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White House Confirms Authenticity of Video Showing Execution of American Peter Kassig at Hands of ISIS

White House Confirms Authenticity of Video Showing Execution of American Peter Kassig at Hands of ISIS

Courtesy Kassig Family(NEW YORK) -- The White House confirmed the authenticity of a video showing the beheading of American hostage Peter Kassig in new video posted online. Kassig, the fifth Western hostage ISIS has claimed to have killed, changed his name to Abdul Rahman after converting to Islam, according to his parents. The aid worker and former Army Ranger was abducted in October 2013 while traveling to a town in eastern Syria. A statement from President Barack Obama called the murder "an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity." He also noted that "[ISIS'] actions represent no faith, least of all the Muslim faith which Abdul-Rahman adopted as his own."Towards the end of the nearly 16-minute video, a militant stands over a severed head, saying, "This is Peter Edward Kassig, a U.S. citizen, of your country; Peter who fought against the Muslims in Iraq, while serving as a soldier." The militant speaks with a British accent and the video identifies his location as Dabiq, a small town in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo, near the Turkish border. Kassig, 26, was an Army veteran who served in the Iraq war before he was honorably discharged for medical reasons in 2007. Kassig later became an emergency medical technician and volunteered as a medical assistant in border hospitals in Lebanon in 2012, treating Palestinian refugees and those fleeing from the Syrian conflict. In the fall of 2012, Kassig founded a non-governmental organzation called SERA, Special Emergency Response and Assistance, eventually moving its base of operations to Turkey, according to a family spokesman. From there Kassig “sourced and delivered food and medical supplies to the growing [refugee] camps on both sides of the Syrian border.” He also gave primary trauma care to children caught in the crossfire.

“We are heartbroken to learn that our son, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, has lost his life as a result of his love for the Syrian people and his desire to ease their suffering," his parents said in a statement on Sunday. "Our heart also goes out to the families of the Syrians who lost their lives, along with our son."

The video released on Sunday also appears to show the mass beheading of several men identified as Syrian soldiers. The militants warn that U.S. soldiers fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria will meet a similar fate.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a tweet he was “horrified by the cold blooded murder” of Kassig, using the 26-year-old's Islamic name, Abdul-Rahman Kassig.

 

I'm horrified by the cold blooded murder of Abdul-Rahman Kassig. ISIL have again shown their depravity. My thoughts are with his family.

— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) November 16, 2014

Prior to the most recent video, ISIS appeared to stick to a precise schedule of murder since August 19, when the group showed the beheading of American journalist James Foley, by releasing a video every two weeks showing one hostage beheaded as well as a preview of the next victim. However, the last video, showing the death of British aid worker Alan Henning, was posted October 3, more than a month ago.Intelligence officials have told ABC News that ISIS media cells have been targeted by the raids and say that they have severely diminished the group's ability to produce gruesome propaganda videos and social media messaging.

President Obama was briefed on the video by National Security Advisor Susan Rice while traveling back to the United States from a G20 summit in Australia, said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

ISIS has killed four other Western hostages on camera previously: American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning.

 

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Putin Arrives at G20 Summit to Chilly Reception from Leaders, Poses with Koala

Putin Arrives at G20 Summit to Chilly Reception from Leaders, Poses with Koala

Photo by Andrew Taylor/G20 Australia via Getty Images(BRISBANE, Australia) -- President Obama called out Russian agression in Ukraine on Saturday at the G20 summit in Australia. Calling the ongoing tension in eastern Ukraine "a threat to the world," Obama cited the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 out of the sky over Ukraine in July. "As your ally and friend, America shares your grief of these Australian families and we share the determination of your nation for justice and accountability."Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly gotten a cold welcome at the summit, where world leaders are less than thrilled with Russia's actions, specifically in eastern Ukraine. Between MH17, the continued presence of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border and the annexation of the Crimean peninsula, Russia has continued to exert force on the neighboring country.

