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Meet HitchBOT, the Robot Hitchhiking Across Canada

Meet HitchBOT, the Robot Hitchhiking Across Canada

HitchBOT/Instagram(NEW YORK) — Canadians who are used to seeing mountains, lakes and other beautiful scenery across their country have had a surprise addition to the landscape this summer: A hitchhiking robot with a “yard sale aesthetic.”The robot, named HitchBOT, is made of “odds and ends of what you might found around your own house,” co-creator David Harris Smith.
The “odds and ends” include a bucket for a body and pool noodles for arms and legs. Most importantly, the robot has a built-in booster seat, a very strategic part of its design.“It’s light enough to be picked up and put in the car and it fits in the car,” Smith told ABC News.Smith, a professor at Ontario’s McMaster University, partnered with Frauke Zeller, of Toronto’s Ryerson University, to create HitchBOT as a “participatory artwork” experiment.The robot began its summer adventure in Halifax last month and will conclude it this week in Victoria, British Columbia. It made its way across Canada purely by the kindness of strangers who picked the robot up and took it on adventures ranging from visiting their own homes to attending a rock concert and even a wedding.“It’s interesting to see how it inspires people’s creativity,” Zeller said. “We wanted to see whether we can trust technology that’s surrounding us, especially robots and especially as they come into our daily lives, into our houses. And can robots trust human beings?”HitchBOT’s adventures are largely built on a social media campaign that includes its own Twitter handle, Instagram account and #HitchBOT hashtag.“We designed that strategy from the very beginning so people would know what it was when they saw it on the side of the road,” Zeller said. “We’ve heard from people that it’s part of their morning routine, that they wake up and check where HitchBOT is.”HitchBOT was also built with a GPS system, so that followers, and its creators, can track its progress online, and is also programmed with technology similar to a smartphone and speech recognition software so it can communicate with its fellow travelers and scour the Internet for facts about the regions where it travels.Zeller says she and Smith are in touch with the person who currently has possession of HitchBOT and are assured that, after a busy day of traveling to Seattle on the ferry, HitchBOT will arrive back in Victoria in time for its welcome home reception Thursday night.What comes next for HitchBOT, Zeller and Smith say, depends on funding, among other factors. The robot, which took a full-time team around four months to build, has been invited by other countries to hitchhike across their lands, and will attend a Silicon Valley ideas conference with its creators next month.“We definitely plan to continue,” Zeller said.
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Cambridge University Seeks ‘Doctor of Chocolate’

Cambridge University Seeks ‘Doctor of Chocolate’

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) — Cambridge University in the United Kingdom is seeking a “Doctor of Chocolate” to spend three and a half years indulging their sweet tooth — all in the name of science.The successful candidate won’t just be indulging in a Willy Wonka fantasy, though. They’ll also have to have a top degree in physics, chemistry or engineering.The first ever doctor of chocolate will be tasked with investigating “the factors which allow chocolate, which has a melting point close to that of the human body, to remain solid and retain qualities sought by consumers when it is stored and sold in warm climates,” according to a posting on Cambridge University’s website.The successful candidate will work alongside other researchers who “have extensive experience in studying soft solids, including foods,” according to the posting.Chocolate fanatics who think they fit the bill have until Aug. 29 to apply.
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Man Rescued After 5 Miles into Transatlantic Dinghy Voyage

Man Rescued After 5 Miles into Transatlantic Dinghy Voyage

iStock/Thinkstock(DORSET, England) — A Bulgarian man’s bold attempt to sail to America from England in a 14-foot dinghy was thwarted by rescue crews who were concerned about his safety.The man was severely seasick when a Royal National Lifeboat Institution rescue crew found him only 5 miles into the 3,000-mile voyage.“He was exceedingly cold, wet and violently ill,” institution press officer Jo Dadds told ABC News Monday.“He had packed one bag of food and one bag of clothing with him,” Dadds said. “He insisted on continuing his journey when our crew members first found him. He didn’t want any help at all.”The man was found with a Bulgarian passport that included a U.S. visa. A yacht sailing by the dinghy Saturday noticed the intrepid sailor and informed the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, according to Dadds.“He was found struggling with strong wind and tide on Saturday afternoon along the coast of Mudeford,” Dadds said. “He had bought the dinghy for 300 pounds [about $500] earlier on Saturday morning from a boating club.”The strong wind sweeping along the coast filled the man’s boat with water.“We explained to him how crucial it was to transfer him back to the shore,” Dadds said. “There was no cover on his boat. It was the kind of dinghy that kids learn to sail in.”After 45 minutes’ resistance, the man was finally taken back to the English shore by the rescue crew. He was later brought to a hospital by the awaiting ambulance crew.“Without our crew, he would have died.” Dadds said. “That was a voyage well over 3,000 miles. He didn’t have a mobile phone. He didn’t have a radio. He didn’t have a life jacket with him.”
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US Continues Airstrikes in Push to Retake Mosul Dam

