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palinchakjr/iStock(LONDON) -- To celebrate their 513th anniversary, the Swiss Guard -- the tiny security force that protects the Vatican –- has debuted modern 3D-printed helmets made of a strong but light-weight plastic.

The new helmets, worn for the first time on Tuesday, are a mixture of practicality and function. The cast-iron helmets the guards have traditionally worn, which were forged as part of their ceremonial armor, are heavy and allegedly prone to denting. They are also exceedingly uncomfortable during Rome’s sweltering summer heat.

The new helmets, made of thermoplastic, weigh just over one pound and are fitted with air vents.

Often called the world’s smallest army, the Pontifical Swiss Guard is responsible for the safety of the Pope and the security of the Apostolic Palace, the complex within Vatican City that is the traditional home of the pontiff. The guards’ brightly-colored uniforms, swords, medieval-style armor and red-feathered helmets are all part of a tradition dating back to the 16th century.

To produce the new helmet, the 16th century original was scanned, it’s digital data reworked on a computer, and a new helmet printed in plastic, according to Swiss media outlet SWI. The entire production process takes approximately one day, according to SWI -- a fraction of the time needed to hand-forge the original metal version.

During a press conference last May when the new helmet initiative was announced, Swiss Guard Commander Christoph Graf said the helmets had been purchased through an informal crowdfunding campaign, according to Crux, a catholic-focused news website. The helmets cost a fraction of the price of the older ones -- roughly $1,000.

This initial roll-out was limited to 98 helmets, with 120 more expected later this year, according to SWI.

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VCG/VCG via Getty Images(HONG KONG) -- He Jiankui was supposed to be the pride and joy of China, a top scientific talent recruited back from the United States to usher his homeland into the new frontier of gene technology and innovation.

Then in November, He shocked the world when he revealed he'd taken the unprecedented step of creating the world's first genetically engineered twin baby girls, who had their DNA altered to be less susceptible to HIV infection.

After the shock came widespread condemnation, including from many of He's scientific peers.

Now the fallen scientist, who's since disappeared from public view, possibly under some form of house arrest, is facing imminent punishment from the government that had once held him up as a champion.

At the time, He claimed to have carried out the experiment for humane reasons, to show that HIV-infected couples could have children who didn't inherit the infection.

Earlier this week, the Chinese government shot down that claim quite bluntly, saying He Jiankui broke Chinese laws and "defied government bans and conducted the research in the pursuit of personal fame and gain."

China appears to confirm gene-edited babies

China's Xinhua News Agency announced that the provincial government of Guangdong, where He lived and worked, had concluded its preliminary investigation into He’s activities, confirming He did, in fact, edit embryos with gene-splicing CRISPR technology that resulted in the birth of the twins -- and another pregnancy that's underway.

Authorities said He "had intentionally dodged supervision, raised funds and organized researchers on his own to carry out the human-embryo gene-editing intended for reproduction, which is explicitly banned."

It remains unclear how severe a punishment He and his immediate collaborators will be facing. Up until now, China has had laxer regulations on clinical research than the United States and Europe. However, according to the Xinhua statement, authorities clearly are displeased and ashamed.

"This behavior seriously violated ethics, scientific research integrity and relevant state regulations, causing adverse effects at home and abroad," the Chinese version of the Xinhua statement said. The English version does not contain the mention of adverse effects "abroad."

The statement mentions the involvement of China's public security bureau, which means there will likely be criminal charges as authorities believe they have a solid case against He.

In fact, the statement accuses He of faking documentation and blood tests to allow HIV-carrying volunteers to dodge regulators. In China, HIV carriers are not allowed to participate in IVF.

Will China 'kill the chicken to scare the monkeys'?

There is oft-used Chinese idiom that describes how every the Chinese government, from the dynasties to the Communist Party, doles out punishment to ward off subsequent offenders: Kill the chicken to scare the monkey.

It remains to be seen how Chinese authorities will make an example of He Jiankui.

On the same day the Xinhua statement came out, the Southern University of Science and Technology in the tech metropolis of Shenzhen, the very institution that lured He Jiankui back to China from Stanford University, issued a terse statement firing He, dissolving his contract and ending all of his activities on campus.

Various Hong Kong outlets and The New York Times have reported in the weeks since He's announcement that he was believed to have been under house arrest on SUSTech's campus.

The university's publicity department told ABC News it wouldn't be commenting any further on He.

The Xinhua statement concluded by saying that the local authorities would keep an eye on and provide medical care to the twins and the pregnant volunteer.

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VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images(ROME) -- Pope Francis left Rome Wednesday morning for Panama on his 26th foreign trip since becoming pope.

He'll be in the Central American country until Sunday and plans to attend the Catholic Church's 34th World Youth Day, a gathering of Catholic youths from around the world.

The dates chosen for this year's World Youth Day allow students in the region to attend during their summer vacation. About 200,000 youths from more than 150 countries are expected to converge on Panama. The country sending the second-largest group of young people will be the United States, and more than 1,000 young indigenous people from around the world also will be attending.

