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Ricardo Arduengo/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Puerto Rico is facing its worst blackout since Hurricane Maria hit in September, leaving some residents wondering whether the island will ever fully recover.

"Everyone is frustrated and it's so unstable," said Eileen Velez, a 37-year-old engineer who lives outside San Juan. "It feels like the hurricane side effects will never end.”

The power outage is affecting the entire island, according to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA).

"The entire electrical system in Puerto Rico collapses AGAIN! Back to September 20th," tweeted San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Wednesday.

The main priorities for restoration are hospitals, airports, water treatment plants, banks, business and then homes, a PREPA spokesperson told ABC News, adding it will take 24 to 36 hours for the last person to get their power back.

The trouble began when the contractor Cobra Energy used an excavator to remove a recently collapsed electrical tower on Wednesday, affecting the line that caused the outage, according to Justo Gonzalez, acting executive director of PREPA.

Gonzalez said it is possible that only 1 to 2 percent of customers had power after the incident, as compared to 92.7 percent before the outage.

Mammoth Energy, the parent company of Cobra, said in a statement to ABC News "Cobra is dedicated to the difficult work that lies ahead and continues to work around-the-clock with PREPA and the citizens of Puerto Rico to repair the entire infrastructure system to prevent outages such as this one from affecting the entire population on the island."

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced on Twitter that he has called for PREPA to drop Cobra as a contractor.

"I have suggested to the Board of @AEEONLINE that they cancel the contract with the Cobra subcontractor that is directly responsible for this power outage," Rossello tweeted. "This is the second power failure that has affected the people of Puerto Rico in less than two weeks."

"This incident denotes the need to transform @AEEONLINE into a cutting-edge, modern and robust corporation," Rossello added.

Puerto Rico has been plagued by several blackouts in recent months, including a major outage last week that affected roughly 840,000 people.

In March, six months since Hurricane Maria walloped the island, Gov. Rossello said that the electrical grid being put up currently will be weaker than the grid that existed before the storm, adding that it could take nearly five years for a stronger grid to be built.

“Everybody is pissed off," said Dr. Jorge Gabriel Rosado, 30, a pediatrician on the island. "Especially when all these reports keep coming out that [seem to] confirm what was an unspoken truth: Response to this disaster was slower and more disinterested than any other emergency response in U.S. history.”

In February, Rossello told ABC News that he felt a lack of urgency from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in helping to restore power.

"Two-thirds of the island’s recovery on that front is in the Corps of Engineers’ hands," Rossello said. "I have seen a lack of urgency on that, whether it is on the contracting side or the bringing materials side which is a current problem."

The U.S. Army's top engineer said in February that their role was never to completely rebuild the power system.

“We respond to get things back up to normal," Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite said. "Rebuilding the generating capability of Puerto Rico was not the Corps of Engineers' task."

The power outage has called into question a baseball game between the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians scheduled for Wednesday night in San Juan.

In a bit of good news for the island, Puerto Rico Series' director of operations John Blakeman told ESPN the show will go on.

"This has not taken us by surprise. We are prepared. Every area of Hiram Bithorn Stadium can run on generators that have a capacity to run for 48 hours," Blakeman said.

The game is expected to create a $17 million impact to the island, according to the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.

On Wednesday evening, PREPA announced that more than 51,000 customers have electric service, though Puerto Rico has more than 1 million households.

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iStock/Thinkstock(HAVANA) -- In the rugged Sierra Maestra mountains near where Fidel Castro made his hideout as he led a guerrilla uprising in the late 1950s, Cubans say they are still grateful for the land reforms and modern amenities his leftist revolution brought to the area.

Fidel Castro's younger brother Raul Castro, 86, steps down as president this week. His successor is likely to be 57-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel, the first time that Communist-run Cuba has had a leader born after the 1959 revolution.

