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izustun/iStock/ThinkStock(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. military aircraft airdropped 50 tons of small arms ammunition to vetted Syrian rebel groups Sunday, marking the start of the Obama administration's shift away from the stalled effort to train moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS and instead support existing rebel groups directly with supplies and weapons.

"Coalition forces conducted an airdrop Sunday in northern Syria to resupply local counter-ISIL ground forces as they conduct operations against ISIL," said Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve in Baghdad, using the acronym preferred by the U.S. government for ISIS.

"This successful airdrop provided ammunition to Syrian Arab groups whose leaders were appropriately vetted by the United States and have been fighting to remove ISIL from northern Syria," Warren said. "Due to operational security we will not have any further details about the groups that received these supplies, their location, or the type of equipment in the airdrop."

A U.S. official said four C-17 aircraft were involved in the airdrop of 50 tons of small arms ammunition.
The airdrops mark the shift in the training and equipping program for moderate Syrian rebels that was announced by the Obama administration Friday.

That $500 million program had sought to train as many as 5,400 rebels to fight ISIS. But in four months, only 125 trained rebels had been returned to Syria to fight ISIS but were quickly targeted by other extremist rebel groups inside Syria. The latest estimate by U.S. Central Command is that about 80 rebels remain in the fight against ISIS.

The administration will no longer train large groups of rebels, focusing instead on providing equipment and weapons to vetted Syrian groups that have already been fighting ISIS in northern Syria.

To speed up the process, the United States will only vet the leaders of these established groups instead of individual potential recruits that had dramatically slowed the original training and equipping program.
Vetted leaders would receive a small amount of training in human rights conducts and on how to provide information for coalition airstrikes inside Syria.

The airdrops on Sunday provided ammunition to Syrian Arab rebel groups in northern Syria that have been fighting ISIS.

Defense officials said the groups would originally receive shipments of ammunition in their fight against ISIS, and will receive additional equipment and more weapons as they prove their reliability.

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iStock/Thinkstock(ROME) -- The Vatican may be denying a gay diplomat from France an ambassador position as Pope Francis continues to say he doesn't judge gays or lesbians.

In January, France had pushed forward Laurent Stefanini, an openly gay man and senior diplomat, to become the French embassay's ambassador to the Holy See. So far, the Holy See has not confirmed France's decision.

Stefanini would seem like the perfect choice for the position. He had already had two postings at the French embassy to the Vatican, and a French cardinal agreed with the decision to make him the ambassador.

Normally, when countries propose ambassadors, the Vatican only takes a month or so to work through and accept the credentials. The Vatican has said nothing in this case, and critics say it means rejection.

France is now reportedly dropping the bid for Stefanini, with sources telling France's Libération, that French President François Hollande had given up the attempt.

The news comes nearly a week after a Vatican doctrine official came out as gay and was fired from his position when he called the Vatican homophobic.

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Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Iran announced overnight that Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian has been convicted, two months after a closed-door espionage trial — a conviction The Washington Post says is an "outrageous" miscarriage of justice.

"Iran has behaved unconscionably throughout this case, but never more so than with this indefensible decision by a Revolutionary Court to convict an innocent journalist of serious crimes after a proceeding that unfolded in secret, with no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing," the paper said shortly following the reported announcement on Iranian state television.

No sentence for Rezaian was announced and over the weekend, when an Iranian judiciary spokesperson first said a verdict had been reached, the official noted it could be appealed and "is not final," according to The Washington Post. Rezaian faced a number of charges including espionage and it is unclear of which he has been convicted.

The Post said Monday it is working with Rezaian's Iranian counsel "to pursue an immediate appeal."

"The contemptible end to this ‘judicial process’ leaves Iran’s senior leaders with an obligation to right this grievous wrong. Jason is a victim -- arrested without cause, held for months in isolation, without access to a lawyer, subjected to physical mistreatment and psychological abuse, and now convicted without basis," the Post said.

Hours before the guilty verdict, Jason Rezaian's brother, Ali, told ABC News he was still in disbelief at the mistreatment of Jason.

"I think it's absolutely unbelievable that he would be held for this long," Ali said. "For whatever reason, we don't know why they took him. What we do know is there's no evidence against him, and they've held him essentially in solitary confinement for the last 14 months."

