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Oscar Pistorius Begins Five-Year Prison Term, but May Be Out in One

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 by

Posted in World News

Herman Verwey/Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images(PRETORIA, South Africa) — Oscar Pistorius was unemotional as he was driven away Tuesday in a police van to begin a five-year prison term for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, but the paralympic champion could spend less than a year behind bars.

Pistorius’ demeanor was in contrast to his behavior during much of the trial when he cried, sobbed loudly and vomited in response to testimony about the Valentine’s Day shooting in 2013. He was convicted last month of culpable homicide, the American equivalent of manslaughter.

Judge Thokozile Masipa kept the courtroom in suspense for more than an hour Tuesday before announcing her sentence, declaring that the sentence has to balance issues such as retribution, restorative justice, rehabilitation and the interest of society.

She rejected the defense’s argument that Pistorius should be sentenced to house arrest because of his grief and his disability. He has no legs, but became known worldwide as the Blade Runner for his speed on his running prosthetics.

“I heard witness after witness over-emphasizing the accused’s vulnerability,” the judge said. “Yes, the accused is vulnerable, but he also has excellent coping skills. He really saw himself as disabled [but] worked hard, and became respected worldwide.”

“A noncustodial sentence would send the wrong message to the community. But a long sentence would also not be appropriate, because it would lack mercy,” she said.

Masipa also said Pistorius has had an enormous impact on society.

“He gave his time and money to charities, and changed the public’s perception of disabled people. This cannot be ignored and ought to be put into perspective,” Masipa said.

The judge gave Pistorius a suspended sentence of three years for a weapons charge.

Pistorius, 27, was unemotional as he stood with his hands clasped in front of him while Masipa delivered her sentence. He will be eligible for a sentence conversion after serving one-sixth of his sentence, meaning his sentence could be changed to house arrest after 10 months.

Pistorius was led to the court’s holding cells Tuesday after court adjourned, and later taken to Kgosi Mampuru II Prison in Pretoria in a police van with barred windows.

Prison officials examined Pistorius and decided he would be held in the prison’s hospital wing because his notoriety and disability could put him at risk of attack.

“An assessment of Mr. Pistorius’ disability has been made, in accordance with procedure, and he is being held in the hospital section, as the court was assured last week,” department spokesman Ofentse Morwane said.

Steenkamp’s parents were in court to hear the sentence. Her mother, June Steenkamp, who has been in court for almost every day of the trial, said justice had been done.

Pistorius’ uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said: “Oscar will embrace this opportunity to pay back to society.”

Pistorius never denied shooting his model-girlfriend, but said it was a case of mistaken identity. He said he fired four times through a locked bathroom door in the middle of the night because he thought there was an intruder in his house.

The defense has already indicated that it would not appeal the sentence or conviction, while the state has 14 days to indicate whether it will file an appeal.

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US Forces Launch 12 More Airstrikes in Iraq, Syria

Monday, October 20th, 2014 by

Posted in World News

Michael Fitzsimmons/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) — U.S. military forces conducted at least six more airstrikes near Kobani, Syria on Sunday night and Monday, and six more in Iraq.

According to U.S. Central Command, one of the strikes in Syria was aimed at a stray resupply bundle from Sunday’s U.S. airdrops of Kurdish arms and ammunition. In order to prevent those supplies from falling into the hands of members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the bundle was struck by U.S. forces.

Five other airstrikes in Syria hit ISIS fighting and mortar positions and an ISIS vehicle.

The strikes in Iraq took place near Fallujah and Bayji. Those sorties destroyed ISIS vehicles and buildings.

France and the United Kingdom also participated in the most recent strikes.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Pentagon Calls Possible Turkish Aid in Kobani ‘Welcome News’

Monday, October 20th, 2014 by

Posted in World News

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — After the Turkish foreign minister said on Monday that his country would aid Iraqi Kurdish fighters in crossing into Syria to support Kurdish fighters in the town of Kobani, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren called the statement “welcome news.”

“The more fighters that are available to combat [ISIS] fighters, the better,” Warren said.

Turkey had kept Kurdish fighters out previously due to a 30-year Kurdish insurgency in Turkey. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said Monday that President Obama spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the weekend to discuss the situation in Kobani, a town that has been threatened by ISIS advances for weeks.

