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Infinite Menus, Copyright 2006, OpenCube Inc. All Rights Reserved. Thursday, May 24, 2018
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iStock/Thinkstock(DUBLIN) -- Ads trying to influence the abortion referendum in Ireland are still appearing online despite a ban from Facebook, Google, and Twitter, according to an organization tracking the issue.

The Transparent Referendum Initiative (TRI), which is a civic initiative tracking and calling for regulation of online political ads, told ABC News that it has seen hundreds of ads since the bans were introduced in early May.

Ireland goes to the polls Friday to vote on whether or not to repeal the 8th Amendment to its Constitution, which bans abortion in nearly all circumstances. A yes vote would leave the way clear for the government to implement more liberal abortion laws.

The campaign has been plagued from the start amid concern from experts that some campaign ads were being funded by U.S. based anti-abortion groups. In response, Facebook announced on May 8 it was banning all foreign-funded ads related to Ireland’s abortion referendum.

The following day, Google announced a more drastic ban saying they were prohibiting any ads related to the referendum regardless of their funding origin. Twitter did not allow ads related to the referendum from the start.

Craig Dwyer, co-founder of the TRI, told ABC News that it’s members continue to see referendum related ads on Facebook and Google.

“We’re seeing multiple Facebook ads of unknown origin and despite Google banning all ads, we’re being send numerous screen grabs every day showing referendum related ads on news sites, gaming platforms and more," said Dwyer. “Advertisers are obviously finding ways around these bans.”

The TRI has a Google Chrome and Firefox plugin that users can install to track all the ads they’re seeing on Facebook.

Since launching in February the Initiative has built a database of 1,299 Facebook ads from more than 600 users. Notably, only 38 percent of these advertisers are registered with SIPO, the organization overseeing political donations in Ireland. This leaves a large swathe of unregistered and unaffiliated advertisers.

“Since the Facebook ban, we’re no longer seeing ads from organizations that are overtly based outside of Ireland,” said Dwyer.

Prior to the ban, Dwyer said the TRI found ads both overtly and covertly funded by organizations in the U.S., Britain, and Canada. However, without any verification of advertisers, it’s very difficult to know where the ads are coming from.

“Facebook tells us that it’s using a machine learning to determine where accounts are being administered from so, for now, that appears to be working,” Dwyer said.

Facebook has removed a number of accounts that were portraying themselves as neutral while really pushing for a no vote or pro-life arguments, such as "Still Unsure about the 8th." However, often these ads appear again under a different name.

Dwyer is quick to point out that the Institute is not necessarily calling for a ban on political ads.

“A ban isn’t something that we’d advocate for, political advertising should be allowed but it must be correctly regulated,” he added.

Currently, there's no regulatory authority covering online ads and the legislation around political advertising dates back to the 1990s.

Facebook is on schedule to launch a new transparency tool for political advertisers in the U.S. this June ahead of the midterm elections, the company told ABC News. Political advertisers will have to go through an authorization process to verify who they are and who's funding the ads. The social media company does intend to release these restrictions globally, but there's no set deadline as of yet.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. government employee in southern China suffered a brain injury after reporting strange "sensations of sound and pressure,” - a strikingly similar account to what American personnel experienced in recent years in Cuba, State Department officials said on Wednesday.

In a health alert to American citizens in China posted online Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in China said an employee stationed in the sprawling port city of Guangzhou had "recently reported subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure." The cause of the reported symptoms remains unknown.

"The U.S. government is taking these reports seriously and has informed its official staff in China of this event," the U.S. Embassy said in the alert.

"We do not currently know what caused the reported symptoms and we are not aware of any similar situations in China, either inside or outside of the diplomatic community."

Jinnie Lee, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, told ABC News in an email that the Guangzhou employee reported experiencing a "variety of physical symptoms" starting late last year and continuing through April.

The unidentified individual was sent to the United States for further evaluation. The embassy was informed on Friday that "the clinical findings of this evaluation matched mild traumatic brain injury," according to Lee.

"The Department is taking this incident very seriously and is working to determine the cause and impact of the incident," Lee said in the email on Wednesday. "The Chinese government has assured us they are also investigating and taking appropriate measures."

The State Department is dispatching a team to Guangzhou early next week to conduct baseline medical evaluations of U.S. personnel who request it, according to spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

China’s top diplomat said officials there have been investigating the incident “in a very responsible matter” and that, so far, they haven’t found any individual or organization responsible.

At a press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington D.C. on Wednesday afternoon, China’s State Councilor Wang Yi said China will remain in communication with the U.S. over the incident, encouraged the U.S. to conduct its own investigation, and affirmed China’s commitment to the health and safety of foreigners, especially diplomats.

But he also urged that the incident not be “magnified, complicated or politicized,” saying it shouldn’t be associated with other issues between the two nations.

