World

Notre Dame restoration on track to be completed by 5th anniversary of tragic fire

Anna Rabemanantsoa/ABC News

(PARIS) -- The restoration work inside Notre Dame cathedral is ramping up.

Less than two years before the grand reopening, Notre Dame’s exceptional stained glass windows and paintings, which were spared by the flames that ravaged the monument back in April 2019, are now being given a fresh look.

This past spring, eight workshops of master glassmakers and artistic locksmiths were selected across France and entrusted with the cleaning and restoration of the cathedral’s stained glass windows.

“This is the first time they have been cleaned since … they were laid in the 19th century, 150 years ago,” president of the Manufacture Vincent-Petit and restorer Flavie Vincent-Petit revealed to ABC News.

Located in the city of Troyes, Vincent-Petit’s workshop has been awarded the cleaning and restoration of the stained glass windows of eight high bays.

“[Notre Dame] represents all the French and European medieval culture of the Middle Ages and how finally all these European nations were built around a spiritual impulse,” Vincent-Petit told ABC News, adding “It is extremely positive to be able to participate in the reconstruction.”

After months of preparatory work -- including decontamination against lead due to fire, documentation and restoration tests -- the restorers are only now starting the delicate and arduous cleaning and restoration process.

But caring for Notre Dame’s stained glass windows is not solely a French affair as the Cologne Cathedral workshop from Germany has joined the effort by restoring the stained glass windows of four other high bays.

Another project in this huge undertaking is the restoration of 22 paintings out of the 25 removed from the cathedral post fire.

Global donations for the project is an estimated at around €2,700,000 euros (approximately $2,703,000) and their restoration is carried out by 50 experts under the project management of the Regional Department of Cultural Affairs of Île-de-France (DRAC).

“No damage requiring the restoration of these paintings is linked to the fire of Notre Dame. These canvases are restored because they are old. Their restorations date back decades,” regional conservator of historical monuments at the DRAC Ile-de-France, Antoine-Marie Préaux, told ABC News.

At work since October 2021 in a secret location near Paris, the experts have been repairing 17th and 18th century works by masters such as French painters Charles Le Brun and Jacques Blanchard, as well as Italian painter Guido Reni, by sometimes recreating colors that no longer exist with the help of period documents.

Notre Dame is currently scheduled to reopen on April 15, 2024, exactly five years to the day after the devastating fire destroyed the upper part of Notre-Dame Cathedral and the surrounding areas.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


US military medical teams try new approach in Central America

Tech. Sgt. Joshua Smoot/U.S. Air Force

(CENTRAL AMERICA) -- U.S. military medical teams have carried out medical missions in Central America for decades, but a recently completed mission to Honduras and Guatemala may set a new standard for future health care missions.

During what was known as HEART 22, the military's acronym for Health Engagements Assistance Response Team, about 50 military medical personnel worked out of major medical facilities in Honduras and Guatemala, working alongside local doctors and medical staff who will provide enduring medical care to the patients treated during the mission.

HEART 22 was a departure from previous medical missions carried out solely by the U.S. military at rural medical facilities. About 50 U.S. Air Force and Army medical professionals and support staff participated in the two-month mission that began in July providing eye surgeries, dental care, and orthopedic surgeries for a month in Honduras and two weeks in Guatemala.

"We see it as a great opportunity to really enhance and cooperate in collaboration with the host nation and more on one on one basis, sharing experiences sharing knowledge, and providing excellent quality of care for the population in the area," Dr. Richard Aviles told ABC News. Aviles is a Honduran doctor who for the last 30 years has helped organize the U.S. military medical missions run by Joint Task Force Bravo in Central America.

Based in Honduras since 1984, JTF Bravo, as it is more commonly known, is one of the U.S. military's longest lasting overseas military missions but little known to the American public.

Established at a time when the U.S. was concerned about Central American insurgencies backed by the Soviet Union, the mission evolved into a counter-narcotics mission and now focuses on humanitarian and disaster relief. JTF Bravo is made up of 500 U.S. military personnel and 500 American and Honduran civilians operating at an airbase in central Honduras.

Originally planned to take place before the COVID19 pandemic, Heart 22 was a new initiative by U.S. Southern Command to address requests by Central American governments for a different type of military medical mission.

It "allows us to have some targeted engagement with regional partners at their request, helping them meet the needs of their specific country and their health systems," Col. Phillip Brown, JTF-Bravo's commander, told ABC News in an interview.

"It was a very tangible way for us to demonstrate that we are the trusted regional partner and you get to see it in action in a very local level in these hospitals," he added.Addressing previous concerns about the need for follow-on care in remote locations after U.S. teams left smaller medical facilities, HEART 22 focused on larger hospitals in major cities in Honduras and Guatemala.

For example, at San Felipe Hospital in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, U.S. military ophthalmologists worked with Honduran doctors in what Aviles characterized as a "win-win for both sides."

"Because patients are guaranteed that they're going to have their follow up," said Aviles. "That's something that we have learned throughout the years with JTF Bravo in where it's critical for us to guarantee that."

Aviles said JTF Bravo had stopped doing ophthalmology in Honduras in 2009 "[s]imply because we were not finding the volunteer ophthalmologist that will do the follow up for the patients," which is something they had tried to guarantee.

"The first rule in medicine is don't do harm, and that's important for us," he added. "That's why we're happy that we now have this concept like in HEART where we can work side by side with the ophthalmologist and it actually encourages them as well to participate."

"There's ownership by the host nation instead of just coming in serving just the people," he said. "We still serve the people in need, but there's a participation and degree of bigger degree of responsibility from the host nation providers."

About 1,200 patients were treated by HEART 22 medical teams working at four major hospitals to help alleviate a surgical backlog that had built up since the pandemic.

"We helped out a lot of people that didn't have access to certain funds in regards to orthopedic cases, ophthalmologic cases ,and dental," said Capt. Alexandre Rogan, the U.S. Air Force officer in charge of the mission in Guatemala.

That meant bringing in surgeons and dentists proficient in medical techniques that shorten recovery times, as well as equipment and supplies that were left behind.

"Because we have more time than just a day or two on ground, we're able to then truly identify those that are in need, provide a continuity of care for them, and then ensure that continuous follow up happens," said Rogan.

The medical team that served as part of HEART 22 adjusted to different working scenarios in Honduras and Guatemala.

"It gives you a more well-rounded opportunity because you got a different experience in each country in a way," Sr. Airman Alexsis Green, a dental assistant stationed at Minot AFB in North Dakota, said in an interview.

Green explained that because of the large dental program at Tegucigalpa's Hospital Escuela "they had us jump right on in so we were working hand in hand with them" while at the hospital in the western Guatemalan city of Quetzaltenango the U.S. team carried out most of the dental procedures because the local dental team was much smaller.

To enable long-term care at the hospitals they worked at the HEART 22 team left behind medical equipment and supplies they had brought with them.
Green said that included several dental chairs that would be used at Hospital Escuela that would enable the treatment of additional patients.

The dental assistant described her HEART 22 experience as an "awesome opportunity" where both the U.S. and local teams learned from each other.

"I hope that this mission continues throughout the years and allows other people that opportunity," she said.

