South Korean President Moon talks North Korea’s nuclear activities, BTS’ new diplomacy role

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(NEW YORK) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Tuesday in an exclusive interview it was “concerning” if North Korea has resumed its nuclear activities “in earnest” and stressed the importance of reactivating talks between North Korea and the United States, as well as inter-Korea talks.

“I believe that we need to have North Korea understand that dialogue and diplomacy are the only way to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Moon told ABC News anchor Juju Chang.

Moon is attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York City this week to talk about climate change.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported last month that North Korea appears to have restarted the operation of its main nuclear reactor used to produce weapons fuels, as North Korea openly threatens to enlarge its nuclear arsenal amid dormant nuclear diplomacy with the United States.

When asked about North Korea’s nuclear program, which is going “full steam ahead” according to U.N. atomic watchdog chief Rafael Grossi, Moon said while North Korea has been “intensifying tension, launching missiles and conducting other activities, it is of great relief that it has kept good on its moratorium on nuclear tests and ICBM launches.”

Moon was also asked about North Korea’s criticism of the United States’ decision to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. North Korean state media quoted an unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry official who called the arrangement, made between the U.S., Britain and Australia, an “extremely” dangerous move, one that could set off a nuclear arms race.

Moon conceded it is a “great pity that the Korean Peninsula still is living in the era of the Cold War,” adding that while “remarkable changes” have taken place during his time in office, they have “yet to consolidate peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

Moon said he believes there is a “possibility of resuming talks” and thus finding “a way, a pathway to the solution.”

Tensions have been high between North and South Korea. Both countries have recently tested ballistic missiles. This came as a stark contrast to their 2018 agreement when the two rival nations vowed to denuclearize the peninsula and end the long war between them.

ABC News also sat down with K-pop sensation BTS exclusively to talk about the band’s new official role as South Korea’s presidential envoys for public diplomacy.

As part of their new role, BTS attended the U.N. Global Assembly and performed at the United Nations. Their new video for “Permission to Dance,” which was filmed inside and around the U.N., has already racked up millions of views online. BTS said it is bringing a message of hope and community, talking about the importance of COVID-19 vaccines and sustainability.

The exclusive interviews with Moon and BTS will air on Sept. 24, starting with “Good Morning America.”
 

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House votes to approve bill to avert government shutdown

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(WASHINGTON) — The House voted along party lines to pass a short-term funding bill to avert a government shutdown next week.

The final vote was 220-211.

The bill would fund the government through Dec. 3 and it also includes billions in emergency disaster relief and aid for Afghan evacuees. It also suspends the debt limit through December 2022.

Senate Republicans are expected to block the measure later this week because they do not want to vote on raising the debt limit — which means a shutdown could still happen if funding runs out after midnight on Sept. 30.

Democrats need 10 Republican senators to vote with them, and as of right now, the votes are not there. The path forward to avert a shutdown is unclear as of right now.

Senate Republicans have said they oppose suspending the debt limit because of additional spending measures Democrats are crafting — even though doing so would pay for previous expenditures. But Senate Democrats worked with Republicans under the Trump administration to raise the debt limit on multiple occasions and said it’s a bipartisan responsibility.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said if Congress does not act to raise the debt limit, the U.S. could default on its debt sometime in October, potentially triggering an “economic catastrophe.”

Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have said for weeks they will oppose any measure that raises the debt ceiling, insisting that Democrats can do it alone given their control over all three branches of government.

“Since Democrats decided to go it alone, they will not get Senate Republicans’ help with raising the debt limit. I’ve explained this clearly and consistently for over two months,” McConnell said Monday on the Senate floor.

But Democrats are pressing ahead and remain optimistic about the bill’s prospects, knowing full well the challenge they face in getting Republicans on board.

“It is our hope that Senate Republicans will also do the right thing and stop playing politics around the debt limit,” House Democratic caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries said at a press conference Tuesday.

Jeffries indicated that at least a handful of Republicans have publicly expressed they will end up voting for the bill. Democrats need at least 10 Republicans in the Senate to back the bill.

“Three times — during the administration of the former president — three times House Democrats cooperated in raising the debt ceiling,” Jeffries said.