Pompeo praised China’s response, saying the country has offered to assist the U.S. investigation.

“We have notified China of what took place as best we know it, and they have responded in a way that is exactly the right response,” Pompeo said.

Speaking earlier on Wednesday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Pompeo said that the reported symptoms in Guangzhou are "very similar and entirely consistent" to those experienced by U.S. embassy personnel staff in Cuba's capital city in 2016 and 2017.

At least 24 Americans in Havana experienced a range of medically-confirmed neurological symptoms that have lasted for months, often after hearing a buzzing or piercing noise and feeling a sensation of pressure in their homes and hotel rooms. For many, the symptoms began around May 2017.

Cuba has denied responsibility and has cast doubt on whether the American personnel did, in fact, suffer the reported symptoms, while the United States has countered that Cuban officials must know who is responsible.

In response, the U.S. withdrew the majority of its staff at the Cuban embassy and expelled as many Cuban diplomats from Washington D.C.

Pompeo also said that the State Department’s internal accountability review board will finalize its report sometime next week on how the agency handled the incidents in Cuba. His predecessor Rex Tillerson has been criticized for being slow to respond to medical issues among State Department personnel in Cuba.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In another sign of the heightened tensions over China's militarization of islands in the South China Sea, the United States has disinvited China from participating in an upcoming large-scale international naval exercise to be held off of Hawaii. Visiting Washington, China's foreign minister condemned the U.S. move calling it "very unconstructive" and "unhelpful."

The move is in response to China's continued placement of military hardware on seven artificial islands in the Spratly Island chain that it claims as its territory.

"China's continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serves to raise tensions and destabilize the region," said Lt. Colonel Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman.

"As an initial response to China's continued militarization of the South China Sea, we have disinvited the PLA Navy from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise," he added. "China's behavior is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RIMPAC exercise."

Held every two years, this year's version of the RIMPAC exercise was to begin in late June and end in early August. The exercise is largest international Navy exercise, with 27 nations slated to participate in this year's version.

China's navy participated in a limited role in the 2014 and 2016 versions of the exercise.

The move to rescind the invitation to participate in this year's exercise is directly pegged to China's buildup of large-scale air and sea facilities on the seven artificial islands it has built up in the Spratly Islands.

In 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping made assurances to President Barack Obama that China was not seeking to militarize the islands, but satellite photos indicate China has consistently placed military equipment on the islands, and built up runways and port facilities that could be used by China's military.

"We believe these recent deployments and the continued militarization of these features is a violation of the promise that President Xi made to the United States and the World not to militarize the Spratly Islands," said Logan.

"We have strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands region of the South China Sea," said Logan. "China's landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island has also raised tensions."

Logan added that while China has claimed that the construction on the islands has been for peaceful purposes "the placement of these weapons systems is only for military use," said Logan. "We have called on China to remove the military systems immediately and to reverse course on the militarization of disputed South China Sea features."

The U.S. move was condemned by China's top diplomat who coincidentally was visiting Washington to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

State Councilor Wang Yi labeled the rescinding of the invitation "very unconstructive" and "unhelpful to mutual understanding."

"We hope the U.S. will change such a negative mindset," he said at a press conference with Mike Pompeo. He added that both the U.S. and China are "big countries" and there should be "greater cooperation at mil-to-mil (military) exchanges to increase mutual trust."

Wang also dismissed claims of "the so-called militarization" of the islands in the South China Sea.

"China is only building civilian and some necessary defense facilities on our own islands," he said. "That is the right to self-defense and preservation of every sovereign state," said Wang who compared the buildup to U.S. bases on Guam and Hawaii though on a "smaller scale" and only defensive in nature.

While not addressing the rescinded invitation directly, Pompeo said the U.S. has "expressed consistent concern about militarization of the South China Sea. We had a chance to talk about that, and I will leave to our militaries to talk about their efforts together."

News of the U.S. action was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

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iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- As Saudi women are preparing to finally take the wheel in a month, as many as 10 women’s rights activists who campaigned for years for women’s right to drive, were arrested, leaving many inside and outside the country shocked and confused.

The arrests targeted multiple generations of Saudi women’s rights activists, including iconic figures who first took part in driving protests in the 1990s, as well as younger activists. They were mostly women, but also included three men.

The move puzzled most observers. Expanding freedoms accorded to women, including the historic decision to lift the world’s only ban on women driving, has been a pillar of the re-branding of Saudi Arabia that has accompanied the rise of the new Crown Prince Mohamad Bin Salman.

Even embattled women’s rights activists had cautiously welcomed the new direction the country seemed to be headed in, but those hopes have been dealt a blow according to Manal Sharif, a high profile Saudi activist who lives in Australia. “My optimism has been dashed by the state-led public smearing campaign against the arrested activists” she wrote in the Washington Post. “Until these arrests, I had planned to return to Saudi Arabia on June 24 ... I have had to explain to [my son] over the phone why his mother is not coming in June, why the first-ever road trip that we planned will not become a reality.”