US Continues Airstrikes in Push to Retake Mosul Dam

iStock/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD, Iraq) — United States warplanes continued to launch air strikes near the Mosul Dam over the weekend and into Monday in support of a Kurdish and Iraqi ground operation to retake Iraq’s largest dam from the control of hundreds of ISIS fighters.
The size of the Iraqi and Kurdish ground operation is unclear, but it would have to be sizable to counter the large number of ISIS fighters located at or near the dam.
As of early Monday, Kurdish fighters had taken back large sections of the dam as well as towns in the vicinity.
Seizing back the dam has been a concern for Iraq and the U.S. because a breach could release a torrent of water that could flood Mosul and possibly reach as far downstream as Baghdad.A mix of fighters, bombers and Predator drones conducted 14 airstrikes Sunday near the dam that targeted ISIS vehicles and positions. On Saturday, U.S. Central Command had launched nine airstrikes on the first day of the operation.The combined 23 airstrikes over two days is almost equal to the same number of strikes conducted by U.S. military aircraft over the previous week. Another 15 airstrikes were conducted Monday, hitting multiple armored vehicles. Since Aug. 8, the U.S. Central Command says the U.S. has conducted 68 strikes — 35 of those have been in support of Iraqi forces near the Mosul Dam.
The significant ramp-up in airstrike operations reflects the scope of the effort to seize the dam from a significant force of ISIS fighters.
A U.S. official familiar with the operation said that there are a few hundred ISIS fighters at the dam.The strikes “damaged or destroyed 10 ISIL [ISIS] armed vehicles, seven ISIL Humvees, two ISIL armored personnel carriers, and one ISIL checkpoint,” according to a statement released by U.S. Central Command.Centcom released two videos showing airstrikes conducted Saturday near the Mosul Dam. One video showed a strike against an ISIS armed truck, the second video showed a strike against a Humvee truck being used by ISIS fighters.

The armored vehicles being used by ISIS fighters indicates how well equipped the militants have become using American-made weapons and vehicles they seized from fleeing Iraqi security forces when they captured Mosul earlier this summer.The release said all of the airstrikes have been conducted under authority granted by President Obama “to support humanitarian efforts in Iraq, as well as to protect critical infrastructure, U.S. personnel and facilities, and support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defense forces” who are working to defeat ISIS.
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Gunmen Ambush Saudi Prince’s Motorcade in France

Gunmen Ambush Saudi Prince’s Motorcade in France

iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) — Armed robbers ambushed the motorcade of a Saudi prince in France, stealing a car and a large sum of money, French authorities told ABC News.The ambush happened at 9 p.m. local time Sunday while the prince, who has not been named, was traveling in a three-vehicle motorcade to Paris–Le Bourget Airport. The first Mercedes in the motorcade carried a driver, the prince and two bodyguards, authorities said.The second car contained a driver and two Saudi diplomats. The third car contained a driver and 250,000 euros — more than $330,000 in U.S. money — along with Saudi embassy documents.The gunmen attacked only the third car, authorities said, taking the money, documents and the driver, who was later released. One of the BMWs used in the heist was later found burned, officials said.The site of the incident, Porte de la Chapelle, is one of the few places in Paris not covered by surveillance cameras, which police believe the thieves knew.
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New Zealander Reveals Private “Bucket List” Message from Robin Williams

