Las Cruces
45°
clear sky
humidity: 33%
wind: 7mph SW
H 41 • L 29
57°
Mon
56°
Tue
57°
Wed

ON-AIR NOW

ON-AIR NOW

NOW PLAYING

MUSIC NEWS

expand Hailey Baldwin changes last name to Bieber on Instagram; Justin writes, “My wife is awesome”

James Devaney/GC ImagesWhile neither Justin Bieber nor Hailey Baldwin have officially confirmed that they secretly married in September, as has been rumored, the two are sending pretty clear signals that they are husband and wife.

First, Hailey changed her Instagram handle to “Hailey Bieber” on Friday, and changed her name on her bio to “Hailey Rhode Bieber” — “Rhode” being her middle name.  This came after Hailey was photographed wearing a jacket with BIEBER written across the back on Thursday night.

Also on Friday, Justin posted a photo of himself and Hailey holding hands on a street and captioned it, “My wife is awesome.”

Even if the two did secretly marry, they’re expected to have some kind of celebration for friends and family in 2019.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

MAX forced to cancel shows due to vocal injury: “I need time to heal and come back stronger”

Jade EhlersFirst Justin Timberlake, now MAX.  The “Lights Down Low” singer has been forced to cancel a bunch of concerts due to vocal problems.

In a statement on his socials, MAX writes, “I got some s****y news from the doctor yesterday. My vocal injury I’ve had for a few months has gotten a little worse so I have to cancel the next few months of shows. I’m sorry to all my fans who I’ll be letting down at these shows but I need to heal and come back stronger than ever.”

He adds, “I’ve been pretty depressed about all of this for the last few months but I know something great will come out of all of it. Just have to find the positive, I guess. It’s gonna be a long road to get back to 100%…but I’ll be spending time finishing…my second album which I’m excited to share with you guys when it’s done.”

MAX signs off with, “Keep slaying.” 

He also added on Twitter, “I’ll be back better than ever. I believe it all happens for a reason. Gotta stay positive.”

While we’re waiting for MAX to heal, we can listen to his version of “The Other Side,” from the new album The Greatest Showman Reimagined.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Songs by Khalid, Justin Timberlake, Ed Sheeran rocked the Waffle House in 2018

Waffle House Tunie AwardsSales and chart positions are one way to measure a song’s popularity, but if you want to know just how deeply a song has penetrated the country’s consciousness, look no further than Waffle House.

Last night at the first Waffle House Tunie Awards, the list of the most popular songs played over the past 12 months on Waffle House TouchTunes Jukeboxes was revealed.  The number one song was “Location” by Khalid, followed by Sam Hunt‘s “Body Like a Back Road.”  Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” came in at #3, followed by Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” at #4.

Other songs that made the top 10 include “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars, “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith‘s “Too Good at Goodbyes.”

Also at the Tunie Awards, Michael Jackson was named most-played artist of 2018 on the Waffle House jukeboxes, while Imagine Dragons won the award for most-played rock song for “Thunder.”

“That means the world to us,” Imagine Dragons drummer Dan Platzman said of the win. “This is like you basically took our hearts, and you scattered, smothered, double-covered and peppered them.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

ENTERTAINMENT NEWS

Watch now: Netflix’s ‘A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding’ debuts its trailer

Courtesy of Netflix(LOS ANGELES) — Ready for another royal wedding?

The follow-up to your favorite holiday guilty pleasure movie, A Christmas Prince, has released its first trailer. The Netflix sequel, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding, takes place a year after the first film, as journalist Amber plans her nuptials to the now-king of the fictional Aldovia, Richard.

The trailer shows Amber, played by iZombie’s Rose McIver, feeling overwhelmed by her new royal duties and the prospect of having to give up her blog in order to be a queen.

The first film debuted last year and was a surprise success. A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding premieres on Netflix November 20.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Armie Hammer apologizes for Stan Lee selfie comments

ABC/Lorenzo Bevilaqua(LOS ANGELES) — Armie Hammer is apologizing after criticizing celebrities who posted selfies in tribute to the late Marvel Comics visionary Stan Lee.

“While attempting to provide some unnecessary social commentary about the current selfie culture, I (in true a**hat form – thank you Jeffrey Dean Morgan) inadvertently offended many who were genuinely grieving the loss of a true icon,” he wrote.

Hammer continued, “I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart and will be working on my Twitter impulse control.”

On Monday, Hammer wrote in a now-deleted tweet, “So touched by all of the celebrities posting pictures of themselves with Stan Lee… no better way to commemorate an absolute legend than putting up a picture of yourself.”

He added, “If Stan impacted your life (ie. All of our lives) with his work, post his work that touched you the most. Posting a selfie makes his death about you and how cool you felt taking a picture with him.”

His comments quickly sparked backlash, including from Morgan, who posted and then deleted, “Looks like you found a way to use others’ ways of mourning and their memories to draw some attention to yourself. You sound like a real a**hat.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Mahershala Ali “immersed” himself in music for ‘Green Book’ role

John Lamparski/WireImage(NEW YORK) — Mahershala Ali “immersed” himself in the real-life character’s music for his role in the forthcoming film, Green Book

The film is inspired by a true story of Dr. Don Shirley, played by Ali, a world-class African-American pianist who hires a tough-talking bouncer from the Bronx, played by Viggo Mortensen, to be his driver and protection as he sets out on a concert tour in the segregated South in 1962.  Along the way the two men become close despite their differences.

“What’s so beautiful about it is these two gentlemen are just so different,” Ali told ABC’s Good Morning America. “They couldn’t be more different and they actually remain different, but there’s so much that is revealed about themselves and they’re so open and they listen to each other in such a wonderful way that they end up becoming like really close friends and allies.”

In order to get into Dr. Shirley’s head, Ali researched his mannerisms through documentaries, listened to old recordings and “immersed” himself in his music.  He also drew inspiration from a documentary called Little Bohemia, about the artists that lived above Carnegie Hall that “[Shirley] appears in several times.”

“I was able to pull from that and sort of get a sense of his gestures and his rhythm and his speech and posture and how he played the piano. So I had that to lean on a bit,” he said.

The Oscar-winning actor, who’s dabbled with rap in the past, also said he’s “working on something for a project associated specifically with the film.”  But don’t expect music to be Ali’s second career.  In terms of “pursuing a career and doing it and releasing music on a regular basis, no,” he said.

Green Book hits theaters nationwide Wednesday, November 21.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved. 

SPORTS NEWS

Scoreboard roundup — 11/16/18

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

NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION
Philadelphia 113, Utah 107
Indiana 99, Miami 91
OT Boston 123, Toronto 116
Brooklyn 115, Washington 104
Minnesota 112, Portland 96
New Orleans 129, N.Y. Knicks 124
Memphis 112, Sacramento 104
Milwaukee 123, Chicago 104

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
SO Buffalo 2, Winnipeg 1
OT Dallas 1, Boston 0
SO L.A. Kings 2, Chicago 1
OT Washington 3, Colorado 2
OT Toronto 2, Anaheim 1
St. Louis 4, Vegas 1

TOP 25 COLLEGE FOOTBALL
(23) Boise St. 45, New Mexico 14

TOP 25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL
(2) Kansas 89, Louisiana-Lafayette 76
(4) Virginia 97, Coppin St. 40
(6) Nevada 87, UALR 59
(7) North Carolina 108, Tennessee Tech 58
(12) Kansas St. 95, E. Kentucky 68
(13) Oregon 80, (15) Syracuse 65
(16) Virginia Tech 88, Northeastern 60
(17) Mississippi St. 79, Long Beach St. 51
(20) UCLA 95, St. Francis (Pa.) 58
(22) LSU 74, Louisiana Tech 67
(23) Purdue 79, Davidson 58

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Man still missing after disappearing from San Francisco 49ers game Monday night

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) —  Authorities are calling on the public’s help in finding a man who disappeared after a San Francisco 49ers home game on Monday.

Ian Powers, 32, was last seen at the 49ers game at Levi’s Stadium, which he attended with his girlfriend.

During the fourth quarter, at around 8:15 p.m., Powers went to the restroom and never returned to his seat, according to Santa Clara Police Department Captain Wahid Kazem.

Surveillance footage from the stadium shows Powers exiting the stadium at the end of the game.

His girlfriend said that she had text messaged him and video chatted him to coordinate a place to meet each other, but that these were the last communications she had with him, Kazem said.

His phone has since lost power.

“It’s incredibly unlike him,” Sean Powers, Ian Powers’ uncle, told San Francisco ABC affiliate KGO. “He’s probably the most responsible person in my family.”

Calling it a “baffling investigation,” Kazem said that police did a grid search of the area surrounding the stadium, but smoke and conditions from the recent fires burning through California made visibility difficult.

He added that there is a marsh near the stadium and that it’s possible Ian Powers may have headed in that direction.

“We cannot yet rule out any possibilities including foul play, walk-away, or some sort of accident or medical emergency,” Kazem said. “None of the information or evidence has pointed us in a specific direction.”

Ian Powers was drinking alcohol on the night of his disappearance, but he appeared to “look relaxed and have pretty decent mobility,” Kazem said, referring to the surveillance footage obtained from the stadium.

Police are now working to put together a timeline to determine where Ian Powers could have gone.

“Our steps right now are contacting adjoining businesses, and trying to get external video surveillance,” said Kazem.

Anyone who has any information, either before or after this incident, is asked to call the Santa Clara Police Department at (408) 615-4700.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

How Serena Williams learned to love her body, stop comparing herself to Venus

Theo Wargo/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — In one of her most candid interviews yet, Serena Williams opens up about her formative years and trying to emulate her older sister, Venus.

Williams, 37, has inspired so many on and off the tennis court. In a new interview for GQ magazine’s Woman of the Year issue, she reveals how she was able to become comfortable in her own skin.

After telling the magazine just how close she is to Venus, 38, she admits that at a young age she really wanted to emulate her older sister.

“I was not myself. I was Venus. Just…Seren-us,” the now tennis icon said. “I identified as Venus. I felt weird, like, my boobs were bigger than Venus’, and my body was thicker. I was curvier. I was like, ‘Why am I not Venus?’ And she was tired of me copying her. She was like, ‘Get your own identity, please!'”

She said she finally accepted that she “looked different. And I played different. And I hit different. And I ran different.”

Williams’ half sister, Yetunde (who died in 2003), helped her gain her famed body confidence, as well as become the champion she is today, on her own terms.

“I was really struggling, and she’s like, ‘You know, everyone is different. You’re not Venus, and you’re never going to be Venus. You’re never going to be as thin as her, and that’s OK. And you’re never going to be as tall as her, and that’s OK. Nothing is wrong with that. You have a beautiful body on your own. You have a beautiful face,'” she explained to the magazine.

Williams said that advice really helped her move on.

“It was good that she taught me that lesson, because in a way she was teaching me a lesson about life,” she added. “In a way, it had nothing to do with Venus. It wasn’t about her at all. Tennis players in general didn’t look like me. Especially the top players or anyone that ever won Grand Slams. Nothing like me. So it was, Can I win looking like this? Can I perform looking like this? And that was something that I realized that I could do. I just had to learn that it was okay to, you know, not be Venus.”

In the powerful interview, Williams also opens up about being a mom and how happy she is with her 1-year-old daughter Olympia.

“And I’m a full-time mom. I’m a very hands-on mom,” she said.

She continued, “We do everything together. I love everything about being a mom. The only thing I don’t love about being a mom is come 7:30, Olympia’s in bed and I get sad. I’m like, ‘Should I go to bed?’ Because then if I wake up, I get to see her again.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

NATIONAL NEWS

Amid search for North Carolina 13-year-old Hania Noelia Aguilar, authorities ask residents to check properties for ‘anything unusual’

FBI Charlotte(WASHINGTON) — Authorities are asking residents in North Carolina’s Robeson County to check their properties this weekend for “anything unusual or out of place” amid the ongoing search for kidnapped 13-year-old Hania Noelia Aguilar.

“If you see something that doesn’t belong or is not normal, do not touch anything (you could damage possible evidence) and call the tip line or 911,” the Lumberton Police Department wrote in a Facebook post Friday night. “You know your property best and can most easily determine if something is worth contacting law enforcement to help us.”

Lumberton Police Chief Michael McNeill told reporters earlier this week that investigators are following “every conceivable lead” to find the eighth-grader.

Hania was kidnapped just before 7 a.m. local time on Nov. 5 outside her home at the Rosewood Mobile Home Park in Lumberton, a city in Robeson County, according to police.

She had grabbed her aunt’s car keys that morning so she could turn on the vehicle before school. That’s when a witness saw a man clad in all black with a yellow bandanna over his face approach the girl and force her into the green, 2003 Ford Expedition, police said.

The suspect then drove away in the family’s SUV with Hania inside, police said. The stolen vehicle was located several miles away on Quincey Drive three days later, but Hania was nowhere to be found.

So far, investigators said there’s no indication to believe Hania isn’t alive.

The FBI, which has named Hania’s disappearance its “Most Wanted: Case of the Week,” announced Tuesday that it had raised its reward to $25,000 for information on the case. The state of North Carolina is also offering a reward of up to $5,000, bringing the total possible reward amount to $30,000.

Authorities also released a handwritten statement in Spanish by Hania’s mother, Elsa Hernandez, pleading for her daughter’s safe return while dismissing the rumors swirling on social media.

“I trust in God that my daughter will return,” Hernandez wrote. “No one knows the pain I have in my heart. Despite all the criticism and speculation against me, I would never use my daughter’s name in order to take advantage of this situation. I thank all those people who have provided me help.

“Please,” she continued, “if you know something, call. I ask everyone not to make absurd comments. For the love of God respect my pain. I only want Hania, my princess, back. I miss her.”

The FBI subsequently posted a statement on Twitter in support of Hania’s mother.

“Social media can be cruel. Hania Aguilar is still missing. Her Mother wrote this note to ask people not to say such mean things on social media. Support this Mother, her daughter was kidnapped,” the FBI’s field office in Charlotte tweeted Tuesday night.

Investigators are still trying to track down a man who was seen in surveillance footage walking in the neighborhood that Monday morning, around the time Hania was abducted. The three videos, which the FBI released earlier this week, show the unidentified man wearing light-colored shoes, a light-colored shirt and a hoodie.

The man is not considered a suspect or person of interest at this time. Rather, he’s someone authorities “want to speak with” because he may be able to help investigators narrow down a timeline of Hania’s kidnapping, according to FBI Supervisor Andy de la Rocha.

Authorities are seeking additional surveillance footage from anyone who lives or owns a business on or near Quincey Drive.

Hania is described as a Hispanic girl who is 5 feet tall and weighs about 125 pounds, according to the FBI. She has black hair and brown eyes and was last seen wearing a blue shirt with flowers and blue jeans.

Authorities have set up a special tip line that anyone can call if they have information to help investigators find Hania: (910) 272-5871.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Devastating California wildfires leave 74 dead, more than 1,000 others unaccounted for

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) — More than 1,000 people are unaccounted for in California as deadly wildfires continue to burn at both ends of the state.

The two monstrous blazes that both ignited last week have claimed a total of 74 lives while burning a total area of nearly 400 square miles, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

A vast majority of the deaths were due to the Camp Fire in Northern California’s Butte County, making it the deadliest and most destructive wildland fire in the state’s history. The number of people missing or unaccounted for in Butte County grew to 1,011 on Friday, though that figure may fluctuate as authorities track down the names on the list, according to Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea.

President Donald Trump arrived in California on Sunday to survey the devastation and meet with firefighters, alongside California Gov. Jerry Brown and the state’s governor-elect, Gavin Newsom.

Meanwhile, the smoke from the flames has descended across the Golden State and choked the air in major cities, including San Francisco. Officials have advised residents in the affected areas to remain indoors and wear a protective mask outside.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for California through Sunday as humidity drops and wind gusts could get up to 40 mph in the Camp Fire zone.

The Camp Fire in Northern California

The Camp Fire ignited Nov. 8 near Pulga, a tiny community in Butte County nestled in the Plumas National Forest. The blaze exploded as strong winds fanned the flames southwest, enveloping the town of Paradise, a bucolic community of 27,000 people in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

The fire has virtually decimated the entire town.

Melissa Schuster, a Paradise town council member, said her house was among those leveled by the Camp Fire.

“Our entire five-member council is homeless,” Schuster said in a Nov. 13 interview on ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. “All of our houses have been destroyed.”

The death toll from the Camp Fire increased to 71 on Friday, after officials found more bodies in the burned-out rubble of homes and melted cars, according to the Butte County sheriff, who has warned that the remains of some of the missing may never be recovered due to the severity of the fire.

Thom Porter, chief of strategic planning for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said the body count is expected to climb higher as search crews continue sifting through the destruction.

“It is by far the most deadly single fire in California history and it’s going to get worse, unfortunately,” Porter said of the Camp Fire.

Many of the deaths have taken place in Paradise.

“The entire community of Paradise is a toxic wasteland right now,” Schuster said, holding back tears. “In addition to that, and this is the hardest part for me to even talk about, the number of fatalities is [among] things that we don’t know at this moment and that’s something that has to be determined before people can move back in.”

The Camp Fire has laid waste to more than 12,000 structures, including many homes, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Camp Fire, which has scorched a total of 148,000 acres in Butte County, was 55 percent contained Saturday morning as thousands of exhausted firefighters work around the clock to quell the inferno, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Two prison inmate firefighters were among a total of three firefighters who have been injured while battling the Camp Fire, officials told ABC News.

Earlier this week, Gov. Brown toured the devastation caused by the Camp Fire along with Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as well as U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

“This is one of the worst disasters I’ve ever seen in my career, hands down,” Long told reporters at the scene Wednesday.

The Woolsey Fire in Southern California

The Woolsey Fire also ignited Nov. 8 near the city of Simi Valley in Ventura County and rapidly spread south to Los Angeles County. The wind-driven flames jumped the 101 Freeway before sweeping through the celebrity enclaves of Malibu and Calabasas.

The entire city of Malibu and a sprawling naval base near the seaside city of Oxnard were among the areas under mandatory evacuation orders, as officials warned the blaze could potentially spread all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Evacuation orders have since been lifted for some areas, including parts of Malibu, as firefighters successfully stretch containment levels.

The Woolsey Fire, which has torched a total of 98,362 acres in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, was up to 82 percent containment by Saturday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

But more than 900 structures have already been damaged or destroyed, including many homes and a legendary Hollywood film set.

The blaze burned down a portion of Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills known as “Western Town,” where hundreds of movies and television shows, including HBO’s “Westworld,” have been filmed, dating back to the 1920s.

The Woolsey Fire has been blamed for the deaths of at least three people, and three firefighters sustained injuries while battling the flames, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

A public health emergency

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has declared a public health emergency in California, where the wildfires have forced the evacuation of at least two hospitals and eight other health facilities.

“We are working closely with state health authorities and monitoring the needs of healthcare facilities to provide whatever they may need to save lives and protect health,” Azar said in a statement Wednesday. “This declaration will help ensure that Americans who are threatened by these dangerous wildfires and who rely on Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program have continuous access to the care they need.”

Smoke advisories have been issued for the affected region amid concerns that smoke from the fires could present a “significant health threat” for people with asthma and other lung conditions, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Residents have been urged to stay indoors as much as possible and to wear a properly fitting mask when venturing outside.

Berkeley Earth, a California-based nonprofit that analyzes air quality in real-time, ranked San Francisco, Stockton and Sacramento as the world’s three “most polluted cities” on Friday morning.

National Weather Service meteorologist Aviva Braun told reporters that light winds have contributed to the poor air quality but, on Saturday, stronger northeast winds mixing in the valley should help improve conditions.

Meanwhile, there has been an outbreak of norovirus at a shelter in Butte County housing evacuees, according to Lisa Almaguer, public information officer for Butte County Public Health.

People who are ill at the shelter have been taken to a separate location, are using separate restroom facilities and are being cared for by public health experts, according to Almaguer, who said the presence of the contagious virus is “not uncommon,” especially at this time of year and “with hundreds of people living in close quarters.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Smoke blankets San Francisco as residents forced to don masks to breathe

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) — Flames from the deadly Camp Fire won’t reach California’s Bay Area, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still wreaking havoc on the region. Smoke from the Northern California fire is leading to record-high levels of air pollution.

Masks have become the fashion statement du jour in San Francisco the past few days.

The air quality index in San Francisco rose to 258 at noon on Friday, a reading that qualifies as “very unhealthy.” That reading had only sunk to 209 by 9 p.m. local time on Friday. Meanwhile, across the Bay, the air quality index in Oakland was 248 Friday night — also in the “very unhealthy” range.

Officials warned that once the index reaches “very unhealthy,” everyone is susceptible to experiencing trouble breathing or coughing. Sensitive groups, such as those with asthma, may experience even more serious issues.

Sacramento, California’s capital, reached a “hazardous” level of 332 at noon on Friday.

For Chico, the region where the Camp Fire continues to burn, the air quality index was an astronomical 450 on Friday night.

The air quality in San Francisco was the worst the region has ever experienced, according to Berkeley Earth. Breathing in air outside all day on Friday was the equivalent of smoking 11 cigarettes.

San Francisco Department of Emergency Management advised people to stay indoors if possible and wear special masks designed to filter the polluted air. The California Department of Public Health shared information on specific masks to wear.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

WORLD NEWS

Threat of violence at home spurs LGBT migrants on to the border

Robert Zepeda/ABC News(TIJUANA, Mexico) —  A group of LGBT migrants was among the first members of the so-called caravan to arrive in Tijuana this week, seeking asylum from some of the most violent countries in the world where gay and trans people are particularly targeted, according to Amnesty International.

“We came with the caravan, and the caravan continues,” Cesar Mejia told reporters in Tijuana earlier this week.

Mejia said their group included about 80 people, including children, from Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala.

A greater threat of violence

From the outside, many don’t understand why people — including families with small children — would risk their lives to get to a country that has explicitly said it will not let them in. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that people in the caravan will not be able to enter the U.S. illegally “no matter what,” and many members of the Trump administration, including the president himself, have accused members of the caravan of being terrorists or gang members.

Many migrants have said that what spurs them on are the terrible conditions at home: Central America is wracked with violence and poverty, corruption and impunity.

But for LGBT migrants, the threat of violence is, in many cases, even greater, a 2017 Amnesty International report found, and “gay men and trans women are exposed to gender-based violence at every point on their journey in search of protection.” Amnesty listed Mexico and Honduras among seven countries it finds as being deadly and discriminatory for LGBT people.

Mejia, 23, told reporters in Tijuana that the LGBT members of the caravan gravitated toward one another in search of support. For his part, Mejia was easy to find in the crowd. When ABC News spoke to him last month in the tiny town of Huixtla, Mexico, he was wearing a rainbow flag around his shoulders.

“At first I was afraid to wear the flag. I didn’t know how people would react,” Mejia told ABC News in Spanish. “In Guatemala, people were asking me what country the flag was and I told them it was the flag of the world.”

But in his hometown of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, it was not viewed that way, he said.

“I was discriminated and beat up so it was time to go,” Mejia explained.

He chose to join the caravan of thousands of other people, the majority of whom were also from Honduras, making their way to the U.S. border in the hopes of a better life.

Mejia said if he is able to make it to the border, he could make the case for political asylum.

“If I had the opportunity to make it to the border, I could show my representation of the community and ask for asylum, because [in the U.S.], there is a lot less discrimination than Honduras,” he said.

Unable to speak out

Raul Valdivia, a gay man and human rights activist who still lives in Honduras, said he understands that discrimination firsthand.

“I’ve suffered many instances of discrimination based on my sexual orientation, but I remember the most violent came from state forces,” Valdivia told ABC News. “I was abused by police while on one of my very first dates. They took me and the other guy to a dark secluded area in a park and forced us to simulate sex. They also beat us with a belt. These are police who patrol downtown Tegucigalpa and I have seen them after, but I’m unable to speak out for fear of repercussions.”

Valdivia said LGBT people in his country face “assassinations, political attacks, legal discrimination and targeted street violence.”

The country also has one of the highest homicide rates in the world outside of a war zone, according to the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). Authorities sometimes use gang violence as a cover for political and gender-based violence.

Nearly two thirds of Hondurans live in poverty, according to the World Bank. Corruption is a major issue, prompting the government to establish the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) in 2016 through an agreement with the Organization of American States, but much remains to be done.

“Marred by corruption and abuse, the judiciary and police remain largely ineffective. Impunity for crime and human rights abuses is the norm,” a 2018 Human Rights Watch report found.

Those who choose to speak out face harsh reprisals. In 2016, U.N. experts called it “one of the most hostile and dangerous countries for human rights defenders.” Human rights defenders routinely “suffer threats, attacks, and killings,” Human Rights Watch found.

No change at the ballot box

In November 2017, the country held a presidential election with widespread reports of fraud and violence. Thousands took to the streets to protest the re-election of Juan Orlando Hernandez, who changed the constitution to allow himself to run again.

The government’s “response to the post-electoral protests led to serious human rights violations,” according to the U.N., and dozens were killed and more than 1,000 were arrested.

Unable to change their country at the ballot box, many Hondurans chose to flee. And experts say that although the size of this caravan has grabbed headlines, many more Hondurans quietly flee the country every year, leaving conditions that have dramatically worsened since the 2009 military coup, especially for LGBTQ people, journalists and human rights activists.

In 2009, gay human rights activist Walter Trochez, 25, was killed in Tegucigalpa after trying to draw attention to anti-LGBT violence by security forces.

In July 2017, David Valle, project coordinator of the Center for LGBTI Cooperation and Development, was stabbed in his home after receiving threats, Human Rights Watch reported. He survived the attack, but it highlighted the deadly violence LGBT people face in the country.

It is this environment that has prompted Hondurans to risk their lives on the journey north, both in caravans and on their own, experts say.

“As impressive in size as this caravan may be, it still represents a minute proportion of Central Americans — today primarily Hondurans — that are fleeing their communities,” Alex Main, the director of international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told ABC News.

Policies spurring an exodus north

 But even facing extreme dangers along the way and an uncertain future in a country whose president says it does not want them, people have continued to flee Honduras. That will continue until there are real policy changes, Main said.

“This mass exodus will only abate when the rampant violence in Hondurans abates, and when real economic development begins to take hold. This will require a profound revision of current economic models promoted by the U.S. and multilateral financial institutions and the displacement of a corrupt economic elite that retains power through repression and electoral shenanigans,” Main added. LGBT migrants and asylum seekers face dangers along the way, the Amnesty International report found, and often face discrimination and neglect in detention facilities as well.

Until then, migrants, including those in the LGBT community, will continue to trek to the U.S., as this recent caravan has.

Mejia said he hopes his group’s early arrival will give them an advantage with border officials.

“We wanted to avoid what always happens, which is that if we arrive last, the LGBT community is always the last to be taken into account in everything,” he said at a press conference Sunday. “So what we wanted to do is change that, and to be among the first, God willing, and request asylum.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Argentine submarine found on bottom of Atlantic Ocean after year of searching

iStock/Thinkstock(BUENOS AIRES) — An Argentine submarine that went missing almost exactly one year ago has been found at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Argentine Navy and Defense Ministry confirmed late Friday evening that the remains of the ARA San Juan submarine had been located in the south Atlantic Ocean at a depth of about 800 meters (approximately a half-mile), about 700 miles due east of the Argentine city of Puerto Madryn.

The families of the 44 crew members who perished in the accident have been summoned to Mar del Plata Naval Base to be officially informed this weekend.

Officials in the South American country lost radio contact with the San Juan on Nov. 15, 2017, and were unable to locate the missing sub in following days and months.

The sub was discovered Friday by U.S. company Ocean Infinity, which was in charge of the search operation. The company sent out mini-submarines to the seabed, and one returned with definitive photo evidence of the wreckage of the submarine. In the deal that the Houston-based company made with the Argentine government, finding the wreckage of the submarine would trigger a payment of $7.5 million.

The same company struck a similar deal with the Malaysian government to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 earlier this year — but came up empty in its search.

Utilizing the Norwegian ship Seabed Constructor, the 40-member team of specialists from Ocean Infinity set sail on Sept. 8 and were on their last day of work before heading back to port when they received indications of a 60-meter long wreckage or geological formation at a depth of 800 meters. They had already studied two dozen other such possibilities to no avail.

Three personnel from the Argentine Navy and four persons representing the families were also onboard Ocean Infinity’s search vessel. Luis Tagliapietra, father of missing crew member Alejandro, told ABC News just two days ago that he was tired and frustrated as the ship began to head back to port after over two months of searching.

Attempts at communication with Tagliapietra or other family members aboard the search vessel were unsuccessful on Friday night.

The federal judge investigating the San Juan accident, Marta Yáñez, was optimistic about the potential for research into the disaster with the newly discovered images: “It’s one thing to do guesswork. It’s a whole different matter to analyze the images we have so specialists can assess what really happened.”

A number of naval officials are under investigation for allegedly allowing the submarine to go on an extended mission when they had been warned of mechanical problems that warranted immediate attention, according to testimony in federal court.

Adm. Marcelo Srur, the head of the Argentine Navy, was axed last December in the wake of the submarine going missing.

The ship was taking part in a military exercise at the time it lost contact, and had just seven days’ worth of oxygen onboard.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Alleged Khashoggi killers discussed plot minutes before he arrived: Turkish officials

Chris McGrath/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The team of alleged assassins sent to murder Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi discussed their plan to kill the writer while he was making his way to Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, a high-level Turkish official familiar with the investigation told ABC News.

The exchange, captured on recordings of Khashoggi’s killing and the moments leading up to it, are part of the focus of Turkish investigators, the official said.

The extended recording allegedly includes a conversation among the assassination team about their plan just 15 minutes before Khashoggi arrived at the consulate, the senior official said. The recordings contain conversations between the alleged killers, discussing in detail how they would attack and then murder Khashoggi, the senior official added.

The purported recording would disprove claims by Saudi Arabia that Khashoggi was killed after a botched kidnapping. On Thursday, Saudi officials offered yet another version of events, saying Khashoggi’s killing was a spur of the moment decision by the team.

“Sometimes mistakes happen,” the Saudi Foreign Minister told reporters.

In addition to audio from inside the Saudi consulate, the senior Turkish official told ABC News that investigators have another recording, taken at a location apart from the Saudi consulate or the Saudi consular residence where Turkey previously claimed Khashoggi’s body had been taken.

The official claimed the other recording contains conversations which shed additional light on the nature of the killing and those who carried it out.

The existence of another recording was first reported by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet. On Friday, the newspaper reported the details of a conversation among the Saudi team in the minutes before Khashoggi’s killing. That report also said Turkey has recordings of international phone calls made by the Saudi team after Khashoggi was killed.

A second Turkish official familiar with the investigation told ABC News the Hurriyet report was accurate.

The recordings have led Turkish investigators to determine that the plot was hatched in Saudi Arabia, the high-level Turkish official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe the investigation and the recordings which have not been publicly released.

Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Khashoggi’s killing had been ordered at the “highest levels” in Saudi Arabia.

In a move that has increased pressure on the international community to respond to Khashoggi’s killing, Turkey said it has shared audio related to Khashoggi’s killing with several other countries, including the United States and Saudi Arabia.

“We gave them the tapes,” Erdogan said on Saturday in the first public acknowledgment of the recordings. “We gave them to Saudi Arabia, to America, to the Germans, the French, to the British, to all of them.”

A French counterterror official who has read a transcript of the purported recording told ABC News that the alleged hit squad threatened to bring Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia.

The recording also purports to capture the gory moment of Khashoggi’s death inside the Saudi consulate. On it, a struggle can be heard followed by what is claimed to be Khashoggi’s killing, according to a Western intelligence source who listened to part of the audio.

Canada and Germany have both acknowledged receiving intelligence from Turkey about recordings of the murder.

“We are in discussions with our like-minded allies as to the next steps with regard to Saudi Arabia,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday. The account based on the recordings is among the latest in evolving — often contradictory and competing — narratives put forth by Turkey and Saudi Arabia as to what actually happened to Khashoggi, often through anonymously-sourced news reports.

For several weeks after Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate on October 2, Saudi officials insisted he had walked out of the building after applying for a certificate allowing him to marry his Turkish fiancée.

The kingdom then changed its story to say the writer had died in a brawl with consulate officials. Eventually, Saudi Arabia admitted the killing was premeditated, saying Khashoggi was set upon as soon as he entered the building.

Shortly after Khashoggi went missing, Turkey alleged that the writer, who was critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was strangled and dismembered at the Saudi consulate by a 15-member assassination squad. No trace of Khashoggi’s body has been found and Turkish officials have since suggested the remains could have been chemically dissolved.

Saudi officials characterized the killing as a rogue operation carried out by Saudi agents who exceeded their authority. Yet some of those implicated in the killing are close to the crown prince, including a member of the prince’s entourage on foreign trips, who was seen at the consulate before Khashoggi’s slaying.

Turkey is seeking the extradition of 18 suspects who have been detained in Saudi Arabia, so they can be put on trial in Turkey. They include the 15 members of the alleged assassination team.

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said that people who have listened to an audio recording of the killing of a Saudi journalist do not think it implicates Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in his death.

“That is not the conclusion that the people who have heard it have come to,” John Bolton told reporters at a summit in Singapore.

Bolton said Trump wants to learn the truth about what happened at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul where Khashoggi was killed.

“I have not listened to the tape myself, but in the assessment of those who have listened to it, it does not, in any way, link the crown prince to the killing,” Bolton said.

Erdogan described the content of the recording as a “calamity” and insisted that Riyadh take decisive action against Khashoggi’s alleged killers.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia said five of the individuals detained could face the death penalty if found guilty. Later on Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions on 17 individuals for their roles in Khashoggi’s killing.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This