Darko Dozet/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Authorities have confirmed two separate incidents this week in which Russian fighter planes approached the North American coastline.
Each time, a North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) spokesman said, fighter jets accompanied the Russian planes. They never entered American airspace, which begins 12 nautical miles from the coast.
The first incident occurred on Wednesday, when two Alaskan-based F-22 jets identified and intercepted a pair of Russian refueling tanker aircraft, two MIG-31 fighter jets and two Russian long-range bombers.
The following morning, two more long-range bombers were identified and intercepted by Canadian fighter jets.
The NORAD spokesman told ABC News that the incidents are believed to be "standard training activities," and that "other air forces conduct regular training, but we will continue to monitor all air activity approaching American airspace.
Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage(LONDON) -- Queen Elizabeth offered praise for the voters of Scotland who declined to vote for Scottish independence on Thursday, calling on all residents of the United Kingdom to "remember...we have in common an enduring love of Scotland."
After months of debate, Scottish voters opted not to approve a referendum for independence on Thursday. The Queen had previously chosen not to get involved in the referendum, calling it "a matter for the people of Scotland."
A statement from earlier this month noted that "constitutional impartiality is an established principle of our democracy, and one which the Queen has demonstrated throughout her reign." The Queen, the statement said, "is above politics."
"Knowing the people of Scotland as I do," the Queen said in a new statement on Friday, "I have no doubt that Scots, like others throughout the United Kingdom, are able to express strongly-held opinions before coming together again in a spirit of mutual respect and support, to work constructively for the future of Scotland and indeed all parts of this country."
United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron called the outcome of the referendum "clear," expressing hope that the issue had been settled for a generation or longer. He also said that the opportunity now exists to change the way British people are governed, calling on all political parties to work together to do just that.
iStock/Thinkstock(TAMPA, Fla.) -- The U.S. military conducted two more airstrikes against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets in Iraq, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said Friday.
One strike was southeast of Baghdad and "destroyed a boat on the Euphrates River conducting resupply of ISIL forces," CENTCOM said in a statement, using one of several acronyms for the militant Islamic group.
The other was southwest of Baghdad and hit a small ISIS ground unit.
The fighter aircraft used in the attacks, which were carried out Thursday and Friday, all managed to exit the areas safely.
Since Aug. 8, CENTCOM says it has carried out 178 airstrikes across Iraq.
Kuzma/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Osama bin Laden's "mouthpiece" pleaded guilty on Friday to three terrorism offenses dating back to the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Africa.
Adel Abdel-Bari cried as the charges against him were read, later admitting to conspiring to "transmit the claim" of al-Qaeda for embassy bombings that left 224 people dead. Abdel-Bari also admitted to making threats on behalf of the former al-Qaeda leader to bring "fire and explosions" to American targets, and to delivering messages between bin Laden and the media.
His plea was not immediately accepted by the judge, who wondered why he was allowed to plead guilty to three charges when he initially faced life in prison.
Abdel-Bari's son is the British rapper initially suspected in the beheading of American journalist James Foley.
Jelle v/d Wolf/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD, Iraq) -- France conducted its first airstrikes against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria targets on Friday.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the strikes were ordered by President Francois Hollande, and that "French planes intervened against a warehouse occupied by ISIS terrorists in the east of Iraq."
The warehouse, Fabius said, was "completely destroyed."
The strike is an important development in the U.S.' effort to build an international coalition, as it shows a European ally, flying from an airbase in the United Arab Emirates, a gulf ally, supporting the U.S.-led campaign.
neneos/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(TIRANA, Albania) -- Pope Francis will travel to the capital of Albania on Sunday, meeting with political and religious leaders.
According to Father Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office, the pope's trip to Albania will be his fourth international voyage and his first trip to a European country outside of Italy.
Pope Francis will spend his time in Albania honoring the "victims of atheistic Communism," Vatican Radio reports. He will also aim to encourage interreligious coexistence, as Albania is the only European nation with a Muslim majority of its population.
In his 11 hours in Albania, the pope will meet with Albanian President Bujar Nishani and other civil leaders, preside over a mass in Mother Teresa Square, and meet with the nation's bishops before a meeting with religious leaders.
While in Albania, the pope is expected to make all of his speeches in Italian.
About 15 percent of Albanians are Catholic and more than 60 percent are Muslim.
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images (EDINBURGH, Scotland) -- The people of Scotland have voted to remain part of the United Kingdom.
