HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images(HANOI, Vietnam) — President Obama sent a message to the government of Vietnam Tuesday — make improvements on human rights in order to succeed as a nation.
He made his case in a speech to thousands in Hanoi, just one day after meeting with Vietnamese leaders.
"Nations are more successful when universal rights are upheld," the president said, saying countries prosper when they embrace freedom of expression, speech and assembly.
The president relayed the same message during a meeting with civil society groups. Obama said some activists were blocked from attending the meeting.
"There were several other activists who were invited that were prevented from coming," he said. "There are some folks who find it very difficult to assemble and organize peacefully around issues that they care deeply about."
The president didn't say who blocked the activists from attending, but did say this to Vietnam’s government:
"It's my hope that the government of Vietnam comes to recognize what we've recognized and what so many countries around the world have recognized, and that is that it's very hard to prosper in this modern economy if you haven't fully unleashed the potential of your people," he said.
Sitting right next to President Obama was singer and songwriter Mai Khoi — known as the "Lady Gaga of Vietnam."
She attempted to run in last week's National Assembly election, but was blocked from the ballot.
ABC's Bob Woodruff interviewed Khoi ahead of her meeting with the president.
"I use my music to influence the people to raise awareness in democracy and human rights," she said.
iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- More fallout for Russia and its athletic doping scandal.
The Russian Olympic Committee said Tuesday that 14 Russians who competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, including 10 who won medals, tested positive for doping when their samples were recently reanalyzed.
The news comes after the International Olympic Committee said last week that 31 athletes could be banned from the Rio 2016 Olympics after retesting 454 doping samples from 2008.
Russia's athletes are currently banned from international competition and are looking to still compete in Rio.
If the Russian athletes were to be disqualified and the medals re-awarded, several nations would pick up additional medals by moving from fourth place to third: The U.K. would gain two medals, Brazil 1, Bulgaria 1, Thailand 1, Spain 1, and Belarus 1.
Additionally, a number of nations would have their medals upgraded from silver to gold or bronze to silver. The United States is not among them.
Anna Chicherova, one of the medalists who tested positive, went on to win gold in the women’s high jump in the 2012 London Olympics, an event in which the United States won silver. She won bronze in the high jump in 2008.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Biodegradable plastics, often found in bottles and plastic bags, may not be part of the solution to ocean pollution as once marketed, according to a United Nations report published Monday, because they don't break down well in marine environments.
The report, written by the UN's top environmental scientists, says although biodegradable plastics were specifically designed to "be more susceptible to degradation," they won't solve the problem of litter in oceans because most plastic is extremely durable.
Plastics that break down in the environment were once thought of as an alternative that could possibly reduce the amount of waste in the ocean, but the rate at which they break down depends heavily on environmental conditions, the report stated.
There is also a lack of scientific evidence that biodegradation will occur any more rapidly than unmodified polyethylene, which is non-biodegradable, it said.
In ocean settings, the principal weathering agent is through UV irradiation, which is most pronounced on shorelines. Once the plastic is in the water, it is difficult to estimate the extent of biodegradation, but it is considered to be "extremely slow" due to decreased UV exposure and lower temperatures and oxygen levels, the report said.
The report also says that many biodegradable plastics require temperatures found in industrial composters -- around 122 degrees Fahrenheit -- "to breakdown completely into its constituent components of water, carbon dioxide, methane, on a reasonable or practical timescale."
And the report says that the biodegradable label encourages people to pollute.
The low density in plastics cause them to float, leading plastic debris and "microplastics" to distribute throughout the world through currents from the Arctic to the Antarctic, according to the report.
Microplastics, or particles of plastic less than 5 millimeters in diameter, are another significant problem plaguing the ocean. Most recently used for 3D printing, they're also referred to as "microbeads," found in personal care and cosmetic products such as toothpaste, cosmetics, cleansing agents and skin exfoliators. Last year, the state of California enacted a ban on personal care products containing microbeads, saying they get through typical water treatment plants and end up polluting waterways.
Large-scale production of plastics began in the 1950s because it presented "significant advantages" for food preservation, medical product efficacy, electrical safety and improved thermal insulation, according to the report. In 2014, 311 million tons of plastic were produced globally.
A trash vortex in the Pacific Ocean, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, has formed between Japan and the West Coast of the U.S. due to a significant amount of plastic, according to National Geographic.
iStock/Thinkstock(GABORONE, Botswana) -- A camper in Africa experienced a too-close-for-comfort encounter with nature when she recorded three lionesses licking her tent while she was still inside.
