Headlines » World http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines The latest Headlines, news and blog posts from ABC News contributors and bloggers. Fri, 26 Dec 2014 13:22:01 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Rampaging Water Buffalo Attacks Biker, Pedestrians and Cars http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/rampaging-water-buffalo-attacks-biker-pedestrians-and-cars/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/rampaging-water-buffalo-attacks-biker-pedestrians-and-cars/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:21:10 +0000 Karson Yiu http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=526648

A water buffalo tore through a small southwestern Chinese town in a mad rampage, chasing down pedestrians and injuring at least 14 bystanders.

In surveillance video footage released by state media, the water buffalo is seen wandering in the center of town in Jingyan County located in China’s Sichuan province.

In one shot, the buffalo is shown setting its sights on resident Liang Cuirong who was riding past on her bicycle.  The animal  chased Liang, knocked her off the bike and trampled her repeatedly.

CCTV buffalo kab 141126 16x9 608 Rampaging Water Buffalo Attacks Biker, Pedestrians and Cars

A water buffalo tore through a small southwestern Chinese town in a mad rampage, chasing down pedestrians and injuring at least 14 bystanders. CCTV


The buffalo also reportedly chased to another resident before damaging cars and chasing down more passerby’s.

It finally took four police officers and 10 rounds to take down the buffalo and end the 40 minute long bovine panic.

“We took aim at its head,” Huang Tao, one of the police officers who brought down the buffalo, told state media. “Shot it until it fell down.”

Water buffalos are used in the region to till soil and act as general beast of burden in the  rural farming communities on the outskirts of town.

It remains unknown how this particular beast ended up in the middle of Jingyan but authorities are investigating.

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Iran Nuke Talks Extended for Lack of a Deal http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/at-iran-nuke-talks-optimism-fades-to-hope/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/at-iran-nuke-talks-optimism-fades-to-hope/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 12:55:39 +0000 Kirit Radia http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=526620 RT kerry ml 141124 16x9 608 Iran Nuke Talks Extended for Lack of a Deal

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry steps out as Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, EU envoy Catherine Ashton and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (L to R) pose for photographers during their meeting in Vienna, Nov. 24, 2014. Joe Klamar/Reuters

VIENNA -The United States and its negotiating partners agreed today to extend talks with Iran over its nuclear capability, rather than concluding a long-sought deal by today’s deadline.

Secretary of State John Kerry defended the decision to continue talks many in Congress and Israel see as futile.

“We don’t want just any agreement. We want the right agreement,” he said, explaining the delay.

Kerry said progress had been made over the past week on key sticking points, but declined to say which gaps remained.

“We would be fools to walk away,” Kerry said. “It makes absolute sense to continue to talk.”

He urged lawmakers in Congress not to rush to impose new sanctions because of this week’s failure to reach a deal.

The talks, which have been conducted in Vienna, are now set to resume in December at a site yet to be determined, sources told ABC News.

The new goal is to reach a broad framework deal by March, with details of the arrangement to be hammered out by July 1 – essentially a seven month extension.

Kerry said that if no progress is made before March, the United States would “revisit” whether to continue negotiations.

In the meantime, an interim deal reached last year in Geneva will remain in place. Under that deal, Iran agreed to cap its nuclear enrichment in exchange for modest sanctions relief. Each month, some $700 million in frozen Iranian funds will be released. By the time this extension expires, that could provide Iran with nearly $5 billion in badly needed cash. Tough sanctions that prohibit Iran’s lucrative oil sales would remain in place.

Kerry praised that interim deal, saying it made the world safer and earned negotiators some slack.

“We have earned the benefit of the doubt. We produced an agreement that has worked,” he told reporters.

There had been hope entering this round of talks that the differences could finally be bridged after more than a decade of talks. In the end, Kerry said despite the failure, a deal is closer than ever and “achievable.”

There were promising signs on the eve of the deadline, even after it became evident that an extension was likely.

On Sunday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani sent a subtle message by posting a photo of himself on Instagram walking past a mural of the word “hope,” written in Farsi.

As both sides work furiously towards the deadline, it was only hope that replaced optimism that a grand bargain could be reached by tonight’s deadline.

By all accounts, the parties remain far apart.

The two sides remain deadlocked over the larger issues: how much nuclear capacity Iran would be left with, how long those restrictions would stay in place, and the scope and sequencing of sanctions relief it would receive in return.

