World Headlines

iStock(HINGHAM, Mass.) -- A 6-year-old Massachusetts boy who started making clay koalas as a way to help the animals hurt in the Australia bushfires has raised more than $250,000 for relief efforts.

Owen Colley, of Hingham, Massachusetts, lived in Australia for a few months as a toddler and has been asking his parents to go back to visit, according to his dad, Simon Colley, who grew up in Sydney.

"My wife [Caitlin] said now is really not a good time and told him about the fires and he learned that not only were animals being hurt but a lot of them," said Colley. "He was just visibly upset."

After that conversation, Owen, a kindergarten student, drew a photo of a koala, a kangaroo and a dingo in the rain and said that was his wish for Australia, according to Colley.

"Caitlin asked him, 'Did you want to help?'" Colley recalled. "And he said, 'Yes.'"

The family decided to use Owen's love for art and make small koalas out of the clay he plays with that they would then sell to family and friends and give the money to an Australian-based wildlife charity.

They planned to make around 100 koalas and hoped to raise as much as $1,000 for charity. When a local newspaper decided to cover Owen's koala sale, the family created a GoFundMe page with a goal of $5,000.

Just over 10 days later, the Colleys have raised more than $250,000 for Wildlife Rescue South Coast Inc., a volunteer-run charity in Australia.

"The charity is so lovely and appreciative," said Colley. "We've put Owen on speakerphone so he can speak to them and find out how they're helping animals."

More than 1 billion animals are estimated to have died in the devastating wildfires that began late last year, Christopher Dickman, a University of Sydney professor, said earlier this month.

The Colleys have taken to doing what they call "joey math" to help Owen understand how the amount of money he has raised will be able to help animals in Australia.

"He's raised enough money to feed 900 joeys for a whole year," said Colley. "We put it into terms like that so he can comprehend it, because once it got past $1,000 it was just a lot of money to him."

The Colleys have received orders for nearly 3,000 koalas as well as generous messages from people all over the world. The company that makes the clay Owen likes to use has donated clay to the family and another company stepped up to donate packaging materials to the Colleys.

"We're just so grateful for the number of people who wanted to be a part of helping make this happen," said Colley. "This outpouring of love from all over the world is truly humbling."

The family is now working on creating a YouTube tutorial so that other kids can make koalas on their own.

"The project was a way for Owen to process what was happening and feel that when there is a big problem happening there is something you can do," said Colley. "If the goal of this was to make a little boy feel he could make a big difference, we want other kids to be able to feel that too."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


beyhanyazar/iStock(NEW YORK) -- New geologic data reveals that a crater in Western Australia is likely the oldest impact structure on Earth, according to a paper published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.

At roughly 2.2 billion years old, the approximately 40-mile wide Yarrabubba crater was previously considered to be among the Earth's oldest meteorite impact structures, but lacked a precise age -- until now.

To calculate the age of crater, scientists analyzed recrystallized mineral deposits, according to Timmons Erickson, lead author of the new paper and a research scientist at NASA.

"Without the precise age, we would have had no clue that Yarrabubba occurred at such an interesting time in Earth’s history," he told ABC News.

When life on Earth began to thrive, about 2.4 billion years ago, the atmosphere transitioned to having oxygen for the first time, Erickson said. During roughly the same time period, the Earth significantly cooled.

Erickson and his coauthors hypothesize that if the meteorite that caused the Yarrabubba crater crashed into a continental ice sheet, it could have potentially produced enough water vapor to significantly warm the Earth.

Although debris from craters older than the Yarrabubba crater has been found and dated in Australia and Africa previously, in those cases, scientists couldn't identify the craters that corresponded with the debris they found.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


CT757fan/iStock(BAGHDAD) -- Three rockets were fired into Baghdad's Green Zone, the heavily fortified area of the capital that houses the U.S. embassy, government buildings and U.S. service members.

The Katyusha rockets landed "in the vicinity of the Green Zone," but caused no casualties, according to Iraqi officials.

A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said they could hear the rockets at the military and embassy compound areas.

Rocket attacks on the Green Zone are very common.

There were at least two attacks just weeks ago, including most recently on Jan. 8 and previously on Jan. 4 and 5. There were no known casualties in any of the attacks.

The rocket attacks early in January were attributed to a response to the U.S. drone attack that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani outside Baghdad Airport.

