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DNY59/iStockBy PATRICK REEVELL, ABC News

(MOSCOW) -- The trial of Paul Whelan, the former United States Marine held in Russia on spying charges, wrapped up in a Moscow court on Monday, with lawyers making their closing arguments and Russian prosecutors asking the court to sentence Whelan to 18 years in a Russian prison colony -- close to the maximum possible sentence for espionage.

The judge is expected to give a verdict at a June 15 hearing.

“The prosecutor asked for a very tough punishment, 18 years in a high-security penitentiary,” Whelan’s Russian lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said after the hearing on Monday.

Whelan, a security director for the American auto parts supplier BorgWarner, was arrested in his hotel room in late December 2018 by Russia’s FSB domestic intelligence service while he was visiting Moscow for a friend’s wedding.

Since then he has been held in the city’s Lefortovo prison, which houses suspected spies and high-profile prisoners.

Whelan’s family and his lawyers have insisted that he is not a spy and have accused Russia of framing the 50-year-old in order to use him as a political bargaining chip.

Whelan’s case is classed as secret and Russian authorities have never publicly described what he is accused of. The trial began in mid-April and has been held behind closed doors. The coronavirus lockdown has prevented journalists from even being present at the court building.

But the outlines of the case have emerged from Whelan’s lawyers and through leaks to the Russian media. According to them, Whelan is accused of receiving classified materials from a longtime Russian friend on behalf of U.S. intelligence.

Whelan’s lawyers have said in reality those charges are based around a crude frame up, set up by Whelan’s friend who was working with the FSB.

The friend, they said, brought a memory card to Whelan’s hotel room in a December 2018 visit which Whelan had believed would contain photos of a trip the two had taken the previous winter to a monastery town near Moscow.

Instead, unknown to Whelan, it contained the classified materials, and minutes after it was given to him, FSB agents burst in and detained him.

In the days before the sting, the friend had unexpectedly picked Whelan up at the airport when he arrived, Zherebenkov said, and had plied him with whiskey. He had secretly recorded Whelan, while trying to lead him to say incriminating things, the lawyer said.

The lawyers have not named the friend due to the trial’s secrecy rules, saying only that he works in the Russian security services. But Whelan’s family members have named him as Ilya Yatsenko, someone Whelan had known for 10 years. Last week, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported he was a major in the FSB’s Department "K", the powerful unit responsible for combating economic crimes.

Yatsenko has testified twice in court. Last week, Whelan testified that he believes his friend was motivated to betray him in part because he owed Whelan over $1,000 for two iPhones he bought for him, Zherebenkov said.

Whelan, who left the Marines on a bad-conduct discharge in 2007, is a self-described Russophile, who had traveled for years to Russia on vacations and had made many friends there, according to his family. In addition to the U.S., he also holds Irish, British and Canadian citizenship.

In his closing statement on Monday, Whelan told the judge he greatly respected Russian culture and had never conducted any spying activity, Zherebenkov said.

The United States in recent months has repeatedly called on Russia to release Whelan, saying it has never provided any evidence to support his detention.

Former U.S. intelligence officials have said Whelan does not fit the profile of an American spy and have said his case resembles that of classic KGB stings during the Cold War.

There has been speculation that Russia may have seized Whelan with the hope of exchanging him for Russians imprisoned in the U.S. on criminal convictions. Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly denied Russia engaged in hostage-taking but then noted that any exchange could only be possible once Whelan was convicted.

Whelan’s other Russian lawyer, Olga Karlova, told ABC News last week that Whelan hoped the U.S. would seek to rapidly trade him after his conviction. But she said there was no indication that would happen.

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Ramberg/iStockBy JULIA MACFARLANE, ABC News

(LONDON) -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummings insists that he did not break any rules amid calls for him to resign for traveling to visit his parents’ property in late March, and revealed that he did not offer his resignation to the prime minister, nor did he consider doing so.

Johnson is dealing with a political storm amid the coronavirus pandemic, as it emerged last week that Cummings allegedly broke lockdown rules in March and April.

In a press conference -- special advisers in the U.K. have a strict code of conduct which usually forbids them from making speeches or statements or taking part in political activities -- Cummings insisted no rules were broken when he took his wife, who was showing symptoms for COVID-19, and his 4-year-old son, more than 250 miles north of London to Durham where his parents own a farm and a cottage on the grounds. Cummings said he and his family self-isolated there.

Addressing accusations that he was flouting the rules he helped to devise, he said: "It’s not just a simple matter of regulations. The regulations describe various exceptional circumstances where it may not be possible to follow the rules."

Cummings said he fell ill with coronavirus after he had arrived in Durham, but the family continued to self-isolate together at his parents’ cottage -- away from their main house -- for 14 days. He said the driving factor behind his decision was to be closer to relatives in case he caught the virus from his wife, which would leave his 4-year-old son with two ill parents to care for him. He added that he did not seek child-care support from his family members while in Durham.

He said driving with a "full tank" of petrol in his car to an isolated location where his family members could have looked after his son if necessary was "the safest thing to do" under the circumstances. He added: "If I had stayed in London and something similar had happened, I would have had to get someone else there and expose them to danger."

Government advice stipulates that if a member of someone's household falls ill or starts to show symptoms of coronavirus, then they "must stay at home for at least 7 days, but all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days."

Cummings is believed to be one of the key proponents of the government’s "stay at home" strategy. An alumnus of the Brexit Vote Leave campaign of 2016, Cummings has been central to Johnson’s leadership campaigns and the recent general election in December 2019 that led to a decisive Johnson victory.

In his statement, Cummings admitted that he had been spotted by a member of the public near the town of Barnard Castle on April 11.

A joint investigation by two British newspapers claimed that one of his parents’ neighbors in Durham spotted Cummings and his family. The neighbor told the Daily Mirror: "I was really annoyed. I thought it’s ok for you to drive all the way up to Durham and escape from London."

On Sunday, Johnson himself took over the daily afternoon coronavirus briefing to address the crisis -- adding that he had spent almost six hours discussing the chronology of events with Cummings, and that he had concluded that no rules were broken and he had in fact acted "responsibly, legally and with integrity."

