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Jetlinerimages/iStock(TORONTO) -- A sleeping passenger was left on board an Air Canada flight earlier this month hours after the plane had landed and the crew disembarked.

Tiffani O'Brien, of Ontario, Canada, said she fell asleep in an empty row of seats on her short flight home from Quebec City to Toronto. She awoke hours later around midnight still strapped to her seat and all alone on a cold, dark plane.

"It was completely pitch black," O'Brien said in an interview Monday with CTV News. "I thought, 'This is a nightmare, this is not happening!'"

O'Brien said she texted her friend, Deanna Dale, who drove her to the airport in Quebec City earlier that day. Dale told CTV News she called customer service at Toronto Pearson International Airport to tell them her friend was trapped on the plane.

But then O'Brien's phone lost battery power and a "sheer sense of hopelessness" came over her, she told CTV News.

As panic began to set in, O'Brien said she entered the cockpit to search for something, anything that might help. She found a flashlight and turned it on, directing the light out of the windows of the plane in hopes someone would see it.

She then used the flashlight to find the main door of the plane and managed to get it open, but the drop to the tarmac below was too steep.

So she sat in the opening with her legs dangling out and flashed the light on the side of the plane to create a reflection, hoping it would catch someone's attention in the distance.

Eventually, a grounds crewman driving a luggage cart spotted her and helped her down.

O'Brien recounted the incident in a June 19 post shared by Dale on Air Canada's official Facebook page.

"I haven’t got much sleep since the reoccurring night terrors and waking up anxious and afraid I’m alone locked up someplace dark," O'Brien wrote.

An Air Canada spokesperson confirmed the incident to ABC News and said the airline is investigating.

"This customer was left on our aircraft after the flight," the spokesperson said in a statement Sunday. "We are still reviewing this matter so I have no additional details to share, but we have followed up with the customer and remain in contact with her."

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SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Monday announced new "hard-hitting" sanctions on Iran, including on the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Trump signed an executive order imposing the sanctions, which he promised after pulling back on a military strike against Iran for the shooting down of an American drone.

The president said the U.S. does not seek conflict with Iran, but in singling out Iran's leader he said, "The Supreme Leader of Iran is one who ultimately is responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime. He is respected within his country. His office oversees the regime’s most brutal instruments.”

“A lot of restraint shown by us -- a lot of restraint -- and that doesn’t mean we're going to show it in the future,” Trump said.

He said, "Never can Iran have a nuclear weapon."

At the same time, Trump said he looked forward to lifting the sanctions once Iran agreed to negotiate.

After Trump spoke, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin appeared in the White House briefing room and said the sanctions would also hit the commander of Iran's air force he said was responsible for the shooting down of the unmanned U.S. surveillance aircraft.

He said the sanctions would affect multiple other top officials in Iran's "chain of command" and would lock up billions more in Iranian assets. He said some of the sanctions had already been in the works while others were the result of Iran's recent actions.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.


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deeltijdgod/iStock(NEW DELHI) — The bodies of seven climbers who went missing in the Himalayas within India last month have been recovered, officials said.

A search team from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police retrieved the bodies on Sunday at an altitude of 5,800 meters (about 19,000 feet) to the base camp, according to Vijay Jogdande, an administrator of northern India's Uttarakhand state. It will take two to three days to return them to base camp.

The bodies have not yet been identified, but Jogdande told ABC News that a woman and an Indian man were among them.

The search for the missing eighth climber continues, Jogdande added.

The eight-member group, led by British mountaineer Martin Moran, set out on May 13 to attempt to summit a previously unclimbed, unnamed eastern peak on Nanda Devi, the second-highest mountain in India, part of the Garhwal Himalayas.

Moran's Scotland-based company, Moran Mountain, said its last communication with the team was on May 24. They were supposed to return to base camp two days later, but never did. There had been avalanches in the region.

The group was composed of four Britons, two Americans, an Australian and a man from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, a national body, according to Pithoragarh Additional District Magistrate R.D. Paliwal.

An official with the U.S. Department of State said they are "aware of reports of a recovery option underway" for the two Americans and the other climbers, but referred ABC News to local authorities for further questions.

Local authorities weren't alerted of the party's absence until May 31. A search team in helicopters spotted five bodies and several empty red tents June 3.

It has been a particularly deadly season for climbers in the Himalayas this year, especially on the world's tallest peak, Mount Everest, where short windows of safe climbing weather on the Nepal side paired with crowds and inexperienced adventurers have contributed to numerous deaths.

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Christopher Furlong/Getty Images(LONDON) -- There is a peculiarly British phrase for all those things that split opinions to the extent that no one, no matter how indifferent, has to pick a side.

Named after a particularly divisive condiment to spread on your breakfast toast, the saying goes: “It’s like Marmite – you either love it or you hate it.”

