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Steven Sotloff’s Editor Says He Got to ‘the Core of What People Were Thinking’

Steven Sotloff’s Editor Says He Got to ‘the Core of What People Were Thinking’

iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) — The public is now learning more about American reporter Steven Sotloff following his murder by ISIS.

Sotloff, who took citizenship in Israel and wrote for Israeli newspapers, had a gift for capturing how ordinary people were affected by the Arab Spring, from Yemen to Egypt to Libya, his colleagues say.

Israel-based reporter Ilene Prusher, who was Sotloff’s editor for the Jerusalem Report in 2011 and 2012, says Sotloff’s murder is a great loss for journalists and the public.

Prusher says, “He would write things like, ‘We’re afraid the regime will basically just slaughter us and the world will do nothing.’ Or, ‘we asked for democracy and we got bullets.’ You know, he had this way of getting to the core of what people were thinking.”

Sotloff’s ties to Israel were reportedly kept away from the public eye once he was captured so as to not endanger his life.

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Officials Raise Concerns Over British Hostage David Haines

Officials Raise Concerns Over British Hostage David Haines

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) — Officials are raising concerns over British hostage David Haines, an aid worker kidnapped by the Islamic State since 2013.

The 44-year-old is believed to be held in Syria.

Prime Minister David Cameron is urging Western leaders not to pay ransom for citizens captured by militants, with the British government maintaining that it will not be deterred from launching air strikes in the future against extremists.

ISIS has already beheaded two American journalists.

Haines worked for aid agencies in several regions around the world, including Libya and South Sudan.

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New Dinosaur ‘Dreadnoughtus’ Discovered in Argentina

New Dinosaur ‘Dreadnoughtus’ Discovered in Argentina

iStock/Thinkstock(BUENOS AIRES, Argentina) — Scientists in Argentina discovered a new dinosaur, dubbing the creature Dreadnoughtus schrani.

Dr. Kenneth Lacovara of Philadelphia’s Drexel University led the team that excavated the fossilized bones and calculated that the dinosaur would have weighed more than a Boeing 737 when fully grown — making it  “the largest calculable weight of any known land animal.”

“When I first found a piece of that femur, I wasn’t too excited because I assumed it was probably just a fragment, and then we saw the tibia and then we saw the fibula and then 10 vertebrae appeared and then 4 years later, we were still excavating,” Lacovara said.

The dinosaur is thought to have died in a flash flood about 77 million years ago.

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Predator Drone Reportedly Spotted Over ISIS Stronghold

Predator Drone Reportedly Spotted Over ISIS Stronghold

iStock/Thinkstock(RAQQA, Syria) — Activists on two sides of the Syrian conflict both reported seeing what appears to be a drone lingering over Raqqa, Syria, near where U.S. special operations forces attempted to rescue ISIS hostages in July.

Undated images of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), shot by Syrian activists as well as ISIS supporters, appeared on social media Friday. One former and two current U.S. officials familiar with the American drone program told ABC News the aircraft appeared to be an unarmed Predator drone, likely on a surveillance mission.

Activists with the “Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered” campaign, who snapped some of the photos, told ABC News the drone spent about three hours flying over Raqqa city between noon and 3pm local time. These activists also reported seeing two purported ISIS fighters wearily watching the drone on a commercial street before taking off on a 4×4.

While it’s unclear who was in control of the drone, public records show the U.S. has air bases that operate UAVs relatively close to Raqqa, like at Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, just over 200 miles away. U.S. officials declined to comment for this report.

Raqqa is a stronghold for ISIS and the same city near which two months ago the U.S. military launched a rescue mission for several hostages, including some Americans, held by ISIS. The mission went “flawlessly,” according to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, except there was no one there to rescue. The hostages had been moved.

Former U.S. military officials recently told ABC News that while the first rescue attempt and its subsequent public acknowledgment may have cost the American commandos some element of surprise, another rescue attempt wasn’t out of the question.

The U.S. is also urgently seeking intelligence on potential military targets. U.S. officials told ABC News that while top ISIS leaders appear to be using encrypted communications to avoid being detected, surveillance at ISIS command centers has begun to produce a few possible leads.

