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North Korea's Internet Crashes 'Hard'


Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The tables may have turned on North Korea.

The reclusive country's state-run Internet has been down "hard" for about three hours, according to Dyn Research, which monitors the state of the Internet around the globe.

"I haven't seen such a steady beat of routing instability and outages in [North Korea] before," Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research, told the website NorthKoreaTech.org. "Usually there are isolated blips, not continuous connectivity problems. I wouldn't be surprised if they are absorbing some sort of attack presently."

It's not clear what's causing the outage at this time.

Last week, a Twitter handle claiming to represent the hacking group Anonymous tweeted: Operation RIP North Korea, engaged. #OpRIPNK.

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Western Journalist Embedded with ISIS Reveals What He Saw


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The first Western journalist to spend time with ISIS since the launch of U.S. airstrikes in August says he has spent time with upwards of 14 Americans -- including one from New Jersey -- during the 10 days he spent inside the group's self-styled “Caliphate."

In an interview with ABC News, German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer said the U.S. fighters were from different backgrounds -- both American born and Arab-Americans as well as white.

"I have seen many wars. That’s the strongest group I ever met. Very strong, very clever, very enthusiastic. They are extremely brutal. Not just head-cutting. I’m talking about the strategy of religious cleansing. That’s their official philosophy. They are talking about 500 million people who have to die," he said.

“The guy from New Jersey. This surprised me," he added. "You don’t expect someone from N.J. going to join the Islamic State. ...They were very tough, well informed. Some of them very successful in their own countries. In Iraq 30 percent are foreign fighters; in Syria 70 percent. They feel discriminated in their countries. They want to live in an Islamic state where no one can bother them and no one can discriminate against them. They are completely sure they will win this fight."

Todenhöfer, who is writing a book on ISIS, spent most of his time in Mosul, Iraq, but also spent time in Raqqa and Deir ex-Zor in Syria.

In the interview, he recounts how he wrote to 80 jihadists some seven months ago as part of his research and developed a relationship with two of them -- building a strong enough bond for him to travel to the self-styled Islamic State.

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Garbage Truck Swerves into Crowd of Glasgow Pedestrians


Stockbyte/Thinkstock(GLASGOW, Scotland) — The driver of a garbage truck in Glasgow, Scotland, lost control, sending the vehicle into a large group of pedestrians.

Reports say at least six pedestrians were killed, and others injured when the heavy truck, owned by the Glasgow City Council, swerved onto the sidewalk in front of an art museum.

Glasgow police will not confirm fatalities in the crash, nor will they comment on the identity of the driver.

Police Superintendent Stuart Carroll said the act does not appear to be criminal. Investigators, meanwhile, are looking into the driver’s health at the time of the crash, but police tell ABC News they are not ruling out any possibility in further investigation.

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North Korea Warns of Strikes Against 'All of Mainland USA'


iStock/Thinkstock(PYONGYANG, North Korea) -- North Korea has warned of attacks against the United States, accusing the Obama administration of being behind the making of the movie The Interview.

After the United States publicly accused the communist country of coordinating the cyberattack against Sony, a North Korean government spokesman, speaking on state-run TV, discussed targeting “the White House, the Pentagon and…all of mainland USA” if the United States does not agree to a joint investigation of the incident with North Korea.

North Korea has long proclaimed innocence in the Sony hacking scandal, which escalated to threats of violence against movie theaters that were planning to show the movie. The film’s plot focuses on the assassination of leader Kim Jong-un.

Obama, who promised to respond “proportionately” to the attack, clarified how he views the incident.

“I don’t think it was an act of war. I think it was an act of cybervandalism that was very costly, very expensive,” Obama said in an interview with CNN’s State of the Union.

The Obama administration is reviewing whether to put North Korea on its list of state sponsors of terrorism. North Korea came off the list in 2008 under President George W. Bush.

The Interview, starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, was scheduled for theatrical release on Dec. 25. Sony says it is exploring ways to distribute the movie, but at this point no distribution plan has been revealed.

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The Best All-Inclusive Resort in the World Is in Cuba


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When President Obama announced last week that the U.S. would restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba, the reaction across the country was strong and varied. While some American businessmen immediately focused on goods that they may soon be able to export, wanderlust-filled travelers began searching for where to spend their next holiday.

To wit, U.S. website traffic on TripAdvisor about travel to Cuba spiked 293 percent on Wednesday, Dec. 17, compared to the previous day, according to company data. Additionally, in an opt-in online poll that TripAdvisor hosted, 54 percent of more than 1,500 respondents said "eased travel restrictions will increase their interest in visiting Cuba in 2015."

