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Justin Bieber & Hailey Baldwin hit Italy for romantic…not-honeymoon?

Ricky Vigil M/GC ImagesIf Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin don’t want us to think they’re on their honeymoon, they’re doing a bad job.

Following the rumors that the two had secretly tied the knot in New York City, Hailey jetted off to London to work in a fashion show with Justin at her side, and then the two headed to Italy’s romantic Amalfi Coast.  According to E! Online, they spent two nights in a private villa in Ravello, which costs $13,000 per night. 

A source tells E!, “They look like honeymooners and are completely in love. They always grab each other and hold each other close. They are very affectionate and smitten. Justin is treating Hailey like a queen and wants only the best for her.”

Another source notes that the lovebirds’ villa has “amazing views” as well as a private butler, and they’ve been enjoying pasta and gelato, as well as strolling through town and posing for pics with the locals

A boat ride along the Amalfi Coast was also part of their agenda, and the two were “kissing the entire time,” adds a source. Justin and Hailey also hit up the towns of Amalfi and Salerno before heading back to Ravello.

Hailey initially denied via Twitter that she and Justin had secretly tied the knot, but then deleted that tweet.  Next, Alec Baldwin, Hailey’s uncle, told reporters at the Emmys that they two “went off and got married.”  It’s still not clear what their marital status is.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Ella Mai announces release date for her debut album

10 Summers/Interscope RecordsAfter going triple-platinum with her number one hit, “Boo’d Up,” Ella Mai finally has a release date for her long-awaited debut album

The British artist announced Friday on Instagram that the self-titled project will drop on October 12th. She also revealed the album cover, which shows her sitting on a couch, draped in pink fur.

Among the 16 tracks on the disc: “Boo’d Up,” her latest single, “Trip, and a bonus track titled “Naked.” The album is now available for pre-order on all digital platforms, and if you do so, you’ll get all three of those tracks free.

“Boo’d Up” has been at the top of Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart for 14 weeks, becoming the longest running number one by a woman this decade. The track is up for an American Music Award for Favorite Song Soul/R&B, and Mai is also nominated for Favorite Female Artist Soul/R&B.

The 23-year-old singer is now preparing to open ten shows on the Bruno Mars 24K Magic Tour, beginning with his October 4 concert in New York City. 

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Millie Bobby Brown defends her “lovely” friendship with Drake: “U guys are weird”

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for NetflixDrake and 14-year-old Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown have struck up an unlikely friendship, which mostly involves them texting back and forth.  But now, Brown is taking haters to task for suggesting that their relationship is somehow inappropriate.

It all started when Brown told Access Hollywood that Drake gives her advice about “boys” — but wouldn’t reveal what the advice was.  She also said he was a great friend and a great role model, adding, “He texted me the other day and was like, ‘I miss you so much’, and I was like, ‘I miss you more!'”

Most of the comments on the Access Hollywood video were negative, with many suggesting that it isn’t healthy for a 31-year-old to have a friendship with a 14-year-old.  Drake was slammed as “weird,” “creepy” and “a pedo,” while several commenters accused him of “grooming” Brown.  Another described the situation as “Eleven vs. Predator.”

Millie then took to her Instagram Story to hit back, in a screenshot captured by E! Online.

“Why u gotta make a lovely friendship ur headline?” the actress wrote. “U guys are weird… for real. I’m lucky to have people in the business extend their time to help me further my career and offer their wisdom and guidance.”

She added, “I’m very blessed to have amazing people in my life. U don’t get to choose that for me. It’s nice to have people who understand what I do. Now get back to talking about real problems in this world other than my friendships… jeez.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Will Smith on his debut as a stand-up comedian: “I AM HOOKED”

ABC/Randy Holmes(LOS ANGELES) — Will Smith took his first crack at stand-up comedy this week and he loved it.

In an Instagram post on Thursday night, Smith shared a series of photos from his comedy debut.

“I did Stand Up last night… FIRST TIME EVER!,” he wrote. “I opened for Dave Chappelle. I AM HOOKED.”

