World Headlines

Myriam Borzee/iStockBy JACK ARNHOLZ, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's 65-year-old president who has consistently minimized the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, announced Tuesday that he tested positive for coronavirus.

Appearing on live television, the far-right president said he took a coronavirus test Monday after developing symptoms, including a high temperature.

"I didn't know what would be the result. But finally it was positive," Bolsonaro told reporters speaking from the presidential residence in Brasilia Tuesday.

"There is no reason for fear. That's life. Life goes on. I do thank God for my life and the role I have received to decide the future of this great nation that is called Brazil," he said.

Bolsonaro said in the announcement that while he feels better than he did the day before and wants to take a walk, he is respecting doctors' recommendations. He also confirmed he is taking hydroxychloroquine, which President Donald Trump has also touted as a treatment for COVID-19.

Brazil's leader has been criticized at home and abroad for his lax response to the coronavirus pandemic, dismissing it as a "little cold" at the onset of the crisis.

"I was not surprised [by the coronavirus test result]," Bolsonaro said Tuesday. "I am president of the Republic; I am at the front line of the combat."

In late June, a federal judge ordered the president of South America's largest country to wear a face covering while in public or receive a fine of nearly $400 a day. The decision came after the president repeatedly appeared in public without a mask.

Despite the court order, Bolsonaro has since attended several public events without a mask, appearing at a July 4th celebration at the American Embassy without a face covering this weekend. The president was also photographed with the U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Todd Chapman at the event.

 

Na Embaixada dos EUA, celebrando o 4 de julho, dia da independência americana. pic.twitter.com/CqtgUNxiSL

— Ernesto Araújo (@ernestofaraujo) July 4, 2020

 

With coronavirus-related deaths topping 65,000 in Brazil, Bolsonaro has lost many high-profiles supporters and has faced governmental resignations since the outbreak worsened in the country.

The president fired one of the health ministers for supporting restrictions imposed by regional governors, as Bolsonaro publicly undermined them and rallied his supporters to disobey them.

A second health minister resigned after openly disagreeing with Bolsonaro over chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug related to hydroxychloroquine.

The president's diagnosis comes a day after his son accused those criticizing his father's response to COVID-19 of wishing Bolsonaro's death.

"The immense number of people rooting for the death of the head of the executive right now should trigger an immediate show of solidarity from other [political] leaders," Carlos Bolsonaro wrote in a tweet Monday night.

As of Tuesday, Brazil has over 1.6 million coronavirus cases, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

The president has been tested three times before for COVID-19, all of which he said have come back negative.

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iStock/Yasmine Issa(NEW YORK) -- BY: HATEM MAHER

A hunger-striking medical student from New Jersey was released from a Cairo jail after serving more than a year in pre-trial detention for holding aloft a sign that read "Freedom to All Prisoners" in the iconic Tahrir Square, the human rights advocacy group that represents him said on Monday.

Mohamed Amashah, who is 24 and holds dual American-Egyptian citizenship, flew home on Monday following his release a day earlier, the Washington-based Freedom Initiative group said in a statement.

"Yesterday Egyptian-American political prisoner Mohamed Amashah was released from Egyptian prisons after 486 days of arbitrary detention," the statement read. "Mohamed landed in Dulles International Airport this morning and returned home to Jersey City, New Jersey to be with his loved ones."

Amashah started a hunger strike in March over fears that he might get infected with the coronavirus; Egypt's crammed jail cells are notorious for their harsh conditions and poor hygiene standards.

The rights-group Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms claimed last month that more than a dozen detainees in Cairo's Tora prison had contracted the highly contagious virus.

However, the Egyptian government denied the existence of any outbreaks in prisons, confirming only that an employee at the Tora prison had tested positive for the coronavirus after he died in May. The country has been halting prison visits by lawyers and families since March, citing COVID-19 worries.

Amashah, who was arrested in April 2019, faced charges of "misusing social media and aiding a terrorist group to achieve its goals," referring to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Rights groups accuse the state of filing similar "trumped-up charges" against all dissidents, regardless of their political affiliations. The Egyptian government denies that, insisting that all detainees face due legal process.

Amashah's release follows that of another dual Egyptian-American citizen. Reem Mohamed Desouky, a Pennsylvania teacher, was freed in early May after being held for almost 10 months for criticizing the government on Facebook.

In January, Mustafa Kassem, another U.S. citizen, died in a Cairo prison following a lengthy hunger strike, prompting Republican and Democratic lawmakers to call for sanctions against Egypt's government and a review of U.S. foreign aid to the country.

"Amashah was forced to recuse his Egyptian Citizenship in exchange for his freedom. This allowed the government to use the foreigner deportation law to deport him out of the country," Mohamed Soltan, the head of Freedom Initiative group, told ABC News.

"His release comes as a result of private and public pressure on the Egyptian government by the US administration and bipartisan congressional members in key committees demanding his release."

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samxmeg/iStockBy BRITT CLENNETT, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- While Hong Kong’s new national security law may have caused some well-known activists to flee the city or censor what they say, Joshua Wong appears to be standing his ground.

"We will never give up and surrender to Beijing,” said Wong today outside a court where he pleaded not guilty to charges related to a pro-democracy protest last year.

His fellow activist, Agnes Chow, pleaded guilty.

It’s the second time Wong has faced the public since the controversial law was passed late on June 30.

The legislation covers secession, subversion and terrorism, with a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Despite authorities arguing it will only impact a small group of people in Hong Kong, Wong said, “it's affecting the daily life of Hong Kongers.”

That’s as Hong Kong authorities confirm that some public library books, including one co-authored by Wong, are being reviewed to see whether they violate the law.

Another prominent Hong Kong activist, Nathan Law, fled the city last week over fears he would be targeted. Law has vowed to continue to garner international support for Hong Kong from abroad.