"Among the global TripAdvisor community, Cuba is already a hot destination, with Havana being named the #1 Destination on the Rise in the 2013 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards based on the TripAdvisor Popularity Index," Erin Millard, a spokesperson for TripAdvisor, said in a statement to ABC News. "Since the White House’s announcement last Wednesday, we’ve already seen several discussions sprout up on the TripAdvisor Forums about what this means for U.S. travelers."

The site also released a list of the best and most popular hotel and dining destinations in the Caribbean country among its reviewers.

"Four of the five top-rated attractions in Cuba on TripAdvisor are beaches, with travelers frequently praising the soft, white sands and calm, crystal blue waters," said Millard. "Cuba’s many cultural attractions also rate highly with TripAdvisor reviewers, from theaters and museums to town plazas where travelers can soak in the island country’s vibrant atmosphere."

Perhaps most notable among all of the attractions highlighted was Royalton Cayo Santa Maria, located in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba.

With 1,305 reviews from travelers, the adults-only beachfront property was named the No. 1 All-Inclusive Resort in the World in the 2014 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards.

“The experience started the minute we got there, we were greeted with ice cold face towels, fruit juice and fresh fruit on skewers while our cases were taken to our room," wrote one visitor from the U.K. in a TripAdvisor review. "From then on the service was wonderful, all the staff could not do enough to help, they always had a smile and were always very friendly.”

Another traveler from Ontario, Canada, sung the hotel's praises on a return trip, saying it was even better than the previous time.

"I cannot say enough about the service and the staff at this resort," wrote the reviewer. "From our very first visit I knew we had found a gem. The number of returning guests speaks volumes to the quality of this new resort and its staff. If you are looking for peace, quiet and beauty this may be the spot for you."

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Displaced Iraqis Celebrate Christmas in Abandoned Shopping Mall


World Food Programme(ERBIL, Iraq) -- Thousands of Iraqi Christians seeking shelter in an unfinished shopping mall are trying to make the most of Christmas this year, hanging threadbare decorations even as the floors are flooded and the walls are non-existent.

Days before the holiday, a makeshift nativity scene is put into place, colored lights in the shape of a Christmas tree light up a refrigerator door and "Merry Christmas" signs are ready to be hung.

Video shows what life is like for the people, mostly from Mosul, now forced to live at the Ankawa shopping mall in Erbil, after fleeing from militant attacks.

The footage was provided by the World Food Programme, which provides the refugees food and estimates around 1,600 people are taking shelter in the mall.

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Navy Investigating Helicopter Crash in Kuwait


Hemera/Thinkstock(MANAMA, Bahrain) — The U.S. Navy is investigating the cause of a helicopter crash during a training exercise at Camp Buehring in Kuwait Sunday.

A defense official says all six passengers of the aircraft survived the crash, with three of them suffering only minor injuries. The six crew members were transported to a nearby medical facility for evaluation. The three injured crew members received treatment for their injuries and were released.

The Department of Defense does not suspect the crash occurred as a result of “hostile activity.”

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Why Spain's 'El Gordo' Lottery Made One Girl Cry


Evrim Aydin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(MADRID) -- Spaniards are cashing in on nearly $3 billion after winners were announced for "El Gordo," the biggest lottery in the world.

Children sang the winning numbers Monday during a live announcement from Madrid's Royal Theatre, a tradition of the annual Christmas lottery.

With that much cash at stake, one girl was so anxious she was even brought to tears on stage -- but the crowd responded by clapping, urging her to go on.

"El Gordo" -- which translates to "the fat one" in Spanish -- has thousands of winners across the country, and no one person can win the entire jackpot.

Tickets cost between $23 and $25.

It's not clear yet how many winning tickets were sold.

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Ancient Encampment Discovered Near Stonehenge


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers at Buckingham University have discovered a 6,000-year-old encampment near Stonehenge, the prehistoric ring of standing stones in the English countryside.

The discovery may delay government plans for a tunnel near the site.

The stones in the encampment are located about a mile from the rock formation and have been tested by researchers, proving it dates back to 4000 B.C.

More testing is needed throughout the area because the researchers reportedly found other suggestions of building sites.

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Goodbye Facebook Revolutions? Page Supporting Putin Critic Blocked


Sean Gallup/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Facing pressure from Russian authorities, Facebook blocked a page Saturday supporting a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin.

A page urging Russians to attend a rally in support of opposition leader Alexey Navalny was unavailable after Russia's media watchdog reportedly requested that Facebook take it down because it promoted an unauthorized mass gathering.

On Friday, Navalny was in court facing what he says are trumped up corruption charges aimed at silencing Putin's opponents. Prosecutors are seeking to put him in prison for 10 years. During his closing argument, Navalny issued a stinging rebuke of Putin's government.

The Facebook page called on Russians to attend a rally in Navalny's defense on Jan. 15, the day of his sentencing hearing. By the time it had been blocked, more than 12,000 people said they planned to attend.

