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US Embassy in Yemen Closed Until Further Notice

US Embassy in Yemen Closed Until Further Notice

iStock/Thinkstock(SANA'A, Yemen) -- The U.S. Embassy in Yemen will be closed until further notice, days after fighting and the resignation of a significant portion of the country's government leadership put its stability in question.The U.S. State Department says that the personnel working at the embassy have not been evacuated from the country. Instead, the statement means only that the embassy is not open for normal business.A statement from the embassy attributes the decision to the resignation of the Yemeni president, prime minister and cabinet, as well as "ongoing security concerns." As such, the embassy says it will be "unable to provide routine consular services" and will be limited in its ability to "assist with emergency cases involving U.S. citizens."The State Department warned Americans in Yemen of the "high security threat level" due to "terrorist activities and civil unrest." Americans are being urged to exercise caution, be vigilant, and take extra security measures at all times in all areas.

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Kurdish Fighters Retake Control of Part of City of Kobani

Kurdish Fighters Retake Control of Part of City of Kobani

Juan Bernal/iStock/Thinkstock(KOBANI, Syria) -- Kurdish fighters have retaken control of part of the city of Kobani.Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said Monday that the Kurds were in control of about 70 percent of the city. A U.S. official told ABC News that while they couldn't confirm a percentage of the city, Kurdish forces were in control of "incrementally more" of the city than they were on Friday.Kobani, a town near the border between Syria and Turkey, has been the site of intense fighting between Kurdish fighters and ISIS. Additionally, U.S.-led coalition airstrikes have focused their attention on the city for months.A Kurdish source told ABC News Monday that ISIS remained in control of many villages surrounding Kobani.

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Turkey Court Bans Facebook Pages Insulting Prophet Muhammad

Turkey Court Bans Facebook Pages Insulting Prophet Muhammad

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(ANKARA, Turkey) -- Facebook has been ordered by a Turkish court to censor pages insulting the Prophet Muhammad or risk being blocked entirely in the country.The state-run Anadolu Agency reported the ruling was handed down late Sunday by a court in Ankara. The order comes days after another court in the country banned sites showing the latest cover of satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo.Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, the news comes during the same month that its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has spoken out against censorship.Following the recent massacre at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, Zuckerberg re-affirmed his commitment that "Facebook has always been a place where people across the world share their views and ideas.""We follow the laws in each country, but we never let one country or group of people dictate what people can share across the world," he wrote in a Jan. 9 post.At a town hall in Colombia on Jan. 14, Zuckerberg expanded on why Facebook continues to operate in countries that put restrictions on speech, bringing the focus back to the reason why he founded the social network."This gets to the heart of our mission. We want to help connect everyone and give people a voice," Zuckerberg said.A government passing a law restricting speech should not get in the way of people in the country still being able to connect with friends and family, he said."I really deeply believe we are best serving the world...by continuing to push for as much expression as possible," he said, adding that Facebook does push back when it is asked by governments to filter something.

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Massive Asteroid 2004 BL86 to Pass Within 745,000 Miles of Earth

Massive Asteroid 2004 BL86 to Pass Within 745,000 Miles of Earth

NASA(NEW YORK) -- A massive asteroid is set to safely pass Earth on Monday. According to NASA scientists, the asteroid 2004 BL86 is approximately 1,500 feet across and will come closest to Earth at 11:19 a.m. ET.  At that time, it will be approximately 745,000 miles away."Monday, January 26 will be the closest asteroid 2004 BL86 will get to Earth for at least the next 200 years," said Don Yeomans, the manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "And while it poses no threat to Earth for the foreseeable future, it’s a relatively close approach by a relatively large asteroid, so it provides us a unique opportunity to observe and learn more."NASA says observers should be able to see the asteroid using small telescopes and strong binoculars.The asteroid was first discovered on Jan. 30, 2004 by a telescope in White Sands, New Mexico.