Beijing has argued that the law is required to curtail the unrest that gripped the city for months last year but critics say it erodes the freedoms that are meant to be safeguarded in the ‘‘One Country Two Systems" framework made when the city was handed back to China from Britain in 1997.

Meanwhile, the first person to be charged under the national security law was denied bail today and will next appear in court on October 6, meaning they could be remanded for three months.

The Hong Kong resident was arrested after allegedly driving a motorcycle into police during protests on July 1.

He was carrying a banner with a political slogan that is now outlawed.

He’s among 10 people so far arrested for allegedly violating the wide-ranging law that has raised fear among Hong Kong citizens.

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iStock/malerapasoBy: PATRICK REEVELL, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Data scientists and independent election observers have claimed statistical analysis suggests there was massive falsification of votes in a referendum this week that overwhelming approved constitutional changes to grant Russian President Vladimir Putin the right to extend his rule until 2036.

The week-long referendum on a package of constitutional amendments that "reset" Putin's term limits concluded in Russia on Wednesday with a result hailed by the Kremlin as a "triumph." The official tally showed 77.92% of voters backing the amendments and 21.27% against, with a turnout of 65%.

Those numbers are significantly above what most independent political observers and pollsters said would be realistic to expect. The Kremlin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, a day later declared it a "triumphant referendum on confidence" in Putin.

But independent election observers and opposition figures have said the size of the result actually was the product of unprecedented fraud made possible because the vote was deliberately held without the legal safeguards typically applied to voting in Russia.

Roman Udot, who's monitored Russian elections for two decades and runs Golos, a nongovernmental organization that collects reports of possible ballot fraud, told ABC News a day after voting ended: "The falsification that was found yesterday, it was the national record since the fall of the Soviet Union."

A prominent Russian physicist, Sergey Shpilkin, on Thursday published what he said was statistical evidence showing results of the referendum far more dubious than in previous contests under Putin.

Shpilkin previously suggested there's a clear indicator of fraud: If polling stations with abnormally high turnouts also return unusually high results that favor of one outcome, that correlation indicates either ballot stuffing or that voters were pressured into voting a certain way.

The indicator is clearly visible in graphs tracking voting results. In manipulated votes, according to the theory, there will be a spike in the number of ballots for the desired result around turnouts that exceed the average. In fair votes, results are expected to grow proportionally and remain relatively flat across polling sites.

In graphs posted by Shpilkin, using data from the constitutional referendum that compares results with turnout, there's a huge spike in votes in favor of the amendments among turnouts 70% or greater.

Shpilkin's analysis of 88 million votes shows many polling stations with above average turnouts returned results favoring the amendments of nearly 100%. The correlation is particularly strong in Russia's most authoritarian regions, such as Chechnya, which reported a turnout of 95%, with over 97% of votes in favor.

His evidence suggests that as many as 22 million votes -- roughly 1 in 4 -- may have been cast fraudulently, he told Forbes Russia on Thursday.

Shpilkin said he estimated the real turnout was likely 44%, not 65%. He calculated the real percentage of votes in favor of the amendments to be around 65%, compared with 35% against.

When compared to the actual, lower turnout, that meant only around 29% of Russia's eligible voters -- about 31 million people -- supported the amendments, he wrote. Many opponents also boycotted the vote in protest, suggesting the real number of those against the changes likely was higher still.

Shpilkin has conducted similar analysis for other votes in Russia, including Putin's 2018 presidential election and the 2011 parliamentary elections during which ballot stuffing was so egregious it prompted mass street demonstrations.

In an article for Proekt, he wrote that the falsification seen in the referendum "exceeded anything seen before" in recent Russian elections, calling it an "unprecedented situation."

Russia's elections commission and Interior ministry have said the vote took place without any serious violations. The head of the elections commission, Ella Pamfilova, praised the voting process, saying it took place "with maximum openness."

"The vote happened fairly, the results are reliable and the legitimacy of the results of the vote are indisputable," she said at a briefing on Saturday.

Before the vote, the Kremlin had portrayed the referendum as largely unrelated to Putin's future, saying the constitution needed to be updated to reflect modern Russian society. Russians were asked to vote a single "yes" or "no" on an entire package containing more than 200 amendments, including social welfare guarantees as well as insertions meant to attract conservative voters, such as a ban on same-sex marriage.

The key amendment, however, reset the count on Putin's presidential terms from four to zero, meaning he'll be able to run for two more six-year terms in 2024 when he otherwise would have had to step aside. Assuming he's victorious in those races, Putin, who's been in power for 20 years and would be ruling while in his 80s, would be the longest-ruling leader in Russian history.

The amendments in reality already had been approved by Russia's parliament and the referendum had little legal force. It was meant to provide a stamp of legitimacy to the changes, however, so authorities sought a high turnout. Before the vote, independent Russian media reported regional authorities had received instructions from Putin's administration to deliver a resounding result, with a turnout of at least 55%.

That posed a challenge because independent polling showed many Russians were indifferent to the vote, amid a long-term erosion in Putin's approval ratings. A survey by the state polling agency VTsIOM in May showed fewer than 28% of Russians "trust" Putin, down from over 47% in just two years.

The week of the vote, Denis Volkov, deputy director of the Levada Center, Russia's only non-government polling agency, told ABC News that his polling suggested Putin's decision to reset his term limits was highly divisive among Russians, with around 40% supporting it and 30% opposing it. That number shifted in the Kremlin's favor when looking at those who intended to vote -- Volkov said at the time he believed a 55% turnout would be "rather good" for the authorities.

The Kremlin arranged an "ad-hoc" vote, which didn't meet criteria to make it a legal referendum, meaning it was not obliged to adhere to strict measures intended to prevent fraud. Election monitors said that resulted in a situation where monitoring the vote was impossible.

The referendum was held over seven days, in what authorities said was to facilitate social distancing amid Russia's worsening coronavirus epidemic. Far more people also were allowed to vote from home or at workplaces, and in Moscow and St. Petersburg online voting was encouraged.

