Prince Harry takes new legal action against the press over ‘illegal interception of voicemail messages’

WORLD NEWS Prince Harry takes new legal action against the press over 'illegal interception of voicemail messages'

AdrianHancu/iStock(LONDON) — Prince Harry’s battle against media outlets in the U.K. appears to be growing.

Buckingham Palace confirmed Friday that Harry, the Duke of Sussex, has started legal action with regard to “the illegal interception of voicemail messages.”

The palace did not provide any further details, noting that the “particulars of the claims are not yet public.”

News Group Newspapers (NGN), the Rupert Murdoch-owned company that publishes The Sun and previously published now-defunct News of The World, later confirmed “that a claim has been issued by the Duke of Sussex.”

Prince Harry is also taking aim at another British tabloid, the Daily Mirror.

According to a court listing, a claim was filed on Sept. 27 by the prince against MGN Limited, the owner of the Daily Mirror. When contacted by ABC News, the Daily Mirror declined to comment on the proceedings.

The new claims filed by Harry are reminiscent of the telephone hacking scandal that engulfed several British tabloids a decade ago, according to ABC News’ royal contributor Omid Scobie. News of the World was shuttered in 2011 as a result of the hacking scandal that extended to the British government and saw a reporter from the outlet accused of hacking the voicemail of aides to the royal family.

Prince Harry, now 35, was in his 20s and years away from meeting his future wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, when the hacking scandal unfolded.

Now a husband and a dad who earlier this week announced legal action against another British tabloid, the Mail on Sunday, Harry is using his platform to take on the British press.

“For Harry this comes after three years of what he says is a relentless campaign by some of the British tabloids to damage the reputation of his wife through insulting commentary pieces, negative stories and false gossip,” said Scobie. “This is a man who feels emboldened to take on three of the most-read newspapers in the country and fight for what he believes is right.”

“Harry and Meghan really want to draw a line to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ They will not tolerate the abuse anymore,” he added.

The Mail on Sunday, the subject of the lawsuit announced on Tuesday, published a letter in February that Meghan is said to have written to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, after he missed her May 2018 wedding to Harry.

Events surrounding the couple’s wedding are said to have led to Meghan’s estrangement from her father, who bowed out of walking Meghan down the aisle at St. George’s Chapel amid a paparazzi scandal and a reported heart attack.

Harry and Meghan sought legal advice immediately after Meghan’s letter was published in the Mail on Sunday, according to Scobie.

“This industry of ‘fast’ news is incredibly toxic and I think Harry wants to change this, not just for himself and his wife, but for the entire royal family in general and the future members of the royal family like the Cambridge children and Archie,” he said. “This is Harry feeling confident enough to take on what he sees as dark force.”

A Mail on Sunday spokesman said in a statement in response to the Sussexes’ legal claim, “The Mail on Sunday stands by the story it published and will be defending this case vigorously. Specifically, we categorically deny that the duchess’s letter was edited in any way that changed its meaning.”

Harry, whose mother, Princess Diana, died in a car crash in 1997 while being chased by paparazzi, delivered a passionate statement announcing the claim against the tabloid, describing Meghan as “one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences.”

“Though this action may not be the safe one, it is the right one. Because my deepest fear is history repeating itself,” Harry said. “I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditized to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”

The legal claim against the Mail on Sunday was announced as Harry, Meghan and their nearly 5-month-old son, Archie, wrapped up a 10-day tour of South Africa during which the couple was widely praised. Harry called the mostly glowing coverage as an example of the “double standards” of the British tabloid press.

“The positive coverage of the past week from these same publications exposes the double standards of this specific press pack that has vilified her almost daily for the past nine months; they have been able to create lie after lie at her expense simply because she has not been visible while on maternity leave,” he said. “She is the same woman she was a year ago on our wedding day, just as she is the same woman you’ve seen on this Africa tour.”

Harry’s statement offered a first glimpse for the public into how he and Meghan have been affected by the nonstop coverage of their relationship.