Upon his return from Number 10 on Sunday night, Cummings was filmed walking to his house and met with angry neighbors and bystanders. Earlier in the day, a van parked outside Cummings’ house with a large screen playing a satirical video of Johnson and his cabinet members’ statements urging the public to "stay at home."

Outrage continued to grow, with lawmakers taking to Twitter on Sunday evening and Monday morning to share the emails they were receiving from angry constituents who had made sacrifices to be without their families in order to abide by the rules.

One Conservative MP -- from Johnson’s own party -- told BBC radio he had received more than 100 emails from constituents saying the scandal "hit a raw nerve."

While the majority of cabinet members have tweeted their support for Cummings, a growing number of Conservative MPs have called for him to resign.

The Daily Mail, a rightwing newspaper that is usually sympathetic to Johnson’s administration, published a scathing front page on Monday morning, with an editorial calling for Cummings to either resign or be fired.

The row also received concerned statements from scientists involved in advising the government on its coronavirus response.

Professor Stephen Reicher, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours, said that Cummings’ actions had undermined efforts to fight the virus and claimed that "more people are going to die" as a result.

A statement Saturday from the Prime Minister’s Office at Number 10 Downing Street refuted claims in the media that the Durham Police had contacted the Cummings family, saying that "at no stage was [Mr Cummings] or his family spoken to by the police."

But minutes before Cummings’ press conference Monday, the Durham Constabulary issued a new statement: "We can confirm that on April 1, an officer from Durham Constabulary spoke to the father of Dominic Cummings."

Meanwhile, on the heels of Cummings’ press conference, a junior minister of the United Kingdom's parliament has resigned.

Douglas Ross stepped down from his post as parliamentary under-secretary of state for Scotland on Tuesday, saying in a statement, "There was much I still hoped to do in this role but events over the last few days mean I can no longer serve as a member of this government."

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Comic Relief/BBC Children in Need/Comic Relief via Getty ImagesBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(LONDON) -- Prince William is opening up about his experience of becoming a father, calling it "the biggest life-changing moment."

William, 37, and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, are the parents of Prince George, 6, Princess Charlotte, 5, and Prince Louis, 2.

William spoke about fatherhood with former soccer player Marvin Sordell for a new BBC One documentary, "Football, Prince William and our Mental Health." When Sordell opened up about the impact of growing up without a father and then becoming a father himself, William reflected on the death of his own mother, Princess Diana.

Diana died in a Paris car crash in 1997, when William was just 15 years old.

“Having children is the biggest life changing moment, it really is," William says in the documentary. "I think when you’ve been through something traumatic in life, and that is like you say, your dad not being around, my mother dying when I was younger, the emotions come back, in leaps and bounds."

"Me and Catherine particularly, we support each other and we go through those moments together and we kind of evolve and learn together," he said. "I can completely relate to what you’re saying about children coming along, it’s one of the most amazing moments of life but it’s also one of the scariest."

William has spoken in the past about how he keeps the memory of Princess Diana alive for his kids.

"I think constantly talking about Granny Diana, so we've got more photos up around the house now of her and we talk about her a bit and stuff," William said in a 2017 BBC documentary marking the 20th anniversary of Diana's death. "And it's hard because obviously Catherine didn't know her, so she cannot really provide that level of detail."

"So I do regularly, putting George or Charlotte to bed, talk about her and just try and remind them that there are two grandmothers, there were two grandmothers in their lives, and so it's important that they know who she was and that she existed," he said.

William has also joked previously that Diana would be a "nightmare grandmother, absolute nightmare."

"She'd love the children to bits but she'd be an absolute nightmare," he said in a 2017 ITV documentary. "She'd come in probably at bath time, cause an amazing amount of scene, bubbles everywhere, bath water all over the place and -- and then leave."

William said in the same documentary that he has vowed to spend as much time as possible with his children: "I want to make as much time and effort with Charlotte and George as I can because I realize that these early years are particularly crucial for children, and having seen, you know, what [Princess Diana] did for us."

The documentary Football, Prince William and our Mental Health airs Thursday in the U.K. at 8:05 p.m. BST, on BBC One.

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Cindy Larson/iStockBy DRAGANA JOVANOVIC, ABC News

(MOSCOW) -- Saturn, an alligator of international intrigue, died at the Moscow Zoo on Friday at the age of 84.

That in itself made Saturn unusual. In the wild, the normal life span for an alligator is 30 to 50 years.

But longevity was the least unusual aspect of Saturn's biography.

Saturn was born in the wild somewhere in Mississippi in 1936 and was shipped to the Berlin Zoo from which he disappeared on Nov. 23, 1943, in the aftermath of an Allied air bombing campaign on Berlin. One bomb directly struck the zoo's aquarium and, according to reports at the time, all of the alligators and crocodiles in captivity there were killed.

In fact, of the 16,000 animals once kept in the Berlin Zoo, it is estimated that fewer than 100 survived the war. Saturn was one of them.

When he was blasted into freedom in 1943, Saturn was 7 years old, an alligator adolescent. Two-and-a-half years later in June 1946, an almost mature Saturn was discovered and captured by British occupation forces. Custody of the alligator was transferred to the allied Soviet troops in post-WWII Berlin who then sent him on to Moscow where he would live the next 74 years.

It was in Moscow that the intriguing rumor started that Saturn was a part of a pet menagerie that belonged to Adolf Hitler. This undocumented episode with the Fuhrer gave the 11.5-foot alligator a celebrity status even though zoo officials absolved him of any political responsibility.

"Even if, purely theoretically, he belonged to someone," the zoo's announcement of Saturn's death asserts, "animals are not involved in war and politics, it is absurd to blame them for human sins.”

Far from blaming the alligator, officials at the Moscow Zoo treated him as an honored guest.

"We tried to take care of the venerable alligator with the utmost care and attention. He was choosy about food," the zoo's obituary said. Even among his keepers, he knew who he liked -- ”He perfectly remembered the trusted keeper.”

"He loved a massage, and if he didn’t like something," he knew how to show it, the zoo said.

If a zoo animal can be a historical figure, officials say this one qualifies.

"Saturn is a whole era for us. There is not the slightest exaggeration," the announcement of his death declared. "He came after the Victory (in WWII) - and met it's 75th Anniversary. It is a great happiness that each of us could look into his eyes, just quietly be near. He saw many of us as children. We hope that we did not disappoint him.”

