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MUSIC NEWS

Ed Sheeran, Maroon 5, OneRepublic featured on charity album, “Plastic Oceans”

ABC/Paula LoboEd Sheeran, Maroon 5, James Bay and OneRepublic are among the artists featured on a new charity compilation album in support of marine conservation.

The album, Plastic Oceans, features remixes of popular songs by Afro/Latin collective Rhythms Del Mundo. The track list includes Ed’s “Bloodstream,” Maroon 5’s “You Will Be Loved,” James Bay’s “Hold Back the River,” and OneRepublic’s “For What It’s Worth.

Also featured are Coldplay’s “A Sky Full of Stars,” Beyonce’s “I Miss You” and Amy Winehouse’s “Cupid.”

You can digitally download the album for a minimum donation of $10 that goes toward Rhythms Del Mundo’s charity Artists Project Earth – specifically their campaign to combat plastics in our oceans and other maritime causes.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Dua Lipa goes two-for-five at Brit Awards, dedicates trophy to “women taking over the world”

John Phillips/Getty ImagesGoing into the BRIT Awards — the British equivalent of the Grammys — Wednesday night, Dua Lipa had five nominations.  By the end of the night, she’d picked up two.

Dua was the first winner of the night, in fact: She received her trophy for British Female Solo Artist from singer Kylie Minogue and Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown.

She told the crowd, “I want to thank every single female that has been on this stage before me and has given girls like me…a place to be inspired by and [someone to] look up to and that have allowed us to dream this big. Here’s to more women on these stages, more women winning these awards and more women taking over the world.”

Dua also performed “New Rules” and was named Breakthrough Artist. She brought her little brother and sister onstage with her to accept her award. “At the bottom of my album [liner notes], I thanked everyone and I also told them to believe in magic, because it’s real,” she explained. “And this is the closest I’ve come to it so I wanted them to experience it first hand.”

While he was shut out of the four categories he was nominated in, Ed Sheeran received the Global Success award.  He also performed “Supermarket Flowers,” his touching tribute to his late grandmother. Lorde was named International Female Artist, while Kendrick Lamar grabbed the International Male Artist trophy. 

As previously reported, Ariana Grande was sick and forbidden to fly, so she couldn’t attend the ceremony.  Her place in a special tribute to the victims of the Manchester Bombings was taken by former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher, who sang the Oasis track “Live Forever.”

Rita Ora performed a medley of her hits, including her duet with Liam Payne on “For You.”  Speaking of Liam, he put to rest any rumors that he and his partner, Cheryl Cole, were on the verge of a breakup by walking the red carpet together. Sam Smith also performed, even though he failed to receive a nomination.

Justin Timberlake opened the show with a performance of the song “Midnight Summer Jam.”  Then he was joined by Chris Stapleton for their hit duet, “Say Something.”

“Human” by Rag ‘n Bone Man was named Best British Single and Harry Styles’ video for “Sign of the Times” took home the award for Best British Video.

Here’s a list of the winners:

British Male Solo Artist
Stormzy  

Mastercard British Album Of The Year
Stormzy – Gang Signs And Prayer

British Female Solo Artist
Dua Lipa  

British Single
“Human,” Rag’n’Bone Man

International Female Solo Artist
Lorde  

International Male Solo Artist
Kendrick Lamar  

International Group
Foo Fighters  

British Group
Gorillaz

British Breakthrough Act
Dua Lipa

British Artist Video of The Year
Harry Styles, “Sign Of The Times”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Imagine Dragons set to perform at annual Rise Up Gala for pediatric cancer charity

ABC/Image Group LAImagine Dragons is ready to help slay cancer with their fifth annual Rise Up Gala.

The one-night-only event will raise funds for The Tyler Robinson Foundation, the band’s nonprofit organization that supports families with pediatric cancer diagnoses.

Imagine Dragons will be delivering a special acoustic performance at the event, which takes place at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Friday, September 14. The gala will also include cocktails, dinner and a live and silent auction. Comedian Joel McHale will host.

Individual tickets are now available on TRF.org.

Earlier today, Imagine Dragons debuted their new single, “Next to You,” and announced summer tour dates.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

ENTERTAINMENT NEWS

New “Queer Eye” fashion expert says the Netflix reboot shows, “we are just like everybody else”

Netflix(NEW YORK) — Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which first aired 15 years ago, is back on Netflix with a more diverse cast and a shorter title: Queer Eye.  But do we really need a new version? Tan France, the show’s fashion expert, says yes.

