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NATO Intercepts at Least 19 Russian Military Planes in One Day


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- NATO intercepted at least 19 Russian aircraft flying far outside Russia's airspace on Wednesday, worrying the organization's officials.

"These sizable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace," NATO said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.

The Russian fighter jets and bombers were seen flying in three different regions. The intercepts came a week after widespread reports that a Russian submarine may have been spotted off the coast of Sweden.

The North Sea and Atlantic Ocean had the largest fleet of Russian aircraft activity, with eight planes detected by NATO radar flying in formation from Russian airspace toward the Norwegian Sea and into international airspace.

NATO allies, which continually watch over partner airspace, saw six of the planes turn back towards northern Russia after Norwegian Air Force F-16s intercepted the planes. The remaining two Russian planes, both Tu-95 Bear H bombers, continued to fly above the Norwegian coastline, prompting NATO planes stationed in the United Kingdom to track them.

The NATO statement reported that those two Russian bombers were en route back to their homeland.

"Scrambles and intercepts are standard procedure when an unknown aircraft approaches NATO airspace," the NATO release said. "However, such flights pose a potential risk to civil aviation given that the Russian military often do not file flight plans, or use their on-board transponders."

Four other Russian aircraft -- two fighter jets and two bombers -- were spotted flying over the Black Sea, prompting Turkish Air Force jets to scramble to track them.

There were at least seven other Russian planes intercepted over the Baltic Sea Wednesday, as well, though NATO would not indicate exactly how many. Baltic Air Policing Mission planes were sent into the air and the Russian aircraft headed back to their own airspace.

Russian officials have not yet reacted to the NATO report.

The nearly 20 intercepts came after seven other Russian jets were intercepted over the Baltic Sea on Tuesday.

Also on Wednesday, Russia successfully test-launched a Bulava Intercontinental Ballistic Missile from a submerged submarine in the Barents Sea. That missile was aimed at a test site on the Kamchatka Peninsula, not far from Alaska.

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WHO Releases Latest Data on Ebola in West Africa


Pawel Gaul/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MONROVIA, Liberia) -- The World Health Organization offered the latest figures on the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa on Wednesday, showing a marked increase in the number of reported cases of the disease.

The organization says that 13,703 individuals have been reported with confirmed, probable or suspected cases of Ebola worldwide. Of those cases, the vast majority -- 11,770 -- were reported in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The WHO also reports that 4,922 people have died of the disease internationally, with 4,910 of those in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone.

Also of note in the latest WHO report, every district in Liberia and Sierra Leone are now affected by the disease -- 30 days after the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response plan was implemented.

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Malala Yousafzai to Donate $50,000 in Prize Money to Rebuild Schools in Gaza


ABC/Ida Mae Astute(NEW YORK) -- Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai donated $50,000 to help rebuild United Nations Relief and Works Agency schools damaged during the recent fighting in Gaza.

According to the UNRWA press release, Malala made the announcement as she accepted the World's Children's Prize in Stockholm. "I am honored to announce all my World's Children's Prize money will go to help students and schools in an especially difficult place -- in Gaza," Malala said, calling the UNRWA's work in Gaza "heroic."

"The needs are overwhelming," Yousafzai said. "More than half of Gaza's population is under 18 years of age. They want and deserve quality education, hope and real opportunities to build a future."

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl accepted the donation, calling Malala "a symbol of the boundless potential that lies within each and every child on Earth."

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Prominent Israeli Activist Seriously Wounded in Jerusalem Shooting


Photodisc/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- An American-born, right-wing Israeli activist was shot on Wednesday by a gunman on a motorcycle in Jerusalem, raising the already sky-high tension across the city, authorities said.

Israeli media have identified the victim as Rabbi Yehuda Glick, a prominent activist for the rights of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount.

The police are only officially confirming the shooting of a man in his 50s, but various Israeli outlets say Glick is in critical condition.

The police have not declared the incident a terrorist attack, but given Glick's profile and the recent tension around the Temple Mount, it can easily be assumed this was a targeted assassination attempt.

As the world's attention has turned away since the summer's Gaza War, anger has continued to simmer in Jerusalem.

Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police have continued since they first broke out in July.

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Mobile Users in Tanzania Score Free Internet


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Mobile users in Tanzania just scored free Internet, thanks to an initiative spearheaded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Following the release of the Internet.org app in Namibia over the summer, Zuckerberg announced on Wednesday that the country's northeast neighbors in Tanzania would be the next to gain free access to a host of websites.

Tanzanian users who are Tigo subscribers will get free mobile access to basic services, including AccuWeather, Google, Wikipedia, and of course, Facebook, without incurring any data charges.

The app is part of Facebook’s collaborative Internet.org initiative, which aims to bring Internet access to the two out of three people worldwide who aren't already online.

According to the social network, 85 percent of the world’s population lives in areas with existing cellular coverage, meaning the lack of infrastructure isn't a barrier to getting new users online.

At the Mobile World Conference in February, Zuckerberg said the biggest barrier to getting people online is “the question of why you would want to spend your money.”

“You have never had access to the Internet so you don’t even know why you would want it,” he said. "In the U.S. we have 911 to get basic services. Similarly, we want to create a basic dial tone for the Internet. Basic messaging, basic Web information, basic social networking.”

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Tensions Running High Between Obama Administration, Israeli Officials?


File photo. Pete Souza / The White House(BEIRUT) -- The Israeli-American relationship has taken a beating since President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have taken office, but it has never been worse than it is now, several Israeli commentators are now saying.

The assessment comes in the wake of an article in the Atlantic by Jeffery Goldberg, in which he quotes a senior Obama administration official calling Netanyahu a coward, but using an expletive.

The criticism directed at the prime minister is based on the administration's perception that Netanyahu is doing nothing to advance the peace process and is instead expanding settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. He is also cowardly when it comes to starting conflicts, the official said.

Netanyahu's office struck back on Wednesday, saying he would not bow to pressure when it comes to defending Israel's security interests and advancing the historical rights of the Jewish people.

Israel's president, Reuven Rivlin, tried to smooth things over, saying that the top three principles of Israeli foreign relations are based on its relationship with the U.S.

In a statement Wednesday, a National Security spokesperson said, "Certainly that's not the Administration's view, and we think such comments are inappropriate and counter-productive. Prime Minister Netanyahu and the President have forged an effective partnership, and consult closely and frequently, including earlier this month when the President hosted the Prime Minister in the Oval Office."

"The U.S.-Israel relationship remains as strong as ever, our security bonds have never been greater, and the ties between our nations are unshakable. We remain fully and firmly committed to Israel's security," the spokesperson added.

Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters that the comment, published by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic, was “counterproductive” and “inappropriate," and that he would be surprised if President Obama knew who said it to Goldberg.

At the State Department, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Secretary of State John Kerry believed it wasn’t productive for either side to lob insults at the other.

“He certainly feels strongly that a war of words is not productive from either side. Obviously, we believe that moving forward it’s in the best interest of both sides to address any issues that may arise appropriately and respectfully, and not through personal attacks,” she said.

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Prince Charles and Camilla Make History in Colombia


Chris Jackson/Getty Images(BOGOTA, Colombia) -- Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, touched down on their private plane Tuesday night in the rain-soaked capital of Bogota for the first leg of their four-day visit to Colombia.

The royal couple was saluted in a red carpet welcome at the Bogota Military Airport with a Guard of Honor. They then took off for a reception at the British ambassador’s residence, where they mingled with a mix of British and Colombian business titans, sports heroes and political leaders.

Prince Charles was presented with a Colombia soccer shirt by the president of Colombia Football Federation. Camilla was gifted a snake skin evening bag inscribed with her name designed by Mario Hernandez.

The first-in-line to the throne and his wife are making royal history on the trip as the most senior members of the royal family ever to visit Colombia, a country wracked by drugs and violence.

While in Colombia, the Prince of Wales will tackle the complicated issues of the ongoing drug crisis, violence and sexual assault against women. He will also look to spearhead more cooperation between the U.K. and Colombia.

Prince Charles plans to meet with Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos Calderon.

