• iStock/Thinkstock(DUBLIN) -- Two major exit polls project that Irish voters have voted to repeal the country's Eighth Amendment, passed by voters in 1983, which effectively bans abortions in the island nation.One poll, by The Irish Times, projected 68 percent in favor of repealing. Another, by RTE, showed a similar projection of 69.4 percent in favor.The results followed a contentious and emotional campaign in a deeply Catholic nation, home to one of the world's strictest abortion bans. Seeking or providing an abortion in Ireland was a criminal offense that carries up to 14 years behind bars. As a result, thousands of Irish women make the trip abroad, often to England, to have an abortion.More than 170,000 women traveled from the Republic of Ireland to access abortion services in another country between 1980 and 2016, according to the Irish Family Planning Association. As the vote date approached, the debate between the two sides had grown deeply contentious, which, in part, motivated a lot of Irish ex-patriots to fly home from around the globe to cast their ballots -- many posting their positions on social media beside the hashtag #HomeToVote. Repealing the amendment means that abortion could be regulated as it is in both the United States and the United Kingdom, clearing the way for Ireland's government to implement more liberal abortion laws. Lawmakers are now expected to debate proposed legislation allowing abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and after that in cases of fetal abnormalities or serious risks to the mother’s health.The vote pitted conservative backers of strict abortion restrictions against those supporting a woman's right to choose.The Yes campaign was supported by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, though neither of the largest political parties took a side in the debate, allowing individual politicians to make up their own minds. The No side was largely backed by so-called pro-life groups -- the most prominent being The Iona Institute, a socially conservative Roman Catholic advocacy group. As the vote date approached, the battle between the two sides grew increasingly vicious, with both Yes and No campaigns being accused of illegal removing each other’s street posters.The heated, emotional campaign saw limits placed on social media advertisements nationwide, with Facebook and Google banning campaign ads after concerns from experts that some campaign ads were funded by U.S. based anti-abortion groups.Following a 2015 vote, Ireland legalized same-sex marriage.
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  • Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images(ST. PETERSBURG, Russia) -- France's president Emmanuel Macron on Friday used a state visit to Russia to mount an energetic charm offensive on President Vladimir Putin.The two leaders rubbed elbows in a series of appearances at an economic forum in Saint Petersburg, but repeatedly stumbled on some of the stark disagreements that have set Russia and Western countries at odds with one another.Macron has said the trip is intended as an attempt to refresh relations between Russia and Europe that have been sinking steadily into tensions reminiscent of the Cold War, fuelled by clashes over the Ukraine crisis, Russia's role in Syria and most recently the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in Britain.For some, Macron’s trip was a reprise of his visit to the White House in April where his delicate handling of President Donald Trump prompted some commentators to call him “the Trump whisperer”.On his trip to Russia, Macron turned his efforts to Putin. He was studiously respectful of Putin, filling his speeches with references to Russian culture and nods to Putin’s personal history. Throughout the trip, the two have referred to one another as “Cher Vladimir” and “Dear Emmanuel”.In a speech on stage with Macron told an audience that he was convinced "Russia has its history and its destiny in Europe” and urged Putin to embrace it.“I am ready,” Macron told Putin. “The window of opportunity exists, it is now, and if we don’t take it, it can close again.”The Trump administration's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last month for some observers has created an unusual moment for Europe and Russia to try to make a return to more normal relations. France, along with the UK, Germany, and China, shares Russia's desire to preserve the Iran deal and the countries have said they are seeking was to mitigate the impact of American sanctions that will now be re-imposed.Against that backdrop, Macron found himself praising the merits of multilateral diplomacy to Putin. Macron, who has presented himself as a straight-talker and muscular liberal, urged Putin to play by the rules of an international order based on cooperation, but couched it in terms meant to appeal to the Russian leader.