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Taylor Swift performs at Pride celebration at New York’s legendary Stonewall Inn

L-Jesse Tyler Ferguson, R-Taylor Swift, Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for AEGTaylor Swift is taking her newfound role as an LGBTQ ally seriously.

On Friday, the same day she released her new single “You Need to Calm Down” — which speaks out against homophobia and online hate — she made a surprise appearance at a Pride celebration at New York City’s Stonewall Inn.  You can watch fan-shot video of her singing “Shake It Off” on YouTube.

The event, sponsored by sports and live entertainment company AEG, commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, which marked the start of the gay rights movement in the U.S. AEG has also pledged its support to the Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative, which is working on developing an LGBTQ+ anti-bias training standard.

Taylor performed with a pink acoustic guitar, wearing sparkly shorts and a pink blouse.  She was joined by the evening’s host, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who tweeted out video of them singing “Shake It Off.”

Other performers included Sara Bareilles, Broadway star Gavin Creel and Orange Is the New Black star Lea DeLaria.

Taylor’s appearance at the Stonewall Inn comes in the wake of her starting a petition in support of the Equality Act, and the letter she wrote to Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, urging him to vote for the Act when it goes before the Senate.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

“Jonas Brothers Way”: Nick, Joe and Kevin get a street named after them in Albany, NY

Peggy SirotaThe Jonas Brothers may hail from New Jersey, but they’re getting a street named after them in Albany, NY.

According to The Daily Gazette, the honorary street sign for “Jonas Brothers Way” was unveiled in New York’s capital Friday ahead of the group’s upcoming concert there on August 19.

The tour stop at the Times Union Center will mark the trio’s first time playing Albany since their 2005 Palace Theatre show, when they opened for the Cheetah Girls.

If you’re in Albany, you can catch the street sign on S. Pearl Street – but it’s only temporary. It’ll be up through the JoBros’ show date.

It wasn’t actually the city – or the even the fans – who lobbied for the street name, though. Tour promoter LiveNation asked for the street’s temporary renaming, the Times Union Center’s general manager Bob Belber tells The Daily Gazette.

“This is just a great promotional method of informing the public that the Jonas Bros tour is coming to Albany on August 19th,” Belber said. “Very creative.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Jennifer Lopez says first two marriages “don’t really count”

ABC/Rick RowellIn a new YouTube video, Jennifer Lopez opens up about her first two marriages and why she feels they “don’t count.”

The actress/singer, who’s currently engaged to Alex Rodriguez, says her marriages to Ojani Noa, from 1997 to 1998, and dancer Cris Judd, from 2001 to 2003, were too short and she was too young.

“I’ve been married three times: once was nine months and once was 11 months. So I don’t really count those,” she says.

She adds, “I was married to Marc [Anthony] for 10 years with the kids. I was very young the first two times I tried to get married — I’m saying tried to get married.”

J.Lo admits in the past, she got married for the wrong reasons.

“It seems like in this life you’re always surrounded by people so you’re never lonely but it’s very lonely,” she says. “…So I felt like if I got married, then I would always have somebody, but that’s not how life works. That’s not how it goes. It’s bad reason to get married.”

She’s in the midst of her It’s My Party tour right now, but Jennifer says she’s planning to tie the knot with Rodriguez next year in a big church wedding, which she’s never had.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


‘The Walking Dead’ creator Robert Kirkman’s sci-fi comic ‘Oblivion Song’ coming to theaters

AMC(NEW YORK) — Robert Kirkman created the hit comic series The Walking Dead way back in 2008 — two years before it became the hit AMC show of the same name.

As previously reported, the zombie series is now being adapted into a big-screen trilogy, and now, another Kirkman project is getting the movie treatment.

Kirkman’s latest effort, the sci-fi comic Oblivion Song, is being adapted by his multimedia company Skybound and Universal Pictures.

Kirkman explain the project to ABC Radio: “Basically there was an event called The Transference that happened 10 years ago, where a large chunk of Philadelphia switched places with another dimension.”

He says of its hero, “Nathan Cole is one of the last remaining guys who…keeps going over there to try to save people…stranded in this other dimension that they’ve coined ‘Oblivion.'”

Oblivion’s song — that is, what draws Cole to keep making the dangerous jump into the monster-filled dimension — is another story.

“It’s a big question as to…what’s wrong with his life that he feels the need to do this and why is he so obsessed,” Kirkman explains.