The four days of events include the pope delivering seven speeches and celebrating two masses, as well as a penitential liturgy, and meeting young people unable to attend the festivities because they're in jail or living with HIV, drug and alcohol addiction. In his speeches, the pope is expected to address many problems which are common to Latin America, including gang violence, drug trafficking, migration, poverty, unemployment and broken family structures.

Ahead of the pope's arrival, young people in Panama issued a manifesto to draw attention to the world's environmental problems. They asked church officials and young Catholics to address pressing global environmental issues like climate change, a lack of biodiversity and the loss of ancestral lands for indigenous people.

"Time is running out and leaders from all sectors are showing very low ambition to embark in the rapid transformation that is needed to protect our precious common home and all its inhabitants," the statement said.

To show they meant what they said, more than 1,000 international young volunteers cleaned up Panama's Malecon Beach on Costa del Este, removing 15 tons of garbage.

The pope will return to the Vatican on Monday. His other foreign trips this year may include stops in the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Romania.

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Oleksii Liskonih/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. intelligence community has laid out its comprehensive strategy for the next four years, highlighting threats from Russia and China exacerbated by the “weakening” of the post-WWII order and those nations’ embrace of “rapid advances” in modern geopolitical battlefields from cyber to outer space.

“Traditional adversaries will continue attempts to gain and assert influence, taking advantage of changing conditions in the international environment -- including the weakening of the post-WWII international order and dominance of Western democratic ideals, increasingly isolationist tendencies in the West, and shifts in the global economy,” reads the 2019 National Intelligence Strategy, a 36-page document published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) on Tuesday.

Intelligence officials predict that Russia will attempt to “increase its influence and authorities,” which “may conflict with U.S. goals and priorities in multiple regions,” while China is expected to continue to modernize its military and pursue “economic and territorial predominance in the Pacific region and beyond.”

A senior ODNI official told reporters Tuesday that Russia was pursuing capabilities to threaten U.S. interests with “vim and vigor” not seen since the heyday of the Cold War.

In the strategic document officials highlighted concerns about technological advancements made by both countries in space. Russia and China will continue to "pursue a full range of anti-satellite weapons,” officials predict, “as a means to reduce U.S. military effectiveness and overall security.”

But U.S. intelligence officials remain hopeful that there is room to work with China, at least, in areas of “mutual concern,” such as North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Asked about the impact of the Trump administration’s own strong criticisms of international agreements and institutions in the post-WWII order, a senior ODNI official told reporters Tuesday that one of the “great joys” of working in intelligence was that they don’t dictate policy, only provide information to policymakers. Another official said that regardless of the administration’s own position, the “global operating environment is complex,” and the messaging from the White House is all part of that complexity.

The document shows that the intelligence community also remains concerned about Iran, the only other foreign nation named in the document, because of its “pursuit of more advanced missile and military capabilities and continued support for terrorist groups, militants, and other U.S. opponents.”

Looking ahead, the document said the democratization of technology, especially communications technology, has “empowered non-state actors” in ways that can lead to destabilization -- conditions ripe for exploitation by “some violent extremist groups.”

One of the greatest causes for concern, one senior ODNI official said, is the prospect of adversaries to work together where their interests align to challenge the U.S. The official declined to provide specific examples of such cooperation.

“The strategic environment is changing rapidly, and the United States faces an increasingly complex and uncertain world in which threats are becoming ever more diverse and interconnected,” the document reads.

Intelligence officials also predict that there will be a greater demand for “intelligence to support domestic security, driven in part by concerns over the threat of terrorism, the threat posed by transnational illicit drug and human trafficking networks, and the threat to U.S. critical infrastructure.”

Such intelligence work for domestic purposes would be done “in accordance with [Intelligence Community] authorities,” the document said, “with appropriate levels of transparency to the public, and with adequate protection for civil liberties and privacy.”

The report is the fourth National Intelligence Strategy, which is published every four or five years, that drives the priorities for the nation’s 17 intelligence organizations and ultimately aims to help policymakers “make informed decisions on national security issues, and to ultimately keep our Nation safe.”

The new strategy is broadly similar to the last iteration, published in 2014, that also focused on the threats from adversarial nation-states, extremist and transnational criminal organizations, and the unpredictable effects of the diffusion of technology.

But this year’s report does place particular emphasis on transparency. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats presented the strategy to the ODNI workforce Tuesday, stressing that the U.S. intelligence community must also do everything it can to be open with the public about what it’s doing.

As part of that initiative, Coats said the strategic document, posted on the ODNI website, has no classified alternate version with “secret stuff buried in it.”

“We need to ensure to the American people that we can be trusted,” Coats said. “We need to build faith that we will always seek to do what is right.”

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Richard Martin-Roberts/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It’s a bird. It’s a plane. Wait, it’s a meteorite hitting the moon?

On Sunday, millions of people around the world watched as the Earth’s shadow covered the moon in a copper-reddish glow in what was known as a “super blood wolf moon.” It was the first full moon of the year (a wolf moon) and it came at a time when the moon was also closest to Earth (a super moon) and going through a lunar eclipse (a blood moon).