Protests again surged in Baghdad on Monday with several people reported injured.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince Harry has left the U.K. and is flying to Canada to reunite with his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, and their 8-month-old son Archie, according to ABC News royal contributor Omid Scobie.

Harry, 35, boarded a flight late Monday afternoon, according to Scobie. Buckingham Palace has not commented on Harry's whereabouts.

Harry, the Duke of Sussex, made what could be one of his last official engagements as a senior member of the royal family Monday when he met with world leaders at the U.K.-Africa Investment Summit hosted by the U.K. government. Harry and Meghan visited Africa last year in what appears to be, at least for the foreseeable future, their last official royal tour of a foreign country.

Harry's brother and sister-in-law, Prince William and Duchess Kate, hosted an evening reception at Buckingham Palace for the summit, which Harry did not attend.

Instead, the sixth in line to the British throne returned to Vancouver Island, where he, Meghan and Archie stayed over the holidays. Meghan returned to the U.K. with Harry after the holidays and then flew back to Canada around the time the couple announced they planned to "step back" as senior members of the royal family.

Harry remained in the U.K. to negotiate his family's future, including attending a high-stakes summit with Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Prince William at Sandringham, the queen's Norfolk estate.

After more than a week of negotiations, Buckingham Palace announced on Saturday that beginning this spring, Harry and Meghan will no longer use their HRH titles and will be known only as Harry, the Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. The couple and Archie plan to spend the majority of their time living in North America, though they will keep their Frogmore Cottage home in the U.K., for which they will pay rent and all operating costs.

Harry and Meghan will no longer rely on public funds for their royal duties and will no longer travel overseas on behalf of Her Majesty. They are still members of the royal family and will attend family events like Trooping the Colour when invited by the queen, according to a palace source.

Prince Harry is losing his military titles and patronages including Captain General Royal Marines, Honorary Air Commandant Royal Air Force Honington and Small Ships and Diving, Royal Naval Command: Commodore in Chief. It's a significant loss for a royal who served in Afghanistan during his time in the British Army.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock(LONDON) -- Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, made their first public appearance Monday since the announcement of Prince Harry and Meghan's exit from the royal family.

William and Kate hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace on behalf of Queen Elizabeth to mark the U.K.-Africa Investment Summit that took place in London Monday.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Sentebale(LONDON) -- Prince Harry has made his first public comments about the decision he and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, made to no longer be "working members" of Britain's royal family.

"The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back, is not one I made lightly," Harry, 35, said Sunday night at an event to benefit his charity Sentebale. "It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges. And I know I haven't always gotten it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option."

Royal watchers noticed Harry's use of "I" in that line of his speech as much of the blame around Harry and Meghan's new future has been placed on Meghan, who gave up her life in Los Angeles and Toronto and her acting career when she married Prince Harry in 2018.

"I have grown up feeling support from so many of you, and I watched as you welcomed Meghan with open arms as you saw me find the love and happiness that I had hoped for all my life," Harry said. "Finally, the second son of Diana got hitched, hurray!"

"I also know you've come to know me well enough over all these years to trust that the woman I chose as my wife upholds the same values as I do. And she does, and she's the same woman I fell in love with," he added. "We both do everything we can to fly the flag and carry out our roles for this country with pride."

"Once Meghan and I were married, we were excited, we were hopeful, and we were here to serve," Harry said. "For those reasons, it brings me great sadness that it has come to this."

Buckingham Palace announced over the weekend that beginning this spring, Harry and Meghan will no longer use their HRH titles and will be known only as Harry, the Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. The couple and their 8-month-old son, Archie, plan to spend the majority of their time living in North America, though they will keep their Frogmore Cottage home in the U.K.

Harry and Meghan will no longer rely on public funds for their royal duties and will no longer travel overseas on behalf of Her Majesty. They are still members of the royal family and will attend family events like Trooping the Colour when invited by the queen, according to a palace source.

Prince Harry is losing his military titles and patronages including Captain General Royal Marines, Honorary Air Commandant Royal Air Force Honington and Small Ships and Diving, Royal Naval Command: Commodore in Chief. It's a significant loss for a royal who served in Afghanistan during his time in the British Army.

Harry and Meghan initially proposed in a bombshell announcement released via Instagram and a new website that they would simply "step back" as senior members of the royal family and work to become "financially independent," but after high-stakes negotiations with Harry's family and palace officials, Meghan and Harry's exit from royal life became more stark.

