United States European Command (MOSCOW) -- In another close encounter with Russian military aircraft over the Baltic Sea, the Pentagon said a Russian Su-27 fighter jet Friday conducted a barrel roll within 25 feet of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane flying in international airspace.
It is the third time in as many weeks the United States has accused the Russian military of engaging in "an unsafe and unprofessional" manner in the waters and airspace of the Baltic Sea. The previous incidents were the repeated buzzing at close range of the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook and another barrel roll of a U.S. reconnaissance plane
A barrel roll is when an aircraft pulls parallel to another aircraft and then rises up and does a complete 360-degree turn over the other aircraft.
"On April 29, 2016, a U.S. Air Force RC-135 aircraft flying a routine route in international airspace over the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 in an unsafe and unprofessional manner," Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza said.
"The Su-27 performed erratic and aggressive maneuvers," she said. "The Su-27 intercepted the U.S. aircraft flying a routine route at high rate of speed from the side then proceeded to perform an aggressive maneuver that posed a threat to the safety of the U.S. aircrew in the RC-135. More specifically, the Su-27 closed within 25 feet of the fuselage of the RC-135 and conducted a barrel roll over the aircraft.
"There have been repeated incidents over the last year where Russian military aircraft have come close enough to other air and sea traffic to raise serious safety concerns, and we are very concerned with any such behavior," Baldanza added. "This unsafe and unprofessional air intercept has the potential to cause serious harm and injury to all aircrews involved."
The U.S. reconnaissance aircraft was flying in international airspace at the time of Friday’s intercept and had not crossed into Russian territory.
"The unsafe and unprofessional actions of a single pilot have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries,” Baldanza said.
On April 11 and 12, the USS Donald Cook was overflown more than 30 times by a pair of Su-27 fighters that on one occasion flew as close as 30 feet from the ship. The Pentagon later released video and still images to demonstrate how risky the Russian aircraft maneuvers had been.
On April 14, another Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 fighter that proceeded to conduct a barrel roll within feet of the U.S. plane.
On both occasions, Russian officials discounted the U.S. characterization that the actions by the Russian military aircraft were unsafe and unprofessional.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a congressional panel Wednesday that the previous encounters carry "an inherent danger" of unintended escalation between the U.S. and Russian militaries.
He commended the crew of the USS Donald Cook for their professionalism because "there's a real risk there because that ship captain has a responsibility to defend his job and an inherent right of self-defense."
"But our own people comported themselves as they always do in the way you'd expect, very professional," Carter said.
The Russian’s motivation is unknown but Carter said it’s “unprofessional behavior, and whether it is encouraged from the top, whether it was encouraged from higher up or not I can't say. But we do expect it to be discouraged from higher up from now on. That's the reason why the chairman had the conversations he did, and these pilots need to get the word, hey, knock it off. This is unprofessional. This is dangerous. This could lead somewhere.”
At the same hearing, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, characterized the risk of miscalculation between the two militaries "arguably, is greater than it was in the Cold War because the spectrum of challenges is wider today than it was traditionally narrow through just the nuclear enterprise."
Department of Defense(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon has extended the seven-month deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman and its strike group by 30 days to keep it in the fight against ISIS and for counter-terrorism missions. Since December, the aircraft carrier has been operating in the Persian Gulf, where its fighter aircraft have targeted ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter approved a request by U.S. Central command to extend the carrier strike group's ongoing deployment. The extension will also affect the cruiser USS Anzio(CG 68) and the destroyers USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) and USS Gravely (DDG 107).
"This decision is central to our ongoing effort to dismantle and roll back terrorist networks in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere," Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said Friday. "Accelerating the fight against ISIL is the president's number one priority and the Truman strike group plays an important role as we work to destroy ISIL and continue to go after the remnants of al Qaeda." ISIL is the term the Pentagon uses to describe ISIS.