Kirkman has written every monthly issue of The Walking Dead since its inception, and he explains Oblivion Song was a great way to stretch his legs, creatively.

“I’m fortunate enough to still be working on The Walking Dead after so many years…but you know, going and doing new things like Oblivion Song keeps me interested in Walking Dead and keeps that creative fire going.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Stana Katic delving into murky water, again, in second season of Amazon Prime’s ‘Absentia’

Photo Credit: ©2019 Sony Pictures Television. Image by Elena Nenkova(NEW YORK) — The second season of the thriller series Absentia, starring former Castle lead Stana Katic  is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

Castle, ABC’s romantic comedy cop show in which she starred with Nathan Fillion, ended in 2016, but lives on worldwide in syndication. Stana explains its success took her by surprise.

“I was kind of in a cave of work, and so I wasn’t aware of how much…it kind of embedded itself into people’s homes and into people’s hearts,” she says. “But I still feel it now. Which is kind of lovely, actually!”

Absentia, which Katic also produced, is very different. She plays an FBI agent who goes missing while hunting for a serial killer. Six years after being declared dead, she’s found alive, having survived a brutal regimen of psychological and physical torture, which includes repeated near drownings in a Plexiglas coffin.

Wracked with the psychological scars from her captivity, Emily returns to her life to find her husband remarried, and his new wife raising Emily’s son. She’s also the suspect in a series of murders that she isn’t entirely sure she didn’t commit.

“It was an interesting kind of challenge as an actor to …play [a] protagonist [who] may not have a clear cut morality,” Katic tells ABC Radio, calling Emily an “anti-hero.” 

The first season ends with a stunning twist. “She has to question is that real or is that a part of this sort of psychosis? So at the beginning of season two…she’s now trying to figure out if she can trust herself.”

“Ultimately, she needs to go down this path which leads down some really murky and dark waters,” she says before laughing, because seeing running water triggers her character throughout the series.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

“Plus One” stars Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid give their best tips for wedding season

Photo courtesy of RLJE Films(NEW YORK) — Wedding season is upon us, and Plus One feels your pain.

The romantic comedy stars PEN15 actress Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid, son of Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, as Alice and Ben, two old pals who decide to be each other’s “plus ones” for a marathon of summer weddings. Alice is trying to get over an ex and Ben wants to find a fairytale romance, but their plans take an unexpected turn when they find themselves falling for each other.

Erskine and Quaid admit their friends aren’t quite getting hitched at the rapid pace of Alice and Ben’s friends, but they do offer some tips for anyone planning a wedding to make it more bearable for their guests.

“I just went to one, had a great raw bar let me tell you something about that,” Erskine says. “The crab, y’all. When you got good snow crab legs, you’re winning. And make sure you have a tarp if it’s outside and some heat lamps if it’s outside as well, and cold.”

For his part, Quaid has some key advice when it comes to the seating charts.

“I went to a wedding not too long ago where they were like, ‘It’d be fun if for the couples that are coming to the wedding, we separated them so they’re getting to mingle with other people,’” he says. “…I’m like, ‘No, hell no. I came here with my girlfriend — I want to sit next to her!’” 

Plus One premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, where it won the Narrative Audience Award. It hits theaters today.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Why US soccer star Megan Rapinoe doesn’t sing the national anthem

iStock/artisteer(PARIS) — As the national anthem played before the U.S. women’s national team took on Thailand in the FIFA Women’s World Cup last week, the team stood in a row on the field.

A camera panned down the line of players during the broadcast, showing each with her hand over her heart, mouthing along to the song.

At the end of the line was Megan Rapinoe, the co-captain and one of the biggest stars of the team. She stood impassively, hands at her sides, not singing along.

Rapinoe’s silent observance of the anthem is part of a years-long protest by the athlete.

In September 2016, Rapinoe was one of the first athletes to follow then-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s lead in kneeling during the anthem to protest racial oppression and police brutality against black people.

“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it,” she said at the time, according to The Associated Press. “It’s important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this. We don’t need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that’s really powerful.”

She further explained her demonstration in an October 2016 piece for The Players’ Tribune, where she cited “over-policing, racial profiling, [and] police brutality.”

U.S. Soccer, the governing body of the sport and national team, while not naming her, did not support her kneeling, according to reports at the time. “As part of the privilege to represent your country, we have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag while the National Anthem is played,” the group said in a September 2016 statement, according to a tweet from sports reporter John D. Halloran.