Francie Lubbe was camping at the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in Botswana on May 9 when she recorded the lionesses licking water on the tent leftover from a heavy rain the night before. The lionesses, inches away, were visible through the tent's clear mesh. Drinks and sunblock lotion can be seen on the other side of the tent, directly opposite the lionesses' heads.
The video was taken in the Khiding campsite, an area in the preserve that is famous for frequent visits from lions.
Lubbe was able to stay quiet and calm enough to capture the lionesses, who ignored her. On Facebook, she called the experience a "privilege."
White House/Pete Souza(HANOI, Vietnam) -- President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are in Vietnam this week for a trip the White House says is aimed at rebalancing its interests in the Asia-Pacific region and expanding revitalized commercial relations with the country. But just as soon as the president made good on that and announced he would lift a decades-long arms embargo, heads in the region turned ... and China called foul.
The White House says its decision to give Vietnam access to the power of U.S.-made weapons systems is in no way influenced by China, but the regional powerhouse sees things very differently. On Tuesday, an op-ed in China's Global Times called that denial a "very poor lie," adding that the White House feels an urgent need to contain China.
To understand how the president's trip has angered China and what each side is saying, it's important to understand the tense regional security environment the president has entered. Struggle for the South China Sea
The entirety of Vietnam's coastline abuts the South China Sea -- 14 million square miles of resource-rich ocean and strategic passageways that have become, in recent years, subject of a tense territorial dispute.
China claims the entirety of the sea, which U.S. observers say defies the basic principle of the Law of the Sea by basing its claim on arbitrary lines, rather than proximity to land features.
More importantly, the U.S. has grown increasingly concerned about China's rush to claim and militarize uninhabited islands that will greatly enhance its ability to enforce those claims and control the waterways. For months now, the U.S. has been risking confrontation by sailing U.S. naval vessels and flying military aircraft closer to those islands, seen by some as a gesture of protest and defiance.
And now, China sees the visit to Vietnam as another step in that encroachment.
It's About Us, China Says
A day after announcing that he would lift the weapons embargo, Obama drew applause in Hanoi when talking about the country's disputes with China and saying that "big nations should not bully smaller ones."
Though Obama didn't mention China by name, the implication was clear. That same morning, editors for the Global Times penned the editorial calling the president's denials about the arms embargo being aimed at China "a very poor lie," saying it is "exacerbating the strategic antagonism between Washington and Beijing."
The paper went on to claim that the U.S. "is taking advantage of Vietnam to stir up more troubles in the South China Sea."
U.S.: This Is Nothing out of the Ordinary
Meanwhile, Secretary Kerry spent his morning making the case to White House reporters the lifted arms embargo is not related to China's assertions in the South China Sea.
"This is not about China," Kerry said. "Nothing that we did here or are doing here is focused on China.... Nothing we’ve done here is out of the ordinary.
"We’ve lifted an embargo which was out of the ordinary," he emphasized.
Kerry claimed the U.S. isn't taking sides in the territorial disputes and only wants to urge that China resolve its disputes peacefully.
"We’re not saying China is wrong in its claims. We’re simply saying, 'Resolve it peacefully, resolve it through a rules-based structure,'" he said. "I hope China will read this correctly. Because our hope is for normal respect for maritime law and for the relationships that are so key in this region."
Nevertheless, warming relations with Vietnam could eventually lead to reopening U.S. naval access to one of the most critical ports on Vietnam's coast: Cam Ranh Bay. The U.S. Navy hasn't been allowed regular entry since it used it as a base during the war, and in 2012, President Obama was the first to send a U.S. defense secretary there in nearly 50 years. That port is Vietnam's nearest point to the contested islands.
Ramzan Kadyrov/Instagram(MOSCOW) -- Comedian John Oliver has gotten into an unlikely long-distance spat with the feared president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, on the improbable subject of the leader’s lost cat, a toyger.
Kadyrov, who rules the semi-autonomous republic in Russia’s south, published a post on his popular Instagram account last week, announcing that he had lost his cat and asking Chechens whether they had seen it.
Appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2007, Kadyrov, 39, controls a private army of tens of thousands of men and is accused by rights groups of kidnapping and personally torturing his enemies. But Kadyrov wrote last week that he had “begun to seriously worry” about the cat that resembles a miniature tiger, adding that he would be grateful for any information.