The extension is seen as another of the "accelerants" recommended by Carter and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to intensify the U.S. military's capabilities to target ISIS. The announced deployments last week of 217 more American troops to Iraq and 250 more Special Operations forces to Syria fall under the same category.
"Terrorist organizations remain a significant threat to U.S. interests. The superb efforts of the men and women of the Truman strike group have and will continue to be instrumental in winning this fight," Richardson said.
"The contributions we're making in the maritime environment are key to ensuring regional stability," said Rear Adm. Bret Batchelder, commander of the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 8. "Our sailors' commitment and professionalism has been significant, and as a strike group, we're at peak operational effectiveness; so we're going to stay in the fight a while longer. I want the sailors and their families to know how proud I am of their continued efforts and dedication to this fight."
When the Truman strike group left its home port of Norfolk, Virginia, last fall, it was slated to complete the first seven-month deployment in years. The shorter deployment has been a Navy goal following years of longer deployments to meet a need for a constant U.S. aircraft carrier presence in the region at a time that the size of the carrier fleet was temporarily reduced from 11 to 10.
Last year, a shortfall in available carriers due to scheduled long-term maintenance resulted in "a carrier gap" in the Persian Gulf, where there was not a direct hand-off in carrier responsibilities. That carrier gap last November lasted several weeks until the Truman arrived in the Gulf, another gap was scheduled when its deployment came to an end.
The 30-day extension will delay a presence gap in CENTCOM this spring, but also represents a setback for the Navy's overstretched flattop force. The Middle East was without a carrier for several weeks in 2015 in the middle of the ISIS fight because the carrier Theodore Roosevelt departed without a relief. Truman filled the gap in December when it arrived in the Middle East.
"Before deviating from our seven-month deployments, we consider each Combatant Commander's request to ensure the readiness of our naval forces," Richardson said. "We will do everything we can to mitigate the impact on our families and execute planned seven-month deployment lengths going forward."
Two weeks ago, the F/A-18 aircraft aboard the carrier set a new record for carrier-based ordnance used during Operation Inherent Resolve, the mission against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 has completed 1,407 combat sorties, delivering 1,118 precision-guided munitions equally over 580 tons of ordnance, military officials said.
iStock/Thinkstock(ALEPPO, Syria) -- The U.S. and Russia have agreed to reaffirm the Syrian ceasefire agreement, but this time in only parts of the country.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday the parties involved were “refreshing” the broken cessation of hostilities, which were officially destroyed this week as Syrian forces bombed a civilian hospital, killing 50 -- including children -- and the last known pediatrician in the city of Aleppo. That city has seen the most intense fighting as the ceasefire has broken down, with an estimated 200 killed in recent days.
The agreement calls for a renewed ceasefire beginning tonight at midnight, local time, initially in the areas of Latakia, Damascus and Eastern Ghouta. Senior State Department officials insisted that although this doesn’t include Aleppo, the opposition-held city is not being ignored.
“So, we are talking about a couple of discrete areas in the immediate sets of this, but we are actually working on all of the areas, a senior State Department official told reporters Friday. “So, it’s not just about Latakia and Damascus, Eastern Ghouta east of Damascus, but also about Aleppo and other areas where we see problems or potential problems that we’re trying to get back -- get and then get this cessation of hostilities back on track.”
Despite the horrific hospital bombing this week, Syrian and Russian forces insist they are targeting terrorist in Aleppo.
Officials at the State Department insist that a total ceasefire is not an official precondition for the political negotiations between the warring parties, but the talks are unlikely progress without one.
MSF/Pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon released a 3,000-page report on Friday on the investigation into a deadly U.S. airstrike last October that obliterated a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 42 people and wounding dozens more. As a result of the investigation, 16 military service members received administrative punishments that could affect their future status in uniform.
Military investigators concluded the ground operators and crew aboard an AC-130U gunship were unaware they were firing on a medical facility.
Gen. Jospeh Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, said at a Pentagon briefing Friday that the incident resulted from "a combination of human errors compounded by process and equipment failures."