“There is always a need for a Queer Eye. Until we are as visible as our straight counterparts,” he tells ABC Radio.  Helping with that visibility is the show’s new location: Atlanta, Georgia.

“[It] meant that I was interacting with people who probably have never met somebody like me before — not just a gay person, but all the other things I represent,” the British-Pakistani man explains. “So when I found out it was in Atlanta, that was the thing that convinced me I should do the show.”

Both critics and fans have given the reboot rave reviews.  France says he and the rest of the new Fab Five are surprised and relieved.

“It’s hard taking on a legacy show!” he says. “[But] we’ve had great reviews from the press, and we’re lucky enough to be in a world where we get immediate responses from people all over the world…[And] literally, I have not had one negative message.”

Thanks to those responses, France has learned that there are a huge number of straight men tuning in.

“[They tell me], ‘I never dreamt that I would be watching a makeover show, but this has taught me so much,'” France says.  “And a lot of them are sharing stories of friends and family that they didn’t accept because they didn’t understand who they were.  And we’ve given them a window into our world that highlights that we are just like everybody else.”

Queer Eye is streaming now on Netflix.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

“The Walking Dead” star Seth Gilliam admits he was ‘Danai’d’ “Black Panther” spoilers from co-star Danai Gurira

AMC/Gene PageBy now, it’s well known that Marvel Studios’ Black Panther is not only a box office smash, but a cultural “moment,” with African American moviegoers showing up to screening after screening wearing fashions that showcase their heritage.

Two of those fans were The Walking Dead star Seth Gilliam and his son. The actor, who plays Father Gabriel on the hit show, tells ABC Radio, “I got some African beads and a wrist bracelet…And my son had his little Kente cloth as well and we went!”

Much of the movie, which features a nearly entirely black cast, and was directed by Ryan Coogler, who is African American, is set in the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda.

Gilliam tells ABC Radio, “I think it is a cultural phenomenon because it’s time. It’s time to see a different representation of  a certain sect of people in these large action-adventure movies — you know, not just one or two characters…but…to be…populated completely throughout the movie.”

Gilliam joked that although The Walking Dead‘s Michonne, Danai Gurira, is in the movie, she wasn’t about to let slip any spoilers.

“Couldn’t get anything out of her about it,” he laughs. “Like, ‘So, but what does it look like? But, but, what does Michael B…? But, but: Danai! Danai! Denai!’ Nothing. She would deny. She would ‘Danai’ you, is what she would do!”

Gurira plays the fearsome Wakandan warrior Okoye in the film.  Gilliam says, “Aside from being proud of her…I was excited by the performance that she gave…I think she’s really compelling to watch.”

Gilliam returns to AMC’s The Walking Dead this Sunday at 9 p.m. Eastern, for the series’ mid-season premiere.

Black Panther was released by Marvel Studios which, like ABC News, is owned by Disney.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wendy Williams announces three-week hiatus after revealing she has Graves’ Disease and thyroid issues

Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Wilhelmina Models(NEW YORK) — Wendy Williams is taking an extended break.

On the Wendy Williams Show on Wednesday, the daytime host announced she was taking three weeks off starting Thursday to deal with complications from hyperthyroidism and Graves’ disease.

“My doctor has prescribed … are you ready? As of today, three weeks of vacation,” she told the audience. “What? Who are you? I was p***ed.”

During the show, Wendy described some of the symptoms of her illness.

“I have been telling you for awhile. I wake up, I can’t sleep. Then I told you I take the melatonin,” she explained. “Well, difficulty swallowing. Rapid heart beat, yes. Yes. And intolerance for heat.”

In a statement to ABC News, a show rep says Williams must follow doctor’s orders.

“Wendy is a true champion and has never missed a day of work. But her health and well-being must be put before all else. Wendy has been openly dealing with her Graves’ disease for many years in addition to hyperthyroidism,” the statement reads.

“Yesterday, Wendy’s doctor prescribed a necessary three weeks of rest to get her levels and medication in sync. The show will be in repeats during this unplanned hiatus. A live show was produced today so that Wendy could speak directly to her fans and explain her condition.”