Putin and the other leaders did put aside the international politics briefly on Saturday, as photos showed the Russian president, as well as President Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott smiling and holding cuddly koalas on the first day of the two-day meeting.

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Philae Lander in Hibernation, Contact ‘Unlikely’ to Be Re-Established in Near Future

Philae Lander in Hibernation, Contact ‘Unlikely’ to Be Re-Established in Near Future

European Space Agency(NEW YORK) -- The Philae lander, which landed on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Wednesday, completed its main mission and is currently in hibernation, the European Space Agency said.According to the ESA website, Philae bounced twice after its first touchdown, eventually coming to rest in the shadow of a cliff. The restricted access to sunlight for the lander's solar panels has eliminated the possibility of communication, at least for now."We still hope that at a later stage of the mission, perhaps when we are nearer to the Sun, that we might have enough solar illumination to wake up the lander and re-establish communication," Stephan Ulamec, lander manager at the DLR German Aerospace Agency said.

The ESA had attempted to rotate the lander to expose it to more sunlight, though it's unclear when a sufficient charge will be built up to re-establish contact. The first possible communication slot had occurred earlier on Saturday, though the ESA had said that "given the low recharge current coming from the solar panels at this time, it is unlikely that contact will be re-established with the lander in the near future."

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How Boko Haram Captured Missing Nigerian Schoolgirls’ Hometown

How Boko Haram Captured Missing Nigerian Schoolgirls’ Hometown

Pawel Gaul/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CHIBOK, Nigeria) -- An elder in the Nigerian town of Chibok detailed a terrifying account of what happened as Islamic militants captured the hometown of hundreds of schoolgirls who were kidnapped this spring.The elder, who asked that ABC News withhold his name, said there was "terror and total panic" as Boko Haram swept into Chibok on Thursday night. He described “people running helter-skelter, screaming, [and] looking for children.”The elder told ABC News that Boko Haram rounded up "a sizable number" of school children and locked them in a church building.Thousands fled after the militants began their assault, leaving behind the elderly, the sick and the children locked up by Boko Haram, the elder said. Residents mostly left for nearby towns but many were killed.A significant number of Nigerian military officers left as the assault began, the elder said. Local vigilante groups attempted to defend the town, allowing residents a chance to run away.In April, Boko Haram captured 300 schoolgirls in April. While some escaped, 219 remain missing.Nigeria's military chief said last month that Boko Haram had agreed to a crease-fire, but the group's leader said in a video last month that the girls were "an old story," adding that they all had converted to Islam and been married off to his fighters.

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Comet Landing: Signal Reestablished With Philae Lander

Comet Landing: Signal Reestablished With Philae Lander

European Space Agency(NEW YORK) -- Mission control reestablished contact with the Philae lander Friday after several tense hours in which the European Space Agency had tried to pinpoint its exact location.

Despite locating the lander -- which had three touchdowns before coming to rest on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Wednesday after a 10-year, 4 billion-mile journey -- the battery issue remains an issue.

With just 1.5 hours of sunlight getting to Philae each day, mission controllers said they will have to carefully budget time for science experiments conducted off of the secondary battery.

The lander began work earlier Friday, drilling into the comet's surface with the goal of collecting samples and data that can be analyzed to learn more about the formation of the solar system nearly five billion years ago.

"It started to drill but then we lost contact again. ... We are not sure whether the batteries still have enough energy," said Stephan Ulamec, head of operations for the lander.

Even if Philae's battery runs out of power, the lander will remain in hibernation mode on the comet.

Ulamec said it's feasible Philae would be able to catch enough light to wake up again when the comet gets closer to the sun during its 6.5 year orbit.

The goal of the ambitious $1.6 billion mission is to glean new insights into comets and other celestial objects -- and answer questions about the origins of life on Earth.

