World Headlines

iStock/Craig LambertBY: JULIA JACOBO, ABC News

(SYDNEY) -- Nearly 400 pilot whales have died after they became stranded off the coast of Australia, wildlife officials announced Wednesday.

The whales began piling up off Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania's West Coast earlier this week, according to the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service. While marine biologists initially believed about 270 whales had been stranded in three different locations, a fourth location containing an additional 200 whales was found about 6 miles into the harbor at Fraser Flats.

Practically all of those whales were found dead. About 30 at that location remain alive, marine biologists determined.

Nearly 380 whales in total have died.

On Wednesday, rescue crews continued their attempt to save the whales by re-floating them, according to the wildlife service. So far, about 50 have been saved.

"That’s a success and we will continue to try and free as many of the remaining alive animals as we can," said Nic Deka, wildlife regional manager for the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service.

Many of the whales are in locations that are not easily accessible, Deka said. But the wet and cool weather -- as well as a higher tide in coming days -- is increasing the likelihood that some of the whales will survive, he noted.

"Whenever they are still alive and still in water there is certainly hope for them, but as time goes on, they do become more fatigued and their chance of survival reduces," Deka said. "We will continue working while there are still alive animals on site."

Strandings of pilot and sperm whales are not uncommon in Tasmania, Deka said on Monday, adding that Macquarie Harbor seems to be a "hot spot."

The location where the 200 whales were found dead was a farther distance than the other spots and "not necessarily a place that is obvious for a stranding," Deka told reporters on Wednesday.

The whales' navigation and false echoes may lure them into the harbor and wildlife biologist Dr. Kris Carlyon hypothesized that the "misadventure" of one or two whales while feeding off the coast could lead many others astray because of the social nature of the species.

“There is little we can do to prevent this occurring in the future," Carlyon said Wednesday.

Rescue crews will do a more extensive search now that more whales have been found, Deka said. Pilot whales often travel in pods of up to 1,000, so there may be more offshore, Carylon said.

ABC News' Tomek Rolski and Christine Theodorou contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


PeterHermesFurian/iStockBy PATRICK REEVELL, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Belarus' authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko was sworn in as president in a surprise, secretive ceremony held Wednesday amid tight security and with no announcement beforehand.

The ceremony was held without a live broadcast on state media and most Belarusians only learned of it after Lukashenko's press service announced he had already been sworn in. Troops and riot police sealed off the main avenues of the capital in Minsk and the Independence Palace, where the ceremony took place. Lukashenko's cortege was filmed speeding through the capital's empty streets, flanked by motorcycle outriders.

Video aired on state television afterward, showing Lukashenko in a marble hall speaking to an audience of several hundred officials.

He told the audience his inauguration was "a day of convincing and fateful victory."

"We not only elected a president of the country, we protected our values, our peaceful life, sovereignty and independence," he said.

A presidential election in August gave Lukashenko over 80% of the vote, amid allegations of massive ballot fraud, which has triggered weeks of historic protests demanding he step down and new elections be held. Hundreds of thousands of Belarusians have protested for seven weeks, in face of often brutal violence from Lukashenko's security services.

The secretive inauguration triggered new protests on Wednesday, with several thousand people taking to streets in Minsk and in other cities across Belarus. There were chaotic scenes not far from the palace where Lukashenko was inaugurated, as riot police moved violently to disperse the peaceful protesters, using water cannons on the crowds, the first time they had done so in the capital since the crackdown in the first weeks on the protests.

Lukashenko's main opponent in the election Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who has declared herself "national leader" and pledged to hold new elections, on Wednesday dismissed his inauguration as illegitimate.

"Today, secretly from the people, Lukashenko tried to hold his own inauguration. We all understand what's going on. This so-called inauguration is, of course, a farce. In fact, today Lukashenko has simply retired," Tikhanovskaya said in a statement.

"This means that his orders to the power structures are no longer legitimate, which means they are not subject to execution. I, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, am the only leader elected by the Belarusian people. And our task now is to build a new Belarus together," she said, adding that European countries are ready to support the protest movement.

Tikhanovskaya, who is in exile in neighboring Lithuania where she was forced to flee after the election, was given just 9% of the vote by the official count during it, widely viewed as vastly underestimating the real result.

Several European countries refused to recognize Lukashenko's inauguration, including Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

"Presidential elections in #Belarus were neither free nor fair. Election result is illegal. No ceremony -- pompous or secret -- will change this indisputable fact or create illusion of legitimacy," Gitanas Nausėda, Lithuania's president, wrote on Twitter. He and others urged Lukashenko to open dialogue with the protesters and hold new free and fair elections.

The United States and the European Union have already refused refused to recognize Lukashenko's reelection and have said they are preparing sanctions against top officials in his regime.

Russia, which has thrown support behind Lukashenko, has recognized him as president, as has China and a number of authoritarian former Soviet countries.

The Kremlin's spokesman on Wednesday said he had been unaware the inauguration was taking place.

Inaugurations, as in other countries, are normally major events, held with pomp and announced weeks in advance. Lukashenko's decision to conduct it without any public involvement appeared on highlight the hollowness of his claims to have won the election with massive support, observers said.

"Unannounced in advance, not broadcast to nation. This is not how a candidate with "80% support" does these things," Dr Nigel Gould-Davies, a former British ambassador to Belarus and now a senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, wrote on Twitter.

Protests have continued against Lukashenko for weeks since the election and the crackdown that followed it, with smaller ones taking place most days and huge demonstrations happening each Sunday, involving often over 100,000 people. Despite the massive protests, Lukashenko's government in recent weeks has moved to shore up its grip, increasing the pressure on the demonstrations by detaining hundreds of protesters and targeting opposition leaders, most of whom are either detained or have been driven into exile.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock/Craig LambertBY: JULIA JACOBO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A rescue team in Australia is attempting to save as many pilot whales as possible after more than 270 became stranded in waters off the coast of Tasmania.