New Zealander Reveals Private “Bucket List” Message from Robin Williams

Image Courtesy Monty Brinton/CBS(NEW YORK) — Days after Robin Williams apparently took his own life, a New Zealander revealed his wife received a private message from the Oscar winner to try to raise her spirits.A chance to meet Williams was high on Vivian Waller’s bucket list, along with getting married, seeing her daughter’s first birthday, and turning 21. A fundraising campaign led Vivian and her husband Jack to get married and have a honeymoon, but suffering from lung, bowel and liver cancer, the Sunday Star Times reports she was too ill to meet the star.Instead, her friends reached out to Williams, who sent her a brief but heartfelt message. “Hi Vivian, it’s Robin Williams here saying, ‘Hey girl, what’s going on down there in New Zealand?’” the actor comments, affecting a convincing Kiwi accent.”I’m sending all my love to you, Jack and Sophie…knock this off your bucket list,” Williams commented, before “channeling Matthew McConaughey” with an “alright, alright, alright.” Williams signs off with “much love to you, baby.”According to the video posted on Stuff.co.nz, Mr. Waller shared the private message because, “we love him, we want to show people how awesome a person he was.”Unfortunately, Mrs. Waller’s condition has worsened. Her husband decided not to share the news of the actor’s apparent suicide with his ailing wife.
“We are just enjoying the time we have together. We take things a day at a time,” he said.
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As Diplomats Talk, Ukraine and Russia May Be Reaching a Boiling Point

As Diplomats Talk, Ukraine and Russia May Be Reaching a Boiling Point

iStock/Thinktsock(BERLIN) — The situation in Ukraine is becoming less certain as foreign ministers met in Berlin Sunday to try and resolve the ongoing crisis between Kiev and Moscow.While diplomats from Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany talked, there were reports of Ukrainian soldiers pushing further into rebel-controlled cities in the east while a government plane was shot down by separatists over the embattled Luhansk region.Late last week, Ukraine’s military also boasted of destroying part of a Russian convoy of trucks that crossed over the border to presumably bring weapons to pro-Moscow insurgents.Russia keeps insisting that it is not arming the insurgency, even as one rebel leader claimed their ally had provided hundreds of fighters to assist in efforts to break away from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.Meanwhile, the U.S. and NATO is concerned that tens of thousands of Russian soldiers amassed near the border with Ukraine are poised to invade at any time, although Moscow may only be using them as an intimidation tactic.Another problem is a convoy of Russian aid meant for people in besieged eastern cities has not entered Ukraine despite being given the green light by the International Committee of the Red Cross.Although Ukraine and Russia have agreed on procedures to check the trucks, there are no guarantees they won’t be attacked or hijacked by rebel forces.
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Pope Francis Reaches out to China

Pope Francis Reaches out to China

Buda Mendes/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) — Pope Francis made a strong gesture to reach out to China, saying the Catholic Church is not coming in as conquerors, and the important thing is to walk together.
At a meeting with about 80 of Asia’s bishops on Sunday in Seoul, the Pope called for them to engage with people of different cultures empathetically.
According to ABC’s Joohee Cho, although the Pope did not mention China specifically, the Vatican spokesman said it is goodwill for dialogue with China, considering other Asian countries like North Korea, Vietnam, and Myanmar have no diplomatic ties with the Vatican.
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Young Readers Meet Teen Activist Malala Yousafzai

