Archives
  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- An 81-year old American citizen who was released from the hospital back to a notorious Iranian prison has been hospitalized again, with growing concerns that he could die in Iranian custody.Baquer Namazi has been held by Iran for nearly two years after he was trying to visit and secure the release of his son Siamak Namazi, who has been detained by Iran since fall 2015. They are two of the six Americans missing or detained in Iran -- with a new case revealed this past weekend.The elder Namazi, a retired UNICEF official, was rushed again to the hospital late Sunday night with an irregular heartbeat, severe depletion of energy and fluctuations of his blood pressure, according to his lawyer Jared Genser. This latest trip is Baquer Namazi's second to a hospital in the past two weeks and his fifth while in custody. He has a history of heart problems, including an emergency surgery to install a pacemaker while in custody last September.Before he was returned to Evin Prison last Tuesday, his family, his lawyer, and the State Department urged Iran to release him on humanitarian grounds. His doctor said that the prison's conditions are the primary reason for his declining health -- and the day after he was returned, he was unable to walk because of a severe drop in blood pressure and depletion of energy, Genser said.Last week, Under Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy Steve Goldstein warned that if Baquer Namazi was returned to prison, he could die. "We are concerned about that, and we would hope the Iranians would be concerned about that, too," he told reporters.The State Department has no comment on this latest hospitalization. Baquer Namazi's other son Babak Namazi released a statement, saying, "I beg the authorities to let him stay at home on parole on humanitarian grounds. It is obvious that if they do not, he could die at any time."Iranian officials didn't comment Monday on Baquer Namazi or his hospitalization but have consistently denied that the government arbitrarily arrests Americans.Baquer and Siamak Namazi, a 46-year old businessman, are both serving 10-year sentences for spying for the U.S. -- charges that they have denied.But they are not the only American citizens held by Iran. Xiyue Wang, a history Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University, was arrested in August 2016 and sentenced to a 10-year sentence one year later on espionage charges. His wife, Hua Qu, told ABC News in December that she fears for his life, as he is held in Evin Prison's Ward 7, where he was previously beaten by another prisoner.There is also the case of art gallery owner Karan Vafadari, an American citizen who was about to travel with his wife, Afarin Niasari, a green card-holder, to a family wedding in July 2016 when they were detained. No public charges have ever been brought against them, but they remain in custody.Former FBI agent Robert Levinson is also missing in Iran since 2007 -- the longest-held U.S. civilian, according to a Senate resolution passed two years ago Sunday. Iran denies that he is in the government's custody.Over the weekend, it was revealed that another American citizen is now also in detention. Morad Tahbaz is one of 10 environmentalists with the Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation that were arrested in January and charged with spying, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran. The State Department would not confirm Tahbaz's detention, citing privacy concerns, but said they are "aware of reports that a U.S. citizen has been detained in Iran."One of the environmentalists -- a 63-year-old Canadian citizen and university professor named Kavous Seyed-Emami -- committed suicide over the weekend, his son Ramin, a musician known as King Raam, revealed on Twitter Saturday."The rising number of deaths in Iranian prisons is an unfolding tragedy that must stop now," said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, in a statement. "In addition t
    Read more...
  • Purestock/Thinkstock(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- South African police are trying to identify a suspected poacher who was reportedly killed and partially devoured by lions in a private game reserve near the Kruger National Park.The man’s mauled remains, including his head, were reportedly found Monday alongside a hunting rifle and ammunition."The process of identifying the deceased has already commenced and it might be made possible by the fact that his head is amongst the remains that were found at the scene,” South African Police Service spokesman Lt. Col. Moatshe Ngoepe told the country’s News24.Ngoepe added: “We are now waiting for a person from the family but we are also utilizing our investigative resources to see if we can successfully identify the deceased."Ngoepe told Agence France-Presse news agency: “It seems the victim was poaching in the game park when he was attacked and killed by lions. They ate his body, nearly all of it, and just left his head and some remains.”The Department of Home Affairs has also been asked in to assist in identifying the man.It’s unclear whether the man was in the Ingwelala Private Game Reserve to specifically poach lions. Although lion poaching has been on the increase in recent years, the region has historically seen higher levels of rhino poaching, which is a more lucrative animal to kill illegally.In parts of Asia, the horn is in high demand, where it's used as an ineffective form of alternative medicine or carved into works of art.A year ago a man was mauled and killed by white lions in the same region after they escaped from their enclosure.Several lions were found poisoned near a farm in the same province last year with their heads and paws sawed off. Lion body parts are used in traditional medicine.