As the clock ticked down, diplomats scrambled to find evidence of progress to prove that the process had not stalled. They were no doubt mindful that domestic politics in Iran and the United States could make a deal even more difficult after it slipped from their grasp this week.

In Iran, hardliners are expected to use the failure to reach a deal as evidence that Western powers cannot be trusted. The new Republican dominated Congress in the United States has also lost patience with the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who says he would prefer no deal to what he believes is a bad one, stepped up public criticism of the process after being briefed over the phone by Kerry on Saturday night.

On Monday, Netanyahu praised the decision to hold off.

“The deal that Iran was pushing for was terrible,” he told the BBC. “This result is better. A lot better.”

One bright spot this week appeared to be the growing rapport between Kerry and his Iranian counterpart. Whereas their meeting would have been unimaginable years ago, this week they met at least eight times. Each time they shook hands and smiled for the cameras.

Kerry praised Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif after the talks concluded.

“He has approached to these negotiations in good faith and with seriousness of purpose, and that’s what it takes to try to resolve the kind of difficult issues here,” Kerry said.

Attention now turns to how the talks will resume. The December negotiations are expected to take place, at least initially, at lower levels.

Sidelines diplomacy is likely to continue as well. Oman’s foreign minister, who has emerged as a go-between for Iran and the United States, was in Vienna this weekend, as was the Saudi foreign minister. Saudi Arabia remains wary of any deal that would boost regional rival Iran’s standing. At the same time, Riyadh has warned that Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon could spark an arms race in the Middle East.

The only certainty is that the extension will make progress even harder down the road.


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Iran Nuke Talks Open With the Potential to Change Everything http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/iran-nuke-talks-open-with-the-potential-to-change-everything/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/iran-nuke-talks-open-with-the-potential-to-change-everything/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 18:46:27 +0000 Kirit Radia http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=526521 gty iran nuclear talks mt 141118 16x9 608 Iran Nuke Talks Open With the Potential to Change Everything

The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrives for lunch with the former Vice President of the European Commission at the Iranian Embassy during the 5+1 talks with Iran in Vienna on Nov. 18, 2014. Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

VIENNA — Few events in history are momentous enough to reshape the world order. If the US and its partners are able to come to an agreement here with Iran to curtail its nuclear program, this week may be one of those times.

A deal has the potential to place the United States and Iran on the same side of the table, while testing America’s longstanding — but already strained — alliances with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and countries in the Persian Gulf. It could also dangerously alter the power struggle in the region between Sunnis and Shiites.

That geopolitical landscape has already been muddied recently by other factors including the fight against terrorism, booming US energy production, plummeting oil prices, and frustration over Israeli settlement construction.

That’s not to say the U.S. and Iran would become friends (or that it would shatter old alliances), but it could add to other areas of possible cooperation between Washington and Tehran like the fight against ISIS.


That’s also not to say a deal is a sure thing. It certainly won’t be easy.

Talks opened today and the deadline is next Monday. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to arrive later in the week to help close a deal.

The broad contours of any agreement have been known for some time. In short, the U.S. and its allies want Iran to significantly and irreversibly roll back its nuclear program so that it cannot build a nuclear weapon. They also want that program placed under ironclad monitoring. Crippling sanctions would, in turn, be lifted.

Yet big questions remain.

Would Iran be allowed any enrichment for energy production? What happens to the Iran’s nuclear facilities? What about its nuclear material stockpile? Which sanctions are lifted, when, and in what order? Who would monitor implementation?

And just as important: can President Obama deliver on his end of the bargain?

The prospects of a deal got a boost recently when Russia said it was willing to take much of Iran’s fissile material and return it in a form that can only be used in a nuclear power plant. That could solve the problems about the stockpile and enrichment.

Russia not only stands to make money off such an arrangement, but it also guarantees the influence it has coveted in the Middle East, helping preserve Moscow’s seat at the table of world powers. But with Russia also suffering from depressed oil prices, could Moscow seek to delay a deal here to prevent Iranian oil, now under sanctions, from returning to the market?

ap iran nuclear talks mt 141118 16x9 608 Iran Nuke Talks Open With the Potential to Change Everything

Police guard in front of Palais Coburg where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran take place in Vienna, Austria, on Nov. 18, 2014. Ronald Zak/AP Photo


Ultimately, this may come down to whether two men — President Obama and Iran’s Supreme Leader — are willing to trust each other.