“There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face – as so many of you can relate to – I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been,” he said, adding later in the statement, “I have been a silent witness to [Meghan’s] private suffering for too long. To stand back and do nothing would be contrary to everything we believe in.”

Meghan has been a nonstop source of media attention since the start of her relationship with Harry, including being dubbed “Duchess Difficult” and said to be at the the center of a reported feud with William’s wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.

The Sun ran an article last November that claimed that Meghan made Kate cry at a bridesmaid’s fitting for Kate’s daughter, Princess Charlotte.

While Harry and Meghan were dating, Kensington Palace issued an unprecedented statement on behalf of Harry lambasting the “abuse and harassment” of Meghan by sections of the press, making particular note of the “racial undertones” of some coverage.

Harry and Meghan have seemed to increase efforts to maintain a level of privacy since their wedding and the birth in May of Archie, their first child.

They upended recent royal tradition by choosing to keep details of Archie’s birth and christening private. They also chose to move from Kensington Palace in London to Frogmore Cottage, a more secluded home on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

Earlier this year Harry received an apology and won a court victory against paparazzi who took photos of his and Meghan’s country home in Oxfordshire.

As part of the court agreement, Splash News, which chartered a helicopter to take the photos, agreed to pay what Buckingham Palace called a “substantial sum” in damages and legal costs.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 04 Oct 2019

73 Catholic schools in Washington end religious vaccine exemptions

skynesher/iStock(SEATTLE) — The Archdiocese of Seattle ended religious vaccine exemptions for students in its 73 private Catholic schools across Washington state.

The new policy, which affects 22,000 students, will allow students to claim exemptions only for medical reasons. All other students must be vaccinated to attend school.

Less than 2% of those students currently claim a non-medical exemption, according to the archdiocese.

“It’s great that the schools and the church are standing up for vaccines,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

The new policy goes into effect on January 1, but students have a grace period that extends until the end of the academic year to get vaccinated. Reasons for medical exemptions might include experiencing a severe allergic reaction after a previous vaccine or being immunocompromised.

2019 has been a crippling year for measles in the United States, with more than 1,200 cases, the most since 1992, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New York City suffered a major measles outbreak this year, its worst in nearly three decades, and the national as a whole barely held on to its coveted measles elimination status.

The return of the highly infectious disease is indicative of a larger trend. During the past year, the United Kingdom, Greece, Venezuela and Brazil have all lost their measles elimination status, in part, due to misinformation and vaccine hesitancy.

“We’re in this new normal,” Hotez said. “The CDC feels that we’ve escaped calling off measles elimination, but I think it’s relevant that we still have large pockets of kids who are not vaccinated.”

“And in Europe,” he added. “It’s widespread.”

In response to the U.S. outbreaks, New York, California, Maine, Mississippi and West Virginia, have banned all non-medical vaccine exemptions.

While some Catholics believe that receiving a vaccine grown in a fetal cell would make them complicit in an abortion, the Catholic Church is not opposed to immunizations.

“Since this is the official position of the Catholic Church, and Catholic Schools reflect Catholic teachings, we decided it was time to update our policy,” said Helen McClenahan, a spokesperson for the archdiocese, who has four kids currently enrolled in Catholic schools.

Not everyone is happy about the new vaccine policy.

A group of 20 protesters, led by Jena Dalpez, the program director of Informed Choice Washington, an anti-vaccine group, gathered earlier in the week to fight the decision.

“This policy strips parents of their constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion,” said Dalpez, adding that individuals should be able to make their own medical decisions. While she doesn’t have kids attending Catholic schools, Dalpez said families she’s spoken with say they would rather pull their kids out of school than vaccinate them.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

‘Hunger Games’ prequel has a title: ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’

Entertainment News  'Hunger Games' prequel has a title: 'The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes'


Scholastic(NEW YORK) — The prequel to the best-selling Hunger Games trilogy has a title and a cover image.