"What I want to make clear is we're not walking away, and we certainly aren't walking away from you," Harry said Sunday. "Our hope was to continue serving the queen, the commonwealth, and my military associations, but without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn't possible."

"I've accepted this, knowing that it doesn't change who I am or how committed I am," he said. "But I hope that helps you understand what it had to come to, that I would step my family back from all I have ever known, to take a step forward into what I hope can be a more peaceful life."

"You've looked out for me for so long, but the media is a powerful force, and my hope is one day our collective support for each other can be more powerful because this is so much bigger than just us," Harry said. "It has been our privilege to serve you, and we will continue to lead a life of service."

"We are taking a leap of faith. Thank you for giving me the courage to take this next step," he said.

In a moment of levity in his speech, Harry also thanked supporters for the excitement they've shown for Archie, whom he said recently saw snow for the first time and "thought it was bloody brilliant."

Archie and Meghan have remained in the Vancouver area of Canada while Harry has been in the U.K. negotiating their family's future. It is expected that Harry will join his wife and son soon, but he is still attending to royal duties in the U.K.

In addition to attending the Sentebale benefit Sunday, Prince Harry met with world leaders Monday at the U.K.-Africa Investment Summit hosted by the U.K. government. Harry and Meghan visited Africa last year in what appears to be, at least for the foreseeable future, their last official royal tour of a foreign country.

Harry is not expected to join an evening reception Monday night at Buckingham Palace for the summit hosted by his brother and sister-in-law, Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


nopparit/iStock(BEIJING) -- Chinese officials have announced 17 new cases of the new coronavirus, a SARS-like illness that began to spread in Wuhan, China, in December.

The total number of coronavirus infections in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, is now at 62, Hong Kong's Department of Health reported in a statement.

Two patients, both older adults, have died from the virus, which is in the same family as SARS, MERS and the common cold. Another eight patients are currently hospitalized in serious condition.

Travelers passing through San Francisco International Airport, New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport are being screened for pneumonia-like symptoms associated with the illness as concerns heighten that the virus will spread during increased travel for the Chinese New Year, which begins on Jan. 25 and ends on Feb. 8.

 On Thursday, a case of the coronavirus was reported in Japan. The patient, a man in his 30s, had traveled to Wuhan but did not visit the large seafood market in the city, which has been linked to many of the reported cases. Another case outside of China was reported on Monday in Thailand, where a Chinese tourist from Wuhan was hospitalized on Jan. 8.

The novel virus is a new strain that has not previously been identified in humans. The seafood market was shut down and disinfected on Jan. 1, but new cases suggested that the risk of transmission is not over.

There is no "clear evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission," since neither the patient in Japan nor the one in Thailand had visited the seafood market, according to the World Health Organization. However, health officials have not ruled out the possibility.

"There are indications that some limited person-to-person spread may have occurred," the CDC said on Friday.

 On Jan. 10, WHO published a range of interim guidance for all countries on how they can prepare for this virus including how to monitor for sick people, test samples and treat patients but did not recommend any restrictions on travel.

"Considering global travel patterns, additional cases in other countries are likely," according to WHO.

In 2003, a six-month outbreak of SARS in southern China sickened more than 8,000 people and killed 774, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Paul Grover- WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) --  Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are no longer "working members" of the royal family, according to Buckingham Palace.

With the queen's blessing, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are embarking on the "next chapter of their lives" by stepping back from their royal duties and will no longer receive public funds.

The new arrangement goes into effect in the spring of 2020 and will be reviewed in a year's time.

"This is seismic. It’s an abdication really," said Alastair Bruce, ABC News' royalty consultant.

"He was given the opportunity to serve as a member of the royal family but he has essentially abdicated from that and it’s all been put into abeyance."

Alastair notes that the children of the Earl of Wessex -- Harry’s uncle -- have also chosen not to use their HRH titles, or have their titles in abeyance, so Harry and Meghan are not unique in this respect.

Both will still be known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, according to a palace source.

"Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family," Queen Elizabeth said in a statement. "It is my whole family’s hope that today’s agreement allows them to start building a happy and peaceful new life."

They are still members of the royal family and will attend family events like Trooping the Colour when invited by the Queen, according to a palace source.

However, from now on, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex cannot travel on behalf of the queen, will not receive any public money and will not appear in the court circular, Bruce said.

