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Locust Swarm Descends Upon Madagascar’s Capital

Locust Swarm Descends Upon Madagascar’s Capital

iStock/Thinkstock(ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar) — A swarm of millions of locusts descended upon Madagascar’s capital of Antananarivo on Thursday, slowing traffic and blotting out the skies over the city.Fully-formed clouds of the insects, which have plagued the African nation for more than two years, whizzed through the city’s streets after an urban heat wave attracted the bugs away from their usual rural surroundings.”It reminds us of the 10 plagues of Egypt,” said Ronald Miller, a missionary working in Madagascar with his family.The current plague began in April 2012, leading to a national disaster declaration in Madagascar in November of that year, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).The island nation’s government announced a three-year emergency plan in September 2013, when the locusts threatened food security of more than 13 million people, almost 60 percent of Madagascar’s population.FAO officer Annie Monard told Voice of America that the locust swarms in the city were caused by unusually high temperatures, not a new surge in the pest population. So far, the FAO and Madagascar’s government have succeeded in controlling the pests in over 4,600 square miles of agricultural land. Madagascar’s emergency plan will continue until 2016 and is expected to cost more than $41 million.
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Space Shuttle Discovery First Launched 30 Years Ago

Space Shuttle Discovery First Launched 30 Years Ago

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Saturday marks 30 years since Space Shuttle Discovery’s first launch.Discovery, the third space shuttle to join NASA’s fleet, left for its first mission on Aug. 30, 1984, to deploy three communication satellites.Discovery finished more than 30 missions afterwards, including one to launch the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit in 1990 and a trip to the International Space Station in 2005. According to NASA, it received its name from several exploration ships, including one used to search for a northwest passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific.Discovery completed its final mission in 2011. It now resides at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
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http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/space-shuttle-discovery-launched-30-years-ago/story?id=25164883

UN Received Reassurance that Kidnapped Peacekeepers Are ‘Safe and in Good Health’

UN Received Reassurance that Kidnapped Peacekeepers Are ‘Safe and in Good Health’

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(GOLAN HEIGHTS, Syria) — The United Nations said on Friday that it had received assurances that the 44 peacekeepers kidnapped from their positions on Thursday are safe and in good health.According to a statement from the U.N. spokesperson, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force has not had direct contact with the peacekeepers. They were informed, however, that the intention behind the holding of the peacekeepers was to remove them from an active battlefield for their own protection.The UNDOF has been in contact with the other groups of peacekeepers who are being confined to their current positions and confirm that they have not been harmed.
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Sanctions Imposed on Six Companies Accused of Supporting Proliferation of Iran WMDs

Sanctions Imposed on Six Companies Accused of Supporting Proliferation of Iran WMDs

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Obama and his administration imposed new sanctions on six companies, including four based in Iran on Friday, citing their having engaged in activities that support Iranian weapons of mass destruction.A statement from Caitlin Hayden, National Security Council spokesperson, noted that the companies and individuals sanctioned on Friday have supported terrorism or aided Iran’s evasion of existing sanctions. The U.S. and its P5+1 partners will continue to work towards a solution, Hayden said, to ensure the Iranian nuclear program is “exclusively peaceful.”Among the companies sanctioned was the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, which was started by Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, considered the father of Iran’s nuclear research program. He has been on the United Nations sanctions list for about six years. The company was created in 2011, and was not subject to sanctions until Friday.
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State Department Issues Updated Travel Warning for Ukraine

State Department Issues Updated Travel Warning for Ukraine

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. State Department issued an updated travel warning on Ukraine on Friday, citing the latest clashes between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian military.The memo from the State Department warns U.S. citize…

Four More Airstrikes Conducted by US Military Near Mosul Dam

Four More Airstrikes Conducted by US Military Near Mosul Dam

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MOSUL, Iraq) — U.S. fighter and attack aircraft were involved in four more airstrikes in the area of the Mosul Dam, the U.S. Central Command said on Friday.The latest strikes bring the total since Aug. 8 to 110 within Iraq. The most recent strikes destroyed four armed vehicles and three support vehicles, while severely damaging another armed vehicle, all controlled by militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. As with other strikes conducted in Iraq in recent weeks, the U.S. military says it has acted to support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defense forces, as well as in the interest of protecting key infrastructure and U.S. interests in the region.
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Britain Raises Terror Threat Level to ‘Severe’

Britain Raises Terror Threat Level to ‘Severe’

Bethany Clarke – WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) — The British government Friday raised the threat level for international terrorism to “severe,” indicating a terrorist attack is “highly likely” but based on intelligence not necessarily “imminent.”U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May released a statement Friday saying the increased threat is “related to events in Syria and Iraq where terrorist groups are planning attacks against the West, and that some of those attacks are likely to involve fighters who have travelled from the U.K.”British Prime Minister David Cameron said it was the first time in three years the threat has been raised to such a level in the U.K.“What we’re facing in Iraq now with ISIL is a greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before,” Cameron said in an address to the nation, noting that the terrorist group, also known as ISIS for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has recruited hundreds of British citizens to its ranks.Western security officials have been concerned for months that ISIS recruits with Western passports could travel to Syria and Iraq and then return home with deadly skills to wreak havoc.

