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Pentagon Confirms Retaking of Mosul Dam

Pentagon Confirms Retaking of Mosul Dam

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images(MOSUL, Iraq) — Late Monday night the U.S. Department of Defense confirmed that the Mosul Dam had been retaken from militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, noting that 35 U.S. airstrikes “eliminated [ISIS] positions in and around the Mosul Dam complex.”

In a statement, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said that more than 90 targets were destroyed, including vehicles, equipment and fighting positions. The airstrikes also allowed Iraqi forces to successfully clear the dam and work to expand their area of control.

Kirby also reiterated that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was “extraordinarily proud of the men and women serving on land and sea who conducted these operations.”

Kirby’s statement also noted that the way in which Iraqi forces worked during the operation “reflects the growing determination of Iraqis to fight back against [ISIS].”

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World Health Organization Activates Travel and Transport Task Force for Ebola Outbreak

World Health Organization Activates Travel and Transport Task Force for Ebola Outbreak

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(GENEVA) — The World Health Organization (WHO) activated a Travel and Transport Task Force on Monday that will monitor the ongoing outbreak of Ebola and provide prompt information to the travel and tourism sector and to travellers.

The WHO maintains that airborne spread of the disease is extremely unlikely, and that travelling on an airplane and contracting Ebola is also small, as most people suffering from the disease do not feel well enough to travel, as well as the required direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected individual.

Still, the WHO is asked all affected countries to conduct exit screening of all individuals at international airports, seaports and major land crossings to prevent the international spread of the disease. The only way an infected individual is to be allowed to cross borders, the organization says, is if that travel is part of a medical evacuation.

The WHO did not, however, recommend a ban on international travel or trade, and that exit screenings or travel restrictions are not recommended for non-affected countries that do not share borders with the nations currently impacted by the Ebola outbreak.

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Pope Discusses His Hopes for 2015 Trip to United States

Pope Discusses His Hopes for 2015 Trip to United States

ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Pope Francis said on Monday that he has been invited to travel to the United States next year and hinted that he may be interested in visiting three major American cities.

The pope was questioned by journalists on a number of topics during his flight home from South Korea. Speaking on the topic of a United States trip, the pope said that he, “would like to go to Philadelphia, for the meeting of the families,” in 2015, referring to the World Meeting of Families. He also noted that he has been invited by President Obama to visit Congress and by the United Nations Secretary General to visit the U.N. Secretariat in New York.

The pope also said that there is a possibility he could continue on to Mexico following his U.S. trip, but that those plans are “not certain.”

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Over 600 Metric Tons of Syrian Chemical Weapons Successfully Destroyed

Over 600 Metric Tons of Syrian Chemical Weapons Successfully Destroyed

Stock photo via Digital Vision/Thinkstock(GIOIA TAURO, Italy) — The Pentagon has announced the completion of the destruction of the most dangerous of Syria’s chemical weapons aboard the American ship MV Cape Ray. Since early July the ship has been in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea destroying 600 tons of a nerve gas precursor and 20 tons of mustard agent.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called the ship’s crew on Monday to congratulate them on a job well done in a process that seems to have taken 41 days, far ahead of early estimates.

Hagel spoke with Navy Captain Rich Dromerhauser and “expressed his gratitude for the crew’s service, dedication, and expertise, noting that with the world watching, they performed flawlessly every step of the way,” said Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby.

Kirby said Hagel told him that he had “commended the crew for conducting every aspect of the mission in a highly professional manner, with strict adherence to safety and with no impact to the surrounding environment, and said that they should all be very proud of what they’ve accomplished to help reduce the threat posed by chemical weapons.”

“The secretary said that by ridding the world of these materials, they – as part of an ongoing international effort to eliminate the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal – have helped make an important and enduring contribution to global security,” said Kirby.

He added the destruction of the chemicals is “clear demonstration of what can be achieved when diplomacy is backed by a willingness to use military force. The United States will remain vigilant in our efforts to deter future use of chemicals as weapons, and in ensuring that all questions about the extent of Assad’s chemical weapons program are answered in full.”

Last September, Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated a deal with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons that averted potential U.S. military strikes on Syria. At the time tensions were high with anticipation that airstrikes might target Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile in the wake of a sarin gas attack in Damascus that it is believed killed 1,000 civilians.

The international agreement that followed laid out strict timetables for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons for eventual destruction.

Syria turned over its declared chemical stockpile in a slow and deliberate process it blamed on the civil war raging within its borders. That in turn led to delays that forced the Cape Ray to remain in a Spanish port for months as it waited for all of Syria’s chemical weapons to be transferred out of the country.

The destruction of the chemicals aboard the Cape Ray began on July 7 shortly after they were transferred aboard at the Italian port of Gioia Tauro.