Why is Vladimir Putin racing to amend Russia's constitution?


Election monitors like Udot said those adjustments greatly facilitated fraud. Ballots were kept in polling stations overnight without observers. An election commission member in Moscow told The Associated Press last week he was seeing hundreds more votes being brought from alleged "home voters" than was feasibly possible.

"Their hands were untied," Udot said, saying he had never seen anything like it.

His organization, Golos said, has received 2,100 reports of violations.

Alongside allegations of ballot stuffing, there were widespread reports of public sector workers being pressured into voting. State companies received instructions directing them to ensure employees voted, according to news outlets including Reuters. Some voters told journalists they had been registered to vote by their employers without their knowledge.

Reuters sent journalists to monitor a polling station in a Moscow suburb for seven days. Its official turnout was 43%. But average turnout for the rest of the suburb where it was located was 83%. And in two polling stations located in the same school building, but where Reuters did not have observers, the turnouts were 87% and 85%.

Those trying to monitor the vote also sometimes encountered resistance, Reuters reported. A journalist in St. Petersburg had his arm broken as police tried to remove him from a polling station where alleged fraud was reported.

As Udot came to meet with ABC News on Thursday he was ambushed by a crew from a pro-Kremlin television channel, NTV. The channel frequently produces highly edited reports smearing Kremlin critics as Western agents. The reporters harassed Udot for an hour, asking him why he was talking with American journalists. Udot said he was forced to call the police to intervene.

Shortly thereafter, NTV published a report falsely suggesting Udot had attacked the network's own journalist.

"It happens every time after and before elections," he told ABC News afterwards. "Our phones are tapped -- when we agree to a meeting with foreign diplomats or journalists, all of a sudden a TV crew or some stringer will appear."

"We are showing the truth," he added. "And that truth destroys their house of cards. That is why we are attacked."

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iStock/malerapasoBy: PATRICK REEVELL, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The Kremlin this week won a referendum on constitutional changes allowing President Vladimir Putin potentially to extend his rule until 2036, a vote that critics and election monitors have denounced as rigged.

The vote produced an overwhelming result in favor of a package of amendments -- officially 77.9% supporting, 21.3% against -- that the Kremlin hailed it as a "triumphant referendum of confidence" in Putin.

Russia's Central Elections Commission and Interior ministry have said voting occurred without any serious violations.

But independent election monitors claimed the process included unprecedented fraud, with authorities throwing out key safeguards to prevent ballot stuffing or public workers being pressured into voting.

The package of amendments included resetting Putin's term counts from four to zero, meaning he could run for two additional six-year terms in 2024 instead of stepping down. Putin could remain in office until his 80s.

But why did Putin hold the vote now, four years before his term expires? And what will it mean for Russia?

ABC News' Patrick Reevell explains.

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Official White House Photo by Andrea HanksBy Victor Ordonez and Conor Finnegan, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Several branches of the U.S. government on Wednesday warned private companies against using supply chains tied to forced labor camps in China's Xinjiang province. The advisory was issued shortly after U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) authorities in Newark, New Jersey, seized about $800,000 worth imported goods from China.

Xinjiang, China, is where an estimated one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are facing an alleged expansive campaign of repression, including forced sterilization, destruction of religious sites and mass "re-education" camps.

The shipments seized Wednesday contained about 13 tons of hair products suspected to be made with human hair that originated in Xinjiang, indicating potential human right abuses of forced child labor and imprisonment, according to a CBP statement.

“The production of these goods constitutes a very serious human rights violation, and the detention order is intended to send a clear and direct message to all entities seeking to do business with the United States that illicit and inhumane practices will not be tolerated in U.S. supply chains,” said Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner of CBP’s Office of Trade.

CBP detained the shipment per a Withhold Release Order (WRO) on hair products manufactured by Lop County Meixin Hair Product Co. Ltd. issued on June 17. The order instructed ports of entry nationwide to detain all products from Meixin based on “information that reasonably indicated that they are manufactured with the use of prison labor.”

Wednesday's advisory was jointly issued by the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The advisory warns private companies operating within the U.S. to be aware of the large-scale human rights abuses against Muslim minority groups as well as “deceptive practices employed by the [Chinese] government in Xinjiang.” The advisory noted the possibility of criminal prosecution and other legal ramifications private companies may face if caught maintaining supply chains linked to human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

“CEOs should read this notice closely and be aware of the reputational, economic, and legal risks of supporting such an assault on human dignity," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a press conference Wednesday.

Beyond labor and goods from Xinjiang, the advisory warns U.S. companies from doing business with firms that are reliant on forced labor elsewhere in China. It also warns companies against assisting in the construction of the "re-education" camps or contributing to the government’s surveillance system in the region.

Given the latest reports about a mass sterilization campaign, which the Chinese government has denied, Pompeo was asked whether the U.S. considers the crackdown on Muslim minorities like the Uighurs to be genocide.

"The United States takes seriously our obligation to preserve human rights -- human rights of the people in China,” said Pompeo, calling on allies and Muslim nations to also pressure Beijing. “We'll continue to do that. We're constantly evaluating those actions against the legal norms and standards for the world.”

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Neil Giardino/ABC NewsBy NEIL GIARDINO, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) -- Santiago Manuin, one of the most celebrated defenders of Peru's Amazon rainforest and the leader of the Awajún tribe, whose vast and besieged territory spans the country's mountainous northern region along the Ecuador border, died on Wednesday of COVID-19. He was 63.

Manuin devoted his life to defending his tribe and their ancestral land, which in recent decades had endured illegal gold mining and logging, persistent threats linked to narco-trafficking and state-sanctioned oil and gas operations.

In a 2019 interview with ABC News, Manuin described the significance of his tribe's territory and the importance of defending it.

"Our land is tied to our existence as a people," he said. "It's an essential space where we build a life for our families. As Awajún, our forests give us natural resources and animals. We're part of this natural world, and so we must defend it."