The book by Suzanne Collins is called The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. The cover features an image of a mockingjay perched on branch, with a snake slithering in the background. It’s due out May 19, 2020.

As previously reported, the book is set in the country Panem, just like the original series, but it takes place 64 years earlier, on the morning of the reaping of the 10th Hunger Games, when the tributes are chosen

In a statement, Collins said, “With this book, I wanted to explore the state of nature, who we are, and what we perceive is required for our survival. The reconstruction period ten years after the war, commonly referred to as the Dark Days — as the country of Panem struggles back to its feet — provides fertile ground for characters to grapple with these questions and thereby define their views of humanity.”

The Hunger Games books debuted in 2008. More than 100 million copies of the trilogy — The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay — have been sold.

The four Hunger Games movies, starring Jennifer Lawrence as the bow-and-arrow wielding freedom fighter Katniss Everdeen, have grossed about three billion dollars at the box office.

There is speculation that the prequel may become a movie as well.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 04 Oct 2019

Bring on the waterworks: Tony Hale says people can finally let it all out with ‘Toy Story 4’ on digital and Blu-ray

Entertainment News  Bring on the waterworks: Tony Hale says people can finally let it all out with 'Toy Story 4' on digital and Blu-ray


Disney/Pixar(NEW YORK) —  Toy Story 4 is now out on digital, ahead of a Blu-ray and DVD release Monday.

The latest blockbuster chapter of the Toy Story franchise finds Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear — voiced once again by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, respectively — and the rest of their playroom pals on a desperate mission to rescue their new friend Forky, voiced by Tony Hale.

Hale, an Emmy-winner for Veep and a veteran of Arrested Development, lends his voice to the new toy, who is crafted out of a spork, a pipe cleaner, Popsicle sticks and a pair of googly eyes by Bonnie, the little girl introduced in Toy Story 3.

“I was kind of overwhelmed and excited just to be a part of it,” Hale tells ABC Audio.

“I mean, this franchise has been going on for 25 years…I moved to New York in 1995 to be an actor and that’s when the first Toy Story came out,” he recalls. “And I remember seeing it and being like, “Oh wow, that’s really amazing!’ Never thinking that I would be a part of it.”

Hale explains, “Pixar is so good at what they do. You know, they have you laughing, and then you’re crying in a corner somewhere.”

Yeah, about that: There are some people who don’t like to be seen crying in public, so they may have avoided the movie in theaters.  But now, they can now sob in the comfort of their own homes.

“It’s on digital now and then next week it’ll be on DVD. And so everybody has the opportunity to cry in a corner by themselves,” he jokes. “Laugh and just ugly cry. The Pixar formula.”

Toy Story 4 also stars the voices of Annie Potts, Jordan Peele, Keegan Michael Key and Keanu Reeves.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 04 Oct 2019

Ukrainian prosecutor reviewing cases involving company that employed Joe Biden’s son

WORLD NEWS Ukrainian prosecutor reviewing cases involving company that employed Joe Biden's son

Grafissimo/iStock(WASHINGTON) — Ukraine’s prosecutor general said at a press conference his office is reviewing past criminal cases involving the businessman whose energy company employed Hunter Biden on its board.

Ruslan Ryaboshapka said none of the cases under review involve the former vice president’s son. The focus of the investigation is on two businessmen, including Mykola Zlochevsky, owner of the energy company Burisma.

The review comes amid the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s alleged attempts to pressure Ukraine’s government into investigating the Bidens, and the timing raises questions whether Ukraine’s new leadership was perhaps making a concession to Trump’s demands. In a July 25 phone call, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Biden and his son, triggering the impeachment inquiry from House Democrats into whether the U.S. president had abused his office for personal political gain.

Speaking Friday in Kyiv, Ryaboshapka said his office was reviewing at least 15 cases involving Zlochevsky and Sergey Kuchenko, who founded another Ukraine energy firm.

