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iStock/Zzvet(NEW YORK) -- A total of five people have died this week on Mount Everest, as crowds of climbers experienced bottlenecks in the rush to take advantage of a short window of good weather to attempt the world's highest summit.

Three deaths were reported on Thursday, and two others died on Wednesday.

The deaths come amid reports of massive crowding on the mountain. Around the Hillary Step, where climbers have to go single-file, there were reports of two-to three-hour delays on Wednesday.

Nepal issued a high number of permits to climb the mountain this year -- 367 to foreigners and 14 to Nepalese climbers, according to a government liaison officer at base camp. This is a record number, according to Everest expert Alan Arnette.

In addition, this season's weather has forced large crowds up at once. Climbers wait for favorable weather forecasts to make summit attempts, and this year, there have only been two windows with five summit days so far, as Arnette detailed on his site. Typically, there are seven to 12 favorable days, according to Arnette.

Because of this, many climbers are going up to make their attempts all at once, creating bottlenecks.

The three deaths reported on Thursday include two Indian climbers, Nihal Bagwan and Kalpana Dash, according to The New York Times. The third death was a climber identified Swiss guide company Kobler & Partner only by his first name, Ernst.

All three climbers died while descending the mountain. Ernst was climbing on the northern, Chinese-controlled Tibet side of the mountain, while Bagwan and Dash were on the more popular Nepalese side, the New York Times reported.

On Wednesday, American Donald Lynn Cash and Indian Anjali Kulkarni died during their descents from the Everest summit.

The longer a person stays at high altitude, the higher their risk is for altitude sickness, which happens when the body struggles to adapt to lower air pressure and oxygen levels. The recommended response is for a person to move to move to a lower-elevation area.

At least one death was partially attributed to the crowds. Bagwan was "exhausted and dehydrated due to long hours spent at the death zone (above 8,000 meters) due to heavy traffic," Krishma Poudel, manager at Peak Promotion, told ABC News.

Dash was the first female mountaineer from the Indian state of Odisha, per The Hindu paper, and first summited Everest in 2008.

"Her legacy in mountaineering will inspire generations of young women in the State," Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said, according to The Hindu.

"We at Kobler & Partner would like to express our sincere condolences for the great loss, especially to the Ernst family, as well as to his friends and acquaintances during the difficult hours of mourning," Kobler & Partner wrote on their website.

Before the three Thursday deaths, there were 12 confirmed deaths this climbing season in the Himalayan region, according to the government liaison officer. In addition to Cash and Kulkarni this week, Indian climber Ravi Thakar died during his Everest descent last week.

Additionally, Irish mountaineer Seamus Lawless went missing in mid-May and is presumed dead.

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midesi69/Twitter(LYON, France) -- An explosion in the French city of Lyon on Friday left eight people with minor injuries, local officials said on social media.

The blast occurred at the corner of Victor Hugo Street and Sala Street, and authorities are urging people to avoid the area.

The New York Police Department's counter-terrorism division said in a message on Twitter that they were "closely monitoring" the incident and "reports of a package explosion."

In January, a science building at the University of Lyon in France caught on fire after three gas cylinders on the roof of the building exploded, injuring three students, but officials said the incident was not tied to terrorism.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Julian Assange has always been a lightning-rod for controversy, but the latest charges against him have journalism watchdog groups crying foul.

Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, was charged by U.S. authorities Thursday of violating the Espionage Act. Now there's a debate whether prosecutors can claim the same about journalists who publish stories on state secrets.

The Department of Justice is defending he charges against Assange. According to Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers, "Julian Assange is no journalist" and "the Department takes seriously the role of journalists and our democracy and we support it."

Journalism groups don't seem to agree, however. Bruce Brown, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, released a statement, arguing the charges could also be applied to journalists.

"Any government use of the Espionage Act to criminalize the receipt and publication of classified information poses a dire threat to journalists seeking to publish such information in the public interest, irrespective of the Justice Department’s assertion that Assange is not a journalist," Brown said in a statement.

Suzanne Nossel, the CEO of non-profit PEN America, which describes itself as a group that defends and protects free expression, called the indictment "unprecedented" and has "grave implications for a free press."

"Whether Assange is a journalist or WikiLeaks qualifies as a press outlet is immaterial to the counts set out here," Nossel said in a statement.

"The indictment encompasses a series of activities--including encouraging sources verbally and in writing to leak information and receiving and publishing such information--that media outlets routinely undertake as part of their role to hold government to account," she said.

Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union said the charges were "extraordinary."

"For the first time in the history of our country, the government has brought criminal charges against a publisher for the publication of truthful information," Wizner, director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said in a statement.