The Oct. 3 attack drew outrage from Doctors Without Borders, which called the strike a war crime. Both President Obama and Afghanistan officials publicly apologized for the attack.
The investigation determined that because there was no "intent" to hit a medical facility, the mistakes committed did not amount to a war crime.
"The fact that this was an unintentional action takes it out of the realm of actually being a deliberate war crime against persons or protected locations," Votel said.
A two-star general officer was among the 16 military personnel punished for the attack. Seven received letters of reprimand while others received counseling and retraining. Although no criminal charges will be filed, the punishments could effectively end the military careers for most of the service members involved.
According to U.S. officials, the majority of military personnel involved were U.S. special operations forces. Gen. John Campbell, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan at the time, decided on administrative actions against 12 of the 16 service members, including the general. Campbell referred the cases of five service members to U.S. Special Operations Command, then headed by Votel, who decided on the punishments for the three officers aboard the plane and the ground force commander who called in an airstrike. The case of the remaining enlisted service member was forwarded to U.S. Army Special Operations Command that issued a letter of reprimand and directed retraining.
The attack on the Doctors Without Borders hospital, also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), took place on Oct. 3 during a campaign to retake the city of Kunduz from Taliban forces.
Votel said the special operations team that called the airstrike was engaged in "an extraordinarily intense combat situation" while supporting Afghan security forces fighting Taliban fighters. The team called in an airstrike on Taliban fighters.
The building in question turned out to be the MSF trauma center whose coordinates were included on the U.S.'s no-strike list. Because of the combat situation in Kunduz, the AC-130 was rushed into service and the flight crew was not given the latest no-strike information.
Votel said the crew of the gunship and the ground force commander believed they were striking a building several hundred meters away that housed insurgents.
MSF immediately reported to the military that it was attacking a protected hospital. Votel said Friday that the first call was received 10 minutes into the half-hour long attack, but that the information "did not immediately register" with the person taking the call.
After receiving the report, MSF released a statement calling again for an independent investigation from the International Humanitarian Fact Finding Commission.
“Today’s briefing amounts to an admission of an uncontrolled military operation in a densely populated urban area, during which U.S. forces failed to follow the basic laws of war,” said Meinie Nicolai, MSF president, on Friday. “It is incomprehensible that, under the circumstances described by the U.S., the attack was not called off.”
"The threshold that must be crossed for this deadly incident to amount to a grave breach of international humanitarian law is not whether it was intentional or not,” Nicolai continued. “With multinational coalitions fighting with different rules of engagement across a wide spectrum of wars today, whether in Afghanistan, Syria, or Yemen, armed groups cannot escape their responsibilities on the battlefield simply by ruling out the intent to attack a protected structure such as a hospital.”
As a result of the incident, changes were instituted by senior commanders in Afghanistan ensuring that all aircraft take flight with the latest no-strike list. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has also issued a directive that all commands and services review their rules of engagement for similar situations in the future.
The Department of Defense has made condolence payments to more than 170 individuals affected by the attack. Those injured in the attack and families of the deceased received payments of $3,000 and families of those killed received $6,000. The Defense Department will allocate $5.7 million to build a new hospital in the same area.
ABC News(ISLAMABAD) -- Maria Toorpakai was just 4 years old and living in the Taliban-controlled tribal regions of Waziristan, Pakistan, when she set her girl clothes ablaze in defiance of the world she'd been born into.
"In that age, I just felt that 'I just want to go out. I just don't want to stay home or among those girls.' ... That's why I burned all my dresses," the professional squash player told ABC News anchor David Muir. "I saw a huge [difference] between the life of a girl and a boy. ... I'm not a very typical girl who's just going to stay among those and just help learn how to [do] home chores and learn to sew."
Toorpakai, currently ranked as Pakistan's top female squash player, is No. 48 in the world.
In 2007, she went professional in the squash world. For years, however, she disguised herself as a boy in order to play and compete in squash so the Taliban would not learn of her.