In 2009, Manuin nearly died defending Awajún territory after he was shot eight times by Peruvian security forces. The incident, referred to as "the Bagua Massacre," occurred when police fired on thousands of Awajún and Wampis tribespeople who were blocking a jungle highway to protest a U.S.-Peru trade agreement that would've opened up land in the Amazon for gas, oil and lumber extraction. More than 30, both officers and natives, died in the clash.

"The Peruvian government behaved badly, and regretfully we both learned lessons -- the Awajún people and the Western society," Manuin recalled. "I keep learning the importance of dialogue. Violence brings no solutions."

A stoic champion for his tribe of more than 50,000, Manuin rejected the commodification of the Amazon's natural resources, which are deeply woven into the Awajún cosmovision.

"For the Westerner, the Indigenous person is an impediment to development because we refuse to destroy the land. That's why they label us anti-development," he said. "Indigenous peoples are not anti-development. We protect the forest and live for the forest. Our spirituality is tied to it. We don't need to go to the largest churches to pray. We pray within this natural world. We live in this plenitude."

Manuin, lionized by many in his own country as a social justice crusader and fierce environmentalist, was thrust into an international spotlight in 2018 when he crowned Pope Francis with a feathered headdress during the pontiff's visit to the Amazon region as part of the Catholic Church's Amazon Synod.

The Awajún tribe is one of the largest in Peru's Amazon, and their territory spans four distinct regions. Manuin served as president of the Awajún Permanent Council, the tribe's largest governing body. Under his leadership, the Awajún have endeavored to create an autonomous territorial government, a quasi-independent region with the right to protect its territory from outsiders.

"We occupy 30,000 square kilometers. We'll be able to self-govern and demand that the Peruvian State respects the totality of our territory and forbids any extractive company from entering without prior consultation," Manuin said.

In 1994, Manuin won the international Reina Sofia Prize for his defense of the Amazon, and in 2014 he was awarded Peru's National Prize for Human Rights for a life lived in service of Indigenous peoples and the rainforest.

"I was consecrated in the defense of my forest and the fundamental rights of my people. I was consecrated despite everything and had to accept that reality. I have a very big vision. And this vision is what I am completing now -- and with total pleasure," Manuin said.

At least 9,800 in Peru have died from the novel coronavirus, which has devastated tribes in the vast Amazon region as extreme poverty, limited access to health care and communal lifestyles incompatible with social distancing have left them particularly vulnerable.

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To the Stars Academy of Arts and ScienceBy LUIS MARTINEZ, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- This year's World UFO Day comes at a time of heightened interest in the decades-long search to solve the mystery of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) thanks to the Navy's recent declassification of videos that show what it called "unexplained aerial phenomena."

But it's not just UFO enthusiasts who are excited. Congress also wants to see what the Pentagon and the nation's intelligence agencies know about UFOs, not because extraterrestrials are involved, but because of concerns they might represent advanced technological threats from foreign adversaries.

The Navy declassified three previously leaked top-secret U.S. Navy videos in late April in an effort "to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that had been circulating was real or whether or not there is more to the videos," said Susan Gough, a Pentagon spokesperson.

"The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as 'unidentified,'" the spokesperson added.

First published by the New York Times in 2017, the videos captured what Navy F/A-18 fighter pilots saw on their video sensors during training flights in 2004 and 2015 off the coast of California. Even more compelling was the audio of the pilots' reactions to the fast-moving objects and maneuvers they saw on their screens.

The release of the Navy videos has sparked renewed interest from UFO researchers and the nation's lawmakers who want to know what else the U.S. government knows about UFOs and whether they might represent technological breakthroughs from America's adversaries.

Two weeks ago, the Senate Intelligence Committee included language in the annual Intelligence authorization bill that would require U.S. intelligence agencies and the Pentagon to put together a detailed unclassified analysis of all the data they have collected on "unidentified aerial phenomenon."

"The Committee remains concerned that there is no unified, comprehensive process within the federal government for collecting and analyzing intelligence on unidentified aerial phenomena, despite the potential threat," the committee said in a description of the bill entitled "advanced aerial threats."

"The Committee understands that the relevant intelligence may be sensitive; nevertheless, the Committee finds that the information sharing and coordination across the Intelligence Community has been inconsistent, and this issue has lacked attention from senior leaders," it added.

The analysis requested by the committee would include information gathered from geospatial intelligence, signals intelligence, human intelligence and even FBI data from "investigations of intrusions of unidentified aerial phenomena data over restricted United States airspace.”

The committee also disclosed that a previously unknown "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force” was operating within the Office of Naval Intelligence, which appears to be investigating UFO reports. The task force's existence was a surprise because it was believed that the Pentagon had ceased investigating such reports in 2012 with the end of a program that was made public by the same New York Times article that published the three leaked Navy videos.

While UFOs have been tied to the existence of extraterrestrials for decades, for some UFO enthusiasts, the new public and congressional interest are indicative that attitudes could be changing about what has been seen as a fringe concept.

"Strictly speaking, there should no longer be any debate about the existence of UFOs at all," Alexander Wendt, an international relations professor at Ohio State University, told ABC News. "If it wasn't already apparent to everyone that UFOs are real, the Navy confirmed the existence of at least three of them officially."

Wendt, who has written about UFOs in the context of political and security implications, wants to see more videos released by the U.S. military, but he wants to see the scientific community undertake serious research on a subject matter that remains taboo to many scientists.

"The crucial issue is getting some science done on these things," said Wendt. "Since while new videos will undoubtedly be surprising, until we have some UFO science, we won't know what we're dealing with, if anything."

But Wendt believes the videos only prove the existence of UFOs, not the existence of extraterrestrials, which he says are "a complete unknown."

But one person who does not appear to be convinced that Navy pilots have encountered UFOs is President Donald Trump.

Last year, Trump told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that he was skeptical of the reports.