Death may not end Saturn's public career. It has been reported that his carcass will be preserved and placed on exhibition at Moscow's Charles Darwin Museum of Biology.

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iStock/mattjeacockBy: NEIL GIARDINO, ABC News

(SEPAHUA, PERU) -- Mario Dispupidiwa recalls a way of life that is only a distant memory now.

"I watched my mother give birth in the forest and cradle the baby by the fire to keep it warm," he recalled. "We moved constantly from place to place."

But then the loggers and oil workers arrived, bringing with them terrifying diseases without cure, ending that life forever.

Dispupidiwa is a member of the Nahua tribespeople, who crossed a threshold into the modern world after their forced contact with the outside world in Peru's southeast Amazon nearly 40 years ago. In the years that followed, more than half of the Nahua died of influenza and whooping cough, for which they had no immunity, according to research by Peruvian anthropologist Beatriz Huertas.

Indigenous tribes have suffered from contagious diseases dating back to 16th century European incursions into the Amazon basin. Today, as COVID-19 reaches some of the most remote corners of the globe, highly vulnerable tribal peoples like the Nahua, with limited contact with the outside world, are sealing off their isolated villages and bracing for the arrival of a deadly new pathogen.

Although the Nahua have had sustained contact with society since the 1980s, they are still defined by Peru's government as a tribe in "initial contact" with the outside world. Numbering roughly 400, they live within a federally protected area called the Kugapakori Nahua Nanti Territorial Reserve.

But extreme poverty, inadequate access to modern medical care, and a way of life incompatible with social distancing could devastate communities like the Nahua, experts warn.

"The people who have survived [earlier epidemics] may have the genetic capacity to resist … but it's not enough. They're still vulnerable. They have to avoid contact with potential bearers of outside diseases," said Thomas Moore, an anthropologist who has studied tribal peoples in Peru's Amazon for decades.

Avoiding contact has proven difficult. Despite a staggering expanse of lowland jungle here, the outside world is rapidly encroaching. Nearby the Nahua village of Santa Rosa of Serjali, narcotraffickers are suspected of illegally entering the reserve, moving cocaine paste from the Andean slopes into Brazil. Christian missionaries, illegal loggers and frontiersmen also trespass, posing increased risk of disease outbreak within Nahua territory.

"We're trying to guarantee their land and health is protected. If they choose to maintain relations with those outside their territory, we want to ensure they're not affected by contagious illnesses," said Nancy Portugal, director of Peoples in Isolation and Initial Contact within Peru's Ministry of Culture, the state agency which advocates for tribes in Peru.

Despite the Ministry of Culture's attempts to prevent illegal entry into protected areas, powerful timber, oil and gas companies often operate with impunity within protected native territory.

The Nahua, who live in one of the most biologically diverse regions on Earth, not only share their reserve with several bands of isolated tribes, but also with Peru's most lucrative energy project, the Camisea Gas fields. The multinational gas concession, managed by PlusPetrol, has operated here since 2004. Most Nahua men work as seasonal laborers for the company, which pays the tribe a monthly stipend in order to operate within the reserve.

While most Nahua welcome the ability to earn a wage, contact with national society has exposed them to a host of illnesses like diabetes, gastritis, and malnutrition. The Nahua also suffer from severe mercury poisoning from an unconfirmed source.

"We demand to know the source of what keeps contaminating our Nahua brothers," said Edwin Humanga, president of regional indigenous organization CORPIAA. "In the meantime our brothers will continue to die, little by little."

For the Nahua, who mere decades ago lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers, the urge to travel is deep-rooted. Most Nahua make frequent trips to the logging town of Sepahua, a day's journey by boat, where they maintain relations with the Dominican Church.

Father Ignacio Iraizoz, who leads the Dominican mission in this remote hamlet -- and advocates for the contact of isolated tribes into national society -- minimized biological threats to isolated and initial contact tribes like the Nahua.

"Today contact must be made … they're seeking contact. They want it, and we have the means to keep them safe," Iraizoz told ABC News.

While the Dominican Mission has promoted education and health services for the Nahua, they are also criticized for aggressively assimilating them into national society and stripping them of their indigenous cosmovision.

"[I]t's a nefarious influence. It's ethnocidal. It's hostile to their culture," said Moore. "A lot of Nahua died because they were brought into the Dominican Mission with inadequate health attention."

COVID-19 has claimed over 3,000 lives in Peru, with hospitals in the country's vast Amazon reaching a breaking point.

In late April, Peru’s largest indigenous federation, the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon estimated at least 1,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 11 Amazon regions of the country. But, due to a lack of testing in native communities, that number is likely much higher, a spokesman for AIDESEP told ABC News.

Native leaders representing 1,800 communities throughout Peru's Amazon recently signed a formal complaint to the United Nations and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The letter, published by AIDESEP, demands the government address the "constant and growing" threat of COVID-19 in indigenous communities and warns of "high risk of ethnocide" without state action.

In response to the pandemic, the Ministry of Culture -- along with Peru’s national park service -- suspended all non-essential entry into the Kugapakori Nahua Nanti Territorial Reserve, granting access only to the state’s health sector, in the event of a medical emergency within. The ministry has also coordinated with regional authorities to bring food and medical supplies to the Nahua.

In a written response to ABC News, the Ministry of Culture indicated that while there are 11 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the greater province of Atalaya, there are no known cases in Nahua territory or in the town of Sepahua, which they frequent.

Mario Dispupidiwa, who has survived at least one earlier epidemic, said he still dreams of the life he once lived before his people were drawn out of isolation.

“I loved being free to travel the forest from one place to the next. I wonder what it would be like to return to that life, when we didn’t need money or medicine,” said Dispupidiwa.

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Kuzma/iStockBy JAMES HILL, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) -- Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend and longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein, has been granted at least a temporary reprieve from having to respond to questions in a civil lawsuit that alleges she committed sexual battery against a teenage girl, a federal magistrate judge ruled on Friday.

Maxwell, who has been accused in several lawsuits of facilitating or participating in Epstein's abuse of girls and young women, sought the delay because of an ongoing federal criminal investigation into Epstein's alleged co-conspirators and because a victims' compensation fund proposed by Epstein's estate is said to be nearing final approval.