Prince Harry is losing his military titles and patronages including Captain General Royal Marines, Honorary Air Commandant Royal Air Force Honington, Small Ships and Diving and Royal Naval Command: Commodore in Chief. He will also no longer be a Commonwealth Youth Ambassador. Harry and Meghan will keep their roles at the Queen's Commonwealth Truth -- Harry serves as president and Meghan is vice-president.

Harry losing his honorific military titles may be a particular sacrifice for him as they were important to him, especially his title as Captain General Royal Marines which he inherited from his grandfather, Prince Philip.

And Prince Andrew can no longer perform his military roles so the British military has lost a fair amount of royal support in recent.

"The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have shared their wish to repay Sovereign Grant expenditure for the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, which will remain their UK family home," according to a statement from the palace.

The Sussexes will obtain publicly funded security as they make their way to North America for a majority of their residence.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Sussex Police Department(LONDON) --  A London man running late for his flight reported a fake bomb threat to try and delay it, police said.

Rashidul Islam, 32, was going to meet his fiancee in Marrakech, but had issues with public transport on the way to his flight out of Gatwick and worried he would miss it, according to a statement from Sussex police on Friday.

He then allegedly decided to anonymously call the police and report a fake bomb threat.

"EasyJet flight 8897 leaves in 40 minutes ... There may be a bomb on the plane, you need to delay it, you need to stop it now," Islam told the operator, according to police.

Passengers and crew on the flight were evacuated and held in a gate room as authorities investigated.

Sussex Police Department

EasyJet could not be reached for comment.

When Islam arrived at the airport to check-in, police realized his number matched the one from the anonymous call, according to authorities.

He was taken into custody and admitted to making the fake threat, police said.

 Islam pleaded guilty to the offense on Friday in Lewes Crown Court and was sentenced to 16 months in jail. He has also been banned from Gatwick Airport.

"While the defendant expressed remorse, there is no excuse for his actions that day and he has been sentenced accordingly," Sussex Police Detective Constable Stephen Trott said in a statement.

Trott noted that making a false report does more than just cause significant costs and delays to the airport and passengers. "It also strikes fear into the community," he said.

The flight eventually took off at 8:45 p.m. local time, about three hours after its initial departure time.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Brett Hemmings/Getty Images(SYDNEY) --  Drivers in Australia can now face a penalty of up to $11,000 if they are caught tossing a lit cigarette out of their car.

The new punishment, which went into effect on Friday in New South Wales, can also apply to automobile passengers if they throw a cigarette. Passengers would be fined $1,320.

The hefty fine would be given if the offense was committed during a total fire ban, which is declared on days of extreme weather and prohibits people from the lighting of any fires in the open or engaging in other activities that may start a fire. It is not immediately clear how much a person would be fined when there isn't a fire ban.

The penalty comes amid the Australia bushfires that have decimated parts of the country.

New South Wales Rural Fire Service Association President Brian McDonough applauded the government's move to crack down on cigarette tossers. More than 200 people were caught tossing a lit cigarette out of their vehicle in New South Wales in 2019, according to a government press release.

"This reckless behavior puts the safety of firefighting volunteers at risk,” McDonough said in a statement. “I hope this move makes people think very carefully about the consequences of their actions next time they go to discard a lit cigarette.”

 In addition to the fine, offenders would receive 10 demerit points on their license.

During times when a fire ban isn't in effect, drivers will have only five demerit points added to their license.

It is the first sanction of its kind in New South Wales for such an offense.

The southeastern state has been particularly devastated by the bushfires this season.

More than 15 million acres of land have been destroyed across the country, at least 25 people have been killed and more than one billion animals are believed to have died.

More than 800 million of those animals are estimated to have been killed in New South Wales alone, according to an ecologist at The University of Sydney.

The fires began in September 2019 and are expected to continue for at least the next few weeks, though heavy rain this week offered some reprieve.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


spyarm/iStock(NEW YORK) -- EU DisinfoLab, in cooperation with newsroom fact-checkers, has uncovered a far-right Polish media operation running a website that was making slight changes to real, existing stories and re-posting them to sow discord.

The non-governmental organization, which collaborates with newsrooms throughout the European Union to combat misinformation, discovered the alleged news site after being contacted by fact-checkers from Agence France-Presse.

Roman Adamczyk, research coordinator for EU DisinfoLab, told ABC News he was contacted by the AFP fact-checkers after they saw suspicious activity on a site called France Libre 24. Adamcayk said a quick review of the site set off alarm bells for him.