“Now all of a sudden, they want to jam up the American people and the American economy and our full faith and credit, because they’re playing politics?” Jeffries said of Republicans in the Senate.

“Senate Republicans should be hearing from their friends in the big banks and big business, as to how catastrophic a default on our debt would be for industry, for commerce, for the economy and most importantly for the American people,” Jeffries added.

Without GOP support, it’s unclear how Democrats will plan to tackle the issue of raising or suspending the debt limit alone.

“The debt limit is a shared responsibility, and I urge Congress to come together, in that spirit, on a bipartisan basis as it has in the past to protect the full faith and credit of the United States,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to members over the weekend.

The short-term funding bill unveiled on Tuesday extends funding through Dec. 3 for all vital federal agencies, including health, housing, education and public safety programs.

“It is critical that Congress swiftly pass this legislation to support critical education, health, housing and public safety programs and provide emergency help for disaster survivors and Afghan evacuees,” House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro said in a statement Tuesday.

The bill also includes $28.6 billion in emergency disaster relief to address recent natural disasters, including multiple hurricanes and wildfires, severe droughts and winter storms in 2021 and prior years.

Another $6.3 billion would support Afghan evacuees, including funding to temporarily house evacuees at American facilities and in foreign countries, provide necessary security screenings and ultimately resettle eligible evacuees in the United States. The legislation also includes funding to provide humanitarian assistance for Afghan refugees in neighboring countries.

The legislation suspends the debt limit through December 2022.

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House Democrats remove money for Israel’s Iron Dome system in funding bill

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(WASHINGTON) — House Democrats on Tuesday removed $1 billion in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system from their stopgap government funding bill, after progressives threatened to tank the measure over the military support for Israel.

While Democratic leaders committed to approving the funding by year’s end in another must-pass bill, the holdup was the latest episode in an ongoing intraparty debate over support for Israel.

Republicans quickly took to social media to accuse Democrats of undermining Israel’s security, and planned a procedural vote to highlight Democrats’ divisions — even as they had planned to vote against the initial measure when it included Iron Dome funding.

Moderate Democrats also criticized their colleagues for opposing the funds for the defensive missile system, which President Joe Biden promised to replenish after Israel’s conflict with the Palestinian militant group Hamas in May.

While lawmakers from both parties have supported Israel’s right to defend itself unconditionally for decades, a growing group of Democratic lawmakers have called on party leaders to revisit its relationship with Israel, and have accused its military of human rights abuses and blasted the treatment of Palestinians.

That tension has been exacerbated in recent years by the efforts of conservative Israeli leaders — most notably former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — to align closely with Republicans and former President Donald Trump, after tensions with the Obama administration over the U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Still, Democratic Party leaders and Biden have been quick to demonstrate their support for Israel. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Tuesday spoke to Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid about the Iron Dome funding debate and reiterated Democrats’ commitment to passing the measure.

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Two disbarred attorneys outside Texas sue abortion doctor under SB8

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(WASHINGTON) — The first tests of Texas’ unprecedented and highly controversial scheme for enforcing a ban on nearly all abortions have come from two non-Texans — both former lawyers disbarred for alleged misconduct who are effectively inviting courts to invalidate the law on constitutional grounds.

Oscar Stilley, a former Arkansas attorney, brought one of the two civil suits filed Monday in Bexar County District Court against a San Antonio abortion doctor who publicly admitted to performing an unlawful procedure. Stilley is in custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons on a 15-year sentence for tax evasion and conspiracy, according to the complaint posted on his personal website.

Felipe N. Gomez, an Illinois attorney, brought the other suit; he is currently suspended from the state’s bar over accusations of sending harassing and threatening emails, records show.

“In some ways the identity of these first plaintiffs highlights the absurdity of the law,” said Kate Shaw, Cardozo School of Law professor and ABC News legal contributor.

“No connection to the issue, no connection to the parties, no connection — as far as we can tell from the complaints — to Texas, at all. And yet, they may well have the ability, the way the law is drafted, to go to court and to have the courts actually hear their case,” she continued.