The arrests were carried out by forces from what is known as the Presidency of State Security, a body that reports directly to the King and Crown Prince, according to Saudi media.

“These arrests are an unfortunate mistake, I think. They’ve been trying to control what is a very politically sensitive and historic move, one that they worry could trigger backlash” said Firas Maksad a director of the Arabia Foundation, a DC-based think tank close to Saudi Arabia.

Yet observers say that these arrests are not spur of the moment, given that shortly after the announcement of the lifting of the ban, many of the detained activists were ordered by authorities not to comment in the press.

One of the detained, Loujain al Hathloul, told The Telegraph at the time, “Shutting up or submitting to these threats is unacceptable to me, it is not an option to stay quiet any more. We have been quiet for too long.”

The day after news of the arrests broke, many Saudi newspapers called the detained activists “traitors” in their front-page stories and relayed a statement by the Ministry of Interior accusing them of conspiring with “foreign entities” to plot against national security.

“Their motives have nothing to do with human rights activities at all, as they have used human rights activism as nothing but a cover to conceal their true actions” according to Salman Al-Ansari, the founder of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee.

The Saudi government has still not responded to a request for comment by ABC News.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Three Ebola patients escaped from quarantine in a port city of nearly 1.2 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo this week, amid the country's growing outbreak, health officials said.

Two of the patients have since died. The third was found alive and is back under observation in the city of Mbandaka, according to Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva.

"It is unfortunate but not unexpected," Jasarevic told ABC News in an email today. "It is normal for people to want the loved ones to be at home during what could be the last moments of life."

WHO staff in the Democratic Republic of Congo have "redoubled" their efforts to trace everyone who came into contact with the three patients, Jasarevic added.

"Because Ebola virus is not like any other disease and because exposure to the dead body or bodily fluids or personal items of the person who died of Ebola can spread the disease, it is important for us to be able to explain these issues to the family members," he added. "We are working with local community leaders, traditional leaders and healers, and religious leaders to better engage with communities so that we understand each other better and can work together in stopping the outbreak."

Convincing residents in the Central African nation to seek treatment and utilize safe practices to prevent the spread of the deadly disease is a challenge. Many of them follow religious and traditional practices, especially during funerals, which are not necessarily aligned with health recommendations.

Those who live in more rural and remote areas may not believe Ebola is real or that Western medicine can help.

So the country's health ministry and its international partners, such as the WHO and Oxfam, are conducting awareness campaigns by organizing community dialogues and going door-to-door to advise people on what hygiene precautions to take in times of outbreaks.

"We hear people having doubts and worries about the epidemic,” Jose Barahona, Oxfam's country director in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said.

“Some people don't believe in the Ebola virus or in the medication provided; others are afraid of it. We have seen cases of people leaving hospitals and refusing care, which could have dramatic consequences. There are also some traditional practices concerning the handling and burial of dead bodies that can increase the risk of transmission after death."

Ebola virus disease, a type of viral hemorrhagic fever, spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people.

There is no specific treatment for Ebola. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, muscle pain and, as the disease worsens, it can cause vomiting diarrhea, rash and bruising or bleeding without an injury.

There are several kinds of hemorrhagic fever in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the country's health ministry has noted; thus, not all suspected cases are necessarily Ebola.

The region's ongoing Ebola outbreak was only in its second week when a single case was confirmed in Wangata, one of the three health zones of Mbandaka, the capital of the northwestern Equateur province. It was the first time in the current outbreak that a case was detected and confirmed in an urban health zone, with all other cases reported in remote, rural areas of Equateur province.

By the end of last week, the number of confirmed Ebola cases in Mbandaka city had jumped to four. Three suspected cases have also been recorded there, according to the country's health ministry.

"We are entering a new phase of the Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban health zone," the Democratic Republic of Congo's Minister of Health Oly Ilunga Kalenga said in a statement in French last week.

The health minister did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment today about the patients’ escaping quarantine in Mbandaka.

Situated along the Congo River, Mbandaka is a densely populated transit hub at the crossroads of Equateur province, the health ministry said, raising fears that the Ebola virus will be easily passed on.

Downstream from Mbandaka is the country's capital, Kinshasa, which is home to roughly 10 million people. Just across the river from Kinshasa is Brazzaville, the capital of the neighboring Republic of the Congo.

As of Tuesday night, a total of 58 people had reported symptoms of hemorrhagic fever in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the outbreak was announced May 8. This includes 28 cases that tested positive for Ebola virus disease, 21 probable cases of Ebola and nine suspected cases. Health care workers have been among those infected, according to the country's health ministry.