"First, because it was using a name close to France 24, which is a real mainstream media in France," he said. "Then, we had a closer look at the content and we realized that a lot of articles in the website focused on polarizing topics such as identity, immigration, religion."

Adamczyk told ABC News that the articles cited mainstream media sources but were rewritten to change their meanings.

"Many articles were presented as being sourced from French mainstream media as a way to gain legitimacy," he said. "In reality, articles were rewritten with different titles, unproven or false details to modify completely the meaning of some stories, and therefore to spread disinformation."

EU DisinfoLab's Twitter feed documented how France Libre 24 wrote about a November 2019 soccer match in which an opposing team's fans lobbed racist slang at Mario Balotelli. The doctored story appeared to suggest that the incident didn't actually happen. Text toward the bottom of the article cited legitimate news agencies.

 Adamczyk said these signs led him to look more closely at who owned the domain. He discovered the site's IP address was shared with Wolnosc 24 and had been previously owned by a far-right-leaning Polish tabloid, Najwyższy Czas.

France 24, upon learning about France Libre 24, produced a broadcast segment to clarify that the two weren't associated. Twitter on Friday suspended the fake news site's account, according to Politico's European edition.

The ordeal raises concerns over how best to separate information from disinformation before it's too widely spread.

 "We are talking a lot today about media distrust, with people trusting less and less mainstream media," Adamcyzk said. "At the same time, pretending to be a media outlet is a technique which is more and more used by people who want to spread disinformation. It's a really big and complex paradox."

ABC News has written about potential solutions previously.

Readers unsure whether they're reading real news are encouraged to check that outlet's social media postings. In this case, France Libre 24's Facebook page was launched in July 2019. Clicking on that page would reveal that three people running the page were in Poland, not France.

"You need to be more active in front of the news you are seeing or you are reading and to diversify your sources of information," Adamcyzk exlained. "It's also important to take time to think about who is talking to you, who might b behind the media or the website you have in front of you.

"The less transparent a source is about its identity, especially when it presents itself as a legitimate media outlet, the more likely it might be an actor which tries to spread disinformation. So always try to investigate a bit deeper."

Clara Hanot, advocacy coordinator for EU DisinfoLab, also cautioned that misinformation isn't confined to election seasons.

"Disinformation campaigns are not conducted during election periods only, but are aimed at influencing opinion in the long run," she told ABC News. "As in the offline world, it's important to have the right safeguards in place to preserve the online public sphere from manipulation campaigns, to guarantee the free and fair nature of democratic deliberation."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


scyther5/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. military confirmed late Thursday that some American troops were evacuated for blast injuries sustained in Iran's ballistic missile attacks on bases in Iraq last week.

Ten service members injured at Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq were flown out of the country on Wednesday, and another service member was flown out on Jan. 10. Eight were taken to Landstuhl, Germany, while the three others were taken to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command.

"While no U.S. service members were killed in the Jan. 8 Iranian attack on Al Asad Air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed," said Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, in the statement released Thursday night. "As a standard procedure, all personnel in the vicinity of a blast are screened for traumatic brain injury, and if deemed appropriate are transported to a higher level of care."

"When deemed fit for duty, the service members are expected to return to Iraq following screening," Urban said. "The health and welfare of our personnel is a top priority and we will not discuss any individual's medical status."

Pentagon officials told reporters on Friday that some of the individuals did not report symptoms until several days after the attack.

"The symptoms of suspected TBI often do not fully materialize themselves until days after an injury and thus often require continued monitoring and follow on care," said Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah.

Because Al Asad does not have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan on base, it was determined the service members should receive treatment at other medical facilities, the officials said.

It was first disclosed that some Americans suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the Al Asad attack earlier this week when journalists were allowed to tour the damage to the base on Monday. The Pentagon and Defense Secretary Mark Esper were only notified on Thursday, less than 24 hours after the bulk of the troops were evacuated, the officials said.

Esper then told the department to release the information publicly, said Chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman. Staff at the White House were also informed of the evacuations, Farah said.

In the wake of the attack, which was done in retaliation for the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, President Donald Trump said no one was injured.

"I'm pleased to inform you the American people should be extremely grateful and happy," Trump said Jan. 8 in an address to the nation. "No Americans were harmed in last night's attack by the Iranian regime."