However, according to Wendy, she may try to work around that.

“Even though I have been off for one week. I’m gonna fix that. I’ll be back in two,” she said. “I’m not an heiress. Who’s gonna pay my bills? Are you serious? I’m just saying. I come from working class. Work, work, work, that’s all I do is work, work, work. But for the next few, I won’t be.”

The time off follows Wendy’s recent on-air health scares. Last week, she cancelled shows due to “flu-like symptoms” and she fainted on-air during her Halloween episode in 2017.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

SPORTS NEWS

US skiers make history at Olympics with cross-country gold

Nils Petter Nilsson/Getty Images(PYEONGCHANG, South Korea) — Americans Jessica Diggins and Kikkan Randall, the only mom athlete on Team USA, made history on Wednesday by winning gold in the women’s team sprint cross-country event at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

It’s the first-ever Olympic cross-county gold medal for the United States and the first-ever Olympic medal in the sport for U.S. women.

Diggins, 26, had an incredibly strong push in the last lap and came from behind to win. “In the final stretch, I was just thinking, ‘Go, go, go. I’m giving it everything I had, and I’ve got someone who I really love and care about waiting for me at the finishing line, and I just want to make her proud.’’

Randall, who was on edge watching the final lap, said, “I felt like Charlotte Kalla [of Sweden] and I had a screaming match. Her teammate was coming down and she went, ‘Come on.’ And I went, ‘Diggins,’ and I had so much adrenaline as she was coming down.”

“But if there’s anybody I’d have 100 percent faith in coming down that finishing stretch as fast as possible, it’s Jessie. So that was just a wonderful feeling to take it all in and watch it happen,” Randall, 35, added.

Bill Koch won the United States’ first Olympic cross-country medal 42 years ago at the 1976 Olympics, taking home a silver medal in the 30-kilometer (18 miles) event. Cross-country, or Nordic, skiing has been an Olympic event since the games in 1924 in Chamonix, France, but the women’s event wasn’t added until 1952.

Randall, of Alaska, is ending on a career high, earning the gold medal in her fifth and final Olympics. She missed the 2014 Sochi Games because of a strain in her lower back. She also gave birth to her son, Breck, in April 2016.

“It still doesn’t feel real,” she said. “It’s what I’ve been working on for 20 years and with this team for the last five years and — wow.”

Diggins, of Minnesota, made her Olympic debut in Sochi four years ago, placing eight in the individual skiathon. But she redeemed herself Wednesday with a strong finish, surpassing her Norwegian competitors at the very end to clench the gold medal.

ABC News contributor Steven Nyman, who competed in three Olympics for the United States and is friends with Randall and Diggins, became emotional watching the event.

“History was truly made tonight — the first Olympic medal for any American woman in cross-country,” Nyman said. “It has been a long time in the making, and no better two to make it happen. Kikkan Randall inspired a whole movement or youth skiers, and for her to win this medal alongside the future of the team and Jessie Diggins was incredible.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

US skiers make history at Olympics with cross-country gold

Lindsey Vonn bested by Italian in likely last Olympic downhill race

Tom Pennington/Getty Images(PYEONGCHANG, South Korea) — Veteran skier Lindsey Vonn was the favorite in women’s downhill coming into the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. She’d won the last three World Cup downhill events coming into the games and has the second-most all-time wins in World Cup events with 81.

But after finishing sixth in the Super-G event, the disappointment continued for Vonn on Wednesday as she placed third in the downhill, earning her a bronze medal.

Vonn finished .47 seconds behind the gold medalist, Italy’s Sofia Goggia, and was in place for the silver until a surprisingly strong run by Norway’s Raghild Mowinkel bumped Vonn into third place. Mowinkel missed out on gold by just nine-one-hundredths of a second.

“I gave it all today, skied a great race. Sofia just skied better than I did,” Vonn said.

Vonn couldn’t hide her disappointment and admitted this would likely be her final Olympics.

“It was tough to contemplate, this being my last Olympic downhill. I struggled to try to keep the emotions together, but I left it all on the mountain like I said I would,” Vonn said. “I love what I do, but my body just can’t take another four years. But I’m proud to be competing for my country, giving it all — and proud to come away with a medal.”

ABC News contributor Steven Nyman, who competed in three Olympics for the U.S., said Vonn may have been charging too hard in her run.

