the call. Later, it said people should "avoid inferring things regarding the Church's teaching" from it.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Did Oscar Pistorius Lie on the Stand?


GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Oscar Pistorius may have lied on the stand about a 2009 boat crash, according to a new report -- an inconsistency that could impact the outcome of his murder trial.The report, published by South Africa's Daily Maverick, involves a 2009 boat crash that left Pistorius in a coma. Pistorius, who’s accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013, said during testimony that he smashed into a submerged pier.“The Vaal River runs east to west and we were heading back west so the sun was setting in front of us...and I could only see the sun on the water,” he said under questioning from his lawyer Barry Roux.But eyewitnesses told the Daily Maverick that there was no sunlight at the time of the crash because it was already dark. Also, the pier wasn’t submerged, they said.“One [witness] said that the jetty was ‘relatively new’ at the time of the accident. Another said that the idea that the jetty was submerged by high water levels was ‘impossible,’ as this would have meant that a major flooding incident would have had to have taken place,” the Daily Maverick reports.Representatives for Pistorius -- an athlete known as “Blade Runner” due to his prosthetic legs -- declined to comment regarding the report.ABC News Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams said the details of the boat crash are irrelevant to the murder case but inconsistencies and challenges to his statements could undermine his trustworthiness for Judge Thokozile Masipa.“If prosecutors could prove that he lied about it, it could certainly impact his credibility on other issues in front of the judge,” Abrams said.The challenge comes amid allegations that Pistorius had taken acting lessons before the trial, something family spokesperson Annelise Burgess denied.“If the judge believes that he’s faking or acting, he’s in big trouble. That would go to the heart of his credibility,” Abrams said.Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to murdering Steenkamp. The trial is scheduled to resume on May 5.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Giant 'SOS' Message Saves Marooned Snorkelers


RACQ CQ RESCUE/EPA(SYDNEY) -- Five people who went missing off Australia’s coast when their boat drifted away were rescued after a search plane spotted a large “SOS” scrawled into the sand.Their trouble began after they set out for a day of snorkeling Monday near the Whitsunday Islands. After they dropped anchor to explore, their boat drifted away, leaving them marooned on a rocky island without food, water or cellphones.After nine hours, the group grew desperate, hoping their message wouldn’t be washed away with the tide. Lyn Forbes-Smith, one of the rescued snorkelers, worried about her safety.“We did suspect that we would be bunkered down on those rocks for the night so that was a fairly grim prospect,” she said.Helicopter crewman Damien Kross said he wasn’t hopeful. But in a stroke of luck, another boat spotted the drifting vessel and alerted authorities.Rescue crews set out to find the missing group. Eventually, the group’s giant message emerged.“We saw the 'SOS' in the sand and knew that it must be them,” Kross told ABC News.Rescue crews lowered down to the island’s rocky surface and whisked the marooned snorkelers to safety.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Putin Warns Ukraine of 'Consequenes,' Orders Military Drills


Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin offered a vague but ominous warning to Ukraine’s government, saying there may be unspecified “consequences” for its use of force against pro-Russian separatists in the east.“If the Kiev regime has started to use the army against the population inside the country, it, beyond any doubt, is a very serious crime,” he said, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.“It will certainly have consequences for the people who make such decisions,” he added. “This also concerns our intergovernmental relations.”His comments renewed fears that Russian troops might cross the border under the pretext of protecting Russian speakers there.As if on cue, shortly after Putin spoke, his defense minister announced plans for more military drills along the border in Ukraine in response to the unrest.“We have to react to such a development,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said, according to Interfax.The United States and its allies accuse Russia of fomenting unrest in Ukraine and President Obama said Thursday that the White House has additional sanctions on Russia “teed up” if it does not stop its meddling.Putin was defiant in the face of additional Western sanctions, saying the measures imposed so far have not had a “critical” impact on Russia’s economy.“No sanctions are effective in the modern world and they never have a lasting effect,” Putin said. “Rather, this is all political in nature.”The Russian leader added that Ukraine’s military actions in the east justify Russia’s decision to annex Crimea.“Otherwise, they would have witnessed the same events as eastern Ukraine and surely even worse. So, this is another proof that we have acted correctly and on time,” Putin said. “If Russia had not rendered real support to people in Crimea, it would have been impossible to organize a civilized process of the expression of people’s will there.”Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Humanoid Robot Challenges Obama in Soccer


JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- President Obama Thursday got up close and personal with the latest in Japanese science and technology, including an encounter with a humanoid robot named “ASIMO.”During a photo op at the Miraikan museum, which showcases Japanese emerging science and innovation, Obama and the robot bowed at each other and even had a conversation in English.“It’s nice to meet you,” ASIMO said in an electronic voice. “I can kick a soccer ball, too.”“OK, come on,” Obama said in wry disbelief.ASIMO accepted the challenge, fetching a ball, stepping back, then punting it toward the president. Obama deftly trapped the ball with his foot.“How about that, that was pretty impressive,” he said.The robot, which was designed by Honda, told the president it had learned to jump and started to demonstrate.Later, in remarks to students and civic officials at the museum, Obama joked that “the robots are a little scary. They’re too lifelike.”During his tour, Obama also got a special taped message from Japanese astronauts aboard the International Space Station, who demonstrated on a large video screen new Global Precipitation Measurement satellites (GPM) data.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

American Father, Son Among Victims in Kabul Hospital Shooting


SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- An Afghan security guard opened fire on a group of doctors at a Kabul hospital on Thursday, killing three American doctors and leaving two other people wounded, officials said. A father and son were among the victims, ABC News has learned.According to Kabul police, a female American nurse was also wounded in the attack.The victims’ identities are not yet known, but the U.S. Embassy in Kabul confirmed that they are Americans. With great sadness we confirm that three Americans were killed in the attack on CURE Hospital. No other information will be released at...— U.S. Embassy Kabul (@USEmbassyKabul) April 24, 2014 The shooting at Cure International Hospital in western Kabul was the latest attack on foreign civilians in Afghanistan's capital this year.The attacker was a member of the Afghan Police Protection Force assigned to guard the hospital, according to District Police Chief Hafiz Khan. He said the man's motive was not yet clear.The attacker was wounded and is in custody. He was in surgery at midday in the same medical facility under heavy police guard, according to Kanishka Bektash Torkystani, a Ministry of Health spokesman."Five doctors had entered the compound of the hospital and were walking toward the building when the guard opened fire on them," Torkystani said. "Three foreign doctors were killed and two other doctors were wounded." Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Obama Warns Russia Tougher Sanctions Are 'Teed Up and Ready to Go'


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(TOKYO) --  President Obama warned more U.S. sanctions on Russia are “teed up and ready to go,” signaling that if Russia does not reverse course in eastern Ukraine it will face additional consequences “in days not weeks.”But even as he threatened further sanctions, Obama acknowledged it is “entirely possible” that new economic penalties will not work to change Russian President Vladimir Putin’s calculus on Ukraine.“So far the evidence doesn’t make me hopeful,” Obama said.  “Assuming they don’t follow through, then we’ll follow through on what we said… which is tighter consequences on the Russians.”Further sanctions, he said, are ready go.“We have been preparing for the prospect that we have to engage in further sanctions. Those are teed up,” he said, adding that they require “technical work” and coordination with other countries.“The fact I haven’t announced them yet, doesn’t mean they aren’t teed up and ready to go,” the president said.Obama also had tough words for China, a country whose “peaceful rise” he has celebrated but will not visit on this trip.Obama made it clear that the U.S. security commitment to Japan extends to the Senakaku Islands, claimed by both China and Japan but currently administered by Japan.  The Japanese fear China could move to militarily take over the islands.“Let me reiterate that our commitment to Japan’s security is absolute,” he said, “and covers all areas, including the Senkaku Islands.”A few minutes later, President Obama bristled at the suggestion that he was drawing yet another red line as he had done with Syria on chemical weapons and Russia on Crimea.“The treaty between the U.S. and Japan preceded my birth. So obviously this isn’t a red line I’m drawing,” Obama said.  “This is an interpretation that has stretched multiple administrations about alliance. No shift in position, no red line that’s been drawn. Simply applying the treaty.”As for Syria, the president sought to portray his red line policy as a success, saying that 87 percent of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles have been removed.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

New Agreement Jeopardizes Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks


MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A reconciliation deal reached Wednesday between Hamas and the Palestinian Liberation Organization could spell the end to any potential peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.The two Palestinian factions have been divided for the past seven years as the more moderate Fatah, the faction that dominates the P.L.O., has tried to mend fences with Israeli leaders while the militant Hamas seeks only the destruction of Israel.However, the reconciliation pact means that both Hamas and P.L.O. will have to abide by past agreements, leading to an interim unity government by the beginning of June and general elections toward the end of 2014.In any event, this renewed alliance may have put the final nail in the coffin of already failing talks with the Israelis to form a Palestinian state while guaranteeing Israel's security.In Washington, Secretary of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, "It is hard to see how Israel will negotiate with a government that does not recognize its right to exist."Before pronouncing peace talks dead and buried, Psaki said the White House would seek clarification from the Palestinians on just what the deal means to Israel.After cancelling a negotiation session with the Palestinians scheduled for Wednesday night, a meeting of the Israel security cabinet is planned for Thursday to further discuss the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah.Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas insisted that the new deal with Hamas is independent of Fatah's talks with Israel and that he still seeks a peaceful arrangement with the Israelis.However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintained that Abbas would have to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Obama Says US Will Defend Japan's Right to Disputed Islands