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US Races to Aid Japan After ISIS ‘Kills’ One Hostage

US Races to Aid Japan After ISIS ‘Kills’ One Hostage

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — U.S. intelligence is focusing its efforts Monday on helping to find and potentially rescue the surviving Japanese ISIS hostage, who in a new video released over the weekend was forced to hold what appeared to be a photograph of his fellow hostage beheaded.In the new video, journalist Kenji Goto reads a plea for his own life, passing along ISIS's demand for a prisoner swap rather than the $200 million originally demanded by ISIS."They are being fair. They no longer want money, so you don't have to worry about funding terrorists," Goto says.Goto says ISIS wants Japan to pressure the country of Jordan into releasing Sajida al-Rishawi, a female attempted suicide bomber who confessed to her role in a deadly string of al Qaeda bombings in Jordan in 2005. The attacks killed dozens and al-Rishawi was placed on death row.The new video is substantially different than previous such videos from ISIS -- missing some of the group's trademark high production qualities and the masked man who appears to have a British accent featured in other execution videos.U.S. officials Monday are pouring over the video to exploit any potential clues."We are sparing no expense and sparing no effort, both in trying to make sure that we're prepared to do anything we must to try and get them home," White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told ABC News' This Week Sunday.Top U.S. and Japanese treated the new video and the apparent murder of the first Japanese hostage as authentic, with President Obama saying Saturday the U.S. "strongly condemns the brutal murder of Japanese citizen [and ISIS hostage] Haruna Yukawa by the terrorist group ISIL [ISIS].""We stand shoulder to shoulder with our ally Japan and applaud its commitment to peace and development in a region far from its shores," Obama said.Obama called for a release of all remaining hostages, which U.S. officials previously said includes a 26-year-old American woman.Jordanian King Adbullah has repeatedly refused to free al-Rishawi -- whose release has been a demand from other extremists in the past -- although he has put her execution on hold. When ISIS first demanded the $200 million ransom for the two Japanese hostages, the Japanese government said it would not give in.

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Snowboarder ‘Happy to Be Alive’ After Three Days Missing

Snowboarder ‘Happy to Be Alive’ After Three Days Missing

Oleg_Ermak/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A snowboarder is "happy to be alive" after she spent three days missing in the Whistler, British Columbia, backcountry, a Canadian news outlet reported.Julie Abrahamsen told Global News in Canada that the "hardest part was the nights" because it was so cold."I didn't have too much clothes," she said. "Some were wet, so I tried to make the best solution and get some sleep, but it was hard."Abrahamsen was spotted Saturday "in the backcountry" by searchers in a helicopter, the Whistler Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a written statement.Abrahamsen told Global News that when she saw the helicopter searchers, she thought, "'Are they coming for me?' I was really excited, and tried to run as fast as I could to the river."She was "in cold, but good, condition," police said, and she was taken for medical treatment.Abrahamsen told Global News she thinks she was "lucky with the weather.""It wasn't as cold as it normally is," she said, according to Global News. "It was pretty mild."Abrahamsen had last been seen Wednesday morning on Blackcomb Mountain, according to police, and then was reported missing on Friday, igniting a police and ski patrol search."Searchers followed the trail and, at approximately 1:30 p.m. located the missing snowboarder in cold, but good, condition," Whistler RCMP Sgt. Rob Knapton said in a statement Saturday.Global News reported that Abrahamsen lives in Norway and was in British Columbia on vacation. ABC News' efforts to locate Abrahamsen for comment were not immediately successful.

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Obama Feted in India at Soggy Parade of Camels, Missiles and Tanks

