Violent protests erupt in Spain as Catalan leaders given lengthy prison sentences

feradz/iStock(MADRID) — Catalunya took to the streets of Barcelona on Monday after nine separatist leaders were sentenced to between nine and 13 years in prison by the Supreme Court of Madrid. The highest court’s stiff decision came after a lengthy trial related to the region’s October 2017 “unconstitutional independence referendum” — a vote that led Catalonia to declare its independence from Spain.

The separatist leaders were found guilty of sedition, disobedience or misuse of public funds. The prosecution had asked for a charge brutal rebellion, which would have carried a sentence up to 25 years in prison, but the seven judges ruled against it.

The four-month trial involved a staggering 422 witnesses and returned Spain to the unusual weeks of October 2017, when Catalunya almost touched a longtime dream of independence. The vote led Spain into its deepest political crisis since the dark years of the Francisco Franco dictatorship in the 1970s.

Among the separatist leaders convicted were former Foreign Minister Raul Romeva, Labor Minister Dolors Bassa and Carme Forcadell, who was speaker of the Catalan Parliament at the time. Forcadell, 64, will serve 11 1/2 years in prison.

Separatist sympathizers called for massive protests following Monday’s ruling, attempting to block traffic on major highways and crowded Barcelona’s main airport. At El Pratt,110 flights were canceled, according to the Mosos Police. According to authorities, there were 78 people hurt in the massive protests, which brought out riot police and ended with tear gas fired into the crowds.

“I am shocked and mad,” said Olivier Pujol, one of the protesters who hit the streets of Barcelona after hearing the judges’ decision.

Not far from the famous Ramblas in the capital of Spain’s richest region, Pujol told ABC News that despite not being a separatist militant he just wants to have the right to vote.

“These prisoners did not do anything else than asking Spain to respect our right for democracy,” he said. “The right to choose.”

More than 2 million Catalans voted in October 2017 for Catalunya to become an independent state in the form of a republic, according to the Catalan government. The referendum was unauthorized and took place despite Madrid’s opposition, and then lack of recognition.

Adria Alsina Leal, former national secretary of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), confided to ABC News while marching in Monday’s protests that the Spanish state decision was an additional humiliation.

“This is heartbreaking moment for pro- and non-separatist supporters who feel attacked by a state which is supposed to protect us and our ideas, and not to destroy our political landscape,” Leal said.

The Spanish Justice Ministry defines sedition as allowing public disorder in order to subvert the law.

Indeed, after a few weeks of resistance, Carles Puidgemont,former President of Catalunya region who is currently in exile in Belgium, did read out loud the independence declaration inside the Catalan Parliament after 70 votesin favor, 10 against and 2 blank which made Madrid furious.

Mariano Rajoy, conservative prime minister of Spain at the time of the vote in 2017, suspended the regional power of Catalunya and dissolved the assembly.

After the court made the decision, former Vice President Oriol Junqueras said in a tweet that Catalan independence was closer than ever and said his party will come back stronger, more convinced and firm than ever.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 14 Oct 2019

What you need to know about who’s fighting in Syria and what the US withdrawal means

Oleksii Liskonih/iStock(WASHINGTON) — For over four years, the U.S. armed and fought with Syrian Kurdish forces who served as America’s foot soldiers against the Islamic State terror group. But with President Donald Trump pulling American troops out of Syria, those Kurdish forces announced on Sunday that they have a new partner: Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

Alliances in Syria have evolved throughout the country’s eight-and-a-half year-old war, but the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the Kurdish alignment with Assad is one of the most dramatic changes that heralds a new chapter in what has already been an unending, horrific conflict.

It gives Assad — the strongman president who tried to put down an initial rebellion in 2011 with brutal force and has bombed, gassed, tortured, and jailed his own people in the ensuing civil war — effective control over Kurdish-held territory in the northeast.

That leaves just one pocket of opposition-held territory in the country’s northwest, which Assad has moved in recent months to conquer militarily, with air power from his sponsor Russia. But Turkey has troops stationed there as it backs opposition groups, including some with ties to al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups — setting up a showdown of Turkish and opposition forces against Syrian and now Kurdish forces.