The whales are currently in three different locations off Strahan, a town on the west coast of Tasmania, according to Nic Deka, wildlife regional manager for the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service.

Some of the whales are stranded near a sandbar off the Macquarie Heads boat ramp while others are stuck at a sandbar several hundred meters away inside Macquarie Harbor, Deka said, adding that those whales are submerged in water.

About 30 whales are also stranded off Ocean Beach and about 25 have died, Deka said. About a third of all the whales have died, Dr. Kris Carlyon, a wildlife biologist, told reporters.

Many of the whales are in locations that are not easily accessible, Deka said. But the wet and cool weather is increasing the likelihood that some of the whales will survive, he noted.

A rescue effort consisting of about 60 parks department staff, employees from a nearby fish farm, police and volunteers set out Tuesday morning in an attempt to re-float the whales, which will involve getting water beneath them again, Carlyon said. The rescuers will begin with the animals with the best chance of survival, Carlyon said.

It is unclear how long the rescue will take.

Strandings of pilot and sperm whales are not uncommon in Tasmania, Deka said, adding that Macquarie Harbor seems to be a "hot spot." Deka hypothesized that it may have something to do with the whales' navigation and false echoes, while Carlyon said the "misadventure" of one or two whales while feeding off the coast could lead many others astray because of the social nature of the species.

A stranding of this size has not occurred in more than a decade, Deka said.

Pilot whales often travel in groups of up to 1,000, so there may be more offshore, Carylon said.

Rescue efforts may receive a boost in a few days when stronger tides arrive in the area, Carlyon said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


SteveAllenPhoto/iStockBy DRAGANA JOVANOVIC, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The mystery surrounding hundreds of sudden elephant deaths in Botswana seems to have been solved and the findings bring an end to months of speculation on why at least 330 elephants were found dead in the northwestern region of the Southern African country earlier this year.

Initially, possible explanations over the deaths had ranged from poaching to anthrax to poisoning. Now, however, the country has pointed to toxic blooms of cyanobacteria, a naturally occurring neurotoxin and biological phenomenon which has increased due to climate change, according to Mmadi Reuben, principal veterinary officer at the Botswana department of wildlife and national parks.

“As in so many other situations, such as the wildfires in California and Oregon and the floods in the U.K., climate change is the threat multiplier,” Dr. Niall McCann, co-founder of U.K.-based charity National Park Rescue, told ABC News. “Climate change and the effect of global warming on the region is increasing both the intensity and severity of harmful algal blooms, making this issue more likely to reoccur.”

“Our latest tests have detected cyanobacterial neurotoxins to be the cause of deaths. These are anaerobe bacteria found in water of seasonal water pans,” Reuben told ABC News by phone from Gaborone, the country’s capital.

They spent months studying samples from the carcasses, environmental samples from soil and water as well as samples from the live animals and sent them to specialized regional laboratories as well as laboratories in the U.S., Canada and Europe, according to Reuben.

Most carcasses, spotted by aerial surveys, were found clustered around water sources close to the Okavango Delta which, in normal times, is a major tourist safari destination. Some animals were even seen walking dizzily in circles before suddenly dying.

“The unexplained deaths ceased as these seasonal waterholes and water pans dried up in late June, the beginning of our fall,” Reuben explained. “We have a number of hypotheses we are investigating.”

With the exception of one horse, other animal species were not affected by the blue-green algae phenomenon.

“One working hypothesis is that, unlike other animals, elephants suck water with their trunks from underneath, so they drink from deeper levels in the waterholes, closer to silt where the anaerobe toxins are contained,” Reuben explained.

Although there are no official indications that the Botswana elephant deaths might be linked to the unresolved deaths of more than 20 elephants near Hwange, a national park in neighboring Zimbabwe, in August, McCann believes a common denominator is climate change.

“Climate change is the ultimate cause, even if the proximate cause is something different,” claims McCann. “These type of things are only going to become more common, more frequent and the issue of warming waterholes is going to become worse and worse in time.”

Because of climate change, Southern Africa’s temperatures are rising at twice the global average, according to CSAG, one of the leading climate research groups in Africa.

Botswana is home to about 130,000 elephants -- the world's largest elephant population -- with more than a third of Africa's elephants, according to the latest Great Elephant Census, which Reuben's colleagues at the Department for Wildlife and Natural Parks helped produce. It is also one of the most stable countries in Africa with one of the best wildlife records. Tourism accounts for a fifth of Botswana's GDP.

“The important thing is that investigations continue into why this happened so that going forward we can stop this from happening again in time,” concluded Reuben. “The country is already engaged in development of monitoring plan aimed at detecting the blooms early in the water before they cause harm to the animals and taking necessary precautions.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday, authorizing new sanctions on Iranian officials and entities, and those that buy or sell arms to them, because of the "snapped back" United Nations sanctions.

The rest of the world does not consider those U.N. sanctions in place, but part of Trump's cabinet assembled Monday to assert that the U.S. will enforce them.

"We don't need a cheering section to validate our moral compass. We do not find comfort based solely on numbers, particularly when the majority has found themselves in an uncomfortable position of underwriting terrorism, chaos and conflict. We refuse to be members of that club," said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft.

The move has been rejected by the United Nations and U.S. allies, like France, Germany and the United Kingdom, and adversaries, such as China and Russia -- who all remain part of the Iran nuclear deal -- setting up a showdown for when a U.N. embargo on conventional weapons expires next month.

In a show of force, Craft was joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and national security adviser Robert O'Brien at the State Department to unveil the new sanctions.

"The country that's isolated today is not the United States, but rather Iran. By these actions, we have made it very clear that every member state in the United Nations has a responsibility to enforce these sanctions," Pompeo said, including U.S. allies. The European Union has its own arms embargo against Iran, so its members are unlikely to face the new U.S. penalties.

