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Spaniards Toss Turnips at Jarramplas Festival

Spaniards Toss Turnips at Jarramplas Festival

PEDRO ARMESTRE/AFP/Getty Images(PIORNAL, Spain) -- The town of Piornal, Spain, is home to one of the country’s most offbeat traditions -- an annual celebration that involves throwing turnips at a man in a devil’s costume.The Jarramplas Festival -- named for a character in a costume adorned with colorful strips of fabric -- takes place every year in Piornal, southwestern Spain.  The town’s small population joins together to throw the purple tubers at the embodiment of the devil-masked, drum-beating figure.Jarramplas is vilified, but his story is a bit murky; The Atlantic reports that the centuries-old tradition involves Jarramplas as a cattle thief, worthy of ridicule by his agrarian neighbors. There are also ties to the Greek myth of Hercules and Cacus, the latter a cattle thief who found himself at the mercy of Hercules’ wrath when he learned that Cacus had stolen livestock as he slept.Though the origins aren’t certain, the timing of the tradition is: Jarramplas is pelted by turnips as he walks about town each Jan. 20, the day of the Feast of St. Sebastian.

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AirAsia Plane’s Cockpit Recording Suggests No Terrorism

AirAsia Plane’s Cockpit Recording Suggests No Terrorism

(SURABAYA, Indonesia) — Foul play was probably not a factor in the crash of AirAsia Flight 8501, based on the analysis of audio from the cockpit voice recorder that was retrieved from the Java Sea last week.Indonesian investigators say the pilots can be heard talking shortly before the plane crashed with 162 people on board last Dec. 28.Officials say that no explosions or gunfire are audible on the cockpit recordings.However, investigators still haven't figured out what caused Flight 8501 go down. There are theories that the aircraft might have gone into an aerodynamic stall while climbing at an abnormally fast rate to avoid bad weather.The crash occurred about 40 minutes after the AirAsia jet left Indonesia en route to Singapore.The search continues for the remains of the more that 100 victims who are still missing.

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Capital of Yemen in State of Chaos

Capital of Yemen in State of Chaos

iStock/Thinkstock(SANAA, Yemen) — Confusion abounds in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa as to whether a coup has driven President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi from power.Following days of fighting between government forces and Shiite Houthi militiamen, the country's information minister reported Tuesday that the rebel group had taken over the presidential palace.The Houthi's senior leader claimed that despite his group's advances, no coup had occurred although he suggested one might be in the offing if the president doesn't negotiate terms of a draft constitution in what would be a power-sharing agreement.President Hadi's whereabouts are unknown.Washington is closely watching developments as Hadi is an ally who has allowed U.S. drone strikes against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen.A power vacuum in Yemen, even though the Houthis also oppose the terrorist group, could fuel the further rise of AQAP, now considered al Qaeda's most powerful affiliate.

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Passengers Stabbed in Tel Aviv Bus Attack

Passengers Stabbed in Tel Aviv Bus Attack Pawel Gaul/iStock/Thinkstock(TEL AVIV, Israel) — At least nine people were wounded in a stabbing attack on a bus in Tel Aviv Wednesday, authorities told ABC News.The suspected assailant, a 23-year-old Palestinian man, was shot and apprehended while trying to flee the scene, authorities said.Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said authorities believe it was a suspected terror attack, with the suspect questioned by police.Five people sustained moderate or serious injuries in the attack, Rosenfeld said.Police and security are patroling the area to prevent further attacks.

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Dennis Rodman Gets Emotional in Clip from North Korea Documentary

Dennis Rodman Gets Emotional in Clip from North Korea DocumentaryWANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The first clip released from the documentary filmed during Dennis Rodman's controversial trip to North Korea shows how the former NBA star didn't seem to know what he was getting into.Rodman is seen getting choke...