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Chinese Outfits Worn by World Leaders at APEC Now for Sale

Chinese Outfits Worn by World Leaders at APEC Now for Sale

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(BEIJING) -- The Chinese outfits worn by President Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other heads of state at this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Beijing are now available online and in Chinese stores. Chinese e-commerce site Ali Express is selling 50-packs of the outfits -- which have been likened to Hunger Games and Star Trek costumes -- for $5,680, or $113.60 each. The package includes free shipping. Another online retailer, Tao Bao, is selling individual suits from 248 yuan, or $40, to 398 yuan, or roughly $65. According to the Beijing News, one shop owner said more than 20 orders for suits were made in the first half day.One Chinese copyright expert that spoke with the Beijing News said the outfits may infringe on the original designers' patent rights.At each APEC summit, world leaders dress in traditional outfits selected by the host country, and pose for a group picture.

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Italians Strike Against Gov’t Cutbacks

Italians Strike Against Gov’t Cutbacks

FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images(ROME) -- In Italy on Friday, a national strike shut down public transit as protests erupted throughout the country against government cutbacks.

In Rome, protestors shouted into megaphones and struck the Ministry of Finance with eggs and firecrackers.

For the past six years, Italy's economy has become bogged down in swollen government debt, entrenched interests, and political stalemate.Prime Minister Matteo Renzi promises to loosen up the rigid labor laws by the end of the year.

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Prince William, Duchess Kate Coming to New York City

Prince William, Duchess Kate Coming to New York City

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Get excited America. The royals are coming back to the United States.

Prince William and his wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, will cross the pond to visit New York City next month, Kensington Palace announced on Friday.

The royal couple, both 32, are scheduled to visit the U.S. from Dec. 7-9 to attend events on behalf of the Royal Foundation, "other charities with which Their Royal Highnesses are closely associated" and the U.K. government.

“The charitable themes will include promoting sustainable conservation issues with a particular focus on collaborative working to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, and also supporting organizations which reflect Their Royal Highnesses' interest in young people's mental health and the importance supporting disadvantaged young people from an early age,” the statement read.Prince William will spend one day of the trip in Washington, D.C., while Kate will remain in New York City, according to Kensington Palace.It is not known whether the couple will bring their son, 1-year-old Prince George, who traveled with his parents to New Zealand and Australia earlier this year.

Mayor Bill deBlasio said on Friday, "I think that's a great thing. I think from everything I've seen, they seem like very good and charitable people. And it would be great to have them here and be wonderful to meet them."

Kate has curtailed her public events in recent weeks after the palace announced she is pregnant with the couple’s second child and suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition marked by acute morning sickness.Kate began resuming her public duties last month. Her first public event since news of her pregnancy was confirmed was welcoming the president and first lady of Singapore to the U.K. for their state visit with the Queen.The last time Kate and William made the trip to the U.S. was three years ago when they traveled to North America and made a glamorous stop in Los Angeles.While in New York next month, William and Kate also will visit the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center to "pay their respects to the nearly 3,000 people who died in the attacks of February 1993 and September 11, 2001," the palace said.

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Polish Woman Awakens in Morgue Bag Hours After Declared Dead

Polish Woman Awakens in Morgue Bag Hours After Declared Dead

iStock/Thinkstock(BELGRADE, Serbia) -- Imagine waking up in a morgue after being declared dead by your doctor half a day earlier.That’s what happened to 91-year-old Janina Kolkiewicz, who was declared dead by her doctor last week after her family found her unconscious at her home in the eastern Polish town of Ostrow Lubelski."I went to my aunt’s room to ask her what she wants for breakfast," said niece Bogumila Kolkiewicz, who takes care of the elder Kolkiewicz. "It’s then that I noticed that she is not breathing and does not have pulse. I called for our family doctor."