The ship then headed into international waters in the Mediterranean to begin the hydrolysis of the chemicals. The exact location of where the ship was in the Mediterranean was never made public, but Greek press reports indicated it was west of Crete.

The ship used a field hydrolysis system to neutralize 600 metric tons of DF, a precursor for sarin gas and other nerve agents, and 19 tons of HD, or sulfur mustard, into a residue product.

Original expectations were that the destruction of the chemicals might take at least 60 days, but it appears to have taken 41 days.

The ship now heads to Finland where it will drop off the “effluent” liquid that is the waste product created by the hydrolysis process.  That effluent itself is not harmful, but it will be disposed of in a landfill.

Earlier this year, international investigators determined that Syria had probably used industrial chlorine gas in rebel held areas, long after it turned over its declared chemical weapons stockpile. Under the international agreement worked out last year Syria was not required to declare chlorine as part its chemical stockpile as it has many peaceful uses.

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Battle Rages for Mosul Dam, Fate Uncertain for Millions Downstream

Battle Rages for Mosul Dam, Fate Uncertain for Millions Downstream

iStock/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) — U.S.-backed Kurdish forces have recaptured parts of the Mosul Dam from Islamist extremists, Kurdish and Iraqi military officials said Monday, in a battle for what is effectively a potential weapon of mass destruction in Iraq.

Gen. Karim Fatah, commander of a Kurdish peshmerga battalion near the dam, told ABC News Kurdish forces have taken control of both ends of the dam, but fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) still control some positions near the western end of the structure. The Iraqi Ministry of Defense issued a statement saying large parts of the dam had been retaken.

The Kurdish offensive has been aided by U.S. and Iraqi airstrikes on ISIS targets, including 15 U.S. strikes Monday, according to the U.S. military.

ISIS managed to take control of the dam last week, an eventuality about which a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department had previously said the U.S. government was “extremely concerned.”

On Sunday, President Obama sent a letter to Congress notifying lawmakers that he had authorized airstrikes against ISIS targets at the dam “in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.”

“The failure of the Mosul Dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, endanger U.S. personnel and facilities, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace,” the letter said.

The stark language actually may have downplayed the danger posed by the dam, according to prior U.S. estimates of the damage that could be caused should the dam be breached — or even if it is simply left alone to degrade on its own without the constant repair work that has been critical to keeping the dam right side up for the past 30 years.

The Mosul Dam was built in the mid-1980s on what reports indicate was a terrible spot to build a sprawling 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.

A 2011 report written by an USACE official and published in Water Power magazine estimated failure “could lead to as many as 500,000 civilian deaths.”

Recently, a U.S. official confirmed that the dire 2007 estimate still stands. After Mosul, flood waters would travel for eight to 10 days before reaching Baghdad, where the U.S. Embassy there could see one to four meters of water, the official said.

The U.S. State Department said earlier this month that control of the dam was one of ISIS’ goals in Iraq. Late last week, the extremist group got its wish, took control of the dam and immediately inherited the urgent grouting problems.

On Friday, an Iraqi government official said that the lead dam engineer and his team were still on site and operating the dam at ISIS’ behest. Supplies to continue grouting operations were available and the water level was also being kept lower than normal to reduce the risk of a breach, the official said then.

ISIS may not necessarily want the dam to fail, considering the extremist group controls portions of the land that would be flooded. The dam is also a “key source” of power and water for the surrounding area, making it a vital piece of infrastructure either way for whoever is in control, another State Department spokesperson told ABC News last week.

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Pope Francis Calls for Korean Peace on Final Day of Trip

Pope Francis Calls for Korean Peace on Final Day of Trip

Buda Mendes/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) — Pope Francis completed his five-day trip to South Korea Monday, urging the two Koreas to reject suspicion, confrontation and competition and unite as “one family, one people.”

Emphasizing peace on the Korean peninsula at the Mass of peace and reconciliation at Seoul’s main Myungdong Cathedral, he advised that South Koreans should continue generosity in providing humanitarian aid to those in need, referring to the North.

“Forgive brothers who sinned for 77 times,” he said.

The two Koreas were divided in 1953 and are still technically at war. There is no freedom of religion in North Korea, although a figurative Catholic church exists, approved by the State. Pyongyang warned Sunday of a “merciless pre-emptive strike” against the South, directing displeasure at the annual U.S.-South Korean joint military drills planned for this week.

Thousands of citizens gathered in a rainy morning in front of the cathedral to get a glimpse of the pope, 77, who mesmerized the nation with his humble style and attitude in the past five days.

“It was a shockingly tight schedule for an old man,” Kim Sang-Min, who said he was not a Catholic, said. “I could tell that he wanted to meet as many people as possible. He touched our hearts.”

South Korean President Park Geun-hye, North Korean defectors and elderly “comfort women” who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military in early 1900s attended the mass. One woman gave Francis a pin of a butterfly, a symbol of their predicament; he wore it throughout the mass.

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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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