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JOE RAEDLE/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President-elect Donald Trump spoke with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen by phone on Friday, according to the Trump transition team, breaking with decades of delicate U.S. policy on China.

Friday night, Trump issued two tweets defending the move, which may cause tensions with China.


The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2016



Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2016


Since 1979, a phone call between a U.S. president-elect and a Taiwanese leader has never been publicly reported, according to Center for Strategic and International Studies China expert Bonnie Glaser.

During the conversation, the Taiwanese president offered her congratulations and Trump offered the same to her for her election victory this year, according to a Trump team press release. They discussed the "close economic, political, and security ties between Taiwan and the United States," the Trump transition team said.

That the conversation took place at all is "highly unusual" and "significant," said Dr. Claude Rakisits, of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, an expert in U.S.-South Asian affairs.

"The fact that Trump actually spoke with Taiwan [president] would irritate the communist leaders in China, in Beijing, because they would wonder, 'Is this an indication of the sort of relationship that one could expect between the U.S. and China during his presidency?'"

Taiwan's status has been a sensitive topic in the United States' relationship with China. The U.S. has maintained a "one China" policy since establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1979, meaning that it has not recognized Taiwan as its own country, but rather as a part of China.

But the U.S. does maintain a "robust unofficial relationship" with Taiwan and commits to defending it in the event of a Chinese attack.

Since it split from the Chinese mainland in a 1949 civil war, Taiwan has maintained that it is an independent nation, despite China's and the United States' denial of this claim, and has seen a growing body of support among Taiwanese youth.

A spokesperson for the National Security Council said there is "no change to our longstanding policy on cross-Strait issues. We remain firmly committed to our 'one China' policy based on the three Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act."

"I've lived with this policy area my entire adult life and I've lived with the arguments around this for more than 25 years. To me, I am thrilled that this call took place," a former Republican White House national security official told ABC News. "It will upset an apple cart that has needed upsetting for a long time."

"No one should be telling the U.S. president who he can and cannot talk to," the official said. "Especially if a very powerful competitor in the world is saying there's a risk of conflict over this territory, it's even more important for our leader to have communication with that leader."

In the past, Trump has voiced support for a weapons deal with Taiwan, advocating a tough stance against China.


Why is @BarackObama delaying the sale of F-16 aircraft to Taiwan? Wrong message to send to China. #TimeToGetTough

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2011


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iStock/Thinkstock(BANJUL, Gambia) -- Gambia's authoritarian president of 22 years is stepping down after a shock election defeat.

In a concession speech on state TV Friday, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh accepted his loss to property developer Adama Barrow and said he would "help him work towards the transition," according to BBC.

Human rights groups have criticized Jammeh for restricting freedom of the press, his calls for anti-gay violence, and for claiming he could cure HIV/AIDS and infertility.

Hundreds of Barrow's supporters took to the streets in Gambia, that has a population of about 2 million, to celebrate the election results, BBC reports.

The president-elect promised voters he would revive Gambia's struggling economy and would impose a presidential term limit, according to BBC.

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RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images(MEDELLIN, Colombia) -- As Colombian plane crash survivor Erwin Tumiri heads home to Bolivia, dramatic new video from local police shows the moments after he was pulled from the wreckage.

Clad in a yellow police jacket, Tumiri – one of just six people who survived the plane crash that killed 71 in Medellin on Monday – sobbed in Spanish for "my crew."

“Calm down, don’t worry, we are here to help you, and your friends also,” a first responder replies in Spanish.

A clearly stunned Tumiri tells the responder his spine and arms hurt, then cries out two names.

“Don't scream technician, calm down,” the responder says. “Don't wear yourself down, technician, don't wear yourself down.”

Shortly after the crash, Tumiri, a flight engineer, reportedly told media outlets that he survived by curling up in the fetal position with a bag between his knees as the jet careened toward the mountainside.

“I put the bags in between my legs to form the fetal position that is recommended in accidents,” he told Fox Sports Argentina in Spanish. “During the situation, many stood up from their seats, and they started to shout.”

He and one other crew member, flight attendant Ximena Suárez, survived, as did four passengers on board: a journalist and three members of the Chapecoense soccer team. The team’s goalie has already had one leg amputated; the other survivors remain hospitalized.

The charter plane, which apparently suffered an electrical failure, ran out of fuel before it slammed into the side of a mountain not far from the airport, authorities said.