Months later, U.S. Soccer added a policy requiring players to “stand respectfully during the playing of the national anthems at any event in which the Federation is represented.” U.S. Soccer declined to comment to ABC News.

Since then, Rapinoe has followed that rule, standing during the anthem, but she regularly does not put her hand to her heart nor does she sing along like her teammates.

“I’ll probably never put my hand over my heart,” she told Yahoo! Sports in May. “I’ll probably never sing the national anthem again.”

She told Yahoo! Sports she’s still driven by inequality and injustice and added that she believes under the presidency of Donald Trump — who she called “sexist,” “racist” and “not a good person” — she is “a walking protest.” (Trump for his part has said he’s the “least racist” person and insisted that he respects women.)

In the Yahoo Sports interview, Rapinoe did not back down from criticizing U.S. Soccer, who she is also suing — along with her 2015 World Cup teammates — for gender discrimination, which the organization has denied.

She called U.S. Soccer’s references to patriotism to stop her protest “pretty cowardly,” likening it to the NFL.

“We can actually have a conversation, instead of just telling me that it’s a privilege to pull on the jersey,” Rapinoe added. “Like, of course it’s a privilege for me to pull on the jersey. Part of that privilege is representing America, and representing America is representing all of America.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

ESPN: Los Angeles Lakers agree to trade for New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis

Photo by Joshua Gateley / ESPN Images(LOS ANGELES) — After months of waiting, the Los Angeles Lakers have acquired superstar Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, ESPN reports.

Davis, a six-time All-Star, requested a trade in January. He has just one season left on his contract, but he has privately indicated that he would sign a long-term extension in Los Angeles.

In return, the Lakers sent young players Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart to the Pelicans. The Lakers also sent three first-round draft picks, including the fourth overall selection in Thursday’s draft.

Davis will join LeBron James to form a dynamic duo in Los Angeles. The team will also have payroll flexibility to try to build up the roster around the pair.

New Orleans, meanwhile, will rebuild their roster around the young players acquired in the deal, as well as two of the top four picks in this year’s draft. They are widely expected to choose Duke star Zion Williamson first overall. They could use the fourth pick in the draft to select another young player, or trade it in the coming days.

It remains to be seen when the team will make the deal official. If the trade call is held on July 6th, the earliest possible date, the Lakers would retain $27.8 million in cap space. If they wait until July 30th, LA would have $32.5 million to use in free agency.

Waiting would also increase New Orleans’ cap space from $15 million to $19 million.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Babe Ruth jersey breaks record for most-expensive sports memorabilia item

iStock(NEW YORK) — Babe Ruth broke about every record there was in baseball during his Hall of Fame career. Why not add a memorabilia record to the list?

A rare game-worn jersey from the Sultan of Swat sold at auction Saturday for a record $5.64 million — the priciest piece of sports memorabilia ever. Of course, just like he did four times with the MLB home run record, he broke his own memorabilia record.

The buyer of the jersey has not been released.

The previous record was $4.4 million, also for a Ruth jersey, which sold in 2012.

The jersey dates back to the late 1920s, when the Bambino would’ve been in his hitting prime. In 1927, he set a home run record that would stand until 1961 and hit at least 45 homers each season from 1926 to 1931.

“For well over a decade, I have been researching and evaluating significant major league uniforms of the 20th century,” said Dave Grob, who authenticated the jersey on behalf of SGC, a sports memorabilia company. “Every time I am presented with a historic uniform like this striking Babe Ruth example, I am always rooting for the jersey because, if it proves to be authentic, it means that an extraordinary piece of baseball history has survived.”

The jersey does not bear pinstripes; it’s a road gray jersey, but it does have “YANKEES” emblazoned across the front, which only existed from 1927 to 1930. The team generally has had an arched “NEW YORK” on the front of road jerseys and the famous interlocking “N-Y” on the front on their home uniforms.

The previous owner of the jersey was not released.

It was auctioned off Saturday at Yankee Stadium, along with other items from the man many consider the greatest baseball player — if not American athlete — of all time. Hunt Auctions held the event, which featured over 100 items, including game-worn cleats, contracts and autographs.

If auctioneers were looking for someone with a lot of money, at least one billionaire is known to be a fan of the Babe: President Donald Trump. He awarded the late slugger the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, last November.