"I'm permitting her not to respond to [written questions] and not to have her deposition," Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman said in her ruling from the bench. "Not forever, but at least long enough to let us know whether the claims process is likely to go forward."

Freeman made her ruling in a lawsuit filed against Maxwell and Epstein's estate last November by Annie Farmer. Farmer alleges that she was recruited and groomed by Epstein and Maxwell in 1996, and that Maxwell sexually assaulted her at Epstein's New Mexico ranch when Farmer was 16.

"Annie was extremely distressed and afraid. She was a child in a massive ranch in New Mexico, away from her family in Arizona, and isolated from any source of help. She was alone with Epstein and Maxwell," Farmer's complaint says.

An attorney for Farmer argued against the delay, noting the uncertainty surrounding the potential length of the criminal investigation.

"We have no indication of any time frame with respect to ... how long that investigation could go on," said Sigrid McCawley, the attorney for Farmer and four other victims suing Epstein's estate. "And to not be able to get discovery and ask Miss Maxwell questions ... that puts us in handcuffs with respect to being able to establish our claims."

Responding to those concerns, Freeman said she had "no desire to have this drag out" and asked to be updated in mid-June on the status of the investigation and the victims' claims program.

Maxwell, 58, has not been seen in public in several months and her whereabouts are unknown. She has denied Farmer's claims and the allegations that she facilitated Epstein's alleged crimes.

"She absolutely denies that she participated in this or any other sexual abuse or trafficking or assault, and no court, judge or jury has ever determined that she has," wrote Maxwell's attorney Laura Menninger in a letter to the court this week.

Menninger also claimed that the litigation was taking a financial toll on Maxwell.

"Unlike the estate, she is not a multi-millionaire and must self-fund her defense," she wrote.

In March, Maxwell filed her own lawsuit against the late financier's estate seeking reimbursement of her legal fees and personal security costs. She claims that Epstein had repeatedly made "clear and unambiguous" promises to always support her financially, according to her complaint.

Epstein died by suicide in jail last August, according to the New York City medical examiner, one month after his arrest on child sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. Epstein pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In court filings in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Farmer has indicated a willingness to take part in the voluntary claims program if it moves forward. Nearly 70 other alleged victims have also expressed an interest in participating in the program, which could resolve dozens of claims against the estate without litigation.

But the program's approval has been held up for months after Denise George, the attorney general for the Virgin Islands, filed criminal liens against Epstein's estate, effectively freezing all the assets of the $634 million estate worldwide. George has objected to some terms of the restitution plan, which she argued did not comply with the laws of the Virgin Islands or fully protect the rights of Epstein's victims.

In the court hearing Friday -- which was conducted by telephone due to the COVID-19 pandemic -- estate attorney Bennett Moskowitz said that the major issues have been resolved with the attorney general, and that he expects the program to be approved within a week.

"There are a few less contentious matters to iron out. But it is our firm expectation that by sometime next week, that resolution in principle will be formalized," Moskowitz said.

In a statement to ABC News Friday, George concurred that the parties are "near agreement upon the terms of the fund," which she said would be "a substantial improvement" from the original proposal from the estate. She said she remains opposed, however, to the estate's requirement that victims "sign broad releases to protect other individuals who sexually abused them." The estate has recently amended the release in an effort to address the attorney general's concerns.

"In the interest of allowing the program to move forward, the Attorney General's Office has been working further with estate counsel and the victims' attorneys on an agreement in principle, which is still being drafted," George said in the statement.

During the court hearing on Friday, Moskowitz also contended that some of the victims' attorneys were unnecessarily driving up the costs of litigation by demanding the estate search for and turn over documents that aren't relevant to their cases.

"Every dollar we're spending in the meantime is money that will never be available for that program," Moskowitz said.

McCawley had contended in court filings earlier this month that the estate had failed to produce even a single document in response to their discovery requests, and she had sought court intervention to require the estate to search for documents covering the entire time frame of Epstein's alleged abuse of young women and girls. The victims are seeking photographs, video and audio recordings from Epstein's airplanes and homes, financial records and communications with his alleged co-conspirators, employees and government officials that span a period of nearly two decades.

In court Friday, McCawley acknowledged that the estate had begun to produce some documents this week relating to her clients, but argued that other relevant evidence was improperly being withheld.

"Our position is that, with respect to our client's claims in each of the cases, information relating to Epstein's abuse of other victims is highly relevant," McCawley said. "The pattern of how he lured girls and then abused them is relevant to our clients."

Attorneys for the estate have countered that the victims' demands are disproportionate to the needs of the cases.

"If everything related to any allegedly bad thing Mr. Epstein ever did is relevant in each action, well, then it could take me six months or a year to finish looking for every piece of paper at every property Mr. Epstein owned," Moskowitz said Friday.

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BlakeDavidTaylor/iStockBy SOMAYEH MALEKIAN

(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran police confirmed it has arrested two parkour athletes, Alireza Japalaghy and a woman whose name has not been released, after their romantic photos of a rooftop kiss and hugs went viral on social media last week.

"Images of a young boy and girl who exhibited improper and unreligious behavior were published on social media. These people were arrested by the police with the judiciary officials' command, because what they did was a sample of 'advocating vice,'" read the police statement, reported on Thursday by Tasnim News Agency.

Alireza Japalaghy, known among parkour athletes for his acrobatic stunts, was arrested first, on Monday. The stuntwoman with him on videos, reportedly his girlfriend, was detained Thursday.

Their custody provoked reactions on social media. People raised questions about how police can be so swift in seizing those who kiss, compared with those who commit crimes such as financial corruption, when the country suffers from international sanctions.

"The girl with the Parkour athlete is arrested ... I wish there was some intention to fight economic corruption, too," Daryoush, a Twitter user, posted.

The issue of women's bodies in the Islamic Republic's regulations was also among other topics raised in the reactions.

"The woman's body is a forbidden territory. I just wish someone tells me if those who committed acid attacks [on women] in Isfahan are also arrested," another Twitter user asked, referring to a series of acid attacks on women with loose hijabs, which happened a few years ago in Isfahan. No one was ever arrested for those attacks.

It is not the first time that social media celebrities have been arrested for crossing the red lines of the Islamic Republic. Last October, the Iranian influencer Fatemeh Khishvand, known as Sahar Tabar, was arrested and sentenced to imprisonment for posting her photos with unusual makeup and poses on Instagram.