A government official confirms to ABC News that the jet was supposed to refuel en route to Medellin. The pilot chose not to, the official said.

The flight’s operator, LAMIA, has had its permits and certifications suspended, the Bolivia Civil Aviation Authority told ABC News.

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Yui Mok - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Adult coloring books are a hot craze that has grownups hiding crayons from their kids, and now we're learning the duchess of Cambridge is yet another convert to the trend.

Prince William revealed the secret pastime of his wife, Kate, to illustrator and author Johanna Basford at an investiture at Buckingham Palace this week. William said Kate likes to color in Secret Garden, Basford's first coloring book that has sold more than one million copies.

“I’m working on a new book just now and it’s set in a castle, funnily enough, so I will definitely try to remember everything,” Basford told reporters after the ceremony. “I’m sure little snippets of today will feature in the book.”

William awarded Basford the Order of the British Empire for services to art and entrepreneurship.

“I think people are just craving a digital detox,” Basford said of the appeal of adult coloring, or “color therapy” as it is sometimes called.

Kate, 34, received her degree in art history with honors from St. Andrews, where she and William met and fell in love. She is a big supporter of the arts and has made arts education and art therapy for struggling children one of the cornerstones of her charitable work.

Kate is also patron of the National Portrait Gallery.

The duchess met last week with a group of children at London's Natural History Museum. Kate joined the children as they decorated "dinosaur" eggs.

She revealed that Prince George, her 3-year-old son with William, is obsessed with dinosaurs, particularly the Tyrannosaurus rex because “it's the noisiest and the scariest.”

William on Wednesday also revealed another of Prince George’s fascinations -- planes and trains. William was visiting Derby, where he tried his hand at conducting a train.

William later remarked how Prince George would "love it" and would be excited about seeing his father drive a train.

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iStock/Thinkstock(KALISZ, Poland) -- A pedestrian in the central Polish city of Kalisz can credit a lamp pole with saving her life.

Surveillance cameras captured the tense moment when a woman narrowly escaped catastrophe. She was walking along a sidewalk next to a building situated at a busy intersection in Kalisz, Poland.

At the same time, a white car was attempting to make a left turn adjacent to the building. Suddenly, a black sedan enters the frame and hits the white car, causing the sedan to careen toward the building, with the pedestrian in its path.

The sedan instead crashes into a lamp post on the sidewalk, just inches away from the woman, bringing the out-of-control vehicle to a stop and saving the pedestrian’s life.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Melania Trump has hired the well-respected law firm Pirc Musar & Partnerji in her native Slovenia to warn people against profiting off her name and image.

Honey jars "from Melania's home garden," pancakes with golden dust and a special breakfast with strawberries -- these are just a few of the many products that Slovenian entrepreneurs have been offering for sale since her husband, Donald Trump, became president-elect of the United States.

“We just want to draw public attention to the fact that the names Trump or Melania Trump are protected as a trademark,” Natasa Pirc Musar, director of the law firm, told ABC News. “We issued a press release and sent it to all Slovenian media. Now we count on people’s prudence to stop the practice.”

She added that Melania Trump does not want to sue anyone.

“Of course, my client does not want any legal proceedings, no lawsuits. That’s out of the question,” said Pirc Musar. “We are closely monitoring the situation and I am in contact with my client on a weekly basis.”

In the tiny factory town of Sevnica, where the future first lady, then known as Melanija Knavs, grew up, a cottage industry hawking Melania Trump-associated products from quintessential Slovenian honey to pastries has sprung up.

Bruno Lojze Vedmar, a local Sevnica entrepreneur and a pizzeria owner, was the first to produce a breakfast dessert made of yogurt, strawberries, mascarpone, cream, cookie base and silver or gold sugar pearls — and he called it Melanija, with a "j."

“It is a best-seller at my place, and since I don’t use a picture of Melania, I am not worried about copyright infringement,” he told ABC News.

Franc Krasovec, a Slovenian pancake master who has created a Melania Trump-themed pancake, says he's not worried about copyright infringement either. “I don’t really know what copyright infringement is so I shall not worry about it," he told ABC News.

He said that he has had 20 different kinds of pancakes on the menu for decades and that people from all over Europe have come to taste them. "Only now that the White House is so close to Sevnica, I invented a 21st pancake with the finest ingredients: wild blueberries picked around the cottage, the finest bourbon vanilla filling and ice cream with edible gold dust to spice it up,” he said.