Boris Johnson, the Conservative lawmaker who is the overwhelming favorite to replace Theresa May as United Kingdom's prime minister, is without a doubt the “Marmite” candidate in the current leadership race.

Johnson has only one more candidate to beat, the comparatively less colorful lawmaker Jeremy Hunt, when around 160,000 Conservative members vote for the next leader some time at the end of July.

Here’s everything you need to know about Johnson, who, if the latest polling is to be believed, should beat his only rival left standing Jeremy Hunt, to walk into Number 10 Downing Street after the vote.

Career

After being educated at the elite boarding school Eton College and the University of Oxford, where he was a contemporary of former prime minister David Cameron, Boris de Pfeffel Johnson became a political journalist after graduating in the late 1980s.

He became a prominent political journalist in the 1990s, mainly for his work at the Times of London and Daily Telegraph newspapers. While at the Telegraph he served as a Brussels correspondent between 1989 and 1994, where he is credited for creating an atmosphere of the skepticism toward the European Union (EU) in British public life.

This phenomenon simmered beneath British politics for the next two decades, coming to the boil when the U.K. voted to leave the EU in 2016.

But it was in the late 1990s that Johnson burst into the public eye when he appeared on the satirical panel TV show "Have I Got News For You."

His floppy blonde hair, sense of humor and bumbling persona made him an instantly recognizable public figure.

Yet controversy have followed Johnson wherever he has gone, mainly because he's been accused of having trouble telling the truth.

In 2001, he was elected as a member of Parliament for the Conservative Party. But three years later, he was sacked from as the Shadow Arts Minister for lying to the party leader about an extramarital affair.

Johnson returned to the front line of politics when he was elected mayor of London in 2008. During his first term as mayor, Johnson oversaw the capital’s responses to such key events as the 2011 London riots and the 2012 Olympics.

He was re-elected for a second term in office, proving himself as a charismatic and popular campaigner.

Johnson then led Vote Leave, the official campaign to leave the EU, during the 2016 Brexit referendum in one of the most divisive campaigns in U.K. political history. After the event, where Leave won by the margin of 52% to 48%, the campaign was later found guilty of breaching spending laws.

Reputation

It is that controversy that makes him such a divisive political figure – loved by some, loathed by others. British newspapers are equally divided on whether to endorse his leadership of the country at such a crucial moment in history.

The Evening Standard has backed him as "the prime minister to turn Britain around,” while the Telegraph, which employed Johnson as a columnist, says he has “infectious optimism that his supporters hope will overwhelm the questions concerning character.”

The Times of London, meanwhile, recently described him as a “philanderer,” albeit one with “remarkable resilience.” It highlighted criticism leveled at Johnson over his personal life and allegedly racist comments in newspaper columns.

The newspaper also pointed to a major mistake during his time as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs over his handling of the case of a British-Iranian woman detained over spying charges in Iran. The woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, whom Johnson said was there to “teach journalism," remains in prison to date.

Abroad, his reputation is equally checkered. His time as a young journalist and his Brexit stance has won him few friends among EU leaders, whom he will have to engage with extensively if he became prime minister. However, he has received the endorsement of Donald Trump – crucial in the eyes of many in the Brexit camp, who see an improvement in US-UK ties as a key opportunity once it leaves the EU.

What to expect

Throughout his campaign to become leader of the Conservative Party, Johnson has maintained a hard line stance on Brexit. His position is unequivocal: the U.K. will leave the EU with or without a deal on the October 31, the new deadline for leaving after May failed to pass her Brexit deal through Parliament.

Yet, with most lawmakers intensely fearful of the economic impact of a no-deal Brexit, and his ability to turn his back on previous promises, it is impossible to predict what a Johnson premiership will truly look like.

But one thing’s for sure when it comes to Britain’s “Marmite” candidate: love him or hate him, he appears to be the candidate to beat.

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iStock(SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic) -- Dominican Republic Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia pushed back on reports of a pattern of suspicious deaths of American citizens Friday, as the U.S. State Department hiked the official number of Americans who have died there in the last year to 10.

The tourism minister said the number of Americans who have died in the Dominican Republic has actually decreased this year, and that over the last three years there was a 56% reduction in the number of U.S. tourist deaths in the DR.

On Friday, the U.S. State Department confirmed the death of Mark Hurlbut in the Dominican Republic in June 2018.

State Department officials also recently announced that Thomas Jerome "Jerry" Curran of Bedford, Ohio, died on Jan. 26, 2019, while traveling in the Dominican Republic with his wife, Janet.

Curran, a retired police officer, and Hurlbut join a list of eight other people who have died in the Dominican Republic in the last year, including Yvette Monique Sport, who died in June 2018; David Harrison, who died in July 2018; and Robert Wallace, Miranda Schaupp-Werner, Cynthia Day, Nathaniel Holmes and Joseph Allen, who all died this year.