Zlochevsky, a billionaire oligarch and the former minister of natural resources, previously had faced multiple investigations into possible fraud or corruption. For years he has been accused of financial crimes by anti-corruption activists. He was a close associate of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s former president who was toppled by mass protests in 2014.

After the revolution, Hunter Biden was appointed to Burisma’s board. That move was criticized as unethical by anti-corruption activists, who suggested the younger Biden had been appointed for his name and potential family connections at a moment when Zlochevsky was under threat of investigation.

Trump and his allies have sought to advance an unsupported theory that Vice President Joe Biden used his position to shield his son and Burisma from investigation by pushing Ukraine’s government to fire its then-prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin.

No evidence has emerged to support that theory. In reality, most major Western governments, as well as international financial institutions and anti-corruption activists, also had demanded Shokin’s removal. Many viewed him as a block on reform and criticized him for failing to investigate several prominent corruption allegations. Shokin’s failed investigation into Burisma was cited as one of the reasons for his removal.

Former senior Ukrainian law enforcement officials have told ABC News they believe the theory about Biden was developed by Ukraine’s most recent prosecutor general, Yuri Lutsenko, in an attempt to save his position before Zelenskiy fired him over the summer.

Nonetheless, Trump has continued to demand Ukraine investigate Biden over alleged wrongdoing tied to Burisma, with the effort spearheaded by his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

Text messages emerged this week showing two senior State Department officials had been working with Giuliani to press Zelenskiy to make a public statement promising to investigate the Bidens, as well as alleged interference by Ukraine in the U.S. 2016 election.

The messages released by a Democratic congressman on Thursday showed Trump’s special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, and his ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, advised a key Zelenskiy aide that the Ukrainian president had to make the pledge before Trump would agree to meet with him.

In the messages, the aide, Andriy Yermak, appeared to agree, writing that Zelenskiy was ready to make a statement, but negotiations broke down after Yermak said the Ukrainians needed to agree on a date for Zelenskiy to travel to the U.S. before doing so.

Zelenskiy told ABC News he played no role in Ryaboshapka’s decision to review the 15 cases.

“Not involved at all,” said Zelenskiy, walking past a scrum of cameras ahead of a panel with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko in the town of Zhytomyr.

Ryaboshapka, who was appointed by Zelenskiy, denied he had faced any pressure to start the reviews or that he had spoken to any foreign representatives about it, including Giuliani.

Anti-corruption activists have long said some of the investigations into Burisma and Zlochevsky, cases tied to tax fraud or abuse of power, were allowed to collapse under a series of former prosecutors, including Shokin and Lutsenko.

Ukraine’s prosecutor’s office said in a statement if any illegal activity is found in the cases under review, they’ll take action.

“We only recently started to work, only recently started to audit the cases,” Ryaboshapka said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 04 Oct 2019

‘Big City Greens’ creators get animated about real-life inspiration behind Disney Channel series

Entertainment News  'Big City Greens' creators get animated about real-life inspiration behind Disney Channel series


Disney Channel/Aaron Poole(NEW YORK) — Brothers Shane and Chris Houghton [HOE-tun] have taken their small town sensibilities to the big city with their animated Disney Channel series, Big City Greens.

The series, heading into its second season next month, was inspired by their own childhood in the rural St. Johns, Michigan and their eventual move to a concrete jungle.

“We just lived in this little oasis and our parents would always kick us out of the house and tell us to go play outside,” Shane Houghton tells ABC Audio. “We had a very country upbringing and then eventually we both moved to big cities and it was a little bit of a culture shock.”

The characters on Big City Greens are a “big stew” of people from the brothers’ real lives. Chris Houghton even voices the main character, Cricket Green, a perpetually barefoot, mischievous country boy who moves to the city with his family after they lose their farm.