"This is an extraordinary escalation of the Trump administration's attacks on journalism and a direct assault on the First Amendment," Wizner said. "It establishes a dangerous precedent that can be used to target all news organizations that hold the government accountable by publishing its secrets. And it is equally dangerous for U.S. journalists who uncover the secrets of other nations. If the US can prosecute a foreign publisher for violating our secrecy laws, there’s nothing preventing China, or Russia, from doing the same."

Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked classified information and also faces charges under the Espionage Act, weighed in on Twitter, suggesting the charges against Assange were a declaration of war.

"The Department of Justice just declared war––not on WikiLeaks, but on journalism itself. This is no longer about Julian Assange: This case will decide the future of media," Snowden said in a tweet.

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Leon Neal/Getty Images(LONDON) — U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday announced her resignation, putting an end to months of speculation over her future because of her handling of Brexit.

"It is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country to have a new prime minister," May told reporters.

She said she will be resigning on June 7.

"It is a matter of deep regret that I have not been able to deliver Brexit," May added. "My successor will have to find a consensus. Consensus will only be possible if those on both sides of the debate compromise."

Toward the end of her speech, May’s voice cracked and she appeared on the verge of tears, adding: "It's been the honor of my life to serve the country I love."

BREAKING: U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May announces her resignation. https://t.co/t439qngUCK pic.twitter.com/Zo3hSnybLN

— ABC News (@ABC) May 24, 2019

 

Reactions were mixed but broadly respectful.

 

The Prime Minister has shown great courage.

She is a public servant who did all she could to bring Brexit to a resolution.

Her sense of duty is something everyone should admire and aspire to.

— Amber Rudd MP (@AmberRuddHR) May 24, 2019

 

 

1. I wish Theresa May well. She and I had profound disagreements - not least on her handling of Brexit and her disregard for Scotland’s interests. However, leadership is tough - especially in these times - and she deserves thanks for her service.

— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) May 24, 2019

 

 

What a hypocrite https://t.co/qY5opxXLlc

— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) May 24, 2019

 

 

Theresa May is right to resign. She's now accepted what the country's known for months: she can't govern, and nor can her divided and disintegrating party.

Whoever becomes the new Tory leader must let the people decide our country’s future, through an immediate General Election.

— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) May 24, 2019

 

An election within the Conservative Party now will commence to determine who takes over as party leader. That person also will become prime minister, as the Conservatives are still the largest party in the House of Commons despite months of infighting.

May's authority has looked increasingly shaky in recent months. Her Brexit deal, which she spent the better part of three years negotiating and re-negotiating, has been rejected by lawmakers three times this year. She previously said she'd would resign if her Brexit deal was passed, but now she's bowing to pressure from lawmakers within her own party to resign before a deal is again put up for a vote.

A speech on Wednesday in which May unveiled a new plan to get her Brexit deal through Parliament included a vote for lawmakers on “on whether the deal should be subject to a referendum."

This proved to be deeply unpopular with Brexit-supporting members of her own party, including MP Boris Johnson, who said on Tuesday that while he'd previously backed May's deal with "great reluctance," he couldn't support her new plan.

 

With great reluctance I backed MV3. Now we are being asked to vote for a customs union and a second referendum. The Bill is directly against our manifesto - and I will not vote for it. We can and must do better - and deliver what the people voted for.

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) May 21, 2019

 

Johnson announced his intention to run for prime minister once May steps down. Others expected to run include Dominic Raab, Esther McVey and Matt Hancock.

Whoever assumes control still must resolve key issues around Brexit.

The U.K. is set to leave the EU on Oct. 31, but the country's political future has never looked more uncertain.

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yorkfoto/iStock(GUIZHOU, China) -- At least 10 people are dead and eight missing after a boat capsized on a river in southwestern China.

The vessel capsized in the remote Banrao village of Guizhou province.

Police arrested the captain, and the others who were rescued were rushed to a hospital.

Accidents on Chinese waterways have declined in recent years because of an increased government emphasis on safety.

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Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan (US Department of Defense)(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Central Command is requesting additional defensive capabilities that could lead to as many as 5,000 to 10,000 additional troops being sent to the Middle East to deter Iran, a U.S. official told ABC News.

On Thursday afternoon, acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan confirmed that the Pentagon is asking for more forces, but would not confirm any numbers, saying that it was not 5,000 or 10,000.

"What we are focused on now is do we have the right force protection in the Middle East?," he told reporters outside the Pentagon.

"What we’re looking at are there things we can do to enhance force protection in the Middle East," he added.

Shanahan acknowledged that such a request " may involve sending additional troops."