“To say that an exaggerated number of Americans have died in the Dominican Republic, what some media have characterized as an avalanche of deaths, does not correspond with the reality that we are seeing today in the Dominican Republic,” Garcia said.

No link between the deaths has been established, and U.S. State Department officials say there has been no "uptick" in American deaths in the Caribbean country.

The attorney for Holmes and Day, the couple who was found dead in their Dominican Republic hotel room in May, responded to Garcia's press conference, saying, “We will let the facts and medical reports tell the story. The family continues to mourn the death of their love ones."

Dominican authorities have asked for the FBI's help in conducting toxicology analyses in the investigation into the deaths of Schaupp-Werner, Day and Holmes. Garcia did not release any new information about the cases, including toxicology reports that might shed light on the tourists' cause of death.

FBI officials have informed Dominican authorities that getting the results of the toxicology analyses could take up to 30 days, and it could be an additional two weeks until the results are released. Garcia said the reports so far have not been shared due to privacy concerns.

Speaking specifically about the case of Holmes and Day, Garcia said that because the Dominican Republic has "nothing to hide,” they asked the FBI to participate and to conduct an additional toxicity report.

Garcia said the Dominican Republic's tourism industry has been a “model” for the world because of its standards.

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Geovien So/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images(HONG KONG) -- Thousands of protesters besieged police headquarters in Hong Kong Friday to demand the release of fellow protesters still in custody after last week's violent skirmish.

Protesters, many of them students from local universities, decided to escalate the protests after saying the government ignored their deadline on Thursday to respond to their demands.

The day began with a peaceful student sit-in at the Hong Kong government complex but soon escalated as thousands of masked protesters swelled the ranks.

They initially occupied roads then shifted their tactics by disrupting government offices in two districts before converging on the Hong Kong police headquarters, where they blocked and barricaded most of the entrances.

The protesters are frustrated with the government response to the much-reviled extradition bill that threatened to allow Hong Kong residents to be legally extradited to Mainland China.

The bill has precipitated one of the most serious political crises in the semi-autonomous region since it was returned to China in 1997.

The Hong Kong government indefinitely halted work on the bill last weekend and members of the government, including Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, have issued apologies. Still, protesters have called for her resignation.

They called for Lam to scrap the bill entirely and demanded to speak with police commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-Chung to have him answer for what they believe was an excessive use of force by the police when they cleared protesters with

On Friday, some protesters pelted the exterior of wall of the police headquarters with eggs throughout the day. Despite the size of the crowd, there has been a light police presence for much of the day except for a few attempts by police negotiators to ask those demonstrating to disperse.

Police said on Twitter post that by 5:30 p.m. local, officers had been unable to respond to 43 neighborhood emergency calls because of the protests.

As at 1730 hours, a total of 43 '999' calls in Wanchai Division could not be immediately handled as the Police Headquarters was surrounded by protestors with roads obstructed in the vicinity.

— Hong Kong Police Force (@hkpoliceforce) June 21, 2019

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jessicaphoto/iStock(LONDON) — The conservation charity English Heritage has set up a virtual live stream from inside the monument of Stonehenge to mark the start of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.

An estimated 10,000 people gathered to check out the sunrise from Stonehenge, according to police.

The Stonehenge Skyscape project allows viewers inside the stone circle to track the position of the sun from the break of day all the way through the night. After dark, the photographic depiction of the sky will be replaced by a computer-generated model, allowing viewers to see the exact location of the stars and planets in the night sky.

"Stonehenge was built to align with the sun, and to Neolithic people, the skies were arguably as important as the surrounding landscape," Susan Greaney, English heritage senior historian, said in a statement. "At solstice we remember the changing daylight hours, but the changing seasons, cycles of the Moon and movements of the sun are likely to have underpinned many practical and spiritual aspects of Neolithic life."

She added, "Stonehenge’s connection with the skies is a crucial part of understanding the monument today and we are really excited to share this view online with people all over the world."

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Richard Stonehouse - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Happy birthday Prince William!

The royal dad of three and second-in-line to the British throne is celebrating his 37th birthday Friday.

William is celebrating his birthday privately but his royal family members sent birthday wishes publicly in a series of Instagram posts.

Clarence House, home to William's dad, Prince Charles, and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, shared an adorable throwback photo.

The pic shows William and Charles playing in the garden of Kensington Palace where William lives today with Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, and their three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

Kensington Palace shared a more recent photo of William with a caption thanking fans for the birthday wishes.

Sussex Royal, the Instagram account for William's brother, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, commented on the post, saying, "Happy Birthday to The Duke of Cambridge!"