In character as Cricket, Chris talks about the positive fan reaction to the show: “I like to walk around the house and read the [fan] letters out loud, you know, like, when I get in trouble I say, ‘Oh that’s interesting you think I’m bad. Well let me read you someone who thinks I’m great.'”

Before the second season debut November 16, Shane and Chris are heading to New York Comic Con this weekend for a panel with fellow Disney Channel show creators.

“Chris and I, we started in comic books so we’ve been to lots of comic conventions,” Shane says. “We’ve been to the New York City Comic Con once before and had an absolute blast so we’re thrilled to be coming back.”

But, he notes, “We won’t be bringing Cricket because he’s a bit of a handful.”

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 04 Oct 2019

New Ryan Reynolds movie ‘Free Guy’ takes opening day of New York Comic Con by storm

Entertainment News  New Ryan Reynolds movie 'Free Guy' takes opening day of New York Comic Con by storm


Getty Imgaes/Ilya S. Savenok(NEW YORK) — Prior to Thursday, nobody had really ever heard of a movie called Free Guy.  But following a panel focused on the action comedy at New York Comic Con, it was all people were tweeting about.

Directed by Shawn Levy, Free Guy stars Ryan Reynolds as Guy, a banker who realizes a background character — known as a non-player character or NPC — in a video game.

Joining Reynolds onscreen are fellow funny people Taika Waititi, Lil Rel Howry, and Channing Tatum, as well as recent Killing Eve Emmy- winner Jodie Comer, and Stranger Things‘ Joe Keery.

“Now the world knows a little bit more about Free Guy!” Levy told ABC Audio after the cast and crew took part in a panel and fans were shown some clips. “That was part of the thrill …it’s so rare that a movie comes out that there’s no prior branding. There’s no book. There’s no comic, there’s no nothing.”

“It was incredible,” said Jodie Comer of the panel. “Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect…but everyone was so responsive and enthusiastic, and it was kind of special to watch it for the first time with everyone, you know?”  

Keery, who worked with Levy on Stranger Things, called walking on stage at Comic Con, “so electric…I feel like this is the beginning of the buzz of this film.”

“I’m still on a 10,” Lil Rel told us of the fan reaction. “That was surreal…to feel the energy in the room, the excitement?! July 3rd 2020. This is gonna be the biggest movie next year!”  

Free Guy was produced by 20th Century Fox, which is now owned by ABC parent company Disney.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 04 Oct 2019

Quadriplegic man walks with an exoskeleton he controls with his brain

iStock(PARIS) — A quadriplegic man was able to move his arms and walk using an exoskeleton controlled by signals sent from his brain and a harness suspended from the ceiling, French researchers said in a new study.

The research centered on a 28-year-old man who was paralyzed from the shoulders down, and his first steps and arm movements were the culmination of a two-year project that was published in The Lancet Neurology journal on Thursday.

An exoskeleton allowed him to move all four of his paralyzed limbs by recording and then decoding his brain signals.

“Ours’ is the first semi-invasive wireless brain-computer system designed for long term use to activate all four limbs,” Alim-Louis Benabid, the executive board president of the biomedical research center Clinatec and a professor emeritus at the University of Grenoble in France, said in a statement announcing the findings.

“Previous brain-computer studies have used more invasive recording devices implanted beneath the outermost membrane of the brain, where they eventually stop working,” he added. “They have also been connected to wires, limited to creating movement in just one limb, or have focused on restoring movement to patients’ own muscles.”

The mind-controlled exoskeleton works by implanting recording devices into the patient and collecting brain signals. These signals were then sent through a decoding algorithm that translated the signals into the movements. From there, it sent the movement commands to the exoskeleton to carry them out.

Over the two years of the study, the patient trained the device to understand an increasing number of his thoughts, thus increasing the number of movement commands it could pick up simply from his brain signals.

“Our findings could move us a step closer to helping tetraplegic patients to drive computers using brain signals alone, perhaps starting with driving wheelchairs using brain activity instead of joysticks and progressing to developing an exoskeleton for increased mobility,” Stephan Chabardes, neurosurgeon from the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Grenoble of Grenoble-Alpes, France, added in a statement.