“Lindsey skied well. She was going hard — maybe a little too hard,” Nyman said. “There were a couple sections where she got low on the line and didn’t carry full speed.”

“There had to be a lot of emotion in today’s race, and that finally released at the finish,” he added. “We know she wanted gold, but bronze works.”

Vonn talked about her grandfather, who recently passed away.

“It’s been really hard for me not to get emotional for so many reasons, especially because of my grandfather,” she said. “I wanted to win so much because of him, but I still think I made him proud.”

Vonn, who is a four-time Olympian and a three-time Olympic medalist, did add another record to her accomplished career. The 33-year-old is now the oldest female alpine skier to win an Olympic medal.

“If you think what’s happened over the last eight years and what I’ve been through to get here, I gave it all. And to come away with a medal is a dream come true,” Vonn said. “You’ve got to put things into perspective. Of course, I’d have loved a gold medal, but honestly this is amazing and I’m so proud.”

Vonn tweeted about claiming the bronze medal, saying it “felt like gold.”

The veteran does have one more chance to medal in Pyeongchang as she competes in the alpine combined — a combination of one downhill run and one slalom run — on Thursday.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Scoreboard roundup — 2/20/18

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

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
Philadelphia 3, Montreal 2
Tampa Bay 4, Washington 2
Columbus 2, New Jersey 1
Toronto 1, Florida 0
Nashville 3, Detroit 2
San Jose 3, St. Louis 2
L.A. Kings 4, Winnipeg 3
Boston 3, Edmonton 2
Colorado 5, Vancouver 4

TOP 25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL
(2) Michigan St. 81, Illinois 61
(16) Ohio St. 79, Rutgers 52
(18) Rhode Island 95, La Salle 93
(21) West Virginia 71, Baylor 60

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

NATIONAL NEWS

Florida student mistaken for gunman: ‘I knew any move I made would be the end of my life’

ABCNews.com(TALLAHASSE, Fla.) — As gunshots and screams echoed through his school, Lorenzo Prado said he locked himself in the sound booth at the auditorium at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and prepared to die.

But moments after the gunfire subsided and he thought he was safe, he said he was confronted by six officers pointing guns in his face.

“On the day of the Douglas massacre, I was a victim like everyone else,” Prado, 17, said during an emotional news conference Wednesday in Tallahasse, the Florida state capital. “But my case was different than all the others because on that day, I was a suspected school shooter.”

The 19-year-old Cruz, a former student at the school, was later arrested off campus after he allegedly killed 14 of Prado’s fellow students and three school staffers, including his swimming coach, Hixon.

“I was just hiding up there. I had no idea what was going on and then the door started to rattle,” Prado said. “And, at first, the only thing that came to my mind was, ‘I’m going to die, the shooter is going to kill me.'”

He said that when the door burst open, he saw the officers and initially thought he was rescued. But he quickly learned, “They thought it was me that killed 17 people.”

“I go down the stairs and they tell me to put my hands up and I, being the fool that I am, tried putting my phone back in my pocket,” he said. “They demanded again, and I, not trying to be one of those news stories of someone dying wrongfully because they refused to put their hands up, I just dropped my phone at that moment and kept going.”

When he went out the door, he said, “I had six SWAT members pointing their guns at me.”

Prado said he was tossed to the ground, handcuffed and held at gunpoint “for the degrading and depreciating action of the disturbed individual Nikolas Cruz.”

He said he was put in a corner with a police officer guarding him.

“I knew any move I made would be the end of my life,” he said. “Throughout the entire event, I only felt two things: I felt fear, as I did not know my future. I did not know if I was going to be let go. I did not know where the terrorist was. … The second thing was guilt.

“I felt guilty for closing the door behind me,” he continued. “I felt guilty for startling the audience. I felt guilty for the SWAT members who had to pursue me instead of pursuing the murderer. I felt guilty for not contacting my mother. I felt guilty for Coach Hixon, whose life I thought I saved when he walked inside the auditorium but whose life was ended when he walked out again.”

Prado joined his fellow survivors in Tallahassee Wednesday to meet with legislators to tell their stories of unimaginable horror in the hopes the politicians will take their words to heart and pass laws to make schools safe and ban assault weapons like the one Cruz allegedly used in the attack.