Pirc Musar said that it's items using her client's photo or last name that concern her. “[It's] not a problem. No photo or last name is attached to it,” said Pirc Musar of Vedmar's breakfast dessert. “We personally tasted it and it’s very good." She said that she doesn’t mind that a giant Christmas tree in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana is called Melania either.

Pirc Musar pointed instead to a billboard advertisement erected in Sevnica featuring the future first lady without her consent. “A huge billboard in Sevnica with Melania’s picture, erected by a private web company for commercial purposes, is problematic," as are "honey jars from 'Melania’s home garden' with Melania’s image and Slovenian and American flags," she said. "That is Slovenian copyright infringement.”

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Purestock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  The U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS says 54 more civilians were inadvertently killed in airstrikes in Iraq and Syria that took place between March 31 and October 22. Since they began in August of 2014, the coalition has reported 173 civilians killed by coalition airstrikes and another 37 injured.

"We regret the unintentional loss of civilian lives resulting from Coalition efforts to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria and express our deepest sympathies to the families and others affected by these strikes," said a statement released Thursday by Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR).

The coalition investigates reports of civilian casualties to determine if they are credible and periodically releases updates about its investigations.

As of November 17, U.S. and coalition aircraft have conducted a total of 16,291 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, with 12,633 conducted by American aircraft.

The coalition statement said their team "investigates all reports of possible civilian casualties using traditional investigative methods, such as interviewing witnesses and examining the site, the Coalition interviews pilots, reviews strike video when available, and analyzes information provided by government agencies, non-governmental organizations, partner forces and traditional and social media."

"In addition, we consider new information when it becomes available in order to promote a thorough and continuous review process," they continued.

In this recent investigation, 276 allegations of civilian casualties were investigated; they found 83 of them to be credible.

They described 7 incidents between March 31 and October 22 that resulted in 54 civilian fatalities, two of which resulted in 39 of the 54 civilian deaths detailed in the coalition's statement.

Airstrikes on July 18, 2016, near the northern city of Manbij, Syria, killed nearly 100 ISIS fighters, destroyed 13 fighting positions and 10 vehicles, according to the report. But the coalition's investigation determined that up to 24 civilians "interspersed with combatants were inadvertently killed in a known ISIL staging area where no civilians had been seen in the 24 hours prior to the attack."

According to the statement, the ISIS fighters were preparing for a large counterattack against Syrian rebel forces who were fighting to retake the ISIS-held city.

"Unknown to Coalition planners, civilians were moving around within the military staging area, even as other civilians in the nearby village had departed over the previous days," the Centcom statement said.

Another 15 civilians were killed in an airstrike on July 28, 2016 near Arghanndorh, Syria that targeted a moving ISIS vehicle. "15 civilians were inadvertently killed when the munition struck the vehicle after it slowed in a populated area after the munition was released," said the statement.

Investigations determined that twelve alleged reports of civilian casualties between September, 2015 and October, 2016 were not found to be credible. Three additional allegations remain under investigation.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  The co-pilot of the plane that crashed Monday night in Colombia and killed 71 people was completing her first flight with LaMia, the Bolivian airline chartered to operate flight 2933, her father said in an emotional interview.

Sisy Arias was trying to build up her flying hours, according to her father, Jorge Arias, a Bolivian journalist.

Jorge Arias said he doesn't blame anyone for the crash but he is upset at the pilot for miscalculating how much gas much has was left on the aircraft and what was needed to land safely. He also said he cannot blame the air traffic controller for making the pilot wait because the controller didn't know the full extent of how low the plane was on fuel.

"Those five minutes cost all of those people their lives," Jorge Arias told reporters, calling the tragedy a "direct flight over there to the sun" and a "flight without a return."

Arias' last words to her father were, "Don't worry. We'll see each other Saturday," Jorge Arias said.

"And Saturday will come, but without her," the grieving father said.

 The charter flight was carrying Chapecoense, a Brazilian soccer team on its way from Bolivia to play against Medellin's Atletico Nacional in the finals of the 2016 Copa Sudamericana on Wednesday.

The plane did not have enough of the required reserve fuel needed in case of an emergency, Aerocivil, Colombia's civil aviation authority, announced Wednesday. The plane suffered an electrical failure before the crash, according to the official Twitter account for Jose Maria Cordova International Airport.