"We've been asked to come back," said Rogan. "Our partner nations would love for us to do this again."

But details about how that could happen remain to be determined as the original planning for HEART 22 was for it to be a onetime mission.

JTF Bravo commander Col. Brown understands the interest by Central American nations in replicating the new mission but knows that will come with challenges.

While smaller medical missions like the ones carried out by JTF Bravo for decades will continue, Brown sees the value in another HEART mission.
"I don't think we can close the door on whether we can do HEART 2.0 again that makes sense."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden slaps new sanctions on Russia after Putin annexes parts of Ukraine

omersukrugoksu/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- For months, the U.S. has warned that the Kremlin would move to annex occupied areas of Ukraine. But now that Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday has certified the annexation of four territories into the Russian Federation, all eyes turned to the Western response to the provocation.

Within minutes of Putin's action, President Joe Biden shot back.

"The United States condemns Russia’s fraudulent attempt today to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory. Russia is violating international law, trampling on the United Nations Charter, and showing its contempt for peaceful nations everywhere," he said in a statement.

"Make no mistake: these actions have no legitimacy. The United States will always honor Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. We will continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to regain control of its territory by strengthening its hand militarily and diplomatically, including through the $1.1 billion in additional security assistance the United States announced this week," he said.

He announced new sanctions, in conjunction with Western allies and partners.

"These sanctions will impose costs on individuals and entities -- inside and outside of Russia -- that provide political or economic support to illegal attempts to change the status of Ukrainian territory. We will rally the international community to both denounce these moves and to hold Russia accountable. We will continue to provide Ukraine with the equipment it needs to defend itself, undeterred by Russia’s brazen effort to redraw the borders of its neighbor. And I look forward to signing legislation from Congress that will provide an additional $12 billion to support Ukraine," Biden said.

The European Union has already moved to implement a host of new trade restrictions. At the United Nations, a U.S. sponsored resolution condemning the land grab will soon be introduced before the organization's Security Council.

But so far, financial restrictions and public shaming have done little to constrain Putin's imperialistic goals, prompting Ukrainian officials to call for a shift in strategy.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pushed the U.S. to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, which installs secondary sanctions -- penalizing any business or entity that does business with the country. So far, the Biden administration has been adamantly against it, saying it could inhibit efforts to move aid to Ukraine and other needy countries, as well hinder any future peace talks.

Still, Kyiv has been undeterred.

David Arakhamia, one of Zelenskyy's closest advisers, during a visit to Washington on Thursday, said that he felt "more optimistic" after meeting with lawmakers, saying he felt Congress was continuing to "put political pressure" on the White House to shift its policy.

"We want to see as much financial impact on Russia as possible," Arakhamia said during a press conference. "If we make Russia poor, that means we increase our chances for Ukraine to win."

Oleksandra Ustinova, a member of Ukraine's parliament, argued at the same event that the administration also needs to specifically say how it will punish Putin.

"It is very important for us that the United States exactly what they're going to do before Putin makes the next steps," Ustinova said. "Because he's a bully. He's testing how far he can go."

Ustinova said Ukrainian officials had directly pushed the U.S. government to "state how hard you're going to hit him" and to crack down harder on Russian financial institutions.

"That would make him think twice," she said.

When it comes to Putin's nuclear threats, the administration has been especially stringent, sticking to its policy of "strategic ambiguity" -- declining to say just how the West might respond to the ultimate aggression -- as an attempt to walk the line between deterrence and escalation.

Arakhamia said he was hopeful NATO would spell out specifically what it would do in that worst-case scenario and that Ukraine would receive collective defense guarantees, but either would mark a significant shift and one that could have weighty implications for the conflict.

A more likely and immediate response is expected to be an infusion of military and economic aid from Congress, which is set to pass a stopgap funding bill with more than $12 billion more for Ukraine on Friday. But already, some of the recent rounds of aid announced have included weaponry that still needs to be produced, meaning it won't make it to the battlefield for months or years -- and signaling surpluses in allies' armories are running low.

"We think it's high time the United States and other allies actually warm up production up to the scale of wartime," urged Anastasia Radina, another member of Ukraine's parliament. "Because it is now wartime for the whole civilized world."

"No one has seen anything like this since World War II," said Ustinova.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Russia-Ukraine live updates: Putin formally annexes occupied Ukrainian regions

Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Image

(NEW YORK) -- More than six months after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion into neighboring Ukraine, the two countries are engaged in a struggle for control of areas throughout eastern and southern Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose forces began an offensive in August, has vowed to take back all Russian-occupied territory. But Putin in September announced a mobilization of reservists, which is expected to call up as many as 300,000 additional troops.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Sep 30, 11:29 AM EDT
Biden slams Russia for 'fraudulent attempt' to annex parts of Ukraine

President Joe Biden condemned Russia's "fraudulent attempt today to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory" in a statement Friday.

"Make no mistake: these actions have no legitimacy. The United States will always honor Ukraine's internationally recognized borders. We will continue to support Ukraine's efforts to regain control of its territory by strengthening its hand militarily and diplomatically, including through the $1.1 billion in additional security assistance the United States announced this week," Biden wrote.

Biden also said the U.S. and its partners would be imposing new sanctions on individuals and entities inside and out of Russia "that provide political or economic support to illegal attempts to change the status of Ukrainian territory."

He added, "We will rally the international community to both denounce these moves and to hold Russia accountable. We will continue to provide Ukraine with the equipment it needs to defend itself, undeterred by Russia's brazen effort to redraw the borders of its neighbor. And I look forward to signing legislation from Congress that will provide an additional $12 billion to support Ukraine."

Sep 30, 10:37 AM EDT
Zelenskyy signs application for accelerated accession to NATO

In the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin saying he has annexed occupied territories in Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine is applying for "accelerated accession" to NATO, saying it is already de-facto allied with the alliance's members.

"Today, here in Kyiv, in the heart of our country, we are taking a decisive step for the security of the entire community of free nations," he said in a statement.

Sep 30, 9:28 AM EDT
Putin formally annexes occupied Ukrainian regions

Vladimir Putin has formally annexed four occupied territories in Ukraine, the biggest land grab in Europe since World War II and one of the most egregious violations of international law since then.

It is a key moment in the war with major implications for what happens next.

Russia has annexed 15% of Ukraine’s territory, including several major cities -- but right now none of the areas Putin is seizing are under full Russian control and all are facing Ukrainian efforts to retake them.

The annexation will absorb the self-declared People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas region, as well as parts of the southern Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions that Russia occupies.

At a ceremony in the Kremlin today Putin signed “treaties of accession” with the Russian-installed leaders of the regions.

Meanwhile, on Red Square outside, preparations have been made for a large concert-rally to celebrate the annexation.

This is another no-going back moment for Putin. By making these territories part of Russia itself he has made negotiations even more difficult. He has locked himself into a long war and linked the survival of his regime to it.

He cannot give up the regions in negotiations -- in 2020, when he changed the constitution to let him stay in power beyond his term limits he also introduced a new clause that forbids Russian president’s from giving up any Russian land.

But perhaps even more importantly, he is likely to lose parts of these regions -- Ukraine is on the counteroffensive still in northeast Donbas and Kherson.