Young Readers Meet Teen Activist Malala Yousafzai

Andrew Burton/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — They came from Serbia, the Middle East, Chicago, and New York. Fifteen young women with one dream: to meet their idol, teen activist Malala Yousafzai.”Malala Yousafzai is a giraffe,” Chloe Schneider, 12, wrote in a school essay about how Malala “stuck her neck out” and “taught children all over to stand up and fight for what they believe.”Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old who was shot in the head on Oct. 9, 2012, by the Taliban for advocating for girls education in Pakistan, was in New York for the publication of the young readers edition of her book, I Am Malala.Chloe was one of more than a dozen young students, ages 7 to 17, selected to be on the set of Good Morning America when Malala was interviewed by ABC News’ Amy Robach. They were chosen because of their involvement with groups like the U.N. Foundation’s Girl Up and Girls Who Code, a non-profit devoted to reaching gender parity in the technology industry.
In the greenroom backstage before the taping, the girls were nervous and excited. They treated Malala like a celebrity. “She’s so pretty,” one girl said. “I wonder what her favorite color is?” asked another. Others whispered, “I hope she’ll sign our books.”
Asked why she believes so strongly in Malala’s cause, Gillian Schneider, 14, said she looks up to Malala because “she showed women and girls all over that they have a voice and when used, they can make a change in the world.”Elena Avramovic, 13, said, “Malala can be anyone’s idol because everybody deserves the right to an education — girls and boys everywhere.”All the girls had questions for Malala, including Joyce Gomez, 17, of Girls Who Code, who asked: “How are you so brave?””I think that bravery is when you overcome your fears and when you think that yes, you can stand up for your rights and you can speak,” Malala answered. “So I think you all are brave because you are joining these campaigns for education. You are struggling your best. … We just need to recognize the abilities we have, the talents we have and you all are brave.”Razan Nasser, 13, who attends the UN International School, wanted to know: “What can privileged girls such as ourselves do to help your cause?”
“I think the role of every person in society is very important,” said Malala. “If there is one child that we know about who is deprived of education and who needs our help, I think we should definitely support that child. …There are artists, there are musicians, there are poets and so many other people who can motivate children all over the world through their beautiful voices– to come and continue their learning and stand up for it.”The young girls took Malala’s words to heart.”All my life I have had trouble standing up for myself and for other people, and [Malala] inspires me and other people like me to do this no matter the cost,” Chloe said.Although still in high school, Malala has become an international icon for people of all ages. For the second year in a row, Malala was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and should she be awarded, she will be the youngest recipient of the award by over a decade. She also co-founded the Malala Fund.As the girls gathered their belongings and headed home, they seemed almost awestruck. More than one was heard saying, “I wish I could be more like Malala.”
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US Launches Airstrikes to Help Retake Mosul Dam

US Launches Airstrikes to Help Retake Mosul Dam

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The United States has launched airstrikes around the Mosul Dam in northern Iraq in support of a ground operation by Kurdish and Iraqi forces to retake the strategic dam which was seized by ISIS fighters earlier this month.The status of the dam has been a concern for Iraq and the U.S. because a breach could release a torrent of water that could flood Mosul and possibly reach as far down as Baghdad.U.S. officials confirm that fighter planes and drones launched airstrikes near the Mosul Dam. Earlier Saturday, Kurdish local media cited eyewitness reports that airstrikes had taken place by the dam on Friday night.At the time it was unclear if the airstrikes had been launched by U.S. or Iraqi aircraft.According to one official “the strikes are in support of ground operations” by Kurdish and Iraqi forces to retake the dam. The official labeled the strikes as significant.The size of the Iraqi and Kurdish ground operation is unclear, but it would have to be sizable to counter the large number of ISIS fighters located at or near the dam. One U.S. official said it is believed that there are a few hundred ISIS fighters in the vicinity of the dam.The official said the strikes are allowed by the presidential authorization “to protect US personnel and support humanitarian efforts” that was issued last week. The airstrikes helped slow an ISIS advance on the Kurdish capital of Erbil and helped alleviate the humanitarian crisis of Yazidis trapped atop Mount Sinjar in northwestern Iraq.On Thursday the Pentagon said that airstrikes could still take place and were authorized for anywhere in Iraq. The Mosul Dam is located 90 miles west of Erbil and 60 miles east of Mt. Sinjar.Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said at a news conference “the airstrikes that we have been conducting and authorized to do so are predominantly to protect U.S. personnel and facilities in and around Erbil, although the president was very clear that we have the authority to conduct airstrikes to protect U.S. personnel and facilities anywhere in Iraq, including down in Baghdad.”Kirby also reiterated that President Obama had said the U.S would help the Iraqi government but “we’re not going to become the Iraqi air force. This is their fight to fight. We’re willing to help to the degree we can.”While the U.S. has both military and civilian personnel in Erbil, there is not a U.S. presence in Mosul, which is south of the dam. There has been concern that a dam breach could lead to a torrent of water reaching as far south as Baghdad, where the large U.S. embassy is located on the banks of the Tigris River.Predators conducted airstrikes Friday on ISIS vehicles near the village of Kawju, which had been attacked by ISIS fighters. A defense official said that is the same village where reports emerged Friday that ISIS fighters had killed 80 Yazidi civilians.
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Pope Francis Conducts Mass in Seoul, South Korea