In Santo Domingo, the hamlet closest to the "Comandancia La Plata" where the rebels had their military headquarters, locals say they owe much to the Castros' revolution, despite an ailing economy that Raul Castro's tentative market reforms have failed to fix.

"I have a happy life: I have a place to farm; I have animals," said farmer Paulo Alvarez, 55, whose pigs, turkeys, and chickens roam freely around his wooden hut, grunting and squawking. "I thank the revolution for that. It was not like this before."

Fidel Castro, who ruled for decades before handing off to his brother and who died in retirement in 2016, nationalized many large agricultural properties after coming to power, part of a sharp leftward turn that prompted many Cubans to leave the island and that sent relations with the United States into a long freeze.

Title to the land was given free of charge to former tenant farmers, farm laborers and sharecroppers. Many farmers then joined together to work under the umbrella of state and cooperative farms.

The Cuban government also brought medical facilities, schools and paved roads to remote places like Santo Domingo, a village of several hundred inhabitants nestled in the wooded mountains by a river.

Resident Luis Enrique Perez was able to train as an English teacher, although he gave up teaching because of the low salary. Despite the revolution's achievements in social indicators like education, much of Cuba's population scrapes by on state wages, which at around $30 per month are a source of common grumbles.

Perez said he found better-paid work as a guide at the Comandancia La Plata, which nowadays attracts visitors exploring Cuba's political heritage.

"I can make better money and also practice my languages with tourists, which is my passion," said Perez, as he pointed to the large bed where Fidel Castro once slept next to a window overlooking the surrounding undergrowth.

Adding a touch of authenticity, a 1950s American fridge stands in the main room with a bullet hole where it is said to have been hit by enemy fire while being carried up the mountains to the "Commandante's" hut.

"Raul did many good things to Cuba in the last 10 years," he said. "He has changed the social life of the country, with cooperatives, private business, hotspots, internet, mobiles."

The younger Castro has opened up Cuba's state-run economy to private enterprise in an attempt to boost growth and trim the state payroll. A surge in tourism over the past few years has fostered that fledgling private sector.

In Santo Domingo, private restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts have sprung up alongside the main road, where cows and horses saunter across nonchalantly in search of better pastures.

"Cuba would be the best place to live in the world," said Perez, "if state salaries were good enough."

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A United Nations security team came under fire on Tuesday during a visit to the site of a suspected chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma, the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Wednesday.

The team was in Douma to survey conditions before chemical weapons experts were to inspect the site. Gunshots were fired at the U.N. security team and an explosive was detonated before the team returned to Damascus, OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said. International chemical weapons inspectors were expected to visit the site on Wednesday, but the visit has now been postponed and it is unknown when it will take place.

“At present, we do not know when the [Fact-Finding Mission] team can be deployed to Douma,” Uzumcu told the OPCW’s Executive Council, adding that he will only consider deploying the inspectors once the U.N. security team determines that it is safe and only if the inspectors get unhindered access to the site.

The OPCW inspectors are in Syria to investigate a suspected gas attack, which took place on April 7 in Douma. The alleged attack killed scores of civilians, according to activists, rescue workers and Western countries.

In response, the United States, the U.K. and France fired missiles at three Syrian targets on Saturday. The targets included a scientific research center in the greater Damascus area described by U.S. officials as a center for research, development, production and testing of chemical weapons.



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Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- More reliable than baby due dates in the Lindo maternity wing of St. Mary's Hospital in London, are the die hard royal baby watchers outside. They're few, they're dedicated, and they're here rain or shine.

"We come as soon as they put the parking restrictions on," Maria Scott, 46, from Newcastle told ABC News, with a British flag tied around her shoulders like a cape. The parking restrictions come when authorities set up the press pen, and clear the street for motorcade access, Scott explained.

Kate's due date is rumored to be next week and they've been camping out for nine days already, just to be on the safe side.

Scott and her friends were here outside the prestigious, private Lindo Wing for Prince William and Kate Middleton's first two kids, George and Charlotte - and they're not going to miss the third.