Toorpakai, who spoke with ABC News at the New York Health and Racquet Club recently, shared her story in a book due out Tuesday titled "A Different Kind of Daughter: The Girl Who Hid From the Taliban in Plain Sight."
She said through it all, she had the support of her father, who'd also educated her mother and sister.
"At home my father treated us really well, like equally to my brothers," she said. "We have very just environment at home. But when I go outside, I did not find justice in there."
When she destroyed most of her clothing at 4, Toorpakai said that instead of scolding her, her father supported her, letting her wear her brother's clothing and giving her a new name: Genghis Khan for the greatest warrior.
In Waziristan, where women are kept home and not allowed to attend school or play outside, Toorpakai said it was very dangerous for her progressive parents. Only her family knew her secret.
Her father, who was pro-women's rights, was threatened and attacked. Their house was stoned. Her father was forced to leave and was jailed but he escaped. The family moved from one area to another because of the danger they faced. When Maria was 12, the family settled in Peshawar.
"At home, I was Maria. ... At home, I did everything a daughter does. Outside, I did everything like son does so I help my family bring groceries, always escorting my mom, you know, everywhere and my sister," she said. "At home, I'm cleaning the house. ... Making bread. ... Everything. Things like that."
When Toorpakai started getting into fights with the local boys, her father pushed her to get into sports. She started weightlifting and competing throughout Pakistan. Then she discovered squash. In order to enroll in a squash academy, she had to present her birth certificate. Only the academy director knew the truth but the students eventually learned that she was a girl.
"Lots of kids come from the same area where we were living at that time," she said. "They came to know about me, that I'm a girl. ... I was treated differently. ... They were teasing me. ... Extreme bullying started. ... I just didn't know what has changed. I'm the same person. Just only thing is that I'm a girl."
She said she grew depressed and suffered anxiety. Her father noticed how despondent she was and tried sending her to school with her sister. She found, however, that school was not a good fit. Eventually she returned to playing squash and ultimately decided she would not let anyone deter her from being a success.
"I saw a lot of resistance from the community, from the society. I heard people telling my father that, you know, this is not right thing to do. ... But my father is amazing. ... Even in Peshawar market, he would not care about people. ... He said, 'Don't look at people. Just walk and stay focused. And these are just people. They will just walk by your life. ... You would reach your destiny,'" she said.
Toorpakai kept playing squash and training and practicing. In 2007, she earned an award from Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. In 2009, she was nominated for the Best Player of the Year Award by the World Squash Federation. With the accolades, however, came the death threats to her and her family by the Taliban.
"They were saying to my dad that, 'You are, you know, come from blood. You come from the same region. And your daughter plays sport and, you know, in skirts and shorts. And it's unbearable thing you're doing," she said. "Looking at my father, he was, you know, nervous. My mom was very nervous and depressed."
Toorpakai said for several years she stopped playing squash in public, retreating to her home and opting to play inside and when the sun had gone down. She started sending emails around the world, looking desperately for a place to play. In three and a half years, she received only one reply. It came from Jonathan Power, a world squash champion living in Canada.
In 2014, with Power's help, she moved to Toronto, Canada, where she currently lives and continues to play.
She said she had a message to not only young girls in Pakistan but also the men in their lives.
"The most beautiful scarves, burqa or veil that you can give to your daughter is the love, is the trust that you build with time. ... Give them freedom and they will always come back. ... And to the young girls, never, ever think you are less than any boy or man. We come from the same mother. ... You cannot be less than your brother."
iStock/Thinkstock(EPSOM, New Zealand) -- A grandmother in her 70s recently returned an overdue library book 67 years after it was borrowed, according to Auckland Libraries, the public library system for the Auckland region of New Zealand.
The elderly woman visited Auckland's Epsom Library "with a confession" on Wednesday. She explained that she had borrowed the book as a child in December of 1948 and accidentally took it with her when she moved out of the city, according to a Facebook post from Epsom Library.