U.S. officials are cautious and won’t even say it’s likely. That’s perhaps to manage expectations, but also because it has been so hard to get this far and a negotiations have already blown through a previous deadline.

So far, there is no talk of another extension if talks fail this week. But the domestic political map is about to get more complicated both in US and Iran, so there may be a short window of opportunity.

Those looking to read tea leaves note that Secretary Kerry isn’t here yet. Kerry had been scheduled to join talks at the start today, but officials say his schedule is up in the air and he remains in London. He’s still expected to come here to seal a deal if things get close. If that’s the case, as with last year’s interim deal, Kerry’s arrival could signal that an agreement is at hand.


These talks have been going on for a long time. It was in this same city back in 2006 that the United States joined negotiations started by three European countries – the UK, France, and Germany – and brought on board Russia and China, the other two countries wielding vetoes in the UN Security Council.

Since then the negotiations have been sporadic and halting. A breakthrough interim deal last November paved the way for this week’s talks, but an initial deadline to reach a deal last summer came and went.

The half-steps and delays, celebrated by supporters as tiny signs of progress, have only made opponents of the deal more wary — and outspoken.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blasted the deal, Jewish lobbying groups, led by Aipac, have mobilized against it, and their powerful allies on Capitol Hill stand ready to block its implementation. They don’t trust Iran and fear it will cheat.

While Obama could take some steps on his own, removing the toughest sanctions would require approval by Congress. The prospect of that happening became potentially more difficult with the Republican takeover of the Senate. Yet even within the president’s own party he faces staunch opposition to anything but the strongest deal from lawmakers like Sen Robert Menendez, who remains the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until the new Congress is sworn in next January.

Still, seeing as how it’s not about to get any easier for either side, now may be President Obama’s best – and last — chance for a deal for a long time.

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Russian Tanks in Ukraine, but US Won’t Say ‘Invasion’ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/russian-tanks-in-ukraine-but-us-wont-say-invasion/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/russian-tanks-in-ukraine-but-us-wont-say-invasion/#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 21:06:59 +0000 Kirit Radia http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=526475 MOSCOW -  Thousands of Russian troops have crossed into eastern Ukraine in recent days, along with columns of tanks, artillery and air-defense systems, according to NATO’s top commander.

By nearly every definition – indeed, according to the Oxford dictionary – the act of armed forces crossing the border would constitute an invasion.

But the Obama administration has noticeably avoided using the word to describe Russia’s apparent action (Russia denies any of its troops or military equipment are in Ukraine). Instead, U.S. officials have resorted to terms like “incursion” or even more contorted rhetorical gymnastics.

“Russia is instead surging more forces and more equipment across the border,” Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said Wednesday.

Russia’s Currency Tumbles as Investors Panic

Russia Denies Harassing US Officials, Says Its Diplomats Also Targeted

Dashcam Captures Wriggly Road Paint Job in Russia

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki referred to heavy weapons being “moved to the front lines” and endorsed “the developments seen by NATO.”

Asked point blank by email whether Russia had invaded Ukraine, Psaki again declined to use the term.

“As we’ve said consistently, Russia is blatantly violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” she told ABC News. “No matter what you call it, Russian action inside Ukraine must end immediately.”

Psaki offered no explanation for why the term “invasion” was not being used, but the blatant effort to deflect it suggests a policy decision was made within the administration.

John Herbst, director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council and a former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, says it is “obvious” the Obama administration is trying to downplay the significance of Russia’s military aggression to avoid an equally forceful response.

“If they say invasion, they’re afraid it will pressure them to take the strong actions that they are reluctant to take,” he said. “It would make people ask ‘Well, why isn’t our response stronger?’ And that’s a very good question.”

This isn’t the first time.

In late August, when Ukrainian troops were close to defeating the Russia-backed rebels, NATO said it saw Russian troops crossing into Ukraine to bolster the rebel forces. Administration officials declined to call it an “invasion” then, too.

“It’s certainly unauthorized entry,” Pentagon spokesman Admiral John Kirby said at the time.

President Obama called it an “ongoing Russian incursion.”

When confronted with his avoidance of the “I” word, he again dodged the question.

“Russia determined that it had to be a little more overt in what it had already been doing, but it’s not really a shift,” he said.