The Kremlin on Friday said it will treat attacks on the newly annexed regions as direct attacks on Russia itself. The implied threat is that Putin could use nuclear weapons in some form against Ukraine if it does not stop.

Most experts believe that for now Putin is very unlikely to use a nuclear weapon -- they see his threats as bluffs. But, they say the risk he might is growing and is now the most serious it has been.

For now, many experts believe Putin would prefer to use mobilized troops to try to stabilize Russia’s front lines in Ukraine and then try to outlast the West through the energy crisis this winter. But should Ukraine continue to advance and Russia’s position in the newly annexed regions starts to collapse, the risk he will use a nuclear weapon could grow.

-ABC News' Patrick Reevell

Sep 30, 4:20 AM EDT
Major attack on civilian convoy near Zaporizhzhia leaves many feared dead and injured

Ukrainian officials say a Russian strike on a humanitarian convoy has killed at least 23 people and wounded 28.

The convoy of about 40 vehicles was heading into Russian-occupied territory to pick up their relatives and then take them to safety when it was struck.

Videos that have emerged from the scene show destroyed vehicles along the road and what appears to me a number of casualties as well.

Sep 29, 6:31 PM EDT
Putin signs decrees for annexation of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia

Russian President Vladimir Putin took the intermediary step on Thursday of signing decrees paving the way for the occupied Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to be formally annexed into Russia.

The Kremlin publicly released the decrees.

Putin is scheduled to hold a signing ceremony in the Kremlin on Friday to formally annex the two regions, along with the Russian-occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

-ABC News' Jason Volack

Sep 29, 7:05 AM EDT
Putin to formally annex occupied Ukraine territories on Friday

Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a signing ceremony in the Kremlin on Friday to formally annex the areas of Ukraine that Russia has occupied, his spokesman has said.

The ceremony will be to sign “treaties of accession” with the four regions created by Russia’s occupation forces -- the two self-declared Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and the Zaporozhzhia and Kherson regions.

Putin will also deliver a major speech to lawmakers gathered there, his spokesman said.

It is a major moment in the war -- another no-going-back moment for Putin. In reality, none of the areas being annexed are under full control of Russia right now as all are seeing fighting and facing Ukrainian efforts to re-take them.

If Putin attempts to annex the occupied regions, it will be one of the most egregious violations of international law in Europe since World War II.

Sep 28, 12:21 PM EDT
State department advises US citizens to leave Russia

American citizens are being advised by the U.S. State Department to get out of Russia immediately.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has issued an alert, saying "severe limitations" could prevent it from assisting U.S. citizens still in the country.

"If you wish to depart Russia, you should make independent arrangements as soon as possible," the alert said.

Noting that Russia has begun a military mobilization against Ukraine, U.S. Embassy officials warned Americans with dual Russian citizenship that they could get drafted by Russia.

"Russia may refuse to acknowledge dual nationals U.S. citizenship, deny their access to U.S. consular assistance, prevent their departure from Russia, and conscript dual nationals for military service," the alert said.

The alert also advised U.S. citizens to avoid political or social protests in Russia, saying Americans have been arrested in Russia for participating in demonstrations.

"We remind U.S. citizens that the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are not guaranteed in Russia," the alert said.

Sep 27, 3:56 PM EDT
66,000 Russians cross European borders since Putin announced draft

Roughly 66,000 Russian citizens have fled across borders into European countries amid Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement last week of a military mobilization against Ukraine, the European Border and Coast Guard said Tuesday.

The number of Russian citizens pouring into Europe was up 30% compared to last week, according to the agency which also goes by the name Frontex.

Most of the Russian citizens are entering the European Union through Finnish and Estonian border crossing points, Frontex said on Twitter.

Putin announced on Sept. 21 that he is ordering the mobilization of 300,000 recruits to fight in Ukraine, prompting widespread protests and clashes with police across Russia.

In recent days, photos have emerged of huge traffic jams at border crossings. On Monday, the wait at the border between Russia and Georgia was estimated to be 40 to 50 hours, according to the independent Russian news outlet The Insider.

Sep 27, 1:56 PM EDT
'Sham referenda' in Russia-occupied Ukraine going Kremlin's way

Partial results from what Ukraine and its Western allies have called "sham" referendums in four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine show that more than 96% of voters favor becoming part of Russia, according to the state-owned Russian news agency RIA.

Voting has taken place over five days in the four areas -- Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

The early results showed that 97.93% of voters in the Luhansk People's Republic favored joining the Russian Federation, according to the data. In Donetsk People's Republic, early results showed 98.69% favored joining the Russian Federation.

In Zaporizhzhia, 97.81% of voters cast ballots to join Russia and 96.75% of voters in Kherson also favored joining Russia, according to the data.

President Joe Biden and other Group of 7 leaders condemned Russia's "sham referenda" in occupied Ukrainian territories, calling it a Russian attempt to "create a phony pretext for changing the status of Ukrainian sovereign territory."

Sep 27, 12:42 PM EDT
Leaks in major gas pipeline between Russia and Europe investigated following blasts

Leaks in a major gas pipeline running from Russia to Europe under the Baltic Sea have been detected after the Swedish seismic network said it registered blasts near the pipeline.

The leaks in the Nord Stream pipeline were first reported on Monday by Denmark's maritime authority and photos released by Denmark's Defense Command showed what appeared to be gas bubbling up to the surface.

The operator of the pipeline said the leaks were detected southeast of the Danish island Bornholm.

The underwater pipeline runs about 764 miles from Russia to Germany.

While the cause of the leaks remains under investigation, unconfirmed report reports from Germany allege authorities suspect sabotage.

Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of causing leaks in a "terrorist attack," according to the BBC.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak alleged the damage to the pipeline was an "an act of aggression" by Russia toward the European Union.

Sep 27, 12:18 PM EDT
Aid to Ukraine detailed in bill to keep US government running

A continuing resolution to keep the federal government running through Dec. 16 was released by Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday morning and breaks down how $12.3 billion in the package earmarked for Ukraine will be spent.

For the first time, Congressional lawmakers, at the insistence of GOP members, will require U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to provide a report "on the execution of funds for defense articles and services provided Ukraine," according to a summary of the resolution.

Both houses of Congress must vote on the resolution by Friday to avoid a government shutdown.

The resolution includes $3 billion for "security assistance" for Ukraine and authorizes an additional $3.7 billion in weapons for President Joe Biden to drawdown from U.S. stocks to support Ukraine’s military. It will also authorize $35 million to respond to potential nuclear and radiological incidents in Ukraine in an apparent reply to Russian President Valdimir Putin's thinly-veiled nuclear threats in a televised speech last week.

In addition, the resolution calls for $2.4 billion to replenish U.S. stocks of weapons already sent to Ukraine and to provide Ukraine.

The new assistance for Ukraine would be on top of the $53 billion Congress has already approved through two previous bills.

-ABC News' Lauren Minore and Trish Turner

Sep 26, 1:29 PM EDT
40- to 50-hour wait as people attempt to flee Russia into Georgia to avoid military draft: Report

A massive line of traffic continued to grow Monday at the border between Russia and Georgia as huge numbers of Russians seek to flee the country amid fears they will be drafted to fight in the war in Ukraine.