There was a meeting at the White House on Thursday where the Central Command request was to be considered, according to two U.S. officials, who stressed that it was unclear which portions of the CENTCOM request could be approved at this White House meeting.

The U.S. official told ABC News Wednesday that the defensive capabilities and weapons systems were being requested, and that the number of additional forces will depend on which capabilities are approved.

The CENTCOM request has been in the works for some time, the U.S. official said.

There are currently 60,000 to 80,000 U.S. troops serving in the Middle East including 14,000 in Afghanistan, 5,000 in Iraq, 2,000 in Syria, 10,000 in Kuwait, 10,000 in Qatar and thousands more at sea and elsewhere in the region.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford briefed the House and Senate Tuesday on President Donald Trump's Iran strategy, including recent intelligence of an increased Iranian threat and the U.S. reaction to it, the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers and the ordered departure of non-emergency personnel from Iraq.

After hearing from the officials, Democratic lawmakers expressed alarm over the administration's posture in the Middle East and the possibility of a conflict with Iran.

Additional defensive capabilities could include additional Patriot anti-missile batteries like the one already deployed to an unspecified location in the Middle East to deter Iran.

CENTCOM could also be requesting additional U.S. Navy ships to the region beyond the USS Abraham Lincoln Strike Group and the USS Kearsarge Amphibious Group that are currently in the North Arabian Sea.

But it's unclear when additional ships could arrive in the region. Two weeks ago, the Pentagon announced that the USS Arlington would be headed to the Middle East to swap out with another ship, but that has yet to occur as the Arlington is currently in Spain.

The new CENTCOM request for additional defensive capabilities and forces comes as Shanahan said on Tuesday that the threat of Iranian attacks against U.S. forces had been put "on hold."

U.S. officials said the Iranian threat to U.S. forces continues even as Iran has pulled back some weapons systems. Two U.S. officials said that Iran has removed cruise missiles from two civilian dhows that posed a risk to U.S. Navy ships, commercial ships and land targets.

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lucagavagna/iStock(NEW YORK) -- United Nations officials on Thursday named an emergency Ebola response coordinator to help bolster efforts to contain the growing outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo that has killed more than 1,200 people in 10 months.

David Gressly, the U.N. deputy special representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been appointed to the new position, in which he "will oversee the coordination of international support for the Ebola response and work to ensure that an enabling environment -- particularly security and political -- is in place to allow the Ebola response to be even more effective," according to a statement from the World Health Organization, the global health arm of the U.N.

“The Ebola response is working in an operating environment of unprecedented complexity for a public health emergency -- insecurity and political protests have led to periodic disruptions in our efforts to fight the disease," Gressly said in a statement Thursday. "Therefore, an enhanced UN-wide response is required to overcome these operating constraints, and this includes moving senior leadership and operational decision making to the epicenter of the epidemic in Butembo. We have no time to lose."

Gressly will work closely with the WHO, which will continue to lead all health operations and technical activities in support of the Congolese government's response to the Ebola epidemic.

“This system-wide and international support is exactly what WHO has been calling for," Dr. Ibrahima Soce Fall, the WHO's assistant director-general for emergency response, said in a statement Thursday. "We know that the outbreak response must be owned by the local population, and this new approach reflects what they have asked for: better security for patients and health workers, wider access to vaccination, and a more humane face to the response.”

A total of 1,866 people have reported symptoms of hemorrhagic fever in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's northeastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri since ‪Aug. 1.‬ Among those cases, 1,778 have tested positive for Ebola virus disease, which causes an often-fatal type of hemorrhagic fever, according to Wednesday night's bulletin from the country's health ministry.

A third of those who have fallen ill are children, which is a higher proportion than in previous Ebola epidemics, according to the WHO.

The current outbreak has a case fatality rate of about 66 percent. There have been 1,241 deaths so far, including 1,153 people who died from confirmed cases of Ebola. The other deaths are from probable cases, according to the Congolese health ministry.

The vast majority of cases have been recorded in the cities of Katwa, Beni, Butembo and Mabalako in North Kivu province.

So far, no cases have spread beyond North Kivu and Ituri provinces, nor across international borders. But the risk of national and regional spread remains "very high," according to the WHO.

The confinement of the virus to the two affected provinces has been aided by an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by American pharmaceutical company Merck. Since Aug. 8, more than 121,000 people have been vaccinated against Ebola in the outbreak zone in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, along with health workers in neighboring Uganda and South Sudan, according to the WHO.

However, access to communities is hampered by ongoing security issues in the region and community mistrust in the Ebola response.

