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naruedom/iStock(CABARETE, Dominican Republic) -- An American teacher was found dead inside her apartment in the Dominican Republic following what appeared to be a robbery, local police said.

Patricia Ann Anton, 63, had her hands and feet tied when police found her in Cabarete, a town on the northern coast of the island nation, the National Police said in a statement on Tuesday.

An examination of her body determined that she died of strangulation, according to the statement.

Items including her phone, computer and television appeared to be stolen, police said.

Anton, whom police said was born in Italy but was an American citizen, was a teacher at 3 Mariposas Montessori, the school confirmed to ABC News.

"The children, parents, teachers and the community in general, are completely heart-broken over this loss. Patty was not only a colleague of mine, but she was also my mentor and one of my best friends," Sarah Ludwig-Ross, the founder and head of the school, told ABC News in a statement. "She was one of the most caring people I have ever met, always putting everyone else first."

Ludwig-Ross said Anton worked at 3 Mariposas Montessori for six years.

"She shared our belief that peace in the world can only come from getting close to and understanding people who are different from ourselves. ... Patty loved each and every one of our children just as if they were her own," Ludwig-Ross continued.

Anton also worked as the school's Montessori consultant.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told ABC News in a statement, "We can confirm the death of a U.S. citizen in November 2019 in the Dominican Republic."

"We offer our sincerest condolences to the family for their loss," the spokesperson said. "Out of respect for the family during this difficult time, we do not have additional information to provide."

When reached on Wednesday, local police declined to provide to ABC News any additional details on the case.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


clintspencer/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A rare tornado struck the KwaZulu Natal Midlands in South Africa on Tuesday, killing two people, injuring 20 more and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

The KwaZulu Natal Province, on the east coast of South Africa, has been battered by severe weather conditions and the South African Weather Service is warning that more torrential downpours are in store for the rest of the week.

The tornado touched down near the city of New Hanover, according to authorities.

"Two adults were unfortunately declared dead on the scene," paramedic Ross Campbell, from the medical response company ER24, told ABC News. "ER24 treated and transported nine patients for minor to moderate injuries to various hospitals in the area. Provincial medics treated and transported 11 others, bringing the total number of injuries on the scene to 20."

"An adult woman who had suffered serious injuries as a result of losing control of her vehicle during the storm was treated with Advanced Life Support interventions before being taken to Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg for further care," he added.

Campbell said many animals were reported to have been injured or killed in the area and power lines are also down.

"There is an extreme danger to life due to fast flowing rivers," the weather service said in a statement. "There is also a possibility of landslides and soil erosion along highly elevated areas which might lead to further disruption to traffic flow. Accumulated rainfall amounts for Thursday and Friday could exceed 100-150 mm [about 4 to 6 inches] in places over KwaZulu-Natal."

Tornadoes are not a regular occurrence in South Africa and the weather service said the strength of Tuesday night's twister has yet to be determined.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


NataliaCatalina/iStock(LONDON) -- Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, will spend this Christmas, their first as parents to son Archie, apart from the rest of the royal family.

The duke and duchess will instead spend the Christmas holiday with Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland, a spokesperson for the Sussexes confirmed Wednesday.

It is not yet known where the U.K.-based Sussexes will spend Christmas with Ragland, who lives in Los Angeles.

Harry and Meghan's decision to skip spending the holiday at Queen Elizabeth’s 20,000-acre Sandringham home in Norfolk, England, has the queen's support, according to the spokesperson.

The duke and duchess have spent the last two Christmases at Sandringham, where Britain's royal family gathers for Christmas traditions that date back centuries.

Meghan was in 2017 the first fiancé in royal history to be invited by Queen Elizabeth to celebrate the Christmas holiday with the royal family at Sandringham. She and Harry stayed with Prince William and Kate at their Anmer Hall home in nearby Norfolk for the three-day-long celebration that is the royals' Christmas tradition.

Last year Meghan was pregnant with Archie when she spent her first Christmas as a member of the royal family at Sandringham.

William and Kate, the parents of Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, have sometimes in the past opted out of the royals' Christmas dinner so they can enjoy Christmas evening with Kate's family. In-laws are not typically invited to the royals' Christmas celebrations.

Harry and Meghan's decision to spend the holiday with Ragland is understandable -- she and Meghan are close and it will be Ragland's first Christmas as a grandmother -- but it is also likely to further flame the rumors of a divide between Harry and Meghan and other members of the royal family.

The duke and duchess were candid in a recent documentary about the struggles they face living their lives in the public eye.

Harry also specifically addressed in the documentary rumors of a rift between him and William, his older brother and only sibling.

"Part of this role and part of this job and this family being under the pressure that it's under, inevitably stuff happens," Harry said in Harry and Meghan: An African Journey. "But look we’re brothers. We’ll always be brothers."