Instead, Monday's announcement targeted 27 Iranian officials and entities, as well as Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro -- already heavily sanctioned. The U.N. arms embargo doesn't lift until Oct. 18, when Russian and Chinese companies, among others, are expected to start conventional arms sales with Tehran.

Laying the groundwork for sanctioning those pending sales, the Trump administration announced sanctions on Iran's defense ministry and its Defense Industries Organization, a government agency that procures weapons for its armed forces, and its director.

The U.S. Treasury sanctioned five new officials, a manufacturing firm, and its subsidiary for their reported role in Iran's ballistic missile program.

Pompeo said the sanctions will remain "until Iran comes to the table," which the Iranian government says it has no intention of doing.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the new sanctions as "nothing new" during an event with the Council on Foreign Relations Monday.

"I don't think that's anything new, and I don't think it will have any more significant impact on on Iran," he said, despite the deep impact sanctions have had on the Iranian economy in the last two and a half years.

Under existing authorities, the State and Treasury Departments also sanctioned six officials and three state-owned firms for their role in Iran's nuclear program, while the Commerce Department is also blacklisting five Iranian scientists from receiving U.S. exports.

Reuters reported Sunday that the Trump administration believes Iran has enough enriched uranium to create a nuclear bomb by year's end. Iran has violated its commitments on how much uranium it can enrich and at what level after the U.S. withdrew from the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions -- although it's still below the 90% threshold needed for a bomb.

"The State Department's 'maximum pressure' campaign has not pressured Iran toward diplomacy and a new agreement. It has pressured them toward an increase in malign activity in the region and toward the development of a nuclear weapon," said Mick Mulroy, Trump's former top Pentagon official for the Middle East and a retired CIA officer who's now an ABC News contributor.

Pompeo declined to comment on the report, but he argued the decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal has made the U.S. safer by blocking funds to the Iranian government, notwithstanding their growing enriched uranium stockpile.

With fears that Iranian and U.S. forces in the region could clash in the coming weeks before the November election, the defense secretary said U.S. forces are at a "high state of alert" and maintain "preparedness to deal with anything."

"While the October deadline for the arms embargo looms large, a more important date is the November U.S. election, which will decide the fate of (Trump's) max pressure" campaign, said Behnam Ben Taleblu, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

ABC News' Matthew Seyler contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Евгений Харитонов/iStockBy JON HAWORTH, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Paleontologists in China have discovered a brand new species of burrowing dinosaur that dates back an estimated 125 million years ago.

The newly found dinosaur species was discovered in the Lujiatun Beds, located in northeast China in the Liaoning Province, in the oldest layers of the famous Yixian Formation which has produced several hundred preserved dinosaur skeletons over the past 20 years.

The fossils of the Changmiania liaoningensis were found perfectly intact and uninterrupted, suggesting to scientists that the animals were trapped by a volcanic eruption while they rested at the bottom of their burrows.

“The Lujiatun Beds would have been a kind of Cretaceous 'Pompeii',” said the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in an article announcing the discovery.

The newly described species is thought to be the most primitive ornithopod dinosaur to date.

The fossils did not retain any traces of feathers but the skeletons were incredibly preserved in three dimensions.

"These animals were quickly covered by fine sediment while they were still alive or just after their death," says palaeontologist Pascal Godefroit of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. “However, certain characteristics of the skeleton suggest that Changmiania could dig burrows, much like rabbits do today. Its neck and forearms are very short but robust, its shoulder blades are characteristic of burrowing vertebrates and the top of its snout is shaped like a shovel. So we believe that both Changmiania specimens were trapped by the volcanic eruption when they were resting at the bottom of their burrows 125 million years ago.”

The new species of dinosaur’s name, Changmiania liaoningensis, comes from the Chinese word “Changmian” which means “eternal sleep.”

The full study was published in the scientific journal PeerJ.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Oleksii Liskonih/iStockBy SOMAYEH MALEKIAN, ABC News

(TEHRAN) -- Iran officials again denied Saturday any plot to assassinate the U.S. ambassador in South Africa as an act of retaliation to the killing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' top general, Qassem Soleimani. However, the commander of the IRGC vowed that revenge for Soleimani's death would be "decisive, serious and real."

"We will hit the people who, directly and indirectly, played a role in the martyrdom of the great man [Soleimani]," IRGC Commander Hossein Salami said in a ceremony addressing military commanders and staff as Tasnim News Agency reported on Sunday.

Soleimani, former commander of the Quds Force, was killed in a U.S. drone strike approved by President Donald Trump on Jan. 3. Soleimani was considered the most influential person in executing IRGC's extraterritorial operations including those in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.

The IRGC commander said that any revenge for Soleimani would be taken in an "honorable, fair and just manner, not on a female ambassador to South Africa."

"If a hair is missing from an Iranian, we will burn all of your hair. These threats are serious. We won't do verbal fights. We will leave everything to the field of action. We will go on, with confidence and strength," he added.

Iran had dismissed the plot about killing the U.S. diplomat in South African right after accusations were made when Politico published a report on Sept. 13 about an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate Lana Marks, a longtime friend of Trump who began her work as an ambassador to South Africa in October.

The IRGC commander made the revenge statements after South Africa's State Security Agency said it had found no evidence to support the reports on the Iranian plot.

"At present, the information provided is not sufficient to sustain the allegation that there is a credible threat against the United States ambassador to South Africa," State Security Agency spokesperson Mava Scott said in a statement, adding that South African officials had met with their U.S. counterparts to request additional information.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


solarseven/iStockBy ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Israel's second COVID-19 lockdown started on Friday as the Jewish High Holidays began.

The lockdown, which will last for three weeks, went into effect at 2 p.m. local time. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, begins Friday night, and is typically a time for family gatherings.

Supermarkets and pharmacies will stay open during the lockdown but schools and nonessential businesses will close.