While researchers warned that the device is still a long way from becoming widely available, the early findings offered hope that it could have the potential to improve paralyzed patients’ quality of life and independence.

Researchers say their next step is to figure out how to let the patient walk without requiring the harness.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

After a night of rioting, Lam calls on Hong Kong residents to condemn violence

WORLD NEWS After a night of rioting, Lam calls on Hong Kong residents to condemn violence

pawel.gaul/iStock(HONG KONG) — A day after violent protests rocked Hong Kong, its embattled leader called on citizens Saturday to condemn violence and reject the rioters.

In a video statement released Saturday afternoon local time, Chief Executive Carrie Lam slammed Friday night’s violence, which was prompted in part by a ban on face masks that Lam had announced earlier Friday.

“The extreme behavior of rioters caused a very dark night in Hong Kong, semi-paralyzing Hong Kong society, making many people very worried and scared,” she said. “The Hong Kong SAR (the official special administrative region government) is determined to stop violence. I urge you to support the SAR government to stop violence in accordance with the law, condemn violence, and be determined in severing ties with rioters.”

Lam on Friday used a colonial-era emergency law to ban protesters from wearing face masks after four months of anti-government demonstrations that have, at times, turned violent and put the city on edge. She said she decided to invoke the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, which dates back to 1922 when Hong Kong was under British colonial rule and gives the city’s leader sweeping powers.

The ban came into force at midnight local time, but not before numerous restaurants and stores that protesters believed were pro-China were trashed, including Starbucks, because they partnered with local pro-China partner Maxim’s. Multiple Hong Kong subway stations were completely vandalized, and entrances were set on fire leading to the entire system shutting down for the first time in history.

An off-duty police officer in Yuen Long was surrounded and attacked by protesters. Video has emerged of the assault, showing the office being attacked by protesters as he emerged from his car. The officer fell to the ground and was beaten by the group, authorities said. In self-defense, the officer fired one shot. Then a rioter threw a petrol bomb at the officer and set him on fire. In the process, he dropped his gun but was able to retrieve it before protesters could grab it. While waiting for reinforcement, another petrol bomb was thrown at the officer and his feet were on fire.

By Saturday afternoon, some demonstrators, many still with masks, had returned to the streets. Hong Kong’s subway system was still closed down, and 20 malls as well as a major supermarket chain were shuttered.

On Friday Lam said the escalation in violence during the protests “has reached a very alarming level in the past few days, causing numerous injuries and leading Hong Kong to a chaotic and panic situation.”

“We are particularly concerned that many students are participating in these violent protests or even riots, jeopardizing their safety and even their future,” she added. “As a responsible government, we have the duty to use all available means in order to stop the escalating violence and restore calmness in society.”

Of the ban on masks, Lam said, “We believe the new law will create a deterrent effect against masked protesters and rioters. We are now in a rather extensive and serious public danger. It is essential for us to stop violence and restore calm to society as soon as possible.”

The anti-mask law targets “rioters or those who resort to violence,” Lam said, and it contains exemptions for those who have legitimate needs or reasons to cover their face, such as for health, religious or professional reasons.

Lam also noted that the ban is “subsidiary legislation,” and thus it will be debated by Hong Kong’s Legislative Council when they resume meetings later this month.

The announcement outraged many protesters who vowed to defy the new law with a full-mask march when it took effect Saturday. Thousands of masked demonstrators took to the streets even before Lam spoke at the press conference.

Face masks have been a distinct feature of the protesters in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory. The movement began in early June when hundreds of thousands of mostly young people marched against a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed suspected criminals in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Lam has since withdrawn the controversial bill, but widespread unrest has continued as demonstrators broaden their demands to include a call for direct elections for the city’s leaders, amnesty for protesters and an independent investigation into alleged police brutality.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 04 Oct 2019