Pope Francis Conducts Mass in Seoul, South Korea

Franco Origlia/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) — Crowds holding yellow and white flags stood cheering in the sunshine as Pope Francis conducted mass in Seoul, where he beatified 124 South Koreans. Francis spoke of the great sacrifices of the men and women who, in the 18th and 19th centuries, were killed for refusing to renounce their Catholic faith.Beatification is the first step toward sainthood and ceremonies like this one have taken place with increasing frequency in the last number of decades– a surefire way of drawing media attention to the Catholic church as its church attendance numbers dwindle in the West.The importance of the ceremony is especially strong in Asia, where the Vatican has its sights set on growth. In the past 50 years, the South Korean Catholics have gone from comprising 1% of the population to 10%.
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Dept. of Agriculture to Regulate Puppy Imports to the US

Dept. of Agriculture to Regulate Puppy Imports to the US

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — New regulations are coming for puppy imports to the United States.
The Department of Agriculture has approved a regulation that, beginning in 90 days, will require all puppies imported to the U.S. be at least 6 months old, healthy, and up to date on vaccinations.
For years, dog breeders from foreign countries have gone unregulated. Animal welfare workers say they’ve shipped puppies so young and so sick that one in four died before getting to a U.S. airport.
A spokesperson for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says many of the puppies imported into the U.S. came from mills in China and Eastern Europe.
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UN Security Council Condemns ISIS, Intelligence Officials Say Group Growing in Size, Strength

UN Security Council Condemns ISIS, Intelligence Officials Say Group Growing in Size, Strength

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) — U.S. intelligence officials believe that the militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, that has taken over cities in the northern part of Iraq, had grown in numbers and strength and may be more resistant to traditional counterterrorism tactics.Since ISIS took control of the city of Mosul in June, they are believed to have grown rapidly, now standing well beyond the 10,000 fighters it had months ago. The organization, intelligence officials believe, has momentum and the aim to expand its external terrorist ambitions.Also on Friday, the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution that condemns the actions of ISIS, as well as its “violent extremist ideology.”U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said ISIS has “no shame.” In action, the UNSC resolution blacklists six individuals, including ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani and five individuals affiliated with the Nusra front. All six will be banned from international travel, have their assets frozen and be subject to an arms embargo.
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Russian Military Vehicles Cross Border into Ukraine

Russian Military Vehicles Cross Border into Ukraine

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(KIEV, Ukraine) — A U.S. official confirmed on Friday that Russian-made armored personnel carriers entered into Ukraine overnight. U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Friday spoke with his Russian counterpart to discuss the ongoing situation in Ukraine, according to a readout of their phone call from Rear Adm. John Kirby. During the call, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu reportedly “guaranteed” that no Russian military personnel were involved in the humanitarian convoy. He also assured Hagel that the convoy was not a pretext to further Russian intervention in Ukraine.Col. Anatoly Murachevsky of the Ukraine Anti-Terrorist Command confirmed to ABC News on on Friday that a “large number” of military vehicles had crossed into Ukraine near the city of Izvarino. That area is controlled by Russian rebels. The U.S. Department of Defense readout also said that Shoygu and Hagel agreed to maintain open lines of communication, and touched on the need for the two countries to have bilateral follow-up meetings of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
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International Olympic Committee Restricts Competitors in Youth Olympic Games from Ebola-Stricken Areas

International Olympic Committee Restricts Competitors in Youth Olympic Games from Ebola-Stricken Areas

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The International Olympic Committee said on Friday that certain athletes from areas impacted by the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa will not be allowed to compete in combat sports or in swimming events at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, which begin on Aug. 16.The IOC says its thoughts are with those impacted by the outbreak, but in the interest of “ensuring the safety of all those participating,” they will enact precautions to minimize and hopefully prevent the spread of Ebola at the games. All participants from West Africa will be welcome to attend the Games, but that they will be required to have their temperature taken regularly, and undergo regular physical examinations throughout the event.Additionally, the IOC says it used “health authority guidelines” to determine that the two athletes from the region set to compete in combat sports and the athlete set to participate in swimming events would not take part. The latter decision was made to “completely exclude the risk of potential infection.”China is prepared, the IOC says, to handle any outbreak, should it occur, however, their actions are believed to be sufficient to prevent that from occurring. “We regret that due to this issue some young athletes may have suffered twice,” the IOC statement read, “both from the anguish caused by the outbreak in their home countries and by not being able to compete in the Youth Olympic Games.”The IOC also plans to invite those who will be unable to participate to a sporting competition in Nanjing “and to experience the welcoming atmosphere and spirit of the city and Jiangsu province.”
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US Teen Could Face Firing Squad in Mom’s Suitcase Murder