North Kivu and Ituri, the two provinces where people have been infected, are awash in conflict. Health workers and other frontline personnel are being targeted in sporadic attacks from armed groups operating near the country's volatile, mineral-rich border with Uganda. This is the first Ebola outbreak in history to occur in an active war zone.

Response teams are also grappling with a population that's very mobile and has never faced an Ebola outbreak before. A quarter of people interviewed in the cities of Beni and Butembo in North Kivu province during a survey last September said they didn't believe the deadly virus was real, according to a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal in March.

Moreover, this outbreak came amid a fresh wave of violent political unrest over a long-anticipated election to replace the country's leader of 18 years. The turmoil peaked in late December when the Congolese government postponed voting in certain Ebola-hit communities.

This is the 10th outbreak of Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the most severe seen in the Central African nation since 1976, when scientists first identified the virus near the eponymous Ebola River.

It's also one of the worst outbreaks ever, second only to the 2014-2016 epidemic in multiple West African nations that infected 28,652 people and killed 11,325, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The WHO has twice decided not to declare the current outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, as it did for the West African epidemic. The proclamation would mobilize more resources and command global attention.

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Chirag Wakaskar/Getty Images(LONDON) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed victory in the country's general election on Thursday, as early vote counts showed his Bharatiya Janata Party on course for a significant win.

Early data from the nation's Electoral Commission showed the BJP led in contests for 269 of the 542 seats in Parliament, while its rival party, the Indian National Congress, was winning just 56.

"Together we grow. Together we prosper. Together we will build a strong and inclusive India. India wins yet again!" Modi wrote in announcing his victory on Twitter.

सबका साथ सबका विकास सबका विश्वास = विजयी भारत

Together we grow.

Together we prosper.

Together we will build a strong and inclusive India.

India wins yet again! #VijayiBharat

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 23, 2019

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan congratulated Modi on his election win, saying he was looking forward to "working with him for peace, progress and prosperity."

I congratulate Prime Minister Modi on the electoral victory of BJP and allies. Look forward to working with him for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia

— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) May 23, 2019

Although tensions between India and Pakistan in the disputed region of Kashmir dominated the build-up to the election, Modi's victory could lead to a new dialogue between the two countries, according to Chatham House senior research fellow Dr. Gareth Price.

"Despite a large part of the BJP campaign being predicated on projecting strength against Pakistan, ironically over the next few months – terrorist attacks notwithstanding – one of the occasional windows of opportunity for talks with Pakistan has opened up," Price told ABC News. "Political insecurity in one or both countries has undermined previous attempts at rapprochement. For now, at least, both governments have the legitimacy to engage with the other.”

Modi's projection of a strong Hindu identity for India, as well as emphasis on economic growth, played a crucial role in his victory, Price said. But Price said this could end up being problematic.

“The BJP’s narrative clearly resonated with voters across northern India," he told ABC News. "That is that India should be strong economically and militarily and proud of its Hindu-ness. This has implications for minorities, in particular Muslims. However, some of the policies mooted by the BJP for electoral purposes may come back to haunt it -- in particular, the National Citizens Register, which, if followed through, could create millions of stateless people.”

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sasacvetkovic33/iStock(PRETORIA, South Africa) — Big 5 hunters are rejoicing after two Southern African countries scrapped or relaxed their hunting laws.

Five years after outlawing elephant hunting, Botswana has backtracked its decision, claiming an increased population has started to impact farmers' livelihoods. Wildlife authorities in neighboring Zimbabwe lifted a ban on hunting buffaloes with bows and arrows.

The prohibition on elephant hunting in Botswana was introduced in 2014 by then-president Ian Khama, who was a keen environmentalist. But within months of being succeeded by President Mokgweetsi Masisi last year, a public review was launched.

Lawmakers from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) lobbied to overturn the ban, saying numbers have become unmanageable in some areas.

"Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension," the environment ministry said in a statement.

It said a cabinet committee review found that "the number and high levels of human-elephant conflict and the consequent impact on livelihoods was increasing."

The ministry has promised that the hunting of elephants would be reinstated "in an orderly and ethical manner."

Botswana has the largest elephant population in Africa, with more than 135,000 roaming freely in its parks and wide open spaces.

At the same time, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said the prohibition on hunting buffaloes with bows and arrows has been lifted.

"ZimParks has relaxed conditions relating to the hunting of buffaloes by allowing the use of specific bows and arrows as part of efforts to diversify options for professional hunters and boost revenue from the sport," the agency said in a statement.

Zimbabwe has been at the center of several contentious high-profile hunting incidents.

In 2015, the killing of Cecil the lion sparked international outrage. Cecil, a large black-maned lion, was a well-known animal in a monitoring program and was killed by an American dentist on a hunting trip after he wandered beyond the park's protected boundaries.