Six people survived the crash, including three players, two crew members and a journalist.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  The United States government returned a collection of stolen artifacts to Egypt on Thursday, including an ancient wooden sarcophagus, a mummy shroud and mummified hand.

The items were seized by federal agents after dual investigations: "Operation Mummy’s Curse" in New York and "Operation Mummy’s Hand" in Los Angeles. They were returned to Egypt at a ceremony with U.S. and Egyptian officials at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

"While we recognize that cultural property, art, and antiquities are assigned a dollar value in the marketplace, the cultural and symbolic worth of these Egyptian treasures far surpasses any monetary value to the people of Egypt," said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah R. Saldaña in a statement.

Repatriation is the final step in federal law enforcement's ongoing effort to track down the theft and trafficking of antiquities from around the world -- many of which end up in the United States. Customs law gives Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the authority to seize stolen cultural property that has been illegally imported into the country.

 In the past year, ICE returned more than 200 artifacts to India, as well as a stolen 1493 copy of Christopher Columbus’ letter describing his discoveries in the Americas to Italy.

"Each of the artifacts returned today tells a story –- a human story, our story. History comes alive when someone is able to not only read about the past, but is also able to visit the historical sites, watch and enjoy the artifacts, appreciate the images and see the actual writings of our ancestors," read a statement from Foreign Minister of Egypt Sameh Shoukry.

Federal authorities aim to create good will and bolster diplomacy between the U.S. and foreign governments through these types of investigations and returns.

In a statement thanking the work of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and ICE, Egyptian Ambassador to the U.S. Yasser Reda included special praise for the agents working on the case.

"The tireless work of these men and women may often go unseen. But it is nothing short of vital for the preservation of ancient cultures from around the world," said Reda.

Here is a list of the items of "cultural significance" from 8th century BC returned to the Egyptian government:

Linen Mummy Shroud

Mummified Hand

Child’s Wooden Sarcophagus

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  One of the five survivors pulled from the wreckage of the Colombian plane crash that killed 71 people Monday reportedly told South American media he curled up in the fetal position with a bag between his knees before the jet slammed into a mountainside.

"I put the bags in between my legs to form the fetal position that is recommended in accidents," flight technician Erwin Tumiri told Fox Sports Argentina in Spanish. "During the situation, many stood up from their seats and they started to shout."

 Tumiri suffered non-life threatening injuries, according to the hospital treating him. Others found alive amid the plane’s mangled remnants suffered more serious injuries, including thoracic trauma and spinal damage. One person had a leg amputated.

But the majority of passengers –- most members of a Brazilian soccer team, the Chapecoense, as well as journalists and crew aboard the charter from Bolivia -– perished when the plane, plagued by an electrical problem and running out of gas, was ripped to shreds on impact.

According to the fire chief of the town La Union, Arquimedes Mejia, the aircraft clipped the top of the mountain on its way down, breaking the jet into two pieces. Some in the rear of the plane survived.

"We saw dead bodies everywhere at the site," Mejia said in Spanish, in a video distributed by Reuters. "And there were people screaming for help. They were crying for help."

The charter company, LAMIA, has had permits and certifications suspended, the Bolivia Civil Aviation authority told ABC News Thursday.

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NASA/Bill Ingalls(NEW YORK) -- Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, has arrived in New Zealand after he was medically evacuated from the South Pole.

Video from TVNZ shows Aldrin being transferred from a Safair cargo plane to an ambulance upon arriving in Christchurch at just before 6 a.m. local time Thursday. He was then transferred to a medical facility, according to the National Science Foundation.

Aldrin, 86, was visiting the South Pole as part of a tourist group run when “his condition deteriorated” and it was decided that he should be evacuated as a “precaution,” according to White Desert, a private tourist firm.

Aldrin’s “condition was described as stable” when he was handed over to the U.S. Antarctic Program medical team and evacuated. He was accompanied by a member of his team and was under the care of a doctor with the U.S. Antarctic Program, White Desert said.

The National Science Foundation said it provided the “humanitarian medical evacuation flight” for the “ailing” former astronaut. The U.S. government agency flew out Aldrin from its Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to McMurdo Station on the Antarctic coast. From there, Aldrin embarked on the flight to New Zealand.

In 1969, Aldrin became one of the first men to ever set foot on the moon as part of the famed Apollo 11 mission, accompanying Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins. The New Jersey native posted pictures on his official Twitter account earlier this week showing him preparing for his trip to Antarctica.