Drone video, posted on Twitter by the independent Russian news outlet The Insider, showed hundreds of cars and trucks backed up for miles at the Verkhny Lars border between the two countries.

The Insider reported that people are waiting 40-50 hours in the line to cross.

Tens of thousands of Russians are trying to flee the country following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement last week of a military mobilization of 300,000 more troops against Ukraine. Besides the Russia-Georgia border, large crowds of people attempting to leave the country have been packing border crossings into Finland, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and others.

Sep 26, 12:08 PM EDT
New clashes break out in Russia between police and protesters over Kremlin's mobilization

More clashes broke out Monday in Russia's Dagestan capital city, as police tried to disperse hundreds of protesters demonstrating against the Kremlin’s military mobilization of men to fight in Ukraine.

Videos circulating on social media showed scuffles between protesters and police in Makhachkala.

On Sunday, there were violent clashes in Dagestan, with police firing warning shots and people angrily shouting chants against the mobilization.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week that he is mobilizing 300,000 more troops against Ukraine.

The announcement sparked major protests in Moscow and at least 30 other cities across Russia over the weekend. At least 17 military recruitment offices have been targeted with arson attacks. A man was detained by authorities on Monday after he allegedly opened fire on a recruitment center in Siberia, severely injuring a recruitment officer.

Sep 26, 11:01 AM EDT
US sending Ukraine $457.5 million in civilian security assistance

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday that the U.S. will give Ukraine another $457.5 million in civilian security assistance to bolster the efforts of Ukrainian law enforcement and criminal justice agencies "to improve their operational capacity and save lives.”

Blinken said some of the funds will also go toward supporting efforts to “document, investigate, and prosecute atrocities perpetrated by Russia's forces.” He said that since December, the United States has pledged more than $645 million toward supporting Ukrainian law enforcement.

Blinken's announcement follows a U.N.-led investigation that found Russian troops had committed war crimes in occupied areas of Ukraine, including the rape, torture and imprisonment of children.

Sep 26, 10:14 AM EDT
Ukrainian first lady 'worried' about Russian mobilization

In a new interview, Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenka told ABC News that recent developments in the war are upsetting, saying this is not an "easy period" for the people of Ukraine.

"When the whole world wants this war to be over, they continue to recruit soldiers for their army," said Zelenska, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement last week that he is mobilizing 300,000 more troops against Ukraine. "Of course, we are concerned about this. We are worried and this is a bad sign for the whole world."

Zelenska, who spoke with ABC News' Amy Robach through a translator, said Ukrainians will continue to persevere in the face of conflict.

"The main difference between our army and the Russian army is that we really know what we are fighting for," she said.

Zelenska attended the United Nations General Assembly in-person in New York City, where she spoke to ABC News about the U.N.'s recent finding that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine by Russian troops. An appointed panel of independent legal experts reported that Russian soldiers have "raped, tortured, and unlawfully confined" children in Ukraine, among other crimes.

"On the one hand, it's horrible news, but it's the news that we knew about already," she said. "On the other hand, it's great news that the whole world can finally see that this is a heinous crime, that this war is against humanity and humankind."

Sep 26, 5:40 AM EDT
Man opens fire at Russian military enlistment office

A man has opened fire at a military enlistment office in eastern Russia, severely injuring a recruitment officer there.

An apparent video of the shooting was circulating online, showing a man shooting the officer at a podium in the officer in the city of Irkutsk.

Irkutsk’s regional governor confirmed the shooting, naming the officer injured as Alexander V. Yeliseyev and saying he is in intensive care in a critical condition.

The alleged shooter has been detained, according to the governor.

Sep 25, 12:49 PM EDT
Russia Defense Ministry announces high-level leadership shake-up

The Russian Defense Ministry announced a high-level shake-up in its military leadership amid reports Russian forces are struggling in the war against Ukraine.

The defense ministry said Saturday that Col. Gen. Mikhail Y. Mizintsev has been promoted to deputy defense minister overseeing logistics, replacing four-star Gen. Dmitri V. Bulgakov, 67, who had held the post since 2008.

Bulgakov was relieved of his position and is expected to be transferred "to another job,” the Defense Ministry statement said.

The New York Times reported that Mizintsev -- whom Western officials dubbed the “butcher of Mariupol" after alleged atrocities against civilians surfaced in the Ukrainian city in March, previously served as chief of Russia’s National Defense Management Center, which oversees military operations and planning.

In this previous role, Mizintsev became one of the public faces of the war in Ukraine, informing the public about what the Kremlin still calls a “special military operation.”

Mizintsev was put on international sanctions lists and accused of atrocities for his role in the brutal siege of the Mariupol.

Sep 25, 11:58 AM EDT
Russian recruits report for military mobilization

Newly recruited Russian soldiers are reporting for duty in response to the Kremlin's emergency mobilization to bolster forces in Ukraine, according to photographs emerging from Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week a mobilization to draft more than 300,000 Russians with military expertise, sparking anti-war protests across the country and prompting many to try to flee Russia to avoid the draft.

Putin signed a law with amendments to the Russian Criminal Code upping the punishments for the crimes of desertion during periods of mobilization and martial law.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in an interview Sunday with ABC News This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos that Russia's military draft is more evidence Russia is "struggling" in its invasion of Ukraine. He also said "sham referendums" going on in Russia-backed territories of eastern and southern Ukraine are also acts of desperation by the Kremlin.

"These are definitely not signs of strength or confidence. Quite the opposite: They're signs that Russia and Putin are struggling badly," Sullivan said while noting Putin's autocratic hold on the country made it hard to make definitive assessments from the outside.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Queen Elizabeth II's cause of death revealed on her death certificate

Eddie Mulholland - WPA Pool/Getty Images

(LONDON) -- The cause of death for Queen Elizabeth II has been made public on her death certificate.

The queen's cause of death was old age, according to the Press Association, which cited the queen's death certificate.

The late monarch died on Sept. 8, 2022, at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. She was 96 years old at the time of her death.

The death certificate also revealed that Elizabeth died at 3:10 p.m. local time, and the informant of her death was Anne, the Princess Royal.

Anne is the queen's second eldest child and the only daughter of her four children with the late Prince Philip.

Anne was with the queen in her final hours, along with King Charles III, Elizabeth's eldest child, who inherited the throne upon her death.

The queen's younger sons Princes Andrew and Edward, along with other family members, including her grandsons Princes William and Harry, later traveled to Balmoral as well.

Anne would go on to escort her mother's coffin at every step of its journey from Balmoral Castle to St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, where the queen is buried.

The queen was hospitalized in late October 2021 for what Buckingham Palace described as "preliminary investigations." After a one-night hospital stay, the queen returned home to Windsor Castle, where she resumed her work, the palace said at the time.

A few weeks later, on Nov. 14, the queen missed the annual Remembrance Sunday service after she sprained her back, Buckingham Palace said in a statement at the time.

In February 2022, the queen tested positive for COVID-19 but had only "mild cold-like symptoms" as a result of the virus, according to the palace.

Two months later, in April, she celebrated her 96th birthday at Sandringham, her country estate in Norfolk.

In June, the queen celebrated her Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years on the throne.

She attended just three events during the four-day celebration, due to what Buckingham Palace described at the time as "some discomfort."