"We’re certainly on different paths at the moment but I will always be there for him and as I know he’ll always be there for me," Harry added. "We don’t see each other as much as we used to because we’re so busy but I love him dearly."

"The majority of the stuff is created out of nothing but as brothers it’s just as I said, you have good days, you have bad days," he said.

Since Harry and Meghan's wedding last year, the two brothers have split their royal households, divided their charitable foundations and lost their status as neighbors when Harry and Meghan moved from Kensington Palace to Frogmore Cottage.

Harry and William and Meghan and Kate, once known as the "royal fab four," made their first appearances together in recent weeks last weekend for Remembrance Sunday, a memorial day observed in the British Commonwealth to honor fallen military members of service.

Harry and Meghan are planning later this month to take some time off from royal duties and enjoy some family time, which will include visiting friends and family in the U.S.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Oleksii Liskonih/iStock(LONDON) -- Authorities in Anguilla have declared an American man a "fugitive" after he failed to return to the British Caribbean territory for a court hearing in a manslaughter case.

U.S. citizen Scott Hapgood, who is charged in the death of an Anguillan hotel employee, was due to appear in court on Monday for the latest pretrial hearing, as required by his bail conditions, but he didn't show up. Hapgood's legal team sent an email to the magistrate presiding over his case the night before, saying that they had advised their client not to return to Anguilla due to concerns for his safety and the fairness of the judicial process on the island, according to a press release from the Anguilla Attorney General's Chambers, which called the concerns "totally groundless."

"In consequence of this willful defiance of the High Court order, a bench warrant will be sought from the High Court judge for his arrest," the attorney general said in a statement Tuesday. "When this is shortly obtained this will be circulated through Interpol to police forces around the world."

After Hapgood failed to appear on Monday, the magistrate adjourned for a further hearing, at which "he will make a final determination of the matter at hand," according to the attorney general. His bail bond has been forfeited.

Hapgood, who works as a banker in New York City but lives with his family in Darien, Conn., had been released back in April on $74,000 bond and has appeared at previous hearings for the case.

"Other formal processes will now commence regarding Hapgood who is now a fugitive," the attorney general said. "Hapgood’s decision to abscond will not allow him to evade justice."

ABC News has reached out to a Hapgood family spokesperson for comment.

Hapgood, 44, was allegedly with his two daughters in a room at the Malliouhana Resort in Anguilla on April 13 during a family vacation when a man dressed in a hotel uniform knocked on the door "minutes" after the girls "walked back to the hotel room on their own," according to a statement released by the Hapgood family back in May.

The man, identified by Anguilla police as hotel maintenance worker Kenny Mitchel, allegedly stated that he was there to fix a broken sink before he came inside and demanded money from Hapgood, according to the family. A scuffle erupted between the two men, in which Hapgood was "fighting for his life," the family said. Mitchell was eventually restrained by a security guard, and Hapgood was taken to a local hospital for his injuries, according to the family.

Hapgood later learned of Mitchell's death as he was giving his witness statement at the police station, the family said. He has been charged with manslaughter.

Hapgood's international defense attorney, Juliya Arbisman, has accused prosecutors from witholding a toxicology report for more than two months that allegedly "showed Mr. Kenny Mitchel was not only drunk, with a blood alcohol level that is double the legal limit in the U.S., but also high on cocaine and other drugs when he attacked Scott."

"I worry about Scott's ability to get a fair trial when relevant information is withheld and a persistent narrative has been given to potential jurors, the people of Anguilla, which is based on falsehoods and admissions," Arbisman said at a press conference on Aug. 20.

ABC News could not get confirmation from authorities in Anguilla about the claims from Arbisman regarding the results of Mitchel's toxicology report.

U.S. President Donald Trump weighed in on Twitter last month, saying he will look into Hapgood's case and that "something looks and sounds very wrong."

Hapgood and his lawyer appeared at a press conference on Oct. 28 with Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who called upon the British government to “exercise authority of its judicial system” to come to a “swift conclusion” on whether to allow the trial in Anguilla to continue.

Monday's hearing was expected to be the conclusion of the preliminary trial, in which the presiding magistrate would come to a decision on whether to commit the proceedings to a jury trial, according to Arbisman.

Hapgood's defense team is concerned about his safety, "given the threats that have been made in the past," and whether he would be permitted to return to the United States on bond should a jury trial ensue, Arbisman said.

Hapgood spoke briefly about the ordeal that he and his family have been going through ever since they returned from their trip to Anguilla, especially his daughters, who are 12 and 14.