“If the U.S. … has a drone or fixed wing aircraft with the ability to strike an ISIS target, especially a senior leader, they’ll do it now,” said Seth Jones, a terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation.

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Plane With Americans on Board Allowed to Leave Iran

Plane With Americans on Board Allowed to Leave Iran

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A plane with 100 Americans on board that was ordered to land in Iran was allowed to leave hours later and has landed in Dubai, the U.S. State Department said.

The Fly Dubai plane had left Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and was on its way to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on Friday. It apparently took off hours later than scheduled, the officials said. By the time it was over Iran, Iranian authorities said the plane’s flight plan was no longer valid and the plane was ordered to land.

“This was a bureaucratic issue with the flight plan of the plane,” a senior U.S. official told ABC News. The plane was at Bandar Abbas, an airport in southeast Iran and the official.

The flight was allowed to leave hours later and flew to Dubai, according to State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

Harf denied reports that Iranian jets were scrambled.

The State Department expressed veiled gratitude to the Iranians.

“We appreciate the efforts of all parties to help the passengers get safely to their destination,” Harf said.

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Top Al-Shabab Leader Killed in Airstrike, Pentagon Confirms

Top Al-Shabab Leader Killed in Airstrike, Pentagon Confirms

Wiiliam Oeri/Nation Media/Gallo Images/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Ahmed Abdi Godane, the top leader of the Somali militant group al-Shabab, has been killed in a U.S. military airstrike in southern Somalia, the Pentagon confirmed Friday.

U.S. officials are hailing his death on Monday as a significant jolt to the Somali militant group affiliated with al Qaeda that took credit for last year’s deadly attack at a Kenyan mall that killed at least 67 civilians.

“We have confirmed that Ahmed Godane, the co-founder of al-Shabab, has been killed,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

“Removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss to al-Shabab,” Kirby said, adding that “the United States works in coordination with its friends, allies and partners to counter the regional and global threats posed by violent extremist organizations.”

In a statement White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called Godane’s death “an important step forward in the fight against al-Shabab” that “reflects years of painstaking work by our intelligence, military and law enforcement professionals.”

The U.S. will continue to use financial, diplomatic, intelligence and military tools “to address the threat that al Shabaab and other terrorist groups pose to the United States and the American people,” Earnest said.

A mix of unmanned and manned aircraft fired Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs on Monday at an encampment in south central Somalia where it was believed that Godane was located. At a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday Kirby confirmed that the airstrike had specifically targeted Godane.

Kirby said the airstrike occurred at 11:20 a.m. ET (6:20 p.m. local time) and was based on “actionable intelligence” that led to the targeting of the encampment and a specific vehicle at the encampment.

Kirby said on Tuesday that if Godane’s death was confirmed it would be “a very significant blow to their network, to their organization, and, we believe, to their ability to continue to conduct terrorist attacks.”

A senior African counter-terrorism official told ABC News that Godane was targeted during a meeting of senior al-Shabab commanders outside of the coastal city of Barawe. The official said the U.S. airstrike was carried out in conjunction with an offensive by African Union and Somali government forces operating in the area.

African Union officials in Somalia told ABC News that Monday’s airstrike had dealt a significant blow to al-Shabab’s senior leadership.

The airstrike killed a total of 11 al-Shabab militants, including five senior commanders, the officials said, noting the group’s new top leader is likely to be Sheikh Mahad Omar Abdikarim, known also as Ahmed Dirie. He was the head of al-Shabab’s administration and served as an adviser for the former terror group’s leader. Officials describe Dirie as “ruthless.”

The mission was conducted by a special operations unit that Kirby would not identify. However, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has conducted previous missions inside Somalia targeting the leadership of the militant group. The military command flies armed Predator drone missions over Somalia from neighboring Djibouti.