“Thank you in advance,” wrote Kadyrov, who was recently accused of ordering a critic’s house burned down.
John Oliver responded Sunday to Kadyrov’s request for aid on his HBO show, Last Week Tonight. After making fun of the Chechen leader for his seemingly obsessive worship of Putin (and his passion for T-shirts depicting the Russian president), Oliver noted Kadyrov’s brutal record and told viewers they urgently needed to find the cat.
The British comedian told his audience to begin tweeting at Kadyrov, writing, if they had seen the pet, “I have seen your cat.” If not, they should write, “I have not seen your cat.”
If people were unsure, Oliver asked them to send photos of themselves with cats, asking “Is this your cat?”
Kadyrov’s Twitter and Instagram have since been filled with people denying they have seen his cat, and cat photos, with the hashtag #Findkadyrovscat.
Kadyrov responded Tuesday to Oliver’s sketch. Kadyrov's Instagram account posted a doctored picture of the comedian wearing a Putin-face T-shirt with the caption: “I am tired of jokes. I want to care for cats in Chechnya. By the way, Putin is our leader.”
The picture on Instagram was accompanied with a long post in idiosyncratic English thanking people for searching for the cat and criticizing America:
“Some people say that they saw the cat in Vladivostok, Japan, Iceland, New Zealand, and even in the Oval Office of the White House! I am grateful to all, but this is NOT my cat.”
The post went on, less clearly: “I knew long ago that in the USA unevenly breathe to my younger friends. One day horses aren't allowed to jump, the other - a cat is a real star of a show.”
The post ended by blaming President Obama for the wars in Syria and Libya and Oliver for supporting him.
This is not the first time the Muslim leader's Instagram has led to odd interactions. In recent years, he has created an elaborate public persona that blends strict Islamic observance with gushing adoration of Putin, Rambo-antics and a cuddly love for animals (including a full-size pet tiger, reportedly not missing).
Kadyrov’s Instagram account is the key platform for all this; 1.8 million followers see his several posts a day, featuring him working out, commanding Chechen special forces, firing machine guns, wrestling crocodiles and cradling lions in his arms.
Tigers are also a recurring feature on the account, and the missing cat is reportedly a U.S. special breed, known as a toyger, or “toy tiger” because of the striped coat that makes it resemble the much larger cat species.
As of this writing, Kadyrov is still looking for it.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center(NEW YORK) -- Ferocious solar storms four billion years ago may have been key to warming the Earth and creating the right conditions for life to form on the planet, according to a new study by a team of NASA scientists.
NASA's Kepler mission discovered young sun-like stars and found they released "superflares," which are enormous explosions of energy that often include solar material, as much as 10 times per day. By comparison, superflares are so rare today that NASA points out we experience them about once a century.
Using this information, NASA placed the stars in order according to their age, creating a timeline that gives researchers new insight into how our sun evolved over billions of years. From this data, researchers learned the sun shone with about three-quarters of the luminosity is has today, according to research published Monday in Nature Geoscience.
The timeline allowed scientists to model how our young, active sun may have impacted Earth billions of years ago.
"Back then, Earth received only about 70 percent of the energy from the sun than it does today," Vladimir Airapetian, lead author of the paper and a solar scientist at NASA, said in a statement. "That means Earth should have been an icy ball. Instead, geological evidence says it was a warm globe with liquid water. We call this the Faint Young Sun Paradox. Our new research shows that solar storms could have been central to warming Earth."
With the sun spewing massive amounts of solar material and radiation, the NASA team said these explosions may have provided energy to warm Earth and bring energy needed to turn simple molecules into the more complex RNA and DNA -- necessary ingredients for fostering life.
William Danchi, principal investigator of the project, said understanding Earth's early days may help scientists glean new insights into where else life may exist in the universe.
"We want to gather all this information together, how close a planet is to the star, how energetic the star is, how strong the planet's magnetosphere is in order to help search for habitable planets around stars near our own and throughout the galaxy," Danchi said in a statement.