Here’s a look at the key players involved in Syria in what started as a civil war and has mutated into a regional proxy conflict.

Which Kurds?

The Kurds are an ethnic group that have historically inhabited the highlands of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran and Armenia, united across borders by culture and language. They practice different religions, but the majority are Sunni Muslims. They never have had their own country, with each of those nations struggling, to varying degrees, against Kurdish independence movements.

In Turkey, one of those independence movements — the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK — is designated a terrorist organization, including by the U.S. since 1997. For decades, Turkey has sought to squash the PKK and experienced PKK terror attacks, which the U.S. has supported its NATO ally against.

But across Turkey’s southern border in Syria, the U.S. partnered with Syrian Kurdish forces to fight ISIS. The People’s Protection Units, or YPG, were the main fighting forces in the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, which served as the foot soldiers for the U.S. and its global coalition to defeat ISIS. It was a partnership that always angered Turkey, who makes no distinction between the PKK and YPG. But U.S. officials said it was the only option because the U.S. and other countries were unwilling to send troops in and Turkey was unwilling or unable to effectively fight ISIS.

The departing Americans

The U.S. had up to 2,500 troops on the ground in Syria, which were so closely partnering with SDF troops, that the Kurds directly called in U.S. air strikes as they fought block by block to retake cities and towns from ISIS. They lost approximately 11,000 fighters — male and female — in that offensive. In the months since the ISIS “caliphate” fell, the U.S. continued to work with the SDF to stabilize liberated areas and eliminate remaining ISIS cells.

But last December, after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump ordered all U.S. forces out of Syria. That sudden decision led to the resignation of his Defense Secretary James Mattis and special envoy for ISIS Brett McGurk, although eventually it was slowed down as U.S. officials said they wanted to ensure it was a safe and deliberate process.

There are approximately 1,000 American troops in the country now, but nearly all of them will be departing Syria soon, according to the Pentagon. Their departure, announced after another Trump-Erdogan call on Oct. 6, has allowed Turkish forces and their opposition allies to move in against the Kurdish fighters.

Turkey and its rebel allies

That offensive began last week, prompting international condemnation and U.S. sanctions. Turkey has conducted air and artillery strikes against Syrian Kurdish forces as its proxy forces have moved into Kurdish-held territory.

The main fighting force there is the National Army, formerly known as the Free Syrian Army — a rebel force of Syrian military defectors and ordinary citizens who were armed and trained by the U.S. until Trump came to office and ended the program. They have pushed back into one last pocket in Syria’s northwest, where they are boosted by Turkish troops.

But other groups under this opposition umbrella have ties to al-Qaeda, the most powerful of which is Hayat Tahrir al Sham, or HTS, the latest incarnation of the al-Nusra Front, which was al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate.

The Kurds’ new ally, Assad

These rebel groups have been Assad’s primary target as he moves to retake the last territory out of his control, the Idlib province. In recent months, his troops and allies — Iran and Hezbollah, the Lebanese paramilitary organization — have skirmished with rebels there as Russian air strikes bombed cities, including hitting civilian targets. A Turkish convoy was hit in an August air strike, heightening tensions.

After the U.S. withdrew its troops, Kurdish forces reached an agreement with Assad on Sunday. Government troops were already moving into Kurdish-controlled territory for the first time in years. That could block Turkish forces from moving further south into Kurdish-controlled terrain, or set up more direct clashes between two militaries.

Trump said in a tweet on Monday that the U.S. considers Assad “our enemy,” and there are extensive sanctions against his regime, Iran and Russia for supporting it, and those that do business with it. But it’s unclear if the Kurds will be sanctioned for partnering with him now too. The State Department has not responded to questions about that.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 14 Oct 2019

Men’s marijuana use increases miscarriage risk for women, new research finds

Tunatura/iStock(NEW YORK) — New research is highlighting the role men play in infertility and miscarriage.

When men smoke marijuana once a week or more, their partners are twice as likely to experience a miscarriage when pregnant, according to Boston University researchers who examined over 1,400 couples before they got pregnant.