Ruth retired in 1935 — with the Boston Braves, not the Yankees and died in 1948 at just 53 years old. He was an inaugural member of the Hall of Fame in 1936.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


North Carolina boy whacks alleged robber with machete; injured suspect arrested after manhunt

vzwer/iStock(MEBANE, N.C.) — An 11-year-old boy, who was home alone when three people broke into his family’s North Carolina residence, turned the tables on the alleged criminals when he got ahold of a machete and whacked one of them in the head, officials said.

But now the boy’s family is demanding answers from the Orange County, North Carolina, Sheriff’s Office about how the alleged home invader slipped out of their grasp when he walked away from a hospital after being treated for injuries caused in the confrontation with young Braydon Smith, who authorities described as a local youth baseball star and a “very tough kid.”

“It was infuriating,” Braydon’s mother, Kaitlin Johnson, told ABC station WTVD in Durham, North Carolina. “This guy that could have killed my child…”

The suspect, Jataveon Dashawn Hall, 19, was arrested just after 1 p.m. on Sunday in Burlington, North Carolina, more than 40 hours after he was spotted on surveillance video walking out of the University of North Carolina Medical Center in Chapel Hill with his head heavily bandaged and wearing a hospital gown, authorities said.

The terrifying ordeal occurred about 11 a.m. Friday, when Braydon was alone in his home in Mebane, North Carolina, about 20 miles northwest of Chapel Hill.

Johnson, who lives in another state, was on the phone with her son when someone knocked on the front door of the Mebane house. Johnson told WTVD that she heard one of the intruders say the house was empty.

Sheriff’s officials said that when the alleged robbers entered the house they discovered Braydon alone. Hall allegedly picked up a pellet gun he found in the house, took Braydon’s phone and forced the boy into a bedroom closet before he and his accomplices allegedly proceeded to ransack the residence, according to a statement released by the sheriff’s office.

“The juvenile, who is a star baseball player on several area teams, left the closet and was able to gain access to a machete. He entered the living room behind the intruder, swung the machete, and struck the man in the back of the head,” the statement reads.

Hall responded by kicking the boy in the stomach and knocking him against a couch, authorities said. But Braydon quickly scrambled to his feet and charged after Hall again, swinging the machete but missing.

“The intruder then kicked the child in the side of the head and turned to grab several items, including a television and a PlayStation. At this point, the intruder realized he was bleeding significantly from the machete strike. He dropped the electronics, exited the residence, and all three suspects fled the home,” according to the sheriff’s office.

Johnson said she managed to hear about 12 minutes of the confrontation on her phone, then called a relative in North Carolina, who in turn called 911.

“It was horrifying. There’s no other way to put it,” Johnson said of hearing the confrontation on the phone. “I didn’t know that he [Braydon] would be OK.”

Sheriff’s deputies raced to the home and found Braydon safe. They quickly put out an all-points bulletin and alerted local hospitals to be on the lookout for the wounded suspect.

“Not only did this youngster thwart the larceny attempt, he created blood evidence that very well may lead to a conviction in this case,” Sheriff Charles Blackwood told reporters on Friday before Hall escaped. “This is a very tough kid who kept his wits about him. At the same time, I want to reflect that this youngster, his family, and indeed this community, are very lucky this event did not have a tragic ending for the child.”

Hall showed up at the UNC Hospital in Hillsborough about 1 p.m. on Friday. Hospital staff treated him for a gash on the back of his head and alerted the sheriff’s office, hospital spokesman Phil Bridges said in a statement.

When Hall’s condition worsened, he was transferred to the UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill for further treatment.

“This patient was admitted to the ED [Emergency Department], but was in the legal custody of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department which did not place an officer with him,” Bridges said. “In similar situations, hospital staff will often alert law enforcement personnel when a suspect patient is discharged, but they remain the legal responsibility of law enforcement.

“It is the responsibility of law enforcement to closely monitor the status of suspects in their custody while those patients are receiving medical treatment,” Bridges added. “UNC Hospitals personnel are working with the Sheriff’s Department to offer them assistance in this matter.”

The sheriff’s office said in a statement on Sunday prior to Hall’s arrest that it notified the hospital police to alert them prior to discharging Hall. Deputies planned to “pick Hall up and take him before a magistrate where warrants would be served,” according to the sheriff’s department statement.

