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  • Derek Brumby/iStock/Thinkstock(PYEONGCHANG, South Korea) -- Athletes from North Korea waved and marched in the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Friday, offering the world a brief glimpse into the hermetic nation.Twenty-two North Korean athletes were sent to the Games to compete. North Korea has not participated in the Winter Games in eight years, and not a single athlete from the country has ever defected during the Olympics."One of the main reasons North Korean athletes don’t defect is because of their families back in North Korea," said Benjamin Young, a doctoral candidate at George Washington University who has researched sports in North Korea. "The families are well connected and intensely loyal to the Kim family regime. From a material standpoint, they live comfortable lives in the capital and they receive awards from the state for good performances, such as refrigerators and even apartments."The North Korean sports program typically picks the top athletes from regional competitions at an early age and brings them to the capital to train in special schools and academies for many years, according to Young."It's very similar to the communist sports system that existed in the Soviet Union. The regime grooms individuals to become athletes," he said.These athletes also have "minders" that go with them everywhere.The minders have multiple roles, providing security, supervision and translation. They also report anything suspicious to party leaders in Pyongyang. But, said Young, "for the most part, North Koreans impose rules on themselves, self-censoring from their indoctrination and ideological training in North Korea."Athletes also tend to have intense loyalty toward the regime due to their privileged treatment."From a regular people’s point of view, the athletes are nowhere near the general people," Kim Danbi, 28, who defected from North Korea in 2011, said. "[The athletes] will be thinking about how they’re so grateful that the party is giving them the opportunity to participate in training and games overseas."Added Young, "If a North Korean athlete defected, it would be a slap in the face to the Kim regime, and any family members back in North Korea will face severe punishment."North Korean leaders also understand the fascination the world has with its athletes."Pyongyang uses this attention as a political tool because [North Korean leaders] know the outside world is obsessed. When it comes to North Korea, nothing is apolitical," Young said.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • nikpal/iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Javier Bardem was watching a group of penguins on an icy slope meters away from the freezing waters of the Antarctic Sea when he looked to the camera and said: “There is a God, and he is watching us right now.” He wasn't recording a film, rather he was documenting his experience on a conservation mission.For him, the joy of seeing wild penguins in their natural habitat was tinged with the regret of knowing that their existence was under threat.Antartica is not an inviting environment to its wildlife. For the continent's inhabitants, living there means surviving and evolving in the coldest and darkest place on earth. Additionally, strains on the ecosystems from an increase in man-made activity could push many of the Antarctic’s most iconic species to the brink.A proposal submitted in November by the European Union (EU) and led by Germany argues that the biodiversity of areas in the Weddell Sea must be protected.An essential block in many of these ecosystems is the supply of krill. This tiny, plankton-like crustacean provides a staple food source for many animals in the Antarctic, from fish and penguins to even larger species like seals and whales.The krill is why Bardem set sail to Antarctica, where he spent just over a week on the choppy seas, staving off seasickness and even descending to the seafloor in a submarine.He was there to support and publicize a campaign set up by Greenpeace. The international conservation charity highlights and supports proposals for the park and works with scientists who are collecting evidence of the uniqueness of life in the Weddell Sea.Bardem, who previously shunned social media, set up accounts to share videos of his journey there -- getting the attention of David Harbor. The "Stranger Things" actor is now on his way to the Antarctic after one of his tweets asking for a spot on Greenpeace's mission went viral and caught Greenpeace's attention.An international campaign to designate 1.8 million square kilometers of the Weddell Sea on the Antarctic coast as a protected marine sanctuary -- the largest in the world -- is on a deadline to convince the international commission responsible for Antarctic conservation, the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marie Living Resources (CCAMLR), to approve the plans.Currently, there's no industrial krill-fishing in the Weddell Sea. But lobbyists for the industry are pushing against the sectioning off of the area, arguing that commercial fishing is sustainable and within legal limits of how much they can catch.But to Luke Massey, who is leading Greenpeace’s Antarctic mission, that's not the point.“The point is that stocks move,” Massey told ABC News. “And when the krill move to different waters -- and there are all sorts of things that are changing the environment there like climate change and temperature rises -- the fishing industry will follow them.”Setting up a sanctuary in the Weddell Sea will not only prevent commercial boats from fishing there, but it will include other conservation commitments that will benefit the ecosystems there, including more science projects. These projects would be funded by international groups, and there would be far greater access restrictions for all human activity -- not just fishing.The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (ICUN), argued in 2016 that there's a global imperative to protect at least a third of the world’s oceans by 2030 to ensure the health of the oceans and mitigate climate change.“The other crucial aspect of oceans that many people don’t realize is that a healthy ocean actually combats climate change," Massey said. "The oceans produce more oxygen than all the trees on the planet.”The Marine Stewardship Council's David Agnew, Ph.D., told ABC News that the wildlife in the earmarked area is not under threat from overfishing, pointing out that every expedition down to the Antarcti