According to Variety, Smith made his stand-up comedy debut at the Peppermint Club on Wednesday night in Los Angeles, as part of Chappelle’s three-and-a-half hour surprise show. Smith was said to have filmed his set as part of his new Bucket List video series, which has yet to be released. The actor explained that his 50th birthday was coming up and doing stand up was definitely on his “bucket list.”

The private event was attended by the likes of Jon Stewart, Katt Williams and LeBron James, and Will’s wife Jade Pinkett Smith and daughter Willow were also in the audience.

Variety reports that some of Will’s jokes included how he lost control of his house after Jada’s Red Table Talk show on Facebook Watch turned their garage into a control booth, and how his son Jaden now considers him “the second-best rapper in the house!”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

‘Thor’ co-stars Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson “make it look good” in sneak peek of ‘Men in Black’ reboot

ABC/Radhika Chalasani(LONDON) — Thor: Ragnarok co-stars Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson are front and center in a black-and-white, on-set social media snap that gives fans their first look at them in the as-yet-untitled reboot of the Men in Black franchise, which will be based in the U.K.

The pair can be seen on Hemsworth’s Insta, wearing most of their get-ups as members of the super-secret alien enforcement agency. Despite not sporting the MiB trademark black Armani jackets, to paraphrase Will Smith’s MIB character, Thompson and Hemsworth certainly “make it look good” in matching white shirts and skinny black ties.

Thompson’s Insta shows the pair in the same place, with Hemsworth making a fish-lipped face to the camera.

Thor’s alter-ego also posted a spinning selfie video, with the caption, “I do all my own stunts.” 

The still-untitled Men in Black reboot features Emma Thompson reprising her Men in Black 3 leader character Agent O, and will also co-star Rebecca Ferguson, and Liam Neeson.  It’s set to open June 14, 2019.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Round 3 – ‘Daredevil’ returns October 19

David Lee/Netflix(NEW YORK) — The third season of the acclaimed Netflix Marvel series Daredevil will hit the streaming service October 19.

In a promo revealing the return, Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock — blind lawyer for the oppressed by day, masked vigilante by night — has fallen from the light spiritually. Bloodied and  partially in shadow, Cox’s character says in voiceover, “You can suffocate evil. Starve it. Lock it behind bars, but it will come back even stronger. There’s only one true way to end evil: To finish it for good.”

“Let the devil out,” he whispers, as he’s suddenly seen smirking in his black ninja mask. 

When fans last saw Murdock, he was badly injured and presumed dead after the events of the team-up series The Defenders. As the proo suggests, Murdoch’s return will show that he’s losing faith in his “day job’s” ability to keep evil at bay.

Based on the comic characters created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett, Daredevil also stars returning players Vincent D’Onofrio, Deborah Ann Woll, and Elden Henson. Joanne Whalley is a new addition to the cast, as Sister Maggie, a confidante who nurses Murdoch’s bruised body and faith — and who may also be his long-lost mother.

Marvel is owned by Disney, the parent company of ABC News.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Iowa State mourns slain star golfer with sea of yellow, video tribute

ABC News(DES MOINES) — On most game days, the stands filled with fans for the Iowa State Cyclones football team are a riotous mix of colors.

But on Saturday morning, all you could see was a sea of solemn yellow, a tribute to a beloved star golfer who was killed earlier this week.

Celia Barquin Arozamena, recently named Iowa State’s female athlete of the year, was found dead with stab wounds in a pond on a golf course on Monday. Hours later, a man, who according to court documents, has a criminal background who had purportedly made statements recently “to the effect of having an urge to rape and kill a woman,” according to court documents, was charged with her murder.

The 22-year-old golfer was a native of Spain and her murder sent shockwaves from the nation’s heartland to her hometown of Reocín, Spain, which held three days of mourning and condemned the “vile act” that took her life.

At the Cyclones’ game on Saturday, fans and supporters wore yellow — Barquin Arozamena’s favorite color and a symbol of her Spanish roots. Cheerleaders wore yellow ribbons in their hair and players on the field wore yellow wristbands. Many wore a sticker with the letters ‘CBA’ — Barquin Arozamena’s initials — on their T-shirts.

A video tribute played on a giant screen, the band used a formation that spelled out her initials, both teams wore a decal on their helmets in her memory, and players, cheerleaders and fans — all 60,000 of them — observed a moment of silence before the national anthem was played.