The book, a "gorgeous" first edition of "Myths and Legends of Maoriland" by A.W. Red, was given back in "excellent, well-read condition," the library wrote.
Based on Auckland Libraries' current late fee policy, the overdue fine for the late return would have amounted to nearly $17,000 U.S. dollars.
But luckily, the woman did not have to pay a single penny.
She "took such good care of the book that we couldn't possibly charge her!" the library said.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Thirty-three lions rescued from "deplorable conditions" in circuses in Peru and Colombia are being flown over 7,000 miles Friday back to their homeland in South African bush, according to Animal Defenders International, the group spearheading the operation.
The lions' journey marks the conclusion of Operation Spirit of Freedom, a mission started by ADI in partnership with the Peruvian and Colombian governments to enforce the ban on wild animals in circuses and crack down on illegal wildlife trafficking, ADI said in a news release earlier this week.
The operation has rescued over 100 animals, including the 33 lions were who were found "living in deplorable conditions in cages on the backs of trucks," ADI said.
Unfortunately, almost all the lions "have been mutilated to remove their claws, one has lost an eye, another is almost blind, and many have smashed and broken teeth," the group said.
"These lions have endured hell on earth and now they are heading home to paradise," ADI President Jan Creamer said in ADI's news release.
But Friday, the lions will begin a new chapter of their lives at Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary, ADI said.
There, the lions will enjoy large natural enclosures situated in pristine African bush complete with drinking pools, platforms and toys, according to Savannah Heuser, the sanctuary's founder.
"This is their birth right," Heuser said in ADI's news release. "African sun, African night skies, African bush and sounds, clouds, summer thunderstorms, large enclosures in a natural setting where they can remember who they are.”
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --Japan is abandoning its recently launched $273 million Hitomi space telescope after two solar array panels apparently broke off the satellite, sending it spinning wildly into space.
Hitomi was launched in February with the goal of using its x-ray vision to shed new light on black holes, supernova remnants and galaxy clusters. One month later, the space agency said it was unable to figure out the health of the satellite after it became unresponsive and debris was spotted around it.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said it received three signals believed to be from Hitomi; however, further investigation revealed the signals were not from the satellite and were “due to the differences in frequencies as a consequence of technological study,” the space agency said.
On Thursday JAXA said "it is highly likely that both solar array paddles had broken off at their bases where they are vulnerable to rotation," making it virtually impossible to get the satellite back on track.
While there is no possibility of retrieving Hitomi, JAXA said in a news release it now plans to focus its effort on what caused the anomaly, including scrutiny of design, manufacturing, verification, and operations.
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(ROME) -- Vice President Joe Biden brought his cancer "moonshot" effort to the Vatican Friday, urging nations to join together to combat the disease on a global scale.
Biden began his speech by reflecting on the death of his son Beau, who died of brain cancer in May of last year. He thanked Pope Francis for counseling his family during his visit to the U.S.
"I wish every grieving parent, brother, sister, mother, father would have the benefit of his words, his prayer, his presence," Biden said. "He provided us with more comfort than even he, I think, will ever understand."
Biden then focused on presenting an international commitment to the audience of doctors, researchers and world leaders based on his tour of various cancer research centers in the U.S. over the past several months.
He said a global coalition would be required to reach a cure for cancer, with concentration on a set of principles including a renewed focus on preventative measures, an urgency similar to infectious disease and an increase in the coordination of research.
"What is clear is that there are immense possibilities fully within our reach that did not exist even five years ago," Biden said. "Every day thousands of people are dying, millions of people are desperately looking for hope for another day, another month, another year. One more hug, one more kiss."
Pope Francis addressed the crowd following Biden, stressing that despite what many see as an economic inconvenience, seeking a cure for cancer is a moral issue for societies.