"There is no difference between crimes in the real world and those on cyberspace," said Social Deputy of Iran Cyber Police Col. Ramin Pashaei, Borna News reported on May 13. That was a day after Japalaghy's rooftop photos were posted on a Twitter account with his name and the caption saying "Tehran Dawn." The photos were also posted on Instagram.

The police statement on Japalaghy and the woman emphasizes their arrest "is not related to their sport activities." However, many believe it is another move by the system to control the already restricted Internet access in Iran, where many social media websites and applications, including Facebook and Twitter, are filtered; blocking Instagram may be in the works too.

"Unfortunately, monitoring Instagram lives is impossible... This platform does not respect the regulations and sovereignty of our country," said Col. Ali Mohammad Rajabi, head of the cybercrimes prevention desk of the Iran Cyber Police, to Iranian Students' News Agency on May 9.

"This platform is a long-term project. We have to follow the Supreme Leader's commands to be able to step properly on this path," he added.

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KeithBinns/iStockBy HABIBULLAH KHAN, WILLIAMS MANSELL and GUY DAVIES, ABC News

(KARACHI, Pakistan) -- At least one person has survived after a Pakistani Airlines passenger jet crashed near the Karachi Airport Friday.

All 91 passengers and seven crew members on board were feared dead, a PIA official earlier told ABC News. But at a press conference Arshad Malik, the PIA Chairman, said at a press conference on Friday evening that one passenger survived the crash, and they are checking local hospitals for further survivors.

The Airbus 320 was traveling from Lahore to Karachi when it crashed, going down in a densely populated residential neighborhood 2 kilometers from the airport. The authorities expect the full circumstances surrounding the crash to become clear once black box data has been evaluated, Malik said. The pilot of the downed plane had called the control tower to report a technical issue and that he was going to attempt another landing, he added.

A military official told ABC News that their teams are on ground searching for bodies from the plane and the houses. The official said it's too early to know how many people were in their homes at the time of the crash.

As well as the search and rescue teams, Major General Babar Iftikhar, the spokesperson for the Pakistan Armed Forces, said that military helicopters had flown to the scene "for damage assessment and rescue efforts."

In a video shot by an eyewitness, a huge cloud of black smoke can be seen rising from the crash site from a Karachi suburb.

Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, promised a full investigation into the crash, which came just days after the country resumed commercial domestic flights.

"Shocked & saddened by the PIA crash," he said in a statement. "Am in touch with PIA CEO Arshad Malik, who has left for Karachi & with the rescue & relief teams on ground as this is the priority right now. Immediate inquiry will be instituted. Prayers & condolences go to families of the deceased."

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Martin Holverda/iStockBy CAO JUN, ABC News

(BEIJING) -- A national security law introduced Friday at the opening session to China’s National People’s Congress to tackle the ongoing political unrest in Hong Kong would allow Beijing to send its security agents to operate freely in the former British Colony to “fulfill relevant duties to safeguard national security in accordance with the law.”

Chinese law enforcement and security agents previously had no purview in Hong Kong under the “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement that allowed the Chinese international financial hub a certain degree of autonomy to runs its own affairs.

The proposed national security law, which Chinese authorities deemed an "absolute necessity" and is guaranteed to pass, is the latest and most far-reaching attempt by Beijing to tighten its grip on Hong Kong.

The U.S. reacted swiftly, calling the decision "a death knell for the high degree of autonomy Beijing promised for Hong Kong," Secretary of State Michael Pompeo wrote in a statement issued Friday morning, and "urges Beijing to reconsider its disastrous proposal."

"Any decision impinging on Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms as guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law would inevitably impact our assessment of One Country, Two Systems and the status of the territory," the statement added.

Hong Kong holds a special economic status under U.S. export and trade regulations; China's new proposal threatens, by some estimates, $38 billion of trade between the U.S. and Hong Kong and imperils the offices hundreds of U.S. companies have there.

For 23 years after Hong Kong was handed over by the British to the Chinese, successive Hong Kong governments have been unable to enact their own national security law, which was required by their mini-constitution known as the Basic Law. Each time they tried, it was met with fierce opposition from opposition lawmakers and a large number of residents.

An attempt in 2003 to push through a local national security law, just as Hong Kong was emerging from the devastating SARS epidemic, brought half a million protestors out on the streets. The law was shelved indefinitely.

This time, as COVID-19 is purportedly under control in China, Beijing is planning to bypass the Hong Kong legislature altogether and enforce their own law by decree.

Beijing says that the law “takes necessary measures to establish and improve the legal system and enforcement mechanism” to “safeguard national security, as well as prevent, stop and punish activities endangering national security.”

It specifically takes aim at “separatist subversive, infiltrating and sabotage activities in Hong Kong by foreign and external forces.”

The political unrest that rocked Hong Kong since last June was high on the agenda as China’s annual parliamentary session opened solemnly Friday in Beijing after being delayed over two months because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. A moment of silence was observed in the packed Great Hall of People with thousands of delegates from all over the country, all tested for the coronavirus beforehand and all wearing masks except for President Xi and the ruling Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left its imprint on the proceedings, which Beijing usually uses to set its agenda and targets for the year. It is commonly referred to as China's most important political event of the year. Due to the "great [economic] uncertainty" resulting from the pandemic, Beijing has, for the first time in recent history, not set a target for its gross domestic product for 2020.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, however, did announce that the country would increase its defense spending by 6.6% as the relationship between China and the United States continues to crater.

The news of the Hong Kong national security legislation caused the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index to sink more than 5.6%, its largest one-day decline in five years, over uncertainty on Hong Kong’s future as an open financial hub and the prospect of street protests, which had abated amidst strict social distancing rules, erupting once more.

“This is the end of Hong Kong. This is the end of ‘One Country Two Systems.’ This is it. Make no mistake about it," pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok, who has been the target of Beijing’s recent ire, told the media after hearing the news of the planned law Thursday night.

This announcement comes just as Hong Kong has gotten its COVID-19 situation under control with less than a handful of local cases over the past month, so why now?

Hong Kong as weak link?