Barquin, the Cyclones’ first conference champion in 25 years, was finishing up her degree at Iowa State and working toward her ultimate goal of becoming a professional golfer.

“It’s just a horrific, horrific senseless death,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds told reporters Tuesday.

Reynolds’ statement was echoed by Iowa State head women’s golf coach Christie Martens.

“We are all devastated,” Martens said in a statement.

“Celia was a beautiful person who was loved by all her teammates and friends. She loved Iowa State and was an outstanding representative for our school. We will never forget her competitive drive to be the best and her passion for life.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Scoreboard roundup — 9/21/18

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Here are the scores from Friday’s sports events:

Chicago White Sox 10, Chicago Cubs 4

N.Y. Yankees 10, Baltimore 8
Tampa Bay 11, Toronto 3
Boston 7, Cleveland 5
Kansas City 4, Detroit 3
Texas 8 Seattle 3, 7 Innings
Houston 11, L.A. Angels 3
Oakland 7, Minnesota 6, 10 Innings

N.Y. Mets 4, Washington 2
Milwaukee 8, Pittsburgh 3
Miami 1, Cincinnati 0, 10 Innings
Atlanta 6, Philadelphia 5
St. Louis 5, San Francisco 3
Colorado 6, Arizona 2
San Diego 5, L.A. Dodgers 3

N.Y. Islanders 3, Philadelphia 2
Carolina 5, Washington 1
Chicago 5, Ottawa 2
Toronto 5, Buffalo 3
Tampa Bay 5, Nashville 1
St. Louis 3, Columbus 0
Winnipeg 4, Calgary 3

(11) Penn St. 63, Illinois 24
(16) UCF 56, FAU 36

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Blind teen scores 2 touchdowns during game

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Brophy College Prep’s freshman running back No. 45 is a star.

Last week, during a freshman game, Adonis Watt, 14, scored not one, but two touchdowns for the Brophy Prep Broncos in Phoenix helping them win against Mesa Mountain View.

But there’s more to his star power — Watt is blind due to a rare condition of congenital glaucoma but he said that didn’t stop him at all.

“Eyesight is just really overrated,” he said Friday. “You don’t really need it to do whatever you want. … (I just) try my hardest and just give it all and leave it all on the field.”

 “You know, scoring those touchdowns felt like a big weight was off my shoulders. (It) felt like all the hard work, all the dedication, all the conditioning, all the waking up early in the morning finally just paid off,” he told ABC News. “I’m just glad I did it.”

It was Watt’s second game but during the first game, against Gilbert Highland in August, the defense had let him score.

This time, though, he scored on plays that he’d practiced with his team over and over again — with no help from the other team.

“It was very exciting to finally just get in the end zone (and) know what it felt like to score for your team,” he said Friday. “It was, in many ways, very indescribable. … I just did my job and just powered it in.”

Off the field and in the hallways of his school, Watt gets help from his classmates. His teammates said he was the glue that kept them together.

On Friday, he shared with ABC News about how he overcame struggles. He said his biggest dream was going to the NFL.

“You know, blindness shouldn’t define you. … Have faith. Have hope,” he said. “Just trust your abilities because mountains do move, you just have to keep pushing them and pushing them and pushing them.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Indiana burglar robs man in his home, uses Bird scooter to get away

iStock/Thinkstock(INDIANAPOLIS) — Indianapolis police are searching for a burglar suspected of stealing items from inside a home and using a Bird electric scooter to leave the scene of the crime.

Michael Leppert said he was getting ready at home on Tuesday morning when he heard what sounded like footsteps coming from the first floor. He yelled to check who was there, but when he didn’t get a response, he assumed it was either his wife or dog, he said. When he went downstairs, however, he found that his wallet, laptop and backpack were missing.

There were no signs of forced entry, Leppert told ABC News, adding that the burglar must have entered through the back door, which was unlocked.

While he waited for officers to arrive, Leppert said he spoke to his neighbor, who saw a man riding an electric scooter outside of his home at the time of the burglary.