"We're ready to go to Antarctica! May be our last opportunity to tweet for a few days! We're go for departure to the launchpad!" Aldrin tweeted on Tuesday.

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iStock/Thinkstock(AUCKLAND, New Zealand) -- Nearly 2,000 New Zealand residents signed up for a countrywide “Secret Santa” game this holiday season, continuing an annual tradition in which complete strangers mail presents to each other after learning their interests on social media.

The massive gift exchange, sponsored by the nation’s postal service, and this year drawing 1,979 participants, assigns Kiwis a recipient with a Twitter profile, where past postings can provide clues as to what type of present one might want.

The country of 4.5 million has a relatively close-knit community of Twitter users, uniquely lending itself to such a game, according to Sam Elton-Walters, a government worker who founded the exchange in 2010, after the idea popped up in an online conversation.

“You know how you have six degrees of separation in most places in the world?” Elton-Walters told ABC News. “In New Zealand, it’s more like two degrees.”

The gifts have been diverse: a hand-crafted chili chocolate for lover of spicy food; a crocheted rock; laptops and cellphones gifted by companies; a 3-D printed silhouette of the recipient face-to-face with Harry Styles from the band One Direction; and a painting of a Christmas tree decorated with pumpkins for Elton-Walters, who grows giant ones in his free time. The suggested $10-value limit often flies out the window.

Some participants make specific asks with their tweets, while others work to obfuscate their research by following and liking posts from dozens of people using the #nzsecretsanta hashtag.

Three-time exchanger Alison Poulter, a social media marketing specialist from Christchurch, New Zealand, tweeted in 2014 that she broke her garden hose’s nozzle, before “suddenly, a few weeks later, a new one arrived from Twitter,” she told ABC News.

“It’s quite cool to get to know somebody, and obviously you’re trying to stalk someone as much as you can online,” Poulter said. “It’s kind of creepy, but kind of cool.”

Organizers shy away from encouraging Kiwis to “stalk” each other, according to AJ Sheterline, a "Secret Santa" organizer at New Zealand Post dubbed the "head elf.”

“We prefer to call it ‘sleuthing,’” Sheterline said. “Very Sherlock Holmes-y.”

In its beginning years, Elton-Walters actually sent participants the addresses of their recipients so they could mail gifts directly -- which led to at least one uncomfortable instance of an unwanted hand-delivery. Since the postal service took over in 2012, gifts have flown through a central facility run by the postal service.

When people do not send a present as promised, the gift intended for them will go to young cancer patients instead.

Dan Bowden, an IT engineer in Wellington, New Zealand, told ABC News he once sent vinyl records customized to show members of the Beatles, after his recipient expressed an interest in art and the band. This year, he sent a coffee mug with a photograph of a British opera singer printed on it.

The exchange has proven to be an escape for Kiwis saddened by recent earthquakes and flooding there, according to Sheterline.

“It’s fun to jump on Twitter and watch all the people tweeting about it,” Bowden said of the exchange. “You kind of feel like you’re part of this community.”

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Chris Jackson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Real-life royalty met music royalty Wednesday when Britain's Prince Harry and Rihanna met at events in Barbados celebrating the nation's 50 years of independence from British rule.

Harry, 32, first met Rihanna, a Barbados native, at the Toast the Nation event on Wednesday afternoon. He later joined Rihanna on stage for a concert to celebrate the country's independence.


Prince Harry meets @rihanna at today's Toast to the Nation marking 50 years of Independence for Barbados ???????? #50Barbados #RoyalVisitBarbados

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) November 30, 2016



Prince Harry and @rihanna join the stage as tonight's concert celebrating 50 years of Independence in Barbados begins ???????? #RoyalVisitBarbados

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) December 1, 2016


Harry visited Barbados as part of his 15-day royal tour of seven Caribbean nations on behalf of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

"I am honored to be here representing my grandmother, the queen, as we celebrate the historic milestone of 50 years of independence of this beautiful nation," Harry told the crowd in Barbados. "Her Majesty visited your beautiful country on the eve of independence in early 1966. The people of Barbados have held a special place in her heart ever since."


Prince Harry speaks to an audience of thousands in Barbados before tonight's concert celebrating 50 years of Independence #50Barbados

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) December 1, 2016


Queen Elizabeth also sent out a special tweet to show her support for Barbados.