Turkey has also taken in over one million refugees, including about 180,000 from Kobani.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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NOAA: Global Temperature in September Hottest on Record

Monday, October 20th, 2014 by

Posted in World News

Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released data on Monday that shows the average global temperature in September reached a new high, and marked the 38th consecutive September where the global average temperature finished above the 20th century average.

September’s temperature, the highest ever for the month since record keeping began in 1880, marked the fourth time this year the world temperature has set a new all-time high in a given month. May, June, and August also saw record high temperatures.

The NOAA notes that, “with the exception of February, every month to date in 2014 has been among its four warmest on record.”

The global average temperature over land and ocean combined was 60.3 degrees Fahrenheit, the NOAA found, 1.3 degrees higher than the 20th century average.

The period between January and September also tied with the same timeframe in 1998 for the warmest January-to-September period on record, with an average temperature of 57.5 degrees Fahrenheit globally.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Cuba Willing to Work with US to Stop Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

Monday, October 20th, 2014 by

Posted in World News

Daniel Loncarevic//iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HAVANA) — Cuban President Raul Castro says that Cuba and the United States can work “side-by-side” in the effort to stop the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

At the ALBA-TCP Summit on Ebola, Castro called the situation “a dreadful epidemic,” and noted that the outbreak, “poses a huge challenge to humanity, one that should be met with utmost urgency.”

“At the moment,” Castro highlighted, “more than 4,000 Cuban healthcare collaborators are working in 32 African countries and…they are all joining in the preventive effort against Ebola.”

Over the weekend, Fidel Castro wrote in the state-run newspaper Granma, that ,”the hour of duty has arrived,” for Cuba, and that Cuba, “did not hesitate one minute in responding to the request made by international bodies for support to the struggle against the brutal epidemic which has erupted in West Africa.”

“We will happily cooperate with U.S. personnel in this task,” the former Cuban president wrote, “not in search of peace between these two states which have been adversaries for so many years, but rather, in any event, for World Peace, and objective which can and should be attempted.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Valuable Ebola Lessons the US Can Learn From Nigeria

Monday, October 20th, 2014 by

Posted in World News

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Ebola virus continues to rage through West Africa, but a few countries in the region have managed to contain the outbreak. Case in point: After six weeks with no new cases, the World Health Organization declared Nigeria Ebola-free on Monday.

Ebola entered Nigeria, a country of 178 million people, in July when a sick passenger flew from Liberia into Lagos, Nigeria’s largest and busiest city. Once Nigerian health officials confirmed the traveler — Liberian-American financial consultant Patrick Sawyer — had Ebola, they acted quickly to contain it, said Erin Hohlfelder, the global health policy director for U2 frontman Bono’s ONE Campaign.

“From the minute they were aware of the first case, they established an emergency operations center with a coordinated effort by a central body with clear lines of accountability rather than a dispersed response,” Hohlfelder said.

John Vertefeuille, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Ebola response team in Nigeria, said contact tracing also played a key role in stopping the spread of the virus.

“Tracing was central to the success of the response,” he said.

Health officials set up a case management system to track and monitor patient contacts, Vertefeuille said. They followed nearly 900 people who were potentially exposed to Ebola, making 18,500 visits to check for symptoms, he pointed out.

And unlike many other West African countries where the virus has spread rapidly, Nigeria has a robust health care system in place, Vertefeuille said.

“Lagos has a lot of health assets including a large hospital system and a fleet of ambulances. It has a large health care workforce,” he said.

To strengthen its response even further, the government enlisted the help of international nonprofits such as ONE, Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders, groups that already had a presence in Nigeria with a staff experienced in responding to disease outbreaks. It also relied on the expertise of groups such as the CDC and WHO.

However, there were some missteps. One person infected with Ebola was too scared to come forward, evading a manhunt for several days before public health authorities were able to track him down. He eventually recovered from the virus but not before being treated by a doctor who later died.

Another setback: an elaborate social media prank urging Nigerians to drink excessive amounts of salt water to avoid catching the Ebola virus. The hoax spread like wildfire for several days in August. Two people died and at least 20 people were hospitalized as a result, according to the Nigerian newspaper Vanguard News.

To clamp down on the hysteria, the government asked politicians, teachers, religious leaders and celebrities to help communicate accurate information, said Edwin Ikhuoria, the Nigerian representative for the ONE campaign.