Bird, an electric scooter rental company that requires users to download an app on their phone and link their credit card, sent the following statement to ABC News:

“We do not condone criminal behavior regardless of the mode of transportation that is used to commit the crime. When any type of irresponsible or criminal behavior is associated with someone on a Bird, we encourage people to report this behavior to us to investigate. Bird investigates each report and takes appropriate next steps, which can include removing individuals from the platform. We are currently investigating the situation, and fully cooperating with local authorities during this process.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Woman who allegedly stabbed 5 people in birthing center charged with attempted murder

moodboard/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The woman who allegedly stabbed five people, including three babies, in a birthing center has been charged with attempted murder, the NYPD said Saturday.

Yu Fen Wang, 52, was hit with five counts of attempted murder for allegedly stabbing five people in what authorities described as a birthing center, which didn’t appear to be licensed with New York City or the state, officials said.

Wang, who had what appeared to be self-inflicted slash wounds on her left wrist, remained hospitalized Saturday, according to the NYPD.

Wang allegedly went into the facility in the Flushing neighborhood of the city’s borough of Queens about 4 a.m. Friday and stabbed five people, including the infants, who ranged in age from 3 days to 1-month-old, police said.

The victims were expected to survive, police said.

Investigators recovered two knives at the scene.

A motive has not been determined and the investigation was still active, the NYPD said Saturday.

Local and state officials said a probe into the facility, which may have provided maternity care or hospitality services for the largely Chinese immigrant community, had begun. The investigation was looking into the legality of the center, too, officials said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Investigators seek security footage to track Dallas police officer the night she killed her neighbor

Kaufman County Jail(DALLAS) — Investigators are looking to trace the movements of a Dallas police officer leading up to the night she shot and killed an unarmed man in his own apartment after, according to the officer, mistaking it for hers.

The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office has requested records from Ring Alarm security system and are seeking to obtain search warrants for footage from doorbell security cameras at townhouses near the apartment complex where the Sept. 6 shooting took place in downtown Dallas, according to ABC News affiliate WFAA.

Investigators specifically want footage recorded on that day, from 8 a.m. local time to midnight, in an effort to track Amber Guyger’s movements, WFAA reported.

A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office told ABC News on Saturday that she cannot confirm the information because the investigation into the shooting is active and ongoing.

Guyger, 30, was still wearing her police uniform when she arrived home at the South Side Flats on the night of Sept. 6 after working a full shift. She told police she opened the ajar door of the unit she believed was hers and saw a “large silhouette,” which she thought was that of a burglar, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

The off-duty patrol officer, who is white, fired her weapon, striking 26-year-old Botham Jean, who is black. The officer called 911 for help, and the responding officers administered aid to Jean at the scene. He was then taken to a local hospital where he later died, police said.

A funeral service to commemorate Jean was held last week at the Greenville Avenue Church of Christ in the Dallas suburb of Richardson. Loved ones recalled Jean as a strong Christian, a beloved friend, dependable work colleague and a gifted singer who had aspirations of becoming a politician in his native country of Saint Lucia.

Jean will be buried in Saint Lucia.

Guyger, a four-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, was arrested three days after the shooting on a manslaughter charge. She was released from jail upon posting $300,000 bond.

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said a grand jury will decide the ultimate charge against Guyger and that she has not ruled out pursuing a murder indictment.

Guyger remains on administrative leave amid the ongoing investigation. But attorneys representing Jean’s family are calling for the officer to be fired immediately.

“She should not still be on the payroll,” family attorney Lee Merritt said at a press conference Sept. 14. “There’s no place for her … This is non-negotiable.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


‘Tribe’ of good Samaritans with electrical power offer food, showers and chargers after tornado blacks out Ottawa

Twitter/@ErinBlaskie(OTTAWA, Canada) — In the wake of a powerful tornado that wreaked havoc in the Canadian capital of Ottawa and surrounding areas, an army of Good Samaritans came to the rescue of their neighbors by offering up their homes, their time and their resources — and they’re using social media to invite those in need and to connect with each other.

The tornado tore through parts of Ontario and Quebec, ripping apart houses, snapping trees, injuring dozens of people and leaving hundreds of thousands without power. Many were forced to go hungry, as restaurants and stores shut down while others were left in the dark or even without a roof over their heads.