After the often violent and anti-Beijing protests grew out of opposition to the now-withdrawn extradition bill, Beijing likely saw Hong Kong as a weak link in China's defenses for Western powers to exploit, especially as the anti-China rhetoric has become a bipartisan rallying point in the United States. Throughout 2019, Beijing pinned the blame on “foreign black hands" for fomenting the sustained protests, which were seen at the time as the most serious challenge to the Communist Party in a generation.

A People’s Daily editorial, which is the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, wrote that the situation in Hong Kong is no longer a local issue and that “ to safeguard national security is a national matter, not just a matter of Hong Kong.”

The state-run China Daily editorial argued that the law would serve as a “testing kit for an Anti-Beijing virus.”

“Those that find the news encouraging and comforting are invariably those who have the [Hong Kong’s] stability, prosperity and rule of law in their hearts,” it wrote. “Those speaking ill of it mostly have an ax to grind when it comes to the Chinese mainland.”

The U.S. State Department delayed a report earlier this month on Hong Kong’s autonomy in anticipation of a Beijing move on Hong Kong. If the U.S. deems Hong Kong insufficiently autonomous, it could sanction officials and revoke its trade status and treat Hong Kong just like another mainland city. A bipartisan bill was announced Thursday that would impose sanctions on Chinese officials and banks that do business with entities found to enforce the proposed national security law.

Trump to address the move 'very strongly'


Even President Donald Trump promised a strong response if the proposal moves forward.

“If it happens, we’ll address that issue very strongly,” Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn on his way to Michigan.

After the law was introduced, Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam released a statement from Beijing, where she is attending the meetings, saying the law “only targets acts of secession, subverting state power and organizing and carrying out terrorist activities, as well as activities interfering with the [Hong Kong’s] internal affairs by foreign or external forces.”

“They will not affect the legitimate rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents under the law, or the independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, exercised by the Judiciary in Hong Kong.”

She did not address the prospect of mainland “security organs of the Central People’s Government,” setting up agencies within the borders of Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong national security proposal is expected to pass in the parliament next Friday and a full bill would move to a vote and would be enacted into law in Hong Kong by the end of June.

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Official White House Photo by D. Myles CullenBy CONOR FINNEGAN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration will withdraw the U.S. from another major arms control pact on Friday, according to President Donald Trump.

It's the latest agreement that the White House is pulling out of, senior U.S. officials say, because Russia is not complying, and China is not participating -- all which is further dismantling the international arms control regime and fueling concern about a new nuclear arms race.

The Open Skies Treaty permits each signatory to conduct a set number of unarmed reconnaissance flights with sensor equipment over other member states at short notice, allowing them to collect data on military forces and quelling fears of secretive military build-ups. The data collected on the flight, which includes representatives of the surveilling and surveilled countries, is to be shared with all the signatories. This makes the treaty particularly important for U.S. allies in Europe who don't have the sophisticated satellites the U.S. has.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that Russia had failed to meet its obligations and the U.S. would notify its withdrawal on Friday. It will then begin a six-month wind-down period. While Pompeo said the U.S. "may" stay in the pact if Russian behavior changes, the administration will instead begin focusing on new nuclear talks with Russia and China, according to special envoy for arms control Marshall Billingslea, who announced he is finalizing details for a meeting with his Russian counterpart soon.

The decision was swiftly condemned by arms control advocates, who argued a U.S. withdrawal is counter-productive and issues with Russian compliance should be dealt with through the treaty.

The withdrawal is "another retreat from international security cooperation," according to retired Ambassador Laura Kennedy, who served as U.S. envoy to the U.N.-affiliated Conference on Disarmament. "In an age where we need allies more than ever, we are disastrously going it alone."

European allies like France and Germany have urged the U.S. to remain one of the pact's 35 members, pointing to the over 1,500 successful flights since the treaty entered into force in 2002.

"While the intelligence and confidence building advantages are limited for the United States itself, they are very real for America's NATO allies," over a dozen former senior European defense officials said in a joint letter last week, adding, "The political symbolism matters: U.S. withdrawal would prevent the United States from overflying Russia, but would leave Russia still able to overfly American military activities and installations in Europe. U.S. departure would also further weaken the international arms control architecture and be a further blow to any global sense of stability."

Senior Trump officials, however, said Russia had violated the terms of the pact and a broader spirit of "cooperative security" in recent years, pointing to Russia's invasion of Georgia and Ukraine where it continues to occupy territory, its deployment of a cruise missile system in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and its use of Novichok nerve agent against a former spy in the U.K. in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

"Russia has systematically destroyed conventional arms control in Europe," said special envoy Billingslea. "If the other party is not holding up their end of the bargain, we do have the right to withdraw from the arrangement."

In particular, U.S. officials point to Russia's denial of flights over a military exercise last fall and limits on flights near territory seized from Georgia and over the Russian province Kaliningrad, which is separate from the rest of Russia and sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. In response, the U.S. had limited flights over some sensitive areas in Hawaii and Alaska.

"What [Russia] has been saying is, 'Yes, you can fly anywhere you want and look at anything you like at any time, except for the things we don't wish you to see,' and that kind of selective limitation clearly cuts at the heart of the confidence-building that is the purpose of the Open Skies Treaty," said Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-proliferation Christopher Ford. Russia "has had no accountability for that, and we are now finally providing that kind of accountability."

Advocates of the pact point out that Russia recently approved of a joint flight by the U.S., Estonia and Latvia over Kaliningrad earlier this year without those restrictions. Ambassador Jim Gilmore, Trump's envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, also said in March that Russia will no longer raise an "objection" for flights "over one of their major exercises."

While Ford dismissed those developments as not representative of Russia's view that it can "turn its obligations on and off like a light switch," experts say it's proof that the U.S. can negotiate with Moscow for improvements.

"These problems can and should be solved through professional, pragmatic diplomacy, not by abandoning treaty commitments," wrote President Ronald Reagan's long-time Secretary of State George Shultz, along with President Bill Clinton's Defense Secretary William Perry and former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, in a letter to Trump in March.

Trump's first Defense Secretary James Mattis backed that view during his time as Pentagon chief, calling it "an important mechanism for engaging with our allies and partners" that "contributes to greater transparency and stability." In particular, he noted, it was critical to exposing Russia's military presence in eastern Ukraine in 2014, even as Moscow denied playing a role in the fighting there.