US Teen Could Face Firing Squad in Mom’s Suitcase Murder

Photodisc/Thinkstock(BALI, Indonesia) — A Chicago teen and her boyfriend were charged with murder Friday after her mother’s body was found stuffed into bloody suitcase outside a swanky Bali, Indonesia resort where the family was on vacation, police said.If tried and convicted there, the couple could face the death penalty by firing squad, under Indonesian law.Michael Elkin, the Chicago-based attorney for 19-year-old Heather Mack, one of the suspects, said he was aware of reports that she could be sentenced to death by firing squad if convicted overseas, but said that punishment was not likely, and that his immediate concern was to prove his client’s innocence.Mack and her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, 21, were arrested on Wednesday at a hotel about six miles from the scene of the crime, the upscale St. Regis Bali Resort, where they had been staying with Mack’s 62-year-old mother, Sheila von Weise-Mack. They remained in police custody.The State Department said it was aware that two Americans are being held in Bali and was monitoring the situation, but it was not clear whether or not they will be extradited to the U.S.A taxi driver told police the couple hailed his cab on Tuesday outside the resort and put a suitcase in the trunk before retreating to the hotel, claiming they needed to check out. When they didn’t return, the taxi driver alerted hotel staff before turning the suitcase over to police, who discovered von Weise-Mack’s beaten body inside, authorities said.The murder charges were based on witness reports and crime scene evidence, Bali Deputy Police Chief Brig. Gen. Gusti Ngurah Raharja Subyakta said.CCTV footage showed that von Weise-Mack had an argument with her daughter’s boyfriend in the hotel lobby the day before she was found dead.Mack and Schaefer originally told police that Mack’s mother had been murdered by gang members but they had escaped, said Col. Djoko Hari Utomo, the police chief in Bali’s capital, Denpasar.At home in Chicago, the mother and daughter had a rocky relationship, a family friend told ABC News.“Once [Heather] became 18, her mother couldn’t control her anymore,” said Willie Nance, a music producer in Chicago who was good friends with Mack’s father, who died in 2006.Nance described von Weise-Mack as a “beautiful person” who adored her daughter but didn’t always approve of the teen’s friends. Mack often ran away from home and refused to answer her mother’s calls, he said.Police were a common sight outside the family’s former home in Oak Park, Illinois, an upscale Chicago suburb, neighbors said. Police said they responded to 86 calls in less than 10 years to that address, mostly missing-person reports and domestic problems.Mack’s attorney maintained that she had nothing to do with her mother’s death. It was not clear if Schaefer had a lawyer.Von Weise-Mack was the widow of James Mack, a popular composer and producer who also died while on vacation — of an aneurysm while in Athens, Greece, according to an obituary published in The Chicago Sun-Times.
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Pope Francis Makes Another Surprising Travel Choice in South Korea

Pope Francis Makes Another Surprising Travel Choice in South Korea

Buda Mendes/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) — The compact Kia-riding Pope Francis on Friday again surprised South Korea by choosing to travel to Daejeon on a bullet train instead of the pre-planned helicopter offered by the country’s president.
The pope wanted to be “in more touch with the people,” according to the official preparatory committee.
Approximately 500 people traveled on the same train. Pope Francis was spotted blessing a 5-year-old upon arrival at Daejeon Station.The pope met privately with about a dozen survivors and relatives of the dead from the April 16 Sewol ferry disaster that killed about 300 people, many of them students. The group handed the pope a tiny yellow ribbon — a symbol of support for ferry victims. The pope wore it on his robe Friday.
Lee Ho Jin, whose son was killed, asked the pope to baptize him and the pope agreed to do so on Saturday.
The Holy Mass on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary was held at 10:30 a.m. at the Daejeon World Cup Stadium. Approximately 50,000 people were present, with the event featuring performances by children’s choirs, opera singers and pop singers.
The main message from the pope’s homily involved being faithful to reject “inhuman” economic policies that disenfranchise the poor and “the spirit of unbridled competition which generates selfishness and strife.”Pope Francis followed with a luncheon with children at the Major Seminary of Daejeon, including a female student who had been suffering from anorexia. The parents of the suffering girl sought after the pope for help: “Father, please save our daughter,” to which the pope replied, “I don’t have the ability to save her because I am not a doctor, but I have the skill to befriend her.”He also met young Asians at the Shrine of Solmoe. His message: the “labor markets think youths are disposable,” and the Korean public should be aware of “spiritual cancer” of materialism.Pope Francis later made a return trip to Seoul.Saturday’s schedule includes a beatification of 124 martyrs who were tortured and killed in the 18th and 19th centuries after refusing to renounce their faith.
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Iraq’s Most Dangerous Dam Still Operating, Under ISIS Control