Prince Charles and Camilla’s tour of Colombia will take them to some of the more spectacular sites of the ecologically diverse country, including the Macarena National Park.

Charles, who has long been an advocate of conservation issues in South America, will deliver a speech at the Health of the Oceans international conference.

Prince Charles and Camilla will travel to Mexico at the conclusion of their visit to Colombia.

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US Military Conducts 14 Airstrikes Against ISIS in Syria, Iraq


iStock/Thinkstock(TAMPA, Fla.) -- The U.S. military conducted 14 more airstrikes against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets in Syria and Iraq on Tuesday and Wednesday.

According to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), eight of the strikes were in Syria, near Kobani. They destroyed five fighting positions, a small unit, six vehicles, a building occupied by ISIS and a command and control node.

In Iraq, the remaining six airstrikes destroyed three small units near Fallujah, and one small unit and two vehicles near Sinjar.

CENTCOM said all the aircraft used in the attacks managed to exit the areas safely.

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Russia Denies Harassing US Officials, Says Its Diplomats Also Targeted


iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) — The Russian Foreign Ministry has denied reports that Russian security services are harassing American diplomats at a level not seen since the Cold War.

“The voiced complaints are below the level of cheap spy detective stories,” the ministry said.

The statement also included complaints about the treatment of Russian officials in the United States.

On Monday, ABC News published a report about the increasingly aggressive harassment of U.S. officials in Russia, citing a public State Department audit.

“Across Mission Russia, employees face intensified pressure by the Russian security services at a level not seen since the days of the Cold War,” the Office of Inspector General wrote.

The harassment included slashed tires, hacked personal email accounts and mysterious break-ins at diplomatic residences, according to U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive security and diplomatic matters. The pattern began in late 2011 and has escalated as U.S.-Russia relations have deteriorated, officials said.

An embassy spokesman acknowledged the alleged Russian behavior, saying “Embassy and State Department officials have discussed issues of harassment of American staff with various interlocutors within the Russian government.”

“Obviously, we wouldn’t be doing that if we didn’t have concerns,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki added later.

President Obama has complained about the behavior to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Secretary of State John Kerry confronted his Russian counterpart earlier this month, U.S. officials said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry response claimed that its officials are also mistreated in the United States.

“Our diplomats are constantly approached with recruitment offers, suffer from rude provocative tactics by using illegally obtained personal information, including information on the state of health of family members,” the statement said.

The ministry also cited a reported FBI investigation into alleged spying by the head of the Russian Center for Science and Culture in Washington, which is funded by the Russian government.

A day earlier, when asked how the United States treated Russian diplomats, State Department spokeswoman Psaki told reporters: “We are treating any Russian officials here with the utmost respect in -- you know, consistent with international law.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry also complained about the driving of some American diplomats in Russia, saying they have already committed more than 20 traffic violations this year.

“We advise our colleagues from the State Department not to add more negative sentiment to the already existing gloomy background in the development of our relations. This is not the way to solve problems; it is the way to make them even worse,” the Russian statement concluded.

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South Korea Spy Agency Explains Kim Jong-un's Disappearance


Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) — There was apparently nothing nefarious about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's six-week disappearance, according to South Korea's National Intelligence Service.

A government official in Seoul said that the NIS, the country's top spy agency, told lawmakers that Kim had undergone surgery to remove a cyst from his right ankle and spent most of September and part of the next month recuperating.

Speculation was rife that there was something seriously wrong with the already reclusive North Korean leader or that he had been removed from power in a government coup.

However, Kim appeared at a public event on Oct. 14 with an official photograph showing him walking with a cane.

Although the explanation for Kim's absence seems plausible, the NIS did not reveal how it got its information.


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US Ambassador to UN on Ebola: 'Together We Can Beat this Epidemic'


UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz(FREETOWN, Sierra Leone) -- U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power spoke in Sierra Leone on Tuesday, calling for additional resources in an effort to stop Ebola in West Africa -- before it gets to American shores.

Obama has made the situation in West Africa a national security priority, calling for resources and international support. "Together, we can beat this epidemic," Power added. "We have beaten every Ebola epidemic in history, and we will do so if we dramatically increase our involvement and our engagement."