Solar storms are the result of a coronal mass ejection -- basically a flare of charged particles -- that burst from the sun. They're less common today than they were billions of years ago, according to NASA. Earth enjoys a layer of protection due to its strong magnetic field, which keeps a large amount of the energy from reaching Earth. However, some particularly strong solar events can interact with the magnetosphere and potentially wreak havoc on certain technology on Earth.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration classifies solar storms on a scale of one to five (one being the weakest; five being the most severe). For instance, a storm forecast to be a G3 event means it could have the strength to cause fluctuations in some power grids, intermittent radio blackouts in higher latitudes and possible GPS issues.
ABC News(HANOI, Vietnam) -- She is known as “Vietnam’s Lady Gaga.”
Singer Mai Khoi has developed a reputation not only for her unique performances, but also -- and perhaps more so -- for her political activism.
“I use my music to influence people, to raise awareness about democracy and human rights,” Khoi told ABC News' Bob Woodruff.
The 32-year-old singer's message was amplified Tuesday by one of the most powerful voices in the world: President Obama's. Khoi sat next to him during a meeting of Vietnamese activists in Hanoi, as he pressed the government to improve its record on human rights.
“Obama cares about democracy and human rights,” Khoi said prior to the meeting.
The singer had taken to social media weeks before the president's visit to petition for a meeting. She saw that goal realized, although Obama noted that other activists were blocked from the meeting.
“It’s hard to say” how the Vietnamese government would react to their meeting, Khoi said.
Khoi insists she is “telling the government to change,” rather than criticizing it. But she cited what she believes were several instances of repression of her music and, thus, her message.
“Freedom is a very sensitive word here,” Khoi told Woodruff.
Artists have to ask permission before singing or performing in Vietnam, Khoi says, and many of her shows have been shut down by the police.
But that hasn’t stopped her.
Khoi has taken her concerts to secret venues and broadcast them out to the world on Facebook. When she was barred from the ballot after running in the country’s parliamentary elections, Khoi said, she remained undeterred.
iStock/ Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Three climbers have died and two others are still missing after attempting to climb Mt. Everest, officials confirm to ABC News Tuesday morning.
Among the dead are Dutch climber, Eric Arnold, 35; Austrian climber, Maria Strydom, 34, and Indian climber Subhash Paul, 43. All three died of altitude sickness, according to Nepal Tourism official, Gyanendra Shrestha.
ABC News previously reported that four climbers were killed, but the Sherpa who had been reported to have died on Mt. Everest was actually in Mt. Lhotse at the time, according to Shrestha. Mt. Lhotse is adjoined to Mt. Everest.
Shresta said two more Indian climbers, Paresh Nath, 58, and Goutam Ghosh, 50, are still missing as of Saturday. The deceased Indian climber, Subhash Paul, was part of this group of hikers.
Rescue teams said there have been recurring calls of climbers suffering from altitude sickness, frostbite, falls and injuries.
"The most common cause for death on Everest is the altitude. There's not enough oxygen there," said Dan Stretch, a senior specialist in the operations department at Global Rescue, which has evacuated some 30 people since the 2016 climbing season began last month. "The weather can change very quickly. It can be fine one minute and then force winds and heavy snow the next minute."
The 29,035-foot-high mountain was practically empty the two previous years, after fatal avalanches that canceled expeditions. More than 4,000 climbers have reached the treacherous peak since 1953, when Everest was first scaled by New Zealand explorer Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.
Foreigners from around the world are drawn to Nepal’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, ancient temples and, of course, Mount Everest.
The tourism industry, which brings in more than $3 million from Everest climbing fees alone, is Nepal’s chief source of foreign income and contributed almost 9 percent of its GDP in 2014, according to a report by the World Travel and Tourism Council. But the impoverished Himalayan country saw its tourist arrivals drop after deadly twin earthquakes and quake-triggered avalanches last year.
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- The Airbus A320 is one of the most common jets in the sky and it's the same model of the EgyptAir plane that disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea last Thursday with 66 aboard. An ABC News aviation contributor deems it "a great aircraft with a superb safety record."
Here some fast facts to know about the Airbus 320, according to Airbus:
The first A320 entered service in 1988. Since then, it's carried more than 10.5 billion passengers. (That's over 2.5 million passengers a day).
The A320 family includes the A318, A319, A320 and A321.
There are 6,713 A320s in operation as of last month. An A320 takes off or lands every two seconds.
Today’s A320s have an operational reliability of 99.7 percent.
The cause of the EgyptAir crash remains under investigation. ABC News' aviation contributor Steve Ganyard said "we still know too little to suggest that the A320 has a problem that would threaten the flying public's safety."