After examining Janina Kolkiewicz, the family doctor declared the death on Nov. 6 at about 9:30 a.m. local time and wrote her death certificate.“She was in her bed for another two hours, she was ice-cold, did not breath, did not move, had her eyes and mouth closed,” the niece, 52, said. “When the body was taken to morgue it was carried on the stretchers; she never moved and was ice cold.“We were slowly coming to terms that aunty has passed away. By Thursday evening everything was sorted. We paid for her death notice, bought the coffin, talked to priest and booked her funeral,” she added.After midnight, however, Bogumila and her husband were awakened by ringing at the door more than 12 hours after the morgue vehicle had departed with her aunt. It was an anxious morgue employee informing them that there was a mistake and that her aunt was alive, Bogumila Kolkiewicz said.“Morgue staff noticed that she was moving in her zipped body bag,” she said. "When she came home, she complained she was cold. Together with our doctor we were fighting hypothermia the whole night.”Their doctor who issued the death certificate said she had no idea how her patient came back to life."I'm stunned. I don't understand what happened," Dr. Wieslawa Czyz, a medical doctor with 28 years of professional experience, told national TVP. "Her heart had stopped beating and she was no longer breathing, all vital signs were gone. I wrote the death certificate, but after 11 hours it turned out that the patient was alive.""I can't explain it," she said. "If I had had any doubts about her being dead I would have called an ambulance and would have tried to resuscitate her. But she had no vital signs: no pulse, nothing."The woman is now back home and is doing well, her niece said. “She does not recall anything as she is suffering from dementia,” she said.An investigation is now underway into the circumstances of the incident.

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Why Time May Be Running Out for Philae Lander on Comet

Why Time May Be Running Out for Philae Lander on Comet

European Space Agency(NEW YORK) -- Time may be running out for the Philae lander's battery life after it appeared to land close to a rocky wall -- obscuring its solar panels from getting the necessary sunlight to keep the spacecraft active, according to mission controllers.The battery issue is the latest setback for the lander, which had three touchdowns before coming to rest on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Wednesday after a 10-year, four billion-mile journey.The washing machine sized spacecraft's harpoons also failed to fire, preventing it from anchoring itself to the surface of the comet. Philae's precise location is also unknown and officials said they're working to pinpoint where it landed.With just 1.5 hours of sunlight getting to Philae each day, mission controllers said they will have to carefully budget time for science experiments conducted off of the secondary battery.If Philae had landed perfectly in its chosen site on the 2.5-mile wide comet, its solar panels would have been able to catch nearly seven hours of sunlight per the 12.4-hour comet day.The lander began work on Friday, drilling into the comet's surface with the goal of collecting samples and data that can be analyzed to learn more about the formation of the solar system nearly five billion years ago.

 

Back to work! I’m now drilling into the surface of #67P… I’ll give you updates as soon as I can! #CometLanding

— Philae Lander (@Philae2014) November 14, 2014

 

"It started to drill but then we lost contact again...We are not sure whether the batteries still have enough energy," Stephan Ulamec, head of operations for the lander, said.Ulamec said the European Space Agency team should get more data from Philae later on Friday when the lander has its next point of contact around 4 p.m. ET.Even if Philae's battery runs out of power, as it is expected to in the next day, the lander will remain in hibernation mode on the comet.Ulamec said it's feasible Philae would be able to catch enough light to wake up again when the comet gets closer to the sun during its 6.5-year orbit.The goal of the ambitious $1.6 billion mission is to glean new insights into comets and other celestial objects -- and answer questions about the origins of life on Earth.

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Animal on the Loose in France Isn’t a Tiger, After All

Animal on the Loose in France Isn’t a Tiger, After All

iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) — That "tiger" on the loose in France isn't a tiger, after all.“The presence of an animal of the tiger species is now ruled out,” authorities in Seine-et-Marne, France, said in a news release Friday.That conclusion was reached as experts studied and tracked the large cat.The large animal -- whatever species it is -- is still being sought.Thursday, Seine-et-Marne’s deputy chief of police sounded definitive about the species. “It’s a tiger, for sure, a dangerous animal,” Pierre-Emmanuel Portheret said.Residents have been asked to stay indoors while officials search for the apparent feline near Paris.