Some Ottawans who were lucky enough not to lose power, like 38-year-old Shawna Tregunna, put their cooking skills and their vast Twitter following to use in helping their neighbors in need.

“I checked out the requests for help and it was mostly for people looking for food, ” she told ABC News. “So I started responding, got some addresses, and put in a batch of meatballs and rice.”

Tregunna posted her offer for help on Twitter and many, many people responded, she told ABC News. Within a few hours, she had dropped off toilet paper, coffee and dog food to one family, more food to a single mother who couldn’t get out, and candles and food to a man downtown, she said. On Saturday, people stopped by to charge devices and get showers.

Tregunna found she didn’t have to operate alone. Her offer spread across the Twitterverse and a huge number of volunteers poured in.

Her offer was retweeted by, among others, James Duthie, a popular sports host who has nearly 900,000 followers.

“This is why Ottawa is such a great town,” Duthie wrote.

Tregunna said people dropped off food, Tupperware, candles and matches; some volunteered to do deliveries, others wanted to donate money. Together, they sent food for the nurses at a local hospital where the power had gone out and reached out to elderly or sick people out of town who needed help, she said.

“So far today, we’ve gone through dozens of pancakes, some chicken fingers and fries, vegetarian lasagna, butternut squash soup,” she added. “We had two huge pasta bins donated, we’re sending out pickles, chocolate bars, apples — really, anything I can figure out how to pack with the containers we have.”

Tregunna’s friend Erin Blaskie said she visited her daughter’s school shortly after the tornado tore through it and was aghast at the devastation. Many of her daughter’s friends and their families were in the zone of damage.

“I just thought to myself, ‘How can I help?'” Blaskie said. “I know what it’s like to go through struggles — I’ve had my fair share in my life. But today I’m very fortunate to be able to have the means to give back.”

Blaskie tweeted out that her doors were open for anyone who needed help, from people who had to charge their phones to those who needed warmth or groceries, water or containers. On Saturday, she cooked up a batch of chili for those in need of hot food.

One of those she helped reached out to thank her publicly.

Both Tregunna and Blaskie said they’ve been amazed by the number of people and organizations that have pitched in to help.

“It’s incredible to see,” Blaskie said. “I feel like we’ve got a sort of tribe of people trying to do whatever we can. We already knew we lived in a great city. But I think going through something like this and having everyone raise their hand and say ‘how can I help?’ really proves that.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

UN General Assembly to convene this week

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — President Trump joins dozens of world leaders in New York this week for the United Nations General Assembly, a jam-packed series of diplomatic meetings and speeches.

It’s no longer Trump’s first time at the U.N., so the questions of what kind of impact he’ll have on this world stage have evaporated. But they’ve been replaced by what could be a dramatic week of jockeying in a world disrupted by Trump, with both American allies and adversaries scrambling to reshape relationships and fend for themselves.

It’s also a world largely more peaceful, but torn apart in different regions by civil wars and ethnic violence, with humanitarian crises and the largest number of displaced people and refugees at any time in recent history. World leaders and international organizations will be pressed on how to address these challenges effectively, if they can.

Here are the top issues that will be on the agenda for the 73rd General Assembly.


Trump’s “America First” foreign policy has reshaped many relationships across the globe, including some of the U.S.’s decades-old alliances.

While the demands Trump has made of NATO members to pay up have been a longstanding U.S. concern, his rhetoric towards those countries and his expressed doubts about the alliance’s common defense have unnerved European allies. His treatment of friendly leaders like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who he has called “very dishonest and weak,” and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who he has criticized on everything from trade to immigration, has undermined America’s relationships with those countries.

But it’s also his policies that have opened divisions, in particular with western countries. Since last year’s General Assembly, the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, the cuts in aid to Palestinians and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the tariffs on aluminum and steel, and most recently the threats to the International Criminal Court have been fiercely opposed by Europe and Canada.

“Other U.N. member states no longer look to the United States as a natural leader, or even a reliable partner,” according to Stewart Patrick, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who served in the George W. Bush administration. “They have tired of Trump’s my-way-or-the-highway act and are increasingly hitting the road — or looking to China to fill the vacuum left by the U.S. retreat.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean Trump will be unwelcome at the U.N., analysts say — just maneuvered around.