US Embassy Vehicle Fired At in Yemen Monday, UN Security Council Expresses ‘Grave Concern’

US Embassy Vehicle Fired At in Yemen Monday, UN Security Council Expresses ‘Grave Concern’

iStock/Thinkstock(SANA'A, Yemen) -- A U.S. embassy vehicle in the capital of Yemen was shot at on Monday, officials told ABC News.Despite the shooting, the security posture at the embassy has not changed and no decision has been made to evacuate. The embassy had previously been on "ordered departure status," meaning that only a limited number of Americans are working there.The official said that the vehicles was going through a Houthi rebel checkpoint when it was shot out. Embassy personnel were in the vehicle, but were not injured. A senior U.S. official said that the Yemeni president was surrounded at his residence by Houthi rebels. The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday expressed "grave concern about the worsening political and security crisis in Yemen." According to a statement approved by the UNSC, "President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi is the legitimate authority based on election results and the terms of the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative and Implementation Mechanism." Further, all parties and political actors in Yemen were urged to "stand with President Hadi," as well as the Yemeni prime minister and cabinet.The UNSC further condemned the violence that has occurred in Yemen in recent days -- in particular noting an attack on the Presidential Palace on Monday -- and called on all parties to "commit to the established processes of dialogue and consultation."

With the worsening security situation in Yemen’s capital of Sana'a, the U.S. military has moved two Navy amphibious ships into the Red Sea to assist with any potential evacuation of U.S. embassy personnel should the State Department order its personnel to leave the country, Pentagon officials said Tuesday. The two amphibious ships, the USS Iwo Jima and the USS Fort McHenry, moved on Monday night from the Gulf of Aden to the southern Red Sea, placing them closer to Sana'a should they be needed, the defense official said.Both ships have complements of Marines and MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft aboard that could be useful if the U.S. embassy there has to be evacuated on short notice.The Marines and Ospreys are from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), which is on a previously scheduled deployment to the Middle East. The USS San Diego, a third ship in the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, is currently located in the northern Red Sea, the official said.

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State Department Issues Travel Warning for Libya

State Department Issues Travel Warning for Libya

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Libya on Tuesday, overriding the previous warning issued in July 2014.In July, the U.S. embassy suspended all operations in Libya and relocated staff due to "ongoing violence between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the Embassy." On Tuesday, the State Department said that "the security situation in Libya remains unpredictable and unstable."Pointing to the inability of the Libyan government to "adequately build its military and police forces and improve security following the 2011 revolution," the State Department said that crime levels remain high and various groups have called for attacks against U.S. citizens and U.S. interests within the country. Any American citizens in Libya "should exercise extreme caution and depart immediately," the department said. Additionally, U.S. mariners in the area are urged to operate with extreme caution near Libyan waters or when approaching Libyan oil terminals and ports.

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Raids Conducted in Numerous European Countries

Raids Conducted in Numerous European CountriesiStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A number of European nations carried out terror-related raids in the last week, in the wake of recent terror attacks in Paris and the fatal terror raid in Belgium.Thirteen arrests were made in Belgium on Friday on suspici...

Former Head of British Intelligence Says Another Terror Attack Is Likely

Former Head of British Intelligence Says Another Terror Attack Is Likely

Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- John Sawers, the former chief of Britain's intelligence service MI6, said on Tuesday at a speaking engagement that another terrorist attack against the U.K. is likely.While police and the Government Communications Headquarters are doing a "fantastic job" thwarting numerous potential terror plots, Sawers said that not all threats will be stopped. "If I was to sit here and say, will the goalkeepers of the security service and the police keep every single attempt to get the ball into the net? No," Sawers said. "Some of these threats will get through and there will be another terrorist attack in this country.""There needs to be some new compact," the former spy chief said regarding surveillance, "if we are not going to see events like Paris last week and which we have seen in Yemen and Nigeria and so on become more and more features of our lives." His speech included a call for data sharing between intelligence agencies and technology companies, according to BBC News.Sawers placed some of the blame for the lack of trust between those companies and the government on U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. BBC News quotes the former MI6 head as saying that Snowden "threw a massive rock in the pool and the ripples haven't stopped yet."