The U.S. did not have a regular military presence inside Somalia in the years since the deadly 1993 attack that became known as “Blackhawk Down.” But earlier this year a Pentagon official confirmed that beginning in 2007 small U.S. military teams have worked with Somali government forces and the African Union forces known as AMISOM. Since then the number of U.S. military personnel has grown to about 120 as AMISOM’s security needs have grown.

Since 2007 the U.S. has given over $1.5 billion to the African Union and Somali government troops fighting al-Shabab.

While the terror group remains dangerous and has launched several high-profile attacks, most notably last year’s Westgate Mall attack, al-Shabab has been weakened tremendously over the last two years.

Once in control of the Somali capital of Mogadishu and most of southern and central Somalia, al-Shabab now controls only the area surrounding the coastal city of Barawe, which is where the U.S. has conducted much of its recent military missions targeting the group.

Navy SEALS aborted an attempt last October to capture a high-ranking al-Shabab official at a seaside villa in Barawe after they encountered heavy resistance.

In January, a U.S. missile strike killed a top al-Shabab commander said to be close to Godane.

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Obama Promises to ‘Deepen and Broaden’ Sanctions Against Russia

Obama Promises to ‘Deepen and Broaden’ Sanctions Against Russia

ABC News(NEWPORT, Wales) — Hours after the Ukrainian government and pro-Russia rebels agreed to a ceasefire after five months of fighting, President Obama told reporters at the NATO Summit in Newport, Wales, Friday that, “Our alliance is fully united in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

Obama announced that all NATO allies will provide security assistance to Ukraine, including support and care for Ukrainian troops. Obama reiterated that pro-Russian separatists must keep their commitments, even as European leaders plan to intensify sanctions against the Russian government and its economy.

Obama’s comments come two days after he referred to the Russian advance in Ukraine as a “moment of testing” for the world, a problem that “challenges that most basic of principles of our international system — that borders cannot be redrawn at the barrel of a gun.”

The usual strain in Russian-American relations were taken to an even more international stage this week after Obama visited Estonia in part to reassure the Baltic nations that America’s and Europe’s interests are also theirs, that Russian encroachments on sovereign nations would not evade the attention of Western nations.

“An attack on one is an attack on all, and so if, in such a moment, you ever ask again, ‘Who’ll come to help?’ you’ll know the answer: the NATO alliance, including the armed forces of the United States of America,” he told a gathering of almost 2,000 Estonians.

On Thursday, Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande, and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in a display of fraternity.

Obama and Cameron published a joint editorial in the London Times Thursday making clear to Russia the determination of NATO allies in defending one another. Both leaders support a NATO rapid-response force “that could deploy anywhere in the world at very short notice,” something Obama confirmed at his press conference Friday.

In Mongolia on Thursday in an act seemingly aimed at responding to the activity in Cardiff, Russian President Vladimir Putin displayed a notebook on which he wrote a seven-point plan peace plan intended to appeal to the cease-fire negotiations.

Speaking to reporters next to a golf course in Wales Friday morning, Poroshenko clarified and confirmed Friday’s cease-fire news. The agreement was settled upon in Minsk, Belarus, where the Ukrainian and pro-Russian camps met to design a truce after suffering more than 2,600 deaths since the fighting began.

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Watch Out for That Asteroid: Earth in a Cosmic Shooting Gallery

Watch Out for That Asteroid: Earth in a Cosmic Shooting Gallery

JPL-Caltech/NASA(NEW YORK) — Heads up, Earthlings. We live in a cosmic shooting gallery with a huge asteroid headed our way this weekend.

It will only be a close call — but close enough to remind us how vulnerable we are to asteroids hurtling through space.

This weekend, an asteroid just discovered last week will fly between Earth and the Moon — just 25,000 miles away from our planet. It is the size of a house and will fly frighteningly close to the orbit of Earth’s satellites, which provide vital communications.

This asteroid, named 2014 RC, will be close, but it won’t be the closest recent flyby. Astroid 2012DA 14 missed Earth by a measly 17,200 miles in February 2013.

That same day, a completely unexpected meteor slammed into Cherlyabinsk Russia, its stunning impact captured on dozens of cameras.