The queen's last public appearance came just two days before she died, on Sept. 6, when she held an in-person audience at Balmoral Castle with Britain's new prime minister, Liz Truss.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Here's how climate change intensifies hurricanes

NASA

(NEW YORK) -- Hurricane Ian made landfall on Florida's west coast as a powerful Category 4 storm, with near record-breaking winds of up to 155 mph. Officials said the storm has wrecked havoc and "decimated" neighborhoods.

A few weeks ago, Hurricane Fiona, also a Category 4 storm, knocked out power across the entire country of Puerto Rico.

Even though this year's hurricane season was off to a quieter start than most, so far there have been nine named tropical storms, four of them strengthened to hurricanes and, just in the last month, two reached major hurricane status, creating widespread damage across the Atlantic, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Scientists said that the intensity of these storms will increase as the Earth's climate warms, reported the NOAA. Intensified hurricanes bring stronger winds, heavier rain and devastating storm surges, meaning walls of water can swell as much as 12 to 18 feet. As sea levels rise, so do devastating storm surges.

The Gulf Coast -- especially Florida -- is particularly vulnerable to storm surges, according to ABC News reporting.

"The waters of the Gulf of Mexico just simply aren't that deep, over a lot of the Florida coastal waters just offshore," said Ryan Truchelut, chief meteorologist at Weather Tiger, a consulting and risk management firm, to ABC News. "If there's wind pushing water toward that direction, it's shallow, it has nowhere to go. So it kind of amplifies and goes further inland."

Most recently, Hurricane Ian broke the storm surge record in Florida as it moved on shore.

Global warming not only leads to rising sea levels that increase the risk of coastal flooding, but also creates more moisture in the atmosphere which is more likely to cause more intense rain when hurricanes make landfall, according to researchers at NASA.

"In a hurricane, spiraling winds draw moist air toward the center, fueling the towering thunderstorms that surround it," according to Dr. Angela Colbert for NASA's global climate change initiative. "As the air continues to warm due to climate change, hurricanes can hold more water vapor, producing more intense rainfall rates in a storm."

Hurricane Ian has since downgraded to a tropical storm since it came ashore Wednesday. It is forecast to move off the northeast of Florida before hitting the Carolinas.

For people who live in hurricane-threatened areas, officials said the best thing to do is be prepared.

"If you plan, you don't have to panic," said Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson to ABC News about the impact of Hurricane Ian.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Cuba working to restore power after Hurricane Ian causes national blackout

John Elk III/Getty Images, FILE

(NEW YORK) -- Work is underway to restore power to Cuba, after Hurricane Ian knocked out electricity to the entire island.

Ian made landfall as a Category 3 storm on Tuesday, hitting the island's western end. Tuesday night, Cuban state media reported that there was no power on the island.

The Electrical Union of Cuba said Tuesday that there was no electricity being generated due to weather impacts, and that power would be gradually restored.

Through generators, electrical service has since returned to some customers in about a dozen provinces, primarily in the central and eastern regions of the country, the Electrical Union of Cuba said Wednesday. The company said it is working to connect the national electricity system.

The western provinces were especially hard-hit by the hurricane, which made landfall over western Cuba early on Tuesday morning with winds estimated at a maximum of 125 mph.

The center of Ian made landfall just southwest of the town of La Coloma in the Pinar Del Rio province of Cuba at 4:30 a.m, the National Hurricane Center said. The province -- known for its tobacco fields, an important agricultural industry -- was devastated by the storm. The hurricane also caused significant damage to homes, the electrical system and other infrastructure.

At least two people were killed in the Pinar Del Rio province, according to state media, including a woman killed by a falling wall and another by a collapsed roof.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel visited Pinar Del Rio on Tuesday to survey the damage, which he said was "great" but not yet possible to fully assess. He visited again on Wednesday amid the recovery.

The Cuban government discontinued all tropical storm warnings for the country on Wednesday, though impacts could still be felt.

Swells generated by Ian are affecting the northern coast of Cuba and "are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions," the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday.

Since passing Cuba, the storm has strengthened and is bearing down on Florida as a powerful Category 4 hurricane. It is expected to make landfall along Florida's Gulf Coast Wednesday afternoon. Over 450,000 Florida customers are without power as Ian nears.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


North Korea launches two ballistic missiles as Seoul says nuclear test is imminent

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(SEOUL, South Korea) -- North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward the East Sea on Wednesday, just one day before U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris arrives in South Korea and amid speculation that North Korea is preparing to conduct its seventh nuclear test as early as October.

South Korean military detected two short-range ballistic missiles fired from the Sunan area in Pyongyang into the East Sea between 6:10 p.m. to 6:20 p.m. local time, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It’s the second ballistic missile launch in a week after North Korea test-fired one surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missile from the western inland town of Taechon on Sunday.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff immediately and strongly condemned the missile launch calling it a "grave provocation" that undermines peace and security on the Korean Peninsula as well as the international community. Pyongyang has launched 18 ballistic missiles along with two cruise missiles so far in 2022.

“North Korea’s act of provocation will intensify the deterrence and response capabilities of the South Korea-U.S. ally and aggravate North Korea’s isolation from the international community,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. “It’s a clear violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution and we urge North Korea to stop immediately.”

South Korean lawmakers told reporters that they believe North Korea has prepared an underground nuclear test site and that South Korean officials believe their neighbor to the north will undertake its seventh nuclear test sometime between Oct. 16 and Nov. 7, though these reports have not been confirmed.

“It’s become more plausible that North Korea will conduct a nuclear test as it readied the underground nuclear test tunnel,” Lawmaker Youn Kun-young said after a closed-door briefing with Seoul’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service. “According to the NIS, there’s a high possibility that if North Korea does, it will happen between the 20th Party Congress of China on October 16 and before the U.S. midterm elections on November 7.”

Youn confirmed that the dates are only a reasonable guess and not confirmation of any specific intelligence.

“North Korea must give due consideration to its allies China and Russia,” Former NIS North Korea analyst Kwak Gil-sup told ABC News. “And dropping a nuclear security issue before the U.S. midterms may work favorably for China and Russia, both currently in political conflict with Washington.”

Another analyst suggested that although North Korea may be fully prepared to conduct a nuclear test, it does not necessarily mean that it will do so any time soon.

“When North Korea passed the new law enshrining its nuclear doctrine this month, it is to say that they have the nuclear weapons. North Korea has already proved its capabilities of successfully building a hydrogen bomb that could fit on the top of an intercontinental ballistic missile during its sixth nuclear test in September 2017,” Park Hwee Rhak, chair of the Nuclear Defense Committee at the Hansun Foundation, told ABC News. “If North Korea conducts yet another nuclear test it would only mean that they have improved the force or developed a smaller warhead, but I don’t see why they would go public with a strategic weapon.”

Both analysts, however, agreed about the unpredictable nature of North Korea.

“When it comes to North Korea, hours of analysis and speculation are always met with a surprise threat,” Park said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


American ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson dies on Manaslu

Kitti Boonnitrod/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- American ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson's body was found on Manaslu in Nepal on Wednesday, ABC News has learned.