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Hagel Acknowledges Long Fight Ahead Against Islamic State

Hagel Acknowledges Long Fight Ahead Against Islamic State

Junko Kimura/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the House Armed Services Committee Thursday that the U.S.-led coalition effort in Iraq to defeat Islamic State militants will be "a long and difficult struggle."Hagel, who refers to the Sunni extremist group as ISIL as does the rest of the Obama administration, maintained that while progress has been made since August, the campaign is only "three months into a multi-year effort."According to the defense chief, the group's advance has been stalled and at times reversed in some regions through the efforts of coalition air power along with ground troops made up of Iraqi, Kurdish and tribal forces.However, Hagel conceded that the Islamic State remains a "serious threat" to American interests.Last week, President Obama announced the deployment of an additional 1,500 U.S. troops to act in training and advisory roles. The White House is insistent that American soldiers will not lead the fight against the Islamic State.Yet, House Armed Services chair Buck McKeon suggested that this policy won't be effective in defeating the group.The California Republican asked, "How can you successfully execute the mission you’ve been given -- to ‘degrade and ultimately destroy’ ISIL -- when some of your best options are taken off the table?”General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would not commit to putting American boots on the ground but did say there has been at least some consideration regarding accompanying Iraqi units in their battle against the Islamic State.The appearance by Hagel and Dempsey was also to ask Congress for $5.6 billion in extra military funding for fighting ISIS in 2015 and a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

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President Obama Meets with Myanmar Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi

President Obama Meets with Myanmar Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar) — President Obama was warmly welcomed as he arrived at the home of famous opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for substantive talks.The president exited his limo and flashed a big smile as he walked up to greet Suu Kyi at the front door. As they shook hands, Obama leaned down and kissed her on the check.They met privately before addressing the press at a joint news conference on her lawn.The residence, where she spent almost 15 years of her confinement under house arrest, is a large grey colonial overlooking a lake.Obama and Suu Kyi met briefly Thursday in Naypyitaw, but Friday they are expected to have a more in-depth discussion about the government's stalling reform and her unique role in progressing the transition to civilian rule.The beloved activist has been urging the U.S. to step up its involvement and recently accused the U.S. of being "overly optimistic.""What significant reforms have been taken within the last 24 months?" she asked at a news conference last week. "This is something the United States needs to think very seriously about as well."Obama has spent the last few days walking a fine line, trying to show support for the government while also pushing them to quicken the pace of reforms. In a sign of his support for the opposition, it's notable that Obama chose to do his press conference here with Suu Kyi and not in the Capital with President Thein Sein.

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London’s Tower Bridge Marks 120 Years with Glass Walkway

London’s Tower Bridge Marks 120 Years with Glass Walkway

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- London's famous Tower Bridge is unveiling a new feature to celebrate its 120th birthday: a glass walkway, 138 feet above the ground, with a sprawling view on the river Thames.The million-dollar project is now opened to the public, and another walkway will open on the east side of the bridge next month.Tower Bridge joins the Eiffel Tower and Grand Canyon on the list of famous monuments with glass walkways, likely adding to the existing 600,000 visitors a year.

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America’s Guardrail Safety Scare Goes International