"We’re still in shock that a simple vacation that we looked forward to for so long turned into a nightmare," Hapgood told reporters. "This nightmare is my new reality."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


spawns/iStock(HONG KONG) -- Scores of masked protesters wielding makeshift weapons and armor barricaded themselves inside the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Wednesday after violent clashes with riot police overnight.

The mostly-young protesters were clad in all black, wearing helmets, gas masks and padded vests. They have amassed a stockpile of gasoline bombs along with various rudimentary weapons, including bows and arrows, homemade slingshots and gasoline-dipped javelins.

Some were even seen carrying riot shields.

Rather than fleeing from riot police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets, many protesters are now staying and fighting back -- a noted escalation in tactics in the five-moth-long, anti-government demonstrations that have gripped Hong Kong.

Protesters ignited barricades at both the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University during their confrontations with authorities Tuesday night. Some were seen launching flaming arrows toward police.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong and several other colleges in the city have cancelled classes for the rest of the academic semester as the protesters, who are thought to be high school and college students, have turned the campuses into battlefields.

Primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong have also suspended classes for Thursday.

Public transportation was disrupted across Hong Kong on Wednesday morning as protesters blocked streets, prevented train doors from closing and vandalized railway cars. Police have helped dozens of university students from mainland China evacuate Hong Kong.

Later Wednesday, hundreds of people came out of their offices in Hong Kong's central business district and shouted at riot police standing in the streets, telling them to leave the area. These people weren't the black-clad protesters but rather appeared to be ordinary citizens, with many wearing suits and ties.

Hong Kong lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung, who is a member of the Democratic Party, warned the movement won't stop until the government fulfills protesters' demands.

"This will not end," he told ABC News in a brief interview on the street Wednesday. "This will go on forever. That's my view."

The demonstrations 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, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Hong Kong's embattled leader, Carrie Lam, has since withdrawn the 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.

There have been lulls in the violence and intensity of the protest movement. But the death of a university student from a fall last week has reignited rage.

The protesters blame police for the student's injury because he fell off a parking garage in the vicinity of a police clearance operation.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


mammuth/iStock(ROME) -- High tides and lashing rain struck Venice Tuesday night bringing the water level in some areas close to a 50-year record high and causing inestimable damage to the centuries-old city.

Close to midnight Tuesday -- at its night-time peak -- the city recorded a high of 187 centimeters, just short of the famous 1966 flood when the tide reached 194 centimeters.

Barges, boats and gondolas were stripped from their moorings as historic squares were submerged with water and restaurants, shops and hotel lobbies flooded.

In a surreal scene, Italian TV showed a person swimming in St. Mark’s square Tuesday night as well as other bizarre images of water gushing out of toilets and electrical sockets in homes.

As the waters receded Wednesday morning -- with a peak of about 144 centimeters mid-morning -- Venetian emergency services dealt with hundreds of emergency calls while some phone lines remained down and schools closed.

Some tourists stood up to their knees in the water in St. Mark’s square taking selfies.

The mayor who has been monitoring the flooding throughout the night said the situation was dramatic.

“Venice is on its knees. The Basilica of Saint Mark has suffered grave damage as has the whole city and the islands,’’ he tweeted. “We need everyone’s help to get through this day which is seriously testing us.”

Italian news agency ANSA reported that a 78-year-old man was electrocuted by a short-circuit caused by the flooding of his home on the Venetian lagoon island of Pellestrina.

The damage to the city and its precious art works and buildings is hard to estimate at this point but sea-water damage is known to be catastrophic for their preservation.

An initial survey of the damage of St. Mark’s Basilica, which is in one of the lowest parts of the city, revealed the crypt with its famous mosaics totally submerged in water.

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro blamed climate change for the flooding and said his council was asking for the government to declare "a state of emergency’’ for Venice.

In a tweet he told local people and businesses to collect photographic and video evidence of the damage suffered for future claims for compensation.

Flooding is not new to the romantic city built centuries ago in the Venetian Lagoon. High waters in Venice, known as "acqua alta," periodically affect Venice and its surrounding islands during the fall to spring period when a combination of weather and tides raise the level of the sea water.

The city monitors water levels attentively and customarily prepares for the high tides. Temporary walkways on platforms are placed in the historic squares and along canals to be used during the flooding, and buildings and shops set up barricades against the water ahead of its rise.

A project to protect the city from acqua alta using floating gates was launched in 2003 but still remains incomplete following soaring costs and endless delays and scandals.

The president of the region, Luca Zaia, told Italian Mediaset TV "We are faced with total, apocalyptic devastation.’’

He went onto say "I’m not exaggerating; 80% of the city is under water, the damage is unimaginable."

He attended a press conference in Marghera Wednesday morning with the mayor of Venice and Angelo Borelli, the head of Civil Protection, to request more aid for Venice. The prime minister is expected to visit Venice later Wednesday.