Synagogues can stay open but there are strict rules as to how many worshippers can go inside at one time. Ten days after Rosh Hashanah is Yom Kippur; attending synagogue is an important part of both holidays.

Israel has over 179,000 people diagnosed with COVID-19. At least 1,196 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins data.

Israel's first nationwide pandemic lockdown ended in May.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Alessandro Biascioli/iStockBy GUY DAVIES, ABC News

(LONDON) -- The summer of protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis was not confined to the United States. Demonstrations featuring placards emblazoned with Floyd's face and his last words, "I can't breathe," spread to Canada and Brazil, to Europe, and even as far as Australia.

Yet the protesters weren't merely demonstrating in solidarity with their U.S. counterparts. They turned inward -- looking at their own countries' histories of racial violence, the present state of systemic racism, and police brutality.

How far these protests have impacted the nature of policing and the understanding of racism in Europe is a matter of debate, but the visibility and depth of the protests were undeniable in a continent that, in the words of one commentator, "offshored its slavery and colonialism" to the U.S.

The nature of policing

The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black citizens at the hands of the police this year once again threw into sharp focus the United States' long history of police brutality. Elsewhere in the world, particularly in the U.K. and France, recognition of the deaths of Black people in confrontations with the police was a prominent feature of the Black Lives Matter movement, which is not directly linked to the U.S. equivalent.

"I think it's been an astonishing year, an astonishing summer, for a massive increase in anger at police all over the world," Lawrence Sherman, criminologist and director of Cambridge University's Center for Evidence Based Policing, told ABC News.

Yet, in terms of scale, tactics and accountability measures, police violence in the U.S. is "enormously different" than in other advanced democracies, according to Sherman.

Police in the U.S., by far, kill more civilians per year than other wealthy democracies, according to data compiled by the Prison Policy initiative. Last year, 1,099 people were killed in confrontations with the police in the U.S., a rate of 33.5 citizens per 10 million per year; the next highest countries were Canada with 36 deaths (9.8 citizens per 10 million) and Australia with 21 (8.5 citizens per 10 million). In England and Wales -- the scenes of some of the largest Black Lives Matter protests outside the U.S. this summer -- only three people were killed in police shootings last year, a rate of 0.5 citizens per 10 million.

Crucial to that disparity, according to Sherman, is not just the fact that many other national police are not armed -- but that the populations aren't either. There are an estimated 270 million civilian firearms in the U.S., which amounts to 89 firearms per 100 residents, according to the Small Arms Survey. In contrast, there are only 30 civilian firearms per 100 residents in Germany, the highest number among countries in the European Union, and just six guns per 100 people in England and Wales.

"Gun ownership is a huge factor," Sherman said. "And it differentiates the American police not only from Britain, where the police are unarmed, but from the rest of Europe where they all carry guns. But they never shoot anybody relative to U.S. numbers. So, why don't they shoot anybody? Because the population is largely unarmed."

Despite that difference, recent polls published after the death of Floyd suggest that even if the scale of fatal violence is not comparable, racism in the police is a very real and pressing issue. The anti-racism charity Hope Not Hate published poll findings in August that found 80% of Black Britons said that "police are biased against people from my background," with 65% of all ethnic minorities agreeing with the statement.

The racial breakdown of law enforcement and representation in the criminal justice system in the U.K. is broadly similar to that in the United States. Black people in the U.K. are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people, which the Equality and Human Rights commission attributes to "racial discrimination." In the U.K., Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) residents make up 25% of the adult prison population and 40% of the youth custody population, despite comprising 14% of the overall population. And although there are relatively few deaths at the hands of police, in confrontations with the police where force is used, BAME individuals are two times more likely to die than white people.

"The relationship between Black people here and Black people with American police is identical," Kehinde Andrews, professor of Black studies at Birmingham City University, told ABC News. "There's as much antipathy, distrust. And for good reason. There's the same problems -- it's just not as violent."

"It's less extreme, right? But it's not better," Andrews said. "It's the same system. There is no difference between American racism and British racism. They have the same root, they have the same logic. It's the same thing playing out over there and here."

There is, however, a marked difference in the levels of accountability between British and American police, at least on a legal level. Enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, an international treaty with 47 state signatories, is a "duty to investigate all suspicious deaths" at the hands of state agents.

Each time serious injury or death in police custody occurs in the U.K., Sherman said, police forces refer themselves to the Independent Office of Police Conduct, a watchdog which has the power to take over internal investigations. In the U.S., on the other hand, such reviews are often "internal matters" for police departments.

Since 1856, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in the U.K. has had the power to "defund" malfunctioning police departments, and the establishment of an equivalent entity in the U.S. could drastically change accountability, Sherman said.

"The remarkable thing about the regulatory process in the U.S. is that it's heavily driven by individual lawyers going to court, and that's how the information came out in Rochester [with the death of Daniel Prude]," he said. "But in principle the state could give an inspector general of the police [the power] to go in in the wake of any such event ... and the power to decertify all those officers after a review."

A reckoning with history

This summer was by no means the first summer of European protests sparked by a police killing, even if in this instance the impetus came from abroad. The U.K., Andrews said, has a long history of "urban rebellion," including the 2011 London riots sparked by the police shooting of Mark Duggan, and race riots in the London neighborhood of Brixton throughout the 1980s.

In France, the renewed scrutiny around Floyd's death prompted protests to demand justice for Adama Traore, a 24-year-old Black man who died in police custody in 2016.

So does the U.K. have its equivalents to Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, names that are used to call for an end to racial injustice?

"Within Black Britain, there are a number of names that we do have in the same way," Andrews said. "It probably hasn't caught the mainstream attention as much … to be honest, the only real difference between these [2020] protests and all the protests in the U.K. over the past 50 years is that white people paid more attention."