"It is fundamentally important that we promote greater empathy in society, and not remain indifferent to our neighbor's cry for help, including when he or she is suffering from a rare disease," the pope said. "We know that we cannot always find fast cures to complex illnesses, but we can be prompt in caring for these persons, who often feel abandoned and ignored. We should be sensitive towards all, regardless of religious belief, social standing or culture."
In addition to a short greet following Pope Francis' speech, Biden and the pope also met privately backstage, according to the vice president's office.
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Five years ago Friday, millions of people around the world watched as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said "I will" in a royal wedding at Westminster Abbey.
The world’s eyes have stayed focused on the young royals ever since, watching as William, 33, and Kate, 34, traveled the world and grew their family. As the royals mark their milestone privately, at their Anmer Hall home, take a look at five momentous moments from their five years of wedded bliss.
1. Double Buckingham Palace Wedding Kisses
In a beautifully executed wedding, William and Kate’s April 29, 2011, balcony kiss was the one wildcard, and it did not disappoint. The heir to the British throne first exchanged a short peck with his beloved bride. Two minutes later, responding to chants from the crowd of "Kiss her again," the newlyweds locked lips.
The Abbey bells rang, the overhead fighter planes hummed and the crowd erupted in cheers and became a sea of waving flags.
2. Birth of Prince George
Prince George was born July 22, 2013, at 4:24 p.m. London time, weighing 8 pounds, 6 ounces. Fans and media camped outside of the Lindo Wing at St. Mary’s Hospital in London awaiting the birth of the royal, whose official title is His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge.
The world got its first glimpse of the little prince the day after George’s birth, when the family left the hospital with the prince swaddled in a white blanket in his mother's arms.
"It's very emotional," Kate said at the time. "It's such a special time. I think any parent will know what this feeling feels like."
3. Birth of Princess Charlotte
Born at 8:34 a.m. local time on May 2, 2015, Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Cambridge weighed 8 pounds, 3 ounces.
The world got a first glimpse of Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, the fourth in line to the British throne, just 10 hours after her birth, when she left St. Mary's Hospital with her mom and dad. William and Kate took Princess Charlotte, Queen Elizabeth II's fifth great-grandchild, to their Kensington Palace home after her birth.
4. Charitable Work
Prince William and Kate have devoted themselves to charitable work, becoming the patrons of numerous charities and using their spotlight to shine a light on conservation efforts, military heroes and young people.
William is the president of United for Wildlife, an organization created by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. The duke has been passionate about efforts to protect wildlife from poachers and has spoken out about a world in which his own two children might not be able to see some of the world's nearly-extinct animals when they grow up.
Prince William is also focused on raising awareness of bullying, cyber bullying and suicide rates among young men.
Kate is channeling her energy on the mental well-being of young people. The duchess has participated in two public service announcements to draw attention to the challenges faced by young children struggling with mental illness.
This month, the duke and duchess joined with Prince Harry to launch The Heads Together campaign to help tackle the stigma surrounding mental illness. The royals donned blue Heads Together headbands in a video released to announce the campaign, which is supported by their Royal Foundation. 5. Country Life at Anmer Hall
After the birth of Princess Charlotte in May 2015, Prince William and Kate brought their family to their country home, Anmer Hall, a 10-bedroom home on Queen Elizabeth II's Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, England.
The couple completed a renovation of the property, which includes a conservatory, a new kitchen and a new roof. In January, Prince George began nursery school at the nearby Westacre Montessori School in Norfolk.
The home, which has plenty of space for visiting relatives, is also close to where William works as a pilot for East Anglian Air Ambulance. It is also near the homes of several of William and Kate's closest friends. The royals have been spotted in local Norfolk shops and visiting the local playground.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Puerto Rico is facing its biggest debt deadline yet on May 1, but Congress, which experts say is the territory's only hope, likely won't be doing anything about it.
“Congress holds keys to solving the situation," economist Aleksandar Tomic told ABC News about the territory's $73 billion debt crisis.