The researches asked the couples about marijuana usage over the past two months and then followed them as they got pregnant and, in some cases, miscarried.

The majority of men in the study did not smoke marijuana, with only 8% smoking once a week or more. Nearly 18% of the couples in the study reported a miscarriage.

Smoking, but less frequently than once a week, did not have an association with miscarriage rate, according to the research.

One reason for the increased risk of miscarriage with male marijuana use, according to researchers, is that smoking marijuana may negatively affect sperm quality and the change in sperm quality may drive the increased occurrence of miscarriage.

The research is being presented Monday at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine Congress & Expo in Philadelphia.

“I think that’s part of the reason why this study is getting so much attention, because we’re used to putting all the focus, all the blame, all the stress on the women and the world of male fertility is really exploding,” Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief medical correspondent and a board-certified OBGYN, said Monday on “Good Morning America.” “Forty percent of couples’ infertility is due to male factors so it bears repeating we need to focus on the men just as much as the women.”

Ashton points out two red flags in the study: its findings are based on association, not causation, so more research is needed, and there is not yet any peer-reviewed data on the study’s findings.

 The lead-author of the research, Alyssa F. Harlow, MPH from Boston University School of Public Health, told ABC News the research will be presented for peer-reviewed publication “in the near future” where it will be further scrutinized.

The research comes just days after researchers in China released a study that found a father’s alcohol intake may actually affect a future child more than a mother’s intake.

Their results, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, revealed that the risk of heart defects in infants was 44% higher if their fathers drank. They found that this risk was increased by 16% for mothers who drank.

The takeaway for men is that they, like women, need to pay attention to their health prior to conception, according to Ashton.

Ashton shared on “GMA” the following four steps men can take to improve their fertility.

1. Do not smoke.

2. Minimize exposure to high temperatures like Jacuzzis, seat warmers and laptops.

3. Do not overdo alcohol.

4. Exercise regularly.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

From ‘Snow White’ to ‘The Mandalorian’, Disney teases opening its vault for Disney+

Disney+(NEW YORK) — In a brief, but information-packed social media post, Disney has teased just a sampling of the content that will be available on its soon-to-launch Disney+.

The doors of the vaunted “Disney Vaults” will swing wide, the post notes.

“It. Is. Time. From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to The Mandalorian, check out basically everything coming to #DisneyPlus in the U.S. on November 12,” reads the post, while a dizzying slideshow of titles spins by.

Glimpsed are everything from the aforementioned animated classic to Jon Favreau’s anticipated Star Wars spin-off to Disney Channel mainstays like Lizzie McGuire, the original Duck Tales, High School Musical, and Boy Meets World.  Also there are Marvel movies like Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel, as well as other Disney animated films like Aladdin, Moana and The Emperor’s New Groove.

Meanwhile on YouTube, there’s a much, much longer preview of what’s coming to Disney+ — as in three hours, 17 minutes and 52 seconds long, titled Basically Everything Coming to Disney+ in the U.S.

You can pre-order the streaming service at DisneyPlus.com.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

 

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 14 Oct 2019

‘black-ish’ cast opens up about six seasons growing up together

ABC/Craig Sjodin(NEW YORK) — The stars of black-ish opened up about what the last six seasons has meant to them as the happy on-screen family in an appearance Monday on ABC’s Good Morning America.

Anthony Anderson, Laurence Fishburne, Tracee Ellis Ross, Miles Brown, Marcus Scribner and Marsai Martin all spoke about their real chemistry, both on and off screen.

“[It’s the] most rewarding job I’ve ever had,” Anderson said. “Best cast I’ve ever worked with. It gets no better than what we’ve all been doing for the last six years — that’s all I can say about everybody.”

Fishburne, who guest stars as the paternal head of the family, said he’s treasured watching the young cast grow up.

“One of the greatest things for us, I can say I think, is watching these young people grow up in front of us,” he said. “They were wonderful kids to start with, but now they’re young adults and they’ve become really wonderful young adults and we’re very proud of them.”