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“Charlie Hebdo” Launches App Version of Latest Issue

“Charlie Hebdo” Launches App Version of Latest Issue

Rob Stothard/Getty Images(PARIS) -- With millions of people wanting to get a copy of the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper has launched an app allowing users to purchase a digital copy.At least seven million copies of the latest issue have been printed to meet global demand, less than one week after the first post-attack edition was released.Instead of going to a newsstand, users can now download the Charlie Hebdo app from the Apple or Google Play stores and then purchase a copy in English, French or Spanish for $2.99.The app shows the cover of the latest issue, a cartoon featuring the prophet Muhammad and comes just days after a "Je Suis Charlie" app was reportedly given expedited approval to join Apple's app store.In the days since the Charlie Hebdo massacre, a simple phrase, "Je Suis Charlie" or "I am Charlie," has been used to show solidarity with the victims of the Paris terror attack and support for freedom of speech.While it can take as long as 10 days before an app is approved to join the Apple app store, the Je Suis Charlie app got Apple's seal of approval in one hour after the developers contacted Apple CEO Tim Cook, according to a report from 9to5Mac.Named for the phrase to show support for the victims of the attack, the app allows users to put a pin on a world map to show their solidarity.

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Canadian Troops Exchange Fire with Islamic State in Iraq

Canadian Troops Exchange Fire with Islamic State in Iraq

Marcio Silva/iStock/Thinkstock(ISTANBUL) -- Canadian troops have exchanged fire with the Islamic State in recent days, according to military officials in Iraq, marking the first time western soldiers have engaged the militant group.Special forces from Canada were meeting with Iraqi Kurdish forces on the front lines when they were attacked by Islamic State gunmen firing automatic weapons and mortars. A Canadian general says his soldiers fired back in self-defense, killing several Islamic State militants. There were no reported casualties among Canadian and Kurdish forces. The Canadian troops are training Kurdish forces in northern Iraq as part of a U.S.-led coalition that has seen the return of thousands of soldiers to the embattled country. Since U.S. forces ramped up their presence in Iraq, there have been unconfirmed reports of American soldiers taking fire from Islamic State militants.Meanwhile, the Pentagon recently announced that several hundred additional U.S. soldiers are heading to Iraq to join the effort to train local forces attempting to regain territory from the Islamic State.

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ISIS Threatens Japanese Hostages in New Video

ISIS Threatens Japanese Hostages in New Video

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Two men kneel in orange jumpsuits in the desert as a black-clad figure speaks to the camera, waving a knife and threatening their lives, demanding an astronomical sum of money in return for their freedom.It's a setup that Westerners are familiar with since the on-camera executions of several American and British journalists and aid workers at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but this is the first video of its kind in weeks and this time it's two Japanese men who are threatened.The man in black, who appears to be the same man from previous gruesome videos, addresses the Japanese people, saying, "Just as how your government has made the foolish decision to pay $200 million to fight the Islamic State [ISIS], you now have 72 hours to pressure your government in making a wise decision, by paying that $200 million to save the lives of your citizens."Last year ISIS released a video of what their fighters claimed was a captured Japanese "spy," who had been beaten and bloodied.The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, spoke about the video just hours after it appeared online, saying that his country would not give in to terrorism and that the country would do their best to protect its captured citizens.

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How Girls in Afghanistan Are Skateboarding Their Way to Empowerment

How Girls in Afghanistan Are Skateboarding Their Way to Empowerment

Skateistan(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Young girls in Afghanistan are empowering themselves through an unexpected sport: skateboarding.Non-profit organization Skateistan is cruising through the country's streets, getting children to sign up for their skateboarding lessons followed up with educational time in classrooms -- and it's all for free.The unconventional charity was founded by Australian Oliver Percovich, who wanted to do something about the lack of proper role models for working street children, Skateistan's communications director Rhianon Bader told ABC News."We want the girls to see one another as role models instead of the war lords who would drive around town with a car load of men who are waving guns around," Percovich told the Daily Mail.But why skateboarding?Simply because it's one of the few, if any, sports that are socially acceptable for Afghanistan girls to participate in."Traditional sports and activities like bike riding, [soccer] and kite flying are really popular in Afghanistan, but they're only appropriate for boys," Bader told ABC News. "Skateboarding didn't exist in the Afghan context at all, so there weren't any social constraints for girls to take part in skateboarding."Skateistan serves both girls and boys, but the organization has gone to especially great lengths for its girls."We've done everything to make our program culturally appropriate to reach as many girls as possible," Bader told ABC News. "In Afghanistan, girls can only be around other girls, so we host all-girls classes taught only by female teachers. We have a separate safe facility for them and provide free, safe transportation for them."Skateistan is currently helping over 800 children pursue their dreams in the war-torn country, the Daily Mail reported."We are reaching out to kids internally displaced in camps, poor working street children and even middle class kids," Bader told ABC News. "It's really important to have this mixing of different backgrounds to build up a civil society that has been devastated by decades of war."Their new outdoor skate park is the first in the war-torn country that's seen more than 21,000 killed in past 11 years.Skateistan's "Back to School" program attached with its skateboarding classes also helps their students get enrolled or re-enrolled in the country's public school system.The non-profit also has a youth leadership program, where older students can transition into significant full-time roles as instructors, teachers and speakers.One student in the program, Madina Saidy, 16, is now a teacher and recently represented Skateistan in Colombia at the United Nations Habitat's World Urban Forum, where she spoke in front of 25,000 participants on urban equity, Bader told ABC News.This was Saidy's first trip outside of Afghanistan."It's amazing to see a girl from Afghanistan who has been working since eight years old to come this far," Bader said. "She basically taught herself English, and now she's an amazing role model and leader who has even flown internationally."