"I've done it so long, I know the routine, the helicopters and the motorcade" said Terry Hutt, 83, from Camden Town, whose dashing Union Jack suit has been a mainstay at royal events for decades. "And I explain it to people who haven't done it before."

"As soon as I get that feeling," Hutt said, obviously excited at the thought, "butterflies, is what women call it, butterflies, that's it - I'll get on my feet and be ready."

But why camp out? One might ask.

Hutt, Scott, her daughter Amy Thompson and John Loughrey, 63, also donning a Union Jack suit, were all seated on a bench in the sun outside the hospital, next to some camping chairs and a tent draped with the British flag.

Scott said it's all about the electric atmosphere. Loughrey added that it was also about the celebration and the champagne. And for 83 year-old Hutt, well, it's tradition and team work.

"You've got to be here to experience it, seeing it on TV doesn't do it justice," Scott said, her flag now slightly off kilter. "It's just a wonderful feeling you get. The excitement is magical!"

The whole experience on the day of the birth doesn't last long. The Duke and Duchess emerge with their newest addition on the steps of the Lindo Wing, wave, say a few words to the crowd, and then they're off. That's it.

Did Amy Thompson ever think her mom was a bit nuts, honestly?

"No, no," Thompson says. "I've been brought up knowing everything about the family - and she's always been this way. Everyone has their thing and this is ours." Like her mother, she too, has become an ardent royal fan.

"It's indescribable. It means the world," Thompson adds.

The tight-knit group has done multiple events together and they say Kate even sent them breakfast the morning she gave birth to Charlotte. So, when do they think this new baby, the fifth in line for the throne, will arrive?

"Well, I was wrong," Hutt said. "I thought it would be last night and I got all packed up and ready to go."

Scott has her eyes on this weekend. "I think it's going to be on the 21st, the Queen's birthday," she said. Her daughter, Thompson and the others nod in agreement. "That would be lovely for the Queen. A wonderful birthday present."

The group is split on whether they think it will be a boy or a girl. And as for names, Philip Michael, Victoria, Elizabeth and Alice are all offered as viable options.

Hutt adds that he might like like them to name the baby after him or his wife. In the end though, he's just hoping for a healthy baby for the happy couple.

"It's going to be a beautiful day," Hutt said, adjusting his matching Union Jack printed fedora.

Like Thompson said, everyone has their thing.

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- CIA Director Mike Pompeo secretly met with Kim Jong Un to discuss setting up a meeting between the North Korean leader and President Donald Trump, two U.S. officials have confirmed to ABC News.

The trip to North Korea, first reported by the Washington Post, happened over Easter weekend.

The White House and the CIA have declined to comment.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump himself confirmed there have been "direct talks at very high levels with North Korea."

The president has said he hopes to meet with Kim as early as May or June. Trump said Tuesday that five locations have been discussed as possible venues.

The president, who confirmed the meeting in a tweet Wednesday morning, has said he hopes to meet with Kim as early as May or June. Trump said Tuesday that five locations have been discussed as possible venues.

A senior U.S. official said the president has ruled out China as a location, and that Kim likely wouldn't agree to meet in the U.S., just as Trump said he wouldn't meet in North Korea.

Venues in Europe, southern Asia and the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea are being considered.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Documents released Tuesday appear to show a contradiction between an internal agency report and the assessment by the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) about the end a humanitarian program, known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS), for Haiti.

USCIS Director Francis Cissna based his assessment and recommendation on the report, according to a letter.

The internal USCIS report said that "many of the conditions prompting the original January 2010 TPS designation persist, and the country remains vulnerable to external shocks and internal fragility.”

The memo went on to conclude that "due to the conditions outlined in this report, Haiti’s recovery from the 2010 earthquake could be characterized as falling into what one non-governmental organization recently described as 'the country’s tragic pattern of one step forward, two steps back.'"