“We all know your taste for judo, dear Vladimir — it is based on mastery of one’s own strength and respect for one’s opponent,” Macron said, referring to Putin's well-known passion for the martial art (he is a black-belt). “Let us emulate these principles in the international arena. Let us play a co-operative game, a joint game," he said, saying his favorite game was soccer.For his part, Putin seemed at turns pleased, but also amused and skeptical of his guest, treating him as precocious. His use of “Dear Emmanuel” at times appeared tongue-in-cheek. After Macron's comments about judo, Putin responded: "Such a situation in the world has come about, that everyone is playing soccer, while applying the rules of judo. It's neither soccer, nor judo. It's just chaos."But even as Macron sought to improve relations with Putin, one of the conflicts behind the tension in Russia and Western relations intervened. The Netherlands and Australia announced they hold Russia responsible for the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, that killed 298 people. A day earlier, a Dutch-led four-year long international investigation found that the missile used to bring down the airliner belonged to a Russian anti-aircraft brigade.The Netherlands and Australia, whose citizens made up the largest number of the dead, urged Russia to accept responsibility and warned they might try to hold Russia accountable in an international court. The call was backed by the U.S. and Britain.Russia previously has denied any role in the shooting down, despite mounting evidence from the Dutch-led investigation and in
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  • Sarah Hucal/ABC News(OSLO, Norway) -- On a warm spring evening in Oslo, a series of brass notes — some electrifying, others solemn — are played by a dozen instrumentalists perched in various corners of the multi-story entryway of the Sentralen, a former savings bank turned cultural center.The performance is part of the two-day experimental music Connect Festival of Sound, which takes concert-goers on a sonic journey through the building’s most unique rooms, including a former vault and an opulent marble hall.The festival - which features instrumental ensembles, sound and video installations and electronic music - is one of several events put on by the country’s nyMusikk, an organization that promotes experimental music and sound art.Like many such organizations, it primarily relies on grants from the Norwegian government to operate.The festival is emblematic of the country's emphasis on providing artistic experimentation as a public service.“You can say that we rely on government funding or you can say that the society we have here relies on us to produce very artistic content,” said Artistic Director Bjørnar Habbestad. “There’s a long tradition in our society of setting up mechanisms that ensure these kinds of activities.”Federal funding for the arts has become practically non-existent in the United States, where even large cultural entities struggle to stay afloat.Last year's federal budget under U.S. President Donald Trump called for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, making Trump the first president in history to propose eliminating all funding for the nation’s federal cultural agencies.In Norway, the national cultural budget is roughly 1.3 billion dollars, according to the Norwegian Arts Council.Norway's government arts funding model has created a diverse cultural landscape where artists can feel free to experiment.“With the government funding, you don’t feel like you’re on a leash - you have room to experiment and create what you want,” said musician and composer Stephan Meidell.Such hard-earned grants have allowed him to have a career in his field.At the festival, Meidell, along with Berlin-based film company Blank Blank, presented a sound and video installation featuring robotic instruments that create a work of art based on the notes played.The performance, like others at the festival, dares audiences to experience something new. Other examples include an installation that explores the limits of extreme sound and lasers, by Baltimore-based artist Jeff Carey, and pop-influenced works by jazz ensemble Skrap IV. However, since Norway’s conservative government took office in 2013, there has been a shift in cultural policy, and in some cases an emphasis on economizing the arts by supporting projects that are more in line with the nation's business goals — a worrying prospect for many experimental artists who rely on existing funding.Habbestad said that it has become more difficult to secure long-term project grants and the necessary means for new projects in recent years.Policy in the US, he said, could also play a role in future government grants in Norway.“What is observable in American politics and media today also affects how we talk about things in Norway today. Norwegian politicians change the climate for discussions —and not necessarily for the better.”