The main royal family Instagram account -- which represents William's grandparents Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip -- also celebrated with a slideshow of photos of William.

William's birthday celebration comes just one week after he posed with his family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace for Trooping the Colour, the official celebration of Queen Elizabeth's birthday.

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AlexeyPetrov/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Aviation Administration has prohibited "all U.S. carriers and commercial operators" from flying over the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, near Iran, in the wake of the country shooting down an unmanned drone early Thursday.

The FAA announced the decision, called a notice-to-airman, or NOTAM, alert, late Thursday.

"All flight operations in the overwater area of the Tehran Flight Information Region (FIR) (OIIX) above the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman only are prohibited until further notice due to heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the region, which present an inadvertent risk to U.S. civil aviation operations and potential for miscalculation or mis-identification," the FAA said in a press release.

#FAA issued #NOTAM warning pilots that flights are not permitted in the overwater area of the Tehran Flight Information Region until further notice, due to heightened military activities and increased political tensions. https://t.co/BQ2GOeFSEn pic.twitter.com/4t1OWEzkYZ

— The FAA (@FAANews) June 21, 2019

The NOTAM applies to all U.S. air carriers and commercial operators, but does not apply to U.S.-registered planes for foreign carriers.

Sources told ABC News President Donald Trump ordered a military strike on Iran late Thursday, but then reversed course after a plan was already underway.

Trump’s reason for changing course was unclear, but the reversal was against the advice of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Tensions were elevated to a new level on Thursday morning when Iran shot down an unarmed RQ-4A Global Hawk drone that the U.S. said was flying in international airspace over the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has taken issue with that categorization, saying the drone was flying over its airspace when it was downed.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- More people than ever knew the hardship of being displaced from their homes on this year's World Refugee Day, which took place Thursday.

According to a new report released by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, by the end of 2018 there were 70.8 million people forcibly displaced from their homes.

That figure represents more people than the population of Thailand, the 20th most populous country, according to U.N. figures from 2017.

It marks a dramatic increase in the number of forcibly displaced people over the past decade, jumping from 43.3 million in 2009 to 70.8 million in 2018.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres posted on Instagram that "my thoughts are with the more than 70 million women, children and men - refugees and internally displaced persons - who have been forced to flee war, conflict and persecution."

"Their courage and resilience is an example to us all. I want to recognize the humanity of countries that host refugees even as they struggle with their own economic challenges and security concerns. It is regrettable that their example is not followed by all," Guterres wrote in his post.

The U.N. report, published Wednesday, attributes "most of this increase" to the Syrian conflict, but said that other conflicts in Iraq, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Myanmar were also factors.

The historically high number of displaced people in 2018 includes 13.6 million who were newly displaced as a result of conflict or persecution in 2018, the U.N.'s Global Trends report states.

All told, the estimated figures break down to 37,000 new displacements every day in 2018, or 25 people forced to flee every minute, the report states.

"What we are seeing in these figures is further confirmation of a longer-term rising trend in the number of people needing safety from war, conflict and persecution," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi is quoted as saying in the report.

The regions with the largest number of fleeing refugees unsurprisingly correspond closely with ongoing conflicts. Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia are the five home countries with the highest number of refugees in 2018. Collectively, those countries represent 67 percent of all global refugees, the U.N.'s report states.

As a result of those fleeing refugees, neighboring countries -- like Turkey, Pakistan, Sudan and Uganda -- were among the top receivers of refugees in 2018. Germany was the lone member of the top five countries receiving large numbers of refugees that does not share a border with a country where people were displaced.

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U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump said Thursday that the Iranian shootdown of an American drone may have not have been intentional, but a "mistake" by someone "stupid."

Trump spoke following a morning meeting with his top national security advisers after Iran, in what appeared to have been a major provocation, shot down what the U.S. military said was an unarmed and unmanned U.S. RQ-4A Global Hawk drone flying in international airspace over the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz.

Shortly before, Trump had tweeted that "Iran made a very big mistake" after a top Iranian commander warned Iran was "ready for war."

 When asked early afternoon whether the U.S. would strike back during an Oval Office meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump said: "You'll soon find out."

But at the same time, he said, "I find it hard to believe it was intentional if you want to know the truth."

"It could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it," he said.

"I would imagine it was a general or somebody who made a mistake in shooting the drone down," Trump said. "Fortunately, that drone was unarmed. It was not -- there was no man in it, it was in international waters but we didn't have a man or woman in the drone, we had nobody in the drone. Would have made a big, big difference."

"I have a feeling -- and I may be wrong and I may be right but I'm right a lot -- that it was a mistake made by somebody that shouldn't have been doing what they do," he said. "I think they made a mistake and I'm not just talking about the country made a mistake somebody under the command of the country made a mistake."

"It was a very foolish move," he said. Nevertheless, he said, "This country will not stand for it."