Cissna wrote to then-acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke -- who was responsible for making the final decision on the program -- that while lingering effects of the 2010 earthquake remain, "Haiti has made significant progress in addressing issues specific to the earthquake."

"In summary, Haiti has made significant progress in recovering from the 2010 earthquake, and no longer continues to meet the conditions for designation," he wrote.

His final recommendation to Duke is redacted.

According to USCIS, the TPS memo addressed conditions related to the earthquake, including displaced people and a prior housing shortage.

The documents were released after the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, along with the NYU School of Law, filed a lawsuit seeking records pertaining to the termination of TPS for Haiti.

In November, Duke announced her decision to terminate the program for Haiti, with a delayed effective date "to allow for an orderly transition before the designation terminates on July 22, 2019."

In her announcement, she wrote that the "extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist."

Approximately 59,000 Haitians have been impacted by the decision, and will have to leave the United States or face living in the country illegally -- pending any legislative response or ongoing litigation.

Last Friday was Duke's last day at the department, and she could not be reached for comment.

"I think it raises questions about whether they were making policy decisions about how they were approaching TPS, instead of case-by-case review that they have historically done,” Sejal Zota, legal director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, said to ABC News.

"Their own internal report documents and confirms that many of the conditions persist and that the country remains vulnerable," said Zota.

The termination of TPS for Haiti comes amid the end to numerous similar programs, like those for Nicaragua, El Salvador and Sudan, which immigration advocates say "creates instability and problems not just for these families, but for their communities."

A decision on whether to extend TPS for Nepal is due next week.

This is the first batch of documents, but thousands more are expected over the coming months.

In response to the released documents, USCIS said that "the decision to terminate TPS for Haiti was made after an interagency review process that considered country conditions and the ability of the country to receive returning citizens, according to the agency."

"DHS undertook an extensive outreach campaign to U.S. state and federal government officials, Haitian officials, and third-party partners who offered their input as to the conditions on the ground in Haiti. Based on all available information, acting Secretary Elaine Duke determined that the extraordinary and temporary conditions that formed the basis of Haiti’s TPS designation as a result of the 2010 earthquake no longer exist, and thus, pursuant to statute, DHS concluded the current TPS designation for Haiti should not be extended," said Cissna in a statement.

The Lawyers Guild has also filed a separate lawsuit challenging the end to the program. The government is expected to provide a response to that lawsuit by May 24.

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iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL) -- South Korean authorities have formally requested a travel ban on the youngest daughter of Korean Air Chairman Cho Yang-ho after she allegedly threw a drink at someone during an office meeting.

Cho Hyun-min, a senior vice president at the airline who is also known as Emily Cho, is accused of yelling at and throwing a cup of plum juice at an advertising firm manager last month. She told reporters at the airport on Sunday that she merely "pushed" a cup and didn't throw it at anyone's face.

Seoul’s Gangseo Police Station is investigating the criminal case and requested Cho's travel ban from the justice ministry on Tuesday.

Korean Air has suspended the 35-year-old graduate of the University of Southern California, who apologized to all Korean Air employees in an email and posted another apology via social media that read, in part, "It is my big fault for not controlling my own emotions."

Cho's older sister, Cho Hyun-ah, also known as Heather, served a jail sentence after a 2014 incident in which she threw a tantrum and demanded the plane she was on return to its gate at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport because of the way she was served a bag of nuts in first class.

The Korea Customs Service is also looking into accusations that Cho family members have ordered staff to bring in luxury goods without paying customs duties.

Korean Air did not immediately respond to a request for additional comments.

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Han Myung-Gu/WireImage(SEOUL) -- Choi Eun-hee, a South Korean film icon once kidnapped by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's regime in 1970s, has died at the age of 92.

She succumbed to chronic kidney disease on Tuesday, her eldest son, Shin Jeong-gyun, himself now a director in South Korea, told Yonhap News Agency.