Obama Feted in India at Soggy Parade of Camels, Missiles and Tanks

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(NEW DELHI) — It was a symbolic and soggy affair for the first American president given high honors at India's Republic Day parade.President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama took in the elaborate pageant of military power and cultural pride from a viewing platform under steady drizzle in the capital New Delhi.They spent much of the day beneath umbrellas as a colorful display passed before them, including bejeweled camels ridden as cavalry, brigades of arm-swinging troops, cultural dancers, marching bands, and motorcycle stunt men.The Obamas were flanked by the Indian president and prime minister and surrounded by hundreds of thousands of parade watchers out in the streets to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the world’s biggest democracy.Prime Minister Narenda Modi, a man who many say is India’s Barack Obama, was sporting a distinctive hat and chatted frequently with his "chief guest."The military portion of the massive parade featured Russian tanks, American helicopters, mobile rockets and missiles.One of the tanks turned its presumably unarmed gun turret toward the reviewing stand, likely sending shock waves up the spines of the 50,000 security forces -- U.S. Secret Service, Indian police and para-military forces -- guarding Obama. The president overruled security concerns and elected to sit outside in the open for more than two hours -- an unprecedented stretch on foreign soil.Obama is the first American President to receive an invitation to be chief guest at the parade, an honor granted to Russia's Vladimir Putin, Nelson Mandela, high-level Pakistani officials, even the Queen of England. That an American was finally invited is considered a symbol of the growing closeness of the Indian and American people.The budding personal friendship between Obama and Modi has also set a new tone for two countries, each looking for dependable allies in an unsettled region. At a summit Sunday, they announced closer defense ties, expanded trade and an effort to fight climate change.The three-day Obama visit has set India abuzz with popular fixation with the American first lady, who stepped off the plane in a colorful dress made by a popular Indian designer.Obama has seemed enthralled with Indian culture, too, from the high-stepping military review he received, to tea in a picturesque presidential garden, and his solemn visit to the memorial honoring Mahatma Gandhi, a man who famously inspired Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Pilots Attempt Record-Breaking Balloon Trip Across Pacific

Pilots Attempt Record-Breaking Balloon Trip Across Pacific

Tsuyoshi Ogushi/Two Eagles Balloon Team(NEW YORK) -- Two pilots are trying to break world ballooning records as they begin a trip across the Pacific Ocean.American Troy Bradley and Russian Leonid Tiukhtyaev hope to land in North America after about five and a half days in the air, breaking more-than-30-year-old records for distance and time in flight for a gas balloon."This is a very coveted record and, hopefully, one that's going to stand for a long, long time," Mission Control Director Steven Shope said.The explorers took off from Japan Sunday morning in a helium-filled balloon named "Two Eagles," and are now traveling at 15,000 feet in the air.They will make the dangerous, 5,208-mile trip across the ocean with limited sleep and access to oxygen in a small capsule. Temperatures are expected to be in the 50s.At such high altitudes come high stakes. Four years ago, ballooners Richard Abruzzo and Carol Rymer Davis died after hitting bad weather.

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Demonstrations to Mark Popular Revolution Turn Deadly in Egypt

Demonstrations to Mark Popular Revolution Turn Deadly in Egypt

Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images(CAIRO) — Clashes in Egypt between government forces and Islamic dissidents left at least 18 people dead Sunday as crowds hit the streets to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the popular revolution that led to the overthrow of then-President Hosni Mubarak.Most of the violence, which also left 50 people injured, occurred in northern Cairo.What apparently touched off the clashes was the shooting death Saturday of an activist at Tahrir Square, which became the focal point of the massive demonstrations in late January and February 2011.Mubarak's ouster led to rise of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, who only spent about a year in power until he too was thrown out of office in a July 2013 military coup.Since then, Egypt has returned to its authoritarian ways with little room for dissident and no tolerance for anti-government opponents. Morsi remains jailed along with other high-ranking members of his Muslim Brotherhood party that was outlawed by the regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who once headed Egypt's powerful military.

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Miss Colombia Wins Miss Universe Pageant

Miss Colombia Wins Miss Universe Pageant

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images(MIAMI) — Miss Colombia Paulina Vega won the Miss Universe pageant in Miami on Sunday night.The 22-year-old student of business administration earned the title over Miss USA Nia Sanchez, who was first runner-up. Sanchez was crowned Miss USA last June.Miss Ukraine Diana Harkusha was named second runner-up.Eighty-eight contestants participated in the pageant, which aired live on NBC. It featured performances by Nick Jonas and Prince Royce.

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Attempt to Raise Fuselage of AirAsia Plane Fails

Attempt to Raise Fuselage of AirAsia Plane Fails

nuttapong/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(SURABAYA) -- An attempt to raise the fuselage of the AirAsia flight that crashed into the water near Indonesia last month failed on Sunday.During the attempt to raise part of the wreckage, cables being used to lift the fuselage snapped, sending it back to the ocean floor. Strong currents have made the recovery effort difficult.So far, 70 bodies have been recovered from the wreckage. There were 162 people on board when the plane crashed en route from Indonesia to Singapore.