There have been 27 deaths among these cases, including at least one person who died from a confirmed case of Ebola.

More than 7,500 doses of Ebola vaccines were shipped to Equateur province over the weekend. Meanwhile, millions of dollars from the Congolese government and international aid have been allocated to combat the spread of the deadly disease, including up to $8 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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iStock/Thinkstock(CAIRO) -- A prominent Egyptian blogger and human rights defender was arrested today, making him the latest in a campaign that has taken several secular activists into custody this month.

Egyptian security forces raided Wael Abbas’ Cairo apartment at dawn without showing a warrant or giving a reason, according to his lawyers.

He was then blindfolded and taken in his pajamas to an undisclosed location, according to a statement by his authorized defense team at the Arab Network for Human Rights Information.

Among the things confiscated were his laptop, telephones and some books, according to the organization.

Social media reports of his arrest circulated after he wrote a brief post on Facebook today saying, “I am being arrested.”

“He [Abbas] was known as someone who has critical words and opposition views, which is a crime or a reason for reprisals against the one who holds them only in police states,” is known to be a man of a critical word and opposition views, something that is not to be criminalized or avenged for except in a police estate,” the Arab Network for Human Rights Information statement added.

Abbas, 43, was one of the earliest to document torture practices by the Egyptian police under then-Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. For his efforts in documenting human rights abuses, Abbas won several awards including the U.S. Knight International Journalism award in 2007.

Authorities in Egypt have intensified their campaign against critical and independent journalists since the March presidential elections, according to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Another May arrest

The circumstances of his arrest are similar to that of Shady Abu-Zeid, the ANHRI said, referring to the satirical video blogger who was also arrested at his house by plainclothes officers at dawn earlier this month.

Abu-Zeid’s whereabouts were unknown until he showed up the next day before a state security prosecutor in Cairo. He is being charged with spreading false news and joining a terrorist group.

Other prominent secular activists were also arrested this month.

Haitham Mohamedeen, a long-time labor lawyer was arrested after modest but unusual protests at Cairo’s metro station over a price increase in fares. He is accused for joining “a banned group” and “inciting terrorist acts” on grounds of inciting illegal protests against the rise of metro ticket prices.

Amal Fathi, an online activist, was arrested after posting a video lashing out at the state for various reasons including the issue of sexual harassment faced by the majority of women in Egypt. She faces accusations of spreading false news and insulting an Egypt state institution.

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Keystone/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A group of scientists from New Zealand have decided to embark on a journey to solve one of the world’s most elusive mysteries: the Loch Ness monster.

The Loch Ness monster, or "Nessie," has been a part of popular folklore since alleged sightings first came to the world's attention in 1933. The mythical creature is believed to be a large marine reptile with a long neck and large protruding humps.

The team, led by professor Neil Gemmell of the University of Otago, will investigate the shadowy waters of Loch Ness in Scotland next month.

According to the Otago Daily Times, an international team of researchers from the UK, Denmark, USA, Australia and France will use environmental DNA samplings of the water to identify possible DNA remnants left behind by living species in the loch, the United Kingdom’s largest freshwater body.

“Whenever a creature moves through its environment, it leaves behind tiny fragments of DNA from skin, scales, feathers fur, feces and urine," Gemmell told the Otago Daily Times.

Gemmell and his team will be taking 300 samples of water from different areas around the lake to create a database of cell material that can be sequenced and compared against known genetic sequences from hundreds of thousands of organisms, the Otago Daily Times reported.

The hope is to discover an exact match in order to pinpoint where on the tree of life that matching sequence fits.

Gemmell told the Otago Daily Times he hopes this new research will unearth deeper knowledge about the biodiversity of Loch Ness.

Gemmell did not immediately return ABC News' request for comment.

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iStock/Thinkstock(TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras) -- All six people aboard a jet that crashed off a Honduras runway and nearly broke in half have survived.

Five Americans -- four passengers and a crew member -- and a Venezuelan crew member all were rescued after their Gulfstream apparently overshot the runway in Tegucigalpa, the nation's capital.

The four passengers work for EZCORP, the second-largest owner of U.S. pawn shops. Three -- Bob Kasenter, Blair Powell and Nicole Swies -- were treated and released with minor injuries. Joe Rotunda suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung and was transported to a local hospital.

"The company is coordinating to make sure the employees and crew are receiving proper medical attention," EZCORP said in a statement.

The jet had embarked from Austin, Texas, where the company is headquartered.

First responders were seen on video helping save those aboard the plane.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez said via Twitter that those injured were in stable condition.

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Airbus Defense and Space/38 North(SEOUL) -- North Korea is set to dismantle its nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri this week in front of a delegation of two dozen handpicked foreign journalists.

The journalists flew on a chartered plane Tuesday from Beijing to the city of Wonsan on the east coast of North Korea and were set to be taken on a long journey to the nuclear site near the village of Punggye-ri.