While observing the eclipse, however, some observers noticed a small flash on the moon. Many astronomers speculated what had happened, but one of them, Jose Maria Madiedo from the University of Huelva in Spain, quickly confirmed that it was indeed a meteorite that hit the moon.

“A rock hits the moon during the total eclipse,” Madiedo tweeted on the morning of Jan. 22. Attached to his tweet was a YouTube link displaying the impact on the top-left half of the moon.

A rock hits the moon during the total eclipse.

— Jose Maria Madiedo (@jmmadiedo) January 22, 2019

Madiedo observed the meteorite flash through Spain's Moons Impacts Detection and Analysis System (MIDAS), which is run by the University of Huelva and the Institution of Astrophysics of Andalucia. The MIDAS project uses data from several astronomical observatories throughout the country to track flashes on the moon's surface and gather information about the rate of lunar impacts, which in turn can tell astronomers about the frequency of impacts in the Earth's atmosphere.

“We employ an array of telescopes endowed with high-sensitivity cameras that monitor the lunar surface in order to detect these events,” Madiedo told ABC News.

Meteorite impacts happen all the time, Madiedo said, but they aren't easy to record for MIDAS, which requires the moon to be dark so that the white flash is visible -- usually during the 10 days around a new moon. He said that this lunar impact was significant because it was the first time astrophysicists in this field of research were able to record a lunar impact during a lunar eclipse.

The next lunar eclipse will only be a partial lunar eclipse, visible from South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. It will occur on July 16.

As for another meteorite strike, those can occur at any time, but they’ll most likely require astronomers to release videos and pictures.

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vincent_ruf/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The State Department has called all employees back to work this week, but the ongoing partial government shutdown has left U.S. diplomats uncertain and restricted in their activities.

While they may be allowed back to the office, employees say the shutdown's damaging effects on diplomacy continue.

"We don't ACTUALLY have money," a senior Foreign Service officer serving overseas said. "The 'found' money for a paycheck doesn't change much. Still no outreach, conferences, meetings, trainings."

"We won't be able to do anything beyond what applies to protecting U.S. personnel and property or is essential to national security," said another diplomat who works overseas.

The diplomat also said the agency has done little to provide guidance to its employees.

A State Department spokesperson confirmed that they "continue to operate in a constrained manner," with limitations on employees' travel, public outreach including meetings, events, hiring and contracts.

The spokesperson said that employees were "recalled to regular duty," but it is clear that most of those duties still cannot be carried out. The department's own guidance lists explicitly what may or may not be done under section B of a memo to staff, released in December before the shutdown began.

Among those canceled events is an annual conference on international export control and border security, a State Department official confirmed to ABC News. The meeting, which is focused on preventing the proliferation of conventional arms across borders, was supposed to take place Feb. 19 to 21 in Edinburgh, Scotland, but the 270 or so participants were notified last week that the conference had been "postponed" because of the shutdown, the official said.

The continued restrictions have left many diplomats angry that they're still not able to do their jobs, even as the department says they've returned to work.

"The general consensus around here is that paying one pay period is a political stunt and nothing more," said another U.S. diplomat overseas, who, like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not have permission to talk publicly.

"Not much 'excitement' about one check out of three ... that isn't coming for a month," said the senior Foreign Service officer.

State Department employees will be paid for this two-week period, starting Jan. 20 or 22, depending on where they work and when the work week begins in that country. That check will come in mid-February, but employees will not yet be paid for the previous month of the shutdown until appropriations for fiscal year 2019 are enacted by Congress.

After this pay period ends, however, the department will have to consult with Congress and the Office of Management and Budget to find additional funds to keep employees at work if the shutdown continues. But it's unclear if they will be able to find any additional money.

That uncertainty has derailed diplomats' plans.

"How can you plan anything when you have no idea if we'll have a budget/staff in a few days, a week, a few weeks, etc.?" said the senior Foreign Service officer. "And things have lead times."

A U.S. diplomat based in Europe last week said, "You don't sort of put diplomacy on hold, and I think that we're going to look back at this period with a lot of regret for sort of missed opportunities."

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Family handout(MOSCOW) -- The Russian lawyer for Paul Whelan, the former U.S. Marine held on espionage charges in Russia, has said Whelan had materials considered “state secrets” on him when he was detained by Russian intelligence officers, but said he had been given them without his knowledge.

Whelan appeared in a Moscow court on Tuesday for a pretrial bail hearing, the first time he has been seen publicly since he was arrested in late December.

Following the hearing, Whelan's court-appointed lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, told reporters that during Whelan's arrest a flash drive with "state secrets" had been found on him. The lawyer, however, said that Whelan had been unaware the classified material was on it, saying he had thought it only contained holiday photos and tourism-related files.

"The one thing that I can confirm is there there was information constituting state secrets," Zherebenkov said. “In reality, Paul should have received from an individual information which is not a state secret -- it’s cultural things, a visit to one church. That is Paul’s holiday, photos," Zherebenkov said.

The lawyer said Whelan had been given the files by an individual but refused to say who. Officers from Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested Whelan in his hotel room with the classified material, Zherebenkov said.

It not clear if Whelan himself accepts his lawyer's position that he was found with classified information.