Voters Thursday rejected a referendum that would’ve granted Scotland independence and separated it from the rest of Great Britain, which also includes England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The vote was 55 percent to 45 percent against independence.
In Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, 62 percent of voters rejected the independence referendum compared to 38 percent who supported the measure.
Alistair Darling of the "No Campaign" addressed supporters Friday in Glasgow, saying, "We have chosen unity over division. A positive change, rather than needless separation."
Darling declared, "By confirming our place within the union, we have reaffirmed all that we have in common and the bonds that tie us together. Let them never be broken."
Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond, a Scottish Nationalist leader, conceded defeat Friday in Edinburgh. "I accept that verdict of the people, and I call on all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland."
Salmond praised his fellow Scots for turning out to vote. "A turnout of 86 percent is one of the highest in the democratic world for any election or any referendum in history. This has been a triumph," Salmond said.
Warren Little/Getty Images(BEIJING) -- China has fined the British pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) $488.8 million (3 billion Yuan) for a "massive bribery network" to get doctors and hospitals to use its products. Five former employees were sentenced to two to four years in jail, but ordered deported instead of imprisoned, according to state news agency Xinhua Friday.
The guilty verdict was delivered after a one day closed door trail in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province. The fine was the biggest ever imposed by a Chinese court.
The court gave Mark Reilly, former head of GSK Chinese operations, a three-year prison sentence with a four-year reprieve, which meant he is set to be deported instead of serving his time in a Chinese jail. His co-defendants received two to four year prison sentences with reprieves.
Reilly was accused of operating a “massive bribery network” in May. The police said it is believed Reilly authorized his salespeople to pay doctors, hospital officials and health institutions to use GSK’s products since 2009.
Chinese authorities first announced the investigation on GSK in July 2013. The police said the company had funneled up to 3 billion Yuan to travel agencies to facilitate bribes to doctors and officials. The money was the exact amount of the fine.
Throughout 2012 a stream of anonymous emails alleging bribery authorized by senior staff at GSK were sent to Chinese regulators, authorities said. At the beginning of 2013, the anonymous emails began to arrive at the GSK headquarters in London, along with a sex tape of Mark Reilly and his Chinese girlfriend, according to the court.
The charges claim that GSK hired Shanghai-based investigator Peter Humphrey and his American wife, Yu Yingzeng, to locate the whistleblower. The Humphreys were detained and charged with illegally obtaining phone logs, travel records and other data which then they put in a report to GSK.
GSK released a statement apologizing to the Chinese government and people on its website.
"GSK Plc has reflected deeply and learned from its mistakes, has taken steps to comprehensively rectify the issues identified at the operations of GSKCI, and must work hard to regain the trust of the Chinese people," the statement said.
The statement also said future commitments include investment in Chinese science, improved access of its products in both city and rural areas across the country through greater expansion of production and flexible pricing.
Taking bribery from drug companies and over prescribing medicine to patients is a common hidden rule among doctors in China. It is not uncommon for patients give doctors red envelopes with cash as a blunt plea for them to do a good job on surgeries.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The State Department has issued a travel alert for U.S. citizens living in or traveling to Mozambique as the African country prepares to hold general elections next month.
Elections are scheduled to take place on Oct. 15, and while widespread violence is not anticipated, the State Department notes that "electoral periods typically result in localized demonstrations that can turn violent, the possible use of force by security services to handle demonstrations or incidents of public disorder, and disruption of transportation services."
"Depending on election results, unrest and the potential for violence may increase immediately following the election," the alert adds.
U.S. citizens are advised to exercise caution and check the U.S. Embassy in Maputo's website and social media accounts for updates.
The travel alert is expected to expire on Oct. 31.
ABC/Randy Holmes(TORONTO) -- Mayor Rob Ford released an audio statement on Thursday, hours before he began chemotherapy, to talk about his outlook after being diagnosed with cancer.
"In a few hours, I'll begin my chemotherapy," Ford said. "Then I will spend the next little while with my family, focused on getting better." The may dropped his re-election bid following his diagnosis.
Still, Ford said in the recorded statement that he is, "determined to face this head on and return strong for my family and for my city."
He also took the chance to express his concern for others fighting similar battles. "My heart goes out to anyone facing similar health battles and to your families who are standing strong behind you," Ford said.
YouTube(LONDON) -- A British citizen captured in Syria two years ago has resurfaced Thursday in a new ISIS propaganda video released on YouTube. But unlike the previous gruesome beheading videos of three westerners, journalist John Cantlie is seen alive, seated alone at a desk in a darkened room, delivering what he says is the first of a series of "messages" about ISIS.