Zimbabwe has been capitalizing on its wildlife as a source of revenue. Earlier this month, ZimParks revealed that it made more than $2.7 million from the sale of more than 90 elephants to China and Dubai. The Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said that the money raised from the sale would be used to fund conservation efforts.

While hunting elephants is now legal in Botswana, it remains unlikely that American hunters would be able to bring their trophies home. In 2017, a controversy erupted after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to lift the ban on elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia. After President Donald Trump tweeted his dissatisfaction with the decision, the Fish and Wildlife Service reversed course and decided to evaluate all applications to import elephant trophies from all countries on a case-by-case basis. Since then, no permits have been issued.

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gagarych/iStock(NEW YORK) -- An American man who conquered the Seven Summits -- the tallest mountains on each continent -- died on Mount Everest shortly after reaching the peak.

Donald Lynn Cash, a 55-year-old Utah resident, fainted due to high altitude sickness on Wednesday, guide company Pioneer Adventure wrote on its website.

Sherpa guides brought Cash down from the 8,848-meter peak to Hillary Step, a landmark on the mountain that is located at about 8,770 meters, after administering CPR, raising Cash's oxygen pressure and giving him a massage. Ultimately, though, they were unable to save him, the company wrote.

 Tackling Everest was the culmination of years of training and dreaming.

"This is a total blast," Cash wrote from the mountain in April in a post on Instagram. "I'm truly blessed to just be here on this adventure with great new friends!!"

Cash's body was left on the mountain, Gyanendra Shrestha, the government liaison officer at base camp told ABC News, but there will be more recovery efforts Thursday, weather permitting.

"The last message he sent to me, he said, 'I feel so blessed to be on the mountain that I read about for the last 40 years,'" his son, Tanner Cash, told KSL-TV, an NBC affiliate.

Cash's body has been left on the mountain, government liaison officer Gyanendra Shrestha at base camp told ABC News, but there will be more recovery efforts Thursday, weather permitting.

Another climber, Anjali Kulkarni, from India, also died while descending from the Everest peak on Wednesday, the South China Morning Post reported.

Weather conditions on the mountain this season had many climbers waiting for a clear window. When one presented itself this week, climbers on the north and south side of the mountain attempted to take advantage of it.

Nepal has granted 367 permissions to foreign climbers on Everest and 14 to Nepalese climbers, according to Shrestha, and there are over 400 additional Nepalese support staff on the mountain.

The peak was crowded on Wednesday, and South China Morning Post reported the crowds caused lines and delays near the summit. There were reports of two- to three-hour waits to descend by the Hillary Step on Wednesday, Everest expert Alan Arnette wrote on his blog. The spot is named for Sir Edmund Hillary, who, along with Tenzing Norgay, was the first person known to reach the peak.

The longer a person stays at high altitude, the higher the risk of altitude sickness.

Altitude sickness happens when the body struggles to adapt to lower air pressure and oxygen levels, and symptoms include dizziness, vomiting and weakness, with emergency cases including fluid in the lungs and brain. The recommended response is for a person to move to move to a lower-elevation area.

There have been 12 confirmed deaths this climbing season in the Himalayan region, according to Shrestha, including three on Everest. Indian climber Ravi Thakar died during his Everest descent last week.

Additionally, Irish mountaineer Seamus Lawless went missing in mid-May and is presumed dead.

Pioneer Adventure did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

"He wanted to do this," Brandalin Cash, Cash's daughter, told KSL-TV. "He wanted to be on that mountain. He wanted to show that he could accomplish dreams and that others can too."

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AlxeyPnferov/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Supporters and leaders of Europe’s far-right parties gathered for Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s international alliance of European Nationalist parties last Sunday, hoping to unite Europe’s top nationalist parties and their voters in advance of the upcoming European Parliament elections.

Marine le Pen of the National Rally (formerly known as National Front) was in attendance, as was Germany’s Jörg Meuthen, leader of the German far-right party Alternative for Deutschland (AfD). Yet Europe's populist party -- Austria’s Freedom Party -- was notably missing.

One day earlier, a video obtained by Germany’s Der Spiegel revealed the far-right party’s leader Hans Christian-Strache offering government contracts to a woman posing as a Russian investor during a booze-filled evening on the Spanish party island of Ibiza. The response was swift, with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz ousting the anti-immigration party from the country’s ruling coalition and calling for snap elections just days before the FPO hoped to have a strong showing in EU elections.

Meanwhile, in Italy, tensions have been mounting between Italy’s governing coalition made up of Salvini’s far-right League and the left-wing Five Star Movement, fueling speculation that a government reshuffle will soon be in the cards.