“It’s very unlikely to see many people confronting President Trump. You are likely to see many people thinking of ways to undermine President Trump because they think that the approach that the U.S. has articulated isn’t going to take the world in the direction it needs to go,” said Jon Alterman, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who also served at the State Department under Bush.

For example, French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani despite Trump’s calls to isolate Iran. After failing to keep Trump in the nuclear deal, they are still looking for ways to salvage the accord and engage Iran diplomatically and economically, even as U.S. sanctions loom.


Iran is clearly on the president’s mind as he heads into the week, tweeting Friday that he would chair a special U.N. Security Council meeting about the country, even though the administration says it will actually be broadly focused on nonproliferation. A draft concept note for the meeting obtained by ABC News makes no direct mention of Iran, saying the meeting instead will be about how “to counter the spread and use of the world’s most dangerous weapons.”

That’s something that the U.S. and its allies no longer agree on entirely. As Security Council permanent members, France and the United Kingdom will be in the meeting, but along with Germany, they continue to support the Iran nuclear deal as the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Trump withdrew from the agreement in May and has begun an economic pressure campaign to drive Iran to the negotiating table again.

On the world stage in New York, Rouhani will have the opportunity to fire back at the Trump administration and keep Europe from withdrawing their business from the country.

The other critical proliferation challenge is North Korea, and the General Assembly will be key for taking next steps in the diplomatic initiative underway. One week after his historic summit with Kim Jong Un in North Korea, South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet with Trump and share a personal message from Kim.

Moon will be pushing Trump to sign a declaration to officially end the Korean War, something the U.S. has said it will not do until North Korea takes steps to denuclearize. Figuring out that sequencing will be a top priority for all sides to see if there is a way forward.

To that end, Secretary Pompeo has also offered to meet with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho during the week as he prepares to head back to Pyongyang to revive negotiations. The North Koreans have not yet accepted that invitation.


The world’s attention will also be focused on trying to solve several humanitarian crises, from Myanmar to Yemen and Syria to South Sudan — each the focus of at least one major meeting.

In particular, there could be diplomatic momentum on Syria after Russia and Turkey negotiated a truce to halt an offensive by Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad into Idlib, the last rebel stronghold. Pompeo recently named Amb. Jim Jeffrey, an experienced diplomat, as the new Special Representative for Syria Negotiations, and he and U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura will have meetings in New York amid a push to revive the peace process in Geneva.

The U.N. has so far taken few concrete steps to pressure Myanmar over its slaughter and expulsion of Rohingya, a Muslim-majority ethnic group. But after it released a detailed fact-finding report that called for Myanmar leadership to be prosecuted for genocide, there could be movement. There will also be discussions about the nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, which is straining under that enormous need and seeking more funding to help care for them and an agreement to ultimately repatriate them to Myanmar.

But the world’s worst humanitarian crisis is in Yemen, and there will be several meetings to coordinate the response to the horrors on the ground — famine, a cholera outbreak, and displacement, let alone the violent war. After the U.N. Special Envoy Martin Griffiths tried to convene a peace meeting but failed to get the Houthi rebels to attend, it’s unclear where the diplomatic push stands.

A worldwide crisis, the drug addiction epidemic will also be addressed, with Trump hosting a special meeting called “Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem.” One hundred twenty-four countries have already signed up to support the agenda, according to the Associated Press.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Bolivia eyes lithium in picturesque salt flats as country’s big moneymaker

Victor Oquendo/ABC News(NEW YORK) — Near the crest of the Andes mountain range in Bolivia lies the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world.

The stunning location is a growing international tourist destination and was recently used as the setting for an epic battle scene in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

What can at times look like a snow-covered wonderland is actually several dried-up, prehistoric lakes that formed salty pentagon patterns on the surface. But beneath the crust is lithium, the precious metal element, that could potentially provide a better economic future for Bolivia.