Former astronaut Ed Lu may seem like an unlikely asteroid hunter, but the unexpected asteroid encounters prompted his B612 Foundation to come up with a plan to spot them before its too late.

“We have the evidence these meteors have, and will continue to, hit our planet,” he said. “What we need to do is find them first, and alter their orbit.”

The close visit by 2014 RC is hardly a surprise because 11,000 near-Earth objects have been discovered in Earth’s neighborhood, with thousands more lurking undiscovered.

The orbit of this weekend’s asteroid will take it over Australia and New Zealand, so it won’t be visible north of the equator.

But there is a consolation prize: A solar flare will deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field, which means a spectacular display of auroras.

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New Rescue Mission for ISIS Hostages Difficult, Still Possible: Experts

New Rescue Mission for ISIS Hostages Difficult, Still Possible: Experts

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A second rescue operation to free the American hostages held by the terror group ISIS is still a possibility, former military sources said, even though a secret mission into Syria in July may have tipped America’s hand.

“There’s always going to be the option of conducting another raid or another attempt,” retired Green Beret commander Lt. Col. Jim Gavrilis told ABC News. “We may have lost some strategic surprise, but tactical surprise is still possible. They don’t know when we’re going to strike or where we’re going to strike.”

Senior U.S. officials told ABC News last month that a “substantial and complex” rescue operation, which involved sneaking several dozen commandos into the heart of Syria, had been launched weeks before. The mission went “flawlessly,” except that there were no hostages at the location to rescue, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters a day after ABC News and others reported the operation.

Some involved in the first rescue attempt were “crushed” when the American forces arrived at the site only to discover a “dry hole,” according to an intelligence official. The mission, had it been a success, could have saved the lives of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, believed to have been executed later on camera by a masked ISIS militant.

Others within the special operations community were aghast the White House confirmed on the record that special mission units had tried to rescue the hostages in Syria, feeling it potentially compromised a future mission.

A former Army special operations soldier said public information about the mission — including the detail that the U.S. force was brought in by helicopter — “severely limits options now for those units tasked with conducting the hostage rescue missions.”

“The ability to infiltrate and have surprise, speed and violence of action on our side is determined in part by the methods by which we can infiltrate, making the way we did it before much more likely to be compromised…The bad guys would probably have a plan now by which to defend against a helo [helicopter] assault,” he said.

Still, the former special operator said a second attempt “isn’t out of the question…We’ll just probably have fewer options on infiltration platforms.”

Beyond a hostage rescue, other special missions could be opening up, according to U.S. officials who said that top ISIS leaders appear to be using encrypted communications to avoid being detected, but that surveillance at ISIS command centers has begun to produce a few possible targets.

“If the U.S. … has a drone or fixed wing aircraft with the ability to strike an ISIS target, especially a senior leader, they’ll do it now,” said Seth Jones, a terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation.

In recent days top U.S. officials have issued strong words for ISIS — including Vice President Joe Biden saying the U.S. will follow the terror group to “the gates of hell” — and Thursday the White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told ABC News’ Jon Karl the administration is “absolutely” considering airstrikes in Syria to target ISIS, in addition to the dozens already launched in Iraq.

ISIS is believed to be holding at least two other Americans hostage, one a young woman, as well as a British citizen. The British national appeared in the ISIS video of Sotloff’s death. Gavrilis said the special operations forces are likely eager for a second chance to get the remaining hostages back.

“A lot of times with our forces, when you hit a dry hole or you don’t actually achieve your objective, you have a stronger desire to get it right the next time,” he said. “It’s not factored in that it has to be perfect. There’s always a chance we will lose somebody, but that’s just part of the job and part of our mission…We want to send a message to them [ISIS] that they can’t conduct these types of crimes against Americans with impunity.”

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US, European Leaders ‘Finalizing’ Russian Sanctions

US, European Leaders ‘Finalizing’ Russian Sanctions

Bethany Clarke/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — A new round of U.S. and European sanctions against Russia could be announced soon, with NATO leaders looking to respond more forcefully to the crisis in Ukraine while reassuring allies with a new rapid-response force based in Eastern Europe, White House officials said.