Having begun her film career in 1947 at the age of 21, Choi became a star after the movie The Sun of Night debuted the following year. In 1954, she married a promising director named Shin Sang-ok. Choi starred in 130 films directed by Shin during the glory days of South Korea's film industry. The couple divorced in 1977.

In 1978, Choi disappeared without trace during a visit to Hong Kong. Shin searched for his ex-wife overseas and also went missing about a year later. Authorities later confirmed that both had been taken to North Korea, where the pair produced 17 movies, including the 1985 film "Salt," for which Choi won Best Actress at the Moscow Film Festival. Doing so, she became the first Korean to win an award at an international film festival.

Kim Jong Il kidnapped the pair after deciding that North Korean filmmakers could not depict stories as he intended, according to South Korea’s National Intelligence report in 1984, which was exposed by Monthly Chosun. At the time, Kim was leading espionage operations in South, gearing up to become his country's leader after his father, Kim Il Sung.

In 1986, Choi and Shin escaped from North Korea to the U.S., where they requested asylum, eventually returning home to South Korea in 1999.

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Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images(WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.) -- President Donald Trump said Tuesday that members of his administration are already talking to officials in North Korea "at extremely high levels" about his possible summit with Kim Jong Un.

"We have also started talking to North Korea directly, at extremely high levels," Trump said during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar—a—Lago resort in Florida.

Trump made the surprise announcement as he kicked off his two days of talks with Abe. Both leaders said the potential Trump-Kim summit is expected to dominate their agenda, along with discussions on trade.

Just after Abe's arrival, Trump reacted to news that South Korea and North Korea were nearing a potential agreement to announce the end of their decades-long military conflict ahead of a meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-In and Kim Jong-Un.

Trump said the two countries "have my blessing" to discuss ending the war, and said Asian leaders have given him significant credit for the recent series of positive developments pointing towards potential lasting peace in the Korean peninsula.

"They’ve been very generous that without us and without me in particular, I guess, they wouldn’t be discussing anything and the Olympics would have been a failure," Trump said.

Trump said that he and Abe are "very unified" on the issue of North Korea, and said there are five separate locations under consideration as he plans to meet with Kim Jong Un in early June or before that. But the president also added a potential caveat.

"Assuming things go well, it's possible things won't go well and we won't have the meeting," Trump said. "We will see what happens."

Speaking to reporters in advance of Abe's arrival, Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow and senior director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council Matthew Pottinger emphasized that Trump and Abe have a close friendship and that Trump has met with Abe more than any other foreign leader since taking office 14 months ago.

Trump said that he and Abe hope to play a round of golf together, if possible -- saying the pair would "sneak out" to hit the links tomorrow at one of Trump's nearby golf courses if they have the time.

Kudlow was also asked about his new role announced last week after a meeting the president held with lawmakers at the White House to consider the U.S. potentially negotiating to re-join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade accord the president routinely derided as a "terrible deal" while he was a candidate for the presidency.

"There’s nothing at all concrete," Kudlow said. "On the American side at the moment, it’s more of a thought than a policy."

Kudlow insisted the Japanese are open to discussions about potentially reentering, but said such a deal would only happen if the U.S. is able to achieve a more favorable deal.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Three senior Nigerien officials tell ABC News that they have determined that a man they have in custody is not Doundou Cheffou the ISIS leader whom officials believe masterminded the deadly ambush last October that killed four American soldiers.

ABC News had confirmed through senior Nigerien officials and a western official that Niger was trying to confirm the identity of a man captured several weeks ago along the border region with Mali.

Officials said the man in custody bore a resemblance to Cheffou, the head of ISIS in the Greater Sahara.

Senior Nigerien security officials, however, determined that the man was not the ISIS leader after testing his DNA and comparing it with Cheffou's brother who is in prison.

The New York Times
was first to report on Monday that Nigerien officials were trying to determine if they had detained Cheffou.

Cheffou heads the small militant group known as ISIS in the Greater Sahara.