Ellis Ross, who was known for Girlfriends long before the hit ABC family comedy sitcom, was pleasantly surprised to hear their three younger co-stars knew of her role on the former TV series.

“I remember going into the audition and I was like, ‘Oh, Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross from Girlfriends, so that was one of the driving factors,” said Scribner, who was born the year the show premiered.

Brown, whose character Jack gets cut from the basketball team on the show, revealed it’s actually his favorite sport adding, “I should say I’m decent.”

“It was just different cause I had to get in the mood that I was sad that I got cut from the basketball team, when normally that’s not the case,” he boasted.

black-ish airs Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 14 Oct 2019

Suicide attempts among black teenagers are rising

Moore Media/iStock(NEW YORK) —  Since the 1990s, suicide attempts among black youth have risen 73%, while attempts among white youth fell 7.5%, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Previous research has also shown an uptick in suicide rates among elementary school black children, which have nearly doubled since the 1990s.

“I’ve been concerned for the past decade about black youth not receiving treatment for mental health disorders,” said Michael Lindsey, the lead study author and executive director at New York University’s McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research.

The study, which utilized anonymous survey data from nearly 200,000 high school students and asked questions about suicidal thoughts, suicide plans and suicide attempts, found that in 1991, 5.9% of black teenagers reported attempting suicide. By 2017, more than 10% of black teenagers said they had made a suicide attempt.

While suicide rates among white teenagers are higher overall, the percentage of white teenagers reporting suicide attempts fell slightly during the study period.

According to Lindsey, part of the problem is that black youth aren’t having their mental health addressed by psychologists, psychiatrists or counselors. Instead, some teenagers act out and get involved with the criminal justice system or are suspended from school. Others try to handle unmet psychiatric needs on their own.

“That’s the population of kids we think that are engaging in higher rates of suicide attempts,” he said. “This is a form of coping. It’s pain, turned inward.”

In addition to evidence that black teenagers are under-utilizing mental health services because of the stigma associated with depression, there are a variety of structural factors that can take a toll on mental health.

On top of disproportionately higher rates of poverty and adverse childhood experiences among black youth, black American adults are more likely to report being severely psychologically distressed in the previous month than white Americans are, according to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.

Better access to mental health services for black teenagers is key, Lindsey pointed out, as is improving cultural competency among existing health care providers.

Lindsey said he once counseled a black adolescent who told him that when he felt depressed, he wanted to knock somebody’s head off, “so he feels the same pain I feel.”

Interpreting that aggression as a simple conduct problem would be a missed treatment opportunity, Lindsey explained, since many black teenagers express depression as a physical ailment, such as a constant stomachache or headache, or as interpersonal conflict.

“We tend to punish as opposed to treat,” he said. “Are we readily thinking that kid may be depressed?”

As it stands, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 12 and 18 years old, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Non-fatal self-harm is concerning, too, since the biggest risk factor for dying by suicide is a previous suicide attempt.

In 2017, 111,000 teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 went to the emergency room for self-harm, according to CDC data.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Nationals player Daniel Hudson faces criticism for missing playoff game for daughter’s birth

fstop123/iStock(NEW YORK) — A Major League Baseball star found himself in the middle of a parenting and family values debate after skipping a crucial playoff game to be present for his daughter’s birth.

Washington Nationals star Daniel Hudson was in a hospital room in Arizona when his team beat the St. Louis Cardinals 2-0 in the first game of the National League Championship Series (NLCS) Friday night.

The 32-year-old player’s wife had just given birth to their third child, a daughter they named Millie.

Hudson quickly found himself in a controversy by simply making the decision to be with his family as they welcomed their newest member.

“I knew I was going to go no matter what,” Hudson said Saturday, according to ESPN. “I didn’t know that this was a new thing, to have a playoff paternity leave list. I had no idea.”

“I was like, ‘I can’t be the only person to have a baby in the middle of the postseason,’ and for it to blow up like it did, man, it’s kind of crazy,” he added. “But I didn’t really give much thought about not going. My family is top priority for me.”

Some people criticized Hudson on social media for missing such an important game, including one former baseball official who tweeted, “Only excuse would be a problem with the birth or health of baby or mother. If all is well, he needs to get to St. Louis. Inexcusable. Will it matter?”