The version described by Zherebenkov immediately raised the question of whether Whelan could have been set up. But the lawyer refused to say Whelan could have been framed and declined to explain how the files Whelan had been expecting could have been replaced or why a person would have wanted to give him unsolicited classified files.

"I am not using the word 'setup'," Zherebenkov said. He also categorically rejected a suggestion that Whelan's case could be politically-motivated. “Absolutely not," he told reporters.

The lawyer’s comments were the first formal description of what Whelan is accused of in a case where Russia has so far provided no details of the charges against him. Zherebenkov has previously said Whelan intends to plead not guilty.

His comments, though, recalled anonymous allegations that appeared on a Russian news site known for its ties to Russian security services about a week after Whelan was detained. The site, Rosbalt, cited an anonymous security services source who said Whelan had been arrested in his hotel room minutes after receiving a memory card with a classified list of Russian operatives on it. The site’s source claimed a Russian acquaintance of Whelan’s had delivered the card to him.

There has been no official comment on the Rosbalt reports. Russia’s FSB, which arrested Whelan, said in a statement announcing his detention only that he had been caught while conducting “spying activity.”

Last week, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said at a press conference that Whelan had been caught “red-handed” while conducting “concrete illegal activities,” but did not elaborate.

Whelan’s family has denied he is a spy, and said that the Russian charges against him are impossible. Whelan’s twin brother, David, has said that Whelan was in Russia for the wedding of an old friend. Whelan had previously travelled to Russia, for which he appeared to have acquired an enthusiasm, making some efforts to learn the language and also writing to ordinary Russians on social media.

Zherebenkov said Tuesday that confidentiality rules prevented him from describing exactly what Whelan is alleged to have received. He said the prosecution would have to prove Whelan had sought to receive classified information.

Asked why someone would have tried to give Whelan classified information without his knowledge, Zherebenkov suggested it could be "a mistake." Before more evidence is produced, the lawyer said, it was impossible to say what had happened.

Some former U.S. intelligence officials had previously suggested that Whelan could have been set up, noting his former military background and frequent trips to Russia would have made him an attractive target for Russia looking to scoop up someone they could frame as a spy.

“He definitely has things about him that make the trumped-up charges against him more palatable, certainly to Russians and probably to some Americans as well," Steven Hall, a former CIA station chief in Moscow told ABC News two weeks ago.

Daniel Hoffman, another former CIA officer, told NPR shortly after Whelan's arrest at the beginning of January, that "this has all the hallmarks of a Russian KGB-style setup."

The court on Tuesday rejected a request for Whelan to be released on bail and ruled Whelan would remain in pretrial detention at Moscow's Lefortovo prison, setting his next hearing for Feb. 28.

Whelan has been held in Lefortovo since he was arrested on Dec. 28 in his hotel room at the upscale Metropol Hotel close to the Kremlin, hours before he had been due to appear at his friend's wedding. During Tuesday's hearing, Whelan stood in a glass cage, wearing a blue shirt and glasses, and didn't respond shouted questions from journalists. His lawyer on Tuesday said that Whelan was suffering from pain in his shoulder and also a possible hernia, which they were seeking to have examined by doctors.

Discharged for bad conduct from the Marines in 2008, Whelan is currently director of global security for a U.S. car-parts supplier, BorgWarner. Born in Canada to British parents, Whelan holds U.K., Irish and Canadian citizenship in addition to U.S citizenship.

Former U.S. officials have said Whelan's background, in particular his discharge for bad conduct from the Marines, would have made him an unlikely candidate for spy.

Some experts and former American officials have suggested Whelan could have been seized in retaliation for the arrest of Maria Butina, the gun-rights activist who has pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered Russian agent in the U.S.

Whelan’s lawyer has raised the possibility he could eventually be traded for Butina, but only after he has been convicted.

Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. have all expressed concern that Whelan might have been taken as a diplomatic pawn, and have demanded that Russia provide more details on the charges against him.

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KeithBinns/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. service member has been killed in Afghanistan, the NATO-led coalition in that country said Tuesday, but no other details were made available about the circumstances of the service member's death.

It is the second U.S. military death in Afghanistan in a week and this year.

"One U.S. service member was killed in Afghanistan today," said a brief statement from Resolute Support, the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan.

"The incident is under investigation," it added.

The statement continued that, in accordance with Defense Department policy, "the name of the service member killed in action is being withheld until 24 hours after notification of next of kin is complete. We will share additional information as appropriate."

Last Thursday, U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. Cameron Meddock died from injuries he had suffered during a combat action on January 13. Meddock succumbed to his injuries at the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany where he had been transferred for medical care.

There are currently about 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan, most of whom are serving in an advisory and assist mission helping Afghan security forces in their fight against the Taliban and the ISIS affiliate in eastern Afghanistan.

ABC News has reported that the Trump administration is planning to halve the number of American troops in Afghanistan sometime this year.

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Cardiff City FC/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Argentine soccer player Emiliano Sala was aboard a private plane that went missing over the English Channel on Monday night, French police confirmed to ABC News.

One other person was travelling with Sala, 28, on the PA 46 Malibu, a single-engine aircraft, from Nantes, France to Cardiff.