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Iraq Pumping More Oil than Ever

Iraq Pumping More Oil than Ever

Hemera/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) — Iraq's security situation may be tenuous due to the rise of the Islamic State but even resurgent violence hasn't stopped its booming oil industry.According to Oil Minister Adel Abdel Mehdi, Iraq produced approximately four million barrels a day in December, a record amount for the country.The last time it got even close to that number was in 1979 when 3.56 million barrels were produced in a single month. That same year, the late dictator Saddam Hussein rose to power.This makes Iraq OPEC's second largest oil producer behind Saudi Arabia.Mehdi announced that 375,000 barrels would be exported monthly from the northern Kurdistan region and the city of Kirkuk with the plan to produce 600,000 barrels daily, beginning in April.The central government and the semiautonomous Kurds arrived at the deal after years of haggling, primarily due to the threat posed by ISIS in northern and western Iraq.

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Muslim Group Disputes Claim British Mosques Radicalize Members

Muslim Group Disputes Claim British Mosques Radicalize Members

Hemera/Thinkstock(LONDON) — A top British official and a leading Muslim group are at odds over what should be done to counter the radicalization of young men in that country.In a letter to the Muslim Council of Britain, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles wrote that while Muslims have made contributions to society, mosques and local leaders “bear a special responsibility” to keep young members from joining Islamic extremists groups.Apparently angered by the tone of the letter, Harun Khan, the council's deputy secretary-general, disputed the implication that members have been radicalized by British mosques.Khan then fired back that Muslims who obey the law should not have to "go out of their way to prove their loyalty” to Britain.Later, Prime Minister David Cameron backed up Pickles' letter, calling his plea for help from Muslim leaders "reasonable, sensible, [and] moderate."

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Ultimate US Withdrawal from Afghanistan Not Set in Stone

Ultimate US Withdrawal from Afghanistan Not Set in Stone

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — America's top commander in Afghanistan suggests that the security situation in the country will dictate whether to move forward on cutting the number of U.S. troops in half by the end of 2015.General John Campbell, head of the Resolute Support mission, told the Army Times that there are 10,600 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan at present with plans to bring down the level to 9,800 on May 1 and 5,500 eight months later.However, inasmuch as Afghan National Security Forces have grown increasingly capable of fighting the Taliban, which shows no sign of surrendering, Campbell said he would be regularly assessing the Afghan military's progress and that of the government and "if we can really get after the objectives that we set."It will be up to Campbell to decide whether a planned drawdown is realistic or if it will be necessary to extend the U.S. mission, which is due to wrap up in December 2016.American forces presently act in training and advisory roles only, with some involved in counterterrorism measures.Campbell acknowledged that the Islamic State, which has thus far focused its efforts in Syria and Iraq, has been active in recruiting new members in Afghanistan although most Taliban members still pledge allegiance to their leader, Mullah Omar, who has hid in Pakistan since late 2001.