Iran continued to maintain that the American drone indeed violated its airspace and made no mention of Trump's suggestion the shootdown was a mistake.

Earlier, the president did not respond when ABC News asked him for a comment as he walked into the West Wing late Thursday morning. A White House official confirmed he was headed into a meeting with Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Top congressional leaders were invited to an afternoon briefing in the White House Situation Room, a source said. Trump was expected to attend.

A U.S. official confirmed to ABC News that the U.S. Navy was working to recover the drone in a debris field the official said was located in international waters near the Strait of Hormuz. At a short, mid-day Pentagon briefing, a U.S. military official speaking from the region reiterated that the drone was shot down in international airspace.

The commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, said the American drone was flying over the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz on a surveillance mission near previous tanker attacks when it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile fired from a location in the vicinity of Goruk, Iran.

The Pentagon released a grainy video it said showed the shootdown.

Calling the strike an "unprovoked attack," Guastella said it was "an attempt to disrupt our ability to monitor the area following recent threats to international shipping and free flow of commerce." He said the drone was operating "at high-altitude approximately 34 kilometers from the nearest point of land on the Iranian coast" when it was shot down, falling into international waters.

The incident was sure to trigger serious discussions within the Trump administration about how to respond to a direct attack on a U.S. military asset that goes beyond recent attacks in the Middle East that the U.S. has blamed on Iran.

Mid-morning Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that President Trump has "been kept up to date" and was briefed both Thursday morning and Wednesday night. She said the White House would “keep in touch with members on the Hill.”

Top congressional leaders from both parties and chairs and ranking members of the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees received a closed-door classified intelligence briefing from Trump administration officials at the Capitol.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that at least 20 of the top lawmakers on Capitol Hill were invited to attend the exclusive briefing.

“I think it's a dangerous situation,” Pelosi said. “We have to be strong and strategic about how we protect our interests. We also cannot be reckless in what we do. So, it would be interesting to see what they have to say, whether the - I don't think the President wants to go to war. there's no appetite for going to war in our country.”

A close ally of the president, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., when asked how the U.S. should respond, answered, "With firmness, and resolve. The only way Iran changes its behavior is that if they believe Americans will put options on the table that will create pain for the regime."

Graham said he had spoken with the president.

"I talked to him last night. He had a meeting last night. He believes that we're going into a we're getting into a bad space, that his options are running out, that he's not going to be intimidated to redo a nuclear deal. That was terrible. He's not going to relieve sanctions because the Iranians are worse than they been. The Iranian deal was to get them to change their behavior, the nuclear deal. They did everything but change their behavior," Graham told reporters.

"I think what President Trump believes is that this regime is spoiling for a fight but they understand how a conflict would end, it would end badly for them. He does want to try and get a better deal but not this way," he said.

There was a National Security Council meeting at the White House earlier Thursday morning to discuss Iran, an administration official said, which Shanahan and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford attended. Another NSC meeting was to take place Thursday afternoon, which U.S. officials said Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva and Pompeo would attend, officials said.

Gen. Hossein Salami, commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, offered a strongly worded threat to the U.S. after the drone was downed.

"Shooting down the American spy drone had a clear, decisive, firm and accurate message," he said, translated from Farsi. "The message is that the guardians of the borders of Islamic Iran will decisively respond to the violation of any stranger to this land. The only solution for the enemies is to respect the territorial integrity and national interests of Iran."

"We do not intend to engage in war with any country, but we are completely ready for the war. Today’s incident is a clear sign of this accurate message," Salami added.

Earlier, Iranian state media had quoted Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as saying it had downed the drone when it entered Iranian airspace near the Kouhmobarak district north of the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, tweeted, "The US wages #EconomicTerrorism on Iran, has conducted covert action against us & now encroaches on our territory. We don't seek war, but will zealously defend our skies, land & waters. We'll take this new aggression to #UN & show that the US is lying about international waters."

After Trump spoke, Zarif tweeted specific information about Iran's claims.

"Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false," said CENTCOM spokesperson Navy Capt. Bill Urban in a statement on Thursday morning, before Zarif's most recent tweet. "This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace."

Urban said the RQ-4A Global Hawk, which "provides real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions (ISR) over vast ocean and coastal regions," was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile system while operating in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz at approximately 11:35 p.m. GMT on June 19.

The incident is not the first time in recent days that Iran has targeted an American drone off its coast.

Last Thursday, Iran attempted to shoot down an MQ-9 Reaper that was surveilling the attack on one of two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. The United States has blamed Iran for being responsible for the attacks on the two tankers -- a claim Iran has denied.