Nelson was on the eighth highest peak in the world along with her partner, Jim Morrison, when she went missing Monday just below the summit, North Face, her sponsor, confirmed to ABC News.

"There are no words to describe the love for this woman, my life partner, my lover, my best friend, and my mountain partner," Morrison wrote on social media Wednesday.

Morrison detailed that the pair reached the true summit late Monday morning "in tough conditions." They then moved to ski down, starting with a plan to go around a corner to meet up with a team of Sherpas.

"I skied first and after a few turns Hilaree followed and started a small avalanche," he wrote. "She was swept off her feet and carried down a narrow snow slope down the south side (opposite from climbing route) of the mountain over 5000'. I did everything I could to locate her but was unable to go down the face as I hoped to find her alive and live my life with her."

A high line drop from a helicopter was reportedly used to retrieve her body. Her body was then taken to Kathmandu, officials confirmed to ABC News.

Helicopter search efforts for her were underway into Tuesday but were unsuccessful, mountaineer Lukas Furtenbach told ABC News. Morrison wrote that he was part of those search efforts, which eventually involved landing at 22,000 feet to search.

Other mountaineers were instrumental in finding her, Morrison wrote, including Surendra Paudel, Nims Purja and Mingma Tenzi Sherpa.

At 26,781 feet, Manaslu is a difficult peak for rescue efforts. Finding someone in those conditions would take an expert of the mountain to know where to go, Seven Summit Treks explained to ABC News.

Nelson went missing as an avalanche caused tragedy lower down on the mountain. One person was killed and 14 were injured, according to The New York Times.

Helicopter rescue efforts took place on Monday and Tuesday for avalanche victims. Furtenbach said those injured have all been rescued.

Chhang Dawa Sherpa, a director at Seven Summit Treks, wrote on Instagram that the avalanche took place between Camps 3 and 4, which are above 22,000 feet, and that "more than 13 climbers (including Sherpas) were swept along." Mountaineer Nims Purja, of Elite Exped, posted videos showing helicopters managing rescues from the avalanche.

Mountaineers praised the group efforts that took place across teams to respond to the avalanche. Furtenbach told ABC News Furtenbach Adventures lead guide Dave Watson was "working heroically" alongside Sherpa climbers and climber Patrick Hauser, while Purja posted that Surendra Paudel rescued two Sherpa climbers "in very tough conditions."

"Climbers who were in a position to help, helped," Purja wrote on Instagram. "They dug out the climbers who were buried and field first aid was given."

ABC News has reached out to the Nepal Tourism Board and Shangri-La Nepal Trek, the guiding company Morrison and Nelson were with, for further information.

It had already been a difficult time on Manaslu before Monday for Nelson and Morrison. Late last week they turned around on a summit push when "the mountain said no," Morrison wrote on Instagram.

"I haven't felt as sure-footed on Manaslu as I have on past adventure into the thin atmosphere of the high Himalaya," Nelson wrote about the failed summit push. "These past weeks have tested my resilience in new ways. The constant monsoon with its incessant rain and humidity has made me hopelessly homesick. I am challenged to find the peace and inspiration from the mountain when it's been constantly shrouded in mist."

Even so, she wrote, they found joy on their skis that day, including racing with Palden Namgye, Sherpa Yulha Nurbu and Pemba Sharwa and "generally just finally being present and actually seeing what I have been seeing for weeks but not absorbing."

Weather conditions have not been easy, including snow and high winds. A video posted by Tendi Sherpa over the weekend and verified by ABC News shows a large serac, or piece of glacial ice, falling near Manaslu's base camp.

Nelson was the captain for The North Face Athlete Team and in 2018 was recognized as a National Geographic adventurer of the year after summiting and skiing down Papsura, known as the Peak of Evil, in India and then doing the same on Denali in Alaska.

A mother of two, she was the first woman to summit Mounts Everest and Lhotse within 24 hours, according to North Face, and the first person, along with Morrison, to ski down the Lhotse Couloir.

"[Climbing] has significantly shaped who I am, the places I've travelled, the people with whom I've been privileged to share climbing experiences with," she wrote on social media last month. "From terror to triumph, tears to laughter, solitude to partnership, it's been a path of joy, one that I hope to share with others."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Pakistan’s first woman architect co-creates sustainable shelters with severe flood survivors

Yasmeen Lari

(LONDON) -- Though Yasmeen Lari, co-founder of the disaster relief nonprofit Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, is no stranger to distress, she felt “devastated” by one recent photo, which captured a now-deceased mother’s birth as witnesses pulled her infant out of the muddy water.

Pakistan received over three times its usual rainfall in August, marking this storm as one of the area's deadliest natural disasters in five decades. The enormity of the tragedy, she said, requires a national paradigm shift toward solutions and away from “outsider handouts."

In the weeks since the flooding, Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, created in 1981, has provided 1,200 bamboo material sets to Sindh, one of the nation’s hardest-hit provinces.

By the end of August, Pakistan's minister of climate change said one-third of the country was under water -- an area with roughly 33 million people -- and the torrential downpour washed away communities, leaving people at risk of waterborne illnesses, drowning and malnutrition.

The government of Pakistan estimated the total losses to be worth upward of $40 billion from the flooding. Climate change will propel this extreme weather to continue wreaking havoc on Pakistan and the rest of the world, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

Often labeled Pakistan’s first woman architect, Lari, 81, had a storied career of designing commercial buildings, such as the Taj Mahal Hotel, the Finance and Trade Center and the Pakistan State Oil House Headquarters in Karachi. She retired in 2000, pursuing humanitarian architectural efforts that intersect Pakistani culture and low-carbon, pragmatic solutions, which she has called her “past life’s atonement.”

Experts are not needed to assemble Lari’s shelters, as the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan has released YouTube guides for those who need to quickly learn.

Lari differentiates her nonprofit from others by focusing on knowledge-sharing and finding ways for women to participate in their own livelihoods and autonomy.

Women in Pakistan, she said, have capabilities to create beauty and patterns, just as they were taught by their mothers and their mothers before them.

On the other hand, charity responses to Pakistan’s past disasters have been “alien to the terrain and to the people,” Lari said.

“Everything is co-created,” Lari said. “Our materials must provide social and ecological justice so that human life is at the forefront.”

Perhaps most importantly, Lari believes that empowerment is more effective than handouts. To emphasize her prioritization of dignity and maternal connection with Pakistan, she applied the metaphor of dastarkhwan, a name used across Central and South Asia referring to a traditional space where food is eaten.

“I link the project to a mother's dining room, which has cooked for the whole village,” Lari said. “Nobody is throwing bags of food rations at you, but the progress is done in a civilized manner.”

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Tens of thousands of Russians flee Putin's mobilization

Alessandro Rampazzo/Getty Images

(RUSSIA) -- Tens of thousands of Russians continue to try to flee the country, fearful of being caught up in the military mobilization ordered by president Vladimir Putin last week to replenish his forces in Ukraine.

Miles-long lines of traffic have formed at border crossings with some neighboring countries amid the exodus, as Russians pack exit routes, worried the government might soon impose further restrictions on military age men leaving.