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(TOKYO) -- President Obama's week-long swing through Asia kicked off Wednesday with reassurances to Japanese leaders that the U.S. supports its rights to a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that Beijing has also staked a claim to.The president's words will be analyzed very closely in Japan and elsewhere as doubts have been raised over America's commitment to the region due to the ongoing dispute between Russia and Ukraine that threatens to spin out of control.Some of those fears may have been lessened after the Pentagon said it was sending 600 paratroopers to Poland and the Baltics as a message that the U.S. won't be intimidated by Russian aggression.Meanwhile, Obama told a Japanese newspaper that the island dispute with China falls "within the scope" of a treaty Washington has with Tokyo, adding, "We oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan's administration of these islands."Without saying so directly, the president may be signaling to Japan that the U.S. would come to its aid militarily if needed should China seize the territory known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.On Thursday, Obama, the first president to visit Japan since Bill Clinton in 1996, met separately with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Japanese royal family ahead of a formal state dinner.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Obama Greets Japan's Emperor, Bows Slightly


Shizuo Kambayashi/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) --  As President Obama’s motorcade rumbled onto the Imperial Palace grounds Wednesday for a state visit, the U.S.-Japan bond was evident on the bumper of his American-made limousine.The black Cadillac, shipped in from the U.S. by Secret Service, donned blue plates with a Japanese insignia.  American and Japanese flags flew on the hood.Obama greeted Emperor Akihito and his wife, bowing ever so slightly to shake hands with both royal highnesses, though it was a far cry from his full bow at the waist in 2009 that sparked much controversy.The full state visit honors for Obama is the first in nearly two decades for an American president.  His arrival was filled with pomp and pageantry, kicking off a week-long Asian tour with an affirmation of ties with the closest U.S. ally in the region. Obama and Akihito reviewed lines of Japanese troops in white uniforms, then they greeted dignitaries as the band played ceremonial tunes. Crowds of Japanese schoolchildren looking on waved paper flags from both countries.  After the official greeting, Obama turned quickly to official business during a bilateral meeting at the Akasaka Palace with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “The US-Japan alliance is the foundation for not only our security in the Asia Pacific region but for the region as a whole,” Obama said in an opening statement seated across from Abe. “We are looking at a whole range of issues that are challenging at this time, including the threats posed by North Korea and the nuclearaization that’s taken place in that country. But because of the strong ties of our countries confident that we will make progress in the future.”Abe called the US-Japan alliance "indispensable and irreplaceable" as a foundation for peace across the Asia Pacific region.President Obama’s visit "greatly contributes to regional peace and prosperity,” he said, “and Japan strongly supports and also certainly welcomes this."Both leaders were to hold a press conference following their meeting. Then they will visit Tokyo’s cultural sites, including the Meiji Jingu shrine.  Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov: US Has 'Excessive Influence' in Ukraine


iStock / 360 / Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed the United States has "an excessive influence" on the actions of Kiev authorities, describing America's impact on the ongoing crisis during an interview with television network RT.“When you receive daily calls from John Kerry, who is saying what you should do, and when you realize how far the U.S. is from Ukraine and how much they are agitated, it appears that indeed they direct this process to a large extent,” he said.He went on to say that anti-terrorist operations were tied to visits from high-level American officials. The U.S. has an impact "not on the country but on the regime, which took power in Kiev," Lavrov added, and "they act much more openly and without any remorse, if one compares them with Europeans, who act more covertly." On Wednesday, the Obama administration denied accusations from the foreign minister that claimed the U.S. is funding or running military operations in Ukraine. "I think many of the claims he made in his interview are ludicrous and they're not based in facts of what is happening on the ground," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Lavrov warned that Russia would not back down and said the country could retaliate against Ukraine if it continued operations against pro-Russian militants. Any attacks on Russians in the country would be considered an attack on Russia itself, he said.Psaki called his statements "counterproductive and inflammatory," explaining that the foreign minister's comments don't reflect a plan on the Geneva agreement recently signed by Ukraine, the European Union, the United States, and Russia. Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

US Expresses 'Deep Concern' Over American Journalist Kidnapped in Ukraine


State Dept photo(WASHINGTON) -- The United States called for the immediate release of an American journalist Wednesday, following the detention of Vice News reporter Simon Ostrovsky in eastern Ukraine. While she did not name Ostrovsky directly, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. raised concerns with Ukrainian officials to "de-escalate the security situation," and asked Russia to ensure the freedom of any hostages. "I can express a deep concern about the kidnapping of a U.S. citizen, journalist in Slovyansk, Ukraine, reportedly at the hands of pro-Russian separatists," Psaki said. The self-proclaimed "People's Mayor" of Sloviansk told ABC News that the reporter was spreading false, one-sided information and needed to be taught otherwise. Vyacheslav Ponomaryov said Ostrovsky, who has been detained for two days, is being treated well, fed well, and that "he's getting material for his next book." Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Yemen to Pay Families of Civilians Killed in Drone Strikes


MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Yemeni government plans to make a cash payment to the families of the three civilians killed in a string of airstrikes over the weekend, a spokesperson for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, D.C. said Wednesday.Dozens of alleged militants with the al Qaeda affiliate al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) were killed in multiple airstrikes -- suspected to have been launched from American drones -- and in an on-the-ground raid over the weekend and into Monday, according to the Yemeni government.However, three civilians were caught in the midst of the carnage when “their pickup truck unexpectedly appeared next to [a] targeted vehicle,” a statement from the Yemeni government on Monday said.“Yes, [the] Yemeni government did and will compensate the families of civilian casualties as a result of [counter-terrorist] operations,” Yemeni Embassy spokesperson Mohammed Albasha said on Twitter Wednesday.A local Yemeni news outlet reported Tuesday that the government planned to give up approximately $55,000 and firearms to the victims’ families, but a Yemeni official who spoke to ABC News could not confirm those details. So-called “solatia” payments are often expected by local customs around the world in cases of wrongful deaths -- a practice in which the U.S. Defense Department has historically taken part to the tune of millions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan.The airstrikes, conducted Saturday and Sunday, targeted militants traveling in vehicles as well as a suspected al Qaeda training camp that the Yemeni government said was “completely destroyed.”Following the strike, Yemen launched a “successful” on-the-ground counter-terrorism raid, the government said. A source briefed on the operation confirmed to ABC News that American pilots had flown Yemeni special operations troops in on Russian helicopters, as first reported by CNN.On Monday, neither the CIA, Pentagon, White House National Security Council or State Department would comment directly on any U.S. involvement in the operations, except to say, as spokespersons for State and the Pentagon did, that the U.S. has a “strong, collaborative relationship with the Yemeni government.”Both the CIA and Pentagon have conducted unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations in Yemen in the past, to much controversy. In 2009, a CIA drone strike there killed high-profile al Qaeda recruiter and American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. Weeks later, a similar strike killed his 16-year-old son, who U.S. officials said was collateral damage in a strike targeting another al Qaeda figure. In December 2013, a suspected drone-fired missile hit a wedding procession, killing 11.When asked about the solatia payments, a Pentagon spokesperson declined to comment to ABC News and referred any questions related to the strikes to the Yemeni government, “which publicly acknowledged the airstrikes.”Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Prince Charles' Brother-In-Law Dies Following Head Injury


Arthur Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince Charles' brother-in-law Mark Shand has died following a head injury. He was 62."It is with deep sadness that we have to confirm that The Duchess of Cornwall's brother, Mark Shand, has today passed away in New York. Mr. Shand died in hospital as a result of a serious head injury which he sustained during a fall last night," Clarence House said in a statement Wednesday."The Duchess, The Prince of Wales and all her family members are utterly devastated by this sudden and tragic loss. Mark Shand was a man of extraordinary vitality, a tireless campaigner and conservationist whose incredible work through the Elephant Family and beyond remained his focus right up until his death," the statement continued.Shand, a one-time playboy and thrill-seeker, became a conservationist whose mission was to save the Asian elephant from extinction. After riding his elephant, Tara, across India, he set up a charity, Elephant Family. He had been at a fundraising event for the charity before he fell and was taken to hospital.Prince Charles married the Duchess of Cornwall on April 9, 2005 in a small civil ceremony before saying "I do," at Windsor Castle. Shand was her younger brother.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Ferry Diver's Search for Bodies 'Extremely Difficult' in Muddy Water


JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images(JINDO, South Korea) -- Divers trying to retrieve bodies from the sunken South Korean ferry are finding the job "extremely difficult," feeling their way through the ink-black water with their hands as they work their way through rooms in the capsized ship.“Divers can’t see anything,” Park Kyung Hoon told ABC News.“Basically, they are blindly feeling their way around the ship. It is like a maze, so divers have to use their hands to feel around different rooms and under chairs and so on,” said Park.Park, a diving team captain for the Blue Dragon Training Corp., volunteered along with other divers when he heard about the April 16 tragedy, when a ferry sank off South Korea’s southern coast with hundreds of high school students still trapped inside.“By the time I went out to the site, the ferry had sunken completely underwater, and there were barge lines and cranes over it,” he said.His team has been collaborating with the Coast Guard, but search efforts have been hindered by surging currents that stir up the silty bottom into a muddy soup.“When I first went into the water, I couldn’t see anything,” Park said. “The water was extremely clouded and currents were strong. So the time we could spend underwater and rescue searching was very short. Divers had to come out of the water within a short period of time.”As of Wednesday, at least 156 people have been confirmed dead with 146 others still missing. There are 174 known survivors, including all 12 of the ferry's crew.The search has become more difficult. Divers initially brought out bodies that were in the ship's lounge, but divers are now having to break through cabin walls to retrieve more bodies."The lounge is one big open space, so once in it we got our search done straight away. But in the case of the cabins, we will have to break down the walls in between because they are all compartments," said Koh Myung-seok, a spokesman for the task force surrounding the sunken ferry.The water conditions are also becoming more challenging.“In my opinion, today and tomorrow will be the last days where water conditions will be good enough to dive in,” Park said. “Starting from tomorrow, currents become strong again. It will become difficult for scuba divers to go into the water. The water will be clouded as well.”Park had harsh words for the ship’s captain, who’s accused of abandoning his passengers to save his own life.“A captain’s role and his utmost priority is to ensure the safety of the passengers onboard and lead the crew effectively,” he said. “But it is unacceptable that a captain would abandon the helpless people onboard and escape to save his own life.”Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Astronauts Complete Spacewalk to Repair Computer on ISS