Following the hottest October ever recorded in the world and the hot summer months, a wave of bad weather over the last week has brought much of Italy to a standstill with schools and subway stations closed in many cities.

The torrential rains are moving off the mainland Wednesday with many regions left surveying the damage. Weather experts however are forecasting further storms and more heavy rainfall in the coming weeks.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


BirdHunter591/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Scientists have rediscovered a deer-like species in southern Vietnam more than 25 years after it was last recorded.

A camera trap captured images of the silver-backed chevrotain, also known as the Vietnamese mouse-deer, after it was "lost to science" since 1990, the Global Wildlife Conservation announced on Tuesday.

The deer-like species is about the size of a rabbit, but is neither a mice nor deer, according to the conservation. Rather, it is the world's smallest ungulate, or hoofed mammal.

Although there are 10 known species of chevrotain in the world, primarily in Asia, the silver-back is distinguished by its silver sheen. They are typically shy and solitary, appear to walk on the tips of their hooves and have two tiny fangs, according to the conservation.

Researchers set up three camera traps after interviewing several local villagers and government forest rangers who reported seeing the animal, which resulted in 275 photos of the elusive species.

The team later set up another 29 cameras, which recorded 1,881 images in five months.

An Nguyen, associate conservation scientist and the expedition's team leader, said researchers were "surprised and overjoyed" when they checked the camera.

"For so long this species has seemingly only existed as part of our imagination," she said in a statement. "Discovering that it is, indeed, still out there, is the first step in ensuring we don’t lose it again, and we’re moving quickly now to figure out how best to protect it."

Researchers are now looking to determine how large and stable the population is.

The findings of the rediscovery was published this week in the scientific journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

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Mississippi National Guard(NEW YORK) -- A U.S. soldier was killed in South Korea last week after his armored vehicle overturned.

Spc. Nicholas C. Panipinto, 20, of Bradenton, Florida, died from injuries sustained when the Bradley Fighting Vehicle overturned at Camp Humphreys on Nov. 6, the Army said in a statement. Two other soldiers were injured in the incident, according to Stars and Stripes.

The accident is under investigation.

Panipinto deployed as an infantryman with the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division to South Korea in July 2019. The brigade will hold a memorial for Panipinto on Friday as a way for the unit to, "say farewell to their brother in arms and honor his service to the nation," the Army said.
"Command Sgt. Maj. Ryan McLane and I send our heartfelt condolences to family, friends and loved ones of Spc. Nicholas Panipinto," said Col. Kevin Capra, commander, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. "Nicholas was a dedicated and essential member of the Ghost Battalion and Greywolf Brigade. We are all deeply saddened by the loss and will keep his family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."

Panipinto joined the Army from Tampa, Florida, in January 2018.

Just last month, three soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team were killed after their Bradley Fighting Vehicle rolled over into water during training at Fort Stewart in Georgia.

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KeithBinns/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The Taliban will release an American and an Australian hostage, held for over three years, in a prisoner swap with the Afghan government, according to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Their possible release comes after two U.S. special operations raids attempted to free both men, and it could herald a restart to negotiations meant to end the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and bring the Afghan government and Taliban together for peace talks, according to Ghani.

Kevin King, an American professor at the American University in Kabul, and his Australian colleague Timothy Weeks were kidnapped in August 2016 by the Haqqani Network, a Taliban-affiliated group.

In exchange, Ghani said in a televised address, three high-level Taliban officials will be "conditionally released," a decision he said was difficult but in the best interests of the Afghan people.

The State Department has not yet responded to a request for comment, nor confirmed King's release. The Taliban have not confirmed they will release the two professors either.

U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass told TOLOnews, a local outlet, the U.S. "strongly supports Ghani's "courageous decision" to release the three Taliban prisoners and, "We hope the Taliban responds to this important humanitarian gesture with its own humanitarian gesture through the release of prisoners they're holding."

According to Ghani, the three officials are Anas Haqqani, the brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, who serves as the group’s leader and a top Taliban commander; their uncle Mali Khan Zadran; and Abdul Rashid Omari, the brother of Mohammad Nabi Omari, a member of Taliban's political office in Qatar that has engaged in negotiations with the U.S.

The American University of Afghanistan said in a statement it "is encouraged to hear reports of the possible release of our two colleagues, Kevin King and Timothy Weeks. While AUAF is not part of these discussions, we continue to urge the immediate and safe return of our faculty members who have been held in capitivity, away from their friends and families, for more than three years."

It's unclear where King is now, but the U.S. military will likely be involved in overseeing his and Weeks's release, as U.S. special forces were with the Taliban's release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

King was last seen in a proof of life video released in January 2017, appearing gaunt and pleading for then President-elect Donald Trump to negotiate for his release.