From Wonsan, the group is expected to travel at least 11 hours on a train up the coast and another four hours into the foothills of Mount Mantap by bus and then finally an hourlong hike to the nuclear test site, according to reporters there.

The research group 38 North said an analysis of satellite imagery taken Monday showed that what was probably an observation platform had nearly been completed at the test site and that improvements had been made to a nearby road and pathway. Another probable observation position had appeared to have been placed on a hillside there, the group said Tuesday.

North Korean state media previously reported the dismantlement process will involve “collapsing all of its tunnels with explosions, blocking its entrances, and removing all observation facilities, research buildings and security posts” and that foreign media was invited to cover the event to show the process in a “transparent manner.”

Journalists from the U.S., China, U.K. and Russia were among the small group invited to witness the process but The Associated Press reported eight South Korean journalists, who were initially invited, were refused visas after they arrived in Beijing to connect onward to North Korea. The decision coincided with latest protests from Pyongyang over the U.S.-South Korea military drills. No experts were among those invited.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in’s government expressed regret over the decision to exclude their journalists just as Moon prepared to meet with President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., Tuesday to discuss Trump’s planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. The meeting was scheduled for June 12, but Trump said Tuesday "it may not work out for" that day.

Kim announced in April that he no longer needed to conduct nuclear tests because the country had achieved its "nuclear weaponization."

Punggye-ri in the northeast of the country has been the site of every one of the six North Korean underground nuclear test from 2006 until the most recent one on Sept. 3, 2017.

The facility is built into the granite base of Mount Mantap roughly 100 miles from North Korea’s border with China.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As the Trump administration tries to sell its rapidly-evolving trade deal with China to Congress, members of both parties are not convinced it’s in the best interest of the United States.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin appeared before a Senate subcommittee Tuesday during which he pledged that any changes to penalties on the Chinese telecom ZTE, which is publicly traded but whose largest shareholder is an enterprise owned by the state, would not affect American national security.

“I can assure you that whatever the Commerce Department decides, the intel community has been part of the briefings and we will ensure that we enforce national security issues,” Mnuchin said.

"This was not a quid pro quo or anything else," he added.

Last month the United States slapped steep penalties on ZTE for violating U.S. sanctions and doing business with Iran and North Korea. Those infractions, along with concerns that ZTE could use its devices to spy on Americans, led to a seven-year ban on ZTE being allowed to purchase U.S. parts in production, crippling its business. ZTE also agreed to pay a $1.2 billion fine.

Now, however, members of the administration have signaled that the terms of ZTE’s punishment are up for negotiation. President Donald Trump tweeted Monday that China had agreed to buy an unspecified amount of American agricultural exports in exchange for the United States easing its sanctions.

And in remarks at the White House Tuesday, Trump said he envisioned ZTE having to pay another fine, plus installing a new board and management structure, in exchange for sanctions relief.

But he didn't get into many details, saying, "I don't like to talk about deals until they're done. So we'll see what happens."

Trump also noted that ZTE buys most of its parts from American companies, meaning those firms get caught in the crossfire and lose business.

"When you do that, you're really hurting American companies, also. So I'm looking at it," he said.

But vague assurances that China will buy more farm products aren't good enough for some lawmakers, especially those from states that depend heavily on agricultural exports. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., told reporters he had met with farmers and ranchers in his office all morning and that none of them believed this latest development would help them.

“They’re scared to death,” Sasse said, adding that he would “love to see the particulars" of the China proposal that Trump mentioned in his tweet.

Members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services, before which Mnuchin testified Tuesday, tried to ask him more about the specifics of the China arrangement, but he deferred to the Commerce Department, led by Secretary Wilbur Ross, who he said had taken the lead on the talks.

But Mnuchin has participated in those discussions, and Sen. Chris Coons, the ranking member on the committee, said he was disappointed Mnuchin didn’t answer questions more directly.

“I think Sec. Mnuchin is well aware of decisions being made by the Trump administration with regard to ZTE. He simply passed the buck over to the Secretary of Commerce who wasn't in front of us today,” Coons said.

As the administration continues to send mixed signals on the status of the negotiations, lawmakers are wasting no time preparing legislation to potentially check Trump’s authority to lift sanctions on ZTE.

The House of Representatives is voting this week on its annual defense authorization bill which contains a provision which would prevent the military from working with contractors that use ZTE devices and networks. The Pentagon has already banned ZTE products from being sold on American military bases.

House and Senate committees are also working on bills to prohibit the Trump administration from unilaterally lifting the seven-year ban on ZTE’s ability to purchase U.S. supplies. The Senate measure, introduced by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., passed the Banking Committee Tuesday by an overwhelming margin.

“The reality is we should not be trading away national security for some non-security related issue,” Van Hollen said.