America’s Guardrail Safety Scare Goes International

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Canadian province has joined more than half of U.S. states in suspending the installation of a controversial guardrail system linked to severed limbs and deaths in auto accidents, as reported in a recent ABC News investigation.Transportation officials in the province of Quebec announced the suspension on Thursday, as well as an investigation into the approximately 4,500 ET-Plus guardrails currently installed in the province.In America more than 30 states have already suspended the installation of the ET-Plus system, made by Texas-based Trinity Industries. Last month Trinity was found by a Texas jury to have defrauded the government after it changed the design of the guardrail’s end terminal back in 2005 and failed to tell federal or state transportation officials until questions were raised in 2012.The ET-Plus System was the subject of an ABC News 20/20 investigation in September that looked into allegations from crash victims that the modified guardrail can malfunction when struck from the front by their vehicles. Rather than ribboning out and absorbing the impact as designed, the guardrails "locked up" and speared straight through the cars, severing the motorists' limbs in some cases.One modification made in 2005, slimming a piece of metal in the end terminal from five inches to four, was estimated to save the company $2 per guardrail end terminal, or $50,000 per year, according to an internal Trinity email obtained by ABC News.After the Texas verdict, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration ordered Trinity to conduct new crash tests on the guardrail end terminals – 200,000 of which are estimated to be on American highways – to prove they are safe. Trinity has maintained the guardrails function properly and noted that the FHWA approved them for use even after allegations of misconduct surfaced in 2012.The FHWA announced Wednesday it had accepted Trinity’s plan to re-test the devices at a facility in San Antonio. While Trinity said it was “pleased” that the FHWA accepted their plan, critics, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal, were concerned the FHWA had accepted a plan that could allow Trinity to “game the system.”“I am very concerned that the testing protocol you’ve prescribed is woefully inadequate and far too deferential to Trinity,” Blumenthal, D-Conn., said in a letter to FHWA Acting Administrator Gregory Nadeau.In announcing the testing plan, Nadeau said the new crash tests were “only one action among several efforts we’re undertaking on behalf of the American driving public.”“Our work to protect American motorists doesn’t end with the re-testing of the ET-Plus,” he said.Representatives for other Canadian provinces were not immediately available to comment on Quebec’s announcement. Trinity did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this report.

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Philae Lander Celebrates First Full Day on Comet

Philae Lander Celebrates First Full Day on Comet

European Space Agency(NEW YORK) -- It's an image billions of years in the making.One day after the Philae lander made a historic touch down on a speeding comet, the first close-up images are being marveled at on Earth.The European Space Agency released the first panoramic image from the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov Gerasimenko. The photo shows a stunning 360-degree view of the comet's rocky surface, along with three legs of the landing gear.Philae landed on the comet after a decade-long, four billion-mile journey through space aboard its mothership, Rosetta.The landing did not go off without a hitch, though.Harpoons to anchor the lander did not fire into the comet's surface, as had been planned. The first analysis of the landing data shows the lander may have bounced twice before settling on the comet's surface, the ESA said. It remains unanchored.Earlier on Thursday, the lander tweeted a photo showing its new address."Now that I’m safely on the ground, here is what my new home #67P looks like from where I am," a post on the Philae Lander’s Twitter account said.

 

Now that I’m safely on the ground, here is what my new home #67P looks like from where I am. #CometLanding pic.twitter.com/gFmt8Ldvpa

— Philae Lander (@Philae2014) November 13, 2014

 

Philae and Rosetta will analyze the comet over the coming months, with scientists hopeful that the project will offer understanding of comets and other celestial objects -- and answer questions about the origins of life on Earth.Back in November 1993, the ESA approved the idea of landing a spacecraft on a speeding comet. Fast forward to March 2, 2004 when Rosetta launched from an Ariane 5 G+ rocket, beginning a decade long journey to the comet.

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Russian Tanks Are in Ukraine but US Won’t Call It an ‘Invasion’

Russian Tanks Are in Ukraine but US Won’t Call It an ‘Invasion’

iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Thousands of Russian troops have crossed into eastern Ukraine in recent days, along with columns of tanks, artillery and air defense systems, according to NATO’s top commander. By nearly every definition, indeed according to the Oxford dictionary, that act of armed forces crossing the border would constitute an invasion.The Obama administration, however, has noticeably dodged using the word “invasion” to describe Russia’s alleged action (Russia denies the claims).Instead, U.S. officials have resorted to terms like “incursion” or even more contorted rhetorical gymnastics.“Russia is instead surging more forces and more equipment across the border,” Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said Wednesday.State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki referred to heavy weapons being “moved to the front lines” and endorsed “the developments seen by NATO.”Asked point blank by email whether Russia had invaded Ukraine, Psaki again declined to use the term.“As we’ve said consistently, Russia is blatantly violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” she told ABC News. “No matter what you call it, Russian action inside Ukraine must end immediately.”Psaki offered no explanation why the term “invasion” was not being used, but the blatant effort to deflect it suggests a policy decision was made within the administration.John Herbst, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and now director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council, says it is “obvious” that the Obama administration is trying to downplay the significance of Russia’s military aggression to avoid an equally forceful response.“If they say invasion they’re afraid it will pressure them to take the strong actions that they are reluctant to take,” he said. “It would make people ask ‘Well, why our response isn’t stronger?’ And that’s a very good question.”This isn’t the first time. In late August, when Ukrainian troops were close to defeating the Russia-backed rebels, NATO said that it saw Russian troops crossing into Ukraine to bolster the rebel forces. Administration officials declined to call it an “invasion” then, too.“It's certainly unauthorized entry,” Pentagon spokesman Adm. John Kirby said.President Obama called it an “ongoing Russian incursion.” When confronted with his avoidance of the “I” word, he again dodged the question.“Russia determined that it had to be a little more overt in what it had already been doing, but it’s not really a shift,” he said.Some terms carry legal weight, meaning their use could trigger required action by the United States. Calling an act “genocide,” for example, triggers a certain response by law. Not long ago, the Obama administration made a conscientious decision to start talking about Russia’s “occupation” of the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed from Ukraine in March. The U.S. does not recognize Crimea as part of Russia, but using the term “occupation” recognizes not just a de facto governance over the region, but also that Russia has a legal responsibility for what happens there. The term “invasion” can also trigger a certain response, like in the case of NATO where treaty allies are bound to defend each other in such a situation. No such treaty obligation exists, however, between the United States and Ukraine.“I am unaware of any legal reason why they are not using the word invasion. I believe it’s political,” Herbst said.

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World’s Tallest Man Meets World’s Smallest

World’s Tallest Man Meets World’s Smallest

Yunus Kaymaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(LONDON) -- For the first time ever, the tallest living man met the shortest in London on Thursday.Sultan Kosey of Turkey, 31, measures 8-foot-3. He first became the world's tallest living man in 2009.

At the 10th annual Guinness World Records Day, he met Chandra Bahadur Dangi, 74, from Nepal.At 21.5 inches, Dangi is the shortest man in history. He weaves Nepalese garments for a living and has five brothers all of an average height.

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Incredible First Look Inside Huge Crater at ‘End of the World’

Incredible First Look Inside Huge Crater at ‘End of the World’

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A scientific mission inside a newly formed crater in Siberia has provided a breathtaking view in a land locals call the "end of the world."A photo taken in darkness shows a person repelling to the bottom of the icy hole on the Yamal peninsula in Siberia Nov. 8, 2014.The name Yamal means "the end of the world," according to The Siberian Times, which published the exclusive first look inside the crater.Vladimir Pushkarev, the mission leader and director of the Russian Center of Arctic Exploration, said his team hopes to understand how and why the crater seemed to suddenly form earlier this year."As of now we don't see anything dangerous in the sudden appearance of such holes, but we've got to study them properly to make absolutely sure we understand the nature of their appearance and don't need to be afraid about them," he told The Siberian Times.He explained that his team scheduled its expedition for when the weather got cooler. "It is easier to do this in winter than in summer, with the ground now hard," he said.

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Purported Audio Message from ISIS Leader Released

Purported Audio Message from ISIS Leader Released

Al-Furqan Media/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- An audiotape featuring a message purportedly from ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has emerged online, in what would be the leader’s first public comments since the shadowy figure appeared on camera in July.The message was released by an ISIS-linked media group on Thursday and in it, a man identified as al-Baghdadi references President Obama’s Friday announcement that the U.S. will send 1,500 additional troops to Iraq to advise and support the fight against the terror group there, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks jihadi media.Al-Baghdadi reportedly says that the weeks of coalition airstrikes against ISIS “have not prevented its advance, nor weakened its resolve.”The audio also comes days after Iraqi officials said al-Baghdadi had been injured in an airstrike around the same time as Obama’s troop announcement -- a claim U.S. officials could not confirm.

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