There have been two U.S. special operations raids by the Joint Special Operations Command to attempt to rescue King and Weeks in Afghanistan, not Pakistan -- where Taliban leadership has a history of hiding high-level hostages. The first attempt was shortly after King and Weeks were taken, but with the special forces team prepared to do a high altitude jump from 35,000 feet, the Obama White House dithered on the approvals and the team had to turn around and go back to base. The next night, they went up airborne and did a successful jump, but arrived to find an empty target site -- and a child who said the hostages had been moved the night before.

More recently, an operation in April came up short because it was a "dry hole," meaning the hostages had been moved again.

If King is released, three other American hostages remain missing after being abducted by terrorists: Paul Overby, an author in his 70s also held captive by the Taliban; Jeffery Woodke, a missionary aid worker in Niger for over 25 years captured by ISIS; and a third person whose name and details of captivity have not been publicly reported, according to two U.S. officials.

The release of the three senior Taliban officials comes at a sensitive time, over two months after Trump said he called off a Camp David summit with Ghani and other Afghan officials and Taliban leadership and halted U.S. negotiations with the militant group that had nearly reached a final agreement.

Since then, chief U.S. negotiator, special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, has quietly tried to restart talks, meeting with Chinese and Russian counterparts, European and NATO officials, and Ghani and other Afghan officials. Khalilzad even quietly met with Taliban officials in early October, according to a Pakistani government source.

At the time, a State Department spokesperson would not confirm that meeting, saying only that he met with Pakistan government officials and, "These meetings do not represent a re-start of the Afghan Peace Process."

More recently, however, the U.S. released a joint statement with China, Russia, and Pakistan calling for a reduction in violence ahead of new talks and a ceasefire during intra-Afghan talks that include the U.S.-backed government and the Taliban and welcoming a new round of intra-Afghan dialogue in Beijing soon. That dialogue will be held in the "near future," Ghani's spokesperson said last Monday, after agreeing to it in a phone call with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

But the Taliban have refused to negotiate directly with the Afghan government, which it derides as a U.S. puppet state, and Ghani's government said it would not take part in negotiations until the Taliban agree to a month-long ceasefire, which the militant group has so far refused to do.

It's unclear what conditions the U.S. has for restarting its direct talks with the Taliban. Trump has quietly removed some 2,000 troops from Afghanistan over the past year, from 15,000 to 13,000, even without a peace deal with the Taliban.

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iStock(NEW YORK) -- Hundreds of elephants in Zimbabwe have starved to death in recent weeks as one of the region's worst droughts in decades has dried up grazing land and water sources.

Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority spokesperson Tinashe Farawo confirmed to ABC News on Tuesday that, as of last week, more than 200 elephants -- along with many other animals -- have already perished in national parks over the past two months due to a lack of food and water.

"The figure keeps rising," Farawo said.

The wildlife agency has issued permits to translocate 600 elephants from Save Valley Conservancy in southern Zimbabwe -- one of the largest private game reserves in Africa -- to three other national parks in the coming weeks.

Zimbabwe is home to one of the largest elephant populations in Africa, with an estimated 85,000. But the survival of these pachyderms and other wildlife is threatened as persistent drought strangles swaths of southern Africa, devastating crops, grasslands and water holes. Months of above-average temperatures, erratic rainfall, back-to-back cyclones and flooding this year have also proven to be a recipe for disaster in a region of people largely dependent on rain-fed, smallholder agriculture.

The United Nations food agencies have warned that a record 45 million people across 16 southern African nations will be severely food insecure in the next six months. There are already more than 11 million people experiencing "crisis" or "emergency" levels of food insecurity in nine southern African countries, including Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, temperatures in southern Africa are rising at twice the global average, and Zimbabwe is one of nine African countries set to be hardest hit by adverse weather in the coming years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N. body comprised of thousands of scientists representing 195 nations.

“We’ve had the worst drought in 35 years in central and western areas during the growing season,” Margaret Malu, the World Food Program's acting regional director for southern Africa, said in a statement last month. “We must meet the pressing emergency food and nutrition needs of millions of people, but also invest in building the resilience of those threatened by evermore frequent and severe droughts, floods and storms.”

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Mexican Navy(NEW YORK) -- An American diver was attacked by a shark off the coast of Mexico, officials said.

The 23-year-old U.S. citizen was diving in Magdalena Bay off the coast of Baja California Sur state in northwest Mexico on Monday when a shark chomped down on his right forearm, according to a press release from the Mexican Navy.

The man, whose name hasn't been released, apparently managed to swim back to his dive boat and call for help. He was medically evacuated by a naval search and rescue team to the port of San Carlos, where an ambulance transported him to a local hospital for treatment.

