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American Jeffrey Fowle Released from North Korea


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans being held in North Korea, was abruptly allowed to leave Tuesday on a U.S. government jet.

The 56-year-old from Miamisburg, Ohio, had been charged with leaving a Bible in Chongjin last May. Proseletyzing is illegal in North Korea.

A Defense Department plane carried Fowle out of the country, but it was not immediately clear when he was supposed to return home.

The site of the U.S. plane with the American flag on its tail at Pyongyang's international airport was an unusual sight.

The State Department welcomed Fowle’s release but called on the North Korean government to release two other Americans still in the secretive country, Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller.

Fowle's release was negotiated with the help of Sweden since the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea.

"We thank the government of Sweden for the tireless efforts of the Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang," the State Department said.

Fowle will have to deal with another problem when he returns. While in a North Korean jail, he was fired from his job as an equipment operator for the city of Moraine, Ohio -- a job he had for the last 26 years. The dismissal last month came with a $70,000 severance package.

"At some point, you have to return to work," Moraine City Manager David Hicks told ABC News.

Hicks noted that Fowle was a union employee.

"Although he was terminated, he has the ability to apply at any point in the next year and he would be immediately reinstated into his position," he said.

Hicks said that the city kept his wife and children on Fowle’s health insurance after his termination, and said Fowle would be welcome back at his job.

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Afghan Opium Trade Thriving Despite US $7 Billion Effort


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Despite more than $7 billion of American counter-narcotics spending, Afghanistan’s opium trade has never been bigger, according to a U.S. government watchdog.

A new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction issued on Tuesday highlights the continued growth of Afghanistan’s poppy fields despite more than a decade of U.S. and international counter-narcotics efforts.

Various federal agencies have spent $7.6 billion in Afghanistan over 12 years to curb the world’s largest opium industry. Despite some initial progress, the farming of opium poppies by Afghanistan’s farmers has rebounded in recent years. United Nations figures show that farmers in Afghanistan cultivated 806 square miles of opium poppy last year, a field roughly 2.5 times the size of New York City.

"The expanding cultivation and trafficking of drugs puts the entire Afghan reconstruction effort at risk," said John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.

"By every conceivable metric, we've failed. Production and cultivation are up, interdiction and eradication are down, financial support to the insurgency is up, and addiction and abuse are at unprecedented levels in Afghanistan," Sopko said.

SIGAR has found that well-meaning efforts have in some cases helped fuel the increase in poppy farming.

For example, in southwestern Afghanistan affordable deep-well technology has turned 200,000 hectares of desert into arable land over the past decade. But the report found “due to relatively high opium prices and the rise of an inexpensive, skilled, and mobile labor force, much of this newly-arable land is dedicated to opium cultivation.”

And it found that provinces once-declared to be "poppy free" have seen a resurgence in cultivation.

In 2008, the U.N. touted Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan as a success story where farmers had turned away from planting cash crops of opium poppy. But five years later the cultivation of opium poppy had increased “fourfold,” the new report concluded.

Afghanistan produces 80 percent of the world’s opium which is turned into heroin -- most of which ends up in Russia and Europe.

The production and sale of opium “undermines the Afghan state’s legitimacy by stoking corruption, sustaining criminal networks, and providing significant financial support to the Taliban and other insurgent groups,” Sopko wrote in the report.

Afghanistan’s opium trade was valued at $3 billion in 2013, according to U.N. estimates.

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Mystery Submarine Hunt Resurfaces Cold War Tensions


iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Swedish naval ships, helicopters and troops on the ground have expanded their search for what they believe is a foreign submarine in distress not far from their coast.

The search has entered its fifth day.

Before the Cold War thaw, there were instances when Sweden discovered Russian subs illegally prowling its waters, but Russia has denied that the mystery sub is one of theirs. Instead, it has claimed that the vessel is a Dutch submarine.

The alleged submarine has been spotted at least three times since Friday in various parts of the Stockholm archipelago. One spotting placed the vessel approximately 12 nautical miles from the country's capital.

The most worrisome question about the mystery sub is whether or not it is carrying nuclear weapons.

Russian officials are claiming that the submarine is a Dutch sub that was in the area for planned exercises with the Swedish military, but both Swedish and Dutch officials said that the submarine cited by the Russians has been in Estonia since Friday morning.

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Rwanda Introduces Ebola Screening for Travelers from US, Spain


File photo. Blend Images/Thinkstock(KIGALI, Rwanda) -- In a turning of tables on Ebola monitoring, the East African nation of Rwanda is screening all visitors from the United States and Spain for the deadly virus.

The U.S. Embassy in Rwanda posted the following notice on its website Tuesday:

"On October 19, the Rwandan Ministry of Health introduced new Ebola Virus Disease screening requirements. Visitors who have been in the United States or Spain during the last 22 days are now required to report their medical condition -- regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms of Ebola -- by telephone by dialing 114 between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. for the duration of their visit to Rwanda (if less than 21 days), or for the first 21 days of their visit to Rwanda. Rwandan authorities continue to deny entry to visitors who traveled to Guinea, Liberia, Senegal, or Sierra Leone within the past 22 days."