Rezaian was arrested July 22, 2014 and now has been held longer than the Americans detained during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. Rezaian’s only contact with the outside world has been with his Iranian wife and his mother who told ABC News her son wishes he could be covering the news instead of being the news.

Rezaian's closed-door trial ended two months ago and no Iranian officials have explained the delay in announcing a verdict.

"It's unbelievable that they would treat anybody like this, let alone somebody from The Washington Post, a journalist with international visibility," Ali said.

In addition to Rezaian, the Iran government is holding two other Americans in prison and is suspected of at least knowing the location of a third American who disappeared more than eight years ago in Iran.

Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine, was arrested in 2011 and accused of working for the CIA. Despite the U.S. government's and Hekmati's family denails, Hekmati was sentenced to death -- a sentence that was then overturned.

“Our family is saddened over the recent news regarding Jason’s case," the Hekmati family said in a statement. "We, too, know the pain his family is experiencing, and we feel it still waiting for our own brother and son’s release."

Saeed Abedini is an American pastor arrested in Iran in 2012 while setting up churches there.

Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent, disappeared from Iran's Kish Island in 2007. It later emerged that Levinson was doing contract work for a rogue CIA operation. Iranian officials have said they do not know where Levinson is -- a claim U.S. officials doubt.

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Aykut Unlupinar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(LONDON) — No group has claimed responsibility for the deadliest terrorist attack on Turkish soil in modern history, but Turkish authorities say they’ve started to take action against groups that may have been involved, the Turkish prime minister said Monday, adding that they are close to identifying one of the suspects linked to a terrorist organization.

"It was definitely a suicide bombing,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Tuesday. “DNA tests are being conducted. It was determined how the suicide bombers got there. We're close to a name, which points to one group,” adding that ISIS was a priority.

That group may be the Islamic State, according to Turkish security officials. At least 50 suspects with alleged links to ISIS were detained after multiple raids around Turkish provinces this weekend in anti-terror police operations, Turkish paper Hurriyet Daily News reported.

“It’s kind of a predictable turn of events,” said Charlie Winter, a senior researcher at London-based think tank Quilliam. “If it’s Islamic State, you can tell immediately the government’s reaction is going to be unflinching and will be to militarize.”

A strong government reaction could bolster support among ISIS sympathizers within the country rather than deter them, he said. Usually the Islamic State militants take clear responsibility over their attacks with media fanfare. While the international community should be weary of designating blame on any organization or person without evidence, one reason that ISIS might not announce its responsibility is that it hopes to “pass the blame that would pit groups against each other,” Winter said.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which said it was the target of the attack, has put the death toll at 128. The Turkish Prime Minister’s office has said 97 people were killed.

As Turkey goes into its third day of mourning, people continue to wait outside the main hospital in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, for news on wounded friends and relatives. Computer engineering student Ulas, 21, was at the rally where he said he lost 16 of his friends. As he sat outside Numune Hospital the next day, he told ABC News that he thinks there would be more attacks.

Hundreds of people like Ulas had gathered Saturday to rally for peace between Turkish security forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The march was organized by pro-Kurdish activists and civic groups, when two explosions, mere seconds apart, blasted a square in Ankara.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) — At the foot of Mount Taesong in North Korea, lies Folklore Park, a miniature city complete with scaled-down replicas of Pyongyang’s most iconic sites. ABC News’ Bob Woodruff was granted a tour of the park, where he towered over some of Pyongyang’s greatest tourist locations.

Watch the video below to get a look inside one of North Korea’s strangest sites.


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Mark Harris/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Earth is a magnificent, mysterious place that continues to surprise scientists.

Scientists have long disagreed on when Earth's solid iron inner core was formed, but a new study has zeroed in on its approximate age thanks to clues left in the magnetic signature of ancient igneous rocks.

While previous estimates have put the inner core at 500 million to 2 billion years old, a new study from an international team of scientists published in the journal Nature has found the Earth's interior is somewhere around one to 1.5 billion years old.

Scientists made the determination by examining igneous rocks and determining there was an increase in Earth's magnetic field between one to 1.5 billion years, corresponding with the time they believe the inner core began to freeze due to cooling from the molten outer core.

"This finding could change our understanding of the Earth’s interior and its history," Andy Biggin, the lead author of the study who works at the University of Liverpool's School of Environmental Sciences, said in a statement.