    Read more...
  • Grand Central Publishing(NEW YORK) -- Before Meghan Markle, Wallis Simpson was the first American divorcee to marry into the British royal family.While Simpson has been a figure of intrigue for decades, her recent portrayal in the Netflix hit show "The Crown" and the many comparisons between her and Markle have thrust her story back into the public eye.Historian Andrew Morton's latest book "Wallis in Love" paints a new image of the American socialite, arguing that the Duchess of Windsor was in love with another man during her marriage to Edward VIII.Morton also argues that Simpson was only in love with Edward VII's title. When Edward VIII told Simpson that he abdicated the throne for her, Morton says she called him a "fool," writing that the exchange was heard by the French secret police who were monitoring their phone calls between the South of France and England during that time.Morton claims that Herman Rogers, who Simpson met while she was living abroad in China, was the love of her life, and that her public life and marriage with Edward VIII was a charade.When Rogers married his second wife Lucy Wann, Wallis reportedly gave the couple an engraved silver tray with only his name on it as a wedding present.Morton also writes that Wann was terrified that Simpson would leave Edward VIII for Rogers, and at one point even told her, "You have got your king, but I have got your Herman," knowing how much Rogers meant to Simpson.Another revelation about Simpson and Edward VIII in the book is that the couple were in close, but secret, contact with Nazis during World War II, whom they enlisted to look after their homes in France.Morton writes that Simpson and Edward VIII hated the rest of the British royal family until their deaths because Simpson was never given the title "Her Royal Highness."By combing through diary entries, letters, never-before-published records and much more, Morton's depiction of Simpson sheds new light on the private life of the Duchess of Windsor.Morton told ABC News that many things have changed between the time when Wallis married Edward VIII and now, when another American divorcee is engaged to a British royal prince.While Edward VIII was forced to abdicate the throne in order to marry the woman he loved because the Church of England would not accept his decision to wed a divorced woman, Markle has so far been welcomed by the British royal family. Even before their marriage, Markle spent the Christmas holidays with Queen Elizabeth and the royal family at Sandringham.The historian argues that by witnessing the lives of these two American women, one can see how clearly times have changed to become more tolerant."Wallis in Love" hits bookstores nationwide on Feb. 13.
    Read more...
  • Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Hundreds of emergency workers are combing through a field in deep snow on Monday for wreckage from a Russian passenger jet that crashed shortly after taking off from Moscow Sunday, killing all 71 aboard.Saratov Airlines flight 703 was flying to the city of Orsk in central Russia but crashed minutes after leaving Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, plunging into the countryside about 40 miles from the city, authorities said.Russian authorities have confirmed the plane's 65 passengers, including three children, as well as six crew members, died in the crash, which left debris across a field close to the village of Stepanovskoye. A day of mourning has been declared in Orenburg, the region where Orsk is located and where many of the passengers were from.Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said Monday rescue operations at the site near Moscow had been called off and that the focus now was on recovering remains and debris from the crash as part of an investigation to determine what caused it. DNA analysis is being conducted to identify the remains of those killed.Workers have found at least one of the plane’s flight recorders. Russia’s Investigative Committee, which handles serious crimes, said in a statement that the plane’s data recorder, which preserves information like speed, altitude and direction, had been located. The search for the plane’s cockpit recorder is continuing, the committee said.The cause of the crash still remained unknown. Russian investigators have opened a criminal probe into whether negligence could have led to the crash but they have said they are still examining all possible versions, including weather conditions, technical failure or human error, among others.Although terrorism has not yet been ruled out, police have suggested it is not being considered a likely cause.The Investigative Committee, which is overseeing the crash investigation, said on Monday the plane had been intact when it fell from the air and had not been on fire, suggesting there was no explosion on board. The plane exploded on impact with the ground, committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said in a video statement.Investigators have been questioning staff at the airline, as well as ground staff and air traffic controllers who handled the flight. The Investigative Committee said the flight's crew made no distress call before the crash or indicated they were in difficulty.After takeoff from Domodedovo, the plane made a slight left turn and reached an altitude of 6,400 feet and a speed of roughly 345 mph before suddenly plunging to the ground in less than a minute, according to FlightTrader24, a Swedish internet-based flight-tracking service.There had been no technical complaints against the plane, a 7-year-old Antonov AN-148 regional jet that is a high-wing aircraft with twin turbo engines, Saratov Airlines spokeswoman Elena Voronova told ABC News.“The crew was experienced, the plane was reliable,” she said.Voronova identified the pilot as 51-year-old Valery I. Gubanov, who had 5,000 hours of flight experience, including 2,146 hours on the same kind of plane. She said the co-pilot, Sergey Gambarian, was also an experienced pilot.The White House Sunday afternoon released a statement offering its sympathies for the crash. "The United States is deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of those on board Saratov Airlines Flight 703. We send our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and to the people of Russia," the statement said.No Americans are believed to have been aboard the flight, the U.S. State Department has said.Russia’s aviation industry still suffers from a reputation for poor safety, inherited from the 1990s when it was plagued by crashes often caused by slack maintenance, aging equipment and weak government oversight. Recent years, though, have seen a marked improvement, with many carriers now equipped with modern fleets t
    Read more...
  • iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- The royal wedding plans of Prince Harry and his American-bride-to-be Meghan Markle are firming up as the couple released more details Sunday of the nuptials while expressing thanks for the good wishes they've been showered with from around the globe.The wedding will begin at noon on May 19 at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, about 22 miles outside of London, Kensington Palace officials said in a statement Sunday.The Right Rev. David Conner, the dean of Windsor, has been tapped to conduct the wedding service, while The Most Rev. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will officiate when the couple takes their marriage vows, the statement reads.Welby also performed the christening of Prince Harry's nephew, Prince George, in 2013.Following the hour-long wedding ceremony, Harry and Markle plan to undertake a carriage procession that will start at St. George's Chapel, leave Windsor Castle via Castle Hill, continue along High Street through Windsor Town before returning to Windsor Castle on a route called the Long Walk."They hope this short journey will provide an opportunity for more people to come together around Windsor and enjoy the atmosphere of this special day," the Kensington Palace statement reads.After the carriage procession, the newlyweds will attend a reception at St. George's Hall, where they will rejoin their wedding guests. They will likely include Harry's grandparents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip; his father, Prince Charles; and his big brother, Prince William, and his wife, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.While the official wedding guest list remains a closely guarded secret, the couple is expected to fill St. George's Chapel, which has a capacity to hold 800."Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle are hugely grateful for the many good wishes they have received since announcing their engagement," the Kensington Palace statement reads. "They are very much looking forward to the day and to being able to share their celebrations with the public."Prince Harry, 33, the fifth in line to the British throne, and Markle, 36, an actress who was born and raised in Los Angeles, announced their engagement in November. Speaking with reporters outside Kensington Palace, Markle showed off her engagement ring, which features two diamonds from the personal collection of Harry's mother, the late Princess Diana."The little diamonds on either side are from my mother's jewelry collection to make sure that she's with us on this crazy journey together," Harry told the BBC during the first interview he and Markle gave in November as an engaged couple.
    Read more...