Sala had been due to meet his new teammates at Cardiff City after the club purchased his rights on Jan. 19 from FC Nantes for a club-record fee, believed to be around $20 million.

An aircraft search operation was launched Monday evening and resumed Tuesday, Guernsey police announced on Facebook. The plane went missing around 15 miles off north of Guernsey, an island in the English Channel.

There are currently two helicopters, two planes and one lifeboat in operation on the English Channel. The Guernsey Coastguard received an alert from Air Traffic Control at around 8:23 p.m. local time that the plane had gone missing from radar. British authorities confirmed they were working with their French counterparts as part of the operation.

The search was canceled at 2 a.m. "due to strengthening winds, worsening sea conditions and reducing visibility," but was resumed around 8 a.m. Tuesday.

The aircraft departed from Nantes Airport for Cardiff at 7:15 p.m. It lost contact with Jersey Air Traffic control after requesting descent while flying at 2,300 feet.

The chairman of Cardiff City soccer club issued a statement saying he was "very concerned" about Sala.

"We are very concerned by the latest news that a light aircraft lost contact over the Channel last night," said Chairman Mehmet Dalman, according to Wales Online. "We are awaiting confirmation before we can say anything further. We are very concerned for the safety of Emiliano Sala."

Waldemar Kita, club president of Nantes, told French media outlet CNews he didn't have any additional details and he was "hopeful they find him."

"[Sala is] a polite, kind, adorable boy, loved by everyone," he said. "He was always very respectful, very courteous. I'm thinking about his family, all his friends. We still don't know about all the rest. I'm still hopeful it's not over and that he's somewhere. Sincerely, he's an adorable boy."

FC Nantes posted a video tribute to the popular striker after he was sold to Cardiff City, saying "Thank you Emi, forever yellow and green," referring to the club's official colors.

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Giuseppe Ciccia/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images(ROME) -- The pope signaled his intention to harness the power of technology to reach out to young people by launching a prayer app three days before he will attend a Catholic youth festival in Panama.

The app, called Click to Pray, is available on both Android and iOS devices and will allow over 1 billion Catholics worldwide to pray with the pope online.

Pope Francis has his own Click to Pray profile online, which shows what he is praying for. Users can then click an icon to pray with him.

Pope Francis launched the new app Sunday during his weekly public noontime prayer.

Speaking to the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square, the pope hesitantly tapped a tablet screen to launch the app and asked the priest who held it up for him if he had done it correctly.

"Internet and social media are a resource of our time -- an opportunity to stay in touch with others, to share values and projects, and to express the desire to make a community," he told the gathered crowd in Italian. "The network can also help us to pray in community, to pray together ... I especially invite you young people to download the Click To Pray app, continuing to pray the rosary for peace with me, especially during the World Youth Day in Panama."

A statement from the app developers sent to ABC News on Sunday said that Click To Pray is the official app of the pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.

It is not the first time Pope Francis has proved himself to be digitally savvy.

On World Communications Day in January 2018, the pope gave a speech about "fake news" and invited everyone "to promote a journalism of peace."

"Fake news often goes viral," he said in Italian. "Spreading so fast that it is hard to stop, not because of the sense of sharing that inspires the social media, but because it appeals to the insatiable greed so easily aroused in human beings."

Pope Francis also discussed the power of social media in June, saying "it can offer immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity," according to Catholic news website Crux. "May it be a concrete place, a place rich in humanity," he added.

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Anton Litvintsev/iStock(CAIRO) -- An Egyptian TV host was sentenced to one year of hard labor for interviewing a gay sex worker, a Cairo court ruled Sunday.

Mohamed El-Gheity, a well-known journalist in Egypt who has spoken out against homosexuality, is accused of promoting debauchery and insulting religions during an episode that aired last August on private satellite channel LTC.

During the interview, El-Gheity’s guest, whose face was blurred, shared details about his life as a sex worker.

The guest said he was motivated to share his experience so other young Egyptians would not repeat his mistakes.

The hosting channel, LTC, was taken off air for two weeks immediately after the episode aired for violating a decree by the Supreme Council for Media Regulation that bans the appearance of gay people on media outlets.

While homosexuality is not explicitly illegal in Egypt, members of the LGBT community are often persecuted under an anti-prostitution law.

In September and October 2017, over 70 people were arrested in one of the most aggressive crackdowns on the LGBT community after fans of Mashrou Leila, a Lebanese band with an openly-gay lead singer, waved a rainbow flag at a concert.

The lawsuit against El-Gheity was filed by Samir Sabri, a controversial lawyer and a self-proclaimed morality defender who has filed numerous lawsuits of similar nature.

Last December, he sued actress Rania Youssef over a dress she wore at the Cairo International Film Festival.

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JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- LGBT activists say they have begun helping people flee from the Russian republic of Chechnya amid what they claim is a new wave of detentions and torture targeting the gay community there.

The LGBT Network, a St. Petersburg-based rights group, said last week that 40 people had been detained and at least two were tortured to death in what they believe is a renewal of a campaign of terror that took place in 2017, and saw dozens of gay men kidnapped and tortured by Chechen security services.