"The results suggest that the Earth’s core is cooling down less quickly than previously thought which has implications for the whole of Earth Sciences," he said. "It also suggests an average growth rate of the solid inner core of approximately 1 millimeter per year which affects our understanding of the Earth’s magnetic field."

Scientists were also able to create a model with their data, showing that the flow of energy from Earth's inner core should keep our planet's magnetic field strong for at lease another one billion years or more.

"This contrasts sharply with Mars which had a strong magnetic field early in its history which then appears to have died after half a billion years," Biggin said.

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Vladone/iStock/ThinkStock(TORONTO) -- The Canadian city of Montreal is planning to dump more than two-billion gallons of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River - a plan that is outraging critics.

Protester Antoine Bonicalzi and dozens of others took kayaks and paddle boards out on the St. Lawrence river demanding that the city abandon its plans to dump raw sewage.

Mayor Denis Coderre says there is no other practical alternative.

He calls the temporary measure a necessary step in plans to demolish a local expressway. But 90,000 people, including famous American environmentalist Erin Brockovich, have signed a petition agains the plan.

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Christian Minelli/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images(ROME) — Italy’s capital just lost its leader.

Rome’s Mayor Ignazio Marino has announced his resignation, accusing his detractors of doing everything they could to smear his reputation.

Shortly after his election two years ago, he helped purge Rome’s City Hall of several dozen corrupt politicians with alleged links to the Mafia, some of whom are now in jail. His popularity, however, took a nosedive as complaints about the decaying state of Rome grew.

Even Pope Francis didn’t view Marino favorably, telling reporters that the mayor was not invited on his recent U.S. trip.

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NASA/JPL/University of Arizona(NEW YORK) -- NASA's love affair with Mars is at an all-time high. Not only did NASA release a detailed report last week on its goal of sending humans to the Red Planet in the 2030s, but the space agency has been weighing in on what's fact and what's fiction in the movie "The Martian."

The latest release from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show a series of landscapes on the Red Planet where Matt Damon's character, astronaut Mark Watney, would have been stranded.

NASA said Andy Weir, the author of "The Martian," provided coordinates for NASA to take a photo of the fictional Ares 3 landing site in southern Acidalia Planitia, located within driving distance of the Pathfinder lander and the Sojourner rover.

Another image shows the Ares 4 site, where a future mission is set to land. It's located in a shallow crater in the southwestern corner of Schiaparelli Crater, an area located near the Martian equator.

NASA has been having fun talking about the movie and how it compares to what the Red Planet is like in real life. While powerful winds tear through part of the astronauts' camp in the movie, NASA experts said last month it's unlikely a Martian dust storm could leave any future visitors stranded in real life.

"Even the wind in the largest dust storms likely could not tip or rip apart major mechanical equipment. The winds in the strongest Martian storms top out at about 60 miles per hour, less than half the speed of some hurricane-force winds on Earth," a NASA blog post explained.

Martian dust storms sometimes stir up enough dust to be seen by telescopes on Earth, but the atmosphere on Mars is 1 percent as dense as Earth, making the intensity of the storms different.

"The key difference between Earth and Mars is that Mars’ atmospheric pressure is a lot less," William Farrell, a physicist who has studied Martian dust storms said, according to NASA. "So things get blown, but it’s not with the same intensity."

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Sean Gallup/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Vladimir Putin has spoken about Russia's airstrikes in Syria and described his goals there.

As Russian planes continue to bomb targets in Syria, Putin defended the intervention which the US says threatens to worsen Syria's civil war.

Speaking in an interview on Russian State TV, Putin said his goal was to stabilize Assad.

Russia has been hitting targets in Syria for the past two weeks, using jets, helicopters and even cruise missiles. The Kremlin claims it is bombing Islamic State fighters, but the vast majority of strikes have hit other rebel groups fighting Assad, including some supported by the US.

There's been a lot of speculation about Putin's motives for intervening. Besides rescuing Assad who has been looking a bit shakier recently, some have suggested the Russian campaign - which is the first outside of the former Soviet Union since the end of Communism -- is meant to reassert Russia's status as a global power.

Putin seemed to comment on this - he denied that Russia has any imperial ambitions.

The Russian move has had the US scrambling to adjust its own efforts in Syria.

Putin made a jab at a failed Pentagon project that's been training moderate rebels to fight the Islamic State.

The $500 million project was largely scrapped last week because only a handful of fighters had come out of it.