But the officials said the president was likely not aware of the service members with TBI symptoms. Injuries reported up the chain of command are those deemed life-threatening or if an individual loses a limb or eyesight. Given those reporting requirements, TBI would not meet the threshold for the Pentagon to be notified of the injuries, and that's why the department was only told on Thursday, officials said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Iranian Supreme Leader Press Office / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday that Iran's attack against a U.S. military base was "a blow to the U.S. image as a superpower."

Iran's supreme leader, who was leading prayers in Tehran for the first time in eight years, used the occasion to praise the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force and its former commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a close ally who was killed earlier this month in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad airport.

“[A] Day of Allah means when you witness the hand of God in incidents, the day that tens of millions in Iran and hundreds of thousands in Iraq and other countries came to the streets to honor the blood of the Quds Force commander, shaping the biggest farewell of the world,” Khamenei said. “Nothing can do that except of the powerful hand of God.”

“These are the turning points of the history,” he added. "The IRGC's reaction was a military blow, but even beyond, it was a blow to the U.S. image as a superpower."

Iran attacked two U.S. military bases in Iraq in the early hours of Jan. 8, five days after the killing of Soleimani. No one was killed in the attack.

Eleven American service members, however, were recently flown out of Iraq after sustaining head injuries in the strikes, the U.S. military announced.

As public sentiment in Iran turned against the U.S., with millions taking to the streets to mourn Soleimani’s death, the news was soon sidelined when a Ukrainian passenger airplane crashed in Tehran just hours after the missile attacks, killing all 176 passengers and crew members on board.

Despite the initial denial by Iranian aviation officials, officials in Tehran later admitted its air defense “unintentionally” fired missiles at the airplane..

But at Friday Prayers, Khamenei said that the plane crash and subsequent protests were being used by Iran’s enemies to distract from the IRGC victory in striking against the U.S. bases in Iraq.

“The plane crash made our enemy happy as much as it saddened us,” he said. “They used it as means of questioning the IRGC and the Islamic Republic system. But they made a mistake.”

Khamenei also criticized the U.K., France and Germany’s attempt to apply pressure on the regime to adhere to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal as another means to distract from Tehran’s perceived victory in its strike against the U.S. The three counties jointly announced this week that they “trigger the dispute mechanism” of the nuclear deal, which amounts to a formal accusation of Iran violating the terms of the agreement.

In response, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned during a televised cabinet meeting Wednesday that soldiers from the three European countries “may be in danger.”

Unless a resolution can be reached between the parties within a period 60 days, the three countries, who are still signatories to the deal despite the U.S. pulling out, could end up returning all of the pre-deal sanctions on Iran.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump moved to de-escalate the crisis in the aftermath of the Iranian missile attacks, saying that “Iran appears to be standing down” and the “American people should be extremely grateful.”

However, Tehran still blames Washington for withdrawing from the nuclear deal unilaterally in May 2018, and the government has denied any possibility of a new round of negotiations unless all of the nuclear-related sanctions on the country are lifted.

“The enemy’s negotiation is contaminated with fraud and deception,” Khamenei said. “The gentlemen behind the negotiation table are the same as the terrorists in the Baghdad airport. This is the same iron hand, but in [a] velvet glove.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


MivPiv/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- A Pentagon decision that could lead to a reduction in the number of U.S. troops in West Africa could come within four to eight weeks, according to Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The possible troop cut has drawn concerns that it could come at a time when the threat in the region from violent extremist groups is growing.

For months, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has been reassessing the mission priorities of the 5,200 troops currently stationed in Africa, part of a worldwide review by U.S. military commands to determine whether some missions should be cut in scope to realign their forces, resources and capabilities with the military's strategic focus on China and Russia.

The main focus of AFRICOM's review has been on the hundreds of American troops operating in West Africa who are providing logistical, intelligence and special operations support to the French military mission against Islamic extremist groups operating in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

Once AFRICOM's review is concluded Defense Secretary Mark Esper is expected to decide whether to accept the command's recommendations that may or may not include a possible troop cut in western Africa.

"I'd expect realistically that the AFRICOM review will be over and we'll probably get secretary-level decisions -- hard decisions, my guess is -- in a month or two maybe, maximum, maybe six weeks," Milley told reporters with him as he flew back to the United States from Europe, where he held meetings with his NATO counterparts.

News reports earlier this week that a U.S. troop withdrawal could occur sparked concerns from French officials.