Chechnya is a majority-Muslim autonomous republic in southern Russia, ruled by dictatorial leader Ramzan Kadyrov. In 2017, reports emerged that over 100 men suspected by authorities as gay had been rounded up and brutally tortured, setting off international condemnation and leading to U.S. sanctions against Kadyrov and some of his senior lieutenants.

The LGBT Network said in a statement it believes a new campaign of persecution that began in early December is now underway. Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper which helped expose the 2017 campaign, has said its sources also suggest a new wave of detentions.

Chechen authorities have denied the reports of the detentions, as they did in 2017. Chechnya’s minister of information, Dzhambulat Umarov last week called the allegations “utter crap” but then added homosexuality “has no place” in Chechnya. Kadyrov has previously said homosexuals don’t exist in Chechnya and said that if they do, they should leave "to purify our blood."

The LGBT Network said it helped dozens of men escape Chechnya in 2017 and 2018. In a statement on Monday, the organization said those fleeing this current purge have allowed them to build a clearer picture of the detentions and provided details of brutal treatment.

According to the group, both men and women have been swept up this time. They have described being beaten and raped using electro-shocker clubs. Men recounted being shaved, forced to wear women's clothing and to call each other by women's names, according to the group.

The organization said one detainee told them prisoners were being denied food and given dirty water after it had been used to wash the floor. The only drinking water they received was when it was time to pray, the group said.

The LGBT Network said it had now identified several sites where people were being held illegally, including a police station in Chechnya's capital, Grozny. According to the group, some of those seized are also being held in the town of Argun, which was one of the centers of the 2017 detentions.

The use of police stations, the activists said, was further evidence that the kidnappings were being carried out by members of Chechnya’s state security services.

Igor Kochetkov, LGBT Network's program director, said the group believes the new roundup began after police detained the administrator of a social media group popular among LGBT people in the North Caucasus. Security services officers then used the person's phone contacts to find new targets, according to Kochetkov.

The details being described now are similar to those from multiple testimonies from men in 2017 to news media and rights groups, which described kidnapping and torture.

A man who fled Chechnya after being tortured and then released in 2017 told ABC News then that he had been beaten with plastic rods and electrocuted. The man, who ABC News for his safety referred to by the pseudonym Dmitry, described being held in a jail with several other men and hearing them scream as they were tortured.

"They split my eye, my lip, broke my ribs, they electrocuted me," he told ABC News in April 2017.

He also described being denied food and provided with water only around prayer-times.

With the reports of new detentions, activists have blamed Russian federal authorities, saying they have failed to intervene and given Chechen authorities free rein to continue the persecution. In 2017, after heavy international condemnation, Russia launched a probe into the reports of abuses, but the investigation has since gone nowhere. Activists demanding that police act were detained in Moscow.

A report from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) released in December found that kidnapping, torture and extrajudicial killings were regularly used by Chechen security forces and that the LGBT community had been targeted in “successive purges.” It found that there had been three “waves” of detentions beginning from December 2016 and until summer 2017, and noting new cases had continued into the fall.

The report criticized Russia, saying “Russian authorities responsible for investigating alleged crimes against LGBTI citizens persecuted in Chechnya appear not to have lived up to their responsibilities.”

The U.S. State Department last week said it was "deeply disturbed" by the new reports, calling them "credible." In a statement, it called on Russia to "live up to its international obligations" and "its own constitution."

Public attitudes to homosexuality in Chechnya are very conservative and the gay community is obliged to meet largely in secret, fearing violence even from their families. The anti-gay campaigns in the republic have emerged against a backdrop of broader efforts in Russia to stoke homophobic sentiment, as the Kremlin has promoted what it calls traditional values and painted homosexuality as a primarily Western phenomenon, linked to democracy and human rights.

Chechnya's minister for information, Dzhambulat Umarov, suggested to Radio Free Europe last week that he believed homosexuality was being imposed from outside.

“Don’t sow the seeds of sodomy in the blessed land of the Caucasus,” Umarov told Radio Free Europe. “They will not grow,” unlike in “perverted Europe,” he said.

The LBGT Network said it has helped get 150 men get out of Chechnya since March 2017, sheltering them in houses and assisting them with finding asylum. The Rainbow Railroad, a Canadian LGBTQI rights group, said it helped bring 57 people from Chechnya to Canada following the 2017 campaign.

In 2017, Dmitry who wanted to find asylum abroad, told ABC News he was terrified that Chechen security forces might find him if he stayed in Russia.

"They have very long arms and they will hound us," Dmitry said in 2017. "I have to get out of here."

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akesak/iStock(LONDON) -- African leaders have congratulated opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi for winning the Democratic Republic of the Congo's presidential election last month, after the country's top court on Sunday declared him the winner amid claims of electoral fraud.

The Constitutional Court of the Democratic Republic of the Congo confirmed Tshisekedi's victory in a statement released before dawn Sunday, rejecting a challenge from runner-up Martin Fayulu, an opposition candidate who declared himself the country's "sole legitimate president-elect" and called for peaceful demonstrations against a "constitutional coup d'etat."