Republican lawmakers, however, have backed Trump's decision, arguing that Russia gained more out of the pact while the U.S. can continue its surveillance through a network of advanced satellites.

"In terms of intelligence collection, Moscow needs the Open Skies treaty more than Washington, yet Moscow has refused to abide by the treaty's obligations," said Bradley Bowman, a former national security adviser to Senate Republicans who's now at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank.

But data compiled by researchers at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy in Germany shows the U.S. receives far fewer flights over its territory than it and its allies fly over Russia's. Some analysts also say Russia's surveillance capability outside the flights is advanced enough that they don't need them as much as U.S. officials believe -- but when they collect that information on their own, they aren't required to share it with the U.S. or other signatories.

Advocates of the treaty also say its purpose is beyond collecting intelligence, but also about creating stability and collective security through transparency -- and by allowing Russian officials on board with Americans and other Europeans. That builds a "normalizing, collegial routine which builds trust," according to Melissa Hanham, deputy director of the Open Nuclear Network.

The administration also appears to have disregarded the law by failing to notify Congress of its intent to withdraw 120 days in advance of the formal notification. That could spark a new legal battle down the road, as the Senate has to approve by a two-thirds majority of any treaty's ratification -- and, some Democrats have recently argued, its withdrawal.

"Congress's role over treaty withdrawal has remained uncertain for far too long. Our founders intended that no U.S. president should have full control of treaty powers," said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Thursday, proposing new legislation to require Senate approval for any treaty withdrawal or ratification.

Arms control advocates also fear what U.S. withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty means for the last piece of nuclear arms control between the U.S. and Russia, New START, or Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. It expires next February, and while the two sides have engaged in some talks, the Trump administration has indicated it does not want to extend the pact unless it involves China -- a proposition China has rejected.

Billingslea announced Thursday that he and his Russian counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, are finalizing plans to begin negotiations as soon as possible. While he said their "expectation is that the Chinese will likewise be at the table," he gave no indication that they have had steps toward that goal, saying instead, "The Chinese have an obligation to negotiate with us in good faith."

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Kensington PalaceBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(LONDON) -- Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, can add a new title to their names: Bingo callers.

The royal couple showed off a new talent Thursday when they stepped in to lead a game of bingo with nursing home residents at Shire Hall Care Home in Cardiff, Wales.

William and Kate joined the bingo game via a Zoom call from their Anmer Hall home in Norfolk, England, where they have been following stay-at-home orders in the U.K. with their three young children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

Kate brought up 6-year-old George at one point during the game when she pulled a number five ball, saying, "George would like this one — five and five, snake’s alive."

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge followed traditional bingo lingo when they called out numbers, with William saying, "One and seven dancing queen," when he drew the number 17 and Kate saying, "Six and two, tickety-boo," when she drew 62.

William and Kate were met with rounds of applause from residents as they called out the bingo numbers but then received some honest feedback after the game from one resident, which they seemed to take in stride.

"Very good. It wasn't as good as it should have been," the resident, Joan, responded when William asked her how he and Kate had done as bingo callers.

Before the bingo game, William and Kate spoke with health care workers at the nursing home to thank them for their work and hear about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the challenges they have faced. The royals also heard from the staff about how they are using technology to help the residents stay in touch with friends and family, according to Kensington Palace.

Last month, William, Kate and their children took part in the weekly #ClapForOurCarers celebration that sees people across the U.K. clapping for health care and other essential workers still working during the coronavirus pandemic.

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ABC NewsBy ALLIE YANG, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) -- Foreign Minister of South Korea Kang Kyung-wha says that her country may be reopening, but life won’t be the same.

“We’re not going back to life pre-COVID. The risk is there,” she told ABC News. “We need to learn to live with this risk, that means everybody doing their share to stick to the sanitary rules, wearing masks in public places and public transportations, and so on. Washing your hands of course, and you know… everybody has a role to play.”

On Wednesday, high school seniors across South Korea were welcomed back to school with significant precautions, including temperature checks. Other grades will return in the following weeks.

Gyms, restaurants, cafes and other businesses are slowly opening their doors with guidance to socially distance. Professional sports, including baseball and soccer, have resumed playing in stadiums, but without fans.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), since the outbreak was first detected there in January, South Korea has reported 11,112 cases of COVID-19, of which 264 people have died. Incidence of the disease decreased sharply in the country after its peak in early March.

South Korea has been praised by the international community for their swift action in ordering self-isolation, making thousands of COVID-19 tests available and using contact tracing to tracking down anyone who may have come in contact with the disease.

Kang said the country’s recent response to the MERS outbreak in 2015 was “not that laudable – there was lots of shortcoming,” but said that experience allowed South Korea to improve their disease control infrastructure. There were 185 MERS cases overall in the country when that outbreak occurred, of which 38 people died, according to WHO.

“That has really been put to the full test and successfully… this time,” she said, crediting vigorous “testing, tracing and treatment.”

Last week, South Korea saw clusters of around 30 new cases every day for several days, linked to nightclubs in Seoul’s Itaewon district.

“Our testing and tracing capacity was put to the test and it quickly ramped up prior to this spike,” Kang said. “After the spike, we've made the testing available anonymous and free of cost because we've realized that many young people who frequented these establishments would be reluctant to come forward to get tested."

Last Wednesday, the country’s Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told reporters they’d analyze the details of the clusters before determining whether to relax social distancing guidelines.

Using this anonymous and free testing strategy, Kang said their health department has been able to test well over 60,000 cases “over the past 10 days.”

“This underscores the importance, the importance of ability to quickly ramp up testing and tracing,” she continued. “This virus is very tricky and it could raise its head any time. And if it does, it is important that you have the ability to quickly test and trace.”

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hansslegers/iStockBy GUY DAVIES, ABC News

(LONDON) -- At least 72 people have died and hundreds of thousands more displaced by a cyclone battering India and Bangladesh.

Cyclone Amphan, carrying strong rain and winds of up to 118 mph, made landfall on Wednesday evening, leaving a "trail of devastation" in India's northeast, Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Bannerjee, said.

The majority of the casualties were killed by falling trees and electrocution, as the cyclone upended buildings and caused flooding across swathes of Kolkata, the state's capital, with a population of 14 million, and across the northeast. So far, 500,000 people in West Bengal and 200,000 people in the neighboring state of Odisha have been evacuated from their homes and placed into shelters, according to the National Disaster Response Force.