A French presidential source told Agence France-Presse that the U.S. made "irreplaceable" contributions to its operations in west Africa, particularly with intelligence gathering and mid-air refueling.

"We would not be able to get these from other partners, especially when it comes to intelligence," said the official, who added that France would be sharing its concerns with the U.S. "at all levels."

Milley said the U.S. is working with the French to determine whether the level of support the U.S. is providing France is "too much, too little, is it about right, and is it the right capabilities."

But the nation's top military officer pushed back on the notion that "we are pulling out of Africa."

"I think that's a mischaracterization and an overstatement," said Milley.

"The proper term would be economy of force, which doesn't mean zero," he added. "It just means you've got to right-size it to the tasks and the threats at a level of effort that's appropriate to achieve your objectives."

As the National Defense Strategy prioritizes the U.S. military's focus on China and Russia, other geographic areas where the U.S. has operated in are becoming "economy of force" areas.

"Economy of force means you are going to use the least amount of force to achieve the minimum amount of objectives that you can achieve in support of the broader main effort," said Milley.

Milley said one question being asked by military officials conducting the review is whether the U.S. should be the one providing all the military support in the region.

"We certainly have capabilities, but the question is should they be applied or not," said Milley. "Maybe there are other countries that have the same types of capabilities that are not contributing that could contribute."

The majority of AFRICOM's 5,200 military personnel are serving at a base in the east African country of Djibouti where the U.S. supports Somalia's fight against the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab terror group.

The U.S. military presence in western Africa had historically involved the rotation of small numbers of U.S. troops helping to train local militaries.

But that all changed when France intervened in Mali in 2013 to push back Islamic extremists who seemed poised to overthrow that country's government.

The United States quickly provided intelligence and logistical support to the original French mission. Since then, Africa Command has regularly deployed small teams of U.S. special operations forces to the region, primarily advising and assisting the Nigerien military.

The number of American troops in western Africa peaked at 800 as the U.S. expanded a remote desert airstrip in Niger and turned it into a hub for drones used in intelligence-gathering missions around the region.

But America's growing military role remained little-known until October 2017, when four U.S. Army special operations soldiers were killed in an ambush. As a result of that incident, U.S. Africa Command increased the force protection and the resourcing of American military teams operating in western Africa.

U.S. Africa Command is the first of the U.S. military's regional commands to undertake the worldwide review of missions. Those responsible for South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia will soon be undertaking their own reviews.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Metropolitan Police(LONDON) -- A man in London has been sentenced to 10 years in jail for his part in a daring a smash-and-grab raid at a jewelry store, with the police sharing dramatic footage of the robbery.

The video shows the moment a black Range Rover plows through the front of the jewelry store in Shepherds Bush, London, on Oct. 25, 2019.

With the store's front windows smashed, three masked individuals exit the vehicle then proceed to break the casings with what appear to be large sledgehammers. The robbers ransack the store, putting jewelry into bags as onlookers are left stunned.

But as the suspects attempt to flee the scene of the crime, members of the public are seen gathering outside, and one of them prevents the robbers from leaving the store by waving what appears to be a large pole. The robbers are then forced to smash through another door using a hammer, leaving the Range Rover at the scene.

Although the trio is seen on the video escaping the store, one of them, Ben Wegener, was collared outside by members of the public and was arrested at the scene.

The other two suspects managed to escape and are still at large.

Wegener, 34, pleaded guilty to robbery, possession of an offensive weapon, dangerous driving, criminal damage and receiving stolen goods in November, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Jan. 16.

Detective Constable Sam Weller, who led the investigation into the robbery, said that it was "sheer luck" nobody was hurt in the incident.

“This was a reckless robbery committed in front of shoppers on a busy high street," Weller said in a statement. "It was sheer luck that no one was seriously injured when the vehicle smashed through the shop front, and the shop owner and customers were threatened with serious violence when the robbers where inside."

"The raid was thwarted by members of the public who chased down and held Wegener as he tried to escape. This was a terrifying incident for the victims and everyone who witnessed it unfold," he added.

The Metropolitan Police are now urging anyone with information about the other two individuals involved to come forward as they seek to identify them.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Complaint Line

Keep Informed
Local News

WJTN News Headlines for Jan. 21, 2020

Flames have destroyed a multiple-story home in the city of Jamestown's northside.  City fire crews were called to the scene at 614 Spring Street about 6:40 AM Monday in bitterly cold temperat...

Read More

Join Us Facebook