Iraq’s Most Dangerous Dam Still Operating, Under ISIS Control

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images(MOSUL, Iraq) — Employees at the Mosul Dam in Iraq, which is under the control of a brutal group of Islamist fighters, are still producing electricity and carrying out vital daily grouting operations, temporarily mitigating fears of a breach that could launch a 65-foot wall of water into the country’s largest cities and send flood waters all the way to Baghdad.The lead dam engineer and his team, along with their families, are still on site and continuing to operate the country’s largest dam, an Iraqi government official told ABC News. Though communications with the engineers have been difficult, the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources is still in contact with the operating team.The level of the water at the dam is being kept lower than normal in order to reduce the threat of a breach, even after taking into account evaporation from summer heat, officials said.The extremist group the Islamic State, or ISIS, released a video this week on YouTube showing its black banner flying above the dam. It wrested control of the dam away from the well-respected Kurdish Peshmerga troops last week, raising concerns among American officials.“We are extremely concerned by this development,” State Department spokesman Michael Lavallee told ABC News at the time, “and we are coordinating with the Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga commanders to develop options to mitigate the threat that this poses.”Concerns remain about continued access to cement needed for the grouting process, but Iraqi government officials told ABC News that there should be three months-worth of cement stockpiles left on site.Since ISIS took control of the dam and started closing in on Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region where some American diplomats and military advisers are stationed, the United States military launched air strikes against the militants in support of Iraqi and Kurdish forces. The U.S. also air dropped relief aid to thousands of stranded members of the Yazidi minority who had fled ISIS persecution and sought refuge in the surrounding, arid mountains of Sinjar.The threat posed by ISIS’ control over the dam is a severe one, according to U.S. government reports, U.S. officials and outside experts.The Mosul Dam was constructed in the mid-1980s on what reports indicate was a terrible spot to build a two-mile-wide dam.“Mosul Dam, the largest dam in Iraq, was constructed on a foundation of soluble soils that are continuously dissolving, resulting in the formation of cavities and voids underground that place the dam at risk for failure,” said an urgent letter sent from David Petraeus, then commanding general of the U.S. Army, and Ryan Crocker, then U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in 2007.The dam requires “extraordinary engineering measures” — namely constant grouting operations — to fill in the holes and “maintain the structural integrity and operating capability of the dam,” according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) report from the same year.For 30 years –- and through several periods of violent conflict — the Iraqi government has managed to keep the dam upright by continuously pumping in literally tons of grout like an industrial version of the little Dutch boy, as a geotechnical expert who worked on the dam put it.But the U.S. says any failure of the dam could be “catastrophic.”“[T]he most severe impact of a dam failure would be [for] the City of Mosul, located 50 kilometers [31 miles] downstream of the dam,” Petraeus’ and Crocker’s 2007 letter said. “Assuming a worse [sic] case scenario, an instantaneous failure of Mosul Dam filled to its maximum operating level could result in a flood wave over 20 meters [65 feet] deep at the city of Mosul, which would result in a significant loss of life and property.”Mosul is estimated to be home to more than 1.5 million people. Flood waters, albeit at a lower level, could reach all the way to Baghdad, more than 200 miles further down the Tigris, depending on the performance of another smaller dam further downriver.A 2011 report written by a USACE official and published in Water Power magazine estimated failure “could lead to as many as 500,000 civilian deaths.”State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters last week that the Mosul Dam “has been in the sights of [ISIS] since its offensive began in June to further threaten and terrorize the Iraqi people.”In addition to flooding concerns, the dam is also a “key source” of power and water for the surrounding area — making it a vital piece of infrastructure either way, another State Department official told ABC News last week. An American intelligence source agreed and said that ISIS’s potential control over and exploitation of power and water is a focus of U.S. intelligence community.So far though, Iraqi officials tell ABC News the workers at the dam have been able to pump water and produce electricity from one of two hydro-electric plants on site.Prior to the ISIS takeover, a U.S. government official long-familiar with the dam said the possibility of the Iraqi government losing control of the structure was a scary one. ISIS may not want the dam to fail, considering it controls territory that would be flooded and the group could leverage its control over the water and power source, but the U.S. official said it would still be up to the jihadist group to keep the grouting going.Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Marine Biologist Warns ‘The Ocean Is Dying’