Gomez is a self-described “pro choice plaintiff,” according to the two-page complaint obtained by ABC affiliate KSAT, and explicitly asked the court to strike the law, SB8, down.

SB8 prohibits abortions after about 6 weeks of pregnancy in Texas and allows “any person, other than an officer or employee of state or local government,” to bring a civil suit against someone believed to have “aided or abetted” an unlawful abortion.

“The statute says that anybody can file a suit. That doesn’t mean that there’s not some state constitutional limitation on who could file a suit,” said Irving Gornstein, executive director of the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown Law Center, “but this person seems to be somebody who has no objection to abortions, he just wants to earn a bounty.”

Stilley, who is seeking to claim a minimum $10,000 reward, and Gomez, who says he is not seeking any financial damages, both sued Dr. Alan Braid, an OB-GYN based in San Antonio, who publicly acknowledged in an op-ed on Sept. 6 that he had performed a first-trimester abortion in express violation of state law.

“I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care,” Braid wrote. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”

The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 on Sept. 1 to allow SB8 to take effect on procedural grounds, despite what the majority acknowledged as “serious questions” about constitutionality. The justices did not address those questions.

Legal experts said the new civil cases are now “vehicles” for state and federal courts to examine the substance of SB8 itself — the near total ban on abortions across the state — and ultimately suspend enforcement of the measure as in violation of longstanding Supreme Court precedent.

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Body found near Grand Teton confirmed to be Gabby Petito, death ruled a homicide

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(NEW YORK ) — Officials have confirmed the body found over the weekend near Grand Teton National Park belongs to Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old woman who went missing while on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, the Teton County coroner said in a statement.

The initial determination is that she died by homicide, but the cause of death is pending final autopsy results, Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue said.

Authorities had said a body “consistent with the description of” Petito was discovered in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming on Sunday. At the time, a full forensic identification hadn’t been completed and a cause of death was undetermined.

Petito’s parents reported her missing on Sept. 11 after not speaking with her for two weeks. Her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, was named a person of interest by police last week.

Petito, originally from New York, had left from Florida with Laundrie in a van in July for their trip, which they documented on social media.

On Aug. 12, police in Moab, Utah, responded to an “incident” involving the couple, but “insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges,” Moab Police Department Chief Bret Edge said in a statement last week.

Petito was last seen leaving a hotel in Utah with Laundrie on Aug. 24. The next day, she spoke to her mother, Nichole Schmidt, informing her that their next stops would be Grand Teton and Yellowstone, Schmidt told ABC News, and that was the last time Schmidt talked to her.

On Friday, it was announced that Laundrie’s whereabouts were unknown. His family told police they had last seen him last Tuesday. They said he had a backpack and told them he was going to the Carlton Reserve north of Laundrie’s home in North Port, Florida, where he had gone for hikes before.

A search for Laundrie in Florida was paused Monday, with police saying they “currently believe we have exhausted all avenues in searching of the grounds there.” He has yet to be found.

FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said in a statement that Laundrie has been named a person of interest.

“The FBI and our partners remain dedicated to ensuring anyone responsible for or complicit in Ms. Petito’s death is held accountable for their actions,” he said in a statement.

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Boston Marathon bombing survivor reunites with nurse through birth of daughter

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(NEW YORK) — After Jacqui Webb was injured in the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, she spent three weeks being treated for her injuries at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

One of the nurses who treated Webb there was Nichole Casper, a registered nurse who at the time was working in the hospital’s trauma unit.

“It was a very anxiety-inducing situation, obviously,” Casper told “Good Morning America” of the days and weeks following the bombing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, which killed three people and injured more than 200. “Then you meet all these people [being treated at the hospital], and even though they were so traumatized, they were so amazing.”

“Jacqui was always very gracious and very appreciative of all the care,” Casper said of Webb, with whom she lost touch once Webb was discharged from Tufts.

Both Webb, now 33, and her fiance, Paul Norden, were injured near the finish line of the marathon, which they’d attended as spectators to cheer on a friend running the race.

Norden lost his right leg in the bombing and, like Webb, suffered second- and third-degree burns and shrapnel injuries.