Other were quick to dispute that a game was more important than a life-changing personal moment.

“So, you’re saying his wife should be able to handle childbirth, alone, without her husband there, but his team of 40 guys can’t handle one playoff baseball game? In 2019, this is really what you’re saying? Some lady must be lucky to have you!,” a Twitter user in response.

Hudson, who joined the Nationals this summer, said he had the team’s full support to attend his daughter’s birth. He used the phrase “life comes at you fast” to describe facing criticisms for choosing family over his career.

“I went from not having a job on March 21 to this huge national conversation on family values going into the playoffs,” he said, according to ESPN. “Life comes at you fast, man. I don’t know how that happened and how I became the face for whatever conversation was going on. Everybody’s got their opinions, man, and I really value my family and my family time.”

Hudson’s paternity leave was short-lived anyways. He was activated off the paternity list before game two of the series on Saturday and helped the Nationals notch a 3-1 win.

Hudson’s decision to take at least some time away from his professional life to be with his newborn daughter and wife earned praise from Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit, husband of Serena Williams and vocal advocate for paternity leave.

Ohanian posted on Instagram that he is “buying [Hudson’s] jersey right now.”

Ohanian was very public about the fact that he took 16 weeks of paternity leave when daughter Olympia was born in 2017 and has since encouraged other dads, especially ones in high-profile positions, to take leave to in order to set an example.

“Use me as air cover. I took my full 16 weeks,” he told “Good Morning America” earlier this year. “I wanted people to see that you could care deeply about your industry, have a tremendous passion for the work that you do but also still be able to say that you care deeply about your family and want to take this time.”

In the U.S., only 16% of civilian workers have access to paid family leave and 88% have access to unpaid family leave, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The U.S. is the only advanced industrialized nation without a guarantee of paid leave for new parents, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The median length of paternity leave for dads in the U.S. is one week, according to Pew Research Center data.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

 

Posted On 14 Oct 2019

Midge hits the road in ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ season three trailer

Amazon Studios/Nicole Rivelli(NEW YORK) — In the new season three trailer for Amazon’s Emmy-winning comedy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Midge hits the road — and the big leagues — on her first tour.

We see Rachel Brosnahan’s Midge and her manager Suzie, played by Alex Borstein, traveling the country — including a visit to at least one military base — as the opening act for fictional singer Shy Baldwin.  There are hotel rooms, photographers, autograph seekers, all the glamorous trappings of life on tour.

But Midge is still trying justify leaving to her ex-husband, Joel, why she left their kids to go on tour, and still trying to explain her career to her parents. 

“I am not a prostitute, I’m a comic!” she insists.

“Is there a difference?” asks her mom. 

“Yes, prostitutes get paid more,” snaps Midge.

“Hilarious,” her father responds sarcastically.  “You should go into comedy.”

To which Midge replies: “I did.”

There’s a glimpse of Jane Lynch’s Sophie Lennon, the rival comic whom Suzie got an offer to manage at the end of last season.  We also get our first glimpse at a new character, played by Sterling K. Brown, as well as another new character played by Gilmore Girls alum Liza Weil. The Palladinos — creators of Mrs. Maisel — also created that show.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel returns to Amazon on December 6.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 14 Oct 2019

Ryan Murphy asks Kerry Washington to ‘The Prom’ on Netflix

Netflix(LOS ANGELES) — Ryan Murphy has tapped another major star for his upcoming Netflix series The Prom.

According to Deadline, Kerry Washington has been cast in Murphy’s adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway musical. She joins Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Keegan-Michael Key, Awkwafina and Andrew Rannells, who were previously announced.

Like the stage show, the Prom series will follow four failed Broadway actors who, in attempt to revive their career, decide to do a play about a real-life high school senior who’s unable to take her girlfriend to prom.

Streep, Kidman, Rannells and Corden have already been cast as the four Broadway leads. Washington’s role has yet to be announced.

Washington will also appear in the Netflix adaptation of the her Broadway play. American Son.

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Posted On 14 Oct 2019