Congress is also exploring ways to expand the US government’s ability to review foreign transactions through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The Banking Committee also approved a bill by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas., that would do just that.

But so far the leaders of both chambers have not indicated any sense of urgency to take up bills to curtail the administration’s ability to act on trade issues with China or any other country.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said that the administration must take national security and intelligence concerns into account but said Tuesday he was “not a party to the administration’s talks.”

When Cornyn, the sponsor of a bill to strengthen foreign transactions oversight, was asked about other legislative solutions, he responded, “I’m sure we’ll be having that conversation quite publicly and it will manifest itself in a number of ways.”

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Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attended their first official engagement today as husband and wife, just three days after their wedding.

Prince Harry, 33, and Duchess Meghan, 36, still had their newlywed glow while visiting Buckingham Palace for Prince Charles' 70th birthday patronage celebration.

Meghan chose a pale-colored dress, purse and hat for the occasion.

She was seen warmly laughing with her new in-laws, Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

The garden party is an early birthday celebration for Charles, who will turn 70 in November, and his patronage of hundreds of charities.

Harry and Meghan's attendance at the celebration had particular significance because it was Charles who walked Meghan down the aisle Saturday in her father's absence.

Charles, who has no daughters of his own, met Meghan at the quire of St. George's Chapel and escorted her to the altar, where Harry stood waiting.

Charles, first in line to the British throne, was also seen very publicly welcoming Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland, into the family on Saturday. He appeared to hold his hand out to Ragland at the wedding service and also walked her down the chapel's steps after the service.

Even though they got back to work today, Meghan and Harry will take a honeymoon before resuming a busy schedule of engagements for the rest of the year.

Neither the timing nor the details of the honeymoon have been released by Kensington Palace.

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Getty Images/Dave Hogan for One Love Manchester(NEW YORK) -- Ariana Grande marked the one-year anniversary of the bombing at her Manchester, England concert with a touching message on Twitter.

"Thinking of you all today and every day," the singer wrote early Tuesday morning. "I love you with all of me and am sending you all of the light and warmth I have to offer on this challenging day.

On May 22, 2017, Grande had just left the stage at the Manchester Arena when police say suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated an explosive device, killing 22 people and injuring more than 100 others.

Less than two weeks later, Grande helped organize the all-star "One Love Manchester" benefit concert, raising millions to help victims of the deadly terrorist attack and their families. She was subsequently named an "honorary citizen" of Manchester, which is in northwestern part of England.

The "No Tears Left to Cry" singer recently told Time magazine that she is still processing what happened.

"There are so many people who have suffered such loss and pain," she said, sobbing. "The processing part is going to take forever."

Grande, 24, told the magazine she chooses not to focus on the negative.

"That’s why I did my best to react the way I did," Grande said. "The last thing I would ever want is for my fans to see something like that happen and think it won. Music is supposed to be the safest thing in the world. I think that’s why it’s still so heavy on my heart every single day."

"I wish there was more that I could fix," she added. "You think with time it’ll become easier to talk about. Or you’ll make peace with it. But every day I wait for that peace to come and it’s still very painful."

Earlier today, Great Britain observed a nationwide moment of silence in honor of the victims of the bombing. A memorial service, attended by Prime Minister Theresa May and Prince William, was also held in Manchester Cathedral.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, tweeted: "Today we come together, we remember each of the 22 people whose lives were taken."

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump appeared to raise doubts Tuesday that his upcoming historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will take place as previously planned on June 12.

"If it doesn't happen, maybe it will happen later. Maybe it will happen at a different time," Trump said in the Oval Office as he sat alongside South Korea President Moon Jae-in. "The meeting is scheduled as you know on June 12th in Singapore. And whether or not it happens, you will be knowing pretty soon."

"But it may not work out for June 12," Trump later added. "But there is a good chance that we will have the meeting."

Responding to reporters' questions in the meeting, President Trump also appeared to imply again that Chinese President Xi Jinping may have personally pressured Kim to take a stronger stance in negotiations ahead of the summit.

"I will say I'm a little disappointed because when Kim Jong Un had the meeting with President Xi in China, the second meeting," Trump said. "I think there was a little change in attitude from Kim Jong Un. So I don't like that. I don't like that. I don't like it from the standpoint of China."

"Now maybe nothing happened," Trump added. "I'm not blaming anybody. But maybe nothing happened and maybe it did. There was a different attitude by the North Korean folks after that meeting."

At the same time, Trump also said coordination on the summit was "moving along" and said that Kim "will be extremely" happy in the event they're able to reach a satisfactory deal to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.

He said he believed Kim was "very serious" about his previously expressed desire to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

"I do think he is serious," Trump said. "I think that he would like to see that happen."

But the president again tempered expectations about what the final outcome of any negotiations could be, saying there is "a very substantial" chance that an agreement "won't work out."