NASA TV(HOUSTON) -- Two NASA astronauts completed a spacewalk Wednesday to fix a backup computer on the International Space Station.Steve Swanson and Rick Mastracchio were tasked with the job, which took just over an hour and a half.According to NASA, the Multiplexer/Demultiplexer (MDM) back up computer failed on April 11 following a routine check by Mission Control."While the primary computer continues operating flawlessly NASA managers ordered Wednesday’s spacewalk repair to ensure redundancy on critical systems," the space agency said in a statement.NASA said the six crew members aboard the ISS were not at risk during the outage.Before Swanson and Mastracchio went back inside the space station on Wednesday, Mission Control tested the backup computer to make sure it was working properly.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Prince William and Duchess Kate DJ in Australia


Morne de Klerk - Pool/Getty Images(ADELAIDE, Australia) -- Prince William and Duchess Kate have not missed a mark on their trip Down Under, and now the royals can say they have not missed a beat either.After spending a night alone at a luxurious resort near Uluru in Australia, the duke and duchess arrived Wednesday in Adelaide, Australia, where they visited a music studio and gave DJ-ing a spin, literally.Kate, 32, and William, 31, egged each other on as to who would be the first to spin tracks as they visited the Northern Sound System, an alternative learning center focused on music in the suburb of Elizabeth, which is named after Prince William’s grandmother, the queen.“She was fantastic,” Shane Petersen, a workshop facilitator in the hip-hop class the couple visited, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation of Kate’s DJ-ing ability. “But [William] can fly a helicopter, so it’s horses for courses.”Kate also showed off her dancing, following along with students as they showed her a type of wave dance move.When it was William’s turn to scratch the records, he also revealed what type of music is perhaps on his iPod, if he owns one, or playing in Kensington Palace.“I like house music,” William said, according to the ABC. “I still like a bit of rock’n'roll and the classics, and a bit of R&B.”The couple’s son, 9-month-old Prince George, was not with his parents on this leg of the royal family’s first official trip overseas since George’s birth, but the young prince was never far from his parents’ minds.The couple unveiled a plaque in Adelaide renaming the city’s center square as Prince George Plaza and also accepted on George’s behalf a green, custom-made skateboard that featured “George” on the bottom flanked by Australian flags and kangaroos.“[Prince William] loved it and Kate thought that the design was nice,” said skateboarder Luke Haldenby, who presented it to William and Kate, according to the ABC.Prince William declined the crowd’s urging to give George’s skateboard a try but he did take up the offer to contribute to a spray paint mural being created by a group known as the Aerosol Angels.“He did a pretty good job, and he admitted when he’d finished his bit of artwork that he was now addicted,” said the group’s leader, Simon Burt, according to the BBC.The duke and duchess are now scheduled to return to Canberra, Australia, where they will reunite with Prince George, who stayed behind in Canberra with his nanny.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Madeleine McCann Probers Focus on Child Sex Attacker


JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)(LONDON) -- Detectives are investigating whether Madeleine McCann, the toddler who vanished in Portugal seven years ago, may have been abducted by a serial sex attacker.One of those possible victims was a 10-year-old girl who was assaulted in 2005 in the same resort where Maddie vanished.Scotland Yard has recently learned for the first time of five sexual assaults, and one attempted sexual assault, on British girls between 2004 and 2006. Police say they attach particular significance to one of the attacks: the sexual assault in 2005 of a British 10-year-old girl in Praia de Luz, the resort where Madeleine’s family were staying. That attack was not reported at the time.McCann was 3 when she vanished from the family’s resort room in 2007 while her parents dined nearby.These latest cases were brought to police attention after a public appeal for information last month.Senior investigating officer Andy Redwood calls the new leads “extremely positive” and a “priority” for his investigation. Scotland Yard have requested case files for the six attacks from Portuguese police.The British investigation is now examining 18 cases where a male intruder entered the apartments and villas of British vacationers in the Western Algarve region of Portugal. They include nine sexual assaults and three “near-misses,” officials said. The victims were all British girls aged between 6 and 12 years old. Fourteen of the attacks were reported to the police at the time.Detective Chief Inspector Redwood says he is confident that some if not all of the cases are linked because of their “significant similarities.”In order to protect the identities of the victims, police are not disclosing why some of the attacks were not reported earlier. While some of the attacks were known to police in Portugal, they were not considered relevant by them to the McCann case because they didn’t involve abduction.Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt says he is “cautiously optimistic” that police in Portugal will soon move forward with Scotland Yard’s requests for help.Senior British detectives have expressed frustration with the slow pace of the judicial process, and the cooperation they have received from their Portuguese counterparts.Portuguese authorities have resisted British requests to form a joint investigation team.In March police appealed for help regarding 12 cases of a male intruder entering vacation homes between 2004 and 2010. The man sexually assaulted five British girls aged between 7 and 10 in their beds.They said that witnesses described the suspect as tanned, with short untidy hair. He spoke in English with a foreign accent and smelled strongly.Scotland Yard has still not established the identity of a man seen by three witnesses carrying a child fitting Madeleine’s description on the night that she disappeared.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Report: Divorced, Remarried Woman Can Have Communion, Pope Says


iStock / 360/Thinkstock(ROME) -- Could there be a switch in Catholic doctrine?Pope Francis has reportedly phoned a divorced and remarried Catholic woman in Argentina to tell her that she could "safely receive Communion." Italian news media report the pope called Jacquleina Sabetta in response to a letter she had written to him.Catholic doctrine dictates that divorced people can receive communion, but divorced and remarried people cannot. The pope apparently told her the issue is under discussion.The Vatican said it neither confirms nor denies the call.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Ferry Disaster Has Traumatized, Shamed South Korea


Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- The entire country of South Korea, which watched a ferry filled with high school students sink on live TV and has followed the futile search for survivors with 24/7 TV coverage, appears to be have been traumatized by the tragedy.That trauma has been compounded by a collective shame over charges of criminal negligence by much of the ship's crew, inappropriate reactions by government officials and cruel hoaxes following the sinking.Almost all entertainment programs that include music, comedy or drama have been cancelled. Attendance at movie theaters is off by as much as 40 percent. Fashion shows, sporting events and festivals for major cultural events have been put off through May.“It’s not only the victims and their families but a majority of the general public is suffering from mental shock, sadness, rage, and feeling of helplessness,” read an editorial from Seoul Newspaper. “In short, it’s not an exaggeration to say that this entire nation is going through post-traumatic stress disorder.”"After those nonstop broadcasts, personally this visual of cold water rising in the cabins with trapped kids dying a slow death was haunting me for days. I still cry for them," said Yong-sub Choi, vice president of value, culture and media for an investment company. His company has invested $1 million in a regional fireworks festival planned for early May, but decided to forsake half the investment and postpone it to August in honor of the victims.The tragedy has riveted and horrified the country from the start. Cameras rushed to the ferry sinking as soon as the news broke and the population was mesmerized as it watched the tragedy unfold with students flailing in the cold water, the boat slowly turning upside down and eventually slipping beneath the surface.Television viewers have barely looked away since the rescue efforts were broadcast without any break. The arrival of grief stricken families was recorded along with rough weather that hampered rescue efforts, and eventually the retrieval of bodies despite the prayers of a nation.“It was so depressing, so I intentionally avoided watching TV at first,” said Jieun Kim, a mother of two children living in Seoul. “But it’s addictive. You keep wondering what happened. Gave up on the fourth day, and kept watching. My tears won’t stop. It’s uncontrollable.”What has also taken a toll on the Korean psyche are the alleged acts of cowardice, callousness and cruel hoaxes.Eleven of the ferry's crew, including the captain, have been taken into custody for actions that the South Korean president said were "murderous." Others would say craven.In the days after the ferry sank, families were tormented with hoax text messages claiming to be from students trapped in air pockets complaining that they were cold, but still alive. A woman posed as one of the divers trying to rescue the trapped passengers was exposed as a fraud.A photo of a government official sitting on a chair to eat ramen while the families of the ferry victims were eating on the floor circulated on South Korean social media and criticism poured in. The official ended up getting suspended and later fired from his post.The response to the sinking has forced the nation to reassess what Korea has become.A widely shared editorial on social networks from Saturday’s Joongang Ilbo concluded with a scathing self-criticism that, “A nation’s standards and capability is tested when disaster and crisis come by. Our country’s level is a failing grade and of a third-class country.”“Korea is now depressed," an editorial in Hankyoreh newspaper said. "But for such collective depression to be rightly cured, this atmosphere should not be quickly changed nor forgotten.”Choi added, "As a father, this burden is deep. I feel responsible for the deaths of those innocent young kids. Our generation have marched forward only looking ahead. It was all economic growth and wealth. We neglected to take effort to mature ethically."“Koreans are very nationalistic and they take pride in the rapid development of their country. When there’s some problem or anything that reflects poorly on the collective, on the nation or Koreans on the whole, people will get upset about it,” said Daniel Pinkson, head of International Crisis Group in Seoul.Yellow ribbons have proliferated on Korean social media and the country has held candlelight vigils, but those gestures have gone only so far.“Koreans want to share everything together," said Sulim Park, public relations manager of Italian shoe brand, Tod’s. The company cancelled three shows and events out of respect for the ferry victims. "My family or friends were not personally affected by this tragedy, but call it nationalism or whatever, but we try to share the grief together.”Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Bashar al-Assad's Deadly Loophole in Syria Deal


JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration’s top accomplishment on Syria -- a deal in which President Bashar al-Assad would surrender his chemical weapons -- risks being undermined by substantial, potentially deadly loopholes in the agreement.Secretary of State John Kerry touted on Tuesday the fact that Syria had given up almost all its declared chemical weapons and would finish the process by the end-of-April deadline.“We now have the majority percentage of chemical weapons moved out of Syria, and we’re moving on schedule to try to complete that task,” he said at a State Department event.But events in Syria paint a more complicated picture of Assad’s continued ability to kill civilians with chemical weapons.Earlier this month, the Assad regime allegedly used chlorine gas -- a weapon Syria is not required to relinquish -- against civilians in the town of Kafr Zita, causing victims to suffocate, choke, vomit, foam at the mouth and develop hypertension, according to a letter from the head of the Syrian Coalition, a Western-approved opposition group, to the United Nations Security Council.In the letter, Syrian Coalition representative Najib Ghadbian urged investigators from the joint mission between the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to inspect a research center in Damascus that allegedly produces Syria’s chlorine gas.The U.S. State Department said earlier this week that it has “indications of the use of a toxic industrial chemical, probably chlorine” in Kafr Zita. “We’re examining allegations that the government was responsible.”The Assad regime has not responded to the allegations and ABC News calls to Syria’s Mission to the U.N. were not returned.State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Tuesday that “there are remaining concerns about the brutality of the Assad regime,” but she defended the deal that has stripped the Syrian government of much of its chemical arsenal.“The point here is that we’ve removed 86 percent of the most harmful chemicals. That still is a positive step,” Psaki said.Ghadbian noted that the use of chemical weapons does violate a second provision of the deal Syria agreed to in the fall, U.N. Security Council Resolution 2118: it had to sign on to what’s known as the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the “development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons.”Should such a U.N./OPCW investigation find that Syria did use chlorine gas on civilians, the U.N. Security Council would have authority under Chapter 7 of its charter to punish the regime.But so far, said Oubai Shahbandar, spokesman for the Syrian Coalition, the Security Council hasn’t discussed inspecting production sites or punishing for the regime for its alleged use of chlorine weapons.Any Security Council decision would also have to get the approval of Russia, a permanent member and ally of Syria. Because that’s unlikely to happen, Shahbandar said, the onus falls on the United States to hold the regime accountable.“Assad continues to press his luck because he believes he can get away with it,” Shahbandar said. “It is now time that he does not.”The United States acknowledged that confirming beyond doubt that the regime used chlorine gas would be difficult.“The time required to conduct any investigation of alleged CW use would be dependent on the circumstances surrounding the investigation, not least of all the cooperation of the host country,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Tuesday.Meanwhile, Assad can continue to inflict chlorine gas attacks on civilians, knowing that the hands of the international community, especially the United States, are tied, said Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.“I think [his actions] are based on a calculation that Obama just doesn’t want to do anything,” Tabler said.The deal agreed to in the fall, which President Obama touted at the time as a diplomatic way to avoid airstrikes on Syria, also omits the destruction of Syria’s 12 production and storage facilities where Syria might be hiding additional chemical weapons that it simply did not declare to the OPCW,  Tabler states.Critics of the administration’s approach towards Syria have urged the United Nations to expand its mandate to include facility destruction, but there’s little chance that would happen either, given Russia’s veto power.The more likely scenario, Tabler said, is that the April deadline for Syria to give up its chemical weapons will come and go, but the regime’s killings of civilians with chemical weapons will continue.“In the course of one week we’re going to find that the regime is not complying. It’s good to get all of those chemical weapons out of there, but the regime is doing it in such a way that it’s not solving the problem, it’s just tightening the grip on power,” Tabler said.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Object of Interest Washes Ashore Amid Search for Missing Flight 370


(PERTH, Australia) -- An unidentified object washed ashore in Australia, and investigators are trying to determine if the object is related to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.According to a press release from Australian authorities, the item washed ashore near Augusta, on the country’s southwestern coastline.The news has been shared with Malaysia officials, who are overseeing the overall search efforts.Authorities believe the jet landed in the Indian Ocean, but have yet to find any evidence directly connected to the doomed plane.The 777 jetliner was carrying 239 people when it went missing March 8.ABC US News | ABC Business NewsCopyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Object Washes Ashore; Connected to Flight 370?