 

The new world is here people, it’s brave. Russians publicize unsanctioned rally by “warning” people against attending pic.twitter.com/5wgbONBQTx

— Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) December 20, 2014

 

A spokesman for Facebook said there was no comment on the blockage of the page.

The social network had been a popular platform for Russians to organize during a winter of anti-government protests three years ago. It played a similar role during the Arab Spring, when it was hailed as a free and open tool for oppressed masses to communicate.

That era may now be over.

Facebook has been keen to grow its user base in Russia, one of the few countries in the world where a local social network, in this case VKontakte, has more members.

Yet Russian authorities have become increasingly wary of social media and have sought to control it. Facebook says it blocked 29 pieces of content in Russia during the first half of this year due to requests from the government, compared to just four during the previous six months.

VKontakte has also faced strong pressure. The site's founder, Pavel Durov, defied repeated requests from Russian authorities to provide information on users. Durov eventually left the company and temporarily fled the country as the pressure intensified. VKontakte is now controlled by Putin allies.

Foreign websites, including Facebook and Twitter, are facing a looming deadline to store their data on Russian servers in accordance with new Russian legislation. A representative from Twitter recently visited Moscow to discuss the new requirements.

Shortly after the initial page in support of Navalny was blocked, a new event page sprung up in its place. Proving the resilience of the Internet age, within a few hours nearly 10,000 people had already pledged to attend.

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US Seeks Help from China with Korean Hackers


Sony / Columbia(WASHINGTON) -- The United States has asked for the cooperation of China to help combat the destructive cyber-attack on U.S. information systems the government says was carried out by North Korea. The attack has created fears of attacks in the U.S. and caused Sony to pull the Dec. 25 release of The Interview.

“We have discussed this issue with the Chinese to share information, express our concerns about this attack, and to ask for their cooperation. In our cybersecurity discussions, both China and the United States have expressed the view that conducting destructive attacks in cyberspace is outside the norms of appropriate cyber behavior,” a senior administration official told ABC News on Saturday.

In a rare official statement, released Friday, the FBI blamed North Korea as the force behind the cyber-attack.

“North Korea’s actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves,” the statement said. “Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior.”

President Obama has promised a response, saying the North Koreans have caused significant damage.

“We will respond,” Obama said. “We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose.”

The decision to seek help from China comes a day after the president said Sony made a “mistake” and wishes Sony had spoken with him before deciding to cancel the planned release of the movie.

“Sony is a corporation. It suffered significant damage. There were threats against its employees. I’m sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes I think they made a mistake,” Obama said.

Sony says it is actively surveying alternatives to release the movie on a different platform, as it is still their hope that those who want to see the movie with have the opportunity to do so.

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Australian Woman Arrested for Fatally Stabbing Eight Children


iStock/Thinkstock(SYDNEY) -- Following the discovery of eight children's bodies in an Australian home Friday morning, police have arrested the woman who was found injured at the scene.

Police confirm that the woman who was found with stab wounds to her head and neck has been arrested in her Cairns hospital bed.

Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar said, "We will look at everybody and anybody that we need to look at and there might be at a point later down the road, we'll be talking to more people, we may even have more persons of interest."

The victims ranged in age from 18 months to 15 years. Seven of them were the suspect's children and the eighth was her niece.

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Turkey Issues Arrest Warrant for US-Based Islamic Cleric Fethullah G├╝len


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An Islamic Turkish cleric who has become a critical voice against Turkey's leadership is now wanted Turkey, but is in exile in the United States.

Turkish officials say an arrest warrant has been issued for U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who lives in eastern Pennsylvania in self-imposed exile.

Charges include leading a criminal organization and an "armed terrorist group."

Gülen was a one-time supporter of Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdogan. However, the President blames Gülen for orchestrating a corruption scandal last year that implicated Erdogan, his allies, and his family.

The warrant for Gülen follows the recent detention of dozens of journalists and other supporters of the cleric on similar charges.

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US Releasing 4 Afghan Prisoners from Guantanamo Bay


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Four Afghans held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility for more than a decade are headed back home.

The Pentagon announced Saturday the release of four more Guantanamo Bay detainees, who will be repatriated in Afghanistan. They are the latest in a series of more than a dozen transfers over the last two months.

The Pentagon says 132 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay.

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US Troops to Deploy to Iraq in January to Train, Advise Iraqi Security Forces


Marcio Silva/iStock/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) -- U.S. troops will arrive in Iraq in January in order to begin training and advising Iraqi security forces.

At a Friday press briefing, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said that 1,300 Americans will head to Iraq in January. About 1,000 of those troops will come from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, with 300 or so coming from other services.

The U.S. plans to establish four main training areas -- in Baghdad, Erbil, Anbar and a fourth near Baghdad -- where American and coalition forces will train 12 Iraqi Army brigades.

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