Read the full message from The Queen to the people of Barbados in the nation's 50th year of Independence

— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) November 30, 2016

Harry's appearance with Rihanna onstage came after a busy day during which Harry visited a pediatric ward at the nation's largest hospital, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown.

Harry, the fifth-in-line to the British throne, gave out his trademark hugs and stopped to play thumb war with a little boy who had been hit by a car and was slowly recovering.



A hug for Prince Harry in the Paediatric Ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which The Queen visited in 1966 #RoyalVisitBarbados

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) November 30, 2016


Harry's unscheduled visit to the hospital, which he'd seen on his last visit in 2010, also included a stop to discuss the hospital's work on HIV and AIDS, one day ahead of World AIDS Day.

He kept another group of orphans giggling at the Nightingale Children's Center, which houses 90 children, including those with special needs. Harry showed his inner child by kneeling down and embracing the children and even sticking out his tongue to elicit laughter from the disadvantaged kids.


???? Prince Harry visits Nightengale Children's Home in Barbados #RoyalVisitBarbados

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) November 30, 2016

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iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) — Every morning, Fatima Mustafa boils rice for her 1-year-old daughter to eat for breakfast. Once in a while, she’ll have a little bread that she’ll give her as well, along with a cup of tea. “I don’t want her to be hungry,” Mustafa, a mother of two, told ABC News. She breastfeeds her youngest daughter, a newborn, but says it’s not enough.

“I have to eat and get nutrition before I can breastfeed properly. My youngest daughter is not getting full from my milk and there is no milk in the stores,” Mustafa said. “I feel disappointed and depressed because I am unable to secure the most basic rights for my children like food and diapers, and the reason is the conditions we live under because of the horrible war.“

The family lives under siege in east Aleppo, where many mothers have little or no access to basic products such as baby milk and diapers. When Mustafa first ran out of diapers two months ago, she didn’t know what to do. Today, she takes her husband’s old undershirts, cuts them into the right shapes and uses them as diapers for her daughters, 1-month-old Raha and 1-year-old Masa. She then washes the dirty cloth by hand — with soap because laundry detergent isn’t available — and reuses them.

Shortages of Key Supplies

Six months ago, 486,700 people in Syria lived under siege, according to the United Nations. Since then, the U.N. estimates that the number has doubled. Today, nearly one million Syrians, about half of them children, are living under siege, which is imposed mainly by the Syrian government and its allied forces, according to the U.N. Some besieged communities have barely received any aid in almost two years. In addition to the dangers of bombardments, residents live with little access to food, water, fuel and healthcare. For many mothers with infants and toddlers, this means that they have to find alternatives for diapers and milk.

“There have been quite a lot of shortages of baby formula both in Aleppo and other besieged areas in Syria,” Misty Buswell, Save the Children's regional advocacy director for the Middle East, told ABC News. “Even when formula is available, a lot of time it is being diluted, which can also lead to diarrhea and malnutrition.” Other times, the bottles aren’t sterile and the formula is mixed with contaminated water, which can also make the babies sick, she said. Save the Children has also heard reports of baby formula being removed from aid convoys going to besieged areas — but it is not clear who is removing the baby milk and why, said Buswell.

Even before the war, only about 43 percent of Syrian mothers were breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of their infants' lives, which is the recommended time, said Buswell. Today, more mothers struggle with breastfeeding.

“If women are malnourished, they might not think that it’s possible to breastfeed,” Buswell said. “Even in the best conditions, breastfeeding for the first time can be very difficult. In siege conditions, without enough medical support and without enough nutrition, it’s even more difficult.”

As a substitute for breastfeeding, when no formula is available, women sometimes give the babies water mixed with sugar — or milk from goats and cows, which isn’t sanitary.

Maha, a teacher and mother of five in the besieged opposition-held part of Aleppo, has some baby milk but few diapers left for her youngest children, a 3-month old and a 1-year-old. So she uses women’s sanitary pads with the diapers.

“That way, they will last longer,” Maha, who didn’t give her last name, told ABC News. “But many other mothers ran out of diapers a long time ago.”

Malnutrition Is Widespread

Around 200 miles away, in rural Damascus’ besieged rebel-held city of Douma, mothers are facing similar struggles.

Ulla, a 24-year-old mother with three young children, breastfeeds her youngest child, a 1-year-old daughter. But after a recent miscarriage, she’s been feeling weak and dizzy after breastfeeding, she said.