(PERTH, Australia) -- An unidentified object washed ashore in Australia, and investigators are trying to determine if the object is related to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.According to a press release from Australian authorities, the item washed ashore near Augusta, on the country’s southwestern coastline.The news has been shared with Malaysia officials, who are overseeing the overall search efforts.Authorities believe the jet landed in the Indian Ocean, but have yet to find any evidence directly connected to the doomed plane.The 777 jetliner was carrying 239 people when it went missing March 8.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Death Toll Mounts in South Korean Ferry Sinking


JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- One week after a ferry sank off the coast of South Korea, the death toll continues to climb.As of Wednesday, at least 150 people have been confirmed dead with 152 others still missing. There are 174 known survivors, including all 12 of the ferry's crew.The updated death count comes as South Korean prosecutors are considering charges of accidental homicide against the captain, third mate and helmsman of the ferry, which sank last Wednesday. Most of the victims were high school students on the ferry for a field trip.According to prosecutors, Captain Lee Joon-seok, 68, initially told passengers to stay in their rooms and waited more than half an hour to issue an evacuation order as the ferry sank. By then, the ship had tilted so much that many of the missing were not able to escape.Divers reached the interior of the sunken ferry earlier this week but their mission has been made more difficult by murky waters and strong currents. The search involves areas of the vessel where passengers were told to stay.As of Wednesday, weather conditions had improved. The recovery effort also involves 212 boats, 34 aircraft and 550 rescue workers.Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Ukraine Security Chief: At Least 130 Russian Officers Leading Efforts in Eastern


Genya Savilov//AFP/Getty Images(KIEV, Ukraine) -- At least 130 members of the Russian intelligence service and military are leading uprising efforts in Eastern Ukraine, the director of Ukraine's national security service said Tuesday.In a Google Hangout sponsored by the Atlantic Council, security official Valentyn Nalyvaichenko explained there were as many as 30 special troops or officers of Russia's intelligence service, the GRU, working in the Slaviansk region, plus another 100 in Donetsk. "They are not alone," he added, saying that they recruited pro-Russian locals. The information was provided through three GRU officers detained and questioned by Ukraine, and Nalyvaichenko says they have already identified "two main organizers" responsible for unrest in the region. A criminal investigation has been launched.The security chief also confirmed reports that a military plane in Sloviansk was hit by gunfire. Addressing Ukraine's response to the crisis, he explained Kiev's best option to "calm down the situation" is to obtain more funding from the central government to provide "more support to maintain normal life" for local authorities, according to the Atlantic Council. Nalyvaichenko also cited reliance on international civilian mediators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to help persuade pro-Russian separatists to stand down. Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

US To Deliver Helicopters to Egypt, Clears Partial Military Assistance


iStock/Thinkstock(CAIRO) -- The United States cleared Egypt to receive some military assistance, following a conversation Tuesday between Secretary of State John Kerry and Egyptian foreign minister Nabil Fahmy. The Obama administration approved the delivery of 10 Apache helicopters in support of Egypt's counterterrorism operations in Sinai, in hopes that it will help the country's government counter extremists threatening American, Egyptian, and Israeli security. In a call with Fahmy, Kerry informed the foreign minister that Egypt is sustaining its relationship with the United States and upholding its obligations under the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. Though he addressed the country's importance as a "strategic partner" for the U.S., Kerry said "he is not yet able to certify that Egypt is taking steps to support a democratic transition," according to a statement by State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.In addition to the secretary of state's conversation, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke with Egyptian Minister of Defense Col. Gen. Sedki Sobhy on Tuesday to inform him of the upcoming military assistance. "This is one element of the president's broader efforts to work with partners across the region to build their capacity to counter terror threats, and is the United States' national security interest," a readout from Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby explained. Still, full certification that Egypt is on a path to democracy is needed for further aid.  Hagel urged the Egyptian government to show progress on "a more inclusive transition" respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

American Journalist with Vice News Detained in Ukraine


iStock/Thinkstock(SLOVIANSK, Ukraine) -- An American journalist has been reportedly detained by unidentified people in uniform in Eastern Ukraine.Simon Ostrovsky, a reporter with Vice News, was captured. Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the self-proclaimed "People's Mayor" of Sloviansk, announced the journalist's detention, according to media reports Tuesday from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The U.S. Department of State, aware of the incident, released a statement acknowledging reports of a U.S. citizen being detained in Ukraine, but did not specify Ostrovsky. "The Department of State takes its obligation to assist U.S. citizens abroad seriously and stands ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance," the statement read. Vice News tweeted Tuesday: "We are aware of @SimonOstrovsky's situation and are working to ensure the safety and security of our friend and colleague."Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio