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This Sunday’s “American Idol” includes a surprise proposal and a tissue challenge

ABC/Eric McCandlessKaty Perry went through quite a lot of tissues for this Sunday’s American Idol.

In an exclusive preview of the episode on People, one of the contestants gets a surprise proposal from her boyfriend and brings the recently-engaged Katy to tears.

Johanna Jones was getting ready to walk off the stage during Hollywood Week when her boyfriend Matt walked on and got down on one knee.

Katy immediately starts bawling, but to see Johanna’s full reaction — and whether or not she says yes — you’ll have to tune in.

The proposal comes just after two of last season’s contestants, Gabby Barrett and Cade Foehner, announced their engagement Friday.

In another preview clip on Entertainment Weekly, Katy needs tissues for a very different reason. She’s dealing with a cold, so she sticks two tissues up her nose and tells the contestants the show must go on. Luke Bryan challenges her to sing “Firework” with her nose plugged and she belts it out like a pro.

American Idol airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Jennifer Lopez announces new song “Medicine,” more tour details

ABC/Rick RowellJennifer Lopez has something to cure whatever has got you down.

The multi-faceted entertainer has announced a brand new single, “Medicine,” featuring French Montana. The song drops April 5.

“Wish I could give you guys a taste of my new single, Medicine, ft. @frenchmontana!! I CAN’T WAIT for you all to hear it!!!!!!” JLo wrote on Instagram, along with an image of her wearing a crystal-covered mask with many faces.

She also revealed more ticket info for her It’s My Party tour in celebration of her 50th birthday this summer. Pre-sales for the tickets begin on Tuesday and officially go on sale Friday, March 29.

“It’s my party!!!! Let’s sing and dance the night away!! I can’t wait to celebrate my birthday with all of you on tour this summer,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, J.Lo and her new fiancé Alex Rodriguez received a very special congratulations on their engagement from none other than Barack and Michelle Obama.

A-Rod posted a photo of the handwritten note on Instagram, which reads, “Michelle and I just wanted to congratulate you on your engagement. After 26 years together, we can say that whatever challenges life may bring, sharing them with someone you love makes it all better.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Adam Levine previews “The Voice” Battle Rounds with advisor Charlie Puth

Trae Patton/NBCThe Voice Battle Rounds are upon us.

Monday kicks off the next phase of the competition with help from team advisors. In an exclusive preview on People, Adam Levine gushes over his team’s advisor, Charlie Puth.

In the clip, Adam says he chose Charlie to help his contestants because he’s “brilliant musically” and “the perfect advisor.”

“Charlie is amazing,” Adam says. “I’ve known him for a few years now. We just love talking about music and really are kind of cut from the same cloth as far as our influences and the things that we love.”

Charlie previously served as a mentor for former coach Alicia Keys’ team in 2016.

Kelly Clarkson’s team advisor this season is country star Kelsea Ballerini, while John Legend’s is Khalid. Blake Shelton has two advisors: legendary country duo Brooks & Dunn.

The Voice airs Monday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Halle Berry, Gabrielle Union and more sing, dance in Women’s History Month challenge

ABC/Kevin Mazur(LOS ANGELES) — Halle Berry and Gabrielle Union are two of the women who have answered the call from Oscar-winner Ruth E. Carter to participate in a fun, empowering challenge for Women’s History Month.

It all started when Carter challenged a group of industry peers — including Berry, Union, Angela Basset, Tasha Smith, Luptia Nyong’o and June Ambrose — to “show the world when women unite anything is possible” by dancing to their favorite empowering song.

Union was one of the first to accept the fun task, adding an empowering message.

“We have all been through something in this life,” she wrote, captioning a video of her lip-syncing to Mary J. Blige’s “Not Gon Cry.” 

“All women share these common truths and we can ALL rise when we stick together and uplift each other. Let’s keep this going and laugh and have fun along the way,” she continued, before challenging more of her famous friends, including Chrissy Teigen, Jessica Alba, and Tracee Ellis Ross.

Berry also followed suit and sang to Destiny’s Child’s “I’m a Survivor.”

“Thank you @therealruthecarter for challenging me this #WomensHistoryMonth to dance like I damn well please,” she wrote alongside her video. “This one goes out to the incredible female survivors I have encountered in my life, the women who have the tenacity to live on their own terms. The ones who take risks, hustle hard and will stop at nothing to provide the best life for themselves and the people they love.”

She then tagged a few of her friends, including Ciara, Kelly Rowland and Reese Witherspoon.

The challenge doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved

Relationships — good and bad — ring true in ‘Gloria Bell’, says co-star John Turturro

Hilary Bronwyn Gayle, courtesy of A24(NEW YORK) — Emmy-winner John Turturro and Oscar-winner Julianne Moore can be seen in theaters this weekend in Gloria Bell, a romantic dramedy remake of the 2013 Spanish-language film, Gloria.

Moore plays the film’s title role, a free-spirited divorcée who sheds her buttoned-up at-work persona once she hits the dance floor at night. It’s during one of these outings that she meets Turturro’s Arnold, but their budding romance turns out to be more complicated than their first night together. 

Turturro explained to ABC Radio what draws the seemingly different characters to each other.

“People don’t want to be alone in the dark. People can fall in love at any age. To actually love someone?  That’s a different story,” he says.  “To fall in love, lust? That never changes. People want to have someone, you know, in the dark. That’s a human thing people needed it for procreation, they needed it for heat. They needed it to you know, feel safe!”
Arnold’s relationship with Gloria is hampered by his devotion to his needy ex, a toxic pairing to which he’s still attached. Turturro says that dynamic rings true for many.

“There are plenty of people — I’m not that way, fortunately — who fall in love or meet someone, and they can’t sever a dysfunctional relationship,” Turturro says.  “Whether that’s out of their own weakness, or guilt or their own fear.”

“When I was a kid, divorce was considered like an earthquake!” he declares.  “And I knew many people who had terrible marriages, you know, my parents’ generation, and they couldn’t get out of it.” 
Gloria Bell, which also stars Rita Wilson, Brad Garrett, and Michael Cera, opened in limited release last weekend and expands to wider release Friday.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

“Get off my lawn!” Mark Hamill jabs “moping” Luke Skywalker, says “life’s too short” to argue about ‘Last Jedi’ any more

ABC/Lorenzo Bevilaqua(NEW YORK) — Star Wars fans know that Mark Hamill has been back and forth about director Rian Johnson’s portrayal of  Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but the actor’s upcoming run on the show Knightfall might reignite the debate.

At first, Hamill was vocal that the idealistic moisture farmboy-turned-Jedi Knight and hopeful redeemer of his father Darth Vader could never become who Luke was in Last Jedi: a bitter old man who nearly murdered his nephew in his sleep, and who abandoned his friends and the Jedi Order to live in self-imposed exile.

“He’s not MY Luke Skywalker!” Hamill told The Independent in 2017, giving a voice to many fans who felt the same way.

Hamill quickly apologized for the comments, however.

But now, two years later, some Star Wars fans are eager to see “Luke Skywalker” with sword in hand again — albeit a steel one — in History Channel’s Crusades-set Knightfall.

When ABC Radio told Hamill that some fans were calling it “wish fulfillment” to see him back in action, training a knight in the ways of war, Hamill interrupted, “So actually pro-actively doing something instead of just moping and brooding on an island somewhere? ‘Get off my lawn!'”

Hamill smiled, adding, “Don’t drag me into this, because I’m telling you, the discussion of those movies has become so contentious now that my new motto is: ‘Let the movies speak for themselves.'”

“I hope they like it, but I don’t wanna argue if you don’t. Life’s too short,” he laughs.

About December’s Star Wars: Episode IX, Hamill would only say, “We’ll have to wait and see. It’s the climax of the trilogy with the current cast, who to a person are just perfect for their roles. So I’m looking forward to it.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Scoreboard roundup — 3/23/19

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

Boston 12, Pittsburgh 3
Chicago White Sox 5, L.A. Dodgers 1
Milwaukee 7, Texas 3
Kansas City 6, Milwaukee 4
Cleveland 8, Cincinnati 5
San Diego 11, L.A. Angels 4
Houston 5, Miami 0

Detroit 8, Tampa Bay 7
Toronto 7, N.Y. Yankees 3
Minnesota 8, Baltimore 7

St. Louis 4, Washington 4
Pittsburgh 5, Philadelphia 3
N.Y. Mets 12, Atlanta 2
San Francisco 3, Arizona 2
Colorado 11, Chicago Cubs 6

Charlotte 124, Boston 117
Miami 113, Washington 108
Atlanta 129, Philadelphia 127
Minnesota 112, Memphis 99
Utah 114, Chicago 83
Dallas 126, Golden State 91
Portland 117, Detroit 112
Sacramento 112, Phoenix 103

SO New Jersey 2, Arizona 1
N.Y. Islanders 4, Philadelphia 2
Colorado 4, Chicago 2
OT Ottawa 4, Edmonton 3
OT N.Y. Rangers 2, Toronto 1
Boston 7, Florida 3
Carolina 5, Minnesota 1
Winnipeg 5, Nashville 0
Montreal 7, Buffalo 4
Pittsburgh 3, Dallas 2
St. Louis 4, Tampa Bay 3
Calgary 3, Vancouver 1
OT Detroit 3, Vegas 2
SO L.A. Kings 4, Anaheim 3

(4) Gonzaga 83, Baylor 71
(5) Michigan St. 70, Minnesota 50
(7) Kentucky 62, (19) Wofford 56
(8) Michigan 64, Florida 49
(10) Florida St. 90, Murray St. 62
(12) LSU 69, Maryland 67
(13) Purdue 87, (23) Villanova 61

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Houston Astros, Justin Verlander Agree To Extension

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images(HOUSTON) — The Houston Astros and starting pitcher Justin Verlander have agreed to a two year, $66 million dollar extension, sources tell ESPN.

The 36-year old right hander went 16-9 with a 2.52 ERA last season and finished second in the American League CY Young race.

Verlander was traded to the team from Detroit at the end of August 2017 and helped lead the team to their first ever World Series Championship.

He went 5-0 in his five starts at the end of the 2017 regular season and won an additional four games in the postseason.

The 2011 AL MVP and CY Young award winner is entering his 15th season. He has a 204-123 record with a 3.39 ERA in his career.

Houston begins their 2019 season on the road next Thursday against Tampa Bay.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Robert Kraft ‘truly sorry’ for not meeting ‘higher standard’ in wake of sex scandal

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images(BOSTON) — Robert Kraft, the owner of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, said in a statement on Saturday that he is “truly sorry” for getting caught up in an investigation into sex trafficking arising from his visits to a Florida spa, where authorities charge he twice solicited sexual favors for money earlier this year.

“I am truly sorry,” Kraft wrote in the statement. “I know I have hurt and disappointed my family, my close friends, my co-workers, our fans and many others who rightfully hold me to a higher standard.”

Kraft also described his “extraordinary respect for women” and cited the spirit of his late wife, Myra Kraft, who died in 2011 of ovarian cancer after 48 years of marriage.

“Throughout my life, I have always tried to do the right thing. The last thing I would ever want to do is disrespect another human being. I have extraordinary respect for women; my morals and my soul were shaped by the most wonderful woman, the love of my life, who I was blessed to have as my partner for 50 years.”

“As I move forward, I hope to continue to use the platform with which I have been blessed to help others and to try to make a difference. I expect to be judged not by my words, but by my actions. And through those actions, I hope to regain your confidence and respect.”

Kraft has been charged by Palm Beach prosecutors with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution for allegedly visiting the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida on two occasions earlier this year and paying for sexual favors from the massage parlor’s staff. Two dozen other men caught up in the probe were similarly charged.

Authorities set up hidden cameras at the spa as part of a larger investigation into sex trafficking and, according to Jupiter police detectives, obtained video evidence of all of the suspects participating in the alleged sexual acts.

Kraft chose to reject a deferred prosecution agreement offered this week to all of the men charged, which would not have required him to plead guilty to any charges, a source close to Kraft told ABC News on Wednesday.

Kraft’s attorneys have been engaged in negotiations with the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office for much of this week, sources told ABC News, though it does not appear that any deal has been reached to date.

Defense attorneys for the National Football League (NFL) team owner reportedly believe that a search warrant that allowed investigators to install hidden cameras inside the spa’s massage rooms was improperly obtained, and note among other things that an investigation premised on probing alleged human trafficking at the Orchids spa has yet to lead to any trafficking charges.

“We have looked into it, we’ve looked at the charges brought, looked at the evidence, and there is zero evidence of human trafficking,” defense attorney William Burck told the New York Times.

The billionaire team owner has reportedly been deeply distressed by the charges and the subsequent publicity.

Several unidentified friends of Kraft told the New York Times this weekend that even a month after being charged, he still “breaks down in tears when discussing the situation.”

Triple threat

Since his name first surfaced last month in connection with the lengthy investigation into sex trafficking at Florida massage parlors, the veteran Patriots owner is facing a trio of threats — drawing scrutiny from the courts, the NFL and the public at large.

If he is cleared of the criminal charges, he could still face censure from the NFL, and if he survives that, he still faces the possibility of potentially embarrassing video of himself at the massage parlor being leaked, or even publicly released under some potential outcomes.

The investigation involved dozens of law enforcement officials from numerous agencies as well their counterparts in criminal courts system. Access to such evidence is naturally more vulnerable to misuse the more hands it passes through, defense attorneys and law enforcement officials told ABC News this week.

Kraft’s made his statement the day before the NFL team owners’ annual gathering on Sunday in Phoenix — a collection of peers whose judgment on Kraft’s misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution charges could prove equally if not more impactful than any criminal court.

NFL Commissioner Roger Godell has punished Kraft’s Patriots more severely than any other franchise during his tenure, according to ESPN. He fined them $250,000, and coach Bill Belichick $500,000, for spying on an opponent’s defensive signals in 2007. He fined the Patriots $1 million, stripped them of two draft choices and suspended quarterback Tom Brady as part of the 2015 “Deflategate” investigation.

Even without pleading guilty, league policy states that Kraft could still subject to league penalties, according to ESPN.

“It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. We are all held to a higher standard and must conduct ourselves in a way that is responsible, promotes the values of the NFL, and is lawful.”

Earlier this week, a coalition of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking survivor networks wrote a letter calling on Goodell to investigate criminal charges against Kraft and if found to be true to strip him of ownership of the Super Bowl champions franchise, according to a letter released by the coalition on Tuesday.

No deal

The proposed pre-trial diversion offer would have required Kraft to either acknowledge guilt or admit that he would have been proven guilty at trial, according to the spokesperson for the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, Mike Edmondson.

The Patriots team owner has pleaded not guilty and opted for a non-jury trial before a judge, while assembling a powerhouse team of high-profile Florida criminal defense attorneys.

While Kraft is currently facing a statutory maximum of one year in jail, if he were to have accepted the plea agreement, the misdemeanor charges would have been dropped.

As part of the statute, Kraft would have had to perform 100 hours of community service, attend a class on the dangers of prostitution and pay a $5,000 fine per count, according to Edmondson.

The deal was offered to Kraft and 24 other men charged in the case, though it remained unclear by Saturday if any of the men had accepted the deal.

Public records?

Depending on the outcome of the case, a key law enforcement figure in the investigation said he believes the alleged video evidence could eventually be publicized.

Earlier this week, lawyers for Kraft and 14 of the 24 other men charged in the investigation filed a joint motion seeking a protective order to keep evidence in the case from being released – including hidden camera video of the men in the massage parlor rooms.

But prosecutors “declined to agree to the protective order,” Kraft attorney William Burck told the New York Post.

“We’ve been surprised and disappointed that the state attorney did not sign on to the protective order, because it is a standard procedure in a criminal case.”

The Florida sheriff whose department is overseeing the multi-county investigation told CNBC this week that he expects the video evidence could eventually be released publicly.

“I do think ultimately they are probably going to get released,” Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said on Thursday, one day after Kraft’s attorneys filed the motion for the protective order over the evidence.

“Once a case is over, it’s not an ongoing investigation,” Snyder said. “There has to be a specific reason not to release a public record. And the fact that there is sexual activity is not an exemption.”

With the case ongoing, the video will remain under seal, Snyder told the financial news channel.

“The question is if they plead guilty and the case goes away, will it be subject to public record?” Snyder said. “I think the answer is yes.”

The allegations against Kraft came three weeks after the Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams to win the team’s sixth Super Bowl title.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Kraft’s then-NFL record $172 million purchase of the Patriots in 1994.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Second Parkland teen dies from apparent suicide in less than a week, authorities say

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(PARKLAND, Fla.) —  A second teen from Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year, has died from an apparent suicide in less than a week, according to authorities.

Officers from the Coral Springs Police Department found the student dead after they were called to a residence Saturday night, Coral Springs Public Information Officer Tyler Reik told ABC News.

The student’s identity was not released.

Police were unable to confirm to ABC News whether the student was enrolled at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at the time of the shooting on Feb. 14, 2018. Sources told the Miami Herald that the teen was a sophomore at the school.

The death is the second apparent suicide to hit the Parkland community in less than a week. On March 17, former Stoneman Douglas student Sydney Aiello, 19, died at her home in Coconut Creek from a gunshot wound to the head, according to the Broward County medical examiner’s office.

Aiello’s mother told CBS Miami station WFOR that she suffered from survivor’s guilt and had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Aiello was friends with victim Meadow Pollack, 18, Pollack’s brother, Hunter Pollack, tweeted last week.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Search for killer of off-duty Chicago police officer John Rivera intensifies, more persons of interests identified

ABC News(CHICAGO) —  Detectives with the Chicago Police Department are working “around the clock” to find the shooter who gunned down an off-duty police officer, an official tweeted Sunday.

Officer John Rivera, 23, was shot and killed early Saturday, a few hours after he finished his shift and handled paperwork for a homicide earlier in the night, police said. He was with another off-duty officer and two friends when a gunman opened fire on the car they were in, officials said Saturday.

One of Rivera’s friends was also shot and wounded, police said. On Saturday, police said that the victim, an unidentified man, was in critical condition and undergoing surgery.

The shooter and at least one other suspect remained at large Sunday.

But a spokesman for the police department, Anthony Guglielmi, tweeted Sunday that investigators were working non-stop to try to find the killer.

“Investigators have been working around the clock to follow evidence & review dozens of cameras feeds,” Guglielmi wrote.



Eddie Johnson, the department’s superintendent, said they would be poring over the network of cameras in the downtown area where the shooting occurred.

“Mark my words,” he said Saturday during a news conference, “we will find them.”

Rivera and the other officer, who had just finished a “tour of duty,” left a nightclub with their two friends at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday and returned to their vehicle, officials said. Two men approached their vehicle, and one opened fire, killing Rivera and wounding one of the friends.

The other off-duty officer and a woman with the group were not injured, police said.

The Chicago Police Department tweeted photos showing a procession of police vehicles transferring the officer’s body to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.



A person of interested was interviewed Saturday. Guglielmi said detectives had identified other people.

“We continue to identify persons of interest based on the investigation and we are speaking to those individuals,” he tweeted.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

University of Georgia fraternity suspended over racist video

iStock(ATHENS, Ga.) — A fraternity at the University of Georgia has been suspended after video allegedly showing members whipping someone and referring to them picking cotton surfaced on social media.

Georgia’s chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon was suspended by the national chapter and the video was condemned by the university. The frat also announced it had expelled four members who were involved in the video on Saturday.

“Tau Kappa Epsilon is disgusted, appalled and angered by the remarks shown in the video,” the national chapter said in a statement. “TKE does not condone or support any actions by its members that would be defined as racist, discriminatory, and/or offensive.”

“Since 1899, our fraternity has taken much pride in the diversity and uniqueness of our membership,” the statement continued. “Tau Kappa Epsilon has never had an exclusionary clause in our membership. Our founders believed, as we do today, in the personal worth and character of the individual, not his wealth, rank or honor.”

The video, which has circulated on social media at the school, shows a member of the fraternity lightly hitting another with a belt and saying, “Pick my cotton, b—-.” The person being hit responds, “I’m not black.”

Another person in the room says, “You’re not using the right words,” to which the member with the belt says, “Pick my cotton, n—–.”

All four members in the video have been kicked out of the fraternity.

The school chapter said the video was not filmed during an official fraternity function and did not take place on the chapter’s premises. It referred to the video as “racist,” “discriminatory” and “offensive.”

The university also released a statement condemning those involved and said an investigation was being conducted. For now, the members remain enrolled at the school.

“The University of Georgia condemns racism in the strongest terms,” the school said in a statement. “Racism has no place on our campus. We will continue our efforts to promote a welcoming and supportive learning environment for our students, faculty and staff.”

“The fraternity has been suspended by its national organization,” it continued. “Whenever we receive complaints of racist or discriminatory conduct, we refer such matters to our Equal Opportunity Office in accordance with applicable laws and policies.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Viking Cruises ship docks safely in Norway after major rescue efforts

iStock(MOLDE, Norway) — After an engine failure and major evacuation efforts, the Viking Sky cruise ship safely docked in the port of Molde, Norway, on Sunday, bringing a high-seas nightmare to an end.

A mayday signal was received from the ship on Saturday at around 2 p.m. local time, according to a Viking Cruises spokesman, sparking major helicopter rescue efforts that brought hundreds to safety.

After helicopter rescues on Saturday, Viking said 436 guests and 458 crew members remained on board. The vessel regained power on Sunday morning, and Viking Cruises tweeted that the ship was headed to the nearby port.

“#VikingSky is expected to dock In Molde at 1630. All day emergency states and volunteers have prepared reception. #PolitietMøreRomsdal Molde asks that people who are not in the rescue work keep themselves away from the center for the next few hours and respect traffic control.”

On Saturday, four rescue helicopters airlifted hundreds of people off the ship.

“Our first priority was for the safety and well-being of our passengers and our crew, and in close cooperation with the Norwegian Coast Guard, the captain decided to evacuate all guests from the vessel by helicopter,” the Viking Cruises spokesman said in a statement.

Harrowing video was posted on social media on Saturday by a passenger, showing the ship tilting back and forth, sending furniture sliding across the room.

 Danny and Judith Bates were among the passengers rescued by air.

 “Very frightening. We went up on a helicopter with a sling — the two of us together — and it was quite scary,” Danny Bates told Eurovision.

“I felt surely, they have everything under control, it’s all going to be OK. So we just take this as an unexpected adventure,” Judith Bates said.

The prime minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, tweeted on Saturday, thanking the rescuers.

“It has been a dramatic day for passengers and rescue personnel at #VikingSky in #Hustadvika,” she wrote. “Thanks to talented rescuers, volunteers and others who have made an invaluable effort in demanding conditions.”

The ship was built in 2017, according to the company’s website.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Norwegian cruise engine failure off Norway coast prompts rescue operation for 1,300 people on board

Eva Frisnes(MOLDE, Norway) — Rescue helicopters were battling severe winds on Saturday to airlift more than 1,300 people off a Norwegian cruise ship that issued a distressed call after an engine failure.

Of the 1,300 stranded, 900 were passengers on the Viking Cruises’ ship called The Viking Sky, Norway’s Rescue Coordination Centre told ABC News. The ship can house 930 guests and was built in 2017, according to the company’s website.

The initial mayday was received by the agency at 2 p.m. local time, the agency spokesperson said. Currently, the cruise ship is close to shore and has one engine working and one anchor holding. Rescuers hope to get two other engines working.

“Our first priority was for the safety and well-being of our passengers and our crew, and in close cooperation with the Norwegian Coast Guard, the captain decided to evacuate all guests from the vessel by helicopter,” the spokesman said in a statement.

Four helicopters were involved in the operations, and at least 87 people have been hoisted off, including eight with injuries, the agency said.

Danny and Judith Bates were among the rescued.



“Very frightening. We went up on a helicopter with a sling, the two of us together and it was quite scary,” Danny Bates told Eurovision.

His companion, Judith Bates said, “I felt surely, they have everything under control, it’s all going to be OK. So we just take this as an unexpected adventure.”

A tugboat is en route to further secure The Viking Sky, but the weather conditions remained harsh. The rescue operation was expected to continue through the night.

“We are in the process of updating the website with the latest information and activating special telephone numbers for passengers and their relatives,” the spokesman said.

If you have questions or concerns about any guests onboard, please visit their website.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

As olive oil woes increase, Italian producers step up the fight

iStock/MariaUspenskaya(ROME) — Italy’s production of olive oil fell to a 25-year low of 185,000 tons last year — a more than 57 percent drop in quantity from the preceding year.

Amid the decline, which experts principally attribute to climate change-related problems, Italian producers are innovating to combat those problems while improving quality.

The need for innovations is dire: the decline in production is threatening thousands of businesses and causing a huge loss of jobs, especially in the southern regions. And, now that olive oil is produced successfully outside the Mediterranean, Italy’s market share is at risk.

Tensions flared last month as producers and farmers protested in Rome calling for support and emergency government aid to protect their centuries-old tradition.

The poor harvests have been blamed on extreme weather, which can lead to olive fly infestations.

More drastically, though, down in the Puglia region, which produces about half of Italy’s olive oil, the bacteria Xylella fastidiosa — transmitted by insects and aided by the use of weed killer — is killing thousands of olive trees, including ancient, monumental ones.

In an effort to stall the spread of the disease, the state decided to systematically destroy thousands of trees. However, experts at Coldiretti, the Italian agriculture association, tell ABC News this is not being done fast enough.

While researchers race to find ways to curtail the olive fly and Xylella bacteria, a new generation of olive oil producers are emerging who are attentive to climate, terrain and, above all, quality.

With 80 percent of Italy’s high-quality olive oil sold abroad, these producers are attempting to carve out a niche in the worldwide business, seeing top quality, distinctive products as the future.

“We are making an even better oil than that produced by our forefathers,” Nicola Di Noia, Coldiretti olive oil expert, told ABC News. “Our olive oil must become the Ferrari of olive oil production.”

Pioneers in the field are focusing on new technology and local varieties of trees that can better withstand climate change. By studying new methods of growing, picking, pressing and bottling, they are producing a 100 percent natural product with improved health benefits.

For instance, while olives are now picked earlier in the year all over Italy, Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio in Umbria began experimenting with harvesting olives at night for a better product.

“Temperatures have risen greatly over the years, and as we pick olives earlier now, we try to avoid picking them above 15 degrees centigrade so as to avoid the enzymes from modifying and fermentation starting,” owner Lorenzo Fasola Bologna tells ABC News. “The results were spectacular with an increase in polyphenols [which improves health benefits].”

More attention is also being given to the traceability of olive oil in an effort to protect local production and stop fraud. The Italian National Center for Research started the DNA certification of oils, and Monte Vibiano received the first world DNA certificate last November.

“What this means,” says Fasola Bologna, “is that the consumer knows exactly where our olives come from and that the product comes from the Umbrian region of Italy.”

Other experimentation is also underway: Le Tre Colonne in Puglia is working with ultrasound devices, while Frantoio Cutrera in Sicily is using cameras to find and remove damaged olives.

Another producer in Umbria, Frantoio Gaudenzi, is working on a project based on renewable energy that can blow pollen through the grove if there is not enough wind.

Johnny Madge, an Englishman and olive oil expert who lives in Italy, told ABC News he believes Italy will become the most exciting producer of olive oil because of the wide variety of olives — there are over 600 varieties Italy, more than any other country in the world — and use of new technology, especially in olive milling.

“The new technology means that we can now ‘hear’ each different olive variety in a way we never could before,” Madge said. “They are now ‘expressed;’ before they were ‘muffled’ as olives were picked too late, milled too long after picking, and old dirty mills were used.”

He added, “These mills make oils of character because they use great cleaning technology, work at low temperatures with minimal friction and oxidization, and are filtered immediately rather than using separators that stress the oil.”

Massimo Ambrosio at the Fattoria Ambrosio in Campania, who started producing oil just three years ago with prize-winning results, thinks a revolution is underway in Italy.

“Other EU countries, like Spain, produce oil that costs even less than half what Italian olive oil costs, and Spain can produce five to six times the quantity,” he told ABC News. “[So,] the new trend in Italy is to focus on quality and stimulate the consumer to want higher quality olive oil. … The challenge is to see if Italy will be able to continue to produce the quality at reasonable prices.”

Di Noia stresses that consumers still need to learn about the product.

“People have learned the difference between a carton of wine and a bottle of Barolo,” he said. “The same has to be done with olive oil.”

Madge has observed people from across the world growing more curious about olive oil and its health benefits, but there is still a long way to go before the average consumer understands the value and taste of exceptionally good extra-virgin olive oil.

In the meantime, producer Ambrosio said, the goal is to “try to make oils that are balanced like a musical symphony.” He is certain that when the quality of the olives picked is perfect, that is not difficult.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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