On May 1, a $422 million payment is due to Puerto Rico's Government Development Bank, its biggest yet. Its upcoming deadline of $2 billion looms even more ominously. There is one immediate way that Congress could help, Tomic said, which is re-instating Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection afforded to mainland municipalities. That provision was stripped of Puerto Rico by Congress in 1984 and there is no real reason Congress could not re-instate it, according to Tomic.
"This would allow Puerto Rico to try and engage debt holders in restructuring efforts that might help avoid the dire economic consequences of full bankruptcy," said Tomic, Boston College's Woods College of Advancing Studies program director of Master of Science in Applied Economics.
In June, the territory's governor declared that it could not pay its debts. Since then, there's been little done to help the territory's debt crisis, thought 3.5 million American citizens reside there. The unemployment rate in Puerto Rico is 11.8 percent, while its population has shrunk by more than 5 percent in the last decade. Meanwhile, the cost of living has skyrocketed as per capita income is as low $19,000 per year.
The Puerto Rican debt is small enough that any default will not, in and of itself, create a significant economic event on the mainland, nor in the world financial system, Tomic said.
"However, it will be catastrophic for Puerto Rico, as island government might not be able to provide even the basic services," Tomic said. "The exodus of businesses and populations will continue, and the territory will fall deeper into a downward spiral of missing debt payments, shrinking economy, and exodus of an able-bodied and employable population."
On Tuesday, Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Congress won't be acting to push legislation to help Puerto Rico in time for the May 1 deadline.
“Congress can, of course, bail out Puerto Rico, and for all the political grandstanding currently taking place, this option might become viable if the plight of Puerto Rico's population gains enough media attention," Tomic said.
Beside Congress' inaction, Puerto Rico also faces legal battles between the bondholders and the territory's government, "but these are par for the course in any bankruptcy situation," Tomic said.
McCarthy has said he isn't in favor of a bailout.
A draft bill has been stuck with the House Natural Resources Committee, which would have put into place a restructuring of Puerto Rico's $70 billion debt had the scheduled committee action taken place on April 14.
iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- At least three children and six medical staff were among the 27 killed after overnight airstrikes hit a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders in the Syrian city of Aleppo, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The city's last pediatrician was among the dead, the group said.
The airstrikes in Aleppo are part of a new wave of aerial bombings being conducted by the Syrian government in rebel-held areas, with more than 60 people now dead in less than 24 hours. The Syrian military said it did not target the hospital, but the building was destroyed by at least one strike, according to hospital staff on the ground with the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French acronym, MSF.
"What we lost yesterday [Wednesday] cannot be replaced. Just the thought that there is no longer any pediatrician in Aleppo gives me a big fear," said Noor al-Khatib, a resident of Aleppo and a member of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, who uses a pseudonym out of fear of government harassment. "It’s hard to describe how I feel. It’s a real disaster that will lead to more people dying of diseases, especially children and elderly people."
Violence is escalating in Aleppo and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said the city is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster.
Karim al-Saleh, al-Khatib's husband who is a doctor in Aleppo, said that people are dying because of lack of medical resources and that he fears it will only get worse after the attack.
"Diseases like pneumonia are already hard to treat because we don’t have the right medicine and have to find temporary solutions," he told ABC News. "It’s already a really bad situation and we will see many more deaths now."
An estimated 250,000 people have stayed in Aleppo amidst an ongoing civil war, which has torn the country apart since 2011, while millions have fled Syria.
The increased violence has undermined United Nations-led peace talks in recent weeks.
"Wherever you are, you hear explosions of mortars, shelling and planes flying over," Valter Gros, of the ICRC, said in the statement. "There is no neighborhood of the city that hasn’t been hit. People are living on the edge. Everyone here fears for their lives and nobody knows what is coming next."
President Obama announced this week the deployment of 250 more U.S. troops to Syria, saying it's an effort to keep up momentum in the campaign against ISIS.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- SpaceX wants to send an unmanned mission to Mars by 2018 -- a feat that could give NASA insights about a future crewed mission to the Red Planet.