"I want them to think whatever they think," said Trump. "They do say, and I’ve seen, and I've read, and I’ve heard. And I did have one very brief meeting on it. But people are saying they're seeing UFOs. Do I believe it? Not particularly."

Asked if he thought he would know if there were a case of extraterrestrial life, the president replied, "Well, I think my great pilots would know. Our great pilots would know."

"They see things a little bit different from the past. So we’re going to see. We’re watching, and you’ll be the first to know," he continued.

But two weeks ago Trump made some intriguing comments about Roswell, New Mexico, the site one of the most famous claims about UFOs and extraterrestrials.

In 1947, a rancher discovered unidentifiable debris near Roswell that led to speculation that it was a crashed UFO. The Air Force later acknowledged that it was a weather balloon though decades later it acknowledged the balloon was part of a project intended to detect Soviet atomic bomb tests.

But conspiracy theorists continue to believe that not only did a UFO crash at Roswell, but that the government also recovered the remains of extraterrestrials who were aboard.

During an interview with his father, Don Trump Jr. jokingly asked if the president would ever divulge more information about Roswell to "let us know what's really going on."

Trump responded, “I won’t talk to you about what I know about it, but it’s very interesting.”

Asked if he might declassify that information someday, Trump responded, "Well, I’ll have to think about that one.”

World UFO Day is celebrated every year on July 2, the day in 1947 when the Roswell incident first became public.

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MaxOzerov/iStockBy PATRICK REEVELL, ABC NEWS

(MOSCOW) -- The Kremlin appears to have obtained an overwhelming vote in favor of Russia constitutional changes that will allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to remain in power until 2036, according to early results in a national referendum that concluded today.

The result on Wednesday in the weeklong referendum came as little surprise amid a massive campaign by authorities to push Russians to vote and widespread concerns about pressure on voters and manipulation.

It opens the way for Putin, who has ruled Russia since 1999 -- only interrupted between 2008 and 2012 when Dmitry Medvedev was the Russian president -- to run again for two more six-year terms after his current one expires in 2024. It potentially means Putin could rule for 16 more years, when he will be in his eighties.

Hours even before polls closed, Russia's Central Elections Commission announced preliminary data showing over 70% of voters had voted in favor of the package of constitutional changes. And by late evening in Moscow and with half the votes counted, the commission said just over 77.5% of voters had voted in favor of the constitutional changes and 21.6% against.

Wednesday was the last day in the vote which has been stretched out across seven days, in what authorities have said is a measure to facilitate social distancing amid Russia's coronavirus epidemic, which in many parts of the country is worsening.

Russians were asked to vote "yes" or "no" on a package of over 200 amendments which included guarantees to boost pensions as well as changes that will inscribe some conservative values promoted under Putin into the constitution. Those included enshrining the concept of marriage as between a man and a woman, as well as an affirmation of Russians' belief in "God."

Those changes, though, were viewed by many observers as intended to boost turnout for the change that really mattered -- an amendment to reset presidential terms after the adoption of the altered constitution. That means that Putin, who is currently in his fourth presidential term, can run for election again, even though the constitution still has a two-term limit.

Why is Vladimir Putin racing to amend Russia's constitution?

Critics of the move have denounced it as an illegal "constitutional coup." On Wednesday evening a few hundred people gathered on Moscow's central Pushkin Square to protest. Russia's anti-Kremlin opposition accused authorities of falsifying the result, pointing to exit polls they had conducted themselves in Moscow and St. Petersburg suggesting the amendments had been voted down.

The vote was already largely symbolic, as Russia's parliament had already passed the amendments into law. But the vote allows for the Kremlin to say the changes have a stamp of public legitimacy.

"Putin is using the public vote to make ordinary people his accomplices in extending his rule and sanctioning the domination of an ultraconservative ideology," Andrey Kolesnikov, a fellow at the Moscow Carnegie foundation wrote in a column this month.

In a speech on the eve of the referendum, Putin -- who voted at a polling station in Moscow on Wednesday -- made no mention of its potential to extend his rule. Some analysts believe he has sought the constitutional changes now to prevent himself from becoming a lame duck ahead of 2024 and head off efforts to succeed him.

Putin himself this month said the vote was needed to prevent officials' "eyes from drifting around hunting for successors."

The vote came at a time when Putin's own popularity suffered an unusual weakening. A poll by Russia's only independent pollster in May showed Putin's approval rating had fallen to 59%, its lowest in 20 years. Another poll by Levada in January has shown the number of Russians who "trust" Putin has almost halved in two years.

That slide has been exacerbated by the arrival of the pandemic and its economic fallout, which the government has provided little help against.

And while many Russians still support Putin, his move to remain in power beyond 2024 is highly controversial according to Levada's polling. Denis Volkov, Levada's deputy director told ABC News last week that his polling showed Russians were split roughly "50-50" on the issue.

Authorities have employed a sweeping campaign to ensure a high turnout, offering the chance to win prizes, including cash and even apartments to those taking part. Russian celebrities have also been offered payments to make statements supporting the amendments.

There were also widespread reports of public sector workers, including doctors and teachers, being pressured to vote, a common tactic in former Soviet countries.

Authorities have used the coronavirus epidemic to loosen up voting rules. People were allowed to vote from home and at their workplaces and in Moscow and St. Petersburg, online. Many of those measures offer greater opportunities for ballot rigging, election transparency activists have said.

Two journalists this week reported they had voted twice, once online and another time at a polling station. One, Pavel Lobzov, a broadcaster at the liberal station TV Rain, was questioned by police afterwards.

The total turnout for the vote according to the elections commission was over 65%, notably higher than what Levada's polling and many other political observers had predicted was realistic.

Opposition activists from a campaign against the referendum called "Nyet" or "No," said their own exit poll in Moscow -- where Putin is far less popular than elsewhere -- showed 55% of voters had voted against the amendments, versus 45% for.