“Nightline” traveled to the Salar de Uyuni to get a closer look at the 4,500 square miles of the world’s largest deposit of lithium, which powers batteries, electric cars and phones. For perspective, the Salar is nearly 100 times larger than Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flat.

As one of the poorest countries in South America, Bolivia hopes the global need for the element will revolutionize its economy and it’ll become “the Saudi Arabia of lithium.”

The Salar’s barren landscape is a robust worksite where families have mined salt for generations.

Two brothers, Moises and Erick Chambi, are known as “saleros” or salt pickers. Their work is physically demanding. They chop, saw and stack salt blocks directly from the earth’s crust for sale across Bolivia.

“(The Salar is) not 10 or 20 years (old),” Moises Chambi said while pointing to lines in the salt blocks. “This is the accumulation of thousands of years.”

He explained that the brown lines between the layers of salt were indicative of periods of flooding in the Salar and, similar to rings of a tree trunk, each spaced out area could span hundreds of years.

Running his fingers along lines in the ground, he shared that “the Salar is like a human being that breathes through these cracks,” Moises Chambi said. “It’s also like a living plant. That’s why we also have to respect it and take care of it. For us it is sacred.”

Consumers across Bolivia once sought out the Chambi brothers’ business, but these days the product mostly goes to making salt licks for cattle and bricks for construction.

The Salar’s popularity with tourists has been a boon for local hotels, especially ones made of the Salar’s most popular ingredient. The exquisite five-star Luna Salada and Palacio de Sal hotels have walls, floors and furniture made entirely of salt detail and salt blocks, similar to those sold by the Chambi brothers.

They sell each of their salt bricks for about 50 cents and while it won’t make them wealthy, it is enough to support their young families.

An hour’s drive from the Chambi brother’s work site sits a bustling lithium carbonate processing plant, run by the Bolivian government.

The plant exports the natural resource for roughly $25,000 per ton to a number of countries, including the U.S., Russia and Japan.

Marco Antonio Condoretty, head of implementation and engineering, oversees each step of the production process and gave us a tour of his site.

Wells tap nearly 100 feet deep to source the Salar’s lithium-rich brine, running it through a system of pipes that span miles into one of the plant’s many pools.

The brine sits in those pools for approximately six months where the sun and constant wind help separate lithium from the salt and other impurities through evaporation.

In one of the final stages the lithium gets processed and separated from another by-product: potassium, which the plant also sells.

This factory is projected to process 200 tons of lithium in 2018. That number will explode by nearly 750 percent to 15,000 tons when a neighboring government plant wraps construction next year.

Despite some concerns that lithium processing could take over the Salar, Condoretty assured that this vast location will remain largely unaffected. “The lithium we take out now is very little. Therefore if we are going to expand, we are not going to affect the Salar.”

In fact, only up to 4 percent of the Salar has been set aside by the government for mining and processing, he said.

Due to the plant’s remote location, it is also home to its employees who live on site for two weeks at a time, followed by a seven day break. To keep plant employees busy and healthy, the location offers a hangout area and workspace, including a gym, pool tables, even a clinic.

As for the living arrangements, Condoretty said employees share their living quarters, sleeping in shared rooms like dormitories that sleep up to three people per room.

The entire plant is proudly run and operated by Bolivians only, with, until very recently, foreigners completely shut out of development and production. That’s because Bolivia is holding fiercely on to its natural resources, limiting foreign involvement following centuries of foreign exploitation of its silver, gas and oil.

Condoretty acknowledges this may have hampered their production and ultimately, their sales, but claims “we are doing it ourselves. This means generating income only for Bolivians. Our achievement is that it took us longer, but we [are the ones who] did it.”

When asked whether the local salt pickers might have a future at the expanding plant, Condoretty replied, “the salt pickers can create a future here, and in reality, all the people of Bolivia have a future here to work, because this plant belongs to them.”

Despite its previous heavy emphasis on limiting foreign involvement, the plant recently announced a $1.3 billion dollar deal with a German company, ACI Systems, to expand local production. With a 51 percent majority stake, the new deal adds promise to Bolivia’s gamble that lithium could one day lift its economy.

And as the global demand for lithium-powered lives seemingly increases daily, the future in the Salar de Uyuni seems brighter than ever.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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