If far-right parties can’t get along with their coalition partners, the likelihood that they will unify in the European parliament hardly seems promising.

Yet such internal upheavals may not have much of an effect on nationalist party voters who in recent years have been lured away from establishment parties and toward Euroscepticism and limits on immigration, particularly since the bloc saw an influx of migrants from the Middle East in 2015. According to the latest poll by the European Council on Foreign Relations, anti-European parties could become the second-largest group in the parliament, holding up to 35 percent of seats.

England’s Brexit party, headed by Nigel Farage, is expected to win 34 percent of U.K. votes, according to the latest Europe Elects’ poll, despite lacking a substantial political program outside of pushing for Brexit by any means necessary. Poised to take a substantial lead over traditional parties such as the Liberal Democrats and Teresa May’s conservatives, the Brexit party’s strong position can be explained by “the crumbling of traditional party loyalties, especially for the long-established Conservative party that has dominated the political scene for 150 years,” Tony Travers, professor of public policy at the London School of Economics, told ABC News.

The European Union Parliament is responsible for passing EU laws, establishing EU budgets and examining EU institutions. Members of parliament are elected to five-year terms.

MPs join blocks based on their political affiliation, not the country that they hail from. Currently center-left and center-right blocks have formed a majority coalition. Although only the European Union Commission can propose laws, the parliament is responsible for changing or amending them, which means a strong showing of Eurosceptic politicians could theoretically slow down lawmaking.

If elected, some MPs aim to take powers away from the European Commission and put them back into the hands of the parliament.

“It is Macron’s Europe. We want the power to be given back to the people, to the European legislators, i.e. the European Parliament,” Marie Dauchy, one of National Rally Party's 79 candidates, told ABC News.

To appeal to voters, the nationalist party is now pushing for a reform of EU institutions instead of leaving the union altogether.

Yet, as Austria’s political scandal shows, far-right parties currently in power around Europe stand on shaky ground. Populism is “volatile and prone to instability,” said Marcus How, head of research and analysis at Vienna-based political consultancy ViennEast.

“The 2014 EU election was also touted as a populist wave but it didn’t really add up to very much, not least because many of the far-right parties were simply unable to form alliances with one another,” he said.

Despite the wins, their legislative power in parliament would be limited, meaning their influence is likely to be more “symbolic” than practical, How noted.

The real danger comes when center-right parties band together with their far-right counterparts to form coalitions. How cited the Austrian national elections in 2017 which brought a far-right party to the helm of the country.

“If the center right needs to court the populists and move away from the liberal consensus that's always been a worrying indicator,” he said.

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Bill Chizek/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Central Command is requesting additional defensive capabilities that could lead to as many as 5,000 to 10,000 additional troops being sent to the Middle East to deter Iran, a U.S. official told ABC News.

There will be a meeting at the White House on Thursday where the Central Command request will be considered, according to two U.S. officials, who stressed that it is unclear which portions of the CENTCOM request could be approved at this White House meeting.

The U.S. official said that defensive capabilities and weapons systems are being requested, and the number of additional forces will depend on which capabilities are approved.

The CENTCOM request has been in the works for some time, the U.S. official said.

There are currently 60,000 to 80,000 U.S. troops serving in the Middle East including 14,000 in Afghanistan, 5,000 in Iraq, 2,000 in Syria, 10,000 in Kuwait, 10,000 in Qatar and thousands more at sea and elsewhere in the region.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford briefed the House and Senate Tuesday on President Donald Trump's Iran strategy, including recent intelligence of an increased Iranian threat and the U.S. reaction to it, the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers and the ordered departure of non-emergency personnel from Iraq.

After hearing from the officials, Democratic lawmakers expressed alarm over the administration's posture in the Middle East and the possibility of a conflict with Iran.

Additional defensive capabilities could include additional Patriot anti-missile batteries like the one already deployed to an unspecified location in the Middle East to deter Iran.

CENTCOM could also be requesting additional U.S. Navy ships to the region beyond the USS Abraham Lincoln Strike Group and the USS Kearsarge Amphibious Group that are currently in the North Arabian Sea.

But it's unclear when additional ships could arrive in the region. Two weeks ago, the Pentagon announced that the USS Arlington would be headed to the Middle East to swap out with another ship, but that has yet to occur as the Arlington is currently in Spain.

The new CENTCOM request for additional defensive capabilities and forces comes as Shanahan said on Tuesday that the threat of Iranian attacks against U.S. forces had been put "on hold."