The opposition had been divided over whether to boycott the vote and many opposed to the changes had said they would stay home. Russia's leading opposition figure, Alexey Navalny said it was clear the result had been decided in advance.

"We watched a show, with a pre-planned finale," Navalny said in a video posted on Youtube.

New data again suggests Russia's coronavirus deaths are higher than its official count

Golos, an NGO that monitors elections said it had recorded over 1,000 violations during the vote. Russia's elections commission and the Interior ministry said the number of violations were not enough to affect the outcome of the vote.

At polling stations in Moscow this week, some voting "for" told ABC News they support the conservative additions to the constitution and want Putin to remain in power.

"Why should we exchange a president for another president? He'll come and not know [what to do]," Lyudmila Trukacheva, 67, said after voting. "Putin's sensible, smart. He's an Orthodox person," she said.

In gaining the resounding result Putin hopes to affirm his own power among Russia's elite unsettled by the prospect of his term ending, Tatiana Stanovaya, a non-resident fellow at the Moscow Carnegie foundation wrote in an article published before voting ended on Wednesday.

"Essentially, he is banning his associates from looking around for a successor and from discussing his own future," she wrote.

"But the pragmatic elites will have a far more sober view of things. They know exactly how voting works in Russia, and that same 70 percent can easily be read as 25 percent real support, or even as a loss of trust entirely," she wrote.

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LilliDay/iStockBy DR. HASSAL LEE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Amid the sprawling coronavirus pandemic, scientists around the world also have been keeping a close watch on another potentially dangerous virus: swine flu.

Through close surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs from 2011 to 2018 in China, experts have discovered a potentially pandemic-causing virus predominant in swine populations since at least 2016.

So far, many experts, including America's leading infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, have said that while it's important to keep a close eye on it, the virus is not "an immediate threat."

Other scientists have chimed in, urging the public not to panic about a second global outbreak.

"There is no reason for panic and no imminent danger," tweeted Florian Krammer, microbiologist at the Icahn School of Medicine.

There is a lot of media attention to the swine flu PNAS study from China. Everybody is sensitized now because of COVID-19. And it is important to keep an eye on these viruses. But there is no reason for panic and no imminent danger. https://t.co/9m0DY0sFQf

— Florian Krammer (@florian_krammer) June 30, 2020

In a similar vein, Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia tweeted, "What we should NOT do is freak out and expect that another flu pandemic is imminent."

We can step up surveillance efforts to see if it appears that this virus is increasingly adapting to human hosts or if it is associated with any cases of severe disease. We can study it to see what might increase its ability to infect, transmit, and cause disease in people.

— Dr. Angela Rasmussen (@angie_rasmussen) June 29, 2020

Professor Carl Bergstrom at the University of Washington, an outspoken critic of misleading science and author of the book Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World has voiced that we are not facing the start of "a double pandemic" of COVID-19 and influenza, despite news headlines that have been suggesting otherwise.

We can step up surveillance efforts to see if it appears that this virus is increasingly adapting to human hosts or if it is associated with any cases of severe disease. We can study it to see what might increase its ability to infect, transmit, and cause disease in people.

— Dr. Angela Rasmussen (@angie_rasmussen) June 29, 2020

The original paper, published in PNAS on June 29, reported the identification of a recently emerged "reassortant" flu virus in pigs that contains genetic material from the H1N1 2009 pandemic strain. It's becoming increasingly common among swine in China.

The virus has infected some farmers who tend to these pigs. However, there's little evidence the virus can pass from human to human, until which this newly identified virus may have pandemic "potential" but is unlikely to cause a large outbreak.

Dr. Chad Petit, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, used a "lock and key" analogy in explaining the virus strain during an interview with ABC News.

We can imagine the virus is a "key" that needs to fit the "lock" on human cells in order to enter them more efficiently and cause robust infections. This paper currently suggests that the viral key can open the cellular lock, but not very efficiently. Unless that efficiency ramps up, Petit explained, larger outbreaks are extremely unlikely.

"Until human-to-human spread of this virus occurs, we needn't jump the gun on [developing] yet another vaccine," Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital, told ABC News in an interview.

Even as experts agree there isn't an imminent danger, are there additional precautions worth taking in the meantime?

Again, experts agree: Careful monitoring of the virus in pigs and human workers in the swine industry should continue, as well as limiting human exposure to animals possibly carrying the virus.

"Careful monitoring of these viruses with pandemic potential," Petit added, "will drastically improve our preparedness and outcome for any future pandemic."

Hassal Lee, a neuroscience Ph.D. and student doctor at the University of Cambridge, is a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit.

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Fotonen/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- Citing its close ties to the Chinese Communist Party, the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday formally designated Chinese telecom giant Huawei as "posing a national security threat."

The FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau slapped the same designation on fellow Chinese firm ZTE Corporation, barring the FCC's $8.3 billion Universal Service Fund -- a subsidy for wireless carriers in rural America -- from being used to purchase any equipment from either Huawei or ZTE Corporation.

The companies have been blacklisted by the FCC in recent years, as critics have claimed their equipment could be used by China for spying. The move comes as U.S. lawmakers have also pressured other countries to boot Huawei from their budding 5G networks.

 "With today's Orders, and based on the overwhelming weight of evidence, the Bureau has designated Huawei and ZTE as national security risks to America's communications networks -- and to our 5G future," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. "Both companies have close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and China's military apparatus, and both companies are broadly subject to Chinese law obligating them to cooperate with the country's intelligence services."

"We cannot and will not allow the Chinese Communist Party to exploit network vulnerabilities and compromise our critical communications infrastructure," Pai added. "Today's action will also protect the FCC's Universal Service Fund -- money that comes from fees paid by American consumers and businesses on their phone bills -- from being used to underwrite these suppliers, which threaten our national security."

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr added in a separate statement that, "We cannot treat Huawei and ZTE as anything less than a threat to our collective security."