Before the EgyptAir flight disappeared en route to Cairo from Paris last week, Airbus 320s were involved in 11 deadly crashes, in addition to the Germanwings plane that was intentionally crashed by a co-pilot in the French Alps last year, according to The Associated Press. An Airbus spokesperson could not immediately confirm the number of deadly crashes.
Ganyard told ABC News, "The A320 is a great aircraft with a superb safety record -- which is why it is hard to conceive of a mechanical problem that would have led directly to [the EgyptAir] crash."
As the desperate search for the EgyptAir flight's black box continues, a spokesperson for Airbus told ABC News Monday, "In line with ICAO Annex 13 rules, Airbus is providing full technical assistance to the French Investigation Agency - BEA - and the Egyptian Investigation Authorities who leads the technical investigation. The Airbus Safety team coordinates our response and support to the authorities, including local support in Cairo."
"The official authorities in charge of the investigation will start the research to determine the location of the pingers with the appropriate means," the statement said. "This search could take from a few days to a few weeks."
iStock/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) -- The Iraqi ground offensive to retake the ISIS-held city of Fallujah began early Monday with Iraqi military forces pressing outside the city located 40 miles west of Baghdad.
Retaking the city in Anbar Province has been a priority for the Iraqi government since it was one of the first places in the country seized by ISIS in early 2014. According to American military officials, the number of ISIS fighters in the province has fallen to 1,000 as ISIS has sustained battlefield defeats in recent months.
The Fallujah military operation was announced late Sunday night by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi who said Iraqi forces are "approaching a moment of great victory" against ISIS in the wake of recent victories in the far western town of Rutbah and other towns in the Euphrates River Valley.
WHAT IS THE IRAQI MILITARY DOING IN FALLUJAH?
Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said Monday that the Iraqi military had begun to conduct “shaping operations" on the outside of Fallujah and had not entered the city proper. “Fallujah is important," said Davis. "It’s the last remaining stronghold within Anbar Province. It’s the ISIS position closest to Baghdad and a place we’re going to be working very closely with Iraqi partners to retake.”
The Fallujah operation involves forces from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police. “Those forces have already begun to move on the city where they’re encountering some resistance,” said Davis. The shaping also involves striking at targets inside the city and “dropping leaflets meant to inform civilian populations to avoid ISIS areas," Davis said. "They’ve been asking people to place white sheets on their roof to market their locations.”
While the U.S. is supporting the Iraqi military offensive in Fallujah, it is still not cooperating with the Iranian-backed Shiite militias, known the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), arrayed north of the city.
Davis said he did not know what the role of the Shiite militias would be in Fallujah though “they have a largely a relationship of coexistence with Iraqi forces and are aligned against ISIS”.
The coalition has supported the ground operation with airstrikes before the offensive, 21 in Fallujah since May 17, according to Davis. Iraq has not requested the use of American Apache helicopters based in Iraq as part of the Fallujah operation though they remain available if needed.
WHY AN OFFENSIVE NOW?
Fallujah was the first Iraqi city seized by ISIS in early 2014, as the group found early support among the dominant Sunni Muslim population that resented the policies by the Shiite-led government of former Prime Minister Maliki.
Since then, retaking the city has been a priority for the Iraqi government, even though it may not be as tactically important as it once was.
The U.S. military believes about 1,000 ISIS fighters remain in Anbar Province with ISIS numbers decreasing as the result of recent Iraqi military victories in Rutbah and Hit in the Euphrates River Valley. Davis said many ISIS fighters had already left Anbar and particularly Fallujah which he described as “a distant outpost for them” that has been “hard to sustain over time.”
Two Iraqi Army brigades have been encircling the city for months in anticipation of a planned offensive which seemed to await the slow progress of the Iraqi military in retaking Ramaadi to the southwest.
IS FALLUJAH IMPORTANT FOR RETAKING MOSUL?
ISIS still controls significant area of Iraqi territory in the northern part of the country including Mosul, the country's second largest city. Much of the American-led training effort of Iraq's military has been geared towards generating the forces needed to retake Mosul in a future offensive.
Two weeks ago, Col. Steve Warren, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said retaking Fallujah was not a military prerequisite for an offensive towards Mosul and that doing so would be an Iraqi "political decision."
He anticipated that retaking the city would be "a tough note for the Iraqis to crack" given that the city had been under ISIS control for more than two years.