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(SAO PAULO) -- A federal jury in Texas on Friday found a Brazilian couple guilty of helping their daughter kidnap a Houston doctor's son and take him to Brazil, where the child remains, but declined to convict them of a related conspiracy charge.The split verdict came five years into Houston doctor Chris Brann's campaign to retrieve his son Nicolas, now 8, from Brazil, where his ex-wife Marcella Guimaraes took him for a temporary trip in July, 2013 and failed to return.The child's Brazilian grandparents, Carlos Otavio Guimaraes and Jemima Guimaraes, sat in stunned silence as federal judge announced the verdict, following three and a half days of jury deliberations.With Brann's permission, their daughter took Nicolas, known as "Nico," to Brazil for a 2013 family wedding and refused to return. She successfully petitioned a Brazilian court that year to grant her sole custody, and enrolled her son in a local Brazilian school.Brann has said he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in an effort to get his son back, and has sought the help of the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Hague Abduction Convention - a 1988 international agreement that seeks to facilitate the return of children removed in violation of custody agreements from their "habitual residences." Both the U.S. and Brazil are signatories to that agreement, but in a 2017 report, the State Department said that Brazilian “judicial authorities...persistently failed to regularly implement and comply with the provisions of the Convention.”Last year, federal prosecutors in Texas filed a criminal complaint seeking the arrests of the grandparents and their daughter, and earlier this year the grandparents were arrested when they arrived at a Miami, Florida airport to attend the birthday party of a different grandchild. Like his daughter Marcella, Carlos Guimareas is a dual Brazilian-American citizen and holds two passports. He and his wife surrendered their passports to U.S. authorities during an earlier bond hearing. Marcella Guimareas - who could not immediately be reached for comment - and Nicolas have remained in Brazil, out of reach of U.S. authorities, since 2013.Brann told ABC News on Friday that he had mixed emotions about the verdicts.“I never wanted it to come to this and the only thing I want is for my son to come home," he said. "I hope they will take responsibility for their actions and do everything they can do have him come home as soon as possible.”The convicted couple will remain under house arrest at the Houston home of their son, Roberto Guimaraes, pending sentencing. They face up to three years in prison.In a separate statement issued after the split verdict, Brann said that "this is an incredibly sad day for me" and vowed to advocate for a lenient sentence for the grandparents if his son is immediately returned to the U.S."Despite all the cruelty they have heaped on my extraordinary son Nico, by obstructing his relationship with me, Nico remains my sole concern."If my ex-wife Marcelle returns with Nico to the United States immediately, I will happily appear at the Guimarães' sentencing hearing to advocate maximum leniency."
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- Should one of the best known French pastries be called chocolatine or pain au chocolat? This is a debate that has been going on for decades in France. A group of right-wing French MPs are bringing the question to the French National Assembly as they are fighting to promote the term chocolatine.A vast majority of French people, as well as tourists visiting the country, use the word "pain au chocolat" when ordering the French puff pastry with chocolate inside. But in the southwest region of France, people call it ‘chocolatine’ and see it as a source of regional pride.A group of 10 French Parliament members are proposing an amendment giving official status to chocolatine.The change would "give value to the customary name and fame of a product," the proposed amendment says. "This would, for example, be the case for the chocolate pastry whose name has historically been rooted in the Gascon region, and which is the pride of all southwestern France: the chocolatine." The debate has been trending on social media in France, with some commentators mocking the amendment, saying French MPs probably have more urgent topics to discuss than the question of the appellation of a pastry. Other joked about the ongoing debate, with one writing: “I respect chocolatine and pain au chocolat: THEY HAVE THE SAME TASTE!”This amendment is to be discussed at the French National Assembly by May 30. According to Jean-Baptiste Moreau, member of President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party, it has “little chance” of being adopted. It will compete for debating time with more pressing issues such as banning pesticides and introducing cameras into abattoirs to prevent animal mistreatment.The semantic battle over the name of the pastry might very well continue to divide France.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Many South Koreans were shocked when President Trump called off the June 12 summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Many also believe the historic summit could still happen.“Eventually, Kim Jong Un has no other choice but to come and meet Trump,” Kenneth Choi, an international editor for a South Korean newspaper Chosun-ilbo, told ABC News. “President Trump left a little opening door [for the meeting] at the end of his letter.”Kim Ye-jin, who participates in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in Chung-ang University, said, “Although the meeting was put off, I still think there is hope for peace.”Paul Lee, a former youth organizer, said Kim wants the meeting because "he needs to seek legitimacy.""This would be a great loss for [North Korea] to suddenly quit the summit," he added.Some pointed out that Trump’s way of abruptly calling off the summit went too far.“It was like Trump canceling a dinner reservation,” Kim Sung-min, who represents a group of progressive and liberal university students, told ABC News. “One-way cancellation of a summit between the leaders of two countries seemed like an irresponsible act to me.”Freelance reporter Youn Sang-un said he was surprised by North Korea's response.“You never expect that soft stance from the dictatorship regime,” he said.In a statement, Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea's vice minister of foreign affairs, said his country feels great regret for the unexpected cancellation and that he and other government officials would still like to meet with U.S. representatives "any time."
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