"America has turned the page on the weak and timid approach to Communist China of the past," Carr added. "We are now showing the strength needed to address Communist China's threats."

Huawei and ZTE Corporation did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for comment Tuesday.

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Keladawy /iStockBy Hatem Maher, ABC News

(CAIRO) -- Mysteries and superstitious tales surrounding an Indian-style mansion in an upscale Cairo district have finally been put to bed as the 109-year-old palace opened to visitors for the first time on Tuesday following an $11 million restoration project.

Named after the millionaire Belgian industrialist who was its original owner, the neglected Baron Empain Palace was rumored to be home to ghosts, with occasional tales of lights flashing inside.

Also common were rumors of hidden tunnels and a rotating tower that offered a 360-degree view of the surrounding area and allowed the palace to be exposed to constant sunlight.

The truth is that the run-down palace was only sheltering stray dogs and cats as well as the occasional vandal and looter. It was in an advanced state of decay.

"Talks of ghosts and similar stuff are nonsense," Abou Rami, a doorman at a nearby residential building who has been living in the area for over 20 years, told ABC News. "Such rumors were spread by people who are not residents of Heliopolis; it's always calm here. Such things are always said of neglected places."

Baron Edouard Louis Joseph Empain, a famed businessman credited with the construction of the Paris metro in the late 19th century, resided in the palace he built in 1911 before developing the surrounding area from a sprawling desert into what is now known as Heliopolis, an upscale east Cairo neighborhood.

The two-story mansion, designed by French architect Alexandre Marcel and made from reinforced concrete, was modeled on Hindu-style temples, with its exterior adorned by statues of Hindu and Buddhist legends and elephants.

Visitors who entered the castle for the first time Tuesday were bursting with excitement as they roamed around, posing for photographs and inspecting the palace's interiors as well as its vast roof that used to host Empain's parties.

"I pass by the palace every day on my way to work," 35-year-old engineer Ahmed Sobhi said, grinning cheerfully. "I always wanted to get inside, especially given the mysterious nature of this place."

In the 1950s, the palace was sold by the Empain family in a public auction then fell into disrepair. For decades afterwards, it was sparsely used for social events, with some horror films also being shot there. Egypt's housing ministry bought the palace in 2005 in exchange for granting its foreign owners a plot of land further east, before the armed forces' engineering authority embarked on a restoration project in mid-2017.

Restoration included repairing the palace's decayed ceiling slabs, filling and stitching cracks in the walls, replanting its lush gardens and repainting the building to its old copper red color.

It was the repainting that stirred hot debates in Egypt last year, with some claiming that the palace had deviated from its original appearance. However, the country's antiquities ministry insisted it had reviewed Marcel's original documents of the building's design to make sure there were no irregularities in the restoration.

The ministry also said the palace's grayish color was the result of erosion and weather damage over the years.

The palace was due to be opened earlier this year but its opening was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, visitors were required to wear face masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines before entering the building.

Egyptian officials hope the Baron Palace's opening and other recent major discoveries will lure back tourists as the country gears up for the resumption of international flights in July.

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Silberkorn/iStockBy Kelly McCarthy, ABC News

(THE HAGUE, Netherlands) -- Wine drinkers are often aware of the markup to enjoy a glass or bottle at bars and restaurants, but European law enforcement successfully sniffed out a bad batch of bottles that were being passed off as premium labels and sold for over $1,000 a pop.

Europol announced Tuesday that it took down a network of wine counterfeiters who took empty bottles of premium Italian wines, refilled them with "cheap wines from different origins" that had been purchased online or at hard discount stores, resealed the bottles with fake capsules and passed off the low quality vino to resell it at higher price points.

"The bottles were sealed with corks and counterfeit capsules of a different or similar color to the original. Packaging films and false masking guarantee seals were finally applied to conceal the lack of distinctive signs on the capsules used for the counterfeit units," Europol said in a press release.

Prices for the fake wines sold under previously expensive counterfeit Italian labels often exceeded 1,000 Euros -- nearly $1,123 per bottle.

"The empty authentic bottles were gathered from restaurants and delivered mainly by two individuals working in the food industry," Europol said.

The wines were sold in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United States and often ended up being poured into the glasses of unassuming customers at wine bars and catering services.

"Once a contact with a buyer was established via the a big e-commerce platform, the counterfeiters expanded even further their promotional offers, setting prices way below the ones seen usually on the market. A magnum format, 1.5 l, of some of the counterfeit wines typically exceeds €1,000 per bottle," the press release said.

The investigation was part of Europol's Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC3) that facilitated the information exchange and provided technical and analytical support to the participating countries.

Europol announced this will allow them to "further develop the operation and provide the other countries involved with targeted information."

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Igor Ilnitckii/iStockBy KARSON YIU and BRITT CLENNETT, ABC News

(HONG KONG) -- In early June, Zhang Xiaoming, one of the top Chinese official in charge of Beijing's Hong Kong portfolio called for Hong Kong people to return home to the motherland for a second time after a year of anti-government protests.

In essence he was calling for a symbolic "Second Handover."

So on the eve of the former British Colony's 23rd anniversary of its return to China, a contentious new national security law Beijing unilaterally drafted for Hong Kong passed through China's top lawmaking body Tuesday morning by unanimous decision.

China's Xinhua News Agency later reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping signed the presidential order for the law to be promulgated into Hong Kong's Basic Law, the city's mini-constitution.

It is largely believed that the law targeting the protest movement in Hong Kong will become effective overnight in the territory before the Chinese five star flag is raised on the morning of July 1.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam issued a statement welcoming the passage of the law saying, "the legislation is an important step to improve the "One Country, Two Systems" institutional system as well as restore stability in Hong Kong society as soon as possible."

Since the law was proposed in late May, the Beijing and Hong Kong governments have not revealed much more about the law other than it sought to "effectively prevent, curb and punish four types of crimes seriously endangering national security, namely acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security."