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3 Million Refugees Have Fled Syria, UN Agency Says

3 Million Refugees Have Fled Syria, UN Agency Says

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — More than 3 million people have sought refuge from the fighting in Syria, the United Nations’ refugee agency announced Friday.That means the Syrian crisis, which has persisted since a civilian uprising began in 2011, is the biggest refugee operation in the UNHCR’s 64-year history, the agency said.Antonio Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, said the international effort to help Syrian refugees was insufficient to meet their growing needs and number.“The world is failing to meet the needs of [Syrian] refugees and the countries hosting them,” Guterres said, adding that, while the response to the crisis has been generous, “the bitter truth is that it falls far short of what’s needed.”In addition to the 3 million people who have sought shelter in neighboring countries, including Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, another 6.5 million refugees have been displaced within Syria, the agency said, adding that half of those people were children. The UNHCR concluded that almost half of the Syrian civilian population has had to leave its homes.Not only are the refugees fleeing violence, but because they frequently bounce from village to village before finally leaving their home country, they arrive in neighboring countries in increasingly “shocking states[s],” according to a UNHCR statement.“There are worrying signs too that the journey out of Syria is becoming tougher, with many people forced to pay bribes at armed checkpoints proliferating along the borders,” the statement said.Long-term medical conditions, steep food and commodity prices and unemployment are also problems that Syrians are plagued with once they escape the areas of greatest danger, the UNHCR added.
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Panda Fakes Pregnancy for Pampered Life?

Panda Fakes Pregnancy for Pampered Life?

File photo. (iStock/Thinkstock)(CHENGDU, China) — A real-life soap opera appears to have played out at a panda research center in China where zookeepers claim a panda may have faked her pregnancy in order to live a more pampered life.Zookeepers at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding say Ai Hin, a 6-year-old giant panda, first showed signs of pregnancy in July, but then returned to normal at the end of this month, after just a two-month observation.Chengdu officials say “phantom pregnancies” — caused by progestational hormone changes — are not uncommon for pandas, but that some “clever” pandas keep playing the pregnancy card long after.“After showing prenatal signs, the ‘mothers-to-be’ are moved into single rooms with air conditioning and around-the-clock care. They also receive more buns, fruits and bamboo, so some clever pandas have used this to their advantage to improve their quality of life,” panda expert Wu Kongju told state news agency Xinhua.The false pregnancy caused the Chengdu Base to call off its planned live broadcast of Ai Hin giving birth.The director of animal programs at the Memphis Zoo says that zookeepers must prepare pandas for birth at the first sign of pregnancy, even if it is hard to tell if they are actually pregnant.“Pandas and other bears don’t make it real easy to tell whether or not they are pregnant,” Matt Thompson told ABC News. “But we treat her as though she’s pregnant whether she’s pseudo pregnant or actually pregnant.”“We just want to be ready in either case,” he said.

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Whiskey Particles Stored on ISS Headed for Earth

Whiskey Particles Stored on ISS Headed for Earth

NASA(NEW YORK) — A Scottish distillery that enlisted the help of astronauts to develop whiskey particles on the International Space Station is now preparing for touchdown. Ardbeg, a whiskey distillery in Scotland, partnered with a Houston-based space research company to launch some micro-compounds of their liquor into outer space in 2011. According to the distillery’s website, 20 vials of the unmatured whiskey particles were sent along with pieces of charred oak that they were treated with when they arrived at the International Space Station. The vials only contained microbes that will later be used to brew whiskey, rather than the liquor itself. “This is indeed a research program to help us understand terpenes, which are the building blocks for flavorings, paints and yes, whiskey — so to us, this is a very solid research project for a consumer-based company,” Jeffrey Manber, the CEO of Houston-based company NanoRocks, told ABC News. “NASA approved the project since terpenes have never been grown in zero-gravity conditions.” If a difference is noted between the vials kept in zero gravity as compared to those in “control” vials in Scotland, the implications could lead well out of the liquor cabinet. “The absence of gravity may well create a new generation of consumer products and help us understand materials, biologicals and products that are right here on Earth,” Manber said. Once the out-of-this-world particles return to Earth — they are expected to land in Kazakhstan on Sept. 12 — the vials will be shipped to Texas, where they will be compared to similar vials made in Scotland in 2011 to test what effect gravity had on the maturation process.
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Fort Hood Gunman Wants to Join ISIS