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  • Pixelci/iStock/Thinkstock(CHAVORNAY, Switzerland) -- Millions of dollars in cash were stolen during a van heist along the French-Swiss border on Thursday night, according to reports.The armored vehicle transporting the cash was driving on a highway toward Lausanne, Switzerland, around 7:45 a.m. Thursday when it was robbed, local Swiss police said in a statement. The driver was forced to leave the highway and pull into a parking lot before the van was robbed by armed men wearing hoods near the village of Chavornay, police said.Thieves held up the drivers and emptied the van of the cash before fleeing in a dark-colored Porsche SUV, according to police.An estimated $32 million in cash was reportedly stolen in the heist.The daughter of one of the drivers was taken hostage during the robbery, authorities said, and she was later found on a road on the outskirts of Lyon uninjured after she was released."We are closely working with French investigators in order to identify and find the persons who are behind this act, this robbery and this hostage taking," a spokesman for the Swiss canton of Vaud told Reuters. "But, we can say that we are dealing with extremely organized people, who had prepared and planned the attack, and investigators are taking this into account."There were no injuries in the incident and no arrests have been made.Swiss authorities described the three men as having accents from southern France or North Africa and wearing all black. They're appealing for witnesses to come forward.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • kylieellway/iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- When art specialist Giles Peppiatt was asked to appraise a painting at the home of a family in London late last year, he didn't expect to find something so extraordinary.Hanging on the wall of the family's sitting room was "Tutu," an iconic Nigerian masterpiece whose whereabouts have been a mystery for decades."When I wound up at this normal, modest apartment in north London, it was quite a shock," said Peppiatt, director of modern and contemporary African art at Bonhams auction house. "I immediately was as sure as I could be that this was the lost picture that people had been talking about and looking for."Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu painted the portrait of a young woman named Adetutu Ademiluyi, known as Tutu, in 1974. She was a royal princess of Ife, an ancient city in southwest Nigeria that's considered the ancestral home of the country's second largest ethnic group, the Yoruba.Enwonwu created three versions of "Tutu," and all had been considered lost until Peppiatt's recent discovery. The owners, who have asked to remain anonymous, inherited the painting from their father and "hadn't a clue" it was an original until Peppiatt confirmed its authenticity."This is probably the most famous painting to come out of Africa," Peppiatt told ABC News in a telephone interview Friday. "People have been referring to it as the 'African Mona Lisa,' and I wouldn't challenge that."Enwonwu's depictions of the princess became a symbol of national reconciliation for Nigeria, at a time when the West African nation was still reeling from the civil war between the Nigerian government and the secessionist state of Biafra, which was mostly inhabited by the Igbo ethnic group.Enwonwu, who was Igbo, painted the first "Tutu" portrait in 1973, and it remained in his studio until his death in 1994 before disappearing. The whereabouts of the third portrait is also a mystery.In these paintings, Tutu appears in a regal pose, clad in formal and informal Yoruba attire."Tutu" will lead Bonhams' "Africa Now" auction in London on Feb. 28. The artwork is expected to fetch as much as 300,000 British pounds, or more than $410,000, which would be a record sum for a modern Nigerian painting.The event will be broadcast live in the Nigerian city of Lagos, and bidders will be able to participate in real time."It's an enormously important moment for Africa," Peppiatt said.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Ingram Publishing/iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- There’s nothing quite like seeing $100 million worth of gold with your own eyes -- heaven may be the closest thing.That’s the blunt concession of an Atlanta businessman who fell for one of the most sophisticated -- and most convincing -- scams U.S. law enforcement has ever seen, allegedly made possible with the help of corrupt government officials in Africa.“I challenge anybody that would have been there, I don't care who you are, what walks of life you came from, I challenge you to go and see and do the things that we've done, and not” fall for it, the 62-year-old businessman told ABC News under the condition that he not be identified by name.Watch the full story on "Nightline" FRIDAY NIGHT at 12:35 a.m. ET.The man behind the scam, Liberian native Cassell Kuoh, is now living in a U.S. federal prison in Charlotte, North Carolina, after pleading guilty to fraud charges and opening up to authorities about his wide-ranging scheme.“When I heard the dollar amounts that were involved I was shocked. I was literally shocked,” said Chris Healy, the assistant special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Charlotte, which investigated the case. “Not $1, $2, $3 or $4 [million]. We're talking anywhere $25 to $30 million.”For the Atlanta businessman, this international caper started three years ago, when he received a call from an associate telling him about a miner in Liberia named Cassell Kuoh, who by all accounts was a Liberian success story.He founded one of Liberia’s preeminent soccer teams; he was a philanthropist in his impoverished community, and -- the businessman was told -- Kuoh was a mine operator with a warehouse full of gold and diamonds, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.He was described as “a Liberian up-and-coming businessman that could be trusted to do transactions … and they actually called me to see if I wanted to invest,” the Atlanta man recalled to ABC News.He wanted to be a part of it all, but first he had to know if it was the real deal -- was Kuoh truly as he was being billed?So the Atlanta man emailed with Kuoh, he researched Kuoh, he met Kuoh in New York City and tested the miner’s product, and then he flew to Liberia.While in Liberia, the Atlanta man visited Kuoh’s mining site, he visited with officials of the Liberian government, he went to Kuoh’s home and met his family, and he went to Kuoh’s office -- an episode that the Atlanta man captured on his cellphone.“For all the non-believers that the product is real, you can actually see now, here’s 400 kilograms [nearly 900 pounds] of gold,” the Atlanta man can be heard saying as he shows Kuoh opening up seven white sacks filled with gold. Piled next to the sacks of gold were nearly two dozen gold bars.“These are just some of the products,” Kuoh told ABC News. “There are more of them that we have.”Kuoh had produced the same show for so many others -- using even more theatrics. In some cases, bullet-proof vans guarded by armed men would drop off the gold.“What they see is unbelievable. The set-up is very big,” Kuoh said.Those who traveled thousands of miles to see the gold also got to test the gold however they liked.All the clients had to do -- they were told -- is pay for any costs, certifications and taxes needed to export the gold out of Africa. Then they can sell the gold and split the profits.According to Kuoh, people from all over the world jumped in, including investors from the United States, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.But Kuoh acknowledged that had a secret.“The gold is not my gold. The gold is the government’s gold,” he said.His family’s mine produced little gold or diamonds. So, Kuoh told ABC News, he paid Liberian government officials to let him use ministry gol
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