“If I have to drop everything else in my life just to make these changes happen, I will,” Prado said. “To me, to let these victims’ lives be taken and without any change in return is an act of treason to our great country.”



Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved

After deadly Parkland shooting, deputies will now carry AR-15 rifles on school grounds, sheriff says

ABCNews.com(NEW YORK) —  Broward County sheriff’s deputies will now carry AR-15 rifles while on school campuses following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last week, Sheriff Scott Israel announced today.

The new policy was implemented Wednesday morning. In lieu of gun lockers, the only time deputies will not be “slinging a rifle” is when the firearm is locked in police vehicles, Israel said.

The rifles will not be fully automatic and will only be handled by deputies who are “trained and qualified” to operate them, Israel said.

The suspect in the shooting, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, allegedly used a variant of the AR-15 to carry out the deadly attack, which killed 17 people, authorities said.

When asked by a reporter what the motive in the shooting was, Israel responded, “Pure evil.”

Israel suggested a “three-pronged approach” to better secure schools, which includes fortifying the buildings, evaluating how many school resource deputies are needed at each school and sensible gun control.

“There are some people in this country that shouldn’t be allowed to have a gun,” Israel said.

At least one armed school resource deputy was on campus at the time of the shooting, and his response and actions will be “looked at and scrutinized,” Israel said.

“You’re darn right he was prepared to do something about it,” Israel said of the school resource deputy.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump held a listening session with students and parents affected by school shootings. In addition, lawmakers in Florida are facing political pressure following the Parkland shooting.

Israel thanked the numerous law enforcement agencies that assisted in the shooting response and commended the students who traveled to Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., to speak out about gun control.

The sheriff vowed to remain transparent throughout the investigation and keep the public informed as important information comes to light.

Cruz was arrested in a residential neighborhood near his former high school more than an hour after the shooting began. He was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and is being held in a Broward County jail.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved

Survivors of Florida high school shooting seek ‘middle ground’ on gun control debate

Don Juan Moore/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Florida high school students who survived last week’s deadly shooting are demanding gun control say they aren’t fighting to get rid of firearms completely, but lawmakers on both sides of the debate must find a “middle ground” to put an end to the violence.

Kyle Kashuv, Kai Koerber and Olivia Feller were among dozens of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland who traveled to Florida’s capital city Wednesday to demand gun restrictions, one week after 17 of their classmates and teachers were gunned down. The three students, who appeared on “The View” via satellite from Tallahassee, said they understand the concerns of Americans who firmly support the Second Amendment, which protects “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms.”

“I totally understand the concern and some aspects I really agree with it,” Kashuv, 16, said on “The View” Wednesday. “We have to make sure we get the middle ground. … Congress has to make sure that they enact laws that distinctly make sure that this can’t spiral out of control.”

“That’s why this has become a bipartisan issue,” he continued. “We really want to see reform, and the subject isn’t taking away all guns; it’s making sure atrocities such as these never happen again.”

For instance, the students said the age to purchase an AR-15-style rifle, the weapon used in the Feb. 14 massacre, shouldn’t be younger than the age requirement to purchase a handgun.

“There should be no distinguishing,” said Koerber, 16. “It should be one age per all guns across the board.”

The Florida state House of Representatives on Tuesday rejected a bill to ban purchases of many assault rifles, like the one 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz allegedly used to open fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas last week. The bill would have also barred purchases of large-capacity magazines statewide.

The 71-36 vote in the Republican-controlled body shocked students who were sitting in the gallery of the Capitol building.

“Obviously it was a disappointment, but I don’t think that this procedural issue should affect the resolve of our movement,” Koerber said on “The View” Wednesday. “At the end of the day, our mission is to get people talking. We don’t expect to achieve immediate results.”

Kashuv, Koerber and Feller rallied alongside scores of their classmates as well as hundreds of students from other schools at the state Capitol in Tallahassee this afternoon, calling for legislative action in the wake of one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

Survivors of the Valentine’s Day shooting also are planning a “March For Our Lives” in Washington, D.C., on March 24.

“We are definitely going to make sure that this movement continues and our voices continue to be heard and that no one is able to forget this event in order to prevent mass shootings from happening in the future,” Feller, 16, said on “The View” today.

She added, “It’s not about a political debate between the two parties, it’s about saving lives.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved

WORLD NEWS

Russian troll farm financier also backs Russian mercenaries in Syria: Officials

Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The Kremlin ally indicted last week as a key figure in Russia’s online election influence operation is also tied to a shadowy military contractor whose Russian mercenaries recently launched an attack on American forces in Syria, U.S. officials tell ABC News.

Yevgeny Prigozhin — a Russian businessman and restaurateur dubbed “Putin’s chef” by the Russian media — is deeply involved in the Wagner Group, officials said, a paramilitary firm based in southern Russia. According to those officials, the firm deployed mercenaries in Syria who tried to strike U.S. special operations forces earlier this month. The attack failed, two intelligence officials told ABC News, as the mercenaries were decimated by U.S. airstrikes during their advance.

According to a senior U.S. official, Prigozhin finances the Wagner Group’s current operations in both Syria and Africa. Prigozhin has denied reports of his connections to the group.

“Every private military contractor needs a financial backer who has good relations with their government, and for this firm in Russia it is Prigozhin,” the senior official told ABC News.

The Russian Foreign Ministry denies that any Russian servicemen participated in the clash but acknowledged that Russian citizens were killed.

“There are Russian citizens in Syria who went there on their own and with different goals,” said the ministry in a statement. “It is not for the Foreign Ministry to assess its legality and legality of such decisions.”

Prigozhin’s connection to the group is important, the senior official told ABC News, as his private military work offers more evidence that he is pursuing Vladimir Putin’s global ambitions while providing the Russian leader some deniability that the actions are officially sanctioned.

In interviews with several media outlets, including ABC News, associates and relatives of some of the dead mercenaries have suggested there were substantial casualties. Russia’s foreign ministry this week confirmed there had been dozens of wounded. Reuters reported that the failed attack resulted in massive casualties — approximately 300 dead or wounded — though both U.S. and Russian officials have publicly downplayed the incident.

“We’re not going to speculate on the composition of the hostile force we engaged Feb. 7-8,” said Col. Thomas F. Veale, the anti-ISIS coalition’s spokesman.

Other officials familiar with the incident told ABC News that the mercenaries were mostly — if not exclusively — Russians from the Wagner Group. Those wounded in the conflict were evacuated to Russian hospitals, giving many intelligence officials further confidence that they had acted on Kremlin orders.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, speaking to reporters while returning from Europe last week, said he did not know if the contractors were directed by the Russian government but questioned the impetus behind the obviously coordinated campaign.

“I doubt that 250-300 people all just decided on their individual own selves to suddenly cross the river into enemy territory and start shelling the location and maneuvering tanks against them, so whatever happened we’ll try to figure it out, we’ll work with obviously anyone who can answer that question, but I cannot at this time,” he said.

One official monitoring the clash told ABC News that the group was extraordinarily well-armed for a unit allegedly lacking state sponsorship.

“They had tanks and towed artillery pieces,” the official said. “Kind of unusual for ‘contractors.’”

According to the senior official, Syria isn’t the only battleground where Prigozhin-backed Wagner Group contractors are seemingly operating on behalf of Russian interests.

“They were in Ukraine too,” one senior official told ABC News.

Former Russian military service members were first seen in eastern Ukraine in 2015 to bolster the separatist movement. The U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned Prigozhin in 2016 for allegedly supporting “senior officials of the Russian Federation” in the conflict.

On Friday, the special counsel charged Prigozhin with using several businesses to fund the Internet Research Agency, the St. Petersburg “troll farm” that waged the interference campaign during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

He denied playing a role in the virtual campaign in comments to Russian state-owned news outlet RIA Novosti on Friday.

“Americans are very impressionable people, they see what they want to see, I treat them with great respect, I’m not at all upset that I’m on this list. If they want to see the devil, let them see,” Prigozhin said.

As for the attempted attack by the Russian mercenaries on U.S. military forces in Syria on Feb. 7, the American officials said the Russians made a severe miscalculation.

“They tried to hit our guys and they paid a price — they got crushed,” one official said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved

25 injured after ferry explosion

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) —  An explosion on a ferry in Mexico has left a number of people injured, according to local officials in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.

The explosion took place when passengers were disembarking from the ferry, according to the municipality of Solidaridad, which includes Playa del Carmen.