"According to our assessment, a modified Iranian SA-7 surface-to-air missile attempted to shoot down a U.S. MQ-9, at 6:45 a.m. local time, June 13, over the Gulf of Oman, to disrupt surveillance of the IRGC attack on the M/T Kokuka Courageous," CENTCOM spokesperson Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement to ABC News on Saturday.

"Subsequent analysis indicates that this was a likely attempt to shoot down or otherwise disrupt the MQ-9 surveillance of the IRGC attack on the M/T Kokuka Courageous," Brown said.

In early May, the Pentagon rushed the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and a B-52 bomber task force to the Middle East to deter possible attacks by Iran or Iranian-backed groups on U.S. forces and U.S. interests in the region.

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Adam Berry/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Amid increased tensions between Iran and the U.S., Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the U.S. that a military conflict with Iran would be “catastrophe” and said that Iran was observing its commitments under the Iran nuclear deal.

Speaking during his annual phone-in event, Putin said that he was concerned by the shooting down of an American drone by Iran this week and worried that the U.S. had no ruled out using military force against Tehran in the ongoing crisis between the two countries.

“I will say it straight, it would be a catastrophe, at a minimum for the region,” Putin said, adding it could lead to a new mass exodus of refugees.

The Russian leader also said that he believed Iran was still complying with its commitments under the Iran nuclear deal agreed with the U.S. under the Obama administration. In the past week, Iran has threatened to increase its enriched uranium stockpile beyond limits set by the deal, in a bid to force European countries to help it manage sanctions re-imposed after the the U.S. withdrew from the agreement.

Russia is also a party to the deal and, like the other European countries, supports its continuation, provided Iran remains compliant.

The comments came as Putin answered dozens of questions during the “Direct Line” show, a marathon telethon where the he takes questions from ordinary people and that has become an annual fixture of Putin’s rule. This year, state television said it had received 1.5 million questions from Russians. The event went on for more than 4 hours.

In previous years, Russians have asked Putin to help with fixing pot-holed roads, getting pension back-payments to choosing a new puppy. A response from the president on television can cause regional officials, worried about embarrassing the president, to leap into action.

This year, the questions -- and Putin’s prepped answers -- focused on everyday difficulties, with the president signalling he understood Russia’s economy was struggling and that increasing growth ought to be the country’s top priority.

Putin blamed some of the problems on Western sanctions, saying they had cost Russia $50 billion and claimed that the country’s economy was beginning to grow again.

Putin said his focus was putting the economy “on new rails” and wanted to use large national projects to achieve that.

The heavily choreographed show is the embodiment of the system and the image Putin has sought to cultivate in his two decades in power: one founded on the idea that only he is capable of solving Russians’ problems, big or small.

It also plays on a much older Russian tradition, of ordinary people petitioning the tsar to solve their problems.

One such demonstration this year came when Putin announced that two orca and six beluga whales had been released from a so-called “whale jail” in Russia’s far east. Dozens of whales were being held in unsanitary conditions in tanks by poachers who intended to illegally sell them. The case has attracted global attention but had also been notable for authorities’ seeming inability to solve it, even after the Kremlin signalled the animals should be released.

Putin also seemed to make a careful acknowledgment of the existence of popular anger that has sparked up in recently in a series of largely local issue protests that have captured wide attention on the Russian internet. Last month, there have been unusual protests in several towns near Moscow over plans to divert the city’s garbage there and in June authorities were forced to make a rare reversal in dropping charges against a prominent investigative journalist, who police had tried to crudely frame by planting drugs on him.

Putin made reference to both and other high profile incidents, acknowledging the problem but downplayed them, saying of the garbage that it was a long-time problem, and noting it was partly because Russia was now a “consumer society.”

In a carefully calibrated moment, Putin was asked what was he ashamed of. He replied by telling a story from his travels in the early years of his presidency when he met an elderly woman, who he said had fallen to her knees in front of him and handed him a paper petition.

Putin said he had given the paper to an aide, but it had later been lost. “I will never forget it, and I am ashamed about it now,” Putin said, his voice shaking. He said he tried to resolve any problems that Russians asked him.

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Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(MOSCOW) — Paul Whelan, the former U.S. Marine held in Russia on espionage charges, on Thursday called on President Donald Trump to help free him, saying he is the victim of a “political kidnapping” by Russia’s security services.

Whelan made the statement in Moscow’s City Court, where his lawyers were appealing the latest extension of his pre-trial detention. He has been held in Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison since his arrest in late December while visiting the city for a friend’s wedding. Agents of Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the FSB, detained him in his hotel room and accused him of spying.

Whelan has denied the charges and in court hearings has accused Russia of seizing him as a political pawn. In court on Thursday he appealed directly to Trump for help.

“Mr. President, we cannot keep America great unless we aggressively protect and defend Americans wherever they are in the world,” Whelan said in a prepared statement to journalists while speaking from inside a glass cage in the courtroom, flanked by a masked guard.