U.S. officials have also hinted that a coalition of countries, though not NATO itself, will unveil new steps to bolster security forces, but there’s no indication that a stepped-up airstrike campaign in Syria is imminent against the militant Islamist group ISIS.

The leaders are in Wales for day two of the NATO summit. The U.S. is “finalizing” a new round of sanctions against Russia, in tandem with other European leaders, according to White House officials.

NATO is also expected to step up its role as a “clearinghouse” for Ukraine assistance, including training Ukrainian forces. NATO allies are expected to offer military, financial and geographic commitments to a new rapid-response force. Those commitments would include 3,500 service personnel from Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday.

“We must be able to act more swiftly,” Cameron said. “I hope that today we can agree a multinational spearhead force deployable anywhere in the world in just two to five days.”

The expected announcements come against the backdrop of peace talks involving Russia and Ukraine in Belarus. The talks are aimed at achieving a ceasefire to bring an end to the months of fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists.

During the summit, Cameron and President Obama have been seeking support from their counterparts for a campaign to degrade Islamic State militants that have wreaked havoc in Iraq and Syria.

Obama is scheduled to speak at a news conference at 11:30 a.m. ET Friday after a ceremonial NATO flyover event and meeting with world leaders. He is expected to return to the White House Friday evening.

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Coast Guard Seizes $93 Million Worth of Cocaine Near Colombia, Panama

Coast Guard Seizes $93 Million Worth of Cocaine Near Colombia, Panama

iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — The Coast Guard in Florida has seized about $93 million worth of cocaine during two separate operations off the coasts of Colombia and Panama.  

Coast Guard Officer Joshua McElhaney says that once the smugglers “spotted the plane, they changed course which is suspicious for us. We asked them some questions and something of their information didn’t add up.”

The seizures are part of Operation Martillo, aimed at countering smuggling from Central America.

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Palestinian Man Charged in Murders of Three Israeli Teens

Palestinian Man Charged in Murders of Three Israeli Teens

iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) — An Israeli military court indicted a Palestinian man allegedly involved in the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June.

Hussam Qawasmeh, dubbed by officials as a terrorist, was charged with organizing and funding the attack. He allegedly spent more than $60,000 to provide the attackers with two getaway cars, safe houses, and M-16 rifles.

Officials say Qawasmeh admitted to burying the teens on his land near Hebron, and later hid the involved attackers in local caves and mosques during the manhunt.

The June incident set off a chain of events that led to more than seven weeks of intense fighting between Israel and Gaza. Initially, Hamas denied any involvement, though officials now claim responsibility for the deaths.

Two main suspects are still at large.

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UN Dispatches Humanitarian Team to Northern Iraqi City in ‘Dire’ Situation

UN Dispatches Humanitarian Team to Northern Iraqi City in ‘Dire’ Situation

iStock/Thinkstock(AMERLI, Iraq) — The United Nations dispatched a humanitarian team to the northern Iraqi city of Amerli on Wednesday, sending personnel to the area for the first time since a two-month siege was lifted.

UNICEF estimates 3,000 children have been trapped in the region and the, “humanitarian situation on the ground remains dire,” according to a briefing note.

Officials told aid workers that families were forced to survive on bread and water alone. During the siege, two children and seven pregnant women reportedly died, a pharmacist said.

The Mayor of Amerli requested assistance from UNICEF for food, water, and medical supplies, along with support to revive the only health clinic in town. The lawmaker also expressed concern that the school year would be unable to begin for the 11 primary schools in the area.

The siege was lifted Sunday morning, prompting the arrival of 15 trucks worth of supplies for 15,000 people in Amerli.

Still, officials say that “more must be done” to provide aid.

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US Believes a Dozen Americans Are Fighting with ISIS in Syria

US Believes a Dozen Americans Are Fighting with ISIS in Syria

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. believes that about a dozen Americans are fighting with ISIS in Syria, part of a larger group of more than 100 Americans who have joined various rebel groups in the country.