"We will defeat Ebola in Sierra Leone, in Guinea, in Liberia," Power said. "We will prevent it, any more cases in Mali."

The World Health Organization has said that the number of cases of Ebola in West Africa has surpassed 10,000 and the number killed by the disease is nearing 5,000.

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Russian Foreign Ministry Denies Claims of Mistreating US Diplomats


iSailorr/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Russia's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday responded to reports that U.S. officials face harassment in Russia not seen since the Cold War, claiming that no such harassment was happening, and in fact, the U.S. harasses Russian diplomats.

Russia claimed that the U.S. government has surveilled and illegally obtained information, including about the health of Russian diplomats' family members. The American government additionally tries to recruit Russian officials. Those claims were denied by U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki on Monday, who said that "we are treating any Russian officials here with the utmost respect...consistent with international law."

The Russian government additionally claimed that American diplomats in Moscow have amassed 20 traffic violations in 2014, including a crash that occurred on New Year's Eve involving a U.S. embassy employee.

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Marine Lost at Sea in North Arabian Gulf Reclassified as First Casualty of Operations Against ISIS


Michael Fitzsimmons/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Marine lost at sea early this month in the North Arabian Gulf was reclassified as a death under Operation Inherent Resolve, the Department of Defense said Tuesday.

Cpl. Jordan Spears, 21, was onboard an MV-22 Osprey that appeared as though it was going to crash shortly after takeoff from the USS Makin Island. He and a second crewman dove out of the aircraft into the water, but while the second Marine was located safe, the DOD says Spears did not survive and his remains were not found.

The classification makes Spears the first casualty of the operations against ISIS. At the time of his death, the operation did not have a name.

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South African Business Tycoon Donates $1 Million to Fight Against Ebola


Photo by Felix Dlangamandla/Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images(JOHANNESBURG) -- South African business tycoon Patrice Motsepe donated $1 million to the fight against Ebola in West Africa, his company, African Rainbow Minerals, said on Tuesday.

According to a press release, Motsepe made the commitment earlier this month and received the necessary regulatory approvals on Friday. The donation will go towards "clinical management, social mobilisation, medical coordination and other key mechanisms of controlling the disease" in Guinea.

Motsepe and his foundation will continue to give money and assistance in the fight against Ebola, the press release said. He also called on the African and international business community -- and the medical fraternity -- to continue contributing and assisting in the effort to stop the spread of the disease that has claimed nearly 5,000 lives in West Africa.

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First Macy's Store Outside of the US Will Be in Abu Dhabi


File photo. Macy's(NEW YORK) -- Macy's first overseas store will open not in Canada or Europe, but on an island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The iconic American retailer announced Tuesday that the first Macy's store outside the U.S. and the second Bloomingdale's global store will anchor a "super-regional shopping destination" called Al Maryah Central on Al Maryah Island. The project is scheduled to open in spring 2018.

The Macy's store will be a whopping 205,000 square feet with four levels. The Bloomingdale's will span 230,000 square feet, also four stories. Retail galleries will open into a four-level atrium anchored by the two department stores. The total retail and entertainment property will span 3.1 million square feet, with restaurants, a 20-screen movie theater, health club, hotel and residential towers, according to company officials.

It will provide air-conditioned access to the Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi and it will be linked to a waterfront outdoor promenade with restaurants and harbor views, officials said.

The property will feature open-air rooftop parks and playgrounds, plus 7,000 parking spaces. Macy's Inc. operates about 840 Macy's and Bloomingdale's stores in 45 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico.

Al Tayer Group, one of Macy's partners in the project, opened and operates the first Bloomingdale’s outside the U.S. in Dubai in 2010. The company represents more than 35 brands and operates more than 200 stores in the Middle East.

Al Maryah is located in Abu Dhabi's new central business district. The real estate developer Gulf Related is a joint-venture between finance firm Gulf Capital and Related Companies, which is developing the largest private development in the U.S., the 17 million-square-foot Hudson Yards in Manhattan.

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