He is believed to have been responsible for the Oct. 4 ambush near the village of Tongo Tongo that killed four American soldiers.

The soldiers had been part of a joint U.S.-Nigerien patrol that had the night before been part of a mission to kill or capture Cheffou, who was known by his code name "Naylor Road".

U.S. Africa Command's investigation into the circumstances of that mission was completed in February.

After a review by General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the investigation was referred to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

After Mattis has completed his review, family members, and Congress will be briefed on the report's conclusions.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump has decided to put off a decision imposing additional sanctions on Russia in the wake of the Syrian chemical attack, administration officials tell ABC News.

The delay comes after UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said on Sunday that the administration was planning to unveil new sanctions on Monday to punish the Kremlin in the wake of the chemical attack on Syrian civilians, of which the administration has accused Russia of having been complicit.

"You will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down," Haley said during an interview on CBS News' "Face the Nation." "[Treasury] Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday, if he hasn't already. And they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons used."

While the White House says that such sanctions remain under consideration, officials say the president has decided to hold off for now in part to see how Russia reacts to the joint US-UK-French airstrikes launched on Syria over the weekend before deciding whether further punitive actions are necessary.

“We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer criticized the Trump administration for not following through on the sanctions that Haley teased to, calling it "utterly amazing" that the president is holding back.

"If I were Nikki Haley I would really be embarrassed because she came out very strongly yesterday and said 'we're going to do sanctions' and the president reverses her. There is just no one home in terms of making consistent strong policy when it comes to Russia," Schumer told reporters. "The staff seem to want to go in one direction, the president keeps pulling them back and that is very bad for the country."

Administration officials say that the president remains interested in improved relations with Russia and is still open to sitting down with President Vladimir Putin, potentially even at the White House.

"The president still would like to sit down with him," Sanders said. "Again, he feels like it's better for the world if they have a good relationship. But that's going to depend on the actions of Russia. We've been very clear, in our actions, what we expect. And we hope that they'll have a change in their behavior."

Asked about a report in the Washington Post that the president was frustrated by the scope and severity of the U.S. action to expel 60 Russian intelligence officers in response to the poisoning of an ex-Russia spy and his daughter on British soil, Sanders did not directly refute the report but noted that it was the president who ordered the action that led to the Russian expulsions in the first place.

"The President is the one that gave the directive," Sanders said. "The President has been clear that he's going to be tough on Russia. But at the same time, he'd still like to have a good relationship with them. But that's going to be determined by whether or not Russia decides if they want to be a better actor in this process or not."

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- France has started the process of revoking Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Legion of Honor award, the Elysée Palace told ABC News today.

The Legion of Honor, which is France’s highest distinction, was awarded to Assad by former French president Jacques Chirac in 2001.

This announcement comes a few days after France launched, alongside the United States and United Kingdom, military strikes targeting chemical weapons facilities of the Syrian regime, in response to a suspected deadly gas attack from the Syrian government.

The decision to strip a citizen from the Legion of Honor belongs to the French president, meaning that President Emmanuel Macron took the decision.

It’s not the first time since his election in May 2017 that Macron has decided to revoke the Legion of Honor award. In October 2017, the French president declared that he has started the process of stripping Harvey Weinstein of his Legion of Honor after allegations by women accusing him of sexual harassment and rape, which he has denied.

Former U.S. cyclist Lance Armstrong lost his Legion of Honor award in 2014 after admitting that he doped during his seven Tour de France wins between 1999 and 2005.

The Legion of Honor was established May 19, 1802, by Napoléon Bonaparte "to reward the most deserving citizens in all fields of activity,” according to the website of the Legion of Honor. “The honor can be revoked in the event of criminal conviction, or any action that is dishonorable or that may harm the interests of France.”Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For the first time in more than half a century, the leader of Cuba won't be named Castro.