"You never know about deals. You go into deals that are 100% certain, it doesn't happen," Trump said. "You go into deals that have no chance and it happens. Sometimes happens easily. I've made a lot of deals."

President Trump also declined again to say whether he has directly spoken yet with Kim when asked by ABC News.

"I don't want to say that. I don't want to," Trump said. "There is no reason to discuss that."

But he again went out of his way to reassure Kim.

"I will guarantee his safety. Yes. I will guarantee his safety. And we talked about that from the beginning. He will be safe. He will be happy. His country will be rich."

The two leaders are meeting a week after North Korean leaders indicated the June 12 Singapore sit-down between Trump and Kim could be on shaky ground.

Several security officials in the country have raised concerns specifically over joint U.S.-South Korea military drills as well as rhetoric from President Trump's national security adviser John Bolton.

According to South Korea's Yonhap news, President Moon's national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong told reporters during the flight to Washington "there is a 99.9% chance the North Korea-U.S. Summit will be held as scheduled," but added, "we're just preparing for many different possibilities."

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Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Just three weeks before a planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, President Donald Trump is hosting South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday for talks as they work to assess whether North Korea’s commitment to rid itself of its nuclear program is genuine.

Moon has long been a driving force behind the diplomacy between the United States and North Korea, and personally encouraged Trump to meet with Kim. In March, Moon sent special envoys to North Korea to encourage talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

Last week, North Korea scrapped a series of follow up high-level talks with South Korea and threatened to cancel the upcoming Singapore summit between Trump and Kim in protest of the ongoing military drills between the United States and South Korea.

The White House hasn’t indicated there will be a press conference between Trump and Moon, but this will be the first time the two are able to meet in person to discuss the status of the summit between Trump and Kim, and examine what options are on the table. While the two have spoken over the phone, it will also be their first meeting in person to discuss Moon’s recent summit with Kim.

While the surprise threat to cancel the meeting caught the president and the State Department off guard, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said it was something the administration fully expected.

Vice President Mike Pence said in an interview Monday that the administration is still open to the planned summit with Kim.

“They asked for the meeting and we continue to be open to it,” Pence told Fox News. “But rest assured that the United States will continue on the path that we are on because this president has made it clear that we will not tolerate North Korea possessing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that threaten the United States and our allies.”

The change in tone from North Korea last week went from that the all-smiles meetings between Kim and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to the regime’s chief negotiator Kim Kye Gwan issuing a statement saying he is “totally disappointed” by recent “extremely unjust” comments from U.S. officials and singling out the American demand that North Korea give up all its nuclear weapons before getting anything in return.

“We -- we want to see the denuclearization process so completely underway that it’s irreversible,” national security adviser John Bolton said.

The North Koreans have sent mixed messages on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

“... If the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-U.S. summit,” Kim Kye Gwan said in a statement last week.

But while there have been some heated threats to pull out of the June 12 summit, North Korean officials have vowed to dismantle their nuclear testing facility in front of the media this week and appear to be moving forward with closing down the nuclear facility, which is the latest sign of goodwill in the Korean Peninsula.

The North Koreans also seemed particularly upset by Bolton, who called on them to do what Libya did more than a decade ago.

Bolton has repeatedly said that the administration plans to pursue "the Libya model," which calls for a strict monitoring and inspection plan to ensure North Korea has denuclearized. However, that comparison evoked the country’s descent into chaos following the deadly ouster of Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi.

Kim Kye Gwan directly criticized the model in a lengthy statement last week, accusing U.S. officials of "provoking" the country with "unbridled remarks."

The president soon publicly undercut Bolton’s so-called Libya model comparison in remarks to reporters in the Oval Office last week.

“The Libyan model isn’t a model that we have at all, when we're thinking of North Korea,” Trump said, before floating the idea of potential protections for Kim Jong Un as a conclusion following successful negotiations. “There was no deal to keep Qaddafi. The Libyan model that was mentioned was a much different deal. This would be with Kim Jong-un -- something where he'd be there, he'd be in his country, he'd be running his country. His country would be very rich.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --"Shattered in an unsurprised way.”

That’s the reaction of Arabic-speaking Israeli-American author Moriel Rothman-Zecher to the paroxysm of violence along the Gaza border this past week, in which Israeli forces killed dozens of Palestinians amid a mass protest largely against the controversial U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem.

Shattered, because of the deaths -- the Palestinian Health Ministry pegs the toll at 60 at least -- but unsurprised, as this recent violence must feel to Rothman-Zecher as though it erupted right from the pages of his just-released novel, Sadness is a White Bird.

Rothman-Zecher says he sees his characters in the recent clashes: the Israeli soldier who narrates the book in a wild plea, the Palestinian friend to whom the agony is addressed.