Whelan accused Russian authorities of violating his human rights and deliberately isolating him to pressure him. He said he had been denied consular access and prevented from receiving letters.

The judge rejected Whelan’s appeal, upholding his detention until mid-August.

“This decision is pre-ordained,” Whelan told reporters as the judge read out the sentence.

Whelan also holds Irish, British and Canadian citizenship and on Thursday he called on those countries’ governments to help.

Russia has still not made public the charges against Whelan. But his Russian lawyers have slowly released details, saying Whelan is the victim of a setup.

His lawyers say during that Whelan's December trip, a Russian friend gave Whelan a memory card that, unknown to him, held classified material. Immediately after Whelan received the card in his hotel room, they said, FSB agents burst in and arrested him. The friend, Whelan's lawyers said, also worked for Russia’s security services.

Paul Whelan's lawyer says he is a victim of a setup


Whelan’s family has accused Russia of seizing Whelan as a hostage and has urged the U.S. government to help free him. Former U.S. intelligence officials have also said the case looks like a classic KGB-style frame-up.

It is unclear why Whelan would have been targeted. A self-described Russophile, he has visited Russia several times over the past decade, according to his family. He left the Marines in 2008 with a bad conduct discharge for attempted larceny and other charges.

In court Thursday, Whelan suggested for the first time that his arrest may be linked to his work, where he is a director of global security for the Michigan-based auto-parts supplier, BorgWarner.

Addressing his employer, Whelan said, “This situation is work-related,” and asked them to provide “maximum co-operation."

Whelan’s family has also expressed concerns about his Russian lawyers. His chief lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, has at times behaved oddly, praising investigators and repeating that his client is “fine” when Whelan himself has complained that his rights are being abused.

Olga Karlova, Whelan’s English-speaking Russian lawyer, told ABC News their access to Whelan was limited in part because defense lawyers' access to their clients is limited by a lottery system at the prison, in which lawyers pick a number from a black bag to determine who goes first -- sometimes resulting in no access at all.

The U.S. State Department has recently become increasingly vocal in criticizing Whelan’s detention, asking why Russia has still not provided any evidence in his case.

Whelan’s sister, Elizabeth Whelan, met with National Security Advisor John Bolton and other senior national security advisors at the White House last week. Afterward Bolton tweeted, “Russia has provided no evidence of wrongdoing.”

Trump is expected to meet with Vladimir Putin in Japan next week at the G20 summit, where he may be under pressure to bring up Whelan’s case with the Russian president.

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jurgenfr/iStock(LONDON) — The implementation of the world’s first Age Verification Certificates for accessing online pornography in the U.K. will be delayed for up to six months after an administrative error.

In a speech to the U.K. Parliament on Thursday, Jeremy Wright, the government’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, told lawmakers he wanted to “apologize for the mistake.”

The Age Verification Certificates, or AVCs, were due to come into force for online pornographic websites on July 15, but Wright said the government failed to notify the European Commission of the proposed guidance on the “standards that companies need to comply with” regarding the new system, which they were required to do so under EU law.

“It has come to my attention in recent days that an important notification process was not undertaken for an element of this policy and I regret to say that this will delay the commencement date,” he said. “Upon learning of this administrative oversight I have instructed my department to notify this guidance to the EU and relay the guidance in Parliament as soon as possible.”

The delay to the legislation, which he said was “was to ensure children were protected from pornographic material they should not see,” would take about six months.

Government officials haven't yet explained exactly how AVCs would work, although they have said producers of pornographic material which could face massive fines or be banned from service providers if they don't comply. The government based the policy decision on polling data from YouGov that suggested 88 percent of U.K. parents with children younger than 18 believe age-verification technology should be used to curb access to adult content.

But the administrative failing was criticized by the opposition Labor Party lawmaker Cat Smith, who described the situation as a “shambles” that showed the government was “letting children down.”

In April, the digital rights organization Open Rights Group decried the AVC system as a "serious failing" for users' privacy and was introduced without proper public consultation.

"It's understandable why the government wants age verification on porn sites," Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, told ABC News. "However, they have refused to regulate AV for safety and privacy of customers. This is a serious failing and something they could fix immediately. Unfortunately, there was little public debate when the laws were passed."

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MagicDreamer/iStock(NEW YORK) -- An unusual warming pattern has caused the Greenland ice sheet to melt at "unusual," potentially record-breaking rates, causing it to dump even more water into the already-rising ocean, experts told ABC News.

The weather has been so warm -- up to 59 degrees Fahrenheit above the mean in some areas -- that two billion tons of the ice sheet melted on just June 13, according to Polar Portal, a website run by the Danish Meteorological Institute, which monitors the ice and climate in the arctic based on scientific models.

In addition, the warming season began about a month earlier than usual, DMI announced last month.