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Amnesty International: Hundreds of Thousands of Nigerians at ‘Grave Risk’ of Boko Haram Attack

Amnesty International: Hundreds of Thousands of Nigerians at ‘Grave Risk’ of Boko Haram Attack

Pontuse/iStock/Thinkstock(MAIDUGURI, Nigeria) -- Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians are at "grave risk" from large-scale attacks by militant group Boko Haram, Amnesty International says.Amnesty's Africa Director Netsanet Belay said in a statement that the latest attacks by Boko Haram "are significant and grim news. We believe hundreds of thousands of civilians are now at grave risk."The city of Maiduguri, and its population of over 600,000, may be the next target after locals and activists say Boko Haram attacked a nearby military base and the nearby town of Monguno on Sunday.Secretary of State John Kerry is in Nigeria, meeting with president Goodluck Jonathan and his leading opponent in next month's presidential election.Earlier this month, Amnesty International released satellite images showing what appeared to be thousands of homes destroyed in a Boko Haram attack on the town of Baga.

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Pope Francis Releases Balloons of Peace in Place of Doves

Pope Francis Releases Balloons of Peace in Place of Doves

GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- Pope Francis broke with tradition on Sunday, releasing balloons of peace in place of the typical doves during his Sunday mass.Last January, shortly after the pontiff released the two peace doves, they were attacked by other birds. During the last Sunday mass of January, the pope traditionally released the doves to symbolize the need to pray and work for world peace, London's The Telegraph newspaper says.In the place of the doves, Pope Francis had children release the multi-colored balloons.

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Angelina Jolie Visits Refugees in Iraq

Angelina Jolie Visits Refugees in Iraq

SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images(ERBIL, Iraq) -- Angelina Jolie traveled to Iraq on Sunday to visit Syrians and Iraqis displaced in the battle against ISIS.Jolie is a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees and has made multiple visits to refugee camps in the region. The United Nations says more than three million people have fled the fighting in Syria and another 6.5 million were displaced within Syria. An additional 2.5 million were displaced in Iraq."It is shocking to see how the humanitarian situation in Iraq has deteriorated since my last visit," Jolie said. "Many...innocent people have been uprooted multiple times as they seek safety admist shifting frontlines.""Too many innocent people are paying the price of the conflict in Syria and spread of extremism," the Unbroken filmmaker said. She also expressed her "deepest sympathy" to the family of Haruna Yukawa, the Japanese hostage who was apparently executed at the hands of ISIS.

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Ukrainian President: Ukraine Has Evidence of Russian Involvement in Saturday Attacks

Ukrainian President: Ukraine Has Evidence of Russian Involvement in Saturday Attacks

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images(KIEV, Ukraine) -- Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Sunday that there is evidence of Russian involvement in the rocket attacks on the city of Mariupol on Saturday."Interception of radio and phone conversations by the Security Service of Ukraine irrefutably indicates that the given attack was organized by terrorists supported by Russia," Poroshenko said. "I consider it an issue of every country to determine its attitude to the tragedy in Mariupol and Volnovakha. Evasion of fair and honest assessments is also a support of terrorism, which is unacceptable."At least 27 people were killed in Saturday's attacks, as rockets hit markets, schoools and homes in the city of Mariupol. President Obama on Sunday said that the U.S. is "deeply concerned about the latest break in the cease-fire and the aggression that these separatists with Russian backing, Russian equipment, Russian financing and Russian troops are conducting." He vowed to "continue taking the approach we've taken in the past" by "ratcheting up pressure on Russia."Poroshenko called Saturday's attacks "the most dreadful tragedy since the beginning of the war."