There were 25 people injured in the explosion, the director of Civil Protection for Playa del Carmen told ABC News. Among the injured were five foreigners: two Americans and three Canadians, the director also said. There were no fatalities.

“The priority is people. The report they are giving us is that there are people injured by shrapnel with small cuts, fortunately nothing serious, no life is in danger, they have to make the necessary protocols of medical care for what they have been transferred,” the municipality said in a press release.

A preliminary indication for the cause of the explosion was “mechanical failure,” according to Quintana Roo officials.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved

One family’s struggle to conserve water in dire Cape Town drought

ABCNews.com(CAPE TOWN, South Africa) —  Living sustainably borders almost on an obsession for the James family.

They grow much of their own food, only use organic products, keep chickens and have long used the many natural springs around Cape Town that provide alternative sources of water. They’ve always been careful.

But the prospect of “Day Zero” — the day when the South African city runs out of water — is a whole new reality.

Liesel James is busy collecting what the family calls “gray water” from around her house. That’s soapy or contaminated water that’s been used for cleaning or cooking, but can still be used elsewhere.

“I’ll collect this and put it down the toilet, or take it out to the garden for the plants,” she said. “But we have to make sure we only use organic cleaning products so we don’t pour chemicals on the food we are trying to grow.”

This story is part of an upcoming “Nightline” report. “Nightline” airs at 12:35 a.m. ET weekdays on ABC.

Containers are taken from the kitchen to the garden daily, and large buckets sit under the shower to stop water being wasted.

“I can’t remember the last time I had a bath,” says Liesel, looking at the tub. “I think I’ll sell it.”

Watch the full story on ABC News’ “Nightline” TONIGHT at 12:35 a.m. ET

Her three children, Tala 15, Safiya, 12 and Zenon, 9, are making adjustments too. “Our kids get very excited — it’s become almost a challenge to see how little water they can use. I’m very proud of them,” says Liesel.

But Tala is aware of the gravity of the situation. “Lots of our parents are children of war or post-war. And now in Cape Town, we’ll be drought babies, as opposed to war babies.”

“Children of climate change,” adds Tala’s father, Kevin James.

Showers are no more than two minutes long, and when using the toilet, the family subscribes to the familiar refrain, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”

“I don’t think enough people are doing this,” says Liesel. “Maybe people really need the pressure to make them think outside of the box.”

With nearly 4 million residents, Cape Town is South Africa’s second-most populous city. The average Capetonian may be trying to adhere to the strict water usage guidelines, but changing fundamental lifestyle habits is a taller order. Each person is allowed to use only 50 liters (13.2 gallons) per person per day from their taps. The average American uses about 200 to 500 liters (roughly 53 to 132 gallons) per day, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The date the city estimates it will run out of water has changed over the past few weeks. The city announced in a Feb. 19 statement that the date would be July 9.

The Jameses are managing — and have planned for the worst. But Liesel has other concerns. “I’m not too worried for us,” she says. “I’m more worried about what might happen around us. For war.”

Over the leafy hills from the Jameses’ suburban neighborhood is one of Cape Town’s largest townships — effectively slums where millions live without regular access to water or electricity. Hundreds must share communal taps. If the water turns off, the potential for unrest is frightening.

“South Africa is probably one of the most unequal countries in the world,” Kevin says. “I believe what’s going on now is a great leveler. Because no matter how affluent you are or how poor you are — I think the poor are possibly better prepared for the situation than the very affluent families who have taken this stuff for granted. So it feels like we are in a bit of a social experiment.

“It’s daunting,” Kevin continues. “It’s the first thing we wake up with. I liken it a lot of the time to how people must feel when there’s imminent war. Where there’s uncertainty about being invaded. It is potentially apocalyptic. We have no idea — it’s unprecedented. No major city in the world has experienced this. And I think most people have got absolutely no clue how reliant we are on water for every part of our daily lives.

“We’re about to find out.”

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Meet Bonita, Your Magic104.9 Pet of The Week!

PET OF THE WEEK

Week of November 6, 2017

Name: Bonita
Breed: DMH
Color: Grey/White
Sex: Female
Age: 3/26/2017

Bonita is a sweet and soft, fabulously fluffy 7-month old medium haired lady with golden eyes and has a need to be loved. She will make herself right at home if you just give her that second chance at forever she’s been wishing for. Stop by today and meet this precious girl at ASCMV! read more…

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