Warming events are becoming 'more and more frequent'

The warm temperatures on June 13 and 14 resulted from a pocket of air that led to clear skies and persisted for a long period of time over the eastern portion of Greenland, said Marco Tedesco, a polar scientist specializing in Greenland for the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York.

The clear skies created more solar radiation, which heated the ice sheet and promoted the melting, Tedesco told ABC News.

Scientists are noticing that these events are becoming "more and more frequent," Tedesco said. Researchers believe it is connected to the jet stream, or polar vortex, becoming less stable, which creates high-pressure systems that can be sustained for longer periods of time and leads to the "exceptional melting," Tedesco said.

Last week, the temperatures were "very warm," even for summer, which hasn't yet started in the region, said Martin Stendel, senior climate and arctic researcher for the Danish Meteorological Institute.

About 40 percent to 45 percent of the ice sheet was melting on the hottest days, a new record for that time period, Tedesco said.

The ice sheet is the largest contributor of water into the ocean every year

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in April found that the melting of the Greenland ice sheet has contributed to more than a half-inch of rising ocean waters since 1972, making it the largest contributor of new water into the ocean every year.

The warming has accelerated so much in recent years that about a quarter inch of the additional water occurred in the last eight years, the study found.

On average, the Greenland ice sheet produces about 270 gigatons of discharge in the oceans per year, Tedesco said. Since 2003, the ice sheet has contributed about 10 millimeters every year, and scientists expect that number to increase as the earth continues to warm, which would equate to about a 1 meter sea rise by the end of the century, Stendel said.

The warming temperatures also melted sea ice

About 40 percent of Greenland experienced "unusual" melting as a result of the unseasonably warm temperatures, which included a considerable amount of sea ice, according to DMI.

A photo taken by Danish Meteorological Institute climate scientist Steffen Olsen on June 13 shows dogs running across the sea ice in northwest Greenland, the surface of which had melted, making it appear as if they were running on water.

The water remained on top due to the rapid melt and few cracks in the ice, so there was nowhere for it to go, Stendel said.

The sea ice is more than a meter thick, which made it "perfectly safe" for the researchers to cross, he added.

A similar trend occurred in 2012

The warming season in 2012 set the record for the amount of melting in the ice sheet, according to experts. That year, melting reached more than 90 percent of the ice sheet and continued past the typical peak of high pressure from July through August, Tedesco said.

In 2012, the high-pressure system also began in April, which promoted more solar radiation and triggered a melt at the beginning of the season, Tedesco said.

The Greenland ice sheet contributed about twice the amount of water into the ocean that year, Tedesco said. While the record for the largest-ever melting was set that year, there is a possibility that 2019 could beat it, Stendel said.

It would take thousands of years for the ice sheet to recover

The ice sheet formed from thousands of years of snow layers accumulating on top of each other, Tedesco said. The weight of the top layer of snow would cause the snow below to begin expelling air, compressing the ice and making it denser.

Not only does that process take thousands of years, but it requires that the snow deposits do not melt in the warming season, Tedesco said.

The amount of snowfall during the winter can affect how fast or slow the ice melts

An abundance of snowfall during the winter months not only adds to the mass of the ice sheet, but also makes it brighter, which reflects the sun more and acts as a "blanket" for the ice, Tedesco said. This can slow down the melting in the warming season.

However, if the snow goes through multiple melting and freezing cycles, such as what happened in the past week, it transforms into "metamorphous snow," which tends to absorb more solar energy and causes the ice to melt sooner, Tedesco said.

This past winter did not see a lot of snowfall, according to Tedesco.

Sea levels rising can have catastrophic consequences

The rapidly rising sea levels are important to note, not only in terms of the next century but perhaps in the next decade or two, Tedesco said.

The sea levels surrounding New York City have been rising at around 3 millimeters per year, Tedesco said.

For example, if someone were to stand in the Hudson River in New York City where the water barely covered his or her feet in 1871, that same area of water would now come up past knee-level, Tedesco said.

Scientists expect the rising sea levels to exacerbate weather events such as storm surge, tides, rain and precipitation, Tedesco said.

One thing people should be especially aware of is the permafrost located in the northern arctic regions, particularly Canada and Siberia, that is trapping greenhouses gases, Stendel said. If temperatures rise more than 10 degrees in the arctic, the permafrost will become unstable and could release the greenhouse gases.

While this may not affect the frequency of strong storms, such as hurricanes, each individual storm could become stronger because warm air can carry more water vapor than cold air, Stendel said.

In addition, people should expect more of what is already occurring -- wet regions will get more wet, and dry regions will become drier, Stendel said.

Since a large portion of world's population live near coastlines, this could -- and already has -- lead to deaths and billions of dollars in damage, Tedesco said.

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