Some terms carry legal weight, meaning their use could trigger required action by the United States. Calling an act “genocide,” for example, triggers a certain response by law.

Not long ago, the Obama administration made a conscientious decision to start talking about Russia’s “occupation” of the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed from Ukraine in March. The United States does not recognize Crimea as part of Russia, but using the term “occupation” recognizes not just a de facto governance over the region, but also that Russia has a legal responsibility for what happens there.

The term “invasion” can also trigger a certain response, like in the case of NATO where treaty allies are bound to defend each other in such a situation. No such treaty obligation exists, however, between the United States and Ukraine.

“I am unaware of any legal reason why they are not using the word invasion,” Herbst of the Atlantic Council said. “I believe it’s political.”

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Russia’s Currency Tumbles as Investors Panic http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/russias-currency-tumbles-as-investors-panic/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/russias-currency-tumbles-as-investors-panic/#comments Fri, 07 Nov 2014 17:53:31 +0000 Kirit Radia http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=526380 MOSCOW — Russia’s currency suffered its worst week since the financial crisis of the 1990s destroyed the country’s economy, dropping over 10% in just the last couple days.

With Russia teetering on the brink of recession and buffeted by fleeing investors, plummeting oil prices, costly adventures in Crimea and Ukraine, and the resulting Western sanctions, the ruble hit an historic low of 48.60 rubles to the U.S. dollar this morning.

It recovered slightly this afternoon after Russia’s Central Bank pledged to intervene, though it remains unclear how much it will do and whether it will just seek to maintain the ruble at the current level or try to bring it back down.

The ruble began the year at around 32 rubles to the dollar, but began to decline amid Russia’s foundering economy and conflicts next door. The trend picked up in September and accelerated again in October.

A 300 ruble lunch, for example, that would have cost $9.37 in January, and $7.12 last week, would be just $6.18 this morning.

The decline has contributed to inflation in Russia, which had already accelerated after Russia banned certain foods from Europe and the United States in response to Western sanctions. Food prices in particular have shot up, affecting many Russians with low or fixed incomes in President Vladimir Putin’s political base.

The Central Bank had been trying to walk away from its longstanding policy of unlimited interventions to support the ruble. At one point last month it was spending around $2 billion each day to prop up the currency.

But after the bank announced plans to abandon that approach this week, the floodgates opened. Russian media reported many Russians raced to convert their savings into foreign currencies, further driving down the ruble’s value. According to some reports, dollars and euros are in short supply in Moscow.

Oil prices have been one of the biggest factors in the ruble’s decline. Russia’s benchmark Urals crude oil blend has declined by about 25% since June to just over $80 a barrel. Russia relies heavily on oil revenues to fund much of its budget, which anticipated oil prices at $114 per barrel.

The declining ruble, however, may offset some of that lost revenue as the oil is sold in US dollars. When converted back into rubles at the lower exchange rate, it will provide more rubles to cover the budget and help fund some of Putin’s ambitious campaign promises, which include increased wages.

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Ukrainian Rebel Regions Vote, With Fake Election Monitors, Real Anger http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/ukrainian-rebel-regions-vote-with-fake-election-monitors-real-anger/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/ukrainian-rebel-regions-vote-with-fake-election-monitors-real-anger/#comments Sun, 02 Nov 2014 22:39:42 +0000 Kirit Radia http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=526247 AP ukraine elections 1 jt 141102 16x9 608 Ukrainian Rebel Regions Vote, With Fake Election Monitors, Real Anger

(Credit: Dmitry Lovetsky/AP Photo)

Two Russian-backed breakaway regions in southeastern Ukraine held an elections that were hailed by Russia but denounced by the United States, the European Union, and the Ukrainian government.

Exit poll results released by rebel leaders in the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic showed overwhelming support for the current leader of the rebel region, Alexander Zakharchenko, and his party.

Though turnout was reportedly high, the vote lacked basic, internationally recognized safeguards for a free election. Armed rebel guards were posted outside — and sometimes inside — polling centers. Sacks of free or nearly free vegetables were offered for those who turned out.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, refused to recognize the election and declined to send monitors. Instead, a shadowy and previously unheard of group calling itself the Agency for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or ASCE, was brought in to monitor and certify the results. Most of the monitors belonged to Russian political parties or extreme fringe European political movements.