Officials in Kazakhstan, which borders Russia to the south, said 98,000 Russians have crossed into their country since Putin announced the mobilization last Wednesday. Georgia's interior ministry told ABC News Tuesday that 100,000 had entered its territory in the past few days. Tens of thousands more have left via other countries, including Finland and Mongolia. The European Union's border service said 66,000 Russians had entered the bloc over the past week, 30% more than the week before.

Russians began fleeing the country within hours of Putin's ordering what he called a "partial" mobilization to call-up 300,000 men in an effort to reverse the course of his faltering war in Ukraine. In reality, experts say there are little restrictions on who can be drafted and there are widespread reports of men being mobilized regardless of their eligibility.

Although the mobilization for now is officially meant to apply only to those with some military experience, many fear the criteria could be expanded and that the government could block military age men from leaving the country. Men subject to the draft are barred from leaving the country and widespread reports are emerging of men with military experience being turned back from borders.

At the Verkhny Lars crossing where Russia borders Georgia, a line of hundreds of cars has formed, stretching back around 12 miles, according to journalists there, with thousands of people waiting, some sleeping in their cars. The BBC reported 2,500 cars were currently in the line, citing Russia's customs service.

Russian authorities on Tuesday confirmed that Russian troops with armored vehicles had set up a checkpoint at the crossing to turn back those subject to the call-up and were handing out draft papers there. Officials said a mobile enlistment office had also been set up at the border crossing.

Kazakhstan, which has a nearly 5,000 mile-long border with Russia and a relaxed entry regime, has become a magnet for those leaving, with border crossings swamped. A 37-year-old man who entered Kazakhstan Monday near the Oral-Uralsk crossing said the line of traffic waiting at one checkpoint point now stretched nearly 20 miles.

"There's simply a hellish line -- it's endless. And moreover at all checkpoints," the man, a manager from Tver, a city just outside Moscow, said by phone. He asked to remain anonymous for fear of punishment by the Russian authorities.

The man said he had spent 20 hours by road to reach the border from Moscow and was now in the border city of Uralsk, on the Kazakhstan side. Although he is currently not subject to the draft because he has no military experience, he said he had still decided to flee because he feared the borders being closed soon and did not believe in fighting against Ukraine.

"There is a risk that later you will simply find yourself in a cage," he said.

He said he had chosen to leave despite having only $250 in his pocket and planned to stay with relatives initially, before finding work in Kazakhstan.

"I'm preparing myself for a hard time. I'm preparing myself that I won't know where to sleep, what I'm going to eat," he said.

A local journalist writing for the Russian outlet Novaya Gazeta.eu wrote, that hundreds of Russian men with luggage could be seen on the streets in Uralsk. Local authorities have reportedly commandeered a cinema to house some of the influx.

The sudden mobilization has abruptly brought home the war for millions of Russians, after months during which the Kremlin has sought to present it as a distant conflict with little effect on people's daily lives. Group chats have sprung up on the Telegram social media platform, where Russians anxiously trade information about potential crossing points and look for spots on transport headed over the borders. One chat called Guide to the Free World, has over 100,000 members.

The Kremlin has said for now it has made no decision on whether to close Russia's borders in response to the mobilization.

Asked by journalists on Monday about reports in independent Russian media that the Kremlin was considering closures in the coming days, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he was "not aware of anything about that."

"At the present moment, no decisions have been taken on that account," he said.

The branches of the Federal Security Service in the southern Kurgan and Tyumen regions told the TASS state news agency, that border guards were stopping those subject to mobilization, informing them they must appear at their enlistment offices.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Japan holds state funeral for Shinzo Abe as protesters line the streets

AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko/Pool/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(TOKYO) -- Thousands of protesters opposed to the state-funded funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lined the streets near parliament in Tokyo on Tuesday, as helicopters whizzed above and dignitaries from all over the world paid their respects to the slain leader.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who was among those who came Tokyo's famed Budokan arena on Tuesday, said she came out of respect for the slain leader's legacy and that Abe was a great friend to the United States.

Japan's government said about 3,600 people from Japan and about 700 from overseas would come to the state funeral.

Abe's critics said he was a divisive, lackluster leader who trampled on Japan's democratic principles. Local polls show that opposition to the state funeral was far greater than the support.

"Even though he's gone, he still somehow manages to obfuscate the truth," Kazuma, a man in his seventies in attendance at a large protest, told ABC News. "How can we have a state funeral if the taxpayers don't approve?"

Mihoko Inagaki, a woman from Tokyo in her thirties, said, "There has to be some debate over whether or not they should use taxpayer money for this. They can't just use it without discussion or debate. It's a serious threat to our democracy."

The legal basis to hold the event has been called into question.

Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida defended his administration's decision, saying that it would not only commemorate Abe's legacy but also show that Japan can "resolutely defend democracy without yielding to violence."

Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Sophia University in Tokyo, disagreed. "No one thinks that deciding on doing a state funeral in an undemocratic way will help Kishida defend democracy. If you really follow the logic, it's democracy that should not be suspended in spite of the brutal murder."

He added that the state funeral will only serve to whitewash Abe's rather undemocratic record while in office.

The mood in the capital had been distinctly dour in the days leading up to the funeral, as the citizens of Japan wrestled with the unsettled legacy of the murdered leader and his controversial send-off using taxpayer funds. The plan set off a firestorm of debate and protests. The government said the event would cost $12 million, but many suspected the final tab will be much higher.

In the country's post-World War II history, only one other prime minister was granted the honor of a funeral financed with state coffers. Police from outside prefectures have also been brought to Tokyo to bolster security.

Detractors say Kishida's decision to hold the state funeral was in itself undemocratic and that this event is a thinly veiled attempt by Japan's ruling party to whitewash the legacy of one of the nation's more divisive leaders.

Though Abe was Japan's longest-serving leader in Japan's modern history, he was not the most popular.

His years in office were plagued by scandals and he left behind many unfulfilled political goals, including the unsuccessful push to "normalize" the nation by revising its pacifist constitution.

Polls show roughly 6 in 10 Japanese people opposed his state-funded funeral. Hundreds of thousands signed petitions calling for the event to be halted.

Detractors argued that the state-funded event will essentially force all citizens of Japan to express sadness for the departed leader. The government, however, assured the public that "every citizen will not be required to engage in mourning."

On Sunday night, hundreds gathered near Tokyo's bustling Shinjuku station with placards and loudspeakers to demonstrate against the state funeral.

"In these tough times, there is no need for taxpayer money to finance this. Most of us are having a tough enough supporting our families as it is," declared 35-year-old Yosuke Takagi, a sanitation worker living in Tokyo.

Sanae, a woman in her sixties who declined to give her last name, looked on while brandishing a small sign that read, "No State Funeral."

"Abe didn't move Japan forward at all while he was in power and the scandals surrounding him are numerous," she said.

Shinzo Abe's brazen murder in July exposed alleged and long-suspected links between many of Japan's top government leaders and the Unification Church, now known as Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

Critics claim the group is a cult known for "spiritual sales" of trinkets at exorbitant prices and soliciting large monetary donations.

According to police, Abe's accused assassin said the church sent his family into poverty and blamed Abe for supporting the church. As details of church and government ties emerge, support for the state funeral wane and clouds of doubt over Abe's legacy grow.