Fayulu had demanded a recount after the Independent National Electoral Commission of the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced earlier this month that Tshisekedi won the Dec. 30 election by a slim margin -- more than seven million votes, or about 38 percent -- while Fayulu received approximately 34 percent. Fayulu claims to have won by more than 60 percent, accusing Tshisekedi of making a deal with outgoing President Joseph Kabila to manipulate the result -- an allegation both deny.

In the wake of the court ruling, the African Union said in a statement that it has postponed a visit from a high-level delegation to the country's capital, Kinshasa, planned for Monday to discuss the "post-electoral crisis." The continental body previously requested the Congolese government to refrain from announcing the final result, citing "serious doubts."

A number of African heads of state sent their congratulations to Tshisekedi on Sunday following the court's decision.

"Your victory is a portrayal of the confidence of the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in your ideals, leadership and vision for the future," Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said via Twitter. "I look forward to working closely with you to strengthen and deepen the long-standing cordial relations between our two countries and peoples."

"President Ramaphosa has called on all parties and all stakeholders in the DRC to respect the decision of the Constitutional Court and commit to continue with a journey of consolidating peace, uniting the people of Congo and creating a better life for all," South African President Cyril Ramaphosa spokesperson said in a statement.

"I beseech you to maintain peace," Tanzanian President John Magufuli said via Twitter.

The Southern African Development Community, the influential regional bloc of southern Africa, also congratulated Tshisekedi and said it "looks forward to a peaceful transfer of power."

"SADC calls upon all Congolese to accept the outcome, and consolidate democracy and maintain a peaceful and stable environment following the landmark elections," the group said in a statement Sunday. "Furthermore, SADC calls upon all stakeholders to support the President-elect and his Government in maintaining unity, peace and stability; and attaining socio-economic development in the DRC."

Tshisekedi, son of late Congolese opposition icon Etienne Tshisekedi, is expected to be inaugurated on Tuesday, assuming power over a vast, mineral-rich nation embroiled in conflict and currently battling the world's second-largest, second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.

If Fayulu concedes, the Democratic Republic of Congo will experience its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since its independence from Belgium in 1960. Congolese military dictator Mobutu Sese Seko seized power in 1965. Rebel leader Laurent Kabila overthrew him in 1997 but was assassinated by a bodyguard in 2001. His son succeeded him and has ruled the nation with an iron first ever since.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo's constitution bars Joseph Kabila from seeking a third consecutive presidential term, but he is eligible to run again in 2023.

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Eitan Magid(NEW YORK) -- Passengers on a United Airlines flight were stranded for more than 16 hours, and many had to sleep on the plane, after the jet made an emergency landing to aid a sick passenger.

Flight 179 was traveling from Newark to Hong Kong on Saturday when it was diverted in Canada due to a medical emergency, the airline said.

Medical personnel met the aircraft at Goose Bay Airport in Newfoundland, Canada, and transported the passenger to a local hospital, but a mechanical issue kept the plane from taking off again.

The travel nightmare got even worse when passengers realized they wouldn't be able to leave the plane while crew members worked to fix the issue.

"The airport did not have customs officers overnight so we were not able to let customers depart the aircraft. An alternative aircraft is being flown in to transport customers back to Newark," the airline said in a statement. "We apologize to our customers and our crew is doing everything possible to assist them during the delay."

The passengers had to spend the night in the plane, with some passengers saying they were stuck for nearly 18 hours. United did not confirm those reports.

"I think there was miscommunication between ground crew at Goose Bay and the people running flights ops in Chicago," Liam Keefe, a passenger on the plane, told ABC News. "At the end of the day, the guy probably would have died if we didn't divert. That was the reason we were stuck for a long time."

Chris Liew, who was traveling to Hong Kong for a meeting on Monday, said the passengers were stuck for at least 16 hours.

"I think by the third hour they knew something was wrong mechanically," he said. "They had time to send another flight. But they didn't until close to 12 to 13 hours later."

"The breaking point," added Eitan Magid, another passenger, "was when you thought that airplane was coming to get us. They did come, but 12 hours late, and we get on that flight and we ask for food, and they said there was no food, only snacks like pretzels. I said, after 12 hours you brought pretzels and we've been sitting first class and eating food. And that's more and more and more adding to the whole incident. It felt like they didn't care."

United said it sent a rescue aircraft to transport customers back to Newark on Sunday evening. The airline said the passengers departed Newark International Airport on the original flight at 3:03 p.m EST Saturday and arrived back in Newark at 5:44 p.m. Sunday.

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Chris McGrath/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Marina Gross, a State Department interpreter, was the only other American in the room during President Donald Trump's one-on-one meeting with Russian President Putin in Helsinki last summer.

ABC News has learned new details about the 64-year-old interpreter with the State Department's Office of Language Services who is at the center of the political storm over what she might know about the private conversations Trump held with Putin during their meeting in Helsinki last summer.

Neither Gross nor her close family members provided comment for this story when contacted by ABC News.

Veteran interpreters are concerned that a Congressional subpoena of Gross or her notes of the meeting would set a dangerous precedent. They also question whether her interpreting notes would contain actual contents of the meeting itself.