“It’s difficult to breastfeed. My body is very tired,” Ulla, who requested that her last name not be published, told ABC News. “I get dizzy and tired easily after what happened. But if I stop breastfeeding, what will I give my daughter? We don’t have milk now and very few meals.”

She says her children have been getting rashes from the pieces of fabric and old clothes she uses as diapers because she doesn’t have any disposable ones left. The water she uses to wash the cloth is not very clean, and they don’t always have water at home. So sometimes she has to wait for her husband to come home with water pumped from a tube well outside.

The only way to heat up the house is with firewood, but this year the wood is more expensive than usual and they can’t afford it, she said — Ulla doesn’t have a job. Her husband worked as a mechanic before the war but is currently unemployed. At the same time, their house has been damaged from four attacks, she said. They have sealed the windows and door with silicone, but every time there is an airstrike nearby, it falls off, the house gets colder and they have to reseal it. The children get sick often and easily because their house is cold and she can’t give them nutritious food, said Ulla.

“I wish I could change this situation for my children,” she said. "I was hoping they would have a better life than this. I feel very sad that I can't bring them the things I was dreaming of and that I can't protect them. Sometimes I just feel like sitting by myself and not seeing anyone because I'm so sad."

Amal, another resident of besieged Douma, has five children — two teenage sons, an 11-year-old, a 7-year-old and a 1-year-old. She says there's a huge difference between being a mother now compared to before the siege, which was imposed in 2013. When her 7-year-old was a toddler, she had disposable diapers, milk and a washing machine for dirty clothes. Today, she uses old sheets as diapers and washes them by hand because there’s no electricity. She has little access to baby milk.

"My children’s bodies are tired and I'm tired," Amal, who didn’t want her last name to be published, told ABC News. “I breastfeed my youngest son, but his body is weak. He gets infections and a fever easily and medicine is expensive. I wish I didn’t have this son because he’s suffering a lot.”

She said she doesn’t think her milk is nutritious because she doesn’t get enough vitamins. Some fruits and vegetables are available, but they are very expensive because of the siege, especially in the winter. One day, she bought a banana for her 1-year-old son. He kept having diarrhea and some friends told her that feeding him banana would help. It cost around 700 Syrian pounds, approximately $3. For that price, she said, she could have bought more than two pounds of rice, enough to feed the whole family.

“When the other children saw the banana they wanted bananas too, but I can’t afford that,” she said, adding that she was forced to only feed her other children bread with olive oil and thyme that day.

Her husband was a construction worker before the war but he can no longer find work. She has started to work as a seamstress to provide for the family but her income varies from day to day. Some days she has no customers at all.

"On a good day, we can have two meals — either breakfast and lunch or breakfast and dinner," she said. "Other days we only have one meal at around noon.” She added that on days with little or no income, the family’s diet consists of only tea and bread.

In besieged Madaya, a small rebel-held town surrounded by government forces in the countryside of Damascus, an estimated 40,000 residents, mostly women and children, live in hunger. Some there have starved to death.

Hala, a mother of two and one of Madaya’s residents, tries to feed her baby daughter rice because she doesn’t have enough baby milk, she said. When her 12-year-old daughter was an infant long before the siege, she was able to breastfeed her, but now she has very little milk for her youngest daughter who does not get full even after 30 minutes of breastfeeding. Hala said that her own body is very weak, but that her daughter’s health is even worse.

“My daughter is getting weaker and weaker in front of me and I can’t do anything,” Hala, who didn’t give her last name, told ABC News. “I can’t give her the nutrition she needs like any other child so that she can grow in a normal way like her older sister did.”

Unwanted Pregnancies

Some pregnant women in Madaya are so desperate that they try to self-abort.

About a year ago, Salimeh, 25, a resident of Madaya, started feeling dizzy and weak. In a short amount of time, she lost 50 pounds, she said. When she didn’t get her period for three months she assumed it was because of malnutrition. That happened to many women in Madaya, she said, because they have so little food — mainly rice and bulgur, almost no vegetables or proteins. But when she started to feel an intense stomach ache, she went to see the local midwife.

“She told me that I was pregnant,” Salimeh, who didn’t give her last name, told ABC News, adding that she doesn’t have access to birth control. She didn’t want to keep the baby but also couldn’t get medicine that would induce an abortion or see a doctor who could perform the procedure. The three doctors at Madaya's hospital are a veterinarian and two dentists who haven't graduated yet and there is little medical equipment, according to a medical source at the hospital. So Salimeh looked for alternatives.

