• Ministry of Public Security(GUANCASTE, Costa Rica) -- A charter plane crashed in Guancaste, Costa Rica, on Sunday, killing 10 American passengers and two Costa Rican pilots, the Costa Rican government said.The plane crashed just moments after takeoff from Punta Islita Airport, according to officials and witnesses. The wreckage of the plane -- a private aircraft belonging to the airline Nature Air -- was on fire and no one responded when it was found by rescue crews, according to the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Security."The government of Costa Rica deeply regrets the death of 10 American passengers and two Costa Rican pilots in an air crash of aircraft TI-BEI from the company Nature Air, which occurred midday today near Nandayure, Guanacaste," the Costa Rican president's office said in a statement Sunday evening.The U.S. State Department confirmed that "multiple U.S. citizens" died in the crash."We can confirm the death of multiple U.S. citizens in an airplane crash in Costa Rica on Dec. 31, 2017," a U.S. State Department spokesperson said. "We express our condolences to all those affected by this tragedy. We are in contact with Costa Rican aviation authorities and will continue to monitor the situation."The State Department declined to identify the people onboard "out of respect for their families."The crash took place at 12:15 p.m. after the plane left Punta Islita Airport bound for San Jose, the Costa Rican capital, a ministry spokesperson said. Enio Cubillo, director of Costa Rica Civil Aviation, said at a news conference that the Nature Air pilot, Juan Manuel Retana, was very experienced.He said the cause of the crash was under investigation. Dawn and Matthew Wolfe, who have been vacationing in Costa Rica for a month, said they and their three children were sitting in a restaurant near Punta Islita Airport when the plane took off. They said the plane took a nose dive and crashed within minutes after takeoff.Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Protests continue in Iran as some demonstrators call for the release of political prisoners, economic reforms and greater social freedom. Others are protesting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
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  • ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- The United States faces a greater threat of nuclear conflict on the Korean peninsula than at any previous time, said a former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.“We're actually closer, in my view, to a nuclear war with North Korea and in that region than we have ever been,” Ret. Navy Adm. Michael Mullen told ABC News “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz in an interview Sunday. “And I just don't ... see the opportunities to solve this diplomatically at this particular point.”Mullen, who chaired the Joint Chiefs from 2007 to 2011, said President Donald Trump has succeeded in getting China to take a more active role in trying to restrain North Korea’s nuclear activities.“I think President Trump has made China move more than they have in the past,” he said. “A real measure of how this all comes out is whether China is going to commit to a peaceful resolution here. If they don't, then I worry a great deal that it's much more likely there will be conflict.”But Mullen also said that Trump has disrupted long-held views of the U.S. role in the world, and that America’s enemies benefit from that uncertainty.The Trump presidency has been “incredibly disruptive, certainly unpredictable in many many ways.” the retired admiral said. “Those who have been our friends for many years ask questions about our commitments to them...and our enemies, those that would do us ill, seem to be able to take advantage of the uncertainty.”Mullen is also concerned about a possible nuclear threat from Iran if Trump ends the Iran nuclear agreement.The president allowed the Iran deal to continue through 2017, but faces a legal deadline in mid-January on whether to continue it or to revive U.S. sanctions on Tehran. Mullen said if Trump makes good on his campaign promise to end the deal, Iran could rapidly develop nuclear weapons.“I worry greatly about the fact that the Iranians will bring forward a nuclear weapon capability,” Mullen said. “They were very close when the deal was struck. They can redevelop it, I think, very rapidly.”