Raul Castro became president in 2008 after his brother Fidel -- the revolutionary and ruler -- resigned. Fidel maintained his position as head of the Communist Party until 2011, at which point Raul also succeeded him there. Fidel died in 2016.

In February 2013, Raul announced he would serve his second five-year term before stepping down as president in 2018, but he intends to remain head of the Communist Party.

"He is adhering to the term limits set in place for senior government and other Communist leadership," said Emily Mendrala, executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas. "As head of communist party, he will still have a hand in policy making, but I do see it as a gradual stepping away of the reigns of power."

The time in between was marked by a restoration in diplomatic ties with the U.S., a historic meeting with President Barack Obama and an opening of Cuba not seen in decades.

The Cuban General Assembly, the island nation's governing body, was set to meet and vote on Raul Castro's successor in February, but elections were delayed due to the damage from Hurricane Irma and delayed municipal elections. That meeting has been rescheduled for later this month.

What happens next?

It's expected that the Assembly will elect as president Miguel Diaz-Canel, the current, and first, vice president.

"To have someone without the family name or the same aura of revolutionary is a historic shift," Geoff Thale, vice president for programs at the Washington Office of Latin America, told ABC News. "The fact that someone is coming in without the revolutionary legitimacy as the founders of the state, and the heroes of the revolution, isn't just an institutional change."

A trained engineer and the former minister of education, Diaz-Canel rose through the ranks of the Communist Party before being selected as the country's first vice president. In that role, he has kept a low profile and come to be known as a pragmatist.

"He's generally thought of as an effective manager, but a guy inside the system," Thale explained. "He's not there to break the china or disrupt the political system. I wouldn't expect in his first six months we'd see a series of dramatic shifts. But he is going to face serious economic problems and questions of his legitimacy."

Stepping into the role having not participated in the revolution, many expect the 58-year-old to seek legitimacy through economic reforms and a continued slow-opening of its markets, as well as other reforms that began under Raul Castro.

"He certainly is fresh-faced in that he represents a younger generation," Mendrala said. "How he governs and manages the different political pressures within the Cuban system remains to be seen."

Issues facing the country

Diaz-Canel will be taking over during a marked shift in Cuba, Mendrala said.

"Demographic, emerging cultural trends, U.S.-Cuba policy changing is by no means a sidebar issue," she explained. "Other countries around the world are deepening their commitment and diplomatic ties while the U.S. is on the sidelines."

Internet access and the emergence of private-sector businesses have expanded independence and opportunities for the Cuban people.

According to statistics from the Center for Democracy in the Americas, entrepreneurial activity has exploded across the island, now accounting more than half a million jobs, about 12 percent of the workforce. If private farmers, agricultural cooperatives and the informal sector, aka "black market economy," are included, that figure jumps to 40 percent.

More Cuban youth will have opportunities to be economically successful in their homeland, as opposed to migrating in search of similar opportunities, Mendrala added.

That shift will test the new president, whose biggest challenge, Thale said, probably will be the economy.

"The Cuban economy faces very serious challenges," he said. "Growth the past few years has been 1 to 2 percent."

Diaz-Canel may also consider currency reunification, as Cubans currently use two systems developed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It's a step many economists would recommend, Thale said.

The U.S. factor?

Under president Donald Trump, the U.S. has scaled back outreach and diplomatic efforts related to Cuba, which could impact Diaz-Canel.

"Taking a step back, not having a fully staffed embassy, for example, puts us at a disadvantage," Mendrala said. "Family, cultural, academic ties are suffering with consular services in Havana. If the U.S. is leaving a vacuum in Cuba, other countries are filling it."

The U.S. rolled back consular services on the island and significantly reduced staff after a series of unexplained "incidents" that led to an FBI investigation.

It's unclear if and how Diaz-Canel's assuming power will improve U.S.-Cuba relations, but Thale doesn't expect dramatic changes, at least not immediately.