But Hall allegedly walked out of the hospital at 8:23 p.m., and vanished.

Sheriff Blackwood said in a statement on Sunday that his agency wasn’t notified that Hall left the hospital until 6:26 a.m. on Saturday. He said a nurse wrote on Hall’s medical chart that he left the hospital against medical advice, but apparently never told hospital police.

Blackwood said Hall, according to a hospital police officer, told the nurse he “needed to leave because the police were going to be looking for him.”

“I am concerned about the amount of misinformation I am reading regarding this case,” Blackwell said in his statement. “First of all, Jataveon Hall was never in the custody of our office.”

He said that when his agency was initially alerted that Hall was at the Hillsborough hospital, no warrant had been issued for him at that time.

“Hall was only a suspect and there was no legal authority to hold him in custody,” Blackwell said.

Later Friday, a magistrate issued multiple warrants stemming from the break-in, charging Hall with breaking and entering, second-degree kidnapping, interfering with emergency communications, and assault on a child younger than 12.

The other two suspects have not been arrested, and investigators are trying to identify them.

Braydon’s aunt, Ashley Matthews, told WTVD that no one seems to be taking responsibility for Hall’s escape.

“Who is responsible for allowing this criminal to walk out of UNC Hospital?” Matthews said. “We want to know who it is, and we want somebody to take responsibility.”

Chief Deputy Jamison Sykes defended his agency, echoing Sheriff Blackwood’s statement that the agency was never told Hall left the hospital until hours after he departed.

“Our agency is very concerned about the events in this case. Effective immediately, we will institute policy changes necessary to protect the public in situations like this,” Sykes said in a statement. “We expected to be notified prior to Hall’s discharge. When Hall left the hospital Friday evening against medical advice, we certainly should have been notified. But most concerning of all is that hospital police did not even know Hall had left the premises almost ten hours prior. Indeed, Hall’s absence was only discovered when we placed a phone call to them.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Michigan police officer appears to punch 16-year-old girl during arrest, bodycam footage shows

Lansing Police Department(LANSING, Mich.) — A Michigan police department has released body camera footage that appears to show an officer striking a 16-year-old runaway they were apprehending to return to a youth center.

Officers from the Lansing Police Department were called on Friday morning after emergency dispatchers received a 911 call from a resident asking police to pick up two teens who had escaped from an in-county youth center, Lansing Police Chief Mike Yankowski told reporters during a news conference on Friday.

The teens, a 16-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy, were being housed at the center for probation violations, and police had warrants to re-detain them, Yankowski said. Officers had been looking for them in the same area the day before, Yankowski said.

When officers arrived to the neighborhood, they spotted two people who matched the teens’ descriptions who “took off running” once the officers identified themselves, Yankowski said.

Body camera footage from officer Bailey Ueberroth begins as he chases the 16-year-old girl through a residential neighborhood in Lansing. After Ueberroth handcuffs her, they walk together back to his patrol car, and she begins shouting at people on the street before slipping out of her handcuffs.

Another officer then comes to assist re-securing the handcuffs as the teen and Ueberroth struggle on the ground, the video shows, and the teen continues to yell at the onlookers on the street.

“I didn’t put my hands on her,” she screams in frustration. “You called the police for no reason.”

The teen then falls to the ground, causing the officers to carry her back to the patrol car by her legs and arms, the video shows.

Once she was placed in the backseat, she extended her right leg to prevent the officers from closing the car door.

 PHOTO: Body camera footage from the Lansing Police Department shows an officer striking a 16-year-old girl who had escaped from a youth home on probation violation charges on Friday, June 14, 2019. Lansing Police Department

The teen could be heard yelling at the officer to stop hitting her, but she continued to hold the car door open with her foot, telling officers “no” when they told her to put her leg in the car.

“I ain’t doing s—,” the teen says as multiple people on the street admonish the officers for how they handled the situation.

Once the officers finally close the door, Ueberroth starts the car and drives away as the teen cries in the backseat.

The 15-year-old male was also captured and returned to the youth center, Yankowski said. He did damage to another patrol car by kicking it, Yankowski added.

Officers are permitted to use force that is “objectively reasonable,” and this case will be thoroughly reviewed, Yankowski said.

Ueberroth has been with the department for six months and Howley has been with the department for a year, police said in a press release. They have been placed on administrative leave as the department conducts the internal investigation.