The murder of Stephen Lawrence, a Black man killed in a racist attack in London in 1993, is perhaps the highest profile death of that kind, he said.

Both in the U.S. and Europe, images of Floyd and Taylor adorned many of the placards at the Black Lives Matter protests this summer. That's in part because countries often look to the U.S. as a focal point for social justice issues, since the U.S. "culturally does have dominance in general," Andrews said. But the history of the British Empire and slavery mean there is still an interconnection between Black experiences across the Atlantic.

"One of the things that gets missed sometimes with this is that Blackness is defined by diaspora," Andrews said. "So when we see something that's happening in America, or the Caribbean, or Africa, it does happen to us. There's a very real sense it happens to us."

That diaspora has its origins in Europe's slave-trading past -- which is why perhaps the defining images of the U.K.'s recent Black Lives Matter protests involved the denigration of monuments to the continent's colonial history.

In Bristol, England, protesters toppled a statue of Edward Colston, a 17th century slave trader whose name, to this day, is featured on some of the city's concert halls and pubs. The statue was unceremoniously thrown into the harbor where Colston based his slave trading, which is believed to have involved the kidnapping and trafficking of over 80,000 West Africans, about a quarter of whom died in transit to the Americas.

And in Brussels, Belgium, demonstrators protested a statue of King Leopold II, who was responsible for horrific atrocities in Congo, by climbing atop the monument and waving the African country's flag.

A reckoning with Britain's imperial legacy appeared to be a central point of the protests. One participant in London's June protests told ABC News they were marching to help "educate" fellow Britons about their colonial past.

"One of the reasons why education and colonial history is such a big part of the movement here, is because we offshored our racial violence," according to Andrews. "Britain and Europe like to pretend that they're different from the States."

Even so, it is difficult to say whether Europe has reckoned with its past in the aftermath of a tumultuous summer. According to Sherman, who regularly consults with U.K. police leaders, "because of what happened in the U.S., there's much more pressure on British police than there was before George Floyd was killed."

The visibility of the protests has helped raise funding for grassroots organizations -- yet the national conversation around racism in the U.K. and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on minorities has swiftly moved on, according to Andrews, who said he's surprised at "how quickly things have gone back to normal," with "race only talked about in the culture wars context."

Perhaps, said Andrews, the intensity of the summer's protests was partly a result of the pandemic.

"The cynic in me is mostly down to the fact that it was lockdown, there wasn't much else going on, and it kind of caught the imagination for that reason," he said. "I strongly doubt if we were going about our normal business whether this would have made the impact that it did."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Beirut, Lebanon, is still devastated by the Aug. 4 explosion that ripped through the city, killing 190 people and destroying homes and businesses.

More than a month after the blast, a group at the site of the disaster has been working to reunite residents with their animal companions who were lost or displaced.

At Animals Lebanon, a registered charity that has been organizing rescue operations for animals in Beirut since the explosion, staff and volunteers said they have been searching daily for hundreds of pets at or near the explosion site.

"Most of the pets actually either ran away from their homes or got stranded. Cats were on the edge of balconies or in elevator shafts. We saw horrors," Maggie Shaarawi, the vice president and co-founder of Animals Lebanon, told ABC News' Good Morning America. "Our team has been on the ground from the night of the explosion because we've been getting phone calls and people hysterically calling us from the hospital saying, 'Please, my animal is at home. Can you help?'"

The day of

For Shaarawi, the day of the explosion started out like any normal day.

Shaarawi, who was exercising at the gym when the blast occurred, at first thought it was an earthquake. She recalls glass from the staircase and windows shattering in the gym. But in that moment, her immediate instinct, she said, was to run to the animal shelter.

When she arrived, glass from the walls used to separate the cats was shattered, but luckily the animals in the shelter survived the blast's impact. The team was able to treat the cats who were injured, she said.

Yet the moment was so surreal for Shaarawi that she says she didn't know what to do first when she saw the shelter.

"There was glass everywhere, blood everywhere, injured cats, so my brain was frozen," she said.

Searching the streets for stray pets

Rescuing the animals at the shelter took hours, but Shaarawi and her team decided to go into the city and rescue other animals too.

"We went out trying to get as close as possible to the worst-affected areas that night," said Jason Mier, the director at Animals Lebanon. "We kind of just had a quick conversation and we just agreed, let's give this a try."

It wasn't until the next morning that they were able to see the scope of the blast. Mier recalls streets being blocked and glass from buildings everywhere, making it difficult to even navigate where to go.

According to Shaarawi, one of the hardest-hit areas was the high-end neighborhood of Beirut, where many people lived in buildings with their pets. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many people with pets were at home that day.

She remembers the unpleasant and distinct smell after the blast, and walking up the stairs to the 16th and 17th floors of buildings to search for stray animals.

Shaarawi said it was easier to locate dogs who were separated from their owners, since they would immediately come to rescue teams -- while cats would usually stay hiding.

"They were traumatized," said Shaarawi. "For each cat to be found, we had to spend hours looking for them under the rubble, looking in areas that you wouldn't think about, looking from downstairs to see if the balcony had [any] cats."

Shaarawi recalls one cat that she and her team had been trying to find for three days under the rubble of one of the buildings. The owners -- a couple that was injured from the blast -- had been searching for their cat in the street. Shaarawi said that a volunteer located the cat among the damaged building, but the animal was so frightened that he buried himself deeper in the rubble.

To help lure the animal out, Shaarawi had the couple get as close to their cat as possible and call out to him. The tactic worked almost immediately, and the powerful reunion was captured on camera.

"[They were] just so happy," Shaarwi said of the couple's reunion with their cat. "These are the moments that I will never forget -- it's just bringing this happiness to these people who lost a lot."

Ongoing efforts

With the help of over 300 volunteers, Animals Lebanon has been able to rescue more than 300 animals -- and they continue to reunite more pets with their owners each day.