The man's wounds are not considered life-threatening, according to the Mexican Navy.

It’s unknown what species of shark attacked him.

ABC News has reached out to the U.S. Department of State for comment.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Toa55/iStock(NEW YORK) -- As Australia's most populous state declared a state of emergency due to unprecedented wildfire danger, firefighters who saved a man’s house from the flames left him a note in which they apologized for drinking his milk.

After returning to his New South Wales home, Paul Sekfy said that he found a note signed by the Urunga Rural Fire Service (RFS).

He shared a photo of the short message on Facebook, where it has been shared thousands of times.

“It was a pleasure to save your house. Sorry we could not save your sheds. P.S. - we owe you some milk," the firefighters’ handwritten communication said.

The recipient described it as the “best note on my kitchen bench since the morning after my wedding.”

Residents have been facing what "could be the most dangerous bushfire week this nation has ever seen,” New South Wales state Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said.

The fireman who claims to have been behind the note eventually responded to Paul Sekfy’s social media post.

“We took refuge in your house for a moment and that's when we discovered the fridge,” Kale Hardie-Porter commented on Facebook.

Fires in the state's northeast have claimed three lives, destroyed more than 150 homes and razed more than 3,800 square miles since Friday.

Having already apologized for drinking the homeowner’s milk and being unable to save his sheds despite heroic efforts, the firefighter went on to explain his “shocking handwriting,” saying “it was late and couldn't see a thing!”

More than 100 people have been treated by doctors and paramedics for fire-related injuries, including 20 firefighters, Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan said.

Wishing Sekfy well for the future, Hardie-Porter described it as a pleasure “to do a little good in such horrendous conditions.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


pawel.gaul/iStock(HONG KONG) -- 21-year old protester was shot by police with a live round and a pro-China man was set on fire as Hong Kong woke up Monday to chaos on its streets. Over 260 people have been arrested, Hong Kong police said on the agency's Twitter account.

Hong Police also issued several warnings on Twitter. "Police warn the rioters to stop brutalizing others. Police will take enforcement action."

"Police will carry on with the enforcement action in response to the illegal acts of the rioters," the Hong Police stated in another tweet.

Protesters, answering an online call, attempted to disrupt the Monday morning commute all across the city with what they dubbed as "Operation Dawn." Groups of protesters fanned out across the city setting up blockades and vandalizing subways stations and intersections.

The death of a university student last week from a fall has reignited rage in the protest movement. The protesters believe that the police bear responsibility for the student's injury because he fell off a parking garage in the vicinity of a police clearance operation.

After a relatively subdued weekend, the protesters chose to escalate their actions by disrupting Monday rush hour to force a general strike.

Just before 8 a.m. in the residential district of San Wai Ho, a squad of traffic police officers were captured on an online livestream attempting to clear the small blockade put up by protesters when one of the officers was approached by black-clad students.

The cop pulls out his service revolver and tackles one of the protesters while another unarmed protester approaches and attempts to reach for the revolver.

A shot then rings out. The officer shoots the protester in the abdomen before firing off another two rounds that police later confirmed did not hit anyone else.

At a police press conference later that day, Hong Kong Police spokesperson Tse Chun-chung said, “at that time, the officer believed it was very likely that the revolver would be snatched and the consequences would be disastrous.”

The protester who was shot, a 21 year old student at the Institute of Vocational Educational, was then seen on the livestream in a puddle of blood, body limp with blood draining from his face, his eyes wide open. This excerpt has been circulating this morning across multiple social media platforms.

As the livestream continued, the protester can be seen waking up and attempting to escape before being subdued again by police. He was then taken to the Hong Kong's Pamela Youde Nerthersole Eastern Hospital where he is currently in the stable condition after coming out of surgery.

The police shooting, the third known since these protests began in early June, caused clashes to erupt in numerous districts across the city including in the heart of Hong Kong’s central business district at the height of lunch time.

Riot police fired tear gas into a crowd that included protesters and office workers which then sent them running for cover into high-end shopping centers.

Stand offs also sprung up at numerous universities across the city including Hong Kong University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Protesters ignited barricades at both PolyU and CUHK during their confrontation with police.

Violence has escalated as tempers have flared on both sides as the Hong Kong protests enter their sixth month. There has been a steady escalation of tactics by protesters and police. What began as a protest against a now-shelved extradition bill has morphed into a pro-democracy movement marred by anti-government and police sentiments with those involved more willing to engage in targeted violence. Meanwhile the police have seemingly lowered the threshold to engage with the protesters.

A couple of other videos also emerged on Monday morning of a police motorcycle appearing to deliberately drive into a group of protesters. Police later confirmed that the officer has been suspended from active duty and the incident is under investigation.