The new estimate was provided  by the Pentagon in a clarification of comments made Wednesday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during a CNN interview at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

During the interview Hagel said, “We are aware of over 100 U.S. citizens who have U.S. passports who are fighting in the Middle East with ISIL forces.”  He added, “There may be more. We don’t know.” ISIL is another name used to refer to the group.

On Thursday, a Pentagon spokesman clarified that the number used by Hagel was actually a reference to the more than 100 Americans the U.S. believes have traveled to Syria to join various groups. That estimate has been discussed publicly by U.S. officials for several months.

Col. Steve Warren told reporters that “We believe that there are approximately 100 American passport holders operating inside of Syria, we don’t know specifically who they are aligning themselves with.  We believe that there are maybe a dozen that are with ISIL.”

Until now intelligence officials have only said that “a small handful” of the approximately 100 Americans fighting in Syria had been fighting with ISIS.

On Tuesday, Matt Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said at a Washington thinktank that more than 12,000 foreign fighters have gone to Syria over the past three years to join rebel fighting groups. The figure includes an estimated 1,000 Europeans “and more than 100 Americans.”

Olsen said that “many of these foreign fighters have joined ISIL’s ranks, and the group may use these fighters to conduct external attacks.”  But he added that the militant group lacks the capacity to launch large-scale terror attacks on U.S. soil like al Qaeda.

According to Olsen, the FBI has arrested more than half a dozen individuals who have sought to travel from the U.S. to Syria to support ISIS.

The U.S. believes that the group has grown in size to 10,000 fighters who are operating on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border.

Last week, the White House confirmed that Douglas McAuthur McCain, an American citizen from Minnesota, had been killed in Syria while fighting with ISIS forces.  Reports that another American citizen had been killed in the same incident could not be confirmed by U.S. officials.

In May, the State Department confirmed that an American citizen was involved in a suicide bombing attack in Syria.  Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, 22, from Florida, was affiliated with Jabhat al-Nusra, one of several Islamic rebel groups fighting to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

A U.S. official told ABC News that it is easier for foreign fighters to join the ISIS ranks than it is to join al Nusra.

The official said it appears that al Nusra seems to have a much stricter vetting process for any foreign fighters seeking to join their ranks than does ISIS.

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Russian Forces Massed Along Ukraine Border ‘Exceptionally Capable,’ Pentagon Concerned

Russian Forces Massed Along Ukraine Border ‘Exceptionally Capable,’ Pentagon Concerned

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Pentagon expressed concern on Thursday about the growing — and strengthening — numbers of Russian forces fighting inside the borders of Ukraine, as well as those massed along the border between the two countries.P…

New Al Qaeda Franchise Also Sets Sights on US

New Al Qaeda Franchise Also Sets Sights on US

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) may be a new branch of the global terror group, but at least one of its primary aims is the same as the rest: to target the United States.

Following words from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, a spokesperson for the new group said in a video released online this week that one of its first goals is “waging jihad against America and the system of global disbelief that grew under its sponsorship…”

“This is the system that put upon worshipers of Allah a political system built on non-religious, democratic, secular principles, and weakened the Islamic creed and corrupted Muslim society,” the spokesperson says, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group. “And because of this system, apostate, traitor armies were put upon the Islamic lands and the rulers hostile to Islam.”

The announcement of AQIS’s establishment came as much of the Western world was focused on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a terror group that recently split from al Qaeda’s control, went on to take over large swaths or Syria and Iraq and then declared itself the Islamic State — an apparent direct challenge to al Qaeda’s authority.

Zawahiri, who had a public falling out with ISIS’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, did not directly reference his new rival’s success in his portion of the new video, but spoke about the unity of Muslim fighters, a possible glancing reference to the splinter group.

Elsewhere in his AQIS pronouncement, Zawahiri referenced Burma, Bangladesh, Kashmir and others as locations where “your brothers…did not forget you.”