Cantlie was abducted in November 2012 along with slain American journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by his ISIS captors, according to a former law enforcement official and others familiar with the journalists’ kidnapping.
Until Thursday, Cantlie’s hostage status had been kept under a media blackout in the U.K. When Cantlie was seized with Foley, it was the second time he had been kidnapped in Syria, and just prior to his being called as a witness in a British terror trial whose defendants were dismissed when Cantlie disappeared.
Foley and Cantlie were working on a film about Cantlie’s dramatic escape from his first abduction when they were kidnapped.
Unlike the previous ISIS videos shot in outdoor locations, the dark indoor scene appears designed to prevent intelligence analysts and U.S. drones from gathering clues about where it may have been shot. U.S. intelligence analysts were studying previously released beheading videos for geographic clues that might lead to potential rescue operations.
In the video, Cantlie says that he’s going to appear in other videos that show the “truth behind what happened” in other kidnapping cases.
“Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, ‘He’s only doing this because he’s a prisoner. He’s got a gun to his head and he’s being forced to do this,’ Right? Well, it’s true. I am a prisoner. That I cannot deny,” Cantlie says. “But seeing as how I’ve been abandoned by my government and my fate now lies in the hands of the Islamic State [ISIS], I have nothing to lose. Maybe I will live and maybe I will die.”
Cantlie, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and seated at a table, appeared to be reading his message from a teleprompter in a slickly filmed, three-camera production. Unlike the previous videos, no members of ISIS are seen in the film.
Cantlie said there would be future messages from him that would show the “truth behind the systems and motivation of the Islamic State and how the Western media, the very organization I used to work for, can twist and manipulate that truth for the public back home."
"The video is almost certainly scripted by Cantlie's captors, and we shouldn't take it at face value,” said J.M. Berger, terrorism expert and co-author of the forthcoming book ISIS: The State of Terror. “Ultimately they don't expect ordinary people in the West to take the bait. They are trying to stir up trouble on the fringes and reassure their base…There is a clear effort to fuel political discontent over Western action against the Islamic State…”
The video release comes after ISIS threatened to kill another British citizen, Alan Henning, over the British government’s support for U.S. action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Salvatore Conte/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(EDINBURGH, Scotland) -- One of the oldest and most prestigious golf clubs in the world voted on Thursday to allow female members for the first time in its more than 200 year history.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which hosts professional golf's The Open Championship -- also known as the British Open -- annually. For 260 years, the club has allowed women to play at the club, but only men were permitted to be members.
Peter Dawson, secretary of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, said in a statement on Thursday that more than 75 percent of the club's membership voted and the proposal to allow women to become members had support from a "decisive" 85 percent of voters.
Dawson said that the vote will allow women to become members immediately, and a select number of women will be fast-tracked to membership in the coming months.
"This is a very important and positive day in the history of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club," Dawson said. "The R&A has served the sport of gold well for 260 years and I am confident that the club will continue to do so in the future with the support of all its members, both women and men."
neneos/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(VATICAN CITY) -- Want to own an authentic skullcap worn by Pope Francis? You can buy it on eBay -- if you’re willing to fork over at least $258,000 -- and that price is rapidly going up.
The host of an Italian TV show managed to trade hats with the pontiff as he rode around St. Peter's Square. The host of the show reached out towards Francis with a new skullcap. Security handed the skullcap to the pope, who stopped the car, examined it, put it on his head, and gave the old one to the show’s host.
The skullcap was posted to eBay Wednesday night and by Thursday afternoon, it already had 134 bids topping €200,000. The auction closes on Sept. 24.
Agence France-Presse reports the show, Le Iene (The Hyenas), will donate the money to an Italian charity fighting child mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. military conducted two more airstrikes against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets across Iraq, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said Thursday.
One strike was southeast of Mosul, near an ISIS training camp. It "destroyed an ISIL armed vehicle, two ISIL-occupied buildings and a large ISIL ground unit," CENTCOM said in a statement, using one of several acronyms for the militant Islamic group.
According to a Defense official, an estimated 40 ISIS fighters were killed in the attack.
The other strike was southeast of Baghdad and damaged an ISIS ammunition stockpile.
The bomber and fighter aircraft used in the strikes, which were carried out Wednesday and Thursday, all managed to exit the area safely.
Since Aug. 8, CENTCOM says it has carried out 176 airstrikes across Iraq.