Without any details of the law, Lam in her statement again sought to reassure Hong Kong residents that the law "only targets an extremely small minority of offenders while the life and property as well as various legitimate basic rights and freedoms enjoyed by the overwhelming majority of citizens will be protected."

This marks a distinct turning point for the city, leaving many questioning the future of Hong Kong.

"This is the end of one country two systems and the process to 'authoritarian-ize' Hong Kong is completed" legal scholar and Occupy Central activist Benny Tai told ABC News.

Lee Cheuk-yan, a fellow pro-democracy activist and one of the organizers of the annual Tiananmen Vigil, seconded that sentiment saying that Tuesday marked the "beginning of the reign of fear by the CCP."

Lee is worried that he may be a target because his organization's position advocated for the end of one party rule in China but he has vowed to remain in Hong Kong and continue fighting.

"Will stay on and fight"

The law was authorized in Beijing with many in Hong Kong having never even seen it, showing the extent of haste at which China moved to push through the law that even lacked the usual standard of relative transparency accorded to other proposed laws on the mainland.

Even without details for much of the day, the announcement of the law's passage seemed to have an immediate chilling effect.

Prominent activists Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Agnes Chow who all came to prominence during the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests announced almost immediately that they will leave their position in their political party Demosisto and continue their activism on their own. They did not provide specific reasons for their resignations.

This morning we received and accepted the departure of @joshuawongcf, @nathanlawkc, @jeffreychngo and @chowtingagnes. After much internal deliberation, we have decided to disband and cease all operation as a group given the circumstances. pic.twitter.com/2kmg0ltniO

— Demosistō 香港眾志 😷 (@demosisto) June 30, 2020

A few hours later, the remainder of their party Demosisto announced its decision to disband over Twitter.

Two nativist political parties, Hong Kong Indigenous and Hong Kong National Front, that pushed for independence also announced their decision to disband and cease all activities within Hong Kong shifting their activism abroad.

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yorkfoto/iStockBy CONOR FINNEGAN and VICTOR ORDONEZ, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The Chinese government has deployed a mass sterilization campaign against Muslim ethnic minorities in the country's western provinces, according to a new report, which argues the tactics could amount to genocide.

China's treatment of Uighurs, the Muslim ethnic group that has historically lived in China's westernmost province, known as Xinjiang, has come under increased scrutiny in the last couple years, as the Chinese government ramped up what it casts as a "re-education" campaign that uses mass detention camps.

Those camps are used as a form of threat and punishment, with officials detaining women and families who fail to comply with pregnancy checks or forced intrauterine contraceptive devices -- more commonly known as IUDs -- sterilizations, and even abortions.

The result is a huge drop in birth rates among China's Muslim population, even as it moves Han Chinese, the country's main ethnic group, into the mineral-rich region. Birth rates in Uighur areas have plunged by over 60% in the last three years alone, according to the report published by the Jamestown Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington.

"We first thought that internment and strict enforcement of family planning was greatly depressing population growth rates in Uighur regions," said China scholar and the report's author Adrian Zenz. "But then the shocker came when I dug deep and found plans to reduce natural birth or natural population growth to near zero by 2020."

Zenz began researching the allegations described in the report after Chinese documents, leaked earlier this year, revealed that the most cited reason for forced internment was "having too many children."

"I started to collect data on population growth in the area," Zenz told ABC News in an interview Monday. "To be honest, I did not expect this to be such a revolutionary report … until I stumbled upon finding after finding, and things became far more dramatic."

The Chinese Foreign Ministry called the accusations "simply groundless and false" during a media briefing Monday. ABC News has not independently confirmed the report's details. Previous reporting trips to the region were met with stonewalling by local officials.

"Xinjiang is enjoying sustained economic growth, social stability, better living standards, unprecedented cultural development and harmonious coexistence of religions," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian. "The Uyghur population in Xinjiang has reached 11.65 million or 46.8% of the region's total."

The Trump administration has seized on the accusations, with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a vocal critic of Beijing, calling them "part of a continuing campaign of repression" against Uighurs and other minorities.

The report's "revelations are sadly consistent with decades of (Chinese Communist Party) practices that demonstrate an utter disregard for the sanctity of human life and basic human dignity. We call on the Chinese Communist Party to immediately end these horrific practices and ask all nations to join the United States in demanding an end to these dehumanizing abuses," he added.

Women have come forward in recent years and recounted being forced to take birth control or undergo sterilization, particularly while in one of the detention facilities for the region's Muslim population. But the study found widespread use of IUDs, sterilizations and forced family separations since the mass detention campaign began in 2017.

Government documents lay out plans for mass female sterilization in rural Uighur regions, according to the report, complete with target numbers of the female population and budgetary figures for performing hundreds of thousands of tubal ligation procedures, a surgical procedure to permanently prevent pregnancy.

"What's happening in Xinjiang is unprecedented," Zenz told ABC News. "Essentially, the Chinese government is putting itself in a position where it's able to turn population growth on and off like a faucet."

The report said 80% of all new IUD placements in 2018 in China were performed in Xinjiang province, which has only 1.8% of the country's overall population.

The measures have achieved huge drops in birth rate. Population growth in the two districts with the largest Uighur populations fell by 84% between 2015 and 2018 and even further in 2019. One Uighur region had an unprecedented near-zero population growth target for 2020, according to the report.

Uighur families that defied birth control measures would be punished by detention in the "training" facilities, the report said, citing Chinese government documents.

For the first time in his reporting, Zenz used the term "demographic campaign of genocide" to describe what is happening in the Xinjiang region -- a profound allegation that he had resisted, given its legal implications for Beijing.

"I've been one of the strongest advocates to not use the term genocide without an adjective," said Zenz. "However, the suppression of births is one of the criteria of literal genocide per the U.N. convention -- so it's appropriate to start to talk about this moving into an aspect of genocide."

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