Approximately 400 people were killed in terrorist attacks in 2013 in India, according to the START program, which the State Department said demonstrated that the world’s largest democracy “continued to be one of the most persistently targeted countries by transnational and domestic terror groups” — about half those deaths attributed to attacks to the Communist Party of India. Other violence in Kashmir and Jammu, the State Department says, have been linked to “transnational terrorist groups that India alleges are backed by Pakistan.”

The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center recognizes one major terror group as operating in the area, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), an organization with close links to Pakistan that is also believed to have been behind the Mumbai massacre in 2008. That attack claimed the lives of more than 160 people.

Before the addition of AQIS, al Qaeda “core” situated in Pakistan has recognized major affiliates approximately in North Africa (AQIM), Somalia (al-Shabab), Yemen (AQAP) and Syria (al-Nusra).

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Scientists Grow Mushrooms in Dirty Diapers to Cut Environmental Waste

Scientists Grow Mushrooms in Dirty Diapers to Cut Environmental Waste

AlphaGalileo(AZCAPOTZALCO, Mexico) — Talk about shiitake mushrooms.

Mexican scientists say edible fungus grown in dirty diapers could cut nappy waste by more than 80 percent.

The researchers from Autonomous Metropolitan University in Azcapotzalco, Mexico, ground up wet diapers that had been sterilized and blended them with coffee grounds and other organic waste. The then added fungus spores and fertilizer to the diaper mixture.

The concoction was wrapped up in plastic bags and placed in a cool, damp room. Three months later, mushrooms had bloomed and the cellulose from the diapers had nearly disappeared, the researchers said in a statement posted on the university’s website.

Call these diaper delicacies butt-on mushrooms or porta-below if you must. But the environmental nightmare created by disposable diapers is no joke.

The average baby burns through more than 8,000 diapers before potty training, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. With each wet nappy weighing in at around 8 ounces, that’s more than two tons of slow-to-degrade garbage added to the landfill. And with over 4 million babies a year born in the U.S. alone according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the waste is staggering.

Though lead researcher Rosa María Espinosa Valdemar and her team did sample the fungus, she stressed it’s not intended for human consumption.

“The main objective is to get rid of diapers to avoid damaging the environment more,” she explained in the statement. “However, the mushrooms could be used as food supplement for cattle.”

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The French Aren’t the Wine Experts We Think They Are

The French Aren’t the Wine Experts We Think They Are

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — One of the first things people think of when they think of France is French wine. However, Americans may have the wrong idea of how much wine the French consume and how much they know about the grape.

For instance, a 2010 survey pointed out that only 17 percent of Frenchmen drink a glass of wine daily. Overall consumption, it seems, has dropped dramatically since 1965.

Meanwhile, the polling company Viavoice recently surveyed more than 1,000 adults in France to determine if the assumption that the French are true wine connoisseurs is actually true.

Turns out, it isn’t.

Only three percent of those polled said they knew lot about wine while a whopping 71 percent admitted that they didn’t.

Of those who regarded themselves as connoisseurs, 43 percent held down white collar jobs while just 16 percent of blue collar workers claimed they were real wine experts.

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Former Israeli President Peres Meets with Pope, Proposes UN for Religions

Former Israeli President Peres Meets with Pope, Proposes UN for Religions

Carsten Koall/Getty Images(ROME) — Former Israeli President Shimon Peres met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday, during which he proposed the founding of a United Religions organization — modeled after the United Nations — to fight terrorism.

Peres said he would like to see a religions charter, similar to the UN charter, written in the name of all faiths that would clearly state that mass slaughter has nothing to do with religion.

“It would be the best way to combat these terrorists who kill in the name of their faith,” Peres said.

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Stunning NASA Video Shows a Solar Eruption

Stunning NASA Video Shows a Solar Eruption

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Newly released video offers a stunning look at a solar eruption.

The footage, released Wednesday, was recorded by NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory – known as STEREO – on Aug. 24.

In the video, material can be seen being ejected from the sun’s surface and into space, with some of the material collapsing back, unable to break free from the sun’s gravity.

The eruption captured on the video is associated with an M-class solar flare, NASA says.

NASA’s STEREO observatories are helping scientists study the sun.

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