But Shaarawi says the work is harder now since many people have lost everything, including their homes, and can't even afford to feed their pets. Since the blast, which also coincided with an economic and financial crisis in the country and a pandemic, Animals Lebanon has amplified its response to help families who were already struggling to care for their pets.

"We're going door-to-door providing food for pets so owners can keep them," said Shaarawi, adding that the group has been helping to fund surgery costs for animals that need it. "If we are able to help these people with this ... they can at least get back on their feet soon and hopefully find jobs and rebuild their homes."

Shaarawi said that reuniting animals with their owners has given her and her team motivation to continue their search efforts.

"The reaction of people when they were reunited with their pets was all it took for us and for me personally to get up every day and still do this work despite the stress that we're going through," said Shaarawi, who helps update the shelter's Instagram page with videos of pet rescues and owner reunions.

Currently, Animals Lebanon is working to find forever homes for unclaimed pets that they've found. They're also sending rescued animals to the U.S. for adoption.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


WoodyAlec/iStockBy PATRICK REEVELL, ABC News

(MOSCOW) -- Traces of the Novichok nerve agent allegedly used to poison Alexey Navalny were found on a water bottle in his hotel room in the Siberian city of Tomsk, where he was staying before he fell critically ill, according to the Russian opposition leader's colleagues.

The discovery is potentially an important clue in understanding how Navalny was poisoned and left fighting for his life. His colleagues on Thursday though said it did not appear the bottle itself had contained the nerve agent but that it had picked up traces of the chemical from Navalny when he drank from it, after he had been poisoned. That suggests Navalny was exposed to the poison before he left the hotel and not at the airport, where initially it was suspected he may have ingested it in a cup of tea.

Navalny fell critically ill on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow almost a month ago and was later airlifted to Berlin in an induced coma. Toxicology tests showed Navalny had been poisoned with a nerve agent from the Novichok family, a type of military chemical weapon developed covertly by Russia and used in the 2018 poisoning of the former Russian double agent Sergey Skripal in Britain.

Navalny's team said in an Instagram post on Thursday that a German lab had found traces of the nerve agent on one of several hotel water bottles that his colleagues in Tomsk collected immediately after learning he had fallen sick. Fearing Navalny had likely been poisoned, they decided to quickly gather potential evidence.

"It was clear from the very beginning that he had been poisoned," Georgy Alburov, a member of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation who was among those who collected the bottles from the hotel room, told ABC News on Thursday. He said they decided they need to gather the things "even if there was a microscopic chance that it could be useful."

The Instagram post included a video showing Navalny's colleagues in the hotel room wearing rubber gloves and collecting water bottles. Alburov said they also took shampoo bottles and sealed everything in a sealed bag.

"If we could have taken the bed, we would have taken the bed," he said.

Two weeks later, the German military lab found traces of the Novichok nerve agent and three other labs that took samples from Navalny confirmed it was the same he was poisoned with, Navalny's team said. That ruled out any possibility that Navalny had been poisoned after he left the hotel.

But Alburov said the concentration of nerve agent found on the bottle was so small that it was clear the bottle had not contained the poison itself. He ruled out that the Novichok could have been in the water Navalny had drunk.

"No, in the water, no way. There wasn't some kind of very big concentration, but there were enough traces that Alexey had touched that bottle," he said.

Tiny traces, likely left by Navalny's saliva, had remained on the bottle, Alburov said.

"That bottle isn't the first source of the poison. It is a sort of fingerprint because it was used by Alexey -- he drank water from it when he was already poisoned," he said.

Two labs in Sweden and France also have confirmed Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent. French President Emmanuel Macron called President Vladimir Putin this week, demanding Russia urgently shed light on the circumstances around Navalny's poisoning.

Navalny regained consciousness from the induced coma last week and appears to be recovering. This week he posted his first public message since the poisoning, along with a photo of himself sitting up and awake in his hospital bed surrounded by his family. His spokeswoman has said he intends to return to Russia once he recovers.

Navalny's family and colleagues have accused the Kremlin of being behind his poisoning and that the use of Novichok, a military nerve agent closely held by the Russian state, means it must have been conducted with Putin's approval.

The Kremlin has denied any involvement and has pointed to claims by Russian doctors who initially treated Navalny that they found no signs of poisoning.

Navalny was taken to a hospital in Omsk, where the plane made an emergency landing after he collapsed on board. He was treated there initially before his family had him flown to Germany. Navalny's relatives and colleagues accused the Kremlin of deliberately delaying Navalny's evacuation to try to make it harder for German doctors to identify what he was poisoned with.

The Omsk hospital has suggested Navalny had suffered an episode of severe low blood pressure caused by a "metabolic disorder."

But Alburov noted that the Omsk paramedics who first treated Navalny on the airport runway had given him atropine, an antidote for poisoning.

A number of opposition figures and Kremlin critics have been poisoned previously in Russia, who have struggled afterward to identify the poison because they have been unable to get samples fast enough to independent labs abroad and Russian authorities refused to investigate.

Navalny's colleagues have said they were sure from the beginning that Russian authorities would also obstruct any investigation into Navalny's poisoning and therefore decided they needed to preserve everything they could.

Alburov said he and others had spread the bottles out among different cars to transport them first to Omsk while Navalny was being treated there, saying they had taken the precautions because local police had sought to them. From Omsk, he said, the bottles and other objects were placed aboard the medical evacuation plane provided by a German NGO that then carried Navalny to Berlin. He said Russian police in Omsk had not taken any steps to investigate besides seizing CCTV camera footage at the hotel.

"It was pretty obvious the case will not be investigated in Russia," Navalny's team wrote on Thursday. "And that was right: nearly one month after, Russia hasn't recognized Alexey's poisoning."

Russian police have so far said they see no grounds for opening a criminal investigation into Navalny's case since Russian doctors have not confirmed he was poisoned.