Putin said the US would have been better off giving Russia the money - he said Moscow would have used it more effectively.

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Rolf Schulten/ullstein bild via Getty Images(SYDNEY) -- A security warning has been issued at the University of New South Wales after an anonymous threat was made online.

On Monday local time, the university released a statement saying officials were "treating [the] incident seriously and have been liaising with the NSW Police through the anti-terrorism and security group and Local Area Command."

Karina Boyle, a student at the university, told the Sydney Morning Herald that she was concerned, even though security was prepared because of the threat.

"It's still a bit scary, I guess," she told the Sydney Morning Herald. "Especially with the same thing happening in the [United] States. You wouldn't like to think that would happen as well in Australia. I'd expect to be much safer here."

The statement from the university said classes had not been canceled yet, but if students or faculty preferred to stay at home they would not be penalized.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the threat was made on the anonymous message board 4Chan.

The alleged gunman of the recent Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon reportedly posted a similar threat on 4Chan before the mass shooting.

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iStock/Thinkstock(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- A coalition helicopter crashed in Kabul on Sunday, killing five coalition troops and injuring five others.

According to a statement from Resolute Support, the NATO-led military mission in Afghanistan, the incident was "non-hostile" and it is now being investigated.

The British Ministry of Defense reported that two of the service personnel who were killed were British Royal Air Force service personnel.

The deaths follow a recent crash in the area on Oct. 1, when a C-130J Super Hercules transport plane crashed at Jalalabad Airfield, killing six U.S. service members and five civilian contractor passengers.

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MatthewBrosseau/iStock/ThinkStock(NEW YORK) -- A verdict has been issued in the trial of Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American journalist for The Washington Post, according to Iranian state media.

A member of Iran's judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, told state media that a verdict has been issued in the Jason Rezaian trial and that Rezaian now has time to ask for an appeal.

If Rezaian does not request an appeal, the verdict will be final.

John Kirby, spokesperson for the United States Department of State said, “We’ve seen the news reports concerning a verdict in the case of U.S. citizen Jason Rezaian, but have not yet seen any official confirmation or details of a specific verdict from Iranian authorities.  We’re monitoring the situation closely, and we continue to call for all charges against Jason to be dropped and for him to be immediately released.”

On Sunday, Jason Rezaian's brother, Ali Rezaian, released a statement saying, “Today’s announcement by the Iranian government that a ruling has been issued regarding the case of my brother, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, is unfortunately just another sad chapter in his 14-month illegal imprisonment and opaque trial process.  It follows an unconscionable pattern by Iranian authorities of silence, obfuscation, delay and a total lack of adherence to international law, as well as Iranian law.  The Iranian government has never provided any proof of the trumped up espionage and other charges against Jason, so today’s vague statement on a purported verdict, while certainly disappointing to our family, is not surprising."

Rezaian, along with his wife, Yegi, were arrested in July 2014. No charges have been brought against Rezaian.

It is not clear what the verdict is at this time.

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RanieriMeloni/iStock/ThinkStock(NEW YORK) -- Hundreds of refugees traveling across the Mediterranean Sea towards Europe were rescued from two wooden boats by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

The MSF-run boat the Argos first rescued 242 people from a wooden boat in distress.

The Argos then rescued another 460 people, including 110 women and 21 children, from a second wooden boat.

Sandra Murillo, Media Relations Manager for MSF, told ABC News Sunday that the organization has two boats in the Mediterranean including the Argos, both working to rescue refugees.

MSF said they give the refugees warm blankets, dry clothes, food, water and medical care, and take them to Italy to undergo Italian entry procedures.

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neneos/iStock Editorial/ThinkStock(VATICAN CITY) --  Pope Francis offered a moment of silence and prayer for the victims of the attack in Turkey.

Pope France called the terrorist attack in Turkey's capital Ankara, a "terrible slaughter."

In St. Peter's Square, the pope led 30 seconds of silent prayer for the victims.

Two explosions tore through a large march of people calling for more democracy and an end to violence between Kurdish rebels and Turkish security forces.

Francis said the news of the Ankara bomb attacks brought "pain for the numerous dead, pain for the wounded and pain because the attackers hit helpless people who were demonstrating for peace."

Close to a hundred people were killed, with dozens more in the hospital, some in critical condition.

Turkey has called for three days of mourning.

It is not yet clear who is responsible.

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