The couple, of Stoneham, Massachusetts, had long-term plans to have children together, but put those dreams on hold after the bombing, according to Webb.

“For the first year, pretty much all we did was recover,” she said. “And over the years we’ve both had additional surgeries for different marathon-related injuries, so that delayed it more.”

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FBI more than doubles domestic terrorism investigations: Christopher Wray

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(WASHINGTON) — FBI Director Christopher Wray told a U.S. Senate panel Tuesday morning that the bureau has been forced to surge resources toward its domestic terrorism investigations in the past 18 months — increasing personnel by 260% to help handle a caseload that has more than doubled from roughly 1,000 ongoing investigations to 2,700.

“Terrorism moves at the speed of social media,” Wray told the Senate Homeland Security Committee. “You have the ability of lone actors, disgruntled in one part of the country to spin up similar like-minded individuals in other parts of the country and urge them into action.”

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, who appeared alongside Wray, agreed with him that social media is a “terrain that can so easily propagate misinformation, false information and allow communications to occur among loosely affiliated individuals.”

Wray offered more detail during questioning with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.

“The first bucket, the homegrown violent extremists, has been humming along fairly consistently at about 1,000 investigations — sometimes a little more sometimes a little less — over the last few years,” Wray explained. “The domestic violent extremists bucket, had been going up quite significantly over the last few years, which is why we’re now at 2,700 domestic terrorism investigations when if you went back two and a half years ago we’re probably more about 1,000 So it’s been a really significant jump there.”

Wray added that officials are “concerned that with developments in Afghanistan, among other things… I think we anticipate, unfortunately, growth in both categories as we look ahead, over the next couple years.”

Those numbers appear to be impacted significantly by the FBI’s hundreds of ongoing investigations into the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“Overall, the FBI assesses that the January 6th siege of the Capitol Complex demonstrates a willingness by some to use violence against the government in furtherance of their political and social goals,” Wray said in written testimony provided to the Senate Homeland Security Committee. “This ideologically motivated violence — domestic terrorism — underscores the symbolic nature of the National Capital Region and the willingness of some Domestic Violent Extremists to travel to events in this area and violently engage law enforcement and their perceived adversaries.”

Wray said that even with the surge of resources to tackle domestic terrorism cases, the FBI has not been forced to divert attention away from investigations into threats posed by foreign terrorist organizations like al-Qaida and ISIS, and added the bureau is “certainly watching the evolving situation in Afghanistan.”

In the past several years, Wray said the FBI has thwarted potential terrorist attacks in at least seven cities, including Las Vegas, Tampa, New York, Cleveland, Kansas City, Miami and Pittsburgh.

Wray also flagged what he described as “a sharp and deeply disturbing uptick in violence against the law enforcement community.” He said thatin just the past eight months, 52 law enforcement officers have been killed feloniously in the line of duty, already lapsing the total number killed in all of 2020.

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Teen pleads guilty in murder of Barnard student Tessa Majors

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(NEW YORK) — A 16-year-old boy charged in connection with the 2019 stabbing death of Barnard College student Tessa Majors pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Tuesday in Manhattan Criminal Court.

Luchiano Lewis, who was charged as an adult, was 14 when he and two other teenagers were accused in the fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Majors during a mugging gone wrong on Dec. 11, 2019, in Manhattan’s Morningside Park, near Barnard College.

Majors, a freshman at the school, was stabbed several times before she staggered up a flight of stairs and uttered, “Help me, I’m being robbed,” authorities said.

Lewis also pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery Tuesday.

Lewis appeared in court in a dark suit and tie and raced through an allocution in which he said he saw feathers emerge from Majors’ winter coat but did not realize she had been stabbed, let alone killed, until the next morning when he recognized her on the news as the young woman he and the others tried to rob.

The family of Majors sat in the front row and listened to Lewis explain how the trio of middle school friends plotted to rob people in the park. He pinned the idea on 16-year-old Rashaun Weaver, who has pleaded not guilty. A 13-year-old juvenile has pleaded guilty and is serving his sentence.