Protesters have also resorted to violence to settle disputes. In multiple graphic videos, a protester douses a man with an unknown fluid and set him alight. The man was in the midst of an argument with the protestors and had earlier tousled with them as they were vandalizing the Ma On Shan MTR rail station. Police said that man is now in critical condition.

At a press conference, protesters called on Hong Kong people to stage “a massive strike, to be carried out indefinitely” in response to today’s shooting and to continue to pressure the government to meet their demands which including an independent probe into police actions as well as restarting political reforms towards true democracy.

Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam condemned the violence Monday evening.

“If there is any wishful thinking that by escalating violence that Hong Kong SAR government will yield to pressure to satisfy the so-called political demands, I am making this statement clear and loud here … that will not happen," Lam said speaking to the media. "Violence is not going to give us any solution to the problems that Hong Kong is facing. Our joint priority now is to end the violence and to return Hong Kong to normal as soon as possible.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


TomasSereda/iStock(MOSCOW) — A prominent Russian Napoleon scholar has confessed to murdering and dismembering his young lover and former student after he was found in a canal in St. Petersburg with a rucksack containing her severed arms.

Oleg Sokolov, a 63-year-old professor at St. Petersburg State University’s history department, was arrested after he was pulled from the freezing waters of the city’s Moika canal on Saturday. Rescuers discovered the arms along with a pistol in his bag, Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement.

Police then visited Sokolov’s apartment where they found the dismembered body of Anastasia Yeshchenko, a 24-year-old former student at the university who had also co-authored several works on Napoleonic history with Sokolov and who was in a romantic relationship with him. Police believe Sokolov shot Yeshchenko and then sought to cover up the crime by disposing her body. A local news site, News47, reported he had been drunk while trying to throw away Yeshchenko's arms and had slipped into the water and almost drowned.

Sokolov appeared in a St. Petersburg's court on Monday for a pre-trial hearing, where he acknowledged shooting Yeshchenko and using a saw and kitchen knife to cut up her body to conceal the killing. Sokolov said he and Yeshchenko had been in a relationship since 2015 and that he had considered her his bride and had intended to propose to her soon, Russian news media reported.

The judge asked Sokolov why he had killed Yeshchenko. He replied that he had not wanted to, saying it happened during a quarrel over his children from a former marriage and appeared to claim he had acted in self-defense.

"I said that on Saturday-Sunday she should spend time with the kids. She went crazy. After that this monstrous misfortune happened ... I have never seen such flood of aggression ... an attack with a knife ... The girl, who I believed to be ideal, suddenly turned into..." he said, according to the local news site, Fontanka.

Sokolov's lawyer interrupted, saying it was premature to discuss the details of the case. A break in the hearing was called after the historian broke down crying in the courtroom.

The judge ordered Sokolov held two months in detention ahead of his trial. His defense had requested he be placed under house arrest but Sokolov himself demanded to go to jail. He had been briefly hospitalized with hypothermia from the canal waters but by Monday had been signed off as healthy, his lawyer said.

Police have charged Sokolov with murder on a charge that carries six to 15 years in prison if he is convicted. His lawyer Alexander Pochuev told state media that his client had admitted to killing Yeshchenko and was fully cooperating with the investigation.

“He is completely remorseful," Pochuev told the TASS news agency, but added there were elements of the case with which the defense didn't agree.

Sokolov is one of Russia’s most prominent Napoleon experts and has lectured at Paris’ Sorbonne university. The author of several books on the French leader, in 2003 he was made a member of France’s Legion d’Honneur, one of the country’s highest state honors.

Sokolov was also known for taking part in historical costumed re-enactments and was seen as one of the founders of the practice in Russia. Photos have been published widely showing him dressed up as Napoleon, holding a sword and at costume balls with Yeshchenko, who also took part in the re-enactments.

He had also at one time been a member of Russia’s Military-Historical Society, which is headed by Russia’s conservative culture minister, Vadim Medinsky. The society quickly removed Sokolov’s name from its website after his arrest and claimed he had never been a full member.

Accounts from his students posted on social media over the weekend portray Sokolov as a talented lecturer and a master of his subject, but also eccentric, domineering and sometimes aggressive. “Everyone viewed him as a freak, completely immersed in his subject,” Fyodor Danilov, one of Sokolov’s students told the St. Petersburg site Fontanka. “But no one thought he was capable of such a murder.”

Others criticized the university, saying it had ignored multiple examples of aggressive and inappropriate behavior by Sokolov, who they said had been addicted to alcohol. Evgeny Ponasenko, another Napoleon specialist who had a long-time feud with Sokolov, wrote on his Facebook wall that he had repeatedly warned the university and demanded that Sokolov be fired over allegations he had beaten up another female student.