Born in Russia, Gross was in her mid-20's when she and her family members immigrated to the United States in the late 1980s in the waning days of the Soviet Union.

In the 1990s Gross began interpreting for the State Department as a contract interpreter.

Well respected, she was later hired by the State Department and currently works as one of two Russian staff interpreters at the department’s Office of Language Services.

That office hires interpreters and translators who work throughout the U.S. government, including with the president.

Interpreters play a vital role in key international meetings where their language services are on full display, but by training, they remain in the shadows.

Accordingly, few pictures exist of Gross, other than those publicly released by the White House or the State Department where she was seen interpreting for first lady Laura Bush and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

But it is Gross' work in Helsinki on July 16 that has sparked the interest of Congressional Democrats because she was the only other American in the room for Trump's two-hour long meeting with Putin and his own interpreter.

Trump has met with Putin five times, but only twice in formal one-on-one meetings held in Hamburg and Helsinki.

Tillerson sat in with both presidents during their Hamburg meeting and provided other national security officials and reporters with a brief readout of issues that were discussed, but the Washington Post reported that the U.S. government has no internal notes of that meeting and that Trump seized the notes taken by his interpreter.

Since then, Congressional Democrats have said they want to gain access to Gross' notes to understand what Trump may have spoken about with Putin. A previous effort last year by Democrats to subpoena Gross and the interpreter at Trump's Hamburg meeting were shelved by Republicans who were in control the House of Representatives.

Last week Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador tweeted his support of Gross describing her as "a fantastic interpreter" and "a terrific person to boot!"


Professional interpreters are concerned about the dangerous precedent that would be set by Congress if a diplomatic interpreter is subpoenaed.

"I've never heard of that happening in the 30 years that I worked the State Department or subsequently since I retired," said Dimitry Zarechnak a former interpreter with the State Department's Office of Language Services, who interpreted for President Ronald Reagan during some of his summits with Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union.

"I think it would just be a very bad move and bad precedent for diplomacy in general," he told ABC News.

Harry Obst, the former director of the Office of Language Services who interpreted for seven American presidents, said that if he was placed in a similar situation, "I would not divulge any information."

"That's because of the oath that you swear to not divulge any classified information on any level," he said. "Because you have a top secret clearance."

A greater concern is the impact a subpoena could have on state leaders excluding interpreters from their meeting if they believe they could be subpoenaed by Congress in the future.

"The whole idea of subpoenaing an interpreter is atrocious," said Zarechnak. "What foreign leader would want to meet with the U.S. leader thinking that 'well, the interpreter could be subpoenaed and tell Congress what the meeting was about.'"

And a subpoena could also lead a U.S. interpreter to not rely on American interpreters.

"The president would also have a great incentive not to use our interpreter if there was a danger that that interpreter would then be subpoenaed in Congress," said Zarechnak.

Zarechnak noted that was something President Richard Nixon practiced during his his one-on-one meetings with Soviet leaders in the 1970s.

"Unfortunately President Nixon and [former Secretary of State Henry] Kissinger specifically did not use our interpreters," said Zarechnak. "I guess for the sake of their secrecy" they relied only on the Soviet interpreters during their meetings.


Both veteran interpreters question whether Gross' notes would be of much historical value.

Even if investigators successfully gained access to Gross' notes "they wouldn't know what to do with them in the first place" said Obst.

That's because as a matter of course the notes taken by professional interpreters are less about taking verbatim quotes than they are about getting the right inflection or meaning of a word or sentence.

Interpreters use symbols or meanings for words or proper context that are only comprehensible to them at that specific moment in time.

What might be more useful are the official classified documents, known as "memorandums of conversation" or MemCon's, that are compiled by interpreters using their handwritten notes.

MemCon's are ultimately only accessible by the Secretary of State and Obst said often times an interpreter will destroy the handwritten notes used during a meeting because they are no longer as relevant as the classified official document.

"So really what is saved is the memo not the notes themselves," said Obst.

Zarechnak recalls how the MemCon he wrote from his notes of the consecutive translation he took during the one-on-one meetings during the 1985 Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Geneva were declassified 15 years later.

That declassified MemCon captures a detailed flavor of the topics that were discussed during one meeting as well as Zarechnak's take about Gorbachev's.

During a lengthy exchange on human rights in the Soviet Union, "Gorbachev interrupted, without listening to the translation, to say that he had understood what the President had said, and that he took all of this into account. He was familiar with the American political process, and the President should not hide behind this."

Zarechnak then added his take on Gorbachev's interruption and what it might mean about Gorbachev's knowledge of English.

"(U.S. Interpreter's Note: Gorbachev's indication that he had understood what the President had said without translation was unexpected, since he had never shown any indication of understanding English in previous or subsequent conversations. After the President's following remarks, Gorbachev specifically asked for interpretation and looked like he had not understood what the President had said. I think that the first time he was simply assuming that he knew what the President was saying, and was anxious to get into the plenary meeting.)"

Since MemCons are classified, the access to details of the Helsinki meeting that congressional Democrats want, may ultimately rest with Trump.

Obst told ABC News that only a president can release an interpreter from disclosing classified information gathered during a private meeting.

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