“He wanted the three of us to do robberies in Morningside Park,” Lewis said of Weaver. “I assumed Rashaun had a knife on him, but using a knife was not part of our plan.”

Lewis will be sentenced Oct. 14, at which point Majors’ family plans to make a statement in court, prosecutors said.

“Are you pleading guilty because you are in fact guilty?” asked Judge Robert Mandelbaum.

“Yes,” Lewis replied.

Police and prosecutors have said Weaver wielded the knife and Lewis guessed he “threw it in the sewer” after the murder.

“This was not a premeditated murder as we heard inside,” Jeffrey Lichtman, the noted criminal defense attorney who is representing Weaver, said outside court. “These were 14- and a 13-year-old boys and we should remember that.”

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‘We grieve together,’ Pelosi says at COVID-19 flags memorial

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(WASHINGTON) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers paid tribute Tuesday to the more than 676,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19, visiting a memorial on the National Mall that displays hundreds of thousands of small, white flags, one for each life lost.

“As we look at this work of art and see it fluttering in the breeze,” Pelosi said, “it really is an interpretation of the lives of these people waving to us to remember.”

The installation, called “In America: Remember,” is the second iteration of the art project. In fall 2020, Pelosi visited the first exhibit, which at that time consisted of more than 200,000 lives lost to the pandemic.

Since then, the death toll has more than tripled, and so has the number of flags. The death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed the estimated number of Americans who died in the 1918 influenza pandemic, topping 675,000 deaths on Monday.

The lawmakers walked silently among the rows of flags, trails that stretch more than 3.8 miles.

At times, Pelosi bent down to read the messages families and friends had written on the white rectangles.

“We look at these flags and we think of the family someone missing from the table at dinner, missing from the conversation,” she said, recalling one flag that stuck her which was dedicated to a grandfather that said, “We miss you.”

Pelosi, who is Catholic, said that she hopes faith and prayer can help not only grief, but also to bring an end to the pandemic.

“I know that many of these people are people of faith and they believe that their message is being received and that by receiving that message — that not only our prayers but the prayers of the departed — will also bring solution to all of this,” she said.

She said the flags installation reminded her of the AIDS Quilt, which was displayed on the National Mall in 1987, and how such tributes can be so important.

“Nothing could be as eloquent as a manifestation of sadness that art,” Pelosi said. “We all see it as we do, but all of us grieve together, are inspired together and renew our pledge to remember … and in remembering to make sure that the number doesn’t grow.”

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Democrats introduce post-Trump ethics bill to enforce subpoenas, limit conflicts

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“Donald Trump made this legislation a necessity, but this is bigger than any one president,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a news conference. “It’s about our values, our ideals and our future.”

The Protecting Our Democracy Act would speed up the enforcement of congressional subpoenas — which were routinely ignored by the Trump administration — and require administration officials to pay any court fines and legal fees.

After Trump refused to acknowledge Joe Biden’s election victory and disrupted the transition, the bill proposes starting the transition process within five days of the election and would allow both campaigns to receive government briefings and make other preparations.

It would also require presidents and candidates to submit years of income tax returns to the Federal Election Commission for public release — after Trump refused to release his returns as a candidate and as commander-in-chief, arguing that an ongoing Internal Revenue Service audit prevented him from doing so.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the proposal would prevent presidents from using their office as a “get-out-of-jail-free card,” by suspending the statute of limitations for crimes committed by a president or vice president while they are in office.

Schiff said the House could vote on the package later this fall. But it’s unclear if it has the support of at least 10 Republicans in the Senate to clear the filibuster and 60-vote threshold for legislation.

“I realize many of the Republican members live in fear of angry statements from the former president,” Schiff said.

Many of the underlying bills in the package, including proposals to beef up protections for whistleblowers and independent inspectors general at government agencies, have bipartisan support — suggesting that Democrats could have more success in the Senate if they take it up piecemeal.

The Biden administration has worked “very constructively” with Democrats for months on the package, Schiff said.

The White House asked lawmakers to exempt administration officials from court fines if they are instructed to ignore subpoenas by the president. The version of the bill unveiled Tuesday also did not include earlier language requiring the White House to turn over presidential communications to Congress.

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