Russian media, including the Kremlin’s foreign-language propaganda network RT, however, continued to report that OSCE observers were present. The OSCE denied those reports.


After months of war, many in the region are angry at the Ukrainian government for the continued fighting, perhaps fueling the turnout. Ukrainian troops have been accused shelling civilian areas and using cluster bombs, which are banned in many countries (the United States and Russia have not joined in that ban). Human Rights Watch has suggested some Ukrainian military options “may amount to war crimes.”

The United States has vowed not to recognize the results of the election. The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported last week that the Kremlin’s decision to do so may lead to more European sanctions on Russia.

The vote comes as fears grow of a greater Russian military role in the conflict. Russia is already accused by the Ukrainian and many Western governments of sending fighters and weapons to beef up rebel forces.

Last summer Russian help is believed to have saved the rebels when they faced a rout by Ukrainian forces.


On Saturday and again today, large military convoys without license plates were spotting driving towards the rebel-held city of Donetsk from the direction of the Russian border. Those convoys reportedly included large military trucks and missile launchers. The reports led Ukrainian authorities to warn of “intensive” troops movements from Russia into rebel-held areas.

On Friday, a White House statement said it had evidence Russia was sending troops back to the border after pulling them back weeks ago.

“We also caution Russia against using any such illegitimate vote as a pretext to insert additional troops and military equipment into Ukraine, particularly in light of recent indications that the Russian military is moving forces back to the border along separatist controlled areas of eastern Ukraine,” the statement said.

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Louisiana Teen Shot Dead in West Bank Clash With Israelis http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/10/louisiana-teen-shot-dead-in-west-bank-clash-with-israelis/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/10/louisiana-teen-shot-dead-in-west-bank-clash-with-israelis/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 20:34:02 +0000 ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=526083 ht louisiana teen killed in west bank mt 141024 16x9 608 Louisiana Teen Shot Dead in West Bank Clash With Israelis

Orwa Abd al-Wahhab Hammad, 15, an American teen from New Orleans has been shot dead in clashes in the West Bank village of Silwad near Ramallah. Orwa is the second US child to die in the region this week. (Family Handout)

JERUSALEM – An American teen from New Orleans was shot and killed during clashes in the West Bank village of Silwad near Ramallah Friday.

An army spokesman told Reuters Israeli forces “managed to prevent an attack when they encountered a Palestinian man hurling a molotov cocktail at them on the main road next to Silwad. They opened fire and they confirmed a hit.”

Orwa Abd al-Wahhab Hammad, 15, was born in Ramallah and moved with his family to New Orleans, according to his brother Mohammad. His mother and brothers had traveled with him to the West Bank and his father will arrive from the United States on Sunday for the funeral.

The State Department confirms Orwa was a U.S. citizen, and says officials from the Consulate General in Jerusalem are in contact with family and providing all consular assistance.

Orwa is the second American child to die in the region this week. On Wednesday, 3-month old Chaya Zissel Braun was killed in Jerusalem when a Palestinian man drove his car into a crowd of pedestrians at a transit stop. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld described the incident as a “terrorist attack.” Her parents had traveled to Israel from Rockland County, New York, so her father could study in a yeshiva.

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Sweden Expands Hunt for Suspected Russian Sub http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/10/sweden-expands-hunt-for-suspected-russian-sub/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/10/sweden-expands-hunt-for-suspected-russian-sub/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 16:07:52 +0000 Kirit Radia http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=525932 AP Sweden Submarine mar 141020 16x9 608 Sweden Expands Hunt for Suspected Russian Sub

Marko Saavala/AP Photo

MOSCOW — Sweden is widening its search for what may be a distressed Russian submarine in the waters near Stockholm.

Authorities today ordered all ships to leave the large cluster of some 30,000 islands where the vessel was possibly spotted. A no fly zone has also gone into effect over the area.

The Swedish military has been searching for the mysterious vessel from the air and on the water since Friday.

Submarine Hunt Sends Cold War Chill Across Baltic

“It’s likely that foreign underwater activity is taking place in the Stockholm archipelago,” Sweden’s Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad said at a news conference on Sunday.

AP Sweden Submarine mar 2 141020 16x9 608 Sweden Expands Hunt for Suspected Russian Sub

Grenstad notably did not identify the origin of the suspected vessel, despite a Swedish newspaper report that says an emergency message in Russian was intercepted on a Russian emergency frequency.