The pace of the Iraqi-led operation and sequencing of the operation will be up to the Iraqis, similar to the effort to retake the much larger city of Ramadi which lasted for months.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. drone strike in Pakistan that killed top Taliban leader Mullah Mansur on Saturday was a “defensive" strike because he was actively involved in plots against U.S. and coalition personnel inside Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Monday.
The airstrike conducted in southwestern Pakistan was not carried out as a counter-terrorism strike, according to Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis, who noted that multiple unmanned drones involved in the strike belonged to Special Operations Forces operating under the command of U.S. Forces Afghanistan.
As such, they were under the current rules of engagement for airstrikes that apply to U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, he said.
Those rules allow for airstrikes in Afghanistan for three reasons: strikes for defensive purposes if there is a direct threat to U.S. and coalition forces, against remnants of al-Qaeda or in extreme situations to prevent overruns of key positions. In effect since 2015, the rules no longer allowed strikes to be conducted against Taliban members because they belonged to the group.
Mansur was involved in specific and imminent threats to U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan, not just past planning, according to Davis, who declined, for operational reasons, to disclose any specifics about the threats.
“This was considered a defensive strike and given the location required a higher level of approval,” Davis said. “This was an individual who was specifically targeting U.S. and coalition personnel and had specifically engaged in operations in the past that resulted in U.S. and coalition personnel being killed."
On a trip to Vietnam, President Obama announced Monday that the U.S. had confirmed that Mansur was killed in a strike that he had authorized. Mansur and a companion were killed after multiple drones targeted the vehicle they were riding in, located in a remote part of Pakistan just south of the border with Afghanistan.
The strike against Mansur appears to be the first “defensive strike" to have taken place inside Pakistan for rules that seemed to only apply for Afghanistan.
"We can adjust authorities or take things higher up the chain of command to get approvals and that’s what we did in this case,” Davis said.
The timing of the airstrike had to do more with opportunity and in a place where civilian casualties could be avoided, he said. “This was deliberately carried out in a place that was remote and not near other things that would have raised a risk for collateral damage."
As for reports that Pakistan officials were not notified beforehand, Davis said the United States and Pakistan “have an ongoing relationship."
"We talk to them regularly," Davis said. "We’ve talked to them about this individual in past situations, as well as the present.”
“When we see anybody -- whether it's Taliban or anyone else -- doing things of a threatening nature to U.S. and coalition forces, anyone who does this needs to be very careful," Davis said. "We will take action to remove them from the battlefield.”
iStock/Thinkstock(ISTANBUL) -- Going to school can dramatically change the lives of children in conflict zones –- yet education is severely underfunded, children’s advocates from UNICEF and Save the Children say.
Their comments follow the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on Monday, where United Nations Special Envoy Gordon Brown launched a new education fund for children affected by conflicts, natural disasters and other types of crisis. The U.N. goal is to recruit 100 major foundations, businesses, governments and international agencies as contributors to this new education fund.
“Education is so important because it is the only foundation and stability in these children’s life, where they can recover from the conflict,” UNICEF's Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth told ABC News.
The new U.N. fund aims to improve access to education for 18 percent of children affected by crisis by 2020 and to all children affected by crisis by 2030.
Less than two percent of current U.N. emergency funding is spent on education, according to figures from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
“It’s pitiful,” Tove Wang, chief executive officer of Save the Children Norway who will provide strategic direction for the new fund, told ABC News. “It has taken a long time to make the world understand the importance of education in crisis. There has been this thinking that health, food and shelter is the most important. Now, there is a growing understanding that education is lifesaving.”
Wang explained that education protects children from dangers and gives them a sense of stability even when they live in places devastated by conflicts. Children who don’t go to school in conflict zones are more vulnerable to extremism, the organization said.
“If you are in school you might not be recruited as child soldier,” Wang said. “You are less likely to be picked up for child labor or be picked up by one of the fighting parties. Many young people join rebel groups because they have no other options. If there is a school functioning you have an alternative.”
Forsyth said that children in conflict zones can also be at risk of being kidnapped or trafficked. In northern Nigeria, Boko Haram is purposely attacking schools because the extremist group is against education.
For many children, the risk of being abducted can make them fearful of attending school. Forsyth met a 10-year-old boy who had to flee to the river and hide in the bushes after Boko Haram attacked his school. The group found him and kidnapped him, but he later managed to escape.