U.S. officials said the Iranian threat to U.S. forces continues even as Iran has pulled back some weapons systems. Two U.S. officials said that Iran has removed cruise missiles from two civilian dhows that posed a risk to U.S. Navy ships, commercial ships and land targets.


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bestdesigns/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- As new fighting in Syria's last opposition-held province intensifies, the U.S. is increasingly warning the regime of Bashar al Assad and his backer Russia against escalating the conflict, especially by deploying chemical weapons.

Despite the warnings, the top U.S. envoy expressed some optimism for finding a path forward, in particular with Russian support after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin last week. As the U.S. keeps diplomatic and economic pressure on Assad, Moscow is beginning to come around to an understanding that Assad cannot win the war militarily and will never regain international support, according to U.S. Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey.

The U.S. is gathering evidence of a possible chlorine gas attack on Sunday and has seen "signs that the Assad regime may be renewing its use of chemical weapons," the State Department said Tuesday.

"The United States and our allies will respond quickly and appropriately" if chemical weapons were confirmed to have been used, spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

President Donald Trump has twice ordered airstrikes on Syrian military targets after the U.S. confirmed the regime had deployed sarin gas on civilians, although previous uses of chlorine did not precipitate an armed response. Ortagus told ABC News chlorine when deployed in warfare is a banned chemical weapon, but she declined to preview any military action.

The State Department also warned against any escalation in Idlib province, the rebel stronghold backed by Turkey that is supposed to be under a ceasefire brokered by it and Russia. In recent weeks, however, Syrian airplanes and artillery, backed by Russian air power, have bombarded sections that the two countries say are infiltrated by terror groups.

The fighting has displaced some 180,000 new Syrians, according to the United Nations, with at least dozens of people killed amid the most intense period of violence in months.

But while the State Department has increased its warnings about an escalation by Assad, President Trump has been quiet. Ahead of what analysts said was a pending offensive by Assad and Russia in September, he issued a tweet warning against the offensive. The White House later promised the U.S. would respond "swiftly and appropriately" if they moved ahead, and days later, Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a ceasefire.

Trump took credit for that deal, but so far has not weighed in, although Ortagus said the White House was "fully supportive" of the State Department's warnings.

"Everybody wants this war to end, everybody wants refugees and [internally displaced persons] to return, and everybody wants the fighting and this danger of an escalation to stop," Jeffrey told the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday, with one exception: Assad himself, who has "shown little willingness to be flexible on any issue and at the moment may be concluding that it's better to sit on a pile of rubble with half his population and 60 percent of his country than compromise."

To that end, Russia has been helpful, according to Jeffrey, who said Moscow knows they need a political solution to rid themselves of the costly conflict and an ally that most of the rest of the world opposes. Pompeo made that clear with a "very strong démarche," per Jeffrey, when they met Putin in Sochi last Tuesday.

"We received assurances from the Russians, some of which they seemed to have been trying to carry out in the days since we were in Sochi. Trying to slow down or stop any military conflict with dozens of groups on the ground is not easy... But we did believe that we made some progress with President Putin," he added.

U.S. sanctions and a promise by America and its allies to withhold any reconstruction funds until Assad allows for a political transition has been instrumental in influencing Russia and key to that future path, Jeffrey said. To that end, he urged Congress to continue to apply economic pressure, including passing the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act.

The bill, which was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday, would require the president to sanction anyone who does business with the Syrian government or central bank, including those involved in construction, engineering, or energy projects or those providing aircraft or spare aviation parts. It also authorizes the State Department to support the collection and preservation of evidence of war crimes or crimes against humanity to aid in any future investigations and trials.

The bill, which takes its name from the code name of a military defector who smuggled 53,275 photographs out of Syria showing Assad's war crimes, passed the House in January.

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KeithBinns/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Nazar Shah, a resident of Ratodero, Pakistan, cried holding his 2-year-old daughter Fatima and praying to God to "protect and cure the beautiful gift He has given them."

He was confused about how Fatima could have contracted HIV when neither he nor Fatima's mother have it, he told ABC News.

Shah is not alone in his shock and confusion. An HIV epidemic has been discovered in the Sindh province of Pakistan and is being linked by officials to a local physician.

By the latest count, 607 patients were diagnosed as HIV positive out of 20,217 patients screened, according to Dr. Sikandar Memon, manager of the Sindh AIDS Control Programme. Of those HIV positive cases, 494 are children and 113 are adults. According to official figures, there are 23,000 registered HIV positive patients in Pakistan overall.

Memon told ABC News that while an investigation is still going on, the reuse of syringes and unsafe blood transfusions are believed to be the main causes of the spread of the virus.