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Japan PM Shinzo Abe Condemns ISIS Execution of Hostage as ‘Outrageous and Impermissible’

Japan PM Shinzo Abe Condemns ISIS Execution of Hostage as ‘Outrageous and Impermissible’

YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday condemned the apparent execution of a Japanese hostage at the hands of ISIS.The video, which was posted online on Saturday, shows a still picture of Japanese television reporter Kenji Goto holding a photo of the beheaded body of Haruna Kuwana. Abe said in a statement that Japan has "been pursuing every possible means including all available diplomatic channels, first and foremost, the save the lives of the two Japanese nations" who had previously been shown in videos purportedly posted online by ISIS. Abe said the most recent video left him "speechless." "Such an act of terrorism is outrageous and impermissible," he said, expressing "resolute condemnation." Abe demanded that Goto, the second hostage, be released immediately. "The Government of Japan will never give in to terrorism, and actively contribute to the peace and stability of the world together with the international community in an unwavering manner."

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Missing Snowboarder Found Without Serious Injury

Missing Snowboarder Found Without Serious Injury

SerrNovik/iStock/Thinkstock(WHISTLER, British Columbia) -- A woman who went missing while snowboarding in Whistler, British Columbia, was found in good condition Saturday after three days lost "in the backcountry," according to the police.The snowboarder was found by search and rescue teams Saturday afternoon, the Whistler Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.The snowboarder, identified as 21-year-old Julie Abrahamsen, had last been seen Wednesday morning on Blackcomb Mountain, according to police.She was reported missing on Friday, igniting a police and ski patrol search.Tracks were spotted in the snow by searchers in a helicopter, and when rescuers on the ground followed them, they found the young woman, Whistler RCMP Sgt. Rob Knapton said."Searchers followed the trail and at approximately 1:30 p.m. located the missing snowboarder in cold, but good, condition," Knapton said in a statement. Abrahamsen was taken by helicopter for medical treatment.

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Dozens Killed in Rocket Attacks in Ukrainian City

Dozens Killed in Rocket Attacks in Ukrainian City

semakokal/iStock/Thinkstock(MARIUPOL, Ukraine) -- At least 27 people were killed following several rocket attacks in Ukrainian city of Mariupol.The rocket attacks on Saturday slammed into markets, schools, and homes in the city, which is strategically placed on the Azov Sea halfway between Russia and Crimea.Saturday’s attacks also raised concerns that a major offensive is underway, the biggest escalation in the war there since last summer. A top rebel commander was recorded saying the group planned plan to attack the city, but later said they had no plans to do so.The attacks also have dashed hopes of a recent peace deal.Ukraine has accused Russia of sending some 9,000 troops, plus tanks and heavy equipment, into Ukrainian territory to bolster the rebels. Russian officials however continue to deny the allegations.

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“Charlie Hebdo” Protests Erupt Across Southern Asia

“Charlie Hebdo” Protests Erupt Across Southern Asia

mjbs/iStock/Thinkstock(ISLAMABAD) -- Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets throughout several countries on Friday in anger with the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for publishing a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.In the western Afghan city of Herat, an estimated 20,000 people protested the magazine’s anti-Islam satire.Police on Friday also clashed with thousands of demonstrators in India-controlled Kashmir, while some 15,000 protesters denounced Charlie Hebdo, and France, burning the French flag in protest in the streets of Pakistan's capital.Earlier this month, two gunmen stormed the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris killing a total of 12 people, prompting international condemnation of  Islamic extremism.

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Italian Supreme Court Orders Compensation for Gay Driving Suspension

Italian Supreme Court Orders Compensation for Gay Driving Suspension

JaysonPhotography/iStock/Thinkstock(ROME) -- An Italian man is celebrating after winning a 14-year legal battle to get his permanent driver's license back after officials revoked it because he was gay. It all started when then 18-year-old Danilo Giuffrida underwent a medical exam for the military service and told the doctor he was gay. At the time, Italy’s military banned gay men, and the doctor, disbelieving Giuffrida, told him to go register at the local gay rights organization. Giuffrida did, but the military sent his medical records to the transportation ministry advising they suspend his driver's license because he was "troubled by his sexual identity" and lacked the "psycho-physical capacity to drive." It took the better part of 14 years, but Giuffrida now has a licence to drive and a major legal victory. Italy's highest court ruled on Thursday that the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Transportation exhibited clear homophobia against Giuffrida and will have to pay high damages.

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