The girl was not injured in the incident and did not require medical attention when she returned to the youth center, according to the police chief.

Both officers suffered minor scrapes and cuts and one of the officers strained a hand, Yankowski said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Miami Beach woman arrested for stomping on sea turtle nest

Miami-Dade County Department Of Corrections(MIAMI) — A Miami Beach woman was arrested on Saturday for jabbing at and stomping on a sea turtle nest.

Yaqun Lu, 41, crossed into an area of the beach that was cordoned off by wooden stakes and tape to protect the nest and began digging at it with one of the stakes, police told Miami ABC affiliate WPLG.

She then began “jabbing at a sea turtle nest and stomping all over the nest,” the Miami Beach Police Department said.

Lu was arrested and has been charged with harassing/molesting a marine turtle or eggs, according to jail records. The crime is a third-degree felony in Florida and she could face a hefty fine if found guilty.

She is being held on $5,000 bond.

Lu is a Chinese national, but lives in Michigan, according to WPLG.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials inspected the nest and said the eggs were not damaged in the odd outburst.

Sea turtles, depending on the species, are listed as either endangered or threatened and are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 and Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Act. Anyone who handles sea turtles or their eggs, such as for scientific or educational purposes, must be licensed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Loggerhead, green and leatherback marine turtles all lay eggs on Miami Beach, according to the city.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Iran attempted to shoot down US drone over tanker attack site in Gulf of Oman

iStock(TEHRAN, Iran) — Iran attempted to shoot down a U.S. drone that was surveilling the attack on one of two tankers hit in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday morning, U.S. Central Command said. The attempt missed the MQ-9 Reaper by “approximately 1 kilometer.”

The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, along with another tanker, the Front Altair, were damaged by mines that the U.S. said Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had placed on the ship’s hulls.

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

CENTCOM said that, prior to the attempt by Iran to shoot down the MQ-9, the drone had observed the Front Altair on fire.

“The SA-7 was ineffective and its closest point of approach to the MQ-9 was approximately 1 kilometer,” Brown said. “Subsequent analysis indicates that this was a likely attempt to shoot down or otherwise disrupt the MQ-9 surveillance of the IRGC attack on the M/T Kokuka Courageous.”

In the day following the attacks, Iranian small boats prevented salvage tugs from towing the Front Altair, as they had been contracted to do, a U.S. official told ABC News.

The 23 mariners on board the Front Altair were rescued shortly after Thursday’s attack by the Hyundai Dubai, but Iranians aboard small boats quickly demanded the crew be turned over to their custody. The master of the Hyundai Dubai contacted the headquarters of his shipping company in Seoul and was instructed not to turn the crew over to the Iranians. However, the ship’s master felt he had no choice but to comply with the Iranian demands.

The Kokuka Courageous is now in territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates, a second official said.

CENTCOM also confirmed on Saturday that another U.S. MQ-9 was shot down by a Houthi SA-6 surface-to-air missile over Yemen on June 6.

“The altitude of the engagement indicated an improvement over previous Houthi capability, which we assess was enabled by Iranian assistance,” Brown said. 

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Notre Dame Cathedral holds first mass since devastating fire

iStock(PARIS) — Notre Dame Cathedral held mass on Saturday, its first since a devastating fire tore through the building two months ago on April 15.

Only a small group of about 30 people attended the mass, including the church’s clergy, worshipers, media and construction workers. The mass was also transmitted live on a French Catholic TV station, and dozens of other Catholics attended the service from outside the cathedral, watching on their phones.

The small group convened in a chapel behind the large gold-covered cross that was miraculously found intact after the fire, which destroyed the building’s roof, causing its iconic spire to collapse. For safety reasons, those attending the mass were asked to wear hard hats inside the church.

Paris archbishop Michel Aupetit led the service. He has pushed for the reconstruction of Notre Dame since the fire and wanted to hold the mass as a way to keep the energy around the monument’s recovery alive.

French Minister of Culture Franck Riester that only 9% of the $955 million in donations that had been promised to Notre Dame’s reconstruction had actually been received, according to Agence France-Press. He said some donors were waiting to send their donations because they wanted clear plans for how their money would be spent.

The mass was held a day before an annual celebration of the consecration of the church’s altar, known as the feast of the Dedication of Our Lady, and Aupetit prayed to the statue of the Virgin Mary, saying that he was thankful to be there.

