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Infinite Menus, Copyright 2006, OpenCube Inc. All Rights Reserved. Thursday, October 30, 2014
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Pope: The Devil is Real, Must Be Fought

neneos/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(VATICAN CITY) -- Pope Francis said in a homily on Thursday that the devil is really and must be fought.

Noting that multiple generations have been led to believe that the devil is simply an idea, Francis said on Thursday that Christian life must be defended from the devil, who is very real. Part of that life, the pope said, "requires both strength and courage...it's a continuous battle against the three main enemies of Christian life which are the devil, the world and the passions of the flesh."

Italian news agency ANSA said that the pope called on Christians to don "the armor of God: the truth."

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Burkina Faso Parliament Set on Fire Amidst Protests, President Declares State of Emergency

ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images(OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso) -- President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso declared a state of emergency on Thursday and dissolved the country's government after protests broke out over his efforts to extend his 27-year rule for five more years.

Compaore came to power in 1987, deposing his predecessor in a coup. Demonstrators upset by his attempt to extend his own term set fire to parliament and government buildings. BBC News reports that Army Chief Gen. Honore Traore announced a transitional government would be formed and that a constitutional order would be restored in under a year.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said earlier this week that the U.S. was "concerned by the spirit and intent behind a draft National Assembly bill in Burkina Faso to amend the constitution to allow the term-limited incumbent president to run for an additional five-year term."

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Redacted: Military Classifies Info on $61B Afghan Training

Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- If you’re curious what America is getting for its multi-billion dollar effort to train and equip local security forces in Afghanistan, sorry, that’s now classified.

In its most recent quarterly report to Congress, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) sharply criticized a new move by the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to classify even the executive summary of its regular reports on the capabilities of the Afghan forces in which the U.S. has invested more than $61 billion.

The regular ISAF reports, most recently called the Regional ANSF Status Report (RASR), have been produced by ISAF in some form since 2008. A majority of the contents always have been classified, since they deal with ground-level capabilities of Afghan forces -- potentially useful intelligence for insurgents -- but the executive summary was not. SIGAR called the sudden, “inexplicable” classification “deeply troubl[ing]” and a direct hit to government accountability.

“ISAF’s classification of the report summary deprives the American people of an essential tool to measure the success or failure of the single most costly feature of the Afghanistan reconstruction effort,” SIGAR said in its latest quarterly report to Congress. “SIGAR and Congress can of course request classified briefings on this information, but its inexplicable classification now and its disappearance from public view does a disservice to the interest of informed national discussion.”

“It is not clear what security purpose is served by denying the American public even high-level information,” the SIGAR report says.

Lt. Col. Chris Belcher, a public affairs officer at ISAF in Afghanistan, told ABC News in an email that the move was made to “address potential concerns about operational security” after a reevaluation in August.

“After careful review, it was determined that the entirety of the report was classified to include the executive summary which contained Afghan-provided readiness information,” Belcher said. “While we appreciate and understand SIGAR’s responsibility to provide information to Congress and the American public, we have a responsibility to protect data that could jeopardize the operational security of our Afghan partners to include unnecessarily highlighting possible vulnerabilities and capability gaps; information which could provide adversaries critical intelligence that could be exploited, endangering the lives of our Afghan partners and coalition forces serving alongside them.”

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British Police Testing Software that Tries to Predict Future Crimes

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Minority Report just got a step closer to becoming reality in Britain.

A new investigative tool has been tested by London’s Metropolitan Police this week to assess the likelihood of gang members committing crimes in the future.

Developed by technology firm Accenture, the software merges data from various crime reports with criminal intelligence systems and applies predictive analytic information to generate risk scores.

A more common example of predictive analytics is credit scoring. It’s a statistical tool that predicts the future by using data from the past.

Ger Daly, senior managing director for Accenture’s Defense and Public Safety, told ABC News that the focus of the program is "to look at a select groups [and] gangs," rather than specific individuals.

“We used data from 2009 to 2012 to predict what would happen in 2013. We will compare the results to real figures and tweak the algorithm accordingly,” Daly added.

The software can be applied to other crimes by simply changing the algorithm. “We could look into burglary or domestic violence for example,” said Daly.

The company has developed similar projects in other countries. In Singapore, for example, Accenture worked on a CCTV tools that detects patterns and events such as overcrowding or flooding.

British police are now evaluating Accenture’s program findings.

“Our objective is to stop gang shootings in London and bring those responsible for crime to justice,” said Sarah Samee, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police Specialist Crime and Operations.