Some academics said they believe that a state funeral for Abe cast a favorable light on the leader, preventing proper evaluation of his legacy. Nakano, of Sophia University, told ABC News that Abe's supporters will have a tough time ensuring that history looks upon him favorably.

"Prime Minister Kishida probably hoped that the tangled web can be covered up with the hosting of the state funeral and the deification of Abe, but that is not happening." Nakano said. "The fact that Abe was the linchpin of the tight relations between his party and the Unification Church is now public knowledge, so at least domestically, a lot of people will remember Abe as much less than a faultless hero that turned Japan around."

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party had since admitted that 179 out of 379 members it surveyed were found to have interacted with the Unification Church. Japan's Consumer Affairs Agency has assembled of a panel to investigate dubious marketing practices alleged to be conducted by the church.

Naomichi, who works in office management in central Tokyo told ABC News, "Perhaps Abe's greatest accomplishment was exposing the connection between the Unification Church and Japan's politicians. That will be his legacy."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


How China, Russia recently sought to spread political misinformation online, according to Meta

boonchai wedmakawand/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Social media accounts with ties to users in China and Russia posed as Western media outlets in an attempt to manipulate users and spread "inauthentic" content related to high-profile, politically charged issues including the invasion of Ukraine, Meta employees told reporters on Monday.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and other services, said that the accounts tied to both countries were taken down manually, though for more in-depth investigations and bigger networks an automated feature for takedowns is also used.

The accounts, as a whole, did not reach nearly the same scale as past documented efforts on social media to spread politically related messages to U.S. users and others.

But the operations, as described by Meta, are some of the latest examples of what both the company's officials and top U.S. lawmakers have said is a concern: how countries use social media to secretly sway public opinion. (The American government has reportedly employed a similar digital strategy abroad -- to influence opinion of the U.S.)

In response to this scrutiny about foreign actors on their platforms, Meta and other leading internet companies have taken steps, they say, to curb the spread of suspicious and misleading information.

The coordinated Chinese operation that Meta revealed on Monday targeted users primarily in the U.S. and Czech Republic, Meta said, and it was running fake accounts and websites across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and two petition platforms in the Czech Republic.

According to the company, the accounts impersonated Americans by sharing online messages in both Chinese and English about issues including Second Amendment rights and abortion. Accounts in this network spanned both sides of the political aisle, supporting both conservative and liberal causes.

Messages were also directed to a more global French and Chinese-speaking audience, Meta said. The group operated between November 2021 and September 2022. This was the first Chinese-based effort that Meta disrupted that focused on U.S. political issues and major topics ahead of the midterms, a distinct shift in Chinese-based interference, according to Meta.

However, the operation was relatively short-lived and did not receive much engagement from real users, Meta said, with 81 Facebook accounts with 20 collective followers, one Facebook group with 250 members and two Instagram accounts with less than 10 followers between them.

On a number of occasions, Chinese-originated entities would post various Russian state-linked content, Meta said. While the two countries overlapped in their goals and mutually reinforced each other, there was no visible coordination between the two. Meta officials also noted a notable time lag between the two operations.

The Russian operation in May was the largest and most complex since the war on Ukraine started, spanning over 60 websites, using multiple different languages, impersonating credible and legitimate Western websites and news organizations, according to Meta. Its presence spanned Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, Twitter, YouTube and other European sites.

The network mainly targeted users in Europe, including France, Germany, Italy, Ukraine and the U.K, Meta said. The narratives focused on the war on Ukraine and its impact in Europe. The messages criticized Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees and pushed the narrative that U.S. sanctions would backfire.

Meta said it disrupted misinformation campaigns that targeted Ukrainians and exploited Ukraine's tensions with Russia in February. The company's security team removed about 40 users they found "inauthentic," officials said Monday.

The Russian operation had 1,633 Facebook accounts with 1,500 collective followers, 29 Instagram accounts with 1,500 followers between them and generated around $105,000 in ad sales, Meta said. The company will not return the ad revenue and will use it to build their security teams.

Meta previously removed a Russian network of users in 2020 for violating their policy of foreign interference. The users were connected to an online trolling group that attempted to interfere with the 2016 election, the company has said.

Meta has also emphasized that fake sites will continue to pop up.

The company stressed on Monday that its view is that its security work is on deception rather than the content itself and that it did not punish Russian government platforms that had content from either of the operations because they were not directly contributing.

Meta officials said the company remains on alert for more threats, including monitoring potential actors as the election season progresses. They will not be implementing any new tactics ahead of the midterms, officials said Monday.

Meta said it has also shared its findings and threat indicators with the media and other platforms, law enforcement and the government.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Prince William and Kate travel to Anglesey in Wales, where they had their first family home

Paul Ellis/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

(LONDON) -- Prince William and Kate, the prince and princess of Wales, traveled to Wales on Tuesday to meet with different communities across the nation and learn about the work of key charitable organizations.

The couple first traveled to Anglesey to meet with crew and volunteers at the RNLI Holyhead Lifeboat Station, one of the oldest lifeboat stations on the Welsh coast, then visited St. Thomas Church in Swansea, a redeveloped church supporting locals and serving as a hub in the community.

Their visit to Wales was the first to the nation since King Charles III announced earlier this month that their new titles would be the prince and princess of Wales, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

They are the first couple to use the titles since they were used by Charles and the late Princess Diana, who divorced in 1996.

William and Kate have a "deep affection for Wales," according to Kensington Palace. The couple made their first family home in Anglesey, where they spent their first months as parents, making Wales the first home of Prince George. Wales was also where William undertook his first engagement as a young boy.

William graduated from the Search and Rescue Training Unit at RAF Valley in Anglesey when he was training to become a helicopter pilot with the Royal Air Force's Search and Rescue Force.

The couple's three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, have also taken on the last name, Wales.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


King Charles III approves four 'In Memoriam' stamps of Queen Elizabeth II

Royal Mail

(LONDON) -- Royal Mail in the United Kingdom has revealed images of four new portrait stamps in memory of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

These are the first stamp images to be approved by King Charles III and all four stamps feature images that were used in the 2002 Golden Jubilee stamp issue.

The images of the stamps include a second class stamp featuring a photograph taken by Dorothy Wilding in 1952 to mark the queen’s accession and coronation, a first class stamp with a picture of the queen in in her admiral’s cloak snapped by Cecil Beaton taken in 1968, a £1.85 stamp displaying a portrait of the late queen taken in November 1984 by Yousuf Karsh, and a £2.55 stamp with the newest photograph in the collection that features a picture of the queen taken at Prague Castle in 1996 by Tim Graham.

A Presentation Pack of all four stamps will retail at £6.95 and are available to pre-order until they are released and go on general sale from Nov. 10.

The announcement comes as the official Royal Mourning period ends Tuesday -- just over a week after her funeral was held -- and the debut of King Charles III’s new cypher that was unveiled overnight.

Chosen by the new king, the cypher will replace the “E II R” on government buildings, state documents and some mailboxes around the country.

The cypher features the king’s initial of “C” intertwined with “R” which stands for Rex -- Latin for “king” -- along with the Roman numeral III.

The Royal Mint also confirmed that they will unveil what the new bank notes will look like before the end of the year with the new King Charles notes expected to be placed into circulation in 2024.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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