Marine Biologist Warns ‘The Ocean Is Dying’

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — As a marine biologist, Sylvia Earle has spent more than half a century diving in pursuit of a greater understanding of the oceans. But now, the renowned scientist is concerned that there may be little left to study before too long, warning that “the ocean is dying” at the hands of human destruction.“It’s taken only a few decades to unravel those very basic systems,” Earle told ABC News during an interview at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum’s botany collection. “We’re changing the chemistry of the planet, starting with the ocean, well the atmosphere too. It’s a big thought that humans have the power to change the nature of nature.”Earle points to the disappearance of 50 percent of the world’s coral reefs and the depletion — and in some cases complete extinction — of certain types of ocean life through causes that include over-fishing, the fertilizer runoff from farming, underwater bomb testing and oil spills.And in harming the oceans, Earle explained, humankind is disrupting the basic planetary systems on which we rely.“It drives the carbon cycle, the oxygen cycle, the nitrogen cycle, the chemistry of the planet as a whole — and certainly the water cycle,” Earle said. “The ocean keeps us alive. We have to return the favor.”As devastating as the destruction has been, Earle says there’s still reason for hope. And a newly released Netflix documentary, Mission Blue, follows Earle, whom some have dubbed the “Joan of Arc” of the oceans, on her crusade to save what’s left of the ocean’s vulnerable systems.“I call it the sweet spot in time,” said Earle, who believes that the next 10 years have the potential to be as influential in the next 10,000 if humankind takes action to preserve the oceans. “But we’re closing doors all the time. I’ve seen species disappear, watched systems collapse, that won’t come back again, ever; I mean, they can’t, because the ingredients are simply gone.”Her most urgent call to action is to establish the oceanic equivalent of national parks, what Earle calls “Hope Spots.”“Protect what we can of the areas that are still in great shape,” she said. “Where are the healthiest coral reefs, and before they’re gone, let’s embrace them with care, because they’re what make the planet work … but we also need to restore places that are depleted that are damaged.”Earle identified the Chesapeake Bay as a prime candidate for restoration.“We can make Chesapeake Bay not the way it was 400 years ago when John Smith arrived, but we can make it better,” she said. “We can give the oysters and menhaden and crabs and clams a break and stop the upstream inflow of the nitrates, the phosphates and the fertilizers.”In her own personal campaign to help the oceans, Earle has also stopped eating fish and encourages people to be aware of where their food comes from, whether it is vegetables or meat-based products.“Say, ‘I wonder where this fish came from, and I wonder how far up the food chain it is, I wonder how old it is,’” Earle advised. “Because a 10-year-old tuna has a lot more investment in it than a 6-month-old chicken, if you want to eat meat. And look at the vegetable options; if you want great protein, consider all the plant protein that’s out there.”
Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Stadium Crowd Performs ‘The Wave’ for Pope Francis

Stadium Crowd Performs ‘The Wave’ for Pope Francis

Buda Mendes/Getty Images(DAEJEON, South Korea) — This might be the most pious stadium cheer of all-time.A packed crowd at Daejeon World Cup Stadium showed its support for Pope Francis Friday by participating in the wave.Video showed the visitors standing — seat by seat, row by row, section by section, raising their arms. Many attendees clutched small flags.

Pope Francis held Mass at the stadium, part of the papal leader’s five-day trip in South Korea. He arrived Thursday, waving to onlookers from the back of a Kia Soul and delivering his first speech in English as pontiff.
Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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