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NASA Probe Gets Up-Close and Personal with Dwarf Planet Ceres

NASA Probe Gets Up-Close and Personal with Dwarf Planet Ceres

IDA/DLR/MPS/UCLA/JPL-Caltech/NASA(NEW YORK) — NASA's Dawn spacecraft is closing in on the dwarf planet Ceres, and the space agency Monday released new photos showing what the gigantic cosmic mass looks like up close.Ceres, the largest body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, has an average diameter of 590 miles. The images are relatively grainy compared to the power of the Hubble Telescope, but even so, they'll be used to help guide Dawn closer to the dwarf planet.The photos, which were taken Jan. 13 but released Monday, show Dawn's view of Ceres from a distance of 238,000 miles, according to NASA.The space agency said the images will continue to improve as Dawn draws closer to Ceres, with the eventual goal of placing the satellite in orbit on March 6. It will be the first time the spacecraft has visited a dwarf planet.The mission is expected to continue for 16 months as researchers analyze data about Ceres, which is thought to be icy and possibly feature an ocean. Researchers said the current images already show what appear to be craters -- something they're eager to get a closer look at as Dawn edges toward its destination.

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European Union Aims to Strengthen Cooperation with Arab Nations

European Union Aims to Strengthen Cooperation with Arab Nations

PaulGrecaud/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini said on Monday that European nations need to strengthen cooperation with nations around the world, primarily mentioning Muslim nations.Mogherini's statement comes one day before the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to meet with Nabil El Araby, the Secretary General of the League of the Arab States. That meeting is expected to cover "recent developments in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East, including Libya, Egypt, Syria and Iraq," the European Parliament said. In the wake of the terror attacks in Paris, Mogherini said that "the threat is not only the one we faced in Paris but also spreading in many other parts of the world, starting with Muslim countries." "We need to strengthen our way of cooperating together," Mogherini said, "first of all with Arab countries but also internally.""I've always said it is not an issue between Europe or the West and Islam," Mogherini continued. "Terrorism and terrorist attacks are targeting most of all Muslims in the world so we need an alliance, we need a dialogue there to face the issue together. She called for all people to "take full responsibility for what we do and what we say," urging respect. "Drawing the line between the freedom of expression and respect has always been one of the main philosophical dilemmas," said Mogherini, "but I think we need to look very carefully these days as we see what is happening in many parts of the world. What we need to do is face terrorism while respecting Islam."BBC News reports that the anti-terror "projects" would involve intelligence sharing and improved communication, particularly by improving the capacity of the EU to communicate in Arabic.

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Pope Announces Which US Cities He’ll Visit in September

Pope Announces Which US Cities He’ll Visit in September

neneos/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A number of U.S. cities are preparing to roll out the welcome wagon later this year, when Pope Francis is expected to make his first U.S. trip.The pope announced in November 2014 that he intended to visit Philadelphia in September 2015, expected to coincide with the World Meeting of Families organized by the Catholic Church. That event, which invites attendees from all over the world, focuses on strengthening family bonds.In addition to Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C. are also preparing for papal visits. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released a statement on Monday saying that his city "will be excited and delighted to host Pope Francis during his visit to the United States this September." De Blasio said that he invited the pope to visit New York during a trip to the Vatican in 2014. "Pope Francis is the leading global voice on issues of social justice and income inequality, and New Yorkers from all backgrounds will be tremendously humbled and honored to hear his message right here in our city later this year," de Blasio added.Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser looks forward to the pope visiting her city as well, a sentiment she shared in a post to her Twitter account. She called the September visit "a historic event for all Washingtonians."

 

I look forward to welcoming His Holiness @Pontifex to the District. It will be a historic event for all Washingtonians.

— Muriel Bowser (@TeamMuriel) January 19, 2015

The pope announced the three stops on his U.S. trip during a flight back to Rome from a weekend trip to the Philippines.

 

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Congressional Democrats Meet with Cuban Officials to Discuss Normalizing Relations

Congressional Democrats Meet with Cuban Officials to Discuss Normalizing Relations

Marcio Silva/iStock/Thinkstock(HAVANA) -- Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., led a delegation of U.S. politicians to Cuba this past weekend to support President Obama's announcement last month of normalizing relations between the two nations.The trip began on Saturday, with Sens. Leahy, Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. and Reps. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Peter Welch, D-Vt. traveling to the island nation. While in Cuba, the group, all of whom have been to Cuba before, hoped to "discuss our expectations, and the Cubans' expectations, for the normalization of relations."We want to explore opportunities for greater cooperation, and to encourage Cuban officials to address issues of real concern to the American people and to their representatives in Congress," a statement from Leahy's office read.The trip included meetings with Cuban government officials and other nations' ambassadors to Cuba.The congressmen are scheduled to return to Washington on Monday.

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