Fort Hood Gunman Wants to Join ISIS

Bell County Sheriff’s Office via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who killed 13 people in a 2009 Fort Hood shooting, wrote a letter expressing interest in becoming a citizen of the Islamic State, his attorney told ABC News.H…

Papua New Guinea’s Tavurvur Volcano Erupts; Locals Evacuate, Flights Disrupted

Papua New Guinea’s Tavurvur Volcano Erupts; Locals Evacuate, Flights Disrupted

iStock/Thinkstock(CANBERRA, Australia) — Papua New Guinea’s Tavurvur volcano spewed smoke and volcanic ash into the air Friday, with residents in the South Pacific nation evacuated and flights disrupted.Communities near the volcano were evacuated, while residents of the town of Rabaul were advised to remain indoors to avoid falling ash, according to a statement from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.Australia’s Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre issued an advisory due to the eruption. Authorities there are making sure that air travel in the region is safe. Qantas flights in the area are taking special care to avoid the volcanic cloud.

Post by Jason Tassell.

Tavurvur most recently erupted last year.Friday’s activity – which occurred on the eastern tip of the country’s New Britain island – offered tourists amazing views of the volcanic activity.

The volcano has erupted numerous times in recent years, destroying the town of Rabaul in 1994 when it erupted simultaneously with nearby Mount Vulcan.Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Volcanic Eruption in Iceland

Volcanic Eruption in Iceland

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HOLUHRAUN, Iceland) — A volcanic eruption in northern Iceland began early Friday morning local time, prompting airspace closure of much of the area.According to the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police, the fissure from which the eruption occurred is about 300 meters long. There has not yet been any detection of volcanic ash, and the seismic data seems to indicate that the eruption is effusive, and not explosive. Still, the Icelandic Air Traffic Control closed down airspace from the earth up to 18,000 feet within the area around the eruption site.
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WHO Offers Update on Ebola Outbreak, Number of Suspected Cases Surpasses 3,000

WHO Offers Update on Ebola Outbreak, Number of Suspected Cases Surpasses 3,000

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MONROVIA, Liberia) — The number of probable and confirmed cases of the Ebola virus in West Africa surpassed 3,000, the World Health Organization said on Thursday, with more than 1,550 at least suspected to have died of the disease.The WHO updated its figures on the spread of Ebola, which looks at the number of probable and confirmed Ebola cases and deaths in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Thus far, 1,752 confirmed cases and 897 confirmed deaths have been linked with Ebola. An additional 1,317 cases and 655 deaths are considered either “probable” or “suspected” to be related to the disease.The largest part of the Ebola outbreak remains in Sierra Leone and Liberia, though cases have begun to spring up in Nigeria within the last two weeks. More than 40 percent of the total number of Ebola cases have been identified in the last three weeks.
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Five More Airstrikes Conducted by US Military in Iraq

Five More Airstrikes Conducted by US Military in Iraq

Purestock/Thinkstock(MOSUL, Iraq) — The U.S. military conducted another series of airstrikes against targets related to militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria on Thursday, with five more strikes confirmed.Fighter aircraft conducted the strikes near the Mosul Dam, destroying an ISIS Humvee, a tank, four armored vehicles, and a construction vehicle, and damaging a checkpoint. The aircraft all escaped the area safely.The U.S. military has been undertaking the strikes with the intent of supporting Iraqi and Kurdish forces that are squaring off with ISIS forces, as well as to protect infrastructure and American interests in the area.Since strikes began earlier this month, U.S. Central Command says that 106 airstrikes have been conducted across Iraq.
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Canadian, Russian NATO Missions Troll Each Other on Twitter

Canadian, Russian NATO Missions Troll Each Other on Twitter

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BRUSSELS, Belgium) — In case the actual war in Ukraine wasn’t enough, there’s also a Twitter battle raging between the Canadian and Russian missions to NATO.It all started with the Canadian mission’s Twitter account, which on Wednesday tweeted a snarky map intended to “help” the Russian soldiers who ended up in Ukraine but reportedly claimed they didn’t know where they were going.
 

Geography can be tough. Here’s a guide for Russian soldiers who keep getting lost & ‘accidentally’ entering #Ukraine pic.twitter.com/RF3H4IXGSp
— Canada at NATO (@CanadaNATO) August 27, 2014

Not to be outdone, the Russian mission quickly returned rhetorical fire, tweeting out its own map showing Crimea as part of Russia.
 