Swedish authorities maintain this is an intelligence operation. They said object may have been seen three times in recent days and released a grainy photo that may show it on the surface.

“We consider all those observations to be very credible,” Rear Admiral Grendstad said.

Russia has denied any involvement. Instead, the Russians suggested it was actually a Dutch submarine.

The Dutch Defense Ministry spokeswoman, however, told the BBC that “it was definitely not a Dutch submarine.”

With renewed Russian military aggression in the region, the incident has sparked Cold War memories of when Sweden regularly combed its waters for Russian submarines.

In 1981, a Soviet submarine ran aground in southern Sweden, sparking a diplomatic standoff that lasted ten days until Sweden towed it back out to sea and handed it over.

If this incident does turn out to be a Russian submarine, the first question will be what it was doing there. But equally concerning may be how Russia decides to respond.

In 2000, the Kursk, a large nuclear-powered Russian submarine, sank in Russian waters in the icy Berents Sea. The country’s new president Vladimir Putin ignored international offers for rescue and all 118 men on board died.

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The Amazing Way Some Russians Are Celebrating Putin’s Birthday http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/10/russia-marks-vladimir-putins-birthday-with-over-the-top-tributes/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/10/russia-marks-vladimir-putins-birthday-with-over-the-top-tributes/#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 19:20:19 +0000 Kirit Radia http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=525662

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin turned 62 today and, as they do every year, many Russians organized over-the-top tributes in celebration.

In St. Petersburg, a children’s choir recorded a highly produced music video, literally singing Putin’s praises.

“May you have many more years with the same strength in your heart,” the children sang.


Russia Pulls Out of US Funded Student Exchange Program

Putin Shrugs off Damage From Western Sanctions

In Moscow, a pop-up art exhibit portrayed Putin as the Greek god Hercules. Just like Hercules slayed the multiheaded hydra and tamed the Cretan bull in Greek mythology, Putin is depicted defeating Western sanctions and annexing the Crimean peninsula.

At GUM, an ultrahigh-end Moscow shopping center, customers lined up for hours to purchase Putin iPhone covers and $75 sweatshirts of the Russian president in his manliest of moments.

“I want them all,” exclaimed Nina Zabolotskaya, a hotel employee who was waiting in line. “I like Putin. I love my president.”

When asked whether the prices were too steep, she said, “for the president, no.”

In the Chechen capital of Grozny, over 100,000 people marched, wearing the colors of the Russian flag, according to Russian state media. Chechnya’s strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a Putin ally, claimed on Instagram that the crowd set a world record for the largest “living” flag.


Дорогие друзья! Хочу сообщить вам важную новость! Сегодня в Грозном установлен новый мировой рекорд по созданию живого государственного флага и численности участвовавших в этом людей! Длина флагов России и Чечни превысила 2000 тыс. метров, а приняли в этой акции участие более ста тысячи юношей и девушек. Они выразили поддержку Президенту России Владимиру Путину и поздравили его с днём рождения! Колонны, изображавшие триколоры России и Чечни, растянулись от площади Минутка до центра Грозного. Молодые люди были одеты в разноцветные футболки с портретами Путина и Кадырова. Я с радостью хочу отметить, что это является и рекордом единства и сплочённости народа! #Кадыров #Путин #Россия #Чечня #Флаг #Рекорд #Единство

Просмотр на Instagram

Meanwhile, back in Moscow, a pro-Kremlin art group calling themselves “Impolite People” draped a giant banner from a bridge opposite the Kremlin showing President Obama wearing a Putin shirt that says, “Happy birthday global daddy.”

A Russian lawmaker recently suggested making Putin’s birthday a national holiday. He remains wildly popular in Russia and his approval ratings have been well north of 80 percent since he annexed Crimea. The numbers have stayed high as he is seen defending Russia from outside forces.

As for Putin himself, he marked his birthday far away from the madness. The Kremlin said the Russian leader was taking the day off, the first time he’s done so for his birthday in 15 years in power, and is spending it in the Siberian wilderness hundreds of miles from civilization.