"If they had listened to me, a person, most likely would still be alive. I appealed to the rector, to the director of the history institute! I WARNED that Sokolov was dangerous," Ponasenko wrote.

Sokolov was censored by a university ethics committee in 2018 after an incident where a student supportive of Ponasenko was violently removed from one of Sokolov’s lectures.

The murder has gripped Russia. On Monday, the Kremlin commented on it, with president Vladimir Putin's spokesman describing it as "a monstrous act of insanity".

Sokolov had also been a member at the French Institute of Social Science, Economics and Politics (ISSEP). The Lyon-based institute was founded by Marechal Le Pen, the niece of Marine Le Pen, the French far right leader who has sought closer ties with Russia. On Saturday, it announced it had removed Sokolov from its membership and issued a statement saying it was horrified by his crime.

Sokolov's arrest was also discussed by enthusiasts on Napoleonic re-enactment forums on Monday. One user, under the name "Royal Scot's Guard" wrote he had known Sokolov for 20 years and often spent time with him during re-enactments in Europe. But he said in recent years organizers outside of Russia had been wary of inviting Sokolov because of his heavy drinking.

"I knew Oleg well having shared many bivouacs with him over these last 20 years. He knew the life of the Grande Armée to perfection, all the songs of the soldiers. But his inordinate consumption of alcohol often spoilt the ends of parties! In Spain he was banned from the re-enactment for having killed a horse that we lent him and which he had been unable to master. That was Oleg! An eminent historian of the 1st Empire but tarnished by the reputation of a thug! I had suspected he would finish one day in misery or decimated by alcohol, but this has beaten all my predictions."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A 13-year-old boy hailed as a hero in the wake of last week's deadly ambush in Mexico is speaking out for the first time about the horrors he witnessed that day.

Devin Langford said the last thing his mother said to him before she was fatally shot was "get down right now."

"She was trying to pray to the lord, and she was trying to start the car up to get out of there," Devin said in an interview Monday on ABC News' Good Morning America.

His mother, Dawna Langford, and his younger brothers, Trevor, 11, and Rogan, 2, were among the nine women and children killed in the gruesome Nov. 4 attack.

"They just started hitting [the] car first, like with a bunch, a bunch of bullets. Just start shooting rapidly at us," he said. "The car didn't work. So she was just trying right there, starting the car as much as she could, but I'm pretty sure they shot something so the car wouldn't even start."

"Afterward, they got us out of the car, and they just got us on the floor and then they drove off," he added.

Devin, who was unharmed in the attack, walked about 14 miles seeking help after hiding his injured siblings in the bushes and covering them with branches. He said the shooters had long guns and he feared for his life the entire time.

As he made the trek for help, he said he wondered "if there was anybody else out there trying to shoot me or following me" and he thought about "my mom and my two brothers that died."

The family was ambushed by a heavily armed group while traveling from the town of Bavispe in Sonora state to Galeana in Chihuahua state between 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. local time, according to Mexican authorities. The family members were U.S. citizens but lived in a Mormon community, called La Mora, in the Mexican border state of Sonora.

The area where the attack took place -- less than 100 miles from the Arizona border -- is of territorial dispute by several cartels, and it's possible the family's convoy of cars was mistaken for one of them, authorities said.

Speaking in an interview beside his father, David Langford, Devin said he prayed over and over for his family to pull through.

He said the other children tried to flee as well, but most of them -- including his sister, Kylie, who was shot in the foot and his baby brother, Brixon, who was hit in the chest -- were too injured to travel.

"We walked a little while until we couldn't carry them no more. And so we put them in the bushes so they wouldn't get hit or nothing. So I started walking," Devin said. "Every one of them were bleeding really bad. So I was trying to get in a rush to get there."

Devin said he doesn't feel like a hero, but his father said there's no doubt in his mind that his son saved lives.

"Every one of my children that survived that are living miracles," Langford said. "How many bullet holes were fired into that vehicle … at that horrific scene and how many children were involved. It's amazing. It's amazing. It's beyond amazing that they survived."

"To be honest with you, my boy's a hero simply because he gave his life for his brothers and sisters," he added.

Langford said more evidence is showing the killers were cartel hit men -- a belief that has shaken Mexico's Mormon community.

That's why Langford, and much of his extended family, said they're leaving northwest Mexico. They're part of a fundamentalist Mormon group that has lived in this area for decades before the drug cartels took over and the violence became inescapable.

"It's not worth living in fear," he said. "The toughest part for me was saying goodbye … saying goodbye to two innocent lives that were cut short and a vibrant wife that lived a life to its fullest that had many friends and was loved by everybody."

As for Devin, he said he's focusing on helping his siblings heal and keeping his mother's memory alive.

"She was a nice person and a brave woman that tried to save her kids," he said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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