“It was extraordinary,” he said, “to be able to celebrate again, even in this wounded cathedral. I was ordained bishop in this cathedral.”

Aupetit called it “a little weird” praying with hard hats on and said that he took it off during the consecration because “come on.”

He hopes he’ll be able to hold mass again soon, though. “As soon as I’m given the authorization again, I will go again, because I used to go all the time,” he said.

The church site is still being investigated by the French police. Investigators have now seized 100 samples from the crime scene to undergo laboratory examinations. However, they fear that a lot of the samples won’t be useful.

Investigators believe that the fire started due to a short-circuit around the electrified bells in the spire. They also believe that there had been a human error in locating the fire, and that a security guard inspected the wrong sector of the church.

As the investigation continues, the church’s reconstruction will remain on hold until it is fully cleared of rubble. Yet still, with this mass, the clergy around Notre Dame demonstrates that it’s eager to start a regular church life again.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

US looks to build ‘international consensus’ around tanker attacks, says Iran interfered with the damaged ships

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. is looking to build an “international consensus” around Thursday’s tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman that the U.S. has blamed squarely on Iran. Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the attack, Iranian small boats have prevented salvage tugs from moving one of the damaged ships to a port, according to a U.S. official.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan highlighted to reporters on Friday that the attacks were not only a “U.S. situation,” saying the focus now is to “build international consensus to this international problem.”

“When you look at the situation, a Norwegian ship, Japanese ship, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE…” Shanahan said, listing some the countries that owned ships attacked in Middle Eastern waters Thursday and in another attack a few weeks prior.

“Fifteen percent of the world’s oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz,” Shanahan continued. “So, we obviously need to make contingency plans should the situation deteriorate, but we also need to broaden our support for this international situation.”

He said the effort to declassify intelligence and release it publicly was part of the effort to build international consensus.

On Thursday evening, U.S. Central Command released video taken from a U.S. Navy P-8 surveillance aircraft showing what they said were Iranian small boats attempting to remove an unexploded mine from the side of the Kokuka Courageous — one of the two ships attacked earlier that day. CENTCOM also released images of that ship, showing where one mine had exploded and another had not.

In a statement, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office said it was “almost certain that a branch of the Iranian military — the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — attacked the two tankers,” adding that “no other state or non-state actor could plausibly have been responsible.”

But the German Foreign Minister was not as convinced, saying video released by CENTCOM was “not enough” for Germany to make a final assessment.

Iranian officials have flatly denied any involvement in the attacks.

Iranian interference in aftermath of tanker attacks

In the day following the attacks, Iranian small boats have prevented salvage tugs from towing the other damaged ship, the Front Altair, as they had been contracted to do, a U.S. official told ABC News.

The Front Altair suffered significant damage after the explosion of two to three mines triggered a massive fire on board the ship. While it was feared that that tanker would sink, officials said it now appears salvageable. But the salvage tugs have been told by Iranians that they cannot move the tanker, the official said.

The 23 mariners on board the Front Altair were rescued shortly after Thursday’s attack by the Hyundai Dubai, but Iranians aboard small boats quickly demanded the crew be turned over to their custody. The master of the Hyundai Dubai contacted the headquarters of his shipping company in Seoul and was instructed not to turn the crew over to the Iranians. However, the ship’s master felt he had no choice to comply with the Iranian demands. So the crew was taken to an Iranian port where they remained on Friday.

While the owners of the Front Altair said the mariners would be repatriated, there have been no indications yet from Iran that that is the case.

According to a separate U.S. official, crew members from the Kokuka Courageous returned to their tanker very early Friday morning and contracted a tug to pull the ship back to the United Arab Emirates.

Several Iranian small boats and an Iranian tug “offered assistance,” but that assistance was declined by the ship’s master. As the Iranians on those vessels kept insisting that they wanted to assist, the U.S. Navy destroyer, USS Bainbridge, made a bridge to bridge communication with the Iranians and told them that no assistance was required. The official added that the Iranians did not try to force themselves onto the ship because of the Bainbridge’s presence.

On Thursday, it was the Bainbridge that rescued the Kokuka Courageous’s 21-person crew, treating minor injuries.

The Bainbridge, along with another U.S. Navy destroyer, USS Mason, remain near the Kokuka Courageous. The USS Lincoln carrier strike group, which was deployed to the Middle East in response to threat streams emanating from Iran in early May, is also in the vicinity.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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