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Coverage of global affairs in 2017 focused on the big flashpoints -- North Korea, the fight against ISIS and the aftershocks of Russia’s election meddling.But along with the familiar narratives there were a few plot twists –- from deadly drones to advances in artificial intelligence to new frontiers -- experts say 2018 could be a year where the stuff of speculative fiction gets real.Civilian drones could get weaponizedThe battle for Mosul generated some strange and gruesome images.ISIS had Mad Max-style VBEIDs -- heavily armored cars stuffed with explosives careening through the ruined streets on suicide missions. Iraqi anti-terror forces used bulldozers to plow insurgents into the rubble.But some of the most unsettling images were the ISIS propaganda videos shot from far above the city. Slow aerials of ruined streets -- small bombs drifting down like badminton shuttlecocks -- then vanishing in a pop of dust as tiny human forms scatter.Thanks to the improving quality and falling prices of civilian drones, ISIS had air power.“Anyone with basic skills can equip a civilian drone with explosives, fly it into a populated area, and do great damage,” Massachusetts Institute of Techology (MIT) professor Lisa Parks wrote in an email interview with ABC News. “This definitely makes me nervous.”Consumer drones are cheap, precise, easy to operate from concealed places, and equipped with cameras that can pan, tilt and target. So far the effect hasn’t been that dramatic, but what happens if insurgents use them to drop something deadlier?“Given that legal regulations regarding use of civilian airspace are flagrantly violated in conflict zones and by insurgents and others there is really nothing to stop insurgents from using drones to drop more effective explosives or biological or chemical weapons,” Parks told ABC News.Parks, co-editor of “Life in the Age of Drone Warfare,” studies new media technologies, including drones.Aside from the nightmare of a drone dropping weapons of mass destruction on soldiers and civilians, just the thought that something deadly may be hovering above “changes peoples' disposition to the sky and makes them nervous about what lies above and what kind of harm may be done to people on the ground during day or night,” she said.As Go goes, so goes the worldIn May, Google’s artificial intelligence program AlphaGo continued its rampage through the world of Go -– the notoriously difficult and ancient Chinese board game by beating the planet’s best human player, 19-year-old Ke Jie.Ke had played AlphaGo before, and was astonished at how far the program had come.“Last year, it was still quite humanlike when it played,” Ke said, according to the New York Times. “This year, it became like a god of Go.”China made a big push into artificial intelligence in July, announcing plans to draw even with the U.S. by 2020, pull ahead by 2025, and dominate global AI five years after that. So far US tech companies are ahead of the game, but in certain areas, like facial recognition and voice software, China is already the world leader -– as demonstrated an unsettling video of Donald Trump appearing to speak Chinese thanks to an AI powered program by the Chinese company iFlytek.In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin told a group of students that “artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind. It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world,” he said.Experts predict the first real AI powered breakthroughs will happen in material sciences, medicine, and in military applications -– with a re-match between AlphaGo and Ke sure to draw headlines and attention this spring.Bitcoin boom or bustWhether it crashes or soars
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  • Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Protests erupted in several cities in Iran for the second day in a row, catching many by surprise.Hundreds came to streets shouting slogans denouncing a variety of grievances that ran across the political spectrum. Among them: rising prices, economic conditions, corruption and the country’s foreign policy.Some called for the release of political prisoners, economic reforms and greater social freedom. Others in the crowds condemned Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, chanting “Down with Rouhani.” Still others protested Iran’s longstanding support for the Palestinians, saying: “No Gaza, no Lebanon. I offer my life for Iran.”The protests started on Thursday in Mashhad, a major holy city, and had spread to other cities including Kermanshah, Rasht, Qom and Tehran by Friday.The protests remain uncovered by the state-run television, and the only official news agency of the country, IRNA, referred to them as “suspicious” gatherings. The protests were mostly coordinated via “cyberspace,” IRNA said. Telegram, a popular messenger service in the country, was used to coordinate the protests, according to feeds on Twitter.In at least one city, the protests led to a violent police reaction. Videos from Kermanshah posted on Twitter appear to show police using violence against people and protestors reacting in turn by shouting slogans at police like “support us” and “catch criminals.”There are differences of opinion on how the protests started. Sources like Fars News, close to conservatives, say protestors were mainly people who had lost money due to corruption in the banking system, which the conservatives blame on the current moderate government.However, many other experts and officials, especially those close to Rouhani’s moderate government, including Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri, believe the riot was initially organized by the conservatives to weaken the government, but then other groups joined, including anti-conservatives.“Those who initiated these events will be damaged themselves,” Jahangiri said in a speech in Tehran on Friday, ISNA reported. He reminded that political movements can be hijacked and “others could surf the wave.”On Twitter, which is technically blocked in Iran, some reformists and moderate religious supporters of the system have started openly warning hardliners that if they do not listen to people’s voices, the consequences could hurt everyone.“Mr. Islamic Republic,” Hosein Derakhshan, known as the father of Persian blogging, and both a critic and a supporter of Rouhani and the Islamic revolution, wrote in a tweet, “Forty years ago you, the revolution, were more intelligent than the average illiterate person. You arrived, opened the universities and educated people. Now you lag behind. Catch up before it's too late or we will all lose.”U.S. President Donald Trump also weighed in on the protests on Twitter late Friday. The president applauded the protests and warned the Iranian government should "respect their people's rights." Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- At least 10 people were killed Friday after unidentified gunmen opened fire at a church south of Cairo, according to Egypt's health ministry.
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