In 2012, gangs were responsible for approximately 22 percent of serious violence, 17 percent of robberies, 50 percent of shooting incidents and 14 percent of rape in London, according to Metropolitan Police figures.

“We’re always keen to use technology, but it’s too early to say whether this software will help us in our broader strategy,” Samee added.

The police’s Digital Policing team and Trident Gang Crime Command will likely decide in the coming weeks whether to use the software or not.

Several civil liberty advocates, however, are worried about potential privacy infringements. One of them is Daniel Nesbitt, research director at Big Brother Watch.

“Police should be careful not to target or stigmatize people unfairly. It could make it harder for them to connect with those they are trying to catch,” he said.

While police have made more efforts to engage with the public on their tactics, Big Brother Watch believes they need to be transparent about the technology and information used.

In the U.K., the Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984 was created to strike the right balance between police powers and rights and freedoms of the public. An Accenture spokesman told ABC News he believed it was the government’s role to draw a line and insisted their software “operates within the rules of the law.”

“Ultimately, there’s the police on one side, the politicians on one side, and the people being protected on the other,” said Daly. “A dialogue between them is needed."

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Russia Safety Watchdog Fears Ebola Spread, Warns Against Travel Abroad

Fuse/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) — Fear and concern continues to grow around the world over the spread of Ebola, and now Russia’s health and safety watchdog is warning Russians to avoid travel overseas during the upcoming holiday season to avoid contracting the disease.
“These holidays would better be spent in Russia,” Dr. Anna Y. Popova, head of Rospotrebnadzor (The Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being), said, according to Russian news agency Interfax.
“Due to the unstable situation in the world regarding infectious diseases, it is recommended to limit all travel and vacations abroad,” she was quoted as saying. “It is important to take care of yourself, your health, the health of your children.”
The Moscow Times reports Russia has isolated several West African students who arrived in the country out of fear they might have Ebola, but all have tested negative.

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The Threat Posed by Al-Aqsa Mosque Closing in Jerusalem

MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- The closing of al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem has diplomats holding their breath because the site has been a flashpoint for violence in the past and was the trigger for a five-year long spasm of bloodshed known as the Second Intifada.

The mosque was closed this week after a prominent right-wing rabbi Yehuda Glick was shot and critically wounded. Glick was part of a growing movement among religiously militant Jews demanding more prayer rights at the al Aqsa compound.

The closure so infuriated Palestinians that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called it “a ­declaration of war.”

The mosque is intrinsically entwined with volatile Mideast politics. The compound is located at what Muslims call the Dome of the Rock, the site they believe where the prophet Muhammed ascended to heaven. It is the holiest site in the Muslim world outside of Mecca and Medina.

The Israelis call it the Temple Mount and consider it to be where Judaism began and the site of two previous temples.

Control over these sites, and perceptions of encroachment, make for volatile politics.

Jews have been barred from the mosque's compound since Israeli politician Ariel Sharon went there in 2000 to assert Jewish rights to have access to the area. Sharon, who later became prime minister, was surrounded by hundreds of Israeli police. The move was seen by Palestinians as an incursion and triggered what became known as the Second Intifada or the Al-Aqsa Intifada.

The fighting derailed a U.S. sponsored peace process and raged until 2005, resulting in the deaths of about 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis.

The closure this week comes while anger still simmers over the Israeli invasion of Gaza earlier this year.

Ofer Zalzberg, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, said he does not believe the current closure will prompt another uprising, but he warned it could add to the growing violence against Israelis by individual Palestinians.

"What we have been seeing for a few years now, but with more force in the last few months, is a kind of unstructured violence, attacks on civilians," Zalzberg said. He cited as an example the Palestinian man who drove his car into a crowd of Israelis earlier this month.

"They are people who are not affiliated with groups like Hamas," he said, referring to the militant group that has dominated Gaza in recent years. "And because it's individuals, it's incredibly difficult for the Israeli police to prevent."

Closing the mosque "will feed this," Zalzberg said. If the mosque compound remains closed for any length of time, Zalzberg predicts, "We will see riots."

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US Military Launches 14 Airstrikes Against ISIS in Syria, Iraq

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

According to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), 10 of the strikes were in Syria, near Kobani. They destroyed seven fighting positions and five buildings and also hit two small units. Two other strikes in Syria damaged an ISIS headquarters building near Dayr Az Zawr and a security building near Ar Raqqah.  

In Iraq, one airstrike near Bayji destroyed a vehicle and hit a small unit, while another near Ramadi struck an ISIS checkpoint.

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

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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 Zambia 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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