The head of Russia's foreign intelligence service, Sergey Naryshkin, said on Monday that all Novichok stocks in Russia had been destroyed and insisted there was no evidence Navalny had been exposed to anything toxic.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


DanHenson1/iStockBy PATRICK REEVELL, ABC News

(MOSCOW) -- Top members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs have submitted a resolution demanding that Russia free Trevor Reed, a former U.S. Marine jailed by the country who U.S. officials suspect is being used as a political bargaining chip.

Reed, 29, from Granbury, Texas, was sentenced by a Moscow court to nine years in a Russian penal colony in late July, after already spending over a year in detention. He was convicted of assaulting two police officers, but in his trial police presented virtually no evidence Reed had actually done so and repeatedly contradicted their stories.

Reed is the second former U.S. Marine jailed in Russia following the case of Paul Whelan, who was sentenced to 16 years jail in Russia on espionage charges in June, and whose family and U.S. officials believe was also taken as a bargaining chip. The United States has condemned the jailing of both men and urged Russia to release them.

On Capitol Hill Wednesday, 21 Republican and Democrat representatives from Texas introduced a resolution to the Committee on Foreign Affairs demanding that Russian President Vladimir Putin immediately free Reed. The resolution was submitted by the lead Republican on the committee, Rep. Michael McCaul, and ranking member Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and is backed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

"The trumped up charges brought against Trevor are clearly politically motivated," the lawmakers sponsoring the resolution said in a statement. "His sentence was based on evidence that was so utterly ludicrous that it was met with laughter in the courtroom, including from the Russian judge. We urge the Vladimir Putin regime to put a stop to this ordeal and release Trevor immediately."

Speaking at a press conference outside the Capitol with Reed's mother, Paula, after introducing the resolution, McCaul said, "I hope this sends a strong message to the Putin regime that America will not stand idly by as Putin and his cronies hold U.S. citizens as political pawns."

Reed's detention began in August 2019 after he allegedly became heavily intoxicated at a party in Moscow where he was visiting his girlfriend and studying Russian. On the way home, Reed forced friends to pull over and refused to get back in the car. Concerned he might hurt himself, they called the police to take him to a drunk tank or a police station to sober up.

Two police officers arrived and drove Reed to a station. The officers later claimed that Reed attacked them while they were driving, causing their car to swerve dangerously. But in his trial, video evidence produced by the defense showed the car never swerved and the officers repeatedly changed their accounts.

Despite that, the judge gave Reed the maximum sentence, the longest ever given in Russia for such an offense, according to his lawyers.

U.S. officials have said they believe Reed's military background, like Whelan, made him a target of opportunity for Russian authorities.

"It's clear that once they found out that Trevor had been a Marine -- and an embassy Marine -- the Putin administration thought they had a tool or a pawn that they could use to further their goals," Conaway said at the press conference.

Reed's mother spoke at the press conference, saying the past year had been a "nightmare."

"He is an innocent man," she said.

The draft resolution calls on the U.S. government to raise Reed's case in all interactions with Russia and demands that Russia provide unrestricted consular access to him.

The White House National Security Council and the State Department have also denounced Reed's trial as unjust and called on Russia to release him. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun on a visit to Moscow last month raised Reed and Whelan's detentions during talks.

U.S. officials have said they believe Reed and Whelan have both been taken by Russia to use as possible leverage with the U.S. Russian officials have publicly floated the idea of trading Whelan and Reed for two Russian citizens currently jailed in the U.S. -- Konstantin Yaroshenko, convicted of large-scale drug smuggling, and Viktor Bout, one of the world's best-known arms dealers convicted on terrorism charges. Both men have suspected ties to Russian intelligence.

U.S. officials have declined to comment publicly on whether any trade could be possible. But such an exchange for Bout and Yaroshenko is viewed as problematic given the U.S. considers them serious criminals and Reed and Whelan to be innocent tourists.

"I think the problem with this matter is that they're using him as a political pawn to release two very dangerous criminals. So it's like apples and orange," McCaul said.

Asked whether President Donald Trump was aware of Reed's case, McCaul said he was and that it had been raised to the "president's level."

Reed is currently still in a Moscow jail, awaiting transfer to a more remote penal colony. Whelan was moved last month to a penal colony a few hundred miles from Moscow.

Reed's father, Joey, has already spent over a year in Moscow trying to help his son. Paula Reed pleaded for his release on Wednesday.

"We have no part in the dispute between the United States and Russia," she said. "And I badly need my son Trevor to be back at home in Texas so that he can continue on with his life."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(BERLIN) -- German officials announced Wednesday that they will accept hundreds of refugees who were displaced during last week's fire at the Moria camp in Greece.

The German government said it would take 408 families consisting of 1,553 people who were living in the refugee settlement located on the island of Lesbos.

"Equally, Germany will take in up to 150 unaccompanied minor asylum-seekers. This decision was taken last week and is part of a joint initiative with France and other EU states," the German government said in a news release.

Greek investigators said asylum-seekers living in the camp started a fire on Sept. 9, following a mandatory lockdown triggered by a COVID-19 case confirmed earlier in the month. Roughly 12,500 refugees were living in the camp that was built to hold about 2,750, according to The Associated Press.

Police have detained five foreign nationals from Afghanistan in connection with the Moria fires and are still searching for one other suspect, Greek minister of citizen protection Michalis Chrisochoidis told reporters on Tuesday.

Some 400 unaccompanied children from the camp have been flown to shelters in northern Greece. They were quarantined and tested for COVID-19, according to officials.

One thousand asylum seekers were housed in a private ferry while 2,500 were housed in two Greek naval ships.

The camp has been criticized for years by leaders and humanitarians for its dire conditions and packed facilities.