 

Helping our Canadian colleagues to catch up with contemporary geography of #Europe @CanadaNATO pic.twitter.com/MjzRxpFFfN
— Russians at NATO (@natomission_ru) August 28, 2014

 
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‘Russian Invasion’ of Ukraine Prompts Emergency Meeting of UN Security Council

‘Russian Invasion’ of Ukraine Prompts Emergency Meeting of UN Security Council

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(KIEV, Ukraine) — Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko cancelled a trip to Turkey on Thursday, citing the ongoing “Russian invasion,” prompting a United Nations Security Council meeting.Heavy fighting was reported in the southeastern Ukrainian town of Novoazovsk Thursday as pro-Russian rebels allegedly opened up a new military front. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called for the U.N. Security Council meeting, noting the “growing military threat from Russia,” and claiming that “Putin started a war in Europe.”The U.N. Security Council expressed outrage at the latest actions by Russia. In a statement, the spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the international community “cannot allow the situation to escalate further, nor can a continuation be allowed of the violence and destruction that the conflict has wrought in eastern Ukraine.”The U.S. ambassador for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe released a harsh statement on Thursday as well, calling the crisis “man-made” and blaming the Kremlin for showing “disregard for international law.” Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, called the latest tensions a “military invasion” in a statement. Calling the latest actions anything else, they said, “is to inhabit President Putin’s Orwellian universe.” “This is a moment to speak and act with clarity,” the senators said, “a sovereign nation in the heart of Europe is being invaded by its larger neighbor. This runs completely contrary to the civilized world that America and our partners have sought to build since World War II.”Also on Thursday, President Obama spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the situation in Ukraine. According to a readout of the call, the two agreed that Russia is to blame for the latest violence. They also agreed that the U.S. and the European Union must consider additional sanctions while working towards a diplomatic solution.
Watch more news videos | Latest from the US
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UN Peacekeepers Kidnapped in Syria

UN Peacekeepers Kidnapped in Syria

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(GOLAN HEIGHTS, Syria) — The United Nations said Thursday that three peacekeepers were detained by an armed group in the Golan Heights area of Syria.The kidnapping occurred “during a period of increased fighting…between armed elements and Syrian Arab Armed Forces,” the U.N. said. A U.N. statement also noted that 81 more peacekeepers with the U.N.’s Disengagement Observer Force were “restricted to their positions.”The U.S. State Department later confirmed that the group that kidnapped the peacekeepers was Jahbat al-Nusra, which has been designated a terrorist group by the U.N. Security Council. The U.S. condemned the action, demanding the “unconditional and immediate release of all U.N. peacekeepers.” UNDOF forces are in Syria as a means of helping to maintain a cease-fire between Syria and Israel, agreed to after their 1973 war. The mission’s mandate was recently extended through the end of December. Peacekeepers from the same U.N. group were held by armed elements in March 2013 and May 2013 and were safely released. The UNDOF encompasses 1,223 peacekeepers from six nations.
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Missing NJ Teen Found Dead in Jerusalem Forest

Missing NJ Teen Found Dead in Jerusalem Forest

iStockphoto/Thinsktock(JERUSALEM) — The body of a missing American teenager has been found in the hills near Jerusalem.
Israeli police confirm they found the body of Aharon Sofer, a yeshiva student from Lakewood, New Jersey. Sofer had gone for a hike on Friday in Ein Kerem and never reunited with his friend.
New Jersey State Senator Bob Singer said it’s too soon to say what happened.
While Israel police could not yet say the cause of death, they had earlier cast doubt on the family’s fear of a kidnapping.
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Lockheed Martin Joins Australian Firm to Track Space Junk

Lockheed Martin Joins Australian Firm to Track Space Junk

Most orbital debris is in low Earth orbit, where the space station flies. NASA(NEW YORK) — A proposed new facility in Western Australia will provide a clearer picture of just how much space junk is orbiting earth. The facility, which is a partnership between Lockheed Marin and Australia’s Electro Optic Systems, will use lasers and optical systems, like those found in telescopes, to detect and learn more about man-made space junk. This includes how fast the debris is moving, what direction its spinning and what it’s made of. The space junk facility won’t act as a space janitor — but will instead make sure government and commercial organizations are aware of the location of junk so they can protect their investments in space, according to Rick Ambrose, executive vice president, Lockheed Martin Space Systems. Space junk, or as NASA calls it, “orbital debris,” can range from items as small as flecks of paint released by thermal stress to as large as pieces from satellite explosions and collisions, according to NASA’s Orbital Debris Programs Office. More than 21,000 pieces of space junk larger than 10 centimeters are known to exist, according to figures released by NASA in 2012. There are an estimated half-million pieces of debris that range in size between one and 10 centimeters, while the number of particles smaller than the size of a fingernail is estimated to be more than 100 million.
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