The local authorities have said that parts of West Bengal need help to "rebuild those areas from scratch," and the damage caused by the cyclone is worse than the coronavirus pandemic, Bannerjee said.

"My thoughts are with the people of Odisha as the state bravely battles the effects of Cyclone Amphan," Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a statement. "Authorities are working on the ground to ensure all possible assistance to those affected. I pray that the situation normalizes at the earliest."

"No stone will be left unturned in helping the affected," he added.

In neighboring Bangladesh, Cyclone Amphan has caused an estimated $1.5 billion worth of damage, with at least fifteen people reportedly killed, according to the Dhaka Tribune.

The cyclone is still forecast to travel to the Indian state of Assam, although the damage there is expected to be nowhere near the extent seen in West Bengal.

Eight NDRF teams have been despatched to the region to assist with evacuation and restoration efforts. It will be a "massive challenge" to carry out restoration work in the context of the ongoing threat of the novel coronavirus, the director of the NDRF said.

Kolkata Airport, where the NDRF teams are expected to arrive this evening, is expected to be functional by the end of the day, although the true extent of the damage is still being assessed.

Cyclone Amphan is the most powerful of its kind to hit the region in over two decades. In 1999, a super cyclone hit Odissha, killing at least 9,887 people.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan E. Gilbert/ReleasedBy LUIS MARTINEZ, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt has headed out to sea after nearly two months in Guam, where almost a quarter of the 4,800 sailors aboard the ship were infected with the novel coronavirus, the Navy said in a statement.

The ship will remain in the waters off the coast of Guam so that its pilots and air crews can be recertified for flight operations. The nearly 1,800 sailors who remained on Guam to complete their self-quarantine will reboard the ship when it returns.

The carrier's departure comes seven weeks after the carrier first arrived in Guam following the first positive tests of COVID-19 among the ship's crew of 4,865 sailors.

The Navy soon began a process to quarantine and test the ship's crew in Navy facilities and hotels on Guam but ultimately more than 1,110 sailors, or close to a quarter of the ship's crew, contracted the virus. There was one sailor who died.

Eventually, 4,000 sailors were quarantined for 14 days on Guam as the remaining 800 continued to carry out essential functions and disinfect the entire ship. The idea was that as sailors cleared quarantine and tested negative for COVID-19, they would swap places with the sailors who were still aboard the ship.

To ensure that there would not be any new outbreaks aboard the carrier, all returning sailors had to test negative twice after completing their quarantine. Social distancing and rigorous cleaning and disinfecting procedures were also put in place aboard the ship.

That process appeared to be going smoothly until last week when it was discovered that 14 sailors who had previously tested positive for the virus were once again testing positive.

A defense official says the tests may be detecting remnants of the virus still in the sailors' system because they do not appear to be contagious.

Officials said the Navy decided that the ship could head out to sea without waiting for the entire ship's crew to clear the quarantine and the two rounds of tests. The focus was on having an appropriate number of sailors responsible for the jobs essential to keep the ship running and maintain its flight operations.

After carrying out the re-certification of its air wing, the ship will return to Guam to pick up the rest of the ship's crew. It is likely that the ship will then continue with its deployment in the western Pacific.

The carrier and its crew became embroiled in controversy as Capt. Brett Crozier, the ship's commanding officer, requested in a letter that the Navy do more to stem the spread of the coronavirus among the crew. The letter was later published by a newspaper.

Then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly fired Crozier as commanding officer, but later resigned himself following his controversial comments to the ship's crew in Guam, where he blasted Crozier as being "naive" or "too stupid" not to have known that his letter would become public.

After an initial review, Adm. Michael Gilday, the chief of naval operations, recommended the unprecedented move to reinstate Crozier to his command.

The Navy has launched a broader review of its actions to combat the virus, which has left in doubt whether Crozier's reinstatement would be carried out. That review is to be completed and submitted to Gilday by May 27.

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omersukrugoksu/iStockBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(WELLINGTON, New Zealand) -- New Zealand's popular prime minister floated the idea of a four-day workweek to promote domestic tourism as the industry -- and country -- looks to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

During a Facebook Live broadcast earlier this week, Jacinda Ardern said she had heard "lots of people" suggesting a four-day workweek following a hospitality meeting in the tourist hub Rotorua. Ardern noted that 60% of the country's tourism industry is supported by domestic tourism.

"The question for me is, how do we encourage Kiwis to make sure that they go out and they have that experience? And when they go and visit somewhere, they don't just stay with family and friends, but they get out and about and visit some of the amazing places and tourism offerings that we have," Ardern said.

The prime minister said that ultimately a shortened workweek is a decision between employers and employees, but that there are lessons to learn from the pandemic, such as the flexibility of people working from home.

"The productivity that can be driven out of that really encouraged people to think about, if they're an employer and in a position to do so, to think about whether or not that is something that would work for their workplace. Because [a four-day workweek] certainly would help tourism all around the country," Ardern said.

Several countries, including France and the Netherlands, have reduced working hours. A trust company in New Zealand, Perpetual Guardian, also instituted a four-day workweek in 2018 after research found it was successful in reducing stress without decreasing productivity, Fast Company reported.

Last week, workplaces in New Zealand were able to reopen, as Ardern lifted most of the country's restrictions. In addition to offices, all businesses, including restaurants, bars and retail stores, as well as schools, were able to open with social distancing guidelines in place. Residents are also allowed to travel between regions and hold events with up to 10 people.

Known COVID-19 infections have largely stabilized in the country over the past few weeks. New Zealand has had no new confirmed COVID-19 cases for two days in a row as of Wednesday. The South Pacific nation of five million has reported just 1,503 cases and 21 deaths.

In part thanks to her pandemic response, Ardern is New Zealand's most popular leader in a century, according to a Newshub-Reid Research poll released Monday. Nearly 60% of those surveyed preferred her party, Labour.

A Newshub-Reid Research poll also found that an overwhelming majority of New Zealanders backed the government's lockdown measures.

Last week, the leader warned that the Southern Hemisphere nation will have a "very tough winter."

"But every winter eventually is followed by spring, and if we make the right choices we can get New Zealanders back to work and our economy moving quickly again," Ardern said.

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