On Wednesday, Greece's migration minister Notis Mitarachi said the recent fires at facilities in Lesvos, Samos, and in recent months in Chios, demonstrate the need to immediately close "lawless" migrant centers and to create supervised centers that will offer humane living conditions.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


oversnap/iStockBy KARMA ALLEN, ABC News

(BRIDGETOWN, Barbados) -- Barbados announced plans to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state next year, marking the first time in nearly 30 years since a commonwealth country dropped a monarch.

Barbados Governor-General Sandra Mason made the announcement in a speech Tuesday, revealing that the Caribbean nation would move "toward full sovereignty and become a Republic" by Nov. 30, 2021 on the country's 55th anniversary of independence from the British empire.

Proponents of the changes have long advocated for a Barbadian head of state, calling the Queen's reign of the country a symbol of imperialism.

"Having attained Independence over half a century ago, our country can be in no doubt about its capacity for self-governance. The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind," Mason said, reading a speech written by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley. "Barbadians want a Barbadian Head of State. This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving."

Mottley also quoted the country's first premier Errol Barrow who warned against "loitering on colonial premises."

When asked to comment on the plans, a spokesperson for Buckingham Palace told ABC News that it is a matter for the government and people of Barbados.

The Queen is recognized as head of state in more than a dozen countries that were previously under British control. The Queen is, for the most part, removed from daily governmental affairs in Barbados, according to the royal website, which described her as a "constitutional monarch"

"The Queen is not involved in the day-to-day business of Barbados’s Government," the website said. "However, she is in regular contact with the Governor-General -- her representative there -- who keeps her updated with any significant news or developments."

Officials have floated the idea for years and other formerly British-ruled nations, including Jamaica, have also expressed the desire to become republics.

In 2012, during Prince Harry's diamond jubilee visit, Jamaica Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller reiterated her previous plans for the country to become a republic.

"No race should have been subjected to what our ancestors were subjected to," she said in an interview with the BBC. "We gained our freedom through the sweat, blood and tears of our ancestors and we are now free. If Britain wishes to apologize, fine with us, no problem at all."

She added: "It's not about getting rid of the Queen -- who could get rid of the Queen? She is a wonderful, beautiful lady. The decision to become a republic shouldn't be taken in the context of us wanting to get rid of the Queen."

Several countries have moved to drop the Queen as head of state over the years with Mauritius being the last to do so in 1992.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- One Canadian journalist is speaking up against a viewer who tried to body-shame her.

On Twitter, Kori Sidaway of CHEK News in Victoria, British Columbia, posted a screenshot of an anonymous message sent to her attempting to "shame and police" her body.

The screenshot of the email was positioned as "breaking news," and the top line reads "too much cleavage can break a news story." The sender, who signed their name "Vancouver Island Cleavage Patrol," went on to advise Sidaway to dress appropriately.

As a response to the email, Sidaway said, "To the nameless computer warrior(s) who try to reduce women into an outfit or a body part -- this generation of women, doesn't stand for harassment."

This screenshot was sent to me and my colleagues in an attempt to shame and police my body. Well, I’m taking my power back.

To the nameless computer warrior(s) who try to reduce women into an outfit or a body part — this generation of women, doesn’t stand for harassment👩🏼‍🤝‍👩🏻✌🏻

— Kori Sidaway (@korisidaway) September 7, 2020

"My first reaction was total shock," Sidaway told ABC News' Good Morning America. "I just couldn't believe someone put so much time and energy into policing my body."

What made matters worse is that Sidaway quickly found out that the email was not only sent to her, but to everyone from CHEK News' IT and advertising team as well as her boss and many others in the newsroom.

After the initial shock came feelings of shame. Sidaway worried that her colleagues would now be assessing her outfit and body.

"I felt as if someone had taken the power over my own body away," she said. "I felt completely defeated."

"Then came the anger," Sidaway added. "I didn't want to let this nameless keyboard warrior take my power away. I didn't want to give them the result they wanted."

Sidaway's boss responded to the email advising the sender that the company would be looking into anything criminal in the harassing message. The person on the nameless email responded, in short, "sounds good."

She responded as well, saying "to the nameless, anonymous computer warrior who decided to reduce the work I do into an outfit, or a body part. You consciously took time out of your day to police a woman's body, and you seem proud of that. I genuinely feel sorry for you. Next time, I hope you choose respect, and kindness."

Sidaway says she has received negative comments in the past from viewers about her clothing or body, but this message hit differently.

"The implication being, not only am I responsible for my own work, my own appearance, but now I'm responsible for the imagination of others," she said. "Let's be clear, I am not. No one is responsible for the actions or thoughts of others."

She continued, "And the extension of that line of thinking is even more frightening. At its root, saying that someone else is responsible for your imagination, is victim-blaming. No woman is responsible for the thoughts or actions of others, and I wanted that heard, not hidden. I wanted to shine a light on this terrifying thought process."

Sidaway was motivated to share her experience on social media because she didn't want to sit in shame. She also didn't want to internalize the harassment.

"The person who sent the email wanted to shrink me, instead I stood tall," she said. "I looked at the photo of myself they had sent. I look beautiful. I look powerful. So, I decided to flip the script this person wrote me into repurposing the photo into something powerful."

Struck by Sidaway's initial post, a flood of other messages came in from other women sharing similar experiences.

Journalist and TV host Camila Gonzalez also chimed in, saying, "I got an anonymous handwritten letter delivered to my network two weeks ago saying 'decent men don't want to see your 'low cut tops.' It shows poor taste in character. Hope you come to your senses and stick to doing your job.' I hate to hear it's happening across Canada."

Sidaway said that the reactions to her post have mostly been positive and have included commentary from mothers telling her she is a hero for their daughters. Others thanked her for standing up for women everywhere.

She hopes that other women learn this kind of harassment doesn't come with the territory.

"Yes, we put ourselves out there and yes we are in the public eye," Sidaway said. "But our bodies are not for consumption. Any harassment and shame is not yours to bear. We've been policing women's bodies for eons. Let's change that."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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