The incubation period of Ebola is generally accepted by health officials as 21 days.

The notice appears to be in response to recent cases in both countries. In addition to the three people diagnosed with the deadly virus in Dallas, an additional five patients transported from West Africa have received treatment for Ebola on American soil. Spain has seen three cases, according to health officials.

Meanwhile, a rally cry to close American borders to travelers from Ebola-stricken countries appears to have hit home. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced travel restrictions Tuesday in the form of additional screening and protective measures.

Beginning Wednesday, all travelers to the Unites States whose travel originates in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea -- the countries hardest hit by the ongoing Ebola outbreak -- will be required to fly into one of the five U.S. airports that have the enhanced screening and additional resources in place: JFK International Airport in New York, Newark International Airport in New Jersey, Dulles International Airport outside Washington, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta and O’Hare Internal Airport in Chicago.

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


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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Duchess Kate Makes First Public Appearance Since Announcing Pregnancy


Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) — The Duchess of Cambridge stepped out for a royal engagement Tuesday in London, her first since announcing her second pregnancy last month.

Kate, 32, joined her husband, Prince William, in welcoming the president and first lady of Singapore to the U.K. for their state visit with the queen.

There were no signs of the health issue that forced Kate to announce her pregnancy Sept. 8, as the duchess dazzled in an Alexander McQueen dress.

“She's feeling OK," Prince William said at that time, referring to the hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition characterized by acute morning sickness, that kept Kate out of the spotlight. "[It's the] early days but I hope things settle down and she feels a bit better."

The palace announced Monday that Kate, who is believed to be just past the 12-week period, is due to deliver her and Prince William’s second child in April 2015, meaning the baby’s birth will come right around the time the couple celebrates their fourth wedding anniversary.

Tuesday, the focus was all on the couple's royal duties as they greeted Singapore's president and his wife at London's Royal Garden Hotel.

The two couples then traveled together to Horse Guards Parade, where the Singaporean leader received a full ceremonial welcome, including a carriage procession to Buckingham Palace with William, Kate, the queen and her husband, Prince Philip.

Kate was not planning to attend Tuesday’s private lunch hosted by the queen, however, leaving that duty to Prince William alone.

Neither Kate nor William will attend the state dinner. Instead, Kate will be at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards ceremony at the Natural History Museum. She is a royal patron of the museum.

Prior to Tuesday’s event, Kate, the mother of 1-year-old Prince George, had not been seen in public since Aug. 5, when she attended the opening of a poppy exhibition at the Tower of London commemorating those lost in World War I.

The palace announced Kate's pregnancy a few weeks later when she was forced to cancel an engagement in Oxford with William. She has been recovering with the help of her doctors at Kensington Palace, and at her parents' home in Bucklebury.


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Entomologist Encounters Puppy-Sized Spider in Guyana


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you didn’t have arachnophobia before now, this puppy-sized spider should do the trick.

Known as South American Goliath birdeater, the humongous eight-legged creepy crawly creature has a body the size of a fist and a leg span the size of a small child.

Harvard entomologist Piotr Naskrecki recently encountered one while taking a nighttime stroll through a rain forest in Guyana.

"When I turned on the light, I couldn't quite understand what I was seeing," Naskrecki told the website Live Science.

The spider can weigh up to six ounces, according to Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology, where Naskrecki is employed. Though it does not eat birds, as the name implies, it hunts worms, rats and other small animals.

Size isn’t the spider’s only chill-inducing quality. It makes loud clicking sounds with its front claws when threatened and defends itself by rubbing its back legs together to shoot clouds of microscopic barbs through the air that are highly irritating to the eyes and skin.

If it chomps down on you with its 2-inch-long fangs, you probably won’t die, unless you are allergic. But its bite contains enough venom to make you sick for days.

Naskrecki said birdeaters are uncommon. He has only encountered three in all the years he has been traipsing through rain forests. He also did not specify whether his latest meeting ended in a capture for study.

But it’s a safe bet he couldn’t kill it with a shoe or trap it under a glass.

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Pentagon Calls Possible Turkish Aid in Kobani 'Welcome 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.

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NOAA: Global Temperature in September Hottest on Record


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.

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US Forces Launch 12 More Airstrikes in Iraq, Syria


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.

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


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."

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Valuable Ebola Lessons the US Can Learn From Nigeria


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."

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UK Trash 'Skipping' Turns Food Waste into Meals


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.

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Sweden Expands Hunt for Suspected Russian Sub


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.

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Prince William and Wife Kate Expecting a Baby in April 2015


Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images(LONDON) — Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are expecting a baby in April 2015, Palace officials confirmed in a press release.

Kate continues to be affected by acute morning sickness, but her condition is steadily improving, according to the release.

Her pregnancy was announced in September after she was forced to skip a number of public events.

The baby will be the second for the royal couple, joining 1-year-old George. The baby will be fourth in line to the British throne after grandfather Prince Charles, father Prince William and big brother George.

It is playfully called "an heir and a spare," with George in direct line to the throne and the new baby his alternate. Second-born royal babies can end up as monarch. Britain’s last King, George VI, acceded to the throne in 1936 when his older brother Edward VII abdicated.


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