“Information on the dangers and method of spread of the virus was on radio, TV, billboards and SMS [text messaging] platforms,” he said, adding that the government also began promoting a message of anti-stigma to prevent any potentially infected people from going underground, which would have allowed the disease to spread off the public health radar.

In total, Nigeria had 20 confirmed cases before the outbreak was contained. Eight died of Ebola.

Vertefeuille said if there are lessons for the United States and the rest of the world for how they deal with Ebola, it’s that it can be controlled with standard public health efforts.

“What we saw was two outbreaks in Nigeria –- we saw an Ebola outbreak and an outbreak of fear,” he said. “Countries can communicate the basics before there is an outbreak so that the public and health care workers know how to respond ahead of time.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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UK Trash ‘Skipping’ Turns Food Waste into Meals

Monday, October 20th, 2014 by

Posted in World News

ABC News(LONDON) — It’s no secret that millions of tons of food are wasted every day, but solutions to this issue are few.

But one response can be found at a pop-up café that opened this month in Bristol, United Kingdom, exclusively serving intercepted waste food. Launched by a group of volunteers, the purpose of the café is to serve food to the needy and raise awareness about food waste.

One-third of all food produced worldwide gets lost or wasted, according to a recent report by the United Nations Environment Program and the World Resources Institute. Consumers in industrialized countries waste almost as much food annually as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.

The food served at the Skipchen varies, according to what the volunteers are able to rescue. In the evenings, teams go out and do “skipping,” or finding edible food from the trash. Some of the food is also donated from restaurants and food banks or collected from farms.

Volunteers wash and peel discarded foods, and don’t used anything that “doesn’t look or smell right.”

Sam Joseph, one of the co-founders, took an official course on sanitary practices that allows him to handle and serve food. He makes sure his volunteers use appropriate tools and cutting boards and have “a high level of personal hygiene,” washing their hands regularly, he told ABC News.

He said they only use meat that comes under sealed packets and checks for any holes. Everything is refrigerated and cooked as soon as possible.

Customers who came in the café were overwhelmingly people already sensitive to the issue of waste, sometimes doing “skipping” themselves.

Customers are not charged a set price and asked to “pay-as-you-feel.”

Until December, Skipchen will be operating daily at The Crofter’s Rights, a pub that is leasing its 20-seat space for free.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Crusin In Cruces

Sweden Expands Hunt for Suspected Russian Sub

Monday, October 20th, 2014 by

Posted in World News

iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) — Sweden is widening its search for what may be a distressed Russian submarine in the waters near Stockholm.

On Monday authorities ordered all ships to leave the large cluster of some 30,000 islands where the vessel was possibly spotted. A no fly zone has also gone into effect over the area.

The Swedish military has been searching for the mysterious vessel from the air and on the water since Friday.

“It’s likely that foreign underwater activity is taking place in the Stockholm archipelago,” Sweden’s Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad said at a news conference on Sunday.

Grenstad notably did not identify the origin of the suspected vessel, despite a Swedish newspaper report that says an emergency message in Russian was intercepted on a Russian emergency frequency.

Swedish authorities maintain this is an intelligence operation. They said object may have been seen three times in recent days and released a grainy photo that may show it on the surface.

“We consider all those observations to be very credible,” Rear Admiral Grendstad said.

Russia has denied any involvement. Instead, the Russians suggested it was actually a Dutch submarine.

The Dutch Defense Ministry spokeswoman, however, told the BBC that “it was definitely not a Dutch submarine.”

With renewed Russian military aggression in the region, the incident has sparked Cold War memories of when Sweden regularly combed its waters for Russian submarines.

In 1981, a Soviet submarine ran aground in southern Sweden, sparking a diplomatic standoff that lasted ten days until Sweden towed it back out to sea and handed it over.

If this incident does turn out to be a Russian submarine, the first question will be what it was doing there. But equally concerning may be how Russia decides to respond.

In 2000, the Kursk, a large nuclear-powered Russian submarine, sank in Russian waters in the icy Berents Sea. The country’s new president Vladimir Putin ignored international offers for rescue and all 118 men on board died.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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US Airdrops Arms, Ammunition to Kurds in Syrian Town of Kobani

Monday, October 20th, 2014 by

Posted in World News

Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The United States has airdropped small arms, ammunition and medical supplies to Kurdish militia forces in the besieged city of Kobani who have been fighting back an ISIS assault for weeks. The airdrops will likely stir controversy with the Turkish government, which has opposed support for Kurdish military groups in Syria that it believes are affiliated with a Kurdish group that has conducted terrorist attacks inside Turkey for decades.