"A lot of us analysts look and say that Cuba doesn’t have multi-party elections or an entirely free press, but most Cubans see it in reverse," Thale said. "Internally, we want to see a series of reforms move ahead, but we don't want to break the system.

"The real question is going to be: 'Are we seeing change? Are they moving?' Rather than judging them by the standards of what political analysts in the United States believe they should be doing."

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House, FBI, Department of Homeland Security and British officials announced Monday that Russian state-sponsored actors targeted millions of internet routers in the United States, the United Kingdom and worldwide.

US and UK officials said that they have "high confidence" that cyber actors supported by the Russian government have carried out a coordinated campaign to gain access to these routers.

"It provides basic infrastructure that they can launch from,” one top U.S. official said.

The "purpose of these attacks could be espionage, it could be the theft of intellectual property, and of course, it could be pre-positioning for use in times of tension," said Ciaran Martin, Chief Executive of the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

The operation targeted government and private organizations, including even small businesses and residential homes, and also allowed the Russian-sponsored actors to go after "high-value targets," an official said.

Officials from the U.S. and U.K. said that for nearly a year now they have been investigating the massive cyber hacking of routers found in homes and business across the U.S. and U.K.

"This is a global threat," said top DHS official, Jeanette Manfra. "Once you own the router, you own the traffic."

This type of attack allows hackers to monitor modify and deny traffic; and it allows them to harvest credentials and passwords of unsuspecting users, explained officials.

The operation involved a “sustained targeting of multiple entities” over several months, said Martin.

Specifically, the hackers were exploiting default passwords on users’ routers, and exploiting unsecured devices in homes and business.

One way to protect against this is for Americans and others to change the passwords on their routers, the officials said. The FBI said it is asking the public for help to "remediate" these vulnerabilities, and the Trump administration’s cyber czar, Rob Joyce, said the U.S. government needs the public’s help to "undercut the Russian capability to use this as a tool against the world."

This is the first time that the U.S. and U.K. governments have issued a joint bulletin on this matter.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Monday intended to bring an almost two-decade-old war authorization up to date, a move that some lawmakers have been demanding for years but which has received renewed interest after recent military action in Syria.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Sen. Tim Kaine, R-Va., introduced a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or AUMF, which would replace two AUMFs passed shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

That AUMF authorized force against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and has continued to provide the legal rationale for the current U.S. campaign against ISIS, which the Obama administration argued is a successor of al-Qaeda. But as almost two decades have gone by, and as the Trump administration continues its military campaign against ISIS, there has been a growing call by some members of Congress to pass an updated AUMF that better reflects the U.S. military’s current goals and targets.

In addition to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, this new bill would authorize the president to use force against ISIS and “designated associated forces.” The president would have to report to Congress on all new associated forces not explicitly named and provide the basis for targeting them, as well as update Congress on each new country in which the AUMF is being applied.

The president could also act against a new designated force or country immediately but would have to notify Congress within 48 hours, which would trigger a new debate on whether that force or country is applicable under the AUMF.

The bill would also impose some periodic oversight requirements, including a review every four years after which time a president would submit a proposal to repeal, modify or leave the AUMF in place. If Congress does nothing, the existing authorities would remain in place.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had not yet seen the final bill text but said he was concerned that, based on what he knew about the bill, it might remove too much authority from Congress on the front end when it comes to military action.

“Congress' role under the constitution is to declare war, not to nullify it after it's done,” he said.

Some other Democrats have raised concerns that an AUMF should contain more specific sunset periods. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a cosponsor of the Corker-Kaine AUMF, said this new bill might not be perfect, but it has more time constraints than the current AUMF.

“The current authorization that our current president is using to conduct war in a number of places has virtually no limits and it's time for us to act to provide for those limits,” Coons said.

While a certain bloc of senators has long called for an updated authorization, it is the Trump administration’s recent airstrikes against the Assad regime for its alleged use of chemical weapons -- which would not immediately be covered under this new AUMF -- that have arguably been the biggest factor in reigniting this public debate.

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