The privately held space company announced on Wednesday it plans to send one of its Dragon 2 spacecraft on a test flight to the Red Planet, where it could yield valuable information about landing large payloads on the surface.
NASA will offer SpaceX technical support, including access to the Deep Space Network, in exchange for data on Martian entry, descent and landing, according to a blog post from Deputy Administrator Dava Newman. SpaceX will fund the mission.
"Sending astronauts to Mars, which will be one of the greatest feats of human innovation in the history of civilization, carries with it many, many puzzles to piece together," Newman wrote.
The ability to slow down a spacecraft after it has been traveling at a high velocity is required for a long-haul mission -- and the data NASA receives from SpaceX could be crucial about informing a future mission to the Red Planet. NASA showed off the heat shield technology it may use on Mars earlier this year, which will help protect a spacecraft from the heat of atmospheric entry and provide a softer landing.
While a mission to Mars isn't being targeted until the 2030s, NASA said with today's technology it would take about eight months to travel to the Red Planet. SpaceX plans to launch its Dragon 2 on the back of a Falcon Heavy rocket, which is so powerful it can blast off carrying a payload as heavy as a commercial jetliner packed with hundreds of passengers, luggage and fuel.
SpaceX CEO and Lead Designer Elon Musk tweeted that although his Dragon 2 spacecraft is designed to land anywhere in the solar system, it would be a less-than-ideal vessel for the journey to Mars since it offers about as much space as an SUV.
While space aficionados will have to wait for more details on the Mars launch plans, the company is set for another rocket launch and landing attempt next month.
The company's next satellite launch is scheduled for May 3, a company representative told ABC News Thursday. While SpaceX will once again try to land its Falcon 9 booster at sea after sending the payload into orbit, the particular rocket used in this launch won't be the one SpaceX landed on a ship during the historic April 8 mission.
That rocket is undergoing testing and once it's certified for re-use, could fly again as early as June, according to Musk.
Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Two people thought to be missing in Jamaica after disembarking a cruise ship have been found alive and are trying to find their way back to the U.S.
Authorities in Jamaica were searching for an American couple, Hayden Gerson, 33, and Alisha Frank, 32, who were last seen by cruise staff on Tuesday morning after arriving in Trelawny via the Falmouth cruise port. But it turned out that the pair just missed the ship as it left Jamaica.
Gerson's mother, Margot, told ABC News that she recently spoke to him, and that he and Frank are safe and plan to return to San Diego, adding that they're embarrassed that they missed the cruise.
The couple disembarked the cruise around 9:26 a.m. Tuesday, purportedly intending to make a trip to Montego Bay, according to the Jamaican Constabulary Force.
Police confirmed to ABC News the couple was on board the Royal Caribbean ship Oasis of the Seas. Royal Caribbean told ABC News that the couple asked to disembark the ship and was escorted to immigration.
iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Ed Balls. The name may not mean a lot to an American audience but over the pond, it is a name celebrated every year in 140 characters or fewer -- 133 fewer to be precise.
Every year, British Twitter users celebrate April 28 as the unofficial holiday of "Ed Balls Day."
It all started five years ago. Ed Balls, who was the finance chief for the opposition Labour Party at the time, tweeted out his own name: Ed Balls. It was his first tweet, and one that immediate sparked a meme.
The post has so far been retweeted more than 70,000 times and has received more than 37,000 likes. The story behind the famous tweet is that Balls’ aides had encouraged him to search for his own name on Twitter to see what people were writing about him. When he tried to follow their advice, he accidentally tweeted out his name instead of searching for it.
Since then, the Twitter fail has been celebrated every year. On Thursday, Google said that interest in Ed Balls increased more than 2,500 percent.
The hashtag #EdBallsDay has been trending on Twitter in the U.K. and people have tweeted out thousands of jokes about the five-year old mistake.