“I’ve thought a lot about the individuals who are on both sides of these pictures,” Rothman-Zecher told ABC News, “trying at all points to remember the enormity of every life lost, the enormity of every life taken, both for the families of those who were murdered -- I will actually use that word in some of these cases -- and also the individuals who were sent to shoot and who shot and who took these lives in the context of maintaining a pretty brutal and unjustifiable system.”

Sadness follows Jonathan/Yonatan, a border-bouncing young Jew who shares some biographical details with the author -- Israeli-American upbringing, facility in Arabic, Palestinian relationships -- with a crucial distinction: Yonatan (the Israeli version of his name) eventually joins the Israel Defense Forces, while Rothman-Zecher was jailed for refusing to enlist.

That protest he largely credits to his slightly-advanced age at the time. (He wrote an op-ed for The New York Times in 2015 about becoming a refusenik.)

Rothman-Zecher was in his early twenties when the IDF conscripted him, having first gone to America to study at Middlebury College, where he learned Arabic and encountered Palestinian poetry while conflagrations in Gaza raged continents away. The distance and multiplying viewpoints complicated his thoughts on the conflict, and his expected role in it.

Jonathan, meanwhile, is a wider-eyed near-adult returning to Israel in hopes of transforming into a pugilistic Jewish warrior like his grandfather, who evaded the Holocaust by fleeing to the disputed land and serving in the Palmach, the IDF’s elite precursor. The grandfather recalls figures like Moshe Dayan, legends in the still-nascent state for their gritty prowess, and forms the book's walking reminder of the value of Israel to a people so recently faced with extermination.

Despite his friendships and erotic awakenings with a pair of Palestinian peers (the protagonist is as heedless of sexual boundaries as he is of national ones), Yonatan eventually finds himself shouldering a firearm amid a demonstration in the West Bank. The novel’s climax challenges whether even the most cherished of connections forged across the Israeli-Palestinian divide can survive the institutionalized militarization of the ceaseless conflict.

Israel’s actions earlier last week earned it global condemnation, though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the IDF have maintained that Hamas spurred violence against Israel under the cover of the protests, "using explosives, guns, molotov cocktails, and even arson kites to breach the security fence." The Trump administration enthusiastically backed Israel's response and blamed Hamas for the bloodshed.

Rothman-Zecher, who now lives in Ohio, credits his fortunate few years abroad for sparing him the fate of those soldiers deployed into the middle of this toxic yet somehow rote debate.

“It’s very easy to imagine myself in the shoes of these soldiers,” he said.

“It was very, very easy for me to imagine how, with a few slight tweaks to my own biography, I would have of course enlisted, and if I’d enlisted … I almost certainly would have been sent to maintain the occupation in West Bank, or perhaps to go into Gaza during one of the few recent wars, or perhaps been stationed on the border and asked to shoot at these protesters.”

For Rothman-Zecher the lionization of the IDF, which he at one point suggested might be Israel’s “golden calf,” has further warped the conflict, rendering Palestinians less enemies than props on which the vaunted military is forced to lean for its perpetuation.
The IDF “pulls everything around its orbit,” the author said. “From the time you’re little, you’re being pushed into the system, framed to do your duty and fight for your country. It’s beautiful, and it’s compelling, and it’s exciting -- and decontextualized.

“When I was 17 years old and living in Israel and talking with high school friends [about the military], what we never talked about was Palestinians,” he recalled. “It wasn’t that our discourse as high-schoolers was some rabid fascistic idea of crushing the enemy. Discourse about the army was framed as apolitical … Everyone was going to serve in army -- and we didn’t know what that meant."

“I didn’t really know what the occupation meant, I didn’t really know what solders’ roles were in maintaining the occupation in Gaza, and that’s not an accident,” he continued.

“There was so little fostering of curiosity, and I don’t think that’s an accident. I don’t think one can hold a deep curiosity of Palestinian life and simultaneously follow whatever orders one might be given, whether that’s a house raid, or an arrest, or opening fire at protesters, or demolishing part of a village.”

That violence, Rothman-Zecher argued, is no aberration: it’s necessitated by the inequities of power.

"This is an inherently immoral situation, in which we have two groups of people living in the same swath of land with permanently unequal rights," he said. "And in order to maintain that, there is a pretty constant level of violence that needs to be done."

“If it were possible for there to be a moral occupation, maybe Israel would do it, but it’s an impossible counterfactual.”

“I don’t think it’s at a point of no return," he said. "I don’t believe in points of no return so much. I do think clinging to old models for solving the situation should probably be discontinued. The early 1990s version of a two-state solution as formulated by the Oslo Accords, that’s been tried and failed again and again by various American leaderships, should be put to rest, probably should have put to rest a long time ago.”

“Suddenly,” he said, amid a war zone, “you have yourself face-to-face with a poem.”

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