One in four of the world’s school-aged children –- 462 million –- now live in countries affected by crisis. Of these children, 75 million are either in danger of missing out on school or they already have, according to the U.N. Refugee children and children who are displaced inside their own countries are a big priority for the new fund, especially Syrian children.
The fund also aims to spend money on education for children in countries such as Yemen, South Sudan and Nigeria, where crisis prevent children from going to school. Depending on the individual country and its needs, the proposed U.N. fund could provide temporary learning centers and training for teachers.
“Money going toward education is tiny, even though education is the number one priority for children themselves, before water and food,” Forsyth said.
iStock/Thinkstock(KATHMANDU, Nepal) -- Four people have died within four days on Mount Everest, an official at Nepal’s tourism department told ABC News Monday.
Climbers from Australia, India and the Netherlands were among those who died on the world’s tallest peak since last Thursday. A local Sherpa guide was reportedly also among those killed, according to CNN. This could not be independently confirmed by ABC News.
The four deaths were the first confirmed this year on Everest as the busy trekking season nears its end. Rescue teams said there have been recurring calls of climbers suffering from altitude sickness, frostbite, falls and injuries.
"The most common cause for death on Everest is the altitude. There’s not enough oxygen there," said Dan Stretch, a senior specialist in the operations department at Global Rescue, which has evacuated some 30 people since the 2016 climbing season truly began last month. "The weather can change very quickly. It can be fine one minute and then force winds and heavy snow the next minute."
The 29,029-foot-tall mountain was practically empty the two previous years, following fatal avalanches that cancelled expeditions. More than 4,000 climbers have reached the treacherous peak since 1953, when Everest was first scaled by New Zealand explorer Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.
Foreigners from around the world are drawn to Nepal’s World Heritage Sites, UNESCO monuments, ancient temples and, of course, Mount Everest.
The tourism industry, which brings in more than $3 million from Everest climbing fees alone, is Nepal’s chief source of foreign income and contributed almost 9 percent of its GDP in 2014, according to a report by the World Travel and Tourism Council. But the impoverished Himalayan country saw its tourist arrivals drop following deadly twin earthquakes and quake-triggered avalanches last year.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Chase Millsap, a former Marine infantry officer, was on his first tour in Iraq when a local soldier saved his life.
Millsap said that a sniper opened fire and the Iraqi soldier reacted, pushing him to the ground safely and charging towards the gunman.
On Tuesday, Millsap will speak to Congress, working to gain asylum for the man he calls "The Captain" and other Iraqi soldiers who helped U.S. troops.
"I'm not advocating that everyone needs to come here but I definitely think that we should be helping to protect these people," Millsap said. "Because in a lot of ways they are our first line of defense. He could go into a room of Iraqis and say 'Chase is a good guy, we can trust him.'"
Millsap said he and "The Captain" have remained close since meeting in 2006.
"We really sort of became like brothers," Millsap told ABC News. "We worked at the same checkpoint, it was my platoon that was there and he had another squad with about 12 soldiers."
In 2014, Millsap received a desperate phone call from his friend, after not hearing from him for some time, who said he had been hit by an IED and was badly injured. He said he was being targeted.
"He had been called out, by name, by ISIS," Millsap said, "and they were going after his kids.
"He said he needed my help, he wanted to come to America," Millsap continued. "He had exhausted all the options he had and he was calling me as a last resort. It couldn't have been worse timing with all the refugees coming out of Syria. Countries were closing their borders."
The Captain, who had fought and stayed in his homeland for as long as he could, eventually fled to Turkey with his family. But when he tried to apply for refugee status in Turkey, he was told that the next appointment was in 2022.
"The U.S. State Department won't even touch him until he becomes a refugee" Millsap said.
He then began the Ronin Refugee Project -- a non-profit providing emergency support to displaced Iraqi and Afghan soldiers, run by U.S. Veterans.
"We want to help, we want to do the right thing, but what we are really trying to do is tell the story, get the information out there," Millsap said.
As for the Captain, Millsap told ABC News that he and his family are struggling in Turkey.
"He got hit by an IED, he has traumatic brain injury, so his ability to do work is very limited," Millsap said. "Ultimately our goal is to get him here or to another allied country. He just can't go back to Iraq, its just not possible he'd probably be killed within days of being there."
In Congress on Tuesday, Millsap said he will argue that we have a need to take care of "The Captain," and others like him, not just for moral reasons but because of the "strategic benefits of these relationships."