AP putin sweatshirt jef 141007 16x9 608 The Amazing Way Some Russians Are Celebrating Putins Birthday

    (Photo Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo)

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Where Is Kim Jong-un? And 6 More Questions About North Korea’s Leader http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/10/where-is-kim-jong-un-and-six-more-questions-about-north-koreas-leader/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/10/where-is-kim-jong-un-and-six-more-questions-about-north-koreas-leader/#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 12:02:23 +0000 Molly Hunter http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=525639 AP kim jong un jef 141006 16x9 608 Where Is Kim Jong un? And 6 More Questions About North Koreas Leader

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un waves to spectators and participants of a mass military parade, July 27, 2013, in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Wong Maye-E/AP Photo)

It has been 34 days since the world last saw North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un in public and the rumor mill is working overtime. Bloggers are drooling at every new conspiracy theory but experts aren’t sweating. Yet.

“There is nothing serious going on,” University of Georgia Professor Han Park told ABC News. “We should not overreact but we should watch closely to see if there’s any maneuvering of any kind.”

When Kim Jong-un skipped out on a session of the Supreme People’s Assembly last month, it raised some eyebrows, according to the South Korean Chosun Ilbo newspaper, citing a Pyongyang source. Maybe he is on a yacht somewhere? Deserted island?

Thanks to North Korean State Media’s die-hard loyalty, the Western media has grown accustomed to seeing the Hermit Kingdom’s 31-year-old frontman on a regular basis (often looking at things). So, where is he now?

1. Is he sick?

For the first time last week, North Korean State TV admitted Kim was in an “uncomfortable physical condition.” Full stop, no additional detail. Is it gout? The speculation commenced. Did he have a stroke? Some blamed the rich cheese he reportedly grew fond of during his high school years in Switzerland, others blamed heavy drinking.

Both his father and grandfather were portly, and State News reported his father had been treated for “cardiac and cerebrovascular diseases for a long period” before dying of a heart attack in 2011. So is it heart disease? Diabetes?

To be clear, Kim is not a healthy guy. At 5-foot-9, he weighs in at an estimated 280 pounds. That’s nearly 130 pounds more than the average male of that height and classified as obese by the National Institutes of Health. Though like much of what is reported out of North Korea, ABC News was unable to independently verify his weight. This brings us to the leading conspiracy theory below.

2. Did he fracture his ankle because he’s too heavy?

Or worse, both ankles?

In July, State TV showed the dear leader limping, fueling suspicion that something was wrong with his feet. And later, reports surfaced that he was having surgery on both ankles.

“I think he’s physically uncomfortable,” said Professor Park. “He cannot walk very well.”

So is the weight to blame for his ankle injuries? Maybe, but a report in The Telegraph suggests the real culprit are his Cuban-made heels. He reportedly sprained both ankles first and later the injuries developed into fractures.

Crutches or no crutches, Professor Park said if Kim is dealing with fractured ankles, his absence can be explained simply: “He doesn’t want to be seen in a less-than-perfect physical posture.”

3. Could he be overseas getting medical care?

Analysts say it’s unlikely he would be flown out of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In 2008, North Korea flew in a French neurosurgeon Francois-Xavier Roux from Paris to treat an ailing Kim Jong-il. They would likely do the same if necessary for the young Kim.

4. And by the way, where is his wife?

Little is known about Ri Sol-ju, Kim’s wife of five years. She too has been out of sight since Sept. 3 and analysts say symbolically it would look weak if she made a solo appearance.

The couple has one daughter and last winter it was rumored that Ri was pregnant again. But no baby announcement yet this year.

5. Was there a coup?

“If it’s a bloodless coup, we may not see anything,” said Victor Cha, Senior Adviser and Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “If it’s not a bloodless coup, we would see infighting.”

Stoking fears of a Pyongyang power struggle, over the weekend, high-ranking North Korean officials made a surprise visit to the South. The first of its kind in five years, the delegation was headed by North Korea’s No. 2, Hwang Pyong-so.

“This visit over the weekend was very unusual,” and worth paying attention to said Cha. It appears the delegation returned to the North without incident.

6. When should we start to worry?

Analysts say we’ll likely hear something from Kim Jong-un soon, perhaps a statement or a picture, to reassure the dear people of North Korea that he is alive.

“If something was truly wrong, we would start to see troop movements. We would start to see military maneuvering near the borders,” said Joel Wit, founder of 38North.com and a senior fellow at the U.S.-Korean Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

Our eyes are peeled for any unusual movements, but for now, we’re watching to see if Kim shows up in public on Oct. 10, the 69th anniversary of the founding of its ruling Worker’s Party. The great mystery continues.


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