Senior administration officials said that on Sunday night three American C-130 aircraft dropped 27 pallets of materials for the Kurdish fighters in the city, the first such support mission for the Kurdish fighters. The materials carried aboard the aircraft were provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq. The mission is believed to have been successful and the American planes encountered no resistance from the ground.

On a conference call with reporters Sunday night after the mission’s completion, the officials said it is possible that further support for the Kurdish fighters is likely, though it may occur in different forms. One official characterized the aid provided to the Kurdish fighters as “the type of material that would help them sustain this fight.”

The airdrops will likely be controversial in Turkey, where for decades the Turkish military has been fighting the PKK militant Kurdish group — which has conducted terrorist attacks inside Turkey in support of an independent Kurkish state. The United States also considers the PKK to be a terrorist group. The Kurdish forces fighting in Kobani belong to a larger Kurdish umbrella group known as the YPG, but which Turkey sees as an affiliate of the PKK.

In an indication of how delicate the airdrops would be to Turkish-American relations, a senior administration official said President Obama spoke with Turkish President Recep Erdogan on Saturday to advise him of the intent to conduct the airdrops “and the importance that we put on it.” Secretary of State John Kerry also spoke with his Turkish counterpart on Friday about the decision to support the Syrian Kurdish fighters.

The official would not characterize Turkey’s response to the notification but broadly acknowledged Turkish concerns with helping the Kurds, “Clearly we understand the longstanding Turkish concern with their range of groups, including Kurdish groups, that they’ve been engaged with in conflict at times.”

A senior administration official said the airdrops had a humanitarian aspect, as the Kurdish militias could face a slaughter if they are defeated. “We’ve seen the slaughter of forces who have found themselves in ISIL’s way…and particularly when those forces have put up a tenacious battle the way these forces in Kobani have done,” said the official who used an alternate name to describe the Islamic extremist group.

The officials said the airdrops had been discussed by U.S. officials “for a number of days” after it came to their attention that the Kurdish fighters were running low on supplies.

American military officials have said that ISIS has decided to make seizing the border town of Kobani a focal point of their operations in Syria. They say the influx of ISIS fighters to take the city has led to an increase in the number of airstrikes in the city, presenting them with an opportunity to strike a major blow at ISIS.

U.S. Central Command said in a statement Sunday that more than have 135 airstrikes have been conducted in Kobani, the vast majority of them in the past two weeks as ISIS pressed to capture the city.

“Combined with continued resistance to ISIL on the ground, indications are that these strikes have slowed ISIL advances into the city, killed hundreds of their fighters and destroyed or damaged scores of pieces of ISIL combat equipment and fighting positions,” U.S. Central Command said in the statement.

But one official reiterated that ISIS could still take over the city, describing the U.S. assessment of the situation on the ground there as “uncertain and tenuous.”

The officials declined to directly address reports that the Kurdish fighters have been providing targeting information to U.S. and coalition aircraft. Instead they pointed to vague “decisions made” when the U.S. first got involved in the fight against ISIS, alluding to the Joint Operations Center in Erbil, iraq and American intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in the region.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Catholic Bishops Reject More Acceptance of Homosexuals

Monday, October 20th, 2014 by

Posted in World News

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(VATICAN CITY) — There will be no conciliatory language towards gays and lesbians from the Roman Catholic Church after bishops in Vatican City Saturday rejected a move toward greater acceptance of homosexuals.

The decision by the synod is a blow to Pope Francis who had preached for more tolerance although the Vatican said that bishops’ document was still a work in progress.

Just recently, the Church was promoting the “gifts and qualities” of gay Catholics while also appearing to be more forgiving of divorced Catholics and couples who live together but aren’t married.

However, many conservative bishops were apparently taken aback by this more liberal attitude and when the language came up for a vote, it failed to get the necessary two-thirds approval.

Yet, the pope got the last word in after the vote, scolding some bishops for their “hostile rigidity” against those who don’t fall in line with Church doctrine.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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