“I tried to jump from high places to get rid of the baby because of our situation and how difficult it is,” said Salimeh.

But she didn’t lose the child. Many babies in Madaya are born unhealthy or with deformities because their mothers are malnourished, locals and charities say. Some are born prematurely and die right after the birth. So when Salimeh gave birth to a healthy 7-pound boy three months ago, she was surprised.

“I was surprised that he was in really good health,” she said. ”But unfortunately, I wasn’t able to breastfeed my son because I didn’t get milk at all due to malnutrition. And I had no formula milk I could give him to make sure he wasn’t hungry.”

She now has a little baby milk but not enough. So sometimes she gives him milk, other times boiled rice with sugar. She says the boy is getting sick from the lack of nutrition.

“It’s very important to me that my son is healthy and healthier than me,” she said. “I was very tired and suffered for nine months and tried to abort this child. But I don’t ask about my own health because it doesn’t matter to me as much as my son’s health. I wish to see my child healthy because then I will be fine.”

Mona, 23, a newlywed, is two months pregnant and says she is trying to do everything she can to lose the baby.

“I’m jumping from high places, pumping water from the well, doing physical work that men aren’t even doing because I want to lose the baby, but it hasn’t happened yet,” she told ABC News. She said she went to see one of Madaya's doctors and asked for any type of medicine that could help induce an abortion. The doctor told her to get a drug called Cytotec, which Mona hasn’t been able to find in Madaya. She's tried to get it from smugglers or anyone who might be coming into town but so far has failed, she said.

“I am still hoping that I will lose the baby,” she said. “I don’t want to live through the suffering that other mothers have had to live through. Often, children are stillborn or deformed. I am scared to have a baby that I will not be able to give a good life because of the siege. I have suffered and I don’t want my child to suffer.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The government of Pakistan provided a readout of a phone call between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Donald Trump Wednesday claiming that the president-elect heaped praise on the Pakistani leader, describing the South Asian nation and its people as "fantastic."

According to the readout, Prime Minister Sharif called Trump and "felicitated him on his victory."

The readout said President-elect Trump told Prime Minister Sharif "you have a very good reputation" and "you are a terrific guy ... doing amazing work which is visible in every way."

Trump told Sharif, according to the readout, "Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people. I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems. It will be an honor and I will personally do it."

The Trump transition team released its own readout of the conversation Wednesday night: "President-elect Trump and the Prime Minister of Pakistan Muhammad Nawaz Sharif spoke today and had a productive conversation about how the United States and Pakistan will have a strong working relationship in the future. President-elect Trump also noted that he is looking forward to a lasting and strong personal relationship with Prime Minister Sharif."

The readout issued by the Pakistani government continued, "On being invited to visit Pakistan by the Prime Minister, Mr. Trump said that he would love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people," the readout said. "'Please convey to the Pakistani people that they are amazing and all Pakistanis I have known are exceptional people,' said Mr. Donald Trump."

The U.S. relationship with Pakistan is vital, albeit tenuous and complex. The two countries share a military alliance against terrorism, but at times, in pursuit of its own interest, elements of the Pakistani government have undermined the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan by supporting the Afghan Taliban. And while its makes an effort to combat terror organizations with Pakistan, such as the TTP or Pakistani Taliban, the government's intelligence wing has been known to support that group's overseas efforts. Also, some in the U.S. government, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, believed there were officials in Pakistan's government who knew about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden before he was hunted and killed by U.S. forces inside Pakistan's borders.

Pakistan is also involved in a high-stakes territorial dispute with India which has turned violent in recent months. The international community has long feared any escalation between the two nuclear-armed countries and the U.S. has to approach those issues carefully.

Trump's reported remarks also seem to stand in contrast to his suggested policies of a "Muslim ban" and "extreme vetting" of immigrants from nations where terrorists are known to reside -- a category Pakistan would fit in either circumstance.

The comments are also surprising considering Trump tweeted Wednesday that the Somali-born attacker at Ohio State University, who the FBI believes may have been inspired by radical jihadists, "should not have been in our country."

Sources tell ABC News the attacker had been a legal permanent resident of the U.S. since 2014 and said that before he had been living at a refugee camp inside Pakistan.

Whether or not Trump's statements were sincere or mere diplomacy jargon is hard to tell. Either way the Pakistanis took the reported remarks public and might soon remind the President of his proposal to "play any role that you want me to play."

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