"Dr. Muzaffar Ghanghro is in judicial custody," senior police official Kamran Nawaz told ABC News. Charges against the local doctor include "infecting children with HIV with the reuse of syringes," Nawaz said.

Ghanghro told a local journalist officials "shifted the blame to me to cover up themselves."

"A doctor is not anybody's enemy," Ghanghro said. "Allah provides cure; we just try."

He has not yet been assigned a lawyer.

Nawaz said the final investigation report will be in by the end of the week.

To serve the local population, Memon said the government has established camps at various sites to screen for HIV.

Fear has gripped entire villages of the Sindh province. "It's a curse and a punishment for our sins," Yousaf Sheikh, a resident of Larkana, told ABC News.

There is also concern the epidemic may be spreading in other parts of the province. Villagers are travelling to centers in hot weather this month, which is also Ramadan, to get screened.

Meanwhile, Memon says insensitive media coverage of the epidemic has had a huge social cost for some.

According to him, a local milkman complained that people have stopped buying milk from him after his story of being HIV positive came out in the media. Now, he can barely make ends meet.

Memon worries about HIV positive children growing up with a major stigma around them.

All the while, the number of HIV patients is increasing every day as new patients are screened at the camps.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- North Korea issued a list of criticisms against former Vice President Joe Biden, calling the presidential candidate "a low IQ idiot" and saying his "candidacy should not carry high expectations."

Additionally, the North Koreans referred to Biden as someone "who likes to stick his nose into other people's business and is a poor excuse for a politician." The published commentary also said he "is misbehaving."

On Wednesday, Biden's campaign responded saying "it's no surprise North Korea would prefer that Donald Trump remain in the White House."

"As Vice President Biden said in Philadelphia, Donald Trump 'embraces dictators and tyrants like Putin and Kim Jung Un' while alienating our closest allies. That is antithetical to who we are and it has to change," Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates told ABC News. "Trump has also been repeatedly tricked into making major concessions to the murderous regime in Pyongyang while getting nothing in return. Given Vice President Biden's record of standing up for American values and interests, it’s no surprise that North Korea would prefer that Donald Trump remain in the White House."

The back-and-forth comes after Biden, while out on the campaign trail, recently criticized North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

In an opinion piece dated Tuesday, posted on the website of KCNA – the North Korean news agency – and translated by ABC News, said Biden "dared to blaspheme our Supreme Dignity at a recent campaign event."

The piece also declared that Biden's "blasphemy" doesn't "even meet the standards of basic human dignity, let alone a politician."

It's unclear if the KCNA piece was in direct response to Biden's remarks on the campaign trail, but at a rally in Philadelphia on Saturday, Biden attacked President Donald Trump for his relationship with "dictators and tyrants like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Kim Jong Un."

While campaigning last week in New Hampshire, Biden spoke further about the North Korean leader: "This is a guy with his uncle's brains blown out, sitting across a table. This is the guy who's a thug."

Under Kim's leadership, several top officials and some of his family members have been executed. Kim's uncle was executed in 2013, according to KCNA, after he was arrested for corruption, acts of treachery and womanizing. And at least one high-ranking defense chief may have been executed with anti-aircraft machine guns.

The North Koreans calling Biden a person with a "low IQ" might sound familiar. In fact, it's a phrase Trump regularly uses against his critics. On March 18, 2019, the president attacked Biden on Twitter, calling him "another low I.Q. individual!"

The opinion piece was published online a day after Trump attacked Biden during a Pennsylvania campaign rally. Trump said that Biden "deserted" the people of Pennsylvania.

Biden responded Tuesday to the president's attack in a fundraising email.

"I've never forgotten where I came from. My family did have to leave Pennsylvania when I was 10 -- we moved to Delaware where my Dad found a job that could provide for our family," the fundraising email said.

In the opinion piece, North Korea also criticized Biden for being accused by several women of making them uncomfortable with what they considered inappropriate touching. Biden told ABC's The View that he's "more cognizant" of private space since the allegations were made.

Additionally, KCNA mocked him for falling asleep during a budget speech former President Barack Obama made in April 2011.

KCNA also hit Biden for withdrawing from the 1988 presidential campaign after reports of plagiarism arose. Biden used elements of a speech by a British politician as his own, without attribution. In an interview with ABC News in 2007, Biden described the scandal as "Stupid. My mistake. Born out of ignorance, thinking I didn't have to prepare."

North Korea cautioned the former vice president that language on the campaign trail matters.

"Biden should remember, as someone who failed in a presidential run twice, that he should be careful with his words, and that should be a basic quality of a presidential candidate," according to KCNA, which also warned it "will not forgive anyone who offends the dignity of our Supreme Leader and we will keep score to the very end."

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